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Dear Big Companies, Stop Prostituting Feminism

A shot of a cab. A male voice over. We are assured that mark may have liked “Bex” the way she was, but now she’s not fat anymore, he likes her even better. Cut to London street. He really wants to let us know that he didn’t mind when she was fat. Honest. It was totally Bex’s decision to lose weight. But he definitely likes her better this way.

Weight Watchers adverts, amongst many on our television recently, have turned to crowbarring feminism into their marketing campaign, there in dressing up their true message (hate yourself; lose weight). Other big brands appear to be doing this with varying degrees of sincerity – Marks and Spencer have announced that from 2014 they will make all their toy packaging gender neutral, whilst Pantene, the shampoo brand, have recently released an advert identifying the hypocrisy in the way we perceive men and women.


The Pantene ad depicts a woman and a man in equal situations being labelled differently. Where the man is “persuasive”, the woman is “pushy”. If the man stays up late to work, he’s “dedicated”, and if the woman does it, she’s “selfish”. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, tweeted, “This is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways.” It’s a bold advert with an explicit message, especially considering shampoo has literally nothing to do with anything in the advert. The actors have hair, but that’s about it.

Do you think men are seen differently to women in terms of power and ambition? Pantene thinks so too. Their new range of shampoos (£3.69, Boots) will help show the world this gender bias, whilst giving you a soft, healthy shine.

Sandberg is perhaps not the best arbiter of what is and isn’t feminist. Last year, she published a book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Ostensibly, the novel was to be doing the right thing – encouraging women to aspire in the workplace, and succeed in the business world as it exists today. This superficial understanding of equality and meritocracy, however, totally overlooked the structures that disadvantaged women currently in the their work, as well as ignoring the privileged position that she and other white, rich, middle class American women were in. She encouraged women to “lean in”, when really they needed to be stepping out and creating a new world devoid of oppressive structures.

When feminism becomes fashionable, PR companies will jump on the opportunity to use it to sell their product, even if it’s clearly incompatible. The weight watchers adverts are a prime example. For a company that really really hopes you dislike yourself enough to eat an eight calorie “chocolate” mousse for two months, trying to pretend like you want women to feel comfortable in themselves is just obviously false. Dove attempted to endorse the idea of non-homogenous beauty in their “Real Beauty” campaign, promoting the idea of varied body size with lots of women in pants rubbing anti-cellulite cream on themselves. For another product that sold on women feeling physically inadequate, it failed. In the 1960s, Virginia Slim used the new revolution of female emancipation to sell cigarettes, with campaign slogans like “you’ve come a long way, baby.” It contributed to a boost in sales for Virginia Slim, selling cigarettes to a marginalised female market. A marketing niche, ironically, that existed because of archetypal 60s sexism. It proved that when the time is right, feminism can be profitable.

There is an inherent problem with this prostituting out of feminism – so to speak – to sell products. Not only is feminism in many ways diametrically opposed to capitalism, but to use an ideology premised on liberating women from societal expectations of beauty (amongst others), to sell products that are designed to make you buy into those exact expectations, is flawed.

The difficulty is that it’s also not always easy to see through the façade, especially when many of the ways we define social norms come from places like advertisement. Using feminism to trick women into purchasing products or dieting means that their fundamental self-worth becomes displaced into a mentality of self-hatred. It’s deceptive and cruel, giving the impression that the advert is “on your side” and “hates that damn patriarchy just like you, sister”, when really it’s just spewing more sexist crap, hidden so that unsuspecting women don’t see it as a threat. This is most harmful because it goes unnoticed, so is just accepted without any real criticism. Like ingesting a tablet of crack, rat poison and Richard Littlejohn’s soul, disguised as a paracetamol.

To use advertising to promote or encourage feminism can be useful. If done sincerely, the means can outweigh the corporate ends. It’s when we’re deceived into believing that the company is being sincere, that the real danger comes in. Hazard: Products may contain sexism.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written January 2014

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FILE: Rebecca Adlington Announces Retirement

A ‘Fuck You’ to the Mainstream Press

Recently, Laurie Penny, a journalist I respect for her unwavering commitment to making women feel less shit, published a piece on Rebecca Adlington entitled ‘Dear Rebecca Adlington, they’re the ugly ones’. It was an open letter to Adlington, in light of the media coverage she was having for supposedly getting plastic surgery on her nose.

It was spot on, but as any masochistic Guardian-reading feminist must do, I turned to the comments. Obviously, OBVIOUSLY a mistake, but there’s something about Adlington’s public attacks that I find deeply upsetting, so I was kinda hoping for a reflection of my own feelings. Have a little read, fist pump the air, feel weird about fist pumping the air because I’m in a public library, then go back to writing my Victorian essay.

What a shocker, but lo and behold, ignorance reigned high in the world of the comments. ‘Perhaps it’s her decision as to whether or not she has cosmetic surgery on her nose and not anyone else’s business at all?’ was the top comment, with other insightful notions such as ‘If she did it just because she thinks it makes her look better, what exactly is wrong with that?’

Yeah, how totally non-problematic that an OBE, world-record holding Olympiad feels the need to have a medical procedure to relieve the pressure from the mainstream press. How absolutely normal to willingly subject oneself to physical pain to achieve some sense of self-worth. It’s not like she’s a fucking gold medalist or anything.

Well, ‘pollystyrene’, who ever you are, the reason it’s other people’s business is because Rebecca Adlington’s totally justified decision to subject herself to something like this is just the biggest example of the way women are hated. Of the expectations that exist. Sometimes, I feel shit about my body. But then, I read pieces like Laurie Penny’s, I think about Adlington, and I remember, oh yeah, it’s all bullshit. It’s bullshit because no matter how successful you are, no matter how unbelievably talented, or impressive, or unique you are, you can still hate yourself because of the media. You can be the first British person in nineteen years to win a gold in swimming for Britain, and you can still end up disliking yourself.

Watching Adlington in ‘I’m a celebrity’ makes me teary. No matter how successful you are, our society still will not let you be happy because you don’t look like Amy Willerton– a girl so vacuous she seemed to be genuinely interested in explaining hair flicking to her fellow celebrities. I shouldn’t give her a hard time, though, because Amy is just another person under these pressures, except she’s on the other end. She conforms to the expectations, and is told she’s beautiful, and that’s what’s important. Don’t bother having a good old chat about the issues of perpetuating a homogenous and almost unachievable body image, just enjoy your soft silky hair as it flicks across your neck. Amy hasn’t won an Olympic gold, but she probably knows what Rebecca knows: you better be good looking, because even sporting success isn’t going to save you from self-hate.

 Adlington’s difficulty with her body image is one of the most crushing things to watch. To think that you could be so objectively amazing, to be able to literally quantify yourself in gold, and still think yourself not worth anything because of people on twitter or publications like the Daily Mail is horrifying. It’s no doubt that this kind of publicity makes it hard, but I’m glad that dissenting voices exist. I’m glad that I found out about this because it reawakens my passionate hatred toward any niggling thoughts that I’m not worth enough because I have thigh fat. Rebecca Adlington shouldn’t have to subject herself to public scrutiny to make other women feel better, but she should know that there’s actually some good in the shit she gets. It reminds me that even the most impressive women of our age still get doubts.

I’m glad that this is my business. I’m glad that I’ve been reminded how women are nothing but a body to the media. Fuck you, mainstream press, for making women like Adlington feel body conscious, but fuck you also for making women who aren’t as talented, who don’t have numerous medals, feeling like their only achievement can be measure in the number of calories they’re not eating.

People need to stop pretending the sexism today is subtle and unimportant. There’s no ‘undercurrent’ of misogyny in our society – it’s right there, unashamedly, and as clear as Adlington’s talent.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written February 2014

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It’s Hard Out Here for a Feminist: The Trouble with Public Feminist Discourse

The world of feminism is a hostile place. Paying attention to any public feminist statements will show you this: slip up and be prepared to pay for it.

It makes sense that this kind of thinking exists with feminism. It’s an ideology which requires you to be hypersensitive to a world that has been distorted and skewed, which inevitably results in the same critical inclination permeating everything, including feminist thought. A New Statesman event I attended at Easter this year was my first introduction to this crushingly harsh world. The event was great; thought provoking, affordable. Interesting issues were discussed, and there was a tacit smugness when the word ‘cis’ was mentioned and no one had to explain its meaning. However, immediately after the event, an influx of criticism appeared about it on Twitter for not being inclusive enough.

If you’re going to get tokenistic about it, I think the NS were clear in the attempts they made to be inclusive; they had a trans writer, a black writer and someone on the panel who was over 30, as well as a few other mainstream feminist voices. It sounds so painfully reductive to list people based on which ‘category of oppression’ they fulfill, but this is what the criticism of the debate provoked – justifying oneself by being reductive. ‘Why wasn’t there a man?’ ‘Why wasn’t there a disabled person?’ came resounding out of Twitter, biting back at any positive reaction to a debate.

To actively endorse the argument I am currently making, I will now be diplomatic and cover my own back. No, we shouldn’t just settle, because no, we’re not post-ableism and we’re not post-feminism and we’re not post- many things really, and there are still a lot of issues to overcome. Yet when the discourse of criticism overshadows the message of feminism, are we reducing the space for any constructive consequences? Criticism should be used for improvement, not to silence ideas.

Lily Allen’s video ‘Hard Out Here’ is a great example of this, both in the way it works well to draw our attention to issues in feminism, but also how it garnered vitriolic, unhelpful criticism in a way that overshadowed some pretty successful elements. To sum up basically the last 3 week’s work of every feminist writer ever: Yay! A Feminist Music Video. Boo! It’s racist.

On the one hand, the video functions as a great example of how feminism has worked historically for white, middle class women. I, as a one of those white middle class feminists, don’t immediately see why the video is racist. Considering when I watch the video I don’t spot the issues, because I’m not as hyper-sensitive to racial issues in the way I am to feminist issues, I just get the positive messages. This, if anything, is just testament to how white feminists are a bit shit at spotting racial issues. Susanne Moore makes this statement much more concisely in an article she wrote for The Guardian:

‘Racism works precisely by denying the presence of race. The privilege is to not notice it.’

Lily Allen’s twitter response made it clear that she personally believes it had nothing to do with race, but to quote another relatively reliable feminist source, Jezebel,  ‘Lily Allen doesn’t get to decided if her video has a race problem’. If I’ve learned anything about trying to endorse intersectional feminism, neither do I.

However, one thing I do think is legitimate to comment on is how we

look at feminism in light of this. I’ve read so many pieces recently that have now decided to write off feminism as some collection of closed-minded privileged white girls celebrating how they went a week without shaving their armpits whilst eating macaroons off their battered copies of The Second Sex. Feminism doesn’t just end when it trips up, but gosh do people love to attack anyone who makes a committed feminist statement.

To quote one -

‘That Lily Allen video is a hot mess and I can already hear the resounding clatter of the liberal white feminists as they fall over themselves to talk about how incisive and right-on it is’

Criticism like this is prevalent and unhelpful. The dismissive attitude to any ‘white’ voice contributing to a debate would be as bad a delegitimising a male voice in a debate about feminism. Check your privilege – sure – but also don’t shut voices out because of a physical attribute like the colour of your skin. If someone is blatantly wrong, let them express that view and then understand why it’s wrong, as opposed to internalise it and allow it to go uncriticised, because an environment has been created where they are silenced.

Perhaps this opinion is rooted in the fact that I am basically the main demographic for contemporary feminist writing, but I do feel feminism can adapt to be more inclusive, improve itself and overcome mistakes made in the past. Lily Allen or the NS feminists aren’t the be all and end all of feminist discourse, and mistakes made shouldn’t cause the movement to be written off as some racist ignorant collective. If a video is created that only allows us to draw attention to our own prejudices, we should use it as a constructive tool to overcome those issues, and not to dismissively mischaracterise a movement that has done a lot of good for a lot of people.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Originally Published for The Moose in November 2013

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Norwegian Egalitarianism is a Detriment to the Education System

Norway’s egalitarian attitude to most things has rarely been viewed in a negative light. The national insistence upon democracy and equality (although at times irritatingly self-congratulatory) is an inspiring sentiment for a country. Especially, for a rich one – the Norwegians could have just hoarded all the oil money and run off into the Norwegian woods eating pølse and vaffler, whilst refusing to help any struggling minorities. Yet they didn’t, and although the new government may be posing a threat to this attitude, Norway has created one of the largest welfare systems in the world. Even as someone coming from a relatively liberal place like England, the rhetoric around welfare is refreshing.

Inevitably, this attitude manifests itself within other social areas of Norway, particularly its education system. Whilst the Norwegian government has plenty to spend on creating the best education system possible (if the marble pillars outside the library are testament to anything), the University of Oslo, the biggest university in Norway, is only rated 185th in the world by The Times Higher Education. Norway has the tools, not to mention the money, to become one of the best in the world, but it’s not. If employing the best academics and offering research grants is doable, then where exactly is Norway going wrong?

The attitude to learning, particularly when it comes to the humanities, is a problem. In a society set up to benefit the largest number of people rather than the privileged few, entry into university is undemanding. Although this system may be best for a society with education inequality lower down (see England’s unforgivable perpetualisation of the private school system), Norway’s school system is equal enough to allow it to be more selective when it comes to university education.

At the risk of making even more generalising statements about the Norwegian community, their total lack of competitiveness bodes badly for an education system that needs people to aspire and fight for the best they can achieve. Students are reticent to argue in order to avoid conflicting in their views. Unfortunately for a subject like English Literature or History that requires frequent critical analyses, often at the expense of fellow students, this attitude creates a fruitless environment for work.

Indeed, the University of Oslo even struggles to find teachers for its humanities department. A conversation with a masters student exposed the sheer desperation of the Norwegian system, after he has been employed to teach irrespective of his perhaps inexperience in the subject. After all, he has only been studying English for 4 years, only one year more than some of the students in the class. The informal nature of employing staff who are not quite up to scratch, and the desperation that has lead UiO to be put in this position must say something about the education system. What exactly is to blame for the dire lack of teaching staff in certain departments?

It is truth universally acknowledged that teaching can be irrevocably dull if the students aren’t interested. Teaching is a fulfilling career, but only if you are around students who want to learn, and with this fact we have highlighted one of the painful truths about the Norwegian education system: whilst more demanding subjects like medicine or law may draw more ambitions students (as they are more difficult to gain entry to at UiO), subjects like English or History are full of clever Norwegian who aren’t fulfilling their potential, because of a cultural reluctance to challenge and engage. So academics don’t want to come and teach. Compared to the English University system, the system it is less demanding, with fewer students willing to take risks and contribute in class.

Norway’s total defiance towards creating a combative environment in all areas of Norwegian culture is admirable but flawed. This egalitarian attitude to learning means although many are able to have a higher education, the standard is low. Students need to fight the Nordic urge for everyone to be equal when it comes to education, as the classroom is a place of critical thinking, not ignorant equality.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Originally published for The Moose in October 2013

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The Problem with ‘Rebranding’ Feminism

It’s a difficult one, this feminism thing. Some people just don’t get it, no matter how many times Wikipedia.org/wiki/feminism is read to them, off an iPhone, during a slightly-too-heated conversation at a social gathering. According to The Vagenda magazine, it’s in need of a makeover. Brandishing a metaphorical mascara brush, The Vagenda and Elle magazine (which, presumably, like most women’s magazines, is quite evil? I don’t know, I stopped buying them when I became intellectually sentient), have teamed up to ‘rebrand’ feminism, one pink infographic at a time.

The campaign aims to ‘bringing gender equality to a larger audience’. It gives you a piece of paper, with the words ‘I’m a woman and…’ and encourages you to define in your own terms what it is be a lady. It’s notably alike to the ‘I’m a feminist because…’ campaign with a similar sentiment behind it: expose how normal it is to be a feminist, and consequently show others that they themselves are probably feminists too, or else should be.

The Vagenda’s ambition to popularise feminism is a noble one. There will always be a dichotomy between popularising feminism, and maintaining a non-watered-down definition of it. This is because some people don’t have time, understandably, to sit down and read Butler, de Beauvoir, Woolf, or indeed all the writings that you need to understand a complex political and ideological movement. Also, people are stupid. Sometimes people don’t care. So the challenge comes to reach these people, who aimlessly use the word ‘pussy’ to degrade a man, or ‘slut’ to degrade a woman, without realizing why that’s fucked up. Popularising feminism, as The Vagenda have done so bloody successfully, is a brilliant ambition, and has been what they’ve been doing for the past two years. A ‘rebrand’, however, is different.

To ‘rebrand’ feminism implicitly condemns the current ‘branding’ of feminism (which is already a reductive way to look at an important empowering movement). Whereas popularising it uses humour, social media, and penetrable subject matter to engage people, a ‘rebrand’ appeases those who have mischaracterised feminism in the past. The ‘rebrand’ has to first agree with the reductive, incorrect stereotypes that exist within society around feminism, in order to re-establish a definition. No one decided to ‘rebrand’ being pro-gay rights, because even though many people probably have homophobic misconceptions about the gay community, to appease those people with a rebranding is to let them win. It is to say ‘sure, feminism was about man hating [when clearly, it never was], but now, look! We’re in a glossy magazine so we’ve changed that all, we’re redefining it’.

It’s problematic. Feminism is about equal rights, and to re-market feminism in a simplistic, saccharin campaign, like the one in Elle, undermines a belief that it wasn’t feminism’s fault that people misunderstood it, but the fault of those too narrow-minded to think about it. It displaces the blame to the people who are pre-rebrand feminists – it’s your fault people don’t like feminism, so we’re fixing that.

I think this is nicely summed up in an article by the New York website The Cut that was (bizarrely) retweeted by The Vagenda:

‘Nobody likes feminists. Marissa Mayer famously avoids identifying as a “feminist,” as does virtually every (female) celebrity who gets asked. In a University of Toronto study, participants found feminists so unlikeable — “man-hating” and “unhygienic” — they were actually less likely to support women’s equality. Thank god Elle U.K. elected to “re-brand” feminism’

I mean, da fuq? If this campaign brings feminism to a wider audience, it does so by endorsing every bullshit idea about feminism, and encourages other to do so as well. The Vagenda has, in my opinion, been one of the most important creations in modern feminism, and I will often mindlessly imbibe anything they say like the word of God. However, what kind of self-proclaimed opinion writer would I be if I didn’t find small pedantic fault with anything that’s vaguely linked to my ideological spectrum, right? So it breaks my small, black, often unused heart to criticize a campaign they stand for, but ‘I’m a woman and’ I don’t need you to ‘rebrand’ feminism for me to like it. It was already great.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

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Cameron’s ‘Um-ing and Ah-ing’ Porn Guidelines Show a Party Unwilling to Commit to Important Issues

Cameron’s endearing attempt to curve the unruly eyes of the nation seems to have gone tits up. After this week announcing his intentions to get those blasted gosh damn ruddy images away from our eyes, his decision has been met with a backlash of skepticism.

Too afraid to take a clear moral stance on porn, Cameron’s tokenistic legislature advice is shaky at the best of times. Not to mention, that it has come conveniently at a time when Tory Strategist Lynton Crosby has been facing the heat on a variety of impressive failures (encouraging private health care companies to take advantage of ‘failings’ in the NHS and advising the party to drop the blank packaging for cigarettes on behalf of Tabacco Company, Philip Morris International – to name a few). Whilst Toeing the party line, Cameron’s bumbling inability to talk about porn, let alone define where he and his party stand on porn, trivializes his vague attempts to make any change. He oozes ambiguity when addressing such issues; his approach underlies this wider party policy making devoid of clear moral foundations.

Even superficially his guidelines don’t really work, and the ISPs know this. The idea of computers having built in porn filters is flawed for a variety of reasons. The World Wide Web is a glorious retreat because you can do whatever the hell you want to, without having to have an awkward phone conversation with someone from BT about your sexual preferences. Limiting the nation’s ability to watch ‘Busty Blonde Takes it in Various Orifices’ seems counter-productive for an industry marketed on that freedom. Furthermore, making porn an opt-in package will fail to hoax a 7 year-old; in an age where most children can use a Mac before they can read, they’re certainly going to be able to circumvent a ticked box. And, even if they can’t work out how to hop over this fence unaided, Google’s always there with its wealth of knowledge. Displacing the responsibility from the government to internet service providers makes for an unstable policy, one that won’t protect anyone except the Tories themselves.

Yet the essential problem with Cameron’s guidelines is that they’re floating in an abyss of ideology. Apart from the overused assortment of pejoratives he employs to describe porn, it‘s unclear where the Prime Minister himself actually stands on the issue. True, it is a ‘tricky area’ – is porn bad because of the way it depicts women? Or is porn bad because it’s too explicit for children? By taking the soft route, Cameron implicitly avoids making any genuinely persuasive arguments about porn. A glorious moment occurred on Radio Four’s ‘Women’s Hour’ when Cameron was faced with the question ‘How do I watch porn without my wife knowing?’. It was an opportune moment to define his ideas, yet all he managed was to blusteringly avoid the question, exemplifying this lack of commitment to any important beliefs.

The problem is that porn is not innately ‘evil’, and understanding what sex is from a young age is not necessarily damaging. Amateur porn is probably better than Hollywood style vagina-like-a-Barbie porn. Exploring your sexuality, especially for those from the LGBT community, is far from problematic. Sex is always going to be a fundamental part of society, and writing off porn because it’s ‘vulgar’ or uncomfortable is a painfully naïve approach to the subject. The real issue, for many people currently, is that porn homogenises the power dynamics in a relationship. Porn is oppressive. Porn is degrading. Condemning porn for being too sexually graphic for children – being anti-sex rather than anti-sexism – skirts around the real issues in the debate.

Even though Cameron took extra care to show us how much of his ‘personal time’ (wink wink, nudge nudge) has been put into these guidelines, they are frustratingly emblematic of a political system filled with people unable to consistently make decisions founded on clear morals. The Prime Minister is representative of, and even typifies, this dangerous trend. This was demonstrated brilliantly when Jane Garvey pulled out a copy of The Sun on air and turned to page three with ol’ Davey Cameron sitting next to her, and all he could offer was a barely mumbled argument about ‘choice’. Good job, mate.

Feminism for the Conservative Party (or indeed any party bar Green) needs to become an overarching issue if they want to be on the path of freedom from the restrictions of a coalition. Cameron’s reservations to commit to any true feminist legislation show a party too tied up in its loyalties to the backbenchers. The ‘war on porn’ needs to stop being a vague mess of semantic changes and British awkwardness, and become a real commitment to controlling something that, at the moment, is violent and pernicious for men and women alike.

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The Feminists are Reclaiming the Internet

For many years, the media was the enemy of feminism. The movement was mischaracterised, tainted, and exploited, condemned as weird and unfashionable. Undressed and muted like helpless Page Three models dead behind the eyes, feminism was demonised for the advantage of the ruling ‘first sex’. To this day women (and men) still hesitate to self-identify as a feminist, just in case the moment the phrase passes your lips you immediately become a hairy lesbian butch evil angry radical, breasts hanging all over the bloody place.

But 2013 is year of the comeback. It’s the year when feminism gets cool. I mean, it’s always been cool, but you had to be particularly cool to notice it, so like, don’t worry if you missed it. It’s the year of the Vagenda, the Spare Rib magazine, Ladybeard Magazine. It’s the year The New Statesman gets equal female and male columnists. If you weren’t brandishing your Butler Manifesto, now is the time.

If we’re getting technical, I think maybe this cool wave (official technical term) began last year. In 2012, came the wildly, almost painfully successful How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. Although arguably more an autobiography with some bits about pubic hair thrown in, the book took feminism to the W H Smith top 10, sitting awkwardly between a trashy celebrity autobiography and a diet book. People heralded it as important, but not necessarily because of its content. In a hot rush of discarded shavers and cellulite cream, the book changed the public perception of feminism.

And thus ensued fourth wave feminism. A transition via the internet, to wide spread popularity. It inspired the Vagenda, an online ‘magazine’, created by Rhiannon Lucy Coslett and Holly Baxter, two graduates who thought ‘fuck this, I’m making feminism funny’. And boy did they succeed. Their website had 10,000 hits after the first few hours of it’s launch, and has continued to grow exponentially in popularity, landing the two a book deal. Its ironically pink layout, with the tag line ‘Like King Lear, but for Girls’ taken from Grazia Magazine’s review of ‘The Iron Lady’ is a honey pot of brilliant, hilarious, populist female (and occasional male) writing.

The Vagenda is a particularly effective as a tool to discuss feminism because it works so perfectly in our digital age. It’s humorous enough to post on your friend’s Facebook page (and you make sure not to message it to them, so all can see how gloriously intelligent and zeitgeisty you are to have found such a link). For anyone who thought feminism was unfunny and aggressive, the site undoes all the pernicious stereotyping. All whilst you lol.

A gap has now opened in the market for a new type of female magazine. One that doesn’t tell you to love yourself only if you’re skinny, having precisely enough sex, pretty, exercising, rich, powerful, great at blow jobs and able to make gruyere tartlets. Spare Rib, a magazine that was revolutionary in the 70s, tackling feminist issues at a time when rape was still legal in marriage, is coming back for a revival this year after it bowed out in 1993. Ladybeard, a reaction to shitty magazines like Cosmo and Grazia has recently raised enough money from its kickstarter to get off the ground. Both are testament to the changing attitudes of women, to women, and that this marks the end of the media being a platform used to subjugate.

There is a danger, however, to it all becoming too normalised. A few months ago, the vile that is ‘mumsnet’, a collection of middle class mothers with too much time between managing their pomegranate supply and buying the latest apple product for their 3 year old, published a survey condemning feminism as ‘irrelevant’. Apart from the fact that clearly a collection of women buying into gender constraints are probably not the ones to go asking about feminism, the survey highlighted the apathy that can be cultivated at the point where feminism becomes wide-spread. ‘Well we have the vote, so I mean, what more could we want?’ Well, imaginary-person-solely-created-for-the-purpose-of-derision, there are a few things. There is more female unemployment than male; abortion and contraception is still an issue in places as close as Ireland. Female representation in parliament, boardrooms, even comedy panel shows is abysmal. People still think Thatcher was a feminist – we definitely have a way to go.

Today is age of feminism. Even with the Daily Mail’s side bar of doom, women are reclaiming the media. The internet is a wonderful tool to give a voice to those previously unheard, and spread the hilarity that is emerging with a new wave a young feminist writers. The Vagenda has already been instrumental in this change, and whilst we may still have to combat things like ALL THE PORN EVER, I’m optimistic. Watch this space, feminism is getting trendy.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written May 2013 for the Leeds Student 

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