Comment, Feminism, Pop Culture, The Vagenda Articles

One Direction’s One Erection (for Insecure Girls)

Written for The Vagenda, who kindly gave me permission to reproduce the article here

 

On a recent sojourn with my significant other in Italy, we decided the only reasonable thing to do to pass the many hours spent in each others’ company was to watch the One Direction film: One Direction: This is Us. I think, maybe, ironically. Neither of us listen to their music, but for some reason, eating a mozzarella ball whilst watching One Direction with their tops off seemed like a good decision.

We tried to find some legitimate justification for it (Morgan Spurlock directed it/watching a film will mean that we don’t have to talk) that has nothing to do with One Direction, but in the end we watched it with probably only about 8 seconds of deliberating.

Here’s a summary: One Direction would like you to know that they’re just normal lads like, and it’s mad [cut to Harry Styles with his top off in a wheelie bin] that like they’re lives have changed so much because they’re just normal lads havin a laugh [cut to the other one that isn’t Harry with his top off]. Then there’s a decent amount of cultural appropriation, and then Harry pretends like he used to work in a bakery. Fin.

There was, unsurprisingly, a lot of air time given to ‘the fans’, a writhing collective of mostly teenage girls weeping at the mere prospect of their vagina being in the same vicinity of Harry Styles’ penis or the other ones’ penises. “I know they love me. Even though they don’t know me,” says one fan, while her friend looks down with equal parts shame and jealously, jealously that she can’t quite possess the delusion to believe a person who has never met her can love her.

These poor girls. Their parents are probably glad that they’re not shotting vodka through their eyeballs or doing recreational drugs, but the reality is much worse. They’re driven to insane delusions for a boy band. A boy band, with an incredibly sexist message.

Throughout the film you get extended ‘snippets’ of them performing; mere flirtations of the joy that could be attending a One Direction concert. In these performances, they do some singing, belting out words like ‘you don’t know you’re beautiful and so I think you’re beautiful but just make sure you don’t know it because then you’d be ugly’ and other weirdly coercive messages.

 

You’re insecure,
Don’t know what for,
You’re turning heads when you walk through the door,
Don’t need makeup,
To cover up,
Being the way that you are is enough

(That’s what makes you beautiful)

 

At first, it seems like quite a sweet intention. Don’t worry about being insecure, you’ll still have Harry or the other one fancying you. Except, you shouldn’t wear makeup, because they say so, and male appreciation is the most important thing. Oh and if you do quite like yourself, you’re a stuck up bitch and only that Irish one will have sex with you.

 

I don’t know why,
You’re being shy,
And turn away when I look into your eye eye eyes

 

If you’re confident, that’s also probably not a good thing. Be a sweet, quiet, humble, self-hating shy little thing, and you’re in.

The allure of One Direction seems to be that they could fancy you at any given moment. Their songs are sold on this hope, songs with messages like ‘if you have self-esteem, you’re not the kind of girl One Direction are into’. They do this to girls who aren’t old enough to understand that wearing makeup or not wearing makeup is about choice, not about being pretty or not pretty. Girls who are too young to know that men dictating how you should act and feel is not okay. It’s just another production by men, sung by men, about how women should act.

….Admittedly, I had some trouble analyzing all their song, mostly because the majority have 15 words, just used it different orders.

 

No nothing can come between
You and I
Oh, you and I
Ooooh You and I
We could make it if we try
Oh, you and I
You and I

 

Move over, Leonard Cohen (amirite?). Other songs, however continue to work on this horrible, deceptive premise that if you want to be with One Direction (which, all fans do) then you better start hating yourself.

 

I know you’ve never loved
The crinkles by your eyes
[how old is this girl? 47?]
When you smile
You’ve never loved
Your stomach or your thighs
The dimples in your back

At the bottom of your spine

(Little Things)
And then there’s the idea that it’s probably quite shameful if one of them feels dependent on a girl.

 

“I’m sorry if I say, “I need you.”
But I don’t care,
I’m not scared of love.
‘Cause when I’m not with you I’m weaker.
Is that so wrong?
Is it so wrong?

(Strong)

 

I don’t know? Is it? No, obviously it’s not. Then why are you singing about it then? Well done them for being good, upstanding lads and admitting the shameful disgusting prospect that you don’t always have power over your wrinkly-eyed woman.

I am very aware that not all music needs to be feminist for you to enjoy it on an aesthetic level. I quite like Kanye West, and he sings about making women suck his dick every four lines. The difference is, though, that I’m not 13. I’m old enough to have read about feminism. I know that, just because Kanye would like to subordinate women with his massive cock, doesn’t mean that that’s how I have to act with my significant other, because a) My appreciation of Kanye’s music is not created out of some desire to please him and b) I’m old enough to see through the bullshit.

One Direction are not as harmless as you think, especially to impressionable young minds. Minds that are already told a million times a day to be skinny/hairless/pretty/sweet/nice/fragrant etc., and are fighting against a strong current of normalized sexism. It pisses me off that these bands get millions of pounds to just add to this tsunami, one shit lyric at a time. Thank god for women like Beyonce or Lily Allen, flooding popular music with a counter-message of female autonomy and power. I like the way I look, One Direction, irrespective of what you say, and I wouldn’t get with any of you. Not even you, Harry.

 

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written March 2014 for The Vagenda

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Comment, Money

The Price You Pay for Not Paying

Money (Money Money). Everyone likes it, but no one will admit that they’ve got it.

Oh no I mean, the little place we have in Nice is only a flat, not a house. We don’t have nearly as much money as the Leestons. We bought the house when it was tuppence!  

Or indeed, where they’ve got it from.

It’s a shitty time to be a young person today. EMA got cut, Uni fees got hiked and the baby boomers have screwed our chances to get housing (cheers m & d). But for those who can afford it, for the middle-class young, the prevalence of getting shit for free is high. At that stage in life, where university is slowly becoming the past, yet real life not the present, money, and where to get it from, becomes the pressing question.

Well, remember to say goodbye to your freshly-formed independence when you open up that swanky new (free) Macbook Air. Farewell to being treated like an adult. So long, adieu, etc.

Not receiving much support from my parents (albeit, not always of my own choice) has resulted in an unexpected freedom, a liberation on par with overcoming the fear of blowing one’s nose in busy rooms. Let me be clear – I still receive some help. My mother still pays for my phone bill (something I remembered when writing this article – probs should change that) and when I go home for the summer, I live at home. Although this year all I got for Christmas from my dad was a t-shirt saying ‘LIFE IS MEANINGLESS AND EVERYTHING DIES’ I have received iPods, clothes, cheese, books, and posh radios for a number of years every birthday and Christmas. I am very privileged. No buts, it is indisputable. I am lucky.

For a number of reasons to do with being a child of divorce, asking for money has always been a fearful experience, and as a result jolted my sense of entitlement rather violently. It was the point where I realised my parents were real people, who didn’t love me unconditionally, and actually, found it quite annoying looking after me. It became a tool for either of them to get back at the other, one £20 school trip at a time. If I wanted money (which I often did, young, naive and full of entitlement) I’d be required to get involved in a unsolvable dispute. “Get your mum to pay for it, I give her child maintenance” / “If your mother hadn’t taken me to court she would have gotten a lot more” / “I pay for everything can’t your father pay for something” / “Your father never has to look after you, get him to pay”.

And thus, at the ripe age of 8 or 9, I was painfully aware of how little my parents wanted me around. And, as time passed, and competing with a new spouse and siblings appeared a necessity, money became the language of love. How can you not feel unloved when your father takes his two younger children and their mother on holiday to America to visit your family, and you don’t get invited? The spoiled nature of the expectation is obvious, yet the sting is still there. If there’s one way to resist your children becoming too sheltered, make sure you hurt them early. They won’t forget after that.

It was clear to me as I got older that all I wanted was to be treated equally, not the money or the holiday, but delineating that at a young age when your parents show their love and support through money is near impossible. So I stopped expecting it. If I was denied something that my two, younger (half) sisters received, or my father’s new wife, then the way to deal with that was not to want it.

I wasn’t going to be given the lessons, technology, holidays, that my middle class-ness left me desiring, I was prompted to reflection on how lucky I was to live the well-off existence I have been living. Although there was more to my denied expenses than just economic frugality on my parents’ part, I was still exceptionally lucky to have received what I had when I was younger. Now, even when offered money, I don’t accept.

To a certain extent, this is stubbornness and resentment. But with it has a come a freedom that I hadn’t noticed I’d possessed. Friends of mine who are given money for rent, holidays, £300 ski boots, are still at the beck and call of their elders. They lose any sense of independence, any legitimate argument that they might know better than their parents, or that their parents are fallible. It’s hard to stand your ground when a week later, you need that £100 you get to keep on living the way you do. The leverage these parents wield is dominating, and no matter how old they are, if they’re still receiving money from them, then they’re going to be treated like a child. My parents haven’t told me what to do in years. They have few things to deny me, and so their power is diminished.

Not taking money not only gives you the liberties of an adult, but one might even develop a moral conscience. To those in this situation: Don’t be one of the elite who perpetuate the wealth disparity by leeching off their parents. Being born into the family you were gives you no entitlement to the money your parents are lucky enough to have – you are no better, no cleverer, no more interesting than those with less money than you. It is morally unjustifiable for you to take that money when other struggle with new-found poverty after we have spending cuts that disproportionately affect the poorest. I can’t define where parental support ends and being spoiled begins, but endeavouring to take as little as possible seems the best solution. See Peter Singer for further reference.

It can be hard bursting the coddled bubble of privilege, to realise what you may get is not actually normal and not actually expected. The earlier those people realise it, though, the happier they’ll be in the future, when inevitably, unless they’re totally minted, it will be taken away from them anyway. To be respected, independent, supporting a fair society and free to do what you want is better than anything money can buy.

 

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written May 2014

 

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