Comment, Feminism, The Vagenda Articles, Travel

Trip Advisor Thinks Sexism isn’t ‘Relevant’. Tell that to Female Travellers.

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

All too often, I find amongst my female friends that the idea of travelling alone without a trusty male companion is deemed a total no-go, lest your alluring three-day-no-shower look and sunburn garners threaten unwanted attention.

Well, fuck me (consensually). I’m not even that into travelling and I find that annoying. The mere idea that it’s actually a serious, risky choice to decide to travel alone because a collective of sexist arseholes thinks women are irresistible objects for their pleasure really gets me (call me crazy.) And I don’t blame those women who choose not to travel alone because of it. A persistent sense of entitlement, lack of respect for female autonomy and routine victim-blaming means that the majority of – if not all – countries make perusing their fair isles just do much of a bloody hassle. It’s sad but true that male friends then end up standing in as a form of bodyguard.

I have recently been travelling in Denmark, with a female friend. Denmark. You know, the one with a female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, along with an ass-kicking queen who has about three degrees and speaks five languages fluently. According to some random website that corroborates my argument, Denmark’s first feminist movement started in the 1870s. THAT IS SO LONG AGO. Considering Denmark has a culture of powerful, impressive women in high positions, my friend and I were not especially worried about encountering high levels of sexism, hoping that maybe this understanding and respect for women would manifest itself amongst day-to-day Danish people with not so much as a wolf-whistle to destroy our holiday in what was clearly a veritable misogyny-free utopia.

Needless to say, we were wrong. On a free walking tour that we took to legitimise more pastry eating, our tour guide, who initially seemed pretty nice, became increasingly – and incredibly – sexist. He congratulated Berlusconi for objectifiying Thorning-Schmidt, because lol she’s fit. The look on our faces when he impersonated the gesture of looking her up and down and nodding in approval of her fine, legislature-passing arse: disgust, teamed with the creeping social anxiety that we were going to have to do something, along with the sheer despair that we still had two hours left to go. As a strange aside, he also joked about how the birth of twins by the Danish Prime Minister was a sign of impressive masculine jizz virility on the part of her husband. My friend and I decided to not tip, and to complain on TripAdvisor (#theenglishway), where we hoped it would make the most difference.

TripAdvisor have decided to remove my review, twice. On the first instance, unsure of what could possibly be so controversial about ‘our tour guide was sexist’, I perused their generic email for reasons why it was taken down. They stated that my review was not ‘relevant for other travellers’, and that ‘users should refrain from including personal political, ethical or religious opinions, discussion or commentary in reviews.’ After emailing them, they said that it had ‘inappropriate language’ (…I had used the word sperm (!!!!!!!!!!!!)), so I took it out. Then they removed it again.

How long will it take for people to realise that being anti-sexism is not a radical position, because I’m getting pretty fucking tired waiting here? A website like TripAdvisor should be hypersensitive to the benefits of creating a travelling community that makes it safe for women to travel alone. Surely the reason it exists at all is to facilitate travel for, y’know, travellers. On top of this, my review was flagged as a ‘helpful review’ by two readers. It seemed to matter to them.

I’m lucky that I took this trip with a fellow confident feminist friend, because had I been alone, I think the whole charade would have been a lot more distressing. And that’s why sexism is relevant to travellers, no matter what TripAdvisor may think. Sometimes, something as apparently innocuous as a creepy tour guide can knock your confidence to explore the world. And it’s a travesty when we let this happen to women and girls, sucking up their sense of adventure and disposing of it at the airport with all liquids over 100ml, and ending up confining them to places they find guaranteeably safe instead, like, y’know, the home. Let’s not do that to each other. Let’s fight for our sense of adventure.

P.S. Fuck you TripAdvisor, see how you like having an article written about how shit you are. Probably should have replied to my tweet. Gutted.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

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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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