Category Archives: Inspirational

Do you Love Yourself Enough? By Olivia Atkins

Valentine’s Day is typically a celebration of love. What better way to celebrate this national holiday than to attend an event that stresses the importance of loving yourself?

London’s One Billion Rising did just that. On Friday afternoon at London’s iconic Trafalgar Square, a stage was set up ready to host an array of inspirational speakers and powerful musicians.

Lynne Franks, coordinator of the London event, introduced herself and unveiled the day’s programme, adding that the event was “owned by no one and directed by everyone”. A crowd quickly gathered around the stage, keen to participate and listen to the empowering words being spoken.

1billion

Following on from the introduction, Leyla Hussein took to the microphone. Ms Hussein is a psychotherapist and a self-professed survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM). She used her personal and professional experiences to talk with the crowd. She claims that 66,000 British women have undergone FGM and that over 20,000 girls are currently at risk of being sent abroad for circumcision. Ms Hussein was born into a family where FGM was important and considered culturally significant. She too underwent the surgery but instead refuses to be acknowledged as a victim. She speaks on behalf of those who cannot or will not speak out, and for those who are ashamed of what has happened to their bodies. Ms Hussein now recognises the importance of education and works on campaigns to protect the female body. Although she did not originally think of the operation as violent, as it was accepted and encouraged within the family, now she realises it was child abuse. Responding to Ms Franks’ opening question asking participants why they were here, Ms Hussein says:

“I’m rising today for my grandmother who was married off at twelve; I’m rising for my mother, for myself, for my children and for my future grandchildren.”

Whitney Iles, aged only 26, was applauded onto the stage where she introduced herself and her job with Project 507. The project aims to dispel violence amongst youngsters aged between 8-18 by creating workshops and challenging the way they relate to one another through education. From her experience, she had encountered women as second class citizens. For, even if women are not subjected to physical violence, they can fall victim to self-judgement, psychological violence and social stereotypes, which contribute to damaging self-esteem. Ms Iles admitted: “we don’t see ourselves how we deserve to be seen” and urged the audience to improve their personal outlook. She demanded the audience to chant that they would not accept mistreatment of women any longer, and shout: “I will not be anything less than Brilliant!” Ms Iles asked the audience to look past their imperfections and to love themselves…arguing: “After all it is Valentine’s Day”.

She said, “I will rise for love because when we love ourselves we love each other” and “we become an unstoppable force.”

Wannabe Girl-band SHE17 consisted of TV personality June Sarpong, Baroness Patricia Scotland and local MP Stella Creasy. As a trio, they spoke about the importance of ending violence against women in society. They claimed that cooperative responsibility can eliminate violence, particularly in domestic violence cases where victims often seek an ally to support their decision. The audience was encouraged to do the thing they were most scared of, despite the difficulties that come with questioning patriarchy. She rallied that only through determination can gender-equality become a possibility. Ms Creasy said:  “Speak out and dance, regardless of the possibility that you might sink.”

Next up, Jude Kelly walked onto the stage and introduced herself as the artistic director of Southbank’s Women Of the World Festival (WOW). Since starting 4 years ago, she has acted as a pioneer for advocating feminism, believing that the only way to succeed is through re-educating the younger generation. WOW festival is a collection of workshops and talks spanning the International Women’s Day weekend in March, where people come together and exchange ideas about what feminism means. Ms Kelly claims that no society has achieved complete equality as of yet, but this should remain a goal to strive towards. She encourages men to become feminists too, reminding the audience that this is true equality and the reason for her rising: “Lets rise as women and men, and come together as humans.”

Human Rights Journalist and BBC Special Correspondent Sue Lloyd Roberts stressed the importance of bringing media attention to gender-related issues. She believes this would increase public awareness and improve female mistreatment through education. She claims often “we women are” treated as “another minority, when actually we make up 51% of the world population.” Ms Lloyd Roberts encouraged a greater demand for female coverage in the media, saying that if there is an interest, it would be possible to “get violence against women on the top of the news agenda” and talked about more openly.

Rahela Siddiqi, a human rights activist in Afghanistan spoke about her time working with incarcerated female asylum seekers. She claims that despite their sentencing, offenders are often not treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Instead, women that have faced trauma in their home countries and sought asylum abroad are met with further problems. Ms Sidiqi said that they can be offered indefinite detention, half of all victims are subjected to rape and two thirds face prosecution. Furthermore, they can be detained during any stage of their prosecution process, and are often exploited as they lack legal assistance. Female asylum seekers are rarely given time or sensitivity towards their cases. Ms Sidiqi urged the audience to rise up for female solidarity in Afghanistan.

The last speaker of the day was Marrissa, who spontaneously spoke out about domestic workers. Although she was not scheduled in the programme, she spoke about exploitative employers, who submit their workers to atrocious conditions. Her friend Lanee read out a poem which challenged the rights of undocumented workers. She attended the event to rise against ongoing slavery in the UK workforce.

Ms Franks returned to the microphone and introduced the bands Skin and Black Voices who collaborated and provided a soulful backdrop for the audience to dance to. Despite the rainy weather, there was a lot of people smiling and beginning to love themselves!

One Billion Rising Official Website

Leyla Husein advocating an end to FGM

Whitney Iles & Project 507

Jude Kelly’s Women Of the World Festival

 

Tagged , , , ,

TED women; two videos worth sharing.

TED have had some cracking talks from some amazing women recently.

If you have a spare half an hour, treat yourself to a couple of thought-provoking videos.

First up, we have Caroline Heldman. A leading advocate for spotlighting how the mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America, Caroline Heldman offers straight talk and an often-startling look at the objectification of women in our society. She illustrates how it has escalated, how we have become inured to its damaging effects and what we can do individually and collectively to demolish the paradigms that keep us from a better world.

Cameron Russell admits she won “a genetic lottery”: she’s tall, pretty and an underwear model. But don’t judge her by her looks. In this fearless talk, she takes a wry look at the industry that had her looking highly seductive at barely 16-years-old. (Filmed at TEDxMidAtlantic.)

Enjoy! And keep them coming TED.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Goodbye 2012… let’s be having you 2013

At the end of last year (yup, I can’t quite get used to saying that either!) Miss Representation made an excellent campaign video about the presentation of women in Hollywood, which you can view here:

This video shows there is still a long way to go until read equality is achieved, both in the mindset of the individual and the portrayal of women in the media.  Miss Representation achieved a lot in 2012, combining forces with the SPARK campaign in order to pressure Seventeen magazine to eradicate Photoshop images.

Also, in 2012 the media critic and creator of Feminist Frequency, Anita Sarkeesian became the target of a horrific online hate campaign. All because she dared to plan to create a video series that would explore the representation of women in video games. The online harassment she received just proves that, even in 2012, a large group of people still wanted to crush the voices of strong and intelligent women. However, here you can see Anita kick back in a dignified and inspirational way:

I have shown you these two examples as a demonstration of how WE can control the media. The Miss Representation campaign reminds us that WE CAN’T BE WHAT WE CAN’T SEE and as it’s rapidly growing and increasing, more and more women are responding to the distorted images that surround them. Anita Sarkeesian saw the dark side of the media, one that threatened her life and tore her work to shreds- yet her powerful response proves that she is not quite ready to give up yet. So then, what do we want from 2013? Firstly, the belief that feminism is not dead. We want loud and confident voices, expressing their opinions and involving themselves in discussion and debate. We have the powerful tool of the social media easily available to us, so let’s have you 2013…

Tagged , , , , , ,

INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN INSPIRATIONAL PLACES by Olivia Atkins

LIVE CREATE ENJOY!

Life is short … so let us appreciate the beauty of life itself!

Some female friends of mine have put together a photo-blog of them running free through the streets of Guadalajara, a city in Mexico. Let us celebrate in their dance abilities and freedom and youth! Armed with only a camera and a gaggle of girl-friends, the photos are a reminder of the strength and elegance of the woman. They playfully seduce the camera in a range of dance styles from ballet and gymnastics to hula hooping and pole-dancing. These women are alive and inspiring, both in their physical strength and the unity of their friendship, which is apparent in their smiles and through the  intimacy of the camera-shots.

These photos don’t do these girls justice… they are MORE magical than they look. The blog is called LIVE CREATE ENJOY, a reminder to live life how we want to & overcome the obstacles that hunt us in our day-to-day lives. So take inspiration from the inspiring…, transform the normal and the mundane into the inspiring… and keep looking for whatever it is that makes you tick…! Life is a whirlwind waiting to happen, the streets are our oyster!

LIVE CREATE ENJOY

OLIVIA ATKINS

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Cindy Sherman, SF MOMA and the Drag Artists by Ruth-Eloise Lewis

Whilst roadtripping around America this summer, I was extremely fortunate to pay a visit to the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the San Francisco MOMA. As an Art History student and a feminist, this was pretty much my perfect exhibition. Cindy Sherman is undoubtedly one of the most incredible and influential contemporary artists and if you didn’t know her before, then this is the moment to change that.

My first impression of the San Francisco MOMA was how beautiful architecturally the building was. It blew the dusty old National Gallery out of the water. I perused the permanent exhibitions before the retrospective, deciding to save the best until last.

But onwards to Cindy, the exhibition started with the complete collection of her early work, “Untitled Film Stills.” Eerie self-portraits where Sherman herself is the both the artist and the model, every inch the actress dressed in a variety of different personas, poses and positions. The domesticated sex goddess. The blonde film noir bombshell. The seemingly carefree starlet at the seaside. All 69 of these black-and-white photographs are hugely important for a number of reasons; they act as a parody of Hollywood, a dissemination of the traditional roles offered to women, a refusal of the clichés and characters that created a construct of femininity that pulsated through popular culture. It was incredible to see these tiny portraits all together in one room. Sherman was utterly, almost unnervingly, convincing in every image.

The other works that really spoke to me were the large scale colour grotesques. Cut-off, limbless torsos, rotting blood and entrails that shouted and screamed at you from the canvas. I couldn’t help thinking of Julia Kristeva and the concept of abjection. What was most interesting were the disgusted, yet curiously interested, faces of the spectators. In fact, I sat and watched the reactions for a bit. People walked quickly through this room, as if not wanting to seem too interested in the shocking and gruesome images. Yet, I loved them. Again, it seemed Sherman was breaking down that accepted image of femininity- in order to be ‘proper’ women, we must be pure, clean and hygienic. Despite that every day we deal with the same old shit (literally) as men that comes from our bodies, we must  pretend to be the ‘fairer’ gender.

I passed through the room of creepy clowns to my final favourite room. “Untitled #463” and the other gigantic photos showed Sherman again dressed up as different characters, all middle-aged, seemingly rich mature women. The harsh lines of lip liner, carefully coloured-in eyebrows and heavily styled hair looked sad and pointless. It appeared these women were so desperate to cling on to their diminishing looks, to conform every stereotype of western beauty that despite their apparent wealth and riches, the masks of makeup were hiding a hollow and desperate plea. I vowed to myself then that when the time comes, I shall grow old gracefully and proudly display every line and wrinkle on my face. We shall see.

I am writing this piece now (about two months after my visit) as I discovered today, after wasting a few hours idly on the internet, about Fauxnique, a group of Drag artists, who have re-enacted the portraits form Sherman’s show. These four images are a celebration of the retrospective, a clever nod to Sherman’s representations, making you do a double-take. My favourite image is the ‘Cheetos’ packet, where the fluorescent colour of the model’s skin mimics the sickly orange of the crisps. The gesture appears child-like, as she cradles the packet to her chest as a young girl might cuddle a teddy-bear. Despite the brash statement of her skin, there is something fragile and vulnerable about this pose. The drag artists take Sherman’s work a step further, she challenged the damaging construct of femininity and through this re-enactment, these artists are challenging gender stereotypes that still exist even today. A poignant homage.

2012-09-05-fauxnique.jpg

FAUXNIQUE: UNTITLED #351

 

LADY BEAR: UNTITLED #354

CINDY SHERMAN, UNTITLED #354

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Grimes is the coolest female on the planet…

Let’s round up this Sunday upload with a little musical treat: meet Grimes. I only discovered her a few days ago, yet this song as been on repeat pretty much ever since. It’s upbeat, energetic and I love the way she dances like she truly doesn’t give a shit…

Enjoy this breath of fresh air female talent, and a happy Sunday to all from Behind the Curtain.

Tagged , ,

Sandra Fluke- Democratic National Convention 2012

The inspirational women’s rights advocate Sandra Fluke addresses the 2012 Democratic National Convention, talking about President Obama’s  continual support of  women’s rights and the two very different futures American women could encounter.

Tagged , , , ,

Keep It Real

Behind the Curtain is supporting the #KeepItReal with SPARK Summit and Miss Representation campaign in order to empower girls and women. Media images are not real. Photoshopping  is not real. What is very real is the negative thoughts and mindsets us women are processing when we feel we cannot live up to unrealistic and distorted standards of beauty.

Photoshopping is something you see a lot of these days in magazines, on billboards, and on TV. Many people don’t realize that photoshopping is changing the perception of beauty to only include girls with flawless skin, perfect hair, and skinny bodies. In reality no one has all these characteristics naturally, and it makes lots of people feel badly about the way they look.

Take magazines for example. Women shown on magazine covers go through many processes to become what we see in the photos. First they are covered in extensive makeup and then their hair is styled into perfection. Are the models’ eyes too small, ears too big, waist too wide? No problem! After the photos are taken, the professionals manipulate the image by changing shapes, moving features, and creating highlights digitally. These effects can completely change how a person looks, thus creating an impossible example for girls to live up to. -Ava, New Moon Girls Editorial Board Member

Today I woke up with a spot on my face. I cursed and loathed myself for being so stupid as to let it grow. I should be flawless, right? The day was dampened slightly every time I glanced in a mirror, or saw it’s ruby red head in a reflection. I wouldn’t say I am particularly vain. Not particularly. Standards of beauty are so internalized that they become commonplace. Unbreakable. I am doing a degree, I am learning another language, I am meeting new and knowledgeable people everyday; yet, I have a spot on my face. I don’t quite match up to what the computer ordered me to be. Click click, and the flaw is gone.

The  #KeepItReal challenge is finally questioning this damaging way of living, of worrying, of over-analyzing. Women should not just be valued by beauty alone. Women are so much more powerful than we think. Raise your voice, keep it real.

Tagged , , , , ,

TEDxWomen — Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Each and every one of us has the capacity for change.

Thank you Ms. Newsom, you are incredible.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

This little one is my hero….

First we had the inspired anti-capitalist rambles of Riley on Marketing and now we have something equally as uplifting. Meet this little 5 year old gem who sums up perfectly my thoughts on marriage. This 1 minute clip seriously brightened up my day…

Tagged , ,