Second Edition: What does Feminism Mean to Me

Opinion

By Sophia Obrecht

Following Tegan Francis’ exploration of what Feminism means to her, I thought I’d lay bare my own take on Feminism because while great mind do think alike, every perspective is a little different and here’s mine.

Let’s Focus on the Basics

Like any social movement in history Feminism came into existence with a specific mission or focus. While the Abolitionists focused on abolishing the slave trade, and the Chartists focused on the universal male suffrage, Feminism grew from the focus on women’s rights, whether it was the fight for women’s vote, equal pay, or the right to own property and to divorce. And, like other social movements in history, whether the civil rights movement or those that fought and continue to fight for LGBTQ+ rights, Feminism has come to represent the pursuit of freedom, equality and liberation of men and women.

At its core Feminism represents a challenge to the unfair and biased status quo of society.

Still feminists have suffered from particularly negative stereotypes, they have been branded as radical bra burners, hysterical spinsters, and distinctly anti-men throughout the 20th century and even in this the 21st century. But to me Feminism should be seen as a decidedly rational and reasonable movement; it should be seen as unashamedly pro-women, distinctly pro-men, and increasingly pro trans- people. I say this because at its core feminism serves to challenge traditional gender roles, roles that have placed women in one box and men in another; stereotypes linked to biology, which ignore individuality and play into the intense and often subconscious social constraints placed on men and women.

The Feminist perspective allows us to challenge what a woman and a man should be according to our past and present patriarchal societies. It serves to level up the playing field and encourage men and women to look beyond how they believe they should act, who they believe they are, and the opportunities they feel they can peruse.

Men and Women Unite

Feminism involves both men and women with the backbone of the movement championing equality, and while some women might not always want to admit it, we need men in order to achieve this equality. In fact, a key milestones of the movement, that is the equality of the sexes, came about in the 1972 court case of Moritz v. Commissioner. Moritz, an unmarried man had been denied a tax deduction for the cost of being a caregiver for his mother simply because he as a man was not considered a caregiver. The Internal Revenue Service argued that the law stipulated a tax deduction could only be given to women or formerly married men. Ruth Bader Ginsburg a specialist on gender law and now a Supreme Court Judge argued that it was unfair to discriminate on the basis of Moritz’s sex and that he should be allowed the caregiver deduction whether he was a woman or man. The judge ruled in his favour and in doing so opened the door to challenges other laws which discriminated on the basis of sex, it also served to challenge the notion that only women could be caregivers.

So while women need men in order to further the cause for equality, men (although some might not realise it yet) need the Feminist movement to liberate them from biased social demands, toxic masculinity and outdated ideas of what it means to be a “real man”. By pushing for women’s rights, Feminism has allowed men to examine their own positions in society.

I would argue that a shift in femininity has increasingly allowed men to understand how media and culture have shaped ideas of masculinity.

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that in challenging gender roles and femininity, Feminism along with the LGBTQ+ movement, has challenged traditional masculinity. In doing so the fight for equality has fostered discussions on men’s mental health issues, as well as the social pressures that men have and continued to face. For example, by asserting that a woman’s role is not just in the home, in other words that she should have the opportunity to go out and become a wage earner with a successful career, we begin to question why a man must hold the pressure of being the main provider or breadwinner: we have begun to acknowledge that ideas of what it means to be a good husband and a strong man can create huge stress for men from all walks of society.

So while feminism has opened women up to opportunity, allowing them to be more aggressive, career driven and outwardly ambitions, something which would previously have been seen as unfeminine and vulgar, perhaps the movement has the potential to open men up to new ideas of masculinity and reset the intense gender roles in society.   

The Path to Equality Never Did Run Smooth

Its’s clear that challenging gender roles is the key to unlocking the path to more women in boardrooms and the key to easing aspects of toxic masculinity in our society; it is the key to affording men and women opportunities to take on different roles in society. But changing the way we understand what it means to be a man and a women is easier said than done.

Change has to start in the way we raise and educate children, because it’s the small subtle gender differences and subsequently limitations we instil in our children that go on to foster and fire up the negative and limiting gender roles of our society.

For example, while dressing your daughter up exclusively in pink princess dresses, and your son exclusively in a fireman’s uniform might seem harmless at first, the issue is much bigger with far wider implications. Why must girls aspire to be princesses, play with dolls, fairies and soap making kits when boys are encouraged to play with Lego, toy cars, and science kits? Of course boys also play in the realm of make-believe but the last time I checked Batman and Iron man were also businessmen and billionaires by day.

While the way children play is far less black and white than just Barbie vs Action man etc., the subtleties of how toys and the differing roles within play are marketed to parents and children filters into how men and women are defined in our society. Some might tell me “you shouldn’t always take things so seriously” “boys will be boys and girls just love pink”…But however harmless they might seem, many children’s toys embody the everyday sexism: Whether it’s the objectification of women in society or this idea of masculinity equalling strength and sometimes violence, such representations come back to archaic ideas of gender and identity.

Feminism and the move to a more gender neutral society has the ability to redefine and reshape how we teach children to identify with their genders, that being a girl is much more than playing house and that being a boy is more than playfighting and action man.

Nature vs Nurture

Of course many will disagree with me, arguing that blurring of gender roles has led to a crisis of masculinity, a crisis of marriages, maternal neglect and so on and so forth. Many dispute claims that societal conventions shape gender identity, these people would argue that you can’t fight biology – gender roles simply reflect the different biological makeup of men and women.

In part I agree – the experiences of men and women are and will in part continue to be different! Whether due to our society’s traditional and patriarchal ways or because of biological differences which feed into how men and women are perceived and how we perceive ourselves. And while I think it would be unreasonable to strip men and women from their gendered identities completely, heck where would I be if I couldn’t call myself a strong independent woman and revel in the best aspects of womanhood, our gender identities should be less polarised, more individual, and for heaven’s sake far more balanced.

This does not mean men must stay at home all day with the kids and work part time, it means that they should be able to do so if they so choose without judgement. Shifting gender roles does not mean men should feel threatened as women move up the career ladder, they should welcome change and a female perspective at the top. In the same way equality should, though admittedly does not always, mean that women have access to any path they choose whether that’s staying at home, perusing a full time career, travelling around the world, being a CEO or whatever career they end up persuing.

Feminism means understanding women not by their capabilities to reproduce or their value based on their appearance but by their true human worth.

It means seeing men are more than a provider or protector, but as complex human beings with just as many life stresses and even limitations as women. Feminism means valuing all forms of work, career, and life choices that women and men want to pursue, it means that specific jobs, roles, and characteristic should not be ascribed to a specific gender.

Feminism means opportunity and it means choice, and the sooner we understand the human similarities between men and women, that we all suffer from the social and emotional, physical and financial stresses of life, the closer we might come to seeing each other as equals in the home, at work, and in politics.

page_refresh Photography: Whitby

Travel

“This is a lovely place. The little River Esk runs through a deep valley which broadens out as it comes near the harbour… The houses of the old town are all red-roofed and seem piled up one after the other anyhow…Right over the town is the ruin of the Abbey, a noble ruin of immense size. Between it and the town is another church, the Parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. It descends so steeply over the harbour that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed.”

Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897

Crabbing

Catch of the Day

The Graduate

Culture and Lifestyle

Life Plan Blueprint

  • Step one: Go to school ☒
  • Step two: Get good grades ☒
  • Step three: Go to a respectable university ☒
  • Step Four: Make a tonne of lifelong friends and get a good degree☒ ☒
  • Step Five: Leave university get a great grad job, become financially independent, and lead a fabulous life full of brunches, bars, first dates, new friends, and complete with hip apartment fit for only the coolest young professional… ☐

As the years of university flew by this idea of the perfect post uni life remained the same. Shaped by images of shabby chic flats in up and coming London boroughs, or by TV shows featuring a groups of twenty something friends living in a Manhattan loft, the general idea of post-uni life was hopeful to say the least. But as the final months of university passed by, images of the perfect grad job, spacious apartments and chilled after work drinks with pals began to fade into the reality of cramped London flats, nights in with your mum and dad, and an unsatisfying work life balance. In the end the excitement of leaving university can end up leaving you feeling lonely and disillusioned.

According to a recent study 49% of graduates felt that their mental health had declined since leaving university. And it’s no surprise, for the first time ever you are left to make your own choices and find your own plan. For years it had been pretty simple, you go to school, get into a good uni, and after that you had some vague visions of what life would be like. But now you’ve graduated and the life you might have pictured is not just vague it’s completely uncertain. Of course this uncertainty is not always bad, it can be exciting too, with the possibility of travel, seeing new places and meeting new people, but what I’ve found is the excitement comes in waves, followed by a tsunami of anxiety and worry about the endless yet paradoxically limited possibilities of post-uni life.

Welcome to Casa Mum and Dad

For many graduates, including myself, leaving university means moving back in with your mum and dad for a little while. At first it can be nice coming back to the reassurance of your childhood home; your room is mostly how you left it, and your favourite home cooked meals are now a regular occurrence again. In fact, the comfort of home after living in a messy student house can be refreshing, and having your mum and dad around can be soothing… until it’s not.

Let’s just say Sherlock Holmes has nothing on my mum when she wants to know who I am texting and what the latest gossip is, and sharing a TV remote with my Dad is frustrating to say the least. And although I’ve only been back at home for two months even a couple of months can be a couple too many.

It’s not that I don’t like some aspects of being at home or that I won’t missed my parents when I’m gone, it’s just that right now I miss my independence and even my privacy. I miss being a total slob without my mum and dad asking me what’s on my agenda for the day. I miss going food shopping and making my own meal plans for the week.

I miss coming home from a night out at 3 am with my housemates in tow and spending the next couple of hours eating a grimy take-away as we debrief on the night’s events.

But perhaps most of all I miss being in a town, a city, because although Durham (my university town) might be tiny in comparison to London, it’s a hell of a lot bigger than the small village where my parents live and where the bus into the nearest city leaves once an hour… until 7pm when escaping the village is impossible without a car.

Long-Distance is Never Easy

One of the biggest challenges about leaving university is having to say goodbye to your friends who may also happen to be your housemates. Although I know we’ll see each other again it’s been hard knowing I won’t see them every day and that we’ll have make it through long distance.

But perhaps the hardest part about long distance friendships post-uni is that there will always be a group within your group of friends who end up living close, with many graduates congregating in London. And while it’s great for when you need a place stay, if you choose to go against the grain and move to Manchester, Leeds, or maybe to a new country, it can be hard knowing that life goes on without you.

Whether its Instagram stories or tales from nights out, watching your friends make new memories without you can leave you feeling left out, especially when you realise that making new friends in the real world is a little harder than it was in fresher’s week.

The Job

For many there is a real pressure to leave university and find that perfect job in the perfect location (usually defined as the London metropolis), but this fantasy is often met with unexpected financial, as well as social challenges.

Films like the Devil Wears Prada might have us believe that it’s possible to land a job as assistant to the Editor of Vogue without any prior experience or even interest in fashion, but the reality of endless application forms, the emphasis on previous internships, and the sheer number of graduates all applying for the same job would have us believe otherwise.

With most of your friends ending up in London, it can feel isolating living abroad.

Experience truly reigns supreme, even trumping your actual degree classification. After all what’s a 2:1 without the sixth month (unpaid) internship on top?

The catch 22 of getting a job without any experience in order to get some experience so that you can get a job can be exhausting.

Eventually you might land a job, but that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect job. I know some friends are struggling to find excitement in their job while those in their dream jobs might be struggling to cope with the workload and pressure that comes with working in certain industries. And even if you land a job you’re excited about, it doesn’t mean it will impress everyone, nor fit the high flying aims you might have previously had.

I myself applied for a graduate scheme in Germany with a pretty big sports apparel company. In the end they didn’t give me the job but they offered me a 6 months paid internship, something I am really excited about. It’s an opportunity to learn and gain experience to take forward to a potential grad scheme next year. But despite my pride, a friend seemed to pity me when I was venting how nervous about my first day. Trying to make me feel better, they explained that there was no need to worry, ‘’it’s not a real job, it’s just an internship’’…

This one hit me pretty hard as the days I had spent working on my application video, weeks waiting to hear back from the hiring manager, and the hours I spent preparing for the assessment centre all came flooding back. To me this internship was something I couldn’t be more proud of, to them it was not even a real job, and certainly not worth getting nervous about.

Social Media Strikes Again

Not only do we want to fulfil our own expectations, we want to meet the expectations of others, whether that’s society’s expectations, peer pressure, or the need to make you parents and family proud.

But when we come up short, or even come up trumps, the reality rarely meets those earlier visions of what post-university life would be like.

Of course feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and anxiety are not helped by social media post from those seemingly high achievers with their perfect life, perfect flat and maybe even perfect relationship. But the chances are even those insta achievers might be struggling with post-uni life (why else would they seek reassurance on social media).

So maybe it’s time we all opened up to each other a little more, instead of making things a competition about who made the best post-uni career leap, let’ just take a step back, congratulate each other on getting through the roller-coaster of university and be sure to give each other a helping hand when it comes to post-uni struggles and fears.

Concentrate on making your own way in the world and stop comparing yourself to others.

It Is Time We Warmed up to Tech Start-Ups

Opinion

First published in the Palatinate November 15th 2018

Over the past few years, extreme weather has become a regular feature across the globe and as fear mounts for the future of our planet, companies are beginning to realise that there is some opportunity in climate change. Decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy sources, for example, protects us from oil price shocks while also reducing our impact on the planet.In emerging countries the move to a green economy offers a wealth of opportunity.

Across the globe, innovation in green technologies has helped to drive economic growth – and not just for developed nations. In emerging countries, green technologies and the move to a green economy offer a wealth of opportunity.

As research and greater investment into new technologies increases, so too has affordability and accessibility. With this, tech start-ups in ‘developing’ nations are taking on the opportunity to combine economic possibility and entrepreneurial genius with green sustainability.

To continue reading click here.

5 Extreme Sports You Should Try at Least Once in Your Life

Culture and Lifestyle

By Sophia Obrecht

Living on the edge, and daring to test your physical limits — some have made a career pushing themselves to explore the extremes of sport. From Hannah Teter (Olympic snowboarding champion, halfpipe), to Stephanie Gilmore (six time world champion in surfing), or Danny MacAskill (expert trails cyclist), these adrenaline junkies are anything but tame! In our everyday lives, we spend on average nine hours in front of a screen each day, maybe it’s time to wake ourselves up, and got that blood pumping…and I’m not talking about going for little jog around the block. Here are five extreme sports you should try at least once before you die.

Skiing/Snowboarding (off piste)

Classic extreme sports, alpine skiing and snowboarding are all about speed, technique, and style. For a lot of people out there, especially those living up a mountain these sports might not seem so extreme, but to those not accustomed to the world of winter-sport, the idea of bombing down a mountain on two wooden planks might seem at a least a little daunting. From the Apres-ski aspect of the sport, to the high that comes from gliding across a mountain, the wind rushing past your face, skiing and snowboarding are sports that everyone should have a little taste of.

Fair warning: be prepared for the bruises! While I have been skiing since the age of 4, I gave snowboarding a shot for the first time just a couple of years ago, and there was a lot of crashing out, bruised legs and bums, and hard work just to master the basics (let’s just say, I am not a natural born snowboarder.)

For a more extreme take on the sport, give off piste skiing, free style snowboarding (and skiing), or ski jumping, a try. One thing is for sure, once you’ve mastered any one of these forms of winter sport you will be the coolest kid on the slopes. If you think winter-sports might be for you click here for more info.

Rock climbing

If you have a fear of heights, maybe avoid this one…but if you love being up high with a view as far as the eye can see, this sport may just be for you. This one requires a lot of concentration, endurance, and core body strength!

The great thing about rock climbing is that indoor walls provide a in a low risk environment where you can really give the sport a try, get to grips with the basics, until you’re ready, and qualified to take on a real rock face. There are of course many different forms of climbing, some carrying more risk than others. Take free solo climbing, which basically involves no ropes, protective gear or harnesses…its highly dangerous and really only reserved for the hyper-adrenaline junkies (and the highly experienced rock climbers out there). Other forms of rock climbing (less likely to result in sudden death) include mountaineering, top rope climbing, or sports climbing! This BBC article covers everything you need to know about getting started.

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Surfing

Be at one with the waves…or something along those lines. Surfing has to be one of the coolest sports around. With your board you are literally treading water, floating above the sea, just you and the ocean. It’s one of the sports I have always wanted to try, and someday I’ll get there.

Of course this one is not as easy as the professionals make it look. Balance is key and pure muscle strength is 100% necessary if you want to look like a seasoned expert on a board. With the help of wave machines surfing can be accessible in locations all over the world (not just the surfing paradises of Hawaii, Australia or Portugal). Take the Eisbach Welle in the middle of Munich city center, a man-made wave on the river that runs through the park. Everyday surfers gather to take it in turns on the wave, practice their moves, and get down with their surfing skills. For more information on how to get started with surfing have a peak at this guide by Degree 33 Surfboards.

Slacklining

Ok, so this one gets more extreme the better you get. Slacklining involves balancing on a slack-line, which can be hung, well anywhere you choose. Between two trees, just above the ground in a quiet park (for all those beginners out there), or between a wide canyon, 100ft above the ground — take your pick!

This extreme sport is all about persistence, practice and pushing your body’s senses. From bringing new tricks to the table, to going beyond what people though could be possible. One thing is for sure, you have to be pretty fearless to take this challenge on, and for all those starting out, patience is a virtue, and it’s a lot harder than you might at first think! Check out this article on tips for slacking-greatness from Redbull, the masters of extreme sports.

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Mountain Biking

It’s time to hit the trails, get back to nature and work with your bike. Mountain biking takes a lot of skill and quick thinking. A popular sport across world, it requires a lot of nerve. Moving, swerving and jumping over rough terrain, why not take on the challenge?

Its up to you how far you go with it, from recreational mountain biking, to competitive racing, this sport is worth a shot, and a great way to get outdoors and active! Find out more here

Social Media — It’s Time We Make it Mean Something

Opinion

We Keep Coming Back for More

If you ask anyone who regularly scrolls through their Insta feed, if they have ever felt insecure or inadequate after looking at a photo posted by a fellow user (celebrity or not), they will doubtlessly say yes! And if they say no, well, they’re lying.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a massive hypocrite, I’m only human after all. While I don’t have a personal Instagram account (I deleted it one summer after becoming fed up of endless bikini beach shots), I do regularly scroll though Facebook, mindlessly reading subpar memes (ok some are actually quite funny) or catching a glimpse of a photo of someone who is virtually a stranger to me. And for what?

I tell myself I need Facebook to stay up to date with events going around me, maybe I’m scared my friends won’t include me in any plans if I’m no longer in our group chats. Is it because I have this constant need to stay relevant and in the loop, a need for likes and attention? Or because I am too involved in a reality, which fails to acknowledge the need for privacy, for alone time, and for genuine friendship?

Why, Why, Why?

In the end it comes down to the fact that social media is addictive. It plays on human traits and characteristics, on our need for approval, social competitiveness, jealousy, and on our insecurities. Every time we post a photo or a status, and every time we get a ‘like’ (a virtual, if disconnected, compliment), endorphins are released in our brains. We feel happy, successful, at least in that moment when we see the notification icon light up with a little red dot. We keep coming back for more, seeking approval, equating likes to popularity, to success and to friendship, mistaking appearance for substance. The worst part of all? Most of the time we don’t have the faintest idea of the kind effect our own photos or posts are having on our followers, or the influence others, such as companies, media outlets or even our friends are having on us.

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The Good Ol’ Days

Before the web and social media, in the good old days, showing off and sharing photos, equated to  gathering on a sofa looking through some prints from your cousins’, friends’, or even grandparents’ holiday, maybe you would be treated to a slide show if they were feeling a particularly impressed with themselves. The need for approval echoed the same motives behind our obsession with Facebook or Instagram, but with one key difference — context.

Looking through photos together, hearing stories, and anecdotes, which were often both good, bad and hilarious, is something we don’t really see on social media. No one, or rarely anyone, writes a huge caption about the fact that they had food poising just 24 hours before that perfect beach photo was taken, that they were oozing grossness from both ends of their body, that life is not picture perfect! That couple, always posting selfies together, don’t explain that they were fighting just ten minutes before that adorable photo was posted. That seemingly perfect girl, who always looks flawless in her pictures won’t share that it took her 500 shots and 300 different poses to get the right one. Hey, even that girl power pop queen won’t let you know it took 3 hours of makeup and a fair amount of photo shopping to look like a plastic Barbie doll.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

It seems like we have to look effortlessly perfect 24/7, appear cool and interesting. But what’s cool and interesting about being the same as everyone else? About sharing that holiday snap with a caption of a sun emoji? What does that tell me about you? In a world of fake news, and fake boobs, why can’t we just be honest with each other? In my perfect world social media as we know it today would not exist. But since this is an unrealistic expectation, I simply crave the day when someone posts a great selfie and captions it ‘I was feeling a bit bored and down today so wanted some likes to boost my ego’ (Hey, we’ve all been there). Or ‘Yeah I do have an amazing body, but it takes me a hell of a lot of work, and sacrifice, and there are days when I don’t think it’s worth it’.

Better yet would be if people began posting messages of substance. Images that reflect their intellectual achievements, talents, or skills. Why is our focus always on appearance and never of how we feel or what we think? Why do we never look to those achieving amazing feats, but instead worship the surface beauty of a handful of rich celebrities? And even when someone posts about an experience or even a hard time in their life, they simply get branded as attention seeking, while that vapid selfie get 100 likes!

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‘Hello, it’s the Real World Calling, We Want Society Back’

Maybe it’s time we put the phones down and stepped away. It’s time to go outdoors, meet up with friends, try out that new sport, and visit that art gallery we thought looked interesting. Even just for an afternoon, or a Saturday, what if we left our phone behind us just for a few hours!

All this is not to diminish the positive aspects of social media — that is one thing I should make clear. In many ways social media has worked to improve society, helping groups, who may otherwise not had the chance to find their voice, get their message heard. When it comes to women and this idea of the perfect body it’s true that platforms such as Instagram have helped to widen this definition, to make clear that we do come in all shapes and sizes.

Yet there remains this fixation with appearance over what’s inside (as cheesy as that might sound). And while a good friend pointed out to me the other day that in many ways an Insta profile is a form of art for the modern age, — it is a representation on how we wish to be seen, not the reality — I only ask that people take a look at themselves and think about who they want to be and what they think society should look like… Maybe it’s time we added some meaning to those smiling group shots and pouting selfies, at least once in a while?

Men, Women, and Understanding Toxic Masculinity

Opinion

By Sophia Obrecht

 Just last month Gillette released their latest ad campaign. Under a reworked tagline, ‘The best men can be’, the advert focused on ways in which men themselves can work to halt negative aspects of masculinity in our society. From catcalling, ogling and intimidating women, to boys fighting, and men holding back or suppressing their emotions, the advert asked men to challenge traditional behaviours and ideas associated with toxic masculinity.

For most women and a large proportion of men, at least those I have spoken to, the advert proved a success. Many praised Gillette’s message, some even reacted with emotion because for once an advert had got it right…the situations and behaviours portrayed in the advert were real, and not the exception. Here was a large corporation, a global brand, sending out a positive and empowering message to men, here was an advert that understood that feminism, women’s rights, men’s rights, and equality are part of one whole.

The advert was a positive call to action, it was as if someone had looked into my mind and mirrored exactly what I wished society could see, that equality is not just about pay, it’s about men being able to be more than what the media portrays them as, more than the negative behaviours our society sanctions. In return women are more than the just a traditional gender image, more than just an object of sexual desire.  

Not everyone was happy about the advert, and the backlash which erupted among many men, demonstrates just how fragile and negative toxic masculinity can be in our society. Some men felt attacked by the messages and images in the video which supposedly showed all men to horrible, violent and creepy.

However, those who criticise the video fail to understand their own privilege, and their defensiveness demonstrate their failure to understand the consequences of toxic masculinity on themselves and others in society. They fail to understand the effect that the pressures of being the ‘provider’ or ‘bread-winner’ might have on a man’s mental health; they fail to see that the images of strong and tough men, and that a culture of banter, might make it hard for men to express their emotions and share the burdens of life with their peers. They fail to see the link between violence and toxic masculinity, and the effect that this has on men and boys. They fail to understand that the objectification of women and that laddish behaviours depicted in the media and sanctioned in society negatively affect women’s life, and not just in extreme cases of sexual violence. Most women have felt intimidated in public by men, perhaps by a rowdy group of men on the train, largely unaware that their behaviours come across as threatening, or when being catcalled whilst walking down the street. To some men these situations may seem harmless or insignificant, but for the women on the other side, it can be nerve racking and embarrassing to be placed in such a difficult position, due in large part to male privilege and the ignorance of others.

Photo by Tomu00e9 Louro on Pexels.com

I spoke to one male friend, who on the whole liked the video, but believed that men were not portrayed as they should have been…as a product of our society. When he watched the advert he saw men being blamed for what society had made them. In some ways he was right, the advert failed to highlight the damage that the media has done. For the most part masculinity in shown to be one dimensional, men are portrayed as strong, dominant, and successful. From music videos, to action films, even to older Gillette adverts, men are portrayed in one box, women in another.

Men, just like women, have been forced into a stereotype by the media, by politics and by culture. But it’s time for change from the bottom up. Since the late 1800s women have fought to change their status in society initially for themselves but gradually effecting change for other groups, setting a precedent for equality.

Masculinity does not have to be something negative, it doesn’t have to be toxic. Men should be able to show their emotions, they should be portrayed as multi-dimensional, they should be depicted in a positive and balanced light. But this can only happen if men themselves work towards change. Men cry and men get angry, just like women. Men can be caring, just as women can be strong (and vice versa). A man can be masculine and vulnerable at the same time, just like a woman can be feminine and strong. With the progress of feminism, equality for men and women can be achieved. But men must work with women to challenge the status quo, for themselves and for others. Perhaps if our ideas of gender, of masculinity, and of femininity, were less extreme, society would be a fairer place for all.

Missing: Informed Opinions in the Age of Social Media and Brexit

Opinion

By Sophia Obrecht

Fake News seems to be the buzzword of the day, and as much as I may disagree with President Trump, his views and policies, the issue of false information is an important issue in society today — of course much of the current misinformation is actually spread by individuals such as the US president himself.

As a child I was always told not to believe everything you read, especially the things you see on the internet. At university you’re taught to only use information from sources that are believed to be reliable, so why then is it so easy to find fake information and misleading claims on the internet, in the public sphere, and in political campaigns?

Who Is in Charge Here?

One of the biggest issues with the spread of misinformation or ‘fake news’ is the lack of regulation when it comes to social media posts and fact checking. Social media platforms such as Facebook fail to take real responsibility for fake news, leaving the online world open to mass speculation and uncontrollable sensationalism. If you’re writing for a reputable magazine or newspaper, statements and facts must be checked. If you’re sat at home on your sofa, or even behind your desk in the Oval Office, ready to send out a tweet, there is nothing stopping you. Of course, social media platforms are, in many ways, designed to facilitate the spread of personal messages and opinions, and allow for the principle of free speech … but what happens when free speech becomes hate speech, or when personal opinions are represented as facts, with nothing other than hearsay to back them up, what then?

The B Word

The other day I couldn’t help overhear a conversation on a flight from Brussels to Manchester. One man says to another ‘We’ll be better off when we are out of the bloody EU, just look at Sweden, they’re doing ok with their Volvos, and they’re not part of Europe’. Just let that sink in, here was a man so against the EU, referencing the prosperity of another nation, Sweden, as proof of the positive effect of being independent from the European Union. But here’s the problem, if you haven’t already clocked it….Sweden is in in fact in the EU, free movement and all (minus the euro of course)! How can you be so against the European Union when you can’t even grasp the basics of which countries are actually member states?

So yet again we come to the big old B word, Brexit. So many of us have strong opinions on the subject, and so we should, it’s a political event that will shape our lives for many, many (many) years to come, and not for the better if you ask me (although some of you may disagree). The problem is, that to this day I hear so many strong voices, negative voices, claiming the EU is this and that, claiming we will be better off out of it. Of course there are those who shout loudly from the rooftops in favour of the EU, and I certainly won’t pretend to be an expert on the ins and outs, and fine print of the European Union, however I’m not part of the group fighting to change our status within Europe, which has seen the UK grow with the support of its European neighbours, and which allowed me to live and study abroad, a dream which I hope others will continue to enjoy. But on what grounds do those in favour of Brexit justify their opinion, show me the data, show me the plan, which reveals the bright shining future of Britain outside the EU ? I want more than anything to be proven wrong, to find that our post-EU situation won’t be as bad as what I believe it could be…but my hopes are fading fast.

Fake Photos and Unattainable Aspirations

Here in lies the problem, people shouting opinions, spreading information, simply repeating statements they have heard or seen on social media, ultimately leading to chain of misinformation. Of course myths, stories and old wives tales, have spread through word of mouth since the beginning of time, but there this something more sinister, as platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow for the mass spreading of misinformed opinions disguised as facts! Individuals become outraged, emotionally invested in a fact or statement that isn’t even based on truth. They are promised something, a better life, lower taxes, political control. However it is the prominence and prevalence of social media, seeing an opinion on a screen, liked by millions which serves to make such promises more believable.

Even when it comes to the images we see on social media, on Instagram, we are left looking at fake images, fake portrayals of what we believe to be reality. Whether it’s unattainable body shapes, created by Photoshop or practiced angles, we’re taught to believe in something that isn’t real — a political cause, a mass image of beauty, or a lifestyle which we won’t ever live up to.

So here is a call to action regardless of your political creed, left or right, leave or remain, whether you’re a prolific Instagramer or not, next time you feel outraged, intrigued, or even moved by a fact or statement you find online, or hear in the public sphere, take the time to read around the subject before you start sharing your thoughts with others, because informed opinions have the power to change this crazy, sensationalist world, all it takes is a bit of common sense.


Informed opinions have the power to change this crazy, sensationalist world, all it takes is a bit of common sense.

Vienna — Culture, Christmas, and Comfort Food

Culture and Lifestyle, Travel

By Sophia Obrecht

Vienna, the undisputed capital of culture. Overflowing with history, art, and music, the city is full of galleries and museums to discover. At Christmas the Austrian Hauptstadt also has a festive edge with a Christmas market on every street corner. For me one of the best parts of visiting the city is getting to fill up on all my favourite Austrian foods, from desserts, to hearty main dishes, there is no end to tasty comfort food on the menu. So sit back, relax, and read on to find out how to make the most of your time in Vienna.

Admire the Architecture

If you’re looking to explore the city’s architectural gems then look no further than Vienna’s Ringstrasse, built between the 1860’s and 1890’s. The boulevard, located in the first district, is the best place to admire a host of building without having to move from one end of the city to the other. The buildings on the Ringstrasse were built during the period of Historicism: a style which encompasses different architectural styles from previous ages used to evoke bygone eras. As a result of this form of architecture the Ringstrasse is a space which looks as though it was built up over hundreds of years, instead of the space of 30. From the state opera, the Vienna stock exchange, the university building, or the Museums of fine art and natural history, you can’t help but be impressed.

Get up to Speed on Austrian Art

No trip to Vienna would be complete without seeing some of the country’s most famous artworks. My personal favourite is Klimt’s painting ‘The Kiss’, housed in the Belvedere, if only for the purity and beauty of the painting. While you’re there be sure to check out some of Gustav Klimt’s other famous works, including Judith or Adam and Eve. For a more striking and arguably disturbing approach to art Egon Schiele’s works are a stunning exploration of sexuality, self-image, and raw emotions. Other famous artists include Oskar Kokoschka and Friedensreich Hundertwasser (check out the famous Hundertwasser House in Vienna’s third district for a lesson in art, mosaic, and architecture)

Find the Perfect Breakfast Spot (on a Budget)

There are of course no end to cafes and breakfast spots to enjoy in Vienna. But from one friend to another check out the rooftop restaurant located in the furniture store Leiner on Mariahilfer Strasse for the cheapest breakfast in town. The food is basic, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, and for less than 3 Euro for breakfast and a coffee, it’s certainly the best spot for any students on a budget. The best part of the dining experience, is however, the view. A local secret, this rooftop restaurant offers a fantastic vantage point of the inner city with domes and spires as far as the eye can see.

Indulge in the Coffee Culture and Taste Every Dish on the Menu

Famous for its coffee culture, in which locals order their famous Melange (a Viennese cappuccino of sorts), and sit for hours in their favourite cafes, you too can experience the true Viennese lifestyle. Of course there are the classic coffee houses of Café Central, or Café Landtmann, where the intellectuals of the 19th century would gather and discuss theories of philosophy, art, and politics. Just be aware that these places tend to be slightly expensive and full to be brim with tourists, nevertheless the classic cafes are still worth a visit. So cameras at the ready and make sure to get that perfect shot of a classic apple strudel and coffee for your Insta feed.

While you’re in the city make sure you try some classic Austrian dishes, from Schnitzel, to Kaiserschmarrn, or my personal favourite Marillenknödel, the traditional food is just too good to resist!  

Explore the Christmas Scene

If you happen to find yourself in Vienna during the festive season take a stroll through the famous Christmas markets, from the Rathaus, to Karlsplatz and even Schönbrunn Palace, there is a host of markets to see. My personal favourite and a low key event, is the market at Spittelberg, with stalls lining the narrow streets there is something especially cosy about this Christmas market.

On the other hand, if you’re hoping to explore Vienna during the summer months, head to the famous film and food festival at the Rathaus. There is literally every type of food stall you can imagine and a huge cinema screen right in the city centre screening opera and ballet performances! How much more cultured can you get?

5 Tips for a Super Trouper Stay in Stockholm

Travel

Hold tight and get ready for some ABBA puns! Stockholm,Sweden’s capital has so much to offer, even in the depths of winter. From meatballs,to hipsters, to the classic ABBA experience, there is no time like the present to explore this fantastic city! So if you’re thinking of taking a trip to up to Sweden, here are my five tips for a super trouper stay in Stockholm.


Throw Yourself into the ABBA Fun

Stockholm, every ABBA fan’s dream! From ‘ABBA – The Museum’,to the Mamma Mia experience it’s true that in this city you can never have too much ABBA!

The ABBA Museum is a truly interactive experience! You can record your version of some of ABBA’s top hits, or perform on stage with a hologram of the band singing along with you! Just be prepared to relive the experience when you download your creations from the museum’s website…let’s just say not everyone is meant to be a star, and hearing your voice back screaming out Dancing Queen is a highly cringeworthy experience… but still a hell of a lot of fun!

If you are as ABBA crazy as me and my chicas then there is also the option of the Mamma Mia experience, a live cabaret show of sorts. The show is set in a Greek taverna, complete with a delicious menu of Mediterranean foods. Be warned though, unless you are planning a trip in July or August, the show is performed in Swedish (except for the songs, of course). This proved a  surprise to us and made for a very funny evening of trying to figure out the plot of the show….However, even with this minor inconvenience the night was fantastic and highly entertaining! So be be sure to take a chance on this wonderfully eccentric ABBA experience!


Explore the Old Town, Camera in Hand

There is no better way to explore a new city than to take a stroll through the streets, taking in the atmosphere, architecture and the people around you!

Have a walk through the old town or Gamla Stan, its medieval architecture makes for some great photo opportunities. With the Stockholm Cathedral as well as the Royal Palace there is a lot of Swedish history to discovery. In the run up to Christmas we stumbled across a small Christmasmarket — the frost covered ground and clear blue skies were enough to get us into the Xmas spirit, even in mid-November.


Bring the Money, Money, Money!

One thing to remember is you will need a lot of money to get about in Stockholm! Alcohol is notoriously expensive in Sweden so be prepared to pay over a fiver for a simple pint of beer and more than £10 for a glass of wine…Public transport in the city is also pretty pricey so make sure you take into account all those little extras, such as getting to and from the airport, as well as public transport during your stay.

Not only is Stockholm a costly city, the city and country,is also largely cashless. Get ready to pay for most things with card. I certainly got few funny looks when I got my sorry wad of Swedish Krona out of my purse, ready to pay for the most expensive hot chocolate of my life, only to find out the café did not accept cash! It’s a good idea to get yourself a cash travel card to avoid any fees on foreign transactions on your usual debit or credit card!


Get Some Meatballs in Ya

If you love the humble Ikea meatball, well then you’re in for a treat in Stockholm! Think mash potato, creamy source, and a dollop of lingonberry jam. Make sure you sample this Swedish delicacy, because believe me, the real thing is one million times better than the Ikea version (although I would never turn down a plate Ikea meatballs, let’s make that clear!).

Cinnamon Buns are also a traditional food in the Scandinavian city, so make sure you get yourself to a bakery and have taste of this sweet treat!


Get Your Hipster On in Södermalm

Of course the mainstream ABBA appeal of Stockholm is only part of the city’s attraction. For all the hipsters out there, or those looking to maintain their Insta aesthetic explore the island of Södermalm. It’s known as the alternative area of the city. With a host of cafés and shops each catering to the hipster crowd, there will be no shortage of brunch plates and chai latte’s to feature on your social media platforms.

Check out the area of Hornstull the perfect place to find a cozy café, as well as some cool bars and clubs for evening entertainment…or check out the outdoor market (Hornstull Marknad) for vintage clothing, one of a kind deals, and a food truck scene for all you foodies out there!