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.

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An Exploration of Mental Health in the Modern Age

Culture and Lifestyle, Opinion

By Kristina Eventov

First and foremost, I would like to preface this post with one disclaimer: mental health, like physical health is something we all have, but the degree to which it is “optimally-functioning” is something different altogether. So how then do we approach discussing mental health conditions, which are intrinsically personal and private conditions, in the open in order to achieve a balanced, comprehensive and compassionate understanding and awareness?

Let’s Open Up

When it comes to the presence of mental health issues in the media, I am very torn between two ends. On the one hand, greater discussion about mental health and mental health issues is undoubtedly a great thing for everyone. With more discussion come increased diagnoses and, hopefully, increased support and recoveries. If people understand what is going on in their brains, and they feel more comfortable opening up about it, how can anyone complain? There has been a greater focus on the very real presence that these issues have in our society, with many celebrities even contributing to the dialogue. This increased openness can help “sufferers” to feel less alone in what can often be very isolating and lonely times.

Needless to say, there has been a spike in the number of people suffering as a result of their poor mental health, and this isn’t a passing trend we should be adhering to; it represents a fundamental issue in society which we should be investigating

What’s in a Word?

However, what if having certain “buzz” words constantly circulating in society is causing an opposite, negative effect?
Though, of course, many people suffer from disorders such as anxiety and depression, these words have made their way into our everyday vernacular in the same way that we use “morning” and “night”. Far too often the statement “urgh I feel depressed” is thrown around as though it means nothing, when in fact to feel depressed is a very serious issue. With the traction these words are gaining, more and more people are becoming desensitised to the full weight of these words. The word “nervous” is being replaced by “anxious”; a very normal mood swing can lead someone to label themselves “bipolar”. As we become more comfortable using these previously ostracised terms, we may be getting too casual with them. IS there such a thing as too much awareness?

Photo by Quaz Amir on Pexels.com

Striking the Right Balance

I’m partial to a good meme here and there (who isn’t?), and I am definitely one for using humour as a defence mechanism. The thing is, how do you know when a joke carries a deeper meaning? When does a coping mechanism become a cry for help? It becomes much harder to distinguish between what is real and what is just “joking”. The onslaught of #relatable content is somewhat bittersweet in its ability to provide comfort and respite, yet aid the normalisation, and perhaps trivialisation, of serious issues.

Many TV shows, such as Skins and 13 Reasons Why, have been accused of glorifying, and even promoting, mental illnesses. So where do we draw the line? We want greater awareness, but not too much. If depictions of those struggling are “too real”, then they are considered a danger to and harmful for viewers. Conversely, if an issue is glossed over in order to limit the need for viewer discretion, are we then not undermining the experiences of those suffering from mental health conditions? It seems to be near impossible to strike the right balance and decide on which stance to take, though I suppose this is not surprising for such a complex and inherently personal issue.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The Social Media Menace

Perhaps the significance of our own online presence is also to blame. While we are constantly reminded that “social media is not an accurate portrayal of someone’s life” (after all most of us will admit to sharing only our highlight reel) we still often forget that a social media persona is rarely a reliable representation. Consequently, we want celebrities to be frank and honest, to show us that their seemingly perfect lives are neither attainable nor realistic. However, when these more personal and candid insights are divulged, these celebrities’ struggles are oftentimes invalidated as those with affluence have “no reason” to be suffering. We encourage celebrities to be open and exposed, only to allow us to tear them apart more easily. We crave integrity and realism yet fault human imperfection. Is it then any surprise that so many celebrities too fall victim to mental health struggles? (Regardless of previous predispositions.)

It is as if a certain criterion has been set by society for who can and cannot qualify for having a mental illness. This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, though; we have been force-fed a belief that money and success come with a heightened state of happiness, rather than at its expense (which can often be the case). With an increased societal pressure to work the hardest and longest, along with employers’ higher expectations of what being a good employee entails, is (job) success really the antidote to sadness? 

Where do we go from here? With everyone’s differing experiences with mental health issues – from severity to complexity to proximity -, how can we ever hope to have the correct kind of dialogue? Then again, maybe any publicity really is good publicity; as long as we are talking about it, we are doing something right.

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.

How to Keep On Keeping On

Culture and Lifestyle, Opinion

By Kristina Eventov

It seems like, at this point, everyone and their dog has a self-help book with their life-changing ways on how to make your terrible life just as amazingly perfect as theirs! Reading a 300-page book on how to live “mindfully” is all well and good until you feel like you’ve failed because you haven’t been “cured” by the time you reach the last page. As much as I would love to divulge some revolutionary insight on how to turn your life around, I can’t. All I can offer is some small advice on how to make tough days seem that little bit lighter and easier to handle.


1. Go Through the Motions

No matter how bad you are feeling, it is the little things that feel like the biggest victories. When it seems like everything around you is falling apart, take control of what you can. A bad mental health day may leave you feeling like you don’t want get out of bed at all, but, you’ll have to get up and pee eventually. So, take that moment to also brush your teeth, or make yourself a cup of tea on the way, maybe even shower if you’re feeling particularly adventurous! Each small step like this allows you to feel at least a small sense of success, and puts you back on the right track.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com


2. Don’t Be Afraid to Feel

If you feel like your emotions are getting overwhelming, don’t bottle them up As the wise ogre, Shrek, once said “better out than in”! No matter how long you try and keep your thoughts and feelings in, you will have to let them out eventually. Even just having a cry and physically experiencing your emotions can be incredibly cathartic. By allowing yourself to do this you can be more present in what you are feeling, and begin to process your thoughts.

3. Indulge in Your Guilty Pleasures

Now, I don’t mean eat a tub of Ben and Jerry’s every single day (though this may seem like a good idea initially), I mean something more meaningful to you personally. If you are feeling particularly down, it can feel as though you don’t enjoy any of the same things anymore. Prove yourself wrong and do something that will inevitably make you smile. Rather than just wallowing in self-pity, use that time to also watch an old movie that never fails to make you laugh. Talk about two birds with one stone, eh? For me, this might mean singing along (at a great volume) to one of my favourite soundtracks, or watching one of my favourite Friends episodes for the 24317614th time. It is these little familiarities that can help you feel more settled and at ease.

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

4. Express Yourself, Vocally (third party person not required)

Some people feel comfortable talking to a friend or relative about whatever it is they are going through. If this is you, amazing! Find someone you can confide in, and let them know what it is you are feeling. Don’t worry about feeling like a burden — a friend cares about you and wants you to feel okay. After all, they might even be able to offer some useful insight from personal experience. Alternatively, have a conversation with yourself. By trying to articulate your thoughts and feelings, you can better understand yourself and what exactly it is that you are trying to process. Even the simple act of saying it out loud (or at least trying to) can help you acknowledge the validity of your emotions, and hopefully rationalise them.

5. Go Ahead and Declutter

For many (including me), tidying is the absolute last thing on my to do list, let alone when I’m feeling sluggish (be that mentally or physically). Nevertheless, once I have somehow managed to convince myself to clean my room, I feel infinitely better. Sometimes it can feel like your messy surroundings are mirroring your cluttered thoughts, which can become an incredibly overwhelming feeling. By clearing the physical space around you, you can then allow yourself to think more clearly. I don’t know how, or why, but I promise you that a tidy room will help you feel that much more put together and on top of everything. And just think of how proud your parents would be…

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

At the end of the day, your mental health should be your top priority. If everyday feels like a struggle or you’ve been feeling down for a while now maybe its time to seek professional help (unfortunately this post does not count 😦 ). Consider contacting your doctor, a counsellor at your school or university, or reach out to a mental health charity like Mind. Let’s make actual, not just indulgent, self-care the #mood for 2019.


Why 2018 Rocked!

Opinion

By Tegan Francis

Sure, 2018 might not have been the best year this planet has ever seen… Trump is STILL president, brave women such as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford are STILL dismissed when coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment… We STILL haven’t agreed on a Brexit deal, and, well, Theresa May danced on national television, a troubling sight for many eyes (although at least she gave it a go!).

It this might seem like the past 12 months were filled with doom and gloom, but sometimes I think humans find too many reasons to complain. It’s easy to get angry and frustrated about what’s going wrong in the world without taking a second to really appreciate just how much of a blessing modern day life is. Our time here on earth is limited and finding things that make us smile seems like a a much better use of our time than complaining about things which we may or may not be able to change.

Ireland Abortion Ban

An impressive outcome came this May from Ireland’s vote on the 8th amendment, which effectively banned abortion in Ireland up until now. The country voted overwhelmingly to overturn the abortion ban with a result of 66% vs. 34%. In short, this now means that legal status of lives of a foetus and the woman carrying it are now equal. This is an incredible outcome for the modern day generation of Ireland, and demonstrates definite signs of progress in the country. I feel strongly that the life of Dr. Savita Halappanavar should also be mentioned when discussing this topic and the social progress in the country. Her death ignited a spark in Ireland, and powered the determination of activists within the country to change the law. Savita’s story really stuck with me this year and I would encourage anyone with an interest in this topic to acknowledge her bravery, courage and impact she has had on the Irish legal system.

Women on the Road In Saudi Arabia

It may seem like a small step but in actual fact it’s a giant leap for women and the gender disparity experienced in the UAE. As a Saudi women states in an interview with the BBC “Driving to me represents having a choice – the choice of independent movement. Now we have that option.” This reform is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s programme to modernise some aspects of Saudi society. Despite the development in this particular aspect of female life in Saudi Arabia, women have to adhere to strict dress codes, must not associate with unrelated men, and if they want to travel, work or access healthcare they must be accompanied by – or receive written permission from a male guardian. There’s still a long way to go, but for now let’s celebrate this small win of 2018!

A New Age Princess

Although this is a controversial topic for most people from the UK, the fact that Meghan Markel has now become the first woman of colour to join the British royal family is pretty freaking cool. A strong women in her own right, the grace and composure she showed on her wedding day as the world watched her marry Prince Harry was nothing short of a scene of pure inspiration. She carried herself incredibly well despite the media coverage of her family members and the drama her father caused in the lead up to the big day. It’s no wonder that she’s been the most googled person on the internet this year!

We Caught the Golden State Killer!

YES! We’ve got him! After managing to hide from police enforcement in the US for over 40 years, the man who is otherwise referred to as one of the most sadistic serial killers and rapists in American history is now behind bars. I personally don’t believe a human who committed such heinous crimes should be named in these circumstances as their life fundamentally doesn’t matter so we’ll just remain happy that justice has been served. The discovery and evidence used to finally arrest him came after the DNA left on his victims was checked against and online ancestor database. His arrest has helped dozens of people affected by his terror, breath a sigh of relief. Although this does not bring back their loved ones, they are at least able to rest now knowing that the attacker is now behind bars.

Life-changing Films

There were a considerable number of films released in 2018,  which had me leaving the theatre numb (in a good way) as well awestruck. Although these may not seem to carry the same weight as changes to the law or impressive scientific breakthroughs, I maintain that they are still important from a cultural and personal perspective.

The joy my friends and I experienced throughout the whole of the Mamma Mia sequel was something, which I’d never experienced before (so the movie may not win an Oscar any time soon, but it’s get my award for feel-good film of the year). We left the theatre with a new lease of life, determined to get our lives together, purchase a pair of colourful trousers and head off to Greece next summer in the hope we will be followed by three delicious men all vying for our attention. I’ll report back on whether this becomes a reality.

Bohemian Rhapsody was also an incredible performance, by all cast members involved. Shining a light on the person behind the rock star gave Freddie Mercury a human element which I’d never considered before. I also felt strangely proud to be British whilst watching the film.

Finally, I have to say, A Star is Born was worth the hype. I was completely convinced by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. The story takes twists and turns in places where I wasn’t expecting them, and the soundtrack is utterly beautiful.

Honorable mentions for why 2018 was “not so bad”:

  • The fact that David Attenborough didn’t die.
  • Scientist in China have successfully cloned a Monkey (you decide whether this is good or bad news)
  • There’s been a breakthrough in cancer research.
  • World hunger is at an all time low
  • We’re living longer! YAY!

So it’s not all so bad! I hope you’re feeling more optimistic and energized for the year ahead now you see that 2018 has been pretty kind to us. Here’s to another 12 months of excitement, progress, and changing for the better. Have a great one.

What does Feminism Mean to Me?

Culture and Lifestyle, Opinion

By Tegan Francis

I’m constantly surprised by the reactions I get when I say the ‘F word’- Feminism. This topic comes up about as much as Brexit does when you’re in conversation with people from around the world, or perhaps it’s because I’d rather talk about feminism over Brexit, I’m not sure.  Having spent the past six months with people from many different corners of the earth, I feel compelled to write this piece because there is still so much confusion when it comes to the concept of Feminism. So, here it is, here’s a round up of why I believe feminism to be worthy of it’s very own blog post and why I feel so strongly that each and every person on this planet should be a Feminist. If you’re still skeptical, hear me out…

Why Is It Called Feminism?

fem·​i·​nism | \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm  \

Noun

Definition of feminism 

1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

This is simply a word, which has been used to convey the idea that both men and women, nay, all human beings should be treated as equals on this earth. And before you start screeching about the fact that the use of the prefix ‘fem-‘ indicates that women are higher and more privileged when it comes to the pursuit of equality… IT’S JUST A WORD. And, if you’re a male and you have a problem with this, you have mankind, human, and history. So please, just this one time, can you let go of the fact that feminism starts with a female implied prefix, just this once? Thank you.

Photo by Will Milne on Pexels.com

Self Love

A key element of feminism which resonates with me is the concept of self love. Looking in the mirror and being kind to yourself is so important in a world of Photoshop and Victoria Secret models. It questions what our society believes to be ‘the perfect body’ and asks us to concentrate on what’s inside rather than your physical appearance. We are socialized to fit into a specific type, which changes from generation to generation. We’re told that our worth is in our appearance, that if we’re beautiful then that’s all that really matters. However, I say, life is too short to worry about what you look like all day. I think women would be able to concentrate a lot more on other useful things in life if we weren’t constantly worried about our appearance and how much people may or may not like us. Who knows, maybe we would have cured some fatal disease by now, or discovered how to teleport.

Alas, instead, we are preoccupied with whether our stomach looks fat today or if we should really eat that pretzel for lunch. Of course, that isn’t to say that society hasn’t imposed these pressures on men too. This is exactly why we ALL need feminism. The pressure men feel to be tall, strong and emotionally stoic, etc. is destructive and sadly demonstrated in the incredibly high male suicide rates across the world. Instead, I suggest we give less fu**s about what other people think of us, and spend more time celebrating what makes us unique. Let’s recognize when our society has made us feel like we need to behave and look a certain way, and challenge it. Embrace your quirks, because you are you and that’s the most beautiful thing you can be.

Photo by Dennis Magati on Pexels.com

Group love and Group Hugs

Feminism is also about inclusion. It’s about self-love, loving others, and accepting people around the world for who they are and what they stand for. Respecting their decisions and appreciating each and every human on this earth. I find it difficult to understand why people show hostility towards someone on account of their sexuality, race or gender. If their actions are not affecting your life in any way, you shouldn’t have a problem with them. On a more female level, feminism is also about lifting the women around you up, being their best cheerleaders and listening to their problems when they need you most.

It makes more sense to stick together in this harsh world before we start trying to attack one another on account of looks or personality. We already have modern society stacked against us, we don’t need extra ammunition from fellow females giving the patriarchy a helping hand! Of course this practice is sometimes difficult to enforce. Instead of getting mad and talking about a person behind their back, let’s take a moment to reflect and think about how destructive negative vibes are. If you’re not going to say something nice about a person, maybe don’t say anything at all. Wise words from Walt Disney there!

Why Is It Important?

Feminism matters. I was once told (by a man) that Feminism “doesn’t matter, it’ll never change anyway.” and this, my dear readers, is exactly why we need Feminism. There remains to be a considerable disparity between women and men in several aspects of our modern day society. One area, which shows this unequivocally is the gender pay gap. Across the world, women are consistently paid less than their male counterparts, which makes absolutely no sense.

The image above gives you a visual representation on how much further we have to go before women and men are considered equal in the workplace. This is just an example of one aspect of modern day life where the patriarchy is in play. I could go into many other examples of problem areas we still need to tackle such as child rearing, socialization and even the way we are expected to talk, but that’s for another time, and another day.

Now It’s Your Turn

A conversation I had recently inspired me to write this post as I felt so strongly that many people have a warped idea of what feminism really means and I wanted to set the record straight. Feminism doesn’t mean we are hysterical activist, burning bras at protests and refusing to shave. Instead, I need people to understand that it simply a concept of inclusion. We want everyone to have a place at the table. We want everyone to feel included, appreciated, and paid the same wage at this table. And, this, fellow citizens of planet earth, is why Feminism means so much to me. Thank you.

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.

Kavanaugh vs. Believing Women: A Supreme Court Precedent

Opinion

First Published 18th October in The Palatinate (Print Edition)

6th October 2018: Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the US Supreme Court. The appointment was marred by weeks of testimonials, committee hearings and press coverage focused on the allegation made by Dr Christine Blasey Ford, that she had been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh whilst they were in high school.

What does this case tell us about society’s attitude towards women, and how we engage with allegations of sexual assault?

Accusers such as Dr. Ford are treated as suspects in their own cases.

In many societies there is a tendency to disbelieve women, to conclude that it is the victims of sexual violence, who must be the ones lying, never those accused. Our society, and its leaders, motivated by power, wealth and influence don’t understand why a woman would be willing to come out in public, recounting their past trauma and risking their professional and personal reputation, simply for justice and for closure. Surely, they think, there must be something else they have to gain?

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Is European Patriotism the Answer to Far-Right Nationalism?

Opinion

By Sophia Obrecht

First published in The Palatinate, October 12th, 2018.

For many months now, far-right nationalism has been rearing its ugly head across Europe. In the meantime, the impossible riddle that is Brexit has been dominating the news in the UK — leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to a feeling of pride both on the continent and at home. Europe and the UK are at odds, while the UK itself is divided, not only between leavers and remainers, but between those who want a deal, a no deal, a second referendum, no referendum, and those who would just like to go back in time before this whole Brexit business began.

So the question remains, what kind of relationship will the UK have with Europe following Brexit? And with this what does the future hold for the EU, given the rise of nationalism across the continent?

With the European success against the US in the Ryder Cup, I began to feel a strange sense of pride … those cool collected Europeans, the underdogs, coming back to take the win against those arrogant Americans. A victory on French and European soil. This got me thinking, what if it was possible to foster some sort of European patriotism through sport and sporting success, in order to counteract the growing rise of extreme nationalism across Europe, and in order to reunite the UK with the continent after all this ugly negotiating?

What if it was possible to foster some sort of European patriotism through sport and sporting success, in order to counteract the growing rise of extreme nationalism across Europe?

I know, I know, this opinion might seem unpopular, especially to all those Brexiteers, and Eurosceptics out there, and especially after the wave of pure patriotism felt across England during the World Cup. But think about it for a second, what if we could harness some sort of European identity and set it against rivals such as the US, Russia, or China in a sporting setting not exclusive to the Ryder Cup?

At its core, a nation is built on a common heritage and shared goals. Following this, identity, and pride is founded on the presence of an ‘other’, a rival, or outsider, against which a community can create their own set of values. In Europe, it was easy for a nation to find its own common national history and therefore memory: with its many wars and conflicts Europe’s nations experienced victory and suffered defeat at each other’s hands. Rivals and enemies were created and a national heritage followed. However, as a continent, it was, and is, much harder for Europe to find a defining moment in political or social history that could function as a shared heritage, a shared victory or even defeat… a moment when Europe in its entirety was on the same side.

Just look at the way the country came together this summer, following England’s performance in the football World Cup – despite its deep divisions over Brexit

But what if this could be created in sporting history? Sport, at its core, has a great power to unite people, sure it can also prove divisive, but played out in a setting such as the modern Olympics, a common sense of pride and identity becomes easier to foster. Just look at the way the country came together this summer, following England’s performance in the football World Cup – despite its deep divisions over Brexit. Remember the pride associated with the London 2012 Games, or in Germany’s case the World Cup victory in 1990. The memory of these shared experiences has worked to strengthen national identity. Sports also produces rivals and inspires healthy, and peaceful competition (aside from the odd football hooligan). Now imagine if there were regular sporting tournaments or championships, whether it be football, athletics, or winter sports, that focused on teams grouped not by nation, but by continent?

While I am not suggesting Europe become a federal republic, or demanding greater centralization within the EU, I do think it is high time that us Europeans stuck together. If we were to bring a continent together, moved by a common support for a sporting team, the process of European integration and better yet the project of the EU may still survive the nationalist rhetoric prevalent across Europe, in states such as Austria, Poland, and now Germany, to name but a few. In many ways, the idea may seem just too simplistic, too naïve, too pure of heart. After all, the EU, and Europe geographically speaking, has a lot of issues to solve, not least regarding the refugee crisis, and the general need for reform. But if we could foster that same patriotism and pride, experienced in England during the World Cup, maybe, just maybe, Europe could step back from the brink.

 

Brexit or no Brexit, the UK will always be part of Europe, just as the countries, currently dominated by nationalist rhetoric will remain firmly on the European continent, whether they like it or not. It’s time we appreciated our shared European values which date back for centuries: from culture, art, to sporting prowess, from values such as tolerance, and equality …. From the iron curtain dividing the continent to the fall of the Berlin wall, the European experience is unique. It would be a shame to throw it away for some short sighted nationalism, for a no deal Brexit and an ugly divorce.