Monday, 14 April 2014

Big boobs and big bums.

I've spoken about this before but I feel it needs mentioning again. The representation of the female form in the media is currently a very dodgy area. The key issue being the unapologetic objectification of women in almost every aspect of marketing, presenting, and celebrity pop culture. We're reaching the point of no return with girls younger than 15 being sexualised for the single purpose of making money and attracting attention. The popular usage of women in media as props when they have big boobs, tiny waists, big bums and a pretty face is getting a bit ridiculous. However, it's not the explicit sexualisation that's completely awful to me, it's the disempowering of female sexuality that it inflicts.

The female form is and will always be breathtakingly beautiful, no matter what category of beauty each body falls under. Due to this beauty every woman holds the power to exploit their own assets in a way that is incredible and wonderful. Objectification can take away from this ability and belittle it because it takes the power of sexuality away from the woman herself and puts it in the ugly hands of marketing corporations and television producers and newspaper editors. It then no longer becomes beautiful and empowering, but sad and vulnerable. It makes every honest attempt at pure and wild sexualisation look dirty and wrong.

I do not think that often the issue is over-sexualisation, but that the women involved are out of control of the representation of their own bodies. Sexuality is weird and wonderful and it saddens me to see it in such an ugly and unnatural way.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Words are power.

There is a power that comes with a love of words. It endorses you with the ability to write and to read with a passion that can only lead to the power of knowledge. It unlocks passages to communication, and enables you to readily learn about secrets and facts and feelings that an entire section of society often cut themselves off from ever having access to.

Once you have found and established your life long affair with words there is no going back. There is no need to go back. You allow yourself to enter new worlds, understand new emotions, comprehend complex concepts, express unfathomable ideas, and discover a new rhythm to life you had not before recognised.

With these words you can stop wars, win arguments, fight inequality, free the innocent, create stories, describe political ideologies in a thousand metaphors, teach morals, educate millions, and touch the heart of a person on the other side of the planet who you may never even meet.  Even the loneliest man can find companionship in words, they are the world's largest and most loyal safety net for hopelessness and emptiness.

And you can learn, learn, learn to your heart's content about every piece of knowledge you may ever want to know.

Words are powerful. Find a love for them and you give yourself their power. You've found a key to just about anything you want to achieve and you can't ever lose it. A love for words, once discovered, will be tattooed on your heart and mind until the day you die.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

RIP Poetry.

I find the idea of 'studying' poetry in school somewhat objectionable. Teaching a class of students to analyse and interpret poetry is no bad thing, poetry is wonderful if you can take it to be your own, but making them take an exam in a formulaic essay structure about the poetry is what I find hard to understand. The other day we were, rather ironically, asked to analyse this poem;

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

(by Billy Collins)

We were asked to force a few paragraphs onto the page in the "Point Quotation Analysis" structure that's been drilled into our heads since year 7. It was hard because being told to find the reason behind the poem's structure and language technique is sometimes impossible when it's highly likely the poet himself used enjambement that doesn't actually mean anything. It's just there, being part of the poem. The fact was there was a room full of pupils desperately trying to pull meaningless 'meaning' from the poem whilst totally missing the point of it.

Although it was to no fault of their own, from day one we are taught to take a poem apart, shake it up and down and scrape random bits out ''to find out what it really means''. You can not just read a poem a few times, enjoy the simple pleasure of one's own interpretation, perhaps remember it off by heart and move on. There must be at least a paragraph's worth as to that caesura's purpose or that two line stanza as a chorus. And if you don't write that down properly the examiner won't give you marks because you don't 'understand' the poem.

Instead you can try and kill it. Take its purpose as a poem away and write in standard, boring old prose about how it 'demonstrates', 'conveys', 'presents', and 'develops' its primary and definite theme. Then, once the exam is over, you can choose to never look back at poetry again as it's left a bad taste in your mouth as the difficult jumble of words that carries a meaning you must always discover.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

People on trains.

I do so often find pleasure in the simple act of people watching. The common location of this somewhat mysterious pastime is on a train. The Underground in particular. I don't travel to London as often as I would love to, but when I do I always find myself pondering the elaborate and unknown lives of my fellow train passengers.

Sometimes it is an unsettling feeling to suddenly realise the sheer mass of humans I do not and will never know. Every person on the train a stranger to me must also be aware of the lives they will not enter, the paths that will not cross, my own included. We must all share a mutual thought, and yet lead strange and separate lives to one another. I do not know these passenger's middle names, or how many children they have, if they have siblings, whether they are orphans, if they're in love, nor the household they will return to at the end of the day.

And yet, for one short moment of their existence, I have a tiny window into their varied and wonderful lives. I see a small selection of their mannerisms; perhaps they look at the floor to avoid eye contact, slide their glasses up their nose every few minutes, fold their hands neatly in their laps, tap their foot continuously, play with the split ends of their long and straggly hair. Maybe there are stories behind the mannerisms, childhood traumas, inherited nervous ticks, acts of self consciousness.

When people read books on the train I wonder what else the have read in their lifetimes, what they hope and plan to read in the future, whether we would have a nice chat about books if I bothered to ask. They might have shelves and shelves of books at home, or they might hate the clutter. They could be considering purchasing a kindle. Perhaps they're even bored of the book they're reading now.

An older woman is on the train and I wonder if there are children she is thinking about. Or a man sits opposite who worries about the next time he will see his daughter he lost custody over. A couple sit next to me. Are they in a new relationship? Is he thinking of proposing? Do they live together? Will it end soon?

As soon as I arrive at my destination I walk off the train and never think about those people again. I doubt whether I could remember all their faces. But for a moment we unknowingly shared a few minutes together. Were passing friends. We use the train as our metaphor for the lives we share, and the different places we go to. Some of our journeys are long and arduous, others short and merciful.

I never greet nor bid farewell to these people on trains, but I do note the few moments we share together. They are fuel to my daydreams, instruments in the passing of my time.

Thank you to the people in my people watching. I'm glad we could share a few simple moments.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Indulge.

Why is indulgence often frowned upon? As if feeling good about one's self and enjoying the luxuries the world has to offer is a sin. Must suffering really be a necessary part of life, if it can be avoided by simple indulgent activities. That would be the opposite of indulgence would it not? A personal subjugation of every possible enjoyment to a hard working existence, only managing to indulge with guilty consequence.

I say that if you already have the willpower to put effort into necessary and potentially unenjoyable work, then you are entirely permitted to indulge as much as possible. Eat as much chocolate, watch as much crap television, sleep in as long as you like, stay in bed for a whole day, spend hours doing a hobby. Feel wonderful afterwards and replenished by a day or so of luxury that you have not just allowed yourself but have taken as a mandatory duty to yourself. There is no question of guilt because pleasure is your privilege, a right. It is not even a treat, it is only the natural inclination towards indulgence that will probably make you very relaxed and content.

So please, please indulge yourself. You only have yourself to please.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Lena Dunham is my spirit animal...

I have a habit of seeing successful young female writers storming the media and feeling an irrational fury and hatred against that person. That is the unfortunately ugly way I subconsciously channel my envy for another's life.

'Why does she get to write a hit tv show that's super awesome and is beautifully representative of a current young generation? I could totally do that better than her, and it would be a million times awesomer. I bet she's actually a bitch.'
- The recent yet no longer applicable opinion I had of Lena Dunham.

I used to hate Lena Dunham because she was leading my dream life before me and taking all my glory, but then I watched Girls, read some interviews, stalked her twitter and fell deeply and admirably in love with her. This girl is unbelievably cool and funny and I want.to.be.her. How could I have ever felt bad feelings towards her? It's not her fault she's done amazingly well at such a young age because of her wit and talent. Let her be an example to you, not a source of hatred. Let her path influence your own. Idolise her, if you want. And I think I have.

I think in making such a quick change in opinion I have taught myself it is much healthier to think well of people you may envy, and to love them for what you don't have. They've obviously done something right and you can learn from it.

It is also completely ridiculous to actively despise someone you've never actually met, and only a little bit mad to love someone you don't know.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

One more time with feeling.

The significance of everything and anything is subjective to the individual. When meaning exists for some, the same thing can be a matter of indifference for others. This also signifies that a lot of what we think is important, is purely because of how we have interpreted the event or the object or the situation. Perhaps even the feeling of sentimentality is entirely fictional, that meaning doesn't really exist. No other creature celebrates Christmas or birthdays, for them it is just another day. They don't feel disappointment, or expectation, or experience any anti-climax.

It is not to say that sentimentality is bad, or the downfall of the human race. No, it is what can primarily define us as a species. And possibly we fill meaning into every single tiny moment and thing of our lives to cover that hole we inevitably feel when curiosity gets the better of us and our answers will not suffice. It may be the fear of the unknown phenomenon of life after death, or the meaning of life, or the reason behind our existence that causes us to fill in the gaps as a peace of mind.

What we cannot do, but what we continue with daily, is let the sentimentality define our lives in the way we define our sentimentality. For that allows your day to be 'ruined', for disappointment to creep in, and for further misunderstanding. Instead, if you allow yourself to enjoy the meaning and feeling you create for everything with the acknowledgment that it may not really matter then you understand your own subjectivity. If you accept the 'bad' outcomes of the day you felt meant a lot as a part of the meaning then disappointment does not exist. It is all okay, the feeling still has the same effect.

That is near impossible to achieve I know, but it's a thought to have at least.