What we’re reading this week from: @rae_ritchie_ @sianushka @wordspinster & @MelTankardReist ‏

When boys struggle at A-level, it’s a crisis. When girls do, it’s celebrated, by Sian Norris

It’s that time of year again, when papers post pictures of jumping girls while middle-aged white male celebrities pompously explain how failing their exams never did them any harm. It’s A-level results day!

This year, the Daily Mail greeted the results with a resounding “Let’s Hear It For The Boys” headline (it was later updated). For the second year in a row, male students outperformed girls. The Guardianmeanwhile, reported “the proportion of students in England gaining C grades or above in A-levels fell back this year, driven by a relatively weaker performance among girls”.

This shift towards improved boys’ results has come after a change to A-level courses was introduced. The new structure places more emphasis on final exams, with less coursework and fewer practical assessments. A 2013 study by the Independent Schools Association, as reported by the Telegraph, claimed that “a shift towards more end-of-course exams would […] have a disproportionate impact on girls who appear to favour coursework-style tasks”. …

Love Between Black Girls Has the Power to Save in Night Comes On, by Claire Heuchan

Angel is a girl with a mission. On her eighteenth birthday, she’s released from juvie after a year’s imprisonment. She leaves with two objectives. One: to find a gun. Two: to find out where her father lives. Newcomer Dominique Fishback gives a captivating performance in Night Comes On, the flashes of vulnerability in Angel making it impossible to look away from the devastating story. Angel’s mother was murdered by her father, who has been living free while his two daughters were shunted from foster home to foster home.

The driving force behind the film is Angel’s need to avenge her mother’s death. In her single-minded pursuit of these goals, it becomes clear that Angel is as determined as she is loyal to the memory of her mother. Only one thing has the power to shift Angel’s focus from revenge: her ten-year-old sister, Abby. …

The illusion of inclusion, by @wordspinster

Feminists (and other progressive types) talk a lot about ‘inclusive language’, and it’s generally assumed that we’re in favour of it. But what exactly is it? What makes a word or an expression ‘inclusive’? And are feminists’ purposes always best served by inclusive terms?

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, feminists criticising conventional usage rarely talked about ‘inclusive’ (or its antonym, ‘exclusionary’) language: we talked much more about ‘sexist’ and ‘non-sexist’ language. As the issue became more mainstream, other terms came into use which were seen as less overtly political and thus more palatable to people of moderate liberal opinions. Many included the word ‘gender’: it became common for institutions to formulate policies and guidelines about ‘gender equal’, ‘gender free’ or ‘gender fair’ language.

The concept of ‘inclusive language’ has become popular more recently, and it represents a further move away from the original feminist critique of sexism. ‘Inclusiveness’ is much more general concept: guidelines on ‘inclusive language’ may address concerns about the linguistic representation not only of women, but also of other marginalised groups like ethnic minorities, disabled people and LGBT people. And while most feminists would probably see this broadening as a good thing in principle, some (myself included) might argue that in defining the problem as ‘inclusion versus exclusion’ we have both narrowed the scope of the earlier analysis of sexism and lost some of its more radical insights. …

How Pinterest has changed my life (or at least been super useful for work), by @rae_ritchie_

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WIN: DFO pulls down ‘Starving for Fashion’ billboard after protest initiated by 13 year old, by Melinda Tankard Reist

It’s so good to be able to share another win with supporters. This one thanks to 13-year-old Melbourne teen Naomi, who spotted this billboard advertising the DFO at Morabbin Airport in Melbourne

Naomi told her mother, long time supporter Gloria Anderson, who texted me the images and her daughter’s comments.

“I knew it was wrong because it was promoting anorexia, sending a message that you need to be skinny to be fashionable, which is obviously not true.”

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Toxic best friend: Glossy magazines and me by @glosswitch

Cross-posted from: glosswitch
Originally published: 14.11.16

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with glossy magazines. The reason this blog is called Glosswatch is because I originally conceived of it as a place where I’d go to rant about the publications to which I was still, inexplicably, subscribing in 2012.

I knew how these magazines functioned. I could see the way in which, like a toxic best friend, they eroded your confidence by drip-feeding you advice on ways in which to improve yourself. I knew that the solutions they offered were to problems you hadn’t even realised you had. I knew they didn’t really want you to be happy with yourself, since a woman who is happy with herself does not spend vast amounts of money on trying to make herself look like someone else. But I bought them all the same. I’d been buying them for decades.
Read more Toxic best friend: Glossy magazines and me by @glosswitch

When The Cake Is Never Shared: Liberals and Their Passive Aggressive Victim-Blaming

Cross-posted from: Life in the Patriarchal Mix
Originally published: 01.04.15

As I have mentioned in a previous post, the hatred towards mothers always seems to go unchecked and is always the norm. Whenever a mother shows any concern of the impact of sexualization of women on her children she is immediately branded a “prude” or someone with “no life.” It’s incredibly ironic that many will accuse a mother of “having no life” because the minute she does not center her life around her children she is also branded a horrible mother.

Likewise, they will find ways to accuse her of hypocrisy, or imply hypocrisy, by asking her if she allows her children to watch any television. I am not certain about how exactly that is relevant to her concern because the difference between media consumption in the home versus public advertising is that she at least has some control over the media her children consume but out in public she does not have this power. You cannot simply “ignore” a hyper-sexualized advertisement when it is a fifty foot billboard in full view of the young impressionable children. Liberals may deny this, and most certainly will, but children do notice their outer environment, they do not live in a bubble (as much as Liberals would love to make it so) and they do take in everything that they see around them. They cannot ignore that it actually does take a village to raise a child and our mainstream media is part of our global village. The accusations of moralistic pearl-clutching against Jennifer Campbell is absurd and the other arguments against her very legitimate concern are also astoundingly ridiculous.
Read more When The Cake Is Never Shared: Liberals and Their Passive Aggressive Victim-Blaming

Self-Confidence Comes in “Plus” Sizes Too! by @GoddessKerriLyn

Cross-posted from: FOCUS: Feminist Observations Connecting Unified Spirits
Originally published: 30.06.15

I am a large woman. I take up a lot of space.CInFt-0WgAAHWAm It’s taken me forty years to feel fully justified in doing so.  In my life I’ve weighed more and I’ve weighed less. Today I love myself.  Why? I stopped giving a fuck about other people’s opinions.  I define my value; the cis hetero-normative beauty industry does not. Internal character traits like courage & compassion are more important than external comparisons.  Own your power.  If you don’t, you are handing the reigns to someone else.

Contempt for large bodies is spoon-fed to us as girls by a fat-hating society obsessed with thinness that tries to dictate self-worth based on a number. Body-Quotes-41Like many others, I succumbed to these early messages and developed an eating disorder to “fix” what I thought was “wrong.”  The irony is when I weighed less, I still never felt “good enough.” My problem was not my weight, it was my insecurity. There are many incorrect stereotypes about fat people.  Fat-shaming is not just offensive, it’s also ineffective because, as xojane.com points out, “shame is not a catalyst for change; it is a paralytic. Shame doesn’t make you stronger, nor does it help you to grow, or to be healthy. It keeps you in one place, very, very still.” Building your confidence is an inside job.  Adjust your self-talk.  Instead of putting yourself down, build yourself up. 
Read more Self-Confidence Comes in “Plus” Sizes Too! by @GoddessKerriLyn

K’ Goes to Oxford (on eating disorders)

(cross-posted from One More Mum)

One of the consequences of L’s illness is that she and K are now in different school years. This is a new experience for them – one which enables them to have their own milestones rather than shared ones. L has always been naturally competitive and I know it’s hard for her to see K a year ahead, getting AS results and going through her university application process. It’s good natured though, as an exchange of tweets shows:-

L:”My sister is at an Oxford Open Day today and all I’m doing is choosing which Ben and Jerry’s flavour to have”

K: “I think we know who the real winner is here”

K has to produce the personal statement and as an Oxford applicant, sit the History Aptitude Test. Or Hat, as it’s not so affectionately known in our house for a while. And then after days of sighing and endless email checking, an interview date arrives. Or dates to be more precise. K has to go to Oxford for three days, staying in a college being interviewed by the subject department, possibly more than one college and, oh yes, mixing with other applicants.

Ah, mixing. Not so long ago, K had to ask me how to phrase a text to someone. She still struggles with eating in the school canteen. “Will you go with her?” I am asked by some people. No, because I’m not invited. And even if mothers were invited, K would refuse. Not only because that would be weird, but because in the last few months a new K has emerged. Actually, not a new K, but the one who was there all along, because from somewhere she has found the courage to be herself. The clever, funny, opinionated person we always saw is now being seen by others. At parents evening I am told what a character my daughter is – and I smile and say I always knew this, but I am glad that now they know it too.

So, this morning, she gets on the train to Oxford, at half past seven. She allows me a public hug, another new departure and she sets off on her journey. I watched her through the window as her train got ready to leave. Standing on the cold morning platform I hear a shrill whistle blow loudly and I am reminded of that moment in Titanic when you know it’s going to be ok. And it will be ok for K too. She reads her book and doesn’t look up to wave. Instead I get a text in the minute after the train has gone. “I’ll be fine” it says. “I know” I reply.

This hasn’t been an easy couple of years for anyone. But in the Christmas lights of the cafe where I eat breakfast, I think of the moment two years ago when she spoke in the Abbey at her school Christmas Concert. Amplified across the beautiful church I heard my daughter find her voice and thought how lovely she sounded. A voice which has become louder and stronger and most of all braver. Good luck K. I’m always proud of you. But today, I’m pleased that the world of Oxford gets to see how awesome you are.

One More Mum: Blog about my daughters’ struggles with mental health, especially anorexia and anxiety as well as my own experience of depression. I write other things here I’m not yet brave enough to write about openly.