Thick or Thin, You Can’t Win

This morning I was scrolling through my newsfeed and for the second time in a couple of weeks, one of those meaningful and life changing posts from Elite Daily popped up. You know the ones, with a photo of a smokin’ couple doing something cute, accompanied by 10 WAYS TO KNOW IF HE’S THE MAN FOR YOU.

It was one of those posts, but this time it was a photo of the lower body of a female fitness fanatic proclaiming ‘F*@k A Thigh Gap – 11 Reasons Why I Want My Thighs Thick’

On reading the article, the majority of the ’11 Reasons’ are fairly harmless and pathetic – No. 6 for example: “Your phone won’t fall in the toilet if you drop it while playing with it.” I told you, life changing stuff.

Then you’ve got No. 11, which is a little more #girlpower #lovetheskinyou’rein “You’ll feel better if you embrace your natural body type than if you aspire for another one.”

I agree, Alexia Lafata (the Elite Daily staff member responsible for this philosophical piece of literature). It is SO important to ‘love the skin you’re in’ and ’embrace your natural body type’, you are correct. But on deeper inspection this apparently body positive post is only perpetuating societies ever changing beauty standards.

Can we have a moments silence for all the girls who hit the gym circa 2013-2014, working on that oh-so-desirable thigh gap. Now, I won’t sit here and pretend to be all high and mighty, like I’ve never been effected by the media – that was around the time that I wore my Lorna Jane’s to uni everyday whether I was working out or not. Most of the time I was working out and I loved it because it made me feel and look better, but I didn’t do it for the purpose of having a thigh gap. However, although it was never my intention, I was secretly satisfied knowing I fitted into a least one of societies beauty standards.

But that’s the problem. What happens when society changes its standards? Which it does, ALL the time. This Elite Daily article may seem like ‘love your body’ propaganda but it’s simply jumping on the bandwagon of another of societies trends – thick thighs.

Let’s take a look at reason No.11 shall we: “The big booty movement, by default, loves big thighs. In 2014, we experienced the booty movement. Big butts were everywhere – The best part about all of this is if you have a big booty, you probably have thick thighs anyway, so there’s no better time than right now to embrace them.”

Again, I agree with Alexia in part. Please, embrace them. Embrace what you have. But I’m sorry – calling it a ‘big booty movement’ doesn’t make it any less a fad, a phase, another one of societies ever changing beauty standards.

Every time I hear Meghan Trainor singing about bringing booty back, ‘Go ‘head and tell them skinny bitches that’ I want to scream. She then follows with ‘No, I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat. But I’m here to tell you…Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.’

Well that’s a backhanded compliment if ever I heard one. Hey girls, you’re a bitch if your skinny. But wait, lol JK! You’re perfect the way you are.

With all these mixed messages it’s no wonder girls are rarely happy with the way they are. The social media pages, songs, videoclips, everything we are exposed to on a daily basis, while often disguised as empowering and body positive, are only perpetuating the cycle.

Unfortunately I can’t see this body image bandwagon breaking down anytime soon, the best we can do is try not to be taken for a ride. Be fit if you want to be, be healthy if you want to be, but whatever you choose to be, be happy. Make sure it’s for your own happiness and not to impress society, because that indecisive character changes its mind all the time.

Well, I’m off to work on closing that gap between my big toe and second toe, I hear webbed feet are the next big thing. If anyone asks, you heard it from Hannah.

No Justice For An Unjust Death

This morning I can’t stop thinking about Masa Vukotic. A person I have never met, but someone whose name makes my heart feel heavy and whose death gives me a lump in my throat.

A 17 year old girl, filled with potential but now, thanks to the scum of the earth, her entire future has been ripped away from her.

Women shouldn’t have to walk in fear. This morning as I made my way to work, I couldn’t help but look at passersby and wonder, am I in danger? Might you hurt me?

An ABC News report from 2004 mentions the swine that would one day become Vukotic’s killer. I won’t dignify him by writing his name, but he was sentenced to serve five and half years of an eight year sentence in a psychiatric hospital after pleading guilty to “22 charges including two counts of rape, three counts of indecent assault and four of stalking.”

Another killer with prior convictions. How many more Jill Meagher’s and Masa Vukotic’s does there need to be for the justice system to realise some people can’t be rehabilitated.

In the face of such horror, it’s easy to be dragged down, but don’t forget that there is still good in the world.

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

 

Gonna make me cry, Uni, BYE BYE BYE (read in tune of ‘N Sync classic)

I couldn't not include a photo of 'N Sync after that title
I couldn’t not include a photo of ‘N Sync after that title

I sit here writing this in the way most of my blog posts come about. A spark of inspiration and the need to put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) straightaway, and usually when I’m supposed to be doing something more important. But when inspiration knocks, I always open the door and let it in – it’d be rude not to!

Obviously the end of the year is fast approaching, but something much more significant is also coming to an end. My university education.

Perhaps not forever, but for the moment at least. If you asked me three years ago how I would feel leaving uni, I would have said I couldn’t wait to escape, but with two days left at the University of Melbourne the thought of leaving is saddening and frightening all at once. I wasn’t a typical uni student in the slightest. After making the move from Bendigo I found myself living in an apartment in the Northern suburbs, working a casual job in the city and most of the time wishing I was back in Bendigo. I didn’t do much partying at all and I could probably count the number of times I got drunk on one hand…shameful I know.

It wasn’t until the start of this year that I began feeling at home, feeling like I was in the right place and doing the right thing. The ‘spoon feeding’ educational style of high school doesn’t prepare you for uni, and for someone who did pretty well during VCE, uni work came as quite a shock.

This, coupled with complete confusion and indecisiveness about what I wanted to do with my life, made my university experience less than enjoyable. I came ‘this’ close to deferring/switching courses more times than I can recall, but in the end I always ended up changing my mind at the last minute and sticking with my very broad Arts degree.

I’m very grateful that I had a supportive family behind me, and even more grateful that some of them encouraged me to stick it out and finish my degree, and I’m so glad I did. For the greater part of this year I’ve admitted that I’m actually enjoying uni, and with 2 days left of my Bachelors Degree, and I have that aching feeling in my chest and throat whenever I think about leaving behind the sandstone, Hogwarts-esque buildings of Melbourne University. Sure I have had my moments of pure hatred towards anything uni related, but like most things in life, you hate something, and then end up loving it but only realizing you do when it’s nearly over.

That’s exactly how I feel. I even got caught out by a friend today, trying to take a photo of the uni logo on one of the buildings (I don’t even know what I was going to do with the photo, probably frame it, judging by my fragile state at the moment).

If this realization has taught me anything, it is to see the good in any situation or period of life, to be fully present in that moment and to try to appreciate it while it’s happening. Life is fleeting, and like that cliched saying, its not about the destination, its about the ride. Hopefully its a long way off, but 2 days before the end of my life, I don’t want to look back on it the way I have with uni and realize that it was actually great.

Yes, nostalgia makes every patch of grass in the past looker greener, but I feel the main reason I’m sad and afraid to finish my degree is because uni has become my comfort zone. I know my way around, I know whats expected of me (whether I live up to it or not, because apparently P’s get degree’s) and I feel extremely safe in that limbo somewhere between being a teenager and an adult.

It’s what I’m going to call Peter Pan Syndrome, because essentially, I’m not sure if I want to grow up.

The thought of having to go out into the world and find a real job has always excited me, but now that the time has finally come, I am overcome with fear. I’m not ready to let go of skipping lectures and sleeping in. I’m not ready to let go of the adrenalin that accompanies writing a 2000 word essay the night before its due, or the relief that comes with submitting it. And I’m clearly not ready to admit that I actually am ready to leave all of these things behind, because that means stepping into the unknown.

But I will. And this time, I will do my best to make sure I appreciate the good times and the not so good times, and just enjoy the ride while I’m on it.

 

Part 2. Where dreams are made of

As you all know from my last post, Empire State of Mind was my chosen theme song for the trip, and I was lucky enough to have an experience in New York that was truly what “dreams are made of”.

I’ve been a fan Samantha Wills jewelry for quite a few years now, and even more of a fan of the woman behind the designs. An Aussie girl hailing from Port Macquarie, Samantha is one of my idols, a talented, hardworking entrepreneurial business woman whose jewelry-making has grown from a hobby that started on her coffee table, to a world renowned brand with a bohemian luxe feel. Her designs were even featured on the Sex and the City movie, which well and truly put her on the map!

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Samantha is now based in New York, and through a serendipitous turn of events I was given the opportunity to meet up with, and interview her, for the website I write for.

We met at a little place in the West Village called Café Cluny, apparently a regular hangout for celebs. I was so nervous and excited to meet her, and when she breezed through the doors, tall, tanned and stylishly dressed in all white, I was immediately star struck by her. She still had that Aussie beach babe vibe, and was so down to earth and genuinely interested in finding out about me. We started the interview and I awkwardly tried to sip on the coffee I’d ordered without pulling too many faces. I hate coffee but had been too nervous to think of anything else to order after they told me they didn’t do Chai.

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After the interview, Samantha handed me one of her signature carved wooden jewelry boxes, and inside was an ornate gold and turquoise bangle (Samantha Wills of course) with the words “Adventure into the wanderlust” inscribed inside. I left the interview on an absolute high, with the experience giving me a glimpse of the ‘magic’ of New York City, and I then understood why they say it’s a place “where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do”. Thanks again, Alicia Keys.

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After meeting Samantha, I met up with my cousin Simone, who I was travelling with and we visited Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment. Nestled in between other apartments on the picturesque, tree lined Perry St, the Italian style brownstone would definitely be my ideal New York City living arrangement. Numerous photos later, after posing at the bottom of the stoop, we headed uptown to check out some shopping. Lets just say, I’ll never be able to shop in Australia again. NYC definitely lives up to its reputation as the fashion capital. Yes, there are beautiful designer stores on every corner of 5th Avenue, and yes I still can’t afford to shop in them, but even the more ‘high street’ stores were filled with endless amounts of things that I wanted to buy (and that I COULD actually afford!!)

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Every time we went shopping it was guaranteed that we would come home with bags. Apologies in advance for the following commentary on my love affair with NYC shops, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet….

My favourite places to shop were Urban Outfitters – my housemate (who had also travelled during the holidays) and I agreed that it’s basically General Pants on steroids but so much better, and more bohemian than hipster, which I love. I’m so over hipster fashion, no offence to any hipsters reading this through their black framed glasses, currently spitting out their organic soy chai latte minus the soy and with almond milk, because they are so offended right now. But yeah, Urban Outfitters, I’m in love. I’m even more in love with another branch of the Urban Outfitters family, Free People, which is slightly more expensive but everything is beautiful and if I could fill my wardrobe with Free People I would one happy gal. Bloomingdales (America’s version of David Jones/Myer) is also filled with a variety of high-end and more affordable brands, and was where I discovered my new favourite pair of J Brand Luxe Sateen black jeans. Ok, getting too technical, I’ll stop now… that wasn’t so bad was it?

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We finished off a perfect day with dinner at a beautiful little Italian restaurant along the Bowery on the Lower East Side. It was there that I tried my first NYC pizza, and it certainly lived up to the hype.

Stay tuned for more of my New York adventure – I promise I will try to keep the shopping commentary to a minimum!

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Part 1. The City That Never Sleeps

Until two and a half weeks ago, I had never been overseas and had only experienced a plane flight twice, to QLD and back. So the thought of being up in the sky for around 20hrs was something new, and a little bit daunting.

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New York was my destination, a city of dreams, and infinite possibilities, at least, that’s what the movies and songs all tell us. So it was only fitting that after 20 hrs of flying, I switched my iPod to Empire State of Mind as we descended into the glowing expanse of NYC lights, grinning like an idiot, and wiping away my tears. Literally, I cried, I was that excited.

As we made our way through the airport, the first sign indicating that we were really in America was a wall adorned with a framed photo of Barrack Obama, beside the words ‘U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Welcome to the United States.”

The skyline as we drove into New York
The skyline as we drove into New York

My beloved Jay Z and Alicia Keys theme song came on again later, as we drove down through the NYC streets to our apartment, and I asked the taxi…. I mean… cab driver… to turn it up, which he happily complied with whilst doing the universally recognized hand gesture for ‘raise the roof’. Loved him.

The first morning we were there, I ventured out by myself to find some breakfast. We were staying in the Financial District for the first 6 nights at my cousin’s apartment (an Aussie expat). I spent most of my walk tossing my head from side to side like I was doing some kind of solo tango, trying to take in as much as I could.

The Freedom Tower
The Freedom Tower
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“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” The blue squares represent the colour of the sky that day, September 11.

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We visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum that day, and it was an absolutely surreal feeling standing there where such an awful thing happened. I still remember the day it happened, watching the two planes hit the World Trade Centre on TV before I went to school. I was in Grade 3 and since then I’d always had this fascination with what had happened, so to be at the site of it 13 years later was the weirdest feeling.

It was mesmerizing to watch the water streaming down in to the voids in the middle of the two huge memorial pools, one in each location where the buildings had stood. The sheer size of the pools amazed me, knowing that the two skyscrapers that had once stood there had been reduced to rubble.

The museum was very moving – we saw the Last Column, the Survivors Stairs, wreckages of fire engines and listened to voice messages that had been left on the phones of loved ones by some of those who had lost their lives that day.

The supporting columns where one of the planes pierced through one of the Twin Towers
The supporting columns where a plane pierced through one of the Towers
The Survivors Stairs
The Survivors Stairs
The Last Column
The Last Column

One message was from a man to his wife, telling her he was in the other building, had witnessed the plane hitting the first building, but that he was ok and his building was secure. Little did he know 😦

The Financial district is also home to Wall St, and I half expected to see Leonardo DiCaprio strutting into the Stock Exchange, Jordan Belfort style. Other than that, Wall St is not overly exciting, just a whole bunch of tourists wearing matching t-shirts and cameras round their necks.

That night my cousin took us to Times Square and as we emerged from the Subway we were met by the brightest lights and the most bustling crowd I’ve ever seen. It was crazy, being surrounded by so many people, and you can’t help but feel excited being there. There were people dressed up in Disney costumes and people dressed up in not much at all, especially the girls wearing only bather bottoms and body paint. Clearly anything goes in NY. Times Square makes the rest of the city seem slightly calmer because the atmosphere in this tourist hotspot is constantly GO GO GO.

Standing amid the lights, buildings and lively crowd you can understand why New York is known as the city that never sleeps.

Stay tuned for Part 2. of my NYC adventure

Times Square
Times Square

 

Have a quiet Saturday night they said. It’ll be fun they said.

renee_zellweger_bridget_jones-550x377As humans, its something we all have to face at some point in our lives. We dread it, try to tell ourselves that its not going to be as bad as we think, but there’s no denying it’ll be one of the longest nights of our lives. They say that you don’t look back on life and remember the nights you got a good nights sleep. That’s because you have to repress the memory.

Its Saturday night and you’ve decided to have a ‘quiet one’. Whatever the reason, whether you have an exam coming up, you’ve got work the next day, you can’t afford it, or you simply didn’t make plans, you try to tell yourself that it’s a good idea. It’s going to be ok. You’ll relax, you’ll catch up on study, you’ll watch a movie snuggled up on the couch smugly thinking about how mature you are, and how you’re ‘SO over going out’.

As the night goes on, you begin to wonder what your friends are up to. You needn’t wonder for long though because chances are you’ll be able to find out by checking every platform of social media. And you do. Constantly. Refreshing Instagram far more often than necessary and re-watching everyone’s MyStory’s on snap chat.

You use the fact that you’re not drinking this weekend as an excuse to justify the amount of chocolate you’re allowed to eat, because hey, you have extra calories to spare since you’re missing out on your usual vodka or 8. Ok I lied, I like to drink Bourbon and cola. Don’t judge me.

You continue to check what’s happening on Instagram and every snap chat actually makes your heart ache for the missed dance opportunities to ‘Drunk in Love’. You’ve kept so up to date with the goings on of the night out that you’ll probably have more memory of your friend’s night than they will.

You lie on the couch, watching your second movie of the night, thinking of all the fun you’re missing out on. Because everything looks more fun when you aren’t there. Project X

Fear of Missing Out is a real thing. It even makes an appearance in the Oxford Dictionary, under the acronym FOMO, defined as ”Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts on a social media website. “ This is when you diagnose your self with FOMO. And you hate all those mofo’s for making you experience FOMO.

The night continues to pass slowly, emphasized by the sound of the clock in your house, essentially ticking away your youth.

Finally you decide to put yourself out of your misery and go to bed, but you lie in your dark room, illuminated by the lit up rectangular screen of your iPhone, double checking how everyone else’s night is going, secretly glad that its past 1 o’clock and they only have a couple of hours of fun left.

It is not until the morning that you finally feel victorious, waking up after a refreshing night’s sleep, satisfied just imagining the hangovers you know everyone else will be suffering. Your only regret is the amount of chocolate you consumed the night before and you think to yourself what a genius decision it was to stay in last night!

The Bald & the Beautiful

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We were sitting in the lounge room the day we realized my little sisters hair was falling out. Mum found the bald spot, as round as a twenty cent piece, right at the back of Cassie’s head. Cassie had the most beautiful hair. It was light chocolate brown, long, and curly. Not tight, stiff curls, but soft, loose ringlets that I had always been jealous of.

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At first we thought maybe she had brushed it too roughly, but the bald spot was just too round, too perfect, too bare. Over the following weeks, her hair fell out in clumps. It was all over her pillow when she would wake up in the morning, and all over the bathroom floor.

What was left of her hair kept getting knotted up with the hair that was falling out, so we took her to the hairdressers in the hope that they could help. They hadn’t seen anything like it, but they trimmed the knots out and she was left with a thin bob.

Finally after visiting Doctors, Dermatologists and Naturopaths, we found out that Cass had Alopecia, a condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, causing hair to fall out.

The day of school photos, we helped Cass use hair clips to try to hide the bald spots that now covered the majority of her head.

One day, standing with her back to the bathroom mirror, she used a hand held mirror to look at the back of her head. She burst into tears. She hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten, and that’s when she said “Just cut it all off.”

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My aunty came over and shaved Cass’s head that night, and we went into town to try and find a wig for her. Finding a wig at 7pm on a Friday night in Bendigo is not the easiest task. Eventually, we found one at a shop that sold hair products. It was straight, darker than her natural colour, and she looked different in it, but it made her feel better.

She wore it to school, and when she played netball she just wore a beanie. I remember watching her team play, the other girls running around carefree with their long ponytails, only thinking about the competition. And then there was Cass, with her little round head, two steps behind everyone else, holding on to her beanie, constantly afraid it would fall off.

Her eyebrows and eyelashes fell out next.

Mum found out about a woman in Melbourne named Angela, who makes human hair suction wigs for Alopecia sufferers and chemotherapy patients. An appointment with Angela involved having a cast of the persons head made from plaster, which was then made into a silicone mould that would suction to the head. Cass got to choose her hair colour and style, which was exciting for her, and I remember the day she finally got her wig, she was sitting in the back of the car, asking if she looked like Jessica Alba now.

Cass became a different person when she wore her wig. It was almost like she had a split personality. She went through a bit of a rough patch, and I think she felt like she had to be a certain type of girl to make people like her, to make up for the fact that she had Alopecia.

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Though she was initially bald, parts of her hair began to grow back, but it was always very patchy, and never grew long, it was just that soft, downy hair you would find on a babies head. Because some of the hair had grown back, the wig wasn’t suctioning to her head as well anymore and she always felt like it was going to fall off.

I remember watching my skinny little sister getting ready for school with a lump in my throat. To make the wig suction, she had to wet the little amount of hair she had, and comb it back, then put the wig on and press it down really hard. She always wore a headband to help keep it on. I felt so sad that she had to go through this ritual every single day, while other teenage girls had so little to worry about. I often thought how strong she was, and how if it had been me who had lost my hair, I wouldn’t have coped half as well. Somehow she got on with life.

She was teased at school for wearing a wig. The same group of older kids would follow her around at lunchtime each day, asking where she had gotten her wig and telling her to pull it off. Most people probably knew, but Cass wanted it to be a secret. I wished that those kids who teased her could have seen that skinny little 14 year old girl getting ready for school in the morning.

It’s been over seven years since we discovered that first bald spot. Since then, Cass has gone through six wigs. Today I took her to buy her seventh wig, because it’s her birthday next week. Her eyelashes and eyebrows have grown back, but her hair is still short and patchy.

The grin on Cass’s face today when she picked her new wig was contagious. She couldn’t stop smiling as she studied her reflection. Hair is something that we take for granted. We complain when we have a bad hair day, but Cass has taught me that, like all things in life, we should be grateful for what we have. I don’t know if Cass’s hair will ever fully grow back. I know she would like it to, but in the meantime her attitude towards it is something that I admire. In her own words, “It’s only hair.”

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If you’re a feminist and you know it clap your hands. Chances are, you don’t know it

Today is the day of retribution, the day in which I will have my revenge against all of humanity… I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoilt, stuck up, blonde slut I see inside there.”

It sounds like a line from a B grade Hollywood horror movie, and in many ways it played out like a horror movie, eerily close to Hollywood.

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 Those were the words of Elliot Rodger, the 22 year old self proclaimed virgin who went on a murdering spree on the 23rd of May, killing 6 people before turning the gun on himself. In a video he uploaded to YouTube just prior to his rampage in Isla Vista, California, Rodger’s rants about his total lack of social and sexual interaction with girls, “You girls have never been attracted to me, I don’t know why you’ve never been attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it.”

Rodger’s misogynistic views are further expressed in his 137 page manifesto, and Professor Jeanette Hoorn, Director of Gender Studies at Melbourne University says that such attitudes are “quite widespread even if people don’t articulate them in public all that often.” Rodger’s extreme expression of resentment towards women and his sentiment that “if I can’t have you girls, I will destroy you”, has caused controversy around the globe, sparking an uprising of anti-misogynistic movements across social media.

Most notable is the #YesAllWomen campaign that exploded on Twitter the day after the shootings. Beginning as a response to the #notallmen argument of Male Rights Activists, the concept behind #YesAllWomen is that, although not all men display misogynistic behaviour or objectify women, all women will experience such behaviour at some point, at the hands of the men who do. Social media users can share their own experiences of male entitlement, misogyny and feeling unsafe, using the hash tag.

#YesAllWomen because plenty of women are awkward virgins at 22 too yet they rarely kill anyone over it

 -YesAllWomen-tweet-jpg#YesAllWomen tweets continue to trend and have struck a chord with women everywhere. Stephanie Kilpatrick, a ‘Wom*ns Officer’ at the University of Melbourne Student Union can relate, “I thought of all the times that I’ve walked home at night and kept looking over my shoulder… every time I’ve gotten off a bus when it’s dark, and checked to see whether the other people who got off look like they’ll follow me.”

#YesAllWomen because men don’t text each other that they got home safe.

The campaign has cast a spotlight on the fact that prejudice against women still exists, however, our culture is not only failing women, but men too. From a young age, the boys of today are active users of social media platforms like Instagram, a place where regular people can achieve fame by the number of followers they accumulate.

One such person is a man by the name of Dan Bilzerian.

In his Instagram profile, the 34 year old professional poker player and venture capitalist from the US describes himself as an ‘Actor/Astronaut/Asshole’. He has 2.4 million followers on the social media site and most of his posts are of himself with half naked women, cars or guns. One such post features him on a boat accompanied by scantily clad women with the caption “Captain, I think I see a girl with good moral fibre, steer clear, those types are bad for the ships morale.”

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His photos get hundreds of thousands of likes, and comments ranging from ‘This guy is the f#%king man!” to “Dude, this is the definition of a legendary lifestyle”. If he is the kind of person young guys look up to as role models then it’s easy to see what’s wrong with the world. The promotion of such a ‘lifestyle’ suggests women are objects to acquire and collect, and that to ‘be a man’ one must live that way. This can lead to feelings of entitlement and in turn, anger in the absence of such things, all of which Rodger’s expressed in his video “All you girls who rejected me…treated me like scum while you gave yourselves to other men. And all of you men, for living a better life than me, all of you sexually active men, I hate you.”

I’m not suggesting that social media or Dan Bilzerian had anything to do with Elliot Rodgers actions, however the influence of so called ‘role models’ like Bilzerian can be damaging to men, instilling unhealthy expectations and attitudes towards women.

Feminism remains a game changing movement, and Kilpatrick points out that it benefits not only women but also the male population, by breaking down gender stereotypes, “women fought for the right to work, and that allowed men to have emotions, to move away from that macho man stereotype and to spend time with their children.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines feminism as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes”. Key word: EQUALITY. Yet, there is still a discourse within society when it comes to feminism. Kilpatrick says, “We see many famous women saying they aren’t feminists, but they believe in equal rights. Why, then, aren’t they feminists?” Professor Hoorn believes that feminism’s negative connotations “come from the continued misogyny against women” while Kilpatrick says the media is partly to blame fort its tendency to portray an “image of feminists as being crazed, angry, man hating women.”

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#YesAllWomen serves to dismantle this stereotype, and make women realize that their desire for equality actually equates to feminism. The movement is a wake-up call to recognize that quite often the way society operates and the way that men interact with women is not ok, yet it has become so normalized in our culture that we forget. #YesAllWomen has given women a platform to share their personal experiences, providing not only an online space to discuss their rights, but also creating a real life environment in which the conversation can continue.

A bittersweet first Mother’s Day

“Mum’s words from that stage were ‘I’m going to fight it but if it gets too much, don’t push me. I’ve had a good life.’ Hearing my mum say that was absolutely heartbreaking. As a daughter you wonder, why wouldn’t you want to fight to live?”

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Renée Considine holding her daughters for the first time

It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, and Renée Considine is recalling something her mother told her just after being diagnosed with bowel cancer. It’s been two years since Considine’s mother Marg passed away, and although she isn’t here to share the day with her, it will be bittersweet. This will be Considine’s first Mother’s Day as a mother herself, having given birth to twin girls, Alexandra May and Ava Luella in February this year. “They are my blessing and I’m not upset or worried about what tomorrow brings. I’ve always focused on the good times, seeing mum in the light that I choose to remember her.”

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Bowel cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, is the second biggest cancer killer, responsible for the most deaths after lung cancer. According to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in March this year, colorectal cancer claimed the lives of 4051 Australians in 2012. Marg Considine was one of those statistics.

An operation confirmed that the cancer was spreading and radiation and chemotherapy soon began but Marg’s state continued to worsen “You could see it eating away at her. She fought really hard, but the old saying is that if the cancer doesn’t kill you the chemo will.”

Considine recalls her mother telling her about a woman she was sharing her room with at the hospital, “Mum looked at me and she said ‘she’s very sick Bella. She’s going to the hospice, that’s where you go to die.’ I just remember my mum delivering it in a really weird way, and it stuck in my mind, mum telling me about this hospice. It really rocked me.”

It was as if Marg was preparing her daughter for what was to come, “One day mum said, ‘I’m leaving here’, and I was excited because I thought she was coming home. Then she said, ‘No I’m going to the hospice in Kew, but I’m really excited because they have champagne there!” Even trying to sugar-coat this news, Considine counts her mother’s strength as her most admirable quality, one that she has inherited and hopes to pass on to her own daughters.

Considine distinctly remembers her mother’s last moments, “She slipped into a coma on the Sunday night and on the Monday afternoon the pianist who plays at the hospice came and played my mums favourite song from behind the curtain, ‘Memory’ from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, ‘Cats’. Mum opened her eyes and took one last look at me and she took her last breath to the words ‘Touch me, its easy to leave me alone with my memory of my days in the sun, if you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is, look a new day has begun.’ I didn’t cry, I looked at her and grabbed her, and had this massive smile, I think it was this relief, that she was in a better place.”

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During Marg’s illness, the two women attended a ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ workshop. LGFB is an organization funded by the cosmetic industry that runs workshops for people living with cancer. Maya Zahran, a spokesperson for LGFB describes a typical workshop, “We go through the importance of skincare then move on to showing participants how to use makeup techniques to better cope with some of the physical side-effects of treatment.” ThIMG_2451e workshop also helps participants to manage hair loss, allowing them to try on wigs, hats, turbans and headscarves to best determine what works for them. Zahran believes the workshop can significantly impact attendees, “It changes the way they feel about their journey and in many ways changes the way people see them too.” Considine looks back fondly on hers and her mother’s LGFB experience, “Hair and makeup was something that we enjoyed doing together, and it made mum feel whole again. To go into a room full of people who are in the same boat, and to feel happy and beautiful for that couple of hours was just incredible. It was like a glimpse of my mum again.”

The Considine’s experience gives an insight into the effects of colorectal cancer, however this form of cancer often receives less attention than higher profile forms like breast and prostrate cancer, though its effects are just as devastating. Bowel Cancer Australia is working on popularizing awareness of the disease with a recent campaign, ‘Don’t be a fool, check your stool’ and in an interview with ‘Crikey’, Graham Newstead, a professor of colorectal surgery at the University of New South Wales, urges people to ‘join the bowel movement’.

Losing her own mother, Considine is all the more grateful for the time she has with her daughters, “Motherhood has given life a whole new meaning. Mum always said when you become a mum you’ll understand that nothing can compare. I wake up in the morning and see their little faces, and watch their journey. Its magic.”

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Head to the Bowel Cancer Australia website to find out how you can get tested.

http://www.bowelcanceraustralia.org/bca/