Why people need to stop equating weight loss to success.

When I was a teenager, I had a very unhealthy relationship with food, it took me until about 19/20 before I could eat healthily and give my body the energy it needed. I hated my body and I wanted it change, I was taller than all the girls my age and I was bigger. I had the body of a woman when I was a teenager and I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. Every time someone made a comment about me being “such a tall girl, for my age”, I thought it was their way of saying “you’re fat”. I went through a whole host of phases with my clothes, hair and makeup and was constantly trying to mimic what I had seen in media. I wanted to be anyone but myself and when size 0 was the new craze, I felt like I could never fit in.

Things started to change when I went away to uni and I was surrounded by a more diverse community than my middle-class, white, area. I started to come into my own, started to take care of and embrace myself. I was also learning more about feminism and analysing media, so I started making conscious decisions to surround myself with body positive media, through Instagram and Tumblr. I loved myself and it started to show. I didn’t care about my weight or what dress size I wore, I wore what fitted and looked good, no matter what was on the label. Sure, I had moments where it wasn’t great and my insecurities showed but I felt more aware of how these insecurities were influenced by outside voices, not my own.

Then, about a year ago I went through a break-up which hit me hard. I was deep into my dissertation at the time, I became stressed and my depression started to get worse. Towards the end of my dissertation, I became aware of how bad my mental health was becoming and that I had started to neglect myself and my needs. I wasn’t eating as much, or as regularly, as I normally would and I started to lose weight; I hardly noticed at first, my jeans just felt less snug! But as I started to lose more, people started to openly comment on my appearance; phrases such as ‘have you lost weight? you look great’, ‘You’re looking so skinny’ and ‘it looks good on you’. They all looked at me like they were expecting me to blurt out my diet and exercise secrets, when really it was because I was in the midst of a mental breakdown. I tried to explain it to a few people but I’m not sure they really understood why it upset me to get those comments. I didn’t work hard to lose weight because I needed or wanted to. I felt like a stranger in my own body because this change felt involuntary, as a sign of my weakness and my struggles. I did not see it as something to be congratulated or seen as success, because it was a failure to me. 

I liked my previous size and I had fought to love and embrace my body. But my body was rapidly changing as I lost weight and suddenly I didn’t recognise myself. I didn’t feel, how I looked, I still felt like the fat girl at school and I had learnt to love her! I’m still 5 foot 10, built with big hips, I still have my curves, my little tummy and my jiggly thighs, I’m nowhere near underweight but the body I once had, I long for. I miss my fuller breasts, my bigger bum, my fuller face and my squishier torso; once symbols of hate but what I had grown to adore. 

I’m slowly getting used to my body, I’m doing small things to reclaim it and make it mine again. I started to grow out my underarm hair and not feel ashamed for being a dark haired woman! I got a couple more tattoos, as a celebration of my body and it being a canvas for art. I started to buy ethical and natural, skin and hair care products, to take care and pamper my body. But I still find it hard and I still don’t feel fully myself, it also doesn’t help that the media is going through a big butt and boob phase, curves are in! I look at Amber Rose, Rihanna, Ashley Graham and so many more and I’m so happy we can celebrate bodies like theirs, but I get so jealous and miss my larger size. But even these women can’t win because there’s a catch, you also have to be toned to a inch of your life and muscly too, but not too muscly, because that’s too masculine. In 10 years we’ve gone from size 0 to embracing plus sizes models (yay!) to promoting an unrealistic body, without plastic surgery! 

Lastly… I’m trying not to think about it. My body is doing its thing and right now I’m taking care of my mind, so it can take care of my body. If I gain or lose weight in the process, it is not a success or failure, its life and its my body. I’m trying to not wish I was anyone but myself and I’m avoiding the conversations around body image and weight. We need to stop commenting on weight, especially women’s weight which is constantly under scrutiny in the media. We need to embrace bodies of all sizes and not see one type of body as right or normal!

Weight loss isn’t always the sign of a happy or healthy person, let’s stop seeing it as a goal or success and start to see it as a bodily change, that can happen because of all sorts of reasons, bad and good. 

Male Privilege

I’m going to try really hard not to rant, but my fur is ruffled and I want to bite. The past couple weeks have reminded me why sometimes its really frustrating being a woman but also that the experiences I’ve encountered are very much specific to women. So I’m going to get personal here and tell you some of my life frustrations right now and what provoked them.

Male Privilege #1 – men don’t have to insist ” I don’t hate women”. 

I lost my shit the other day, I was angry and almost every male I knew had found a way to piss me off. I ranted to a male friend who jokingly used the well known phrase of meninists everywhere “but not all men!”, I chuckled, I continued my death to all men rant and then I found myself thinking I should tell him I don’t really think that. Cause I don’t hate all men, in fact I have male friends (I sound like that person trying to not be racist! “I have black friends!!”), I’ve had sexual and romantic relationships with men, and I have good male familial figures in my life. But what I do hate is their given advantages in society and most men’s inability to recognise those advantages. So when I say “I hate all men”, “death to all men” or my personal favourite and most frequently used “fucking straight white men”, it’s coming from a place of frustration and anger but not malicious intent. Despite this, I often have to defend myself for my hyperbolic outbursts as if I’m actually about to gun down a room of men! Men, however, don’t have to do this.  If I had a quid for every time I’ve heard a guy say something along the lines of “ugh I hate when girls do that”, “that girl’s a feminazi” and “that girl was sending out messages acting/dressing like that”,  I could pay back my student loan. Three fold. Men don’t have to follow this up with “but I don’t hate all women”. They are free to criticise and analyse us freely without the fear of being labelled as women haters, yet a women who complains about a man can be labelled many bad things. If you’re not quite getting it yet, here’s a huge example, Donald Trump being able to say that he would grab women by the pussy, still be president and actually having people defend him as NOT BEING misogynist, is the epitome of male privilege.

Male Privilege #2 – Men make up most of our huge industries, including the arts. 

I’m currently sitting in a room, where I can count the amount of women in here on one hand, including myself. At a conference of around 500, there might be 40-50 female attendees and all other females present are hospitality staff. It’s a games industry conference and it doesn’t surprise me but it still hurts. I know this isn’t a singular experience, my sister, now a studio lead but made her way as a sound designer, has for years been one of few women in her field. She has even been assumed to be ‘the girlfriend’, at industry events, despite working for some of most successful games companies. This also isn’t exclusive to games, film is still a man’s world, music executives are still mainly male, men are encouraged into prominent positions daily and yet there is still the argument that women can’t excel in the same way, just because they can carry children/have vaginas. Not whether or not they wish to have children, it is still assumed that children is the natural step for women as they age. Men don’t get positions held back from them for fear they might become parents and they certainly don’t have comments saying their hormones may effect how they lead. But it’s not all doom and gloom, women are making progress in many industries but the playing field isn’t level and when we have industries and governments made up primarily of men, making decisions for those of all genders, the social, economical and political advantages men have will be perpetuated even further.

Male Privilege #3 –  Your sexuality is not a free for all.

When I moved back to my home town, I downloaded ALL of the dating apps. I thought it would get me out of the house, meeting new people and hopefully something fun. Boy was I wrong! Being a women on a dating app sucks, for starters, you have to think extremely carefully about what you write, if you wanna be ho, you can’t be that direct about it because you will get shitty messages and if you have too many prerequisites, no one will ever talk to you. And then there’s just existing on the apps and it leading to about 95% of messages being sexually explicit, degrading or just plain dumb.

So on the rare occasion you start talking to someone who seems normal, it might go okay, you may go for drinks, you might hook up, whatever. Or you have moments that make you want to change your indentity and never leave the house. For example, I was grabbing some lunch on my work break and my general routine is loud music and avoid all interactions until necessary. I ordered my food, chatted to the server for a bit, paid and went on my merry way. My phone buzzed and a message from a guy, off a dating app, who I had politely declined, had decided to tell me that he saw me in the food establishment and didn’t want to impose by saying hi. The message was creepy, with a dash of guilt tripping, and it made me feel uncomfortable. I don’t know this guy, we spoke for a bit but I wasn’t interested, I don’t owe him anything, yet his message inferred I did. He “didn’t want to impose”, yet had done precisely that, by the message. As a single woman in her 20s, I should not have to explain myself for not wanting to pursue every message I get on a dating app, I should be able to buy lunch without some guy telling me that he saw me, when we hadn’t even met! Yet, if you ignore sexually explicit messages, you get called all sorts, bombarded with more messages and even some guys trying to guilt trip you into speaking to them. Now as a queer lady, I can tell you that these kind of messages from women are rare or non-existent.

Women’s sexuality is constantly commented upon, analysed, and treated as if it can be a constant public issue but also for the average male to comment upon and feel owed to. Whilst men’s sexuality is still public and spoken about, its in a more positive light and they are given more freedom.

Women are still called sluts, whores or cheap for having multiple sexual partners, if they talk openly about sex, it’s often seen as an invitation for sexual advances. They are shamed for showing too much body, have nipples censored on Instagram and are told off for breastfeeding in public and if a woman’s nudes leak they are forced to apologise for taking the pictures and not to mention women’s nudes often being used as revenge.

Men can, however, with less judgement and sometimes even encouragement: have multiple sexual partners, can talk openly about sex, walk down the street shirtless, have their nipples on Instagram, aren’t shamed for their online nudes and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Male privilege #4 – Assuming that the male experience (often, the straight, white middle class one) is the only one that matters. 

“I don’t think so”

“yeah but this happened to me”

“men have it just as bad”

These are just some of the responses I’ve encountered when talking, about male privilege or the oppression of women, with men; especially with the dialogue surrounding International Women’s Day. The day itself was a mix for me as on one side you have the celebration of women’s successes and progression and then you have the butt hurt males shouting that it’s unfair women have a day. Men are more concerned with not offending other men, then they are for sticking up for equal rights. So many men refuse to believe that we live in a patriarchal society, that women are still oppressed even in 2017, or that a women’s experience and opinion matters. It’s more than just a guy you know telling a women she’s wrong or not trusting their choices or authority, it seeps into our media and becomes about representation and the experiences we broadcast to the world. If we can still have men accused or charged of rape, let off because it might ‘damage their future’ yet not find justice for the victims, many of whom are women, even though that experience can cause irreparable damage to their future. It’s telling women that their experience is not as important as men’s, that their social standing is not equal. When we live in a world where men run most of the large media corporations, we have a continued stream of stories for male audiences and often stories that perpetuate heteronormative ideals and when women are given representation in stories, they can become one dimensional characters that serve as a purpose for their male counterpart. Women’s experience is uniquely different from men’s but also shares similarities and women deserve the right and respect to have these experiences told and brought to the forefront. But it’s more likely that we will have ten more male superhero films before we get a black widow film!

 

I could go on and this is only the surface! This blog and my frustrations come from a place of dissatisfaction, of wanting better for my fellow women but also wanting the best for everyone. Male privilege (particular that of the straight, white and wealthy kind) not only raises men up above women, but also brings down the men who don’t fall into that group.

Men, recognise your privilege and please learn and listen to the women around you, who tell you about their struggles. Our experience is unique, valid and part of humanity.

End of rant.

 

Who run the world?

I couldn’t sleep last night, the thought of waking up to a world where it could all be different, again, just felt too much. I decided to set my alarm for 4am UK time to catch the results. Hilary was in the lead, only just, but she was; 30 minutes later Trump overtook and I tried to sleep with the hope of a miracle. I woke up today on the 9th November 2016, like many others, realising that the next president of the United States would be Donald Trump.  I wanted to cry, punch some things, get high, sleep some more, anything to make it go away. I thought of my American friends and I knew they would be feeling this even harder than me, it is their country after all. My Facebook timeline was, and still is, covered in shocked statuses from around the world. Then the memes come, ’cause humour is better than pain right? But it hit me that a lot of the memes and the thoughts and feelings were of sympathy to America, or a bit of a joke at their stupidity, but not really getting that this effects us all.

America is not our stupid cousin, its one of the most powerful countries in the world. Donald Trump is not just a joke, he is now president.  The world cannot ignore the outcome of today and its on the shoulders of all of us to react to this.

Donald Trump’s victory is a massive kick in the face to diversity and equality. He is a man that encapsulates rich, white, male privilege. I’m not going to list all the reasons why and the actions of Trump because it is past this now. Its about more than Trump. PEOPLE voted him in, it was the public’s choice and that means that the message of hate and fear is more powerful than one of love. There is something very wrong when the world keeps turning to hate and 2016 has been plagued with it.

I feel sad and defeated today but I’m finding refuge in some of the words from people online, Jesse Williams said ‘Be tired. Be mad. Be honest & concerned. But be not afraid. Rest up. Be safe. Come together. Construct. Know your surroundings. Be creative.’

This is a turning point and a time for us to come together, all of us, American or not, need to fight for those who may have their rights taken away, who are going to feel the fallout of the presidency harder than we can imagine. We should live in a world where everyone has rights, opportunities, safety and freedom and with the reality of Trump as president that is in serious threat. Its a real fear people are feeling and we need to do what we can to help.

Lets fight back, let our freak flags fly and in the words of Alyssa Edwards ‘Don’t get bitter, just get better’

 

 

Why Everyone Should Watch Buffy. 

I was an awesome 10 year old. I can say this with hindsight, but at the time I was the weird kid. I didn’t really like what kids my age liked and my favourite things in the world were the band No Doubt and the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I remember eagerly awaiting Buffy each week, my sister and I would watch it and have all of the feels. I shipped before I knew what shipping was, and I was a active member of fandom before I was even aware of the concept.

When I hit about 12, I was introduced to the world of the Twilight saga. Now, I knew what was up, I knew vampires did not sparkle and I didn’t want a boring, passive protagonist. Despite all this, I made a deal with my best friend, if she watched all of Buffy, I would read all of Twilight. A couple months later and hours of time wasted (no, I’m not going to be generous to these books in anyway) I had finished the absurdity and I was left confused. I honestly didn’t understand why people liked Bella, I could understand the attraction to a mysterious, broody, man; literature and film has used this trait for hundreds of years! But Bella… She was boring, she didn’t have any spark or fight and what was most obvious, she wanted to die for a man.

Buffy wouldn’t do that!
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Now, I was 12, I wouldn’t have openly called myself a feminist or understood critical scholarship on gender but I knew something didn’t sit right and that was because of knowledge of Buffy. I had spent at least 4 years surrounded by narratives and characters that taught me, as a female, that I was strong, that I mattered, that I had infinite possibilities and that I did not need a man to validate my existence.

Twilight told me that it didn’t matter what my dreams were, it told me my dream should be a guy and to give my life, literally and figuratively to him. This involves distancing yourself from family, friends and to engage in a relationship that is abusive in its limitations and actions and much more.

But Twilight is not the only piece of media that does this. These ideas surround women constantly, we are shown, and fed, ideas of heteronormativity that promotes male dominance. Now I’m not saying this means all men are dominant and bad, but when you start to think about mainstream narratives, how often is the man the saviour? How often are women expected to give up their dreams to pursue a man? Or how many women’s dreams are only portrayed through their relationship to a man?

This is where Buffy comes in and offers women a different, more complex narrative but also developed characters that have more to live for than just men.

The opening of Season 1 sums up what you can expect from the show, a young man brings a young woman to the high school after hours. The woman, dressed Catholic school girl-esque, voices her apprehension and fear, then as the tension and expectations build to the young man doing something bad, the woman’s face morphs into something monstrous and she bites his neck. The unassuming school girl is a vampire.

Women are given unexpected power in Buffy. Which is then later reinforced by the introduction of Buffy, a beautiful, blonde, ex cheerleader, who in any other teen saga would be the obnoxious popular girl. But instead we have a vampire slayer, an unwilling one, who also  strikes up a friendship with the ‘nerdy girl’ despite being ‘accepted’ by the popular girls. She’s not just going against the expectations of femininity by being a slayer, but by not conforming to the status quo, she is rejecting the classic teen film tropes that are so widely known.

But it goes beyond the first episode, the more you get to know Buffy and those around her, the more the characters entice you in, enamour you and frustrate you. Nothing is simple, morals aren’t black and white, gender isn’t binary and we even see the inclusion of queer characters that the show has become widely recognised for.

Buffy herself is so much more than your one dimensional, ‘strong female character’, that has been pushed as Hollywood’s answer to feminism. She is not a woman trying to be a man, she is not denied her flaws, her emotions or her femininity. She is not defined by her physical strength alone, instead she is allowed to be a multifaceted woman with a story, a character and complex drives and desires, other than just her ability to fight evil.

So, why is it still relevant today when we have a wealth of TV shows aiming to break boundaries and challenge expectations?  Well here’s some context, the show came out in the mid 90s on an american network channel. Network means restrictions. This show was progressive and challenging at a time when it was harder to be, so yes it can translate as tame or even cheesy with its 90s and early 2000s realness. But what the show also has that a lot don’t have, is solid writing. This show managed 7 seasons, (not to mention more in comic form) and has inspired fandom and academic scholarship for years since its release. Its compelling because the characters feel human and tangible, the storylines, even if a bit absurd, are always alluding to bigger things and the show manages to deal with growing up and becoming an adult in a way that is both terrifyingly real and unreal.

I’m not the only one that has a strong passion for Buffy. I’m currently attending a conference where at least 150 of us are discussing the show and other works of Joss Whedon. There is so much meat to work with and explore and this show is just a place to start.  But as a young feminist, I could not be more thankful for having Buffy in my life and having a fictional role model that is powerful, vulnerable, emotional, strong, badass and sassy and stupidly goofy at the same time.

Queue it up and delve into the world of Sunnydale.

 

LEMONADE

I’m on my 4th listen to Beyonce’s album LEMONADE. Its incredible. Its everything I wanted and more. I never knew I wanted a collaboration between Bey and Jack White, but now I know I needed it. Its powerful and you can really hear Beyonce’s voice breaking through and telling personal stories.

Now a lot of people have fought over whether Beyonce should be a feminist icon or not. I’m in the camp of Beyonce is a feminist icon and is a powerful, successful woman who I admire and I am bias towards this but the question is being raised again, because of LEMONADE and its raising some interesting questions that I want to explore here!

So here’s some context, LEMONADE was aired on HBO last night in America. It was an hour long visual album (aka, a super long music video). full disclaimer I HAVE NOT WATCHED THIS YET. From the analysis online and from listening to just the audio album, it is clear that Beyonce is taking the listener/viewer through a relationship and journey involving cheating and tested love. Many have speculated that Jay Z has been cheating/still is cheating with other female artists in the business, and others say its also about the relationship between her mother and father, who also had cheating issues. The first half of the album is punchy, angry, it is a women scorned, then it takes a turn and it shows a women yearning for a relationship to work, it shows her forgiving and choosing love.

So if the rumours are correct… Jay-Z cheated on Beyonce and despite knowing this, she has stayed with him and is fighting to keep the relationship. Does this make her un-feminist? Because a lot of people are saying that this is. Comments that she doesn’t love herself, that she should walk away, that its letting down strong women etc… But its made me think, why are we defining her status as a feminist on her relationship? We don’t know the ins and outs of their relationship and we don’t know her reasoning for staying (if we believe all the stories).

Isn’t feminism about choice? Now I’m not saying everyone should forgive and stay with cheaters… I don’t know what I’d do if a partner cheated on me, not because I’m a feminist, but because I’m a human being with feelings. If I stayed with them and forgave them, it shouldn’t change my status as a feminist. If I left them, it shouldn’t change my status as a feminist. So why are we holding those in the public eye to such a high standard?

Now there is the argument that stars reach a lot of people and should be good role models, and there are limits. I will never support Chris Brown. I don’t agree with the redemption of Justin Bieber and I’m not going to buy a Kanye album because his misogynistic lyrics are too much.  But in this case we are talking about a relationship where cheating may or may not have happened and people decisions to stay together.

I’m not going to lie, if the rumours are true, its sad. No one should be cheated on or have to go through that heart ache, but I’m not going to turn around and say she’s doing a disservice to feminism and women for a) choosing to stay with someone,  b) being honest about it and c) making a boss ass album about her life and using her art to say something.

But also, why are we talking about this, when there’s a strong message of black lives matter? and her discussion of race politics coming to the forefront, which is important. Why are we reducing a powerful, intellectual women who has a lot to say, to her relationship status?

I’m not saying the situation isn’t problematic or sad…. but does this really change Beyonce’s status as a feminist icon? What do you think?

 

The Hunting Ground

Last week I watched the documentary The Hunting Ground (Kirby Dick, 2015), which deals with the ongoing issue of sexual assault on American campuses. It highlights the injustices that the victims of sexual abuse have to deal with, how the colleges work against them for their own gain and even for the gain of the attacker and it shows the strength and support of those trying to do something to counteract the injustice.

It was a hard watch. The director’s previous film on rape in the armed forces The Invisible War was, and still is, one of the most heartbreaking documentaries I’ve ever watched, and this was just the same. I sat there in disbelief at the facts and numbers, at the stories and injustice but I was also defeated, this wasn’t news to me. I knew this. I thought of the women I know who have been raped and I cried. Is this what it means to be a woman? We just accept that we can be violated and that our power can be taken away from us? Because we can’t ignore it, it’s everywhere. Whether or not you know someone who has been assaulted or raped, you will know a women that has been catcalled, groped or been in a situation where they are ‘expected’ to have sex. Women’s bodies are seen as commodities and rape culture is a very big issue.

So what’s going on? Because this isn’t just an American issue, it’s a worldwide issue and it has become an issue that is compounded in university culture.

In my 3 and half years at university, I’ve heard of at least 2 rape cases, 2 sexual assaults, multiple times of drinks getting spiked and have encountered harassment on the street more times than I can count, with a couple cases being particularly bad. If you asked me, before I went to university, if this kind of stuff happened, I would have said “No. Just in TV and film right?”. Now, I’m way too aware of the dangers and issues that come with being a woman and navigating an environment that is ultimately, against us.

University is a strange place, you have a bunch of young adults, free from restraints, of legal age and you’re encouraged to socialise. It can be so much fun, silly nights with friends, one night stands, meeting the love of your life, or even just late night chats but it also breeds an environment where the lines of consent and morality are blurred. How many times have you heard ‘I was so drunk, I can’t believe I did that?’ it’s always a fun story right? something like a mate stole that traffic cone and it was a laugh? But it can just as easily be a friend having a sex act performed on them, whilst they were too drunk to give consent. The environment that university night life and club life tend to encourage is one that sheds a nonchalant light on assault or at worst, victim blaming. It’s funny if you were off your face and got with that person and if you were in a situation were you didn’t want to engage in a sexual act, it was probably your fault for what you were wearing or how much you had drunk/taken. It’s so often seen in this light because people don’t want to make it serious and universities certainly don’t want to admit that their is such thing as a rape culture. University is meant to be a place where you can learn and grow, but it has also become a playground for regressive and harmful attitudes towards sex and consent. I think a part of this is being in an environment with little accountability and feeling like there aren’t consequences.

Consent is a big issue here, once intoxication comes into the mix, the lines get blurred and that’s where people question what was and wasn’t ‘right’ but really, it should be simple, is that person in control of their actions and do they consent? If this is a no, walk away. But why don’t people walk away when people are too intoxicated or turning down their advances?…. expectation and privilege. There is still a mindset instilled in young men that they are owed sex and women. Their power and dominance is praised, so they use that. They use their status and privilege to take what they want and get away with it. In The Hunting Ground it shows how multiple attackers have gotten away with their acts because being charged for their assault or being punished by the university for it could ‘harm their future’ or ‘ruin a young man’s life’. Football players who get away with it, because a chance at a national team is more important than the justice of a young woman. And because of this, the women who do come forward, they can feel belittled, unheard and attacked, all because they want justice.

Why do we treat women this way? Look at the Kesha situation with Dr Luke. Kesha is first seen as a liar and then has to prove herself. She is told to publicly apologise, and say the abuse was a lie, so she can gain her freedom. Her career is being destroyed, so a successful man’s career can be protected, despite claims from her and supporting claims of questionable behaviour from other artists. Why do we assume women lie? and why do they get the blame?

Victim-blaming needs to stop. We shouldn’t be asking women what they were wearing when they were attacked. We shouldn’t ask if they had been drinking or if at any point they ‘lead the guy on’. Rape is rape and it’s the rapist fault.

We also need respect. For everyone. And this needs to start at a young age, our sex education is flawed and we need to teach everyone to respect people’s bodies, women and men. Consent classes should be from a young age, not just for those old enough to commit a crime. Because women shouldn’t have to walk around at night in fear of their safety, whilst men take it for granted that they are safe. Women should not have to tell a man they have a boyfriend just to try and thwart their advances. As a women, the idea of walking somewhere without having to look over my shoulder or ignore the shouts of drunken men sounds like utopia, and for men it’s just a given way of life. Because men still have more respect and social standing than women.

Sexual assault doesn’t just happen to women. It happens to men and it can be committed by any gender. I don’t want to ignore that and it’s a huge problem that needs to be addressed as a whole. But so much of it comes down to respect and how we see the social standing of those around us. If women are still seen as less and as powerless objects that can be violated, it will affect everyone.

 

 

 

Why does every lesbian have to die?

So… Lezbehonest, it’s not unheard of for a LGBT character to die in a TV show. We are used to it, we make memes about it and we have not forgotten about those we’ve lost (R.I.P Tara). But, it’s not everyday the death of a fictional character makes it onto the BBC news website and creates such an outrage on social media that even diehard fans are calling for the end of the show. This has become the case with the CW series The 100, which *spoilers* kills off one of its main characters, Lexa in episode 307.

Here’s a quick recap for those who have never watched the show. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Earth gets wiped out, but thousands of people from earth escape into space and live on ‘the arc’. In an attempt to see if the earth is habitable again, a hundred 11-18 year olds get shipped down, they find people who have survived and adapted to the destroyed earth. These are the grounders. The grounders call the Arc people ‘sky people’. Clarke, who is pretty much our protagonist, is one of the sky people and takes it upon herself to lead the 100. She meets Lexa. Lexa is commander of the grounders.They fight, there’s sexual tension, they kiss, they become friends, they hate each other again when really they love each other, they start to rekindle, everything is lovely, they kiss, they have sex, Lexa gets shot.

The last bit happens all very quickly in episode 307, and this is where a lot of the issues surrounding Lexa’s death have come up. The show has teased the relationship of Clarke and Lexa (fondly known as Clexa) for so long and with small pay offs. The shipping of these characters is intense and there is a strong fanbase connection to the relationship. So to have something given to the fans and then taken away so quickly, starts to feel like it’s there for a reaction, not for actual character or plot development. It was also a bit of a dick move toward your really loyal fanbase Rothenberg.

On a character development note, Clarke’s sexuality and identity has been explored through this relationship in a way that is refreshing and realistic, she likes guys, now she likes Lexa, problem? no problem (anyone else getting flashbacks to Buffy yet?). The fans finally get their pay off, Clexa is real, it’s a beautiful and tender moment and the humanity, that has been beaten out of the two characters through war and struggle, starts to come back. Then all but two minutes later, Lexa is killed by a stray bullet, which was actually meant for Clarke (for serious though, did Jason Rothenberg just take the script to Seeing Red?). It’s happened before *cough* Tara *cough* and it’s happened again. The death was fast and out of blue, it seems like a shock tactic or just for the development of Clarke’s character, and that isn’t good enough. The death itself made no sense, wouldn’t it have made more sense to kill Lexa off in the battle for commander? or in ANY battle because SHE IS A WARRIOR? Instead it’s passive, it’s bad luck for a lesbian again.

What’s even more frustrating than the actual death, is the show runner’s reaction to the backlash…. which is…. pretty much non-existent, unless you count him retweeting all the blogs/interviews that have supported him and not really addressing the backlash. But, and this is the ultimate nail in the coffin, it has been confirmed that Lexa will be back somehow in the finale (with sightings of the actress during the filming of the finale in Vancouver). Fans knew about this, before her death, thus eliciting hope for Clexa.

Here we have what a lot of people are calling queer baiting and I’m starting to see why. This hope that Lexa is still a part of narrative is what kept and will keep a lot of fans holding on. Rothenberg has, temporarily, taken away what the fans wanted but is trying to get them back with small hopes that could or could not satisfy what they want. Another LGBT character has become something for spectacle, ratings, and creating a stir. Is that all the representation of LGBT are worth? What happened to the complicated, developed, interesting Lexa that fans have come to know and love? Well… she got shot. She dies, like every lesbian in TV ever and it’s boring. It’s predictable. and it ignores the huge LGBT fanbase the 100 has. It ignores the responsibility that comes with making narratives with LGBT characters to actually represent them, to do them justice, to give them a chance to be real people and not just another device that they have so often been in television and film history.

I think what really saddens me is The 100 is a network show that has a young fanbase, which means that it’s easily accessible to LGBT youth who will watch this show and potentially get hope from seeing depictions of themselves on screen. These are young people who are vulnerable and minorities, who have to navigate life a lot of time knowing that they have it harder and will not see support for themselves or see others like them. Media gives these youth a chance to know they are not alone and even if it’s fictional, it can do wonders. I have discussed in depth how life-changing Buffy has been to me as a bisexual woman, and if I didn’t have that representation to see, to help me understand myself, I don’t know what my life would be like. We need shows that can do this for the current generation of LBGT youth. The 100 still has diversity, still has representation of minorities and is still a show I will continue to watch, as I feel it is still trying to encourage diversity on our screens. But playing into the same old trope that has been around for years was disappointing and very problematic. The show deserves better and the fans deserve better.

Let’s hope the rest of 2016 is filled with more developed, interesting portrayals of LBGT characters and may no more lesbians die meaningless deaths by stray bullets.