As a culturally, politically and socially active 22 year old female I often feel isolated and ostracised from the main stream media. Perhaps I’m being picky, have strange taste or should change the way in which I access and utilise the media, but I’ve felt for some time now like there is a real lacking when it comes to news and current affairs coverage, both in terms of actual news headlines and wider cultural news, that’s aimed at the young female demographic.
When I walked past WHSmith yesterday in the station, I thought that seeing as I hadn’t stopped for a coffee, I’d treat myself to a magazine, something I haven’t done in well over a year or more. I went into the store and had a look at the ‘Female Section.’ I was met, for the most part, with celebrities I am in no way interested by on the covers of magazines that looked vacuous, wasteful and quite frankly, boring, not to mention extortionately priced. The only thing that caught my eye was Meryl Streep gracing the cover of ‘Woman and Home’ magazine and whilst I am indeed a woman and I do, indeed, live in a home there was something about the lilac hues and use of ‘LUXE YOUR LOOK’ brandished across the front cover that put me off paying the £3.90 to own this little snippet of corporate marketing propaganda that would no doubt tell me how to be more ‘womanly’ and a bit less ‘homely.’
I would say on average I spend about 10 hours a week listening to Radio 4. I have it on for at least an hour in the mornings or the same again when cooking my dinner and usually it’ll be on in the background when I’m doing things around the house or walking to and from work. I think it’s a brilliant station and I love the fact that when listening to it, I’m actively engaged with something, rather than being fed ditzy pop songs by ditzy pop stars. That’s not to say I’m not partial to the odd bit of Taylor Swift now and then, but I really struggle with the concept of listening to banal chat by a Radio 1 DJ and hearing the same unimpressive pop songs 3 times in one day. I really enjoy listening to ‘Woman’s Hour’, for example, but I would say that generally, 1 in 5 shows features something about parenting, or marriage, or something else I am yet to even think about never mind experience. Whilst I realise the show is trying to pitch itself to a wide demographic of females, young and old, it is sometimes difficult to relate to the anecdotes or the guest speaker’s subject matter. There have been so many instances, especially at University, in which I’ve tried to enjoy a show like The Kardashians and I’ve often felt like if I could engage with something so invincibly prominent in pop culture, that my media engagement would be a lot less restricted and my standing as a 22 year old female would be a lot more in unison with my peers. This is because I genuinely feel left out of something bigger, something that these ‘women’s mags’ and entertainment shows lead us to believe is an enjoyable, fulfilling even, way to spend our time and money on; the deprecation of the female entity for entertainments sake.
The most alarming thing about everything I’ve mentioned above is that, since returning home and having a lot of free time, I’ve found trash TV shows and online ‘celeb’ blogs, to be much more easily accessible (often free or cheap) and digestible than anything stimulating or educational. Since starting my new job I’ve found more so than ever, that casual conversation amongst females tends to always fall into the brackets of; men, celebrities, fashion or for the most part, other women (and generally in a negative sense.) I don’t want to appear to be giving a prejudiced or one dimensional view of women, quite the opposite, I wish to question why it is that we feel so abhorrently devoted to the misfortunes and short comings of our peers and what it is that makes this kind of rhetoric, both in the media but also right down to coffee break office chit chat, so appealing, accepted and widely conventional.
I was travelling on the bus the other day when it stopped to pick up about 15-20 men, there was a broad mix in ages although I would say it started from about 35 and ranged upwards to around 60. The men sat in the seats behind me meaning I could overhear almost all of their conversation. The two that were sat immediately behind me struck up a conversation almost immediately about the current crisis involving Egypt and Russia and the Sharm el-Shiekh plane crash and its consequences on a global scale. One suggested that it must have been a bomb on board the flight; the other partially agreed but appeared more open to wait for the official verdict, suggesting we cannot know for sure until then and that conspiracy isn’t always the answer. They did both however agree, that it would radically change international travel protocol should it prevail that a bomb was involved. Only after this lengthy discussion, did they come to what this would mean for them, and the second man’s plans to cruise the Med this year. I also managed to over-hear snippets of conversation from the wider group about the implications of farming regulations in Northern Ireland and how they were affecting farmer’s ability to earn and survive in the current economic climate. I heard discussions (albeit ones I may not necessarily agree with) about the state of the NI government and also about the closure of the Michelin factory in Ballymena and what this means for the local jobs market. There was the occasional “how’s the family/wife/home keeping” chat – but it was largely in the first 2-3 mins of entering into a conversation and ceased quite rapidly once time went on.
As I said previously, I do not mean to diminish females or to bring my own fierce gender into rancour rather; I wish to continue the questioning of my previous post. That is, why is it that women all too often feel so marginalised from local, national and international current affairs? There is no doubt in my mind that had it been a group of 15-20 females that boarded the bus I would have overheard a much different conversation, no doubt topics would have included their partners, children if applicable, other women not present and their personal business and perhaps the odd fashion tip. I would be very surprised if the Russian/Egypt crisis was mentioned in any way other than the implications for their travel plans and I highly doubt that NI politics would have been the topic of the day. It posed that question once more: Why is it women’s magazines, women’s TV programming and often women’s literature are so dedicated to diminishing female empowerment and the connectivity between females and wider social/political/economic standings?
After taking my mum to see ‘Suffragette ‘she announced to me that she would ‘love to read more about them’ and wished she could ‘do more things like that.’ Whilst I’m not entirely sure what she meant by the latter, I am presuming that she was referring to becoming a politically engaged female. The fact that my own mother feels that this is something only to be aspired to, rather than something that can be realistically brought into action, is something that upsets and concerns me deeply. And, whilst writing another blog post on the trials and tribulations on the position of the female in regards to the media and wider pop culture may been seen by many as a pointless expression of opinion, I can’t help but hope that there are many more women my age, older, and younger, around the country and around the world, that feel more propelled to write about their mistrust of the representation of women and their frustrations with “women’s” media outlets especially, than to engage in tweeting about Kim Kardashian’s newest tattoo or Kylie Jenner’s latest plastic surgery mishap. And even if there are seldom of us, even if we are few and far between, I believe it to be an enriching and fulfilling group to be a part of.