Feminist Quote of the Day #1

This is the first quote of my new series “Feminist Quote of the Day”.

Don’t worry, I won’t be spamming you every day with random quotes. Instead, I would like to share inspirational messages with you that deeply spoke to me. Because sometimes a few words can say more than an in-depth essay.

And how best to start than with our beloved Queen B?

I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.
Beyoncé, 2013

Indeed, Bey, indeed. What could be more ridiculous? Why let the other sex determine what we should look like, behave like etc? Our lives belong to us – and to no one else.
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[Feminist Reads] Future Sex – A New Kind of Free Love

future-sex

Emily Witt is a single woman in her thirties. Until recently, she has thought that her life would follow the conventional path: finding a man she loves, marriage, children. “I would disembark, find myself face-to-face with another human being, and there we would remain in our permanent station in life: the future”, she writes. But as the years passed by and none of her relationships proved to last, she began to wonder about what she is really looking for in life. Therefore she started an experiment – to be open to all different kinds of sexual lifestyles in order to find an alternative way of living.

The big question of this book is: Do the precribed social norms of finding a partner and living in a monogamous relationship really make us happy? And why do we not consider the various alternatives? In order to find out more about unconventional relationship models and sexuality, Witt moves to San Francisco, the place where modern and digital sexual freedom is at its peak. In her essays, she covers current phenomena like online dating, orgasmic meditation, internet porn and open relationships. She includes personal experiences as well as other people’s life stories, substantiated facts plus general reflections about the discussed topics.

Witt’s monograph might not be a book for everyone. Her tone is often quite provocative as she comes to term with the disappointments that heterosexual monogamous relationships had provided her and the people whose stories she tells in this book with. In her search for personal and sexual fulfillment, she dares to question preconceived images of female desires.

What men wanted from sex was assumed to be sex; what women were described as wanting when it came to sex was not sex at all, but rather a relationship in which one had sex, a structure in which sex happened.

This is the realisation Witt learns after she spends time on online dating sites such as OkCupid or Tinder. Gradually, she reveals the strategies which these platforms pursue and the message they distribute. In order to lure women onto their sites, for example, companies try to set up “a clean, well-lighted place” for a “woman-friendly environment”, e.g. by a respectable-looking and romantic design. The outcome of what happens when two “matching” partners meet, however, might often be the same: sexual intercourse. Still, women are commonly hesitating to openly express their sexual desire. The reason for that is more often than not rooted in the social norms where women are expected to not make their desires too obvious – because else they might be regarded as sluts.

Experience indicated that love would not be more likely to arrive if I rejected sex, but I read articles that spoke of a woman’s “choice” between casual sex and serious relationships. I learned about an “economic” theory of sex, wherein if women make sex more readily available its “price” drops and men have to “do less” to get it.

The most provocative chapters in ‘Future Sex’ might be the ones about porn and polyamory. Witt attends several shootings of porn films plus interviews female as well as male people that chose to work in the porn industry. The big question is the one that divides the whole world: Is porn necessarily misogynic? At least the people she cites in this books claim that they consciously decided for their jobs and agree with all possible detriments. Some shooting scenes Witt depicts, however, brutally contradict the reassurements that these women might give.

Open relationships are discussed in another essay. Again, the author explores a shunned topic and deals with its negative stigma. She tells the story of a woman who is cautious to mention her varying partners to friends or colleagues as she fears to be treated with less respect.

Monogamy was assimilated into notions of leadership and competence; other sexual choices came with loss of authoriy. The fear of falling on the wrong side resulted in a general performance of consensus about what constituted a responsible life.

In the end, Witt even attends a “sex party” herself. She observes the bizarre ongoings, even participates, but feels that it is hard to let go of her preset convictions. Another episode depicts her “wild” time at the Burning Man festival. There she is not shy to take drugs, engage in casual sex and to do all the things that contradict convention. This chapter takes quite an extrem level, but honestly displays Witt’s self-discovery trip during an experimental period in her life.

The chapter that I could maybe best relate to was the one about birth control and reproduction. Here Witt laments the striking lack of efficient contraceptive means. With clarity she reveals the drawbacks women still have to endure because of the stillstand in this sector. With bitterness, she states:

It is not in  a pharmaceutical company’s best interest to innovate away from a profitable and widely used once-a-day pill and toward a long-acting, cheaper alternative.

Contraceptive treatments for men, on the other hand, are totally neglected. WHY? is the big question. There is no effective help for women who react to contraceptive methods in a bad way – nor do we have any prospect of better contraception in the future. Instead, women are advised to reduce their level of sexual activity – for their own good.

Emphasis is consistently placed on modifying behavior to conform to the limitations of the technology, rather than modifying technology in consideration of a wider range of sexual behavior.

Being in her thirties, the author also feels the ticking of the biological clock. However, without a stable partner, she would neither have the emotional nor the financial support to start a family. Witt confesses that she would acutally consider the possibility to get pregnant from one of her male friends – without any strings attached. They would live together for a year to take care of the baby, then the father would move out but they would still remain close friends. Motherhood therefore does not necessairly presume romance. Witt does not state that she would not wish for romance – but as she cannot see any suitable partner, she feels the need to consider her alternatives.

And there really are a lot of alternatives, as Witt likes to stress. But the model of the nuclear family ist so deeply entrenched in our heads that any other ways of living are more often than not considered as failed ways of living. High school, college, job, marriage, children: This is the way that most people expect their lives to be. With regard to the freedoms that modern western democracies give us, Witt suggests that we should consider marriage in a different light:

Some people would remain committed to the institution of marriage, but I hoped that married partnership would cease to be seen as a totalizing end point and instead become somehting more modest, perhaps an instituational basis for shared endeavors such as raising children or making art.

This provoking theory definitely contradicts the life models that are still advocated as ideal. Religion and society tell us that marriage is the incarnation of love and eternal happiness. But today’s high divorce rates disillusion this romantic conception of matrimonial bliss. Should we therefore not put romance on the basis of successful marriages but rather similar dispositions and the same valures?

‘Future Sex’ does not give any answer to all these difficult questions. Nowadays we are given so many options in life and deciding for a certain way of life is more difficult than ever. Still, Witt laments the lack of courage we show when it comes to figuring out who we acutally are. Way too often we just follow the smooth path that convention has set out for us, she claims. Her frustration with society’s limitations is maybe best expressed in this sentence:

Mostly I wanted to live in  a world with a wider range of sexual identities.

No Means No Means NO!

As a woman, going out can be quite a hassle.

I have already mentioned it shortly in a former blog post that my experiences with night clubs are quite ambiguous. I love spending a fun night out with friends, where you can just let go, move to the beat of the music and dance away the stress you experienced during the week at work etc. In these moments, you realise what the phrase “Live for the moment” means. And please don’t get me wrong – this is not about getting drunk or high. It is just about enjoying music, dancing and of course enjoying the company of your friends. No matter how negative the stigma of night clubs might be: I do believe that going out and shaking off the worries that you might have experienced during the week contributes to a meaningful life. I’m surely not a “party queen”, but nevertheless, going out is an essential part of my life – I see it as a valuable experience which you should not miss during your youth.

This is the fun part. Unfortunately, there is also a not-so-nice part. In the worst case, it can even spoil my night. So what is this all about? One simple response is actually enough: men. As frustrating as it sounds, men sometimes really do have the power to turn a girl’s fun night out into an annoyance. The problem hereby is: Some men seem to imply that girls just go to clubs in order to find someone to have sex with. This applies not to all men, of course. However, the impudence of some sometimes sadly outweighs the “normal” behaviour of others.

“But it is natural,” one male friend said when I told him about my annoyance with guys that are jumping at girls the minute they are drunk enough. “Of course guys want to talk with a girl they are attracted to. What is wrong with that?” He clearly could not see what I was talking about. I do not condemn men that approach women in order to have a nice chat with them. I guess it is natural for night clubs, where people drink enough to let go of their usual reservations. However, there is a clear border between a respectful approach and the many impudent ones that I and almost all of my female friends have already experienced.

Not permitted body contact is the first rule violation. It is actually incredible that it has already become so normal in our society and no one really complains about it any more. Because this is what happens a lot of times when a girl goes out: Out of a sudden, someone would grab her arm, her waist, or her hip and maybe pull her into a dance. Some other time, it might be her bottom or other intimate body parts. Sadly, I have never – never, ever – experienced how women might have struck back or complained about the men’s impudence to the club staff. It seems like they already know that nobody would really listen to their problems and just laugh at them. Since when has it become such a normal part of our culture to openly accept sexual harassment? “But this is a night club,” some people might say. “This is what happens at night clubs. If you can’t deal with it, then don’t go there.” When I hear this argument, I feel like I have to choke. So what? Girls should not go out anymore if they want to avoid situations like that? So it is their own fault if they show up in night clubs because they are “asking for it”?

The sad thing is, some people really seem to think like that. If a woman dresses up and decides to wear a short skirt or dress, she is automatically regarded as “easy to get” – maybe even as a slut. Men seem to think that women just put on make-up and wear nice clothes in order to appeal to them. The fact that girls just dress the way they feel like does not seem to come into their minds. So sometimes I just wear casual jeans and t-shirt, while on other occasions I choose to put on a skirt, shorts or high heels. Does this mean that my dressing choices are connected to how I feel about having sex this particular day or night? No, definitely not.

The worst situations happen if you go out with just one other female friend. So this is what happened last weekend when me and a girlfriend went out. We arrived quite late at this club and the party was already going on. The music was good, we were keen on dancing to the beat and looking forward to have a fun night. However, as time passed by and people got more and more drunk, we were suddenly circled by a group of men. Some tried it in a nice way, some in a not so nice way. At one point, I had to think how ridiculous the whole situation was. As it was only two of us girls, the guys apparently deemed us to be easy prey. If you go out with a bigger group of girls or even have one or more guys in your group, on the other hand, men would never dare to approach you. The presence of another man is far too intimidating. They perceive it as forbidden territory and consequently draw in their horns. In their theory, women always have to “belong” to a man. If they see girls alone, they smell blood and turn into vampires.

This is what it really felt like that night: These men were vampires that were looking to feast on some random female victims. Because of course it is mostly random: Men are not that picky when it comes to choose someone to have sex with. In the one minute, they are trying to get your attention, in the next they are already snogging someone else. This is common night club life.Just to make it clear: I do not want to judge anyone’s sexual behaviour with this post. I do not claim that I have never kissed a boy in a night club – I guess it is natural. But what is clearly unacceptable is the lack of respect that women so often have to experience. Not from all men, of course – I know that there are more than enough men that also condemn this unapologetic behaviour against women. Still, they do not know how annoying it is to have to constantly wander around the dance floor in order to escape some bothersome “admirers”. They have never experienced what it’s like when someone tries to yank you and your friend apart – because yes, at some point you are holding hands with her in order to not risk getting lost amid the pushing crowd.

The greatest problem of all: They do not know what it’s like if your NO is not accepted. NO means NO – these words have become a popular hashtag in social media. It is mostly referred to situations where girls are pushed towards having sex. But it can actually be applied to every situation when women are expected to act in a certain way. NO, I don’t want to flirt with you. NO, it is not okay that you assume that I want to dance with you. NO, I’m not going home with you. If we make our NO louder and dare to raise our voice to speak out against the experienced injustices, the first step towards a change could be made. NO to disrespect – NO to misogyny – NO to inequality.

The New Empowered Woman – More Than Men Can Handle?

Strong women are on the lead.

Whether it is in politics, economy or Hollywood: There are always more and more women daring to raise their voice and make demands. For hundreds and thousands of years, females were categorically repressed and talked into believing that their place is in the kitchen or in the bedroom. The feminist movements of the 19th and 20th century created new possiblites for women to actively engage in the political and professional field. Nowadays, we are talked into believing that equality has long been achieved since. People that dare to claim that inequity still exists in our western democratic societies are often considered as overzealous fanatics that want to see problems where there are none.

Emma Watson is one of the strongest voices that the feminist movement has today. Her HeforShe campaign with UN Women has gone around the world and encouraged a multitude of men and women to reconsider their preconceived opintion of what feminism actually consitutes. The Harry Potter star has sworn to not be silent about the discrimination that women still are supposed to silently endure. Her inspiring speech at the UN headquarters in 2014 can be found here .

However, there are still many voices that criticise Emma for standing up for the issues that are important to her. In an interview with ELLE, she confessed that “once you take a stance on something like feminism, that’s a completely different ball game.” As Emma declared, “there were a couple of days when I just didn’t want to come out from under the duvet.” I found this unbelievable: Just because she dares to address an uncovenient topic, the actress is suddenly shunned by her former fans? Still, she found the courage to go on and continue with her humanitarian work. “I had to remind myself that the criticism wasn’t personal and it was part for the course,” our badass girl said. For sure, Emma has found the perfect response to the criticism: namely to just ignore the haters and carry on to fight for a better and more equal world.

On Monday, she received the ‘Woman of the Year’ accolade at the ELLE Style Awards in London. And although she was proud to be given this honour, Emma found it more important to make it clear that she will not give up her feminist fight:

This is not a year we will allow yourself to be silent. This is the year that women’s voices are heard.

Her words were met with fervent applause by the audience. I, too, was mesmerised by her statement. With all the things that have somehow gone terribly wrong last year – the most poignant surely Brexit and Trump’s triumph – one now has to send out the signal that we will continue fighting for our democratic values. And this is just what Emma announced: Don’t let the bastards grind you down. No matter how desperate and hopeless the situation might seem, it is important to stand up for the things that are important to you. The election of an overtly misogynic president will only make the feminist movement stronger.

However, her inspiring and powerful words seem to evoke fear among the opposite sex. One “friend” confessed to me that her declaration considerably unsettled him. “Seeing Emma Watson on stage screaming that this year women’s voices will be heard, I’m somehow scared and I don’t even know why,” he confided. When I heard this, I coudn’t help but laugh. Scared? Of Emma Watson? Because she is voicing her opinion? Because she wishes for a more egalitarian world? Because… “I’m afraid to lose my penis.” Yep. You just read right. He is afraid to lose his penis. Emmas words apparently evoked his fear to become an eunuch. To be fair: This certain guy has always proven to be quite strange. He just utters what is in his head and the result is often a bit weird. Still, I always thought that he is a “democratic” person and would not ridicule the feminist movement. Seems like I was wrong.

Apparently women that dare to raise their voice are still considered as a threat. As long as they look pretty and act as one would expect, everything is fine. But if females show enough courage to defy the norms that society poses on us, they are suddenly regarded with a wary eye. Literature contains endless examples of female characters that dared to challenge society’s norms and were consequently depicted as “wild beasts” rather than humans. Just think of Bertha Mason, the “crazy” first wife of Mr Rochester in Charlotte Brontës ‘Jane Eyre’. Or Emma Bovary in Gustave Flauberts ‘Madame Bovary’. Once these women transgressed a certain border, there was no going back. They have lost their right to be treated as an egalitarian citizen. Their punishment is harsh: Exclusion from society and/ or death.

When I talked with a female friend about the before mentioned episode with the guy, she said a very wise thing (after heavily laughing for some time, of course) that exposed how some men really think: “Women are supposed to be the weaker sex. So what happens if they are suddenly empowered and the stronger sex? Logic dictates that men are now the weaker sex.” This was said with a twinkle in her eye, of course. Some men just cannot accept the notion of women being equal and having the same status as them in life. Therefore they are unable to perceive that females gaining power does not necessarily mean that men lose power. For them, women surmounting the barricades are “wild beasts” that threaten their own status. They do not regard feminism as a fight for equality that engages both sexes but rather as an open assault on virility.

Not surprisingly, this certain guy is a big fan of “the girl next door”. Someone who is pretty, sweet, cute, complaisant, unlikely to cause any trouble. Someone who would happily stay at home to do the household while her husband goes to work. Someone with whom he could show off in front of his family, friends and colleagues. But a girl who has her own opinion and openly fights for the things that are important to her? Not very desirable.

From the outside, Emma Watson might just look like “the girl next door”. She does not display any obvious physical attributes that would mark her as a rebel. No tattoos, no punk hairstyle, no crazy fashion choices – quite the contrary. But as her example shows, physical appearence is not important at all when it comes to using your voice and inspiring a social change. For me, Emma is somewhat of a prototype of “the new empowered woman”. She is beautiful, intelligent, strong and kind at the same time. Apparently this is more than some men can handle. She contradicts the clichéd and outdated notion of women only promoting feminism because they hate the other sex. On the contrary, Emma has a bunch of male friends (the most known of them her Harry Potter co-stars, of course), a boyfriend (about whom she wisely never speaks in public) and openly seeks the dialogue with males.

Emma knows the essential importance to use her voice and stand up against misogyny. Her brave actions might cause anxiety among men – but at the same moment, she puts every effort into engaging both sexes in her equality campagin. HeforShe describes exactly this intention: To let women and men fight together for an egalitarian society where no one is disadvantaged. For this aim, clearly no man needs to lose his penis and become an eunuch.

A Single Lady’s Valentine Post

So finally it has arrived.

The BIG day. The dreaded day. The couple day. In the last weeks, shops have been suddenly filled with cheesy gifts and cards that apparently should help us all to love our partners more. As soon as Christmas is gone, customers seemingly should invest all the money they have left in kitschy presents for their sweetheart.

To me, it has always felt like Valentine’s Day is a mere creation by florists in order to make ends meet. Surely there exists no other day in the year where the flower industry is able to make as much profit as on the 14th of February. So it is okay to neglect your partner 364 days a year – but on this certain day you suddenly have to act as the dream couple per se, including roses, romantic dinners and expensive presents? I just cannot see what all this fuss is about. Of course it is nice to spend some lovely hours with your partner – but why all these high expectations and demands that society poses on us?

Just to be clear: This is not supposed to be some frustrated rant about a single girl sulking on Valentine’s Day. Nope, not at all. I’m clearly not the jealous sort of girl who looks at other couples with a longing eye. In fact, the only Valentine’s Day when I have been in a relationship has turned out as a complete disaster. So don’t expect me to be sitting in front of the TV with a huge package of ice cream and a bottle of wine tonight. This image of a frustrated single girl crying over not being in a committed relationship is just so outdated. Still, some people seem to think that it is true.

Friends who are in relationships are the worst. “Sooo what are your plans for Valentine’s Day?”, they might ask, their voice full of pity, worry and pride about seemingly being better off than half of today’s society. There is no denying that the number of unmarried and single people has considerably increased in recent decades. The pressure that religion and society before imposed on young people to find a suitable marriage partner as soon as possible has disappeared. As statistics by Gallup show, 64 % of young adults in the US reported in 2014 that they were single and not living with someone. In 2004, by contrast, it was still 52 %. Click here to see the whole result. Quite an impressive number, one might assume. Nevertheless, when the 14th of February is approaching, suddenly single people are treated like second-class citizens. Restaurants are booked out exclusively for couples and the whole world suddenly acts like being in a romantic relationship is the ultimate life goal. The media might give you the impression that no matter how unstable your relationship might be on the other 364 days of the year – as long as you spend a lovely Valentine’s Day together with your partner, you lead a perfect life and have found ultimate happiness.

In my opinion, the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is utterly simple: namely to just ignore it. No expensive presents, no corny poems – love is so much bigger and deeper than these tacky gifts could express. And when I’m talking about love, I mean not only romantic love, but also love for your family, for your friends, for the people that really matter to you. Surprisingly, it seems like a lot of people still have not understood one thing: Single people are not alone. We have people that are there for us when we need them, people that know us as well as (or maybe even better than) a partner. And as long as it is like that, there is no need for pity, malice or worry. Just the need to finally understand how most single people really feel about not being in a relationship: Happy to lead their own life, open to meet new people, ready to enjoy life as it comes.

Disillusioning the Beauty Myth

When people talk about women, they always classify them into different categories.

“Oh she’s damn sexy”, “She’s so cute“, they might say about females that seem to conform to the current beauty norm. On the other hand, women that dare to be different  and who consciously or unconsciously choose to defy beauty ideals are heavily criticised. Our western culture deems being skinny, tall and tanned as the ultimate key to physical attractiveness. If you look on different parts in the world, these ideals, however, differ considerably. Arabian countries prefer a more curvy figure, Chinese people diligently avoid the sun because they worship delicate white skin. There is quite an interesting survey conducted by ‘Superdrug Online Doctors’ that deals with exactly this topic. 18 designers from all around the world were asked to create a “perfect woman” with regard to their home country’s beauty ideal. The result can be found here. This project sought to expose unattainable demands on women – because “widely held perceptions of beauty and perfection can have a deep and lasting cultural impact on both women and men”, the official press release said.

So what can we learn from this? First, that it is not only unhealthy but totally impossible to reach these goals. The Chinese “Aphrodite”, for example, resembles rather a bizarre anorexic doll than a healthy and happy woman. Italy’s Venus is the standard western catwalk model – long legs, thin arms, slim waist. Whereas in Egypt, apparently, skinny women would not be admired very much. No, because there females need to have big breasts and curvy hips. The result is a somewhat ludicrous hourglass figure. After looking at these pictures I was left with quite a bitter feeling. What is wrong with our modern society? Why do we always and everywhere have to set up standards that women are supposed to achieve? Apparently it is not enough to just “be” and work on yourself as a person. More often than not, traits like intelligence and open-mindedness are neglected in favour of beauty.

This is not to say that I don’t care about appearances at all. I do. I don’t think that there is anyone in the world who does not look oneself with critical eyes from time to time. It is totally natural. But this survey is just one more example that beauty ideals become more and more ridiculous these days. Women are expected to surrender to appearance norms set up by the media. But as these pictures reveal, it is impossible to meet all varying ideals at the same time. Just imagine if your job obliged you to travel around the world. So after arriving in China you have to stick to a strict diet to become as thin as Barbie? And what if Egypt would be your next destiny? You suddenly have to stuff food inside your body to gain weight – everything in the pursuit of beauty? Even thinking about it is ridiculous.

History shows us that there always have been ideals of female beauty. Artworks depict that these standards often change quicker than one can blink.

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One day, one of my ex-boyfriends told me that I was not curvy enough – I was doing quite a lot of sports at this time and tried to eat healthy. But apparently he didn’t like that too much. “It would be nice if you had bigger boobs and a bigger booty” – these were basically his words. As an example, he showed me a picture of Kylie Jenner’s hourglass figure. Back then, I just laughed at him. I didn’t take it too seriously – because after all, it was my body. My body, my decision. I just thought: Okay, he’s a guy. Guys sometimes have weird perceptions. But he didn’t stop. “Why don’t you wear more make-up?”, was the next issue, followed by “You should dye your hair light blonde”. So more and more suggestions about how I could improve my looks came up. One time, when we were at the drugstore, he basically dragged me to the beauty department to select some products for me that were supposed to be “good for me”.

When I think back about this episode, I’m at the same time ashamed and proud of myself. Ashamed, because it took me quite a long time to realise that he had no right to talk to me that way. Ashamed, because I could not see at first that he was clearly misogynic. On the other hand, I never even thought about surrendering to his demands. I never considered changing my looks just for a guy. I am who I am – and if a boy does not like it, it’s his own fault. In fact, his ridiculous suggestions just made me more stubborn – I would even hit the gym more often (in fact, I haven’t been as fit since that time) and have make-up free days. This episode taught me a very important lesson: Although people might tell me to change my appearance, in the end it’s always my decision. I have the power to decide whether I want to have black or blonde hair or whether I wear make-up or not. If I decided I wanted to dye my hair pink or get a hundred different tattoos on my body, so be it. It is not up to others to tell me what I should look like. You cannot please everyone anyway – so this person thinks I’m too skinny. Okay. The next person would deem me as too thick. I clearly don’t have the complexion of a supermodel and neither do I have perfect curves – so what? It is impossible to fulfil all beauty ideals anyway.

These days, social media is flooded with women posting private workout and bikini pictures. Of course it can also be an empowering action – they show that they are confident about their body and want to encourage other women to do so, too. But especially on young girls it might have a rather negative effect. The danger lies in actually forgetting what a healthy body looks like.

Celebrities might me the most affected victims of the whole beauty debate. Last Sunday Lady Gaga did an amazing show at the Super Bowl – including flying through the air, changing her costumes mid-performance and basically rocking her ass off. Although she was being congratulated for her show, people soon started to criticise her for one certain thing: namely for showing her belly. “Tried to enjoy @ladygaga’s performance, was distracted by the flab on her stomach swinging around”, one user lamented. Another bodyshamer advised the pop singer to “work on her abs” as her belly was apparently “flopping around”. After reading these tweets, I thought: WTF??! So this power girl just put her whole heart and soul into this show and all people are able to talk about is her belly?

When I saw the “offending” picture, I couldn’t help but laugh. So she showed some tiny, tiny bit of flesh over her waistband. So what? Is she therefore endangered to become obese? As far as I could see, she is fit as hell – or how else could she have completed this physically demanding 12 minute show? Are all women now expected to have perfectly flat bellies just because western society claims it as the beauty ideal? So I might have a  relatively flat stomach in the morning – due to digestion during the night. But if I would like to keep it that way, I would only be allowed to eat the tiniest amount of food during the day. Do I want to do that? No. Because for me, food means life quality. Would I ever sacrifice food for a perfectly flat stomach? Definitely not.

Once again, Lady Gaga replied with the perfect words. On Instagram, she wrote:

I heard my body is a topic of conversation so I wanted to say, I’m proud of my body and you should be proud of yours too. No matter who you are or what you do. I could give you a million reasons why you don’t need to cater to anyone or anything to succeed. Be you, and be relentlessly you. That’s the stuff of champions. thank you so much everyone for supporting me. I love you guys. Xoxo, gaga

Lady Gaga is not the only star who decided to speak out against the unrealistic standards of beauty. Lily Collins admitted that she has always had complexes because of her rather “bold” eyebrows. In an interview with ‘InStyle.com’, she recalled the tough time she had as a teenager:

I wanted to fit in and I think we all want to fit in at a young age, and we alter things about ourselves that we think are different to fit in better, and one of those things was my eyebrows.  They were so bold they were very big on my face, and as a kid I wanted to change that. So, I took it upon myself to hack them away and I thought I had done such a great job. And my mum was looking at me at dinner one night and said ‘What did you do?’ And I thought ‘I know, they look amazing right?’ And she proceeded to tell me ‘You need to accept the quirky things that make you different and what make you beautiful, it’s the things that stand out that make you unique, and allow people to appreciate that.’

The actress confessed that it took her a very long time to embrace all the attributes that make her unique and beautiful in her own way. As Lily declared, only recently has she realised that perfection is actually “unattainable”. When I read her words, it felt like she was expressing exactly what I was feeling:

The older you get, the more you see that people you admire and find beautiful have different things about them that make them them.  So, I think it’s really  important whether its characteristics of your personality, or physical characteristics that define who you are, different is beautiful.”

Different is beautiful – this might be one of the most important truths that exist in modern life. In democratic societies we have the freedom to be who we are – at least in theory. More often than not, however, we limit our lives and possibilities ourselves by trying to please others. But in the end, we have to ask ourselves: Is this really me? Should I really let myself be defined by unachievable standards set up by society? It would certainly be quite sad to do so. The world would be a far more boring and colourless place if we would surrender what makes us special.

Why we need to protest

I was never really a person to participate at demonstrations.

Standing in the first row and shouting nasty words, maybe even showing your boobs? Naah, not for me, I thought. But now I know that I was wrong. Terribly wrong. The recent ongoings in the world – especially the election of Donald Trump – have taught me a severe lesson. I came to realise that it is vital to go out and protest for the things that you care about. Because if you don’t do it, who else would? Every single person who goes to these demonstrations and marches counts.

“But there are so many other people going there anyway”, people usually say. “It would not make any difference if I went there or not.” It is convenient to cling to these thoughts – I know because I also used to think like that. Why take the effort to go somewhere and stay for hours in the cold while being closely watched by the police?

For anyone who thinks like that, I would recommend to just go to one demonstration himself. For me, it feels like magic to see how people from different backgrounds gather together for one single cause – to stand up for a democratic and peaceful society. Lately, there have been more protests than ever. The mad policy of Trump has triggered a real chain reaction. More and more people realise that something is going terribly wrong in the world right now.

The most popular movement has probably been the Women’s March. Across the whole globe, women and men gathered on the 21st of January for a peaceful protest to save fundamental human rights. The message was clear: We are all equal – that’s why we are all feminists. I went to the Women’s March in London and was genuinely blown away by the amazing atmosphere. So many people came to stand up for women’s rights, all from diverse backgrounds. People were holding up banners and exclaiming their discontent with today’s corrupt policies. I felt really proud to be part of this movement. I forgot the cold, forgot that I normally hate big and noisy crowds. It suddenly felt like we were in an alternative reality where all people value peace and freedom. It felt like magic.

Here are a few impressions from the march:

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On Saturday (4th of February) there was another anti-Trump protest in London, called ‘Stop Trump’s Muslim Ban – Stop May Supporting It’.

Again, people assembled in front of the US Embassy in order to voice their discontent with current American policy and Prime Minister Theresa May’s state visit invite to Trump. This time, free banners were given out to people. Loud drums accompanied the march und people were dancing, singing and shouting to the beat. Pedestrians stopped to watch the march, either with shy curiousity or with open approval. Cameras clicked, hands clapped. One time, a group of people was enthusiastically blowing kisses from the balcony. On this day – during these hours -, it seemed like not a single soul in London would ever approve of deportation and xenophobia. According to the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ an incredible amount of 40.000 people had joined the march. “Dump Trump”, “Theresa May, shame on you”, “Refugees are welcome here” and “No ban, no wall” were just a few of the rallying cries.

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There is one more important thing that I would like to add.

With this post I do not intend to criticise people that don’t participate at every protest. I don’t do it myself. It would be impossible. Especially in our modern stressful society it is very hard to find time to engage in political events like these. But like every vote counts in an election, every marcher counts in demonstrations. The world needs to see that people are not happy with the current political ongoings. There is no denying that Trump was voted in a legal election – but that does not mean that now everyone just has to accept anything he enforces. Silence is not an option. In western societies we have the privilege to voice our discontent and engage in public protests. This is part of democracy – it is our fundamental right. Of course Trump would love nothing more than to take that freedom away from us – to take away all fundamental democratic rights, as a matter of fact. But we cannot let that happen. And this is why we march.