There’s just too much rhetoric about taking back control, control of our country, control of our borders, control over our bodies. Our timelines have been streaming with a pre-determined media agenda that’s been pumped out to us daily, loaded with double speak from politicians espousing the protection of our freedoms yet promising more and more control.
Voting is the one action that pertains to giving control back to us, yet these days its become an urgent case of voting for who’s going to have the power to control us – less about voting for the greater good and more about making a choice between the lesser of evils. We’re already witnessing the disturbing impact of voting for taking back control and Brexit Britain is bracing for a very hard future ahead. With Theresa May now in the driving seat and gearing up to take us off a cliff, taking control is freely being banded about as the win by the ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’, as a new book by leading UKIP financier is titled. There’s no need to pull back the curtain anymore, it’s in open view – we’re not talking about a culture of private memberships to gentlemen’s clubs anymore, there’s a national enlistment program in place to this ‘boys’ club and its spreading it’s wings. Attempting the blame game by appropriating hip hop as an excuse for historically white patriarchal sexist behaviour is a reach in itself and one that’s not having anyone fooled.
Right now, I can’t say it’s been the best of times for women – infact we’ve reduced our conversations about women to an unprecedented low yet it’s pushed us all to a long needed tipping point. While the US will soon be heading to voting booths to consider whether to elect their first female president in a role that is often referred to as ‘the leader of the free world’, the campaign in the run up to the election has become less about leadership and more about the freedom to grope. “This is not about politics. It’s about basic human decency”, Michelle Obama spoke emotionally in her speech at a Florida rally and managed to speak without saying his name once.
It’s been yet another disturbing week that has finally forced media commentators to talk about the elephant in the room, or rather the ‘silverback gorilla’ as so boastfully referred to by that Brexit ‘bad boy’ Farage. “He looked like a big gorilla prowling the set. He is that big alpha male – that’s who he is, that’s who he is,” Farage proudly celebrated the prowling alpha-male running for the job of president making another wilfully ignorant contribution – “We all have comparisons to animals or whatever it may be, but that’s how he seems to me. The leader of the pack, that’s what he’s like.”
Well now that animal comparisons have become the acceptable form to take in political pack fighting, these metaphorical alpha-males have led us to despair about the politics of bullshit (yep yet another comparison to animal activity). As the fangs are out, we’re witnessing a cold gender war of words, it’s a war that has opened up many wounds in the political and social landscape about gender disparity in amongst the rise of racism and xenophobic attacks.
Just as women have also had to rise above the ‘base instincts’ of the gorilla in the room, it’s become frighteningly clear that it’s time to galvanise around whose sexual freedom we’re in a battle to control. As Michelle Obama continued in her speech yesterday, “This was not just a lewd conversation, this wasn’t just locker room banter, this was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behaviour. Actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the tv.”
On those tv channels and media platforms we’ve consistently seen an attempt to normalise the language of sexism in amongst political conversations that have reached another low. Flotus continued, “I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, the shameful comments about our bodies, the disrespect of our ambitions and intellect, the belief that you can do anything you want to a woman. It is cruel, it’s frightening and the truth is it hurts, it hurts.”
The battle to control the narrative around sexually predatory language is simultaneously finally fuelling a conversation beyond control over social attitudes on the female form whether its about ‘freeing the nipple‘ or ‘banning the burkini’. We’re now facing up with patriarchal white males reacting to the very real fear of losing control over women. Michelle Obama spoke about the implications of this predatory behaviour in a real way that all too many women are familiar with. “It’s that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them or forced himself on them, and they’ve said no but he didn’t listen.”
Is it any wonder that young women and girls are feeling at a loss, while as a society we fail to understand why women are not seen to be taking the lead as positive role models – “For women to be successful they have to have a lot of courage” said one student in the trailer for The Female Lead. Courage it seems is the primary requisite to survive every level of passive or aggressive assault that’s predicated towards woman across politics, media and advertising.
The media has much responsibility to bear for presenting a lack of female role models and now the advertising industry is facing increasing criticism over the continuous presentation of negative female stereotypes. Conducting a survey about advertising, Unilever have only recently learned what’s been pretty damn obvious to many of us. Women don’t relate to the faces being reflected back to them across advertising ‘of the women the ads featured, only 3% were portrayed in leadership roles, 2% were intelligent, and 1% were funny’.
“I think that the female body is very overly sexualised in the media” as another student laments “There are other woman which deserve to be in the media, which have actually done something that will change the world in a good way.” Taking the lead, doesn’t mean falling in line behind one stereotype of women, but showing the many faces of women. You may need to brace yourselves for a courageous fight ahead in the cold gender war we’re facing but this is not the time to stay silent.
Advertising needs a shake up. The media needs a shake up. Politics needs a shake up. The mischief and mayhem caused by these self proclaimed bad boys has to be countered. This is not a conversation about men vs women, but one about redressing the balance and it’s long overdue. As a society judging the appearance of women across beauty pageants or in magazine pages is dominating our conversations to the point where ‘Gurls Talk’ centres around taking control of female sexuality – while taking the lead to fight intellectually about our ability to lead is stuck right at the back.
The conversation needs to progress beyond body image. It’s no longer about what girls see in magazines or hear on tv but it also needs to include what boys are being led to perceive as acceptable conversations about girls. Taking the female lead is not just about taking the lead in showing girls what women can do and achieve but also leading the conversations about women and girls amongst men and boys.
Take the lead and join us as we take the conversation further at the next Bonded event for the first ever public UK screening of ‘Dream, Girl‘. We’ll be joined by female entrepreneurs to discuss the impact of the female economy and how to empower more and more women economically, socially and spiritually to pursue their dreams. Tickets are on sale now at Eventbrite.