Sunday 31 August 2014

10 things Tumblr taught me

I have a confession to make – I am one of those tumblr addicts. I often hit post limit. I have multiple fandom blogs on my account. When I close my eyes I still see the blue of my dashboard as it scrolls downwards… Okay, so I made the last one up. But you get my drift.

Having been on tumblr for about seven years (one of my most popular blogs just celebrated its sixth birthday, thank you very much), I have witnessed the good, the bad and the downright scary that is Tumblr. 

Here are 10 things the wonder that is tumblr has taught me:

10. Supernatural fans are everywhere
I don’t even watch Supernatural, but I have a better than average working knowledge of the cast and their shenanigans. I don’t think I’ve ever purposefully followed a Supernatural blog, yet it is always turning up on my dashboard. I have even unwillingly been subjected to my fair share of Supernatural fanfiction… I don’t want to talk about this anymore.

9. Tumblr after dark is a scary place
Point in case: night blogging. Any resemblance of sanity the collective tumblr users have during the day time (relative depending on your time zone) becomes completely annihilated once it hits evening in your country.

8. Any form of discrimination is NOT okay
It is probably the most accepting of all the social media platforms. If anyone is seen using a racist/sexist/anti-feminist/homophobic etc. slur, they get called out pretty pronto.

7. You are never alone
I have found it to be a place of acceptance and love. If I have made a post about a bad day, I often get several inboxes from total strangers offering to talk my problems through with me, or just giving me a random reason to smile. 
There are millions of users who are actively blogging things that you are personally passionate about; it’s like having a lovely, online family. If you are on a down day, even typing the word ‘depression’ into the search bar will trigger tumblr to refer you to helpful resources, such as the Samaritans.

6. Your selfies will never go without a like
It is a rule. Tumblr appreciates everyone for their own unique beauty – both inside and out.

5. If you thought you were super weird; you’re not
I say this in the most loving way possible, but there are some pretty strange people on tumblr! My favourite by user snazziest: “Imagine if teeth giggled when you brushed them because they’re ticklish”. The mind boggles…

4. If tumblr users worked at the Oscars – Leonardo di Caprio would have thousands
It is no secret that Mr di Caprio is incredibly underrated when it comes to winning awards for his acting. However, tumblr seems to have some incredibly strong, and frankly insane, feelings about it. For example, the infamous sad Leo Oscars selfie:

 3. Tumblr practically has its own language
Most of them are fandom / movie references, where tumblr users can have their own inside jokes.

  •          I came to have a good time and honestly I’m feeling so attacked right now
  •          The "I don’t think you even tried at all" star
  •          I just
  •          TFW
  •          asdfghjkl
  •          nice nice very good
  •          such fun much love
  •          I’m back, b*tches
  •          why is this a thing
  •          sassy tumblr is sassy
Oh, and punctuation totally isn’t allowed. (But get your grammar wrong at your own risk…)

2. The tumblr staff are just as crazy as their users
If they are not adding to your text post with some sassy remark, calling their users idiots, creating ridiculous terms and conditions in the hopes we will spot them, then they are making making awful jokes, for example...

1.  Love comes in the most unexpected of places
I’m going to make number one short and sweet. I met my beautiful boyfriend of nearly ten months on tumblr after he sent me a very nice inbox, and the rest is history. 

Thursday 21 August 2014

How I discovered social media can hurt finished friendships

We’ve all been there in primary school when someone has said ‘I’m not your friend anymore!’ to us, and it’s simply seemed like the end of the world. Part of growing up, I’ve sadly come to realise, is losing people. We drift apart, we grow up, we lose contact – it happens.
However, I seem to be one of a small minority who feels like this loss, although a potential for temporary heartbreak, is healthy. (Not to say that I relish losing my friends, that would be very unhealthy). What I’m saying is, it is a fact of life that some of the people you grow up with will not be the ones you share your bingo days, your 50th wedding anniversary, your 30th birthday or even your graduation with.

Of course, some friends you make you will make for life and these are worth holding on to at any cost and treasured. (Someone came to your mind just now, right? Text them, call them, tweet them right now and tell them you love them). But these will be few and far between, which is exactly what makes them so special.
For the friends who just drift to the side-lines of our lives, having their occasional presence on our social media platforms isn’t so much of a big deal. It may even occur to you to like their engagement selfie as a whimsical expression of goodwill, for old time’s sake. But what about the ones who have hurt us, with whom we have had a granddaddy type fall out that even the protagonists of ‘Mean Girls’ would be jealous of? It’s hard to tiptoe around something like that on social media.

Before I continue, I feel it important to say that I am not a confrontational or antagonistic person, but a very anxious one. Having myself been isolated from a group of friends a few years back, I found it very difficult watching their updates on Facebook. Without any physical presence in my real life, they were still haunting me every time I checked my phone. Any tweets with a sly dig involved, I would instantly head spin into a panic. Is it about me? Is she referring to that embarrassing thing that happened to me a few months ago? She wouldn’t make a status about it, would she? WOULD SHE?!?!

All this unnecessary worrying got me thinking. What happened in the days before social media, before we were all continually updated about every single thing happening in each other’s lives? Scary as it is to consider, I think we all just let go. When a friendship comes to a natural end, it is just that – the end. It is supposed to hurt a bit and it is supposed to teach you a lesson. It is a time for self-reflection - for deciding what you would do differently in your next friendships, and to promise yourself what type of friendship you deserve (i.e. the answer for you, my friend, is the very best. Never settle for anything less).

Taking a very big deep breath, I began to “unfriend” people from Facebook. Undoubtedly an already much referred to point, but not everyone on my Facebook is my “friend”. I didn’t want the process to be a flip off to those I had shared some of my best memories with, a reincarnation of the primary school “I’m not your friend anymore”. What it was, and what it needed to be, was a personal refresh. A new start, to prevent my already anxious flames being fanned unnecessarily by unexpected pop-ups in my News Feed. Perhaps what I couldn’t see wouldn’t hurt me, after all. One by one, as these people disappeared, I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders.

For some, I even went so far as to block, to prevent any future contact. It was important to me to have a real sense of closure. It also prevented me from looking at those whose profiles had ‘public’ settings. Deleting them seemed to be only half the battle if I could still tempt myself into looking at their statuses and tagged photos, only to be inevitably saddened by what I saw and angry at myself for peeking.

It isn’t immature and it isn’t selfish. What it is is self-preservation. People existed and conducted their relationships in a perfectly healthy manner before social media became a craze, and they will continue to do so long after the hype has died down. Why continue to let yourself be upset by something on social media because society is telling us it’s the thing to do?

I am not telling you to maliciously remove people from your life or to create unnecessary conflict. There is enough hate in the world without adding more. But what I am asking of you is to consider yourself first, without allowing yourself to be led to believe it’s selfish. Remember the age-old saying by author unknown; “not everyone you lose is a loss”. If you don’t want to see the updates of your old friends, then don’t. It’s that simple. Let them go. You’ll feel much better for it - I promise.

Monday 4 August 2014

Why Lily Allen's 'Hard Out Here' single backfired as a feminist message.

Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I am, in fact, a massive fan of Lily Allen. Despite the ideas I am going to discuss regarding her thwarted attempt to create a feminist message using the song Hard Out Here and its accompanying music video, I do really like Allen, both as a person and a singer. I recognize that, although misguided, her attempt to communicate a feminist message is still a positive step, even if this time it unfortunately failed.

It is important to first address the creepy elephant in the room - I'm looking at you, Robin Thicke. Allen makes no attempt to hide the fact that Hard Out Here is a response to the contentious singer's debut single Blurred Lines, featuring Pharrell. We cannot discuss one without the other, so I will briefly describe the infamous debacle that followed Thicke's emergence into the popular music industry. For those who had their eyes and ears shut for the majority of 2013, Blurred Lines was a single which raised the hackles of many feminists and rape survivors. The message behind the lyrics was clear - consent is not a black and white issue but a subjective and ambiguous animal. Let me say that this is irrefutably incorrect. The woman in the song is either giving her permission to be engaged with sexually, or she is not. There are no two ways of looking at consent - either it is present or absent. In its absence, the woman should be shown nothing short of respect and space. Lyrics such as "I know you want it" (rape victims often hear this by their abusers as a means of self-affirmation) demonstrate his idiocy and ignorance of a sensitive topic. Taking advantage of the fact that sexual abuse is not treated with the seriousness it deserves by the legal system and the eye of society, Thicke has ridden on the back of discrimination against women and their sexual autonomy with a view of making himself money. And we, as a society, made him filthy rich.

The video for Blurred Lines featured messages in the background (behind the girls in underwear dancing with the married father of one) such as "ROBIN THICKE HAS A BIG DICK". This self-celebration of his alleged manhood, and the power this apparently gives him, does much to demonstrate the patriarchal society we are subjected to live within today.
In retaliation, Allen's Hard Out Here video features balloons spelling "LILY ALLEN HAS A BAGGY PUSSY". No doubt a comment to the ridiculousness of Thicke's video, this may be the only part of the video I like. Her unashamed, tongue-in-cheek manner of portraying herself further identifies her as 'unfeminine' (according to the traits we as a society assign femininity: i.e. meekness, demureness, chastity, innocence, polite acquiescence, obedience), for she is loud and confident when screaming about her 'undesirable' womanhood.

Further than this, her lyrics aim to take a swipe at the misogynistic pop culture that has worsened during her (self-imposed) musical hiatus. Allen encourages us to "forget your balls and grow a pair of tits / it's hard, it's hard, it's hard out here for a bitch". The use of the word 'bitch' here is a reclamation of the term, to free it from it's intended insulting connotations and instead becomes something to be used with pride. However, not all of her lyrics encompass the feminist message. "You'll find me in the studio / and not in the kitchen" is probably aimed at all the popular jokes surrounding women retiring to the kitchen and fetching their men sandwiches. I can see why she has said it, but I think such lyrics are counter-productive.
For me, the essence of the feminist message has two prongs. The first is that women should be equal to men in all aspects of life; be that religion, politics, freedom, employment, etc. The second is that women should have the freedom of choice over themselves. This encompasses a wide range of things, such as sexuality, employment, marital status, motherhood, appearance, etc. The feminist message I believe in would support a woman if she wanted to be a biochemist as equally as it would support a woman who had made the informed choice to be a stay-at-home mom. Neither choice should be coupled with ridicule, disbelief or discrimination.What Allen is effectively doing with this particular lyric is alienating women who choose to be housewives by making them appear as subordinate to those who choose to pursue careers; she identifies as one such woman. I think that Allen has missed the point somewhere that feminism means equality for all women as all men; not only for some women. I am reminded of a quote by George Orwell, in the literary masterpiece that is Animal Farm; "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".

Further to this, Allen mocks the misogynistic music videos that men make, and women perpetuate. Her satire is merciless when she approaches media-heavy topics head-on; such as weight (an agent is speaking to her on the operating table and chastising her for her looks, as if aesthetic appeal is more important than the music she has to sell, despite her having had children) and when she is stood in the kitchen, in a seductive outfit and washing up (only instead of a plate, it is assumably her male partner's car rims).
As she says herself, "I don't need to shake my arse for you / cos I've got a brain".
This, unfortunately, is pushed to the wayside when her video features some women 'twerking' in very little clothing and pouring water all over eachother. I assume it can only be meant as a sarcastic parody, but the slow motion shots of women's backsides jiggling in time to her music indicates otherwise. Perhaps the only way Allen thought she could make men receive her message was by luring them in using the sex appeal of some young women? If I was a self-respecting male, I would be outrageously insulted by such an assumption.
As a white female, I feel that I am ill-equipped and too uneducated to really discuss my next issue, but I feel I must raise it. Her scantily-dressed dancers were of black and Asian descent, leaving herself as the only white female in the centre of the choreography. Allen claims that only the best dancers were hired, race was not an issue, and she only refrained from twerking herself, despite trying during rehearsals, due to insecurities (source). This may be so, but the finished product speaks for itself.

In essence, I think that Allen has tried to make a statement that feminism is still alive, if not a little overlooked, and although "sometimes it's hard to find the words to say / [she'll] go ahead and say them anyway". For that, we should be grateful because, although this attempt may have missed its mark by miles, at least she's trying.

New Look: Summer Sale Haul!

Whilst on my summer vacation with my family, I visited the beautiful city of Truro. Being the only city in Cornwall, it is rich in history. The beautiful cobbled streets and the gorgeous cathedral dominate my memories of the enchanting coastal city. It is well worth a visit if ever you are that way.

However, I was fortunate to time my visit with the New Look summer sale. I managed to get myself a few bargains, and here they are!

I purchased this string vest top at a non-sale price, but at £2.99 who can really argue? I already have many in a variety of colours, and I am a fiend for completing any collection I start! Cool white is in this season, and it really sets off a holiday tan.
This pleat mini skirt I picked up for £6.99. It is made of wool but not the scratchy kind (thank goodness!). It is well tailored to fit your frame and feels snug and soft against your skin. I think I will combine this skirt with my black leather jacket and some dark tights come autumn.

This peplum top was a steal at £5.99, and I got an extra £3 for someone's unfortunate smear of foundation along the neckline. I love the colour baby pink, I think it is particularly flattering to a brunette English rose for complementing a warm complexion. The fitting of the top offers an hourglass figure, and  the flared bottom is perfect for hiding any insecurities.

I fell in love with this dress immediately! At a price of only £10, I was more than happy. I have paired the beautiful cream and black dress with polka-heart design with some black over the knee socks (also in the sale for £1.50), which completes my cutesy nerd-chic look.

I have saved the best until last! This gorgeous dress at a staggering £8.99 was my favourite buy of the day. It features a floaty top layer and a more secure under layer but doesn't stick to you or makes you overheat. It features a functional side zip and aesthetic only front zip detail (well, it does work, but I'm not sure you would want it to in public!). The dress has built in cups, so wearing a bra is unnecessary. This ensures no attention is taken away from the spaghetti straps or low back line.

Have you had any luck in the New Look summer sale? I'd love to see your favourite purchases!

Wednesday 30 July 2014

My graduation day!

I graduated on the 18th July 2014 from Lancaster University, where I received a 2:1 in Law. I now have a fancy LLB at the end of my name!
This is the reason I haven't updated as frequently as I would have liked to recently, but I would love to share my day with you.
Nicknamed 'Jennybobllb' forever
Me and my wonderful boyfriend.
The family.
I look ridiculous but I love this
The most perfect day
My brother, the future millionaire, and I
I had a lovely time and feel nostalgic that three brilliant years have come to an end. I worked really hard, and at times found it very difficult, but the journey was well worth it. I am now looking forward to the future and the brilliant things yet to come my way.

Saturday 28 June 2014

Beauty Haul: Preston

I went shopping for a few miscellaneous beauty products with my friend Sam, and came away with some bargains!

Firstly, I found this Max Factor Colour Correcting stick which is perfect for those with tonal imperfections. I chose Green because I suffer from acne-prone skin. I have found this product perfect to cover blemishes and reduce redness, which I typically get along my T-Zone as a result of hormones (as if being a girl wasn't difficult enough!).

The only weakness I can think of is that it also has an illuminating side-effect, which is great if you are wearing with brightening make-up and want a complexion with a glowing finish. For those matte fans out there, this may not be for you.
In any case, at only £9.99, this is a steal.

My favourite buy of the day was the Soap and Glory Supercat Carbon Black Extreme Eyeliner pen. I had seen one of my favourite youtuber's Louise, better known as Sprinkle of Glitter, talking about how great this product was and, as a fellow beauty fiend, I had to try it out for myself! I had looked at the reviews beforehand and seen that literally everyone was giving it five out of five stars, and now I know why. It is easily applicable and dries quickly. The lines are clean and you can easily build depending on the look you are going for. I have applied mine in an almond shape to enhance the shape of my eyes and give the illusion of bigger, wider eyes. For £6.00, I am very happy I found this and will definitely be re-purchasing.

I also splashed out on a Natural Collection Solo Eyeshadow in Barley. This summer I am really feeling the neutrals, and this champagne nude has a lovely shimmering finish. Although in a pressed powder form, it applies like a cream. It is currently available in Boots for £1.79.

I have also purchased the Maybelline EyeStudio Color Tattoo eyeshadow. Advertised as lasting for 24 hours, even the most dedicated Maybelline fans would doubt such a bold statement. I have to say, I am happy to be proven wrong. This eyeshadow, cream in texture, applies like a creaseless gel and doesn't transfer throughout the day. It is currently sold at £4.99 in Boots and Superdrug. My shade of choice is Gold Pink.

I must give a mention to the Chanel counter Sam and I visited to be colour-matched. My match was Chanel Perfection Lumière in Number 12, which has a pinky rather than yellow tone. 

It would be rather amiss of me to not mention the price, which is £36.00 and available from Debenhams. I am going to put this on my birthday wish list, but I am absolutely gaga for it and may have to buy it before then.

 It offers the most coverage of all the Chanel foundations, so it is a full-face make-up. Because it is a high-end make-up brand, the colour is matched perfectly to your skin to give a flawless finish without looking as if you are overly made up. It has a matte finish which is perfect for my oily skin and corrects my blemishes perfectly. It even smells wonderful, and holds for 15 hours. This is my dream product of the month!

Thursday 26 June 2014

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann: Review and Feminist Insight.

Valley of the Dolls is a Hollywood thrill-ride from start to finish and, as commentator Julie Birchill posits, is ‘the most fun you can have without a prescription!’

Author Jacqueline Susann took her chances at the American Dream by trying, and failing, to become an actress. Susann’s subsequent seen-it-all attitude became the base note for writing a thick novel in the style of a gossip column, in which she intricately weaves the debaucherous exploits of her three heroines. It is fantastically rumoured that Valley of the Dolls was written on a hot-pink typewriter.
Susann when young
Not that Anne, Jennifer or Neely are particularly concerned about the traditional ideals of what it means to be 'feminine' in 1940s America. Femininity in this cultural and time sphere has connotations of demureness, chastity, maternity, obedience, beauty and innocence. All but Anne are unconcerned about the (society-created) disadvantages of losing their virginity, and Anne, the anti-Venus, is labelled 'frigid' and worries that there is something wrong with her.
The character of Jennifer North, too, is completely against what the patriarchal standards of femininity believe to be 'normal'. We learn, from her first third person perspective within the book, that she was involved in a lesbian relationship with a girl named Maria for several years, who divided her time between an innocent friendship role and sexual deviant. Maria not only initiated the sexual acts with Jennifer, but taught Jennifer how to explore and enjoy her own body. This is something Jennifer very much keeps to herself throughout the rest of the novel; potentially through fear of what her other friends would say. 

 Set in the 1940-1960s, the reader follows the strive for glittering stardom with our ingénue protagonists Anne Welle (secretary-turned-model), Jennifer North (all-American beauty), and Neely O'Hara (hot-headed actress). The novel follows their journey from the savage fight to kick start their careers in the most world-coveted setting, where thirst for fame and fortune plagues the teens’ minds. Watching washed-up stars like Helen Lawson fall from grace only encourages them, as the girls are determined to avoid her mistakes.

However, the pressure of fame, screen tests and sexuality can be very daunting. The ‘dolls’ referred to in the title are a metaphor for prescription drugs and uppers; little red, yellow and green pills which tranquilize, energize and down-size the girls.

The cut-throat nature of the agency business means that friendships are brought to their limit; after all, there is only room for one at the top. Moral qualities such as loyalty, chivalry and honesty are thrown to the wind in this dog-eat-dog world of Susann’s lavish creation.

More than just a fast-paced swipe at the media industry, Valley of the Dolls is essentially a feminist novel. If you are to take one message from it, let it be the one she screams at you: “Guys will leave you… your looks will go, your kids will grow up and leave you and everything you thought was great will go sour; all you can really count on is yourself and your talent”.

The character of Helen Lawson is the complete antithesis of what it means to be feminine. She is loud, abrasive, arrogant, sexually available and selfish. However, this apparent lack of consideration for all others around her is essentially the key which brings her much success and happiness. Albeit rather alone at the top, she is at the top and ensures that all of her (self-centred) dreams come true.

  Jennifer is also notorious for her 'European' films where she appears in many roles completely naked; an artistic vision which the other girls label brazen and condemn her for. Femininity places a strong emphasis on a girl's need and want to become a mother. We learn that Jennifer has seven abortions; the ultimate abhorrent act of disinterest towards the 'natural' mothering instincts she should possess. Her carefree attitude towards the abortions, as a medical inconvenience rather than any source of moral, philosophical or religious turmoil, further isolates Jennifer as deviant from the ideals of motherhood and, in turn, femininity. 
  The ultimate betrayal of the patriarchy, and probably the biggest feminist comment made by Susann in the whole novel, comes when Jennifer commits suicide. Before the final act, Jennifer is inches away from the happiness she has so eagerly sought her whole life. She is to be married to a Senator who, through the nature of their meeting and falling in love, convinces Jennifer he loves her for the person she is inside rather than the body so popular with cinema fans. When it is uncovered that Jennifer has breast cancer and is to undergo a mastectomy, her Republican husband-to-be enthuses about how much he cares for her breasts because they are in essence herself and he could not stand anything happening to them. This pushes Jennifer to silence and, after sneaking out of the hospital and home, overdoses on her dolls to leave the perfect embalment of the perfect body.

The reliance on stimulants for comfort has been likened to little girls clutching their dolls. Furthering the feminist theme, Susann’s, albeit subtle and implicit, use of the word ‘dolls’ could symbolise the treatment the girls receive by their male counterparts in patriarchal America.
  With the creation of the television an ever-present threat and husbands becoming notoriously hard to hold onto, the search for happiness, and the discovery of what ‘happiness’ even means, for each girl becomes more and more difficult.

Addiction, ageing and (medical) affliction are inherent concerns for Susann. Unexpected twists and gruesome ends; this book is exhilarating and incredibly difficult to put down. If Carlsberg made novels about glamorous Hollywood hyperreality…