STAMP Newsletter in North Lanarkshire News
December 2015, Issue 2
Since our last newsletter, we have been extremely busy here at STAMP. Our project has been getting some publicity in Lanarkshire, thanks to all of our online followers, friends and colleagues that have been spreading the word. Our recent recruitment drive saw us gain over 20 new members!
The media has been buzzing on the gender equality front over the past few months and our members have been in discussion about how we can raise awareness of positive developments, whilst challenging the aspects of the media that contribute to inequality and exploit stereotypes.
One of our youngest followers in a keen gamer and finds herself conflicted between her desire to play video games and her disappointment in the lack of diversity of female characters. Read her thoughtful article on later in this issue.
One of our male members talks passionately about how feminism can be embraced by all genders, and why it is beneficial for everyone to fight for gender equality.
We have attended a number of events this quarter, including the Young Women’s Conference where we met Kirstie Steele of Waterloo Road, and 5 of our members presented the work STAMP does at the Scottish Parliament, which was a huge success. We also met with other prevention projects at this event, and we are feeling inspired and motivated by them.
Finally, our positive role model for this quarter was no other than our very own First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. In our interview with her she spoke about gender inequality in politics, the pressures that she has experienced as a female politician and her own role models. Find the exclusive interview further on.
AN INTERVIEW WITH NICOLA STURGEON
Left to right: Niamh McGeechan, Caitlin King, Joseph Goldie, Nicola Sturgeon, Erin Slaven, Hannah Brown and Fiona McNicol.
We sat down with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the first female leader to take this post since the Scottish Parliament opened over 15 years ago. We discussed the challenges that women face in today's media and how gender stereotyping remains to be a barrier in the workplace for many young people. The First Minister shared that although she has seen progress in gender inequality during her own career she admits that there is still a long way to go; she believes that she now has a responsibility in her position as the leader of Scotland to tackle these issues head on and encourage young women to be proud of who they are.
How have gender stereotypes in the media changed throughout the course of time that you have been in politics?
Not enough, would be my observation. I think gender stereotypes have changed over the years and I think women are not stereotyped in quite the same way as they were when I was younger but I don’t think the progress has been anywhere near as much as I would have like to have seen.
There is still significant gender stereotyping, which then leads into gender segregation in different careers and I think some of the attitudes that fuel sexual violence, I also think that there is a long way to go even though there has been some progress made.
Did the fact that politics was a particularly male dominated field ever deter you from entering into it as a career?
It obviously didn’t put me off too much! I think in some ways it was only later on in my political career that I looked back and was conscious of the gender stereotypes that I dealt with.
I guess the fact that I wasn’t aware of it at the time, made me take things for granted and I accepted certain things and this is part of the problem. You can’t challenge something unless you are really conscious of what’s going on. So for a young woman, certainly when I was younger and I suspect it still is, quite an intimidating environment.
However, the way you deal with it, or the way I dealt with it when I was younger, is you feel that you have to start behaving like the middle aged men around you in order to be taken seriously, rather than being yourself. I think one of the things I am very keen to get across to younger women who might be thinking about going into politics or who are currently in politics is to very much be yourself. Don’t feel you have to conform to behaviours around you.
The good thing about having more women in senior levels in politics now (even though there are still too few of us) is that hopefully young women now going into politics have other role models. I don’t want young women to be put off, and I feel I have a responsibility to try and change some of this.
Have your experiences as First Minister and as a politician been shaped by gender inequality?
Yes is the answer. As First Minister, it is not the only thing I want to do, it’s not the only priority I’ve got, but certainly helping to tackle gender stereotypes and helping to take away some of the barriers that women face, not just in politics but in all walks of life is something I feel very, very strongly about and that’s because of my own experience I think.
I want to make sure that younger women coming into my profession but also in other professions don’t feel that they have to conform or feel that they are either not conscious of the gender stereotypes or even if they are, don’t feel empowered to challenge them. I think that women who get into senior positions in any walks of life have a responsibility, not the sole responsibility, but a big responsibility to try and change things.
I’ve got a lot more ability now than I did ten or twenty years ago to actually call out things that are wrong. So if I’m able to use the influence that I have to change things then I certainly believe that I should do it.
We see in the media woman being criticised if they are sexualised, but they can then be criticised for challenging that sexualisation, is this an experience of yours?
Absolutely! I feel conflicted about certain things I do, I spend a lot of time complaining because I think it’s right to complain about [the treatment of] women in politics.
What people want to talk about is their hair or what they look like and then I’ll do certain things because I think, well if people are going to talk about that, you might as well try to make some kind of virtue out of it, promote Scottish designers or whatever, and then I think am I just playing into that? It’s a very difficult judgement to make and it’s not always possible to be absolutely certain what the right and wrong thing to do is. The fact that we’re still having to think about these things in our everyday decision making says that we still have quite a long way to go.
How do you think we should challenge gender inequal-ity in the media?
Forcibly and loudly! I think people like me have got a big responsibility because I’ve got an influence now that I didn’t have a few years ago. I think (and this is not a criticism of anybody because I totally understand it) a lot of women down the ages in whatever line of work they are in, feel that they are better not speak out because that might then damage their prospects. This is why I’m determined to use the influence to speak out.
“I want to make sure that younger women coming into my profession but also in other professions don’t feel that they have to conform or feel that they are either not conscious of the gender stereotypes or even if they are, don’t feel empowered to challenge them” - Nicola Sturgeon
I also believe quite strongly that it is not just down to women to tackle this, I actually think men have got a big responsibility, whether it’s on gender stereotypes or gender diversity, the pay gap, all of this stuff. It’s still the case, that in many walks of life, the key decision makers will be men and although that’s starting to change it is not changing enough and unless you get men to change how things are done.
I sit in the Scottish Parliament and if I look up to the press gallery, it is 95% male (and a certain age demographic as well). I can do so much, but until men change their attitudes and change how they present women, it’s always going to be more difficult.
So I think down the years we’ve understandably seen gender equality as very much being the woman’s responsibility to make the argument and win the case and of course we have a responsibility but it’s not our responsibility alone!
Who were your role models when you were growing up and looking to the media? Who inspired you?
My most important role models were probably quite close to home, so my mum and other women in my family, the first SNP candidate that I campaigned for when I was very young was a woman, so she was a big influence on me.
The SNP (Scottish National Party) have always had very strong female role models, we’ve not always done as well as we could have in terms of the quantity of women that we’ve got coming through the ranks, we are getting better at that now. When I was younger, people like Winnie Ewing, who, I think, was a woman in a man's world, inspired me. People like her were very influential to me.
Further afield, although she is riddled with imperfections as we all are, I would also add Hilary Clinton. I always think she is hugely resilient and blazing a trail for women everywhere. I take inspiration from people like that as well.
FROM HAMILTON TO HOLYROOD
On the 10th September of this year, myself and 5 other representatives from STAMP, including our project leader Hannah, travelled to Edinburgh to interview the First Minister. When the group was first started, we decided we wanted to find positive role models to feature in our newsletters – which are difficult to find in amongst the turmoil of the media. However, for our first role model we didn’t have to look far before we decided on our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Nicola Sturgeon is an example of a woman who has been successful in her career – in a particularly male dominated field – and has stood her ground in parliament on important matters like abortion laws and domestic abuse amongst others. I couldn’t contain my excitement when the First Minister's name was first mentioned in one of our focus groups as she is a massive role model to me as I’ve loved politics since I was an early teenager, and she is an example of how women can also establish themselves in such a difficult, competitive and primarily male environment. I was beyond honoured when Hannah asked me if I would like to be one of the representatives from STAMP to go to Holyrood and interview her and the day was here before we knew it.
On the train into Edinburgh, we went over what we were going to ask the First Minister. The questions revolved primarily about gender portrayals in the media, her experiences with the media and her influences as she gained interest in politics. As we were reading over the questions, it just felt like we were at another one of our regular meetings. I don’t think it felt real for any of us that we were actually on our way to the Scottish Parliament to ask these questions to the First Minister instead of just each other. It wasn’t until I had gone through the airport-like security at Holyrood that I realised the extent of what was going on.
We waited for what felt like forever outside the First Minister's office but once we were in there we were put at ease almost immediately. The First Minister's composed and informal manner allowed all of us to engage in an informal but productive discussion about gender stereotypes and her experiences with such. It was really interesting to hear the First Minister's take on the overwhelming influence and consequences of a mighty power like the media, and how it has evolved - perhaps not for the best – since she was growing up.
The question I asked Nicola Sturgeon was, “Did the fact that politics was a particularly male dominated field ever deter you from entering into it as a career?” She laughed and said it didn’t deter her at all – evidently! All you have to do is look at the fortunate and important position she is in currently to see that. I admire her a great deal and I think she’s such a valuable example of how all genders are capable of reaching great career heights – despite what the media might compel us to believe.
When we were talking about some of the First Minister's earlier experiences in politics she offered young people one piece of advice, and that was simply “Be Yourself.” It might sound a bit cliché, but it really is that simple isn’t it? She spoke about how when she had first entered into politics, she started to follow similar behaviours to the other male politicians around her. At this time, female representation in parliament still wasn’t great, and it looked like the only way to be successful in this field was to be male. She spoke of her regret at doing this now and encouraged us to stick to our own ways and beliefs and opinions and why shouldn’t we? Just like Sturgeon herself was influenced by the people around her, we face the influence of an incredibly noisy and somewhat destructive media. We shouldn’t feel compelled to follow path which the media tells us we should follow, and we shouldn’t have to accept the gender roles the media imposes on us. So that’s what I learned from our magic venture into the Capital in the company of our First Minister and it really is that simple, it might sound like the words of wisdom uttered by a distant relative at Christmas but “Be Yourself”. Might sound a bit typical, but looking at the First Minister's success, it seems like it’s worth a bash.
THAT’S WHAT THEY SAID!
There can be no great triumph over racism without address-ing capitalism, sexism, homo-phobia, transphobia, the envi-ronment that we live in and the food that we consume. We have to recognize all of these connections - Angela Davis
End the ‘angry black girl’ narrative. It’s just another at-tempt to undermine certain perspectives. I have strong opinions. I am not angry –Amandla Stenberg
SEXUALISATION OF WOMEN IN VIDEO GAMES
Have you ever looked at an advertisement for a video game, or even the front cover, and just thought, ‘that armour literally only covers the body parts which, if uncovered, would immediately give this game an 18+ rating’? These games are not that difficult to find if you go into the Xbox area of a typical gaming store, next to the First Person Shooter Games.
I have, and my 12-year-old self only goes in to find the newest game for her 3DS or PSVita! I’m just less than five feet, and they end up eye level. How does this make you feel?
It makes me furrow my eyebrows, really. Though it’s present in games of all genres, for example, the action themed game with the cheerleader who has a mini-skirt that barely reaches the start of her legs and wears a V-neck so deep that combined with the skirt there’s barely enough material to make a jacket for a hamster…
What was I talking about?
Oh yeah, it’s present within all genres – picking up where I left off – I’ve personally noticed it more in fighting games. Bunnies, uniforms and bikinis are the holy trinity of special outfits that are worn by well-endowed female characters intended to be sexual.
Yet, it’s present with male characters in video games as well – there are some people who might not know this. The male outfits all seem similar, the typical shirtless muscle men with chest muscles bigger than his head. Arguably, male characters are sexualised to the same extent as female characters and this in itself presents a different set of problems. Today’s generation is no stranger to hypermasculinity and the portrayal of men in video games no doubt contributes to this. It is important to note that the female character is definitely not the only victim of stereotypes in video games.
Bunnies, uniforms and bikinis are the holy trinity of special outfits that are worn by well-endowed female characters intended to be sexual.
Now, what I’m writing may make me seem like some whiney girl but even you may be guilty of something that, to me, is equally bad. I’m going to make the assumption that you’re a feminist and that you believe worth should not be based on looks, yet there is always a different perspective to the same story.
Let’s talk about Tifa Lockhart.
Tifa is well known character from the Final Fantasy series, specifically for her chest. She is a strong character, described as being ‘bright and optimistic’ by the game’s description. One game she stars in is being remade into a more current style, and there’s been a petition made up to reduce Tifa’s breast size.
Sure, Tifa still retains a twig weight whilst having her chest retain its size, but people like that do exist. I trust that everyone signing the petition has the best of intentions, but this may alienate women whose figure is similar to that of the fighting lady Tifa. Women who look like Tifa may experience discrimination in real life, for example, – some may choose to wear the same shirt as a friend or colleague, and then the bustier of the two is asked why they are wearing such a provocative shirt, or cat-called by the local idiot.
In Tifa’s case, instead of focusing on how we can alter her body, can we not instead petition for more diverse and interesting representation of women in video games?
Or why can’t we just focus on her beautiful…personality! And her qualifications and her fist heading right to your face! (Tifa fights with her knuckles by the way).
Ha-ha, had to do that.
Anyways, that’s my two cents. You’ve managed to get through the ranting of a 12 year old – good job!
YOUNG VOICES CHALLENGING SEXUAL VIOLENCE—AN EVENT IN SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
Gabrielle, Dayna, Morgan and Erin speaking at the Scottish Parliament
In our second visit to the Scottish Parliament, we attended the ‘Young Voices Challenging Sexual Violence’ event organised by Rape Crisis Scotland, to showcase the projects that had arisen out of the national prevention work.
Six of our members did a presentation about the project STAMP, the work we had done and what we want to achieve over the next year.
We also got the opportunity to meet other young people from projects in Edinburgh and Inverness. Three of our members share their accounts of the day:
Our day at parliament with STAMP on the 4th of December was a great experience. Despite my nerves from the prospect of delivering a speech I had written about STAMP's work in front of friends, MPs and other people involved with different Rape Crisis projects I had a really enjoyable day.
When we first arrived in Edinburgh we met with other people involved in different Rape Crisis Scotland projects across the country. It was reassuring that they also seemed just as nervous as us for their presentations in the evening. When we arrived at parliament everything was getting set up for the presentations so we were given a tour of the parliament building. I had not realised that the structure of the building was based on the natural side of Scotland, so both the land and sea were incorporated into the structure of the building.
After what I imagined as being no time at all, we were seated and preparing for our presentation by running through our speeches. Once everyone had refreshments and were seated the presentation began. Even though all of us were pretty nervous about speaking, I felt everyone did really well and did our STAMP group justice for all the great work it does.
After delivering the speeches the rest of the evening was even better, we were able to just relax and listen to what all the other projects were doing to tackle different issues across Scotland. Watching everyone made me realise the positive impact Rape Crisis Scotland makes across the country and how our STAMP group worked into the bigger picture. It was great to see the unique ways that all the groups tackled the issues they aimed to change, and it gave us some ideas of different measures we could take in our aim of stamping out media patriarchy and putting an end to gender ste-reotyping in the media.
Whilst at the parliament, myself and three other members volunteered to speak about the issues STAMP aims to tackle.
Our first member Gabrielle spoke about the challenges the media presents our society with. She mentioned issues such as Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn and receiving abuse online.
This example supported Gabrielle when she went on to state how the media encourages us to make judgements towards others. Therefore, anything that does not fit into the mold that the media delivers will be branded unaccepted in our society.
I was the next speaker and chose to speak about how the media connects with sexual violence. I informed the audience of statistics and how young minds that can be easily influenced often have no parental restrictions. Furthermore, I stated how witnessing inappropriate material online can damage children's potential for a healthy relationship.
Thirdly, Morgan spoke about how STAMP challenges gender inequality and stereotypes. During her speech she mentioned how women are given a fragile stereotype and need protecting by a man. This included the removal of Merida's bow and taming of her frizzy hair in 'Brave'. Morgan stated how women are seen as beautiful, helpless damsels in distress and how the stereotype must be stripped away. She also mentioned Nicola Sturgeon and how she broke the stereotype within a male dominated profession.
Finally, we had Erin speak about what STAMP does for her personally. As Erin works in a bar she stated she often has comments made towards her appearance by men whilst working. Erin continued to mention how this often made her feel awkward and sometimes unsafe. However, with the help of STAMP she no longer feels that she has to accept this be-haviour and can stand up against it. Erin concluded her speech with the success of STAMP so far and states that even though it is not a huge amount, "it is a good start!"
We first went to the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre and got to see a bit of what they got up to. We met up with members from the other groups who would be speaking at the event that night. When we arrived at the parliament buildings we got a tour, and got to see the debate chambers. We got to see where the MSPs sat, how the debates worked and how they were televised.
We were the third group to speak, and it was an extremely nerve wracking experience for us all. However, it felt great to speak about the issues that affected us, and tell everyone about STAMP, a group that we were all really proud of.
The most enjoyable part for myself was the panel. Two members of each organisation were able to answer questions, and I found that we were able to really hear each person's views through their own words when they were put on the spot, rather than through a rehearsed speech. I have always been a proud feminist, and often my views are looked at as "radical", and our voices are muted. The experience as a whole showed me that other people my own age realise that it is our responsibility to stand up and express our views.
GENDER EQUALITY ACHIEVEMENTS—AUTUMN 2015
+The first all female Russian space crew began their training for a mission due to be launched in 2029.
+Dina Asher-Smith was the first British woman to break 100 metres in 11 seconds.
+The new Star Wars movie was released in December, and the incredible main protagonist was Rey, a head-strong woman capable of piloting the Millenium Falcon.
MEN AND FEMINISM
By Liam Hagan
I had not considered the concept of feminism until to do so, was far too late. I have little understanding of when women first consider said concept, but I know that for men it is too late or not at all. One reason that women might embrace or reject feminist ideology could be based upon their own understanding of, and relationship with, patriarchy; being that they are the oppressed gender. Men, as the dominating gender, may never or may seldom give thought to question their role in the framework of a patriarchal society. Ignorance is the path trodden by those for whom there is benefit in the subjugation of another class, race or gender of people. The root of my ignorance, and that of my gender, is internalized misogyny.
Patriarchy, particularly in the context of the media, exists to enforce an imbalance in our subjective definitions of gender at a systematic and cultural level. Much of our debate on media patriarchy is focused upon the sexually objectified female as the main source of representation for women. Said representation most often being that of a woman who is seen to embody socially conventional standards of beauty. Her apparent willingness to be gazed upon by males seeming to be her only contribution to society. It is an endeavour of self-interest and tyranny that men choose to represent women in such narrow boundaries in the media, so as to privilege one gender and oppress others.
Through my ignorance, I grew up to expect that my choices, opinions and actions would not be questioned or belittled by any form of media; in fact, it was my voice that was heard over all else and my space which was given the most reverence because I was another man in dialogues built and framed by men. As a man, you are placed into a position in which you may or may not choose to accept the inequalities of gender perpetuated by media patriarchy for your own benefit. As a woman, you are not given the option. Both men and women have been sold a lie; that status of men is higher than that of women simply because our definitions of gender have been written by men for the longest period of time.
Please, do not think for a second that I do not understand the irony of writing as a man on the issues of sexual inequality in media representation and of the falsehoods of gender perpetuated by men. I understand that my place in any debate on the issue of media patriarchy is second to that of the women who personally understand its oppression. For many, to say that a man’s voice could be second to that of a woman’s in any debate, rather than first or equal, is textbook evidence of the myriad of invented ways in which feminism is not the answer to the inequalities of gender. To those, egalitarian or not, I say that by engaging with feminist ideology I have learned to accept many falsehoods about myself and my gender, and in doing so, I have begun actively trying to unlearn the lies which I took as facts regarding gender roles. The results of said acceptance are often difficult, yet ultimately fulfilling. It was not until I truly accepted the fact that men are not superior that I could fully understand the extent to which I had personally been a victim of, and a conduit for, internalized misogyny.
Feminism is for everybody; for men, first we must learn not to make it all about ourselves.
There are lots of ways that you can be involved with STAMP. You can write articles or blog pieces for us, you can help to edit our newsletter or you can come along an interview role models fighting for gender equality! To learn more, or to attend our latest focus group please send an email to:
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Lanarkshire Rape Crisis Centre
Office: 01698 3527006