Plastic surgery ‘APPS’ for little girls? Brace for 2014 madness!

 

 

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Plastic surgery apps for little girls? Horrendous, but no longer surprising

We are so accustomed to a world of outrageous and damaging sexism that is no wonder some people have designed games telling children they are fat and in need of surgical improvement.  The apps that suggested to little girls that their bodies might not be good enough.

Generally, we are very accepting of the world around us. We take it for granted, accept that it’s normal, and see it as “just the way things are”. But every now and then, something comes along that is so awful, so appalling, that it shakes us out of our normalised half-sleep and lets us realise just how truly, shockingly bad the situation has become.

This week, the plastic surgery apps available to little girls to download from iTunes and Google Play provided just such a wakeup call. The apps that suggested to little girls that their bodies might not be good enough, that being thin was all that mattered, and that being fat would make you unhappy and disgusting. The apps that sent the message to little girls as young as nine that women are primarily judged on what they look like. That seemed to tell them the way to make themselves happy and beautiful again was simple – they just needed to let somebody cut away at them with a knife until all the parts that were unacceptable to society had been sucked out or lopped clean off.

The apps have been withdrawn, but this isn’t a victory. It’s a vital opportunity to stop and ask how this could have happened. What led up to this moment? How have we reached a point at which games developers would actually create an app that says these bizarre, painful, damaging things to our little girls and would expect it to be successful? What really matters isn’t the apps at all, but the social and cultural context that enabled them to come into being in the first place.

Because those apps would never have been conceived, never even have been dreamed of, in a world in which we weren’t sending the message, over and over again, to women and girls, that their bodies are the sum total of their value, and that they must conform to an incredibly narrow ideal of beauty or else be worthless.

You can see it in the way that the near-naked body of a white, thin, large-breasted woman is used to advertise a bicyclea burger, or a budget airline. In the way that any woman, whether she is a politician or a murder victim, is portrayed and judged first and foremost as a body. Or in the recent UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image report that told us “girls as young as five years old are worried about the way they look and their size”. And “one in four seven-year old girls have tried to lose weight at least once”. 

You see it when the UK Daily Mail writes an article specifically describing a woman’s “worrying” body insecurities, quotes her explicitly saying that those insecurities were triggered by press photographs, and then illustrates that same article with six near-identical photographs of her on the way to the gym, including one taken from behind, under the utterly non-newsworthy headline: “Back on the treadmill: Lauren Goodger shows off her curves in tight Lycra as she heads to the gym for first time this year”. You see it in the websites that teach little girls how to pinch themselves to get rid of cellulite, or show them how to plaster a cartoon waif in makeup so a boy will like her. You see it in the fact that one newspaper still, in 2014 finds merit in the idea of plastering a picture of a woman’s breasts across its pages nearly every day.

You see it in the “lad” websites that dehumanise a woman by giving her a mark out of ten, based on her looks, so that she becomes a number rather than a person. “Chatting up a solid 7/10” … “sitting opposite two girls (7 & 6/10)” … “Smashing a 7/10 girl from Kuwait last night.” 

You see it, unmistakeably, in the real women’s stories that flood in to the Everyday Sexism Project every week, and I hear it in the stories of the girls and young women I meet at schools and universities. The women whose bottoms are commented on and fondled in the workplace and the schoolgirls who have learned to expect shouts from cars about their breasts as they walk to school. The 14-year-old girl who told me that taking diet pills was the only way to get a really good thigh gap. The beautiful 17-year-old who told me she would never bare her arms because she’s so ashamed of them. The 15-year-old who wrote: “I watch my mum tear herself apart every day because her boobs are sagging and her skin is wrinkling. She feels like she is ugly even though she is amazing, but then I feel like I can’t judge because I do the same to myself.” And the older women who use the same word, over and over again, in their project entries… “invisible”.

 

People reacted with shock to those plastic surgery apps, but they should never really have come as a surprise. We have become so used to what is happening to girls and women all around us that we have stopped noticing.

‘Why women must not HAVE business dinners with men’

 

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When women network with men after the workday is over, they hear peers and superiors calling for chaperones

 For years women have been told to fight for their seat at the table. Lean in. Break the glass ceiling.

That’s easier said than done. Before getting a seat at the hypothetical boardroom table, women have to fight for a seat at the dinner table.

Business dinners might seem anodyne, but many professional women find that talking business over dinner with a male boss, mentor or colleague can be all too easily misunderstood by people who think there may something else there. Even in 2013, long past the age of chaperones, a woman and a man dining or drinking together are rarely thought to be business partners.

That locks women out of potential wheeling and dealing after work. Whether it’s dinner or drinks, women find they have to think twice about networking and exploring all the same career advancement opportunities that men are privy to.

“Obviously we women want the same the opportunities as men. If John can have dinner with Mike, why shouldn’t you or I be able to?” asks Carol Roth, a CNBC contributor and author of the book, The Entrepreneur Equation. 

 

Roth recently wrote a blog post for CNBC encouraging women to throw off the shackles of negative perception after both a male client and her husband suggested that her one-on-one dinner meeting with another male client was improper and unusual – merely because they believed a man and a woman out together will always look as if they are on a date.

I went to dinner, as planned. It was great and I’m unaware if anyone looked at us sideways – but if they did, it should be their problem, not mine.

Flirty, or aggressive?

Adding to the issue is that men often misinterpret friendliness from a woman as sexual interest or flirting. Signals are easily misinterpreted. One former Merrill Lynch financial adviser recalls being told to keep his office door open when talking with female clients.

“I have a sarcastic sense of humor, that’s often interpreted as flirty banter. But that’s just how I express myself,” says Roth. “We women have to be hyper aware that we are giving off these unintentional signals.”

However, not all women are as comfortable dismissing public opinion. It seems regressive, but there is a lesson that “many women in male-dominated professions – particularly Wall Street – have long understood: one wrong step, and they suffer far harsher consequences than men in similar positions.” Men rarely face the same scrutiny of their behavior and reputations.

As for the perception of the onlookers and potential effects on the reputation, Roth says: “If a woman wants to take a step back, because she doesn’t want to blemish her reputation, that’s her choice. But we have to take a seat at the table and not let ourselves be relegated to the kids table.”

Yet it’s common, even now, for women to be lectured on how they behave and look. Women’s public images are often considered communal property by companies or business partners. The law firm Clifford Chance recently chided its female partners for allegedly showing cleavage and giggling. In 2011, UBS offered a detailed 44-page memo that asked women to wear “light makeup” and dress in the “female equivalent” of a man’s dark suit, white shirt and red tie. In an interview a few years ago, Billie Williamson, Ernst & Young’s company’s Americas inclusiveness officer, told the Wall Street Journal that men were coached how to provide critical feedback to their female mentees – like telling women to dress more professionally and how to handle crying women.

 

The issue at the heart of the problem is that many of the networking opportunities are organized around male interests like golfing, sports and male bonding, found a study by Herminia Ibarra, professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD. That kind of networking effectively shuts women out of opportunities to advance their careers.

 

While men are getting sponsored, women, placed under close scrutiny, are getting “mentored to death”. For men, sponsorship “just happens. Your boss looks out for you, and makes sure to place you,” Ibarra told the Harvard Business Review in 2010

Whereas for women, that’s a lot trickier, for a whole host of different reasons. Sometimes very subtle and implicit biases in the workplace, sometimes just the lack of chemistry that comes with not being similar to your boss in different ways. They were not getting that sponsorship. They were getting mentoring. They were getting coaching. They were getting developmental advice. But they were not getting fought for and protected, and really put out there.

 

Women need to be free to network in order to seek appropriate mentors, says Roth – whether it’s in an office or over dinner. “If the appropriate mentors happen to be men, great. If they end up being women, great. If they end up being muppets, great,” she says. But she concedes she has a long way to go before that message catches on.

 

A Gym for your vagina? 2013 crappiest invention.

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Do you mind bearing with me while I get something off my chest? It’s not Christmassy but it is, I feel, important.

Most Invisible Woman working days begin with a good read through the newspapers, followed by a thorough rummage in Twitter to see what’s being discussed. Then I write until lunchtime when, like most working people, I take break and grab something to eat. I can honestly say that it has never occurred to me that while I’m out picking up my double BLT I might also nip into a handy cosmetic surgeon and take 30 minutes to get my vagina tightened before sitting down again (carefully) for an afternoon’s work. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s come to this – I mean, the middle-aged foof would have caught it sooner or later, in a manner of speaking. It’s probably a miracle that it’s taken this long. I refer – in case you were lucky enough to miss “It’s like going to the gym for your vagina” – to the hot (in both senses) new treatment for your lady bits, the Femilift. There is so much wrong with this that I hardly know where to start. It took me a week to have a coherent thought through the anger and sadness. Why would anyone feel such a procedure is necessary? And more importantly, if there are genuine problems, why go to a cosmetic surgeon and not to one’s own doctor or gynaecologist?

As we all know, women’s bodies are cleverly arranged so that some bits are more flexible than others and the most flexible of all are the bits where all the sex, childbirth, and waste disposal things happen. It’s entirely understandable therefore that most of what goes on within our pelvic area gives us a fair old physical pounding over the years. We also know, or we should if we listened at our antenatal classes, that the whole kit and caboodle rests on and passes through a robust muscular hammock enticingly named “the pelvic floor”. This is not the kind of floor that requires regular mopping, or it shouldn’t be. However, if we would prefer our later life to encompass the delight of frivolous knickers and not the sort that accommodate an incontinence pad or avoid what my charming ex-husband referred to as “painter’s bucket syndrome” we would all do well to exercise our “floors” whenever we get the chance. To an extent it’s another age thing – we know that to some degree muscle mass is lost with ageing, but that’s only part of what makes up our anatomy, which also contains collagen fibres interlaced with elastin and lots of other, and for the purposes of this column, irrelevant bits and bobs. I can imagine someone in a lab coat thinking, “Aha! So our fabulous and expensive facials for stimulating the production of collagen could be used ELSEWHERE.” At which point I expect whoever it was ran around the laboratory yelling “Eureka!” and planning to move somewhere with kinder tax laws.

Only this isn’t something as harmless as a facial and it certainly isn’t like taking your nunny to the special vagina gym, not unless going to the gym involves being penetrated with a speculum that fires a laser into your vaginal wall at centimetre intervals . This “rejuvenating” experience could set you back the thick end of ten grand, depending on your “laxity” – a lovely word. You might also bear in mind that the effects last “18 to 24 months” so it’s not even 10 grand’s worth of permanently rejuvenated vag. If, however, you carry on with, resume or even start from scratch with your pelvic floor exercises, the results will last the rest of your life and cost precisely nothing. Apart from some odd looks on the bus while you adopt an expression of deep concentration and flex your “floor” to the rhythm of Daft Punk on your iPhone.

I suppose what upsets me most about this nonsense (and it is nonsense) is that it’s another thing aimed at undermining a woman’s confidence and it seems to be targeted at those around menopausal age, when many of us suffer a crisis of confidence anyway. It’s all very well for Sharon Osbourne to announce on a chat show that she’s had a vaginal lift but she’s hardly typical. It could be, although I hope not, that more suggestible women watching that might feel this is something they should also do, along with rapid loss of baby weight, having a tummy tuck, a Brazilian, a vajacial or a labiaplasty. This procedure is yet another that suggests the appearance and, how can I put this, physicality (age, feel, effect?) of women’s genitalia is something that needs fixing. What a profoundly depressing thought.

 

WHY DO CREEPY ‘WHITE GUYS’ ONLY DATE ASIAN WOMEN (and what they say about black ladies)

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By Ray Mhondera:

Data from the Facebook dating app, Are You Interested, has revealed strong and shocking trends in racial preferences of people using online dating.

Among men, all races preferred a race different than their own. Hurrah for open mindedness, you might think? Think again – more like open season for racial objectification. Men across the board all preferred Asian women, apart from Asian men, who preferred Latinas.

Groan. Cue a million stereotypes about how some groups of women are magically and uniformly “gentle” and “feminine”. Want to see this in action? Go to Google, and start typing in “[race] women are…” and see what the autocomplete suggests as the most popular way of completing this statement. You get these gems:

‘White women are easy; Black Women are repulsive; Asian women are gold diggers; Latinos are loyal.’

It’s pretty depressing stuff. Admittedly, the dating game is not equal and it is not kind. Dating site OK Cupid has carved out a nice little sideline in blogging about the statistics of their more successful users, to try to help people along the way, busting myths about what does and does constitute a good profile photo and whether eating oatmeal correlates with people you’ll like or drinking beer correlates with sex on the first date.

But noting trends is not the same as endorsing them – and some trends are simply disturbing. The sheer number of cack-handed replies women of Asian ancestry get on dating sites has even spawned its own dedicated tumblr, Creepy White Guys. Hilarious if you are simply an outside observer, and probably pretty depressing if you’re someone getting these messages.

It seems the objectification is hardly limited to dating websites, though, as comedy videos like “What kind of Asian are you?” have achieved viral status.

It goes the other way as well, with women of all races preferring white men, apart from black women who prefer black men. Black men get low response rates when they contact other races. The difference between preference and prejudice may be a subtle one on the individual scale, but when you look at the trends, it’s clearly a problem.

This isn’t the first time the phenomenon has been examined:

Research from UC Davis by sociologist Kevin Lewisnoted that apart from men wanting to contact Asian women, people on the whole were less than keen to make contact outside their own race. According to his results, in some cases it may be fear of rejection playing a part in that reluctance. And that in its turn may be because some people online have had bad experiences with feeling fetishised when someone contacts them: a real chicken-and-egg situation.

As well as race, online dating is famous for all kinds of social faux pas. When I was single and dating at least I didn’t have to contend with the horror of people fetishising my background, but that didn’t stop a breathtaking number of penis pics making their way to my inbox. (A tip: all penises look approximately the same. I know, I’ve done the hands-on research. A thoughtful online dater sends a pic of their face first.) In fact my time on dating and hookup sites is notable for the fact that only one person ever indicated through his initial contact that he had in fact read to the end of my advert, and dear reader, I married him.

The impression that online dating is like online shopping, and lists of qualities add up to the perfect mate, goes against what we all know to be true in the real world: lists of stereotypes don’t work. If you are the sort of person who wonders why date after date goes badly wrong, could it be the stringent and frankly arbitrary rules – about race, or age, or income or whatever – that may be contributing to this?

We’d all like to think people would be attracted to us for our fascinating and complex inner self, but it seems plenty of folks are looking to tick a box. Fine if you’re surfing porn of a weeknight, less so if it’s a live human being you expect to interact with on anything more than a temporary basis.

 

(It’s OFFICIAL) Why the British are having less sex in 2013!

 

 

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The frequency with which Britons have sex  has declined over the past decade, in what is suggested to be a ‘recession’ impact”, a result of depression or even a consequence of people playing with their iPads in bed instead.

The third UK National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) found that, on average, people aged 16-44 have sex just under five times a month, compared with figures of 6.2 for men and 6.3 for women in the previous survey, in 2000.

Interviews for the latest survey, published in the Lancet, were carried out between September 2010 and August 2012 as Britain struggled to recover from 2008’s decline in GDP and flirted with a double-dip recession, whereas the late 1990s were a period when the economy was flourishing.

Professor Kaye Wellings, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the recession may have had an impact on the minority who are unemployed but it may also have driven those in work to toil harder.

“There’s a strong relationship between unemployment and low sexual function, according to the literature,” she said.  “That is to do with low self-esteem, depression. At the other end of the scale iPads and computers have all breached the boundary between the home and the bedroom.”

The decline in British people having sex is explained in part by demographic change, with fewer people in the population married or cohabiting so having less opportunity to have sex, although even among people who live with a partner sexual frequency has fallen.

Wellings admitted she was speculating in terms of making a link to recession but the suggestion has echoes of the experience of Japan where multiple recessions over the past decade and a half have been blamed by some for a lack of interest in sex among young people, who suffer low self-esteem, worrying that they will not be able to live up to the achievements of their parents.

In Japan, where there is concern about a plummeting birthrate, people have also pointed the finger at an obsession with electronic gadgets and video games. Asked whether it mattered that Britons were having less sex, Wellings said: “It would be unhealthy if people weren’t having as much sex as they want.”

 A lack of interest in sex was a common problem among men (14.9%) and women (34.2%) interviewed for Natsal, when asked about their experience over the previous year. About half of women and four out of 10 men reported having had a recent sexual problem but only one in 10 respondents said they were worried or distressed about their sex life.

Although people said they were having sex less frequently, Natsal found that they are continuing to have sex into later life. Three in five men and 42% of women (who are more likely to be widowed and without a partner) aged 65 to 74 reported having had at least one sexual partner of the opposite sex in the previous year. People aged over 44 were included for the first time in the survey.

 

LADIES HERE’S THE DANGER OF BEING SINGLE & UNMARRIED

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If you listen to politicians and certain parts of the media, you’d think only “hardworking families” are affected by the rising cost of living, hikes in energy bills and extortionate housing costs. If you dare to live alone you don’t get a mention.

But, contrary to popular belief, being romantically unattached and child free isn’t cheap. Arguably, single people contribute more to society than everyone else, but get less back in terms of tax credits, child benefit and tax breaks.

Worse still, single people are penalised in numerous ways, some more obvious than others. Of course it costs more to live alone rather than splitting the cost of a mortgage or rent and bills with a partner. But singles also pay more than couples for everything from flights to insurance. 

THEATRE:

If you are willing to fork out your hard-earned cash for a seat at the theatre, you would think the box office would be keen to accept your money – but think again. Some venues and ticketing websites refuse to sell single tickets to shows if all the remaining seats are in pairs.

Actor Matthew Field, 47, wanted to spend a Ticketmaster gift voucher he received for his birthday on a solo trip to see The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End earlier this year.

But when he tried to buy a ticket for the play, which starred Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, Ticketmaster refused his custom as all the available seats were in pairs.

Field says: “I complained and Ticketmaster was dismissive and blamed the theatre. I felt disappointed, angry and frustrated. The tickets were advertised as single tickets, so I feel discriminated against as a single person because I wasn’t allowed to buy one.”

Ticketmaster says it is possible to buy single tickets for events, but restrictions are imposed when there are only a few left. It won’t allow a single unsold seat to be left on its own, meaning if the only remaining seats are in pairs, singletons can’t buy just one.

Many other ticketing websites work in the same way. For example, if you want to buy a single ticket to the latest star-studded West End hit Mojo, and you log on to the website of theatre specialist ATG Tickets, you will find that if you click on a seat that forms part of an isolated pair, the site won’t allow you to buy just one, and you will be told to try again.

FLIGHTS:

EasyJet’s latest flight sale is certainly tempting. In January you can go from London Stansted to Malaga for £30.49 or Bilbao for £28.49. But these prices don’t apply if you’re travelling alone – the small print states that “prices shown are based on two people flying on the same booking”. Solo travellers will pay a minimum of £35.99 for Malaga or £33.99 for Bilbao. An easyJet spokesperson blamed the price difference on budget airlines being forced to include booking fees in advertised prices. “Customers pay a seat price and an administration fee per booking. The booking fee is a flat fee per booking and so gets divided by the number of seats being booked and then gets added to the seat price. Prices will clearly be slightly different based on the number of flights booked at the same time, because the administration fee is flat per booking.”

GYM MEMBERSHIP:

Couples working out at the same gym can often get a discount on their membership – while singles pay the advertised price.Take Virgin Active in Chelmsford. A “full flexi monthly” membership costs £65 a month. But members can add another person living at the same address, and paying from the same account, for just £47 a month. This means the couple pay £112 between them, or £56 a month each. This is £9 less than a single person using the same facilities.

HOTELS:

The dreaded “single supplement” is the bane of the single traveller’s life. Hotels and travel agents add on this charge when one person occupies a room that could accommodate two.

If you’re single and fancy a bargain package holiday, you may as well forget it: the cheap prices advertised are invariably for couples and families. A quick search on Thomas Cook shows a couple can head to Benidorm for a week for £159 each; a single person would have to pay £270.

Some hotels do offer cheaper single rooms but many don’t, as Elaine Clark, a 49-year-old accountant, found when she wanted to stay at a particular hotel in Bath for a weekend. She went with a friend but they wanted separate rooms so had to pay £150 per room per night each – the same price a couple would have paid. This included breakfast for two, and the hotel refused to negotiate a discount for feeding just one person.

“It was a choice between saying no to the fabulous, centrally located establishment or finding someone that catered for singles,” says Clark. “Having recently booked a single room in a ‘corporate’-type hotel, and being shoved into a broom cupboard-type room at the back, I prefer to pay the extra and be treated like a normal person – the price of being single.”

MARRIAGE TAX:

September saw the announcement of a marriage tax allowance in the UK.  From April 2015 married couples and those in civil partnerships will be allowed to transfer £1,000 of their personal tax allowance to their spouse or civil partner.

The tax break applies if couples are both basic rate taxpayers with one earning less than the personal allowance – the amount of income you can receive each year without having to pay tax on it. This will be just over £10,000 in 2015. Most couples who benefit will be up to £200 a year better off.

Couples also benefit from inheritance tax rules. Married couples and civil partners are allowed to pass their possessions and assets to each other tax-free and, since October 2007, the surviving partner has been allowed to use both tax-free allowances, providing one wasn’t used at the first death.

Singles leaving behind an estate worth more than £325,000 will saddle beneficiaries with a 40% tax bill on anything over that.

CAR INSURANCE:

Insurance companies bump up the cost of cover for single people, supposedly because the unattached are higher risk.Comparison site Confused.com says the average annual cost of a comprehensive policy for a single woman stands at £841. Those that add on a spouse pay much less – only £406 a year on average. Married men pay an average of £410 but singles more than twice the amount at £852.

Confused says married couples are considered less likely to claim because they are seen as having nights in at home with their cars safely parked outside. Singles, meanwhile, are viewed as being out on the town, with their cars in tow, parked who knows where.

CINEMA:

Deals such as Orange Wednesdays, offered to EE and Orange mobile and broadband customers, offer two tickets for the price of one. However, there’s no discount for someone wanting to see a film alone. Single parents also feel hard done by when it comes to some discounted family tickets.

Sara Faulkner, 45, who has an 11-year-old son, says: “I think it’s ridiculous that I can’t get a discount at my local cinema because I’m not part of a couple. The family ticket allows a discount for two adults plus two or three children. However, a single parent with a child does not qualify. Just another example of discrimination.”