Useless Payton Covelli
Growing up is realizing
All we ever do is use people
And use ourselves up
Giving what we think they want.
Our minds for understanding
Our bodies for love, lust, comfort
Our fears laid out in bare vulnerability
So they can feel protective.
Our strength so they can feel protected.
A use so we can feel worthy.
You use me for comfort
I use you to fill that void
Of never being enough
Convince myself that your form of love
Will make me worthy.
I have that same itch you do
To feel useful
To derive worth from the eyes of another,
How they think I can be of use
Filling that void with
The puzzle piece they think is missing.
Maybe we’re always bound to use
To want waste rebound rerun reuse
To let old habits become a necessity.
We get broken
Turning to the next person
Using them to make us whole
We all use
We always get used.
Squandering our worth just to feel purpose.
Maybe it's because using is for things
And worth is for people.
You used me and
I used you
Why do we always end up losing something?
Trying to find others to use
Fill that void
That only we can fill
When we love ourselves.
It’s sitting alone in a dim bar while my date leaves
To go for a smoke
I’m using my time to seek out some form of companionship
When I should have turned to look for love
Is this what growing up is?
Losing hope only to realize that what you are missing
What you look for in others
Only you can give?
Growing up is realizing
I beat myself up for using
When I never realized
That I was all used up.
I lost so many beautiful things then
Gave them up freely to fill my own void
By way of some twisted contract
Terms and conditions to
Trade something I never knew I needed
But that you
So desperately wanted.
Did it feel like stealing?
Taking the part of me that knew
I was enough
Placing it in the hands of someone else.
My youth couldn't distinguish worth from use
My use was to make you feel worthy of love
My worth to you was that I was useful
People conflate one with the other
Mistaking uselessness for worthlessness.
Use is an act of service
Not to be taken for some kind of
Corrupt love language
Deriving worth from other’s perceptions
From what others get out of you
What do you derive from yourself?
Becoming useless was the best thing I ever did
Because when I grew up
I realized that when I was useless to you
I was worthy to me.
"Boys Will Be Boys" Or: Male Violence and it's Casualties
The number one cause of death for pregnant women in the United States is men. Well, it's men killing pregnant women, but most articles on the topic won’t describe it that way. They instead use “homicide” as the term for this leading cause of death.
“Homicide,” as if it just happens. Who’s doing it? Mostly men. Does this indicate a problem? ‘No, of course not! How dare you imply that!? What are you? A misandrist; a hater of men?’
One does not need to be a misandrist to point out the truth. Every week there are stories. A man killing his wife, his girlfriend, a stranger, his children. ‘Man kills wife/person over *random reason*.’ Society is so quick to accept their excuses, sometimes even feeling comfortable enough to joke about it. We as feminists often point to instances like this as a rebuttal to sexist stereotypes as if to say, “See? Men are the emotionally unstable ones! Not us.” We still refer to this stereotype of human nature, that men and women inherently and inescapably behave in certain ways.
“Boys will be boys” is the all-too-common refrain; used to excuse misogynistic, predatory, violating, or otherwise inappropriate behavior. A boy bullies you? He likes you. A boy harasses you? Boys will be boys, and then they grow into violent men. Girls, on the other hand, are responsible for their actions. Even more, they are responsible for men’s actions. “Why were you dressed like that if it wasn’t for attention?”
“Boys will be boys. Ultimately, men are just like this, they can’t help themselves.” Whether it's spoken by a feminist or someone victim blaming, it still refers to man’s supposed inability to change.
It’s a lie; men are not bound to behave this way by nature. For centuries society has explained away male violence as a product of their nature, whether it is an excuse or a condemnation. It is not their “nature” though, it’s the patriarchy.
‘Man Kills Pregnant Wife for Delay in Opening Gate’
Headlines like this are yet another way of conditioning society to accept male violence, by offering these male quasi-justifications as the truth.
I ask everyone to think about these stories surrounding male violence; how they condition us to think of it as natural or even unavoidable. They prime us to think of a reason to explain away his behavior; a justification for why he snapped. Narratives such as these do this so we don’t ask ourselves what the true reason for that kind of behavior is.
The reason is society promotes the subjugation of women and marginalized genders by men in so many ways, that to challenge this subjugation in its most extreme form is to challenge the central myth of patriarchy. It is to challenge the idea that it’s in some way natural for men to force their ideas, behaviors, vices, anger, and any other impulse onto those who hold less power.
‘Pope Decries Violence Against Women’
Denounce it all you like, nothing will change unless we name and confront offenders.
‘Urgent Action Needed to End Pandemic of Femicide’
‘Femicide’ is not a naturally occurring disease.
Sucb headlines are one amongst a myriad of ways that male violence is skirted around and in some ways even excused, as if there isn’t a male-dominated pattern behind it. Men rioting after their sports team loses is described as “passionate,” but let’s not forget that domestic violence rises in England every time the men’s national football team plays. Men punching their walls, destroying their wives and girlfriends alongside their TVs in anger. “It's just a thing men do.” It’s a thing men are told they are entitled to, their unrestrained anger, their violence.
Imagine if we treated this like the epidemic it is. If you are a woman or someone of a marginalized gender anywhere in the world and you are assaulted or killed, it is overwhelmingly likely your attacker was male. This is true across the globe. If you are a man, it is also overwhelmingly likely your attacker was male. Male violence is the problem, regardless of the victim. We have to start naming it, we have to start challenging it, and we have to start holding men accountable.
Letter from the Editor
Dear Readers and Fellow Feminists,
While you may have seen some of the results of my behind-the-scenes work over the past few months, I have been remiss in introducing myself to all of you. So, here goes: My name is Indigo (yes, my parents were and are much cooler than I) and I am Se7en's new Editor in Chief. The incomparable Moira Semel stepped down from the post in August and since then I have had the honour of heading up Se7en's team; old and new, borrowed and blue. With the unfailing support of our Se7en staff writers, models, photographers, and sponsors, we have redesigned the website, put out new content, brought new people into the community, and started planning a host of events for this spring. I'd like to extend my sincere gratitude to all of you who have supported us through this non-linear transition; our plan is to make it more than worth your while.
The pieces that we have focused on thus far have been centred around the body, primarily because whatever struggles you face as a feminist, our society, families, coworkers, and government often use our bodies as the target of their ignorant and hateful actions. Whether that be because they think you shouldn't love someone who has the same genitalia, or that just because you were born with breasts means you're a woman, or if your body doesn't fit into their minuscule box of socially-defined beauty. We at Se7en not only support all bodies, but all the things those bodies do. Our main mission is to lift you up, celebrate you, and empower you to go out and do more incredible things in the righteous name of feminism.
In this vein, we're striving to lead by example. The people we promote and the content we publish are carefully considered as we seek an increasingly intersectional and diverse range of feminist perspectives. In the coming months we would like to bring new demographics into the Se7en community. These include individuals outside the average age range of our readers (most of you are in your 20s and 30s), more people with differing ability sets, and a wider spectrum of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. This also means that we're doing the same for the Se7en team. As always, if you would like to join our staff feel free to apply at any time through the 'Submissions' page here on the website. It's incredibly important to us to have such varied opinions and perspectives. Without them, how would we expand our own knowledge and world views?
Because of a flu epidemic that in a domino-effect manner hit our staff, the past winter hasn't yielded as much content as we had hoped. I can't thank you all enough for sticking with us as we've worked through it all, as well as figuring out the new directions we would like to take the magazine in. One of these is our soon-to-be-unveiled feminist news column, where you will be able to find current events articles as written from a feminist lens. It will explore the sidelined difficulties that marginalised groups face during natural disasters, the unsubtley sexist headlines of global publications, and the unsung ramifications of state actions on disadvantaged communities.
In terms of other upcoming content, we have several incredible interviewees scheduled to appear, the first being a next instalment in the 'Meet Our Models' column with lead model Audrey Ho. You can also look forward to some impactful poems from a few new freelancers, as well as resident poet Payton Covelli. We have two new staff writers who have joined the ranks, Barbara Labbat and Manpreet Singh. They are both insightful as can be and I'm particularly excited to have shared Barbara's recently published and controversial piece on body neutrality with you all (find it on our home page!)
This spring also brings a number of Se7en events through which we hope to further solidify our community and get to know you all better. Find tickets to our next feminist film night, our concert sing-along, and the behind-the-scenes luncheon on our 'Events' page. They'll all include some bubbly (alcoholic and non), great conversation with like-minded feminists, and a chance to get to know the Se7en team and how we work.
My short and long term goals for the magazine carry a lot of overlap; they are both aimed at improving Se7en's inclusivity and awareness, publishing riveting and thought-provoking new content, and growing our platform on a more international level. My personal goals as editor run with similar currents; to further my own awareness, to become a better leader, to meet as many new and dynamic people as I can and to involve those people in the warm and welcoming world that I know Se7en will continue to be.
The bottom line is that I am here to serve you all as our readers and our friends. I am here for the issues you want voiced, the support you seek, the critical feedback you have to give, and the celebrations you want to share. Feel free to message the Se7en instagram account at any time, for any reason, and I'll respond as quickly as I can.
Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful community; I'm beyond excited to continue growing it with you all!
A Feminist Concert at the Caves
Elles’ value for equity and female empowerment, which we delved into in our feature interview with her this fall, take centre stage tonight. Her opening act is Morganway, a UK-based Americana band with a young female lead. They come on about 25 minutes before the start of the show, their clear and reverberating notes setting a compelling tone for the night. What strikes home, alongside the singer's dynamic vocals and the crowd's excitement about them, are Elles' reactions.
Partway through Morganway's set, Elles sneaks quietly through the crowd to perch on the bottom steps leading up to the stage. Crouched down in the pose many of us have assumed in order to secure photos of friends, she pulls out her phone to do just that, smiling with deep pride. The audience clearly loves the opener and Elles is there to support, lift up, admire and respect - not the usual trope we hear about in the music industry.
In a world where women and marginalised genders are not only
Standing outside the entrance to The Caves, one of Edinburgh's most revered and historic music venues, I chat with the amicable bouncer as I wait for Se7en's lead photographer, Max Plsek, to arrive. As he checks my credentials we get to chatting and right off the bat he says something that doesn't surprise me - the crowd arriving tonight is big, much bigger, than their average Thursday turnout. Why doesn't this surprise me? Well, because it's Elles Bailey of course.
Later, as Max and I stand between the stage and a throng of people, I am absolutely certain that Elles and her fans would bring the same amount of energy if it was her on stage and a handful of people in the audience. But here at the height of the night, we only know the excitement of an entire crowd, their ardoration as palpable as the pen in my hand. I'm getting ahead of myself though.
Before the majority of the audience arrives Elles holds a meet and greet with her VIP fans. From her seat on stage she chats casually with them, joking and laughing, telling the anecdotes of a seasoned rock n’ roll artist while managing to stay incredibly down to earth in her humour and person-to-person connections. For this VIP crowd she performs John Prine’s classic, ‘Angel from Montgomery,’ adding her own husky, warm spin to it, just like she does with her rockstar identity.
As she introduces her opener, Elles mentions her presenter role on the radio station Planet Rock, which is met with whoops and recognition from the audience. Never one to simply promote herself and be done, she goes on to talk about the ways Planet Rock is celebrating Women's History Month, emphasising that change won't truly happen unless we're celebrating women all year round.
oppressed but encouraged to turn against one another, it's incredibly heartening to see a leader in her field represent the truth that is at the heart of the feminist community; the desire to lift each other up.
With a pause, a breath, and a big smile she yells out, "Are you ready to pretend it's Friday night?!"
She kicks things off her with her irresistible song 'The Game;' her voice moving between the gravel of Americana rock n' roll with that righteous type of intensity to softer, almost angelic tones that are no less passionate. The audience immediately begins to clap and Elles takes up their energy, feeding it back to them as she makes eye contact with as many individuals as she can.
"It's always been a game you've played; let's call a spade a spade."
Surrounded by a cluster of press and photographers I see that they have momentarily forgotten to look through their lenses. They're entranced, like all of us, by the joy on Elles' face that is underscored by true and utter confidence. This; this is an example of what it is to be a person who has turned their back on the senselessness of the patriarchy and instead chooses a lifetime of raising herself and others above it.
Later on, Elles prefaces her stunning song 'Spinning Stopped,' which was written for her son, by briefly talking about the world she hopes to create for him and how far we have to go from the one we currently live in.
"I became a mother in this wild, crazy, messed up world."
She touches on this again later in the show when she unapologetically sits down to discuss politics mid-set, before introducing her song ‘Cheats and Liars.’ She takes the
time to clarify that it is often mistakenly thought to be about an ex, but in reality is a commentary on the UK government and those who run it. As she talks, it becomes increasingly clear that Elles is using the respect her fans have for her as a musician to garner their attention on issues around politics, climate change, and sexism.
In this and so many other ways, she is often brutally honest in explaining the meaning behind her songs. To muster the grit and courage to discuss such difficult, oft-neglected topics, let alone to say them as a woman in a male-dominated industry that itself sits within a patriarchal society...well, you can see why Se7en has joined the ranks of Elles fans.
Towards the end of her set Max and I make our way up to the lighting booth to finish off with a different perspective on the show. Looking down, it’s like gazing at an entire world: Elles, her band, the crowd; the lines between them blurring more and more as the night has gone on.
There on stage, in a wide-legged stance that seems to take back what 'manspreading' stole from us, she is the embodiment of Americana, here in the heart of Scotland.
"You’ve given everything tonight and I can feel it, I feel it, so thank you."
After loud and insistent calls for an encore she brings SJ, the singer who opened for her at the beginning of the night, on to do the final song together. In the end, this is what feminist support is about; not just lifting someone up once, or doing it half-heartedly, but lifting them up again and again and again.
Click for links to her platforms:
I Don't Love My Body and I Don't Really Want to
When I had a post traumatic breakdown during a February night in 2022, I had to bow out of a formal dinner I had paid for. I got dressed, took one look at my puffy face, red eyes, and realised I simply could not do it. When I informed some friends of the situation they wished me well and assured me they thought I still looked beautiful.
I know this response was one of love. I was just unable to believe what they said. I did not look beautiful then. I was having a breakdown; would being beautiful really make me feel better?
I realised it would. Feeling beautiful in that awful moment would have been consoling. Why?
It’s an open secret that the beauty industry sells insecurities. Money is king, after all. The industries that surround beauty want it to seem achievable through their products, and wherever the idea of beauty goes they will be there to commercialise it. If the idea of the ideal body was constant, someone would eventually figure out how to reach it.
We see the tides turning year after year. Today the body positivity movement is popular, but this spike in inclusivity is waning. Buccal fat removal and severe celebrity weight loss like we’re seeing with Kim Kardashian and Bella Hadid suggests that the ‘heroin chic’ trend of the 90s is rearing its head once again. What it goes to show is that no matter how positive the message of inclusivity is, it is not currently strong enough to counteract the cultural force of unrealistic beauty standards and the industries that perpetuate them. Not as long as we still place our value on beauty as a whole.
The body positivity movement promotes the idea that everyone is beautiful. Has it been successful? It’s too soon to tell, but in this writer’s opinion, even if it is successful now it’s doomed to fail. It's pessimistic, but fighting a cultural tug of war, vying for the meaning of beauty to be made more attainable is a losing battle.
Every action has its opposing reaction. Every positive attribute has a comparative negative, meaning the concept of beauty cannot exist without its opposite: ugliness. This is a fact of life, we understand beauty through what it is not and because of this, trying to make beauty inclusive to all is a contradiction in terms. By its nature, it cannot belong to everyone. What the body positivity movement has not dealt with, and which will preclude its downfall, is the concept of the moral value of beauty.
Body positivity is a step better than the thin margins of beauty we’re currently told to live within. The movement encourages the idea that beauty belongs to more than just thin white women. The question I ask then is: If I see myself as beautiful, what does that mean? Does it mean I am then allowed to value myself? Is it the baseline upon which the rest of my life can then begin?
I certainly don’t think so. If I switched bodies in a ‘Freaky Friday’ (the 2003 masterpiece) situation, I would be the same person as before, I would just look different.
Others disagree. The language of beauty speaks of our bodies as signifiers of something more. As L’Oreal says “Because you’re worth it”. One could almost imagine that as a body positivity slogan. Improve yourself, because it's what you deserve. Because “Strong is beautiful” (Pantene), so you can “Be your beautiful self” (Dove), and because “Beauty is pleasure” (Nivea Visage). Sounds very body positive, doesn’t it? If you think you are a worthy person, look like one.
Why should I love my body?
I don’t love my intestines, nor my lungs, my liver, my blood, or my bones. Nor do I hate them. They’re simply there, doing their job as best they can to keep me going. Outside of all of that, the skin holds it together. I’ve never hated my body, but what confidence should I derive from it? Even further, why should I love it for how it looks?
My bones could be the ugliest looking bones on the planet, it doesn’t matter; I doubt anyone will ever look at them. There is no concept for the beauty of a bone or an internal organ. What about the skin? Nowadays we are likely to hear that our skin is beautiful regardless of any imperfection. Despite the push to love our bodies, no one has started a trend of telling us our bones and livers are beautiful. Love your body, but only where it is seen.
‘Love your body!” as if there is something there you could also dislike. As if our bodies were the apartment you’re renting or the car you drive. As if our bodies were an external object we look at and evaluate and pass judgement on, instead of an extension of us. By that same metric I should be madly in love with my lungs for breathing properly, but I am not, because that is their inherent purpose. We are content when those parts of our bodies do the jobs they are meant to; we don’t ask them to be things they are not. If they happened to stop functioning it would be ridiculous to take that as a stain against one’s character. Yet, we actively engage in judgement when it comes to our exterior characteristics.
A discourse surrounding the recently coined term ‘pretty privilege’ has emerged as an addition to the body positivity phenomenon. This conversation around how perceived beauty can impact one’s life has resulted in a public reckoning, challenging the degree to which beauty is used as a means to take and give advantages. Disparities between people who are deemed attractive and those who aren’t can be substantive, with studies suggesting that there is a cultural bias linking conventional beauty to moral superiority.
When we grow up in an environment that constantly promotes the idea that good people are beautiful and bad people are ugly, it's misleading to also promote an idea that the solution is to expand or shift these categories to be more inclusive. The root cause is not who we consider beautiful, but the assignment of moral value based on random physical characteristics.
This is not to say that the beauty standard is better if it excludes all marginalised identities. Rather that the body positivity movement might be spreading the same ideals as conventional beauty standards, simply repackaged. Your value is still, to a large extent, determined by whether you are perceived as physically attractive.
As a whole, I don’t find beauty to be a redeemable concept among humans. The idea of arranging the outermost layers of our bodies in an attempt to maximise aesthetic value as a means of deriving personal confidence does not feel justifiable to me. The fact that all of the ways to achieve this - the shaving of bones, the starvation diets, the lasering away of hair - are normalised and encouraged feels additionally dehumanising.
I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing how I can micromanage my body to be appealing. I’m tired of hearing about what has been deemed wrong with my hips, my skin; my “strawberry legs.” Even the seemingly less harmful trends, like the “clean girl aesthetic.” Advice about how to sleep, drink, speak, and laugh in a way that won’t give me wrinkles. All the ways I’m not allowed to exist without being encouraged to edit myself. I’m tired of the response to this frustration being, “You’re beautiful regardless!” I don’t want to be forced to believe that; I don’t want to spend mental energy convincing myself that the random bits of my flesh I had never paid attention to before are now pretty. They weren’t pretty before, they simply were.
It might seem radical, seeking to discard the concept of beauty as a whole, but a radical step is not necessarily an incorrect one. In starting the body positivity movement we skipped over a crucial, foundational step: Body neutrality. To be at peace with your body for exactly what it is before embarking on the journey to love it. I’ve started my own journey, it’s not going to be the same for everyone, but I’ve started here:
My body exists for me to live; all else is advertising.
Singer - Songwriter - Feminist
"You all probably have no idea who I am." This is her opening line, but she's wrong. "I love you Elles!" A voice shouts from behind me. It belongs to a male-presenting audience member in a tailored black blazer, platform Doc Martens, and wicked eyeliner. He's one of a large and diverse fan base devoted to Elles Bailey, the woman standing on stage with one hand on her hip, the other on the mic, the embodiment of Americana confidence.
She’s the opening act tonight at Usher Hall and my god, does she open the night. Elles starts to work with the crowd. I say work with because she's not simply working them, she's pulling them into the energy of her music. She's showing them that yes, it's Tuesday night and that's the perfect time to shake out their hair, to sway their hips, to not settle for one great song but rather a whole set. And you know what? They seem to agree. She has the audience on their feet, singing or clapping along to songs that topped the UK Blues and Americana charts. Her powerful voice fills the hall, lassoing the attention of each audience member until we're all in her hand, led on a journey through her newest album Shining in the Half Light, which has received rave reviews. This is unsurprising given that her last album The Road I Call Home came in at over five million streams
and continues to climb.
Two weeks later we're sitting down for an interview discussing that very same album. Elles has already had a busy morning spending time with her 18 month old son, Jasper, and we segue from pleasantries to a discussion of motherhood.
Se7en: How has becoming a mother changed your views on both the music industry and femininity?
Elles: I was out for lunch with my husband and a friend of ours who runs a mental health clinic. She has three kids and her husband is the one that stayed at home. We were talking about being mothers and being working mothers, and the mum guilt. Then Nick, my husband, turned around and said, "It's funny, I don't feel guilty when I go to work." And I was like, "That's because society doesn't make you feel guilty." The amount of people who look at me and say, "How do you make it work?" My friend turned around and said, "They only say that because you're a woman. If you were a touring male musician with kids, no one would say, 'how do you make it work?'"
I've always been very career driven. I think that with children it was one of those things that kept on getting put off because in the music world you're always climbing the ladder and you're like, I don't want to stop yet. I don't want to stop yet.
It's funny, after being so body conscious my whole life, although I'm five kilos heavier than I've ever been, I feel the sexiest I have ever been. I grew a human and my body has changed, but that's okay. I stand up on stage and I show my stomach. I always wear a jacket or something like that, but I don't mind showing my stomach and I don't mind if my belly wobbles a bit because I'm proud of this sort of figure that I've got now.
Se7en: Correct me if I'm wrong, but you went on the Bob Cast show very shortly after giving birth?
Elles: Yes, that was my first public appearance after having Jasper. I was still breastfeeding, so he came with me.
I remember doing an interview with a magazine called Blues Matters. Like 'introducing new artist Elles Bailey,' maybe five or six years ago. And they asked, "What are your goals for the industry?" And I said, "To be a successful musician and have
a family." I think although maybe that is the goal
of a lot of my male counterparts as well, I don't think it'd be vocalised in that way. I've just always wanted to set my own targets.
Se7en: In reaching for those goals and being on that journey, where do you think you might have faced gender bias?
Elles: This is a really interesting one because I think a lot of gender bias isn't really vocalised, as in you might not realise it at the time. It might be very hidden in the sense of, you know, as I have a team around me, I'm protected in some ways.
The fact that women aren't often festival headliners is still not vocalised enough; I just think if you look around you don't see many women headliners that just seems like utter madness. I think people really need to start shaking up the system. There are some incredible artists out there, regardless if they're male or female or whatever colour their skin is, it's got to be about the music. It can't be about any kind of discriminatory biases.
It's the 21st century, but I think there was a statistic this year that only 14% of festival headliners were female. It's down to the gatekeepers of the industry to try and change these biases. We need to show aspiring females, aspiring black artists, aspiring artists from different ethnic groups that if you're going to fight and work as hard as you can, it's got to be worth it.
Se7en: In what ways do you see yourself supporting other women and marginalised genders through your work?
Elles: I now have a radio show on Planet Rock. I don't pick all of the music, but I do really, really try to showcase as many female artists as I can within my show. I will always lobby the people around me to be like, come on, let's make sure we're getting a really good representation of beautiful threads that make up the colourful tapestry of our music scene and be as inclusive and diverse as possible.
Se7en: What kind of support would you like to have received when you were starting out in the industry that you didn't receive?
Elles: That is a really tough question. There are a lot of sharks in this industry, and I have met many of them. I've been burned many times, but I've just brushed it off and thought, ‘Okay, well, that's happened.’ And I've learned from it and gone onto the next thing. It’s still happening though and I still get shocked.
I got nominated for UK Blues Award in 2018. I then found out that there was an Americana association. I actually found that out in Nashville at the Americana Fest and discovered the UK Americana Association. There are these big bodies of people that are all working together to help artists like me. And I knew nothing about that when I was first starting out. So I think any advice I've got for artists starting out is to find out who the people are in your genre that are there to help you and there to support you, and give you a platform for which you can sing your stories.
You can find Elles Bailey's work on Spotify and Youtube, and follow her on Instagram at @ellesbailey.
Se7en will be covering her March 16th show here in Edinburgh at the Caves; you can find tickets linked below. Be sure to grab one (or treat your friends and get several) before they sell out!
when i was young, i dreamt of dragons
of witches and wizards
kings and queens, of blood
i dreamt in the night of villainous
despots who would fling
curses and shadows
at me and my golden shield,
while my righteous sword
a singing blade of light against
i dreamt in the day of flying
through the sky, sometimes
on the backs of winged beasts
and sometimes on wings
of my own,
i would cartwheel, dive and spin
through the clouds
racing along rivers and canyons
into the setting sun,
i dreamt in the classroom and at
the dinner table,
i dreamt in the car
on the bus
at the supermarket,
i dreamt wherever, whenever
i could, it didn't matter, it was
just for me
but the dreams faded,
the magic no longer lingered
upon my return to the waking world,
my imagination grew darker
yet it also grew a different branch,
growing in a new
one of cold reality over brilliant
i began to dream of change
or at least the hope of it
but now when i close my eyes
i see the doom of our time
creeping upon us
like the sorcerers of my childhood
twisted and cruel, an evil
but they don't wear the robes
of a master of magic,
but rather blue uniforms and badges
carry sticks and guns
in place of swords and wands,
every bit as effective
at crushing the good and the pure and the
but in this world,
there is no fated hero, no great leader
of rebellion or crusader of love,
and we are not built for war,
yet we fight, as we must
for a cause thrust upon us
by demon kings in suits and ties,
who lord over all in eternal wealth
while we scrape for the crumbs
of a system built to kill us,
and the spells i chanted as a child
are now slogans and hashtags
repeated into the aether,
petitions and protests have become our
soldiers and armies arrayed against
and the shining armour i wore
is now my community, my comrades
for their rights to be respected,
for justice over silence,
against brutality and murder.
now that i am older, my dreams
have not changed
it's just that today
i dream of a better world,
a fairer and safer life
for all, and that this fairytale
finally comes to its end
moral or not.
Athletics: The Guidelines Read 'Male'
Women have historically and consistently been marginalized in the world of sport, first and foremost through its obsession with female bodies. In order to keep women ‘in their place’ despite evolving pressures to include them in athletics, governing bodies of sport like the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have created regulations and norms that exist to repress and, to a certain degree, humiliate female competitors. Such organizations have constructed these regulations around layers of biased scientific inaccuracy, knowingly capitalizing on the common misconceptions such inaccuracies have led to. This misinformation centers around the physical and hormonal capabilities of the human body, with a particular focus on the percieved ‘frailness’ of the female body.
One of the founding reasons why women are viewed as frail is based on the belief that physical prowess can only be attained by possessing the high levels of testosterone typically found in men. This translates into a disregard for women’s athletic ability as they are assumed to be intrinsically destined to fail in any physical competition. What's interesting is that this doesn't just apply to females in competition with males; when a woman wins a game against another woman she is still considered to have failed because she was competing against an equally feeble individual. In the rare instance that a woman and a man are allowed to play against each other, any victory on the part of the woman will be widely debated and discredited. Not only that, she will be classed as undesirable because of her strength. This remains true when we look at interactions and norms outside athletics, such as in the workplace. Women have to work harder to showcase their abilities and any success they achieve is severely doubted. These two spheres of life feed into each other in an anti-feminist cycle, one that is maintained in order to prevent women from garnering respect or support.
In 2016 Caster Semenya won gold in the women's 800 meter at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. What should have been a joyous day for her was tainted by the years of debate leading up to her participation in the 800 meters; debate surrounding her validity to compete. As part of the build up to her competition the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled that "A female…should be eligible to compete in female competitions provided that she has androgen levels below the male range (as shown by the serum concentration of testosterone)." This means that in order to qualify for the Olympics a woman must have a very low level of testosterone in her body. To be clear, while testosterone levels are found to be higher in men, they vary widely among women as well. The idea that there is a normal “range” of testosterone women should fall into is false. How do sports officials even discern the hormonal levels of athletes? It’s not a test that is run across the board and the reality is rather absurd. Semenya, like so many other women, was singled out for hormonal testing based on her physical appearance. The muscles she worked endlessly to build, the endurance she trained for, the skills she had honed; all were disregarded and instead credited to a supposed increased level of testosterone. Her prowess dismissed because her success in a physical competition didn’t fit within the bounds of what is acceptable to do or look like as a female in our society.
An important piece to note is that the ‘ideal’ physique for a woman is based on Western paragons of femininity. The female athletes singled out as needing to pass hormone tests are those from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Identification for testosterone testing is done on the basis of muscle size, breast aplasia (breasts that are considered to be too small), and excess body hair. Expecting all women to fit into the Western standards of femininity and basing their viability to compete on these standards is proof that science is entrenched in gender biases.
It comes as no surprise then when Olympic athletes such as Semenya, who's body represents both her heritage and the rigorous training undergone by an Olympic athlete, is chastised by the public, her fellow competitors, and the judges themselves for her body's departure from the supposed 'norm.' This serves as a further attempt to cast women in the role of “The Other” (Simone de Beauvoir); painting them as out of place in an arena devoted to and dominated by the masculine.
The Western standards in question promote a female body that is very slim, toned but without any visible muscle growth, short in stature, white, hairless from the eyebrows down, with small and 'delicate' facial features. Examining the Sports Illustrated Women covers over the last 100 years is a definitive example of this trend. It is evident that women are idolized in athletics only to promote weight loss and be sexualized so as to appeal to the white, heterosexual Western man. The vast majority who sit on each cover perfectly fit such a description, and even the token models of color resemble their white counterparts almost exactly, save for skin tone. The wide and beautiful range of bodily and facial features that non-white women possess have been eliminated in a particularly troubling manner. Sport-related media has hand picked a few women of color who fit into their confined standards of beauty and health as if to say to the public, 'Yes, we are a diverse publication and here are five black women to prove it.' Not only are they missing the definition of diversity, they are consistently presenting a cherry-picked few to represent the varied many.
In the world of media, magazines are not alone in depicting such false female imagery. The digital world of TV and movies overwhelmingly portray female athletes in revealing clothing and without a drop of sweat in site or hair out of place. The sports that women are shown engaging in are those that are socially acceptable for females to participate in such as cheerleading, dance, or gymnastics. Even then they are presented more as hobbies than legitimate forms of competition. On the occasion that a female protagonist plays a sport like football, there are caveats that come with allowing her to take on such a role. Personal drama inevitably makes it onto the field, ponytails get pulled, the lead player falls in love with her coach. These tropes and more can be found in a myriad of films including She's the Man and Bend it Like Beckham. Even the critically acclaimed I, Tonya focuses on the personal drama and accusations of sabotage undergone by Tonya Harding, the Olympic ice skater. This in of itself isn't a bad story to tell, but when one looks at the heroic tales of male athletes that overwhelm the sports genre of film, it's difficult to ignore the stark differences between the dominant narratives for each. These trends that are reinforced by athletics then play out in the real world. Male narratives gloss over or excuse mistakes and glorify even diminutive successes while the shortcomings of women are seen as witless, irreversible failures.
The world of sport exemplifies how our male-dominated society has fought to suppress women - by controlling their bodies. It is by placing constraints on how a woman is allowed to look physically, the ways she is allowed to use her body, and what arenas she is allowed to play in that athletics has perpetuated and solidified a society that reserves its respect for men. It is one of the arenas of life that offers endless opportunities for all of us to question norms, regulations, and the patriarchal answers that are handed to us.
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
In 2019 Carolina Criado Perez did what had never thoroughly been done before: she quantified the undeniable suffering and huge disadvantage of women the world over. She exposed the immense gendered gaps in data and design, from transportation network planning to military gear to the medical field and so much more. All this, in 272 pages. Invisible Women isn’t a diatribe against men, it isn’t a call to arms against the patriarchy, and it certainly isn’t a bra-burning manifesto. This non-fiction book reads like a novel, and for many women may seem like the scientific counterpart to their journal or diary. With each chapter, Perez details the ways in which even the most (seemingly) mundane aspects of life create an uphill battle for women. Each turn of the page brings another irreconcilable example and corresponding datapoint that will make your eyebrows raise in surprise and your heart recognize the familiar face of everyday female life. This book makes it impossible to brush off feminist concerns as ‘emotional,’ ‘irrational’ and ‘silly.’ Largely through the use of case study research, Invisible Women covers workplace and governmental policy, the evolution of technology, how architecture has evolved, and the ways in which we communicate. It is the story every woman has lived and the validation she needs; the story every man must hear and the understanding he must practice. The understanding we must all practice, because the book doesn’t simply compare the masculine and feminine experiences. In explores the intersectional disparities within the umbrella term ‘women’ and the ways feminism has left out the majority of those it claims to uplift. This is a fascinating read for anyone, no matter what gender identity they claim (and for those who don’t claim one at all). Perez explains in irrefutable fact what Beyoncé’s song “Who Runs the World? (Girls)” introduces: that yes, women run the world as leaders, but they do so more as laborers. Not by choice, but by design. No matter who you are, this book will shift how you view the world in an irrevocably positive way.
Absolutely five stars ★★★★★
“The result of this deeply male-dominated culture is that the male experience, the male perspective, has come to be seen as universal, while the female experience, that of half the global population, after all - is seen as, well, niche.”
“(The) work women do is not an added extra, a bonus that we could do without; women’s work, paid and unpaid, is the backbone of our society and our economy. It’s about time we started valuing it.”
“It’s not always easy to convince someone a need exists, if they don’t have that need themselves.”
Death is Not the Woman Clad in White, it's the Barrel Shrouded in Black
We scream bans off our bodies
And to stop putting bullets in our children’s heads.
Above all the gunfire
When our children are six feet under
Swathed in silk in black lacquer caskets
Because you couldn’t let your second amendment go
But allow a mother to lower her baby into the ground.
Yet, you shame the women who stare at white ceilings Medical lighting
White pills, silver syringes
Who chooses to save her life instead.
Some women never want children
of those who do
I can guarantee you
they never want to send them to school
Wearing a bulletproof backpack.
A gun kills children indiscriminately
Not a woman’s conscious choice.
Yet of the two above,
The gun has more rights than her.
Why do men fear a woman that is powerful
More than the black barrel of an assault rifle?
It’s because they can control the weapon,
but are desperate to control the woman.
They think her choice is taking something away from them but no,
it’s their tools doing the taking.
A woman’s right to her body effects one person
A man’s violation of a woman’s reproductive rights,
A Court’s decision on the subject matter,
Affects anyone with a uterus.
Yet when it comes to violent weapons
They think choice is the answer.
The state’s choice to regulate guns.
The choice to pull the trigger.
Why is that choice allowed in the world
And a woman’s is not?
Why is a woman’s body so dangerous?
Tell me why you call me a sinner for wanting a choice.
You say women should be gentle and caring, why do you put chains on her body? You lie and say you do it to save lives
That don’t even exist.
What about my life and my body which have already been placed on this earth. Why should I be defined by life that I have not
And may not want
Being able to create children is not an obligation.
Children are not always a gift.
And what about the lives of the children in foster care
Who may never see a happy family?
Should we overload the system with more suffering lives?
Tell me then, is that really saving them.
You aren’t against death
You are against women.
Next time put the ban on your bullet and keep it off my body,
Then you can say you’re pro-life.