Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Note on Ariel Winter's Boobs

I really enjoy Modern Family. Not just in the "this alright, I'll leave it on" sort of way. But in the way that I'll watch each new one as it is released. So it would be silly of me to pretend not to have noticed how puberty his Ariel Winter.

Although it seemed like the kind of celebrity gossip I'd usually ignore, I was intrigued by this article about her decision to have breast reduction surgery.

My gut reaction to it was, Well, if that's what makes her feel comfortable, good for her. It's her body, let her so what she wants with it, her logic seems sound.

But after a further moment of reflection, I found myself feeling less position towards it. I still completely and wholeheartedly support Winter's right to do whatever she wants with her own body. I also think that, as far as surgical body modification goes, it doesn't seem like the kind of procedure likely to herald the start of a vanity-fuelled lifetime of dangerous surgery. It's not like she spent $86,000 trying to look like someone else. Even if it was, it would still be her body to take those risks with, her right to make those choices.

Her reasoning is actually very reasonable. It's common in women with larger breasts to experience back pain, which she describes as being horrifically bad: "I had a lot of back problems. I really couldn’t stand up straight for a long period of time. It started to hurt so bad that I couldn’t take the pain. My neck was hurting so bad and I actually had some problems with my spine."

That's a very good reason to get body modifying surgery. It, along with full-body burns and mastectomies for breast cancer sufferers, is one of the main reasons breast remodelling was invented.

But it's not the only reason she gave.

In her interview with Glamour magazine, she talked about not being able to find clothes suited to her body shape. She spoke about not being able to dress in a way that was considered "appropriate" for a 17-year-old because there simply wasn't anything she could buy that suited both her figure and her age. She spoke about people talking behind her back about whether or not her breasts were real or fake from the age of 14. She talked about having to pretend to be confident with her figure because "we live in a day and age where everything you do is ridiculed". She talks about how she didn't feel respected for her work as an actress because so many media outlets focussed so much on her breasts.

"It made me feel really uncomfortable," she says, "because as women in the industry, we are totally over sexualized and treated like objects."

I, in no way, have any objection of Winter's decision.

I do, however, object entirely to the kind of society that puts a young woman under that kind of pressure.

It's reasonable to see why those things would make her feel uncomfortable, especially as it's all happening in the public eye.

But, beyond the medical benefits it offers her, I don't think it's Winter who needs to change here.

I think the attitudes of the media and the fashion industery need to change. Photographers and journalists need to stop making objectification the primary function of stories about and images of women. Clothes need to be designed with every body type in mind, not just the contemporary 'ideal'. These aren't difficult changes to make, especially compared with the number of womn - young and old, famous or not - who feel the need to resort to surgery to conform to unrealistic standards.

I don't understand why people think it's not an extreme measure to resort to invasive surgery because it's not fashionable to be big-breasted or wide-hipped or round-bellied or short-legged. It's not okay to marginalise people with normal and naturally-occuring body shapes that don't meet increasingly unattainable expectations of beauty.

I want Ariel Winter to be comfortable in her body. That means, I want her not to feel pain that occurs naturally but can be avoided through surgery. It also means that I want her to be able to look her natural self, or whatever self she chooses, without being judged for it, or ogled, or objectified, or labelled, or reduced to nothing but her looks because of it.

I want every human being to feel comfortable in the skin. I want them to feel that way without having to undergro dramatic and unnecessary surgery to feel that way. I'd like to live in a world where everyone can find clothes they feel comfortable in and where no one feels like their natural or chosen body, for whatever reason, is drawing unpleasant levels or kinds of attention.

And I don't see why this is such a controversial or unpopular opinion. I don't understand why people are preapred to accept that they're not good enough in the body they were born in, for any cosmetic or non-medical reason.

Well they are good enough

You are good enough.

Regardless of whatever part of you is too big or too small or too puffy or too saggy.

What is not good enough is the culture that tell you this is not true and, worse still, makes it actively difficult for you to believe it.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

An Open Letter to British Voters

Dear supporter, begins Liz Kendall’s Labour leadership campaign video, simultaneously both presumptuous and grovelling, You probably think I’m writing to ask for you vote in the upcoming election. And I am.

Well don’t.

I know that asking for what you want may well be the best way to get it in many cases. I know that saying ‘please’ and being polite will get you a lot further than being rude or making demands or even just assuming people know what you’d like them to do for you.

But my decision in this election will not be based on who has asked the most nicely for my support. Frankly, that’s not what I’m looking for in a leader.

Nothing you produce in the brief build up to the election is going to sway my decision. Just because this is the time when people are scrutinising you a lot more closely than unusual doesn’t mean that’s what should be the foundation for this kind of choice.

My vote is going to be based on my judgement of the attitude, behaviour and actions of each candidate throughout their entire political careers. I’m going to be looking at voting records, I’m going to think about the things you’ve supported, the things you’ve fought, I’m going to think about what your impact has already been on my country and what changes you are likely to make, if elected, based on your history.

I don’t want you to persuade me any other way. I don’t want you to tell me that you’re the best candidate for the job. I don’t want you to show me all the flaws that the other candidates have because they’re human and they make mistakes. You are biased. I don’t need your help.

I am an adult, the same as everyone else with the legal right to vote, and I can make this decision of my own accord.

I have registered to vote in this year’s Labour leadership election because I care about the future of my country. I think that there is a candidate who will have a positive impact on Britain’s political future, who I would like to support. Infer whatever you will from that, but I’m not going to tell anyone that I definitely know best. I’m not going to act like my unique reasoning has got me to the only correct decision.

I know that, like any individual, I have a limited world view. I can sympathise with, but never truly know, other people’s experience of life. I can – and do, and will – read other people’s stories and I can understand, to an extent, the impact of governmental decisions on their lives. But, still, the views I hold on these stories will be my own conclusions. They, too, will be somewhat biased because of my personal worldview. I am aware of this.

This is why we have democracy. It’s why I’m not going to tell anyone that they should vote for the same person I plan to.

But I hope that people might consider their vote in the same way that I do. Seriously, thoughtfully and keeping in mind the serious consequences this decision can have for our country.

When I cast a political vote, I try to think as comprehensively as possible about the situation my country is in at the time. I think about what I want from my next leader, MP, government and I try to figure out which one is most likely to fulfil those wishes. I think about the problems this country faces and what I think would be the best way to go about fixing them. I think about what needs to be changed, about why and how. I think about what makes me proud of my country and how I think those aspects can be maximised to its fullest. I think about what is already working well the way it is. I think about how I want my country to grow over the next however long it’ll be until I get another say. I think about who I trust with the responsibility of running my country in a way that I feel will benefit as many of us who live here as possible, who will treat us fairly and will use the resources at their disposal to consistently do what is best for us.

I try to think about what each option will mean for me, for my friends, for my yet unborn children. I try to think about the impact they’ll have on the future. I try to base my projections on the information I have about their past and their promises.

I think about what I’d like to see my government do, in the short term and in the long term. I think about what would be a good first step on that path.

I critique politicians and political parties quite harshly. By voting for them, I’m saying that I trust them with a lot of power, with my country, with my rights, with the laws that govern what I can or cannot do as a free adult. As unnecessary as I think it is, I will wade through all their carefully crafted advertising, all the rhetoric they’ll inevitably spout prior to an election.

I think about the kind of person that I am trusting with this kind of power. I think about the things that they say about their opponents – whether they are fair and sportsmanlike, or if they (or their supporters) condone mud-slinging and petty childishness. I think about the candidates who have threatened to abandon their party, their supporters, their dependents if they don’t get their own way.

I think about the promises they make – not just in terms or whether or not they appeal to me, but also whether or not I believe they’ll keep them. Whether I think their promises are realistic or if they are being made by people who are na├»ve or overly optimistic, or outright lying about their intentions for my country. Whether I trust that those promises will be kept or if they are little more than crowd-pleasing BS that we’ll never hear of again after election.

I’ll consider their political career so far – have the promises they made in the past been kept? Has their voting record shown consistently held views that still correlate with their plans for government? Do I agree with the decisions they have backed or battled? Do I think they’re ready for more authority?

It’s a lot of thinking to do. A lot of people won’t do it, whether that’s because they can’t be bothered to vote at all or because they picked a party twenty years ago and have voted the same way ever since, regardless of any changes in the party’s ideology or the country’s needs.

But I do it. Every time I get an opportunity to have a say in the way my country is run, I make sure I do it. Because it’s a huge thing to trust a person or a group of people with, because it’s not a decision to be made lightly.

I don’t mind if other people don’t come to same conclusions that I do. I know that I might be wrong, that what I think is best might have terrible consequences that I haven’t considered.

But if everyone puts in a reasonable amount of thought, if everyone cares enough to put in that effort, then together I believe we can come to a decision that will work out for the best.

Dear voter. You probably think this another one of those annoying letters – or emails or phone calls or text messages or blog posts you’ve already seen so many of – trying to tell you what to think in the imminent Labour leadership election. But it’s not.

All I ask is that you do think. Thank you.