Dove’s #ShowUs Campaign

Dove, a UK cosmetics brand, have recently launched their new ‘#ShowUs’ campaign in which they attempt to ‘shatter beauty stereotypes’ with their photo library. The collection of more than 5,000 images shows women of different colours, sizes and races for the purposes of providing representation for all women and girls. The campaign images were shot entirely by women and non-binary people, in protest to the fact that the photography industry is notoriously male-dominated.

Statistics released by Dove, alongside their campaign, show that 72% of women don’t feel represented in media and advertising. So, this campaign sets to remedy this issue. I first came across their latest campaign during a television advertisement. At first, I was troubled, as I often am, by the seemingly tokenistic gesture of brands partaking in the body positivity movement and attempts at diversity more largely. Immediately, my thoughts were that to promote and advertise a brand, and subsequently their products, via the discussion of this campaign negates the kind-hearted sentiment of the project.

Throughout modern history, women’s bodies and their insecurities have been manipulated for financial gain. Whether its weight-loss tablets, skin-lightening creams or (tax-included!) razor blades, the female body has been scrutinized and shamed for generations. We are bombarded with idealized images of beauty; slim, toned, tall and happy women are depicted to sell us products that are supposed to help us achieve similar euphoria. However, now, we are beginning to see a shift: the inclusion of a ‘plus-sized’ model here and there (I appreciate I’m over-simplifying).

Without appearing entirely pessimistic, it must be appreciated that attempts to solve the issues of lack of representation in advertising are worthwhile and shouldn’t go unnoticed. Campaigns, such as Dove’s, whilst they have their issues, do have a positive message at their core. Attempts to remedy deep-rooted and painful associations with the media’s portrayal of women will take far more than a photo library, but surely, it’s better than nothing?

Nevertheless, true equality and representation can only be achieved through a natural acceptance, rather than a deliberate attempt to appear ‘ahead of the curve’ or groundbreakingly tolerant. All women, of all shapes; sizes; races; sexualities and abilities should be represented in media and advertising. However, for this to be truly genuine, it needs to arise organically. Dove’s #ShowUs campaign seems like a tokenistic marketing exercise, rather than a sincere attempt to remedy the oppression and unrepresentative nature of modern advertising, specifically for women.

Whilst traditional media has financially benefitted from the female insecurity, brands like Dove seem to have begun a new wave of marketing tactics that financially benefit from female empowerment and body positivity. I’ve mentioned in a previous post (about the Missguided bikini), that there’s something deeply troubling about using feminist rhetoric/the broader feminism movement and monetizing it. Yes, the campaign itself promotes an amazing cause and attempts to see every woman/girl represented, but in doing so they’re also promoting their own brand, and subsequently selling us their products. Someone might be more likely to purchase Dove products now that the brand is more aligned with their thinking and are representing them in a way that media has never done before.

One can only hope that in the future we progress towards genuine and meaningful representation, that goes without saying and doesn’t attempt to monetize a good cause. Hopefully, one day all women (and men) will see themselves represented honestly in media and advertising, without it being an innovative marketing strategy that someone, somewhere down the line, will benefit financially from this clever concept. I would love, ideally by the time I may one day raise a daughter, to see genuine and respectful portrayals of all types of women that she can take for granted.

For more information on the Dove #ShowUs campaign, visit: https://www.dove.com/uk/stories/campaigns/showus.html

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‘I’m a feminist but…’: navigating modern feminism online

In the words of Deborah Frances White’s enormously popular podcast, The Guilty Feminist, the admission of ‘I’m a feminist but’ allows people to admit their own perceptively ‘unfeminist’ acts, habits or personality traits. On The Guilty Feminist podcast, guests open with their own admissions. In a recent episode, DFW introduces her guest, Emma Thompson, with her own hilarious guilty feminist admission that she is more excited to talk with Thompson than she would be if she were joined by Gloria Steinem to discuss feminist issues, followed by the resurrection of Emmeline Pankhurst and Maya Angelou. I have to say, I’d probably join her on that one.

Personally, my own admissions might be some of the following: I’m a feminist but I can’t deny that I feel the best about the way I look when I am tanned, and my jeans fit like I’m post-flu sickness. I’m a feminist, but sometimes the absence within me, created by none other than lack of self-confidence, can only be remedied by the attention granted by the opposite sex. Does this make me a bad feminist?

The concept behind The Guilty Feminist podcast raises the interesting issue of navigating modern feminism in what can sometimes be a competitive online environment. Social media is an inherently comparative space, so it is no surprise that this can infiltrate into all spaces of the online world. Sometimes, I’ll look at activists on Instagram and feel a twinge of guilt that I should, too, be devoting my life to advocating for equality. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t see the feminist acts of others in the way we do online. Sometimes this can have a detrimental effect; seeing others ‘winning at feminism’ can leave you feeling deflated that your own efforts aren’t good enough. Or even that some of the things you do or enjoy in your life make you less of a feminist than someone else. That being said, social media brings together people with common interests and unites those fighting for the same causes across the world. Harnessed for good, this has the potential to have an enormous impact in the fight for equality.

The feminist movement is steeped in so much history and the sacrifices of those who fought before us that it can be tempting to feel like you aren’t doing enough and that you aren’t a good enough feminist. You don’t need to read the entire works of Gloria Steinem or Simone de Beauvoir to qualify you to practice feminism. There isn’t an exam you need to sit or a hoop you need to jump through. Everyone can do their individual bit, as well as have their own guilty admissions. Of course, it is important to understand the history and the severity of the movement, but it should never be at the detriment of your own efforts. The Suffragettes didn’t sacrifice their lives for us to shy away from our responsibilities for fear of not being qualified enough.

Obviously, there are things that go completely against some ideas of feminism. Personally, a feminism that excludes anyone is one that I don’t want a part of, but is instead inclusive of all sexualities and races, cisgender and transgender alike. Nevertheless, feminism should be a uniting force that we have the chance to be a part of. Whether you’re advocating loudly on social media, making small changes in your own life or attempting to educate those around you, we all have a part to play and are all equally valid in our attempts at doing so.

 Feminism can look different to individuals, with our own ways or practicing and our unique admissions. So, whatever your ‘I’m a feminist, but…’ omission is, don’t let the toxicity of social media convince you that you’re not trying hard enough or that you are contradictory. Educate yourself and practice what you preach, but don’t compare your fight to the fight of others.

*Note: ‘I’m a feminist, but…’ is an admission, not a confession – you aren’t doing anything wrong by shaving your armpits or enjoying male attention. Feminism looks different for us all, and with that comes varying admissions of where society would have us believe we have failed. Admit your guilty feminism and move on!

Harry & Meghan: the blurred lines between public and private

Last week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, christened their first child together in a small ceremony in the same chapel they were married in last May. Amongst the celebrations, the news was revealed that the couple aren’t to announce the names of their chosen godparents for son, Archie. This has raised the questions of where the boundaries between public and private life are when it comes to the royal family.

The question stands as: should Harry and Meghan have revealed the identities of the godparents to the public?

Some would argue that they absolutely have a responsibility to inform the general public of such information, even that we have a right to know. In recent weeks it has been revealed that renovations totaling £2.4 m are to begin on the couple’s cottage in Windsor, comprised of tax payers’ money. Both revelations seem to have been merged into one issue: if tax payers are facilitating their lifestyle, don’t Harry and Meghan owe it to them to live their lives for public enjoyment?

The couple have had issues with the press ever since it was announced that they were dating, with an underlying feeling of institutional racism seemingly at the core; Meghan doesn’t fit the typical royal mold and has been all but vilified for it ever since. Whilst they are in no way responsible for the media harassment they have encountered, a more positive and co-operative relationship between the two might be established if they included the general public (and media) in the details of such occasions.

One of the cornerstones of the monarchy in this country is the tradition it withholds within British society; people hold on to this sense of tradition and struggle to cope when someone ventures away from it. In the past, Kate and William have revealed the names of their children’s godparents. But honestly, can anyone even remember who they are? Equally, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are held accountable to a different standard and have no choice but to abide by some traditions. Is that fair? Harry and Meghan get to rewrite the rules for their interaction with the media and the public, but William and Kate have no such choice, in some cases.

On the other side of the argument, we must consider that the identities of the godparents might have been withheld for their own sake. The people could well be close friends, not visible to the public eye, who, by their own accord, wish to remain anonymous. Harry and Meghan have far more loyalty to their friends than the British press, and quite rightly so.

It seems logical for Prince Harry to want to re-establish his relationship with the media after witnessing his mother’s own painful association with them, which many believe contributed towards her tragic and untimely death. How can we blame him for wanting to construct new parameters between himself and them, especially now as he works to protect his wife and son from the harassment Diana faced. Not revealing the names of a couple of people seems irrelevant when positioned next to Diana’s death; if Harry wants to protect Meghan from experiencing anywhere near what his mother went through and is choosing to do so by withholding this somewhat meaningless piece of information, then I think he probably has every right to.

The royal family do bring a lot to our country. Regardless of your opinion on the monarchy, the young royals, in particular, are changing the landscape of what we can expect from them and do deserve some compensation for it. It is a fact of British life that tax payers’ money funds the royal family. Yes, £2.4 m is a lot, but they’re the royals – we can’t house them just anywhere. Also, in the grand scheme of where your tax money is spent, this is hardly the situation that warrants so much concern. The British government has been guilty of funding wars in the Middle East, so let’s give Harry and Meghan’s cottage renovation some perspective. That being said, should the fact that the hard-earned money of working people is facilitating their lifestyle but a justification for us infiltrating their personal lives?

However, those who are genuinely saddened by this deviance from tradition are loyal fans of the royal family and those who hold a sincere interest in their lives. Someone like me, on the other hand, who is fairly impartial, could not care less who the godparents are, or even whether I’m aware of their names or not. I enjoyed the royal wedding and eagerly awaited pictures of Archie, via the Sussex Royal Instagram account, after he was born but I wouldn’t go so far as to be offended by them withholding this information, nor the fact that our taxes pay for their house. The fact of the matter is that you can’t decide where you tax money goes – that’s the whole point.

Personally, I think we are all entitled to privacy and if we want the royals to remain ‘relatable’ and ‘down to earth’ then we should grant them with the same luxury. The entire world got to watch them get married, I think we’ve had our fair share of invading their privacy. The problem comes in where the line is drawn between public and private. No matter where the couple establish this, someone will be upset about it.

This problem really is a double-edge sword. Whilst our humanity cannot help but feel a little sorry for a newly married couple, who just want to enjoy their new family in the solitude that so many others are privileged to, it does bring into question their place in modern society. If they want to maintain a certain level of privacy, the might lose the very interest in them that essentially funds their lives. If they become so insular that the general public has no access to them whatsoever, further down the line it may well result in a lack of interest, and therefore investment, in the royal family.

Within this complex and multifaceted issue, another side seems to be the differing treatment between Harry and Meghan and William and Kate. Whilst Will and Kate have to abide by certain standards, due to their proximity to the crown, that the others do not have to, Harry and Meghan have experienced unparalleled media harassment and negativity. The Cambridge’s have established their own privacy lines with the media, unlike their predecessors. The couple chose not to have the press document George’s first day of school, instead releasing a photograph to them, on their own grounds. I think Harry and Meghan’s decision to hide the identities of the godparents is actually far less significant but has gained far more criticism. George will one day be the King, Archie is 7th in line to the throne. However, William and Kate do not have the luxury of exclusive privacy because of the position they are in, and that extends to their children. What parent wouldn’t want to protect their child from the onslaught the media so often serves the royals? I think Harry and Meghan’s decision, albeit seemingly meaningless in my eyes, is a small way of establishing boundaries that they feel best protects their new son as he enters a level of publicity you can probably never prepare a child for. Underneath it all, aren’t they just parents doing the best by their child?

The growing phenomenon of Self-Love

The concept of self-love has firmly rooted itself within millennial popular culture this year, largely thanks to activist frontrunners, like Jameela Jamil, fighting for us to wholeheartedly accept ourselves.

However, in amongst the discussion of self-love practices online, there seems to be an element of exclusion, albeit I suspect unintentional, as observantly pointed out by the poet, Nikita Gill. Gill noticed two trends within the self-love movement that run the risk of excluding those whose greatest battle is within themselves. With RuPaul’s signature phrase, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love someone else’, becoming a social media mantra, a risk comes with excluding those who simply cannot fight their own self-hatred. Gill, quite rightly, stated that those who struggle to love themselves are equally as capable as loving others as anyone else.

Additionally, Gill’s second reflection was that some self-love rhetoric suggests that those who cannot love themselves cannot truly be loved by others. Again, this has a troubling undertone; love should be the most indiscriminate thing in life, let alone exclude those so truly broken that to love themselves causes great pain.

Self-hating tendencies affect us all; it has been instilled within us in society that we are flawed, so the occasional down day is not only totally normal and acceptable, but quite frankly not surprising. Not totally beating yourself up for having a down day should, in itself, be considered an act of self-love; choosing to allow yourself time and space to feel your emotions, rather than berating yourself for not paralleling the serene happiness we are so often bombarded with online. I think it is important not to pigeon-hole those suffering with their relationship with themselves into being incapable of loving others or being deserving of others’ love. The concept is far more nuanced and requires more sensitivity in its discussion.

Acts of self-love can form habits that help you out of some of the darkest times. Repeating these actions can form associations with your happier self and lift your mood. I realize this is a rather simplistic version and the concept of self-love runs far more deeply. Nevertheless, the smallest of changes and the beginnings of truly taking care of yourself could make a world of difference.   

For me, self-loving acts can bring a joyful relief in times of anxiety and stress. However, they do equally come with their challenges. Personally, self-love is broken down into doing things solely for my own enjoyment and happiness, and then for my overall betterment. Those which purely serve my happiness might include listening to a great playlist, eating chocolate in bed or finding blissful escapism in a good book. On the other hand, there are often things I’ll do for the greater good of myself, rather than just to satisfy a craving; occasionally, I’ll choose a green tea over a coffee. This isn’t because I wouldn’t rather have the coffee in that moment – believe me, I would – but because I know my body will feel much better after having the green tea.

The concept of self-love seems relatively infantile in popular culture and on social media, and it seems like we haven’t quite ironed out the problems surrounding it. I, for one, will sometimes feel a sense of guilt when I do something purely self-serving; when the word ‘selfish’ rings dirty in my ears. Selfishness shouldn’t always be a bad thing. One thing I’ve learnt as I’ve gotten older is that the longest, deepest and most meaningful relationship you’re ever going to have is with yourself. This ought to be where we invest the most time.

Finally, with the self-love movement, we need to be careful not to leave anybody behind. It needs to be totally inclusive, whilst at the same time remaining individual and without judgment. Acts of self-love will vary from person to person and should be embraced for doing so.  

Missguided’s £1 Bikini

Last week, online retailer Missguided released their £1 bikini to mark the anniversary of ‘ten years of empowering women’. There are several issues here, so let’s unpack them…

Firstly, using feminism/feminist rhetoric to sell products to women is inherently unfeminist and emulates patriarchal traditions of manipulating female insecurities for profit. Whilst Missguided cannot be placed entirely within this categorization, it is guilty of ignoring the ingrained narrative: feeding into it, rather than standing against it, which ironically would have been a much more ‘empowering’ stance to take.

Second of all, and the issue which seems to have gained the most traction online, is the apparent lack of concern for the environment shown with the creation of the £1 bikini, which epitomizes ‘fast fashion’. It feels uncomfortable for Missguided to have released this during a time when the conversation around climate change has never been as prominent. I can’t help but feel that the decision is not only ignorant, but also totally misguided. *pun intended*

Missguided have released a statement, labelling the launch of the bikini as a marketing tactic; they are “absorbing the costs so (they) can offer it at an incredible price as a gift to (their) customers”. It seems they were completely aware of the backlash they would face upon the launch of this product, fully expecting the inevitable criticism.

The release of the bikini, which has been selling out within 45 minutes of each restock, came during the same week that the government rejected plans for a 1p fashion tax. The ‘penny tax’ suggested a one pence tax be placed on every garment sold in order to fund recycling initiatives. Unfortunate timing for Missguided’s launch, but a sobering reminder of the lack of commitment to tackling climate change and its leading contributors, one of which being the fast fashion industry.

 The enormous success of the bikini seems contradictory to Generation Z’s typical wokeness on climate change issues. Just last month, we saw thousands of young people protesting for the government to take climate change seriously. Yet, young women and teenagers are the exact demographic fueling the release of a product which symbolizes throwaway consumerist behaviour. The latest figures reveal that rivalling retailors are also reaping the rewards: Boohoo sales have risen 27%, with Pretty Little Thing’s at a 42% increase. If the government is truly committed to reaching a carbon neutral status by 2050, then serious action needs to be taken to combat this type of encouragement of throwaway purchases. Equally, the blame cannot be solely placed on the retailor: individual consumers have an obligation to address their own contributions to climate change and act appropriately.

*Disclaimer: I am, too, guilty of online shopping and frivolous spending; this is not an attack. But, we do all have a duty to do more*

Finally, the suggestion that the bikini was a gift to customers, designed ‘not to break the bank’ is entirely bizarre when picked apart. First, chances are shoppers are adding extra items to their basket to make the total over the amount for free delivery. We’ve all been there. Secondly, Missguided knew that this was exactly the case and that the bikini would be an extra added to the total; an online version of the items they put near the tills in shops. They knew the bikini was merely a marketing tool, absorbing a financial hit in order to generate more sales overall. Sorry girls, but it’s not really a gift when you break it down.  

Solidarity is always better than Ignorance

Amongst the coverage of the atrocities taking place in Sudan, which have been brought to the forefront of global attention most notably on Twitter, there has been a sour taste left after various acts of solidarity have come into question.

You might have noticed over the last week or so that many of those you follow online have switched their profile images to a plain blue. This has been as an act of solidarity for those suffering in Sudan, in amongst the political turmoil in the Northern African country. Amnesty International have raised concerns that there have been serious crimes committed against the political protestors, with some claims reporting murder and rape.

Despite the seriousness of the issue in Sudan, a lot of the content I’ve seen online surrounding this story have concerned the ‘blue circles’. Some tweets stated that if your timeline consisted entirely of blue circles then ‘you’re following the right people’, to which many replied that more needs to be done to help those in Sudan than just a simple aesthetic change on your social profiles.

Yes, it is true that donating money to charities working to help those suffering in Sudan is more helpful to the cause than changing your profile image. And yes, putting pressure on our government to assist might help save more lives than Instagram will. However, I think there’s an issue here surrounding the dismissal of solidarity and its importance.

For some people, perhaps not financially able to help or capable of writing to their local MP, for example, surely an act of solidarity is better than complete ignorance. Is it not better for someone to show support, in whatever way they can, than turn a blind eye to issues happening outside their home nation?

I think where practical assistant cannot be provided, for whatever reason, then an act of solidarity, no matter how small, shouldn’t be completely dismissed as pointless. Also, the power of social media has brought the issues in Sudan to the forefront of our attention, where mainstream media has failed to do so. Therefore, the presence of the blue circle has actually done more for the issue than traditional news coverage. And by bringing the issue to the forefront of social media’s attention, surely more will be done to help than it would have done otherwise.

Finally, I think it’s important in these situations to keep the real issue at the centre of the conversation, rather than focusing on who could have done more. I realise this piece is contradictory in that sense; discussing an issue surrounding this story, rather than the actual problem, but I think it’s indicative of a wider issue on social media of criticism being favored over support.

What’s going on with Wahaca?

Last week, it was brought to the public’s attention that a waiter in a North London branch of the Mexican food chain, Wahaca, was made to cover the remaining bill after their table left without covering the total amount.

Firstly, perhaps naively of me, I had no idea such practice took place; having never worked in the restaurant/hospitality industry in this sense, I didn’t realise this responsibility would be placed on the waiters.

This particular case is indicative of a wider issue: why are people walking out on a half-paid bill? If you’re not going to pay you may as well not pay the entire thing. I’m baffled as to why this table decidedly paid most of the bill, leaving only a few pounds remaining.

The issue was brought to Twitter’s attention after Sarah Hayward, Labour MP and former Leader or Camden Council, tweeted about the events that took place on the table next to her, whilst tagging co-owner and former Masterchef winner, Thomasina Miers. Characteristically, Twitter escalated the issue and brought it to the attention of those, like me, who had no idea it was commonplace for restaurant managers to make waiters compensate for disgraceful customer behavior. Hayward branded the management decision she witnessed as “utterly shameful employment practice”.

Since the enormous criticism Wahaca faced in the aftermath of this Twitter explosion, new regulations have been introduced whereby no waiter will be responsible for walk-outs or will have to compensate financially for them. Initially, their policy was such that only in cases of genuine neglect were individual waiters to be held accountable. However, the incident called out by Sarah Hayward demonstrates this clearly wasn’t the case.

Whilst individual waiters should not be held accountable for walk-outs or partially unpaid bills, neither really should the establishment. In amongst the outage around this story, there seemed to be little notice paid to the fact that what is really the issue here is people walking out without paying. This is a wider issue, not limited to individual restaurant chains, and one that doesn’t seem to have a clear solution. Well, at least apart from people just being a little less shitty…

The Complex Case of Shamima Begum

It’s been a while since this story dominated the news, before it inevitably died out and the media lost interest. I felt quite strongly about it at the time and the issues remain, so I thought I’d give it some more thought.

When this story initially broke I was torn between opinions and found myself firmly on the fence, which incidentally I think is a perfectly acceptable place to be, especially when faced with such a complex, multi-faceted issue.

On the one hand, early reports presented Begum as a genuine threat and a source of fear for the general public. Following the attacks on the Manchester Arena and London/Westminster Bridge, it’s understandable that the country where on edge at the very mention of a terror threat; the word ‘radicalization’ seems to ignite an unparalleled sense of fear. Therefore, the decision of how to deal with Shamima Begum wanting to re-enter the UK after leaving for Syria and joining ISIS in 2015 was crucial to pacify nation-wide fears.

Nevertheless, I struggled with the severity with which Begum’s situation was met. With such complex issues it seems too simplistic to pick one side and commit. This led me to evaluate where I truly stood on this particular situation.

Whilst I don’t think Begum could return to the UK without appropriate precautions, the decision to remove her British citizenship was outrageous. There are factors to this story which seem to have been ignored during Sajid Javid’s decision. Firstly, a major issue is that she was eradicated in this country as a vulnerable and naïve teenager and is therefore the responsibility of the British government. To simply disown her is both reckless and heartless.

Also, the ruling seemed to be used as an opportunity to set an example to everyone else who left the UK for ISIS, rather than accessing her situation on an individual basis and dealing with it appropriately. She was vilified in front of the nation, without any compassion being granted to her (an abused, terrified and pregnant young woman), as if as a warning to all those who dare cross the British government.

Another problematic aspect of this case is that she was radicalized in London at the tender age of 15. Whilst I’m not one to solely use this to justify her innocence, I do think it should be taken into account that she was probably severely manipulated. I don’t think it’s as simple as writing her off as completely innocent in the situation because of her age; I certainly had my head firmly screwed on at 15 and would have been offended for someone to use that against me. However, each 15-year-old is obviously different; her circumstances at the time may have left her vulnerable to this kind of manipulation and radicalization which resulted in her leaving the country. Although she is now an adult, her decisions were made as a child. How do we then respond to her ‘punishment’?

Whatever your opinion on Begum, one thing we must all agree on is that the British government failed her baby. Sadly, as the news coverage of this story developed, so too came the revelation that Shamima had tragically miscarried her baby, totaling her third miscarriage in the years she spent in Syria. She lost her child whilst appealing to the British government for help in a refugee camp. Whatever your opinion on the mother, that baby, undeniably a British citizen, deserved better from our government.

Begum’s case leaves the government in a predicament. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree she should return to the UK and have her citizenship reinstated, the difficulty comes with what happens next. Is punishment the right decision? Or might rehabilitation be more fitting? The important point to note is that her radicalization took place in the UK and she is therefore the responsibility of our government alone, not only that, she is indicative of a much wider issue of radicalization in this country.

Finally, I think it is important to consider what happens to her next and to what extent she is to be ‘punished’. Whilst she never took part in violent acts for ISIS, was she complicit in their terror operations? Or was she merely a scared, naïve and manipulated young woman who found herself is one hell of a situation and has suffered enormously since?

Love Island

Why I’m not watching Love Island this year (or so I thought)…

It has been a week since the new season of Love Island hit the screens of ITV2 and so we hand over the next 8 weeks, whether it be to the endless memes on Twitter dominating your timeline or not being able to talk about anything else during your coffee breaks at work. So, British summertime truly begins.

This year, I’ve felt a little unsettled about watching Love Island with the same ferocity I have in previous years. Not only does committing every evening for the next 8 weeks seem like an enormous waste of time, there’s some issues with the show that don’t sit well with me.

Love Island has been criticized in years gone by for its lack of diversity, both with regards to race and body type. Again, both don’t seem to have been dealt with appropriately, nor with the gravity they deserve. The attempts to remedy criticisms this year seem tokenistic, particularly that of contestant Anna being labelled ‘plus size’.

Not only does Anna look like an absolute goddess, she is hardly what should be deemed ‘plus sized’ in modern society. This is fundamentally not an attack on Anna, nor on the other contestants, but on the show using her and labeling her as different to the other girls. A decision seemingly based on her hips being ever so slightly wider. This is not only damaging to her, whether she thinks it is or not, but to the viewing audience. Love Island has singled her out as physically different to her fellow female contestants in what is an already vulnerable situation (can you imagine the nation watching your every move in a bikini for 2 months?). Equally, and perhaps more dangerously, Anna being presented as ‘plus size’ paints the image that anyone bigger than her is not only deemed unattractive but larger than plus sized, leaving them where? Extra plus-sized?

There have been arguments, presented most saliently by the Love Island producers, that the contestants need to be attractive in order for the show to work; they need to be physically attracted to each other in order for romance to blossom. This point, albeit painfully simplistic, makes some sense when unpacked. The premise of the show is to watch contestants find love. For that to be successful, the producers need to ensure the environment is that where genuine attraction can develop into something more meaningful. Nevertheless, that just isn’t good enough. It is indicative of the wider issue in society of favoring one ideal of beauty. Love Island, with its enormous popularity and immense standing in British television, has a responsibility to combat these damaging views. Instead, it favors viewing ratings.

Despite the negativity surrounding some elements of the show, its popularity endures. Whilst I initially tried to avoid it completely, muting conversation about the show on Twitter and choosing a good book and a hot bath between the hours of 9 and 10 pm, I have inevitably caved and succumbed to watching a couple of episodes. Regardless of some of the opinions I have previously stated, which I still very much stand by, I cannot deny the entertainment Love Island provides.

This led me to evaluate my own relationship with the show. I think it is important to comprehend that you can be complicit in whatever it is you are critiquing. Yes, I have issues with the premise of the show and the underlying sentiment it projects into society, but that has now molded the way I watch. I can see the show for what it is and still enjoy watching romance blossom between two (yes, very *societally* beautiful) people.

Love Island offers genuine escapism in what are very stressful times. No wonder millions of people tuned into ITV this week, when every single media outlet was plagued with coverage of Donald Trump’s state visit. It’s no surprise we are so heavily invested in watching harmless flirting when there’s a very real possibility Boris Johnson might be the next Prime Minister. With the state the country is in at the moment, can we really blame people for seeking solace in trash TV and light-hearted entertainment?

Uber: Silent Mode

Uber’s silent mode: aggressively anti-social or just another commodity?

Uber has recently introduced a ‘Quiet Mode’ feature available to all users who order their premium services. This enables the passenger to effectively silence the driver for the entirety of their journey, albeit whilst being charged a higher rate than the standard Uber car.  

Immediately, my mind jumps to the problematic nature of this new roll-out; the ability of one person to be able to silence another, at its very core, is troubling. There is a risk of dehumanizing the driver; passengers will be able to get in and out of the car, and travel for however long they wish without exchanging in the briefest of conversations with their driver. Perhaps, in some cases, not even a thank you upon exiting.

It is too simplistic, however, to merely pigeon-hole this issue as an attack on Uber drivers and, more generally, the public service sectors workers. There are cases where the silent mode is not only useful, but necessary. As a young woman, I can fully imagine a situation where the silent mode in an Uber would save embarrassment, nervousness and, sometimes, extreme anxiety. After being separated from friends on a night out, too drunk to get the night-tube home and wise enough to decide against it, Uber is almost always my go-to. In these situations, yes, a quiet and safe journey home is exactly what I would need. But, I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason to completely silence someone and diminish normal, human interaction.

Another, perhaps more deserving example, could be amongst deaf passengers. Silent mode would save the awkwardness, for both parties, in establishing the boundaries of the relationship. Someone suffering from a panic attack in public would be deserving of the solace offered by the silence of an already-established quiet Uber environment.

The rest of us, however, might be better off learning how to navigate everyday social interactions better. Of course, there will be instances where passengers prefer not to engage with their driver and they do arguably, as a paying customer, have the right to do so. There is no harm, however, in establishing this in a polite manner. We must be careful not to completely tailor every aspect of our social interactions to be amongst only those we wish to. There is a danger of communication existing solely with selected friends, partners and colleagues throughout the course of a day: no need to speak to the driver in the Uber on the way to work; ordering your coffee can come without the need to thank the barista through self-order machines/apps; and, if you live in London especially, there’s certainly no desire to have a chat with a fellow commuter.

It would, however, be entirely inappropriate not to give some thought to the Uber drivers themselves. To be silenced by passengers might be an offensive and dehumanizing problem they just have to deal with in order to carry on working; another part of their day where they serve solely to the needs of other people. However, there might also be an argument for Uber drivers enjoying the new feature and the peace and quiet it brings. Perhaps, it might be more fitting for the silent mode feature to work both ways; both passenger and driver have the ability to mute one another. If we’re going to be so anti-social, then at least make it equal, right?

The aggressive anti-social nature of the silent mode feature contains the underlying sentiment of ‘the customer is always right’ and the attitude of ‘well, I’m paying for it’, which is arguably indicative of a wider social issue of our desire to control every perceivable aspect of our lives.

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