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Art, Gender Equality and Medusa

A few weeks ago I sat around a table with some  university friends eating chicken enchiladas, page site drinking wine and joking about the size of a girl’s vagina, sorry let me get that right, “her gaping whole.” Across the table I made eye contact with my friend as the table burst into laughter, I went back to my plate and two minutes later the conversation had changed.

I stayed quiet, even though at the time I was uncomfortable and annoyed, I didn’t call them out on their behaviour. What made me so infuriated by that conversation? These are the same people that denounce Trump and his misogyny and supported the Women’s March. These are people that have mothers, sisters, friends and girlfriends and would never dream of talking about them in such a derogatory way but apparently this girl was fair game.

giphy (33)The sexual activity of a woman is something that has always been discussed, for whatever reason it’s deemed a topic that anybody and everybody can have an opinion on. Whether it’s magazines discussing a celebrities latest boyfriend or a group of girls shooting daggers at the girl who’s leaving the club with the guy she just met. We all do it, we make a judgement and we give her a label, a label that she doesn’t deserve and we have no right to give to her.

“Slut.”

“Slag.”

“Whore.”

“Hoe.”

“Slapper.”

I’ve done it, I’ll hold my hands up and say that a few years ago I probably would have joined in, let me try and explain why I don’t now.

giphy (29)

We all get sex education at school right? At 14 we sit there and laugh as the teacher awkwardly puts a condom on a banana and tells us that we must never get pregnant because a baby will change your life. Of and don’t catch an STD. We are told that as women your first time* will definitely hurt and that there will be blood. Of course, you have to be in a steady relationship with someone you trust and most importantly, you must be ready. Whatever ready means, how do you know you’re ready for something that you have only ever seen represented in the media?   

One hour later you are now apparently equipped to enter the world of sexual activity because you’ve been told everything you need to know. Apart from one vital piece of information…

“You can have sex just because it feels good!!”

giphy (32)

At no point was I told that although sex is biological, a lot of people have it purely for pleasure, and that I could too.

Speak to the majority of women and they will tell you how society makes us feel that having sex is for the pleasure of men. We are constantly told, “don’t wear this”, “cover yourself up”, “don’t show off too much” or people will think you’re a slut. I’m made to feel that I am a sexual object there to please and then used and exploited. I’m trying to be sexually active in a society that is fundamentally uncomfortable with women being sexually active of their own accord and for their own pleasure.  

giphy (31)

So, to any woman sexual active woman who is not in a relationship, I applaud you. It takes a very long time to feel comfortable and secure with your sexuality in a world that is telling you how your actions will be perceived before you’ve even made them. It can take a very long time to own your pleasure, but never feel ashamed for doing so.

*Virginity is a social construct so I refuse to use the term.

Also, I am in no way condoning underage sex, non-consensual sex or saying to women to go out and have lots of sex, just do what you want to do, when you want to do it, this is just my opinion.

Written Tomiwa Folorunso

 
A few weeks ago I sat around a table with some  university friends eating chicken enchiladas, , drinking wine and joking about the size of a girl’s vagina, sorry let me get that right, “her gaping whole.” Across the table I made eye contact with my friend as the table burst into laughter, I went back to my plate and two minutes later the conversation had changed.

I stayed quiet, even though at the time I was uncomfortable and annoyed, I didn’t call them out on their behaviour. What made me so infuriated by that conversation? These are the same people that denounce Trump and his misogyny and supported the Women’s March. These are people that have mothers, sisters, friends and girlfriends and would never dream of talking about them in such a derogatory way but apparently this girl was fair game.

giphy (33)The sexual activity of a woman is something that has always been discussed, for whatever reason it’s deemed a topic that anybody and everybody can have an opinion on. Whether it’s magazines discussing a celebrities latest boyfriend or a group of girls shooting daggers at the girl who’s leaving the club with the guy she just met. We all do it, we make a judgement and we give her a label, a label that she doesn’t deserve and we have no right to give to her.

“Slut.”

“Slag.”

“Whore.”

“Hoe.”

“Slapper.”

I’ve done it, I’ll hold my hands up and say that a few years ago I probably would have joined in, let me try and explain why I don’t now.

giphy (29)

We all get sex education at school right? At 14 we sit there and laugh as the teacher awkwardly puts a condom on a banana and tells us that we must never get pregnant because a baby will change your life. Of and don’t catch an STD. We are told that as women your first time* will definitely hurt and that there will be blood. Of course, you have to be in a steady relationship with someone you trust and most importantly, you must be ready. Whatever ready means, how do you know you’re ready for something that you have only ever seen represented in the media?   

One hour later you are now apparently equipped to enter the world of sexual activity because you’ve been told everything you need to know. Apart from one vital piece of information…

“You can have sex just because it feels good!!”

giphy (32)

At no point was I told that although sex is biological, a lot of people have it purely for pleasure, and that I could too.

Speak to the majority of women and they will tell you how society makes us feel that having sex is for the pleasure of men. We are constantly told, “don’t wear this”, “cover yourself up”, “don’t show off too much” or people will think you’re a slut. I’m made to feel that I am a sexual object there to please and then used and exploited. I’m trying to be sexually active in a society that is fundamentally uncomfortable with women being sexually active of their own accord and for their own pleasure.  

giphy (31)

So, to any woman sexual active woman who is not in a relationship, I applaud you. It takes a very long time to feel comfortable and secure with your sexuality in a world that is telling you how your actions will be perceived before you’ve even made them. It can take a very long time to own your pleasure, but never feel ashamed for doing so.

*Virginity is a social construct so I refuse to use the term.

Also, I am in no way condoning underage sex, non-consensual sex or saying to women to go out and have lots of sex, just do what you want to do, when you want to do it, this is just my opinion.

Written Tomiwa Folorunso

 
I’m a 25-year-old woman from South London, pill who relocated to Frankfurt, thumb Germany last summer for the next step of my career. As of yet, dosage I haven’t been a victim of gender discrimination in the work place (that I know of). But, as social media spreads the word, I am becoming more aware of the sexism that women face on a day-to-day basis. I visited the Battle of the Sexes exhibition a few weeks ago, and was left in shock.The women’s movement began in the mid -19th Century. It shook up society as women began to play a ‘significant’ role. They wanted their own voice, they wanted the right to vote- was this really too much to ask? Given that you couldn’t share a tweet or add a filter to your latest Instagram post, art was a useful way to share feelings and opinions. Let’s talk about Franz von Stuck – never heard of him? Neither had I!

Medusa Pic
Medusa by Franz von Stuck

The German artist wasn’t most pleased with the women’s movement so he used art to share his opinion. Do you remember learning about Medusa at school? A once beautiful woman who was punished with snakes for hair and eyes that would turn anyone who looked directly into them to stone. Well Stuck used Greek Mythology to portray women as fearful and intimidating objects. Also, I hardly think it’s a coincidence that before her punishment Medusa was an extremely attractive woman, who was later perceived as an evil threat and was punished for being proud of herself.

So this got me thinking… Why is it that men can be proud and dominant and no one bats an eyelid? Yet as soon as a woman acts in this way, it is seen as “stepping out of line” or “not being lady-like.” Think about it; how many times have you heard a man be referred to as “bossy”? 
– Nope, me neither! 

Frida Kahlo was one of Mexico’s best artists. She displayed and celebrated the female body through her art and encouraged women to express their individuality. Kahlo was a feminist, who didn’t intend to blend in with the crowd; she was looked down on for smoking, drinking and swearing! You might think ‘oh, that sort of thing is in the past’, but it was only last year that Kendall Jenner appeared in the news for leaving the house without a bra on!

tits
On leaving the exhibition I felt like I had been exposed to a huge reality that I have potentially been a victim of without even realising. With statements like “Grab her by the p***y” being thrown out there by newly elected world leaders, things don’t look too great, but despite this knock-back there has been some progress. In March 2015, Germany passed a law that companies must have at least 30 percent of women in supervisory seats in the boardroom. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that this is “the greatest contribution to gender equality since women got the vote.”

So perhaps you were as naïve as I was and hadn’t realised how relevant the lack of gender equality is to our every-day lives. But it’s never too late for men and women to speak up, “we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible” – Beyoncé.

Beyonce GIF

Written by Alisa Jordan

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