Friday, 18 July 2014

Recommended reading: The Vagenda


Recommended reading: The Vagenda

First of all, I'm going to come out and say that I do not buy mainstream 'women's lifestyle' magazines. Read: magazines pertaining to an approximation of all of women-kind's collective interests, which apparently does not stray from the confines of fashion, beauty, dieting, and dating (men only). I am very aware of the content and the problems with these kinds of magazines, which is one of the many reasons I choose not to buy them. Instead I find myself jostling for elbow room among many astonished men at the other sections of magazines at the newsagent's, such as computing and technology, music, leisure/interests, and sadly sometimes men's interests, which have in my experience been home to magazines catering to all the genres above. I'm not sure how or why we've let ourselves be caged into such a teeny, tiny, and very shallow little corner of the magazine world, but we have, and I'm kinda tired of the double-takes...

I bought The Vagenda gleefully anticipating that it may well be a longer, more media-focused, yet still witty version of The Noughtie Girl's Guide To Feminism by Ellie Levenson, which I'd read a few years previous. I was in luck! The Vagenda examines the content and issues with the media's current worrying vision of womanhood and femininity, including advice on fashion, health, beauty and relationships. The book also gives credit where it's due, praising the more promising, sexually liberated publications of the 60s and 70s, to the perplexing and frankly confusing attitude to sex undertaken by popular magazines today, who seem to make a profit from posing as a life-line for our problems, offering useless solutions, and then introducing some new things to worry about before the end of the issue – now you've taken the quiz to see if your boyfriend is cheating on you, you better figure out how to win him back: here are ten sex tips to please your man in the bedroom!' The Vagenda examines the trite subjects that appear and reappear in each issue of popular women's magazines, including body image woes, the ever-changing and sometimes baffling world of fashion (Vajazzling? Really?), relationship 'advice', diets, and the disturbing world of Lad Culture, and reminds you that you're not the only one feeling slightly weird about it all..

The great thing about this book is that it finds an easy balance between being informative, being hilarious, and reminding the reader that she really doesn't need to stand for this crap. The Vagenda does a great job of making the reader take a critical look at the way the media markets to and treats women, and what these magazines suggest our priorities should be. I know many people who, when asked about their opinion on the shameless woman-bashing and body-shaming that is packed into every tabloid or cheap gossip rag, would shrug passively and claim that it is no big deal – but why do we turn a blind eye to it? And more importantly, how is this shaping the generation of young girls who will be bombarded with this kind of trashy media wherever they turn? It's easy to claim that it's a form of cheap entertainment, but The Vagenda insists that we all sit up and take some responsibility for the media that we purchase as consumers and as women. Just because no real brain power went into the publishing of your magazine, doesn't mean that you shouldn't use your brain before you dig absentmindedly into the supposed latest sexual exploits of whichever b-list celebrity is the current flavour of the month.

When we examine the media, we examine our culture and our society as a whole. Because we are so surrounded by culture, we rarely step back and review the messages that we're receiving on a daily basis, and what it says about those who buy into it. It's easy to join a pack mentality and buy what is laid out in front of us, under a nice, bold sign that says 'women's lifestyle', and be satisfied that that is what we're meant to be consuming, but by never questioning our value of that media, we're essentially reading the magazines with our eyes closed. An interesting study cited in the book states that a 2012 study found that after just three minutes spent looking at a fashion magazine, 70% of women reported that they felt 'guilty, depressed and shameful'. When this is how our media makes us feel about ourselves, isn't it time to do as The Vagenda suggests we do and 'call bullshit?'

I wholeheartedly recommend The Vagenda to any woman and especially anyone who feels baffled and angry about the questionable ethics and ideals of media we are spoon-fed. This book gives some real incite into the toxicity of women's magazines and will get you chuckling as you read- if we didn't laugh, we'd probably just spontaneously combust. 

I also have some intelligent, thought-provoking and self-image-positive media to suggest to readers who like their mags without all the vapid nonsense:

Lionheartmagazine “Lionheart Magazine is a magazine for those looking for something that reflects their personalities and preferences. Editorial that’s smart, funny, friendly and a little irreverent, together with beautiful design, illustrations and photography. You’ll find craft, fashion, art, interviews and features that are interesting, inspiring and hearty.”

Monday, 7 July 2014

Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal- Mahou Shoujo at Its Finest

Even if you don’t follow anime all that much, it’s extremely hard to avoid the Sailor Moon phenomenon. Even the guys I live with know about it, and that’s not just because I haven’t stopped talking about it since I watched Sailor Moon Crystal at the weekend, but I’ll come to that later. Sailor Moon is one of the most popular mangas/animes in the world, and when you watch or read it, it’s easy to see why. Girl power! Relatable characters! Talking cats! Magic powers! Unnecessarily long outfit changes! The list goes on and on. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Sailor Moon, it’s hard to deny it lasting influence and creation, if not affirmation of some anime tropes.

Way back in the early 90s, a little show called Sailor Moon started in Japan. It followed the story of Usagi Tsukino, a 14-year old schoolgirl who discovers that she’s a member of the Sailor Senshi, and must defend the Earth against the evil Queen Beryl and her minions in the Negaverse. Luckily for Usagi, she has a (very patient) mentor in Luna, a talking cat, who also helps her find other members of the Sailor Senshi. A few years later, it got (poorly) dubbed into English, and aired in the UK, which is how I came across it, scrolling for shows to watch after school. Now, I’ll admit. I wasn’t that big on Sailor Moon when it started, and I preferred Cardcaptors (the dub of Cardcaptor Sakura) Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh. However, one of my childhood friends totally loved it, so I watched it, and then later we’d re-enact it on the playground at school. I never really thought about it that much as I got older until I got on procrastination-tool Tumblr, and a whole lot of the accounts I’d follow would reblog stills from the 90s show, gorgeous fan-art, and the odd still from the disastrous live-action film. I’ve found that as I’ve got older, I appreciate the show so much more. I’m rewatching the show from the start and absolutely loving it, as well as all the nostalgia! 

But why do I love it? As well as essentially perfecting the formula for mahou-shoujo (that’s magical girl anime, in case you were wondering) the content itself is really amazing. The characters aren’t just caricatures and archetypes, they full, expanded personalities. They have completely human traits, which make them extremely believable as characters. When Serena/Usagi finds out she’s a sailor scout what’s her first reaction? She wants out! I would most likely act in the same way, especially if my cat started talking to me. Above all that is the underlying message of girl power running throughout the show. Sure, Tuxedo Mask helps the girls out, but they’re never dependent on him to save the day, and they kick ass in their own regards and in their own way. Every single character fights, an no one slacks off. It's all about teamwork and co-operation, which is an excellent message to send. It (as well as Cardcaptors) had a pretty profound effect on me as a kid, and was one of the things that made me realise that ladies could totally kick ass and be super cute at the same time.

Sailor Moon Crystal is the reimagining/remake/adaptation of the manga that has been highly anticipated by a lot of fans. I’ve lazily followed its progression, rumours and news online, but when I sat down to watch the first episode, I totally loved it. I’m not usually one to follow anime (I’m VERY choosy when it comes to watching anime) but I’ll be following this! It follows the story of the manga almost perfectly, with the first episode being the first chapter, or act in the manga, following Usagi as she becomes a Sailor Senshi. The animation is updated, favouring a more ethereal colour palette and modernised style. The only niggle I have with the animation is that in Usagi’sepic transformation, it looks almost TOO digitised and almost video-gamey for my liking. This may well be me being a bit picky and too in love with the original, but it just didn’t sit right with me. The new series seems to be trying to be more serious than the old series, but I think it works quite well. The girl-power drive is still strongly in the show (just check out the theme tune for evidence of this!) and this warms my heart to see. The story is an almost perfect adaptation of the manga, and while there are less of Usagi’s OTT facial expressions and reactions, it’s still damn good, and I will continue to watch it weekly, and regale my housemates with tales of talking cats and magical girls.

If you want to know more about Sailor Moon, The Mary Sue are putting together an exhaustive guide to the show here.

You can watch Sailor Moon Crystal here.

Let me know what you think! 

Monday, 14 April 2014

On the importance of...informative video content.

It is a broadly recognised fact that the internet is awash with silly videos. Some good silly, some dumb-silly, some how-the-eff-did-we-ever-find-this-amusing-in-2009 silly. There's nothing wrong with silly internet videos; indeed, anything that can lighten the mood in an environment known for the snarky, offensive or outright idiotic content of its comment sections is welcomed in my book – and hey, Ari and I admit to having watched a fair few cat videos in our time-, but it's always refreshing to stumble upon a Youtube channel where the content is based around entertaiment and information. Whenever I find myself in this awesome realm of the internet, I click the subscribe button pretty much instantly, because so much of our online content is not informative or thought-provoking, doesn't challenge us intellectually, and may even be detrimental to our the way our memory functions 

Now, I'm not trying to be a party pooper here, and I don't believe that all online video should teach us something and be oh-so-serious, but I am interested in more people utilising the internet to engage their own brains, instead of choosing to wile away every free moment in that rather silly part of YouTube. 

The Ideas Channel creates exactly the kind of videos I'm talking about; it's entertaining, funny, culturally relevant, fast-paced and informative. Each video presents a completely different idea from the last and is then proposed to the viewer, and at the end of each video, interesting comments are read from those who commented previously, giving viewers a reason to share their opinions and ideas too. There have been videos on everything from the ethics of AI development, pondering our love of zombies, and whether or not animal crossing promotes the Otaku lifestyle. While not strictly factual, the ideal channel forces us to think and to question, which is pretty important after watching all those kitty videos.

If the name is not explanatory, SciShow is a YouTube channel that explains and answers the big questions. Black holes, dark matter, whether we're all going to augment ourselves with flashy gadgets one day, and why the hell everyone was so obsessed with flappy bird (as in, the scientific reasoning. Ehem, yes...) 

Crash course videos focus on providing step-by-step education on a bunch of topics, from literature to the sciences to psychology to history, making them ideal study aids for students.

The Art Assignment is a new channel supported by PBS, intended to create interactive art projects for the viewers to undertake themselves. In their own words, the Art Assignment plans to 'take you around the U.S. to meet working artists and solicit assignments from them that we can all complete.'

 Game Theorists is basically what it sounds like. A channel that features videos discussing various theories and trivia about video games, from retro platformers to modern FPS games, these videos will have you wondering why you never thought of that before... Particularly chilling is the video suggesting that Portal's companion cubes contain the remains of actual people. 

Mental Floss describes itself as 'a weekly series where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information!', and that pretty much nails it. If you're the type who collects and hordes random and obscure factoids in the corner of your brain and delight in interjecting with those factoids whenever you can (and we're totally not judging you for this. Sometimes there are lulls in the conversation!) Mental Floss may just be for you. 

Okay, this one has George Takei in it...What? That's not enough incentive for you to click the link? Really?

Admittedly the author of this article is a huge Nerdfighter, but whether you are or not – and it's probably only a matter of time, honestly-, the Vlogbrothers channel is worth checking out. In addition to their usual twice weekly vlogs where brothers John and Hank Green discuss whatever the hell they feel like, which can sometimes include Fitness For Nerds or having 17 rants, the made-of-awesome creators of this incredibly popular channel also discuss some really important and thought-provoking stuff:   


Sunday, 16 February 2014

Weekly Round Up #1

Hello and welcome to a new segment here on Geeky Femmes! I (Ari) will to do a weekly roundup of interesting/important things have hit the (or at least my) radar this week.

First up, Noelle Stevenson did this ace short comic about what it can be like going into comic shops as a lady. Luckily enough I’ve never had this happen, but I’m always guarded in case it does.

Images grabbed from Noelle's Tumblr.

Actress Ellen Page recently came out and delivered a gorgeous, inspiring speech about love.

She-Hulk #1 was released by Marvel, continuing the group of lady-led comic books coming out. I gave it a good review over on my other blog.

Apologies for the brevity of this, but if you feel I’ve missed anything, feel free to comment and share!

You can find me on Twitter (@ariellalphabet) and Gina (@HEXX_)

If you’d be interested in doing a guest post here, let one of us know! 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

7 Gift Ideas for your Bestie this Galentine’s Day!

Hello Geeky Femmes! How’s your February treating you so far? As some of you know, today (13th February, the day before Valentine’s Day) is Galentine’s Day. What is Galentine’s Day? In short, it’s totally awesome. A fictional holiday dreamt up in Amy Poehler’s awesome comedy show Parks and Recreation, it’s a day where you appreciate your best and closest lady pals in the way you would celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Backed by Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, an extension of Poehler’s awesome, which helps support ladies and girls around the world, it's one of the best fake-holidays in the world! I think it’s a super cute idea to appreciate your BFFs and let them know how much you love them! Sadly I’m not hanging out with my bestie Gina this year (Booo to 9AM university starts!) but we have the weekend to be awesome. 

Onto the list!

Number One: Mixtapes/discs/playlist/your music player of choice

I’ll admit, I can be a little old-fashioned at times. Sometimes this comes as part of the various fashion subcultures I’m part of, sometimes it’s because I enjoy it. When I was at school, I would frequently make mix discs for my close friends (a friend of mine informs me that he still has one of these!) and I absolutely loved the experience. Picking songs from my wide library that I hoped my friends would love, customising a case and then giving it to them was absolutely magical. So, do the same for your friends- not only is it a great way to share your music taste and introduce your friends to new bands, it can be a great ice breaker with new people.

A sample of awesome femme-friendly playlists from 8Tracks that are great:

Happy Galentine's Day! 

Number Two: Friendship bracelet/necklaces

Leslie Knope & Ann Perkins from Parks & Rec!
Available here on Etsy

Another slightly old-school thing, I love friendship necklaces. I never had them when I was younger (partially out of not knowing anyone who would really appreciate it, and partially because I’d rather keep both necklaces to myself!) but as I grow older and peruse the endless shopping websites and services the internet has to offer, I’ve come across some awesome ones. In pretty much any Claire’s Accessories shop you can find some super cute ones, but if you think they’re a bit too little-girly, you can get some super cool ones on Etsy. Check out some of my favourites here, here and here.

Number Three: Fandoms

How cute is this Adventure Time cross stitch?!
You can buy the pattern here.

Is your best friend a Potterhead? Sherlockian? Pegasister? Mega-fan of Adventure Time? You can find her something perfect online! Whether it’s a t-shirt subtly declaring her support for Destiel, an Adventure Time cross stitch, you can find a sea of amazing things online. Or, if you don’t want to buy something, check out the sea of tutorials online, and adapt them for your needs.

Number Four: Charity Donations

If your best friend isn’t into material possessions, you can always arrange a charity donation in her name for a set amount of money. Pick a charity she feels strongly about, and away you go! V-Day is a great charity to donate to, but keep in mind any local ones.

Number Five: A magazine subscription

Magazines are both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, you can always keep them about, be it for scrapbooking, inspiration or just a flick-through on a lazy afternoon if you don’t have time to get invested in a book. On the negative side, you can (I always tend to) wind up with a collection of them scattered around your house, dangerously teetering on any solid surface. However, magazines are always hand to have around. Bitch magazine currently has a sale on their gift subscriptions (as well as including a pretty slick gift card!) so this is another great gift idea.

Number Six: Baked goods

Everyone I know LOVES baked goods. I mean, who doesn’t? Galentine’s Day is a perfect opportutnity to make your bestie some delicious treats. I love this cupcake recipe, and I am known to make yummy Nutella cookies from time to time. Buzzfeed have a great list of yummy cupcakes which can be great inspiration… OR just make for pretty things to look at!

Number Seven: A Cup of Tea and a Chat

How perfect is this gif?!

Sure, pretty things and lovely gifts are great, but sometimes you can't beat a good cup of tea. Either in your own home or out at a cafe, a cup of tea and a long chat can be perfect. 

So there you have it! Let me know what you get up to this Galentine’s Day, and how you celebrate!

You can also find me on Twitter, as well as over on my blog

Monday, 10 February 2014

Back to your scheduled progamming. Also, help to decrease world suck!

 Aaand we're back! 
It seems we have taken an unannounced hiatus from this blog, but we are back again, and have plenty of posts planned for the future.

Today I want to talk about something that may not occur to many of us very often, if at all, and that is using the internet productively. You probably think that you're already semi-productive with your use of the internet. Maybe you use it as a platform to showcase your talents, to keep in touch with friends, keep in the loop about projects that matter to you, or to casually follow (okay, okay: stalk) your idols. Of course there is some downtime, often arising from boredom or procrastination – I totally understand this. There is nothing wrong with the fleeting but enjoyable amount of gratification one can achieve from levelling up on one's mmorpg of choice, but it's all about balance.  

Do you use any of that internet time to give hope to people who, at this very moment, are thousands of miles away from you and don't have even the most basic essentials that we take for granted each day? No? Well, here are some websites and organisations that allow you to give to those who actually need it. Websites that in some cases don't even necessitate that you part with any of your money at all.  

  1. Care2 is a platform for people who wish to make a difference with a wide variety of issues from animal welfare to politics to civil rights and the environment. Users can create and sign petitions for causes that they believe in, and visit the Click to Donate page daily, to give to charitable organisations by simply clicking the button on each tab- you don't have to donate any money of your own and clicking takes no more than a minute of your time. You can help to save a few acres of rainforest rather than idly reblogging a photograph of the rainforest on your Tumblr! Better yet, you can create an account and track how much you've helped each cause over time; way more satisfying than levelling up, right?

How does it work?
When you click on the donate button, care2's sponsors will donate to the selected cause. It's that simple.

  1. freerice is a website that allows you to donate rice for the hungry and help fund education for the underprivileged. Owned by the United Nations food programme, free rice requires you to answer randomly generated questions on a topic of your choice, including English vocabulary, maths, chemistry, the humanities, geography, the sciences and even SAT test preparation. For every correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated by the organisation, and I should warn you, the quizzes can get very addictive.

  2. World Builders is a charitable organisation that aims to “use the collective power of readers, fellow authors and book lovers to make the world a better place”. Founded by author Pat Rothfuss, World Builders works with Heifer International to promote education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry all over the world, and in turn those who donate are in with a chance to win all sorts of cool stuff from authors and publishers of the best books and webcomics.
    There are multiple ways to participate: 
    The Lottery, which is basically what it sounds like: you donate, and are in return entered in a draw to win a bunch of cool stuff. 
    The Sure Thing, where you basically just buy something awesome from the store and Auctions, where rare and specialised services are auctioned off to the highest bidder – in the past this has included “professionals who are willing to read and critique your manuscripts...signed art and rare books. There have been quite a few chances to win guest appearances in comics and get your name into upcoming books.”

    If you're a self-proclaimed geek and book lover (which I guess is pretty likely if you're reading this blog), World Builders is probably calling out to you, so go on ahead. Just come back here after. We'll be waiting! No really, I'll be here... 
  3. Tab For A Cause is a non-profit organisation that makes donating to charities super quick and easy. All you have to do is download the add-on for your web browser (this doesn't take more than a minute!), and voilà! Each time you open a new browser tab, their sponsors donate to the wide variety of affiliated charities.
I hope that these sites demonstrate how easily you can help decrease worldsuck and make your internet browsing sessions more productive – if you're anything like Ari and I, you clock enough hours on the internet to make a sizeable difference and increase your own personal Level Of Ultimate Awesomeness in the proccess.