Grazia Magazine UK’s 10th Birthday Celebration Was A Feminist Dream Party

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Now this is the kind of party we like! Graza Magazine UK just celebrated their 10th birthday, and did it in style. While the drinks flowed and the guests were treated to visual delights showcasing the highlights of the publication’s last decade, the main event of the evening was a panel discussing feminism and women’s rights.

The ‘Feminism: Then, Now and Tomorrow‘ panel included some very esteemed guests: Laura Bates the founder of the Everyday Sexism project, international law firm partner and Inspiring Women founder Miriam González Durántez, Radio 4 journalist Anita Anand, and Grazia’s resident feminist Polly Vernon.

Journalist Elizabeth Day moderated the panel, a short video of which you can see below.

Normally we don’t write articles about magazines celebrating birthdays or milestones, but when they focused on feminism and made it part of their celebration, we decided this was worth sharing!

The first topic they discussed was sexism. They agreed it was still prevalent, everywhere and ingrained into our culture which allows many people to think it is ok.

“It was a series of terrible coincidences that inspired me to set up Everyday Sexism,” shared Laura Bates. “A guy followed me off  the bus and was being really aggressive, then that same week I was groped by [another] guy on the bus – I was on the phone to my mum and loudly told her what happened. I realized everyone had heard but they just pretended not to and continued looking out the window, almost like it was me that should be embarrassed.”

After speaking to her girlfriends about it, Laura found out they all had similar experiences on a regular basis. It was what prompted her to understand that sexism isn’t about isolated incidents, they are everyday occurrences and need to be addressed.

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The second topic discussed were the harmful expectations placed on women by society.

“In [media] interviews I’m often asked ‘what are your child arrangements?'”said law firm partner Miriam González Durántez who is also the wife of MP Nick Clegg. “How many men get asked that?”

When she tells the media that her and her husband share 50/50 duties, it causes such controversy.

“They seemed to think it was an outrageous demand, that how dare I be depriving my husband of doing his really important job by ‘forcing’ him to spend time with his kids!” she said.

Miriam went on to say how expecting women to do all the domestic duties is something that needs to change in our culture if we are ever going to progress and see men and women as equals. Men looking after their own children shouldn’t be such a novel concept.

“It’s crazy,” added Grazia’s Polly Vernon. “We congratulate men for being good family men but it’s the very least we expect from a woman.”

The media has a lot to answer for the way it perpetuates certain stereotypes in its content, she said.

“If you ever want to question whose running the media in this country just look at the sports coverage. A woman who likes fashion or pop culture is always considered a bit stupid, yet what’s the difference between a man crying over Arsenal and a teenage girl crying over Harry Styles?”

The third topic discussed was how femininity fits into feminism. The idea that a woman can like fashion and also be interested in women’s rights is something that more and more people are learning to accept. It’s one of the barriers fashion magazines like Grazia, Elle and Vogue are able to break down simply by proving their content is diverse and allowing women a variety of voices and role models to choose from.

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“You can be a feminist and still be other things, too. You can be a feminist and want to look good. You can be a feminist and be into fashion. You can be a feminist and, and, and. Contrary to ‘popular’ belief, being a feminist is not mutually exclusive,” writes Grazia’s Alya Mooro who was covering the event.

“I never really understood that there could be any contradiction,” said Polly. “Sexiness fuels feminism and feminism fuels sexiness.”

This is one of the reasons Beyonce has been such a polarizing figure for modern feminism. Her sexy outfits and dance moves on stage have left many questioning whether she is furthering or hindering the cause of feminism. But seeing that we live in a world where for so long men have been in control of women’s sexuality, especially in the music industry and in films, who is to say a strong woman like Beyonce choosing to display her body like she does isn’t empowered? Why is it when men take the power and autonomy away from a woman’s body that is acceptable, but when women take that power back for their own bodies it is seen as controversial?

One of the things that has furthered the intense talks around what defines a feminist, is the internet and social media, which was the fourth topic of discussion at the birthday bash.

“Everyday Sexism wouldn’t have happened without the Internet,” said founder Laura Bates. “We’ve got 90,000 entries from people all over the world sharing their experiences and people so often say that that sense of solidarity has helped them and made other women feel like they can speak up, too.”

On the flip side the internet has become a dangerous place for women, who are disproportionately targeted by cyber bullies and trolls. Just look at the Gamergate scandal and how it unearthed the horrific sexism that exists toward women who challenge the negative portrayals of women in the media.

“Social networks are both the best and the worst thing that’s happened to feminism,” said Polly. “It gives people a platform to talk to others and an understanding of the extent of every day sexism, but then there are loads of people who are so negative and say things like ‘oh, she calls herself a feminist but she…,” she explained.

“It’s just designed to shut down debate and shut women down. By saying things like ‘she’s not a feminist because’ it will just shut the whole thing down if we’re not careful.”

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The esteemed women on the panel concluded that it is important to remember that while we may be comfortable where we live, there are still women in many parts of the world who don’t have access to the same freedoms. Having more women representative in our governments and allowing more women access to education are crucial tools to evening out the gender balance in all sectors of society.

“It takes time to get there,” said Miriam. “It varies according to class and economic possibilities and all the rest of it but [in the UK] we’re pretty much at 80, 90% equal; we can’t forget that there are women just a two hour or so plane ride away that are at 5% or even -5%.”

“As a collective we’ve forgotten the power we have together. To me, that’s a crisis because it wasn’t that long ago that women weren’t allowed to vote. Before that, men didn’t give a crap about women’s rights, it was only after women started voting that the greatest leaps and strides were made,” said Anita Anand who pointed out that there are far fewer women who vote than men.

“We need basic sex education in schools,” said Laura. “Children are only taught the mechanics of sex, nothing about healthy relationships or the right to consent. As a result they’re looking to porn to answer their questions and, scarily, both girls and boys are ending up believing that it’s normal for girls to cry during sex, that aggression and by force is the way it’s done and that consent just isn’t really all that important.”

“No one is born sexist [or racist or homophobic or anything else for that matter], they learn these behaviors and pick them up from the world around them. We just need to make sure we get to them early enough, and the messages they absorb are those of equality.”

We wish we could’ve been there to celebrate with Grazia UK, but we also feel it is more important to share these messages in the hope that they will make an impactful change on our global society going forward. See more from the panel in the video below:


 

 

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