Comparisons, Jealousy and Being Enough

Jealousy The internet can be a strange thing sometimes. At once, a huge community of like-minded people, but sometimes also a reminder of what you lack. I’ve been part of a few different conversations lately about the comparisons we draw between ourselves and others, and the jealousy and the feeling of not being good enough that can bring.

In the blogosphere, I think we do hold ourselves to impossible standards. Those of us who blog alongside a full-time job look at the full-time bloggers and worry that we’re not blogging enough, not spending enough time on social media, not reaching the kind of traffic we should be. We worry about our stats, our blog design, our photography. It can be a lot of pressure.

Even outside of blogging, the internet brings up these questions. We log into Instagram and somebody’s polished life scrolls past, with carefully cooked healthy meals, hardcore workouts, expensive coffee, capsule wardrobes…are we enough? It’s hard to feel like we are when we see these curated versions of someone’s life. We look at other people and wonder if our lives are right.

These comparisons happen in the cosplay community too. Earlier today, I read a post from a friend of mine about people asking his permission to cosplay a character that he is known for. The idea being of course, that there’s no point trying to match someone like that. There’s an edge of competition too. There are people whose aim is to be the best Harley Quinn, the most popular Iron Man, to have the most likes on your cosplay page on Facebook…it strikes me as all very unnecessary.

Cosplay, and blogging are creative hobbies. We should be supporting each other, taking inspiration from each others successes and offering advice to those further behind in the journey than we are. We don’t need to feel inferior because a cosplayer is thinner, sexier than us in their better crafted costume, or because a blogger has more hits a month, more Instagram followers and more brand deals. We’re individuals and should not measure ourselves by the success of another. Are you enjoying your work? Are you learning new skills, growing in your passion? Then you’re doing it right. Who cares what everyone else is doing?



The Soapbox: The Bystander Effect

The above statistics were published by The Guardian, and go some way to expressing the pitifully low rate of convictions for rape and sexual assault here in the UK.

I wanted to talk today about excuses. I have always been someone who has strong opinions, and I do get wound up by things that most people choose to ignore. But recently, I’m finding that people are increasingly confused by the strength of feeling I have about issues like sexual assault.

I spend a lot of time online, and a lot of that time is spent is reading articles on websites like Feministing  and The Vagenda. Some of these articles are funny, like The Vagenda’s regular dissecting of women’s magazines, some are about fairly ‘fluffy’ things, like a prank where a performance art group swapped the voice boxes of GI Joe and Barbie toys and put them back on the shelves. Others are shocking.

Last night, I read this piece by a contributor to Feministing, about a rape that took place on a bus in Glasgow. I’ve since read more about this incident, and it continues to horrify me. A 14 year old girl was raped by two men on the upper deck of a bus. The attack lasted around ten minutes, before the girl’s friend realised what was happening and raised the alarm. The girls got off the bus, caught a different bus home, and called the police. Her attackers remained on the bus, but were later ejected for ‘lewd, disruptive behaviour’. The driver claims he didn’t know the assault was happening. Quite rightly, questions are being asked about how such an assault can take place without other passengers or the driver being aware of it immediately? Why is there a blind-spot in the bus’ CCTV big enough for two men to rape a teenage girl? Why does being loud on a bus get you kicked off, but raping another passenger doesn’t?

I tweeted a link to the piece on Feministing. This morning, I woke up to find I had a reply. A male friend tweeted back to me, pointing out that this is ‘the bystander effect’, and that nobody would have stepped in if it was a boy being attacked. This is probably true. Lots of people do ignore all sorts of things taking place, be it a girl being raped on a bus, or a boy having his wallet stolen in a shop. People turn a blind eye, often afraid of getting involved.
But why does this happen? What is in it us that makes us pretend not to see? I like to think that I’d step in if I saw a sexual assault taking place. But would I be too frightened and keep quiet?

In a way, I think this instinct to ignore it is the same instinct that makes people bury their head in the sand in general about incidents like this. The same instinct that makes people uncomfortable when we talk about these incidents. Whenever I share links on social media about stories like this, someone responds telling me to calm down, to chill out, that bad things happen to boys too. Yes, men are assaulted and raped too. It’s far less common, but it happens. But that doesn’t lessen the awfulness of some of the things that happen to women. And sexual assault and rape happens to women far more often than it happens to men. Why is it that people are made uncomfortable by me sharing a link to an article, news story or opinion piece that has caught my attention?

It is nearly always men who respond to me in this way. Often men I am very fond of. It worries me slightly that people are confused that I engage in this sort of subject matter. Should I not talk about horrific events, like this rape in Glasgow or like the Steubenville rape in America? Should I not retweet from wonderful projects like Everyday Sexism? Should I not write blog posts like this?

Whenever I link to, or blog about, something like this, at least one person replies with some sort of reasoning for what’s happened, or to tell me to calm down, or often that there’s no point talking about this stuff, as it won’t change anything. Or theres’s the other end of the scale, where well-meaning guys then send me links to everything about women on the internet ever.

I appreciate that people don’t like to think about bad things. I understand that these cases are newsworthy because they don’t happen every day. But they do happen, and they ought to be talked about. Talking about it, addressing the issues raised, is important. Awareness is a very important weapon.

I think what struck me about this particular rape was that this girl should have been safe. Women are bombarded with advice to keep them safe. We’re told, if we’re going anywhere at night, to stay with friends, to not walk home alone. Public transport ought to be safe. This girl did what we’re advised to do. Rather than walk home alone at 10.30pm, she got a bus with a friend. There were other passengers and a driver. She should have been safe. And yet she wasn’t.

I often get public transport late at night. Thanks to being in a long distance relationship, the last train home is familiar territory for me. In fact, on Monday, I caught the last train home from Coventry, spent half an hour at 11pm sitting in Oxford station waiting for a connection, and eventually arrived home at a little before 1am. At no point during my journey did I think I wasn’t safe. They were plenty of other passengers around, as well as station and train staff. I’m always careful not to sit in empty carriages, or hang around on badly lit station platforms. I get a taxi home from the station, rather than save the money and walk. If anything had happened, someone would have stepped in. Right?
Maybe not. Nobody stepped in for the girl in Glasgow. Is this now yet another thing I have to think twice about doing because I might not be safe? Because if someone assaults me on a train home, someone might turn a blind eye and let it happen?
I shouldn’t be in a situation where that’s excusable behaviour. Nobody should.

I suppose what annoyed me, and what always annoys me, about the responses I often get online, is the being told what I should and should not feel angry about or threatened by. If a story bothers me, that’s up to me, and if I wish to share it, I will. If you’re not interested, don’t read. The point is, I think women feel unsafe much more than men do. It’s unpleasant, feeling intimidated by something as simple as making your way home. It’s distressing that even when you’re taking all the precautions women are advised to take to stay safe, it’s apparently not enough.
I think being angry about that is pretty acceptable. To be frank, if you’re aren’t angry, you’re probably not paying attention.

Samantha Brick–Do You Hate Other Women For Their Beauty?

I’ll be honest, there was a large part of me that wanted to write a Samantha Brick parody, but I’ve read three already today, so I decided it was maybe best I didn’t.

Lucky enough to not know who Samantha Brick is? Allow me to enlighten you, Samantha Brick writes charming articles for the Daily Mail, with titles like ‘Why a magazine for large women is just a big, fat con (and I should know, I used to be a size 16)’, ‘Why my husband says he’ll divorce me if I get fat’ and ‘I use my sex appeal to get ahead at work…and so does ANY woman with sense.’ Her latest contribution bewailed what a terrible time she has because of her extreme beauty. Using Daily Veil, you can read her article here without giving the Daily Mail site any hits. Of course, Twitter exploded. The article generated 30 million hits. People suggested that perhaps women do not like Ms Brick because she has a giant ego, not because she is a great beauty (which she isn’t. She’s pretty, but not so beautiful that she deserves her inflated opinion of herself). Ms Brick then wrote a second article, claiming this only proved her point and her detractors were jealous women. She chose to ignore all the men who poked fun at her.

Now, good for Samantha Brick if she has so much self-confidence, but the idea that women are such jealous creatures that we hate anybody who is more attractive than us made me a touch pissed off. Of course we don’t, what utter nonsense.

I know girls who turn heads. I lived with a cheer-leader who was into pole-fitness at university. The year we lived together, I had a sudden increase in my male friends wishing to visit me at uni. They’d never seen this girl, but she became the stuff of legend. As it happens, she’s gorgeous as well. Do I hate her? Not in the slightest. I adore that pole-dancing cheer-leading beauty. She’s one of my dearest friends. The only time I’ve ever been jealous of her was when she had more interesting food in the fridge than I did. That’s about it.

I won’t pretend that jealously is something I don’t experience, but I’m fairly sure I’ve never felt jealous over another’s looks. There are certain girls I’m less than fond of, but I can honestly say, looks play no part in it. I hope I’m never petty enough to dislike someone because they are prettier than me. I’d rather stick to dislike caused by personality clashes! Jealousy is an ugly quality. So is vanity.

Did anyone else read the ‘I’m so beautiful’ articles. What did you think of them and following madness?