Five times that fizzy pop has met pop culture

Pop culture provides the perfect backdrop for narrative spinning fizzy drink advertising executives

http://www.wo-magazine.com/business-economy/2015/5/27/five-times-fizzy-pop-has-met-pop-culture?rq=julia

Five times Fizzy Pop has met Pop Culture.

PHD Manchester has paired up with AG Barr for an exciting new campaign involving its KA range of Jamaican soft drinks. This campaign will be known as the “Get Rated” campaign and will give talented urban musicians the chance to get their voices heard. They will get a platform to showcase their talent through a cross partnership with Capital Xtra and GRM Daily. Musical acts will be able to submit videos and audio that demonstrate their musical talents. Notably excellent content will then be broadcast on Capital Xtra and GRM Daily. This campaign is expected to have far reaching results, with the campaign being amplified through various social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter, signifying the grassroots talents feel of this campaign. The media campaign will be ran from the Manchester based PHD office, with the creative side being taken care of by integrated agency Multiply.

This is a brilliant example of the diverse talents and expertise of various companies combining to create an exciting collaborative project that may well be life changing for many aspiring urban musicians. This will be an exciting campaign for all companies involved. Adrien Troy, Head of Marketing at AG Barr, has stated that AG Barr are “excited about building on our strength in the urban music community, creating a special event and broadening our appeal to a wider audience”. This campaign will undoubtedly broaden the appeal of the AG Barr brand and harness brand loyalty for those affiliated with the urban music community. According to Managing Director at PHD in Manchester, Dani Briers: “KA’s consumers demand recognition of their own skills and talents so this campaign is designed to deliver just that, ultimately providing some real authenticity to KA, probably the most prized asset for a youth-orientated brand.” This is a clever, well thought out campaign that wholeheartedly recognises the importance in gaining youth loyalty within the soft drinks industry.

Soft drinks are synonymous in the marketing world with youth and youth culture, particularly music. You will never see a cosy TV ad sandwiched between Emmerdale and Coronation Street where a jumper wearing mum settles down in her comfy chair to enjoy a nice fizzy mug of fanta, cat on lap. Soft drinks aren’t comforting. Neither do they have that healthy lifestyle persona that drives outdoorsy juice ads; all beautiful glowing people running about on the beach with bright tropical parrots.

You don’t necessarily need soft drinks; they don’t quench your thirst in the way that water does. You can’t pretend that the bubbly sensations that they fire off in your taste buds are some sort of natural chemical reaction. Soft drinks Advertising Executives have to take a different, more creative approach. This is especially true in a more health conscious and media literate society. Narrative is more important than ingredients, taste or purpose.

Rollercoasters are named after soft drinks, giving the impression that an affiliation to a certain drinks brand is synonymous with a sense of adventure and excitement. Whenever somebody mentions riding the Pepsi Max at Blackpool pleasure beach, my mouth seems to fill with sugar and e numbers. I crave the stuff. In the age of twitter, soft drinks advertising has become ever more sophisticated with many prolific celebrities making non-too-subtle soft drink plugs via their twitter accounts.

I’ve therefore “popped” together a list of all the times soft drinks have met with pop culture, showing them to be the perfect fizzy blend:

  1. Pepsi has long strived to be associated with strong, outspoken female pop artists. Pepsi clearly wants to be seen as the ladette of the drinks industry, embodying confidence and a sort of raunchy daringness. Twentysomethings will remember The Spice Girls posing with their pepsi bottles, then Britney Spears, Shakira and so forth in a long and regal line of Fizzy Pop Princesses until we reach Katy Perry and her “hyped by halftime” commercial.    
  2. I kind of both love and hate how I associate Coca Cola with the beginning of Christmas, despite it being critically speaking a summer appropriate beverage. I still shriek and turn the volume up when the long awaited Coca Cola Christmas advert twinkles its way on to my telly. People forget, but Coca Cola even invented what we refer to today as the ultimate pop culture phenomenon: Santa Claus. Before Coca Cola brought him into their advertising, he wore green and was much leaner around the gut. Coca Cola like to associate themselves with tradition and quality, ie. Christmas, therefore asserting themselves as the fizzy drinks brand.  
  3. The rise of energy drinks as a more bubbly alternative to coffee has been marketing dynamite. A realistic advertisement for energy drinks would show a student crying tears of pure red bull minutes before a essay deadline. However, Advertising Executives have latched on to the notion that this would be a tricky lifestyle ideal to sell. Instead, Energy Drinks companies have drawn upon the vitality and stage presence of pop stars in order to sell the ideal of bottled zest and exuberance. For example, pop star Rita Ora is currently the face of Zoom energy drinks, whose slogan is “consume zoom, for that boom”. Much more appealing.  
  4. I have to say that despite all the shameless product placement, and E4 after school overkill, there will always be a special place in my heart for the New York based sitcom Friends. However, the sheer volume of beer plugged through that show is pretty insane. So much so that some scenes actually do appear to be more like an advert for a particular brand of beer than a scene that is actively moving the plot along. For example, a trip to London results in outspoken praise for Boddington’s beer from Joey who passionately declares that: “I’d walk back to London for another frosty one of those bad boys”. As an experiment, dust off your old Friends VHSs, and count the number of scenes which include the central characters necking down a few cheeky Budweisers. Friends is perhaps the ultimate televisual lifestyle porn of the 90s and by associating brands with the fun and ultimately satisfying narrative, this rubs off positively on the narrative of the brand.
  5. I have to say that Dr Pepper is probably my favourite fizzy beverage however the 2014 advert that included Pitbull staring wistfully off into the sunset, speaking about the concept of dreams was memorable for all the wrong reasons and was heavily parodied. Here, Dr Pepper was borrowing from perfume advert territory. All vague whispery philosophy and mysticism. Not comfortable ground for the fizzy drinks industry, who really just need to keep things chilled.  
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Do girls still want to put a ring on it?

What does marriage mean to today’s young women?

http://www.wo-magazine.com/love/2015/4/27/do-young-women-still-want-to-put-a-ring-on-it

Do young women still want to put a ring on it?

Traditionally, a wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of a woman’s life. A little girl supposedly dreams of this day, which also incidentally wraps up neatly all her favourite fairy tales. In modern popular culture, the “Bridezilla” has become somewhat of a stereotype. The woman so crazed by the idea of creating a perfect day for herself, that she becomes a monster in lace, leaving her husband quivering behind the cake. However, isn’t this idea all, well, a bit dated? Do we seriously still live in such a sexist society that we believe that us women will get all worked up over a load of finicky canapés and napkins shaped as swans? The next Leader of the free world is going to be a woman for Christ’s sake.

Clearly some serious social research needed to be done. So I cracked open the last of my Easter eggs and settled in for a marathon of Don’t Tell the Bride. What I learned is that these brides were determinedly preoccupied with being the non-traditional bride. There was the gothic bride, the indie bride, the Ibiza bride and every type of bride that you can think of. Even the more traditional brides were keen to push their quirky attributes: they were “too picky”, “impossible to please” or “straight talking”. Rather than seeing the wedding as a transition, these brides saw the wedding ceremony as an extension of themselves. Any attempt by the groom to put his own personality into the wedding are met with violent tears of rage. The message of Don’t tell the Bride appears to be this. Women are emotional train wrecks whose tantrums can only be sated by the perfect kooky converted barn ceremony. Men however would be quite happy nipping down the registry office followed by a piss up at the local. The humour of the programme appears to lie in the role reversal with the man running round in a panic, picking hideous bridesmaid dresses and Argos wedding rings.

I felt curiously unfilled after my bridal binge. Surely such an important rite of passage added up to more than just a load of extortionate price tags. I spoke to Jennifer, a 20 year old student from Manchester about her generations attitudes towards marriage. Jennifer believes that not many girls of her age or social group place too much importance on marriage, although they do like the idea of a wedding day. When I asked her whether a wedding day was seen as more of an important rite of passage or a fun party, her answer was interesting. “Very much dependent on the couple. If they have gotten to the stage where they are actually getting married then it probably is. However, lots of people get engaged because they like the idea of it and then it fizzles out”.

Jennifer also adds that it tends to be working class girls who are more interested in getting married, suggesting that they are seeking a sense of stability that they never had at home. Middle class students and professionals such as herself, she explains, would rather concentrate on putting money down on a house. This makes sense. Middle class girls have plenty more opportunity for rites of passage, for example a graduation ceremony or the completion of a gap year. The class based issue is interesting. Working class women have long been parodied for their apparently garish, extravagant weddings beyond their means, as recently epitomised by the reality TV sensation that was My Big Fat Gypsey Wedding. Did not automatically jumping up and down with excitement at the thought of marriage therefore make me somewhat of an unconscious snob, sneering at the frivolity of the

working classes during a time of austerity? I certainly hoped not.

I kept thinking over Jennifer’s assertion that lots of couples get engaged because they like the idea of it without perhaps treating this as a serious commitment. I can’t help but think about the girls who clog up my news feed with triumphant pictures of spangled fingers and engagement announcements, coupled with a sly namedrop of some posh Restaurant where the question has been popped minutes before. From that moment on I can foresee months of statuses updating me on what appears to be a long and extravagant shopping process. Photographs of designer white shoes encrusted with Swarovski crystals, cakes with more storeys than a skyscraper, infinity pool shots from their upcoming Bahamas honeymoon . I began to feel uneasy. Are weddings, and engagements for that matter, now just a way to showcase your own lifestyle? I thought of the smug married couples of the Bridget Jones novels. Could we be now living in an age of smug engaged couples, or perhaps even smug wedding planning couples? Surely there is more to marriage that just a fun party where you spend all your money and show of to your mates?

Personally, my own feelings regarding weddings are a little bit complicated. As a little girl I loved running round in my bride dress up costume the way I loved dressing up as a fairy or a Disney Princess. All personas felt equally plausible. I had no context of what I was wearing apart from the fact that it was pretty and got me praised by various relatives, which I guess is in large part the whole point of a real wedding dress. I would like to point out at this point that I have tried and failed to find a dress up groom outfit for little boys to imagine their perfect day. Growing up, marriage seemed shrouded in mystery, far away and somehow very final. The real life equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after”. What lay beyond that, babies, mortgages seemed hopelessly unromantic. After all, Jane Austen didn’t write too much about Elizabeth berating Mr Darcy for loading up the dishwashers. The teasing courtship tied by a ceremony is the stuff of novels. Marriage is the stuff of Women’s Weekly. Now I am 24 and in a long term loving relationship. The questions have begun and still I find that I cannot quite answer them. I’m short and round and so a lovely long dress would only make me look like a Ping Pong Ball draped lavishly in silk. Public speaking sends me gibbering like an idiot. Moreover, as a Feminist and a Writer, I find myself nit-picking at certain parts of the ceremony as if it were a slightly archaic and not very original play.

The fact of the matter is that most people’s definition of forever has change. I for one have only been to two weddings, both which ended in divorce. However, I personally see the rising divorce rate as a positive thing. People are no longer stoically suffering the rest of their lives out with the wrong person and this not for a minute suggests that we are getting less romantic. I don’t think the rising divorce rate takes away from the meaningfulness of the day itself. I also would argue that the rising costs of a wedding ceremony doesn’t necessarily take away from the meaningful nature of the day. I am still not sure of my own feelings regarding marriage, or my thoughts regarding the traditional wedding ceremony, but clearly marriage now has many differing connotations which vary from person to person. However, if a couple are happy and in love then they will be so whether they are married or not.

Objectophilia: are we too quick to judge?

Is it really ethical to view a persons sexuality as freakshow fodder?

http://www.wo-magazine.com/love/2015/4/20/objectophilia-strange-love?rq=objecto

Objectum Sexuals: Are we too quick to judge?

It is vital to be open about how people define their sexuality. However, Objectum Sexuality, a physical and romantic attachment to inanimate objects, is for many people more than just a little difficult to relate to. Inanimate objects are often brought into the bedroom as a means of foreplay but in itself is not usually the source of lust and is made sexual only by the context of the two (or more) human beings in the bed. Many women, and increasingly men, use sex toys. What is unusual about Objectum Sexuality however is the belief held by a person that there is a reciprocal, often meaningful, relationship between them and their not too chatty lover, whether that be a roller coaster or the exhaust pipe of a Ford Fiesta.

Objectum Sexuality is more than just a kooky fetish. The feelings reported by Eija-Riitta-Mauer when her husband The Berlin Wall was knocked down (“mutilated” in her words) can only be described as grief stricken. Mauer could not even bear to go back to see the wrecked remains of her long term lover. She wrote later about her pain on her website: “with the emotional bonds, deep love, good memories together with him… The only way to survive is to block this terrible event”. Objectum Sexuals attribute gender and personality traits to their beloveds, they suffer through shitty break ups and feel keenly the pain of a disintegrating relationship. Clearly this goes beyond the basic pursuit of deriving physical pleasure. These people are making an emotional and complex commitment that forms a significant part of their identity. In other words, this is not a fetish but a fully fledged sexual orientation. Is it therefore accurate, or indeed fair, that we subject them to the same sort of light hearted media coverage that we do the man who enjoys having his face farted on?

Sociologist Amy Marsh laments what she views as “a glut of media coverage but a dearth of intelligent inquiry” used by Journalists when exploring the world of Objectum Sexuals which replaces scientific data with sensationalism (apologies in advance Amy…). Documentaries such as Strangelove: Married to the Eiffel Tower have became infamous pub chat fodder, to be endlessly shown in the fuzzier hours of Channel 5. The image of a knickerless Erica Eiffel proudly straddling her wife, the Eiffel Tower, whilst bewildered tourists look on will be forever etched into the public collective memory, and mine for that matter. Weddings where human beings profess their undying devotion to a household objects such as a pillow have become typical tabloid splash, usually accompanied by an unflattering photo of the person in question beaming besides their 100% Egyptian cotton bride. Are such portrayals giving an accurate balanced insight or are they more like Objectum Sexual versions of Keeping Up With The Kardashians? Marsh argues that this sort of media coverage is exploitative and is detrimental to genuine public education about Objectum Sexuality. She believes that this has ultimately led to the cyber bullying and further rejection of the Objectum Sexual community.

Some Psychologists have been a little too quick to link these “sufferers” to a childhood

trauma, a loner disposition or a place on the autistic spectrum. However, Marsh is strongly opposed to this frankly lazy form of diagnosis often spouted by Rent-a-TV Experts. There is not nearly enough data or evidence to support their opinions, which are misleadingly presented as facts. There is also a distinct lack of contact with the Objectum Sexual community when conducting this so-called research. Sexologist Volkmar Sigusch is satisfied that the Objectophile condition proves his idea that modern humans are drifting into a state of asexuality in an age of advanced technology. It is certainly an interesting, albeit slightly depressing, hypothesis and if it is correct then we should expect a rise in the amount of Objectum Sexual’s “coming out” in the future. However, this idea is based on the shaky assumption that Objectum Sexuality is a new phenomenon which is pretty unlikely. Look at Pygmalion, for example, the character from Greek mythology who fell head over heels for the stone cold flesh of his statue lover.

Ultimately, if a person is happy with their sexuality, if it plays a positive and enriching role in their life and if they are not harming anybody then who are we to judge? Leo Tolstoy once wrote that “there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts”. Perhaps it is easy to forget this is a world where we are quick to categorise relationships, and everyone else who does not fit within our ideal of one. Sigusch certainly doesn’t see Objectum Sexuality as a social problem stating that: “The Objectophiles aren’t hurting anyone. They’re not abusing or traumatising anyone. Who else can you say that about?”. A slightly pessimistic perspective from the Sexologist perhaps, but maybe he has a point. Perhaps we can learn a little something from Objectum Sexuals.

It is admittedly quite difficult to imagine, for example, what an Objectum Sexual nightclub might look like (Although you’d probably have to nail the bar stools firmly to the floor). Maybe however there could one day be an Objectum Sexual tinder where the user swipes through page after page of scantily clad bridges? Whatever is next for them as a community, perhaps we as a society should be more supportive and understanding of Objectum Sexuals, without trying to cure or categorise them.

Is Vladimir Putin the ultimate egocentric individual?

Five reasons as to why Vladimir Putin is the ultimate egocentric individual

http://www.wo-magazine.com/rants/2015/5/27/reasons-why-vladimir-putin-is-the-ultimate-egocentric-individual

4 Reasons why Vladimir Putin is the ultimate Egocentric individual

Russia is a beautiful country with a rich and varied history, a sophisticated and distinctive culture and a canon of literature that puts English writers to shame. My partner is Russian and so I have gained somewhat of a sentimental affection over the years for borsch, russian driving videos and stern yet elaborate religious iconography. There are too many complex social issues to explore within the constraints of one article. It is a place of high standards of education but low career prospects, a diverse mix of local ethnicities but deep racial tensions. It is a place that boasts gilded wedding cake churches alongside homes where whole families share one drafty bedroom. Russia has one of the highest murder rates in the world yet the issue of the spreading of “gay propaganda” is apparently seen to be the largest social threat.      

Russia has been tossed about by some pretty rough tides. By the Tsar Nicholas regime, by communism, by the fall of the Soviet Union. Russian citizens are used to being told what to believe and how and then have relearn it all over again with new rules. It is a country that is ultimately vulnerable to authoritarian rule. Enter Vladimir Putin:  meglomaniac extraordinaire. There are more reasons that there are characters allowed in this particular article, but these five reasons are enough to show how President Vladimir Putin is the ultimate Egocentric individual.

  1. He has used his position to gain power for a ridiculous amount of time. Queen Elizabeth II must be shaking under her crown at the new “royal” in town out to steal her title of longest serving Monarch. Really, please just refresh your memory as to how long he has actually been about. Putin first officially became President in 2000 after the unexpected resignation of Boris Yeltsin. Even when this guy hasn’t been technically the President in terms of title pulling the strings like the sinister Disney villain that he most definitely is. Putin is now serving his third term as Russian President. His last presidential election win in 2012 was met with much criticism due to strong evidence of ballot box stuffing and general electoral wankery.       
  2. He exploits the strong religious beliefs of Russian citizens in order to be seen as an almost holy, irreplaceable figure. Under the communist regime, Russians weren’t allowed to practise the Russian Orthodox religion. Many churches and holy relics were destroyed and Orthodox Priests murdered. This history is something that is still very painful to many of those in the Russian Orthodox faith and their ability to practise this faith is widely viewed as an act of freedom in the post soviet society. It is through this medium that Putin makes the personal political.     
  3. He is continually being photographed or reported doing ridiculously manly things, like a weird homophobic Action Man doll but without the ear to ear grin. Whether it’s fighting a tiger or discovering deep sea treasure, Action Putin seems super keen to style himself as somewhat of a meme. This has even given him somewhat of a sex symbol status amongst Russian ladies. Read any Russian womens magazine and you will start to get a feel for the sheer bizarreness of it all. A couple of years ago, I went to see the James Bond film Skyfall with a Russian girl acquaintance who told me, with a completely straight face, that Daniel Craig reminded her very much of President Putin. I very nearly choked on my popcorn.
  4. He had the outright audacity to make his former Gymnastics Star girlfriend Alina Kabayeva, a huge, overblown part of the Sochi Winter Olympics, as a Flag Bearer in the opening ceremony no less. She is a talented Gymnast sure but please bear in mind that she was placed between the first Russian woman in space and an iconic Russian Film Director. As a fairly minor Sporting Celeb, there is no way that she can be placed in even the same context as these guys. But yep, just like everything else Putin can’t resist making an occasion that should be a cause for national pride and celebration all about himself.           

In the arms of dolls: a retreat from reality?

Mannequin sex fetishes

http://www.wo-magazine.com/womens-sex/2015/5/27/mannequin-sexual-fetishes-are-people-looking-for-power

Mannequin sexual fetishes (Are people looking for power?)

I’ve always been a little creeped out by mannequins and big life sized dolls. I hate the way that their formless faces watch you as you pass by the shop window. I hate the way that when you see one stripped, its shiny nippleless breasts and taut plastic flesh make you think of still, waitful aliens. I once did a bit of work experience at a department store and the sight of mannequin parts in the back warehouse, out of the shiny context of the display window gave me the heebie jeebies. In the gloom, spare and shapely mannequin legs pointed stiffly out of boxes or were propped clumsily in a corner. Without the expert hands of a visual merchandiser twisting them into a pose, the mannequins all looked a little of key; arms and head at all odd angles as if by some convulsion of rigor mortis.

So perhaps I am not one hundred per cent the right person to write an unbiased article about whether Agalmatophilia; the sexual attraction towards dolls and mannequins, is about gaining a sense of power. I am a little prejudice before I even began my research, which is never a good trait in a Journalist. My favourite horror film of all time is The Stepford Wives (the original of course and not the ghastly Nicole Kidman travesty). I think that the reason that this film continues to terrify and fascinate me is the idea that you can be duplicated in a more visually perfect form, but with your original self destroyed and forgotten about. I’m frightened that somebody could record your voice but make it sweeter; could shape your body and face but erase all your cellulite and your underarm stubble. The Stepford men were all so dreary, with their cliquey little men’s club, so inadequate. It was made clear that their desire for literal doll wives was an extension of that inadequacy, that desire to control.

The weirdness of mannequins was explored humorously in the 90s American sitcom Seinfeld, where a creepy Mannequin Designer who takes a shine to Elaine who creates a mannequin eerily based on her appearance. I now often look at mannequins posing coquettishly in Topshop or River Island and wonder whether whoever drew out their curves and their staring oval faces had a human being in mind before cutting a thigh gap here, a vacant glassy eye there. The visual appearance of many dolls and mannequins is fairly misogynist; the way in which they are meant to represent the perfect qualities of a woman without having the animation of her laugh, the brightness of her intelligence. As if such things are merely secondary attributes.

Sex dolls are easier to understand. They are essentially a hole with lady lumps here and there to add stimulation. They aren’t viewed as a substitute for a real partner. In fact it’s rare to see a stag night where someone isn’t carting around an inflatable doll and whooping excitedly. One could view sex dolls as a more detailed upgrade of a fleshlight. What is more difficult to understand is the men who make a significant emotional connection to mannequins, viewing them as their girlfriends.

I decided to rewatch the documentary Guys and Dolls. This is a documentary about Real Dolls; bizarrely realistic, life sized dolls complete with realistic, usable vaginal openings.  When I first watched this documentary, years ago, it made me furious. I interpreted it as the men shown in the documentary were making the conscious choice to pick doll lovers over real human women out of convenience. I felt that  they deliberately wanted lovers that they could control, could have intercourse with them whenever they chose. I felt that they wanted somebody who wouldn’t answer back. I was particularly annoyed by Virginia based Gordon’s remarks about dressing his dolls modestly so they didn’t look like they had been had by hundreds of men, comparing this to being served second hand meat in a restaraunt. I was angered by their remarks about “organic women” being untrustworthy.  However, upon rewatching, my interpretation was somewhat different. Yes, these men wanted power but it seemed not so much over their sex dolls but over their own life. They were for the most part seemingly incredibly lonely.

A consistent theme appeared to be a desire for consistency in their lives. One Real Doll owner, a young man who called himself Davecat, described his doll Shishan as his “anchor”. It was clear that many of these men had difficulties communicating and establishing human relationships; their Real Doll’s were the one constant in their lives. There appeared to be an general awareness amongst these men that these dolls were not necessarily replacing human female companionship; it was more the case that they viewed these dolls as a way of warding away their loneliness. There was the sense that living with dolls was better than being alone.

The fear of loneliness was a common theme amongst these men. One man fretted about being alone when his doll was sent away for repairs. Another man asked the camera, with a sense of bewilderment: “where would I be without my dolls?”. It was clearly a reality that he could not bear to confront. I was reminded of the lonely kid in the playground who invents an imaginary friend in order to psychologically suppress that innate human fear of being alone, of being an outsider. The imaginative leaps that we human beings take to paint over the inadequacies in our lives in really quite remarkable.

I am very lucky. Despite being shy and slightly introverted, I have never felt truly lonely. I have always had the support network of family and friends. This is something that so many of us take for granted. Only sometimes do I glimpse what genuine loneliness and alienation must feel like. The feeling when you are at a party where you don’t know too many people and feel completely, embarrassingly out of things. The feeling when you wake up suddenly at 3am and feel for one panicky moment as if you are the only person in the whole world who is awake. I regret my immediate inclinations that doll and mannequin fetishes are always about the desire to gain power over a sexual partner. Before we make that assumption it is important to question how we live in a society that is so intricately interconnected yet still we have people who feel as if they are always on the outside looking in. How is it that you can now speak to long lost acquaintances at the click of a button, yet we still have people who are clinging to silicon and plastic at night for a sense of intimacy and connection?

        
       

Why do athletes take performance enhancing drugs?

Is this a way of regaining or losing control over their bodies?

http://www.wo-magazine.com/sports/2015/5/27/athletes-and-performance-enhancing-drugs-loss-of-control

Athletes and performance enhancing drugs – Do they want to lose or regain their control?

Since around the 1960s, Professional Athletes taking performance enhancing drugs has been a huge problem when ensuring fairness within the sporting world. In the run up to the 2012 London Olympic games, a staggering 21 Athletes from various sporting disciplines were suspended due to failed drug tests. These drugs can take many forms and have many different purposes, dependent on the nature and performance indicators of the sport. Some are stimulants, such as amphetamines which are designed to increase the Athlete’s energy levels beyond their natural capacity, meaning that they can run for longer periods of time. Others are steroids, such as Tetrahydrogestrinone, which are designed to increase strength and build muscle mass rapidly. Such practices are known as drug doping and are taken extremely seriously. Perhaps the most famous case in recent history of an athlete doping was the case of former World Cyclist Champion Lance Armstrong who in 2012 was stripped of his prestigious titles after being found to be taking, and distributing, performance enhancing drugs.

Before this scandal, Armstrong had been a role model and a hero for many people across the world; both for his sporting accolades and for his charitable work for those suffering from testicular cancer. He had seven Tour De France Titles to his name, a bronze Olympic medal and was a well respected and liked public figure. It is therefore incredibly difficult to understand why he would choose to irreparably tarnish his reputation in such a manner for the sake of performance enhancing drugs.

I’m possibly the least sporty, least athletically competitive person that I know. The level of commitment and drive that it takes Professional Athletes to get up whilst it’s still dark and train with such unrelenting drive and determination is something that is physically and mentally beyond my personal understanding. Sometimes I nearly collapse with exertion when running too hard for the bus. To train to keep fit and to look socially acceptable in a bikini is one thing, but to shape your body to superhuman globally competitive standards, that is something that takes a very rare and special mindset.

I think that one of the reasons why I myself am so hopelessly unathletic is that I have no sense of self control. I will happily snooze my alarm for that extra ten minutes in bed rather than go for a morning run. I would much rather curl up with a box set and a huge mug of sugary tea than attend a spinning class. Being a Professional Athlete is all about self control. Unlike other jobs where you can switch off after a shift, an athletic career influences and dictates your every decision. Eccentric Olympic Gold Medalist Usain Bolt may confess a liking for the odd cheeky big mac, but for most athletes their diet is planned and regulated right down to the chemical atom. Their sleeping patterns, social lives and water intake are strict and regimented, often planned to the minute by a team of experts. They are never “off the clock” so to speak. I often imagine how strange it must be to have such an enviable amount of power over your own body but at the same time, so little control.

Alongside this intensive lifestyle, there is the continuous pressure. The pressure to be a role model for thousands of children and young people. The pressure to represent and be an ambassador for your country. The pressure to be the absolute best, to win, and the added pressure to be a brave loser with diplomatic levels of tact and discipline, even if your heart is breaking. This is bearing in mind that many athletes are painfully young; some are even teenagers. This is also bearing in mind that professional levels of training can be an emotional and very personal process. Defeat or the possibility of defeat can be seen as a devastating prospect.

It is perhaps not surprising therefore that some Athletes turn to drugs to improve their performance. This is despite the fact that to do so can lead to a very public and prolific scandal which will irreparably damage the legacy that they are seeking to build. Perhaps for some, chemically enhancing their performance is a way of gaining some measure of control over their bodies which has essentially become public property. At the same time, perhaps it is a way of shifting their responsibility, and therefore is a means of losing control. According to Sports Psychologist Joel H Fish, attitudes in the sporting world have changed somewhat in recent decades with winning being more important than ever rather than the manner in which you play the game.

According to Fish: “Vince Lombardi’s ‘winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’ has become the dominant philosophy that is shaping the attitudes of athletes of all ages and skill levels”. Fish explains that the prevalence of doping within the modern sporting world has meant that some athletes now believe that they have to take performance enhancing drugs in order to keep up, with the fear that if they don’t then other athletes who are using doping will gain an edge over them. Therefore, some athletes are willing to risk long term dire consequences for the sake of short term gains that might help them rise more quickly to the top of their game.

I don’t for a minute condone Professional Athletes who use doping as a means of getting ahead. I wholeheartedly believe that sport should be about fairness and the celebration of natural talent and hard work. However, perhaps we need to gain a deeper understanding as to why Athletes make the decision to take performance enhancing drugs rather than the fairly reductionist reason “to win”. Perhaps we all need to take a minute to think about the pressures that modern Professional Athletes are under before we judge them too harshly.
     

The rise of feminist pornography

Take a look at the ladies revitalising the porn industry to make it more inclusive and empowering for women

http://www.wo-magazine.com/womens-sex/2015/5/18/can-porn-ever-be-considered-feminist

Can porn ever be considered feminist?

Some feminists believe that porn is degrading to women for a multitude of reasons. This is often because they view pornography as being primarily created for the male gaze with little thought for the pleasure of women. For example, the clitoris does not always factor as being particularly important in mainstream pornography. Moreover, some anti porn activists argue that The nature of pornography as a multi million dollar industry also makes some people uncomfortable as they may believe that this automatically commodifies sex and the female body.

The image of the bleach blonde Pornstar with beachball breasts is still what comes to mind for many people when they imagine what a pornstar actress looks like. This is an automatically jarring image for many women, who may believe that pornography undermines natural body standards and portrays unrealistic sexual intercourse. Feminist Journalist Caitlin Moran humorously lamented in her memoir How to be a Woman the lack of pornography that depicted emotion or genuine lust. This sense of falseness appears to be an issue for many women. According to a study conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine, 4 out of 5 women believe that female porn stars fake their orgasms. It is therefore no wonder that many women feel somewhat separated from porn, and believe that its is something that isn’t for them.

Moreover, many Feminists argue that pornography has wide spreading consequences for maintaining a misogynist and unequal society. Prominent anti pornography Campaigner Gail Dines argue that pornography is negatively shaping the sexualities of young boys and men. Dines argues that young men are becoming desensitised to sexual content due to the prevalent nature of modern pornography in the digital age. She argues that this is leading them to seek out more extreme content to satisfy their desires. Dines believes that this can lead to them ultimately carrying out acts of violence against women.

I must say that I do not completely agree with these arguments. Pornography is increasingly being made with the female gaze in mind, with more women than ever before viewing pornography on a regular basis. 55% of British women watch porn at least once a week. Award winning female porn Directors such as Erika Lust are helping to shape a new landscape of pornography that more accurately reflects female desires and fantasies. Moreover, increasingly both male and female pornographers are creating films that pay close attention to the clitoral orgasm. As for the supposed submissiveness of female sexuality. Well, anyone who wants to argue this point should look at the large number of men searching for dominatrixes and pegging videos. It is clear that there are many men out there who enjoy the thought of women playing an active and assertive role within the bedroom.

Pornography is indeed big business for some larger companies, but this does not necessarily take away from the creativity and talent of those in the porn industry. As Brooke Kinsella argues in her book The Sex Myth, the food industry is also big business but this does not take away from our pure enjoyment of a good meal. Moreover, the argument for pornography as a big, unethical business is fairly flawed. Most of the major internet porn sites enforce extremely rigid ethical working standards, employing rigorous health and safety measures. It is also one of the very few industries where female employees get paid more than their male colleagues. The big industry argument also ignores the growing prevalence and popularity of amateur porn websites, which star actors who appear to be creating their films for the pure love of it.

The pornstar bimbo image is fairly outdated. Feminists who rely on these stereotypes need to log on and do some research (they might just like it). There are many intelligent women with various body shapes and individual styles working within the porn industry. Unlike the fashion industry, pornography is remarkably inclusive of diverse women. There is a niche for plus sized girls, hairier girls and tattooed girls, just to name a few. It is cheering that men aren’t just interested in super toned 21 year old girls. There appears to be a huge appetite out there for older women, the most notorious of which is Nina Hartley, who appears to grow in popularity as she matures. Therefore it could be argued that pornography is the perfect environment for young men to learn about the diversity of female beauty. After all, would we really want teenage boys to see lingerie adverts as the basis of what a woman’s body looks like? Many women make the active decision to pursue a career in pornography which they view to be an enjoyable profession. Many porn films begin or end with a discussion or interview with the starring actress, which automatically humanises her. I’ve yet to see a hollywood blockbuster which begins with the leading actress discussing her opinions on the filming process.

The unrealistic nature of some pornography is not automatically testament to its degrading of female sexuality. It is at the end of the day, like many other mediums, a form of entertainment. The problem is that because it is a medium that deals with the most intimate part of our lives, people often hold it to higher standards of questioning. I have watched The Only Way is Essex multiple times. I must say that is the most unrealistic reality TV Show that I have ever seen and it is bizarrely and tediously scripted in a way that is only vaguely reminiscent of the interactions between friends. However, I don’t lie awake worrying that by watching The Only Way is Essex, people will begin to talk to each other in wooden stilted tones. Furthermore, the unrealistic argument also misses the point that pornography is often pure fantasy and escapism and therefore does not seek to represent realistic sex any more than The Lord of the Rings seeks to represent a realistic cross country walking trip. Just about every scenario, fantasy and situation perceivable out there which is fairly cheering. Clearly the human sexual imagination is incredibly creative and versatile, which should be celebrated. In a marvelous 2013 debate against Germaine Greer, British female porn Director Anna Arrowsmith compared the complaint that porn is unrealistic to complaining that comedy films give an unrealistic portrayal of the world by showing it to be far funnier than it actually is.

The argument that watching pornography can make a man violent is frankly as unconvincing to me as the argument that listening to Marilyn Manson can lead to a teenager shooting their classmates. This is a fairly lazy argument, backed up by very little evidence, which ignores a multitude of psychological and sociological factors that contribute towards violence. The assumption that pornography makes men violent is at best misguided and at worst highly offensive. It is incredibly offensive towards ordinary, respectful men, who also happen to like watching a bit of blue, who are basically being told that they are not in control of their own decisions or emotions which are instead at the command of the porn industry. The pornography industry as violent misogyny machine argument also assumes that most pornography is of a violent, aggressive nature, which is simply not the case. This type of moral panic is as old as time and should be taken with a large pinch of salt. In the 1980s, Mary Whitehouse fussed and fretted about the social impact of sex scenes and swear words on the telly but the world has yet to implode under a tidal wave of knickers and cock gags.

It is important to support ethical porn companies that promote the best interests of both men and women. According to Fair Trade Feminist Pornography Director Pandora Blake, you should treat how you consume your pornography much the way you consume your food and buy your clothing. For example, it is very important to buy free range eggs and to wear clothing that hasn’t been sewn in a sweatshop. Of course there will be porn companies out there that exploit women, just as there will be porn companies out there that depict violent or unethical content. However, this is not representative of the industry as a whole and the best thing we can do is to educate ourselves on issues within the industry and open up healthy, constructive discussion. I personally would argue that pornography is an excellent way for a woman to explore her sexuality and find out what it is that she likes. To have knowledge and understanding of her sexuality is incredibly empowering for a woman and can lead to a healthy and balanced relationship with her partner. Therefore, I would conclude that to watch pornography is indeed a feminist act.     

Should a woman travel alone?

Is travelling solo a liberating experience for a girl? Or is it just too dangerous?

http://www.wo-magazine.com/travel/2015/5/12/should-a-woman-travel-alone

Should a woman travel alone?
Travelling alone can be an incredibly liberating and fulfilling experience for a woman. It can enhance your confidence and allow you to trust in your own decisions which can have long term positive connotations for your personal and professional development. Plus, you don’t have to compromise. When travelling with a group of friends or a partner, you are hemmed in by what everybody else wants to do which can be restrictive. However, when travelling alone you can make sure to personalise your trip in ways that can make it extra meaningful. In her travelling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert described her year of solo adventures as being an exercise in “spiritual and personal exploration”. The subsequent film of Gilbert’s book depicted this time as a period of positive growth and change through the immersement in various cultures and traditions.

Im sure that I’m not the only girl to be enthralled by tales of fearless female travellers. I have personally always loved the travelling story of one of my favourite kick ass Journalists, and inspiration for Lois Lane, Nellie Bly. In 1888, Bly broke records by travelling around the world in 72 days in emulation of Phileas Fogg from Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days which she wrote about, grippingly, for the New York World. More recently, I have been inspired by the nail biting adventures of fearless teenager Laura Dekker who in 2012 became the youngest person, male or female, to sail around the world. Dekker later spoke about public reaction in a statement, explaining: “They thought it was dangerous. Well, everywhere is dangerous”. After all, she does have a point and I must say that I rather admire her defiant resistance to how a young teenage girl is supposed to behave.

I have always loathed the JM Barrie sentiment that it is the children and the men who go about doing the adventuring whilst the women stay at home fretting and looking longingly out of the window. We women have been chaperoned and cloistered for far too long and travelling alone is the ultimate expression of female freedom. However, there is no denying that some countries are riskier for women to travel to, for a number of reasons and information should be readily available for women before they travel to such places. Of course, a man travelling alone also faces dangers. However, women have to be aware of additional issues such as their enhanced risk of sexual abuse. I am personally a little uncomfortable with the notion that a woman can somehow actively seek to avoid rape. This implies that women who have already suffered from sexual attacks have somehow not done enough to avoid it. Being told to avoid alcohol or to dress modestly in order to keep unwanted attention at bay is patronizing, offensive and deeply misguided.

I don’t at all like the manner in which scaremongering publications such as The Daily Mail reports tragedies from riskier parts of the world. It’s always done with a sort of a sort of I-told-you-so smugness. As if we would be much better dutifully sat at home cutting out coupons for our package holidays in the South of France. The Daily Mail loves to publish such cheery lists as “Most dangerous Places to travel in the World for Women” and such. Of course these are usually female orientated lists with the implication that if a woman goes anywhere without a Chaperone then whatever terrible fate awaits her is only to be expected. Of course there are dangers in the world but I find The Daily Mail’s apocalyptic attitude morbid at best and culturally divisive at worst. There is that uncomfortably colonialist attitude towards it all: the idea that western men are a gentlemanly sort whereas those in less developed countries are savage and not to be trusted. This is obviously a flawed argument when you examine the high prevalence of campus rapes within British and American universities.

We need to begin to understand and appreciate the wider issues behind lists that detail dangerous places for women to travel to. Such places don’t just exist as a colourful, edgy detour on your gap year. They do not exist as an exterior place in which to find yourself, separate from “real life” and the career pressures of western society. It is a positive thing that British women can read up on places before they decide to go. It is a positive thing that many British women have the means to freely choose where they go in the world. It could even a positive thing, dependent on your views, that a woman such as Elizabeth Gilbert can go merrily around the world picking out all the good bits like at an all you can eat buffet. Bravery, a sense of adventure and a desire to experience new cultures should be celebrated. However, for so many women who are actually living in such countries, this is not just a well informed few weeks risk but an ongoing, unavoidable fact of everyday life.

For such women there is no flying away somewhere safer when things start to get scary. Factors such as a deeply ingrained misogynist culture, poor or corrupt policing and lack of education can all be implicit within the high rape statistics of a country. In some countries, rape and sexual assault is not taken seriously and sometimes isn’t even treated as a crime. Often, there isn’t the correct medical and counselling support that is vital to a woman’s recovery. Furthermore, stigma surrounding women who have been sexually assaulted means that these women do not always get the emotional support needed from friends and family. We shouldn’t just accept that there are some places in the world that are considered to be too dangerous for women. Rather than categorise places into “safe” or “dangerous” places to go for British women, we need to look at the dangers faced by women in such countries on a daily basis and see what we can do to support them in bringing about lasting, tangible change.  Only then can women truly move freely about the world in the same way as men.

Polyamorous relationships: are they ideal?

Our society bases notions of love and relationships around a two person model: but is there other ways?

http://www.wo-magazine.com/love/2015/5/12/polyamorous-relationships-are-they-ideal

Polyamorous Relationships: Are they really ideal?

I am always a little bit intrigued when I hear about those who are engaged in polyamorous relationships, which are defined as relationships that involve more than two people. There is something so very well, free and breezy, about it all. Not to mention that they have found a pretty watertight way to have their cake and eat it too. At first glance, it appears that they are essentially taking all the good parts about promiscuity, with all its freedom and diversity, and mixing that, apparently seamlessly, with all that is special and loving about long term committed relationships. Indeed, polyamorous folk profess to having the same intense and satisfying romantic relationships experienced by monogamous individuals. The difference being that they are having many of those relationships at once, rather than just one. When examined simply, it looks like a rather pleasant, more innocent way of life.

Polyamory is getting more attention recently. The issue of equality for polyamorous marriages is becoming a much more pressing issue. The Green Party have even recently voiced their support for the prospect of legalizing three person marriages in the United Kingdom.   The term “polyamorous” was first coined by Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart in her 1990 article “A Bouquet of Lovers” (I really, really don’t think she gave the combination of her first two names much thought…). Zell Ravenheart was a Neopagan Community Leader and Priestess of The Church of all Worlds. She was also a participant within a five person marriage and a vocal supporter of open relationships. Despite her rather wacky list of titles, her article reads rather sensibly with great sensitivity towards the feelings of those involved within a polyamorous relationship. Zell Ravenheart argued that “the goal of a responsible Open Relationship is to cultivate ongoing, long-term, complex relationships that are rooted in deep mutual friendships”.

Bizarrely, I had a mini feminist awakening as a child after watching the 1960s Western musical “Paint your Wagon”. In this, an outspoken, fiery woman called Elizabeth catches the eye of two men. However, instead of dragging the situation into overly dramatic Hollyoaks territory, Elizabeth actually has a pretty sensible suggestion. She demands of her two lovers, and of course the audience: “If a mormon man can have two wives, then why can’t I have two husbands?” This sentence has always stuck with me, although I can’t really remember all the mormon bits. I didn’t even know what a mormon was at the time of course. The arrangement actually works out quite harmoniously until outside forces start poking their beaks in.

I’d known beforehand about someone having multiple spouses, of course I had. Id seen the worryingly orientalist The King and I enough times to know all the words to “Shall we Dance”. However, in The King and I, all the King’s wives are pretty much interchangeable, apart from the one who openly reviled him, and there didn’t seem to be any balance or mutual interest as such. This was more of an example of patriarchal polygamy that genuine polyamory. After watching Paint a Wagon, I was inspired. Surely Elizabeth’s clever solution would solve all the problems of heartbreak and misery in the world and would cut all soap opera storylines short. Moreover, maybe you didn’t have to choose between smart or hot, funny or nice. Maybe you could pick one of each. Of course, this was all way before the weeping tangle of hormones hit me full in the face at about thirteen along with a sprouting of forehead pimples. Like bras, grown men and husbands were to me back then something I understood to be a peculiar but ultimately necessary concept. Good for catching spiders and mowing the lawn.

To an uninvested outsider, say a child for instance, the polyamorous life makes much more sense than a monogamous one. After all, we do not just pick and choose one friend. A person who only has one close friend is often accused of not having a wide enough range of experience, friend wise. It could be argued that we all carry within us the blueprint for a polyamorous way of life. Many of us hold in our hearts the echoes of unrequited loves and half ended, unforgotten relationships. Maybe the polyamorous way of life is a natural expression of what happens when you explore your own feelings more thoroughly rather than choose and stick to one path. It is even questionable as to what extent human beings are meant to be monogamous in the first place. Many Scientists believe that monogamy is a social rather than a natural state. In fact, some Scientists even believe that monogamy is an evolutionary device meant to step men from slaughtering rival babies. Not exactly the stuff of great love letters. Could it be considered unnatural that we place the burden on one person to fulfill all our needs?

As an adult, it is more difficult to imagine that such a situation would be idyllic. Im sure that I can’t be the only one to find it difficult to imagine what it would be like to love and be loved by a number of individuals, without feeling the Gone with the Wind levels of guilt and anxiety that this sort of scenario would usually entail. Surely jealousies and resentments must simmer over time. Surely it is impossible to truly love all of your lovers the same amount at the same time? Also, the sheer panic at Valentine’s Day must be pretty stressful. Just trying to find one meaningful present for one person that isn’t fluffy, garage bought or a lurid shade of pink is enough of a trial as it is.

However, just like as with monogamous relationships, polyamorous relationships are kept in check by various rules and regulations and honesty and trust is still an integral component. For example, Zell Ravenheart argued that you should never take on a new lover who your existing lovers do not get on with as this will cause tension. Moreover, there isn’t always the supposed pressure to love all your lovers the same. In fact, many practitioners of polyamory have what they refer to as “primary” and “secondary” lovers. So in theory, you could be practising many different forms of relationships at once; from the fiery first few months of passion to the closer bonds of a long term relationship. Furthermore, one could argue that the polyamorous way of life may even help to reduce stresses in terms of time and resources, meaning that this could be a more ideal model for parenthood.

The main reason that we find polyamorous relationships so difficult to understand is that notions of exclusivity are so completely tied in with our concepts of love and romance. Pop songs focus around the complementary idea of being “the only one” or “one in a million”. A couple of years ago, Rihanna warbled in ecstasy through the sound speakers of every club in the United KIngdom about being made to feel like the only girl in the world. And we all sang along, from Newcastle to Southampton: completely, completely getting that universal longing to be set apart, singled out. Much of the value of love seemingly relies upon on the notion that it is given as a very precious rarity. I would be very interested in listening to some polyamorous pop music if anyone could recommend any. I would very much like to know what different adjectives and similes are used to convey passionate emotion for their various lovers, without any tension or guilt.

Furthermore, the structure of a relationship is for me always based on the symmetry and balance between two loving people. People often describe themselves and their partner as fitting together perfectly, like jigsaw pieces. Its common for them use phrases such as “two peas in a pod” and buy each other cards where two Flamingoes join beaks to make a heart shape. Rom Coms rely upon the rather slushy notion that there are men and women in the world, or at least in 1990s New York, who are made for each other and who will eventually get together despite the odds being stacked comically against them. I must admit that I am a complete sucker, hook, line and sinker, for this kind of film. There is something so satisfying about the science like predictability of the ending: similar to the feeling of a perfectly fitting shoe or piecing two lego bricks together. Furthermore, we as human beings seemingly never tire of animal stories where two animals appear to be showing exclusive human like love towards each other. So many people have excitedly told me over the years about how penguins mate exclusively for life, as if this is somehow indicative of their overall “niceness”. What is less fondly spoken about is the fact that some seals like to practice sex by humping penguins. I guess that this phenomenon just doesn’t have the same neatness to it.

I am not sure that a polyamorous relationship would suit everyone. Speaking personally, there is nothing quite so wonderful as finding that one other person who truly gets you. So often in life, you are one of many. A face in the crowd, a head and shoulders above a desk, two buttocks on a bus seat. I for one am still head over heels in love with the notion of the monogamous relationship, social construct or not. However, I can completely appreciate polyamory an alternative and perfectly happy way of life. Any relationship that is honest, loving and brings joy to all participants can after all only be a positive thing. Maybe asking if a polyamorous relationship is ideal is the wrong question. Perhaps we should stop examining whether such a union would be ideal; after all, can any relationship ever be completely ideal? If three people or more love each other then it is only right and humane that they should be granted the same rights to express that love in an understanding and equal society, just like everybody else.     

Twitter bullying: fame doesn’t make you immune

Celebrity status doesn’t always protect you from internet nastiness

http://www.wo-magazine.com/science-technology/2015/5/19/twitter-bullying-fame-doesnt-make-you-immune

Twitter Bullying: Fame doesn’t make you immune

Bullies of any type are awful. Moreover, the public nature of cyber bullying adds a new painful dimension to the humiliation. The cruel comments last in a physical sense online, almost as if they have been set in stone. And it does seem that celebrities are not immune to the modern phenomenon that is the internet troll. This week, children’s author JK Rowling was the latest celebrity to be picked on by twitter bullies, in a pretty nasty misogynist attack. She responded in an admirably witty and eloquent way but it was a little strange and disorientating to see such a high profile woman being attacked in such a manner. It was, well, humanising.   

Twitter is bloody marvelous as an instant, and incredibly revealing, means of communication. A decade ago, we would have been amazed at the regularity with which we can track the personal, and often startlingly ordinary, thoughts of the super famous which before could only be deciphered through reading between the lines of carefully structured interviews in Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. In the pre twitter age, we knew about their new age philosophy, their punishing yoga routine and their diet of green tea and lentils, all accompanied by photographs airbrushed to a ghostly sheen, computer perfected eyes shimmering like pools of silk staring out of the glossed pages. Now things are very different. We know what type of sandwich they had for lunch. We know about their two year old keeping them up all night. We catch glimpses of their hangovers, their heartbreaks, their racist outbursts. A misplaced, shocking or inappropriate tweet can make headlines. Well placed, witty and relevant tweets can create a personal brand.

Not only has Twitter changed the way in which we view celebrities, it has also altered the manner in which we interact with them, perhaps revealing a little something about us normals in the process. Could it be that we see celebrities as fair game? People often have less sympathy for celebrities, and are more able to separate their feelings from that of everyday human beings. As well as this, there is a common belief that criticism and victimisation comes with the territory, that it is a very slight price tag for an unfathomably glittering and enviable lifestyle. Of course, it is only right and democratic that we criticise the rich and powerful. I for one wouldn’t want to live in society of sycophants and superfans who hang on to the every word of their revered celebrity heroes. Moreover, I must admit, I enjoy a good eye roll at Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest clangers as much as the next person. British satirical humour traditionally draws upon the failings of those who should be seen as top of the social pile.

However, there is a huge difference between criticism and outright nastiness. Do we, after all, have the right to tell celebrities exactly what we think of them over twitter? Does that blue tick of verification act as a shield against meanness? I sincerely don’t think so. Stars such as Matt Lucas, Nicki Minaj and Sinead O’Connor, just to name a few, have been forced to delete their twitter due to relentless online bullying. Unsurprisingly, female celebrities are particularly vulnerable to online bullying which can come in the form of sexual harassment or misogynist abuse. Because of the volume of information that we receive about such celebrities in the media, it is easy for some people to believe that they have insight into a celebrity’s life to an extent to which they are entitled to make personal comments. However, just like all bullies, these types of celebrity twitter trolls are deeply insecure and see the undermining of another person as a means of hiding their own perceived inadequacies. What celebrity twitter bullying shows us that fame, success and good looks do not make you immune to bullying. Nor does this make you thick skinned. Using social media platforms such a Twitter can be fun and informative but does come with a responsibility to keep that a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, no matter who they are.