She was introduced to us in a film about football, actually she was introduced to us - curiously eyebrowless - in The Bill I believe but Bend it Like Beckham was her big break. Since finding fame as a sporty tom boy Keira Knightley has slightly changed tack, going from be-corseted pirate princess to inaccurately portraying Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (not her fault - read the book, it's brilliant) with a break playing the totes historically accurate Guinevere in 2004's King Arthur. However in spite of a highly successful film career we are probably most familiar with Keira from various Chanel adverts, silently wearing beige leather and her signature pout. It is therefore surprising to see her publicly desiring more interesting and gritty female roles and criticising how men direct women in films.
You know how in fairy tales, fables or Mr Men books often the villain, or animal in the wrong gets a taste of their own medicine and that's how they learn the error of their ways? It is perhaps a more interesting twist in the plot, preferable to a scene in which the victim explains to the perpetrator why what they are doing is wrong. We like to see the victim turn hero and we like to see those in the wrong get their comeuppance. In real life however it doesn't always work like that. Anti-feminists, MRAs etc often use the phrase 'double standards' when a problem for women usually caused by men is turned on its head, thereby seemingly dismissing it without examining the details. What happens when women start to mimic male harassment?
I think we can all agree that the peculiarly slow, nay laissez-faire world response to the 200 abducted girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram was odd, or questionable and could be potentially tragic. It took ages for celebrities to get it together enough to take a selfie of them holding bits of paper saying #BringBackOurGirls, David Cameron seemed a little spooked to be filmed definitely aligning himself with the side that would like the girls to be returned rather than sold into slavery on the Andrew Marr Show. But another strange reaction to the dire situation has been the resurrection of the #RealMenDon'tBuyGirls campaign, which involved male celebrities doing 'concerned face' whilst holding a sign saying the aforementioned hashtag for the anti child sex slavery campaign and swearing off wild parties with coke and sex workers I suppose...Or getting caught at wild parties with sex workers and coke. Or certainly not PAYING for any of it.
On Saturday night over 120 million people across Europe (and presumably outside of it as well) watched Conchita Wurst win the Eurovision song contest with 290 points. Her song, Rise Like a Phoenix, would make a plausible Bond theme tune. And it was delivered like one - sung emotively but almost without movement, in a flowing gown and against a dramatic lighting background, Wurst certainly looked the part. Oh yeah, apart from the beard.
When I was a kid, I didn't understand the way people talked about politics and Eurovision at the same time. What could this gloriously over-the-top spectacle of sugar pop, pyrotechnics and big dresses possibly have to do with the grey-suited world of ballot boxes and people arguing on TV? And all those jokes about how countries voted for their neighbours...Why would you do that? Surely the point was to reward the best song?
Last month Commons Speaker John Bercow told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that women MPs find Prime Minister's Questions "so bad" that they increasingly refuse to take part. No one really went for it. Which is odd because if your local MP is a woman and you wish her to represent you, or give her money to big up Fiji or something, then you need her to take part in PMQs. Last week a hotline was launched for MPs and staff to report harassment. Last month Beyonce launched a hashtag campaign asking #whatispretty? and recently Dove released the results of a survey that revealed 90% of women feel bad when they look in the mirror, they have begun The Beauty Project with Selfridges. We know women have a confidence problem. So why do we keep addressing it only by treating the surface?
A few years ago I wrote a thesis on Drag Kings. I wrote about music hall and the advent of women on stage. And I wrote about Drag Queens. I have written before about how my feminism has changed dramatically over the years. Because most people's gateway feminism is Greer I think many cis white feminist women will tell you that they went through a period of...hmm not dislike but maybe a belief that drag queens were taking the piss out of womanhood. And anyone who lives to be The Whole Woman will no doubt feel a scepticism about trans (I am not saying drag and trans are by any means the same incidentally - but I note often reasons for hostility are weirdly similar). That is putting it lightly. It is put lightly because transphobia is not properly recognised yet. A dinner party won't suddenly fall into an uncomfortable silence because someone uttered a transphobic slur in jest. But it's time we moved on from Greer's chapter on "Pantomime Dames" and recognise that we are seeing a threat in the wrong places.
To take an arguably 'Caitlin Moran' simplistic, black and white, hairy and bald vulva approach to feminism, let's say you're a woman, with a functioning set of lady bits (I told you we were going Caitlin here for a sec). Let's say that you're a sex worker with a desire to do other things in your professional life (obviously you AREN'T because we're taking the simplistic feminist approach). Let's say you find yourself pregnant. Oh yeah, also you had breast implants. On the NHS. Are you still allowed to have an abortion if you so desire one?
It probably won't surprise you that my answer to that question is...yes. Yes you are. Because I believe in every child being a wanted child and pregnancy is dangerous, even now.
Sometimes a word or phrase (or, of course, set of initials for when you tire of forming words - YOLO) you haven't seen before begins to pop up everywhere. You notice it a couple of times but think it unimportant. Then it pops up more and you start to wonder what it is. But, like, not enough to Google it or anything. Then it becomes shorthand for something and finally you find yourself suddenly questioning: WHAT IS THIS NORMCORE?! Oh, it's an "emerging cultural trend". A trend in which you blend in. You're so normal that you are the core of normality and, by extension, anonymity. Although to be anonymous you have to wear one of those masks. There is a whiff of the self congratulatory about Normcore and the wiped clean faces that apparently come with it. Oh don't mind me, I just don't bother with anything frivolous - and for frivolous re: femme.
I like a good portmanteau. Imagine how much poorer the world would be if we couldn't use our sporks to ward off wayward ligers. But sometimes a new word appears that just seems utterly baffling. This week, it's mangagement. As in "Johnny Depp has got engaged and is wearing a mangagement ring." Because man + engagement, you see? But I just kept reading it as management, as if it was a piece of metal put on someone to control and manage their behaviour. Oh no wait, we put engagement rings on women to show that they're taken and that other men should not flirt with them, right? This is one of those moments where I'm a bit baffled that everyone is baffled. Why should it be a big deal for a man to wear an engagement ring?
Recently Jezebel writerLindy West wrote about discussing the concept of 'ugly' with her 12 year old step daughter. Having realised that it's incredibly useful to be aware of how arbitrary the qualifiers for 'ugly' can be, West hoped to convey this idea to her step daughter. But, as West points out, children are increasingly brought up by the media - you can't entirely stop the media's attitudes and standards creeping into your child's consciousness (or yours, for that matter) and we have a history of books, films and TV shows that use 'ugly' as a signifier of a person's status as 'baddy'. A pretty woman in a fairy tale is pretty because she's good. And maybe a little cloying. But that's okay. Know why? 'Cos she's pretty and if she wants to keep everyone thinking that she will know not to say anything. Pretty is doing as you're told.