What We Talk About When We Talk About Gender Disparity on the Platform

Patriarchy is all pervasive.  It seeps across all areas of life.  There isn’t one solution, one issue or one aspect to approach patriarchy from.  Perhaps one of the issues with blogging is that it invites us to only consider a couple of issues, it is not designed to approach the fullness of something like patriarchy.

 

When we look at the reasons for gender disparity on the platform, things like childcare or complementarian theology are often as far as we get with defining the issues.  Yet these are superficial issues and in no way explore the vast complexity of why we have less women on the platform.  Yes, there is a need to question whether equal representation is the right way to go, but if we do that without exploring why there is disparity between men and women, we glaze over the actual issues.

 

After collating the statistics for platforms in 2013 I was regularly being asked whether quotas were the way to go.  As a result I wrote this document in consultation with as many women in leadership as I could.  It is 34 pages long and articulates the reasons women are less likely or able to gain speaking opportunities.

 

So I thought I’d list the issues raised in the document here, so instead of picking one or two, we can hopefully stop listing one or two of these and thinking that is enough.  Instead we need to look at the whole picture and engage holistically with it.

Society Community Ontogenetic Individual/Internal
Intersectionality of oppression Formal reinforcement of societal beliefs Children not given critical thinking skills Imposter syndrome
Neurosexism Informal reinforcement of societal beliefs Christian products perpetuate stereotypes Lack of gender awareness
Patriarchy Women’s appearance scrutinied Sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood Women who put selves forwards seen as “pushy”
Institutional sexism “Queen Bee” syndrome Role models fit gender stereotypes Motherhood:

Stepping of the “career ladder” and unable to get back on

Lack of provision for mothers at events

Guilt

Hegemonic Masculinity “Home wives” and “work wives” Children’s clothing Singleness
Male privilege Women expected to fulfil “female roles” Toy and technology industries Lack of self-confidence
Lack of transparency/consistency Lack of support from friends or family Gender socialisation Lack of resources:

No “wife”

Financial/time

Lack of accountability/consequences “You can’t be what you can’t see” Different expectations of girls/boys Silencing tactics:

Policing tone

The “grace card”

Gender stereotypes Lack of gender awareness in ministry training Adolescent development Shame
Gender justice seen as a “women’s issue” Focus on justice as “out there” Traditional gender roles seen as a measure of Christian commitment The patriarchal bargain
Selfish capitalism Single sex events can perpetuate stereotypes Events for children and young people rarely focus on gender Assumptions made based on gender
Tokenism Local church”

Not championing women

Not providing leadership opportunities

Not enacting egalitarian theology

Sex and relationship education Individual complicity:

Not willing to give up power

Fear of the consequences

Lack of knowledge

Blind to the issues

Lack of courage

Women’s contributions written out of history Lack of regional opportunities Parenting Pressure on female leaders to represent their entire gender
Media Representation of women:

-Invisible

-Pressure to conform to beauty industry standards

-Sexualised

Lack of informal ministry training No gender awareness training for youth and children’s workers
Violence against women Lack of support with formal ministry training Parenting advice perpetuates gender stereotypes
Women have less decision making power Fear of inappropriate relationships Lack of discipleship
Women are poorer
Unhealthy expectations of:

Women without children

Single women

Men

Wives

Mothers

Women only invited to speak on “women’s issues”
Workplace not designed for women
No teaching on what a right use of power looks like
Gender exclusive language
Don’t know any female speakers
Negative attitudes towards feminism
Only using existing pool of speakers
Lack of intentionality in inviting women female speakers
Gatekeeping
Main leadership model is charismatic
Theology:

Modesty

Emphasis on “maleness” of God

Unity prioritised

Gender justice a “secondary issue”

Creation ordinance for gender

Only asking speaker’s wives
Non-ministry experience undervalued
Accusations of “feminisation”
Invisibility of women
Muthos

In response to some of the things Ian Paul and others have written about the issues of having children, I have a few things to say.

 

For the last few years, Mr GLW and I have run a consultancy together.  He manages the finances and I do mostly everything else.  This means he has been the primary carer of the children and the house for that time.  He is brilliant at it.  We clearly felt God’s call to live out our life and faith in this way, with both our skill sets contributing to us generally managing family, work and life quite well.  The main issue for us has not been some biological reality of my womb making me yearn for more time with my children, but rather the social judgments made (especially by Christians) about our roles.  On numerous occasions Mr GLW has been asked “So when are you getting a proper job?”  And people are incredulous that I can achieve so much while having a family.

 

I don’t think the way we work is right for everyone.  But suggesting women are biologically predetermined to be the primary carers of children and the home is reducing the opportunity for both women and men to live out God’s call and fully use their gifts.  So in finish I would say:

  1. Men’s contribution to childcare and the home is a deeply feminist issue.
  2. The Church should be encouraging all men to be more involved with their children and homes.  As a feminist and a christian I regularly object to the sort of hegemonic masculinity perpetuated by the majority of Christian men’s work in the UK.
  3. I am not interested in the statistics because I value the people speaking on platforms more highly than others.  I believe there is a need for us Christians collectively to stop waiting for the next big event to hear from God.  Jesus died and rose again so we no longer needed an earthly priest or mediator between us and the Creator of the universe and Christian events are often used by individuals as a replacement for spending time in reflection with God.  However, the statistics we can gain from events gives us a snapshot into Christian culture and the way certain types of power are allocated.  That snapshot is invaluable in motivating change, articulating the issues and beginning the conversations and actions required to change things.
  4. Nobody ALLOWS their wife or husband to be a GP, have a job or be a primary carer of children.  We support, encourage and enable our wife or husband to do such things
Advertisements

Tell Your Story (reshaping the conversation)

There have been various conversations and discussions taking place over the last week and a half since Project 3:28 released the statistics about women and men on the national Christian platform.  Although I wrote the report about the statistics I have been largely quiet within the conversations, mainly because my mum passed away a few days ago and so the emotional and practical challenges that has raised means I haven’t had the time or space to contribute much.

One of my observations from the sidelines of the dialogue is that there seems to be a lot of men commenting on the statistics.  Ian Paul has been very vocal and has quoted various men within the pieces he has written.  I am married to a man, have a son, a father and many male friends and family members, so be assured I see men’s views as both relevant and important.  Yet, it is interesting that women’s voices have been less prominent within the discussion.  Hannah Mudge and Vicky Walker have written excellent pieces.  Yet to a large degree it has been Ian Paul’s views and those he has chosen to feature within his blogs shaping the conversation about these issues.  Isn’t that a curious thing?  Men being the main shapers of a conversation on women’s lack of representation?

I want to write a piece giving my thoughts on the statistics as soon as I can, but for now, I invite women to begin shaping this conversation.  I briefly tweeted an experience I had in a job interview of being asked “How will you manage this role alongside having two young children?”  I know any men who were interviewed for the role would not have been asked such a question.  My tweet led to a few other women sharing their experiences of being asked about who was caring for their children or feeding their husbands while they were speaking at an event.

I’ll never forget an event I attended within the last couple of years where a well known Christian speaker, a man over 65, jokingly asked the (only) female event contributor (a woman in her late 20s) if he was a good kisser, to great laughter amongst the audience.

This got me thinking, the conversation needs to be shaped by women’s stories, not men’s theories.  It is our lived experience as women which evidences the need for change.

Do you have a story, conversation or experience that evidences the issues women face, either in leadership, on the platform, in church or in wider society?  I’m hoping to collate the stories and share them in a blog.  You can request for your story to be anonymous if you would prefer.  If you would be willing to share, please email me at befreeuk@gmail.com or tweet me (@God_loves_women) or leave your thoughts in the comments section below and I’ll put something together.

The Church *Loves* a Redemption Narrative

This week my friend Helen shared on Twitter that a church attended by her friend had chosen to pray for Rolf Harris in their Sunday service. They didn’t pray for the girls and women he sexually abused.

 

In June 2014 Leadership Journal published a piece written by a convicted sex offender, in prison, bemoaning how his offending had ruined his life (not the life of the girl he abused or his family or the congregation he pastored). They have since written a thorough apology for publishing the piece after enormous online outrage about it.

 

In May 2014, well known Christian author, speaker and teacher RT Kendall tweeted a photograph of himself and Oscar Pistorius smiling after having had lunch together. He urges his over 3000 followers to pray for Pistorius, who is currently on trial for murdering Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend, whom he shot dead on Valentine’s Day 2013. No mention is made of praying for Ms Steenkamp’s family.

 

The church LOVES a redemption narrative. “We are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God”. Isn’t that how it goes? And when those who have fallen far are redeemed, we all feel better, the world is better. It’s in those incredible stories of redemption, of bad made good that we can be confident that God is still moving.

 

Yet the girl sexually abused by the pastor writing from prison is still damaged. The women whose lives have been ruined by Rolf Harris are unlikely to recover from what he did coupled with years of his face, his songs, his power being all over child and adult media. Reeva Steenkamp is still dead.

 

The women and children and their family and friends, the victims of these powerful men are ignored. It doesn’t fit the redemption narrative if someone is struggling with the impact of someone else’s sin against them. They are encouraged to forgive, to pray for the abuser. If they don’t, then we can make them a sinner too. Then they fit the narrative. And they can ask for repentance for their lack of love and grace and we can all feel better that balance is restored.

 

Perhaps it is Disney’s fault? The need for a happily ever after. The capitalist consumerism which sees Jesus as a product to be sold to sinners, to fill their God shaped hole and meet their every wish upon a star. Supply and demand. We get the fairy tale ending where the beast becomes good, the princess is saved and the monsters (not the people) are slayed.

 

Yet real life is not a fairy tale. Cinderella is a domestic slave. Beauty is suffering Stockholm Syndrome. Little Red Riding Hood is an analogy about rape. Those who have suffered; abused and violated don’t fit the happy ever after.

 

How do we begin the devastating work of rebuilding shattered lives, when we’re so busy endorsing the quick fixing of abusers?

 

It turns out the redemption narrative has one massive gaping hole; an analysis of power.

 

Oscar Pistorius, Rolf Harris, the ex-pastor sex offender are all powerful men. Using their power and privilege to hurt others. They may weep in court or write about how sorry they are and their words and weeping may give off an illusion of weakness. But they are powerful and, very often, unrepentant.

 

Jesus did not give up all power as God Almighty to become a human baby, show us The Way, die an excruciating death and rise to life so that we can use Him to collude with, enable and perpetuate the damage done by abusive men. We cheapen all He has done by focussing our prayers on the perpetrators while ignoring the hurting, the damaged, the raped and the grieving.

 

As James tells us that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) We see again and again throughout Scripture the measure of God’s people is their value of the vulnerable, not of the powerful.

 

Let us stand with the hurting, the broken, the damaged. And work towards our community of faith becoming a safe and holy place for the abused and the hurting, for the powerless not the powerful.

#Bringontheclitoris

There’s been recent Christian coverage of “Same Sex Attraction” (SSA) from various media outlets. All the articles that I have read share the stories of people who identify as same sex attracted and talk of their journeys to dealing with this. There is much to discuss about the term “Same Sex Attraction” and what it says about certain parts of the Christian community. However, that it not what I wanted to write about.

 

What I want to talk about is how all the stories are about men. Men who struggle with their feelings of attraction to other men. About how they have chosen to stay celibate or worked to a place of choosing to be in a relationship with a woman. Women only appear in these stories as wives or girlfriends. I have yet to read a story of a woman who identifies as “Same Sex Attracted”. Perhaps it could be suggested that only men are in this area of Christian culture which sees Same Sex Attraction as a thing. However, I think this is highly unlikely given the amount of women in all parts of the church. I think it is much more probable that the stories of female sexuality remain untold.

 

Similarly any talk in the church about masturbation is rarely addressed as an issue for people, but rather as a “man problem”.

 

I’m often known to bring vaginas up in public (if this has produced images of me vomiting up vaginas, I apologise). Though anyone who has been on the receiving end of my vagina conversations may have thought I was engaged in hilarity, which is always partially the case in most everything I talk about. It is in fact for a more serious reason that I talk about vaginas. Namely because nobody does. For many women who have experienced abuse from a partner, derogatory comments about their vagina will have shamed and humiliated them. For others the corporate shame of Christian culture or purity messages have left them feeling there is something wrong with them, combined with the fact that there are very few names for a vagina that don’t cause people to turn up their noses at the very idea its existence can leave so many women ashamed of this particularly wonderful part of God’s creation.

 

Women, we are in possession of the only organ ever designed purely for sexual pleasure and God made it. When God looked on creation, She didn’t say everything was “very good” except for Eve’s lady garden! She said it was all VERY GOOD! I spoke to a sex educator the other day. She had asked why vaginas had hair on them until the last few years, when girls and women became hairless Down There. One of the girls suggested that it must have been because razors weren’t invented ten years ago.

 

Shall we just sit with that for a minute?

 

Hairy vaginas are a result of the razor not being invented. This is what actual girls in the UK think. Then there are the teenage boys, who don’t even know girls grow hair. Who think girls with hair are abnormal. Welcome to the world where pornography forms the bulk of sex education for many young people.

 

We need to reclaim our sexuality women! To own it and embrace that part of identity. We need to be honest about the ways the world, the church and our experiences have damaged us. For our own lives and for the next generation, let us begin to acknowledge how deeply we have been wounded and bring on the revolution, bring on the clitoris!

The Lost Daughter

As another day turned to evening, she sat on the balcony in the sagging old armchair, her heart and soul weary. In the first few weeks after it happened she had wept every single day. Not a minute would go by when she wouldn’t wonder where things had gone wrong, what she could have said or done differently. As the weeks turned to months the sadness became a knot in her stomach. Occasionally she would laugh, at a joke or something Martha said. Then the sadness would overtake her, combined with a guilt for almost forgetting what had gone before. Martha would see the darkness overshadow her smile and her face would fall. “Everything we do will always be about her.” Martha, the One Who Had Stayed, had spat the words at her the other day. It had been a slap in the face when already the pain of was unbearable. She slowly pulled herself out of the chair, it seemed her body had grown old fast. Soul pain did that. She walked to the railings, squinting into the twilight, hoping that this would be the day things changed. By the time she walked indoors, the twilight had turned to thick darkness.

 

She undressed slowly, her limbs heavy with grief. Once in her nightclothes she looked in the mirror, the woman in front of her no longer familiar. Her lined face and silvery hair, once proudly held high a crown of wisdom now left her feeling old and lost. Her shoulders slumped slightly and the energy she had lived her life with was lost in the pain of the day things changed.

 

The sheets cold against her skin, as, the silence shouted louder than the busyness of the day. Nothing to distract her from the memories, an onslaught of pain that never stopped.

 

“I want it now.” Evelyn had said. Her face hard, her words cold. “There’s a whole world waiting for me and I want to explore it. You’ve always said we shouldn’t be ruled by the traditions. Let me go, give me my share.” Martha’s mouth had hung open. Shocked by her sister’s audacity.

 

As their mother, she had always offered them freedom. Never holding to the old ways of control, she wanted her daughters to know their worth and value. To have choices, make decisions, live in freedom not duty. Never once had it occurred to her that freedom would break her heart.

 

She had heard them arguing later that night. Martha’s voice hissing words while Evelyn’s voice had rung out loud and clear, “It’s my choice, you stay here if you like, but the world is waiting.”

 

As she lay in bed, heart aching, tears slowly trailing down her face, she wondered whether she should regret giving her daughters the power to choose for themselves, to have freedom. She heard the whispered comments of the others; the neighbours, so-called friends and the employees. Her own mother’s words came back to her, “You mark my words Sophia, you’ll regret giving them freedom. Discipline and duty is the only way.” Yet, even in the midst of the screaming memories and darkness, she couldn’t muster any regret.

 

The darkness and shame overwhelmed Evelyn. Regret sat like poison in her stomach, no amount of vomiting able to purge it. She thought back to her dreams, when she thought the world was waiting. The way her money, her mother’s money had opened the doors. The parties, the film crews, her name in the credits, her conviction had grown with every success. She had been right; Martha wrong. Rich girl, famous girl, star of the reality show, living the dream.

 

But the dream is just that, one day you wake up. To find your private sex tape watched by the world. She didn’t know exactly when the regret had taken hold. The topless shots sliding into soft porn movies, if the world wanted to watch her, well at least they could pay her. Her FU to the world was to show she could still make it. Yet here she was sore and degraded, shame filling her head with thoughts of destruction.

 

She’d been given some powder to fix it; so they had told her, “It’ll make it better. It’s no big deal.” Yet, the tiny bags had laid in a drawer, the line she had yet to cross. She wondered whether now was the time. She walked over to the cabinet, took one out and stared at it. Could this take away the terrible poison within? Her mother’s face came into her head. Perhaps, maybe, she could go home. She could offer to work for the business. Find herself a bedsit. It could be better than this porn hell.

 

Sophia awoke, the state of half-awake providing blissful ignorance from the loss of her precious oldest child. The feelings of grief flooded in as consciousness overtook her. She sat up, squashing the ache in her soul. Before That Day she had regularly read the newspaper over breakfast, but with the first sight of Evelyn in the pages, she had avoided it like the plague, as the sickness took hold in her heart.

 

She completed each day on automatic pilot. Meetings, conversations, projects, reports; all of them completed by her body, while her soul wept. She knew Martha struggled. So many times they had gone round the same circle, “Evelyn has chosen her path; you’ve got to move on. Not least because I’m still here. I need you Mum.” Sophia had tried to awaken from the nightmare, for her younger daughter’s sake. But it was so hard. She lived for the evenings where she could sit in the chair on the balcony and hope that would be the day.

 

It had been months since that first night Evelyn considering returning, succumbing instead to the comforting powder. Her soul eviscerated by the photo and video shoots. Man after man, woman upon women. The irony of it being called a shoot. If only someone would shoot her.

 

She used all her pay to buy the escapism powder, living on the sofas of the men who filmed her. In one of her only recent lucid moments she remembered that time, how she considered going Home; after so long, that’s still what she called it. Home. This was the day things had to change, she was better off there as a worker, no matter how menial, than on the sofa of a pornographer. She had no belongings, nothing to pack. She walked out the door and started out Home.

 

Sophia was curled on the chair, the evening air cool. She had almost given up hope. She stood, her joints almost audibly creaking, shuffling to the balcony railings. Staring at the horizon she waited. In those moments she allowed herself to hope.

 

In the distance a speck emerged from nothing, gradually becoming the shape of a person. She gripped the railings and squinted. It was a person. She held her breath, willing herself to stay calm. To keep the hope in check. Yet as the person drew closer, she saw it was her lost daughter. In that moment the heaviness disappeared along with the joint pain and the soul ache. She turned and lunged for the door, leaping down the stairs she shouted through the house, her daughter had come home!

 

She ran down the path, her bare feet thudding on the ground. She needed to reach her daughter; to hold her. She stopped.

 

Ahead of her was her beloved daughter, thinner, older, eyes cast down, trudging forward, she hadn’t seen her mother running. Sophia held her breath for a long moment, tears dripping off her chin, she dared not move in case it was just a dream. Out of her mouth a groan of agonised hope escaped, causing her daughter to look up. As their eyes met Sophia knew it was real. This was it. She ran to her daughter, scooping her thin frame up into her arms, holding her tight as she wept.

 

Evelyn froze. This was not the plan. Her mother shouldn’t be here. And yet she was. Evelyn forced herself to recite the words she had been saying over and over, “I’m sorry. I’ve hurt you so much. I’m no longer your daughter, if you’d let me work for you, that is more than I deserve.” Her muffled words were spoken into her mother’s hair as she dangled in the tight bear hug her mother had enveloped her into.

 

Her mother loosened her grip, stepping back and attempting to look her in the eye. Evelyn kept her eyes on the ground. The shame twisted, squeezing her insides and leaving her wishing she hadn’t come. The silence was thick as she felt her mother’s eyes boring into her. Suddenly her mother grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the house. She allowed herself to be pulled along. They reached the door and her mother bellowed up the stairs, “Evelyn is home everyone, we must have a party to celebrate! She has been lost, dead and yet here she is, we’ve found her, she’s alive!”

 

Evelyn’s heart sank, she didn’t deserve this. She shouldn’t have come.

 

As if her mother knew how she felt, she felt arms surrounding her. Evelyn began to weep, raw pain escaping from her every pore. She had messed up. Yet here was her mother, still loving her. She collapsed into her mother’s arms and sobbed.

 

The people were everywhere, the “Welcome Home” banner declaring to the world that she was indeed Home. Evelyn sat at the edge of the room, not quite knowing what to do. How many of these people had seen the movies/photos she had been in? How many knew what she had done? Yet her mother was smiling, telling the room how wonderful it was to have her home. Every so often her mum would come to Evelyn, telling her how happy she was.

 

Martha was nowhere to be seen.

 

Martha sat on her bed crying bitter tears. How dare Evelyn waltz back into their lives? How dare their mother just throw her a party, after all she had done? Didn’t her mother know how much it had hurt, the jibes and comments? “Sister of the whore!” That’s what they’d called her. The calls from journalists, the way people looked at her. The shame and humiliation. How dare she? How dare Evelyn just walk back into their lives? Then the party! That had been the last straw. She had waited, kept working hard for the family business, been obedient and not so much as a celebration! She could have been out, partying, having the time of her life like Evelyn and yet she had been the dutiful daughter. And where had it got her? Nowhere.

 

The knock on her door brought her up short. Who was bothering with her when the precious lost daughter had returned? Slowly someone pushed the door open and her mother crept into the room. She refused to look at her, watching as her mum’s feet stepped towards the bed. She felt the bed move as her mum sat down. “Aren’t you joining us for the party?” Her mother gently asked.

 

“Join you?! I never left you! And that whore who abandoned you, wasted all you gave her and brought shame on our family’s name is being thrown a party! You never gave me anything.” Her mother recoiled at her bitter tone and harsh words.

 

Her mother smiled sadly, reached out and took her hand. “Martha, you are always with me and all I have is yours. Your sister will live with the consequences of her decisions and the decisions of those who hurt her for the rest of her life, but she has been found and for that we can celebrate.” Martha’s eye filled with the tears, the feelings of unfairness overtaken by a desperate need to feel her mother’s love. She stared at the bed covers, tears overflowing, great drops falling onto the sheets. Her mother moved closer and held her. Martha clung to her mother, great sobs escaping from her mouth. Her mother stroked her hair whispering over and over, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Book Review: Am I Beautiful?

“Am I Beautiful?” by Chine Mbubaegbu has been sat on my “to read” pile of books since I attended the launch event for the book last year. I consider Chine to be a friend and I deeply respect her and her work at the Evangelical Alliance. Chine’s book is written for Christian women, exploring what beauty is, some of the ways beauty has been distorted and the many consequences of these distortions on women’s lives.

 

The book is well-written and deeply honest. Unlike some Christian books, Chine doesn’t present herself as some perfect human being that us mere mortals could only dream of imitating, she tells deeply personal stories about her journey of understanding beauty, sharing her life with the reader in a healthy, positive way. She includes some critique of the societal pressures on women and uses Bible passages to explore a Christian perspective on each aspect she explores. Each chapter ends helpfully with a prayer, questions for reflection and a challenge to the reader; this makes it easily transferable to a small group setting.

 

I’ve never been focussed on beauty, either having it for myself or observing it in others. I grew up odd, never fitting in. Being beautiful wasn’t an aspiration or a desire of mine so the book didn’t speak to me personally. As I read, I felt like an outsider; not identifying with the struggles of going without make-up or mirrors, of being conscious of how I looked in relation to others. I spent a long time hating myself, through most of my formative years and into adulthood I hated myself. Not how I looked, but everything about who I was. I cut myself, starved myself and on occasions took overdoses. Yet, my struggles were not related to feeling not beautiful, but rather feeling utter self-loathing. Rooted in experiences of abuse as a child, teenager and young adult, I didn’t so much see myself as ugly but rather as utterly unlovable. Reading the experiences of Chine and other women didn’t resonate with me, but they did inform me and give me a deeper understanding of the lives of so many other women.

 

As I read I realised that the depths of my hurts forced me to face them head on. The consequences of abuse left me shattered and unable to function. I was forced to face the demons which tried to destroy me. I couldn’t live until I did. This book showed me that the terrible price so many women and girls pay is not total dysfunction, but rather a level of functionality that is a façade. That women as a class are being conditioned to be constantly dissatisfied with themselves and each other, often not to a degree that destroys them totally, but leaves them feeling gradually eroded. Their lives are subtly distorted, not enough to feel the need for intervention, but too much to live totally free.

 

The book showed me how so many of my friends and the women I interact with are feeling. The ways they are always paying to have something stolen from them each and every day. It left me feeling grateful to my parents who wouldn’t let me watch television, wouldn’t allow me to fit in. Trained me early to feel comfortable walking against the whole of culture.

 

Though this book didn’t speak to me directly, I know so many women it will help. I am so grateful to Chine for baring her soul and taking the time to write this book. After reading it, I immediately wrapped it up and posted it to a 15 year old Christian girl I know. Each chapter that I read I thought of women and girls who would benefit from reading it and I’ve already begun recommending it to people I know. For those struggling to answer the question “Am I beautiful?” this is a brilliant book to read!

 

You can purchase the book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Am-I-Beautiful-Chine-Mbubaegbu/dp/1780780605

 

Bearface

Ah! Children In Need. That time of year when everyone embarrasses themselves for charity by doing something that in any other circumstances would be mortifying and/or social suicide. However, this year the stakes have been raised, the challenge is on, the embarrassment factor has reached epic proportions. This year for Children In Need, on 8th November, women can truly do something off the chart mortifying to raise money. They can go out without make-up on. That’s right, women of the UK, forget silly outfits, or dressing up as a camel. This year, if we are brave enough, we can go out “Bearfaced” to raise money for children, with a tiny paw-print on our face, to show that this hideous ugliness that is our actual face, is not something we normally display, but…for the children (said with tears in one’s eyes) we can bravely make such fools of ourselves.

 

In case you hadn’t realised, my previous paragraph is dripping with sarcasm.

 

It is a damning indictment on our society that not wearing makeup is considering so embarrassing as to be worthy of being a fundraising activity. It is troubling that a charity which supports children in reaching their potential, often in very challenging circumstances, is promoting this message. Women and girls across the UK are having their self-worth stolen by aggressive marketing, beauty products, toys, TV, films and the music industry. We are then convinced to buy back said self-worth through purchasing the right products and makeup, “because we’re worth it”. Bearfaced makes explicit the messages throughout society which say that women can never “come as they are”, that we are for ever destined to change ourselves to measure up to an unreachable societal standard of beauty that is manufactured by an industry invested in making money, at the expense of people’s health and wellbeing.

 

So if you see me without makeup on the 8th November, please don’t think I’m taking part in Bearfaced. It’s actually just my face being…well…my face.