KU Speaks Loudly About Periods

We all know that periods effect 50% of the world. And yet, it’s still a taboo, hush-hush topic.

A few months back, we dove into the specific issues and iconography behind depictions of menstruation in TV, ads, films, video games, and learned about The Bloody Truth Behind Menstruation. 

This time round, we’re asking Kingston Uni students to Be Heard about their thoughts and experiences with menstruation, and really delving into how periods in the media make them feel. Give it a watch here!

 

 

 

 

Is There a Place for Politics in Fashion?

It is often said that fashion and politics should never mix.

But in the current political climate, people are beginning to question if this statement is still valid. Indeed, the conversation surrounding politics’ hand in fashion is beginning to shift.

These days, a brand’s political views can have a direct effect on their overall success as a company. What a company decides to say—or not say—can change consumer opinions of the brand as a whole.

An August 2018 Hollywood Reporter article discussed how Kanye West’s political views had a direct effect on the success of his clothing line, Yeezy.

West has been known to be quite outspoken in his right wing support of President Donald Trump, often being photographed at events with Trump, making frequent visits to the White House, and regularly sporting his Make America Great Again hat.

The article reads, “The rap star turned Yeezy fashion mogul has been on a Twitter tear, pledging his support on the social media platform for President Donald Trump, something that has gotten many brands in hot water in a time when consumers vote with their dollars.

“But for Kanye and his brand, it will affect sales among liberal elites.”

For the first time this year, his Yeezy sneakers failed to sell out in 24 hours, and spectateurs believe it could be as a result of his conservative political beliefs and active support of Trump.

Indeed, it appears that West’s political views have been putting a bad taste in the mouths of consumers, and are beginning to affect overall company sales. Twitter users joke that every time West tweets his support for Trump, the price of Yeezys decreases more and more.

While his political beliefs seem inherently tied to his fashion line, other companies are vehemently opposed to linking their brand to any political ideals whatsoever.

For example, Victoria’s Secret has never been a political company and has typically remained silent in the wake of political news.

However, in 2018, just hours before the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Vogue published an article in which chief marketing officer Ed Razek was asked about his views on transgender and plus size models.

Razek said, “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.

“We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”

For these reasons and many more, it seems that Victoria’s Secret sales are dropping more than ever. According to Forbes, they have “reported a 1% decline in comparable sales in the five weeks ended July 7… Worse yet, when stripping out online and other direct sales, store-only comparable sales fell 6%.”

Therefore, it appears that companies that turn a blind eye to political and social issues are actually doing more harm to their company than good.

That is why companies such as Rihanna’s brands, Savage X Fenty and Fenty Beauty, are particularly unique. Rather than turning away from the political, she has actively leaned into it. And with her new position as Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Barbados, she couldn’t turn away from the political even if she tried.

When it comes to her makeup brand, Fenty Beauty, she has been commended for offering more foundation skin shades than virtually any other makeup brand – a whopping 40 shades.

Rihanna decided to do this as a way to represent a wide range of skin shades, which is especially important when so many makeup brands simply don’t offer enough shades, especially for darker skin tones.

Not only is her makeup political in its attempts to be inclusive in its depiction of underrepresented skin tones, but her clothing brand, Savage X Benty, seeks to offer options for all different kinds of body types.

Rihanna’s fashion and beauty ranges have seen a huge amount of success. In just one month, the company reported $72 million in sales and marketing.

According to influencer marketplace Octoloy, “Because Fenty Beauty has changed the diversity standard, beauty brands are starting to diversify their campaigns by adding more women of colour to their PR lists, social media pages, in their ads and so forth.”

Therefore, while a company’s political views may not be something that every consumer considers, there is certainly no question that it can have an incredibly significant effect on the overall success of a fashion brand.

Do you agree? Is there a place for politics in fashion, and does a brand’s political values effect your decision to buy their products? Let us know!

Disney Takes Aim to Trademark “Hakuna Matata” in Controversial Move

“Hakuna Matata”—it means no worries for the rest of your days!

But soon, that might not be the case, thanks to Disney.

Namwali Serpell’s recent article for the Guardian discusses the Disney corporation’s decision to trademark the Swahili tagline “Hakuna Matata,” which roughly translates to “no worries.”

This news comes as the company is gearing up for The Lion King reboot, directed by Jon Favreau.

Audiences seem particularly unhappy with this controversial decision because it portrays Swahili as somewhat of a made-up language that only exists to create catchphrases. The fact that Disney has trademarked an existing language seems to ignore the fact that real people actually speak this language.

Serpell calls Disney’s decision “rampantly greedy” and a way to capitalise on a culture that is so often unfairly stereotyped in the media. Subsequently, with this trademark decision, it “paints this ‘Africa’ as an imaginary space but nevertheless uses broad, stereotypical tropes about the continent (animals and warrior tribes and mangled accents).”

Serpell not only talks about how problematic this decision is, but that is also simply doesn’t make sense—nobody would ever think to trademark a Western, widely spoken language, so why is it okay to trademark Swahili?

“There is a patent absurdity to the idea that Hakuna Matata would be subject to trademark,” writes Serpell. “It’s like copyrighting ‘goodbye’ or ‘hang loose’.”

As a result of the outrage, a change.org petition has been created that seeks to “say no to Disney or any corporations/individuals looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn’t invent.” The petition has already received over 120,000 signatures.

What are your thoughts? Is this an example of “PC nonsense” or is Disney wrong in trademarking the term? Let us know!

The 5 Most Problematic Christmas Songs

I love the holidays. Honestly, probably more than the average person—the food, the family, the festivities; it’s all so dreamy and magical.

I’m also a huge fan of Christmas music. Year after year, I listen to the same Christmas soundtrack because it really gets me in the Christmas spirit.

However, this year, I’ve really started to listen to the lyrics of these songs and have realised something:

Some Christmas music is super problematic.

I’ve curated a list of the 5 most problematic Christmas songs and the reasons they make the holidays a little bit less jolly. I will be rating the problematic nature of these songs on a scale of 1-5 Santa heads.

1. Santa Buddy: Michael Bublé, 2011

Alright, Michael. We get it: no homo. Michael Bublé’s male-centric rewrite of the classic Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” changes the words in such a way that we couldn’t possibly think he was looking at Santa in an erotic way.

He does so by making Santa his buddy, his pally, his poppy (?) instead of his baby, by asking for a ‘65 convertible in a very masculine STEEL blue and not the original light blue, by requesting “Canucks tix” (aka, hockey tickets) because he is A Man Who Likes Sports and Don’t You Forget It. However, he still asks for Santa to come and “trim [his] Christmas tree”. Hmm….

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2. Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Dean Martin, 1953

If you were to name one particularly controversial Christmas song, it would be this one. It’s fun, catchy, and it’s been around for decades, but it’s highly problematic. It tells the story of a woman who has spent an evening with a man, but he begs her to stay as she attempts to convince him that she needs to leave.

But what is this song really about? While the lyrics play it off as a cutesy and flirty hard-to-get situation, what the song is really doing is perpetuating rape culture. With lyrics like “I simply must go,” “The answer is no,” and “Say, what’s in this drink?”, this song is actually quite problematic in its dismissive qualities of a woman attempting to remove herself from an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.

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3. Do They Know It’s Christmas? 1984; 2014

It’d be easy to blame this song on simply being a symptom of the time it was releasedin 1984, speaking about starving Africans was actually quite forward thinking and woke.

But in 2014? A resung version starring big names like One Direction, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, and so many more? In 2014, should we still be perpetuating the idea that everyone in “Africa” (where, specifically. Africa is large and is made up of over 50 countries) is starving? The original hasn’t aged well, and the 2014 version really just shouldn’t exist.

Thank you for trying to raise awareness, Band Aid. Thank you for raising money for Ebola prevention. But lyrics like “Where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow” isn’t necessarily accurate depiction of the entire continent of Africa.

“Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?” Yes, probably.

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4. Never Do a Tango with an Eskimo: 1955

According to this 1955 Christmas song by Alma Cogan, one must never dance with an Eskimo for several reasons, the main ones being that “once those Eskimoses start to wiggle with their toeses, you can bet your life you’re gonna get a chill,” and also that “once an Eskimosee starts to cuddle up so cozy, you’ll find your passion cooling, yes sirree.”

Good to know. But don’t worry, she does give us plenty of other races that we can dance with, such as “a Latin”, “a gaucho” or “an Apache.”

I have several questions. Why is Cogan picking on Eskimos? Why is this considered a Christmas song? Why does this song exist at all? Can we stop perpetuating negative stereotypes about entire demographics, please?

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5. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus: Michael Jackson version; 1970

Nothing says Christmas like infidelity! According to the song, a young Michael Jackson sneaks downstairs only to find his mother kissing Santa Claus, but no one believes that Jackson actually saw this happen.

While some people believe the song is about the mother cheating on her husband with Santa, others see it a bit more innocently; perhaps Santa IS dad, and mommy is simply kissing her Santa-suited husband. Either way, it’s caused some controversy among Christmas listeners. What do YOU think the song is about?

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Did we miss your least-favourite Christmas song? Let us know in the comments!

 

The Christmas Spirit Comes to Southbank

If you’re looking to really get your Christmas spirit on this holiday season, then make your way to the Underbelly’s Christmas Market in Southbank, London.

The Underbelly is known for throwing exciting and fun events that bring in thousands of people each year, such as their Summer Holiday festival that takes place in the same Southbank venue over the summer.

Those of you who are properly Christmas obsessed will truly love everything this market has to offer: mulled wine, handmade items, delicious warm food, and even a Christmas themed ferris wheel. The Underbelly’s Christmas Market is one of the funnest–and certainly one of the cosiest– within London.

The market runs until 6 January, so there’s still plenty of time to make your way over and indulge in the Christmas spirit.

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Why Does Asian Representation Matter in Film?

If there’s anything I’ve gathered from five years of studying film–and I’ve learned a lot– more than cinematography, mise-en-scéne, or the 180 degree rule, I’ve learned that representation matters.

This is very obvious when looking at pretty much any Asian character in film. Mainstream media is incredibly whitewashed and therefore, other racial or ethnic minorities tend to struggle to find any characters on-screen to relate to—it’s a subtle form of racism and xenophobia that has become socially acceptable.

The film industry is one of the largest in the world, so it make sense that the content we enjoy affects us significantly. One of the biggest issues surrounding TV and film is that the stories being told are overwhelmingly white.

On the flip side, Asian characters are not often depicted in film or TV as protagonists; instead, they are typically side characters without names or important narratives.

Elizabeth Gottshall, a former studio art and computer science student, was born in China, but was adopted and brought to Georgia in 1998.

Gottshall is incredibly passionate and outspoken about the representation of Asian people in film and media, often writing and sharing social media posts that bring attention to the misrepresentation of Asians in the media.

She notes that the Asian and Asian-American communities are most often the victims of whitewashing (meaning that white actors accept roles that are meant to be played by an Asian actor). Even when Asian characters are presented in films, they are incredibly stereotyped and misrepresented.

“The stereotypes aren’t just about being good at math and technology,” Gottshall explains. “For Asian women, a lot of stereotypes are based on Asian women’s appearance. [They] are frequently portrayed as very thin and most importantly, pale. This is a huge problem.”

One of the most interestingly bizarre stereotypes and film tropes surrounding the Asian community involves putting stripes of colour into Asian women’s hair.

It is a common trope that is used to make Asian women “stand out” and to Westernize them, often portraying them as fun and carefree. This trope is meant to combat the incredibly harmful and untrue stereotype that Asian women are “boring and submissive”, which is common stigma in media.

While it may seem niche, this hair colour is actually a frustratingly common trope used in films and TV. Twitter user @nerdyasians tweeted this image that further emphasizes this idea:

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But the stereotypes can be much more serious than hair colour.

“The most harmful stereotypes are about Asian woman being hypersexualised and only being there for white men to have sex with and dominate,” Gottshall said.

One of Gottshall’s most recent social media posts sheds light on a movement called #AsianAugust, a phenomenon that highlights films starring Asians and Asian-Americans. Some of the featured work this past August included The Darkest Minds, Dog Days, The Meg, Crazy Rich Asians, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, and Searching.

Variety Magazine explains that movements such as #AsianAugust show that “there can be more than one movie out at a time featuring diverse protagonists without hindering each other’s opportunity to succeed. They can even spark a ripple effect.”

Not only is it powerful that these films even exist, but they’re also films that ignore the stereotypes and stigmas that are so often put upon Asians and Asian Americans in media. They allow audiences to be exposed to characters which Gottshall calls “realistic and three-dimensional” that “Asians and Asian-Americans can relate to.”

While there is still lots of work to be done, the existence of films such as the ones presented in #AsianAugust—and their impressive amount of success—demonstrates that the film industry might actually be going in the right direction when it comes to fair representation of races.

Bohemian Rhapsody: A Love Letter to Queen

As a result of the mixed reviews being published about Bohemian Rhapsody, I went into the theatre unsure of what to expect. I had heard the pace was slow, the content was exaggerated, and most of all, that it hid Freddie Mercury’s bisexuality. But for me, those reviews couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Queen is incredibly special to England—if you ask any English person about their taste in music, chances are they will mention Queen. Even if they don’t actively listen to them, they’ll more than likely have an understanding and respect for what Queen means to England.

Their music embodies a sort of rebellion and rise against convention that is often found at the heart of English culture, and Freddie Mercury himself symbolises a defiance against stereotypes in his unabashed existence.

As a result, it would make sense that reviews about Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody would be particularly critical, as audiences more than likely went in with very high expectations and had hoped that the film would uphold a certain image of Queen.

As for me, I couldn’t have possibly enjoyed the film more if I tried. It was one of the better movie theatre experiences I’ve had this year.

First and foremost, it is safe to say that Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury was perhaps the role he was always meant to play. This is a constant that most critics seem to agree upon, regardless of overall opinions of the film.

It’s hard to assess whether I judged the film as well as I should have, because I was very invested in Malek’s performance to give a critical eye to other facets of the film. But that truly was one of the most beautiful parts of the film; Malek’s performance was emotional, passionate and fun, and everything else seemed to fall into place around him.

As for the details of Mercury’s sexuality, I believe that it beautifully painted a picture of the events that lead him to becoming the sexually confident rockstar that everyone knew him as. The first half of the film depicted the time where he was married to Mary Austin, while simultaneously questioning his sexuality and attempting to shield his bisexual side.

The second half of the film unabashedly demonstrates his acceptance of his sexuality and his catapult into life as a bisexual man. This half of his life (and subsequently, this half of the film) also shows his diagnosis of AIDS, which critics argue the film didn’t go into enough detail about. However, I appreciate the film for keeping out these details; the specificities of AIDS can often be incredibly gruesome, and most fans of Queen know how much Mercury suffered during this time. The film stood as a love letter to Queen and therefore didn’t feel the need to convey extraneous details of his suffering.

Some critics argue—and I agree—that there was a lot that this film glossed over in terms of the telling of Freddie Mercury’s life. But it’s important to remember that in an 134 minute biopic, there’s only so much that can be told—especially when it comes to Mercury, whose life would need an encyclopedia to tell in full.

Additionally, the film’s main focus is on Queen—it isn’t meant to tell only Mercury’s story. The film shows the audience how Queen came to be, the origins of their music, and the relationship between band members. I would argue that focusing solely on the events within Mercury’s life would be a disservice to Queen as a whole, because the band was made up of so much life. In addition, the members of the band were heavily involved in the making of the film, and specified what they did and didn’t want to be told.

I can’t recommend enough that you see Bohemian Rhapsody as soon as you can—if you get the chance, seeing it in theatres feels like an actual rock concert.