Growing up a girl at the turn of the century: Why it was the best thing for the next generation, and why we should be thankful to those who came before us

It’s not often that I find myself preaching the ways of one generation over another, but this International Women’s Day I’ve found my thoughts straying back to a time long gone.

Society groups us into decades that define our historical upbringings. My parents are a product of the 60s and 70s – an age of peace and war, of endless possibilities in space exploration, and a time of political and cultural significance that would shape the landscape for years to come.

My sisters and I on the other hand are part of a unique breed called “90s children”. We’ve grown up in a world of rapidly advancing technology yet can still remember the days of creating chalk masterpieces on the driveway, of pushing Lego blocks into the video cassette player and being mesmerised by our parents’ first mobile phone while still using a phone with a cord.

We didn’t need government campaigns telling us to go outside and be active because like those before us, it was a part of our childhood too.

Now there’s a new era of kids born throughout the infant years of this millennium who are perplexed by the technology and the remnants of a childhood that predates their own by a mere decade.

A child in a stroller with Mum or Dad’s iPhone in their grasp, using their finite fingers to slice their way through animated fruit is no longer an uncommon sight.

Nor is that of a young girl playing with action figures.

Or of a female being cast as a lead in a movie franchise that transcends multiple decades and generations without the need to paint her as a damsel in distress or for her only role to be that of the main character’s love interest.

And while I want to jump up and down and praise the young women of today for voicing their distain at the lack of gender diversity in the media, the truth is, to quote Lara Hogan:

“Behind every great woman is a horde of even greater women who are smart, supportive, honest, and badass. There is at least one really special friend who pushes her to be better, who challenges her, and who screams her name from the bleachers when her team wins.”

So this if for those women – the ones who, no matter which generation they have grown up in, have pushed back against societal norms.

The ones who have let their girls be who they wanted to be, whether it was choosing a bulldozer truck over a Barbie or who’ve let them explore another world through comic books while unleashing their inner domestic goddess with their kitchen play set.

Thank you for raising a generation of women who have felt confident enough to go for what they want and who encouraged their girls to do the same. It’s because of you that we frequently see headlines of women breaking down gender barriers for each generation and the ones to come.

It may be a man’s, man’s world, but you know who runs it?

Girls.

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Sorry Facebook, but ‘fat’ is not a feeling

In the entirety of my teenage and adult life, I’ve never once considered myself to be skinny.

I’ve never worn shorts to the gym or a bikini to the beach. I’ve never bought a crop top, a mini skirt, a bodycon dress or any other piece of clothing requiring a minimal amount of fabric.

Why? I just haven’t.

It’s not that I can’t or that I shouldn’t, but because I personally don’t feel comfortable wearing them.

When I saw that Facebook had added ‘fat’ as a feeling to their status updates, it infuriated me, because ‘fat’ isn’t a feeling. It’s not something for a thin person to feel after eating too much food or not fitting into a size 6 dress (*queue tiny violin playing*). You can feel bloated, uncomfortable, tight…yes. But fat? No.

FB feeling fat 2

Unless you have personally been overweight for a significant portion of time, you could not possibly understand, no matter how hard you might try, to know what it’s like to “feel fat”.

And here’s why: “feeling fat” and being fat are two incredibly different things.

Yes, I too have had days where I’ve felt “fatter” than others, but that stems down to feeling bloated or disgusting, mostly through certain food choices. But actually being fat is a whole different ball game, and it has consumed a large portion of my life.

It influences nearly every decision I make and has played on every single insecurity since well before high school. Every time I pick up a piece of clothing I think, is this even going to suit me? Every time I eat something slightly unhealthy, should I really be eating this? plagues my judgement and gnaws away at me. And these aren’t sporadic thoughts; they occur on a regular basis.

It’s something I live with every single day. Is it a choice? Hell no! No one wants to be fat, but for me it’s come down to poor minute decisions – unintentionally eating 100 calories a day more than my body’s natural metabolic rate can counter during the important developmental years, having poor sleeping habits, and not liking exercise at all has definitely been a contributing factor.

But weight gain and being overweight isn’t a simple one-dimensional, black and white issue – it’s damn complicated. It’s a combination of genetic makeup (of which I drew the short straw), hormonal controls, diet composition, and lifestyle choices (sleep, exercise, stress). Not to mention a person’s mentality. It’s as much of a mental issue as it is a physical one.

A petition has been posted on Change.org asking Facebook to remove “fat” from the list of options. In part, the petition reads:

As someone who has struggled with and overcome disordered eating, I know what it’s like to “feel” fat. I have spent years of my life consumed with negative thoughts about my body, and far too many days starving myself in an effort to lose weight. But even worse than the skipped meals and the hours spent obsessing in front of the mirror was the fear of what others thought about me and my body.

When Facebook users set their status to “feeling fat,” they are making fun of people who consider themselves to be overweight, which can include many people with eating disorders. That is not ok.

As a recent Huffington Post article pointed out, the “feeling fat” option is far from harmless. It trivialises peoples experiences with weight, and “encourages people to put out body-negative ideas and have other people validate that”. While some users may see it as harmless, to me it’s insulting.

So next time you “feel fat”, please reconsider and think of another word to use, because ‘fat’ isn’t a feeling. It’s not a choice you can select from a drop-down menu.

‘Fat’ is a state of being.

The perks of being single on Valentine’s Day

When the notion of being single on Valentine’s Day comes to the forefront of your mind, first you cringe, then you think of spending the day on the couch or in bed, watching a rom-com while simultaneously nursing a bottle of red wine and shuttling a spoon between your mouth and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.

Being single isn’t always easy, especially on February 14th, but what better day to appreciate you and the fabulously uncomplicated single life that you seamlessly live than on the card industry’s day of love? Because believe it or not, there are some pretty awesome perks to flying solo on VDay.

 

You can do whatever the hell you want and no one can judge you for it

Whether that’s spending the whole day in bed binge watching your favourite TV show and rom-com movies, downing a few bottles of wine/your weight in chocolate, or ogling at pics of Ryan Gosling, no one (except maybe your furry friend) will judge you for it. And an added bonus – those hours of binge watching are completely uninterrupted!

 

It’s a lot easier to cook for one than it is for two

As depressing as that may sound, it’s so much more enjoyable cooking when you don’t have to worry about everyone else’s dietary requirements or what they’ll think of it. You can make whatever you want and if you make too much, well that’s just leftovers for the next day. And we all know that most meals taste better the day after anyways.

Plus what meal would be complete without dessert? While your non-single friends are wrestling over which “dessert for two” they’re going to split with their S.O., you could be devouring whichever single-serve dessert your heart desires. Nutella mug cake for one? Yes please!

 

Solo dance party – ‘nuff said

No one understands the emotions you’re going through quite like your favourite artists, so create a playlist of all your faves (Taylor Swift is a non-negotiable on this day), crank it up and dance like no one’s watching! Plus dancing has been scientifically proven to have a wide range of physical and mental health benefits.

 

Celebrate Galentine’s Day with your BGFs

Get your best gal-pals together (the fellow singletons and the consciously coupled) and have a mid-morning brunch feast at your favourite café, a group dinner at the hottest place in town or go check out that new strategically-released rom-com you’ve all been dying to see. The day’s about love, and what better way to start it than with the ones you hold nearest and dearest to you?

 

It’s a guilt-free excuse to treat yo’ self (but who really needs one?)

Splurge on that luxe brand of chocolate, that more expensive tub of ice cream or bottle of vino you’ve been telling yourself is way out of your budget. Some of your friends are being showered with gifts today and dammit, you deserve that too! So go ahead and…

 

No need to get all dolled up (read: an excuse not to shave your legs)

We all know how much effort it takes to get ready for a night out. Between the grooming, hair and makeup doing, and the time-consuming outfit selection process, it seems like such a hassle for one night. Especially if your date is with that guy on Tinder who you’ve been questioning whether or not you’re even remotely a match for each other.

Yeah, I’ll trade in that drama and a night in Spanx for a pair of PJs, thanks.

 

You’ll save money

You’re a hard working, independent woman who believes that your date doesn’t always need to foot the bill at the end of the night and you can pay your share (unless it was their shout). Either way, you’ll save yourself some much needed mulah, which can then be put towards something else like your rent, or that Mimco bag you’ve been not so secretly eyeing for the past month.

 

There’s no awkward gift giving or card exchanging

I love receiving presents (who doesn’t?), but somehow there’s always that one gift that has you pulling that face. You know, the one where you’ve received a present that you’re not 100% keen on, but you love your friend and appreciate it anyways. No Valentine = no problem.

Plus you can save those overly sexualised e-cards for your bestie. She’s the only one who truly appreciates your wickedly inappropriate sense of humour anyways.

 

So go forth my single friends and enjoy Valentine’s Day as much as your non-single gal pals.

What I’ve Learnt in the First Six Months of Being A Graduate

Next Wednesday marks six months since I graduated and boy have those months flown by. I’ve celebrated a handful of birthdays and holidays; I’ve been to Sydney, had dozens of coffees, seen lots of movies…you get the idea.

But in those six months I’ve also applied to more jobs than I can keep track of across an array of areas and have certainly had my fair share of interviews. To no avail, I’m still unemployed. Well, I work casually as a receptionist but the hours are far and few between, so I might as well be unemployed.

I know I’m rambling on but I’m getting there.

Anyways, the other day I read an article that said that 30% of university graduates, roughly 65,000 across the country, will be jobless after the first four months of graduation. Well as one of those 65,000 graduates, I’m here to share what I’ve learnt about job searching in that time frame.

So if you graduated last year or intend to graduate next month, in December or any other point hereafter, I’m here to impart my wisdom in the hope that you won’t feel alone in this cruel world that is the post-graduate life.

  1. First and foremost, get used to the feeling of rejection (sorry but you’ll have to). Throughout my years of job searching I’ve had far more “no’s” than any other response, and along with this you’ll have to get used to the idea that, depending on the job, you may be over- or under-qualified. I know it sucks. Who ever thought that being over-qualified would be a bad thing? Well not me when I received that piece of paper that had “Bachelor” emblazoned on it. But this is just one of the many post-grad life struggles.
  2. “It’s not you, it’s me”. Sometimes it is just them. You’ve applied, had an interview and they’ve given you a yes. But then, due to unforeseen circumstances, they can’t have you. I’ve had this happen to me twice since March and while it’s frustrating, I’ve learnt that unfortunately some things are out of my control. Maybe there’s a lack of finances on their end or they’ve been put in an awkward position by external pressures, either way it still sucks.
  3. Don’t bottle up your emotions. It can be very self-deprecating going for interview after interview only to not get the job, so talk it out with someone. Whether it’s a best friend, family member or that random person you’ve been hitting it off with on Tinder, let them know how you’re feeling. And likewise, if you’re that person on the other end and you know someone struggling to get a job, make sure to ask them if they’re okay. Even if they say they don’t want to talk, the acknowledgment that you care and you’re there for them is sometimes all that is needed.
  4. Confidence is key. In other words, “fake it till you make it”. Even if it’s not your ideal job or you’re not feeling particularly great that day, go into that interview and exude a confidence that would make the likes of Edna Mode proud.

  1. It’s okay to lie. It’s taken me a few interviews to figure this one out. Have a big trip planned for Christmas? Well, best not to tell them about it in the interview. They don’t need to know about it just yet and as much as it shouldn’t be a deciding factor, unfortunately employers take it into consideration when hiring. They don’t want to hire someone who’s just going to spend more time than allocated off gallivanting around the world. So best to keep this one to yourself.
  2. Learn to fight off the demons. After too many “no’s” you start to doubt yourself and your abilities and not long after does the self-doubt and the notion that you’re not good enough set in. You need to learn to fight it, no matter how hard it is, because if you don’t it’ll start eating away at you and lead you down a path you really don’t want to go on.
  3. Don’t tell everyone you’re going for an interview. If you get the job after then by all means shout it from the rooftops, but if you don’t, you don’t want to be stuck with the unenviable task of having to inform everyone you didn’t get it. It only adds to the self-deprecation. If you want to tell people, keep it to a small group like a parent and sibling or one or two friends. They’ll be there to support you if the answer is a no.
  4. Follow your favourite companies on social media. Some companies don’t even bother advertising jobs through websites like Seek or CareerOne, opting to advertise on their site or through social media instead. So follow the company and some of their employees, especially the ones who work in the field you’re interested in. And don’t be afraid to engage them in conversation. It’s a great way to build up a rapport and get to know a bit about them and what they do.
  5. Add your social media accounts to your resume. You can exclude Facebook here because I think that’s all too personal but by adding your Twitter and Instagram, they get to see what you’re like as a person. It could be what snags you that interview.
  6. Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket. This applies to economics as much as it does with any other aspect of life. Keep your options open by applying for jobs in multiple but similar fields that you’re interested in. If you’re into PR, look out for marketing or communications jobs. It might not be what you initially want but anything’s a foot in the door.
  7. Use this time to build up your skill set. If you have a casual or part-time job and want to stay in touch with what’s happening in your field, take a short course in something you’re passionate about or look for short-term opportunities like an internship. It’ll give you something to do and it’ll build up your resume. Even more of a bonus.
    Pic of Twitter profile
  8. And finally, if all else fails go it alone. Four days ago I started up my own small business – Blank Canvas Social Media Consulting. Why? Well, I’ve quickly come to realise that the graduate life is a competitive one to live and I wanted to do something that would let me flex my creative muscles, capitalise on my knowledge and skill set, and give me the opportunity to engage in the Brisbane media world. After all, I did spend four and a half years at university and what a waste of time it would have been if I didn’t do something with my degree.

So whether you’re a graduate who’s faced the same woes as I, or you’re graduating soon and are worried about what lies ahead, I hope I’ve been of some help.

If you’re a small business in Brisbane and are looking for some assistance in the social media department, feel free to contact me via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email – bmackenzie91@hotmail.com.

Calling Out A Cult Classic

On a day when many Gen Y’ers are celebrating the ten-year anniversary of a cult classic, another has announced the cast for the first film of their three-part instalment. While one is centred on four females, the other is notably missing exactly that – women (which is so not grool).

In the newest addition to the Star Wars universe (for those counting we’re now up to number seven), there are only two women. Yes, you read that correctly – two. Just two. A set, pair, duo, whatever you want to call it; out of a cast of thirteen only two are of the female variety.

The first female in this ensemble cast is Carrie Fisher, who will reprise her role as Princess Leia (the woman in the white getup with the side buns who kissed her brother) from the original trilogy (IV-VI), while British newcomer Daisy Ridley is the second. But that’s it.

Source: Mashable

Now I’m not usually one to jump on the “we need more women in this because of these reasons” bandwagon, but it seems that as of late, films of the fantasy genre can only handle one or two female leads, and it’s starting to bother me.

While I can’t list the entire range off the top of my head, I can draw on some examples. Such as Disney’s Frozen, which is the tale of sisters Elsa and Anna, and Brave, which focuses on the relationship between Merida and her mother (even if she is a bear for most of the film). Or The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Marvel Comics have shown us that girls too can kick ass through Natasha Romanoff (The Black Widow) and Agent Maria Hill. Even in the block world of The Lego Movie, WyldStyle/Lucy and Unikitty wave the flag for the girls and help Emmet save the day.

Overall, women tend to make up the background as the supporting roles, on par with the loveable, only-there-for-the-comic-relief sidekick. They’re the caring mothers/grandmothers, dutiful and doting wives/girlfriends, or the best friend who undoubtedly has an unreciprocated love for the male (ahem, Eponine). That’s not to say though that we haven’t had our fair share of incredible lead characters over the years, notably Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), as well as a string of fearless women that grace our small screens each week (see: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc).

Now try and remember the last film you saw. How many female leads can you think of compared to those of the men?

Exactly.

Even movies with huge casts such as Les Misérables and the Harry Potter series feature only a handful of female leads. So why is this? When we’re trying to teach young girls about self-esteem and empowerment, how can we expect them to feel any of that when we’re not giving them anyone to look up to?

At this year’s Oscars, Cate Blanchett made this comment in her acceptance speech:

“Those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences, they are not [niche experiences]. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people!”

And her comment does not come without warrant. Some of the most successful films of last year had female leads – Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Heat and Gravity, to name a few.

But these movies are targeted towards those who are older, the teens and adults. What about the kids?

Like most others my age, I grew up watching Disney films with princesses fawning over a man. Some even going as far as to trade in their voice and swap their fins for feet, only to then have to use nothing more than their looks to attract the man that they desired.

Great message that’s sending out, isn’t it?

But thankfully in the past four years, Disney has created some truly magical female roles in movies such as Brave, Tangled and Frozen that feature not women, but girls (keep in mind these characters are all young – Merida’s 16, while Rapunzel and Anna are roughly 18), that young girls today can look up to and admire.

These characters aren’t searching for a man, unlike their pre-2000s counterparts. Brave centres on the rebuilding of the strained relationship between Merida and her mother, while in Tangled, we go on an adventure with Rapunzel as she makes her way to the royal kingdom to see the floating lanterns (there’s more to it than just that), and in Frozen we get a heart-warming story of love between two sisters when Anna goes off in search of her older sister Elsa after a horrible and heartbreaking mishap.

So why can’t we have more stories like these? Whether animated or not, for kids or adults; the world could do with tales of groups of women searching for adventure, being the leader when it comes to protecting their family or simply just having a good time where their motive is not of a vindictive nature.

You know what kind of movie I’d like to see? One where there’s a bunch of young twenty-something’s who aren’t all friends but meet by chance in a city that isn’t New York. Each of them is struggling to find a full-time job after graduation, and boy problems are far down on their list of concerns. They want nothing more than to spend all day in bed watching movies on their laptop but get up anyway because they know they have to get on with their lives. They meet for brunch every Saturday at 10am and divulge the week’s ups and downs to each other over a good cup of coffee.

In other words, a movie with a simple story that’s well written and perfectly cast.

Now I’d pay to see that.

And I know, you’re probably sitting there telling me that I’ve practically just described Girls and Sex and the City (well, to some extent), but those types of shows/movies are filled with a rather large amount of unrealistic events to happen to one group of people. Seriously, who genuinely has a life like that?

Anyways, as Cate said, audiences want to see films with women at the centre, so much so that last year on average, movies with women as the leads earned more money than those with men. So if J.J. Abrams wants to make his instalments with a male-dominated cast, then may the force be with him. But given the fact that it’s 2014 and there’s an ocean of incredible female talent out there, I’m a bit upset that he’s only dipped his toes in the water.

Even if he had added an extra two or three, it would’ve been nice to see more than two lead women in this fantasy film. But it’s still early days. There are yet another two instalments to go in the J.J. Star Wars universe, and maybe Obi-Wan will hear our message and come to our aid.

Either way, I guess we now know how Luke felt when he found out that Darth Vader was his father.

It’s Time We Learnt to Accept Our Bodies

Turn to a page in any celebrity magazine or website and sure enough there’ll be a remark from someone about the appearance of a celebrity. Whether it’s a snide comment at an actress’s choice of outfit or pointing out that they’ve gained a few kilos, it’s become all too common that these are accepted points of daily discussion.

But what kind of message is this sending to young girls? The ones who’ve already grown up playing with Barbie dolls that have less than ideal body proportions and watch Disney films where inadequate portrayals of life are projected on the screen. The girls who then go on to read these types of magazines, which at the same time are sending conflicting messages and telling us that we should love our bodies while pointing out flaws in celebrities.

When it comes to body image and how we perceive and are perceived, let’s face it. We just can’t win.

And that’s why I want to introduce you to Mindy Kaling. She’s a force to be reckoned with, having made a name for herself as a writer, actress, comedienne and producer. Fans will love her for her work on The Office and The Mindy Project, and last year Entertainment Weekly named her one of the “50 Coolest and Most Creative Entertainers” in Hollywood. But as inspirational as she is for her work, it’s her view on body image that makes her my idol.

I recently read an article by Elissa Strauss that outlines why Mindy Kaling is the body positive icon of the moment. Strauss compares her to Lena Dunham (Girls) who’s known for her portrayal of Hannah Horvath and the character’s “couldn’t give a sh*t what you think” attitude, noting that when it comes to appearances, Mindy Kaling absolutely cares about what she looks like, both as herself and her character on screen.

She likes to wear flattering clothing and often speaks of her conflicted relationship with food and exercise; and in a recent interview with Vogue, she unleashed this gem:

“There’s a whole list of things I would probably change about myself. For example, I’m always trying to lose 15 pounds. But I never need to be skinny. I don’t want to be skinny. I’m constantly in a state of self-improvement…”

And this is why we should all be a little bit more like Mindy Kaling. In an entertainment world saturated with stick thin models and actresses who are always trying the latest diet craze, she looks at the positives and focuses on the things she loves – writing, producing, dressing in gorgeous figure-flattering clothing and eating damn good food as her Instagram pictures would suggest – rather than on a desire to be thin. And she accepts that.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that there are definitely some things I’d love to change about my body. First and foremost would be my height. My license says 162cm but I’m pretty sure I barely scrape past the 160cm mark. My family are a bunch of shorties and that’ll never change (unless I procreate with someone much taller and keep my fingers crossed that our kids inherit his genes). Secondly, my wide-set hips. While the fat can disappear from that area (and it has been), my bone structure will always be the same.

It’s taken me years to accept my body for what it is today and as much as I’d love to be taller or have smaller hips, I know that will never happen and I’m okay with it. If these are the biggest complaints I could have of all the problems in the world, then I’m doing all right.

So next time you look in the mirror, I want you to challenge yourself. Don’t stand there and notice all of the imperfections or the things you wish you could change about yourself, instead find a reason to love them. Not overly fond of your big hips like I am? Well they’ll come in very handy when you’re trying to squeeze out that watermelon of a baby in ten year’s time. What about those small breasts you’re always feeling insecure about? Well you’ll be glad you have them when you hit your sixties and can only watch as your larger counterparts fall victim to the cruel nature of gravity, having to purchase spacesuit material undergarments to hoist those things up.

Too often we focus on the negatives and lose sight of the good things we have right in front of us. There’s not one person in this world that will ever be entirely happy with how they look, but you only have to turn to your friends who’ll rightfully put you in your place and instantly make you feel a whole lot better about yourself. Trust me. Or you can pick up a copy of Mindy Kaling’s book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)”. Either way, it’s time we all looked a little more on the brighter side of life.