MALIA 2014: PARTY ISLAND CULTURE, AND HOW EVEN THE MOST DETERMINED FEMINISTS CAN GET SUCKED IN

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Malia, Magaluf, Ayia Napa. Different names, same deal: complete and utter carnage. They are renowned hotspots for the young crazy kids to go and forget their troubles (and their names). Nobody goes there to take in the culture, visit a museum or sample the local cuisine. They go to get accosted by PR staff, get bad food and get four drinks, four shots and a fishbowl for five euro.

This year me and a couple of friends went to Malia with a common goal: get tanned and get trashed. Two of us had been to Magaluf the year before, so one would think we’d be pros by now. That we’d know all the pitfalls and be the “brains of the group”. Sadly, not so. The truth was that the second time around was much more ferocious, speaking for my own liver.

While the club scene in Belfast typically kicks off at around ten, it really only gets going in Malia at one o’clock in the morning. Streets transform from the fairly clean paths for quad bikes and hungover twentysomethings to the filthiest yellow brick road Dorothy never ventured on. Nearly everywhere you look, prepare to feel very uncomfortable as airbrushed billboards of women in bikinis vaguely resembling those on covers of video games will be advertising quad bikes and alcohol. There are televisions in the clubs playing either football or pornographic videos of women. Almost all your favourite childhood cartoons have been sexualised and put on a t-shirt (see: “Hello Titty”). After every horrible night, during your afternoon hangover, someone will come up and ask you, quite loudly, usually selling something, if you’re “READY TO PARTAY”. Plenty of groups of boys wearing LADS HOLIDAY shirts will look at you inappropriately and make you feel even more uncomfortable. Old men will grab you from the street, their cigarette burning your neck, and try to pull you into their club. Let loose on the vast expanse of drinking and debauchery, things were bound to get out of hand. And get out of hand they did, at least every night. But the alcohol wasn’t the biggest issue.

Malia, Magaluf and Ayia Napa alike are all well-known for their massive events, and this year didn’t disappoint; a pre-drinking party complete with games, competitions and (of course) cheap drinks was on the cards, and we complied to the debauchery with minimal fuss. But nothing really prepared me for what happened.

A competition arose where three girls and three guys had to get up on a platform and the girls had to slap the guys as hard as they could, right across the face. Encouraged partly by my friends but mostly by my own sense of fun and curiosity for the thrill of slapping a UniLad across his sunburnt bake, I ventured forth to the platform, where I barely got any sufficient slaps in before an English girl won the competition, possibly for nearly knocking someone unconscious with a fantastic slap.

I didn’t think anyone would bother me after it ended, but as I was passing by the bar a guy pulled me by the arm and told me his friend was desperate for a kiss. Looking at his (hardly lucid) friend, my intuition told me to ignore them. But for some reason, I kissed him lightly on the mouth. Then his friend told me to kiss him again, and I did, pulling away once I felt the dreaded Sambuca Tongue try and worm its way in. I ran away from the lads, and from whoever it was that allowed herself to obey a man’s orders despite her own intuition.

Later on, in typical sophisticated Malia fashion, there was a pole-dancing game in which two girls (but of course) had to out-dance each other. I watched in horror as one girl from Stoke proceeded to take off all her clothes until she was literally completely naked, swinging around the pole to the cheers of the (mostly male) crowd. I nearly cried as I saw a sexist cliche come to life; girls pressured to perform for the benefit of the male gaze, while perpetuating the sexist party island culture, with the clubs laughing all the way to the bank. It didn’t look like sexual liberation; it looked like the literal definition of female submission to the patriarchy. Of couse she won the competition by a landslide – that didn’t surprise me. Afterwards everyone got up on the poles and had a good time, including myself. I then expressed to my friend my disgust at what the girl had done, but moreso the competition provoking and encouraging it. The girl was seeking validation in the cheers of the male spectators; it was the ultimate example of the brainwashing powers of the patriarchy. But my friend retorted that I was doing the same thing by getting up on the pole myself. I shook away the reply indignantly – I was doing that for myself and for my own fun. But it rang in my mind.

…Was I?

I’m the kind of feminist who believes sexual liberation should not be shut down or restrained. That dancing “provocatively” is not anti-feminist or performing for the patriarchy, as long as you’re doing it to please yourself. The idea that feminists should have to wear straight sharp suits and a poker face to be taken seriously seems sexist in itself, as if a naked woman deserves less respect than a fully-clothed, reserved woman.

It brings to mind the feminist perspectives on the profession of pole dancing and stripping. On one hand, women taking their clothes off for men for money seems to be the epitome of sexism in society – but in arguing this, are we not victimising these women and in speaking for them, are we taking away their voice and thus being anti-feminist ourselves? Many argue that strippers enjoy stripping – but why? Is it because they feel genuinely free, being sexually liberated on a pole, exposing their body unashamedly, going against the oft-conservative restrains society seems to place almost exclusively on women? Or are they feeling that way because the patriarchy tells them that the approving male gaze is the only one that matters; and their minds are not nearly as important as their bodies? On a wider scale, what message does it send? That women should not be ashamed of their naked form or being sexually confident, or that the only time a woman is important and centre-stage is when she is naked and sexual?

Burlesque and stripping are different for many reasons – one of them being that strippers seem to have a sadness and a desperation about them that burlesque dancers don’t. This is because strippers rarely have the privilege to choose to take their clothes off for money – without attempting to speak for this group, it would appear that it is a last resort. Burlesque dancers do it for fun, for theatre.

So who am I, exactly, to emulate this profession when I am by no means in a desperate economic condition? I’m lucky enough to live in a nice house, with a nice family and go to a nice university where I get a nice education. I don’t need to be dancing on a pole, nor should I be. Whether I intend to or not, I perpetuate the degradation of women in society with all the privilege of a woman who doesn’t need to. My mother works, nose to the grindstone, every day, in order to be taken seriously by a world of male misogynists who frequently treat her differently because of her sex. Stripping on a pole with my friends is hardly completely to blame for this, but it doesn’t help. You can say I’m taking it too seriously and that it’s only a bit of banter, but that’s just an excuse that men use to make women feel bad about not participating in these things.

We do it all under the guise and the false assurance that it it’s just a bit of banter.

The entire culture in Malia pressures girls to do the most, to kiss the boys they don’t want to kiss and take off the clothes they may not want to take off so they can win the competition; cleverly disguising it as “craic” or “fun”. Even as my instincts told me not to, I surrendered to it, to the false form of validation that it brought me, and it all left me thinking what kind of feminist is this? I kissed the boy, I grinded on the boy, all with a twist in my stomach telling me that this was not what I wanted. Instead of feeling empowered, I felt uncomfortable. Not because I was doing something sexual because I wanted to, but because I didn’t want to, but did it anyway, because that’s what the fun girls do. That’s what the cool girls do. The girls who don’t? They’re no fun.

Needless to say, it’ll be my last party holiday.

If there’s one thing I learnt from my holiday, should you not get run over by a scrawny teen boy on a quad bike, it’s to trust your own instincts, and not to measure yourself by anyone’s yardstick but your own. You need to take care of yourself before anyone else, because it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, a veritable black hole of depravity that will suck you in, chew you up and spit you back out. You want to kiss the boy? Great! You want to kiss the girl? Do it! But make sure you’re not doing it for anyone other than yourself.

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I Predict a (Pussy) Riot

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Tension in Russia is nothing new. If you happen to be a straight cisgender male, you’re generally okay. If you are literally anybody else, you essentially reside in an informal jail cell. Protestors of the human rights deficiencies in the country are treated with extreme measures, and nothing exposed this as viscerally as the treatment of the Pussy Rioters. A feminist punk rock protest group from Russia, they first made worldwide headlines in 2012, when they staged a performance in Moscow’s ‘Cathedral of Christ of the Savior’ of their song ‘Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away” in reaction to the Orthodox Church leader’s support of Vladimir Putin during his election campaign. they were arrested and charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”. they were imprisoned for two years and only released in December 2013. “We didn’t ask for any pardon” Alyokhina stated at the time of her release, “I don’t need mercy from Putin.”

Today, it has been revealed that two members of the Pussy Riot movement, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, have been arrested in the Russian resort of Sochi,  near where the Winter Olympics are being held, after Alyokhina posted a photograph of what appears to be them imprisoned in the back of a police van in Sochi.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told the BBC that she and Maria Alyokhina were being held at a police station after being detained on suspicion of “theft”. They have not yet been officially charged. Ms Tolokonnikova said that they had arrived in Sochi on Sunday to perform a new song, ‘Putin Will Teach You To Love Your Motherland’, about “political repression in Russia”. She tweeted that the authorities used “force” during the detentions near a ferry terminal about 30km (20 miles) north of the seaside Olympic venues.

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This comes after more controversy in Russia concerning the removal of a transgender rights activist from the Winter Olympics arena on Tuesday, which was defended by the International Olympic Committee as being “peaceful.” Former Italian MP Vladimir Luxuria – dressed in rainbow colours – was taken away by four unidentified men in a car with Olympic markings as she tried to enter an arena Monday night for a women’s hockey game. The first openly transgender parliamentarian in Europe was guilty of watching the Olympics in Sochi while holding a banner reading “Gay is OK”. This is another event showcasing the rising tensions in Sochi due to Russia’s oppressive human rights laws. While being gay has been legal for twenty years, a new law that was passed recently puts LGBT rights and issues are alien to Russian culture, and members of LGBT communities should be regarded as second-class citizens and should not be regarded as equal to the rest of Russian citizens.

Frigid or Slut: The University Clichés

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“Oh yeah, [random girl’s name] is up for it. She’s already f***ed five guys here already. Easier than Sunday morning.”

“I fancy [random girl’s name].”

“Nah mate. Hasn’t banged anyone as far as I know. Total prude.”

Ah, university. A time of great change – evolving from the person you were when you were leaving high school to the person you aspire to be, from the caterpillar to the chrysalis to the butterfly you always knew yourself to become. From fledgling to falcon, from puppy to hound.

But enough trite transformation metaphors. There’s a problem in university culture, and its name is Misogyny.

Since I arrived at university in September I’ve noticed something disturbing- misogyny’s new form of expression. While I was under the impression that humans were complicated, layered beings with personalities and loves and hates and intricate psychological irregularities and basically homosepians in all their confused, complicated glory, it would seem that I was gravely mistaken. After eavesdropping on the conversations of students in my proximity I have gleaned the consensus that people can be summed up in a sentence or an offensive nickname.

It is entirely obvious that there is a double standard between men and women when it comes to their sex lives. Men are expected to behave like a rampant sex monkey when they arrive at university, and their behaviour is accepted as them just “being a lad” (CUE MEGALOLZ). Yet when women dare to enjoy sex and have it often-with more than one partner- they are labeled a “slut”. This trend has spread like wildfire, and I see it every day. I know plenty of people who like having casual relationships with men and don’t want to be weighed down with a serious situation. There’s no problem with it. But there is a problem with the double standard for men and women in regards to their sex life. Take this sample conversation I listened to while at a flat party:

“She’s at it again. She’ll get an STD if she’s not careful.”

“Doesn’t she have any shame whatsoever? Doesn’t she have any self-respect?”

“He’s clearly using her for sex.”

“I heard she’s had sex with ten people since she got here.”

“F**k sake. What a slut.”

So if a girl is promiscuous she’s a slut. Got it. What if she doesn’t have sex at all – not because of any religous reasons, but because of personal reasons? Turns out the grass is not always greener.

“She hasn’t had sex with literally anybody. Frigid.”

“Is she a lesbian?”

“Probably. She won’t even meet anyone in a club.”

“What’s she doing with a skirt that short then?”

“Fucking tease, probably.”

*Cue laughter*

The charms of the UniLad. It really is enlightening.

But it’s not just men who do it. Women are just as likely to do it. But it isn’t totally the fault of these people – it’s society that has conditioned to be judgmental and perpetuate the prude/slut stereotypes.

So to sum it up, if you happen to have a vagina, you’re damned if you do and you’re screwed if you don’t. Never mind the obvious fact that women are people with thoughts and feelings and desires and motives. If they’re having sex they’re getting shamed for it. If they’re not having sex they’re a lesbian, or they’re just too uptight to let someone use them as a human wank flannel. It disregards women as human beings and perpetuates the unhealthy  virgin/whore stereotypes that society (and of course, The Daily Mail) dictates. Both men and women have been brainwashed to think that people can be put into the “virgin” or “slut” category, when the truth is far more complicated – that women and men are humans, and cannot be whittled down to simple labels and groups. It disrespects the individuals and disrespects humanity.

Of course not everybody adheres to this culture. Many men and women are open-minded, thoughtful individuals who are respectful of a woman’s right to her own body. But that needs to be the norm, not the exception.

I propose a radical revolutionised way of treating each other – acceptance, tolerance and lack of judgement on anybody’s way of living their life. Accept the truth that nothing is as simple as it seems, or as society would have us believe, and refrain from subscription to the disgusting culture that has permeated the otherwise exciting world of university.

In other words, do whatever (and whomever) you like, and let others do the same.

Slut Shaming & Lad Culture

Is it okay in today’s society to brand a woman who enjoys having sex a “slut”? Robyn Baillie, Emma Logan and Lauren Stephen discuss:

Listen Here: