Sisterhood is global: stop UK corporations profiting from the misery of Saharawi women

13 Aug

I am sad to have deserted this blog in recent months. Lately, all of my writing energy has been expended in my PhD thesis, leaving little left over to dedicate to other projects. Nevertheless, I hope here to combine my PhD research with feminism, albeit feminist nationalism (although I am, for this post, temporarily abandoning my sarcasm).

My PhD focuses on the resistance of Saharawi women (and how feminism can further the mobilisation of mass resistance to dictatorships), who (along with Saharawi men) resist the occupation of their country, Western Sahara, and campaign for independence, at great personal risk.


The official UN map of Western Sahara. Such a map – the officially correct one according to every country apart from Morocco –  is prohibited in Morocco, which is why your Lonely Planet guide shows a different cartographic story. Nevertheless, check your Atlas or globe at home and you should see Western Sahara as above.

Western Sahara

Western Sahara is Africa’s last colony. Since 1975, when the colonial power Spain effectively sold off its former colony to the highest bidder, the majority of the North African territory has been occupied by neighbouring Morocco in flagrant violation of international law. The latter nation claims that before being colonized in the late nineteenth century by the Spanish, Western Sahara was part of a Greater Morocco (which also includes, according to Morocco, parts of Mauretania, Algeria and Mali). Nevertheless, the International Court of Justice has rejected such claims and called for the territory’s decolonization and a self-determination referendum for the people of the territory: the Saharawis. Hundreds of UN Resolutions back this view, and, since 1991, when it brokered a ceasefire between Morocco and the POLISARIO (the Saharawi guerrilla front and now government of the Saharawi state-in-exile) the UN has attempted to oversee a self-determination referendum for the Saharawi people. But Morocco won’t let this referendum take place, and the UN, restrained by Morocco’s powerful allies (US and France), is unwilling to impose sanctions.

The Moroccan-built and Saudi, French and US-funded wall that surrounds the occupied part of Western Sahara. It is the longest active military wall in the world, is manned by around 100,000 soldiers and is heavily fortified by landmines. Nevertheless, many Saharawi activists that fear death and imprisonment have tried to cross it in order to get to the camps. Some have done so successfully. Others have lost limbs and life.

The Moroccan-built and Saudi, French and US-funded wall that surrounds the occupied part of Western Sahara. It is the longest active military wall in the world, is manned by around 100,000 soldiers and is heavily fortified by landmines. Many Saharawi activists that are hunted by Moroccan police have tried to cross this wall in order to get to the camps. Some have done so successfully. Others have lost limbs and life.

Two Saharawi children off to school in the refugee camps of Algeria. These camps face the harshest climate of the entire Sahara desert, with temperatures reaching the highest on record in summer and dropping to freezing in winter.

Two Saharawi children off to school in the refugee camps of Algeria. These camps face the harshest climate of the entire Sahara desert, with temperatures reaching the highest on record for the world in summer and dropping to freezing in winter. Photo from @agailita

While the diplomatic stalemate continues, the Saharawi people suffer. Since escaping the Moroccan bombs of napalm and white phosphorus in 1975, up to 165,000 Saharawi refugees have lived in camps of tents and adobe constructions in the driest corner of the Algerian Sahara. These camps also form the headquarters of the POLISARIO Front, the representatives of the Saharawi people vis-à-vis UN negotiations. Meanwhile, on the other side of a military wall built by Morocco  during its war with the POLISARIO, a Saharawi minority lives amongst Moroccan settlers under a violent occupation. Here, repression of pro-independence Saharawis is brutal. Indeed, Freedom House has listed the territory as amongst “the worst of the worst” in terms of political rights and civil liberties, whilst Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UN have all noted the use of sexual violence, torture, beatings and arbitrary imprisonment of those that fight peacefully for Saharawi rights. Nevertheless, every April, thanks to the power of veto wielded by Morocco’s close ally, France, the UN votes against the inclusion of human rights monitoring in the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission (called MINURSO) stationed in Western Sahara’s capital, El Aaiún. As such, MINURSO is the only peacekeeping mission in the world not to monitor human rights. Its staff are paid to do literally nothing, even when Saharawis are beaten in plain view in the square in front of the UN building. I’m not sure how they sleep at night.

Here is a shot of Saharawi prisoners sleeping inside the so-called "Black Prison" of Western Sahara

Here is a shot of Saharawi prisoners sleeping inside the so-called “Black Prison” of Western Sahara

Saharawi women who you might have read about in the British press


Nobel Peace Prize nominee Aminatou Haidar is the unofficial leader of the Saharawi non-violent resistance movement. She was first disappeared, along with hundreds of other Saharawis, in 1987. She spent four years blindfolded in a cell, subject to the usual kinds of Moroccan torture (these include the release of savage dogs into prisoners’ cells, electrocution, rape – which is used on Saharawi men as well as women – being tied up and suspended from poles for beatings, throwing acid in faces, insertion of bleach-soaked cloths into mouths etc.). She was disappeared for a second time in 2005 for seven months. In 2009 she attracted international media attention when she initiated a hunger strike in Lanzarote airport.

marian hassan

Mariam Hassan was born in Western Sahara, but fled to the refugee camps in Algeria during the Moroccan invasion. She worked there as a nurse before becoming a revolutionary singer. Her latest album, El Aaiun on Fire, is dedicated to the non-violent uprisings of Saharawis in Western Sahara’s capital. Here she is giving grief to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their complicity in Morocco’s destruction of a 18,000-strong Saharawi protest camp:

Aziza Brahim

Aziza is a musician born in the refugee camps of Algeria. She spent most of her formative years in Cuba, after winning a scholarship to study there. Her music lyrics are often inspired by the work of her grandmother, Al Khadra, who is one of the great Saharawi revolutionary poets. Aziza recently appeared on Jools Holland.


There is one main reason why Morocco continues to occupy Western Sahara: money.

Western Sahara is the biggest source of phosphates (needed in agricultural fertilizers) in the world. It has incredibly rich fisheries, huge greenhouses for fruit and vegetables, is a kite-surfing hotspot for unscrupulous tourists and a source of solar and wind energy (thanks SIEMENS). Of course, it’s illegal for Morocco to be taking advantage of these resources. Doing so constitutes the war crime of plunder. But no one stops it. Corporations and governments that buy these resources are also committing plunder, but they do so anyway. If these governments and corporations stopped buying stolen resources from Morocco, Morocco would be much more likely to negotiate an end to the conflict and the Saharawis’ misery. Nevertheless, it’s almost too late to stop them. In October, even though the UN has expressedly declared this illegal, two foreign oil companies – American Kosmos and UK Cairn – will drill for oil. If they strike lucky, the result will be so unbelievably lucrative for Morocco that it might never give up its occupation.

Saharawis who protest against these corporations and governments are punished violently for doing so. My friend Shaykh has been imprisoned and tortured several times and his sister was beaten in the street for protesting against Kosmos. Sultana Khaya, the founder of a Saharawi NGO for protection of the Sahara’s natural resources, had her eye removed and is currently in a specialist hospital in Barcelona following significant injuries to her stomach inflicted during a torture session. Sidahmed Lemjayed, my organisation’s (Western Sahara Resource Watch) key contact, has been imprisoned for life in relation to his work against the likes of Cairn and Kosmos. Sidi Mohamed Aloat, a disabled headmaster of a special school, was sliced with razor blades whilst protesting in the street against Kosmos.

Western Sahara Resource Watch works with Saharawis like Shaykh, Sultana, Sidahmed and Sidi to fight the corporations that fund the Moroccan occupation. We have had significant successes: over the last decade with regards to oil companies alone, we have forced the divestment of Total, TGS-Nopes, Fugro, Wessex Exploration, Thor offshore, Kerr McGee and Pioneer Natural Resources. With your help, we hope to do the same with Cairn and Kosmos.


I have been volunteering with Saharawi solidarity organisations for about seven years now and I am currently Treasurer of Western Sahara Resource Watch. We campaign against organisations that plunder Western Sahara and show complicity in human rights violations against the Saharawi people. Since our work is political, we can’t register as a charity. This severely limits the funding pots that we are eligible to apply for. Hence, public donations are all the more important.

You can donate safely and easily on the Western Sahara Resource Watch webpage and pay through the PayPal mechanism: donate here.

Friends, I appreciate your right to not give money to a cause that may not be your first choice. I understand that you may not be financially able to donate for everyone, or indeed, anyone, who asks, that you may give quietly and anonymously to your own chosen causes, that you may spend a significant amount of your free time working voluntarily for other causes, or indeed that you may find the whole guilt-trip innuendo and self-promotion of this blogpost (and other “please sponsor me” messages from people doing various activities for charities) plain annoying. In any case, thank you for taking the time to read this.

Take action?

Perhaps you might consider boycotting plundered products (in the UK, the Co-op is the only major supermarket chain that now – post a campaign by Western Sahara Campaign UK [WSC] – refuses to sell stolen Saharawi goods. In other supermarkets, look out for tinned fish and tomatoes labelled as “Morocco” – they aren’t Moroccan, they are Saharawi, and WSC is currently working on forcing a change in how these are labelled) or writing to the likes of Cairn Energy and SIEMENS to remind them that plunder is a war crime. You could also raise this issue with your MP, and ask them to consider joining the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Western Sahara. Or find out more about what is happening in Western Sahara, which isn’t as simple as it sounds, as it is hard for journalists (and activists – last time I tried, I was deported within one hour) to enter the territory and therefore it is never in the media. I recommend the documentary “El Problema,” subtitled in English. You can see the trailer here:


7 Jul

It’s just before 9:00 on the ring road of Granada. The sun is up, hanging as if from a peg above the snow-tipped Sierra Nevada mountain range, but the cars, it seems, are still in the sleepy shadows of garages and driveways. The quiet is a little unsettling. In theory it’s rush hour, but few are hurrying to work since few have a job to go to. Nevertheless, by 10:00 the class of people that always have a job (should they want one) are emerging from their maid-serviced flats and countryside villas to populate the walkways of Granada city centre.

This morning, the pijos are in their pinstriped suits and pencil skirts. Their patent heels, ties, cufflinks and greased-back hair are all gleaming with various degrees of intensity. That is to say, they’re in their office clothes, yet they’re anywhere but the office. Rather, they’re on their daylong morning coffee break, meeting fellow pijos for a relakzeen café con leche (latte) or dodging crisis-riddled beggars on Recogidas (Granada’s equivalent of Oxford Street) on route to Massimo Dutti.

The Spanish work some of the longest hours in Europe, but rest assured that it’s not the pijos that are bringing up the national working time average. That’s because these people form a special class of people. They are the ruling class, the superior class, the pijo class.

How to be a Spanish pija

What it means to be a woman differs according to a person’s socio-cultural context. Below is a guide to the proper way to be a special type of Spanish woman: a pija. That is to say an (aspiring) middle/upper class snob. This is an important task, since by conforming to the stereotype of a female snob, you will not only perpetuate the oppression of women in general, but also oppress other women and men on the basis of class and race!

“Pijo,” or “pija” in the feminine, encapsulates the meaning of a particularly offensive and Spanish breed of snob. It is not so much to do with one’s wealth (although the appearance of wealth must be maintained), but with one’s attitude: pijos like to aparentar (show off) and exert their sense of superiority (o sea, que les gusta “sentir especiales”).

Pijos can be found in all parts of Spain. They are mostly likely to be spotted at your local Club de Campo (playing padel or golf), Corte Ingles food hall, People’s Party (PP) rally or Opus Dei school. They tend to live off inheritance or have jobs with high salaries, thanks to family connections rather than ability or experience, and thus have money to squander on looking as rich as possible at all times.

Needless to say, pijos’ hobbies include looking down at, and exercising power over, those with less economic means or social status. They are “not racist but” believe los sin papeles (“illegal” immigrants) are the downfall of Spain. They pine for the good old days when El Generalissimo (the dictator Franco) ruled the roost and believe that indigenous South Americans are in the world to serve them, those of Arab origin are here to sell them tea and rugs (but should really get back to “wherever they came from”) and gypsies have “infiltrated” Spain to remind them why the Lamborghini must be locked in the garage at night. If they lived in the UK, pijos would invariably vote UKIP, given their intense hatred of Romanians.

Northern pijos maintain a colonial mentality towards the south. The Southern pijo, on the other hand, tends to own vast agricultural estates (near villages that have not evolved since Franco’s time) on which s/he employs indigenous South Americans on highly exploitative terms.

Like the sound of being a pija? A real pija will tell you that it is impossible to become one (un pijo no se hace, se nace, o sea, “good breeding”), but this isn’t strictly true. As I said above, being pijo is more about attitude than anything else. Here are some top tips, o sea, fijaaate cateta:

1) Pijas love the upper classes of Britain and the Iunis Esteits and, when not talking about their various trips to such parts of the world, try to emanate them in speech. When speaking Spanish, try to insert English words so that you sound posh and cultured, o sea, siempre habla con glamur, que queda super fino! Never lisp your Ss, which is typical of the backward peasants of the south. Oh, and pijos have an impediment which prevents the pronunciation of the letter “b,” saes?

2) Send your children to a private school, so that they are trained to understand that they are better than everyone else, and to increase their chances of gaining enchufes (jobs thanks to nepotism). That way, they will be paid a mint without ever having to do a full day’s work. Their teachers’ may also be kind enough to sit their university entrance exam for them, if paid the right price.

3) Learn to love appropriate musical icons such as David Bustamente, Enrique Iglesias, Victoria Beckham and Justin Bieber, o sea, que su musica es super guay, a que mola tia! Super kool. Watch gossip shows (telebasura) in order to learn the importance of superficiality and two-faced behaviour in your relations with others, O sea que loser, es que es tan cutre que lo flipo en colores!!! Y también es una rubia teñida, Saes??

4) The young pija studies business, law, economics or medicine at her local university. In her free time, she likes to attend nightclubs with chic, foreign names, such as Mae West (pronounced “My Way”) and drink a lot. This can be an expensive business, (o sea, dame dinero mami o papi porfi-please) but is a good chance to show off her latest purchases from Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste or Ralph Lauren. Incidentally, the official pija shoe is the shiny heel (preferably in beige) however this does change from season to season in order to ensure the greatest amount of capitalist consumerism: read the woman’s supplement of the weekend edition of your La Razón, ABC or La Gaceta newspaper to keep up with what you should be buying.

5) As is often the case in other geographical contexts, beauty ideals in Spain are linked to wealth and status. Pijas should wear their hair straight and long, and preferably bouffant and, if the colouring permits it, blonde highlights. Large pearls are a must, as is a (tight) blouse with the collar turned up, plus a huge, shiny bag and beige jodhpurs (a nod to the English upper classes, o sea supermegafashion oh mi god!!!!). You’ll have lots of time to do your nails at your civil service job where you are paid to do nothing.

6) Your boyfriend should wear a pink or nautical shirt with a brand logo and beige chinos that are a little too tight. A blue jersey should be hung over the shoulders. The older pijo may like to grow sideburns, especially if he lives in Andalusia or the countryside (campo-pijo). His hair should not be too short, should be styled with a side parting, or, if older or a campo-pijo, combed back with lots of gel.

7) When your boyfriend is not with you, he should try and have sex with as many other people as possible, including at the ever-discreet putódromo Club Don Pepe Don José (super-sized brothel appropriately located next to Toys R Us in Granada) or another local massage parlour (the place on the spectrum of consent of the “goods”, from sex worker to enslaved girl child, is not of interest to the pijo) owned by the village mayor. Despite being a closet putero (punter), he should maintain the public front of a catholic believer, o sea un tío muy fiel y muy formal. In the words of The Kinks, he should aim to emulate the impression of “a sophisticated man about town, doing the right things so conservatively.”

8) If you are an aged pija, you should be confident in your queue-jump right. When you get to the bank to check your tenants have paid on time, if you find lots of people waiting, just walk straight to the front of the queue. If the cashier’s already serving someone, go ahead and interrupt. You know you are better than everyone else in the bank, señora, because you inherited half of Gran Vía and you can trace your ancestry back to the medieval conquistadores (Columbus-style colonisers). The older pija is the Queen Bee of pijas. She waits for no one.

So, pija, are you better than the other girls? Does your boyfriend wear Ralph Lauren? Do you think Spain is still at war with the Moors? Yes? You are ready. Go forth, consume and don’t forget to vote PP.


21 Mar

I have today been nominated to upload a #NoMakeUpSelfie to Facebook as part of the latest social media craze.

At first, I was baffled by the campaign, which, according to status updates in my facebook newsfeed, had the aim of “raising awareness of cancer.” I found this confusing because I thought most people were pretty much aware of cancer by now (unless they live in a secluded community in the Brazilian rainforest far from the media and carcinogenic chemicals, I suppose).

Nevertheless, the campaign has evolved into one that aims to raise awareness of the work of breast cancer charities, especially Cancer Research UK, and my generous and fabulous women friends have been donating money when uploading selfies. This is admirable and makes much more sense as a campaign.

I do have some problems with the basis of the campaign though, if not with its aims (*collective groan* – sorry everyone).

The idea of women being sponsored, or sponsoring themselves, to go without make-up raises some interesting issues. Is removing make-up really the sort of grand gesture that is deserving of donations? The ultimate sacrifice for charity? The social media trend suggests that this is so. This in itself points to the fact that the world has not accepted women without make-up.* Indeed, the airbrushed, perfect images of women in the media pressure women to wear make-up, as do the endless advertising campaigns that make women feel ugly without it. Of course, why should women care if they feel “ugly” or “beautiful” according to social conventions of what constitutes attractiveness? We shouldn’t, but most of us do, because society trains us to from childhood.

If the #NoMakeUpSelfie idea was consciously and critically attempting to raise awareness of the patriarchal idea that women must be beautiful, and the capitalist idea that they can only be beautiful if they spend money on cosmetics, then I would applaud it. However, I’m not sure it is doing this consciously. It seems to have been started on the basis that an un-made-up woman is something of an unusual freakshow (unusual because many women have been made to feel unattractive without make-up, which is highlighted by some of the comments by men on my facebook newsfeed, calling women’s fresh-faced selfies “ugly”), something outrageous that is done for charity, like having a bath in baked beans. What is this saying? That women should strive to be more attractive by wearing make-up all the time, only taking it off if it’s for charity?

 On the other hand, many women are reclaiming the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign. The proliferation of diverse, un-airbrushed, un-cosmetically-enhanced images of women is a positive thing, which many of my women friends have noted in their own facebook statuses accompanied by their selfies. Furthermore, quite a few of my women friends have pointed out that they never wear make-up anyway, which in itself shows that the (sexist) basis of the BareFaced campaign – that it is always a daring feat for women to go without make-up – is flawed.

Here is my #NoMakeUpSelfie, which I post to raise awareness of how patriarchal society tells us that how we look isn’t good enough, and how capitalism cajoles us into spending money on (carcinogenic) cosmetics to make us look more socially acceptable:


And no I’m not dressed yet.

I have chosen to give my donation to Breast Cancer Action, which highlights the very political nature of the disease. I think it’s worth raising awareness of the their work and policies:

  • They lobby for more funding transparency by cancer campaigns that partner with corporations profiting from cancer (by selling products that they know have carcinogenic chemicals, for example, or from creaming huge profits off the medicines they make), such as the Pink Ribbon campaign.
  • They focus on the social disparities amongst mortal victims of cancer. In the US for example, a black woman is 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than a white woman. Cancer is not just about genes, it’s also about social injustice.
  • They highlight the environmental links to breast cancer (did you know that 70% of breast cancer victims have none of the known genetic “risk factors”?) and campaign against the use of carcinogenic chemicals in many of the products that we use everyday (WHICH, IRONICALLY, INCLUDE COSMETICS**
    – in the light of this, going “make-up free” to fight cancer makes much more sense!)
  • They advocate for less toxic and more effective treatment for breast cancer, and for the treatments that are best for the patient rather than those that best match the needs of corporations.
  • They have a strict corporate donations policy (no donations from corporations that profit from cancer) and are therefore in far greater need of donations from members of the public.

*I don’t mean to suggest that all women who wear make-up do so due to societal pressures. There are many reasons why women wear make-up. Some see it as an art form, for example. Others find it creative and fun. I should also note that I deplore the shaming of women who are seen to “wear too much slap.”

**Click here or here for advice on buying make-up and other cosmetics that aren’t going to give you cancer.

Police your body

10 Mar

WOMAN, the year is 1984 and you are the dictator of your body. Keep it under tight surveillance, bending it to the will of culture. You mustn’t forget that society owns your body, but you are responsible for its upkeep.

Why do you sit like that, with your wicked unwieldy flesh spread out all over that chair? Don’t take up so much space: it’s unladylike. Fold your arms in. Cross your legs. Bow your head. That’s better.

Were you born in the West? Capitalism will help you to police your body. Buy make up to veil your face. Pay a diet club to weigh you in each week like cattle at the market. An obliging surgeon will mutilate you into shape for the right price. Contract another woman, preferably a migrant, to rip out your body hair and colour your nails. Buy clothes, lots of clothes. Far away, other women are destroying their bodies with 18/7 shifts to make them for you.

Your body is here for men’s enjoyment. However, don’t forget that there is a fine line between looking enticing and asking to be raped. Impose limits on your body to avoid the latter: curfews, avoidance of intoxication, flirting, wearing short skirts. Keep your demeanour well-policed. If anything happens to you it is your own fault and you will bear the consequences. 

The government owns your womb. Check with the state before using contraception, aborting or attempting reproduction. If you are poor in a Western country, you have no right to children. If you live in a colonised country, your role is a baby-assembly line. The nation needs your offspring to increase the size of its army.

Are you fat or aged? Retire from public life immediately for you are no longer useful. Are you young? Speak only when spoken to and, pray, do not be shrill.

Never forget it: you are the Chief Overseer, not the owner, of your body. 

Fight Father Time with the Cat Litter Facial

1 Feb

As posters from the recent Hollywood blockbuster “The Counsellor” remind us, scars, wrinkles and other signs of ageing are unacceptable in women and yet add character to men. Signs of aging make a man more distinguished, rugged if you like. His stray greys make him a silver fox. He seems more worldly and mysterious. Like a mature whiskey aged in a highland oak barrel, the older man is all the more delectable. On the other hand, a woman must avoid ageing as it will always make her less attractive. No one wants to date a haggard old spinster. Less still do they want to hear a mad old bat attempt to speak with authority. As women age, they become non-people. Their worth has an expiry date.  Older women become disposable, whilst older men are generally seen to have acquired wisdom, authority and experience through their years.

Of course, these sexist and ageist stereotypes are the foundation that holds up the $88 billion anti-ageing industry. Since women’s physical appearance is attached to their social, cultural and economic worth in a way that isn’t true for men, the former are encouraged to spend a sizeable portion of their budgets on looking younger not just by body-dismorphia-enducing advertising campaigns, but also by cultural bodies and the economy. That is why only 18% of TV presenters aged over 50 are women and why older women are the segment of the population hardest hit by the cuts.

Case in point. Anyone remember Arlene Phillips?

Case in point. Anyone remember Arlene Phillips?

So natural woman, if you want to remain a person with worth, you must disguise your humanity from the world and ensure you stay eternally youthful. But we are in crisis and anti-ageing treatments are so expensive. I can’t afford to launch war on Old Father Time and fight the natural changes of my hateful face. In Lenin’s words, what is to be done? Internet beauty bloggers (and the Daily Mail) have an answer: the Cat Litter facial! You, like I did, can try it at home…

Step 1) Learn to recognise that your ageing face is repugnant and needs immediate correction. Women’s mags or the telly can provide inspiration  (Heat magazine’s “Face Watch” column is particularly effective).

Step 2) Buy some cat litter from your local supermarket. Or, if you don’t want to fork out, just scoop up the remnants of your cat’s litter tray, making sure you scrape out any bits of poo before moving on to step 3.



Step 3) Grind down the pellets of litter in a pestle and mortar until they form a smooth texture. Mix with Evian-branded water. You’ll be impressed by the professional finish that this gives.


Step 4) Cook your mask slowly in a bain marie. The bain marie ensures a gentle and uniform heat throughout the mask. Microwaving the mask risks too much heat: you don’t want scold your skin with hot shit.


Step 5) Apply to the face and leave for 15 minutes. Make sure you don’t lie down near your cat. You might find, like I did, that the mask gives off a Gruyere cheese scent as it dries. Wash off cat litter.


Step 6)  Admire your younger looking face. Voila! Check me out! Post cat-litter facial and my face is as smooth as a newly tarmacked road! Unfortunately, if it doesn’t work for you, it’s time to save up for a trip to the needle farm.


P.S. Not everyone recommends the cat litter facial. Cosmopolitan magazine, for example, insists that it is not advisable and is probably dangerous. Cosmo bases this view on the advice of their expert, a representative of the American chain beauty salon Sine Qua Non, which happens to be one of the magazine’s numerous sponsors. The beauty rep advises the reader to stick to her salon’s own, much superior brand of “Hungarian-sourced” bentonite clay, which is definitely very different from the bentonite clay used in cat litter. What’s more, her salon will put this clay on your face and rub it in using a soothing motion for just $118! You could also try the bird poo facial for $215.

Sense of entitlement

5 Jan

This is brilliant, and yet horrendous to read

Edinburgh Eye

This post has trigger warnings.

It’s mostly about rape.

View original post 3,051 more words

Tanuary: Spanish politicians go orange for anti-choice

21 Dec

The Spanish People’s Party (PP) have launched a nationwide campaign to increase popular support for the laws that bid women to seek unsafe, illegal and underground terminations.

The legal changes announced last Friday make abortion illegal accept in the case of rape, malformed foetus or potential damage to the pregnant woman’s health. In an attempt to reverse the poll results that find 81% of Spaniards against the reforms, and following in the footsteps of other cringeworthy but popular Anglophone campaigns such as STOPtober and Movember, the ruling PP party will be setting off the new year with a campaign officially named Tanuary.

Tanuary will see high-profile members of the Spanish government wearing fake tan for the entire month of January in an attempt to celebrate anti-choice. Spanish citizens are encouraged to show their support by doing likewise, or, if already bronzed, by donating to the PP’s charitable welfare fund for party members who have not been lucky enough to benefit financially from the Barcenas slush fund scandal. However, plans for further animating mass citizen support via marches complete with placards painted with the slogan “Orange for (the state’s control of) Ovaries” have been cancelled since the expression of political opinions in public is now illegal.

PP members are excited to attend the spray tan shop on mass

PP members are excited to attend the spray tan salon on mass

Commenting on the campaign, President of the Spanish Government Mariano Rajoy said, “the Spanish taxpayer will be treating me to Christmas in Bermuda, which will give me the opportunity to get brown ready for Tanuary. This is a great opportunity for the people of Spain to rally around our national anti-choice principles and fascist heritage, and anyone who says otherwise can f*** the f*** off and pay a fine of €30,000.”

Rajoy takes a “selfie” whilst preparing for Tanuary

The head of Spain’s Catholic Church, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, commented, “we are pleased with the reforms, but feel that the government’s pro-life stance should go further and incorporate the prohibition of male mastubation. Each time a man ejaculates outside of his wife’s body, millions of potential lives are ended. It is literally murder and quite ungodly, whilst having little to do with a man’s right to control his own body.”

The government has not announced any plans for socioeconomic safety nets for financially vulnerable women forced to give birth against their will.

Danger! Un-vagisiled Intimate Area

26 Nov

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a travel advisory for this intimate area. Anyone who penetrates the area risks contact with thousands of sweat glands and potential kidnap by radicalised groups of unwaxed hairs.

As has been discussed elsewhere on the Capitalist Beauty tag and by Caroline Criado-Perez, the beauty industry has a water-tight business model: it feeds on women’s insecurities about our bodies (our vulnerability stems from the fact that we are taught, from girlhood, that our self-worth is inextricably linked to our ability to mimic constructed notions of beauty and physical attractiveness) by convincing us that we are repulsive. Then, it sells us back the “solutions.” That is, solutions to problems that wouldn’t exist at all if it wasn’t for the beauty industry in the first place.

The most repugnant part of a woman’s body, according to the beauty industry, is her vagina. Apologies! Even the word itself is too offensive to say! Therefore, for the rest of this article I shall follow the beauty industry’s preferred lingo and refer to a woman’s sexual organs as her intimate area.*

There is already a whole array of products and surgical procedures to make our intimate areas seem more pubescent, whiter and tighter. Now, as a TV advertisement informed me the other evening, we should now also be using Vagisil, which, as far as I understand, is a type of Febreze for fannies. According to the advert, although a sweaty “odour” is entirely “normal” in a lady’s intimate area, she should nevertheless be so embarrassed by the fact that her area sweats that she should hide behind a houseplant.** Yet, scenting her intimate area with Vagisil products will “give her the confidence” to kick over the houseplant and brave the social world again. Presumably, this is the capitalist version of women’s empowerment.

Eve was forced to hide behind a fig leaf because she had no Vagisil (and God hadn't invented houseplants in those days)

Eve was forced to hide behind a fig leaf because she had no Vagisil (and God hadn’t invented houseplants in those days)

But gosh! It had never occurred to me that my intimate area shouldn’t be sweating. If  – as the beauty industry tells me – my intimate area should be febreezed, lighter-coloured, labia-free, more symmetrical, tighter, hairless and so on, would it not just be easier to have the entire area removed? Or perhaps we should just glue the lips together with special Vagisil sealant, so that the intimate area would at least stop secreting disgusting fluids such as menstrual blood?

Frankly, by shouting, as they do, “WOMAN, YOUR VAGINA IS DISGUSTING,” Vagisil and the rest of the so-called “intimate health” industry are guilty of profound misogynism and they call for us to collaborate them: they wish for us to hate our intimate areas and to heap shame on other women who don’t. I have spoken to my own intimate area about this, and she is very angry. She is not taking it lying down (although she often does). This intimate area says V is for Vendetta, as well as for Vagina, and she is planning revenge on Vagisil. She has yet to decide what form the vengeance will take, but it will probably involve sending one of the following to the Vagisil office: the Order of the Lady Finger, an old pair of un-febrezed pants, or some artwork formed of vagina prints. Further suggestions welcome.

*Note that this turn of phrase is the clinical and character-free linguistic equivalent of magnolia paint, which is a shame given that the vagina is a source of pleasure and babies. If only the beauty industry used “fun tunnel” or “mother of all souls,” which, I’m sure you’d agree, are nicer substitutes for “vagina”. 

** If you really must follow the advert’s advice, could I suggest you choose the marijuana as your refuge of choice. It may help you to put things into perspective.

A lesson in the non-apology from Slimming World

1 Nov

The fauxapology, also known as the if-apology, is a technique commonly employed by politicians and PR Executives (and, in my experience, by sexists, racists, snobs and ex-romantic interests) to deny any responsibility for the statement, grievance, misdeed or behaviour displayed.

The non-apology merely shows that the non-apologiser is sorry that the aggrieved is requesting an apology, demanding compensation, or threatening retaliation. The non-apologiser shows no contrition, remorse or meaningful expression of regret for their actions. S/he admits nothing. Indeed, the non-apology is often employed to shift blame to the aggrieved, by implying that s/he has misunderstood the incident, is acting in an over-dramatic fashion, has no sense of humour or is over-sensitive. It is basically a way of saying FUCK OFF without saying fuck off.

Consider the following:

•    “I am sorry if you feel that way”
•    “I’m sorry if you are upset”
•    “I’m sorry if you can’t take a joke but most people think my antiquated racial slurs are hilarious”
•    “I’m sorry that your arse got in the way of my hand”
•    “I’m sorry that you interpreted my touchy-feely nature as groping”
•    The non-apology of Maria Kang (she of social media fame due to her mother-shaming “what’s your excuse?” photography, which went viral on facebook last week).

If you need a more in-depth case study in order to better understand the art of faux-apology, please find below Slimming World’s response to my complaint at their hideous mother-shaming marketing strategy:

Dear Joanna
Thanks for getting in touch regarding the Slimming World leaflet that you received. We’re really sorry to hear that you feel so upset by it, it’s certainly not meant to cause offence in any way.
We use our real members in our campaigns to genuinely reflect the positive changes that losing weight makes to their lives. Sara, the member who you refer to on our leaflet has genuinely said that she feels much happier, more confident and able to be the mum she always wanted to be. By losing weight, she says that she feels fitter and more able to run around and play with her children and that she’s also passing her healthier lifestyle on to her family.
At Slimming World we absolutely believe that your worth is not in your weight. It’s our goal to help people who wish to lose weight achieve the weight they want to be – our members choose their own target weight, and we support them to achieve it. Sara has now reached her target weight, which means that she is able to attend her Slimming World group free of charge to help her maintain her weight loss for life.
Once again, we’re sorry that you feel upset by our materials and thank you for taking the time to get in touch.
With best regards

Have a HOT Halloween

31 Oct

In those bygone, dark days before I began trying in earnest to be a proper woman, I used to believe that I should dress sexily only when I wanted to.* But alas, I was wrong! It seems women, teenagers and girls should dress in a way that men find sexually appealing at all times. This is especially true on Halloween, when, increasingly, the only costumes available to women are sexy ones. Being sexy is compulsory. If men should look ghoulish on Halloween, women should be sexy and ghoulish.

Now that the need to be sexy is clear, it is time to plan your outfit. For those of you that are in a hysterical, female tizzy about what to wear for this weekend’s Halloween parties, kindly stop your fretting at once, for I have developed a short guide to your options:

1)    Go for the traditional sexy scary look. For example, copy my ghost outfit, pictured below, in which scary has become irresistibly sexy by wearing a bra on the outside.


Thanks to the “Venus from Mars” blog for this costume idea

2)    Dress up as a traditional Halloween object or animal. Why not dress as a Playboy Pumpkin? Just cover yourself in fake tan and wear bunny ears. TOP TIP: The Playboy Pumpkin look can also be recreated on non-Halloween days. Why not give the guys a a treat and try wearing it to the office one day?

3)    In the USA, and increasingly in the UK, it doesn’t matter if your costume isn’t related to Halloween. Any fancy dress will do, as long as it is sexy. Indeed, Cosmopolitan has plenty of unusual and, in their words, “slutty” (in everyone else’s words “brazenly racist”) ideas for Halloween this year: No.1 on their list is designed especially for women of Asian ethnicity: a sexy Mail-Order Bride! Or, why not poke fun at Native American culture and dress as a Pocohottie?

4)    Typically female professions are always a good source of sexy Halloween inspiration (think sexy Nurse or sexy Secretary). In the context of the economic crisis, female poverty can provide extra ideas for all you hot partygoers. Why not try sexy underemployed, underpaid Office Temp, sexy full-time Carer, or a Sexy Office Worker (thanks Heather for the link)? I have gone for a sexy Unpaid Domestic Labourer, wearing nothing but underwear beneath my apron and making use of a mop as a poledance accessory.

sexy domestic

Admittedly, this outfit would have worked better if the apron was shorter, my tights were fishnet and my feet were clad in stilettos. But I’m just an amateur woman.

*Speaking seriously, the idea that young women can freely choose or meaningfully decide to dress sexily is flawed, given that we live under the pressure of a patriarchal marketing machine, which tells girls to look sexually available to men at all times. With this post, I do not mean to criticise women and girls who choose to dress in a sexy fashion, but to call out the marketing campaigns and industries which make it near impossible for women to negotiate our own choices about how we dress and express our sexualities.