In the first of a series of articles by our amazing team of Student Features Writers, Priya Toberman lays down her thoughts on how the stereotypes of women in the media can affect women today.
When I was younger, the girls in the books I read were my heroes. They were tough, they didn’t like the colour pink, and the idea of wearing makeup made them want to puke. They were what we tend to call ‘Strong Female Character’.
Although well-meaning, the recurrence of this trope has the unfortunate side effect of creating a stereotype of those girls that do choose to express themselves as traditionally feminine. This isn’t because of its existence as a whole, but because it is often twisted into the idea that traditionally feminine values equate to stupidity, vanity and superficiality. The problem with this, is that there is zero evidence to prove that someone’s intelligence is affected by their outward appearance.
This impacted me hugely when I was little. I didn’t want to do something that might make me appear ‘girly’, in part because I thought the word ‘girl’ meant being seen as less intelligent, more incapable and essentially, less of a person who could be taken seriously. What’s worse, is that I would see other girls as lesser for liking the colour pink, glitter, or for wearing makeup. It took me years to change this way of thinking, and I know that it’s not just me—this is true for so many girls.
Stereotypes pervade many of the problems experienced by young women. Telling girls that they should behave in a certain way in order to be taken seriously brings us back to the olden days when women were forced to perform femininity. Moreover, telling girls that if they appear a certain way, they have a certain personality, is reductive–it contributes to the idea that women are a homogenous group without individual personalities. Not real people, but simply a construction of what society believes we are.
The dehumanisation of women is what keeps misogyny on its feet, and is perpetuated by the media only producing the same stereotypical female characters, instead of creating characters which are believable as real people.
The reason tackling stereotypes is so important is because it can easily be fixed by showing children that the way people present themselves doesn’t have to have anything to do with who they are. If these stereotypes can be broken down while children are still children, then the problem would eventually disappear, but because the stereotypes we were exposed to as children are beyond our control, we must re-educate ourselves once we are old enough to properly understand.
I believe that the true issue experienced by young people is the lack of control we feel over our own lives. While the media we are exposed to will inevitably be out of our control, there are other issues within society which affect young people and could benefit from our voices. I’m talking politics, education, basically everything that affects teenagers more than anyone else. Decisions about these sorts of things are usually made by adults who can’t or won’t see things from our perspective. If young people could be included in the decision-making, if we are allowed to discuss problems in our society and in the media which affect us, we would be far better prepared for the future.
And as for those stereotypes, although there is little we can do to control what’s already been done, I think it’s important that we can move forward recognising these stereotypes so that we, the next generation, can set about dismantling them. I can’t wait until I can finally open any book and discover new characters with fully fleshed out personalities from all genders, races and sexualities, and for that to become the norm. As the writers, inventors and creators of the future, the decisions we make in the future are crucial; it’s our time to set a precedent for what society should be.
Feminism gets a bad rap most of the time. Making headlines for transphobia, man-hating and bra burning, loads of people today don’t even like being associated with the term ‘feminist’. But, it’s not all bad, and in fact most feminists do not agree with any of the stuff that you might have heard. That’s why we scoured Google for the biggest (autocomplete) myths about feminism, so that we can prove them wrong #thefutureisfemale.
1) You can’t be a guy and be feminist
Literally everyone can be a feminist, and many guys out there are. In fact, feminism at it’s heart believes in equal rights for men and women, meaning men can benefit from it as well through things like equal maternity and paternity leave. Let’s hear it for the boys!
2) All feminists hate men
Feminism is literally about equal rights for everyone. That’s it. That is what it all boils down to. Hating the systematic oppression of women in society, hating catcalling and sexual harassment, hating the pay gap, is definitely not the same thing as hating men.
3) You can’t show skin and be feminist
A lot of people think that being a feminist is incompatible with showing skin. This thought assumes all women bare their flesh to make a man happy or to attract one, which is just wrong. Sometimes it’s just a hot day, sometimes we aren’t in to guys, sometimes we like our outfits that way, and sometimes it can be empowering AF to be free with our bodies.
4) You can’t be a feminist and be into beauty/fashion
Being a feminist does not have to dictate what you wear, how you wear it, how long your hair is or if you like to wear make-up. In fact, the best thing about feminism is that it fights for a woman’s right to choose to do what they want, whenever they want, without prejudice or judgement. Plus make-up isn’t just for women – everyone can use it! So if you want to watch hours of make-up tutorials on Youtube and spend a little too much money on an eye shadow palette, then you do you.
5) You can’t be a feminist and listen to rap music
Dude. Seriously? So, we get where this is coming from, given that many lyrics in rap music are pretty sexist. But this totally disregards all the women in rap, hip hop and RnB that have worked incredibly hard on their music and built a career in a male dominated music genre.
6) You can’t be a feminist and get married or be a mum
So many feminists are married and have children, and in fact advocate for mother’s rights and for the rights of their children to live in a world free from prejudice. Dealing with issues such as breastfeeding, returning to work after kids and choices around raising children all can have a feminist perspective. Check out Chrissy Teigen and Amy Schumer, who give us some seriously powerful feminist mum vibes.
7) Feminism isn’t needed anymore
‘You have the vote, you can drive, what more do you want?’ There are so many things feminism has yet to tackle. The gender pay gap, pervasive sexual harassment, unequal maternity and paternity leave to name only very few. Plus, not all women have equal rights around the world, and that is a hugely important thing to remember when asking if feminism is really needed.
Equality is awesome. For more content on equal rights, love, inspiration and more, follow us on Instagram @ditchthelabel
Join in the conversation now and join our community here.
It’s International Women’s Day and we’re really excited to celebrate the achievements of women the world over. Sexism is an ongoing battle that we’re proud to be fighting against alongside other amazing organisations and individuals who are collectively giving the 🖕🏽 to gender stereotypes. Women have been making history throughout history, it’s about time we all started celebrating it!
So to celebrate IWD 2019, we’ve compiled a list of 10 amazing women who truly deserve a shoutout for their all-around badassery:
1. Marley Dias
When she was in sixth grade, Marley Dias launched a campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks. The campaign was a drive to collect and distribute 1,000 books with black girl protagonists and give them out to libraries all over the world. Marley launched her own book this year and it’s awesome…
2. Tamika D. Mallory
Social Justice champion and co-founder of the Women’s March, Tamika D Mallory is responsible for fronting the intersectional feminist movement. The New York Amsterdam Times names her as Woman of the Year on 2017 stating “[Mallory] spoke before more than 1 million people in Washington D.C. and a total of 5 million worldwide who witnessed the power of women coming together in the aftermath of the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The moment is now documented as the largest single-day protest in U.S. history and Mallory was at the forefront.”
4. Alyssa Milano
We’re all familiar with #MeToo. Over the last year, there have been some horrifying revelations about the treatment of women in the film industry but #MeToo was something even bigger than Hollywood; it was a public demand for gender equality and an end to sexual harassment and violence towards women… and it all started with a tweet.
5. Charlie Craggs
Charlie is a trans activist and the founder of award-winning national campaign called Nail Transphobia. The idea is an example of what’s been called ‘gentle activism’. Charlie tackles transphobia on the daily by offering the opportunity to chat to a real trans person whilst getting your nails done! The idea means that people who might not be in the know with trans issues can ask questions and find out more information in a safe space.
6. Camilla Thurlow
After appearing on Love Island in 2017 Camilla used her new-found fame to raise awareness of humanitarian issues going on around the work. Rather than Tweeting her love for brands and face cream Camilla talks about the things that really matter, and we think that’s pretty cool.
7. Meryl Streep
Officially the mother of Hollywood, Meryl’s speech at the Golden Globes in 2017 was not only moving and beautiful, it was important, relevant and needed. “When the Powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”… Go get em’ Meryl!
8. The Nigerian Bob-sleigh team
Ok so, this one’s a bit of a cheat because it’s kind of a two-in-one but Seun Adigun (left) and Akuoma Omeoga (right) had people cheering at their TV screens the world over when they took to the slopes in the 2018 WInter Olympics as the first ever African Olympian bob-sleigh team!
9. Mhairie Black
Mhairie black is officially the youngest MP to be elected to the House of Commons in almost 200 years. She brings the noise to parliament on the daily, always drawing attention to LGBTQ and Women’s issues. It’s great to see someone’s representing the Millenial generation in politics!
10. Elle Mills
Elle Mills hit 1 million subscribers on her youtube channel this year and of all the many YouTubers out there who could deserve it, Elle does. Her channels’ got it all, from the lols to the luls. Elle released her coming out story which she shared last year and filled us with all the feels. We highly recommend you check out Elle’s channel, she’s a badass creator and we’re big fans. 😍
Who inspires you?
So there you have it, 10 badass women who we think are awesome! However, this doesn’t mean that they’re the only ones worthy of a shoutout! International Women’s Day is about celebrating the achievements of all women across the globe and we want to hear who’s inspired you this year! Join us in the community to carry on the discussion…
Slut shaming can be defined as making a female-identified individual feel guilt, shame or inferiority for her real or perceived sexual behaviour or appearance. It’s by no means a new phenomenon – it has been happening for centuries and continues to happen on a daily basis, all over the world.
Our media is awash with stories of females being slut-shamed in many differing and perverse ways; Taylor Swift for having ‘too many’ boyfriends, Kim Kardashian for posting naked selfies, Monica Lewinsky for having sexual relations with a president, the ‘Slane’ girl (a 17 year old girl who was photographed performing oral sex at an Eminem concert in Slane, Ireland. The photos of her were immediately posted on all social media and began trending worldwide with the hashtag #slaneslut – yet there was no hashtag for the guy in the picture), Little Mix for dressing too provocatively during an X Factor performance, Miley Cyrus for her 2013 VMA performance with Robin Thicke, Amber Rose after Kanye West said publicly (in reference to their past relationship) “I had to take thirty showers before I got with Kim”.
We need to better understand what slut shaming is and the implications of judging women only in this manner, if we are wanting to implement positive societal change.
With this in mind, we have listed the 5 things you need to know about slut shaming.
1. Slut shaming is a form of bullying.
“Her dress is too short/revealing.” “She is such a slut.” “She looks like a prostitute.” “I heard she’s really easy.” “She was asking for it.”
Have you ever flippantly said any of the above? Or commented on a picture of a girl with words to that effect? You may not have thought of it as bullying because slut shaming has sadly become a culturally accepted practice, but that is exactly what it is.
In the digital age, bullying is no longer strictly a face-to-face encounter. With the internet and the increasing popularity of social media, cyberbullying is rife – and slut shaming is at the forefront of this epidemic – although of course it happens regularly in offline environments too.
Cyberbullying comes in a whole range of different shapes and sizes and is something that is totally subjective to the recipient. We define cyberbullying as the following: “Cyberbullying is the use of digital technologies with an intent to offend, humiliate, threaten, harass or abuse somebody.” If someone is using the internet to slut shame you, please read our guide on how to combat cyberbullying.
2. Slut shaming kills.
The impact of bullying can be so devastating that for some, they feel there is no way out but to take their own life. Slut shaming causes catastrophic and irreversible harm to the individual experiencing it. If you are being slut shamed or experiencing any kind of bullying, know that you do not deserve it and you are not to blame for what is happening to you. Remember that the person who is bullying you is the one with the issue, not you. It is in no way your fault; people experience bullying not because of their sexuality, gender identity, race, appearance, disability or any other unique factor; it is because of the attitude towards the factor. The only thing possible to change is attitudes – you are perfect the way you are. If you would like support or guidance, you can get help from the Ditch the Label team.
3. Slut shaming is sexist.
Slut shaming comes from not accepting or allowing specifically females to engage in or express sexual behaviour real or perceived. We cannot talk about slut shaming without mentioning the huge double standard that is at the core of it all; to put it plainly – what words are often used to describe a sexually active male? Player, ladies man, stud or lad. What words are often used to describe a sexually active female? Slut, whore, slag or skank. There are apparently 220 derogatory words that describe sexually promiscuous women but only 20 for sexually promiscuous men.
Society is far more accepting of sexual exploration from boys than girls, which is indicative of the damaging gender inequalities still at play today. Slut shaming also goes hand in hand with rape culture; blaming survivors of rape and sexual assault for the brutal attacks they have experienced.
4. Girls slut shame girls.
Unfortunately, females slut shaming other females is all too common. In 2016 we worked in conjunction with social intelligence company, Brandwatch, to gain insight into how misogynistic language is being used across social media, looking specifically at the dialogue on Twitter. We analysed almost 19 million public Tweets from both the UK and US over a four year period to get a broad understanding of the landscape and we found women to be the largest perpetrators of misogynistic language on the social network, with 52% of all misogynistic tweets authored by women. It seems we must not only challenge how men view and treat women, but also how women view and treat one another.
This discovery warrants further exploration into the ways in which women engage with each other in both online and offline environments.
5. Slut shaming is NOT acceptable.
A woman’s current sexual activity, past sexual encounters, preferences, orientation is her business and no one else’s. It is reductive and repressive to judge only one gender in this way; it impacts negatively on our ability to implement positive societal change and create a society that is fair and equal for all.
If you see it, report it.
If you feel like you are exhibiting bullying behaviours and want to know how to stop, we can help you.
If you are being slut shamed or bullied in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us for support.
The Twittersphere is rumbling with the battle cries of thousands of people taking a stand against sexual assault.
Thousands of people are joining the conversation using the hashtag #MeToo. This poignant movement is happening as the story unfolds surrounding the dozens of sexual assault and rape allegations against Hollywood film producer, Harvey Weinstein. #MeToo is unveiling the extent of sexual assault across the world. The number of women coming forward to take a stand is unprecedented, revealing the true magnitude of the problem. Not only is it an issue of sexual violence towards women, but the movement has also encouraged some men and non-binary people to talk about their experiences of sexual violence too- proving that it is an issue which can affect everybody.
Before #MeToo began trending, however, something else was taking off: #WomenBoycottTwitter. This was a call for women to take part in a Twitter blackout in protest of the site banning Rose McGowan, an actor who spoke openly about the Weinstein case online (it’s not actually clear why she was banned). Many women began to push back on Friday, questioning why they were choosing silence instead of speaking out, when women’s voices have been silenced so much in the past.
…. Gaining momentum overnight, the Tweet has encouraged people to speak up about objectification and assault in their own industries and other areas of their personal lives revealing the true extent of the problem. This proves that it is not only firmly rooted within the culture of Hollywood but endemic in society as a whole. What’s worse, it’s going unnoticed, unreported, and unpunished.
According to Safeline, 1 in 4 women are survivors of rape or sexual abuse and for men, it’s 1 in 6.
That means, statistically speaking, that everyone knows somebody who has experienced sexual assault or rape but chances are, they don’t know about it.
These are the statistics that we are aware of. There are thousands of unreported cases of assault, rape and harassment that slip under the radar because unfortunately rape culture is so normalised. That being said, there are many reasons why people may not report it; maybe they feel intimidated. Maybe they think they won’t be believed or maybe in the case of workplace assault, they think speaking out about it will have a detrimental effect on their career (as we’re seeing in Hollywood, right now).
So, what do I do?
If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault or rape, it’s really important that you do tell someone. Don’t worry, you don’t have to take to Twitter and join the #MeToo parade, no one is asking you to go public about your ordeal unless you choose to, but it’s important that you seek help from somewhere.
There are several different ways you can access support:
Tell someone who you trust – a family member, a friend, a teacher, a co-worker. Anyone – you deserve to be listened to.
Seek medical help – you can talk to your GP confidentially or any sexual health clinic, drop-in centre or hospital. Even if you feel fine, it’s imperative that you speak to a medical professional.
Speak to the Police – you can either call them, speak to someone in person or report online through Victim Support – Sexual assault and rape are very serious crimes that shouldn’t go unreported.
Get help online or on the phone – there are countless amazing organisations run by experts who can help you, support you and advise you on what to do next. Click on the links below to find out more information and talk 1-to-1 with a specially trained advisor:
A fierce Muay Thai fighter, female empowerment advocate, sky-dive accomplish and master of financial law there is no denying that Mia Kang is a force to be reckoned with. Whilst she may be best known for gracing the pages of nearly every print magazine, it’s safe to say she’s far from your average model. In fact, it’s her work off the runway that led Vogue to name her a “model with a mission”.
To find out exactly what that mission requires, we chatted to Mia about everything from the importance of diversity in the fashion industry to the low down on how to stay motivated when studying.
Here’s an insight into how Mia became such a kickass female
DTL: Hey Mia! Thanks for chatting with us. To start, could you tell our readers a bit about who you are and why you were keen to get involved with our work here at Ditch the Label? Mia: I grew up as an overweight mixed-race kid in an international school in Hong Kong. Not only was I heavily bullied about my weight, but I was heavily bullied because I felt I didn’t fit in with either the Caucasian kids or the Asian kids. So, I was a loner. Waking up every day and going to school was so painful that I sometimes used to try and fake illnesses so I didn’t have to go.
I underwent everything from name calling, being the victim of pranks, being publicly humiliated, even death threats. But, I think the worst was being ignored. I used to hide in the back of the library and sleep during lunch breaks so that time would pass by faster and I could go home. I would save up all my lunch money and take cabs to and from school so I didn’t have to sit alone and deal with the isolation.
I remember the feeling of being totally isolated and feeling alone so vividly, which is why I want to be a part of a support system like Ditch the Label.
At age 13 I lost a lot of weight and was scouted to be a model. The boys who made my life hell every single day were then the ones asking me out. People then found new reasons to bully me. I was now the ‘slut’ or ‘flat chested’ or anything they could think of to put me down. I’m living proof that being bullied only makes you stronger.
I wouldn’t be who I am today without these experiences and I am actually thankful that they happened.
Bullying never stops, all we can do is equip ourselves with the right skills to deal with it and use it as fuel to our fire to succeed in life. Especially with social media today. I deal with cyberbullying every day, and as success continues it will only get worse. I think it’s important to share these coping mechanisms and to create a support system so that no one feels alone.
DTL: Vogue called you a “model with a mission”. Can you fill us in on what your mission is all about? Mia: As I mentioned I grew up overweight and at age 13 I almost halved my weight. I spent the next 15 years going through every eating disorder you can imagine – anorexia, bulimia, addiction to cigarettes, narcotics, laxatives, health supplements, diuretics. At age 27 I had moved to New York and was under a lot of pressure from the industry to be thinner (I was being asked things like to go on the 10-day liquid only diets before a shoot). But, my body and my mind had had enough so I asked for a 10-day vacation.
I went away to Thailand and found myself falling in love with Muay Thai. I moved into a training camp to live, eat, breathe, sleep Muay Thai for 9 months. Over the course of those 9 months, I gained my health and sanity back, but most importantly my happiness. I had gained strength and confidence. I was able to rid myself of the insecurities that had weighed me down since I can remember, I learned how to eat meals.
I came back to New York and said, I am finally happy, healthy and confident. This is me, take it or leave it.
This is the type of woman that we need in our magazines and on our billboards and in our movies.
We need role models. We need a standard of beauty that is realistic and attainable and that promotes health.
DTL: Diversity within the fashion industry is a controversial topic right now. Why is it so important to you that the current representation of models is challenged? Mia: There is a fashion industry of size 0-2. There is a plus industry of size 12 +. There is barely any representation of anything in the middle – why are we only representing the extremes? As a size 6, I can barely fit into the industry because I’m either ‘too big’ or ‘too small’.
We shouldn’t be living in a world where anyone is ‘too’ anything.
As someone who was an insecure, impressionable 14-year-old girl I was looking at magazines wondering “why don’t I look like that?” I feel like I have a responsibility to try and be the change that we need and to try and make a difference. All I want to do is alleviate some of the pressure that is on women’s shoulders today.
DTL: There’s a huge amount of pressure for young people to look like those featured in magazines. What advice can you offer on staying true to yourself when faced with these standards? Mia: It all comes down to confidence and security.
We all have insecurities, and we probably always will, we are human.
But what we can DECIDE is whether we let them affect our happiness or not. Look your insecurities directly in the face and embrace them, love them. We need to stop comparing ourselves to one another and embrace our differences.
DTL: We’ve seen a huge progression in movements that look to empower women. How do you suggest we make the female empowerment message bigger and better than ever? Mia: It’s a chain – from designers to brands, to media companies, to models and entertainers, to consumers. We each need to do our part to share this message. It’s time that we take the spotlight.
DTL: Your education is something you are incredibly proud of, what are your top tips for staying motivated? Mia: All I want to do is reach my potential (or at least spend my life trying to). I kept going with my education (and will still keep going) because I want to be the best version of myself that I can be.
DTL: As a successful woman who has many impressive achievements, what is the one piece of advice you would give to your younger self? Mia: Be fearless. Don’t let your insecurities weigh you down. Stop trying to fit into a box, be whomever you want to be.
DTL: Finally, what motto do you live by? Mia: Life is not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.
Someone is upset and they are crying out in public or in their own home. They are feeling sad, frustrated, hurt or even betrayed. They are expressing these feelings through their tears.
Their best friend, or brother, or partner, or mum tells them to stop crying.
More specifically, they tell them to “stop being such a girl,” or they say “you’re acting like a girl” or “only girls cry’.
When did ‘being a girl’ become an insult and why hasn’t it stopped already?
The message behind this advice translates plainly to “stop being female“.
Young boys are often taught from a young age to suppress their emotions, to ‘man up’, to ‘stop being a girl’- and many young men conform, for fear of being labelled ‘gay’ or ‘feminine’ – adjectives that have (wrongly) come to be synonymous with weakness. Exhibiting certain behaviours – especially vulnerable behaviours such as the act of crying – are strongly associated with femininity (weakness) and so a culture of shame and embarrassment surrounds it.
However, the effects of this stoicism, suppression and denial are catastrophic: suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK.
We think it’s time everybody knew: crying is actually good for you!
It’s perfectly normal and actually really healthy for people to cry, irrelevant of their gender; it relieves stress and helps us process what we are feeling, helping us to move on in a positive way from a traumatic event. It might sound obvious but we are meant to feel our feelings – every single one of them! Even the uncomfortable ones! Bottling up emotions can lead to serious issues with your mental health, such as depression.
“It might sound obvious but we are meant to feel our feelings – every single one of them! Even the uncomfortable ones!”
And it is not just the act of crying where the put down of “being a girl” is used.
The imagined weakness of being a girl is transferred to other areas of life, especially sports. If you were told ‘you run like a girl’ or ‘throw like a girl’ how would it feel? Would you feel complimented or insulted?
Being told to ‘take it like a man’ or ‘grow a pair’ are also common expressions in everyday language. It further reinforces the link between masculinity as strength and femininity as weakness. Want to know a secret? Your ability to be courageous and strong – be it emotionally or physically – has in fact zero to do with your gender.
“If you were told ‘you run like a girl’ or ‘throw like a girl’ how would it feel? Would you feel complimented or insulted?”
Key findings from our Gender Report 2016 highlighted the powerful impact gender has on our experiences:
35% of teenage girls believe their gender will have a negative effect on their career prospects versus 4% of boys.
44% of respondents (43% male, 45% female, those who identify as trans 79%) have been treated unfairly for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
A high 59% of respondents felt men were better at a career in sport than women, while only 1% of respondents felt that women were better than men.
As one of the leading anti-bullying charities gender equality is very high on our agenda and our research is a crucial tool in unpicking all the complexities.
So the next time you are told, you run ‘like a girl’ or cry ‘like a girl’ or to simply just stop ‘being a girl’, remember this.
When we watch a film and we feel like we identify with or aspire to be like a character we usually take some of their personality, style or interests and implement them into our own life. Whilst films give us a sense of escapism, they also help us to realise and shape our identity. Characters are created to make us think, “Hey, I want be more like her” or “I definitely don’t want to be like her at all” either way we’ll realise what we do or don’t want to be like. Which is useful!
In more recent times there has finally been an increase in the creation of wonderful women characters. These women tell stories of courage, compassion, love, loss, strength, vulnerability and determination. They serve a meaningful purpose, they’re not simply created to entertain us, they’re created to educate and inspire us.
The following list looks at Ditch the Label’s favourite female film characters who remind us how diverse and fantastic all women are. This list celebrates the film industry which has created such strong, sensitive, passionate, beautiful and real women on and off the screen.
If you’ve seen either one, all or none of these films, it doesn’t matter (but you should make it your mission to watch them all). Once you’ve finished reading this list you’ll be proud to be a woman!
In no particular order here’s the best and most inspiring female film characters…
50 inspiring female film characters and why we chose them.
1. Mara Wilson as Matilda (1996)
Because she’s adopted into a really mean family who are different to her and who try and stop her from being herself. Instead of conforming to their way of life she does what she wants. Reading is what she loves and its her way of escaping reality. She’s an independent and kind little girl and she knows the difference between right and wrong. We should all try and be a bit more like Matilda.
2. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games trilogy
Because she knows that protecting her family is the most important thing. She puts herself up for what is essentially death, instead of letting her little sister having to suffer. Katniss fights hard, she’s determined and passionate. She leads the revolution and demonstrates to us all that when something isn’t right, we should not just sit there and watch – we should get up and act.
3. Belle in Beauty and the Beast (1991) (and of course Emma Watson in the live-action version released in 2017)
Because she knows that she’s worth way more than marrying a sexist and chauvinistic villain. She doesn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking or cleaning, no thank you! She loves to educate herself and explore. She also rescues her father and takes his place as a prisoner in the Beast’s palace! The fact that Belle falls in love with her captor is besides the point – she’s still admirable!
4. Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (2001)
Because being a sorority queen who is feminine, blonde and pink obsessed doesn’t exclude you from anything. In this case Elle Woods follows her ex-boyfriend to Law school and says a big ‘stuff you’. Showing everyone there is more to her than her appearance. And to top it off she wins a really high profile legal battle, so yeah she’s kind of awesome.
5. All 3 leading ladies in Hidden Figures (2016)
Because they are a group of highly intelligent African-American female mathematicians who play a huge role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. They dream bigger than anyone who has dreamed before and achieve what no-one has yet achieved. Go girls!
6. Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series
Because she’s feisty and hardworking. And the symbolism of how she is bullied because she is a muggle represents how in our society if you’re different it can mean you are treated unfairly. Which is totally wrong. Hermione stands up for herself and ensures she is always the best version of herself. Never letting the bullies win.
7. Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones in the Bridget Jones series
Because she’s done all the embarrassing things we’ve all dreaded! She’s awkward, hilarious, cringeworthy and just fabulously human! She always tries her best but life just always gets in the way. But you know what’s great about her? She always picks herself up and gets on with things. She has fun and doesn’t take life or herself too seriously. We all need to be a bit more like Bridget!
8. Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark in Me Before You (2016)
Because she cares for someone who’s disabled and depressed. She tries to improve his life and shows us how being selfless is rewarding. She also shows that love can come in all shapes and sizes regardless of your circumstances. She also shows us that in life when you love someone you may need to support what they want, even if it means it will upset you.
9. Ruby Barnhill as Sophie in The BFG (2016)
Because she’s a strong-willed foster child who doesn’t follow the rules, if she wants to stay up late and read then she will! She also meets a very large strange man and once she’s over the initial horror she develops a friendship which is really cute and pulls at the heart strings. And together they save the children of London! So she’s kind of a hero.
10. Susan Sarandon as Louise in Thelma and Louise (1991)
Because she does something she feels she must do, albeit it’s extremely crazy. But it’s because she loves her best friend and can’t let evil things happen without consequences. Their friendship is admirable and they’re just two gorgeous gals with fantastic style too. The epic ending is also the stuff of best friend dreams (or perhaps nightmares) either way it’s a classic girl power film!
11. Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff in Juno (2007)
Because she falls pregnant and just deals with it. She’s not ready for motherhood but she’s ready to be strong for the little baby growing inside her. And seeing her be so strong in order to help others is inspiring. She could take various other routes, some easier, some harder, but she chooses the one she thinks is best for her. And if you live your life by that rule, you’ll be ok.
12. Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Because she’s just a fabulous kooky character and we can all relate to her in so many different ways. Whether you love sleeping with your eye mask on, you’re a socialite or you’re a cat lover, you’ll find a common ground with Holly Golightly and just admire her independence, style and sophistication.
13. Kiera Knightley as Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean series
Because she defies her fathers expectations and dons the pirate outfit pretty fantastically oh and she also helps fight off some pretty questionable characters. She doesn’t take c**p from anyone and she manages to put Captain Jack Sparrow in his place. Kudos to you Elizabeth!
14. Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Because she is sensitive and kind to her new friends and together they embark on an epic adventure, which will help her, but also help her new friends. This shows us how when we meet new people we don’t know what journey they might be on but we should all help each other get to the destination, not hold each other back.
15. Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins (1964)
Because she is fabulously independent and feisty and also warm and kind. The perfect mix. Plus, she models good behaviour to the children and teaches them life lessons and that’s something we all need to continue to do so we ensure we raise wonderful, kind, caring and happy children.
16. Embeth Davidtz as Miss Honey in Matilda (1996)
Because she’s the best teacher ever to exist in the whole entire world. She cares about all her school children and especially the vulnerable, like Matilda. She saves Matilda from the wretched Wormwood family and takes her under her loving wing and treats her as if she’s her own child. What a beaut! Let’s all be more like Miss Honey and look out for the vulnerable in society.
17. Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan in The Help (2011)
Because she wants the voices of the African American maids’ to be heard loud and clear! She sees the hardships they suffer on a regular basis and she doesn’t believe this should go unnoticed. Standing up for and helping those in terrible situations is what we should all try and do more often.
18. Jennifer Hudson as Effie White in Dreamgirls (2006)
Because she goes through many hardships but doesn’t let it ruin her. She picks herself back up again and continues to follow her dreams. Let’s all remember that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger!
19. Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in Finding Dory (2016)
Because despite her memory loss, she doesn’t let that stop her from finding the one thing she wants – her family. She’s sweet yet sassy all at the same time and without meaning to be. She isn’t afraid of going to the far lengths in order to meet her dreams.
20. Anika Noni Rose as Tiana in The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Because Tiana is a Disney princess who actually resonates with a modern society. It’s not just about falling in love in this film, Tiana has a dream to set up and run her own restaurant. She gets on with it and makes her dream happen on her own terms. This is a great story about setting goals and achieving them due to your own efforts. Believe in yourself like Tiana!
21. Abigail Breslin as Olive Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Because she dreams of being a pageant girl and even though she might not be what is portrayed in the media as perfect she still goes for it! She’s confident, super cute and hilarious too. She shows us that doing what we want and not caring what people think is the way forward. We all need to take a leaf out of Olive’s book.
22. Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra in Bend it like Beckham (2002)
Because she doesn’t conform to her cultural pressures and she does what she wants. She plays football and doesn’t simply do what’s expected of her. She also breaks those gendered stereotypes we so often see! Guess what? Women play football too! Duh!
23. Emma Stone as Olive in Easy A (2010)
Because she stands up to the bullies who are slut shaming her and actually uses it to benefit her! She also uses her position to help others. She’s clever, self-assured and funny. But we do also need to remember to make sure we put our own happiness first and not let our own reputation suffer due to helping others. Sometimes it’s important to be a bit selfish.
24. Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper in Spy (2015)
Because she has no confidence and puts herself down. She worships her boss and lets him walk all over her. Then she realises she’s worth more than that. So she does what she’s always wanted to do. Even though it seems terrifying to begin with she gets through it. She experiences ups and downs, but she’s brave and committed and never gives up. Let’s be like Susan Cooper!
25. Kristen Bell as Anna in Frozen (2013)
Because she loves her sister unconditionally and realises something isn’t quite right so she does something about it. Sure, she might be royalty but she doesn’t let that stop her from getting her shoes muddy (or should we say snowy). Go Anna! Remember, even if you’re a princess (which we all are) don’t let things get to your head, stay grounded.
26. Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side (2009)
Because she takes care of a disadvantaged youth who’s struggling in life. She provides him with the love and support he needs to succeed in what he’s good at. Teaching us to be more caring and utilise our advantaged positions; those more fortunate should always help those less fortunate in society.
27. Audrey Tautou as Amélie in Amélie (2001)
Because even though she doesn’t have much she devotes her time to helping others and doing acts of kindness in order to make other people happy. This is something that we all need to try and practice a bit more, no matter how big or small let’s act in a way which will make people happy. Although, remember to never neglect your own needs and desires in the process.
28. All the girls in the Pitch Perfect series
Because they’re all unique and fantastic in their own weird and wonderful way! They’re a real life representation of a young group of girls, which is refreshing to see in comparison to the ridiculous representations of girls we see in many other media outlets. They come together and boss a capella and in the process help each other through life’s challenges.
29. Auli’i Cravalho as Moana (2016)
Because firstly, it’s about time we see more diversity in animated film (well film in general needs more diversity – but I guess that’s a whole other topic). Young Moana bravely sets off on an ocean adventure to save her people and in doing so she realises that persistence and hope will let her accomplish what she needs to. Lesson learnt; be persistent and hopeful and you’ll meet your ambitions.
30. All the women in Suffragette (2015)
Because the story is such an important part of our history, it shows us why women have so many of the many rights and freedoms we have today, the vote being the most significant!
31. Audrey Tautou as Gabrielle Chanel in Coco before Chanel (2009)
Because she starts off in life as an orphan, showing that she works hard to better her future. She also doesn’t want what many other women of her time want. She want’s independence, she’s ambitious and she strives for her goals to be met. She’s a classic ‘started from the bottom now we here’ type of girl. You go (Glen) Coco!
32. Olivia Newton-John as Sandy in Grease (1978)
Because she goes from being Sandra Dee and ends up as Sandy. She realises that her sweet and innocent little girl persona might not be who she is anymore. So she tries to find herself, trying a new style and personality and realises who she really is! Also, she just looks insane in that catsuit and definitely has the moves to go with it!
33. Kelly Macdonald as Merida in Brave (2012)
Because she’s fiery (no, we don’t just mean her hair) and she knows what she wants, to be an individual and carve her own path in life. She gets herself into a bit of trouble though from being so strong-willed but instead of running away from her problems, she deals with it herself. What a boss.
34. Liesel Matthews as Sara in A Little Princess (1995)
Because she brings excitement and fun to the girls boarding school. She rebels against the mind-numbing activities the headmistress forces them to engage in and instead uses her imagination to create beautiful stories filling the young girls minds with hope and warmth. She knows that all girls are princesses no matter what. And even if life changes for the worse, Sara remains strong.
35. Amy Poehler as Joy in Inside Out (2015)
Because Joy tries to ensure that Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness don’t take over Riley’s brain during a challenging time! Joy knows that she’s what’s best for Riley but has to make sure there is a good balance of emotions, because that’s healthy. This shows us how we need to make sure the negative emotions don’t take over our minds, easier said than done, but worth trying!
36. Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music (1965)
Because she’s the mother figure the Von Trapp family needs and she gives the children more than they ever thought they’d have. Lots of kindness, understanding and fun. She was initially judged but then when the family realise how great she is, they go back on their initial judgments. Teaching us that we need to give people more time to shine and not quickly judge them.
37. Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Because she is stubborn, headstrong, brave and loyal. She proves she’s a fighter and she gets on with it. We like you Rey!
38. Aileen Quinn as Annie (1982)
Because she’s an orphan who is charming and positively changes the direction her life is going in. She’s also just super cute and hilarious.
39. Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie (2014)
Because this up to date version celebrates diversity! Yay!
40. Daveigh Chase as Lilo in Lilo Stitch (2002)
Because Lilo takes in an abandoned Stitch and befriends him. She teaches him how to behave and develops him emotionally. She teaches us that if someone comes along who seems a bit strange and a bit crazy at first (maybe a younger sibling) we should try and model good behaviour, showing them how to behave, instead of being mean to them just because they don’t know any better.
41. Ming-Na Wen as Mulan (1998)
Because she does something very selfless in order to protect her father and pretends to be a man so she can join the army. She is stubborn, strong and talented and she becomes one of China’s greatest heroines.
42. Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich (2000)
Because she’s unemployed and a single mother but is determined to get a job. She then becomes a legal assistant and in the process essentially takes down a gas and electric company. One word. Hero.
43. Shashi Godbole as Sridevi in English Vinglish (2012)
Because she is fed up of feeling excluded so she acts on it. She learns English but also learns other things along the way. Teaching us that if we are unhappy with something or we want something to change, we should act on it.
44. Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max (2015)
Because she’s determined to survive and return to her homeland and will not let anything get in her way. Showing us that during terrible times we need to stay brave and focussed if we want something.
45. Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray (2007)
Because she knows that things aren’t right and she wants them to change. She teaches people about integration and shows us if you’re in a position of influence, then you need to use that power to promote positivity.
46. Kalki Koechlin as Laila in Margarita With A Straw (2014)
Because this young woman with cerebral palsy shows everyone that her disability will not define her or stop her from doing what she wants. She embarks on an adventure and finds love and most importantly, herself.
47. Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and The City film series
Because she is a really good friend to her best friends. She is also really sophisticated, stylish and fun. She wears her heart on her sleeve and she isn’t afraid of getting hurt. She lives life to the full and she’s independent. She enjoys her own company just as much as being with her friends. Teaching us to enjoy ourselves and have friends because we enjoy them not because we need them.
48. Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Because she teaches us that being tough isn’t just for men! Duh! It’s for us all, if you want to box, then box. Don’t let your gender define what you can or can’t do. She wants something and she gets it. She works hard and never gives up on her dreams. She says a big stuff you to the gendered stereotypes we constantly see and makes it her mission to achieve her goal!
49. Lizzy Caplan as Janis Ian in Mean Girls (2004)
Because she doesn’t conform to gendered stereotypes, she acts and dresses how she wants. She doesn’t admire the “Mean Girls” like everyone else at her school does and she actually tries to sabotage their cliquey and damaging behaviour. In turn, after everything going a bit crazy, it all ends up ok in the end. Showing us, we need to stand up to bullies!
50. All the women in Bridesmaids (2011)
Because they’re all just fabulous women who represent us all and our fabulous unique qualities. They also show us that nobody is perfect and we’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses and weird and wonderful ways! But as long as you’re doing you the best you can, then that’s all that matters. And the message of the film is that as women we all need to unite and raise each other up, not hate on each other because of jealousy.
Ditch the Label had a chance to have a chat with Whitney and Megan, or as you may know them ‘Wegan’, about the importance of femme visibility and why it is a subject that really matters.
DTL: Firstly, would you be able to tell us a bit about yourselves for those who don’t know you both already?
Wegan: We are Whitney and Megan, aka ‘Wegan’. We are a married femme lesbian couple that run a blog & youtube channel, What Wegan Did Next (www.whatwegandidnext.com), as well as a dating site, Find Femmes, (www.findfemmes.com) for femme LGBTQ women. From our blog, it grew into a Youtube channel, social media accounts and followers who connected to us.
“It’s been an amazing ride documenting our journey from getting engaged in Hawaii, conquering long distance, having our Civil Partnership in the UK and now our wedding in Palm Springs!”
We decided to set up a dating site for femme LGBTQ women as we kept receiving messages from our followers asking how we can help them find someone, and now we have an answer for them.
DTL: Before we chat about Femme Visibility, would you mind briefly explaining to us what you mean by the term ‘Femme’?
Wegan: Femme to us simply means LGBTQ women who define themselves as feminine; that is “having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness” (Oxford Dictionary). There are many different variances of ‘femmes’. It’s up to you how you identify. i.e. we love to wear lipstick every day and heels on occasions.
DTL: Your Femme Visibility campaign looked to combat the invisibility of feminine lesbians, could you tell us what inspired you to start it?
Wegan: We set up our blog in 2009 to document our long distance relationship from Hawaii to the UK, but also we wanted to put our faces online as we both felt a great lack of lesbian models when we were growing up. As well as this, I (Megan) wanted to try actively combat ‘femme invisibility’ (slipping under the radar of both the straight and LGBT community). The best way I could think to do this was to showcase many other femme LGBTQ women who are living their lives out and proud. We feel the best way to bring about change is from educating and making sure we are being seen and believed. We are not unicorns, we are real!
DTL: You launched the campaign back in 2012. Do you think since then that we are moving in a positive direction for representation of the lesbian community in the media? Wegan: Since 2012 there has definitely been a positive move towards the representation of lesbians in the media. Such as with TV shows like Pretty Little Liars. Spoiler alert it was truly amazing to see it end with the characters Emily and Alison getting engaged and bringing up children together. I would have absolutely loved to have seen that growing up!! San Junipero winning 2 Emmys also shows a shift in representation. There still is a long way to go, however, especially with female celebrities coming out. There still aren’t many out as lesbian/ bisexual!
DTL: The likelihood is that people may feel as though they need to change the way they are as a result of the stereotypes you mention.What advice can you offer people when it comes to staying true to themselves? Wegan: We’ve heard so often from women who felt that they had to change their appearance (i.e. cut their hair, wear different clothes) to fit into the lesbian community. The only advice we can give is remain true to who you are. If you feel you want to explore that side and you aren’t sure, then go for it. We have had many tell us they tried it and realised it wasn’t for them, and for others, they may find a truer identity.
“If you realise you’re lesbian or bisexual then this doesn’t mean you have to change anything about yourself. If you love your lipstick and high heels then keep doing you!”
We’ve had a wonderful follower tell us recently that through finding us she realised she could be feminine and gay. Whats more she added that without our visibility, she wouldn’t be marrying the woman of her dreams. Just receiving that message brought us chills to know we’ve had such a momentous impact on someone’s life. It makes it all worth it.
DTL: How do you deal with negative comments from people that are surprised that you are a lesbian?
Wegan: We mainly get asked if we’re sisters (like nearly daily), it’s crazy why strangers feel compelled to ask! We even had someone ask us if we’re mom & daughter recently… really! In most of the situations, we tell them that we’re actually together and it takes them a second for it to sink in. They often laugh in disbelief. But, when they realise we’re being serious, most of them actually get super excited and tell us how great it is. Other times people just nervously laugh or don’t say much at all so we’re just like ‘bye!’
“It gets frustrating that us being together is not even an option in peoples minds. Then not being believed and feeling you have to justify or even prove to them that you’re gay and together.”
However, we still believe in telling people who we are because we hope it will educate them to not ask another couple the same questions! Of course, you still get men who love to tell you that you haven’t ‘met the right man yet. So, our response to this is ‘well maybe you haven’t met the right man yet! If you haven’t tried it, how do you know if you’re straight?’ That tends to shut them up! The most ridiculous statement we get is “you’re too pretty to be gay!” We haven’t got a great response for that yet, so if you know one, let us know!
DTL: What steps would you suggest that people take if they feel as though they are part of the invisible community?
Wegan: It can feel very isolating – growing up we both certainly felt like we were the only femme girl in the world when we were younger! But honestly, the internet is a wonderful thing for this. If you go on Instagram, Youtube and Tumblr then you can follow other femmes and find your own community. We’ve become friends with so many other femme couples online, it really is a great sense of belonging when you find other couples who are just like you. Of course, whether you’re looking for love or friendship (or as we like to call it, ‘femmeship’) then there’s our site Find Femmes!
DTL: Anything you would like to add?
Wegan: Right now we’re travelling around America for 3 months so be sure to follow on our adventures via social media & #WeganTravelsUSA.
With 37,000 subscribers and counting and over a million views on YouTube, Lucy Wood is absolutely owning the internet right now by speaking out about the things we’ve all been secretly thinking and feeling, from relationship advice to the ultimate shopping spree haul. DTL caught up with Lucy to discuss everything from Cyberbullying to why the world is so quick to dismiss the teenage girl…. what’s not to love right?!?!
“Who run the world?…🎵”
DTL: First of all can you tell us a bit about yourself for those who don’t already know you? Lucy: Ahh of course! My name is Lucy Wood, I’m 26 years old and living in London, and officially I work as a full time freelance writer, but I also have my YouTube channel on the side. I love Harry Potter in a big way, I drink a lot of coffee and at a party you’ll always find me in the kitchen petting the dog.
DTL: We loved your video on ‘The Power of the Teenage Girl’ can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind it? Lucy: I wrote my script for that video the day after the Manchester terror attack. I’d stayed up all night following the whole disaster unfold with constant updates on Twitter, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotionally affected by a public incident. It really hit me, probably because it was so close to home (I’m originally from the Wirral near Liverpool), and also because I spent my teenage years at the Manchester Arena, doing exactly what the victims were doing that night.
They were me, they were my friends, they were my viewers, they were teenage girls. I felt compelled to write something, and those feelings turned into the video that I ended up posting.
DTL: Why do you think teenage girls are so often dismissed as ‘silly’ or not taken seriously? Lucy: I strongly believe that teenage girls are one of the strongest demographics out there. They’re labelled as silly, and ditsy, and careless and are always so easily dismissed. Their interests are called vapid and stupid. Their passions are called pointless and they’re told they’ll grow out of everything they care about, and it’s something that’s always driven me crazy. It’s just so patronising.
I think a lot of that comes from the fact that this passion often manifests itself in a kind of ‘hysteria’. But the screaming at concerts and the tears at meet and greets and the dedicated fan accounts are only an impulsive display of showing how much they love something so unashamedly and completely. Surely that’s a pretty brave thing to show – no one else seems to do that. Every other demographic seems to keep a prudent lid on their admiration for something, and what’s the point in that?
For some reason, acknowledgement and approval of older men seems to equate to something becoming valid and worthy. I have no idea why ‘cos most older men I know have terrible taste!
DTL: The single most common reason why people are bullied is because of attitudes towards their appearance, what advice would you give to someone who is experiencing appearance based bullying?
“The most important thing to remember is that your appearance doesn’t define you. Nothing about your appearance has any effect on your worth as a human being – whatever your insecurities, you’re so much more than what you look like. – Lucy Wood”
Lucy: No matter how much you tell yourself that, appearance-based bullying can still be very painful. It’s easier said than done, but please try your best not to take it as any personal reflection on you – it says so much more about them than it does about you. You’re absolutely beautiful inside and out, and every little thing that makes you different makes you so much more special. Most importantly, let someone know that you’re struggling and reach out for some help from someone that you trust.
DTL: Have you ever experienced cyberbullying or received negative comments online? If so, how have you dealt with it? Lucy: I’m very lucky in that I so far *touch wood* haven’t received too much negativity online – I think my YouTube is still small enough to attract a lot more positivity and support overall. But on the odd occasion that I do get a rude comment, I honestly just try and laugh at it. It’s usually something so trivial or bizarre that you just have to have a lol, delete it and roll your eyes.
Usually, feeding the people who troll with a comeback only encourages them. This shouldn’t be the case but, unfortunately, it’s just kind of something that comes with the territory of putting yourself online. It’s important that creators call it out though.
DTL: There are lots of people heading off to uni/college in September. Any advice you would offer? Lucy: Remember that university or college is the experience that you make it. If you want to go out, meet tons of new people, and go a bit crazy, go for it – just make sure you’re safe and still putting the work in. But on the flip side, if that sounds like your absolute worst nightmare, the same goes – university is what you make it. If you love staying in with movie nights and having a small group of friends, you’ll still totally be able to find your people. Join societies, get involved, remember that everyone is in the same boat and you’re all as lost and confused as each other. Oh, and don’t bother taking a kettle ‘cos there’ll already be one there.
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and loved more than you can ever know.”
DTL: What motto do you live by? Lucy: She believed she could, so she did.
DTL: Anything you would like to add? Lucy: You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and loved more than you can ever know.
Also, Order of the Phoenix is honestly the most underrated Harry Potter book. Oh and SUBSCRIBE PLEASE – Love you!
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