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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Last Monday whilst watching The Inbetweeners, as I do every Monday because it’s a fantastically funny TV programme, Mr. Gilbert, the tyrannical head master who routinely tortures the four boys whose lives the show is centred around, threatened Will with a poor UCAS statement unless he told him who had rearranged flowers to say “we cum tit village”.

His threat was worded as follows:

“Goodbye first rate education, hello University of Lincoln”.

His threat clearly did the trick as Will was terrified; he replied, “I’ve been to Lincoln, and it’s a shithole”

As a graduate of the University of Lincoln I feel the need to contribute my two cents.

Firstly, yes it was quite funny, I can take a joke, but none the less it was a bit misplaced. I’m not trying to say that Lincoln is up there with Warwick or Cambridge because, come on, it’s not. But still, surely it’s not so bad as to justify a very public and scathing slur?

For a start, the Inbetweeners boys themselves are sixth formers, so who’s going to be watching it? Tens of thousands of similar sixth formers and college students who in the next few months are going to be sending their UCAS forms off with their six chosen Universities. I’d hope that they’d know better than to let their choice be influenced by a programme which is mainly concerned with the inability of teenage boys to get laid, but we were all 17 once.

Secondly, the University of Lincoln really isn’t that bad. Yes our rankings aren’t fantastic, we place in the 70s out of the 120 or so UK Universities putting us in the middle third of the chart overall, however, these rankings aren’t the be and end all, something I’ve already written about. Firstly they’re based on what the Guardian and the Times deem important enough to take into account, not what you want from your University and your education, and secondly, a number cannot and will not be able to predict whether you or anyone else will have a good time at University and come out a better person.

Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that the subject specific league tables tell a very different story. For example for Business the Guardian puts us at number 33, we’re 29 for Media and Communications (my area) and even get up to the dizzy heights of 25 for Architecture, all in the top third.

However, there are two sides to the story; for Drama we’re way down at 84 and for History we’re a not so impressive 89 which is perhaps where the University’s reputation for low academic standards comes from. (Based solely on The Guardian University guide, because The Times one is a hassle to get access to)

And we haven’t even touched on the Universities trump card yet, student experience. Lincoln was ranked 34 out of 104, whatever that exactly means but it’s a low number so that must be good, and ever since the University’s communications people got their hands on that figure they’ve been telling anyone who’d listen, and even those who don’t care, repeatedly, with a verse of “improved six years running” and “most improved University 2009” thrown in for good measure.

In defence of the University and its students, the comment has stirred up a bit of a furore on social networking sites Twitter and Facebook as well as the blogosphere. With groups like,”Fuck you gilbert, i’m proud of my second rate education.”

In sum, I’m not in the least bit angry at the writes of The Inbetweeners for dismissing the worth of my entire education in one foul swoop, in fact I think the statement put the University of Lincoln on a massive platform to speak to a hugely important group of people, potential students. It gave Lincoln the opportunity not just to dismiss this statement but also the chance to show exactly how wrong it was. So many people leapt to the defence of the University, including Fern Cotton on BBC Radio 1 and an army of loyal graduates and students who know exactly what the University is like beyond the tables, and hopefully between us all we’ve made enough noise to make it a whole lot easier for future students to be able to justify their choice of study.

After years of defending my choice of University, especially doing a Media course, easy target really, hopefully they will have an easier time of it than I did!

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Earlier this week Primark were publicly shamed into removing a range of padded bikinis they had for seven year old girls. Pressure group Mumsnet who had set up a ‘Let Girls Be Girls’ campaign against the early sexualisation of young girls had the support of David Cameron who deemed the tops “disgraceful”, Brown soon jumped on the bandwagon saying, “All of us as parents can recognise there’s something wrong when companies are pushing our kids into acting like little grown-ups when they should be enjoying being children.” And Equity Spokesperson for the Lib Dems Lynne Featherstone, not to be left out, put in her two cents with “Young children need our protection and shouldn’t be the prey of greedy retailers selling them adult products.”

This issue at hand is clearly very emotive, as the word “paedophilia” tends to provoke a knee jerk reaction and is something no retailer will want to be seen as encouraging. But if you step back and think about the issue are these items really encouraging paedophilia? By definition paedofilia is an attraction to prepubescent children, so by making a girl look older is it really encouraging it? Most victims of child sex abuse are known by their attacker, the accessibility makes them a target as opposed to their clothing. Telling a child or a mother than her daughter can’t wear a padded bra is dangerously close to telling a woman wearing a short skirt that she’s asking to be raped, something which society generally sees as wrong.

So is it all just a storm in a tea cup with party leaders looking to hop on any bandwagon going in the weeks leading up to the election? Whilst a characteristically over blown headline from The Sun Peado Heaven on our High Street’ seems to be evoking a moral panic of epic proportions, none the less other retailers have been brought into the debate with Tesco and Peacocks bras being slammed, and even BHS, viewed by many as a wholesome and old fashioned retailer, has been criticised for a diamante studded bra for nine to ten year olds, strapless dresses and tracksuits emblazoned with “Princess” across the bottom. But is there any criticism of the Marks and Spencer’s ‘Angel’ range of bras? Not that I’ve seen. It appears as if the top end of the high street is immune to this debate, leaving it exclusively in the hands of the affordable retailers to take the full brunt of criticism.

There is no doubt that in today’s society the line between adulthood and childhood is becoming increasingly blurred. But are these retailers the only ones to blame? Certainly not. Try looking at our media for instance, you’ll see images of Christina Aguilera advertising Sketchers dressed as a school girl with pig-tails, open a magazine and you’ll see a fifteen year old Miley Cyrus appearing bare backed on the cover of Vanity Fair, switch on the television you’ll see music videos and films suggesting that sexual performance has to be undertaken not be socially punished.

The result of which is a plethora of mixed messages for children. Girls are naturally curious about growing older, the results of which are sometimes acceptable- wearing your mum’s lipstick, putting on a pair of her shoes- fine; wearing a padded bikini top- one too far. Whilst curiosity and imitation of womanhood is given with one hand, simultaneously with the other it is forbidden.  And boys also seem immune to such pressures, they can talk or behave as sexually as they like without any consequence.

Were Primark right to sell these tops? No, selling a mass marketed notion of adulthood and sexualisation to girls who are too young to fully understand the consequences is irresponsible, but it wasn’t helped by the timing of this revelation prior to the election and consequent media frenzy. In order for the ‘Let girls be girls’ message to have any effect it has to be consistent. Retailers aren’t the only perpetuators of this idea and removing these items from stores can only go so far. Try looking to the media and asking what celebrity role models are telling your children about sexuality before Primark is vilified as being the only upholder of this message.

Photocredit: ffion-nia

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Stiletto Stoners

Smoking femaleIn this month’s edition of Marie Claire magazine in America, they discuss the trend for professional young women to smoke marijuana after work, a trend they’ve termed “Stiletto Stoners”. According to a study by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 8 million women admitted to smoking pot in the last year, one of five of which have a household income of more that $75,000 a year with professional jobs including lawyers, editors, TV producers and financial executives.

The young woman profiled in the piece lists off a reel of advantages, helping her relax, it’s cheaper than getting drunk on expensive, sugary cocktails, it helps her relax after a stressful day at work, it doesn’t make her fat, it doesn’t has the nasty consequences of a hangover, or the groggy feeling anti-anxiety pills can leave you with, she finds it easier to lose her inhibitions when high. So it’s win- win surely?

The article seems to be challenging the stereotypes that go with smoking pot, no longer for young hippies, or teenagers who don’t have a job and have nothing better to do but get high everyday. Almost a re-branding of the drug and the sorts of people associated with it. Pointing out that you’re not necessarily a bad mother, unreliable or a waste of space if you have the occasional joint, and for the most part feedback about the piece seems to agree.

Photocredit: NebulaskiN

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From far left: Crystal Renn, Amy Lemons, Ashley Graham, Kate Dillon, Anansa Sims and Jennie Runk. Bottom Center: Lizzie Miller

From far left: Crystal Renn, Amy Lemons, Ashley Graham, Kate Dillon, Anansa Sims and Jennie Runk. Bottom Center: Lizzie Miller

In the September issue of Glamour magazine this photo caused a bit of a stir amongst its readers. The image of Lizzie Miller, sitting completely relaxed and unfazed by a little bit of belly hit a nerve with readers, who wrote in their thousands to congratulate Glamour on the image.

Glamour have followed up the warm welcome of that image with this image of the seven of the leading plus sized models, getting it all out to make a statement about what real women really are.

Hopefully this image and the positive attention it has received will lead the way for the rest of the fashion industry to finally take note that women are bored of looking at images of stick thin, air brushed and seemingly perfect women, and a more natural and real approach needs to be taken.

Congratulations to Glamour for leading the way, and I hope the rest of the fashion industry follows suit.

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Sewing MachineRecessionista: A person (usually female) who manages to look fashionable during a period of economic hardship by being more prudent with her money to still be able to wear the latest looks. E.g:

“Wow, that dress is gorgeous, how did you afford that after you lost your job?”

“Well, I am a recessionista.”

It looks as if in these times of the credit crunch and when every penny really counts, savvy fashion lovers are turning to a more DIY approach to getting the latest looks on a shoe string budget.

Lots of retailers have been reporting an increase in sales of sewing machines, with Tesco’s sales growing by 198% compared to this time last year, and sales of Argos’s cheapest machine have risen by a whopping 500%

It now seems as if home economics teachers and your grandma aren’t the only ones with sewing machines. Possibly attracted by the prospect of being able to replicate designer labels at home on the cheap, or being able to customize clothes from the high street to stand out from the crowd, everyone seems to be putting their sewing skills to the test to create unique clothes for a fraction of the price.

However, it’s a very difficult skill to master. Having endured textiles at school, even managing to get an entire GCSE in it (A*, might be a hidden talent) let me tell you, making anything from scratch which is wearable is very time consuming and requires a great deal of patience and dedication, which is maybe where I fell short.

My opinion would be that rather than trying to make something completely from scratch, possibly adding unique flourishes to items from the high street would be a better plan to save you money, create something which stands out from the crowd and show off your creative side.

Photocredit: Dynana

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high heelsThe TUC, Trades Union Congress, have proposed that high heels should be banned in the workplace as they pose a threat to health and safety and are sexist. They’ve even has the audacity to suggest that female workers shouldn’t wear heals which exceed an inch to avoid injuries and the development of long term back and foot problems.

The only thing sexist I can see about heels is the suggestion that women would be unable to do their job properly wearing them, and they lack the sense to not wear a pair of shoes which cause them pain or prevent them from doing their job.

Granted, seeing a waitress in a pair of stilettos, or a factory worker teetering in her Manolos would be impractical, but for the majority of office workers will only take a few hundred paces around the office in the day, so a pair of heels can’t possible affect their ability to perform their role, nor can it affect their health.

Heels have long since been a staple of the female’s wardrobe and far from being a symbol of female repression; rather, they represent female empowerment and the ability to take on males in the work place.

For shorter women, adding an extra inch (or five) in height gives them the confidence to walk with more pride and be more assertive, allowing the wearer to give the illusion that they are in charge and should be taken seriously.They elongate body, causing you to arch your back, lengthen your legs and stick out your bottom, resulting in, for many, a reminder of your femininity, which is handy in a workplace dominated by men.

As well as being used as an empowering tool in the workplace, the high heel is also a status simple for lots of women. Anyone flashing a red sole, trade mark of designer Christian Louboutin, is bound to get admiring glances, that’s a woman who knows the importance of good shoes!

A shoe is an item of beauty and wonderment in itself, and it’s something that men will never be able to comprehend. So until a man can truly appreciate what it’s like to wear a pair and experience the feeling of which Manolo Blahnik said, “You put high heels on, and you change.” Maybe the TUC should spend their time at least trying to do something useful, rather than debating the pros and cons of a woman’s footwear choice.

Photocredit: Lauren Close

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Britney Spears as we're used to seeing her, and below heavily airbrushed in an advert for American clothing company Candies

Britney Spears as we're used to seeing her, and below heavily airbrushed in an advert for American clothing company Candies

Today Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats has launched an attack on advertisers who airbrush their models to sell products to a young and impressionable audience saying, “The focus on women’s appearance has got out of hand – no-one really has perfect skin, perfect hair and a perfect figure, but women and young girls increasingly feel that nothing less than perfect will do.”

The lib dems have as a result called for a ban on all advertising aimed at children where the models have been airbrushed, and in adverts aimed at adults, for the airbrushed images to be clearly labelled as such.

Obviously an advertisement for a skin product that airbrushes their models skin are using underhand methods to sell their products, nothing in a bottle can get you the same results as computerized airbrushing, as seen in Britney Spears images advertising children’s clothing company, Candies, their clothes won’t make you look that good. But banning airbrushing does seem a bit patronizing to the young people seeing these advertisements. Anyone with any sense can see that the models used in these adverts have been edited a great deal and common sense can tell you that no one really looks like that.

The vast majority of images seen in magazines have had some sort of digital editing done to them to make them look better than reality, and any one with any sense should be able to immediately know that what they’re seeing isn’t reality. Personally, if anything were to make me insecure about the way I look it’d be a picture of someone with perfect hair, skin and body who hasn’t been airbrushed. I wouldn’t be able to dismiss her flawless skin, shiny flowing hair or cellulite free body as the work of the Photoshopper cutting inches from her stomach and bum, and her entirely natural body would still be out of my reach. When they’re airbrushed you have that safety net, knowing that it’s fake gives you a weird sort of comfort (people must be so disappointed when they see her in real life, with an extra ten pounds on her arse, cellulitey thighs, and a spot on her chin)

What I do like however is Swinson’s idea that children should be taught “media literacy” in schools, so they can see the difference between what corporations are selling them and what really is attainable. The idea that they should be protected from themselves by simply banning the adverts seems like the easy way out, the result of a half baked and ill considered plan. Teaching children to make an informed judgement about what is attainable is a skill which could actually help them, rather than assuming that the only reaction possible to these images is an overpowering insecurity about the way you look.

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