The beauty of Pride

The beauty of Pride

The beauty of Pride 

holding hands with Pride wristbands
Shauna Regan

17th June 2021

 

I’ve been hearing a lot of debates lately about why Pride gets a whole month to itself. To me, it is the most unimportant question when discussing Pride – but if people really want to question it, here’s my answer: because why not. Pride was not invented to convert people into being gay. It was not made to shove ideas down people’s throats. It is not some ploy for companies to make their money.  

 

The pure essence of Pride is to feel liberated and proud of whatever and whoever you are. And I know coming from the generation I do, it’s easier for me to accept Pride. It’s so easy for me to look at these brave people that are so open with who they love, and admire them. But for other generations, it is hard. There’s a lack of acceptance. There is a lack of understanding and, unfortunately, a lack of respect. And changing this, changing the narrative of sexuality for the older generation, is hard. It is hard but not impossible.  

 

If we accept that generations will never change, then Greta is fighting for nothing. The BLM movement is shouting at walls, and Malala might as well give up. If we accept that, just because it’s a new concept, it won’t be understood by certain age groups, we’re not only doing a disservice to ourselves but also to every other generation too. 

 

Pride is not just a celebration. It is the best educational tool for people who are lacking information, empathy and understanding. Ireland celebrated its first Pride week in 1979. It began to highlight the oppression of the LGBTQI+ community in Ireland; but over time, it grew into so much more than that. Pride month became a time for people to be proud of who they were. It was time, given to people, to be proud of who they were. A celebration of love and bravery and just an openness to being your true self.

 

“Pride month every year encourages people to come out. Pride month every year gives people comfort in knowing that there are others who are struggling with their sexuality, just as they are.” 

Every year, it paints towns and cities all colours of the rainbow. Every year it brings awareness to the mental health struggles of people in the LGBTQI+ community. Every year, it is spreading the message of love. Having the courage to love who you love and be who you are at your core is something that should always be celebrated. You cannot say that is not beautiful.  

 

There is beauty is being proud of who you are. There is beauty in the rainbow colours people wear, and beauty in the walks of confidence throughout the parade. There is beauty in witnessing someone, who is struggling with their identity, finding Pride month as the comfort that gets them through it. There is beauty in seeing someone’s face when they finally have the courage to say, “I’m gay” or “I’m queer” or “I don’t know yet, but I’m figuring it out”. Because sexuality is spectrum, and we are all somewhere on that spectrum. 

 

At the heart of it all, Pride’s beauty lies in its celebration of all. Anyone and everyone are asked to celebrate themselves and the people they love. And though it is a big step for some people to enter into a world they do not quite understand, it is a step that will only be celebrated. So yes, people may ask you why it gets a whole month, and if they do, you can simply answer a whole month isn’t long enough to celebrate them all. The LGBTQI+ community has fought for too long and too hard to not deserve a month to celebrate their authentic selves.

 

That is the beauty of Pride. 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo created using Canva

This article was supported by: STAND Opinion Editor Olivia + Programme Assistant Rachel

 

Rainbow washing + the exploitation of the LGBTQ+ community by major corporations

Rainbow washing + the exploitation of the LGBTQ+ community by major corporations

Rainbow washing + the exploitation of the LGBTQ+ community by major corporations

neon light rainbow
Ciara Phelan

15th June 2021

 

We live in an age of “woke culture” and virtue hustling. In order to remain relevant and maintain image, companies engage in green-washing to portray environmental responsibility, “femvertising” to show progression in women’s rights, pink-washing to raise awareness for breast cancer, among other similar stunts. Now, for the month of June, we will be inundated with rainbow flags and Pride slogans in a feeble attempt by corporations to show they are LGBTQ+ friendly. 

 

Pride is a vibrant celebration of sexual diversity and acceptance. Marking the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the Pride festival is simultaneously a ceremony of LGBTQ+ liberation, and a push for further reform and highlight inequalities globally. Towns and cities internationally mark this month by displaying rainbow-patterned Pride flags across the streets and filling storefronts with flashy colours. But what are these displays actually doing? What are these companies doing to enact real change within minority communities? 

 

Just like everything else that is good and pure in this world, the Pride festivities have been tarnished by corporate efforts to execute their own agenda and appeal to the huge market of consumers who support LGBTQ+-friendly businesses. Pink money – the purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies – has an estimated value of $3.7 trillion, and these gluttonous organisations cannot afford to ignore this growing market. So, in their meagre efforts to appeal to this market, they plaster rainbow flags and cringey slogans across their existing products in an attempt to seem “woke” and socially aware.  

 

In more cases than not, corporate Pride is only surface-level, and this façade of inclusivity and awareness has absolutely no backbone to it. A leading example of this is Gilead, which sponsors Pride parades worldwide, including in New York, LA, and even closer to home in Cork.

 

“Gilead is the pharmaceutical company behind Truvada for PrEP a medication taken daily to drastically reduce the spread of HIV during sex; but while the HIV epidemic disproportionately affects men within the LGBTQ+ community, these treatments are inaccessible to many due to their extortionate prices.”

In the US, Truvada typically costs $1,600-2,000 per month for those not lucky enough to have health insurance. Although generic versions of Truvada have been on sale elsewhere in the world, up until September 2020, Gilead held a patent in the US which prevented the entry of generic brands into the market. The blatant hypocrisy of their actions (mainly their sponsorship of Pride) would be almost comical if their actions weren’t preventing people from accessing lifesaving medication. 

 

Another offender of pitiful gestures devoid of any substance would be PINK, a division of Victoria’s Secret. During Pride Month 2019, PINK tweeted that they are “proud to celebrate our LGBTQ associates & customers that make an impact in their communities”, alongside a reimaged rainbow logo. Twitter users quickly remembered the comments made by Victoria’s Secret’s chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, surrounding their purposeful exclusion of transgender models from the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Victoria’s Secret have since hired transgender models, and Razek has also since resigned, but there is no denying the thoughtlessness of this statement. 

 

In its defence, corporate Pride has its benefits, such as increasing visibility and giving marginalised groups a sense of welcome and belonging. This visibility is invaluable when it comes to teaching children about inclusivity – an example of this being LEGO’s “Everyone is Awesome” set, designed by Matthew Ashton, who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community himself.  

 

Although these companies mean well in their actions, some of these weak statements do very little to help the LGBTQ+ community. There is a fundamental risk to the Pride movement if companies continue to show their support through marketing efforts, but fail to follow through on substantial actions. This kind of rainbow-pandering creates a cultural blind spot, in which we, as consumers and as human beings, are given the illusion of progress, and are led to believe that the world is a more accepting and equal place than it is in reality. Pride Month is not an annual party that corporations can cash in on. Brands should support the LGBTQ+ community authentically, legitimately, and – most importantly – all year round. 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Jason Leong on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Opinion Editor Olivia + Programme Assistant Rachel

 

Don’t apologise if you can’t come to the phone right now: Why boundary setting in friendships is important

Don’t apologise if you can’t come to the phone right now: Why boundary setting in friendships is important

Don’t apologise if you can’t come to the phone right now: Why boundary setting in friendships is important

paper cut-outs of friends with notification symbols around them
Ciara Phelan

2nd June 2021

 
Many of our social norms pre-pandemic have been flipped on their heads, as we continue to adapt to the ever-changing lockdown restrictions. It is a given that some people take the restrictions more seriously than others, and this has caused a lot of us to have potentially uncomfortable conversations with our friends and families. Conversations regarding meeting up outdoors, wearing a mask or not, and compliance with social distancing guidelines has opened a previously neglected can of worms concerning healthy boundaries amongst friends. 

 

After over a year of not seeing many of our friends and family, we dream of poignant, teary reunions. However, even within my own extended friend circle, I see both extremes of rule-following and rule-breaking with regard to restrictions. I have some friends willing to party every night; I have some friends who refuse to meet indoors and who follow restrictions to the letter. Both choices are okay – they are all adults who are allowed to do what they want – but these personal choices lead to potentially complex and awkward encounters with those closest to us. It is vital that boundaries are set to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and safe.  

 

“Respecting the boundaries of your peers is possibly the most basic level of dignity that we can give to those closest to us. This pandemic has brought to light a fundamental issue within many of our relationships, and has almost exaggerated pre-existing issues regarding the give-and-take of friendships.”

It is very evident that the last year of lockdowns and restrictions has taken a serious toll on our mental health, and although it is nice to confide in others, and similarly be there for your friends to confide in, this must be done in moderation and in balance. In normal times, it was seen as okay for a friend to unload their emotions onto you, as they struggle through a tough time. However, when both of your struggles are heightened in isolation, it is vital to the friendship that boundaries are maintained and that the feelings of others are taken into consideration before they are overwhelmed. 

 

In an age of constant contact and updates, setting boundaries can be seen as a daunting task. The immediate nature of social media has put pressure on young people nowadays to always be on and accessible, and we as human beings are not built for these demands. Actions as simple as turning off your location on on Snapchat maps, turning off your activity status on Instagram and WhatsApp, and even turning off some push notifications can give you the time and space to recharge when needed. This is an adjustment that both you and your friends will navigate together but personal experience shows that most people will eventually respect these decisions.  

 

Boundaries are not something to worry about – instead, they should merely be seen as simple guidelines to follow. For example, boundaries could be as simple as how much you tell each other, what you do together, how you treat each other’s values and time, how you support each other, and when it is okay to say no. Boundaries are not a taboo conversation, but should be taken seriously if they are overstepped. Boundaries are put in place to create a healthier friendship; but if nothing changes, and if boundaries are consistently violated, it may be time to draw a line and let them go. 

 

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that our values were previously out of line, and that we need to put our health – both physical and mental – to the forefront of our list of priorities. The implementation of physical and emotional boundaries is something that I never really considered in the past, but has vastly improved all my relationships since I enforced them.

 

 

 

 

Featured photo created using Canva

This article was supported by: STAND Opinion Editor + Programme Assistant Rachel

 

Announcement culture: a 21st problem with an age-old solution

Announcement culture: a 21st problem with an age-old solution

Announcement culture: a 21st problem with an age-old solution

person sitting on the floor and working on laptop
Ruby Cooney

26th May 2021

 
 

Grace Beverley, founder of fitness brands TALA and Shreddy, recently posted to her one million Instagram followers asking the question “Do you think announcement culture exists?” In her own words, she explained that announcement culture is that ever-growing need to announce everything we’re doing, resulting in the perpetuation of our anxiety over having something to announce in the first place. She brings up the point of announceable goals and our tendency to judge our success and that of others on the quantity of announcements made rather than quality. We can all relate to the validation we get from ticking off something on our to-do lists, as well as our human need for instant gratification, which is one of Instagram’s more attractive qualities. Still, Beverley suggests that this can make us prioritise easy work over actual profound progress. 

 

Grace Beverley recently became a Sunday Times #1 bestseller with her book Working Hard, Hardly Working, which she describes as a productivity blueprint to show how to actively work hard. Beverley initially launched her fitness app Shreddy in her first year of Oxford University while maintaining a social media presence. She then launched her second business TALA two years ago, a month before taking her final exams, which has since made over £10 million, selling sustainable and affordable fitness clothes. Winner of London’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Beverley is only 24 years old and has made it onto Forbes30 Under 30 – Retail and eCommerce” list. Beverley’s book covers how to maximise productivity, minimise burnout and teaching yourself to rest, which are very appropriate to present pandemic life.

 

“While technology had already forced work life to begin merging with home life, making it challenging to build boundaries, since the onset of the pandemic, boundaries between work and home life become even more blurred than before.”

Beverley talks of internalising this idea that we need to be working all the time. Hustle culture is the unhealthy societal standard that means you can only succeed if you exert yourself to the fullest, devoting all and any time to working. Working from home can make people feel unproductive. They can often overcompensate with working too hard for longer hours than they would have when working in an office, causing people to miss early signs of stress and lead them to burnout. While burnout isn’t a clinical diagnosis, it is a well-known concept, with symptoms being an increase in anxiety, low mood, difficulty coping, and health issues. Psychotherapist and author, Owen O’Kane, say that “bedrooms, kitchens and garden sheds have fast become the office space of 2020, and the situation has been aggravated with school closures leaving many people juggling work, childcare and everyday chores all at the same time.” He states that “For many it’s been a recipe for a meltdown in lockdown.” Signs that someone may be suffering from burnout when working from home is a change in moods and sleep pattern, an increase in anxiety and unhealthy habits, withdrawal from everyday life and physical health changes. Beverley points out in her book that “people see this extra time from lockdown as a time to be working, but we should use it to be a human and just do human things. 

 

In early April, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar signed the Code of Practice on Right to Disconnect. The Right to Disconnect allows employees to switch off from work outside of regular working hours, which includes the right to not respond immediately to emails, phone calls or other messages. The three rights enshrined in the code are the right of an employee not to have to perform work outside their regular working hours routinely, the right not to be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of regular working hours, and the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect. The new code hopes to strike a better work-life balance for employees and to allow them to switch off outside of normal work hours no matter what their job is. Leo Varadkar stated that “it offers an opportunity to make permanent changes for the better, whether that’s working more from home, having more time with the family, or more flexible working hours.”  

 

Grace Beverley says that to manage our work-life balance efficiently, we need to know ourselves well. “From my personal experience, to manage time successfully, you need a method – how to work out what to do first, where the important things go, how to stay sane. It needs to become second nature, so that the instant you start to feel that wave coming, you automatically step back and figure it out so you can surf it rather than be pulled under.” She says there is “a new view that you have to absolutely love every second of your work, but you can actually just be really good at getting the work done, do really well at that, and enjoy all the other things in your life, too.”

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo created using Canva

This article was supported by: STAND Opinion Editor Olivia + Programme Assistant Rachel

 

Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war

Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war

OPINION + WOMEN
Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war
Women and the military representation
parisa
Aoife Burke
4th October 2020
In recent years, the relationship between women and the military has become topical in countries such as the UK. In 2018 all positions in the British Army became open to women for the first time, and since then the army has been using increasingly feminist rhetoric in their PR and recruitment campaigns. However, during the same period, government reports and individual testimonies have shed light on the level of discrimination, abuse, and sexual harassment experienced by women in the British armed forces. These issues have fuelled important discussions on the compatibility of feminism and the military – or lack thereof. These discussions have been largely focused on the experiences of female soldiers, questioning whether army service can be empowering to women on an individual level. However, the stories of female civilians (the group that has historically been most affected by war) have been consistently left out of the discourse. Women who have witnessed the reality of imperialist military intervention and shouldered the true cost of war should be at the forefront in discussions about gender and the army. Instead, both historically and in the present day, female civilians in conflict have had their voices spoken over and their stories twisted and misused, for the benefit of imperialist powers.

 

As we can see in the British Army’s current PR campaign, particularly in their podcast episode with Laura Whitmore, feminism is being appropriated in order to paint military service as empowering to women. Another, perhaps even more dangerous way in which feminism has been misused is in the portrayal of Western military interventions as liberatory to civilian women. Both of these narratives are used to expand the military reach and both erase the lived experiences of women who have suffered at the hands of militarism. The image of Western military powers as an emancipatory force for women has been promoted for over a century, yet ultimately could not be further from the truth.

 

Historically, Britain and other European powers have attacked the rights and undermined the autonomy of women in colonised countries. In the process of colonisation, the social, legal, and economic structures of patriarchy were often forced upon native societies. For instance, in pre-colonial Canada, indigenous society generally valued women, and indigenous women often held leadership and decision-making roles. Furthermore, because of strong kinship systems, women were not economically dependent on men. However, colonial settlers ignored the position of women in indigenous culture, refusing to engage with female spokespersons and enforcing the patriarchal norms that had been well-established in Europe by that time. The lasting impact of patriarchal colonialism can still be seen in Canada today, where indigenous women face the highest rates of violence, poverty, and poor health.

 

“The image of Western military powers as an emancipatory force for women has been promoted for over a century, yet ultimately could not be further from the truth.”

The colonisation of Africa also saw the European ideals of patriarchy imposed on native women. The arrival of cash crops and the exclusion of women from the marketplace meant that African women generally lost power and economic independence during the colonial period. Because colonial authorities relied on the testimony of men to establish customary laws, the legal systems that developed under colonialism disadvantaged women. Furthermore, the pre-colonial political activity of women was largely disregarded and colonial agents worked exclusively with men in establishing political offices. For instance, in many parts of West Africa, associations run by and for women had deciding authority in disputes related to markets and agriculture. However, because these institutions were completely disregarded by European colonisers, they tended to lose power after the late 19th century. Overall, Britain, alongside other imperialist powers, has a long history of reversing the rights and freedoms of civilian women in colonised countries.

 

Despite this reality, the subject of women’s rights was used to defend British imperialism. This phenomenon relied on the portrayal of women in the Global South as victims, who need to be saved from their own culture by “civilised” Westerners. This paternalistic and racist narrative has been used time and time again to justify devastating wars and exploitative invasions, particularly in Islamic countries. As scholar Leila Ahmed discusses in her book Women and Gender in Islam, the late 19th-century British coloniser Lord Cromer used the veiling of women in Islam as evidence of the inferiority of Islamic civilisations, and ultimately as justification for the colonisation of Egypt. Lord Cromer actively opposed women’s suffrage in Britain and hindered the progression of women’s liberation in Egypt – yet none of this stopped him from using women’s rights as a pretext for his colonial endeavours. Disturbingly, a similar pattern is still playing out in the 21st century.

 

Since the early 2000s, Britain and the United States have used “feminist” rhetoric to help justify imperialist military invasions in the Middle East. In 2001, George Bush pushed the idea that war in Afghanistan would free “women of cover ” – reverting to the same patronizing portrayal of Muslim women that was used to defend British colonialism over a century prior. Concerningly, women were also complicit in promoting this storyline, with both Laura Bush and Cherie Blair being wheeled out to speak on the plight of Afghan women in the lead up to war – as though Western military invasions and bombing raids would somehow help liberate them. Yet in 2011, ten years into the war, Afghanistan was named the “most dangerous place in the world to be a woman”, with ongoing conflict and NATO airstrikes among the primary reasons cited. In a similar fashion, the narrative of rescuing women was used to legitimise the Iraq war. Bush repeatedly made vague, non-committal statements about women’s rights in the lead-up to the invasion. “Respect for women can … triumph in the Middle East and beyond”, he said in a speech to the UN in 2002 in which he urged action on Iraq. While Iraqi women were granted some benefits on paper during the war period, in reality, they were disproportionately harmed by conflict and left with less security and economic autonomy than before. The vast suffering of female civilians at the hands of British and U.S. military action highlights the utter emptiness of feminist language in this context.

 

George W. Bush gives a speech on war in the Middle East, focusing on the rights of women (videocafeblog, 2008)
The trend of world leaders appropriating feminism to sell militarism ultimately contributes to public ignorance about what war really means for women. According to the United Nations, war and conflict exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and leave women at a heightened risk of human rights violations. During conflict, women and girls are increasingly targeted through the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war. In late 2019, the British government and army were accused of covering up war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including sexual abuse. As well as a serious increase in the risk of gender-based violence, women are also disproportionately impacted by unstable access to essential services. Access to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, can often be disrupted during conflict, leaving women and girls at risk of unplanned pregnancy, maternal mortality and STI’s. Furthermore, due to additional domestic responsibilities and fear of targeted attacks, girls’ right to education is disproportionately threatened during war. Continued instability in post-conflict periods means that the threats posed to women’s rights can last long after war officially ends. These issues, and the immense suffering they cause, are too often swept under the rug in discussions about gender and the military.

 

In conclusion, despite the empty words of political leaders and the vague sentiments of military PR campaigns, war poses a threat to women’s rights throughout the world. The suffering of civilians has always been inherent in the military action of countries such as Britain and the U.S., and women have shouldered the brunt of this injustice. The use of feminist rhetoric in a pro-war context is not only hypocritical but serves to erase the experiences of civilian women in war, including those who have lost their lives.

 

Stay tuned for episode 3 of this series which will explore whether or not gender representation in the military actually promotes equality.

 

 

 

Featured photo by USA Today

 

Accepting and Adapting: A Note on COVID-19 Context

Accepting and Adapting: A Note on COVID-19 Context

Opinion
Accepting and Adapting: A Note on COVID-19 Context
berlin bar dublin wash your hands covid-19 2
olivia moore
Olivia Moore
3rd September 2020
 

2020 so far has been an absolute whirlwind – and not the good, refreshing, exciting kind. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown created a completely foreign world for people all over the globe, in which the daily practices and social norms we took so much for granted were completely demolishedWhen a system override of this magnitude happens, there is not much left to do but build again from scratch. 

 

This time last year, little did we think we would be in position of worldwide quarantine, rendered helpless at the mercy of a deadly virus. Even more socould we ever have pictured all that would go along with something that affects us and our lives to this scale 

 

This time last year, I would not have believed the fact that I would silently judge people for not wearing a facemask indoors in public.  

 

I would have thought it ridiculous that we all frequently wait patiently for forty minutes in a spaced-out queue right through the shopping centre just to get into Tesco to do our weekly shop, standing surrounded by deserted clothes shops and restaurants. 

 

I would have been shocked if I found out that, at different points in the lockdown, we could only travel 2 kilometres and 5 kilometres from our own houses, and only eventually be able to venture outside of our own county towards the end of the summer – and adhered to these rules. 

 

I would have been surprised (and probably delighted – praise the leg room!) if you mentioned that we were legally only allowed to sit one-per-row on buses and trains.  

 

When a system override of this magnitude happens, there is not much left to do but build again from scratch.”

I would never have thought I would be rolling my eyes at people choosing to go on or book leisure holidays abroad. 

 

I would find it utterly unthinkable that schools and colleges could take a six-month hiatus, or if I found out that I would matter-of-factly finish my final exams from my bed at 10pm. 

 

This time last year, I would have laughed if you told me that the European Commissioner was in national disgrace and was forced to resign after “merely” attending a Golf Society dinner along with 80 people in Galway. 

 

And yet, all these rules and all these instances we have just taken in our stride. Although it was certainly a shock to the system at the beginning, we got on with it. Now, most of us barely bat an eyelid; we keep an eye on the precautions and follow the rules, as if we have always lived like this. Throughout the coronavirus, the pandemic, and global quarantine, humans have proved themselves to be as flexible and adaptable as ever. A new world has been forced upon us – but we have created the new norms to go with it.  

 

 

Featured photo by William Murphy