Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Breaking News: Supermarket Claims Another Victim

I was only meant to get enough ingredients to make my noodle stir-fry, and yet my quick trip to Woolworths resulted in a bill of $67.39. This isn’t the first time that I’ve made a trip for a handful of fresh ingredients and returned with a bevy of unnecessary items that I couldn’t resist. I can justify myself all I want but the reality is, I’m just an irrational consumer.  

I try to combat this as much as possible, in fact there are some aspects of my consumption habits that point me out to be actually quite rational. I’ll make a list, I’ll check the pantry and fridge, so that I get what I need and only what I need. I’ll include quantities and measurements on my list, such as, ‘250 g of sugar’ as opposed to merely writing, ‘sugar’. These are all habits that I’ve formed in order to become a more savvy shopper. 

The marketing strategies of Woolworths, however, seem to take advantage of my irrational ‘shopaholic’ side. Despite seeing myself falling into typical consumerist traps, I find it hard to resist. I can’t help but notice that aisles that include more ‘needs’ — such as milk, shampoo, bread, fruit and vegetables — are interwoven with aisles that feature more ‘wants’ — sweets, soft drinks, magazines, tupperware containers — and as a result, one would need to traverse all these tempting aisles in the supermarket, just to get to the items one had really come to Woolworths for. This is how I found myself in the beauty section, looking at different facial cleansers and moisturisers that I’m not sure I really needed at all. 

Each product’s packaging was begging me to buy it — yet another irrational consumer trap. The cleanser I had now picked up boasted, ‘BPA free, No Parabens’. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were but now I was persuaded I definitely did not want them. And this brought out a different side of me: the ‘Green Consumer’. I became persuaded that I needed ‘all natural ingredients’, or any product emblazoned with ‘Organic’. The price no longer mattered, I was just looking at the packaging now. The product that made the greenest, most ethical promise would win but equally, the one with the nicest aesthetic. I decided on a cleanser with cucumber slices on its packaging, that made all the promises I wanted to hear. But as I justified the purchase by telling myself that the quality, the environment and the product’s ‘natural properties’ were worth the price, I had to ask myself if I was really paying for that or paying for its aesthetic. After all, Green Consumerism is still consumerism; I can’t fool myself that I’m saving the world by buying an organic cleanser. 

Whilst accepting responsibility for my irrational consumerist side, such a common consumer trope is also knowingly exploited by the advertising world. It is the packaging and marketing of ‘green’ items that persuade a consumer that ‘going green’ is fashionable, and creates an aesthetic they cannot resist. Although I'd call myself one part rational, one part green and two parts irrational as a consumer, advertising and marketing strategies seem to almost wholly dictate my consumption habits, irrespective of the identity I assume. 

After all, I did buy a 'Vegan Leather' jacket last week, knowing full well it was just pleather with a creative marketing team. I'm not even vegan.  

// Margot Ana

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Are We Going Backwards or Forwards?

I sat in my Consumer Cultures lecture, taking notes and checking my phone every so often — hey, nobody's perfect okay. As I had my head down and writing, something my lecturer said caught my attention. My head snapped up and I listened intently to what she was disclosing. She talked about research on social/income equality and how it showed that this equality had actually been going in reverse since the 1990s. Furthermore she stated that the most equal decade in Australia's history was actually the 1970s. You can read more about that here. Whilst this is mostly focused on the financial sector of things, it got me thinking about inequality in general. 

Scrolling through my newsfeed this morning,  I stumbled on a cute (and pretty funny) post about one of my favourite childhood shows, Kim Possible. Naturally this lead me to further procrastinate by nostalgically YouTubing old intros and title sequences of the Disney shows I used to watch. I watched this video that had all the old Disney shows and their intros compiled into one. As I watched them I noticed how much more and better* represented minorities were back in the 90s and 00s. 

(*Better in Disney standards of course, some of these representations were problematic, but I'll get to that.)

Without even realising it as a child, I'd been subjected to quite a diverse representation of characters. If anything, it only further ingrained in me the importance of celebrating differences, and made me aware that *shock* white, heterosexual people weren't the only ones inhabiting the planet. But don't just take my word for it, let me show you. 

Lilo & Stitch - 2003

"What do you mean tanned blondes aren't the only inhabitants of Hawaii?" 
Nani, Lilo's older sister and legal guardian, is presented as just your average, everyday woman. Her look is very natural and relaxed and she has a strong yet curvy physique. She's also not over-sexualised, as many Indigenous characters tend to be in popular film and animation. The show is also very gender neutral and isn't marketed as a 'boy's show' or a 'girl's show' — as far as I know, it was popular and successful amongst most kids, regardless of gender. 

Kim Possible - 2002

This show defied traditional gender roles and we didn't even blink! Good luck trying to find another show that has a strong heroine and a dopey male sidekick (but seriously, if you do find one, it would be much appreciated). Also, let's not forget that Disney subtly snuck in a very flamboyant, gay villain — not that he was ever explicitly labeled as gay, but we all know deep down. 

American Dragon: Jake Long - 2005

Haven't seen such a badass Asian American in pop culture since MC Jin. 

The Proud Family - 2001

People of Colour make up approximately 30% of the US population, so why wouldn't there be a show based entirely around a Black family? 

That's So Raven - 2003

Who didn't like this show?! This show was the best. And Raven! She was a hilarious, curvy, beautiful, multi-dimensional character. Praise to That's So Raven, so much praise. 

Lizzie McGuire - 2001

Not exactly the poster girl for the marginalised, but Lizzie McGuire as a show did promote a lot of good values and messages to its audience in a way that kids could easily comprehend. It tackled typical growing up/puberty issues, (getting your first bra, going through numerous phases, jealousy in friendships), the importance of being a good, supportive friend and even more serious issues such as eating disorders. All of this was done in a way that was very 'kid friendly' and age appropriate. Good job Disney. 


Of course some of these shows do play on a lot of stereotypes, and their representations of minorities aren't exactly perfect. There's a fine line between promoting culture and promoting cultural stereotypes. However, it could be a good place to start. I would much rather see diverse representation (even if it were in some aspects problematic), than none at all. At least from this starting point improvements could be made based on audience and critic feedback.

Now let's now turn to just a few shows that are popular in today's version of the Disney Channel:

These shows have either all-white or predominantly white casts. Maybe if we're lucky there'll be a token minority cast in a small supporting role. Yay! Furthermore, the shows all appear to be heavily gendered female, and I'm guessing young boys probably wouldn't want to be caught watching this 'girly stuff'. There's no diversity, no fair and equal representation. The only progressive instance in any of these shows I can think of is when they featured lesbian parents in Good Luck Charlie. The only reason I know this is because it was plastered all over social media and in online newspapers. And even still, it was a white, femme couple. They represented the epitome of the Normal Gay, a trope that audiences could more easily digest. 

Have we been going backwards instead of forwards? If the key to a more progressive society starts by educating the younger population, shouldn't we be providing them with richer content and a more diverse representation of groups and cultures? Maybe we should go back to when Lego came in only blue, yellow, red and green, and didn't need to have separate male and female collections. Maybe we should go back to when kids shows actual had a moral to their story, and weren't just kiddie copycat versions of young adult programs. Let's go back to when kids didn't even think about 'shipping' Sonny and Chad together, and worried instead about how Matt was going to find Lanny in Lizzie McGuire. 

If anyone deserves better content and diverse representation surely it must be Generation Z, who've been called "the most progressive, conscientious and connected generation to date".  Why spoil our newest hope for change in society?

// Margot Ana 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Here's the thing with confidence...


When most of us think "confidence" we think of a quite a one-dimensional view of it. For a lot of people confidence means wearing what you want, or not caring if the person you're lusting after rejects you or not; or getting up on stage and singing that song at the open mic night. When we think of confident people we associate them with these incredible beings who aren't afraid to be themselves and speak their mind, who don't let other people's negativity affect them. But this is all a very superficial view of confidence, and it sort of makes it out to be that confidence is an "all or nothing" type of situation: you either have it or you don't. 

For a long time I used to think I was the most confident person ever, mostly because I had a loud, goofy personality (still do, sorry about it) and didn't really care that much what most people thought. And this was correct, in some respects, but then I moved to Sweden for an exchange for a few months and all of a sudden I was in a new country, new school, with new people and a new language. I was in a class with students who were older than me, and didn't know anyone. And in that time I changed the way I was, I became a bit more quiet and withdrawn. I was afraid to put myself out there in case someone shut me down, or ignored me, or didn't understand what I was trying to do. I felt awkward, so for the most part I just sat quietly and observed and listened. It's worth noting that eventually, I did make friends and made an effort to put myself out there, and I ended up having one of the most incredible experiences of my life – but it was a very hard thing for me to do. When I came home, I was back in my familiar environment, and back to my normal, confident self. But looking back on events like that made me wonder: is it really confidence if you only have it in familiar, comfortable settings? 

So, I started to doubt myself. I'd always been a confident person, and it felt weird to admit that maybe I wasn't always that confident. The thing was, I had plenty of self-confidence when it came to my looks, or the things I was good at, or speaking my mind. It was more that sometimes in totally novel situations, with new people, I found myself becoming more introverted. It was more of a social-confidence issue than anything else. From realising this, I just felt so completely lost. Who was I without my confidence? It had always been this very defining part of me. And then, I began to think about this idea of confidence itself. Can you be a confident person if you're not always confident 100% of the time?

If you open up any random women's magazine, like Cosmopolitan for example, you're bound to find an article along the lines of "Confidence is SEXY, Work it!". It's this idea that we need to strive for complete confidence in everything we do, that we can never allow ourselves to feel insecure, and always do everything with purpose. But this just isn't human; I've never met someone who's always confident every second of every day. I know this might sound like a stupid thing to point out, but things like those articles do really lead us to believe this and whether we realise it or not, it affects us. This version of confidence can work against us, it can bring us down the second we feel vulnerable and insecure, it shames us for feeling this way because we should always be strong and confident. Recognising that overall, you can still be a confident person, even if there are things that really make you feel small and voiceless, is surely a more empowering concept. Instead of focusing on the things I was confident in, and trusting in those, I focused on my insecurities and how much they contradicted my presumed ultra-confident status. Maybe if we believed more that we are confident people, we would actually become more confident as a result. Sort of a fake-it-till-you-make-it type of situation.

There's so much stigma that surrounds being insecure. No one wants to date an insecure person, nobody wants to be friends with an insecure person etc. And again, these are treated like an "all or nothing" situation, you're either confident or you're insecure. Because of my belief in these ideas, I was making myself feel bad about something I couldn't help. We all have insecurities and we all have things we are confident about. Confidence isn't something you can just learn from a magazine article, or magically switch on. It builds itself with time. It's okay to feel a little insecure sometimes, it doesn't mean you can't be confident in other aspects too. We can't always be constantly at the top of our game, and we shouldn't feel like we have to be. Maybe this is an overly-simplistic look at the situation, but I just feel like it's a lot of pressure.

Moral of this messy rambling: Confidence is hard, try anyway, don't beat yourself up if you can't always get there.

Lighthearted, "Margot tries to be funny", posts coming soon, stay tuned.

// Margot Ana

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Excerpt from My Novella

As I mentioned a little while back, I'm currently writing a novella (definitely not patient enough for a novel you know), and I thought it could be good to share a little excerpt from it. The passage is roughly from the middle of the story, but I thought it was a good one because it doesn't give too much away from the main plot. I threw in a visual stimulus because why not. "YOLO" as the youth of today say. Lend me your thoughts, don't be too brutal (please, I'm sensitive), it is a work in progress and a draft of a draft of a draft. 

She’d woken up a few times that morning. It was a sort of ethereal outer-body experience. She’d dreamt she’d gotten up, pulled on her sweatshirt, slid her spectacles carefully onto the bridge of her nose and walked into her little kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee. She dreamt this a few times, almost as if it were on a loop, and every time she felt as if it were actually happening. It felt so real, too mundane and typical to be a dream. She’d had trouble falling asleep recently, and her mornings became harder to deal with. These dreams had become a sort of staple to her morning routine. When she finally shifted from the dream, her eyes opened slowly. The morning light pried itself into her eyelids. Meg’s eyes opened up to a blurry view of her room, lit with a warm and hazy hue. She picked up her sweatshirt off the floor, and pulled it over her body. Grabbing her thick-framed glasses off the nightstand, she slid them on, adjusting her eyes to her newfound vision. As she walked into her kitchen, she saw her fridge door wide open. An unknown man was arched over and peering into it. 
  “Uh, hi,” she stood there awkwardly, her hand stuck in the air, mid-wave. 
  “Oh hey, sorry, I’m Freddie, you must be Meg. I’m Petra’s...well, we went on a date, before. Last night, I mean. Hi. Sorry. I’m Fred.” 
  He looked at her, perplexed as to what to say, still holding the fridge door open. Meg tried to ignore the fact that he was only wearing tight boxer briefs and remained calm as the fridge door alarm started to go off. She’d talk to Petra about this later.
  “It’s fine, we can save the formalities. I just got up to make myself some coffee.”
  “Oh great, thanks, I’ll have a cup. Let me ask Pettie if she wants one,”
  Blatantly ignoring Meg’s irritated and dumbfounded expression plastered on her face, he quickly disappeared down the hallway into Petra’s room. Meg, in a mild form of shock that only ever occurs after witnessing a complete lack of etiquette, reflected on what had just happened. What the fuck? Who is this guy? Pettie? 
  Meg stood disgruntled in her kitchen, begrudgingly preparing more coffee than she’d initially intended to make, and wondered how acceptable it was to nickname a girl you’d known for no more than 12 hours. Meg had been Petra’s roommate for almost two years now, and it had never crossed her mind to nickname her ‘Pettie’. What a fucking awful nickname. Have some imagination Fred.
      His earnest desire to desperately be more than Petra’s one-night-stand was showing through a little too vividly. Sure, Meg sometimes enjoyed observing all the ways that men could be smitten over Petra, it was cute and sometimes even funny to witness. But Fred wasn’t being cute. Meg wasn’t sure if it was her lack of sleep or caffeine influencing her take on the situation, but she felt he needed to understand his temporary place in Petra’s life. Or at the very least that he was in Beta mode and still being assessed. 
  She heard giggling coming from Petra’s room as her door opened and Fred emerged once again. As they both waited for the coffee to brew, Fred attempted small talk to fill the silence. He mentioned how much he liked the apartment, and inquired about the water pressure in the shower, going off on a tangent about how he had once tried to learn plumbery. By the young age of 25, Meg had already mastered the skill of replying with non-committal sounds to give the illusion of conversation.
  “Oh, er...” She pretended to look busy, checking out the different angles of the French press, as if it were complex machinery, “um, yeah, sorry–” she stretched over Fred and took out three mugs from the cupboard above and started pouring the coffee. 
  Having barely finished pouring the second cup, Fred reached over, taking the two mugs in his hands.
  “Thanks for doing that babe,” he said as he disappeared once more into Petra’s room. 
  Meg looked blankly in front of her, as Petra’s door shut. Ew. Babe? Where did Petra meet this self-important idiot? 
  She took out her phone, already drafting a message to send to her apparently delusional roommate. Ever since Petra and her boyfriend had split, she’d paraded an endless collection of suitors throughout the apartment, almost every weekend. Whilst their cantankerous neighbour Geraldine – a 74-year-old woman and proud miniature pig owner – certainly disapproved of being awoken in the early hours of the morning by Petra and her Friday-night dates, Meg was mostly fine with it. Every self-help book she ever read would have told her it was, after all, Petra’s life, and she had every right to deal with the break-up in whatever way she chose. But, unlike the others who had considerately remained anonymous in all their morning-after glory, Fred had been the only one to make his incredibly grating presence known.  

// Margot Ana

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Feminism + Not Hitting Girls

I was once forced to have a conversation about feminism with this random guy I didn’t really know, called Bob.* 

*Name changed for anonymity purposes but also because Bob is a hilarious name and I mean, heck, why not, it was either that or “Random Guy 1” – I chose wisely. 

Now by forced I mean, I myself brought up feminism and Bob said something, and I just chose to remain in the conversation for the sake of humanity and educating him. So, as I said, I was forced. You’re probably rolling your eyes like, “Margot, have you learnt nothing from online debates in the YouTube comment section, choose your fucking battles you obnoxious tit”. So to all who are premeditating hate on my life choices, it actually didn’t go down how you assume it went. He didn’t rant about how unfair this whole “white dude privilege” thing is, or how “women are already equal anyway lol”. Here’s a rough paraphrasing of the premise to the feminist discussion to come:

Me: I don’t really understand anyone who is against feminism, I would be really interested to hear a compelling argument for why we all shouldn’t have equal rights and opportunities. 
Bob: You know, I actually totally agree with you. I am so sick of these double standards. Like, if a woman hits me, I should reserve the right to hit her back. All this “you can’t hit her because she’s a girl” crap is basically just saying I can get violently assaulted and I can’t even do anything to defend myself. 

My first thought was, “??????? sorry wat?????” and my second thought was that Bob must be literally translating his own feces into words, because that is absolute shit.

I assume most of you would be reading this and thinking, no buddy, that’s just wrong. But maybe some of you are confused, maybe you’re thinking, wait a minute, does he have a point? 

Not really. Let me share with you, roughly, what I said to our pal Bob. First of all, of all the benefits that Feminism provides, the one takeaway from it really shouldn't be "oh cool I can hit girls back now lol". Second, violence is wrong, period. Don’t hit people. I don’t care if you’re a man, a woman or a llama. Don’t do it, it’s a crappy thing to do, and it’s just not on. Thirdly, let me explain a few reasons why there is this “don’t hit women” rule etched in our society’s code of conduct. 

To condense a few thousand years, women have been routinely reinforced and portrayed as the weaker, submissive sex, and as a result have been assigned this perpetual trope of the ‘Damsel in Distress’ in our society. Enter the macho, all-conquering male, the protector and saviour of aforementioned Damsel. The issue with this, is it can contaminate the every-man with a sense of absolute power, invincibility and a sense of entitlement, which is unfortunately often exercised over women (who do not have such power). This is why women are more likely to be the victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. This is also why there is no “don’t hit men” rule, because while there is no denial (at least not from any feminist I know) that men could be victims of domestic violence or sex crimes, it is statistically much more likely for women to be such victims. Furthermore, it is a fact that men have much more trouble inhibiting impulses than women, which is why random acts of violence (like fights that erupt in pubs) are much more common between men, and it is rare for it to occur between women. That is to say, it would be extremely unlikely for you, as a man, to find yourself in a position where you are being violently assaulted by a woman. Obviously, if you were, I doubt the "don't hit girls" rule would really matter to you in that moment, and you would probably have the natural instinct to defend yourself. My point is, this really shouldn't be your one takeaway from Feminism. 

Feminism fights against so many things that occur just in everyday life, it seems completely absurd to bring up this trivial "bonus". If anything, that says more about who you are as a person, and our society, if the one upside you see – from a gender equality movement that fights against institutionalised sexism and oppression towards women – is being able to hit girls back. 

So, if I were to directly respond to each point that Bob mentioned it would probably be as follows: 
  1. Yeah Bob, I know double standards are lame, I’m a woman.
  2. A person in general, regardless of sex/gender, shouldn’t hit you. That is assault. 
  3. “Don’t hit girls” isn’t just crap, it’s actually the product of institutionalised sexism. 
  4. In the rare situation that you do find yourself being physically assaulted by a woman, you do reserve the right to defend* yourself. 
  5. *Defending means protecting yourself, not using it as an excuse to be unnecessarily violent to somebody else
  6. Fucksakes Bob, is this seriously the only thing that you deduced from Feminism?
  7. I really thought this entire post went without saying. 


// Margot Alais

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Privilege in 3 Parts

I spent the past week in Melbourne, namely for my birthday but also for the footy and the comedy festival, and I got to see my all time favourite comedian: Wil Anderson 

*cue girl-in-red-dress emoji x5* 

I absolutely adore this person. He always makes me laugh myself to the point where I wrestle with the idea of going to the toilet to pee or not, and he is also manages to address various social and political issues in his shows (with a little comedic edge clearly). So in the current show he's doing, he talked about himself as a feminist and a certain observation he made over International Women's Day. On IWD, Anderson tweeted a general 'Happy International Women's Day', to which he received a lot of praise for. Then Anderson looked through his feed and saw women he followed saying exactly the same thing and noticed that their feedback was mostly negative. There was a lot of anti-feminist backlash, but mainly a lot of men angrily tweeting the same words "When's International Men's Day"*.

*If those men had spent the same amount of time typing those tweets into google instead, they would have found out that there is an International Men's Day and it's on the 19th of November. Unofficially it's also on 365 days of the year (a whole extra day if it's a leap year too!!! Yay!!!).

For me this gave me enough fuel to continue Anderson's discussion and address privilege. So what is privilege, why is everyone so defensive over having/not having it, why does its very concept anger/annoy/frustrate certain people? Well let me break it down for you, in 3 easy parts.

What is NOT Privilege?
In this sense privilege is not having a multi-million dollar water-front home, with its own personal jetty and yacht to match. It's not even attending a way-too-overpriced private school. Privilege isn't living in the nice parts of town. Privilege isn't even a stress-free, happy life. Actually, you can even still have privilege if you live in your mama's basement at 32 year of age. You can also still have privilege despite your "started from the bottom now we here" story. With this sort of privilege, it is irrelevant how many bad cards life has dealt you. So, ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to find out if you're eligible for Privilege, carry on to Part 2!

What IS Privilege? 
Privilege is the harsh reality that we all live in. Privilege is the fact that men have more opportunity than women. Privilege is the fact that White people have more opportunity than other racial and ethnic groups. Privilege is the fact that able-bodied people receive more opportunity than those living with disabilities. Privilege is the fact that straight, cis-gendered people never get fired over their sexual identity. Privilege is the fact that Muslims or those of Middle-Eastern appearance are almost guaranteed to be searched at airport security. Privilege is the result of a society that thrives on the hierarchy of race, socio-economic background, gender, sexuality, religion. But it's important to look at it with an intersectional point of view. The best way to explain this would be to look at it this way. A white, cis-gendered (i.e. not transgender), middle-class male has the most privilege, because his description works in favour of society's pre-programmed ideals. A white, cis-gendered, middle-class woman has less privilege than the former as she faces sexism as a draw-back, that the former does not. However, a black, cis-gendered, middle-class woman holds less privilege than both, as she not only faces sexism but racism also. You can continue this pattern, adding in disability, non-binary gender etc. 

Accepting Privilege
Don't fight privilege. Privilege isn't mocking you for how "good you've got it". It's simply telling you how many aspects of the system are working against you, and how many are working for you. Your personal life is irrelevant, when it comes to privilege it's a harsh, straight-forward statistic. If you've got it, then be happy you have it. But use it to your advantage and as an eye-opener. Because if you understand the system, and how you're part of it or where you fit in, then you can make the decision to fight it. 

Some additional material to clarify: 

 "...it's impossible to deny that being born with white skin in America affords people certain unearned privileges in life that people of other skin colors simply are not afforded. For example:
'I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.'
'When I am told about our national heritage or about 'civilization,' I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.'"

"There is the mistaken belief that the only 'privilege' that you can have relates to skin colour. This is not the case. You can be privileged because of your class, educational background, religious background, the fact that you’re able bodied or cis-gendered. A lot of black women can and do have privileges too."

-'Intersectional Feminism'. What the hell is it? (And why should you care)

// Margot Ana

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Social Media, Fashion & Perfection

From my own Instagram.

Appearances are very important to our society. This is why social media thrives so much. We have an obsession with letting others know how amazing our day/food/holiday/workout etc. was. And it's a vicious circle because, oftentimes, we feel this inherent need to do so because we are surrounded by other people who do the same, and whenever they upload, we feel that urge too. Their life looks perfect, so I'm going to upload a photo to prove mine can look that way too. And it goes further than that. It's all about the right filter, and if the photo can get enough likes. Or when you go to your profile, do all your photos work together, do they sit there in perfect filter/crop/subject/style harmony, do they all align perfectly? Social media like Instagram breeds a new form of perfectionist that inhabits most of us who take a liking to the platform. Your success on Instagram is entirely dependant on whether or not you can persuade people that your average, everyday, mundane routine is in fact a continuous flow of perfection; a world where only the best coffee is drunk, the trendiest clothes are worn and the prettiest sights are seen.

I understand this, because I am one such user of Instagram. I'll admit that another's perfect Instagram weirdly instills a sense of competition and challenge in me to be able to achieve the same. And it's hard to do things your own way, careless of other's opinions, of likes and followers. You'll never be completely satisfied because there is always going to be somebody else out there that you perceive is doing it better. And you don't need me to tell you that a little victory like having a nice Instagram isn't going to make you happy or any happier. We all know that, so why do we keep acting like it will, why is that?

Trends in fashion and how they exhibit themselves in our social circles share an effect similar to that of social media platforms, like Instagram. We let our personal style be influenced by people we socially interact with, we consciously (or sub-consciously) make the decision to dress a certain way to blend with our friends, to fit in. Not just socially but visually. There's something comforting to many in a uniform, which is what trends often manifest themselves into. Go to Sydney University and people watch for a bit, and you'll see everywhere the USyd uniform of the season that so many students are attracted to. We become attracted to an image, a type, a style. Similarly to Instagram, we feed into this new form of perfectionism where everything we now wear needs to fit the image we are trying to establish. You can't wear a certain article of clothing because it won't blend well with whomever you are being seen with that day. Or you can't wear something in particular because it doesn't flow with the style you feel the need to uphold.

It all ultimately comes back to this odd importance we place on appearances, even more so our attraction and obsession with labels and categories. The problem is so much bigger than just clothes and social media; our infatuation with labels can be harmful – notably in sexuality, a very fluid affair that can be difficult to pin down in any one category. But labels, as absurd as they are sometimes, ironically are quite an understandable and rational concept. They provide security, comfort, and more often than not, a community. 

However, our society is (knowingly) flawed. Its core message of altering or cutting away parts of yourself to fit in to the ever-changing norm is both impossible and limiting. Here's a radical challenge we can all take on: Dress in whatever speaks to you, post what you want regardless of its 'like' possibilities and feel free to identify as as many things as you want. You don't have to restrict yourself to any one specific style. You can be a part of more than one group, you should try and you will grow. The sooner we all embrace that, the better (and happier) we'll all probably be. 

// Margot Ana