Research from our Annual Bullying Survey revealed that 11% of young people asked, had experienced bullying at some point or another from a sibling. Being on the receiving end of bullying from a sibling can be extremely difficult to cope with as it is often dismissed by other family members as ‘sibling rivalry’. Additionally, it often takes place in your family home – an environment which is supposed to be a ‘safe space’. It is also an environment where you spend a lot of time, so it can be hard to escape the torment. If you are being bullied by a sibling please do not hesitate to reach out to us here at Ditch the Label – you can speak directly with a digital mentor on our Community platform.

If you would prefer the easier to read version please click here.

Below we have compiled 6 things you can do if you are being bullied by a sibling.

1. Tell your parents or guardians and ask them to intervene.

First and foremost, confide in your parents or guardians. If you feel they are being dismissive, assure them that this is more than just sibling ‘banter’ or ‘rivalry’. Be honest with them, tell them how the bullying is negatively impacting on your life.

It might be appropriate to request that they host a mediation between you and your sibling. A mediation can be scary but is often incredibly powerful; it is essentially a face-to-face conversation between you and your sibling in a controlled, equal environment.

If you find your parents/guardians unresponsive when it comes to intervening, see if their is another trusted family member who you can approach.

2. If it feels safe to do so, speak to your sibling.

If you feel it is a safe and appropriate action to take, maybe try talking to your sibling. Remember to challenge the behaviour, not the person – instead of accusing them of being a ‘bully’, explain why their behaviour or words have caused you distress. For example, instead of saying ‘you’re upsetting me’, you could say ‘what you said/did upset me’.

3. Don’t blame yourself.

Remember that it is always the person who is bullying who has the issue, not you – even if the person bullying you is related to 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.

two, people, holding, hands, upset, crying, covering face

4. If possible, spend time away from your sibling.

It might be difficult if you live together, but try and find a space in your home where you can have time away from your sibling. If you have separate bedrooms, lock your door and speak to your parents/guardians about why you feel the need to do this, so they understand your actions and reasons. It is important you have space where you can totally relax and be yourself. If you are unable to implement this at home, look for local youth clubs you can join or speak to a trusted, extended family member or friend and see if you can spend more time at their house. You could also confide in a teacher, who could then speak to your parents/guardians about what you are experiencing and help find a solution.

5. Reach out for support.

It is extremely stressful, and can be emotionally draining to endure bullying, especially if it is by a sibling. This stress can have impact on all areas of your life, including your mental wellbeing, ability to communicate with others, performance in school, self-esteem and confidence. It is therefore incredibly important to tell somebody that you trust about what you are going through; it doesn’t even have to be an adult – it could be a friend or somebody at Ditch the Label. It is vital, during a traumatic time, that you have a support system and people who you can rely on when you are feeling low, or unable to cope.

We also have a really simple exercise available on our website called Stress Reprogramming which you can do either alone or with somebody else in around 30 minutes. The exercise will help you see stress differently and hopefully help you on your journey forward.

6. Look after yourself.

It is important during this time, that you take good care of your health and mental wellbeing. As well as finding a support system, you need to make sure you are looking out for yourself too. Little things like eating a balanced diet, exercising, getting a good night’s sleep, relaxing and having quality time with friends and family can really improve physical and mental health, which will in turn, reduce stress. Reductions in stress increase your clarity of vision, allowing you to better analyse difficult situations, which will make them much easier to deal with. We also suggest that you seek emotional and mental support from a GP, therapist or counsellor.

Need to talk to someone? Join our free community here.

10 Things You Should Never Say On A First Date

There is plenty of advice on what you should say on a first date… but how about the things you should never say when you first meet?

1. I love you.
It’s a nice sentiment but it’s too soon babe. Too soon. You are in lust. Let me know if you still love ’em once the pheromones have worn off and you’ve seen them burp, fart and pick wax out of their ears.

2. Tell me about your ex.
Clearly an indication that you are prone to jealousy. You might as well go dressed as a big, old, green-eyed monster – it’s more subtle.

3. My ex always used to say that.
I mean who doesn’t love being compared to an ex? Or constantly reminded of an ex? Is there a bigger turn on? Yes, actually there is: being pelted with tomatoes, whilst listening to someone scratch their nails down a chalkboard.

4. You don’t look like your photo.
Honestly, who does these days? I’m surprised anybody actually recognises their own filter-free refection in the mirror anymore, let alone someone else’s.

5. Call them by the wrong name
You will BOTH be praying for the ground to swallow you up whole. Just, so utterly, unbearably, AWKWARD!

6. You’re paying for this right?
Good manners cost nothing. Plus, you’ll miss out on the cute ‘No, I’ll get this’ post-dinner debate that makes every waiter/waitress die a little on the inside.

7. My family are CRAZY!
If your main goal is to scare your date off, then congratulations – you may have just scored!

8. I’ve got another date after this one…
Honesty isn’t always the best policy. There might be plenty of fish in the sea and you might have the net, but no one wants to feel like small fry.

9. What do you think of me?
PSA: You don’t need anyone else’s approval.

10. I suddenly remembered…I have to go.
Surely you can come up with a kinder, more imaginative alternative? Like getting your friend to call you with a fake emergency or…climbing out of the restaurant’s bathroom window?

There you have it, a list of the best things to say on a first date… NOT. 🤦

17 Things You Can Do For National Random Acts of Kindness Day

Today is National Random Acts of Kindness Day! While we hope that you practise kindness 365 days a year, sometimes it is good to have a little reminder and push in the right direction – so use this day to do just that!

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to be kind and spread positivity but if you are stuck for ideas, below we have listed 17 easy ways you can brighten up someone’s day!

1. Compliment someone. 
Give someone a confidence boost, you might make their whole day!

2. Hold a door open for someone.
But maybe with more enthusiasm than this GIF displays.

3. Let someone in front of you in a queue.
No matter how badly you need that mid-morning coffee.

4. Volunteer your time to a good cause.
Even if you only have one hour a week going spare – your help can make all the difference.

5. Make someone a cuppa!
Because the best things in life are free TEA!

6. Call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while to see how they are doing.
Our busy lives mean that sometimes weeks, even months can pass before we realise we haven’t spoken to certain friends or family members for way too long. Give gramps a call. Go on.

 7. Pick up litter in the street and throw it in the bin.
It might not be your mess, but it’s definitely your world so help keep it clean.

8. Smile at people.
It’s contagious – but in a good way.

9. Leave positive post-it notes for people to find.
Because nothing says it better than a sticky note.

10. Leave a small amount of change in a vending machine.
Just imagine the difference a free choccy bar could make to your day…

11. Buy a piece of Ditch the Label merchandise and help support young people through bullying.
Head to store.ditchthelabel.org if you wanna look AND feel awesome.

12. Leave a nice comment on a friends profile picture.
Basically, point number one but for the virtual world.

13. Forgive someone.
Forgiving: It’s easier said than done, right? When someone hurts or betrays you, it is natural to feel upset, or angry and it is incredibly hard to let go of such painful feelings – especially if you feel that someone has broken your trust. But honestly, holding a grudge does nothing to change or improve the situation and carrying around feelings of anger or resentment, will only cause harm to your own mental well-being in the long run. So be kind to yourself and someone else – let it go!

14. Speak to someone you think might be lonely.
The internet has made connecting and communication with others easier, and more accessible than ever before. You would think it impossible to feel lonely in this day and age, considering the amount of time we dedicate to interacting with other people on social media. But it seems this replacement of physical contact with virtual contact is leaving us feeling isolated; we are suffering a loneliness epidemic, and it is an increasing problem in modern life.

15. Genuinely thank someone for something they might have done to help you.
Because a heartfelt thanks means so much and requires so little.

16. Offer to carry someone’s bag.
If they look like they are struggling, channel your inner Hulk and help them out!

17. Offer up your seat on public transport.
Multitask and simultaneously work those leg muscles whilst being kind!

Melissa Herrera on her experiences with virtual dating

When I swiped into a “virtual relationship”, it wasn’t by choice. I had every intention of actually meeting the men I’d matched with, as I assumed that was the purpose of online dating. I assumed this was for people looking for an easier outlet to meet other singles. I assumed this was a pool of potential baes who wanted exactly what I wanted – a convenient method of dating multiple singles while ultimately zeroing in on that one final match. Well you know what they say about people who assume…”you make an ass out of you and me”. And in this story, I ended up as the stupid donkey and he ended up the actual a**h*le.

Now I can’t speak for everyone, but my experience with online dating has been exactly that…online dating. Sure, there’ve been a few one-time meet ups here and there, but the mass majority of men I was in contact with had zero interest in breaking past the virtual realm. When I signed up for online dating, it was a last resort choice made after the initial shock of finding myself back in the dating pool after a six year streak of serial monogamy. I thought it would be the most efficient way to re-cast that rusty line back into the sea of men to help combat my cluelessness towards this newfound single life. But what I found was the complete opposite. I found myself a group of men whose interest in me extended no further than daily electronic messages and watching my life virtually through social media, all while dodging every opportunity to meet face-to-face. What the hell is this online dating world and why was I so VASTLY wrong about its purpose?

“I found myself a group of men whose interest in me extended no farther than daily electronic messages and watching my life virtually through social media”

 

Needless to say, I was quickly turned off by this new age style of “dating” and ultimately had no patience for it. Coming off multiple long term relationships with men who actually valued my time, I found the online dating world a complete sham. I wanted to be taken seriously, but no one else within the dating platform was taking the process, or myself, seriously. As I was about to throw in the towel and accept my future as a single cat lady, binge eating Chinese take-out, while engulfed in reality television… someone finally stood out to me. His name was Dan and his claim to fame was his comment “Nice duvet cover” on a photo of me sitting on my bed. Every other guy made flirty comments about my appearance, but he sarcastically avoided commenting on my looks as if to intentionally give me the opposite of what I wanted. He was different, witty and funny? I LOVED IT!

“Dan and I were together for four months. And by ‘together’ I mean we text messaged, talked on the phone, Facetimed, and connected via Snapchat and Instagram”

 

Dan and I were together for four months. And by “together” I mean we text messaged, talked on the phone, Facetimed, and connected via Snapchat and Instagram for four months straight – every day. I’d wake up to “good morning” texts from Dan and I’d go to bed with “sleep tight” texts from Dan. We watched House of Cards together…while Facetiming. We’d send each other Snapchat photos all night while we were out at the bar with our friends as if to make it seem like we were together. We’d stay up late sharing stories of the past and goals for our future; we bonded over how much we actually had in common. It felt like a real relationship, minus the physical face-to-face interaction. It was amazing and it was miserable, all at the same time.

As the months passed, I began to feel more and more bothered by the lack of “reality” in our relationship. I’d make multiple attempts to plan a date or activity, giving him enough time to open his schedule and commit, to ultimately get cancelled on at the last minute – every single time. My patience wore thin, my heart was beginning to break, and Dan was proving to be exactly what I feared – a sham. I told Dan he was getting one last chance to meet me in person, and if he didn’t follow through, I’d be gone. Can you guess what happened next? He ghosted me. He removed me from social media, he blocked my number, and he vanished into thin air as if he never even existed. After four months of daily communication and intimate bonding, Dan was capable of vanishing and made sure to do it before I beat him to the punch. I was going to leave him because he refused meet me; he chose to leave me because I wanted to meet him. Seriously, the irony… #facepalm.

“It felt like a real relationship, minus the physical face-to-face interaction”

 

It took me a long time to get over Dan, partly because I had no closure. I couldn’t make sense as to why he did what he did. I couldn’t make sense as to why he refused to meet me and had no interest in taking our relationship to the next “real” level. And lastly, I couldn’t make sense as to why he felt ghosting me was a justifiable answer to the situation at hand. After four months, I didn’t deserve an explanation? I didn’t deserve a mature response as to what was going or why he couldn’t commit in the real world? I was forever stuck with “what ifs” and lingering questions that haunted my brain.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/JNCY6WFSTW-1.jpg”]

 

Since Dan, I’ve become less of a donkey. Through that heartbreak I was able to learn the ropes of the online dating world and create my own rules and regulations to help avoid falling into another virtual relationship. Rule number one – two week maximum of virtual communication. If no date has been made, I give a last chance warning and then I unmatch. Rule number two – I no longer accept any social media additions prior to an initial meet up. Why? Because they don’t belong there. Someone that’s interested in me should get to know me from an unbiased viewpoint. Which let’s face it, rarely happens if you allow them to scroll through every moment of your life for the past decade. I’ve found that creating these limitations has quickly filtered out the a**h*les. They don’t have the patience for my rules, so they vanish as quickly as they appeared. My time isn’t wasted, my emotions aren’t fooled, and I’m now one less a**h*le away from the potential good guy floating around in a pool full of flakes. You’ve got to play to game in order to play the player, and there are A LOT of players in the virtual world.

“There are A LOT of players in the virtual world”

 

But you have to wonder, why are so many men online matching up with women they never want to meet? Why are people finding themselves in virtual relationships whether they planned it or not? Overall, why has the single community shifted into a virtual platform in order to find their match? What is wrong with real life and why is everyone avoiding it?

I don’t think online dating was created with the intent to produce virtual relationships. I think it was created to assist with the initial “hook” stage of landing a match while producing that match in a more convenient and less pressured environment. You know, the part we once did in person when we came across someone we might be interested in and actually had to make a move not knowing what the response would be? Well now you can skip that step with the technological advancement of swiping through profiles pictures and bios of all your single options and mutually connecting without ever having to risk rejection. My guess is that online dating was meant to help connect people in a more convenient manner with the assumption that they’d move forward in real life on their own. Ughh…again with failed hopes through assumptions!

Unfortunately, my progression into adulthood took place in the midst of the technological/social media boom. While I’ve met a few of my boyfriends in normal social environments, it appears that my generation as a whole is solely sticking to online dating or drunken hookups during hours of lowered inhibitions. The millennial generation is not experiencing the dating scene our parents and grandparents once experienced where singles courted each other in passing and casually dated a variety of people at once without so much pressure.

“Why has the single community shifted into a virtual platform in order to find their match?”

 

In my adult life, I’ve never been approached by an interested man in the grocery store, at work, at the gym, in the neighbourhood, at the mall, or at a park. The best I’ve gotten is a drunk man in a bar slurring over his words asking to buy me a 1.5 ounce of poison he’s praying will result in a one-night stand. Or, I’ve had to pursue every single guy I’ve ever dated whether that be short or long term. In my experience as a millennial women in today’s society, my options are to hunt down a man myself in person or resort to the online world where men can hide behind their electronic devices and “ghost” before ever actually experiencing rejection or becoming involved. How did this happen?

With the influx of available technology, our society as a whole is simply distracted. There are televisions in every social establishment and cellphones and music in the palm of our hands. It’s no surprise that the dating scene transitioned over to the electronic world as well. It’s almost impossible for humans to interact naturally in any social arena because we’re burying ourselves in electronic devices…and our society is supporting it! I don’t want to stare into my phone at still photos of men who send me flirty texts throughout the day. I don’t want some random internet guys following my Instagram and Snapchat feed commenting on how cool I am yet never wanting to meet me or experience life with me in person. I don’t want to fall for another virtual sham, have my heart broken, and be ghosted by someone I actually took time to invest in. I want the real deal. I want a man to look me in the eyes, create memories with me, and vocalise to my face when the relationship must come to an end. I want real life experiences while living in a society that highly promotes living behind a lens. And that my friends, is a very scary thing.

“I want real life experiences while living in a society that highly promotes living behind a lens”

 

And for the record, my story with Dan didn’t quite end where I left off. Oh no, he wasn’t finished with me back when he broke my heart and left me alone, confused and exiled as he vanished without a trace. Like most a**h*les, Dan allowed enough time to pass before he came back for round two in hopes there might be a small fragment of donkey still left in my soul. Two years after his disappearing act, Dan re-added me on social media and sent me a photo through Snapchat. When I opened the photo I discovered a picture of his Netflix television screen with the caption “Netflix and Chill?”

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.

Conveniently I happened to be watching The Bachelor and retaliated in the most creepy and volatile way surely to scare off any a**h*le. I paused the show and snapped a quick photo of the bachelor holding a rose with the caption “Final rose and propose, Dan?” He responded back, “Yikes”, and I’ve never heard from him again.

The only lasting bit of donkey I savoured over the past two years is the two back legs I used to kick his ass to the curb. Boy bye!

10 Things Gossip Girl Taught Us

1. Things are never as bad as you think.
I mean if Blair can say that having lived through a near-fatal car crash, a divorce, her BFF sleeping with her boyf behind her back (all before the age of 18 mind), then take it as gospel: things are never as bad as you think.

2. Friendships have ups and downs.
Serena and Blair prove that true friendship endures. No matter how absolutely disgustingly awful they are to each other throughout the series, their friendship always prevails. Such a cute sentiment right? While friendships in the real world definitely have their fair share of ups and downs, maybe don’t test your BFF’s trust and patience as much as these two did.

3. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
You think you know someone and then BAM you find out Dan Humphrey is Gossip Girl. Also, can someone explain to me why his inner circle didn’t seem that bothered by the fact he had spent years secretly cyberbullying them…? And also can someone PLEASE explain to me why he once asked Gossip Girl for help finding Serena when he was in fact Gossip Girl? I’m concerned for his mental health ’tis all.

4. The course of true love sometimes doesn’t run smooth.
Okay, okay, it was Shakespeare that originally taught us that but let’s face it; Chuck and Blair really hammered the point home.

5. You don’t give up when things get tough. 
No Nate you don’t, so put away those puppy-dog eyes and try and try and try again, until eventually you succeed.

6. Chuck Bass. 
A very important thing that GG taught us was Chuck Bass. If you think this sentence doesn’t make sense you clearly haven’t seen Gossip Girl.

7. Just because someone says they are okay, doesn’t mean they are.
Honestly though, this is quite an important lesson to learn. If you feel like someone might be struggling – even if they are saying they are ‘fine’ or ‘okay’, they might be too embarrassed to admit how they are truly feeling. Listen to your instinct and just make sure you let them know that you are there for them. Your friendship could make all the difference to someone who might be suffering from depression, anxiety or experiencing bullying. Keep a close eye on them and seek out support from a trusted adult if you are worried for their safety.

8. You don’t give up on the people you love. 
Never stop believing in those you love. They might be acting out of character right now but maybe that is because they are going through something. Make sure they know they have your support, love and trust. Your belief in them might just help them out of the rough patch they are in.

9. You shouldn’t judge others.
Remember that pulling somebody else down will never take you any higher. Wise words from Blair Waldorf, the most judgemental person of them all. Oh wait, now I’m being judgemental! Sorry B…

10. Love people for who they are. 
Don’t try and change someone; love them for their unique qualities and their differences. Love them for who they are, not in spite of who they are.

Am I being catfished?

How do I know if I’m being Catfished?

A Catfish, contrary to popular belief, is not always your average whiskered, slippery aquatic creature. So before you start hating on fish, here are some things you should know…

Catfishing is also a term for when someone uses a different identity in order to trick another person into believing that they’re someone else online (sneaky, right!?).

A catfish lies about who they are, often going to extreme lengths to continue their lies. They tend to use social networks like Facebook, Instagram and different types of online forums. With this in mind, if you’re asking your self the question: ‘Am I being Catfished?’ read on…

Here are some signs to look out for to keep yourself safe:

  • Strange grammar and odd spelling mistakes
  • Asking you for money
  • Elaborate and unusual stories that don’t add up
  • Not wanting to Skype, Facetime or even Snapchat – this is a big red flag

If you suspect a catfish you should report it. It’s actually a criminal offence – it’s impersonation, fraudulent and people can get into a lot of trouble for it, especially if they have bad intentions. Report their profiles to the social networks as this will help you and you’ll be looking out for somebody else not to be tricked. If it’s really serious, report it to the Police.

Click ‘Read More’ for further information on Catfishing and more tips on how to spot a fake:

Read More

If you need any further advice or support join the community to speak to a digital mentor, or other members of the DTL community who may be able to share their wisdom…

We talked body positivity, self-love and naked selfies with three life models who subvert dominant ideologies, and unapologetically bare all to a room full of strangers on a regular basis. Amy, Caitlin and Olivia all make a living posing nude for artists; they tell us what it is really like to be the muse behind a masterpiece.


DTL: What motivated you to become a life model?

Amy: I’ve suffered from disordered eating, most acutely between the ages of about 19 and 22. I started life modelling when I was 20 as a conscious attempt to change my perception of my body, to try to see it as something to be used rather than as just something that was there to look a certain way, to conform to arbitrary beauty standards.

Olivia: I’m pretty disproportionate. I have quite an odd body shape and a life drawing class, I feel, is one of the few places where that’s a good thing. I spoke to other artists and they told me I would be good to draw, so I thought I’d try it out.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016_Draw_photos-7757.jpg” alt=”2016_Draw_photos-7757″]

DTL: How did it feel the very first time you stood nude in front of a class? How did you build up enough confidence in order to do that?

Amy: I think when people ask me this they want me to say it was really scary and difficult, but it honestly didn’t bother me because I was so positive that doing it was going to help me love myself. In that moment, it didn’t matter whether or not I was happy with my body, because that wasn’t the point. The point was to do good poses with the body I had. Despite having had a bad relationship with body image, in the context of the life class, getting naked just felt so right.

Olivia: I’ll be honest, it didn’t really bother me. It’s an entirely different context from say, sex or burlesque or some kind of steamy fashion shoot. You’re there to help people and they’re really appreciative of that. People are so kind and grateful that you’re willing to sit for them. I went away from my first session feeling better than I’d ever felt about myself.

“Nudity seems to be okay as long as you’re skinny and tall but if you’re nude and your body does not comply with those standards, it is seen as controversial” – Olivia

DTL: Has your perception of your body changed since becoming a life model?

Caitlin: Yes! As a cis-woman bombarded with terrible, unattainable standards, the relationship with your body can be bitter, confused and isolating. To do something, any remarkable thing with your body; whether that is modelling, dancing, swimming or pogo jumping – provides you with a sense of wonder that we should all feel for our incredible, glorious, capable bodies. The body becomes an important part of the self when you model; it’s your instrument of expression and you come to realise the instrument may have some wonky keys and dusty bridges but it’s beautiful and valuable just the way it is.

Amy: My perception of my body has definitely changed since becoming a life model. I can’t say that it was life modelling alone that helped me overcome my fraught relationship with food and my body, but it has played a huge part. Now when I think about the parts of my body that I used to try to shrink and change, I see them as unique shapes and lines and textures that I can use to inspire people.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016_Draw_photos-7715.jpg”]

DTL: How do you think nudity is perceived in today’s society? And do you think those perceptions vary depending on gender, age, race, disability?

Olivia: I think nudity is pretty normal. It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s a very specific kind of nudity; whitewashed, overtly sexual and unrealistic. Nudity seems to be okay as long as you’re skinny and tall but if you’re nude and your body does not comply with those standards, it is seen as controversial. It’s so ridiculous. It needs to change. My friend’s 8-year-old daughter came up to her and asked if she could go on a diet because she thought she was fat. That is not ok!

Caitlin: There are socially acceptable and non-acceptable bodies. There are bodies we should be ashamed to walk around in, and some that we should flaunt. There are things we should do with our bodies and there are things we shouldn’t. And of course those perceptions are rooted in patriarchal, racist, ageist, ableist ideas that have been perpetuated by the whitewashed skinny media. Perpetuated because sex and shame sell. Dash that, and be nude in a safe place. We come as we are! And I think that’s worth celebrating. It’s also worth disregarding the guilt trip that makes you feel like you should be buying another god-damn yogurt product. You don’t need it.

“If a company can profit from your self-hatred, you can bet they’ll do anything to incite it!” -Amy

Amy: Where do I start?! The way we see nudity is absolutely contextual – women’s bare ankles were once perceived as obscene but now we don’t care about flashing a bit of skin below shin-level. Instagram has recently come under fire for deleting pictures of fat women in underwear under their anti-nudity policy, but not thin ones. And of course, our perception of nudity is gendered, you only have to look at the Free the Nipple campaign or the public breastfeeding debate to see that. What we see as the female body is sexualised in ways that our idea of the male body is not. Because our idea of nudity is so rooted in the sexual, it’s hard for anyone who isn’t young, thin, white and able-bodied – ie. conventionally attractive – to be naked without being shamed, ridiculed or attacked in some way.

There’s a perceived obscenity in naked old bodies, or naked disabled bodies, or naked fat bodies, because of the sex aspect that’s so tied in with nudity, but then when someone conventionally attractive like Kim Kardashian bares all, she’s slut-shamed. No one can win really.

I think life modelling really takes the sex out of nudity. You have to take the sex out before you can put it back in (if necessary)! When you life model, you’re not posing to be sexual, you have a body with breasts, genitalia, a bum – why is showing these things any different from showing your nose or your elbow?

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016_Draw_photos-7763.jpg”]

DTL: What is your opinion on naked selfies?

Olivia: I take a lot of them because they make me feel good about myself. I don’t tend to share them, I just keep them to look at when I feel a bit rubbish about myself. It might sound a bit sad but it works for me! I see no reason why people shouldn’t do something that makes them feel good about themselves. The only worrying thing, is if they fall into the wrong hands. That’s why I don’t share mine, I don’t want them used for anything without my consent. I think that’s what people have to watch out for. If you are going to share them or send them to people, good on you! Just make absolutely sure that they are in the hands of people you trust. Your privacy is important and if someone is privileged enough to see a naked selfie of you they should know to treat you with respect and you should be sure that they’ll do just that.

Amy: This may sound pretentious but I do think selfies are a form of artistic expression, especially when women and girls and non-binary people do it, because in a patriarchal world that strives to tell you you’re not thin or pretty or otherwise conforming enough in order to profit from you, to love yourself is a revolutionary act. People can say it’s vain if they like, so what, I’m vain! Vanity is radical when you don’t fit the aesthetic status quo. I think taking naked selfies can be a great way to have fun with your body and your identity, whether or not the pictures are sexual.

There is a lot to be said for the desexualisation of nudity, but I don’t think it’s productive to demonise naked selfies that have a sexual connotation. As long as the picture is taken for the right reasons – for fun, for self-exploration – and the sharing of that selfie is consensual, I fully support the rise of the naked selfie!

“To love yourself is a revolutionary act” -Amy

DTL:  What tips would you give to our readers who may be struggling to embrace their body?

Amy: I’m privileged to be able-bodied, and to earn enough money to feed myself, and it’s important to be aware of those privileges if you have them. I also think it’s important to realise that a lot of the time, the voices that tell us to hate ourselves aren’t our voices, they’re put in our heads by the diet industry or the fashion industry, the film and magazine industry – capitalism basically. If a company can profit from your self-hatred, you can bet they’ll do anything to incite it! Remembering and resisting that is radical.

Caitlin: Embrace your body as an instrument of fun and adapt your relationship with it. It is not easy to accept the parts of yourself that you do not like, but the effort to do so is worth it.

Olivia: Fake it till you make it. You may not feel wholly confident but if you act like it after a while you’ll start to feel that way too. It takes the same amount of work to hate your body as it does to love it. Body confidence is so important, not just for yourself but if other people see someone who loves themselves unconditionally then it will spur them on to do the same. I’ve found people who are the most confident in themselves to also be the most kind, the most giving and the most supportive. And, the most beautiful. Regardless of their size or age or the colour of their skin – they glow, they radiate goodness. You can’t buy that, no matter what the adverts say. Don’t get me wrong, it takes a hell of a lot of work but it’s so worth it.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016_Draw_photos-7713.jpg”]

DTL: Final thoughts?

Amy: I think life modelling and life drawing is a good chance to celebrate body diversity. I think any way that more people of colour, disabled people, trans people, fat people and older people – anyone who isn’t the same white, young, thin, able-bodied cisgender person that we already see represented everywhere – can be encouraged to model is a step towards universal body positivity.

Thanks to Olivia Hancock, Caitlin Mckeon, Amy Squirrel, Mary Martin and Draw Brighton.

http://www.draw-brighton.co.uk/

An ex-worker blogs about her experiences in the sex industry, the reality behind the videos, and the effects of such material on the younger generation

I have sampled the sex industry in its full and varied diversity. And in that time, I had taken two overdoses, been raped twice, consistently manipulated and became a functioning drunk. It’s true to say, I am a rehabilitated abuse victim who gave her consent. The turning point was recognising I had to change for my child, now children, as well as furthering my education – which awarded me the ability to see the truth of what happened to me. I wasted most of my twenties in the industry, continuously pursuing the promise of a bit more money than the average wage, only to be left with no CV, and struggling with feelings of anger from sexual and emotional violation. 

I must first point out that not all pornography is harmful, that sex on camera in itself is expression and can be artistic.

What I do have a problem with, is how easily misogynistic pornography can be accessed. This kind of porn, what I will refer to as ‘gonzo’ porn, worryingly commands approximately 98% of porn internet traffic and is the current point of reference for sex education.

Women in gonzo porn are pitted as a debased object; voiceless and used and abused by men, who mock them and subject them to degrading acts. This is expression you may think, even if it isn’t respectful. In some ways I’d agree with you – but because gonzo pornography is so easily accessed, it has permeated our everyday lives and distorted reality, with dangerous consequences…

Gonzo Porn has replaced our understanding of the natural development of sex that exists in real relationships, between two people. It has sadly carved out a new identity for women who subconsciously embody the damaging ‘slut’ persona, feeling that this is the only way to ‘impress’ men. Porn also promotes self-sexualisation in very young girls, and has brainwashed boys and men into seeing women as fodder, not the multi-faceted people that they really are.

The word ‘slut’ is a common phrase in memes seen on many young teenagers Facebook feeds and other social media, describing certain female classmates. The frequency of this unfair adjective is a new arrival, and goes hand in hand with the increase of degradation porn. Sure, when I was young there were girls who got intimate with more boys than others, but they weren’t shamed to this extent. The children who grow up in the media-obsessed culture of today are experiencing an entirely new animal.

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Girls are encouraged to self-sexualise through expectations of boys who watch porn regularly, but are then ‘slut-shamed’ for doing so. It’s a trap, and one that society should be aware of for public health. Gonzo porn is presented as edgy, and a reflection of freedom of expression. It is never presented in truth: as one gender’s mass-scale violation.

If expression was really free in porn, then subgenres like ‘alternative porn’ would be more popular – where both genders are depicted as equal. The current porn industry is about control and humiliation of women, but boys and men are also being damaged by pornography; experiencing erectile dysfunction due to the bombardment of high speed graphic images. As a consequence, they also experience desensitisation to real sexual relationships.

The industries that make these representations don’t care for one minute how they affect people. They only care about money. To remain healthy, it is our responsibility to maintain our sense of self-respect and to not be coerced into unwanted sex, or extreme acts just because porn has normalised them. The porn stars who act in these films are only doing it for money, and many of them are damaged people who take drugs and have had problematic upbringings.

I found myself in a bad place in my teens. I had a terrible relationship with my mother and left home at a very young age to stay with people I didn’t really know. I starting seeing a man who was much older than myself, and then fell into the glamour industry. At first I thought it was fun – but very quickly I had developed a drinking habit to cope with the people who (in retrospect) used me. My world became very dark. Sure, there were some good things, like the money, but that eventually disappeared and all I was left with, were the scars of being sexually objectified.

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I believe that sex workers should have worker’s rights that prevent them from the coerced sexual abuse that happens time and time again. There are situations constantly cropping up on social media of girls complaining of being violated outside of shoots. I also believe that porn stars should be able to buy back images of themselves after ten years so they can transition in society more comfortably. The sex industry pays women more, as it needs its object to function, and women in the industry think they are getting a good deal, until they find themselves with no way of getting out. The permanence of their appearance on film leaves them with little prospect in corporate society. Women are not people in the sex industry, they are voiceless caricatures.

We don’t know the true effects yet, as the internet is relatively new, and I’m not dismissing its sheer awesomeness for one minute, but what I am fighting against is the graphic depiction of women as fodder. Are glamour models victims of a culture that sexualises women and young girls? What effects do these identities have on everyday women? Our children need more protection – both boys and girls. Glamour models are certainly not empowered like some say they are, but they wouldn’t bite the hand that feeds them would they? If they weren’t facilitating men’s demands they wouldn’t be of interest to these men.

The glamour model is an unhealthy construction and teaches women that they are decoration. They are merely brainwashed by a culture that disregards the best interests of humanity. We need to encourage connection and co-dependency, which means real rapport between boys and girls.

 

Social Activist and gay Muslim Ejel Khan on reconciling his religion and sexuality, cyberbullying and making a difference through activism.

I describe myself as ‘culturally muslim’; in that, I am not so concerned for the dogma that is tied to religion, but I still have faith, regardless of my sexuality. Reconciling my religion and sexuality was something I did for myself and no one else. I wholeheartedly understand that there will be people out there who do not like me, or agree with me – and some will have opinions I cannot change but, I can only be myself. My true authentic self.  

Next month I turn forty-two years old. I only came out ‘officially’, twelve years ago to my friends and family, and I did so, in order to obtain inner peace. The reaction from my family was muted; sexuality, both hetero and homo, is not openly discussed in the Muslim community and my parents spoke only to express concern for my safety and how other people might perceive me. Essentially, I am their child, and unless your parents are right-wing extremists, they will accept you, no matter the circumstance.

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I was born and bred in Luton, and have lived here most of my life. My parents are from the Indian subcontinent, and thanks to them, I have travelled widely there. What both places have in common, despite their difference in location, is that there are communities living in both, that feel marginalised and repressed. I constantly experience prejudice because of attitudes towards my sexuality; from physical altercations to trolling on my social media accounts. ‘You gay bastard’ and ‘I wish you were dead’, are just a couple of examples of things complete strangers have felt compelled (without provocation) to message me. I choose to ignore it, for fear of exacerbating any nasty sentiment and, to a point I can handle it – although I shouldn’t have to. In the end I removed myself from the firing line, and deleted my social media accounts. Through my activism I am actively engaged with people who may harbour such opinions, but the omnipresence of the internet has led me to permanently dissociate myself from social media. I would not promote myself online again, the backlash is just not worth it.

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Conversely, social media does serve to help marginalised communities; you can be anywhere in the world and yet, still have the ability to access support with a simple click of a button. Growing up without the privilege of the internet, my very limited knowledge of homosexuality came from the media; the newspaper or the television. I realise now, how little I knew about myself and the LGBT+ community. I didn’t have anyone to reach out to at the time, and had to make sense of myself and the situation I was in, by going to therapy.

When you reach adulthood, you realise that maybe there is opportunity to make a difference –  even if I impact on one person’s life – that’s enough for me. If I can shed my anonymity and speak out about my experiences, well, maybe someone will find comfort in that. Maybe my voice, will help them find their own.

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Ejel Khan is a social activist and is involved with the Peter Tatchell Foundation’s LGBT-Muslim Solidarity campaign: http://www.petertatchellfoundation.org/advocacy/lgbt-muslim-solidarity

 

We spoke to Charan Singh about photographing members of the Indian LGBT+ community

DTL: What is it like for members of the LGBT+ Community living in India today?

Charan: Homosexuality is still punishable by law in India, which means that corruption and homophobic abuse are rampant. Because of these attitudes, the LGBT+ community are subject to discrimination, harassment, rape, beatings and forced marriages. A consequence of this denial of freedom, is suicide.

Although there is a strong lobby for change, and there are very healthy conversations happening in India and other parts of South Asia regarding sexuality, we still have a very long battle ahead of us. It goes beyond a government overturning a ruling; we need to unlearn the phobia engrained in our society.

from the series "Kothis, Hijras, Giriyas and Others", Delhi, India, 2013 onwards

DTL: What inspired this series?

Charan: My photographic practice is informed by HIV/AIDS work and community activism in India, along with a formal study of the history of art and photography. I made this series because the LGBT+ sub-culture in India, is very rarely seen outside of its disempowered, HIV/AIDS victim narratives. So often, this community is reduced to data; they are pie-charts, tables and graphs. I wanted to move away from this one-dimensional conversation and explore their gendered and sexual life as a whole. I wanted to explore the human behind the statistic – the complexity of the person – and cover a range of emotions, anxieties, concerns, dilemmas and dreams, to give the subjects an importance, which contradicts the popular image of people from these social backgrounds.

from the series "Kothis, Hijras, Giriyas and Others", Delhi, India, 2013 onwards

DTL: Can you explain the title of the series?

Charan: The title of the project, ‘Kothis (effeminate, underprivileged, homosexual men), Hijras (eunuchs or transgender), Giriyas (partners of kothis and hijras) and Others (those born male whose sexuality cannot be categorised)’ are indigenous terms used by queer, working class and transgendered men in their own dialect, to define their different and particular sexual identities. Around 1994, UN funding for the AIDS epidemic bought all these identities into one umbrella term, “MSM” (Men who have Sex with Men.) This term was conceived to overcome the variety of local cultural differences from Morocco to Indonesia. Although it may have fulfilled its purpose to describe a category of behaviour, however, it failed to provide dignity to the affected communities it refers to, even after its recent inclusion of the term “TG” referring to transgender communities.

from the series "Kothis, Hijras, Giriyas and Others", Delhi, India, 2013 onwards

DTL: Do you know the people in the photographs?

Charan: I made the portraits of my sitters in their community centre and have known some of them for as long as sixteen years. For this reason, I feel they were comfortable posing for me in front of the lens. I am one of them. I am not appropriating their story. I am no threat. I want to represent them as they wish to be seen.

DTL: What inspired their poses? Did you tell them what to do?

Charan: As models they are greatly influenced by Bollywood cinema and television soaps, perhaps because they are primarily Hindi speaking people and their main source of visual reference is popular media. Art galleries, museums and the internet in India are not easily accessible to people who are not from the English speaking middle and upper-middle classes. Consequently, many of my sitters have adopted poses from heroines of popular television serials, whilst others have modelled themselves on famous courtesans’ characters in classic Bollywood films from the 1950s and 1960s.

from the series "Kothis, Hijras, Giriyas and Others", Delhi, India, 2013 onwards

DTL: What is your main objective as a photographer? 

Charan: When I make photographs, I want to make something queer but also want to challenge stereotypes. Many of my subjects have never had a studio portrait made in their life-time. Therefore, I attempted to create a space where people could feel comfortable regardless of their class, caste, identity, gender, sexuality, performance; these are individual human beings each with their own nuances.

http://www.charansingh.net/