Levelling the Sexcalator

Last year, the blog Pervocracy posted a piece called ‘The Sexcalator’. Its writer, under the pseudonym Cliff Pervocracy, pointed out that our society’s view of sexual experiences places different sexual practices on an escalator, imagining the most ‘depraved’ and ‘shocking’ sex acts at the top of the escalator, whilst quotidian intimacies like kissing and cuddling are relegated to the bottom. He also highlighted how we assume that certain types of sex – such as sex with a stranger or kinky sex – are more extreme or daring than others. The ‘sexcalator’ can then be used to deride anyone whose sexual practices err towards the top or bottom of the escalator – those who only ever kiss, cuddle and touch are regarded as naïve, prudish or unadventurous, while those towards the top are seen as depraved, weird and sexually immoral. ‘The Sexcalator’ immediately resonated with me, because I’ve lived for a long time under the shadow of sexual fears, and it’s great to hear someone debunking those fears’ foundational assumptions.

I was 14 when I realised I probably wasn’t going to like penetrative sex. I felt no desire to have a foreign object enter my body, and I still don’t; I felt anxious at the concept of using tampons, and I still do; I was intensely squeamish about the idea of invasive contraception like the coil or the female condom, and I still am. Around the age of 16, when I had my first romantic relationship, I sensed that it was going to be a problem. It was generally assumed that once you had a boyfriend, you had sex, and a few of my friends had ‘lost their virginity’ – a phrase I hate, because it associates intact hymens with psychological and emotional immaturity. I was perfectly fine with my hymen being intact, but I wasn’t fine with people thinking I was immature as a result. It was a ridiculous situation, and I was trapped, hemmed in by the expectations of both my peers and my new boyfriend (with whom intimacy was sexcalating quickly).

I first saw a therapist when I was 17. ‘Progress’ in bed had stopped suddenly, and I could see nothing in the media telling me that perhaps that wasn’t an issue. I assumed, then, that it was an issue, and resorted to visiting a psychosexual health professional to tell me what was wrong with me. I had my first assessment, where she analysed me and told me she could offer me ‘treatment’, but I turned her down because I was underlyingly optimistic that my ‘mental illness’ (which was how I was starting to see it) would soon disappear of its own accord, in the heat of some moment that never materialised.

When two of my female friends got together, I started to properly question my assumptions about sex. They were unhappy with the phrase ‘lose your virginity’ too – what could ‘losing virginity’ mean when their bedroom was a no-penis zone? Together, we started to reconceptualise sex, nourishing ourselves with the occasional stumbled-upon online article on progressive sex-education websites and burgeoning queer publications. This set off a process of challenging my heteronormative assumptions. Yet still, I thought that whilst their analysis worked all-very-well for lesbians, it didn’t really hold for me. Would a man ever want to be with a woman that couldn’t give him sex?

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Of course, the answer is that it shouldn’t be a process of ‘giving’ and ‘receiving’. Sex is not a gift, it’s a mutual experience; it’s not something we should have to concede. If we didn’t live in a world where ‘penetrative sex’ was on the most favoured step of the sexcalator, maybe heterosexual people wouldn’t see penetrative sex as a duty, an expectation and a rightful demand. Not that they all do – many people are a lot more flexible and respectful than that. However, generally, male-female penetration is still assumed to top the hierarchy of acceptable and enjoyable sex acts, and if you don’t ‘end up’ at that point in your relationship, something must have gone wrong somewhere along the way.

This is where the queer movement comes in. Most of the individuals who are empathetic towards my complaints about our sex-stratified society are from the LGBTQ community. Mainstream feminism has, in some ways, abandoned me on this one – most feminist communities talk about the ‘emancipatory’ potential of sex, and celebrate enjoying sex as ‘sexually liberating’ without any thought of what that language might mean for people like me, or people who choose not to have sex  – that we’re trapped, imprisoned by our sexual preferences. The Caitlin Moran brand of feminism, aside from being problematic in other ways, asks me to love my vagina and the things I can put into it as if penetration were an integral part of being a woman. I just don’t think it is, and the only place from which I’ve heard voices back me up on this, repeatedly, is the queer community.

Feminism is best on the issue of sex when it intersects with other movements, accepting all forms of consensual sexuality as viable, and accepting people’s ‘abnormal’ sexual preferences. Where feminists have had contact with the queer movement, they are often a lot more understanding. Of all the communities I’ve ever spent time in, I’ve found queer circles to be the most welcoming – both for me as a sometimes self-consciously unfeminine woman, and for me as a non-normative sexual being for whom penetrative sex is an uncomfortable, disagreeable experience.

Now that reproduction is no longer the main aim of most of our sexual encounters, why must we privilege heterosexual penetrative sex? We should knock penetrative sex off its phallic pedestal as soon as possible – and level that sexcalator while we’re at it.

Anonymous

Music | Gender roles in Classical Music in 2013

BRITAIN-ENT-MUSIC-PROMS

2013 was an interesting year for women in classical music. In December I was furious to read that of the thirteen winners of the British Composer awards NONE were women. Moreover, out of the three hundred works shortlisted, only 6 were written by a woman, which is nothing short of disgraceful. More promisingly, one of the year’s biggest classical news stories was Marin Alsop becoming the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms. Alsop is a fifty six year old New Yorker who has a ten year old son with her partner Kristin Jurkscheit, a female horn player, and her performance was all kinds of awesome. Her appointment received a lot of attention in April, and just when we thought the fuss was dying down, Vasily Petrenko, principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, made some disgustingly sexist comments about female conductors in September which threw the issue of female conductors back into the public eye. Apparently, musicians “react better when they have a man in front of them” and “a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things”.

Obviously, there was a lot of fuss made about these comments but it mostly concerned the very grievous insult to female conductors. Petrenko’s perception of orchestral musicians is equally problematic. Not only is it a very heteronormative comment (what about the men who are distracted by the attractive man on the podium?) it also is a denial of female sexuality. Anyone who has played in any orchestra will know about the widespread phenomena of women perving on male conductors. Conductors are just hot. I don’t know exactly what it is that turns a man who I would either regard as a socially awkward music geek or an arrogant prick if I met him into a bar into a BALL OF SEXUAL ENERGY when he’s on the podium. Maybe it’s that insane power of being in command of an entire cohort of a musicians, all that sweat and waving about of hands during that concerto climax or just the incredible amount of talent it takes to conduct. All I know is that sometimes I’ve missed entries not due to my inability to count rests (which is considerable) but because I have been distracted by thoughts of other situations in which the conductor could pull those incredible faces.

I am a woman. I have sexual desires. Don’t deny me my right to right to be distracted by perving, Mr Petrenko. In fact you were pretty cute yourself before you ruin the effect by speaking.

Moving swiftly on ;)

That female conductors remain such a massive deal whereas there is roughly an equal gender spilt in the woodwind and string sections of professional orchestras undeniably reveals an attitude of having to conform to certain roles within music. In jazz bands, you see more female singers than saxophonists, likewise in pop, more female singers than ‘chick drummers’ (that conversation in School of Rock comes to mind). In classical the gender stereotypes are female flautists, singers and harpists, and male brass players, percussionists and conductors. The string section is by and large perceived as gender neutral (with the possible exception of the double bass which seems to me to have a more masculine image in jazz than when it’s used in classical), and the perceived femininity of the reed instruments in classical is dampened by its usage in military associated brass bands giving it a more macho feel. We don’t even think about it, we subconsciously assume this is how it is.

In this way, musical instruments fall into the same category as the gendered toy debate, with mothers worrying that if they let little Johnny play the flute he will get called a fag by the boys at school, in the same way they would if they let him play with a doll. Their worries are often justified; I remember a boy in my youth choir telling me when we were teenagers that if his “friends” knew what he spent his weekends doing, they would have beaten the shit out of him.

I play the harp, which is perceived as one of the most gendered musical instruments and I will fully admit that I have contributed to this perception. Even though I’m mostly a jeans and chequered shirt person, I enjoy using performing as an excuse to put on a pretty long dress (not that you can wear a short one playing the harp) and curl my hair and I don’t feel ashamed of that. Gender is a spectrum and I reserve the right to express a hyper feminine identity at times. The problem is when this is so strongly associated with my musicianship that my instrument becomes ‘feminine’ to the extent that men feel excluded from it. In the harp world we know that male harpists exist and thrive; David Watkins is an example of an influential male harpist and when I was studying at university the only other harpist was a straight dude, but most casual observers I have spoken to think that harp music has a ‘feminine’ image. And we all know that when something becomes ‘women’s work’ it begins to be regarded as a soft, easy, insubstantial, pretty but dim. Never mind the harp is fiendishly difficult to play, I have had my share of, “Now you pretty thing sit in the corner with your pretty harp, play some nice glissandos and make the tea.” Famously in one of my old orchestras, the conductor was telling off the all-female harp section for missing entries and decided that, “I’m having to look at the harp section far too much, at least I enjoy myself when I do,” was an appropriate way to do it. Now I’m not going to say I’ve suffered , harpists are hardly a persecuted minority. Most of the time this banter is not badly meant and I do laugh along but do think it has a nasty undercurrent regarding instrument choice and gender roles.

In general, I think that we in classical music have a lot to be proud of in terms we treat women. As I mentioned earlier, in the industry as a whole, the proportion of women who reach the top is highly positive, and female soloists generally go unremarked. Most orchestras and chamber music groups perform wearing plain black which makes it difficult to determine a performer’s gender and the whole, ‘Judge on the quality of the music not the appearance of the performer’ philosophy is common in classical music and speaks well for gender equality. The classical music world is miles ahead of the pop world in terms of marketing female soloists on their artistry rather than their appearance; and interestingly, the female musicians who are marketed more on sex appeal are the ones who tend towards crossover (hullo Katherine Jenkins). Sadly, that’s where the money is on both counts.
But perhaps it is covert sexism that is the most dangerous, that slips under our radars and makes us think of certain gender restrictions as ‘normal.’ Whilst we give a little boy a trumpet and a little girl a flute, classical music’s hands are not clean of sexism. Happy 2014, lets raise a glass to Marin Alsop and hope we continue to ride last year’s promising trends of gender equality.

Julia Mascetti

Living It | 10 Adorable Ways to Show Your Loved Ones Affection this Valentine’s Day

First of all, I want to state that this is not limited to romantic love. Valentine’s Day is wonderful, and is one of my favourite holidays, but this has only been since I’ve had a girlfriend. Before that it was all tears and misplaced hope that I’d get a rose from someone at school or a card from someone besides my parents! And this is awful – this shouldn’t be how young folks feel, Valentine’s shouldn’t be a holiday to celebrate if you have someone or not, it should be to celebrate love itself, whether that’s your best friend, your mum, your partner or your dog! So below you’ll find 10 (under £10!) adorable and thoughtful ways to show people that you care.

Love Box
Perfect for: Your partner
This simple yet adorable way to show your boo how much you love them is cheap and easy; simply purchase a heart-shaped box from your local craft store (or make one if you’re creative!) and fill it with cute notes, sweets, chocolate hearts and heart confetti. This idea’s great because it’s so customisable, feel free to decorate the love box or fill it with your own ideas. One idea we love is filling it with 365 Hershey Chocolate Kisses and putting a note saying ‘A kiss for each day of the year’ inside!

Make Your Own Date
Perfect for: Your partner
Those Valentine’s Day specials at restaurants are always so pricey; this way you and your date get to celebrate in the comfort and cosy of your own home. All you need is three envelopes – labelled ‘food’, ‘drink’ and ‘entertainment’. Inside the envelopes write on flashcards a selection of things you know your partner likes (and you can get!), then seal them up. Set the mood with a few candles and some music then let your date open the envelopes and choose their evening’s plan.

Movie Night
Perfect for: Your bestie
Of course movie nights aren’t just limited to special occasions, but this one itself is special! All you need is four or five DVDs (we recommend anything with Hilary Duff,  Ellen Page, Jennifer Lawrence or Anne Hathaway! Or some less than traditional lovey films!) then copious amounts of sugary and greasy foods – make sure you include pizza, doughnuts, popcorn, ice cream and nachos! Finally all you need is a friend you can wear onesies with, cuddle up and indulge!

Baking Time
Perfect for: Your bestie
Everyone loves baking, and most people love eating said baked goodies. So what’s better on V-Day than making loads of a cookies or cakes in fun/romantic/sexy/cutesy shapes. This is a good opportunity to involve someone you love in treats they otherwise wouldn’t have got by creating vegan or gluten free food. As well as getting to nom on yummy goodness you can spend ages decorating your treats, all for just a fiver down at the local supermarket baking aisle! Grab some chocolate chips, sprinkles and coloured icing and get baking!

Pamper Yourself
Perfect for: You!
If you’re alone this Valentine’s and don’t fancy spending time with anyone else, then why not treat yourself? Even as a butch girl I love a good bubble bath with some yummy scented candles, so why shouldn’t you indulge yourself? Invest in some new candles, shower gel and bath bombs (rose or orange scents are always good!) and maybe even a face mask or body scrub, then get pampering with some upbeat or relaxing music on. Nail-painting and deep-conditioning optional.

Better Off Alone
Perfect for: You
Now, whatever we all say, everyone’s had those ‘I’m going to be alone forever’ days where you just want to sob into a fluffy cushion and eat an entire Ben and Jerry’s factory. But it’s Valentine’s Day, so why not celebrate being alone – no, I’m serious. Order or cook your favourite meal that no one else likes and rent some DVDs of that director that everyone else thinks is weird. Snuggle down in some soft ‘jammies, making the most of having the bed to yourself and enjoy doing all the things that you like doing.

‘Things I Love About You’ Book
Perfect for: Anyone
This idea can be personalised so it works for a friend, a parent or your significant other – all you need is something to write on and something to write with. Some fun ideas include a stack of cards, some photos or just a notebook. If you have something that isn’t already bound, there’s no need to worry, simply punch two holes in the stack of whatever and put keyrings through the holes for a quick and easy way to secure it! Once you’ve got your book you can write all the things you love about the person down on each page/card/whatever. It’ll be a lovely pick-me-up for when they’re feeling down and nothing says ‘I care’ like listing all the reasons why you care! Plus, this is of course fully-customisable – glitter and rainbow until your heart’s content!

Treasure Hunt
Perfect for: Anyone
It is a well-known fact that everyone loves a treasure hunt. So why not have some fun with one this Valentine’s Day? You can locate the hunt in your garden, your house, the local park or the entire city if you want. Then just go to your local 99p Store and buy however many little presents you want (or can afford!) – stuff like candles, sweets, a cheesy card, random toys or whatever – and wrap the presents up, then hide them around your location. (Please remember to hide them properly if you’re doing it in a public place, you don’t want your treasure nicked.) Now comes the slightly harder part, you’ve got to draw a map – or annotate an already made one – leading the person to all the places, where they will they have to find the present. This idea is great ‘cause not only is it thoughtful and shows you care, but it’s hilarious to watch someone try and find stuff when you know where it is.

Sweet Nothings
Perfect for: Your Partner
For this idea you’ll first of all need a box of chocolates – it can be any size or make, whatever you want. Once you’ve got this you’ll need to open it (carefully!) and one by one take out the chocolates. Underneath all the individual chocolates put little heart-shaped notes saying whatever you like – they could list things you love about the person or just say ‘I love you’ on all of them. Then, close up the box and give it to your partner. Now when they’ve eaten a chocolate they’ll get yet another sweet surprise.

Starcrossed Lovers
Perfect for: Your Partner
Who doesn’t love the idea of making love under the stars or cuddling by a warm campfire? (If you don’t, then this idea probably isn’t for you.) Wherever you live you can arrange a romantic and secluded evening for you and your loved one. Borrow a tent from someone and get together lots of blankets, pillows, lanterns, board games and yummy treats then take them out into the park, your garden or your balcony – if it’s raining you can even set this up indoors by a window. Later on lead your partner, blindfolded, out and into the tent where they will be greeted with warmth, love and lots of cuddles.

Don’t forget to snap a shot of your Valentine’s Day celebrations and tweet us @QueerInk1 with #QueerInkVDay
Riot Love <3

Lorelei Bowman

Sex + Relationships | Embrace Valentine’s Day

gaaay

So, I have a little announcement.

Here goes.

My name is Ben and I am a romantic. A completely hopeless (hopeless) romantic. When I’m with you, you’ll know I’m with you. When I’m in love with you, I will do all I can to show you that I’m in love with you.

Valentine’s Day is just one way that you can do that. So I ask you, what’s the problem in it?

Choose from one of the following usual responses:-

-          It’s cheesy

-          The gifts are cheap tat

-          Chocolate is more expensive

-          It’s a money-making scheme

-          I can tell my partner I love them any day, why limit it to February 14th?

That’s the thing though, isn’t it? No one is telling you to limit your love to February 14th. Celebrating love on February 14th is no different to celebrating your life on your birthday. We celebrate life all year around by living it, much like we celebrate love by loving.

Now would probably be a good time to say that I am, in fact, single, but last year, I did have a partner. And we did do the whole presents and celebrating thing. It was fun. If anything, it gave me the chance to get creative in making her a personalized Valentine’s Day card. Japanese cats are fun to draw, just in case you were wondering.

So yes, there are a few arguments against Valentine’s Day, but in my personal opinion, there is nothing better than seeing the look on your partner’s face when you’ve genuinely put effort into doing something to make them smile, whether that be February 14th or not.

So why not make it this Friday, eh?

And if you’re single – like me – it gives you the perfect excuse to: watch your favourite rom-com, should you wish; start that book you’ve been meaning to read forever; listen to your favourite Tegan and Sara album – So Jealous is a pretty good one if you’re stuck for choice.

Or you know, you could spend your day the way you would any other day. February 14th isn’t far away!

Benjamin Oakes

Fatshion | Why limit our choices?

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I am fat and have to wear clothes. Believe me, I don’t always like wearing clothes, but someone, somewhere along the lines decided what with people going outside and it being pretty cold us humans should wear them. Now, I’m not going to become a nudist because it is very cold, but I am going to spend as much time as possible in my house wearing pyjamas in ridiculous sizes. Anyway to not go off on a tangent, why do I hate wearing clothes? For some people wearing clothes is the route to self expression, the way they show others things about themselves. Yes, this all is true. For me this is true. I like expressing myself through clothes, and I like expressing my gender through what I’m wearing. I’m aware I’ve yet to point out a problem, but I do have a problem with clothes, and it’s a major one.

Buying clothes when you are fat is hard. I am also tall, so this makes it even harder. It is hard for a variety of reasons. Lots of high street shops don’t make clothes above a size 16/18. When the shops do stock larger clothes the options for fat people are distinctly, well, ugly. I don’t want to wear lots of patterns, I am not a fan of fat disguising shapes, I do want to stand out and am not here to hide my fat. I want to be able to wear the same current fashions as my thinner counterparts. I like leather, and sheer things, and short skirts and shorts and crop tops. I like all of these things and I resent my options being limited because I am fat.

As well as this I often find fat clothes don’t fit me so well. The proportions seem off and I find quite often that, especially as a taller person, lots of things fit me completely wrong. I have a dress that my Oma was genuinely surprised was not a top. As a person with breasts I will always be burdened with the shirt crumple. You don’t know what the shirt crumple is? The shirt crumple is where an shirt with buttons has a massive gap where my breasts are. As well as this my arms often feel cut off by disproportioned sleeve holes. Tight sleeves are also a problem.

Because of this it’s not surprising that sometimes I buy clothes from the ‘mens’ section. There are a whole load of different problems involved. Apparently men are very weird shapes. Some of the clothes I cannot get into at all.

The problem doesn’t end there. Try thrifting, charity shopping, and shopping on sites like ebay and Etsy when you are fat. There is less available, and vintage stuff seems impossible to find in larger sizes.

What really makes this bananas is that I am only a size 18/20, so for me there is a lot more available, than if I were a larger size. I am privileged within the fat community, and I still find clothing limited and boring, so I cannot imagine how larger people find clothes that don’t bore them, actually fit them and are nice.

I know this has been said before, the fat community has been talking about the availability and the variety in clothing for years, but it’s still a day-to-day issue for me, and I’m very bored and angry. On the upside I have seen rumours ASOS is coming out with some exciting fat lines this year, let’s see if they live up to expectation. There is always room for improvement.

Melissa Whitehouse

lgbt canal street

Quink About It | Gay Clubbing

FOR

So back in the day when I was a wee fresher at university, I showed up in my fresh cosy flat, awkwardly met my fresh gregarious flatmates and had a fresh, bright life ahead of me. There was one drawback: I hated the holy grail of student life. Clubbing. I hated the short, tight dresses I felt obliged to wear. I hated the dull same-y music. I hated how gawky and unwieldily my body felt as I shuffled from foot to foot. I hated the way everything was loud and throbbing, the way there were people everywhere twerking, grinding, slut dropping; how seriously everyone took themselves, how my every move felt judged and watched, how claustrophobic and uncomfortable and grim the whole experience was. Most of all I hated how much pressure weighed on my shoulders with navigating the social etiquette of the dreaded night out.

Then one day I had a revelation- what if I was able to go out, enjoy the company of friends, not give a monkeys about my ungainly dancing and be raucous, bawdy and free? What if I could do what I liked without feeling any duress? I could wear any clothes I wanted without being scrutinised, I would feel safe to bind my chest and wear shirts, and it would be OK that I didn’t pass as a guy. I could use whichever toilets I wanted. I could flirt outrageously with people and not get disgusted stares. People around me could be friendly, chatty and comfortable with my demeanor. The music could be fun, gleeful and lighthearted with a little something for everyone. I could just relax.

These are the liberties of gay clubbing.

‘Oh but it’s not for everyone’

‘I don’t like the culture of gay clubs’

‘The music is terrible, it’s cis-white-male dominated, ableist and all other people are excluded’

Yes. That may be the case. But these are spaces that are by definition for gay people and I, for one, am happy to go out there and make it be a space for me. I gain comfort from knowing I have something in common with everyone around me. They may be many cis-white-men, but they are cis-white-GAY-men. Occasionally people are rubbish at accepting my identity and appearance, I am not stereotypically gay after all. But at least in a gay club enough people around me are on my side (I would have next to no chance in my first year straight friend hang outs). I appreciate that I am fortunate to have that confidence, it has taken a long time to build up a group of friends and allies. Nevertheless whilst I am able I intend to blaze a path, fiercely and fearlessly, for other people to make their splashes of colour too.

Few and far between are the public spaces in which there are vaguely comfortable environs for my escapades and adventures. I’m not saying they are perfect (gay clubs are still dripping with sexism and racism and other horrendous things), but I can try. This is a space that I can own. It has my name on it. I can claim it, and I can craft it to my own specifications. Gay culture is what gay people make it. I am gay. My gay culture is fabulous.

Freya Wilson

AGAINST

Before I start, I want to clarify that I do go to gay clubs. I like being able to go somewhere where I can safely assume that the girl I’m trying to chat up is gay or where I can kiss a girl without being ogled or harassed. However, the price I pay for this luxury is a high one, as the lack of variety of gay clubs means that I am forced to endure the kind of cheesy music both your mum and seven year old sister love and being tapped on the shoulder every five minutes to be offered an over-priced watered-down shot by some topless muscle-man. If gay clubs were just regular, mainstream clubs, no-one would go there. They are awful.

It’s as if in a bid to make something ‘ours’, the gay community have latched onto and taken over the only sub culture that no-one else could possibly want. There is something unsettlingly tragic about seeing a group of fully grown adults singing along to Busted, B-witched and Kylie Minogue remixes. Maybe I’m just a music snob, maybe I’m just too serious and miserable, but gay clubs to me are a parody of themselves – a complete and utter embarrassment to the word ‘gay’.

When I first came out, I envisaged gay clubs to be a place where I could go and feel comfortable being myself and meet some new people. However, contrary to what I thought, gay clubs are not defined by their clientele – they are defined by the childlike music you’d expect to hear at a primary school disco and bar staff serving drinks in undignified revealing costumes. Members of the LGBT* community often complain about the presence of gawking straight people at gay clubs, but maybe if the clubs weren’t such a joke, people wouldn’t see the attraction and come for the ‘lolz’. Something as arbitrary as sexuality does not suddenly mean we all enjoy the same music or the same kind of atmosphere.

Being a lesbian is not an integral part of my identity, and I don’t define myself by who I like to sleep with. Surely if the gay community want to be taken seriously, seen as equals and not stereotyped, then we should stop stereotyping ourselves and offer a more varied selection of bars and clubs -where you don’t have to be absolutely bladdered to enjoy yourself.

Harriet Andrews

Arts + Entertainment | Top Five Animated Ladies

You’ll often find that ‘top animated women’ lists or the like are oriented around Disney. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a good Disney classic as much as the next, but growing up the powerful women who inspired me weren’t always from Disney films. So here is my list of the top five empowered and downright fabulous animated women and why they should be role models for everyone.

Number Five: Odette from The Swan Princess (1994) 

My not-so-secret guilty pleasure films are The Swan Princess trilogy (they did make another one in 2012 but we don’t talk about that) which tell the classic swan/girl tale of Odette. But what makes Odette worthy of this much fought-after spot? Well, firstly we must mention her tomboy childhood phase shown early on in a brilliant montage where she proves she’s just as good as her ‘husband to be’ Prince Derek by fighting with him, beating him at cards and just being awesome. Later on, when Derek sees her beautiful transition into womanhood and declares his love, Odette truly comes into her own with the line “Is beauty all that matters to you?” when told that she’s ‘all he’s ever wanted; she’s beautiful’. Despite pressure from the entire kingdom, Odette refuses Derek’s proposal because he cannot explain her worth beyond beauty. Aside from this she totally kicks ass evading the villainous Rothbart and stubbornly refuses to give him what he wants despite being in a pretty shit situation.

Odette

Number Four: Anya from Anastasia (1997)

Anya was one of my first childhood crushes, whether it was her red hair or adorkable personality, she stole my little heart and to this day still holds it captive. Not only did Anastasia help me with my Russian history for GCSE, it also teaches that love is more important than wealth and that a girl don’t need no man! Anya grows up an orphan, with no memory of her family or childhood and then by chance meets some scammers who hope to use her as the ‘lost princess’ of Russia for a reward – what they of course later find out is that she is in fact actually the princess. But nevertheless, Anya refuses to be used and later on fights Rasputin to save the man she loves and her own life.

Anya

Number Three: Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991)
This lady needs no introduction, with her cute white apron, blue dress, ponytail and bookishness, Belle is a secret love of everyone’s. Apart from proving that that women can be intelligent and non-man-oriented, Belle defends her father, assists his crazy invention-makin’ and sticks up to, let’s face it (even though we shouldn’t judge) a hellish looking beast. Though then again maybe she just saw his cuddly side straight away? Belle’s brilliance just cannot be disputed. Going off and rescuing her father, refusing to give in to the ‘handsome’ man about the town, Gaston, and then rescuing her love from said bastard. I mean seriously, this girl kicks ass and all whilst looking adorable and reading numerous books. Talk about perfect woman.

Belle

Number Two: Mulan (1998)
Other than the fact that Mulan is voiced by the BAMF Ming-Na Wen who now plays Agent Melinda May in Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (she’s beyond kickass, seriously – she totally takes out an army and stuff by herself) Mulan is just a brilliant story of saying a big ‘fuck you’ to gender roles. I mean come on, the tagline is “This time, the princess saves the prince”. How can you not love this film? Mulan totally saves her father’s life and sacrifices herself. Not only does she show honour and integrity with this but she proves to everyone that she is just as strong as the men she fights with. Mulan is the kind of role model I want my children to have, please.

Mulan

Number One: Kayley from The Magic Sword: Quest for Camelot (1998)
In our number one spot we have Kayley, the badass, cute-as-fuck redhead from QFC. Kayley is just…awesome. First of all we have her refusing to wear a dress, because she doesn’t feel comfortable in it, then we have her sneaking out from her home despite basically being kidnapped by a bunch of knight-robot-things and running away to the haunted forest, all to rescue her mum and warn Camelot and King Arthur of the big bad’s evil scheme. Along the way she falls in love with and saves the life of a dorky blind guy and they sing an adorable duet, she befriends some slightly deformed dragon rejects and ends the story on a high note of saving Camelot, the King and her mum. Kayley is beautiful, powerful, inquisitive, intelligent and all round badass. Her courage and passion are inspirational, even as I watch this sixteen years on, with a lot more life behind me.

Kayley

Lorelei Bowman