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Feminism for the 'Love Island' Generation

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Pupils explored what feminism means for the Love Island generation with Mrs Helen Brandon, the Deputy Head (Pastoral) of the Boys’ Division. In an interesting and insightful lunchtime talk, Mrs Brandon discussed male and female stereotypes, the use of fairytale tropes in modern media and how controversy on Love Island has promoted feminist conversations.

She began by discussing fairytales, in which boys are the heroes and girls need to be rescued and subsequently fall in love: patterns which are repeated across popular culture. She pointed out the problems with these limited narratives and unequal opportunities, not just for women but for men too.

Relating this back to Love Island, she said that in the programme “finding Prince Charming becomes monetary and finding a boyfriend becomes the raison d’etre.” However, the TV show has recently promoted important conversations about feminist issues. The devious tactics of men were called out on social media during the last series: Mrs Brandon picked up on specific incidents from Love Island and described how Women’s Aid urged viewers to recognise warning signs visible on the show which are consistent with domestic violence and abuse. She went on to talk about how female friendships are presented on Love Island and urged pupils to question the narratives that the programme chooses to portray.

Mrs Brandon ended her talk with a list of statistics to illustrate just how few women are in powerful positions today and called for “a renaissance of the Suffragette movement.”

She reminded the girls in the audience that character has a crucial role in realising a person’s full potential, and it is their responsibility to cultivate the kind of community in which everyone can discover their personal and academic potential. She talked about behaviours to avoid and challenge and called on girls to empower one another, be inclusive and emotionally intelligent, and to find strength in the value of their female friendships.

Finally, she said, “You don’t even have to stop watching Love Island – but please critique its lazy and outdated representation of gender!”

The session ended with a lively series of thoughtful questions from the audience. Mrs Brandon discussed whether women’s ambitions are diluted after having children, why so few people are willing to call themselves feminists, the enduring appeal of fairytales despite their issues and whether certain careers, such as teaching, are dominated by women because of societal pressure or due to personal choice.

The talk from Mrs Brandon was part of Café Culturel, a series of lunchtime arts enrichment talks which take place in the Girls’ Division throughout the year, complemented by corresponding Café Scientifique events. Pupils from both Divisions are invited to attend. Earlier in the spring term, Nikki Beale spoke about ‘Engineering to Tackle Flooding’ and after half term pupils will have the opportunity to learn about pulsars and dark matter from Sankarshana Srinivasan.

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