I’m a freelance journalist, writer and copywriter. I have written for The Guardian, Grazia, Comment Is Free, ARISE magazine, Blackhair Magazine, Now Online, Bournemouth Daily Echo, Bexley Extra, Bromley Extra,and Nerve magazine among others. I specialise in writing about women, feminism, the arts, race, and popular culture. I am available for new commissions, shifts and other opportunites. You can reach me at: bim[dot]adewunmi[at]gmail[dot]com
A full archive of my writing for The Guardian can be found here. Excerpts are below:
HBO’s recent comedy drama Girls, created and co-written by indie wunderkindLena Dunham, has been the subject of a seemingly endless stream of think pieces. The crux of the matter is the diversity – or lack thereof – that the show displays. A full cast list from Imdb.com showed parts for non-white cast members such as “Jamaican Nanny”, “Young Black Guy”, “Roosevelt Hotel Bellhop” and “Tibetan Nanny”. Of course, Girls is only the latest in a long line of New York-set TV shows that paint a distinctly monochromatic picture. From Seinfeld to Sex and the City to Friends (which recycled the same storyline for two black characters over the series), there is a small-screen tradition of whitewashing the big city.
I have had a lot of time to consider the reasons I haven’t learned to swim and it is down to two things: I was never encouraged to; and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I am scared of the water. Jonathan gets in first, and directs me to do the same – down three rungs, with my back to the pool. He explains the slope of the pool floor: we will go no further than the black line that he points out, and the water will be no higher than my chin. As we walk the breadth of the pool, I grip the side for support. At worst, he says, I could lose my footing – but he will catch me. I am pathetically reassured to hear this.
Its existence – Wikipedia describes it as a “professional social networking site” – flies in the face of the norms of social networking. How many of us really want to share our non-working lives with the people we work with or would like to work with? It’s so … awkward. If Twitter is the cool teenager smoking behind the bike sheds, and Facebook is a handy big brother, LinkedIn is your slightly sweaty colleague, shuffling awkwardly at the Christmas get-together.
The “warrior hairdresser” seems a contradiction in terms, but hair has been and remains deeply political. Even Sassoon’s own iconic cuts were political: they revolutionised women’s beauty regimen by popularising the wash and go, freeing his customers from the rigours of having to painstakingly do their hair daily and finally liberating them from spray and hot rollers – and the world ate it up.
In less than 24 hours, #creepingsharia was trending, but what could have become a feed for EDL members and sympathisers to display their hard-hitting “evidence” of the rampant Islamisation of Britain, instead attracted the nimble fingers of sensible and funny tweeters, wittily but firmly telling Robinson and others of his ilk where to shove their ill-informed views.
‘Echoed by one Tumblr commenter: “Dragons, sure. But black people? Sir, you go too far!” It comes to this: if the casting of Rue, Thresh and Cinna has left you bewildered and upset, consider two things. One: you may be a racist – congrats! Two: you definitely lack basic reading comprehension. Mazel tov!‘
‘So activists are combating fire with fire. Ohio state senator Nina Turner has introduced an amendment to require men to undertake celibacy lectures and rectal exams before being prescribed Viagra. “If you want to be preoccupied with regulating women’s wombs, we’re going to do the same thing with men,” she said. On Tuesday, the Facebook page of Virginia senator Ryan McDougle was bombarded with “vagina updates” following his support for a law to force women to receive unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds before a termination.’
A part of me is happy to hear this. In a world where young women are being held to impossible standards of beauty and the spectrum of what constitutes “attractiveness” grows ever narrower, it is pleasing to see that at least one swath of the population is resisting the assault on self-confidence. But another, larger, part of me is kicking against it. Why? Because I don’t think it’s as benign as it sounds.
‘For little girls in the 1980s and 1990s, Whitney Elizabeth Houston was everything. Her big hair, the seemingly heartfelt lyrics, her skinny little knees in a denim miniskirt, her powerhouse of a voice – she was the supreme living doll. I have not met a single woman of my generation – white, black, brown or whatever – who did not want to be her at some point. She was perfect.’
The fear of being labelled an ABW makes you bite your tongue all the time. It’s designed to shut you up. It allows people to get away with things they would never try anywhere else – and then blame you and your reaction. It’s a catch-22 situation: I’m angry about this, but I can’t show it, or else they’ll use that anger as a stick to beat me with.So, I say: screw it.
So why Gosling? It goes beyond looks. He was raised by a single mother to whom he’s close, and he waxes lyrical about his female co-stars and ex-girlfriends.
Shadism lurks in our collective peripheral vision and rears its ugly head every so often. I am a dark-skinned girl. I always have been – I was never fair-skinned, not as a baby (like my sister), not as a child (like one of my brothers) nor an adolescent. My parents did not wait for my colour to “come in”. I was born a deep brown, and have pretty much remained so all my life. My extended family is pretty diverse-looking – from my second cousin Ruka, who looks white in certain lights, to my cousin Baraka, who is dark as night; I never had any real inclination to be lighter-skinned, but almost every Nigerian Briton I spoke to while writing this article reported having seen bad bleach jobs at weddings, church and parties.
We can’t help but notice that women are conspicuous in their absence. In the 10 posters showcasing Britain’s greatness, there are no female faces and overall just two allusions to women. The first is a mention of Adele in a paean to music and then there is the stiletto shoe. But if British excellence is gender-neutral, why are the images so one-sided?
Here’s a quick refresher: erotic capital is a combination of “beauty, social skills, good dress sense, physical fitness, liveliness, sex appeal and sexual competence”. And while it is exploitable by all, Hakim argues that women have more scope to do so, seeing as men want sex more than women. Is exploiting “erotic capital” the way forward? Or is this a reductive idea dressed in fancy academic clothing?
The science lesson in which we covered human biology focused primarily on puberty. Girls were informed of the menarche – their first menstrual cycle – one of approximately 500 over the course of a lifetime. We were told to expect “some discomfort”, but given no hint that for some this pain would go beyond mild and descend into pretty damn awful.
The modern trope of the perceived sexualisation of our children continues apace with the US launch of Bebé Glotón (‘greedy baby’), a doll that children can ‘breastfeed’ and burp. Bebé comes with a special bib for the child to wear – two flowers modestly represent the nipples – and when the sensors in the doll’s mouth come close to those in the bib, it makes suckling sounds and motions. Once fed, Bebé Glotón will cry until it is burped.
By making the advice horrid and violent and rude, it acknowledges that girls are not the passive little princesses they are often depicted as, and can be just as boisterous – and awful – as boys.
Earlier this year, a Human Rights Watch report found that the US is one of only three countries to offer no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave – the others are Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.
Gauthier says he hasn’t had any negative customer feedback yet: “We started last week and, so far, nobody has said: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s disgusting!’ Actually, you ignore it, or you say: ‘That’s helpful’. In five years’ time, most of the restaurants, with or without regulation, will do it.”
The television advertisements for Asda feature people – celebrities, employees and customers alike – patting their back pockets and exclaiming with a cheery smile: “That’s Asda price!” Well, someone has taken their ethos to heart and decided to do some saving of their own – by nicking 800 trolleys in less than a fortnight. At £80 a pop, the £64,000 question is, who would steal them?
The resulting images are arresting; the “mystery” of so many girls’ bedrooms laid bare for all to see. One can’t help but extrapolate from the spaces we see – what kinds of lives are these girls living? The disparities in material wealth are just one element of interest; their outfits, decor and expressions are all up for scrutiny.
This year, Forbes magazine named her Australia’s richest person. And although her estimated net worth stands at a paltry A$10bn or so, Citigroup estimates that she is on course to overtake both Slim and Gates within the next few years, largely because she has no shareholders and owns her businesses outright.
‘These are heady times for tactical frivolity. Will glitter take over from the stalwarts of the protester – the more traditional eggs, flour and pie? Is shoe-throwing dead in the water?’
Henry Kissinger once said: “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” Could his quote also apply to the refined world of poetry? There certainly seems to be an epic argument going on at the 102-year-old Poetry Society.
‘The ancient city of Arbil is the fourth largest in Iraq. Visitors alighting at the international airport may wish to visit the site where Alexander the Great defeated King Darius III of Persia back in 331BC (about 60 miles away), or they might gaze upon the wonder of the Citadel of Arbil. Soon though, the expectant mothers of the city will be able to browse in one of the most recognisable stores on the British high street: Mothercare.’
The relative invisibility of the game in the UK irks [Eni Aluko], and she thinks media exposure is key, something we could learn from the Germans. “You can tell by the way Germany has approached this World Cup that they have gone all out and really put it in the face of the public, and now 80,000 people are coming to the opening game. I think that’s the way it needs to be done – spend the money. The women’s game is not on TV enough.”
‘”What we have observed is that it’s a growing phenomenon and it’s happening among women of different faiths,” says Lewis. “In the UK, what we see most often are young, trendy Muslim women in headscarves – many of this generation are working modesty in relation to mainstream fashion trends, not through wearing so-called ethnic or traditional clothing. This is a generation who have grown up with consumer culture, and who expect to express every aspect of themselves through participation in consumer culture.”‘
‘Clearly, a large proportion of girls and women masturbate. So where are they all? From adolescence through to the deathbed, men are allowed to be unabashed onanists. But there is no parity for women. More often than not, when women in popular culture masturbate, it is often portrayed as a symptom of their deviance.’
‘Is it possible to watch programmes from the iPlayer on my iPad? Is my iPod synced to my iTunes? What kind of iRain is likely to fall from the newly launched iCloud? Let’s start at the very beginning.’
‘”I think that ‘writing the way that you talk’ was a big thing that I was really pushing at Sassy and again at Jane, and I see that much, much more. I think it’s thrilling to think that I personally had a part in that.” Then she adds: “Well, a part in what some people consider the degradation of journalism, but, you know.”‘
‘You can’t help but feel a little sorry for the female contingent of Team Great Britain; they haven’t yet inspired the kind of mania that greets Andy Murray, the third team member to get through in Paris, or had a mound of earth named after them at Wimbledon, à la Henman. British number two Anne Keothavong had to put up with crowds turning their backs on her match to watch Roger Federer practise on the court on the other side. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she didn’t make it to the next round.
Oprah Winfrey has touched your life. Yes, she has. She has most likely affected the way you speak, the foods you eat, the books you read, and the music you listen to. And today, she’ll be saying goodbye to the eponymous show that launched her onto the world stage – after almost 25 years, 24 seasons and more than 4,000 episodes.’
‘Building on the “Cool Biz” summer campaign that started in 2005 as part of the government pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto protocol, the government has extended its original guidelines (turn down air conditioning, wear short-sleeved shirts to work, etc) even further. Workers, Japan’s famed “salarymen”, are now being urged to wear cotton trousers, sandals, T-shirts and even the casual Friday staple of loud Hawaiian shirts. It’s been dubbed “Super Cool Biz”.’
‘I was 15 years old when I bought my first bra in 1997. It was a non-wired 28B, white with a yellow trim, found in the Oxford Street branch of Marks & Spencer, and sized and selected by eye by my mother. That world is long gone. Now we have specialists wielding tape measures, happy and eager to help you with your brassiere needs. Almost every department store has a team of women who will size you up (for free) for specially engineered lingerie. But do we really need people to tell us what size bra to wear? Moreover, in light of this now ubiquitous service, are there really still women who do not know what size they are? A survey says British women own, on average, 16 bras at any one time. Are they all the wrong size? Can’t women be trusted to choose their own undergarments correctly?’
‘On any given day, before I leave my flat, I do three things: first, I check my teeth for stray poppy seeds. Then I have a quick look at my hair, making sure my afro is even on all sides. And last, but by no means least, I check my underarms. If this were true, I’d be one of the 77% of women who, according to Nivea, “feel sexier when their underarms look good”. Because if there’s one part of the body that the idea of my sexiness hinges on, it’s my armpits. Obviously.’
‘Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in the Oscar-winning film The Social Network was memorable – and deeply unflattering. Now the Facebook founder is rebranding in a subtle but effective fashion. He has got himself the best possible tool to engender goodwill: Beast, a fluffy little dog. Even better, he’s set up a Facebook page for his new addition. Sample update: “I just took a dump and made Mark Zuckerberg pick it up. It was glorious.”
Pets on social networking sites are huge – high-profile Beast is liked by more than 42,000 people so far – and more and more of us are creating online lives for our companion animals, despite Facebook rules that state you must be over 13 to use the site (at just two months, even in dog years, Beast is only 16 months old) and, more importantly, you cannot create a profile for anyone other than yourself.
But who befriends a dog on Facebook or follows a cat on Twitter? And why?’
‘In series eight of the forever-on-our-screens sitcom Friends, an irritated Phoebe complains to her relentlessly perky and happy date, played by Alec Baldwin: “You’re like Santa Claus on Prozac! At Disneyland! Getting laid!”
But while Baldwin does possess a happy twinkle in his eye, and Disneyland through a haze of antidepressants sounds fun, Phoebe’s formula for happiness was not conclusive. And so the New York Times asked Gallup, which has been conducting a wellbeing survey for the last three years, to draw up a composite for the happiest person in America. Using a formula called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Gallup identified a statistical hypothesis: male, tall, Asian-American, an observant Jew, at least 65 years old, married with children, and a business owner with a household income of more than $120,000. He also had to live in Hawaii, the happiest state in the US.’
‘If, like me, you’re single, the emergence of fashion’s boyfriend trend a few years back must have stuck in your craw. Suddenly, anything less than skin-tight was branded as his – your baggy jumpers, blazers and, most famously of all, jeans, were given the jaunty prefix of “boyfriend”. But there was no obvious counterpart to the trend. Until now. Enter Levi’s with its “ex-girlfriend jean”, described on its US website as “a tribute to the girlfriend with great style”.’
‘When you think of Men’s Health magazine – and let’s face it, we all do from time to time – what springs to mind? No doubt a tasteful black-and-white portrait of a classically handsome chap, rippling six-pack abs on display, or perhaps a bold strapline promising the secret to fighting flab. Well, brace yourselves, for the bastion of masculinity has allowed a new and interesting member into the fold – they’ve got themselves a feminist blogger.’
‘Daily life is hardly one glorious Technicolor dance sequence, but I have never lived in such a happy place – and I once lived in hippyville California. I can’t give a definite answer, but I think the joy comes from seeing and living through the worst that life can offer; it is an optimism born of hope. Nigeria is a nation of Del Boy Trotters (“this time next year, we’ll be millionaires!”) – while the rest of the world believes they’ve got a book in them, most Nigerians believe they’ve got a million quid in them, too.’
‘In no particular order, I’ve had someone ask me why my profile picture doesn’t show all of my face, before helpfully suggesting it was because I was an “ugly black girl”. More than one person has asked me if it’s true “what they say about black girls”. Several have asked me: “So where do you really come from?” And these were just the straight-up, old-school racist ones. I’ve also had messages from specific skin-colour fetishists, who have complimented my “delicious brown skin”, and despite a profile picture in which I am eating a crisp, “Nubian queenly countenance” (I wish I was joking).’
‘A couple of years ago, I watched an interview with the former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo. At one point, the journalist asked about Nigeria’s status as a regional superpower. Sharply interrupting him, Obasanjo asked: “Who told you we’re a superpower?” On Tuesday night, that question became the title of a debate at the British Museum-Guardian public forum, chaired by Jon Snow…’
‘Walking into the new H&M on Brixton Road, south London, on a sunny afternoon, the scene is typical of any British high street: women browsing, mums with young children, gaggles of teenage girls trying on accessories. A reggae remix of Michael Jackson is playing on the PA. Look a little closer, however, and there is something distinctive. The mannequins in the window – all nine of them, dressed in flats and heels, shorts and hoodies – are a shiny jet black…’
‘The romantic comedy season is almost at an end, as it makes way for summer’s action blockbusters. But of the dozen or so romcoms that have been released this year in the UK, only one has had a black lead – Naomie Harris in Julian Kemp’s My Last Five Girlfriends. (Two, if you count Disney’s The Princess and The Frog.) US film site Gordon and the Whale has released a list of contenders for the title of new Romantic Comedy Queen – but there are no black actors. Where are Sanaa Lathan, Gabrielle Union and Thandie Newton?’
For Now Online:
Rhydian and Christina Aguilera
Shilpa Shetty’s Surrey Mansion
Leo DiCaprio’s Drug-Infested Neigbourhood
Emma Atkins Returns to Emmerdale
Zac Efron fancies older co-star
Gerard McCarthy Quits Hollyoaks
Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, November 2010
Reya El-Salahi, BBC Radio Nottingham, January 2011
On Point With Tom Ashbrook, NPR, August 2011