//GCSE French: promoting equality in fashion//

Today I sat my GCSE French reading and listening exams and I have to say I am very impressed with the topics covered by the exams. Although there were the usual questions on relationships and jobs, there were also a few more interesting, current topics such as a UN summit on global warming, selfies, e-cigarettes, the mysterious ‘orange badge’ (which I think may be the French version of the blue disabled sticker for cars in the UK) and Skirt Day – journée de la jupe.

Although I love French, I have to say the course content does seem a bit random and I do feel like I haven’t really developed my conversational French much since I started the course three years ago. However, the relevancy and up-to-dateness (is this a word? Well if not it is now) of the topics included in todays exams really surprised me and made me feel like I am actually applying my French in a useful way and learning more about the world around me – which is why I chose to learn a language in the first place.

The thing that impressed me most about the exam though was the part on equality and fashion where we listened to a girl talking about ‘la journée de la jupe’ (national skirt day). I don’t know if Skirt Day is an ACTUAL thing – I’ve done a bit of research but only came across a French film called ‘La Journée de la Jupe’ in which a French teacher discovers a gun in one of her students bags, accidentally shoots one of the students in the leg then holds the class hostage and one of the terms for letting the students go is having a Skirt Day to allow her to wear a skirt without being criticised by people with conservative attitudes about how women should dress. Apparently one part of the film actually came true – it was requested that La Journée de la Jupe become a nationally accepted day but this was sanctioned by the French Ministry of Education. However, in 2014 27 colleges did take part in a Skirt Day and boys and girls wore skirts to fight against sexism as part of the #JourneeDeLaJupe campaign.

Although the French exam itself didn’t explain this to me, I kind of got the general idea that Skirt Day was about allowing girls and women to wear what they want without being sexualised and criticised. The girl speaking about Skirt Day in the exam herself said things along the lines of: ‘Skirt Day had happened last year and had been a great success’, ‘the idea is for girls to be able to wear what they want’, ‘the headteacher didn’t like the idea of it at first as he thought students would insult each other but changed his mind after seeing that it was a great success’, ‘boys were allowed to wear skirts in support too’ and ‘her boyfriend wore makeup to show his support’.

The whole idea of Skirt Day seems really good to me. Although I don’t exactly live in a very multicultural area so have never experienced a clash of cultures where I may be criticised for wearing ‘revealing’ clothes such as skirts, I have certainly experienced being sexualised because of what I choose to wear and have seen many other girls experiencing the same treatment.

Ultimately, I think Skirt Day represents the fact that everyone should be allowed to wear what they want and what they deem is appropriate without fear of being judged and criticised. Not only does this sort of tension arise between different cultures and religions, it occurs between different sexes too and the stereotypical ways men and women should dress. The fact the this girl who was speaking in the French exam said that some of the boys even wore skirts and makeup to support and that many boys did do just this back in 2014, really interested me because all around us we are exposed to the media which portrays – or dictates – the way we should dress and behave, yet boys were still willing to defy this to support Skirt Day (yes I know the French exam was all fiction, but I have a point, trust me). Perhaps it is because something such as Skirt Day would represent something much more than just allowing women and girls to wear skirts without having to face criticism from people with conservative attitudes. Perhaps it would represent equality in the fashion world – or the need for equality.

It’s not just about women being able to wear skirts, it’s about everyone being able to wear whatever they want without judgement. The fact that the item of clothing in question is a skirt is irrelevant – skirts are just one example of clothing which causes tension within society and Skirt Day would, in my opinion, be a step towards reducing this tension, uniting society and providing greater equality in the fashion world.

Whether you are a female who has faced criticism and sexualisation for wearing skirts and other such clothing or just someone who doesn’t want to conform to the ‘expectations’ of the fashion world and just wants to be able to wear whatever clothes you want – whether they are deemed to be ‘male’ clothes or ‘female’ clothes – freely, Skirt Day would be beneficial to you.

I think Skirt Day should definitely become an accepted day in order to help fight sexism and tension between cultures and religions withing our society. And why not make it International Skirt Day?

I’m really interested to find about more about the #JourneeDeLaJupe campaign now, so merci to the AQA exam board for making my French exams so interesting and inspiring!

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//Is violence ever ok?//

So today I was revising for my RE exams, more specifically the topic of peace and justice within Christianity and, as per usual when it comes to RE, it got me thinking. Although RE is supposed to help us gain an understanding of beliefs and views within religion, which of course is important, I also think RE helps us to develop our own beliefs and views on the world around us.

So, when I was reading about pacifism today and how most Christian’s believe that violence is never acceptable, I started to think about my views on violence. Am I a pacifist? Could I ever condone violence?

At first glance, my brain was telling me no. No, violence can’t ever be acceptable. It is not right to use violence to terrorise people, seek revenge, solve ‘conflicts’ using violence. It is never, ever right.

But then I started thinking about the Nazi’s and Hitler (as you do, you found out yesterday that I am really interested in this era of history, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise). Was it acceptable for Britain to declare war on Germany? Was it right for our, innocent soldiers to kill many innocent (well, they were practically forced to fight for Hitler, whether they agreed with it or not) German soldiers when in reality it was a war between Hitler and Churchill and the other allied world leaders?

But then I realised that although Britain had fought violence with violence and that this may be considered unacceptable by some people, what would have happened if we hadn’t declared war would be 1000x worse. I mean, reading Wolf by Wolf proved that.

Although in my opinion pacifism is the ideal, sometimes we have to stand up and not be pacifists, sometimes using violence is for the best.

Dietrich Bonhoffer was a Christian pacifist during Nazi Germany. He decided to become involved in the bomb plot to assassinate Hitler as killing Hitler would have been the ‘lesser of two evils’ in this situation. I deeply admire Bonhoffer for this, for going against not just his religion, but his core values and morals. He knew when violence was acceptable and necessary and I think society as a whole could all learn something from him.

Although the bomb plot failed and Bonhoeffer, along with others involved in the plot, were imprisoned and eventually sent to concentration camps (Bonhoeffer was sent to Buchenwald then Flossenbürg concentration camp) his defiance of the Nazi’s was truly inspirational. Not only did Bonhoeffer become involved in the bomb plot, he also fought the Nazi in many ways, for example he publically spoke out against Hitler in radio broadcasts, he worked for the German intelligence agency Abwehr and helped German jews escape to Switzerland, he was invloved in the Confessional Church which in it’s self was an act of defiance against the Nazification of Christianity in Germany.

I think it’s awful how such an inspirational man died such an awful, undignified death at the age of 39 in a concentration camp, just two weeks before the camp was liberated by the American’s.

When I went to Berlin last year, I learnt about Martin Niemöller, who also founded the Confessional Church and was known as an anti-Nazi theoligan. I visited Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp during my trip and saw for myself the prison cell where Martin – and others like him- had been imprisoned for his acts of defiance. It really put into perspective just how terrifying life in Nazi Germany must have been and now I find myself wondering would I have been a pacifist and stood by and let Hitler’s mass genocide and persecution of innocent people happen? And I honestly have no idea.

Although I’d like to think that I would stand up and fight back just as Dietrich and Martin and many, many others did, I have no idea whether in the circumstanves I would have been able to surpress my inner pacifist inclinations.

All I can say is that these two men are just two of many, but sadly not enough, who stood up to the Nazi’s and were able to figgt against the fear and terror of the Nazi regime to do what was right. And I really do admire them for that.

It makes me wonder, how can such courageous and inspirational people emerge from such darkness?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller, the Confessional Church, Anne Frank, the White Rose Group, the Schöll siblings, the Edelweiss Pirates, countless resistance groups…the list could go on.

So many amazing people emerged from a time when people were ruthlessly murdered – their futures and lives snatched away from them – because of their religion, race, sexuality, political and moral beliefs etc.

And that’s why I love this era of history so much. Not because of Hitler and all that he did, but because of the people who fought against him, stood up for themselves and society as a whole, fought through fear and terrorism and opression. Those are the people I am interested in. Every single person who died at Hitler’s hands deserved so much more from life, and I feel like even though we can only give them a fraction of what they deserve by remembering them, we must do this.

Every person who died innocently at Hitler’s hands is a hero, an inspiration to me and although I will never be able to say in words just how incredible those people were, I must keep writing and reading and learning about them, doing something in an attempt to remember and pay my respect to them, and I think we all should too.

Although I can’t ever except that the violent products of Hitler’s greed for power were right (even just writing those words sickens me), I can accept that everyone who fought against him fought with a justifiable violence that I can accept. So, to conclude, I now believe violence can be acceptable in certain, specific circumstances but I will never promote violence because I guess I am truly a pacifist at heart.