‘Insults, Sexism & Self Worth – Walking Away From the Modelling Industry’

By Rebecca Wicks

‘You need to work on your thighs love’.
A greying man with stubble stares at me over a jumble of photographic equipment. I am 23, 5’4 and 98lb.

After being spotted by the photographer at my brother’s wedding at 22, I fell into amateur modelling, pulled in by sites disguised cleverly as social media, and the image modelling portrayed to me. And that’s the thing right there isn’t it - it’s the image; the image they imagine you will give them, the image produced, and the glamorous image of the modelling industry. Now, at 25, I have become disillusioned completely by the industry. A male driven and frankly sexist environment that claims to help women to be strong and powerful, but really does nothing more than turn us into commodities, objects to sell.

I was unable to get work unless I was under 100lb, I was constantly told by male photographers that I was flawed in this way and that way, that if only I would have a smaller waist, better hair or longer nails then I would be just perfect. Having had an eating disorder as a teenager, the aesthetics driven modelling world soon drove me back into my old behaviours. I began to skip meals, lie about what I ate, and abuse stimulants - the weight dropped off quickly, I got more work but I was quickly diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.

One point sticks out in my mind clearly, a shoot I’d prepared so well for, a well renowned local photographer - I’d eaten so little for the past few days I was half fainting on set, trying to ensure that I was in prime condition. The shoot went through like so many others, following a script of poses, barely veiled insults, and a women covered in face paint in front of flashing lights. He then called me over and proceeded to pull up the photos on his editing suite, circling the areas that needed ‘improvement’.

‘You see how your waist has a small crease? That shouldn’t be there.’ ‘Your neck needs slimming down.’ (Until then I wasn’t aware that you needed to be conscious of the width of your neck as well as every other part of your figure). ‘Your skin needs editing unfortunately, you aren’t quite flawless.’

It’s not only the constant battering on my self worth and personal image that has brought on this decision, but also the casual and everyday sexism that I witnessed constantly during my brief (albeit amateur) career. I’ve been asked to take off knickers underneath a tight skirt to ‘create a better line’ for the photograph, encouraged to remove more and more items to ‘really show off who you are’, and have been addressed as ‘girl’, ‘you’ (with a pointed finger), and the wrong name more times than I can count.

At times, the behaviour I was subjected to was wildly inappropriate, but I was told by one photographer that the local area had a ‘close-knit’ group of male photographers, and ‘anything I did wrong’ would get round the group very quickly - alluding to my work offers dropping if I rocked the boat at all.
In the 3 years I’ve modelled part time, I’ve only had shoots with 2 female photographers, and the experience was unbelievably different - the only comments made on my appearance were practical ones, could I please take off the red bracelet, could the make up artist touch up my eyeliner, can we try this without the shoes - nothing relating to my figure, my face, my personal aesthetics at all. The shoots with women were laid back, calm, and produced better results than the intense male ones - perhaps because I wasn’t being insulted or sexually commented on at all.

So I’ve made the decision to walk away. To take the high heels off, wipe the make up away and concentrate on being known for my writing not my to be an item displayed in front of a camera. Personally, I think I’ve had a lucky escape, but some damage remains - I find myself staring critically in the mirror constantly, checking that my waist is still the same size as it used to be, I’m still judging myself through a photographers eyes and I’m angry at both the industry and myself.

We love you Ms. Love

By Emily Hughes

There is no better fitting time to celebrate Courtney Love than on her fabulous 50th birthday. Back in May, I made sure to attend two (and contemplated three) dates of her latest UK solo tour, the first of which Sian joined me on and took all photographs featured.

Courtney’s been in the spotlight now for over 20 years for making music, starring in movies and well, being heavily criticised for just about everything she does: her drug use, dress sense, parenting, plastic surgery and most infamously, her relationship with Kurt Cobain - whether he wrote all the music she passed off as her own and sadly the ongoing “did she/didn’t she have involvement with his death” theory. Yet despite all this and the far from easy life she has led (being a widow, a rocky relationship with her parents, having worked as an escort, drug addiction, ongoing feuds with her daughter to name a few of the obstacles) she carries on with her die hard fan base, dubbed “Clovers”, right behind her. And anyone walking past Shepherds Bush from noon on Sunday 11th May would agree on seeing a long line full of men and women, boys and girls, wearing costumes spanning across Love’s long and colourful career. From the black and white babydoll dress reminiscent of her kinder whore era, to the pretty pink tutu from her first solo video “Mono” and the classic beauty Queen sashes, symbolic of the Hole anthem “Miss World”.

On entry to the venue, we are immediately introduced to the catchy material of support act, Madagascan duo, White Miles. With Medina Rekic on vocals sporting just an unbuttoned sleeveless jean jacket over her bra and describes their sound as “dirty pole dance stoner blues rock” they fit their slot supporting the riot grrl Queen just perfectly.

Following the rumours of a Hole reunion (which were confirmed and then quickly back tracked on by Courtney herself), the line up of her band was yet another cause for controversy. Despite crossing my fingers and toes, there was no sign of Eric, Melissa or Patty but Love has since come back AGAIN reporting they are “crossing dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s” with regards to the Celebrity Skin line up – we’re waiting with bated breath! For now, Courtney’s tour line up includes guitarists Ginger Wildheart and Micko Larkin (formerly of indie band Larrikin Love). Predictably (for me anyway) she opened with Wedding Day one half of her latest EP, a fast fun pop punk song with the lyrics of the bridge shouting “I see this world through reptile eyes, I defy you as I rise” -the Queen is back with a bang.

Throughout the set she covered the majority of the Hole singles, at one point she exclaims to her band “We’re in London, they love all the classics” – correct! I was overjoyed to hear so many songs off “Live Through This” including “Plump” (my personal favourite) which, as the title suggests, addresses the ongoing feminist issue of body image, and the eating disorders this can lead to. “Asking For It” refers to a gig the band played where Courtney stage dived and was subjected to sexual assault by fans and tackles victim blaming/ rape culture, as well as “Miss World” (voted the most popular Courtney song by her fan page on Facebook) whose subject matter is society’s beauty norms and the feeling of not fitting in. “Violet” - allegedly about Love’s relationship with Billy Corgan and how he only wanted her for sex (something many women will unfortunately learn about the hard way whilst growing up), throw in the coverage of domestic violence and abuse via “Jennifer’s Body” (only played on the second London date) and you will see that this 1994 album was way before it’s time and plays a key role in female music and the riot grrl movement. She also played a selection of tracks from 2010 release “Nobody’s Daughter” – “Honey”, “Skinny Little Bitch” and “For Once In Your Life”.

Few fans will be shocked by the absence of songs from “Pretty on the Inside” or “America’s Sweetheart – these are never played as Courtney thinks they suck. She did however throw a curveball by playing 1993 b-side “20 Years In The Dakota”. She closed the set with the other half of her single “You Know My Name.” For the encore she played acoustic versions of first “Northern Star” which was most notable due to the raw emotion and pain that laced through each line, a truly haunting performance and finally, closing the explosive evening with “Doll Parts.” Playing 16 songs in total over an hour and a half set, Courtney squashed (yet more) rumours that she couldn’t sing anymore due to vocal damage caused by smoking. What’s next for Mrs Love - Cobain? Just this week it was announced she has a role in the next series of Sons Of Anarchy and finally, that long awaited book “Girl With The Most Cake” should be released. We can’t wait!

Everyday Sexism with Laura Bates

By Sian Irvine

At the beginning of July, Emily and I headed up to London one Wednesday evening to attend an Everyday Sexism talk, with Laura Bates. 

The Everyday Sexism Project was born from, as Laura herself describes, “a nightmare week, filled with lots of experiences of sexism and harassment”. Taking to Twitter to vent her experiences, Laura expected to collect maybe 100 stories of sexism- a talking point for family and friends. A year and a half later, The Everyday Sexism project is active in 15 countries, and has collected upwards of 25,000 entries. Laura has created a platform which allows women to speak out about the harassment that is experienced everyday, worldwide- and in doing so, has created a worldwide solidarity for females to stand together and shout back: we will not stand for this. 

The event was held at the Feminist Library- an amazing resource which, at this point in today’s piece, it only feels right to give a little shout out to. Just a stones throw away from Waterloo Station, the feminist library is a collection of Women’s Liberation Movement literature, which supports research, activism, events and community projects surrounding feminism. A vital tool, run by amazing volunteers, yet hugely understated- so we at Ultravenus IMPLORE you to go check out this incredible source of activism and solidarity here.

The first remarkable thing about the evening was just how busy the event was. Neither Emily and I, as visitors, or the wonderful volunteers at the Library itself, were prepared for just how packed out the venue was about to get. In itself, this was hugely inspiring- the sheer volume of attendees proved that the ladies involved with this project are real, that each number of entries to the projects counts for an actual human being, and we are all prepared to band together and fight. The second was the spectrum of people represented. Young, old, male, female, and from all races and walks of life- just a quick glance around the room before the talk began was proof enough that no one is safe from sexism- it affects us all. 

The talk began with Laura talking us through the history and humble beginnings of her project- how widely it has reached, how many people now contact her on a daily basis (answer: very, very many). She shared some experiences she has had, and some of the worst she has been told of since starting the project. The most illuminating thing? Even the most extreme cases were not unfamiliar. Even the most shocking of reports were not outside any of the attendee’s spectrum- none of it was hard to believe. Yet, oddly perhaps, this only seemed to make the feeling of solidarity all the more strong. 

To give an example, here are some quotes from the Everyday Sexism book that Laura wrote:

"There are a lot of myths that exist about street harassment, including that it’s a compliment and that women secretly love it. The thousands of stories shared on #ShoutingBack disprove those myths. I doubt that anyone who reads story after story about men groping, grabbing, flashing, stalking, or making sexually explicit comments at women can see it as anything other than gender violence and the human-rights violation that it is."

“when I see pornographic pictures on newsagent shelves and mainstream media, just accepted like it’s normal and okay. I wondered and still think to this day whether the man who did this to me would have done it if he wasn’t raised in a country where women are advertised as products to be used. That’s what I felt like that night, like an object, like I was just one of the women on the wall and that’s what he wanted so he took it.”

“I’m 21 and being asked at job interviews if I’m getting married, or pregnant. Pretty sure this is illegal. For the record: it’s not illegal to ask this question, but it is illegal to choose not to hire somebody because of the answer – so it’s difficult to justify asking it in the first place, since it should bear no more relevance to the interview than a question about the colour of a candidate’s front door. “

When the talk was opened to discussion from the floor, the examples of sexism and familiarity from all continued to flow. Advice was given between peers- how should I react? What can I do without overly exerting aggression? How do I make these points prevalent whilst working in a school? As a man, how can I do more?

The discussions went on for almost 2 hours. Much, much ground was covered, yet it was obvious to all that the fight is far from over. I left, however, feeling elated. I am part of something. Here is a group of people who are not only familiar with the experiences that I have, but together, we want to change them, stop them. 

I implore all readers of Ultravenus to read Laura’s book, Everyday Sexism, which can be bought here. In fact, read it, then tell everyone you know to read it too. Seriously, it is great. It is eye opening. It is empowering. Ultimately, it is really, really important. But, led by Laura, a change is happening, right at this very moment, and it is down to all of us to push things even further forward. 

An Open Letter To My Catcallers
by Sian Irvine

I called you out tonight.

I can’t think of any other reason for you to tell me that I’m “lookin’ good, babe”, that you’d “get on that”, and make kissing noises as I walked past, other than to intimidate me.

I was walking alone. You were part of a group of four.

It was pitch dark. I was leaving an 8 hour day at work.

You had probably done the same that day. You too, had probably dealt with the stresses of the daily grind.

I just wanted to get back to my car.

You catcalled me, and I called you out. It was probably something we both could have done without.

"Lookin’ good, babe. I’d get on that."

"Excuse me?

What are you expecting to happen? So you find me attractive, do you want to be my boyfriend?

Shall I write down my number for you? In fact, would you like to come with me now, you can meet my parents, we can start planning our wedding?”


"I’m sorry, am I making you feel uncomfortable?!"

I feel you. Feminism has come too far, right? Do you not think I deserve to feel safe as I walk back to my car, on my way home from work?

Is the world not a dangerous enough place? Is there not enough for me to be mindful of as I walk back alone, to my car, in a potentially dangerous area without mindless and inane comments made- presumably for the soul purpose of either a) making me feel unsafe or b) giving you a fraction of a second of entertainment via a power trip- which, when responded to, you don’t even have a coherent answer to?

Or are you just so short sighted and inflicted by our fast food culture that you can’t comprehend the consequences- for yourself or others- of your actions?

Why do I have to remind you that I am a human being before you check yourself?

I am not yours. I never was.

Meghan Trainor's faux body positivity anthem is pissing us off

By Emily Hughes

Whilst on my commute home, half listening to the mid week chart radio something caught my attention, unfortunately for the wrong reasons.
Number two in the UK Top 40 - Nicki Minaj – Anaconda.
Number one in the UK Top 40 - Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass.
That’s the two most popular songs of our nation and they’re about…women’s bottoms.

Considering it’s usually male hip hop artists covering the subject of the female anatomy, and in a derogatory way, it seemed like a positive message. Particularly as Jameela Jamil’s introduction to “All About That Bass” stated that the song is about celebrating the female body and loving yourself.
However, on listening to the lyrics I don’t find that to be entirely true:

“My mama, she told me, don’t worry about your size. She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night. You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll, so if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along”

If you push the absurd thought of a boy sucking his thumb, crying for a “booty to hold at night” aside, I think we have a problem, well two actually. Firstly, we have Trainor’s placing women of a bottom heavy demeanour on a pedestal and shaming anything different, in this case thin ladies. Moreover, suggesting A) that male acceptance/love of ones body is key in loving your own body and taking that a step further by B) suggesting that all members of the male gender find this exact body shape attractive, is ridiculous and damaging.This backward stance is mirrored identically by Minaj in “Anaconda” (“I said where my fat ass bitches in the club? Fuck those skinny bitches”)

This really hit a nerve with me as hours earlier, I was praising society with the way attitudes towards women are s l o w l y moving forward. This train of thought was inspired by strong backlash to the unacceptable note handed out by the Rugby players of LSE (whereby they used homosexual and racist slurs, as well as labelling their netball team slags and female rugby team “beastly”) resulted in a formal apology and the disbanding of these patriarchal players. Why is this deemed wrong but female on female slander like that in these songs ignored?

I praise Meghan for the line “don’t worry about your size” and Nicki for trying to destigmatise/reinvent the word “fat”. But other than that, these are not body positive songs. The idea of positive body image is acceptance and celebration of diversity, stemming from opposition to the former, and equally wrong, fat shaming culture, where the ideal was a near unobtainable size 8.

But in my opinion the current state of affairs where a tiny waist and massive behind is championed (Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea and Kim Kardashian to name a few) this is even more unrealistic. And whilst “curvy” is a term that is now more widely seen in a positive light, it usually refers to women who are toned (Beyonce and again Nicki Minaj).

Do not misunderstand me, these body shapes are not wrong either, no body shape is “wrong”. The point being made here is that there isn’t a fair representation of “normal” in the media and pressure heavily falls on women and girls to look a certain way. So if women in the limelight are going to claim to promote the female body and loving yourself, it’s so important that they do just that.

Without getting too “final few scenes of Mean Girls” on you, we do just need to bake a cake with rainbows and smiles and reignite the sisterhood. I recognise that feminism isn’t about loving or even liking every other woman or girl out there but if we stopped outwardly shaming each other for looking different, maybe the men would follow suit. I’d like to think that in my lifetime things like the Rugby team’s Freshers note backlash isn’t seen as a positive thing because men don’t write things like that anymore and songs like “Anaconda” and “All About That Bass” are ridiculed for the complete drivel they really are.

We Are Ultravenus
Fighting the patriarchy with art, words and revolutionary thought. 

Ultravenus Magazine is born from the minds of three young, like minded individuals, brought together by a matched desire to communicate the power and beauty of females through their respective art forms. 

Meet Sian, Kate, and Emily. 

Ultravenus explores the ever changing and evolving world of the female, from contemporary issues to artwork and creativity. We welcome you into our community, encourage discussion, submissions and new ideas. We are not just for girls, nor do we focus solely on girls. Our mantra is based in feminism, but our world is ever expanding.