Take Back The Beach

So, on my lunch hour this Wednesday, fellow blogger Tara and I did this:

How to get a beach body-Take your body

If you would like to read about us doing that, head on over to my last post here!

Basically, the response that we’ve had has completely knocked me off my feet. Seriously, you guys should give yourselves a pat on the back. I have been so, so bowled over by the love and support and strength that we’ve been shown.

Well, for the most part.

Protein World’s response has left…well, a little something to be desired. After we tweeted our photo, I saw some pretty heinous responses to docu-comedian Juliette Burton’s tweets (you can find Juliette on Twitter here, and you should definitely follow her. She’s ace).

protein world twitter

 

I was pretty shocked. As someone who spent a year working in social media, I nearly fell off my chair that this was the brand’s official response. The tweets got increasingly horrendous, telling women to “grow up” and branding them “crazy”, and then last night, I stumbled on a response to some women saying:

Surely as feminists, you understand no one takes you seriously?

And it hit me. They’re trolls. They’re literally just trolls. And I don’t know about you guys, but this totally takes their power away for me. I’m now imagining Protein World as being a group of guys polishing their muscles and reassuring themselves that feminism is the reason they’re not getting laid. Maybe with a smattering of girls insisting that they don’t see why the ad is offensive, probably because they’re not hysterical like all those other girls, babe. I’m kind of embarrassed for them.

After this paradigm shifting revelation, I realised that this isn’t a protest anymore. This is a party. This is a celebration of the million and one different ways that a woman (and a man, you gorgeous men, you) can be beautiful.

So let’s celebrate. Tara, Juliette and I are organising a massive version of the photo above at 3pm on Saturday 2nd May. Do you look like the model on the poster? Awesome, step this way, gorgeous! Are you a size 24? Come on down, beautiful! Are you a guy? Get those swimming shorts looked out! Don’t want to bare all in a bikini? Come in whatever you feel great in! Beach ready means different things for everyone, and we want to see all of them.

This was never about suggesting that people shouldn’t try to get fit if they want to. If having rippling abs is your thing, more power to you. I bet you rock them. But I’m so tired of it being an expectation. The idea that your body should be covered up and hidden away if it doesn’t meet these bizarrely specific requirements…I’m over it, you guys. And judging by the response we’ve gotten on Twitter, it looks like you are too.

Bring your friends. Bring your beachballs and buckets and spades. Bring those awesome beach bodies.

We’ll be meeting on the grass by Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park (by the Marble Arch entrance), and I’ll be there from a bit before 3. If you’re coming in your bikini, we’d maybe suggest wearing a dress over it that’s easy to whip on and off, to fend off hypothermia.

The more people we have, the more amazing this picture is going to be, so rope in as many people as you can. Saturday the 2nd. 3pm. It’s happening. And it’s going to be sexy.

If you’re coming, feel free to give us a wave down in the comments or on Twitter! You can definitely just show up on the day, but it would be cool to have some idea of how many people we have. We also have a sexy Facebook event here if you’re on Facebook!

Addendum

So, as expected, all of us have been on the receiving end of some genuinely sickening comments after speaking out like this. Of the two of us in the photo though, it’s depressingly unsurprising that Tara and her beautiful, perfect body have been the target of the most vitriol. I’d just like to thank Tara for having the bravery to hold my hand through this, even though she probably knew in advance that she would bear the brunt of the abuse. And to every single person who has posted nasty comments, I’m sorry that your life is so unfulfilling that you feel like you have to tear down a strong, gorgeous woman who is celebrating her body.

On this note, if actually coming to our event would make you feel unsafe, please feel free to support us with tweets, messages and happy thoughts. Let’s keep each other safe. Let’s keep each other strong.

Getting Naked In A Train Station

I reeeaaally like the summer you guys. I love hot weather, and pretty dresses, and basking in the sunshine like a lizard instead of doing productive things.

And in the summer, when the weather gets warm, parts of my body start to emerge from my clothes. Since I’m talking about my legs and chest and occasionally, if I’m feeling really wild, my midriff, as opposed to an extra head or some tentacles, I generally view this as no big deal. It wouldn’t really occur to me that I might have to somehow alter myself to be acceptable in public when the weather is nice. I mean, sorry if my jiggly thighs offend you, but…actually, I lied. I’m not sorry. They’re legs. You also have them. Avert your eyes if you must. But I’m not going to change myself, and I think most women are probably in the same boat.

So why, in the name of all that is holy, can I not walk 5 metres in this city without seeing the words “ARE YOU BEACH BODY READY?” emblazoned across the wall?

Am I beach body ready? I mean, I think so? Does anyone look nice at the beach? I’m generally covered in sand with mental hair, shiny skin, not a scrap of makeup and boasting a sexy salmon pink colour. Am I supposed to look like this?

CDIVa35WMAEiYY_Middle finger kindly provided by my recent partner in crime, Tara (Catstello) from Zusterschap.

I’d seen this advert around, and something about it really grinds my gears. I know that there are a billion adverts like this around, but this was the one that pushed me over the edge. Sorry, Protein World, you were the unlucky straw that broke the feminist’s back. I don’t like the suggestion that I have to be “ready” for the beach. In my mind, getting beach body ready would involve slathering myself in suncream. I am so tired of the message that women have to make some kind of effort in order to be socially acceptable. Is this kind of guilt tripping and body shaming really the best way to shift your products? Why not run with a tagline about women feeling amazing on the beach? Or better yet, women being so confident that they don’t even give their body a second thought? Even a photo of a woman having a freaking awesome time on the beach, instead of this stony-faced statue, would have made it slightly better. But as is, I basically hate everything about this poster.

So when Catstello posted the picture above, I innocently dropped her a tweet and we started to hatch a plan.

Less than 24 hours later, I was standing in the middle of a crowded Charing Cross station, getting ready to take off most of my clothes.

How to get a beach body-Take your bodyWe agreed that we would pose in our bikinis next to the poster, just to let everyone know that we considered ourselves very much beach ready, and gorgeous to boot. I’ve had a lot of people compliment me on my confidence since posting this photo on Twitter, but to be honest, in those few seconds before I took off my dress, I felt like bursting into tears and having a heart attack simultaneously. But we cheered each other on. Despite having met literally the day before, we supported each other straight away, giggling through the awkwardness and even sending morning bikini selfies. And once those dresses came off, we were unstoppable. An awesome lady stopped to take our photos for us (if you ever see this, give us a wave!) and she congratulated us on what we were doing and told us we looked great. I felt great. The adrenaline fuelled giggles bubbled so close to the surface that it was hard to keep a straight face long enough to look annoyed for the photo. The bemused people walking past only served to make me giddier.

I don’t look like that model when I’m dolled up to the nines, never mind when I’m on the beach. My chest is flat enough that you could build an airport on it. My lifelong dedication to cakes and a digestive system that disagrees with everything mean that my stomach will probably never be concave. I have silvery stretchmarks webbing my hips and thighs, without the hourglass figure to go with them. But right there, in that moment, I felt sexy as hell.

CDNs1lkWYAAUBHISince coming home and posting the photo on Twitter, I have been absolutely bowled over by the reaction. We have had just one negative response, and that was from a guy who suggested we come fight in Afghanistan if we really want to advance feminism, so…ya know…not too fussed about that.

Protein World did favourite his tweet though, which was a bold move.

Every single other response (and incredibly, there have been hundreds), has been from people telling us that we’re brave, funny, smart and gorgeous. And you know what? I kinda think we are.

Am I beach body ready? You can bet your ass I am. And I don’t need meal replacements to get there. And neither do you. We’re already perfect.

 

Update! After receiving an absolutely mindblowing response to this from the general internet, and an absolutely appalling response from Protein World, Tara and I have teamed up with comedian Juliette Burton to organise an enormous beach body photo next weekend. Bring your friends, bring your bikinis and bring your sexy beach bodies. More details to follow in a separate post!

On Being “Just” A Beauty Blogger

I hate backhanded compliments. You know the ones.

“You’re so pretty when you make an effort.”
“I wish I could just let it all hang out like you.”
“You’re definitely not as cocky as I thought you were at first.”

Compliments like that suck, because they’re actually insults dressed up to make it seem like the person cares about you. There’s one particular backhanded compliment that I’ve gotten quite a lot since I started blogging. It takes a few different forms but the gist is always basically the same. That someone with a little bit of talent and influence like me should be talking about something with more gravitas than beauty.

DSCF1168

The temptation to just toss my hair and yell “MY CORNER OF THE INTERNET, MY RULES” is pretty strong, but I think there are a couple of important points to be made about this opinion that beauty blogging is somehow “less than”.

First, the smart girl/pretty girl thing is a false dichotomy.

That’s right, I’m dropping the false dichotomy bomb, biatches. This is what happens when you annoy a political philosophy geek.

Basically, writing about beauty doesn’t mean that I’m stooping to the stupid girl level, and being smart doesn’t mean that I don’t care about how I look. I can recommend you an awesome cleanser. I can also give you a potted history of the Middle East. When pushed for time, I can probably do both at once. I can’t believe I’m actually having to type this, but girls can be both smart and beautiful. In fact, most of us are.

I think a lot of the scorn that gets heaped on the beauty blogging community is just pure sexism. A lot of beauty blogs are sweet and fluffy and not particularly deep, but so what? When did it become a crime to do something just for fun because it makes you feel good? I never see the same smirks directed at video game bloggers, music bloggers or food bloggers as I do at beauty bloggers. Beauty is seen as trivial, even shallow in a way that other realms of blogging just aren’t. And I think a lot of it has to do with it being a community created primarily for, and primarily populated by people who present as female.

Sorry, boy bbloggers, I love you all lots, but you are very much the minority group here.

Things that women do are constantly scrutinised and patronised. We’re either saying too much or saying too little. We’re brash and opinionated or we’re boring and weak. We’re ugly or we’re vain. That’s the way it goes. And with this undercurrent running through our culture, maybe it’s not so surprising that women banding together to share pretty-making tips is viewed as a self-obsessed, unimportant trend. But I’m calling shenanigans on that right now. Think lipstick is boring? Cool! Go read about something else! I think cricket is totally boring…you know what I do? I don’t read about cricket. I don’t get in touch with people who are really passionate about cricket to remind them that THERE ARE CHILDREN STARVING IN AFRICA AND SOME PEOPLE HAVE CANCER AND INEQUALITY SUCKS. Because I figure they already know that. Because it’s totally possible to write about cricket and still care about the other stuff that’s happening in the world. Same with beauty.

But the reason that these particular comments really get under my skin is because I think that the things I write about are important. I think that the vast majority of my posts go way beyond what foundation to buy or how best to shape your eyebrows.

Again, I don’t mean this in any way to be disrespectful to people who publish beauty reviews and makeup looks and stuff, I love to read your stuff and think it’s really fun and awesome.

But my idea of beauty is mainly about learning to love yourself and feel fabulous in your own skin. I write about the stuff that goes on inside as much as I do about the stuff that goes on outside. And in a world where being female and having a body, occupying space or generally existing is a political and often offensive act, I think that the stuff I write about is pretty damn important. Women are taught to hate their bodies, to focus on their imperfections, to mask their differences, to look perfect, but without making any effort, to suck in, to shrink down. And if you don’t think that fighting back against that is important, I think we are living in very different worlds. And that you probably weren’t bullied as a kid for looking different.

What I wouldn’t have given when I was fourteen to have someone be like “Hey! Why don’t you wear some purple lipstick? You won’t look like everyone else, but that’s okay, it can be really fun to be different!” To have someone tell me that there was more than one way to be beautiful, and that about 80% of gorgeous is that glow that surrounds you when you feel amazing. To be able to turn away from the cookie cutter women on TV and in the adverts and see a massive range of ladies being sexy and wonderful in their own unique, amazing ways. Because the biggest difference between beauty blogging and beauty features in the mainstream media is that beauty blogging doesn’t try to mould everyone to the same ideal. We control the narrative. We control the ideal.

It’s about being able to go “Hey! I’ve never thought about wearing bright green eyeliner!” and not giving a damn whether boys would find it attractive.
“Does anyone know how I can control my mad curls?”
“I would never have put those colours together but it looks awesome.”
“You are gorgeous.”
“I am gorgeous.”
“We are gorgeous.”

Women supporting other women and helping them to feel like they can take on the world is basically my favourite thing. I’m lucky that I’ve been through a whole lot of appearance-related nonsense and have come out the other side with skin that might look like buttermilk, but that is as thick as a rhino’s ass. I love who I am, and part of who I am is the body that I occupy. I am dedicated to decorating and pampering that body however I see fit. I think I can take on the world, I just feel more prepared for it with a swipe of red lipstick.

And I refuse to apologise for that.

Get Your Ass on the Voting Register

Oh hey guys. We’re taking a brief break in my adventures on the way to health, happiness and general gorgeousness for a very important update. You have a little over two weeks to get yourself on the electoral register for this year’s general election.

Before you roll your eyes and close this page down, please, hear me out.

uk electoral register to vote

Yes it is. But even if you have priorities other than seducing geeky politics graduates, you should still use your vote. Here’s why…

Why should I vote?

I don’t know about you guys, but I am basically over cynicism and apathy being fashionable. I said this in my self-care post, but it’s worth saying again: cynicism is just a way of pretending to be smarter than everyone without actually putting in the effort to get smart. In my book, taking an active interest in the world around you and giving a damn about your fellow humans is pretty cool. I know that politics is really messed up. And I know that it’s tempting to respond to alienation by shrugging and saying “Well, what’s the point in even taking part? None of these people represent me.”

Here’s why that’s a rubbish idea.

Politicians mainly care about getting votes. I know they like to appear on TV saying that they care about the country and the NHS and the old people and the students and all that, and some of them even do, but mainly, they care about being elected. So politicians like to take care of the groups who vote. It’s why even the most heartless parties like to look out for the elderly. Because if they don’t, the elderly will take their vote elsewhere. By not voting, you are basically giving the politicians free reign to stomp all over you. They have no incentive to please you, because it’s not like they’re going to lose votes by screwing you over. If every 18-25 year old in the country had come out to vote in the last general election, do you think they would have dared to raise tuition fees? If every single person belonging to an ethnic minority group had come out to vote, do you think the mainstream parties would be going anywhere near UKIP? The people who vote are the people who write the agenda. I don’t care who you vote for. I don’t even care if you go into the ballot box and draw genitalia all over your paper. All that matters is that when they look at the stats, they see that you registered, and you showed up. The parties might not represent you. They might all be basically the same. But that is exactly why it is so damn important that you use your vote. Because voting and using your political voice is the only thing that will make the politicians sit up and notice.

Okay, how do I get on the electoral register?

I’m so glad you asked, dear reader! The easiest way to register is online here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

The process takes about five minutes and you’ll need your National Insurance number. This link is for people living in England, Scotland and Wales, but if you’re in Northern Ireland, just scroll to the bottom of the page for a link to your form.

If you would rather, you can also register by post. Just fill out the appropriate form for you and post it to your local Electoral Registration Office.

If you’re posting your registration forms, make sure to give them plenty of time to arrive in time for the 20th April deadline.

What happens next?

Once you have been registered, you will receive a polling card in the post. This will show all your details, and tell you where your polling station is. It is handy to take your polling card with you to the polling station but if you lose it, don’t worry, you can still vote without it (you silly sausage). If you don’t receive your polling card or can’t remember where you are supposed to be voting, get in touch with your local Electoral Registration Office.

What happens when I go along to vote?

Polling stations are usually public buildings like schools, town halls or churches. They will be open from 7am to 10pm on election day and you can go along and vote at any time throughout the day. Election day this year is 7th May.

When you get to the station, you need to check in with the staff inside. You can either give them your polling card or tell them your full name and address. They will give you a polling card and show you to your polling booth. You enter the polling booth on your own, and aren’t allowed to take any photographs inside (save the selfies for afterwards).

The general election is decided by a first past the post system, so you can only vote for one candidate. You will be voting for a person to be your local MP, so the ballot paper will have the candidate’s name in large letters and the party they represent underneath. Mark your desired candidate with a cross in the box opposite. Make sure this is the only mark on your ballot paper, or your vote might be discounted. Fold your ballot paper once and post it in the ballot box.

Now go buy yourself a pint and congratulate yourself on your excellent political participation.

If you’re going to be out of the country on polling day, you can find out about postal and proxy votes here: https://www.gov.uk/browse/citizenship/voting

Important dates!

Deadline to get on the electoral register: 20th April

Deadline to apply for postal votes: 21st April

Deadline to apply for proxy votes: 28th April

Election day! 7th May

What My Body Positivity Looks Like

Body acceptance is awesome. One of my favourite things about the blogosphere and the internet and the selfie trend that people like to write off as narcissism, is that people who are underrepresented in the media can put images of themselves looking and feeling amazing out there for the world to see. And body acceptance isn’t just a matter of community. People who do not fit the preconceived idea of beauty are routinely discriminated against, abused and belittled. If you don’t think this is the case, you’re not listening to enough voices. I think the body acceptance movement is a tremendous force for good, and that’s why I want to see it say the right things.

body acceptance

I debated a lot over putting up this post. I get a lot of privilege because of my body. I don’t have people snigger at me in the street. I don’t have people tell me what I should and shouldn’t wear. I don’t have people make judgements about my work ethic, professionalism or motivation based on my body shape. When I go to the doctor, it isn’t assumed that I’m causing my own problems. The worst I can expect is hurt feelings every now and then. So I don’t want to wade in and drown out the voices of the people who do go through stuff like this on a daily basis. Nobody wants another #alllivesmatter or #notallmen. So please, feel free to call me out if I overstep the mark here. But there are a couple of messages I’ve seen from the body positive community that I think are unhelpful for everyone.

“This is sexy. This is shit.”

This is a slogan I saw emblazoned across a photograph of Kelly Brook beside a supermodel walking the catwalk. Unfortunately, I feel like describing any body type as “shit” isn’t really what body acceptance is about. I understand the anger that comes from seeing the same woman on every poster, in every advert, on every catwalk. But taking that restrictive ideal and replacing it with another restrictive ideal doesn’t really make anything better. Kelly Brook is gorgeous. There’s no denying that. But that doesn’t mean that being Kelly Brook is the only way to be beautiful. Every time I see a magazine championing “women with curves”, it’s always the same photograph I see. It’s always a white woman. She has long legs, big boobs, big hips and a tiny little waist. It’s always Marilyn Monroe or Dita Von Teese. Body acceptance should be about widening our definition of beauty, not just switching it out. There are so many wonderful ways to be beautiful and it comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. We should be celebrating each other. This isn’t a competition. I contact Hayley from Curves and Curls about three times a week to admire her boobs. She doesn’t fit that Kelly Brook mould, but that doesn’t stop her killing it every single day. And that doesn’t make me feel threatened, or any less like a woman. It makes me proud to be a member of such a thoroughly kick ass, sexy gender.

“Oh God, eat a sandwich or something.”

I get this a lot. And I get that this really isn’t that bad compared with the crap that overweight girls have to deal with. But it’s not the statement itself that bothers me, so much as the implication behind it. That I’m skinny because I don’t eat enough. By that logic, people are fat because they eat too much. And considering how much of the body positive message is about not being able to tell how much someone eats, how active they are or how healthy they are by their body shape, this is a seriously damaging claim to be staking. Just don’t do it. Uncool.

“Bones are for dogs. Men like curves.”

Oh, did you speak to all of them? Damn, I was operating under the impression that my boyfriend finds me and my body attractive. Silly of me, I know.

This statement is offensive to both sexes. Firstly, it assumes that men are cookie cutter, only capable of finding one thing attractive. And they’re not. My boyfriend’s commitment to both me and Christina Hendricks is proof of that.

But more importantly, this bases a woman’s confidence in her body on a man’s approval. What is that about? It’s not exactly a shocking revelation that confidence that is based on validation from other people isn’t the most unshakeable confidence. If we made decisions solely on what “men like”, we wouldn’t have high waisted jeans. Or purple lipstick. Or massive jumpers. And I am not willing to give up on any of those. And don’t even get me started on the assumption that all women are into men.

“Real women…”

Okay, lemme just stop you right there before you embarrass yourself. Being a real woman has absolutely nothing to do with your body. You don’t need boobs to be a real woman. You don’t need curves to be a real woman. You don’t need a thigh gap to be a real woman. You don’t need a vagina to be a real woman. Do you identify as a woman? Congratulations, welcome to the real woman’s club! We’re all real women, and nice women wouldn’t try to shut out their fellow women based on their body type.

Now, I’ve ranted enough. I’d like to hand you over to some awesome ladies who really know what they’re talking about. Here are some women who preach body positivity, look beautiful, and generally exist in a way that makes me want to both shake their hand and snog their faces off. Get them followed. And please, if there are any bloggers/writers that you cannot believe I missed out, give me a shout! I’m always looking for new stuff to read and love.

Rosie Astbury.

Ucantwearthat.

Fuller Figure Fuller Bust.

Naomi Griffiths.

Marie Denee.

Danie Vanier.

A Wheelbarrow Full of Style.

Frocks and Frou Frou.

Georgina Grogan.