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.

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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.

The Anti-Pinterest Guide To Getting Up In The Morning

how to wake up in the morning

This post is for the duvet hoggers. The just-one-more-push-of-the-snooze-buttoners. The people who could sleep for 11 hours and still take a nap mid afternoon. The people who have 40 morning yoga routines growing dusty on their Pinterest boards. Basically, this post is for the people like me.

We thought it would get easier as the mornings got lighter, but it just hasn’t. And this month, the clocks go forward, robbing us of a precious, precious hour. What’s to be done?

I’ve read a million articles that claim to hold the secret to bouncing out of bed in the morning. This is not one of those articles. I can’t turn you into a morning person, but I can tell you how I, the least morningy person ever, make my mornings more bearable. Wrap yourself in a blanket, stick on the kettle and read on…

1. Love rolling over and going back to sleep? Do that. 

For me, the best thing about a lie in is that sort of sleepy, half awake time where you can snuggle back into your duvet and just drift in and out of sleep. So every morning, I set an alarm for an hour before I need to get up. This lets me have a sort of fake lie in every day. Just remember to set an actual alarm for when you inevitably fall back asleep.

2. Give yourself something beautiful to look at.

I’ve started buying myself bunches of fresh flowers and putting them on my bedside table. This means that I see them as soon as I wake up, before I get the chance to get grumpy. Buy yourself some gorgeous flowers or put a photo that makes you smile by your bed. Again, it won’t make you bounce out of bed, but it might stop you swearing before you’ve even properly opened your eyes.

3. Cut out the unnecessary stuff.

In winter, I shower at night time because doing it on cold mornings makes me so miserable. I also don’t put on makeup on weekdays, because to be honest, I’d rather have the extra 15 minutes in bed. Don’t force yourself to do yoga, make smoothies or keep a dream journal if it’s making you miserable. Delegate to the night before, when you hate everything less.

4. But keep something nice.

Every morning, no matter how rushed I am, I always make time to enjoy my cup of tea. I will rush around like a mad person trying to get my clothes on and my breakfast made, but I will sit for 15 minutes minimum, sipping my tea and getting used to the fact that I have to be awake for like 15 hours now. Pick a part of your morning that you actually enjoy and dedicate some time to it. Take a long, hot shower, if showering in the morning doesn’t give you the sads. Read a chapter of your book. Paint your nails. Whatever you like. Take a little time away from being enraged at your own existence.

5. Do what you gotta do.

I eat breakfast in bed. Truth. I get up, get dressed, make my breakfast and then get back into bed to eat it. And why not? It’s warm and cosy and it makes it so much easier to get out of bed when I know I’ll be climbing back into it once I’m dressed. Hey, I didn’t say this list was gonna be pretty. If there’s anything you can do to make your morning more bearable, just do it. Ignore those people over there doing sun salutations and judging you. We fellow duvet monsters have your back. Unless you’re having a glass of wine to ease you into the day. Then we probably have to talk.

6. If you have a partner who is allowed to sleep later than you, leave them.

My boyfriend doesn’t have to get out of bed until after I have to leave the flat. And I hate him for it every single morning. That he brings me breakfast in bed at the weekends is probably the only reason I haven’t killed him in a fit of morning rage yet. I am exceptionally grumpy before 10am.

Have you got a secret to getting up in the morning? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @EscapologistGl!

Let’s Talk About Porn

uk porn ban

Don’t look at me like that, the government started it. Besides, it’s in all the papers. The Telegraph has a complete list and analysis, so I’m definitely allowed. Needless to say, this post is going to contain a number of unsavoury topics, so read on at your leisure.

The UK government announced this week that UK produced porn was not allowed to portray certain sexual acts and practices. While the official line is that they are promoting safer sex, there is a depressingly familiar theme running through a lot of the new rules.

Female ejaculation is banned. Male ejaculation, and its consumption is not.

Facesitting is banned, on the grounds that it might obstruct airways. Deepthroating, and gagging, is not.

The idea that women experiencing sexual pleasure is somehow extreme or radical, or even dangerous, is so old hat that it’s actually just boring. Besides, these guys need to be careful, the first time society attempted to clamp down on us crazy women and our crazy impulses, they accidentally invented the vibrator. So beware.

And it’s not just women who are getting a hard time. Spanking, full body bondage and verbal or physical abuse (whether consensual or not) are also banned. Mainstream porn already consistently shows one type of sex over and over and over. So obviously, what we really needed from the porn industry was for it to become even more heteronormative, male centric and vanilla than it already was. It plays into the idea that some types of sex are wrong, or weird, or disgusting. And you know what? Some people might think that they are. But the amazing thing about sex between two consenting adults is that it is nobody else’s goddamn business what you get up to within the confines of your own bedroom. Restricting porn like this is going to encourage people to be ashamed of their kinks and desires, and god knows, we really don’t need any more of that in Britain. From fairly softcore things like female pleasure, to more out there things like consensual abuse, this is sending the message loud and clear that some acts are simply not the done thing, darling. This conversation has become about what is and is not acceptable to do in the sack, what is and isn’t “normal” according to the Grand High Council of Sexual Normalcy (bet they’re all straight guys), when in fact it should be about consent, communication and talking to your damn partner to find out what they do and do not like in bed. I know, talking is gross. Better just ban everything instead.

I could write massive essays on why shaming people for being sexual is a rubbish idea, as well as hugely conflicting posts on my opinions of the porn industry in general, but that actually isn’t even what I wanted to talk about.

What most annoyed me about the announcement is that it was accompanied by the bog standard “BUT THINK OF THE CHILDREN” justification. We can’t risk teenagers seeing these acts portrayed in porn, going home, giving it a go and hurting themselves. Guys, I want you to listen to me very carefully, because this is important. Are you listening? Okay. Porn should not be the primary point of sex education for teenagers.

We need to stop pretending that you can just throw abstinence at teenagers, tell them not to Google naughty words and hope for the best. Time for a horrible truth: kids are going to have sex. They are. One of my high school friends lost her virginity when she was 13 years old. Whether they do it because it’s expected of them, because it’s not expected of them, because they’re madly in love or because they’re just curious, they are going to do it. And even if they’re not having sex, they’ll be doing even worse…thinking about it.

*Shudder*

When you’re a teenager – or if you’re a girl, from when you’re about 9 – your body starts to do some pretty crazy things. What would be really super awesome is if we stopped telling adolescents that their bodies and feelings are icky and dirty, and if we started telling them that their bodies are amazing and normal and loads of fun. We need people teaching sex education who aren’t embarrassed to say the word clitoris to a group of sniggering 13 year olds. We need someone to teach girls that they’re allowed to take pleasure from sexual activity, rather than splitting the boys off to talk about masturbation and the girls to talk about periods. This is an actual thing that happened in my school. I didn’t hear a woman talk about masturbating until I stumbled on Vagenda magazine aged 18. 18! I had to ask my mum what orgasm was, after seeing it written on a billboard for Lipton’s Iced Tea, years after getting sex ed in school.

THIS IS ALSO A TRUE ACTUAL THING THAT HAPPENED.

We basically need Laci Green to go around every school in the world and tell teenagers how to have great, consensual sex, when they feel like they’re ready for it. Teenagers are sexual, because people are sexual, and that means that some of them are going to be into some pretty kinky stuff. What would be great is if instead of telling them not to do those things because they’re wrong and weird, we taught them how to do them safely and respectfully. A lot of hardcore BDSM relationships are actually the most respectful, because safety and consent are emphasised all the time, and are never, ever assumed. If you’re afraid a teenager is going to watch porn and then go home and hurt their girlfriend by trying to fit their entire hand inside her, put it in the curriculum. I’m not even kidding. If you’re worried about it, talk about it. It probably doesn’t even need that level of detail if you’re feeling squeamish (and let’s be honest, wouldn’t we all). Just a simple “Hey, if you’re having crazy sex, be sure to check in with your partner that they’re enjoying it as much as you are”.

Oh, and just to set a pernicious little myth to rest. It’s not the nineties anymore. The internet has evolved. If your kid has “stumbled upon” porn, it’s because they were looking for it.

Kids don’t need to be protected from sex, they need to be educated about it. And if we are leaving it to porn to educate them, we are doing a damn shoddy job.

#YesAllWomen: Yes, All Men Should Read It

Today, in response to yet another horrifying act of violence against women, women all over the world took to Twitter to tell their stories of misogyny and inequality. Their tweets range from the genuinely tragic to the depressingly everyday, and I struggled to find a single one that I didn’t identify with on some level. It often takes extreme events like today to start real conversations about gender based violence and discrimination, but the trend #YesAllWomen showed just how much women’s everyday lives are steeped in it. Yes, all women.

The Women Who Spoke Out

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Those Who Missed The Point

Depressingly, some of these are women.

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Those Who Proved The Point

Even more depressingly, so are some of these.

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(Seriously, what even is this one? How about “You can’t hit me, I’m a person, and that’s illegal)

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What a catch.

Capture9

Super original. Did you come up with that yourself?

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The Men Who Nailed It

Just in case all that has left you despairing for humanity, let’s hear it for the guys who got it.

Capture10

This guy is my new personal hero.

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A Big Sister’s Duty: The Stuff No One Else Will Tell You

Today, I watched the Miss Representation documentary. If you haven’t seen it yet, please go watch it. It is so awesome, despite a really spacey, strange occasional voiceover.

Within nine minutes of pressing play, I was bawling my eyes out. Listening to a high schooler’s voice crack in pain as she described how her little sister cuts herself because she hates her body resonated all too clearly. As far as I know, neither of my sisters has ever hurt themselves, thank goodness. But the thought of the bullshit they’re going to have to endure just by virtue of being female is genuinely painful. With one getting ready to go to uni next year, and high school not too far away for the other, I know that they’re going to have to go through some pretty hard times, and that, being girls, they’re going to be told to think and feel and be certain ways, or face punishment.

So I’ve got a few messages for my two incredible, inspiring, strong baby sisters, based on my experiences of being a laydee, which I hope will help get them through the hard times.

Warning to family members: there will be discussions of S-E-X and other such girly things in this post.

fskLet’s start with your body, because honestly, that’s what lots of people are going to do. People will judge you because of your body, they will assume that they know things about you because of how your body looks, they’ll tell you that your body is wrong, they’ll use it as a weapon against you, they’ll assume that your body is theirs to touch and comment on.

Here’s what to do with your body in response to that: don’t change a damn thing. You are not your body. This is really tough to remember sometimes, because we girls have it constantly shoved down our throats that the only way to be worth something is to have a body that confines to somebody else’s conception of what sexy is. But honestly, your body does not define who you are. It’s just a vessel that carries your beautiful heart and brilliant mind around from one place to the next, and as long as you are keeping it healthy and strong (whatever that looks like!), then it’s perfect. Everyone always tells you to learn to love your body. I’d like to take that a step further and tell you to learn to love the whole of you. Love how your eyes crease up when you tell an awesome joke. Love how your wobbly bits shake when you dance like a crazy person. Love how you throw your hands around when you’re talking about something you love. You are so wonderful, and you have way too much to do in this world to sit in front of a mirror worrying that your legs are too fat.

This doesn’t mean I’m telling you to burn your dresses and snap your eyeliner pencils. Wanting to look good is awesome, as long as you are doing it on your terms. Don’t let anyone else define your beautiful, ever. Look however you want to look. Wear plum lipstick at 11am. Go out barefaced in your raggiest old jumper. Buy that teeny tiny little dress you love. Wearing lipstick doesn’t make you an attention seeker. Wearing a leather miniskirt doesn’t make you a slut.

On that note, it’s time to get super serious. I really don’t want to talk about sexual assault, because I wish that it wasn’t a problem. But 1 in 5 women in this country have experienced some kind of sexual violence since they turned 16, myself among them, so we have to talk about it. Like I said above, some people think that your body is theirs to touch. It isn’t. Unless you want them to, of course (more on that later). No matter how you are dressed, how drunk you are, how many people you’ve had sex with before, what you’ve done with the person before, NOBODY is allowed to touch your body without your consent. Don’t think that you’ve led anyone on, or feel pressured to act a certain way because of how you’ve acted in the past, or because you’ve already said you would do something. You have the right to refuse, every single time, and if someone goes against that, it’s sexual assault. I don’t care if you’re blind drunk, wearing nothing but a tinsel bikini. This does not give anyone the right to sexually assault you. This line of reasoning is such total bollocks that I can’t believe it still exists, but it really does, so let me just throw a stat out for you: only 9% of rapes in the UK are committed by a stranger. You are 9 times more likely to be attacked by someone you know in a situation that you thought was safe. So don’t ever be embarrassed to set limits, know that anything to do with your body is your choice, and if something does happen to you, don’t you dare ever for a second believe that it was your fault.

Okay, onto (gulp) consensual sex. I’m not going to tell you not to have sex, because let’s face it, sex is fun, and it’s totally normal, and it’s a natural part of growing up, but I would like to offer one teeny bit of advice. Wait and do it with a man or woman that you feel really comfortable with. Not because it has to be special or because losing your virginity to a random person means you don’t respect yourself. Shockingly, I think that a woman’s sexual experiences are nobody else’s fucking business, and anyone who thinks that they are in any way relevant is a flaming idiot. Have as much sex as you want, with as many people as you want – whatever you are happy and comfortable with. But the reason I’d say you should wait for someone excellent, and this is something that no one will ever tell you, is that the first time is so very fucking awkward. It hurts a lot, and your body does loads of weird stuff, and so does your partner’s, and you really want to be with someone you can laugh with when your bodies press together and make that weird farting sound, rather than wanting to immediately die. Oh, also, always pee afterwards. This is another thing that no one ever tells you until you’re laid up in your GP with a horrifying urine infection. But that’s more mechanics that actual advice. And as Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that.

Alright, that’s enough sex talk for one blog, let’s get back to you. Society tells people that women shouldn’t have a voice, and both men and women internalise that message. You will find that men interrupt you, talk over you, don’t take you seriously and use the mere fact that you are a woman to discredit you. And a lot of women buy into this too: they take men more seriously, think negatively about ambitious women and say things like, “Oh, I just get on better with men. There’s less drama”. Every one of these things is designed to make women shut up, and keep us in our place. To hell with that. You have a voice, so don’t be afraid to use it. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward because some stupid societal structure tells you your opinion isn’t worth anything. I hate these structures, so I try to use my voice to change them. And if that makes some chauvinistic asshole think less of me, so be it. I speak up, so that the world will get better for you girls coming through. Pay it forward and speak up for the next generation. Don’t you ever listen to someone else’s idea of what you should be. Don’t try to be anything except yourself. When you write goals and wishes, focus on doing things, rather than being things.

One last thing and then I promise, I’ll shut up for a while. Be kind to other women. Don’t buy into that rubbish that tells you that ambitious women are manly, or successful women are bitchy, or pretty women are stupid and slutty. This is tough, because these stereotypes are pushed hard, every day, by a £71bn per year business. But we can be smarter than them. Just remember, we’re all complicated people, who are trying our best. Let’s be excellent to each other. I love you. You’re going to move mountains.

Us Students Are In For A Shock

I’m not the first person to write about this, and I certainly won’t be the last. But having read yet another Guardian article about us ungrateful youngsters trying to get on the job ladder with our useless degrees and entitlement, I’m angry enough to pick up my figurative pen anyway.

Warning: This post is about to get sweary.

The short version of the message I want to send to anyone who has ever written an article, blog post or smug anonymous comment about the younger generation’s inflated entitlement when it comes to employment is this:

Shut the fuck up.

The longer version, which will be coming to a very similar conclusion, is this:

As kids, my generation were raised with working at McDonald’s being the ultimate threat. You have to study for your exams, or you’ll end up working at McDonald’s. Stick in at school, or you’ll end up working at McDonald’s. Go to university and get yourself a degree, or you’ll end up working at McDonald’s. We were motivated by the picture of failure presented to us: working at McDonald’s meant you hadn’t worked hard enough. You were a failure. It was something to be ashamed of. If my generation feel entitled to not have to work behind the counter in McDonald’s once they’ve gotten their degree, it’s because that’s what we’ve had shoved down our fucking throats since we were barely old enough to write our own names.

Most of the graduates I know aren’t waltzing out of uni and expecting to land a six figure salary and a corner office within five years. Most don’t even care whether they get a job related to their degree. All they want is a steady paycheck coming in, preferably one that reflects the fact that they’ve been working their asses off for the past four years, and have sacrificed four years worth of pay on the promise that it’ll be worth it in the end. But instead, we’re offered long hours at minimum wage, or the chance to make coffee and sort mail in a basement somewhere, paid only in “experience”, and told that we should be grateful for it.

Everybody seems to have one answer to any complaints made by young people trying to find work, and it’s one I’ve seen crop up in the comments of every single article about graduate employment/unemployment since forever. Why don’t you just start your own business? That’s what all the young people should be doing. That’s what the generation before us did, if the internet is to be believed. Everybody shunned that horrible book learnin’ and started their own businesses using nothing but the money they’d saved from returning glass bottles to the corner shop. Pulled themselves up by their bootstraps! Never took nothing from nobody! It’s just that these kids today have no work ethic. Expect everything handed to them. No idea what the real world is like.

Because of course, moving to a completely new city, living on your own, scraping by on a couple of hundred pounds per month, cooking your own food, going from being top of your class to being surrounded by people infinitely smarter than you, studying really hard, spending nights sobbing in the library because you still don’t understand Iran’s political system, writing a 10,000 word dissertation, researching, taking part in debates, learning to stand up for yourself, learning to speak in public, making friends, feeling lonely, feeling scared and seeing hard work pay off teaches you absolutely nothing about the world and the value of work.

Like, seriously? Are you high? Did you just watch an episode of Skins and assume that that was what university was like?

Why are the only two options for graduates to work shitty minimum wage jobs, or create a completely awesome business that we will be entirely responsible for? If you think that graduates are smart enough to found and sustain a business (which a lot of them are, myself not included), then surely we’re smart enough to work in your offices, banks and businesses. I’m sorry that my degree in International Politics didn’t give me the necessary skills to start a knit your own fucking organic vegetables business, but does that really mean that I have to be mouth-frothingly grateful for the chance to pour coffee or flip burgers?

After that little shoutout to my undeniable Humanities qualification, let’s mention the elephant in the room: the useless degree (engineers, you can skip this paragraph, you guys are pretty much cushty when it comes to getting recognised for your degree). This is another thing that graduates have hurled at them literally all the time. You studied a degree in English Literature, what did you think was going to happen?

When did we decide that engineering was the only useful skill? Don’t get me wrong, I am totally pro having roads and buildings and scientific advancement, but is that all that there is? My boyfriend is pretty much a genius when it comes to engineering, and frequently does sums that make me feel dizzy just looking at them. He also forgets to use verbs in sentences sometimes. He baulks at having to read 20 pages of a textbook, while I grapple with a damn reading list that is that length. My degree taught me how to do my own research, analyse evidence, spot patterns, produce reports, find the important part of a book, form solid arguments and debunk shaky arguments. I pretty much killed myself for four years trying to wrap my head around ideas so complicated that, to most people, they’re as inaccessible as nuclear physics. Seriously, ask people about the Middle East and watch the fear on their faces. And yet, not only am I supposed to be grateful for literally any job offer that comes my way, I also have to deal with that little lip curl that comes when I reveal the subject of my degree.

Side note: If you have ever made fun of a Humanities student for their degree, fuck you. It’s not funny and it’s not banter. You are belittling something that someone has worked stupidly hard for, and you should be ashamed. Getting a degree is hard enough without people telling you that the 14 hour library stint you just pulled is worthless and laughable. When you’re feeling stressed or low because of the amount of work you have to do, a comment like that can be enough to make you not want to get out of bed in the morning. Please, sciencey folks, you are better than this. Get off our degrees.

Now listen carefully to this, because it’s very important, and for some reason, seems to be quite a revolutionary concept.

There is no such thing as a useless degree. Every single degree provides its students with extremely valuable transferrable skills like the ones I listed above. And as for the “useless” degrees, if you are prepared to look at someone who dedicated four years of their lives to studying and learning about a subject for no reason other than because it interests them and they love it, and write that off as a character flaw rather than an amazing strength, I genuinely question your intelligence.

Graduates are entitled. Because university isn’t a wacky, taxpayer-funded, four-year holiday. As somebody who has spent the last year in the “real world”, having dealt with unemployment, employment, depression, responsibility and paying taxes, being a grown up is a whole lot easier than being a student sometimes. I don’t think I’m special or unique or *insert Millenial adjective here* because I have a degree, but I do think it shows that I’m smart, passionate, hardworking and able to think long-term. I went to university and worked my little socks off, rather than earn four years’ worth of wages. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’d like to see a return on that investment. We don’t want to start at the top of the ladder, but please, for the love of god, just let us get on.

A 30 Year Political Career: About As Good As The Perfect Fruit Crumble

Those of you who have been frequently subjected to my rantings will know that I consider myself a feminist. As a result of this, seemingly innocuous activities can quickly turn into lectures (rants) on the injustices of being a woman in modern society. To paraphrase the great Francis Begbie:

“I’m no’ the kinda girl that goes lookin’ for a fight, but at the end of the day, I’m the one wi’ the liberal feminist agenda and he can get the fat end a’ it in his puss any time he wanted, like.”

Seemingly innocuous activities such as reading the paper.

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At first glance, all seemed well with this story. A woman rising to a position of political prominence, a headline focusing on her achievements, a photo byline that doesn’t mention what she’s wearing: tick, tick, tick! And then my eyes wandered up to the top left hand corner of the page, and a dark cloud descended…Life & Style?

I have a number of issues with this, but let’s start with the most obvious one. That being why, in the name of all that is holy, is this categorised as Life & Style? An article about the future of the UN, nestled in there between an article about the perfect fruit crumble and a piece on what the checkout girl is really thinking. As if, when women do it, politics is sort of an adorable hobby. A lifestyle choice, like a juice diet, or taking up crochet. Seriously, Guardian, get it together and stick this article in the Politics section along with all the big men.

Also, can we just talk about the fact that newspapers still have a women’s section? I mean I know I have a degree in politics, but thank you, newspapers, for creating a special section for me where I can read about whether teff is the new hot super grain and how to get a body that won’t send people running for the hills when I put on a bikini, without being bothered by all that horrible, boring news. Sorry for the absurdly long sentence, I just have a lot of feelings.

Now, to give credit where credit is due, the Guardian’s “Women” section does focus on women’s issues that I actually care about, like unequal pay, and the prevalence of rape culture. But, and I cannot ever say this enough times, there isn’t really any such thing as a “women’s issue”. There are issues which women are more qualified to talk about, but when we do talk about them, they shouldn’t be tucked away in a special section of the paper where only other women will see them. Binary gender roles are bad for literally everyone. It is in everyone’s interest to get rid of unfair, outdated, stupid standards of behaviour for both men and women. By qualifying feminism as a women’s issue, we’re giving men permission to ignore it. After all, it has nothing to do with them.

Women in Spain beating the recession by setting up a record number of businesses isn’t just of interest to women. Women in Afghanistan having more freedom in jail than they do outside of it isn’t just of interest to women. And the next leader of the UN certainly isn’t just of interest to women.

Sort it out Guardian, you’re totally harshing my mellow.