1. Feminist Fairy Tales

    November 11, 2013 by alicehaswords

    image from www.medieval-castles.org

    image from www.medieval-castles.org

    My brother works in a primary school. As well as helping out with a particularly troubled/naughty little boy, he runs a weekly after-school storytelling club. This often involves discussing the week’s stories with me beforehand.

    This week he was planning to use a traditional Arthurian legend: Sir Somebody-or-other and the Hideous Hag. The story irked me. In it, King Arthur is put under a sleeping spell by an ogre, who promises to lift the spell if the Arthur’s knights can answer a riddle: what do all women want? The only way the knights are able to find the answer is by kissing a wise, but hideous, old hag. The answer she gives? ‘All women want their own way.’*

    We used to have a book of politically correct bedtime stories. Snow White and the seven people of small stature. Goldilocks and the three bears, in which Goldilocks rejects the condescending lumberjack’s offers of help and deals with the situation herself, thank you very much. That kind of thing.

    I suggested some changes to the story along these lines, to make it a bit less dreadfully sexist.

    1. The whole ‘hideous hag’ concept isn’t very original. In fact, almost all folk stories ever use three basic female character tropes: the virgin, the temptress, the crone. (See: most Disney films.) How’s about we make her a more rounded character, and avoid judging her on her age and appearance alone? Just because she’s old and not conventionally attractive doesn’t mean she should be treated with less respect.
    2. Why does the author assume that she’s so desperate for male attention that she’d blackmail the knight for a kiss? I’m guessing this story was originally written by a man, whose self-importance had been misguidedly inflated by the patriarchal society he was brought up in. See, it’s not healthy for any of us to exist in a social system that values one gender above others.
    3. Both the riddle and its answer are problematic. So here’s how I think the story should go…

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    King Arthur is put in an enchanted sleep by an ogre. Not because ogres are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour than other magical creatures, but because this particular ogre has unresolved psychological issues which lead him to use his powers irresponsibly, to compensate for the lack of positive attention he received from his parents during childhood. The Knights (a diverse group, some of whom opt for shining armour, some of whom condemn violence in all forms and so avoid the use of its associated paraphernalia) are sent out to discover the answer to the ogre’s riddle.

    The knight who finds the wise old woman is called Sir Jane (- some of the knights, of course, are women). They have a nice sit down and a cup of tea in the old woman’s hovel; the roof is a bit leaky, so Sir Jane registers it on her list of homes for repair by the Knights’ Community Outreach Programme. They discuss how much the forest has changed since they cleared all those trees to build the big new castle; how it’s made the area much more prosperous and cosmopolitan but disrupted the local unicorn population, and whether the benefits will outweigh the losses in the long run. (Now the story passes the Bechdel test. Really not hard, is it?) They move on to the topic of the ogre’s riddle, and come to the conclusion that it’s a trick question; there is no one thing that all women want, because women are individuals with their own wishes and desires and can’t be lumped together as one faceless generalisation.

    Sir Jane returns home and informs the ogre that his riddle is based on sexist assumptions, hands him a reading list of key feminist texts and directs him to the nearest library. She then goes to King Arthur and wakes him up by throwing cold water on his face, because that always works in movies.

    THE END.

    I think my version is much better.

    Go forth, feminist parents, aunties, uncles, babysitters, storytellers generally! Tell feminist fairy tales to your kids. Teach your wee ones gender equality through the power of stories. May they grow up without preconception or prejudice, into confident, thoughtful young patriarchy smashers.

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    *I may have entirely misremembered the story. But I think that’s more or less it.

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    Alice finds it a bit strange talking about herself in the third person, somebody else usually does this bit. Um. She is generally a good egg. She likes making things. Cats like her. She tweets here: @alicehaswords


  2. Russell’s Revolution

    November 8, 2013 by Georgina

    (Image from Huffington Post)

    Russell Brand sitting opposite Jeremy Paxman, talking passionately about egalitarian states and distribution of wealth, was not something I expected to see, much less find myself nodding along to, agreeing firmly with Brand’s claim that his choice not to vote is caused by indifference rather than apathy.

    The political climate has shifted since the last election here in the UK, and we have a generation of young people who feel thoroughly let down by their government. We have a generation, floundering in student debt, who are applying for jobs with a mind-boggling amount of candidates before being rejected due to a ‘lack of experience’ or being ‘over-qualified.’

    For a lot of people, there’s not much to recommend any of the main parties. Before the last election, a group of my friends at university campaigned hard for the Liberal Democrats, posting flyers and leaflets in the weeks running up to the election. The Lib Dems have traditionally had a strong student support base, but now those students feel utterly let down by the Lib Dems’ choice to get into bed with the Conservatives, and the back down on the promise not to hike up tuition fees. I voted Lib Dem in the last election. I won’t be doing so next time.

    Voting Conservative is a non-option for me. As my mum put it last time, “You can vote for who you want, but if you vote Conservative, you can’t live under my roof anymore.” I can’t get behind a party apparently determined to push the poorest in our country further into poverty, with cuts to the benefits and no response to the ever increasing energy prices.

    So what about Labour? For a lot of people, Labour’s legacy of making us America’s sidekick and getting involved with the ‘War on Terror’ is a massive negative. As Brand says, we want none of these people in charge. So what then?

    I think the next General Election is going to be an interesting one. I think with the dissatisfaction with the main parties, we’re going to see an increase in support for smaller parties, and are very likely to have another coalition government, with votes scattered even wider than last time.

    But I do think we’re also going to see a manifestation of Russell’s revolution. Brand has called for people to express their dissatisfaction with the current political system by not voting at all. Will we see a lower turn-out of voters?

    Personally, I think we will, particularly in younger age brackets, who are more likely to be Brand fans. For myself, I am undecided. Undeniably, we need change. But is choosing not to use your voice the way to get it?

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    Georgina is a blogger with a passion for polka dots, tea and the Whedonverse. She blogs at www.caramellattekiss.com or can be found at @caramelattekiss


  3. Feminism in London conference

    October 21, 2013 by Ashley

    What: Feminism in London conference 2013
    When: Saturday 26th October, 9am-5:30pm
    Where: Institute of Education, London
    How much: £25 (concessions available)

    Postcard, Sarah Maple, Feminism in London 2010

    Postcard, Sarah Maple, Feminism in London 2010

    Tickets are selling fast for the Feminism in London conference, which is back this year after a hiatus. FIL is the biggest feminism conference in the UK and this year it will play host to some absolutely fantastic speakers. It’s a brilliant opportunity to come along and meet like minded people, get into some meaty debates, and share your thoughts on feminism in 2013.

    FIL started in 2010 as an offshoot of the London Feminist Network. It’s women-run and women-led, but is open to everyone to attend. This year’s conference/convention will focus on activism and inspiration rather than academic discourse, though there will be something for everyone on the day.

    Feminism is enjoying a bit of a resurgence in recent years, with everything from No More Page 3 to the Slutwalk. Progress is being made, but we still do not have equal pay, equal representation, or equal freedom from sexual violence. Many women might be reluctant to describe themselves as ‘feminists’ but it seems almost all women feel strongly that justice and equality are relevant to them today. FIL will approach these topics in a way that is engaging yet accessible. 

    The format of the conference will be an opening panel discussion, followed by panel discussions in the main room with breakaway workshops taking place simultaneously. These will continue throughout the day. There will also be artwork and a film room, as well as a ‘soft space’ for those who are triggered by subject matter, those who are non-neurotypical (e.g. people with Aspergers) and those who simply want a quiet space. There will be a creche, and workshops for children.

    The event will finish with the presentation of the Emma Humphries Memorial Prize, followed by the popular Reclaim the Night march, and finally, for those who are not yet feministed out, a party. It’s set to be a fantastic event!

    To get tickets, head to the Feminism in London website.


  4. Depression – LET ME TALK ABOUT IT!

    October 8, 2013 by EleanorBrownlie

    Depression (part 2) by Sylvie Reuter - http://www.sylviereuter.de/

    Depression (part 2) by Sylvie Reuter – http://www.sylviereuter.de/

    I want to have a frank chat with you about Depression. Depression isn’t something we like to talk about because it’s, well, depressing. But depression is everywhere, amongst us all. Even those of us who’ve never experienced depression first hand will almost certainly know someone who has. It’s just that we might not be aware of it, aware of the suffering that our Friend or Colleague or Teacher or even our own parents are living through, ashamed to speak out for fear of not being understood, or dismissed, or rejected, or even seen as crazy: ‘It’s just a cry for attention, she’ll be ok’… ‘She’s just a bit down in the dumps, we all get sad sometimes’… ‘Awww go buy yourself some ice cream, that’ll cheer you up’… Blerg!

    The NHS define depression as, ‘…a persistent sadness experienced for weeks and months, and not just a few days.’ Now, although only an umbrella term, for me, the word sadness doesn’t do justice to how traumatic depression really is. It doesn’t efficiently depict the mental stress, the anxiety, the guilt, the tension, the fear, the constant longing to feel ok, to feel “normal”, the loneliness and the shear dread of having to survive among the living, felt incessantly. Yes, each victim of this disease – because let’s get one thing straight right away, depression IS a disease, a crippling one that prevents people from being able to go about their daily lives, to work, to interact with their friends and family, driving thousands to suicide each year – will experience varying levels of the severity of symptoms. Some may be able to appear normal and act as if nothing is the matter, whereas others struggle to leave the house, dress, eat and even remain awake for more than a few hours of the day.

    This brings me to my experience with depression. As someone who usually struggles to get a good night’s kip I slept a hell-of-a-lot when I was at my worst. I would go to sleep at around 8 or 9pm and wake-up at midday. I was asleep most of the time. Sleeping for me was the device I used to switch off my thoughts. Medically depression is a chemical imbalance (this site explains it marvellously), but I don’t believe I helped myself. You see my theory is that my depression grew out of a series of negative thoughts, and, already being a mess of icky chemicals, I focused on how devastating the result of my negative ponderings had been.

    I might not be making myself clear here… Let me explain. At first I just felt low, like that sinking feeling you get when you receive bad news, only constantly. This came on pretty suddenly and developed over the course of a month. I lost interest in socialising and seeing friends. I found it incredibly difficult to look people in the eye. I avoided my parents and whenever we did interact I was cold and loveless. Having isolated myself I then started to question my state and how long I would feel this way for, and that led me to think about Time. I would think about how every second is a second I would never win back. I would think of Time as a monster sucking the life out of me. I would spend hours, hours, hours, lying on the floor counting the seconds go by and I would see each one as a step closer towards death. Death became the next step. I felt close to it. I wanted it. Everything in life became pointless. I saw myself reduced to a mass of cells. I saw my emotions become the result of an equation, like the depression, they were merely chemical reactions. I wasn’t real; I was merely a machine… These thoughts would be all I could think about. I would look at people smiling and laughing and wonder how on earth they could feel happy. What was there to be happy for? I was 21 and had just finished my first year at University. I should have been enjoying my summer, getting drunk, travelling, doing naughty things with strangers (sometimes), but instead I spent it festering in my own putrid thoughts.

    The turning point came when I realised the only way out was to end my own life. I’d tried seeing my friends and talking to them about how ‘down and hopeless’ (I never once mentioned suicide, god forbid) I felt, but I wasn’t taken seriously. I don’t blame them for not taking me seriously; depression’s a tricky thing to deal with. And after trying to express the severity of my state, I would simply shrug it off with fake smiles and scuttle back to my dreary den at home feeling selfish for almost infecting a friend with my excruciating darkness… So I turned to my mum. This took leaps and bounds and buckets of courage, for Mama B and I did not have the tightest of bonds. I’ve always loved and admired her of course, she’s a wonderful woman, but growing up we never really spoke of anything other than what dinner would be, no feelings were ever exchanged and hugs were reserved for Christmas and birthdays. I blame us both for this, but anyway I digress… So I turned to my mum and I didn’t have to say anything, or rather I didn’t say anything to her. I simply approached her (which given our relationship at the time was in itself a massive cry for help). She took one look at me and hugged me. And then I cried. And even though I still felt utterly miserable I just remember feeling grateful. I hadn’t been able to cry because I was empty. And without making y’all wanna vom, I do believe that one hug may have saved my life.

    Over the next few years, and particularly in my third year at Uni, whilst I was living in France by myself, alone with my thoughts, my mum was my rock. I was able to call her up at any time, day or night and talk to her. She calmed me and I knew she was there for me. Since leaving France I haven’t really felt depressed for any great length of time. I’ve felt low and have had days where I’ve not wanted to leave the house, but we all get those and in those times it really only does take a good tub of Haagen Daaz (Pralines and Cream and those heavenly caramel pockets…) to sort me out. What I’m trying to say is that for a good two years I spent my life fighting off depression but what really helped was having someone there to talk about it with: my mum. She was like my verbal diary. Everyone’s experience is different but if you’re not happy, and you see no way out then please, be brave and talk to someone. You might think people don’t want their day ruined by a ‘Negative Nancy’, but you know what, if your friend isn’t willing to listen to you then get them the hell out of your life. These are the people that will feed your depression and make you feel less capable and less worthy of recovering. Heck, email me. I’m here and if anything it’ll be nice to feel needed.

    Suicide is still the most common cause of death in males aged 35 and below and in too many of these cases close friends and family remain completely unaware of their loved one’s suffering. Please, if you think you know someone who might be feeling depressed, encourage him or her to talk about it. Make sure you’re a ruddy good friend and continue to be there for them, especially if you notice them trying to distance themselves socially. Depression is a massive problem and we have a tough time talking about it. So please, let’s change this!

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    As a recent French Graduate of Kent university, Eleanor spends her days discovering new ways to eat peanut butter. She’s 24, unemployed and still living at home with her parents. Her dream job would be to go around offices and people’s places of work offering supportive hugs and friendly words of encouragement to the stressed, overworked, and underpaid. You can find her on Twitter at @eleanorbrownlie


  5. In defence of @robinthicke

    October 3, 2013 by JRFBurton

    Image from cultureandlife.co.uk

    Image from cultureandlife.co.uk

    I am pretty unimpressed with the decision by various universities to ‘ban’ the song ‘Blurred Lines’. As well as being utterly toothless either as censorship or serious condemnation, since the ‘bans’ consist of just not playing it in the student bar, it smacks of an ill-thought-out, knee-jerk reaction, and may instead have the effect of ending the possibility of conversations between men and women that desperately need to be had.

    Because of the exhaustive coverage the lyrics of the song (and the video, though I intend to concentrate on the lyrics here) have been given over the summer, it is distressingly clear that a problematic aspect of the song arises from the use of words and phrases that are enormously triggering for both female and male victims of sexual assault and rape.  The way in which sexual offenders distort language to contribute to causing a range of fundamental wounds to their victims’ lives is horrifying.

    I don’t feel it necessary to cover the same ground as so many other opinion pieces, beyond noting that the use of ‘bitch’ in particular grates with me whenever it is used as a descriptor for a woman. I also don’t particularly like the rap in the original and prefer The Roots’ version. However, I am also prepared to accept that, within the context of an adult and consensual encounter, someone who likes their sex rougher than I do may find the original rap very… compelling.

    Because here’s my confession: I find that song really hot. It turns me on.

    Robin Thicke has attempted to respond to the criticism of the song by saying on the Today Show: “When we made the song, we had nothing but the most respect for women …We only had the best intentions…It’s supposed to stir conversation… if you listen to the lyrics it says ‘That man is not your maker’ — it’s actually a feminist movement within itself.” Evidently his response has not convinced. I note the clarity of the anger expressed by, among others, The Kraken below.

    However, I want to try to walk the difficult line of attempting to clarify what I believe Robin Thicke is trying to say, while accepting the validity of the conflicting views and reactions expressed elsewhere.

    I think the song is exploring an experience that is familiar to me, and that is the kind of highly sexually-charged encounter or meeting with someone that I want. I don’t know if this has happened to you, but it has happened to me more than once (and anecdotally it’s also understood by those of my friends that I have discussed this issue with).

    I mean a meeting where your eyes meet and there’s an immediate, urgent chemistry. You want that person, and you both know that, at some point, you are going to have each other.

    Sometimes you don’t even have to have touched each other, not even in the most non-sexual way, to begin to have the conversation that acknowledges there is a powerful heat between the two of you.

    While most of the commentary has focused on an interpretation in which the (undoubtedly very cocky) man is creepily singing to a woman who has shown absolutely no interest in him, an alternative scenario is that he’s absolutely right. The woman does want it, she does want him, and then the lyrics become hot wordy foreplay with nary a touch needed.

    I’ll get on to the actual lyrics later, but want to point out that what Robin Thicke has attempted to express in his defence is an exploration of the continuing situation in which being honest, even blunt, about the strong lustful feelings women also experience is complicated at best. In this case, being a ‘Good Girl’ might mean feeling lust for someone, but not feeling allowed to show it or admit to it, or perhaps feeling frightened by the intensity of the body’s response without input by heart or brain, or even feeling that to allow a sexual encounter to take place will cause, afterwards, an automatic reduction in one’s own self-esteem and the respect in which others hold them, including the respect of the person with whom they’ve just been intimate!

    And I find it frustrating that so many articles discussed only the scenario in which the woman is not interested – since quite clearly that’s not the scenario Robin meant to explore, and he’s probably a bit tired of feeling comprehensively misunderstood, the object of anger from the women he claims to respect, and endlessly lectured on what he did wrong. He is a person after all, and people tend not to respond positively to lots of criticism without also getting some praise and some guidance on where to fix things in future. Broadly, if we women keep telling men ‘Don’t do this’ – which is perfectly reasonable – we need also to say ‘But try this instead’. It’s the only way to have a conversation with (rather than at) someone with whom you disagree, that doesn’t immediately shut down any constructive results. And we need to have constructive conversations: about rape culture, about female sexuality, about equal pay and equal parental responsibility and all manner of things.

    So I’d like to tell Robin what he did right, at least for me.

    Here goes: Robin, I like your song a lot, it gets me hot, and that’s because despite being fatly, happily married and 30-something feminist, I am also a highly, powerfully, sexual person and I recognise what you’re talking about. It’s only slightly because you’re kinda my type, physically (and if I were talking to you on Twitter, there might be a winky face here.)

    I know the kind of encounter you’re describing, and those encounters and the physical encounters that followed have been some of the hottest and most exhilarating moments of my life.

    When you sing ‘I know you want it’ I think of the times when the lust has been unmistakeably written all over my face. When you sing ‘Do it like it hurt’ I think of the times I’ve had when Chandler Bing might have exclaimed “My god, it sounds like someone’s killing her in there”. When you sing ‘What you don’t like work?’ I hear it as a request that a sexual partner is fully engaged in the act with you, so that afterwards her muscles ache pleasurably as after a really good workout.

    Most of all, I hear ‘I hate these Blurred Lines’ as a straightforward expression of frustration with anything other than a similarly straightforward response from a woman. Whether the answer is Yes or No.

    I was a bit confused by ‘Baby can you breathe?’ in the context of ‘Baby can you breathe? I got this from Jamaica’ until I realised that, in context, it’s clear you were talking about a room full of marijuana smoke. This one does seem to have got you into trouble for the wrong reason, doesn’t it? Sorry about that.

    I don’t like women being referred to as ‘bitches’, in whatever context. Sorry, I can’t get past this one Robin, I don’t even like it in dirty talk. But I appreciate that substituting ‘girl’ is also a diminutive from a full-grown man such as you, and ‘woman’ doesn’t actually fit the line. Neither, of course, has the same ‘punch’ as you need at that point in the song to give it a climactic moment. So I’m not sure what to suggest instead, and of course, this whole ‘bitch’ thing isn’t something you in particular made up. But, I really think there ought to be some alternatives – perhaps you can think of some others please Robin? And tell your colleagues too. Cheers.

    Lastly, I would really have liked it if you’d been perhaps a bit clearer in discussions about the meaning of the song, and especially I think it would be great if you confirmed for us that you do mean that when a man talks this bluntly to a woman, he should appreciate and expect honesty from her in return, so that the only sort of response to ‘I know you want it’ that he would even consider moving forward with is something like ‘Yes, I want you too.’

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    Janey Burton likes to have constructive conversations with loads of people, so come and chat @JRFBurton. She also enjoys constructively criticising authors, publishers and agents as a Publishing Consultant, offering Editorial, Marketing and Contracts services at www.janeyburton.com.


  6. Give It 2 U – an open letter to Robin Thicke

    October 2, 2013 by Betsy Powell

    Image from gowherehiphop.com

    Image from gowherehiphop.com

    Oh, Robin Thicke, you clever clever man. You’ve done it again. Once again I am bowled over by your lyrical tenderness and perspicacity.

    First off, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, thank you so much for saving us all three extra letters to write when we reference the title of your poetic genius – Give It 2 U. I, for one, find it very tiresome every time some pedantic spelling Nazis insists on using the full words ‘to’ and ‘you’. Geez; what killjoys!

    Next up, you’ve got a gift for me, you say? How delightful. A ‘big kiss’? Riiiight. Thanks. A ‘hit’? Hopefully not a physical one there, Robin. Lols. A ‘big dick’? Now you’re talking. I can’t wait for you to give me that big dick. Oooh, and a whip too? And your balls are hard as well? You charmer.

    And now you want to make everything I fantasise about come true? Do you know how much a lifetime’s supply of chocolate costs? Do you? I’m not sure you’ve thought this one through; run a budget past your accountant and then we’ll talk.

    Now what’s this? You want to put cheese on my face? Hmmmm. Melted? Because that might hurt, Robin. Although I am partial to some squidgy brie.

    It’s great that you hang out with such talented people as well; like that nice Kendrick Lamar, who lends his dulcet tones to your latest ditty, but, here’s the thing, I’m not sure I want to sit on his face as he so kindly requests, nor do I want his dick. And wowsers, I’m not comfortable being his cotton candy if he wants a ‘fistful’, but least his heart is in the right place though as he promises he won’t ejaculate inside me because he’s learned his lesson; bless.

    To be honest, Robin, I think you’re on to a winner here, pet. You’re speaking from the heart and your outpourings of deep emotional love are both riveting and highly erotic. I can’t wait for you to give it to me. No, really. Go on, get that big dick up there… Did I mention I always carry around an abnormal large pair of gardening shears?

     

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    Betsy is a writer, bookworm, and editor of Excelle magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

     


  7. Cheating – the taboo

    September 16, 2013 by Jo

     

    Image from www.jerkmagazine.net

    Image from www.jerkmagazine.net

    We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Something bad. Something naughty. Something that people will judge us for. Something forbidden. Something sinful. And no, I’m not talking about making a whole batch of cupcakes and eating them all in one afternoon. I’m talking unforgiveable. Stealing. Lying. To friends, to family, to partners. Making up stories. Sneaking around. Cheating.

    Up until the very public break-up of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, cheating women were an underground movement. Women who break up marriages will be pariahs eternally (as men who leave their wives will be scumbags) but it wasn’t until then that we had a Balengiaga-wearing young A-lister to hold up as our idol. She apologised, heartfelt and filled with anguish, and it seemed to work, and then it didn’t.

    When reading the below piece about Elle’s ‘controversial’ memoir piece in their October issue, titled (on the newsstand cover) ‘Should You Have An Affair?’ the piece had the opposite effect that I think the reader intended. I was intrigued. A truly good publication will push boundaries – laugh if you want, but Vogue’s decision to run a story entitled ‘Poo: the last taboo’ several years ago was both bold and essential, getting us talking, or thinking, on a topic that we’ve been trying to repress. In the same way, ELLE’s piece was taking on a subject that no-one wants to talk about, that everyone wants to ignore. By calling it out, ELLE was making headlines, being ‘sensationalist’…and covering a part of day-to-day life often ignored – the world’s dirty little secret – that needs to be discussed as much as any other topic. I was hooked.

    Disappointingly, the article itself is relatively mild; instead of being a sordid tale of married infidelity from the point of view of a bored wife or frustrated husband, it’s from the point of view of ‘the other woman’. So far, so routine. People were hurt, hearts were broken, life went on.

    You don’t need to be told cheating is bad. We know it. Cosmo’s told us. All the sad photos of Kelly Brook have told us. But instead of sweeping it under the rug as ‘a bad thing’, praise be to ELLE for having the guts to offer a message for those who have. Who are under the rug.

    Because we’ve grown up beyond the black and white boxes of ‘bad’ and ‘good’. We’re better than that. We’re the gender that’s rationalised wearing dungarees as fashion items, that somehow managed to reclaim the apron as a feminist statement, that fights for equality, bears the children then gets back to business. If we can’t look a little closer at something that so many of us do, whether we like to admit it or not, preferring to mark it as ‘something not to talk about’, then we’re not as advanced as we think we are.

    Look at the woman next to you. Does she look like she’s cheated? Lied? Stolen? Made up stories? Got into trouble? No, of course she doesn’t. What does a cheater even look like? Do I look like one. I am one. I’ve cheated multiple times. Of course I’m not proud of it, but I’m glad that ELLE and others made it ok to talk about it. That Kristen did it, so that those of us who’ve done it can look at her going on to secure film roles and campaigns and see that the world didn’t end for her when she did something bad.

    Why did I do it? Why do nice people cheat? I did it because I felt trapped, trapped in a safe secure relationship well on its way to seriousness, and like a terrified child I ran to the furthest possible point, the most opposite possible man I could find to the one I left. Looking back, over the year or so after where I thought it would be a good idea to date someone ok with playing a part in breaking up a relationship, a year of ignored messages, cruel jokes and jibes, late night tearful phonecalls, texts from other girls, endless suspicion (on both our parts), screaming matches and the eventual, thankful breakdown, would I do it again? No. It exorcised the part of myself that was inclined to run and to cheat and has left me a ‘better’ person. Do I regret causing hurt to the man I cheated on? Of course. Do I regret the experience, what it taught me, and what I learned? No. At the end of the day, in everything, the only person you ever have to answer to is yourself. And my advice to you is this: if you’re going to cheat, only do it if you think you can live with yourself. Some days I was too ashamed to look in a mirror. Because I was made to feel ashamed for doing something society says is wrong to do. Cheating, in the eyes of society, is not shameful because you’re hurting someone. It’s shameful because we’ve been told it’s shameful.

    I’ll be a pariah if you like, something you sweep under the rug and ignore. You can mark me, and the woman in ELLE, and all the other women who write anonymous letters to Cosmo and the celebrities, as ‘bad’. As cheaters. But then you’re not really discussing the book, the book that exists whether you like it or not. You’re judging the book by the cover. And under the cover, we’re just like you. But we made a mistake, and we’re working on it.

    AWOT1.pngJo is a flame-haired social media lady, writer, and reader. You can find here on Twitter at @redheadfashion. She also has a blog.

     


  8. Team AWOT – help wanted!

    September 10, 2013 by Ashley

    Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 22.06.50

    Hello AWOT darlings,

    In a bid to make AWOT bigger and better, we’re recruiting a team of people to curate and edit the blog. We’re looking for writers, editors, tweeters, and generally awesome women to be part of a team that will take the site to new heights.

    Each member of Team AWOT will be given a profile on the website (linking to blogs and Twitter accounts etc) and you will have log in details for the Twitter account, as well as management rights on the AWOT blog.

    We need you to bring new blood to the blog and keep it fresh and updated. You will work independently and with the help of @peachesanscream (editor) and me (editor at large) to make AWOT even more amazing. The blog’s been a bit quiet lately so we need all hands on deck to get more people writing. I don’t have the capacity to be on Twitter all day any more, so I’m missing vital things we should be tweeting about – this is where you come in! We need people who are in touch with what’s going on and what people are talking about, and as you will have been given the sacred Twitter log in details, you will become one of the voices of our network of awesome women.

    If you’re interested, please email Ashley on teamawot@gmail.com with a bit of info about yourself and a line on why you want to be part of Team AWOT!

    Cheers,

    Ashley


  9. Three’s a crowd

    September 6, 2013 by Betsy Powell

    Image from http://mybreakuptomakeup.com/

    Image from http://mybreakuptomakeup.com/

    I was queuing up at my local shop today, clutching a bumper bag of plain flour, value sultanas and a small bottle of Navy Rum to one breast and the October issue of Elle resting upon the other, torn between baking banana bread when I should be working, or reading about the latest fashions when I should be working. It was a pleasant argument to mull over and I’d yet to come to a decision when I was called up to the counter and plonked my items down. As the cashier scanned away, I glanced at the coverlines on the glossy mag before scooting over the sultanas to get a better look. And there, just to the right of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s supremely model elbow in bold white caps, I read, “SHOULD YOU HAVE AN AFFAIR?”

    “Erm, well,” I thought to myself. “I suppose that’s a fair question. Wait. Hang on. What?”

    “Excuse me,” I said to the cashier. “Umm, I’ve actually decided to leave the magazine this time.”

    “Sorry?”

    “Erm, I won’t be buying Elle now.”

    “Fine,” she said, pushing it to one side without a blink. “Would you like a bag?” I walked the five minutes home and popped the sultanas in a medium-sized pan to boil with the rum and ruminated. Why exactly had I reacted so strongly to such a headline? Not doubt it was chosen by the sub-editors as a catchy line to do precisely what it had done. I’m an editor myself; I know the power of good coverline.

    To be fair to the article in question, as I didn’t buy the magazine, I still don’t know how it was going to play out. Perhaps the very well reasoned answer is, “No. No, you should definitely not have an affair. And here’s why…” But I’ve noticed an alarming trend recently that suggests otherwise. Only the other day I was streaming a programme on my laptop for a pop-up window to appear advertising a dating website that dealt exclusively with those looking for an affair, only rather than asking if I should have an affair, its chosen tagline was “Life’s too short; have an affair”. No questions asked here, ladies and gentlemen.

    Now might be a good time to clarify that I don’t see myself as being a prude and I don’t come from a family with divorced parents, however, I have been cheated on, twice, both times leading to a breakdown of my mental health (which, admittedly, says as much about me, the cheatee, as it does the cheater), and am currently watching one very close friend having to deal with the effects of her father having an affair and the resulting messy, blame-riddled divorce.

    Affairs aren’t fun; they aren’t lighthearted, at least, not in the long run. They destroy lives. I imagine for some people my attitude is terribly bourgeois, and naïve, especially in a world in which Fifty Shades of Grey is a bestseller. Surely I should be strapping on a gimp mask, hog-tying myself and awaiting the arrival of my dangerous lover; right? Compared to that, affairs are nothing; small fry; sooooo last year, and yet, here I am, getting my knickers in a twist when I had a lovely wasteful afternoon of baking planned.

    Perhaps it’s the very casual nature of the ‘new breed’ of affairs that disturbs me; you’re not doing this because you’ve fallen in love with someone else, more that an extramarital fling is now the norm, or worse, that it will somehow be healthy for your current relationship. And then there’s the connotation that if you’re not ok with that, if you’re not blasé about affairs in general, then somehow you’re doing something wrong, you’re not down with the kids; you’re *gasp* old-fashioned. Affairs are the new bondage, peeps. Oh yeah. Whatever.

    Let’s stop beating about the bush and say it: affairs aren’t cool. They’re not the new bondage; they’re not the new black; in fact, they’re not the new anything. They’ve been around since the dawn of time. There’s nothing casual about letting someone get happy with your goodies. There’s nothing positive about cheating on your partner.

    Remember getting caught for cheating at school? You’d be punished for that. Now extrapolate. This isn’t about being enlightened. This isn’t about equalising sexuality. This is about popular media and culture trying to create a new buzz topic to sell products. This about condoning morally poor behaviour. “Should you steal from your flatmate?” No. “Should you rape that pretty girl over there with the short dress on?” No. “Should you kill your annoying co-worker?” No. Simple, really.

    So Lorraine Candy (Editor of Elle and married to husband, James, for more than a decade, with several children), “Should you have an affair?” No. Affairs create victims, and let’s face it, three is always a crowd.

    AWOT1.pngBetsy is a writer, bookworm, and editor of Excelle magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

     


  10. AWOT on Saturday

    July 14, 2013 by Ashley

    Image from www.graylingjellystone.com

    Image from www.graylingjellystone.com

    Hello darlings,

    Ashley here! So there’s been a sliiiight change of plan. Due to insane schedules and whatnot, the bake sale plan for Saturday has fallen through. However we are STILL meeting up for anyone that fancies coming along.

    This AWOT gathering will be a picnic slash tea party in Regents Park, near the peddlo boat thingy whatsits. It’s also going to be boy friendly, so menfolk are more than welcome to come too.

    Bring a blanket, bring a bottle, and bring whatever food you fancy nomming. I will be baking something or other for the event and naturally I encourage all of you to do the same.

    I’m still hoping to do a bake sale but I think it will be later in the year.

    If you fancy coming along, we’ll meet at Regents Park tube and head over to the park at 12:30 on Saturday (20th). It’s very informal so do come a bit later if you like. At soon as we’ve sat down, I will tweet a screen shot of the map so you can find where we are.

    Hope to see some of you there! xx

     


  11. New editor announcement!

    June 21, 2013 by Ashley

    Dear beloved AWOT ladies,

    I have a very exciting announcement! @peachesanscream will be taking over as your editor here at teamawot.com and she will be running our Twitter feed, @AWOT_UK from now on.

    Yeah yeah, I suck at paint.

    Yeah yeah, I suck at paint.

    When I started AWOT in December 2011, it was just a cool idea where a bunch of cool women who knew each other from Twitter would hang out for an evening with gin and cake. I didn’t know it would become a community blog and I didn’t know we would end up with a readership that reaches into the thousands. I love AWOT so much, and it thrills and inspires me to see what it’s turned into.

    We have an amazing audience of smart, funny, thoughtful women (and men!) and unfortunately I just don’t have the time to do you guys justice. However, I know that @peachesanscream is the perfect lady to make this community even bigger and better. Besides, the woman is a social media wizard, a Twitter legend, and ABSOLUTELY EFFING HILARIOUS. She’s been a huge part of AWOT since the very beginning and I know you’re in very safe hands.

    I’m not going far though – I will stay on as editor at large, arranging the meet ups and tweeting from time to time. Speaking of which, we’ve got a bake sale / tea party on Saturday 20th July, and it would be amazing if you could come.

    With that, I will leave you with @peachesanscream!

    Love,

    @ashleyfryer 
    (founder of AWOT and editor at large)

    AWOT1.png

     


  12. Going for a song

    June 20, 2013 by The Kraken

    Image from news.softpedia.com

    Image from news.softpedia.com

    Dear Robin Thicke,

    (CCd to Pharrell and TI)

    Oh, Robin, you are a massively suppurating bowl of stool-water aren’t you? In fact I can now see where the name Thicke comes from. It’s not so much a moniker as a statement of your mental prowess, bless you and you underworked intellect.

    Now I’ve no doubt that you are chuffed to shit over the pop-picking hit you currently share with Pharrell and TI called Blurred Lines, or as it is called in our house Three Men Caterwauling As They Finger Their Own Foreskins. And I dare say that you’re almost (no, literally) creaming yourself over the accompanying video in which every woman is naked and letting her tits flap in the wind. It’s just that there’s a small problem with all of this, Robin, love. It’s that your video and song lyrics look like a rapist’s manifesto.

    Now you reckon that Blurred Lines is “throwaway fun” and that you and Pharrell have “a lot of respect for women”. You also claim that the tit-soup of a video isn’t sexist and that “If that’s sexism then so is everything inside the Louvre”. Jesus, Robin, Thicke really is the word of the day isn’t it?

    First, before I really start to kick the shit out of you, you need to know that you should never, ever compare yourself to anyone whose art hangs in the Louvre. See, that would be the equivalent of saying that if next door’s dog pissed into a test tube his efforts would be comparable with those of Stephen Hawking. They wouldn’t be and, artistically, neither are yours.

    Which brings me to your vomited lyrics. Now you reckon that you have respect for women. Problem is that your song doesn’t. In fact it has as much respect for women as an enraged Jim Davidson after hearing that his summer season slot has gone to a female comedian. You sing, “I know you want it” (as if you’re fucking telepathic), “I hate these blurred lines” (because for you “no” means “yes”), “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” (like the promise of raging constipation), “He don’t smack your ass and pull your hair for you” (well, I’d stab the bastard if he did) and “Baby, can you breathe?” (because a near death experience at the hands of a guy who refuses to stop is always a treat).

    Seriously, if that’s respect for women what in the fuck would you warble at a woman you didn’t like? I had no idea that the way to show a woman that you love her was by destroying her rectum and choking her with your knackersack. And there I was showing my female friends and relatives that I love them by buying them flowers. Next time I’ll nip into Soho for a ball-gag and a gallon drum of rohipnol.

    Oh, and before I sign off I have to also thank you for making the charts as accessible to kids as a sandpit loaded with fly-sprinkled cat turds. What I mean is that I’ll be buggered if my small daughter is going to get a whiff of the Top 40 after this. Now, Robin, I’m not suggesting that you write about fairies, monster trucks and Lego but I am suggesting that you get the hell away from the subject of rape. Really, at the age of five, my child does not need to be told that you’re going to screw her whether she likes it or not.

    Which means, Robin, that you can take your Blurred Lines and shove them up you own arse, hopefully tearing that in two as well. Oh, and you can treat Pharrell and TI to the same experience while you’re at it. No, you say? Well I don’t believe you. In the words of your own barf “I know you want it”.

    Lots of love

    The Kraken x

    The Kraken is a ‘furious and ranty ex-freelance journalist’. She has a wonderfully rage-filled blog, with the excellent title, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and you can find her on Twitter right here.