‘Body’ Category

  1. 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.


  2. Be Still My Bleeding Uterus

    April 5, 2013 by Charlotte Knight

    Image from exchange.nottingham.ac.uk

    Image from exchange.nottingham.ac.uk

    This month I am celebrating the sixth month anniversary of the last time that I had my period. My knickers have been blood free for a whole half a year and, exceptionally awkward paper cuts aside, I hope this continues for as long as possible. How did this miracle occur? The Mirena Coil. I love it so much, that sometimes when I think about it I wonder if this is how religious people feel about Jesus. It is, in no uncertain terms, my saviour.

    Like all moments of experiencing the divine, the path to period-free paradise was a rocky one. When it was first suggested that I might like to try a LARC (that’s Long Acting Reversible Contraception for those of you who have not had to dedicate so much brain space to such matters) I was very resistant. No one would be poking anything through my cervix, thank you very much. Moreover, I wanted to know what would happen if I reacted badly to the hormones involved. How long would it take for the effects to wear off? Would having it taken out hurt? When it comes to matters of the uterus, however, there are few alternatives other than to go down the hormone route.

    My trepidation aside, the fact of the matter was that my period had to be, if not stopped, then drastically altered. At the age of 18, I changed from having a manageable amount of bleeding with light cramping once a month to re-enacting the elevator scene from The Shining in my knickers for roughly two weeks out of every four. And the pain, oh my the pain. The only good thing that can be said about it is that it has given me a healthy stock of anecdotes that can be deployed to rid the area of annoying people who also happen to be very squeamish. Such as the one about the time I passed a clot that was bigger than my hand. Or the one about the time I had such bad stomach cramps that it full view of all my family (Happy Christmas!) I just went ahead and bit down into the back of an armchair. Or the one about the time I was on a trip up a really tall church tower and could not see on the way back down because the pain had so effectively blurred my vision.

    Between the ages of 18 and 21 my medical history contains five different Pills all with a lovely barrage of side effects, a prescription painkiller that  did nothing, two ultrasound exams, multiple blood tests and pelvic exams, appointments with GPs, nurses, family planning nurses, a consultant gynecologist, an OBGYN surgeon, one laparoscopy and one Mirena IUD device. I was tested for cysts, polyps, PCOS, a thyroid disorder, a clotting disorder and, finally, endometriosis. The cause of my problem was never found, the final word going to my surgeon who assured me that, “Some people just have pain”.

    Mirena in place, I then had a rampant post-surgical infection and about a year of gradually lessening spotting to get to the current point. Oh, and at one point, the strings on my IUD went missing, leading to more ultrasounds to try and locate the thing and make sure that it wasn’t roaming freely around my abdominal cavity. At the time, it was all very stressful. I was studying for my undergraduate degree and just wanted a normal period again. One that let me function as a human being and had minimal impact on both my health and my life. I was tired of feeling bloody and broken. I am incredibly fortunate that the Mirena has given me this.

    What it has also given me, however, is an alarming insight into the rhetoric around the category known as ‘women’s health’. Women are often encouraged, as women, to talk to each other more openly about our health and our bodies. The need to de-stigmatise them is often cited, along with raising awareness for what is normal and what is not.  At the same time, the category of ‘women’s health’ can shut conversation down. It’s just a period. It’s normal. You just need to wait a while. It just happens sometimes.

    Women’s health exists in a state of rhetorical suspense. We can keep talking about it, but no action is to be taken. Moreover, as ailments of the ovaries are treated more often than not by hormonal contraceptives, there is the sense that this is distinct from other types of medicine. It’s a lifestyle choice. The fact that they frequently come with a whole host of side effects (which in itself is a whole separate headache) can also be downplayed compared to those of other medications. When I was given antibiotics for my infection, I was told in no uncertain terms to call my Dr should certain side effects occur. When I was given the Pill, I was told that I should just wait and see if the side effects would settle down.

    We should of course feel that we can talk about our health and our bodies. Even about those socially unacceptable periods. Part of the reason for writing this is to do just that. But discussion has to be the first step and not the end goal. We need to push to get to the point where we can talk and our listened to, where our questions are answered and our concerns taken seriously and we are not told that these things just happen and perhaps we should just wait and see how it turns out. Writing about my Mirena signposted to me a lot of other issues that I could go on about. The fact that hormonal contraceptives are often presented as the only option. The many problems of finding a Pill that suits you. Women not realising that they have options about controlling their menstruation. The list goes on. Central to all of them is the fact that we not only need to talk more about our health and or bodies, but act on this too, whether it be individually pushing a GP for answers or improving education. Sometimes I get quite angry that if women’s health was treated in a much more proactive fashion, I could have had even longer without a period. And imagine just how many blood stained pants that would have saved.

    AWOT1.png

    Charlotte is post grad, feminist, and gin swigger. She’s currently studying for an MA in Medieval Literature. You can find her blog here, and she’s on Twitter at @C_Knight16.


  3. What women want

    March 15, 2013 by SarahH

    Happy belated International Women’s Day folks. How was it for you? Did you spend your time getting warm fuzzy feelings from your feminist twitter feed? Did you sit and ponder how far the women’s movement has come… but how much work there is still to be done? Or, did you sit at home thanking God for your boyfriend who happily washes his own underpants and socks. Because according to a recent online dating survey it is in the area of love (I’m talking romantic hetero-normative here) in which the women’s movement had has it’s biggest successes, with romantic relationships still being the ultimate goal.

    The survey focuses on the distribution of domestic chores, illustrating just how much house work men are now willing to do and how shrinking numbers of women see their natural role in life as being wives and mothers. Er… Hello? Didn’t we know this already?

    In making a song and dance about traditional gender roles in relationships and how couples nowadays are happy to eschew them, this ‘research’ is a) stating the obvious b) alluding to the fact that if equality in the household has been secured, the work has been done, the goal has been achieved and c) subtly illustrating that on some level, to not prescribe to the traditional gender roles is a radical relationship to find yourself in. Obviously, this research has been conducted with a specific aim in mind (i.e. to get people to signup to their dating site) but still. The arguments and conclusions insinuated bug me for various reasons, some of which I’m going to share with you now. Are you sitting comfortably?

    Whatta man, whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man.

    Did you know that, according to this survey, only 11% of men think that it’s a woman’s natural role to be in the home? Did you realise that 84% of men would happily share cooking and household chores. Of course we did. It’s 2013- this is what we expect of everyone nowadays, male or female, right? Men don’t need a pat on the back for cleaning the loo once a week. I spent 6 years co-habiting with a man and on many occasions I was told (not by him) that I was lucky to have a boyfriend who cooked dinner 4 times a week and remembered to clean his poo marks out of the lav. I was to be thankful for the fact that he remembered to take out the recycling. Isn’t this type of distribution of domestic labour a given nowadays?

    Surveys like this do nothing but perpetuate the gendered binary which clearly defines certain chores as male and female. It suggests that if you have a man who is willing to take care of HIS OWN CHILDREN, you have an enlightened man, you are an incredibly lucky girl … better keep a hold of that one. Bullshit. You have man who is doing what he should do and he doesn’t deserve any extra praise for it. And, lemme tell you, you don’t have to sign up to a dating site to find one of these special men either… don’t waste your money… you’ll get nothing but cock shots (I’m speaking from experience here). Save your £30, better still go down the pub. I know plenty of websites where you can look at cocks FOR FREE

    The Power of Equality.

    If we’re led to believe that having a relationship which gives us the night off from cooking 3.5 times a week is the ultimate, where does this leave the wider issue? Does this lull us into thinking we have achieved equality? That it is in fact a woman’s world? I spoke with a friend of mine who is hesitant to call herself a Feminist because she believes her life is unaffected by the fact that she is female. Further probing revealed that she meant within the work place and she settled with calling herself ‘a part-time feminist’, but I don’t think this is an uncommon belief with regards to society as a whole. I know a few people, men and women, who do believe that we have equality. It is, in my opinion the biggest success of the patriarchy- that a large proportion of people don’t see there is a problem. Men and women alike are victims of this system but women more so. I thought I’d illustrate my point with a few titbits from my twitter feed in the last week:

    Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): An amazing article by @RosmundUrwin in the London Evening Standard on Friday 8th illustrated that ‘an estimated 66,000 women and girls in Britain have undergone FGM […] and that 30,000 girls are currently at risk’.*

    Take back the tube. On Friday 8th @elliecosgrove protested against sexual harassment on the tube after she was sexually assaulted and EJACULATED UPON by a random man.

    Violence Against women (@Vday) Did you know that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime? One in three.**

    Women and Politics. ‘ Nuff said.

    Photo courtesy of @countingwomenin

    Photo courtesy of @countingwomenin

    Do any of these things suggest we live in a society which treats women and men equally…?

    All you need is love.

    So, what is it that women really want? Equal pay? Autonomy over their own body? The freedom to walk down the street without hearing such lovely stuff as ‘tits!’ or ‘bend over love, you want summa this’? What about not being shamed and blamed when they are the victims of sexual assault? Pppff. No, no, no- all of this is irrelevant… once you have a nice boyfriend who, when he does the dishes, washes, dries AND PUTS THE POTS AWAY, you have made it, my dear. You need not look any further. Yeah right! Excuse me while… *head desk*.

    Everyone knows that you cannot get all of your happiness from one single relationship. Being in love and being loved does not make everything in life ok; in some cases love is not enough. And being a single person doesn’t make you any less worthy or make your life a total shit heap, either. I am 31, I’m single, I have been single on and off since I ended a 7 year relationship, 3 years ago . I am sick and tired of having to explain why I’m ‘still’ single (FYI: IT’S COS I’M PICKY, OKAY!). It is as if singledom has some sort of expiry date, a sort temporary ‘resting place’ in between your romantic relationships. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? I am equally as annoyed with people making assumptions about my reproductive choices based upon my single status. If I hear one more person say ‘Ooh, you’re 31. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Better get a move on old girl’ I will vomit all over my rather fetching leopard print Converse (I love these trainers. I will be SO SAD if them get covered in puke).

    Truth be told, I’m not sure if I want children, and if I were in a relationship I’d still be unsure. What I’m trying to illustrate is that my single UNLOVED (ahem) status has nothing to my reproductive choices, it is no measure of my worth as a young woman, nor does it make me a ‘failure’ even though, this is what society would like us to think. It’s ok to be single, in fact in some ways, I actually prefer it. I think more people of my age should try being single.… preferably the hot skinny indie boy who lives at the end of my street (mwahahahahahaha). But, seriously, how many people are trapped in crap relationships because we’re bombarded with a sort of social propaganda which puts coupledom on a pedestal and perpetuates the idea that to be single is to be defunct. I certainly know a few people in this situation and I bet you do too.

    If the ‘equal’ partnership in the form of monogamous romantic love with a man is the ultimate prize for women where does these leave gay and lesbian relationships? Or polyamorous relationships? Our friendships? Our relationship with ourself? Aren’t these relationships important too? To all of this I say a big fat YESSSSSSSS! Such research findings may have been fluffed up to appear progressive but really they’re not. All these surveys do is further the idea that the worth of women and men is to be found within the traditional structure of domesticity, albeit through a smug liberal lens.

    * London Evening Standard
    ** 2003 UNIFEM report entitled “Not A Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women,” 2008, the UNITE To End Violence Against Women Campaign.

    Sarah (@sazbottle) is a grass roots feminist campaigner and is involved with groups including @femactioncam and @armpits4august. Sarah writes for various online magazines/blogs and is partial to a bit of blogging in her own right (obviously all her posts are her own views, and not necessarily the views of organisations she works for, or anything like that, for all you legal eagles out there). By day, Sarah works for an NGO which targets corporate malpractice and illegal marketing strategies. Sarah likes history, yoga, raspberry leaf tea, and loud music.


  4. Sexual Harassment on the Tube

    March 6, 2013 by Hannah

    Image from guardian.co.uk

    Image from guardian.co.uk

    Sexual harassment has been front and centre in the media – apart from, of course, the Queen’s digestive system – in recent days. It’s happening on our doorsteps, in the workplace, on the public transport we all take every day to get between those two places. It’s not restricted to meek women, or bolshy women, or women who seem to flirt with the very way they put their coat on. The whistles, the gropes, the shouts have been highlighted. It’s not a matter that’s restricted to women at all – some male columnists have also stepped forward to say it’s time that their half of the species sorts it out.

    By some horrible coincidence, the week all these women I admire were speaking out about the leers, the shouts, and the touches they’re forced to endure on a daily basis was the same week I learnt the true meaning of objectification, and with it felt a little bit of my innocence drop away.

    Of course, it’s behaviour that I’d heard about before, online or in the news. I was familiar with how disgusted the subjects of catcalls from idle builders would be when they’re just trying to nip to the shops for a pint of milk. But it hadn’t happened to me, either in the small city I grew up in or the larger city I went to university in. And I didn’t think it would.

    Although not a justification in any way, I could see some sort of sense in men who don’t exercise self-control verbally lusting over my friends, like an extension of the nightclub leers of well-liquored young men, but in daylight, and arguably more creepily.

    I, on the other hand – and I say this not in self-deprecation but as a matter of fact – am decidedly plain, and a few stone overweight. I dress, most days – including the day concerned – in black tights with flat shoes and a work-appropriate skirt, topped with a high-neckline jumper or shirt, covered by a fairly long, woollen coat. I am not alluring, deliberately or otherwise. I believed – naively, ridiculously – that, as if some kind of silver lining to my appearance, it’d save me from having those experiences. I thought objectification was something that only happened to conventionally attractive people.

    Until, in the jostling to squeeze onto an already-full tube carriage last week, I felt a hand on my buttock. Not a dulled touch through the layers provided by coat and skirt, but so close to my skin, through only tights and underwear. I swiftly swept my hand down behind me, knocking the hand of a short, tubby, old man away, and giving the skirt and coat he’d pulled up a firm yank downwards.

    As the train pulled out of the station, he stood firm behind me, pressed hard against my back as if he was trying to make our body shapes fit together like jigsaw pieces. As I tried to wriggle away, using every half inch of space I could find around me, nothing changed. He was still there, unapologetically pressed against me.

    I’d recognised the man at the platform, as someone who had previously been uncomfortably close to me, an incident I brushed off as one of the pitfalls of commuting. This time, again, I wondered if it was an accident. But no matter how awkward the morning commute can be, I can’t help but feel like if you’d somehow accidentally lifted someone’s skirt and coat and touched them inappropriately, you’d say sorry. Emphatically and many times.  The man behind me said nothing, and for 3 stops continued push up against me, as nausea rose inside me and I scanned the carriage for an escape route every second of the journey.

    Like so many people, I said nothing. My instinct wasn’t to speak out, it was merely to get away. It’s an act which is easier said than done, on a train where you can barely breathe, let alone move to the other end of a carriage.

    Although in comparison to some others’ experiences, mine was very, very minor, I was surprised by how I thought about it afterwards. It wasn’t flirting. It wasn’t a compliment. It didn’t feel like a matter of lust, as I’d assumed. It didn’t feel like, I, my appearance, had anything to do with it. It was an objectification that didn’t feel related to the kind you see in magazines filled with women wearing skimpy bikinis, or less. The assumption that my appearance would “save” me was naïve and ridiculous because what had just occurred had nothing to do with my appearance. It didn’t even have anything to do with any part of me. I was reduced to less than my composite parts, barely even a woman, just a thing. I couldn’t shrug it off any more, and it made me sick to my stomach.

    But what’s truly, horrifyingly shocking is the backlash from anonymous online commenters on every single article calling out people who commit sexual harassment, so many of which seem to be men who don’t see anything wrong this behaviour. Reading the comments on an article, written by a man, which appeared in the Telegraph and speaks out about the harassment women experience on a daily basis is the intellectual equivalent of rubbing your face across the business end of a rusty rake – you pick up all sorts of shit that just makes you feel ill.

    And what it makes clear is that this isn’t really a matter of a few dodgy builders. Expecting dirty old men to refrain from putting their hands up my skirt doesn’t make me a “princess”, and doesn’t mean I’m a prude who can’t handle a bit of flirting. It’s not a matter of “well, it’s evolution, it’s human nature, we can’t help it”, because the vast majority of the men I stand close to on the tube manage to rein it in. Speaking to friends, it became clear that London is a hotspot for sexual harassment, but if it was an unavoidable part of being male, there wouldn’t be hotspots. It is not the natural order of things.

    A part of my loss of innocence was when I realised what objectification meant in the real world.

    But what’s just as tragic is this. As a nation, we’re so quick to criticise other cultures in which women aren’t deemed to be entitled to an education or allowed to drive. We’re better than that, we think. Liberated. But it’s 2013 and women are still scared to walk home alone at night. We can’t go to work without being treated as a plaything. We still feel the need to deliberately wear our scruffiest clothes in an effort to avoid being shouted at by strangers. We are made less than human every day.

    And we will not stay silent any longer.

    Hannah writes a most wonderful food blog called The Littlest Bakehouse, which I recommend checking out immediately. You can also find her on Twitter.


  5. Smear tests – what to expect

    January 24, 2013 by Ashley

    Image from netdoctor.co.uk

    Image from netdoctor.co.uk

    ‘Smear.’ It has to be one of the least exotic words in the world. I don’t know why they can’t call it something a bit less… grim. Perhaps they could remarket it as a cervical MOT ? Or, given that the actual action of a smear is twizzling a little brush (as opposed to smearing something), we could rename it the Twizzle.

    Alas, I digress. I imagine all adult women are aware of smears, and know vaguely what they do. To sum up, a smear is a little test of the cells around your cervix, which is done to screen for abnormal cells. 1 in 20 smears will come back with something unusual, but that’s not something to worry about. Most of the time, such results will not lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. However, in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be treated to prevent them becoming cancerous.

    Nearly 3,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. I don’t need to remind you of Jade Goody, who died of cervical cancer aged just 27. Cervical cancer is most common in women aged 30-39. Smear tests can catch the signs of cancer early, enabling you to get treatment as soon as possible. They could be the difference between life and death.

    I was chatting to a couple of friends about smear tests the other day and both confessed they had been putting them off – partly because they were scared, and partly because they were embarrassed. So, in order to dispel myths and encourage you to go, I shall walk you through the smear test I had last week.

    I rocked up at the GP, feeling slightly nervous. My GP is absolutely lovely and she sat me down and explained that she would be using a speculum – an instrument inserted into the vagina to hold it open and give a good view of the cervix – and then a small brush to take the sample. I lay down on the bed, legs akimbo (I believe some GPs use stirrups but mine didn’t), and she gently inserted the speculum. It’s not particularly comfortable, but it’s not painful. She then opened the speculum up a bit to get a decent view. I made a joke about getting a poster of Ryan Gosling for the ceiling. Then she took the brush, and gently turned it 360° in my cervix. It was a bit of a strange sensation, but again – not painful. Two minutes later, it was all over. Speculum was taken out, I hauled my knickers back on, and away I went.

    Easy peasy, no fuss, no muss. Not scary, not painful, not embarrassing, and not remotely traumatising. I was in and out within 10 minutes. A week later I got a text telling me that my results were all clear. 

    So to address the things that my friends were concerned about: firstly, fear. It’s not scary, I promise. The doctors and health professionals that do smear tests know what they’re doing. It doesn’t hurt at all, and it’s over in five minutes. For those of my friends that were embarrassed, let me remind you that the people doing this chose it for a career – therefore they have seen a thousand vaginas before you, and will see a thousand vaginas after you. Yes, our vaginas are personal spaces, but they are also part of our anatomy that needs routine maintenance or checks. Think of it clinically - your GP will be. It’s not something anyone does for a hobby (unless, you know, you’re into that) but if you can grit your teeth and be brave for 5 minutes, it could save your life.

    Cervical smears are done every three years for women aged 25-49, though some areas do start screening earlier than that. If you’re 25 then you should have received a notice about coming for your first smear. It you’re younger and you’re concerned, speak to your GP. They may well be able to book you in for one.

    I urge you, ladies, to go get a smear. You may not enjoy it, but you won’t regret it.

    For more info, have a look on the NHS website

    Ashley is the editor of teamawot.com. As well as working as a press officer, she runs a little food blog, called Peach Trees and Bumblebees. She’s also on Twitter.


  6. Abortion: Don’t be afraid to say it

    November 22, 2012 by SarahH

    PRO-CHOICE. Potential trigger warning,

    Image credit: BPAS

    For those who do not follow the pro-choice movement, the events of last week proved to be a bit of a shocker. And, rightly so. For those of us who do follow the pro-choice movement, Savita’s story is not such an anomaly. The biggest, most distinguishing factor about this tragedy is that this happened in Ireland, in a ‘developed country’, our neighbours, incredibly close to home. As one of my closest friends (who is Irish) said to me in an email earlier this week ‘I’m in shock and utter rage about what’s happened in Ireland. This is my country, it’s the first world and this happens?’

    Abortion is a subject which warrants a dialogue and engagement not avoidance. Abortion is a social issue and abortion is a feminist issue. Acknowledgment, understanding, and awareness of abortion is vital if we are to break down the negative labeling associated with it. When it comes to personal experiences of abortion, why is it that women only disclose this information to their nearest and dearest and most trusted? Why is it that, in 2012, women do not feel confident enough to stand up and admit to being a woman who has had an abortion? My answer to this would be because of an unwarranted, widespread, and insidious judgment powered by silence, by shaming, by avoidance, and ignorance. Contrary to what the heavy regulations and controversy surrounding abortion suggest, it is a not scarcely performed medical procedure: in 2009, 21% of UK conceptions ended in abortion, yet women still feel the need to be silent about their experiences for fear of being judged or tarnished with a label which is not, and should never be, applicable to them. There are so many myths and negative connotations surrounding abortion that, for many women, speaking out about it is a daunting and frightening prospect.

    So, here’s a bit of myth busting:

    1. Abortion is faced by married women, by single women, by mothers with children, by women in long-term relationships. Statistics show that approximately one in three women in the UK will have an abortion in her lifetime. ONE IN THREE.

    2. Abortions occur at all reproduction life stages: 9% of abortions are for girls under 18; 41% ages 18-24; 36% ages 25-34; and 14% age 35+.

    4. Abortion is very safe in Britain. It is one of the most commonly performed gynaecological procedures.

    4. Internationally, each year, 20 million abortions take place in unsafe, unhygienic, and downright grotty conditions. Because of this an estimated 80,000 women die.

    (stats taken from www.dh.gov.uk and www.statistics.gov.uk)

    Why is this still a taboo subject? Why is this still something which society teaches us to be ashamed of or be made guilty for doing? Why is this still an issue which is subject to restrictive, and down right shaming, legislation which makes women jumps through hoops, stand on their heads, and do a tap-dance?

    At present, British abortion legislation is based on the Abortion Act (1967) and the Section 37 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990). In Britain, abortion is not legally available at the request of the woman. The ultimate decision resides with not one but two GPs. This gets even more scary when you take into account that 10% of British GPs consider themselves to be actively anti- abortion and have or would refuse to grant a woman an abortion because of this. The situation for our sisters in Northern Ireland is positively medieval: British abortion laws are not applicable in Northern Ireland, therefore women do not have access to safe legal abortion.

    So, what are the repercussions of this? What does this really mean? In Britain, it means that women are side-lined and marginalized. It means women have little choice and no voice. It means that women are subjects not citizens. Furthermore, for women in Northern Ireland, it means trauma and emotional distress brought about by having to surreptitiously seek an illegal abortion.  It means serious complications and health repercussions caused by back street abortion methods.  It means death. How can we expect abortion to break free from social stigma if the people who seek it are treated as though they are criminals, offered up to and bound by the decisions of others.

    Where is the autonomy in this? As far as I can see, there is none. It is a humiliating and paternalistic attitude, perpetuated by a government who so cleverly appointed an anti-abortion health minister (a man, no less!) who wants to reduce the upper limit to 12 weeks. A bizarre move given that only 8% of abortions are carried out over the 12 week period anyway. Who exactly is being protected here? Not the women facing abortion, that’s for sure. These attitudes need to stop.

    Abortion is not a dirty word.
    Abortion is not a crime.
    Abortion is not something to be ashamed of.
    Abortion should not be an ‘issue’ which is pushed under the proverbial carpet and only discussed/ acknowledged at time of crisis (i.e. now)
    Abortion is a real and tangible factor of everyday life.

    Abortion. Don’t be afraid to say it.

    One in three women in the UK will have an abortion in her lifetime. One in three. Look around you….
    For honest, reliable, and unbiased information or advice see:

    Education for Choice: http://www.efc.org.uk/
    British Pregnancy advice http://www.bpas.org/bpaswoman
    Abortion Rights http://www.abortionrights.org.uk
    Abortion Help (Marie Stopes) http://www.abortion-help.co.uk/

    (Please Note: “LIFE” and “Crisis” centres are religiously motivated abortion advice centres. Please be aware that the information they offer may not be unbiased.)

    Sarah (@sazbottle) is a grass roots feminist campaigner and is involved with groups including @femactioncam and @armpits4august. Sarah writes for various online magazines/blogs and is partial to a bit of blogging in her own right (obviously all her posts are her own views, and not necessarily the views of organisations she works for, or anything like that, for all you legal eagles out there). By day, Sarah works for an NGO  which targets corporate malpractice and illegal marketing strategies. Sarah likes history, yoga, raspberry leaf tea, and loud music.


  7. Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

    November 16, 2012 by Jenni

    Image from sheknows.com.au

    It’s been a while since I last got any action in the bedroom department and I am definitely starting to feel like I’m missing out. I worked out recently that this is the longest period of time I’ve gone without since I lost my virginity aged 16 and a bit (about 5 and a bit years ago) due to two extremely long term relationships which have stretched over the last 6 years or so. I’ve been single for 7 months now and my heart seems to have gotten over that whole being broken thing quite nicely and has let me start functioning again as an actual human.

    My brain, meanwhile, seems to be living out its own little romantic fiction novel, especially whenever I see a particularly attractive gentleman. (I actually had this thought the other day when a guy dropped his keys in front of me: “Ooh, bend down and pick them up so you can have a romantic moment when your hands meet above them.” It was followed swiftly by the thought “Shut up brain, you wally.”). My vagina though seems to be having a little party of its own. I must be the horniest person in the world at the moment, anything and everything seems to set me off – I feel a bit like a teenage boy who’s just discovered the internet. And while me-parties (‘a party just for one’… alright I might have just made the Muppets Movie horrible there. I’m not sorry.) are fun and all, it’s just really not the same.

    It’s not just the release of orgasm that I’m missing though, it’s the whole sharing the physical intimacy with another person-allowing yourself to be that vulnerable in front of someone and feeling completely comfortable with it is a big part of what makes sex an enjoyable thing for me. I love that sensation of being completely contented with each other and with yourself so that you just lie there naked together and no-one feels compelled to put any clothes on at all, sometimes for days.

    And here’s the thing – I think I’m fairly good at relationship sex. The sex where you know exactly what each other wants and no longer need to tell each other where to put what bit and what to do with it when it’s there, but you just do it automatically, hitting all their buttons because you know what they like and they know what you like. That’s all fine and dandy.

    It’s the thought of getting down and dirty with an unknown person that kinda scares the pants off me a little. It’s the getting naked in front of someone for the first time, knowing they’ll see every little part of you and can never go back to not seeing that. It’s the awkward moments of not quite working in synch with each other and potentially ending up generally sweaty and unsatisfied at the end. It’s the reaction to the first fanny fart (Always an awkward moment. I reckon if they laugh about it with you then you’re all good to carry on!). It’s the fear of telling someone your slightly weirder, less vanilla quirks and having them react by scarpering faster than you can blink, or worse, going all 50 Shades of Grey on you. I’ve never had to tell someone how to get me going before because my previous boyfriends just kinda figured it out, but I would have no idea where to start that conversation. It’s a whole minefield of potentially awkward moments and horrible embarrassment just waiting there for me to put my foot into it. Maybe literally.

    And when exactly do you tell someone you’re a bit of a novice and somewhat nervous about the whole thing? On a first date, casually over dinner, “Oh by the way, I’ve only ever slept with two people before but I’m a keen student and a quick learner.” *over-exaggerated wink*

    I think I might just show my next potential lover this blog post and tell him this is all the things I’m worried about, just so he knows, and hope he doesn’t run for the hills. That’s definitely not weird right?

    I guess when the time comes around to it I’ll just have to jump in with both feet at the deep end (I need to stop making weird feet-sex analogies and over using parentheses) like everyone else does. But fuck me, it’s a scary prospect. No, really; it’s been a while.

    Jenni (@circlethinker) is a science geek, a theatre aficionado (both on and off the stage), and a big fan of socks. She’s in her early twenties and recently finished up a Biomedical Science degree at Sheffield. Jenni has a lovely blog over here (where this post first appeared) and you can find her on Twitter right here.

     


  8. A personal account of abortion

    October 18, 2012 by Anon

    This is an anonymous post detailing a personal account of an abortion at 21 weeks. It is a bit longer than our usual posts, I am sure you can understand why I wanted it to remain as written. Many thanks to our anonymous author for sharing her story – it’s so important to hear from people who have actual experience of the stuff that gets bandied about in politics. This piece offers a very personal perspective, which may offer some food for thought in the context of Jeremy Hunt’s desire to reduce the termination limit to 12 weeks. 

    ~

    Test

    I looked in my purse – I couldn’t really afford it. I sighed because pregnancy tests are horrifically expensive. I gave my brother and sister everything I had, and they sauntered into Tesco (I was too embarrassed to go myself). It wasn’t a big moment. It was a joke, almost – something different to do that Saturday afternoon. None of us thought it would end up coming to anything, least of all me. I was more annoyed about the money that anything else.

    I’d finally been pushed to do it after I’d had a shower that morning. I’d felt bloated for weeks, but because I’d done a pregnancy test a few months before – about two months after my last period – and it was negative, I thought it must be a food allergy or something. Fruit squash, was my bright idea. Apparently the sweeteners in the sugar-free ones can cause digestive reactions in some people.

    Anyway, whilst looking at my bloated stomach for the twentieth time in as many days that morning, I noticed that my belly button was sticking out more that it used to. It was the first time I’d noticed it; it wasn’t a complete ‘outie’ but it was definitely more visible than usual. So when I started moaning again about what on earth was going on with my body, my siblings persuaded me to get a test so that I could rule that theory out (again) and then go to the doctor to figure out what it really was.

    I’d had other symptoms of course which, when I look back, all blatantly pointed to the first trimester of a pregnancy. I’d suddenly had really oily skin, but I thought this and my periods stopping was to do with the stress regarding my break-up with a boyfriend and residual angst from my parents’ separation. I had felt some unusual nausea when I was on a holiday in India two months previously, but I’d reasoned this was because of the local food and water, and the antihistamines I was taking. It’s easy for people to say ‘You must have known’, but it’s not that simple. One negative test was all it took to become blind to (and make excuses for) a million other signs. That and the fact that the only instance of unprotected sex I’d had in the last six months (a horrific event I was barely aware of) was hastily followed by the morning after pill.

    As we pulled back in our driveway after buying a twin pack for £14 (all they had, which annoyed me even more) we encountered my dad packing up the car to go off for the weekend. ‘Don’t leave yet,’ I joked, ‘I could be pregnant, in which case you won’t be able to go!’ He rolled his eyes at me.

    I practically skipped to the toilet, so unassuming was I. I read the instructions and carried them out. Because I was so sure it would be negative, it had turned into a kind of game. It was quite exciting really.

    I put the lid on and wiped it with a tissue. I threw a cursory glance at the stick.

    The word ‘Pregnant’ stared back at me. Barely twenty seconds had passed. I frowned, looked at it again (thank god I hadn’t got one of the one line/two line/crossed line ones, it really had to be spelled out to me). I didn’t understand, that was way too fast – the instructions said wait two and half minutes?

    I walked quickly out of the bathroom and into the kitchen where my sister sat swinging her legs, sitting on the Aga. She looked at my face. I thrust the stick into her hands. She continued to look at my face and dismissed my expression, shaking her head. ‘Very funny’, she said. She looked down. I waited for her to read it.

    ‘It said that after seconds,’ I stressed. ‘That can’t be right, can it?? It’s supposed to be two and a half minutes. It was seconds!!!’ I was beginning to panic now.

    My sister finally looked up. Whatever she felt personally was overruled by her maternal soothing instinct (which we’d all developed on overdrive since my mum’s departure). ‘Don’t worry, it’s probably just wrong,’ she said tentatively. ‘It shouldn’t have given you an answer so quickly, should it? It’s wrong. Just do the other one.’

    ‘I can’t be pregnant, this is crazy…’ I felt a little sick.

    ‘You’re not! You’re definitely not. Just do the other test; that’ll be negative.’

    Shaking, I walked back to the toilet. She advised me to do it the alternative way the instructions described (by peeing into a cup and dipping the stick in, if you must know). I did as I was told. I put the cap on and walked, still in a daze, back to the kitchen.

    My sister had gone outside to speak to Dad who had been about to leave. Together they walked in the front door. He clearly didn’t believe what he’d been told. Yeah, sure, his face said. Either they’re having me on or they’re incapable of reading the instructions on one of these things. She showed him the original stick. His face became drained of colour.

    ‘Oh, shit,’ he said.

    ‘Don’t worry,’ my sister interrupted, ‘she’s doing the other one and that will be negative. This one gave her the result way too quickly.’ She sounded confident now.

    The remaining test burnt my hand as it clenched around it. I was afraid to look at it. About a minute, maybe a minute and a half, had passed.

    I looked at it.

    ‘Oh god.’ I started crying. ‘I can’t be pregnant, I can’t be pregnant, I can’t be pregnant…’ I said over and over again. My sister took the test from my hand. I sank to the floor, staring at nothing. ‘I did a pregnancy test. I did a pregnancy test!! Months ago. It was negative! I can’t be pregnant. I ALWAYS use condoms!’ Now I was shouting.

    It was true.

    My mind went into hyper-drive, scanning a history of my recent sexual episodes in intimate flash-backs. There had been the incident in December, but I’d got the morning after pill in plenty of time. Yes I’d had the odd occasion here and there since where there had been brief penetration before a condom was resentfully but dutifully sourced – doesn’t everyone?? But while we’ve all heard the scare-stories about ‘pre-come’, but who actually thought it was a real threat? I have friends who have used the pull-out method for years, with no scares at all. Could that really be what got me pregnant?!

    If I was pregnant, there was one thing that I immediately knew – I’d been pregnant a while. The symptoms, which I’d tried to blame on everything under the sun, had started before Christmas. It was March. I had to be damn close to the legal abortion limit, I thought. Oh god, was it too late?

    And there was also one thing I definitely did not know – whose baby it was. Since there was no notable occasion to pinpoint, and since my ex-boyfriend and recent sexual partner had overlapped, it was a toss-up. I didn’t know whether this was a good or a bad thing.

    Scan

    At some point there was a phone conversation with Marie Stopes abortion clinic. I don’t really remember it, except that I knew I had to make the call to go private, and quickly, because of how far along I knew I must be. I told them this, which meant that I was booked in for a scan in days, rather than weeks. I found out on Saturday; the scan was booked for Tuesday.

    I went to London for it, with my sister and my dad. I’d booked the whole week off work by this point. I don’t even remember what excuse was made. It’s the one time my dad’s helped me pull a sickie; he rang them for me. I didn’t trust myself to speak to them.

    The whole day was pretty surreal – I felt like we were playing parts in a play. A warning play to others. I told Dad he shouldn’t come to the clinic, thinking it might make other women and girls in the there uncomfortable. So he waited for us in a nearby café. He was really nervous but trying not to show it. He didn’t know what to hope for aloud I don’t think. None of us did I guess. It’s a difficult thing to say ‘Good luck, hope you’re within the legal limit to get an abortion!’ So he just hugged me hard.

    We headed over early as I was partly afraid I wouldn’t find it and partly afraid we’d have to fight our way through protesters. I really didn’t know what to think. When we arrived we were directed into a little room. It was exactly as I imagined – everyone was very hush hush; everything was white; there were quite a few young girls there with their mothers. I felt bad being there when I was at an age where I was clearly able to care for a child. We sat down; my sister held my hand. I tried to look anywhere but at the other girls. We all sat there for a while, trying to pretend we didn’t know what everyone else was all doing there.

    Then suddenly a new pair came in – a very young oriental girl and her tiny but much older mother. The mother had a number of bulging Sainsbury’s plastic bags. She bustled in quite loudly whilst the girl followed quietly behind and sat down. The mother continued to bustle for a while, until she ripped off a big piece off a baguette sticking out of one of the bags, and proceeded to eat it noisily.

    I thought this was rather insensitive since some of the girls there would have most likely been nil by mouth for the morning, but she surpassed herself the next minute by pulling out a steaming bag of hot chicken. The smell filled the room! She took out a wing and started gnawing at it. Her daughter looked at her reproachfully, and she sharply defended herself by shouting: ‘What? I hungry!’

    (Why she spoke in broken English to her daughter who presumably spoke Chinese I don’t know.)

    This made my sister and I burst out laughing, and we spent the next few minutes until I was called sitting there with barely controlled grins on our faces, which was quite unexpected but split the tension in two. So I really need to thank that woman.

    When we got upstairs, however, nothing seemed funny any more. The only thing I could hear was the question ‘Less than 24 weeks or more than 24 weeks?’ going round and round my head like a broken record. In a few minutes I was going to find out whether my world was about to seriously change forever. I’m ashamed to say that at this point I was only worried about myself: my life. Not the one that I was praying I would be able to end.

    We went into a little room. They asked if I wanted my sister to come in with me; I was adamant that she must. I was starting to shake. It was too overwhelming. The nurse asked me some questions, I don’t remember what. She did a prick test on my finger to test my blood type. She was a nice gentle lady – quite old and small. She knew I thought I was close to the legal limit for termination. It was probably in the file, but I also must have mentioned it eight times in 10 minutes. She explained that if the scan implied I was close she would need to call a second physician in, as legally two of them need to agree and sign off that it was within 24 weeks in such circumstances.

    She asked me to lie down on the bed. Gurney, whatever. She asked me to pull my trousers and underwear down – I was surprised on how far down she needed them to be. Kind of like when you’re surprised by how low down a woman’s caesarean scar is. She squeezed some clear gel onto my stomach. I started crying – I had seen this happen a million times in films and TV this was not the scenario I imagined it happening to me for the first time.

    She started moving the wand from side to side, looking intently at the screen – which was luckily was by my head, so I couldn’t see it. My sister could, though. She was sitting at the foot of the bed, and I was watching her. She was looking at the screen; she clearly couldn’t help it. She squeezed my foot, hard – for her benefit as much as mine I suspect. I was really crying now; I couldn’t look at her face any more, sickened by trying to read what it was she could see whilst at the same time not wanting to know. I had an overwhelming urge to ask the nurse if she could tell if it was a boy or a girl. I don’t think I said it out loud.

    I lay back and put my hands over my eyes. I was shaking so much now the nurse had to ask me to calm down, Calm down dear, I can’t get a good reading.

    Finally she stopped. She said ‘I’m just going to get my colleague to have a look’. I knew that wasn’t good. She left the room. ‘Please’ I whispered aloud through tears. ‘Please, please, please, please.’ I’m not ready for this baby. Five days ago I hadn’t even been pregnant – now I might be past the legal limit for abortion? It can’t be, it can’t be. I had the self-awareness to feel guilty about my pleas but I meant them as much as I’ve ever meant anything.

    The nurse came back in with another more senior looking physician. They both looked at the screen. The nurse looked at her colleague. I looked at both of them. ‘Yes, you’re about 21 weeks,’ the new guy said. ‘Maybe a little over.’

    ‘So I can have it?’ I said, I didn’t want to say the word. ‘I can have an abortion?’

    ‘Yes.’

    I burst out crying again, out of guilt and relief. 

    Night before

    Because I was so close they booked me in to have the ‘procedure’ in the next few days. I had to be there early. So early, in fact, that I decided to go to my friend’s the night before, as she lived relatively close to the clinic. Also, if I’m honest, I hadn’t seen any friends since I found out I was pregnant and I kind of wanted to.

    That sounds weird; let me explain. After the test said positive I suddenly felt and, I thought, looked very pregnant. I was convinced people were wondering whether to offer me a seat on the tube, or scorning me for having a cigarette in the street. Or maybe I just wanted to look as pregnant as I suddenly felt? The feelings were quite overpowering. My centre of gravity seemed to change all of a sudden and I felt I needed to get out of chairs hips first. As I walked I held my arms around my belly, protectively. But mostly I felt fiercely maternal for the first time, a time when I was about to do the least maternal thing imaginable.

    These were possibly reasonable thoughts and feelings considering my hormones– I was five months gone after all, more than halfway through a full term – but because I had gone until the week before not having a clue, and because of what I was about to do, I felt like a fraud feeling physically and mentally pregnant all of a sudden. I certainly didn’t think I deserved to have these feelings which seemed so precious and private.

    All I knew was that they were feelings I wasn’t ready to lose as quickly as the baby I knew I couldn’t have. I hadn’t fully processed what was going on yet, but I thought that if I saw a friend before I had the abortion, someone other than family who could later say ‘Yes, she was definitely pregnant’, then it would be a way of helping me process them later. I sensed that in the future I’d need to have proof it was real, as it was sure to seem like a dream after the reality of it would only last 4 days and nights. I wanted to make sure I had some tangible connection to it later. I find it difficult to explain why.

    My sister and I got the tube to my friends’ the night before. Poor thing hadn’t a clue what to do or say, or what food to get, or whether it was an occasion for booze or not. I had wanted to go the 24 hours before ‘clean’ – to somehow give something good to this piece of me that I was betraying so badly – but I couldn’t even manage that. I smoked and drank, just as I had done for the past five months, selfishly and desperately.

    It was only a matter of time before polite questions of how I was feeling turned into a morbid curiosity. I would have been exactly the same. My friend and sister, who hadn’t dared be so personal thus far, watched as I pulled up my top to reveal my swollen stomach, half scared, half – dare I say it – proud. They placed their hands on it. They were incredulous. ‘I can’t believe none of us noticed,’ they said. It seemed huge.

    ‘Procedure’

    They wanted the money as soon as we got there. Incredibly, we hadn’t thought about this part. I had nothing, so my sister paid, which added to the surrealism. She paid with her student fees money which wasn’t due to be paid for another few days. My dad would pay her back, it was arranged. That made me feel quite sick. I couldn’t even pay for this awful thing I was doing. It was £1,600.

    Another waiting room, another group of young girls. We weren’t allowed to eat anything, so I thought the smell of toast wafting through the window from the staff kitchen was quite insensitive. There was some rubbish morning television show on. I prayed some tacky coverage of abortion hadn’t been scheduled.

    Eventually I got called through. Considering we were told to get there about 7am, I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time I was called in after 10am. It turned out it was because they’d lost my blood work. After being shown upstairs (and given a sheet to wrap round myself – I hadn’t been told I should bring my own nightie in) I waited another hour while they did some more and had it read.

    After spending no small amount of time trying to figure out how to lie in my kind of hammock chair daintily, trying not to disturb the other girls who were lying down staring at the walls, I was eventually led through to what looked exactly like a hospital room. That’s when I realised where the money goes – there were about six nurses led by a doctor. I don’t need all these people, I thought. The doctor wasn’t very friendly; gentle but firm I guess you might say. Not sure what I expected. He told me to lie down and put my legs in the stirrups. He told me that he was going to insert a pessary, and that when he did that I would experience ‘some discomfort’. He said that I would then go back to my hammock chair where I would wait for a few hours until the pessary had done it’s work and my womb had contracted, and then I’d come back in for the ‘procedure’ where the ‘contents’ would be disposed of. I felt sick at his use of words, and then guilty for being such a hypocrite.

    ‘Some discomfort’ turned out to be the closest thing I hope I ever come to what I imagine being sexually assaulted feels like. He unceremoniously stuffed a plastic speculum inside me, followed by what felt like his entire fist, and jammed around until he seemed satisfied. I choked back tears – I refused to allow myself the luxury of crying. He left the room. One of the nurses was obviously aware of my reaction. She soothingly placed her hand on my arm and said ‘That’s the worst of it, later you won’t be conscious. We’ll just take you in to sit down and relax now.’ She put me in a wheelchair – my legs didn’t seem to work very well – but I pulled myself together enough to insist quite strongly that I not be taken in to the other room before I composed myself. I didn’t want to scare the other girls by letting them see me so upset.

    I lay down on my strange chair, much less concerned now about how I might manage it with grace. The nurse told me I’d be there for between three and five hours, depending on how long it took for me to become contracted enough for them to finish. Contracted, I thought? I’m going to have contractions?? I hadn’t been prepared for that. She gave me a heat pad and told me that I would be given some ibuprofen if I needed it. I didn’t really understand what she might mean.

    It’s hard to explain the next few hours – they passed in a blur. At times, the pain became so unbearable I didn’t know what to do with myself. It came and went in waves, as I presume contractions do. At one point one of my closest friends rang. I didn’t know if I was allowed to but I answered. Unfortunately at that moment I was suffering particularly badly, and I didn’t seem to be able to get any words out. My friend immediately went into panic mode – I don’t think she expected me to be consciously going through so much pain, either – and within the next 10 minutes I received phone calls from the three other girls. Each had had a worried phone call from the last. I felt incredibly touched at their concern, but was physically quite incapable of reassuring them in any way.

    Eventually – after what seemed like days – I was wheelchaired back into the hospital room. They gave me a general anaesthetic. They asked me if I had any questions – I asked where they put the baby after they’d taken it out. They looked at me like I’d just emitted a bad smell. It was a distasteful question, I realise, but I had to know. The ‘contents’ were disposed of safely, they said. Then everything started to fade out, and the last thing I can remember saying is ‘Please don’t hurt her…’

    When I came to, I felt almost euphoric. General anaesthetic has that affect on me, I now know. I felt like I was floating on a cloud. When I got back into the room, they gave me a biscuit and a cup of tea. I was told I could collect myself for 30 minutes. I looked around the room, wistfully. It was quite late in the day by that point, and there were only a few girls left. ‘I think we’ve all done really well,’ I said in my fuzzy, disconnected state. They smiled weakly at me. I have no idea what I expected.

    When the time came I slowly made my way outside to where my sisters and mum were waiting in a car. Mum had insisted on picking me up, saying I wouldn’t be able to get the tube. I had had no idea what she meant, but now it was only too clear. I could barely walk, and certainly couldn’t bend in any way. The pain is hard to explain. It was like my whole body was centred around this very potent but dulled ache in the centre of my body. I was also still druggy from the anaesthetic.

    I was also, of course, incredibly grateful to see their faces. I hadn’t realised quite how lonely and distressing the last six or seven hours had been until I was in their bosom.

    They had clearly spent a long few hours pottering around, not sure how to prepare to see me, or what, if anything, to get me. In the end they gave me a pulse and lavender filled bear, which you warm in the microwave and then hold against ‘aches and pains’. Even now the smell reminds me.

    Today

    I don’t regret what I did – I wasn’t ready, I had no idea who the father was, and I had so abused my body with drink and drugs during those five months due to emotional distresses of the time that I can’t imagine the child would have been healthy. It would not have been the best start in life. When I compare how I looked after myself then with the rare glasses of red wine, multiple pregnancy vitamins, and soft cheese bans that wilfully pregnant women around me endure today, I feel physically sick.

    But can’t quite let it go either. I can’t count the number of times since that I’ve Googled ‘foetus at 21 weeks’. It’s kind of like when you unwittingly find evidence of betrayal, and you find yourself looking at it over and over again. You purposefully put yourself through the pain as you develop something of an unhealthy fascination. These periods comes in ebbs and flows, perhaps triggered by some mention of abortion by friends or the news, perhaps not.

    Maybe it’s because I was so far along that my body has experienced how strong the hormones can get – maybe it’s because I had to make the decision so quickly – maybe it’s because I’m self-indulgent – but every pregnancy of those close to me since has been that much more interesting to me. I find myself looking at those who are at a similar term and yelling to myself, ‘How could you not have noticed??’ But that, along with exactly how and when I became pregnant, why that first pregnancy test failed, and who the father was, will remain things I will never know the answer to. Sometimes I imagine the afterlife as being sat in a room while someone gives you the answer to every one of those mysteries that have built up in your life. I guess that’s something I’ll find out.

    If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, please email anonawot@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for the anon account log in details. Thank you.

     


  9. Three’s A Crowd

    September 28, 2012 by The Kraken

    Image from http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dominic-mohan-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

    You know what? I’m still thinking about tits. Even though I’ve splashed my bile over the whole Kate Middleton debacle I still have baps on the brain. God knows why because I’ve had my very own pair for the last 41 years. Then again, it’s precisely because I have funbags of my own that I am obsessing over the subject. That and the No More Page Three campaign that’s making me want to lob burning tyres into any given newsagents.

    What is with The Sun’s page three? I’m comforted by the fact that thousands of other people have spluttered the same question as they signed the campaign petition, yet I get the raging vapours when I realise that right now, in 21st Century Britain, I can actually show my four year old daughter pictures of tits in a national newspaper. A newspaper. Not a wank mag. Not an anatomy text book. A newspaper.

    I just don’t get it, the whole notion of checking a paper for the news, a crossword or TV listsings just to be confronted by the norks of Chantelle from Chelmsford. In fact it makes me sick up into the back of my throat. The whole thing leaves me so bewildered that I swear to fuck someone’s been feeding me rohipnol. Quite possibly the type of someone who leers over page three in the first place.

    And as much as this offends me as a woman it sends my rage into space when I view it as the mother of a little girl. There I am showing four year old Kraken Junior that she’s strong, determined, intelligent, inventive and capable of changing the world while page three shows her that her value lies solely in the tits that she hasn’t even grown yet. What a delightful start to any little girl’s life. And there I was fretting over her wanting to be a princess. What I should be worrying about is whether she one day compares herself to these laughable examples of femininity and starts slashing at her own body with a knife just to relief herself of her thundering lack of belief and self-esteem. I’ll send the bill for her psychiatric treatment to editor Dominic Mohan shall I?

    Yet even if I never expected better of The Sun, you’d have thought that it would expect better of its own readers. You see, even though the paper thinks of itself as a rag that stands up for the common man it’s happy to piss all over the other half of the population. It’s also happy for the common man to one day see his own daughter gurning back at him from page three. What a lovely thought for all of those page three supporters, that one day their daughter may get her kit off and submissively stare out of a newspaper while some stranger gets a stiffy and splashes his spooge all over her picture before balling up the sodden page and chucking it into the bin. How’s that for respect for women? But then again I really don’t expect page three supporters to think that far ahead in the first place. Not when there’s a quick woody to hand.

    More than that, is this really what a newspaper wants to look like in modern Britain? Opening The Sun to page three is like setting a flux capacitor to 88 mph and finding yourself back in a workingmen’s club in 1971. It’s such a dated notion from such a dated age that you’d think that any decent editor would back off faster than David Cameron from a benefits claimant. So exactly what is The Sun trying to achieve by clinging onto it? Perhaps it’s actively trying to die out which it will when the last leering, 70′s-stuck, daughterless reader finally kicks the bucket and takes the entire paper’s readership with him.

    Which is why the NMPT campaign isn’t just women defending women. It’s also about women defending the daughters and wives and grandaughters and nieces of any given tit-ogler, although it’s a big shame that we’re having to do this for them. If you fancy being generous, though, you can sign the petition here or you can tweet or you can nip over to Facebook. Go on. Even if your day’s been a bastard here’s your chance to turn it around.


     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


  10. Slutwalk: thoughts from the founder

    September 24, 2012 by mhd_bass

    Heather

    “I think we’re beating around the bush here. I’ve been told I shouldn’t say this, but if women don’t want to be victimised, they should stop dressing like sluts.”

    When he spoke these words at a student safety workshop, Constable Michael Sanguinetti of the Toronto Police had no idea what he had started. Outraged at the police force’s attitude toward rape victims, Heather Jarvis organised Toronto SlutWalk, a protest that would go on to inspire a global anti-rape movement.

    On the day of London’s second annual SlutWalk, Heather, a 26 year old PhD student at the University of Guelph, looks back on last year’s protest.

    I read the story in a student newspaper article online and I wanted to march down to Toronto police headquarters right away. When my friends started telling me that, actually, that was a good idea, I thought – why shouldn’t I?

    I mentioned the idea of a march to a colleague and he said: “What are you going to call it? A slut walk?”

    Perfect. That police officer was not the first to throw this degrading word at rape survivors, and I wanted to throw it right back.

    We gave ourselves just six weeks to organise some kind of rally before people lost interest.

     I remember watching the numbers climb on the Facebook event. I couldn’t believe it when it we reached 200 attendees, then 500 and then past 1,000. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if a hundred people attended?” I said to Sonia, my co-founder. I had no idea more than 4,000 would turn up.

    When the day came, the weather was on our side. It was early April but I still got sunburnt. About a dozen of us gathered in a public square in Toronto and watched as streams and streams of people started arriving.

    There were all kinds of groups carrying different banners – some serious, some playful. One woman dressed as a cop carried a sign saying: “To uniform fetishists, cops look like sluts.”

    I shuddered as I watched women in odd, outdated outfits carrying signs saying: “This is what I was wearing when I was raped. Tell me I asked for it.”

    Other women had decided: “I’m going to wear my highest heels and my fishnets and my underwear and I’m going to show my bra, because it doesn’t matter what I wear. When I was assaulted by my partner I was wearing pyjamas.”

    There were so many people we shut down an entire street in front of the police headquarters. I got up onto a raised sidewalk to give my speech and I was looking out onto thousands of crying, cheering faces. Not for the first time that day, I found myself on the verge of tears.

    I was assaulted several times when I was younger and I never dealt with it. I didn’t tell anyone; I just closed myself off and tried to forget. I had lots of serious blame and shame problems which were hard to get away from. I don’t even think I’m done yet. I still need to keep telling myself: “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

    I never intended it but through SlutWalk I was able to start dealing with my own assault history. Now anyone anywhere in the world can Google my name and find out that I was sexually assaulted, which is weird but a huge step for me. Even though I know better, I sometimes still blame myself for my assault but SlutWalk has helped me to start healing.

    As told to Maria Hannah Bass

    Hannah is the online intern for @pulsetoday and co-editor of @wannabehacks. She writes about health, relationships, culture and feminism. You can find her on Twitter at @mhd_bass or on you can find more about her on her website


  11. No More Page 3: been there, signed it, got the t-shirt

    September 18, 2012 by laurenbravo

    Image fromaristos.org

    It’s a pretty good rule of thumb, when wanting to test the sense of any life situation, to ask yourself: how would I explain this to a child? If you can’t communicate the logic of something in simple terms a kid can grasp, there’s a good chance it might be completely ridiculous. Extra light mayonnaise, for instance. Or why they let the contestants on Four in a Bed decide each other’s scores.

    Now, I’d like you to think about how you would explain the existence of Page 3 to a child who has never encountered it before. Go on – have the imaginary conversation in your head. I’ll wait.

    Tricky, isn’t it? Because when you stop to think about it, Page 3 is like an embarrassing old curtain pelmet from the 70s that everyone has somehow forgotten to take down. I like to think that when it finally ceases to be, just like smoking in restaurants, it’ll seem oddly incredible that it was ever A Thing in the first place.

    The explain-it-to-a-child reason is just one of many being currently given by people signing the No More Page 3 petition on change.org. At the time of writing, it has over 17,000 signatures. It gained 6,000 just today. The campaign, an open letter to The Sun’s editor Dominic Mohan, was started by writer Lucy Anne Holmes when she noticed, flicking through its coverage of the Paralympics, that despite page after page of awesome achievements, the biggest image of a woman in the whole paper was still the semi-naked one.

    “George Alagiah doesn’t say, ‘And now let’s look at Courtney, 21, from Warrington’s bare breasts,’ in the middle of the 6 O’ Clock News, does he?” reasons Holmes. The petition isn’t about restricting the freedom of the press. It’s not about condemning glamour models, or the people who like to look at them. It’s simply about asking, nicely, that they be taken out of the newspaper – because in case we weren’t all clear on this, boobs aren’t news.

    Whether The Sun reports ‘news’ at all is a whole other debate, of course. But to write it off as an archaic, ignorant rag is to blithely ignore the influence it still has on a massive chunk of the population – not to mention anyone who ‘accidentally’ reads it on the bus. Page 3 is so entrenched a part of the mainstream media that loads of readers don’t even stop to question it. If we can’t change the whole paper, we can at least try to change this.

    And while it’s heartening how strong and swift the response to Lucy’s campaign has been, it’s also been fist-gnawingly infuriating how many idiots still think “you’re just jealous” is an adequate comeback.

    One argument commonly touted is empowerment. Or that the women who pose on Page 3 are actually exploiting the punters, as a sort of penance for being so easily pleased by a casual flash of mammary. Maybe they are. But rather than debate the endless intricacies of the power struggle, I want to ask: why does anyone have to exploit anyone? Can’t we just, y’know, take a break from all the exploiting for a while? If two wrongs don’t make a right, surely two exploitations don’t make a real advancement for either gender.

    “It’s just a bit of fun,” is another classic. Of course! Fun! Like a naughty seaside postcard! Where’s the harm? The harm is in yet another generation of humans growing up to believe a woman’s worth is measured by how good she looks in her scanties. The harm is in giving these women fake ‘novelty’ opinions, to remind us that, obviously, you can’t be sexy AND interested in the fiscal crisis. The harm is in objectification being sold like a jolly joke over our morning cereal, to people who either can’t or don’t want to recognise it. There’s the harm. LOOK, I’m pointing at it, like a less amusing Where’s Wally.

    Besides, isn’t it frankly insulting for a paper to think you only want to read the news if there’s a pair of bouncy breasts on the opposite page, like the proverbial spoonful of sugar, to take the taste away? If you want fun, folks, there are plenty of other places to find it. Go to a funfair. Have an ice cream. Or if you want, look at a publication that’s specially designed to have naked people in it. There are several out there, I’ve heard.

    Then let Courtney, 21 from Warrington, put her jumper back on, so we never have to explain to a confused child why she’s there.

    Lauren Bravo (yes that is her real name) is a professional funnylady for the Worthing Herald, and a top notch foodiewoman for Channel 4 Food. Check out her blog or follow the magical lady on Twitter. Or, come along to AWOT gatherings and nom her Oreo truffles – you will be transported to a magical truffly-orgasm land, promise.


  12. Which Time Is Sexytime?

    September 11, 2012 by J9London

    Image from http://finditmore.info/

    Two things happened this week that made me go “argh!” The first was a friend of mine, male, intelligent, young, mentioning that old, Mad Men style classic, men are biologically designed to be promiscuous and women aren’t. The second was this article, which argues against the concept that women will be happier in relationships if they hold off on the sexing.

    Now, the first one is obvious. Kind of. We have spent the last lots of years and much yelling to claim the right to have sex when and with whom we want to. How many more times to we have to holla before the bros believe us? Sex is great, obviously, we’re allowed to think so too, we’re allowed to be open about it. But the flip side is, we still have the right to  hold off, if that is what we want. Do men?

    I’m the sort of person to wait. It’s involuntary. It takes me a long time to want to get all canoodling features with someone, and I like that about myself. But I don’t think I’m like that because I’m a woman, and I don’t think that my friend isn’t like that because he’s a man. We’re just different people.

    As to the second, it has a point: the idea of waiting is always related to girls. Boys are expected to want to get around. Girls are expected to keep the milk so someone’ll be forced into taking the whole cow. Or something. It’s a skewing of expectation that’s been around forever, and it seems natural because it’s been around forever. I think it’s worth considering that for most of that forever, women weren’t having sex at their own discretion because men were in charge, and they didn’t want us to.

    But no one should feel like they’re supposed to have a lot of sex with a lot of different people, either it’s because they’re a MAN and MEN need to spread their SEED, or because they’re a WOMAN and WOMEN are just as good as MEN and must PROVE IT. If you’re only interested in being that intimate with one person ever, go for it. Wanting to wait until you’ve known someone for a few months before you shag them rotten isn’t abnormal and it’s not reserved for the prudish and repressed.

    I don’t care what used to be the norm. I don’t care what studies are done. I know what I want, who I want, how I want it. It’s not fashionable, but then I’ve never been fashionable. And I’m ok with that.

    Janina is addicted to dark chocolate and peppermint tea. She once made a burger so good she has a picture of the occasion on her bedroom wall. You can find out more about her at myrednotebook.com and follow her on twitter at @J9London.