‘Self’ Category

  1. 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


  2. 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.

     


  3. 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.

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    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.


  4. 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.


  5. Feminism: A Subject I Approach With Trepidation

    January 16, 2013 by Jenni

    Copyright Paula Wright 2012 - image from dispatchesfromtheclaphamomnibus.blogspot.co.uk

    Copyright Paula Wright 2012 – image from dispatchesfromtheclaphamomnibus.blogspot.co.uk

    I am a feminist. Or at least I think I am, and therein lies the problem. I’m fairly new to the whole feminism thing, or at least new to calling the things I already thought anyway ‘feminist things’, and I’m still feeling my way through the whole thing. Here’s the thing though… it seems that there’s apparently a right way and a wrong way to be a feminist – to believe in the simple notion of equality for everyone because it appears there’s a lot of dissention amongst the ranks.

    I’ve got lots of feminist friends, I follow a lot of feminists on Twitter and they follow me, but I don’t really get into discussions about it with them, I’ve never blogged about it before and to be honest I try to avoid the subject. Why? Because there can be a lot of backlash if you’re the wrong type of feminist, it seems. There are certain names that are associated with feminism that a lot of people seem to hate for various reasons. There’s a lot of angry people in the world of Twitter who don’t like them and make it abundantly clear- “X calls herself a feminist? Well she can’t be because of these reasons…” sort of thing. And that’s fine, everyone’s entitled to an opinion on the matter.

    The thing is though, it makes it really hard for us baby feminists to find our feet because we don’t want to make a mistake, or worse, be the subject of Twitter hate ourselves because we said we liked the wrong person. “Oh… X is the subject of a lot of angry tweets saying she can’t be a feminist. Does that mean I’m not one because I quite liked that thing she wrote and her views made me think differently about feminism in the first place? Better not mention it.”

    That’s not how it should be. People shouldn’t be made to feel like they’re “doing feminism wrong” or worried that if they agree with a certain someone then they can’t be a real proper feminist. Everyone who identifies as a feminist should be encouraged to speak out, to make joyful noises on the subject of equality and get angry at people who want to pretend that it can’t/won’t/shouldn’t happen, not get angry at each other for saying the wrong thing and then being a bit of a nob about it. Yes people say stupid things sometimes and yes sometimes they make it worse by saying more stupid things and being a prick about the whole thing but at the end of the day that’s an opinion. Not everyone has the same one as everyone else on certain subjects.

    But please, let’s stop vilifying each other because we disagree slightly. At the end of the day if you’re a person who thinks that all other people regardless of any factors should be equal and recognised as such in society, then you’re a feminist in some way or another. Let’s stop trying to make people feel passionately about every subject, let’s stop making it feel awkward to like certain feminist figureheads, let’s stop scaring away people from using ‘the F-word’ and force them into hiding because they don’t want to do it wrong. We need to encourage each other to speak out, to talk to everyone we know about feminism/equality and why it’s important and to stop making it matter what sort of feminist you are, when all that really matters is that you are one.

    NB: Even after I wrote this and was submitting it to AWOT, I was feeling incredibly nervous as to how it would be received. I can only hope it goes better than I expect it to. *cowers*

    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 and you can find her on Twitter right here

     


  6. 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.

     


  7. All in the mind: thoughts on post-natal depression

    November 1, 2012 by The Kraken

    Screenshot of Mail Online, 31.10.12

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. I just had the misfortune of reading some of the mouth-breathing comments on the Daily Mail’s website following the report about Felicia Boots, the post-natally depressed mother who smothered her two small children as a result of her illness. As you’d expect from DM readers they lacked empathy and intelligence to the point of parody, which makes grim reading for me because, if these cheese-brained nose-pickers are any judge of character, then I am as wicked as they also believe Felicia Boots to be.

    See, after Kraken Junior was born I developed severe post-natal depression and I too had moments of peering into her cot and wondering what would happen if I just took that pillow and… Now I was ill. Very ill. It was suspected by my psychiatric nurse that my depression began when I was pregnant and then went supersonic after giving birth. By the time Kraken Junior was three weeks old I felt desperate and exhausted. When she was three months old I felt unable to cope and when she was six months old I was simply suicidal. All that got me through the 3am feeds was the promise to myself that once she was content and settled back in her cot I’d walk into the busy road outside my house and end it all. To me suicide wasn’t the problem. It was the solution.

    Of course, the rallying of family, friends, doctors, psychiatric units and even pharmaceutical companies all brought me back from the brink and helped me through what was a complete mental breakdown. It’s taken five years but I am on my way. What I haven’t left behind though is the complete and utter understanding of what it is like to be so engulfed by depression that even the unthinkable becomes doable.

    See, many people will look at Felicia Boots’ actions and judge them from the standpoint of people who have never had mental illness. They have never suffered depression, never seeing the brightest colours turn grey, never cried because they felt so desperate and never believed that the world, and their newborns, would be better off without them. They’ve never panicked because the tea or coffee question confused them, never become hysterical because even the sound of the rain is too much to endure and never grabbed the hand of a friend and whispered that they feel possessed.

    So how in the fuck can these same people judge Felicia Boots? They have no idea what it is like to look at their small child and believe that death can solve everything because they have never experienced the illness – not the lifestyle choice – that forces you to want to kill against your terrified will. It’s the laughable equivalent of squirrels understanding the Special Theory of Relativity.

    Yet even if people cannot understand Felicia Boots’ action, they can at least try having some empathy or sadness or thought for it, for a woman who was clearly so desperately in the grips of her mental illness that she killed her children. See, because while she physically smothered her babies it was her broken brain that really did the job, a brain stolen by an illness so terrible that it also stole the loving mother that she really was.

    So the next time we read of a story like this one – and there will be a next time – we should stop and think before waving those pitchforks. Yes, that even applies to Daily Mail readers. Because post-natal depression doesn’t discriminate or select its victims according to character type. It rampages through the minds of even the most devoted of mothers, mothers who, at times of crisis, need support – not this disgusting senselessness.


     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


  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. Five Myths about Feminists

    October 16, 2012 by Ashley

    Let me preface this by acknowledging that I am not an authority on the subject of feminism – but I am feminist, and these are my views on some of the big misconceptions that stand in the way of people’s understanding of feminism.

    Image from blogs.siuc.edu

    Is the F word a dirty word? When I asked my now boyfriend on our first date if he was a feminist, he said no, he was an ‘equalist’. But shouldn’t that be the same thing? Isn’t feminism, at its heart, about equality? I am still surprised when people, especially women, tell me that they don’t identify as feminists. So I’ve written down some thoughts on why that might be… Feel free to add your own in the comments, or feel free to disagree!

    1) Men and women are equal now – we don’t need feminists anymore

    Despite the fact that we have come along way since the fight for women’s suffrage, there is still a lot to do in order to realise full equality between men and women. For one thing, the pay gap in the UK has been around 25% since 2000 – that’s 12 years with no improvement. And at the moment, women make up just over 15% of board members.

    Looking at the disturbing idiocy of sites like unilad.com (this link goes to our posts related to unilad, not to the site itself), shows there is a lot to be done to get rid of misogyny and sexism. It is incredibly ignorant to assume that just because we have the vote and can drive in the western world, women and men are treated as equals. We still need feminism.

    If you have a spare 15 minutes, DO check out this amazing video of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivering the mother of all smackdowns to the leader of the opposition concerning his misogynistic and sexist hypocrisy.

    2) Feminists hate men

    This might be one of the biggest (and most disturbing?) misconceptions about feminists. Feminism at its most basic is about equality - not supremacy. Hating men would have absolutely no positive impact, as the only way we can achieve equality is through men and women working together. We need men to be on board with us if we are ever going to change things – so hating them will achieve absolutely nothing.

    Besides, I like men. They can be really fun and sometimes they make you eggy crumpets when you’re hungover. And my dad makes the best pavlova in the world.

    3) Feminists are militant fun sponges  

    “Feminists do not know how to have fun. Every conversation is an angry rant from an uptight woman who’s probably just in need of a good shag.” Yes – that is actually an argument someone used in front of me during a discussion about feminism. I almost had to laugh. In the same conversation he used the word ‘feminazi’ and ‘man hating’. Au contraire, mon frere. Most of my female friends are feminists and they are some of the funniest, coolest, kinkiest people you will ever meet. And boy, do they get laid. I’m absolutely, passionately, and resolutely feminist in my views, but I don’t bring it up in every single conversation and I don’t shout down people who don’t agree with me.

    Yes, some feminists are militant, but that’s a good thing. We need some of us to be the passionate ones, that march and scream and shout about it. But it’s also ok if you’re not that way inclined. No one wants to spend seven days a week angry. I like talking about feminism because I like to understand why people don’t identify as such (for me it is the default position – I am usually amazed that people don’t realise that it’s essentially about equal rights for women AND men). But I have never once yelled at someone for not agreeing with me.

    4) You cannot be a feminist and a housewife

    This is another popular myth – even among people who identify as feminists. Feminism is about equality, and part of equality is having the right to choose what you want to do. I believe as a modern woman that you have just as much right to choose to be a stay at home mum as you do to be a rocket scientist. Being a housewife used to be the default – it used to be the very symbol of female oppression. Well, I don’t think it is anymore. You should be able to choose what you do. See the movie Mona Lisa Smile for more on this.

    It annoys me when people suggest that baking cupcakes or wearing aprons or going to sewing classes is a step backwards for women. It’s not. It’s not symptomatic of a mass regression into the days where women were expected to be at home all day – if anything I think reclaiming such hobbies is a positive thing. If no one is standing over you demanding that you darn socks and put dinner on the table by six, I say sew on. The current fashion for twee is harmless – it is not the first sign of the apocalypse, and it is not damaging to the feminist cause. You can absolutely enjoy knitting and baking while simultaneously campaigning for equality. To suggest cupcakes and feminism are mutually exclusive is to make women one dimensional. Equality should encompass the freedom to choose your hobbies.

    5) Feminists are all hairy-legged bra-burners

    Bra-burning has to be one of the most ridiculous myths. Bras are designed for support, not restriction. If you’re small-breasted, let your boobs fly free – but if you have rather larger breasts, bras are fairly essential for comfort. Besides, a quality bra is expensive – so bra-burning really isn’t a sustainable activity in this economy.

    And the phrase ‘hairy-legged feminists’ is one that just seems to roll off the tongue, like ‘chocolate chip cookie’. Shaving and waxing are 100% personal choices that generally do not have a much of a bearing on your views on equality. Some women don’t shave in order to make a point about beauty standards, others just prefer to be au naturale – but the thing to remember is that women that do shave/wax and women who wear make up etc are just as likely to be feminists than those who don’t. Shaving your legs, waxing your bikini line, and having a minor addiction to Lancome does not make you a bad feminist – it’s a personal choice. The bullshit argument that says women wear make up and shave to please men is nonsense. I do not get up in the morning and think, ‘I reckon the patriarchy will be pleased by my freshly waxed eyebrows today’. (Though if you are thinking that at 7am then you might want to have a word with yourself.) It’s none of your damn business if someone, feminist or not, decides to let nature keep them cosy or not. It’s about the freedom to do what you want and not prevent others from doing their own thing.

    ~

    So, what are your top myths about feminism?

    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. Oh, and her boyfriend now identifies as a feminist. Score.



  10. 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


  11. 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.


  12. Rape doesn’t just happen to other people

    August 23, 2012 by Anon

    Image from Slutwalk

    Last night, I stormed out of a dinner party in a rage with tears streaming down my face.  I was in a conversation with a male friend who I love who was trying to explain away Galloway’s comments on Assange.  At one point I ended up yelling and itemising the number of his female friends who have been sexually attacked.  Let me clarify here, I have not been raped.  But I have been assaulted with sex as a goal of the attacker and I have been sexually harassed more times than I can count.  Almost every woman I know has been at the receiving end of some sort of sexually motivated abuse.  A few weeks ago I was in a meeting when I got a text that one of my best friends had just been attacked on the tube, it was 4 pm.

    Two years ago, I was followed approached and grabbed on the tube, I resisted and asked other passengers for help, only to be  ignored when the attacker said I was his drunk girlfriend.  I only got away by diving in to another tube car as the door closed.  Both of us would have been victims of ‘legitimate’ stranger danger rape rather than that of our boyfriends or acquaintances.  In ways, that would have made it easier—as people are able to believe that the baddie in the bushes raped you rather than the neighbour you’ve known since you were ten or the guy you’ve been on a few dates with that you would have probably slept with anyway.  But both of us when recounting the stories repeatedly say what we were wearing… we explain that we were in no way encouraging it.  We justify our right to have been, god forbid, traveling unaccompanied on public transport.

    This isn’t meant to be a litany of woe is me and my friends.  Rape, sexual assault, assault with sexual undertones and violence underlying it is a constant threat.  Rape has been used as a weapon against women since the beginning of time.  It is used to tame, silence and demonstrate power over women regularly.  And currently in England and the US, two supposedly educated nations, it is headline news.  From Julian Assange to Todd Akin; what is rape rape?  What is legitimate rape?  Why don’t these women just roll over and open their legs, whether they are asleep or awake and let us get on with our manly business.

    These aren’t tears of sadness, they are tears of fury.  People wonder why rape is only reported a quarter of the time?  Because the cops and the people on the benches of so called justice are asking what they were wearing, they are silently asking if it is forcible, legitimate, real, actual, rape.  Or just a misunderstanding.  Or just a little bad sexual etiquette.  Something has to give, the fury and rage that is being expressed on twitter is just the tip of the iceberg.  Women need to come out in force and vote.  And the men that we love, the men that we share our stories of abuse with, the men that stand by us, need to vote too.  Galloway needs to be shamed out of politics.  Assange needs to be prosecuted for the rapes that he committed and Akin needs to resign.  And we need to stop electing Neanderthals that hold the belief that rape is anything other than a heinous act.

    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.