1. Utilising Our Vaginas To Change the World

    June 3, 2013 by Laura

    Painting from Georgia O'Keefe's 'Flower of Life' series. Image from wikipaintings.org

    Painting from Georgia O’Keefe’s ‘Flower of Life’ series. Image from wikipaintings.org

    We have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to every vagina in Uganda that’s had her clitoris lobbed off in the name of tradition. For every vagina in China that gets left on a roadside to die as a baby because she isn’t a boy. To every vagina in India that gets raped with an iron rod for riding the bus after dusk, to every hijab-wearing vagina in Saudi Arabia that is forbidden to drive a car, and every vagina in the world that has ever experienced being told no because she isn’t male.

    The way we change the world for every vagina out there starts with our jobs. We need more women in power.

    The battle isn’t won. There are still more men than women in the top spots of almost every profession. The further up the career ladder we look, the fewer ladies are playing the game. This often- not always, but sometimes, which is often enough- means two things: one, we see it’s near impossible to do, so don’t try. Two, when we do try it’s at the cost of other women because one female boss is rare enough. More than that is mythical. Well- at least outside of the major cities anyway.

    Both choices come from mentalities engineered by the rich old white men who recognise the radical potential we have to upset their comfortable status quo of owning the ways we make money, and who know that should we shrug off the shackles of their surprisingly methodical career oppression and demand a presence in their boardrooms we’d make stuff really difficult for them.

    I know a bunch of women who see what it takes to be considered leaders in their field, to secure the chief position- long hours normally at the sacrifice of a life, in-house politics, gender stereotypes to dispel daily- and so decide to opt-out, choosing instead to build an existence that doesn’t begin and end with the office. That includes me.

    For the women who do play the game, we’re fed a myth that “success” is finite, like a cheesecake, and so we can’t afford to truly help one another lest we lessen our piece of the pie. This ridiculousness is perpetuated by the rich old white men who hold the key to the bank, who treat the workplace like The Hunger Games- at my first internship I was pitched against another young writer, told on the first day of work that there was only the one opening at the company and so may the best woman win. Teamwork was not encouraged.

    But, what the rich old white men don’t tell you is that if I light my candle from yours then the whole world is brighter. If everyone has their piece of “success” it doesn’t then mean that there is less “success” for everyone else.

    We’re making progress, but at the same time also continue to work in environments where a pregnant woman is asked not to give the client pitch, since their dedication to the account might be questioned. A workplace where Sally, not Simon, is asked to make the tea. Once, as the only female in an all-male company, I was pulled off my duties to help with the décor of the new office; obviously as a woman I’m genetically pre-disposed towards giving a shit what colour the walls are.

    In order to combat this everyday sexism, we need to stick together to alter the value system set for us by dudes who don’t know what it means to live now. Because here’s another thing: the men of our generation don’t want to play by the rules their grandfathers set either.

    As a culture, our principles are changing. “Success” in life isn’t the most money, biggest house, and fanciest holidays. For my generation success is less time at work, more time learning and travelling and just being. It’s turning a passion into a lifestyle that supports itself, not saving it for two days of every seven. The metrics we use to quantify “success” aren’t what they once were. I really believe that.

    As long as it’s these rich old white dudes running the companies at the very top levels and signing the paychecks, we’re all- male and female- going to be held to their standards. We operate in a form of modern-day slavery where we’re bound to our jobs because we need the house that is mortgaged by the bank our boss’s boss sits on the board of. It’s insane.

    Our choices- don’t bother to strive for the top jobs, or do so at the cost of other women- are derived to keep things as they always have been: the choice few in control of the rest of us who work for them. That’s made much easier when essentially 50% of the world’s population don’t have a voice. But. If women are as accountable as men in genuinely influential positions, and 100% of the population demands change, we all get heard.

    We need to support each other at work in the same way we support each other at cocktail hour, because we’re stronger as a team than we are divided. Together we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the men of our generation, the men who want to overthrow the outdated value set of their predecessors so that they can stay at home with their kids if they want, or not have to run the company to be respected in it, and their partners, of either gender, can go out to work in jobs they love and are truly valued in.

    We as women will then be free to work in positions of power and influence alongside men, equal in number, making not only the lives of us and our partners more fulfilling, but also making a real difference to the role women play across the globe. This isn’t only about us.

    There’s so much more to living than a job title, but we need to help each other fill those titles in order to change what they mean. And when we do that I reckon we’ll change the world.


    This post is an excerpt from Laura’s ebook I’m Fat (and Still Get Laid). Laura blogs about vagina, a surprising foray into spiritualism, and being brave every Monday and Thursday at Superlatively Rude. Also food: there’s a lot of fat bitch talk. All necessary stalking materials are found here. You can follow her on Twitter here.

  2. AWOT gathering – 30th May

    May 29, 2013 by Ashley

    AWOT ladies at Liberty Lounge!

    AWOT ladies at Liberty Lounge!

    What: social gathering slash party with (free!) cake and lots o’ gin for ladies of Twitter. It’s totally informal, everyone gets a name label, and it’s loads of fun. I’ve met many of my close female friends through AWOT and I make more of them every time we gather. This one is a women only event – sorry gents.

    When: Thursday 30th May, from 6pm

    Where: Liberty Lounge, 1A Bell Ln  City of London E1 7LA (a gorgeous wee underground bar close to Liverpool St – our usual haunt!)

    Why: AWOT started when I realised I was talking to dozens of awesome women on Twitter that I had never met in real life. So I got them as many of them as possible together in a room, with gin and cake. This is our fifth meet up. We have new people at every single one, so if you’ve never been, don’t be shy. We’re really rather lovely.

    What do I need to bring: if you’re a baker, you’re very very welcome to bring cake. We usually have a nice spread of tasty treats at our events, all provided by chefs from our talented group. No pressure though – you don’t have to bring anything at all if you don’t want to! Just yourself will do.

    Does it cost anything? No it’s freeeeeee! All you need to pay for is what you drink at the bar. And if you like cocktails, you will LOVE Liberty Lounge.

    Can I come? Yes, absolutely! Just sign up below, and see you tomorrow!

  3. AWOT gatherings announced!

    April 15, 2013 by Ashley


    The next AWOT gathering will be on Thursday 30th May from 6pm. I am hoping that we will be able to return to our usual haunt, Liberty Lounge (a 5 min walk from Liverpool St station) but will confirm that ASAP. If you haven’t been to an AWOT gathering before, don’t be shy – there are new people every time. Come along, have a gin, and meet your Twitter lady pals in real life. Easy. As usual, if you’re a baker please do feel free to bring some baked goods! We have had an amazing spread at every AWOT party so far so do please bring along your signature muffins/tarts/cakes/cookies/orgasmic oreo cream cheese truffles.

    I have created an AWOT mailing list so I can keep you guys in the loop for future gatherings and whathaveyou. You can sign up to that here. I promise I won’t send you emails about anything other than AWOT gatherings! If you signed up to an event in the past then I have added you to the list – if you’re not happy with that then email me and I will take you off the list immediately.

    To sign up to come along to our AWOT gathering on 30th May, click here, or register below.

    In addition to our weeknight gin-quoffing party, AWOT will also be hosting a bake sale in aid of Dreams Come True, a charity that grants wishes to terminally or seriously ill children and teenagers. The bake sale will be on Saturday 20th July during the day. The only thing we need (aside from your amazing baking skills) is A VENUE. So if you know somewhere central that would be happy to host a charity bake sale, please email me (Ashley) at teamawot@gmail.com. I’ve already tried Southbank Centre and they can’t host it as they are a charity themselves. We just need somewhere for a couple of hours that will get some decent foot traffic. I will be tweeting about our venue needs a LOT over the next few weeks so please retweet and hopefully we will find a spot.

    To sign up to come along to the bake sale on 20th July, click here or register below.

    Obviously a bake sale will only work if we have a lot of cakes and whatnot, so I am calling on our incredible circle of bakers to please please please take part and bring whatever you can along for us to flog for charity. It’s an incredibly good cause and it would be amazing if we could raise some real moolah.

    So, if anyone can help me find a venue for the bake sale PLEASE GET IN TOUCH! And to everyone coming along to the AWOT at the end of May – really looking forward to seeing you there!

    Ashley x
    (editor of teamawot.com)

  4. 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.


    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.

  5. 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.

  6. A teen’s take on feminism and why we need it RIGHT NOW

    March 8, 2013 by @NotRollergirl

    Sophia Valentine is a talented 17 year old writer. She has recently discovered the power of feminism after realising that female sexuality is often expressed and discussed in a highly sexist way. Here are her views on what it’s like to grow up in an overly sexualised society.

    Image from www.thecollegefix.com

    Image from www.thecollegefix.com

    As a teenage girl growing up in Britain in 2013, it can be nearly impossible to negotiate the issue of sex. Under constant pressure from the media, society and your peers, the mixed messages you receive can seem overwhelming.

    Recently, my mother announced that sexting was “shocking. [It’s] so detrimental, and children are being sexualised so young” And yet, to many teenagers, there is no line between texting and sexting. It’s simply becoming the norm. Most of my friends have experienced sexting in some form or another, and I’ve seen the persistence of teenage boys who want a “photo” – many of them are willing to nag incessantly until they get what they want, or try to guilt trip my friends. They don’t understand the meaning of the word “no.” Our parents are the generation who grew up with Playboy at the extreme end of the scale – now any child with a smartphone can watch pornography with relative ease. And what is the effect of this? Too often, porn is seen as creating over-expectant adolescent boys, who expect all women to be as willing for sex as the porn stars they see.

    John Bishop has joked about using porn to instruct his son, claiming he told him: “Actually son, they’re not usually that up for it.” But what about the effect of porn on women? Teenage girls see porn stars behaving in a certain way and feel they must mimic it. We are not objects, to be used and discarded. For me, the idea that a partner’s expectations of me are determined by pornography is ridiculous – real women have feelings and needs, they are not here simply to satisfy but also expect to BE satisfied. And what about when a woman doesn’t meet a man’s sexual expectations?

    Rape. The idea that someone will not respect my wishes is terrifying. The idea that someone would deliberately ignore my request to stop, especially in a situation as intimate as sex, is frightening. When I say no, I mean no: it is not a request, it is a command. It means stop. Being aware that almost 80 per cent of rape victims knew their attacker makes me fearful about future relationships. And where are these rapists and prospective rapists learning to behave this way? It can only be because they see women as objects, and they have been taught to prioritise their sexual urges over anything else.

    Which situation is “better”, in the eyes of society: sexual assault by an unknown attacker, or by a partner? Is either “better” at all? When I put the question to my friends, they agreed that often, sexual assault by a partner could be perceived as “worse”: each day you must face the person who hurt you, and something previously intimate is now threatening and negative. For me, while I recognise that rape by an unknown attacker may lead to mistrust of strangers, rape by a partner causes something far more severe – mistrust of the ones you love. You cannot recover without the support of those you trust – and yet you cannot trust them either. 85% of rapes go unreported, and often sexual assault by a partner is dismissed by the victim, who may begin to blame themselves. Anyone on the outside of an abusive relationship might wonder why the abused doesn’t leave – but more often than not, the abuse itself has left them without the strength, space and spirit to be able to walk away.

    The term “rape” has become an almost empty threat. Often, it is made to seem like an unavoidable destination: “if you dress like a slut, you’ll get raped.” To me, this use of a serious criminal act with severe repercussions as an inevitable concept is shocking. Whilst teenager drivers are often warned not to drink and drive, they are not told “if you drive under the influence, you WILL die.” With all other crimes, there is a degree of possibility indicated in the warning. You might be attacked. It may have serious consequences. With rape, there is no indication of doubt indicated in the language surrounding it – women are taught it will happen.

    For my generation, what hope is there? Adults condemn our actions, yet they are the result of a society that is constantly finding new ways to exploit young people. Too often, teenagers feel suffocated by societal pressures. For many teenage girls, feminism is an unknown concept, a “dirty word.” As a friend stated, feminism is often drummed out of us by society or overexposure, until it becomes part of the background, hidden at the back of the social consciousness.

    Teenagers, especially young women, need to know that sexism and sexual violence is never OK – and that if they speak out against it, they will be encouraged and supported. We look to so many different sources of information in order to find out how to behave. Will women’s magazines tell us how to get a boyfriend? Will porn tell us how to make him happy? But feminism needs to infiltrate and frame every fact we get given, otherwise it’s irrelevant and dangerous. Finding feminism has filled me with hope for the future. It needs to infiltrate the mainstream so that other teens use it as a source of ideas, answers and comfort.


  7. 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.

  8. We’ve Moved Out Already, Church, Let It Go

    March 4, 2013 by J9London

    Image from http://www.atheistmemebase.com/

    Image from http://www.atheistmemebase.com/

    I don’t normally go in for them political fandangos, due to the high rate of people getting shouty, but the equal marriage bill passed through the house of commons and that deserves a pretty big huzzah from ever one. Of course, there are still some people who are dragging their heels about the whole thing, like the good ol’ Archbish of Cant, so as my personal celebration of this excellent news, I’d like to tell him why he just needs to let it go.

    You see, the church* built the society we live in, however irrelevant it may seem to your own personal life. The church is like a parent, and under its sometimes too watchful, often hypocritical eye, we have grown into the strange and varied culture of the west. And just like all parents, it has to let go sometime.

    When you’re a toddler, you trust your parents completely. You have to. They’re the only people you know, and they know the power you have. So when you say “why can’t I chase my ball out into the street and put flaming trombones in my hair and swim in the sea with my pet manatee and no water wings?” they just say “because I said so” and have done with it. Or they go on to say “you are an infant and I am grown and as I have grown I have received wisdom which you have thus far had no access to and besides I have a whole big book on exactly why you shouldn’t do those things, but it’s in Latin and you can’t even read English, can you, tiny child, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say I can sum it all up into a neat bundle of ‘because I said so.’”

    But you don’t stay a toddler forever, and your parents can’t watch you all the time, so you’re probably going off and learning stuff behind their backs. And they know this and, even though they’re divorced now** and sometimes disagree on things, they still love you and want to raise you right. So when you say “but why can’t I go to that party on the other side of town with Tanya who just got her drivers licence and have fun with all the boys she says will be there because there won’t be any parents around and then next week go backpacking through Turkey and Israel and Iran with one of the boys I meet at the party tonight?” they sit down and explain it. And they say “look, there’s a lot of swell advice in this book I was talking about earlier that I’ve now translated into a strange and unlikely form of English and you’ve learned to read, so here, have a copy, although seriously there are a lot of weird analogies and contradictions so I’ll just tell you what it all means anyway.”

    But there comes a time when every child has to leave his or her parents protective bubble. Whether it’s to go to university, to move to a different city, to live with another human so you can get your junk all up in each other’s business without it being creepy because your mum and excessively flatulent stepdad are in the next room, or just because your, like, twenty seven, jeez, eventually it’ll just be time to go. So you’ll say “I’m moving out. I’ll be making my own decisions from now on. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the foundation in life you’ve given me. And although I may listen to people who oppose you in various areas, and although I may form opinions you disagree with, I’ll still come round for dinner and talk to you because you have interesting views, some of which are helpful, all of which are fun to debate. When we inevitably do disagree I hope we’re both smart enough to use that as an opportunity for discussion, rather than reasons to fight and ultimately hate each other. Please trust that you’ve instilled in me some generally good values and let me make the calls now, KTHNXBYE.”

    Whatever you believe, wherever you’re from, if you’re living in the west, you’re in a society that was parenting by the church. Or churches, I should say, for there are several. In general, we’ve moved out and on. We’ll visit, some of us every week, but we don’t belong to the church anymore. It’d just be nice if it’d keep the kettle on. For anyone who ever facies a cup of tea.


    *I mean the church as a general, meandering beastie; the corporate church, the global church; not a specific church, and certainly not God
    **And I’m sure that picture of Henry “douchebag” the Eighth with the caption about the Church of England respecting the sanctity of marriage just brings HELLA LOLZ, but there was way more going on with the reformation of the church than him having blue balls for that Anne girl, come on, guys, research, jeez

    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.

  9. Suffragette Shitty

    February 21, 2013 by The Kraken

    Left, Nadine Dorries. Image from Rex. Right, a poster about the hunger strikes of suffragettes in prison, from http://brontehoroine.wordpress.com. Spliced together by AWOT.

    Left, Nadine Dorries. Image from Rex. Right, a poster about the hunger strikes of suffragettes in prison, from http://brontehoroine.wordpress.com. Spliced together by AWOT.

    Tell you what, you’ve just gotta love Nadine Dorries. She’s the gift that keeps on giving because just when I think she has run out of surprises she leaps out at me from any given nook with even more reason to take to this blog. Yesterday, though, she was particularly generous because she used a blog post to wail about how her being investigated by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority over alleged expenses irregularities is the same as the plight of the Suffragettes. OK. And breathe…

    What in the fuck is going on with Dorries? Has she been shooting up bong water? Well, she must have been because these suffragette-based comments are so despairing that they make me want to steal a horse and fucking well gallop over her myself. See, Dorries believes that the investigation into her expenses is a smear campaign because she appeared on I’m a Celebrity…Feed Me Koala Nads! And, get this, because she is a woman and a single mother.

    In fact, she bleated: “Because a woman died under the hooves of a horse in the quest of female emancipation and because IPSA impact upon every single parent who is or wants to be an MP and because I refuse to allow a money hungry quango to compromise my right to work, be a mother and a pet owner, I am not allowing IPSA to get away with this.”

    No, Dorries. Just no. Whatever the fuck else you do, comparing your skirmish with that of the Suffragette movement is like comparing a stubbed toe with the trials of a double leg amputee. Seriously, until the IPSA starts dragging you down the street by your ankles, tearing at your underskirts, locking you in a rat-infested cell and force feeding you by shoving a fat rubber tube down your throat you are about as far from the Suffragette movement as John McCririck on a stag night.

    Worse, Dorries is playing the gender card, like a true squirming MP. But if she’s being fingered by the IPSA it’s because there’s possible financial fuck-uppery, not because her body houses a uterus. And if she is being harassed after appearing on I’m a Sleb… it’s because she pissed off to the jungle for a month rather than doing what she is paid to do in her constituency, not because she’s familiar with the business end of a tampon.

    See, the unfair treatment she claims she is receiving is exactly what I’d expect her to receive, not as a woman but as an MP who abandoned her constituents and as a professional who may have cadged tax-payers’ money for personal expenses. And if she was a he I have no doubt that he’d get the same amount of suspicion and derision chucked at him too. If Dorries thinks she can run off with Ant n Dec to scoff bulging grubs on company time but then bark about equal rights when she gets called-out she can, quite frankly, go screw herself.

    When Dorries squawks about her rights as a woman she’s actually taking a mahoosive dump on every other woman in the country. Instantly she makes women who shout about genuine inequality look like shrieking harpees who will holler misogyny at any given opportunity. Yeah, yeah, I know the Commons and Lords are hotbeds of sexism but Dorries turning that to her advantage just because her own behaviour is biting her on the arse is offensive, not just to the women’s movement generally but to those women who fight sexism every bloody day.

    So until Dorries can prove that her gender lies at the heart of this kerfuffle, my mind will translate every word she says as utter bollocks. This isn’t about not listening to a woman who is genuinely struggling with misogyny. It’s about not listening to a woman who uses the struggles of others to cover her own arse. If Dorries thinks the Suffragettes fought for her to do that then the jungle is exactly where she belongs.

     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. It was a bad week for women

    February 20, 2013 by Ashley

    This post is taken from @Blonde_M‘s fabulous blog, Against Her Better Judgement.

    Gods above, but that was a bad, bad week for women. In amongst the other enormous breaking news stories (resigning Popes; covert ground-up horse in apparently everything; meteors hitting the Earth), a woman was shot dead in the middle of the night, allegedly by her boyfriend.

    Image from Jezebel

    Image from Jezebel

    The story has garnered far more media attention than any other case of domestic violence might because the man who’s been charged with her murder is a world-famous Paralympian athlete. This, understandably, has meant that the focus of the story has been Oscar Pistorius, rather than the victim, Reeva Steenkamp. The faint irk that she seemed to be referred to for the first 24 hours of reporting as “his girlfriend” rather than by her name was nothing in comparison to the anger felt the following day when tabloid newspapers around the world saw fit to illustrate the story with pictures of law graduate and model, who spoke out about empowering women, in the skimpiest bikinis and underwear they could find.

    Then, on Friday morning, between a tweet about a band’s new single and Bruce Willis flogging his latest film, Daybreak tweeted the following:

    Image from Twitter

    Image from Twitter

    I’m well aware that Daybreak isn’t the epitome of high culture and sophisticated discussion. That’s fine: there’s space for both it and BBC4. But it’s a programme with an enormous audience, and one staffed by people who should know better than to put out such idiocy. ONS stats might be a deeply worrying portrayal of Britain’s attitudes towards women and sexual violence, but the responsible journalistic approach isn’t to start a “debate” where there isn’t one. It’s to educate viewers that there aren’t two sides to the argument. This might be an individual incident, but it’s individual incidents that combine to add up to a culture in which blaming victims is acceptable, when actually the only people who are responsible for crimes are those who have committed them.

    Because these two incidents came in a week when the 1 Billion Rising campaign was launched, highlighting and campaigning against the fact that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. They came in a week when the BBC ran a deeply saddening but entirely unsurprising piece about women’s attitudes to their own safety when walking home after a night out. The verdict was unanimous: from Ramala to Kampala, Melbourne to Rio to Ottowa, women don’t feel safe. They make sure they have something they can lay hands on as a weapon should they need to. A quick, unscientific Twitter poll of followers elicited the same information. Check with your female friends: I guarantee the majority of them will have done it, at least once, if not regularly.

    Is it any wonder, really, given that – globally – there’s a culture of violence against women. It’s a systemic problem; that if we don’t speak up against it where we see it, nothing will change, and one billion more women will suffer.


    Blonde writes a fantastic blog which I recommend you bookmark immediately. You can also find her on Twitter.

  11. 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.

  12. 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