Apps To Help You Through Lockdown

We’re locked in, we can’t see anyone for who knows how long, so naturally our phones have become our main link to the outside world and source of entertainment. In case you need a few more apps on your phone, I’ve put together a few to help you through this lockdown.

ZOOM/HOUSEPARTY (free)

These two apps are now household names as more and more people have been using them to communicate with friends and family. We’ve been using Zoom to speak to my Granny, others have held pub quizzes, stag dos, birthday parties, group workouts and family game nights. Houseparty even comes with some games built-in, so you can play Heads Up, quick draw and trivia games. These two apps, along with FaceTime, have become a real saving grace in this time of isolation providing us with that much-needed face to face interaction.

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PSYCH (free w. in-app purchases)

In a similar vein, Psych is a great app for connecting with friends across the country. This game was created by Ellen DeGeneres, and the aim is to ‘psych’ your opponents and get them to pick your answer. You don’t have to be close to each other to play, you just need the code for your game and you’re away –  I have spent many a time cry-laughing because of this app which is something we could all do with right now!

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JENNIS (subscription)

Jennis is a workout app created by gold-winning Olympian Jess Ennis-Hill, so she really does know what she’s talking about. I’ve been using this for a few months now but it’s become more important to me since I’ve been in self-isolation – it gives me a huge psychological boost when I complete a workout, which has been every day recently, whether it’s a 5 minute blast or a full 20 minute routine. Exercise has always been important to me, but I think now more than ever more and more people are finding it a useful tool for coping with this bizarre situation.

One of the major selling points for me is that I have found this app to be really human; she does the workout with you and you can hear her getting out of breath just as you are, whereas I have tried other workout apps before and the trainer stays perfect throughout which can be a bit dispiriting sometimes. There is also a pregnancy and postpartum section on the app which will be really useful to all the mums who are having to limit what they can do whilst wanting to remain active.

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COUCH TO 5K (free)

Similarly, more people are turning to running for their one piece of outside exercise. This is a great app by the BBC and NHS to get you into running gradually so that you can have a positive, injury-free experience. As the name suggests, the aim of this app is to get you running 5k over the course of 9 weeks. You can pick who guides you through it (I had Sarah Millican) and the experience is a really positive one; I always felt really positive for completing my runs and even if I was struggling at points, to have Sarah Millican in my ear gave me that extra boost to reach my goal.

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BBC SOUNDS/ACAST/PODCASTS APP (free)

Podcasts are a great thing to listen to anyway, on your commute to work, on a run, in the gym or just at home – at home is pretty much the only option right now I’m afraid (unless you’re a key worker). BBC Sounds, Acast or the Podcast app on iPhone have some great ones to listen to whilst you’re re-organising your wardrobe, cooking or perfecting your nervous twitch. I always feel like I don’t have enough time to listen to my favourite podcasts so I’m really taking advantage of this time to catch up a bit.

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CALM (subscription)

Calm is a meditation/mental health app and something we could probably all do with at the moment. I first got Calm back in 2016 when I was really struggling with my mental health – I now mainly use it for its sleep stories which knock me out cold, but it has some fantastic mindfulness courses which I have also found incredibly useful over the past four years. My favourite feature of this app though is the emergency calm feature which is designed to talk you through a panic attack and bring you out the other side. I have found this incredibly useful when I have had to use it and I think it’s something which a lot of people could find useful right now; it’s a weird time and we don’t know how our brains are going to react to this situation so sometimes it’s nice to know there’s something there to help just in case.

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HOLD (free)

Whilst we are all understandably using our phones more than normal, it is still a good idea to give ourselves a break and stop us looking at the news all the time. This app was introduced to me by one of my friends and I love it! The idea is that you put your phone on hold and for every 20 minutes you get 10 points, these points can be traded for rewards like reduced cinema tickets (when they’re open again), or you can enter competitions, you can also donate to a mental health charity with them. The longer you hold, the more points you get and the more rewards you can claim – it’s a simple idea but so so effective!

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Stay Safe, Stay Sane, Stay Home!

 

Words by Eleanor Manley for Anthem Online.

Things To Do On Lockdown

Introverts rejoice! Lockdown has arrived and I’m all for it; it’s the best thing to do in order to protect everyone as much as possible and reduce the strain on the NHS but that’s not to say we won’t all go a little mad. Some of us are with friends and family and some of us are by ourselves – either way it can be a lonely and lengthy experience so I’ve written up a list of a few things to help distract you from the news cycle and the constant checking of the time (it’s only been 4 minutes since you last looked by the way).

LET’S GET PUZZLIN’ 

It’s time to embrace your inner granny – get out those chunky cardigans, pull on the slippers and set yourself up with a good jigsaw! I haven’t puzzled in many years but there is definitely something calming and therapeutic about them.

Other things which are equally calming and great for killing time:

  • Painting by numbers
  • Sudoku
  • Crosswords
  • Hama beads (I did this one at work and it took 14 hours – time well spent)

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I LIKE TO MOVE IT, MOVE IT

I’m sure you’ve all heard this one a billion times already but walking and running are fantastic for your mental and physical health and when we’re stuck inside, a brief reprieve to get out into nature could be a lifesaver. I find that running is fantastic for my mental health, it gives my brain a break from everything and gives me a sense of calm and accomplishment – something we might all be looking for in the coming weeks. If your one piece of exercise outside isn’t cutting it for you, you can also try a workout at home. Lots of people are running live sessions which could be great to join in – whether it’s yoga, circuits or a dance party in your kitchen, that extra physical boost could help you in a moment of despair.

I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF

If you’re like me, you’ve been saying “I’ve got so many books to read” or “it’s on my watchlist” for ages! This is literally what we’ve been waiting for – no work, can’t leave the house, and a lot of time to kill. Read all the books, watch all the films, listen to all the podcasts, binge watch till your heart’s content and get really into Animal Crossing again…

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ALL BY MYSELF 

With us all turning to social media perhaps more than before, now is a great time to review what/who we’re following; do you genuinely enjoy and engage with the accounts that pop up on your feed? Since we’re more reliant than ever on our phones, now is a great time to make sure that you’re having a positive experience when you open Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.

The likes of Zoom and Houseparty have never been so popular as more and more of us are turning to them for some face to face interaction – I’ve seen virtual pub quizzes, group workouts, book clubs and concerts all from the comfort of your living room, so why not host your own?! Now is also a great time to reconnect with some friends you’ve lost contact with/neglected; send them a message and see how they’re holding up with all this as well.

Last but definitely not least! Don’t forget to check in with yourself, this is a really weird time and none of us are used to living this way. One of the biggest challenges ahead will be our mental health – it’s going to take a toll on all of us so we need to make sure we are there for each other and ourselves.

Stay Safe, Stay Sane, Stay Home!

 

Words and images by Eleanor Manley for Anthem Online.

Stop Underselling Yourself

Something that I believe unites a lot of us, is that process of having a conversation, going home and being kept awake by versions of that conversation which could have been. I’m always thinking about what I want to say to people, and I almost always get it wrong and wish I’d said something else.

It’s pretty normal but when you start to put preventative measures in place when talking, it’s possible to put limits on who you are. You can become more cautious and get too worried about sounding like you’re bragging or boasting or just being a bit of a tit. I find myself telling people that my work, or something I’m proud of, is not that great or that I had a lot of help to achieve it. That’s how easy it is to undersell yourself.

To undersell yourself means to make out as though you aren’t as talented or skilled or as valuable as you actually are, most likely so that you don’t seem big-headed or boastful or rude. Everyone is capable of underselling themselves, but it is a phenomenon that has been particularly linked to women in their professional spheres. That’s a problem. How do we stop underselling ourselves, whether professionally or not? How do we even know if we’re underselling ourselves, to begin with?

In terms of knowing whether you’re guilty of underselling yourself, it really helps to surround yourself with supportive colleagues, friends, and partners, because, from experience, they will tell you. I’ve been told by colleagues, friends, and by women I’ve just met, that I should hype myself up more or that I shouldn’t talk down the good things I’m doing. It can be difficult and even embarrassing, but those people are right, and listening to them will help you.

If you’re starting sentences with “It’s not much but”, “It’s just a little thing” or “I’m not the only one who can”, “I had a lot of help” then you’re probably like me and trying to turn down the impact of the things you’re talking about. But you shouldn’t. If you’ve put work into something, and energy and effort or skill and passion, and you have something to be proud about then why would you want to downplay that? It’s not logical when you lay it out like that but it can be an automatic response to do so.

So how do we stop? Start by keeping those friends who support you around. Continue to listen to them. If you don’t have them, I can’t encourage finding them enough. Surrounding yourself with smart, impressive women who will lift you up is so morale-boosting, regardless of whether you feel like you deserve it. I often feel like my friends are being silly if they boost me up, but it’s what they are there for, especially when you’ll do the same back to them without even questioning it.

Context matters, but a lot of the time, it’s key to remember that people are asking what you do, and by telling them what you do, you’re not being a bit of an arse, you’re just answering a question. I don’t know that I’ve ever fully explained what my job entails to people, or showed my super-proud and happy approach to Anthem when asked because I’m terrified of seeming like I’m showing off. I always bring up luck and good timing but I have also always worked very hard, and now I’m a few years out of university, I’m noticing people measuring my worth by what I’m saying (“no big deal”, “I had help”) rather than what I’m doing (being very exhausted from working very hard).

Sometimes, it bothers me and I complain to myself because I wish people knew how hard I was working. But it’s my own doing, and that’s why it’s on me to start talking about myself more fairly. You don’t have to start shouting from the rooftops that you did your job well today (unless you want to, of course). You just have to say to yourself and to anyone who genuinely asks you that you did your job well today.

Sometimes, people want to know your skills and passions so they can utilise them and I have found since being more open about what I’m good at, people have asked me for help in those areas. No-one has called me big-headed, and I’ve certainly not been shouting about it, and yet I’m now able to help other women working on their skills.

Find what works for you and test the waters with friends or performance reviews at work. Tell a family member if that’s easiest. But stop selling yourself short for your sake You have worked so hard to be where you are. Celebrate that.

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.

An Eco-Friendly Gift Guide For 2019

It’s time for another festive gift guide! This list is all about gifts that are sustainable, recycled or eco-friendly in some way.

I know I’ve got some eco items on my Christmas list this year, so I thought I’d share some of my favourites that might inspire you, whether shopping for a loved one or looking to treat yourself (or both!).

BATOKO Lobster Swimsuit, £50

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While the entire collection of recycled plastic swimsuits from BATOKO are brilliant and stylish, the vegan-friendly brand recently partnered with the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow, Cornwall who will release a baby lobster back into the sea for every one of these swimsuits bought. A double win!

 

TALA Activewear, from £25

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The second of influencer Grace Beverley’s three successful business ventures, six-month-old TALA aims to create not just sustainable but stylish and inclusive activewear. Their products are almost entirely upcycled (from plastic bottles and factory offcuts) with completely recycled and recyclable packaging.  Their tops and bottoms are on-trend and suit all figures so make a great gift for the sporty person in your life.

 

BECO Soaps, from £2.50

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Made in Britain, BECO soap bars, shampoo bars, and soap bottles are 97% organic and 100% eco-friendly, vegan, cruelty-free and hypoallergenic. One of the best things about BECO is that 80% of their staff are disabled when over a million disabled people are out of work, and the brand is encouraging other businesses to do the same. BECO’s products make a great stocking filler and are available in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, and Boots.

 

KeepCup, from £10

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KeepCups have been around for a decade, and are probably one of the most popular ecofriendly brands about. That being said, they are a fantastic brand who are still working incredibly hard to spread change by providing products to cafes going plastic-free, or larger scale companies hoping to reduce wastage. I prefer the glass cups, but they have a huge range of products in a variety of colours – you can even customise a cup with someone’s favourite colours.

 

Face Halo Makeup Remover, from £7

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I got a pack of Face Halo pads for Christmas last year, and I haven’t had to use a cotton pad since. If you know anyone who wears makeup (and I’m certain you do), then this is an easy win. Available online or from stores like Boots, these reusable makeup remover pads are washable; not just a rinse under the tap after use, but can actually be put in the wash. They can be washed up to 200 times and should replace the use of 500 traditional wipes – they can even be recycled when you’re done with it!

 

Zao Makeup, from £9

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Zao Makeup’s range of bamboo and refillable makeup products are quickly making a name for themselves for ridding their products of toxic ingredients and for being cruelty-free and vegan. It is unusual to find not only a bamboo makeup collection but also a refillable one. Zao stock everything you could want, from lipsticks and nail polish to foundation and blusher. They really have everything and are available on sites like Plastic Freedom, Beautifully Organic and Ecco Verde.

 

Smidge Bottle, from £10.99

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Similar to the KeepCup, reusable metal bottles like the ones made by Smidge are slowly taking over. I’ve definitely been guilty of buying multiple plastic bottles of water in a week, and when colourful bottles like this exist, there’s not really an excuse. Another great thing about Smidge bottles is that they keep your water cold all day, so they’re perfect for taking to work or school. Smidge also sell reusable camping and picnic gear if there’s an outdoorsy person in your life!

 

Critically Endangered Socks Amur Leopard Sock, £12

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Made from a blend of sustainable cotton and bamboo, there are currently 5 different pairs of animal socks available from Critically Endangered Socks; the Borneo orangutan, the Amur leopard, the Maui dolphin, the Sumatran elephant and the Hawksbill turtle. They produce a limited number of each style and donate 20% of the total sale price to a charity depending on the style you buy, so if you’re particularly passionate about the WildCats Conservation Alliance, you can purchase a pair of these leopard socks!

 

Wild Case Biodegradable Bamboo Phone Case, £11.20

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I didn’t know phone cases presented a problem with regards to waste and the climate until recently, and I definitely didn’t know biodegradable phone cases existed. My brother and sister-in-law were the ones who introduced me to them. They are a small market right now, and the leading brand seems to be Pela, who offer a massive range of nice colours but in the price range of £35-40. Wild Case offer just one colour and currently only fit iPhones but are available for a fraction of the price on Etsy.

 

Tabitha Eve Zero Waste Self Care Gift Set, £20

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Tabitha Eve creates plastic-free alternative products from ethically sourced fabrics. They promise good quality alternatives for your bathroom, kitchen, travel kit, and even for new parents. They offer three different zero waste gift sets, all at £20. The Self-Care set pictured above features 5 make up rounds, 5 nail varnish remover pads, 5 Loofah facial discs, and a Cotton & Linen Bath Pouf. All their gift sets also come with a free £5 voucher and are gift wrapped in a reusable 100% cotton furoshiki wrap.

 

Koi Footwear Vegan Shoes, from £20

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Koi Footwear‘s tagline is ‘100% Vegan Footwear’ and that’s really all you need to know. They make sandals, shoes, heels and boots that are completely vegan and PETA approved. Not only are they a brand who are trying to become more sustainable where they can but they have a huge selection of on-trend shoes that even go up to a women’s size 10 and 11. On top of all that, they have ASDA donation points around the country for you to recycle your old shoes.

 

Keep Leaf Reusable Sandwich Bag, £6

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These adorable little pouches from KeepLeaf are available on Not On The High Street and The Kind Store in the UK and are made of 100% cotton with a water-resistant polyester lining and velcro closure. Not only do they reduce single-use plastic wastage, but they are made through a women’s co-operative in India, giving them the opportunity to work and earn. The pouches are great for those packing lunches ahead of work or school, and can be washed under the tap, in the dishwasher or in a washing machine!

 

Thanks so much for reading this special gift guide on Anthem. I hope you’ve been able to tick some things off your list, or maybe add some to your own wish list.

Wishing you all a happy holidays from Anthem!

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.
Images from BATOKO, TALA, BECO, KeepCup, Face Halo, Zao Makeup, Smidge, Critically Endangered Socks, Wild Case, Tabitha Eve, Koi Footwear and Keep Leaf/Not ON The High Street.

A Feminist Gift Guide For 2019

The Anthem Feminist Gift Guide is back! Not only that but this year there will be two gift guides. The second one, coming later this month, will be focused on eco-friendly and sustainable gifts!

Back to this gift guide, I’ve rounded up some items to gift your feminist friends. From female artists’ creations to underwear (yes, really). Enjoy!

100% Natural Shea Butter, £15

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The Body Shop‘s sustainably sourced Community Trade Shea Butter stripped back to it’s purest form and handcrafted by Ghanaian women, paying them not just a fair wage but a premium to help fund community projects such as local education and better healthcare. Additionally, this Christmas, The Body Shop will be donating a portion of all proceeds to their Dream Big campaign with Plan International, giving education to girls in Brazil and Indonesia.

 

Women Of The Zodiac 2020 Calendar, £19.20

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Illustrator Harri Golightly organised 11 other female illustrators to create a ‘women of the zodiac’ 2020 calendar in A3 size. Each artist has provided a design for each month giving 12 different beautiful styles to the calendar. A minimum of £10 per calendar will be donated to Women’s Aid, a great national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children.

 

‘Knockers’ Sweatshirt, £38

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A few years back, Lauren Mahon started using #GIRLvsCANCER to share her experience of breast cancer on social media. Lauren then began designing and distributing so-called Tit-Tees to help raise awareness and to donate 25% of GIRLvsCANCER sales to charities CoppaFeel!, Trekstock, Future Dreams and Look Good Feel Better. So these jumpers and tees look great, are fun, and really help not just one but four great charities.

 

‘Be The Change’ by Gina Martin, £12.99

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You might know of Gina Martin already for changing the law and making upskirting a criminal offence earlier in the year. Now, in her first book, described as an “essential handbook for the modern activist”, she aims to provide us all with the tools and courage to follow in her footsteps. What’s that you say? The perfect gift for everyone you know? We thought so. It’s available on Waterstones and Amazon and in lots of very good bookshops.

 

‘The Devil Doesn’t Need An Advocate’ White Unisex T-shirt, £20

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The Pink Protest, set up by Scarlett Curtis, Grace Campbell, Honey Ross and Alice Skinner, is a community of activists committed to engaging in action and supporting each other. They’ve recently opened up their online shop with tees and accessories like this great unisex t-shirt. If it’s not enough that all money will go back into their campaigns, these t-shirts are also organic and PETA approved vegan.

 

‘Fleabag: The Scriptures’ by Phoebe Waller-Bridge

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If you know someone who can’t get enough of BBC hit series Fleabag, then this is the gift for them. Fleabag: The Scriptures from Phoebe Waller-Bridge promises everything you could possibly want; “Every Word. Every Side-eye. Every Fox.”. It features new writing, the filming scripts and more. It’s also pretty hard to deny how pretty this book is. Just look at it.

 

‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ Tote Bag, £20

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Florence Given is a London based artist and writer, and she’s not here to waste time. Her artworks often feature pretty badass slogans such as ‘Stop raising him, he’s not your son’ and ‘I am the love of my own life’. The least you could do is follow her on Instagram, and the most you could do is purchase someone you love one of these bold yet practical tote bags.

 

Virgina Woolf Gift Set, £30

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I may already own two t-shirts, a jumper and some pin badges from Literary Emporium but that’s beside the point. This online shop prides themselves on being the place to purchase gifts for book lovers, and female authors and characters have a really strong presence. They’ve recently started stocking gift sets like this one featuring books, clothing and accessories. If for some reason Woolf isn’t your bag, they also have Sylvia Plath, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Little Women and more.

 

Slim Pink Elizabeth Stanton Notebook, £7

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In my humble opinion, a notebook is always a good gift. Especially if you buy it for yourself. Paperchase are always a great spot for finding fun or bold notebooks in different shapes and sizes. This slim pink Elizabeth Stanton quote notebook reads “The best protection any woman can have is courage” in gold, and who doesn’t want to be reminded that on a daily basis?

 

Star Scatter Bralet & Brazillian, £15

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Granted, you might need a closer relationship with the person you’re gifting this nice lingerie to, but let me explain why these aren’t just any old pants and bras. Breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel! teamed up with Boohoo to create a range of potentially life-saving bras, including this starry set. Each set has a pattern for the wearer to follow in order to check their breasts. Personally, this blew my mind. You can find this set, and two others, here.

 

Saint Dolly Prayer Candle, £18

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Dolly Parton is one of my favourite people so excuse me for including this candle over the Beyonce candle. I can like both. Ain’t Saint offers a range of products allowing you to “praise your idols”, whether they’re Jonathan Van Ness or Leonardo Dicaprio. From Dolly and Beyonce to Adele and Britney, this site has you covered for something a little more unusual to celebrate some iconic women.

 

‘Destroy The Patriarchy’ Sloth Mug, £6.99

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Finally, I thought I’d end on something a little fun, and very cute. This mug is so cute and colourful, you might have missed the ‘Destroy The Patriarchy‘ message over the pastel rainbow. I feel like I don’t have to justify this item too much as I can think of at least ten people I would give this to for Christmas. Who doesn’t need a mug? Who doesn’t like sloths? Or pastel colours? Who doesn’t hate the patriarchy? Fools, that’s who.

 

There you have it, this year’s feminist gift guide from Anthem! Hopefully, you’ve seen something you’d like to get for a loved one or maybe even for yourself.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for our eco gift guide special and we’ll see you again next year!

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.
Images from The Body Shop, Harri Golightly, GIRLvsCANCER, Etsy, Amazon, Waterstones, Gina Martin, The Pink Protest, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Florence Given, The Literary Emporium, Boohoo, CoppaFeel!, Ain’t Saint and DandySloth. 

What To Expect At A Smear Test

I’d like to start by saying that this is only my experience and that everyone’s experience of getting a smear test will be different.

A smear test (medically known as a cervical screening) is used to check your cervix for cell changes, which can be caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). In the UK, you are invited for your first smear test at the age of 25, and if your results are normal, you should get a smear test every 3 years. I remember receiving my letter in the post inviting me to my smear test a couple of months before my 25th birthday two years ago. I knew it was coming and I called my GP to book myself in more or less straight away, having read horror stories about people putting it off with dire consequences.

I didn’t really feel too nervous until I was in the waiting room. I had wondered if it would hurt, given that there is still a silly amount of scaremongering about smear tests. Before being invited for my test, I didn’t know much about how it all works, so I did a bit of reading before to prepare myself. As a sexual assault survivor, I was somewhat anxious about being triggered, but I was able to keep reminding myself how important it was and I managed to put those feelings aside until the actual procedure. One thing I advise if you are a survivor is telling the practitioner who will be carrying out your screening. You don’t have to give details but it is helpful to let them know because then they can support you and know to expect that it might be a difficult experience for you.

The actual screening itself usually consists of you lying on a bed and bending your legs with your ankles together and knees apart – sometimes there will be stirrups but I didn’t have them in my appointment. A lubricated speculum is inserted into your vagina to allow the practitioner to see your cervix. Once the practitioner has a good view of the cervix, they use a small brush to take a sample of cells from it. This is the part that I’d heard everyone complain about. Personally, I found the speculum the most uncomfortable part, but I didn’t find it painful. The actual brushing part lasted about three seconds and felt a little weird and uncomfortable, but again I didn’t find painful at all.

The nurse talked me through everything she was doing, which I had requested due to my past experiences. It is good practice for the practitioner to talk you through the procedure anyway unless you request not to be told. My legs were shaking like crazy to start with, but mentally I managed to get myself in the zone. The whole screening lasted a few minutes and I was honestly surprised at how quickly it was over. It’s normal to have a little bit of spotting afterwards, but you shouldn’t experience any pain – if you do, then get in touch with a doctor. 

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I got my results in a letter after a couple of weeks and they were normal. Occasionally they will find abnormal or pre-cancerous cells, which results in either another screening or a colposcopy appointment, followed by treatment. 1 in 20 people will have abnormal results, but less than 1% of these people will have cervical cancer, so try not to panic if you’re told you have abnormal results (easier said than done, I know).

It’s very easy to put off booking your smear, but it is incredibly important. More than 99% of cervical cancer cases are preventable. Your smear test isn’t a test for cancer, but it is a test to help prevent cancer. Anyone with a cervix is at risk of developing cervical cancer, especially aged 25 to 49. This applies if you’ve had the HPV vaccine, if you’ve only had one sexual partner, if you’re lesbian or bisexual, and so on. As I said above, my experience is only one of many, and I had a good experience. Not everyone will have a perfect experience, but at the least, you can be reassured that it doesn’t last more than 5 minutes.

If you’re super nervous about your smear test, definitely check out the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website (linked below); they have some fab tips for how you can prepare and how you can make the experience as easy as possible. But whatever you do, please don’t put it off!

Helpful links:

  • Zoe Sugg has just started a ‘Smear Series’ on her IGTV where she’s filmed her experience
  • Katie Snooks’ YouTube video covers her experience with cervical screening, her abnormal results and the treatment she had for this. There are a plethora of YouTube videos of people’s experiences with smear tests.
  • Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has info on what cervical screening is, results, the procedure, etc.
  • The NHS website has easy-to-read info about cervical screenings
  • Cancer Research Statistics for more statistics like those used in this article


Words by Amber Berry for September Sex Education Week 2019 on Anthem Online
Image from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

The Importance Of Body Image In Sex Education

This August, my sister and I were lucky enough to spend a few days at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. When making a list of all the shows we had seen, I realised that we had both sought out shows exploring body image and body confidence. It was only after leaving the Edinburgh bubble that I realised the importance of including body image in the conversation on sexuality because these two things usually go hand in hand.

All the women in these shows talked about their body confidence, or in some instances, their lack of body confidence, and how it had stopped them feeling desirable. In one show, a woman discussed being teased and belittled by a group of men on a night out because of her size, and on another occasion, she described how a man had asked her boyfriend why he was with her.

This type of harassment is both specific to plus size women and a continuation of the harassment women receive on a daily basis; from catcalls to men asking us to smile on cue. In our society, women’s bodies are seen to be offered up to the public for judgement and affirmation. Many of the shows I saw in Edinburgh this summer combatted this idea by encouraging women to reclaim their bodies for themselves. 

In one particularly brilliant show, Hotter by Sweaty Theatre, Mary Higgins and Ell Potter use personal experiences, interviews and verbatim theatre to explore body image, sex and sexuality. In a Guardian interview, their show is described as an “interrogation of the female body, its fluids, desires and changes”. In a voice-over, women say what makes them feel sexy, what makes them feel heat, what an orgasm feels like and what their favourite song to dance to is.

As I was watching the show, I felt accepted, laughing in acknowledgement of awkward anecdotes, and taking joy in the stories being shared, however halfway through I felt a deep sadness and I couldn’t understand it. It was only when I was thinking about what to write for this’s year’s sex education week that this sadness made sense, and I knew what I wanted to talk about. I felt sad that for the first time, at the tender age of twenty-six, because I wanted to apologize to my body and look after it in the same way I try to look after my mind.

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I was taken back to being fifteen, sat in a geography classroom having the allotted hour-long sex education lesson before lunchtime. I thought how different my sexual experiences would be if this show had been part of my sex education, how I would have treated my body over the past ten years if I had made the connection between my own relationship with my body and my sexuality sooner.

As with most sex education, girls’ and boys’ bodies are represented as biological machines, going through the motions that we call puberty. I learned about body hair, periods, the sperm and the egg, and for split second, contraception. I was not taught how to respect the other person’s body and their boundaries, let alone my own. We were all asked to write down all the words we knew for penis, vagina and breasts but not what we thought of our own body parts. I was taught what sex was but not how my body would respond to arousal and how I could feel desirable or what I might find desirable in another person. As I got older, I never thought about the sex education I had received unless it was to realise how lacking it was; I wasn’t able to use it as a road map.

In my teenage years, I felt as if I had been left out in the wild looking for signposts. Books and films were used as a way to see where my desires lay. However, I was still acting as if this desire was something my mind was creating; the thought of my body being a factor embarrassed me, I didn’t want to pay attention to it. I also knew that all the questions I had about my body were making me feel isolated and confused. It was only when I discovered feminism in the form of Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman a few years later, that my body started to make sense to me.

A unique selling point of the show Hotter was that Mary and Ell were best friends who had been a couple. Throughout the show, the audience caught glimpses of this intimate relationship as a result of its many iterations. One of the most moving moments in the show was when Mary and Ell read out letters they had written to themselves, thanking their bodies and promising to love them as best they can. At a point in Ell’s letter, she addressed Mary directly, thanking her for loving and desiring her body, making Ell love her body more in the process; ‘you always loved my tummy, in a way I never could’.

At the end of the show, both women admitted that they were trying to appreciate their bodies more. They wished they could get to the end of the hour and tell the audience they loved every inch of themselves, but like all the women in the room, they knew this was a big ask. Instead, they ended the show with a promise, to treat their bodies better, asking the audience to do the same and inviting us on stage for a final dance.

As for many women, my relationship with my body has been not been easy, I spent early teenage years ignoring it and my late teens/early twenties learning about it and starting to take pride in it. After watching Hotter, I thought about what I might say to my body in my letter and again I went back to being fifteen and feeling confused about the body I was growing into.

If I could add anything to the sex ed curriculum, it would be to ask teenage girls to write a letter to themselves.  I would ask them to write about what they love about their bodies, who they desire and what desire feels like for them. If girls are in control of what they think about their bodies from a young age, maybe they can find the joy in their bodies and sexuality sooner, therefore having a better chance of happy and safe sexual experiences. We need to teach girls how to drive their own body before they allow another person to take the wheels.

Words by Lara Scott for September Sex Education Week 2019 on Anthem Online.
Image by Izzy Romilly via The Guardian/Ell Potter and Mary Higgins.