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

batoko-lobster-swimsuit-nlh_1800x1800

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

aster_crop_top_-_dusty_pink_-_model_l_6_1024x1024402x.jpg

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

bar_sm_floor.png

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

reusable_clear_plastic_cup_pink

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

face-halo-og-3pack_345x345402x.png

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

capture.png

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

smid20a_1.jpg

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

il_794xn.2084674381_ewll

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

il_794xn.1998136321_doli

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

selfcarekit_b7694507-1a9c-437e-a724-0948638ef858_1024x1024402x

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

koi-footwear-nd201blksu5-14303_9ef46167-f313-4134-b037-8281b6f3f1e2_1024x1024

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

original_keep-leaf-large-reusable-baggie

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

shea-butter-3-640x640

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

il_794xn.2035778882_8se1-e1573240761558.jpg

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

girlvscancer-hb-9-600x732.jpg

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

81z8bawalpl

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

devildoesntneedtee.jpg

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

71wtv6tjdol

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

tote_7_1024x1024402x

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

00592521_1

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

undies-e1573249156644.png

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

image_50027d96-3e44-49df-8a12-db34bc63d6a0_1024x1024

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

il_794xn.1998482856_ftsz

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. 

image1 (2)

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.

3361

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.

The Manley Guide To Female Authors: Body Positivity

Body image is something which has plagued women for as long as our worth has been associated with how we looked, so forever basically, but in an age of social media where we count the likes we get on pictures of ourselves, our feeds are full of people’s ‘perfect’ lives and ‘perfect’ bodies, and all angles are exploited in order for someone’s waist to look as small as possible whilst also somehow making their bum look like Beyonce’s or Kim Kardashians. It’s no wonder that we’re all lacking a little bit in the way of body positivity, so for September Sex Education Week this year I have had a hunt through my bookshelves to find women who are, like all of us, lacking in confidence and over analysing every little thing, and also women who celebrate, or who are learning to celebrate, every part of them.

image2


Girl Up
, Laura Bates

Within the first few pages, Girl Up simultaneously made me cry and want to shout hell yeah! Throughout this book, Laura Bates is pressing a giant bullshit button (or sexist bullshit klaxon), calling time on the old adages; “worrying about our bodies is a trap. It’s a great big, ugly trick that keeps girls quiet and under-confident”. Everything she talks about I agree with but also know I am guilty of feeling the way the adverts want me to feel, I am guilty of wanting to lose weight and look different, I am guilty of feeling inadequate in my body, but I am also agreeing with her that I shouldn’t feel that way. I think this book more than any other shows the trap that I and many other women are in. We’re constantly trying to be more body positive and embrace every aspect but that doesn’t mean that we suddenly become invincible to the pressures from the outside world and our own minds.


Irie in White Teeth, Zadie Smith

White Teeth, by Zadie Smith, is not about bodies, or indeed teeth. The story follows three families over the course of the 20th century and how their lives become intertwined with each other and the paths they follow as a result of various events.

One of the characters, Irie, is a 15-year-old girl growing up in the 90s in North London, trying to find her place in the world. She struggles with her weight, her identity as a mixed race woman, and with unrequited love. Much of Irie’s focus, during her chapter, is on how she can gain the attention of Millat; lose weight, relax her hair, subsequently burn it all off. As we get to know Irie more we realise that a lot of this has very little to do with Millat but with her own insecurities. She hates her curly hair, she wants “straight straight long black sleek flickable tossable shakeable touchable finger-through-able wind-blowable hair. With a fringe”. She sees weight loss adverts on the way home from school and fantasises over ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures, waiting “for her transformation from Jamaican hourglass heavy…to English Rose… a slender delicate thing”.

Irie’s chapter is both devastating and hugely relatable, I know that I have stood in front of a mirror or seen a photo and hated what was staring back at me. I know I have, as Irie does, placed my hand on my stomach reminding myself not to be bloated after lunch or whilst on my period; remember to suck in – this dress wasn’t made for big meals, thank goodness I wore a baggy top etc. I also know that since reading White Teeth, Irie has crept into my subconscious in a positive way. I saw my internal monologue written down and cried, and now when I remember, I try to fight back, I try to relax a little after lunch or dinner, and remind myself that it’s fine to be human.


Phenomenal Woman
, Maya Angelou

This poem exudes confidence, it is a celebration of her and her body. Phenomenal Woman is a confident, sassy celebration of self that we should all try to embrace as much as we can. All I can say now is to listen to the woman herself and take a little bit of Angelou away with you today.


Is It Just Me?
, Miranda Hart

Miranda Hart is best known for her sitcom Miranda but since then she has spoken out about a lot of personal issues on Instagram and in her book Is it Just Me?, an apt and relatable title that we’ve definitely all thought at some point or another. The fabulous thing about this book is, firstly, it’s not just you, we really are all in this together *cue music* but also the way she gets straight to the point, whilst also making you laugh; “most of us wouldn’t mind looking a bit more like him or her from Men’s Health or Grazia magazine, and a little bit less like, well, a sackful of ham”. The book is written as if in conversation with her younger self, and particularly for the chapter on bodies, it’s a good way of calling out the insecurities our younger selves have that as we get older we will hopefully move past.

She also calls out the fact that the idea of being “taken seriously as a woman” is to have glamorous hair, a designer handbag and a full face of makeup, and lists the pros and cons of being a tall woman (something I will never experience, being vertically challenged myself) including occasionally being mistaken for a man (pro: skip the long queue for the ladies, con: you’re more likely to have to help people lift heavy things).

image1


Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies
, Scarlett Curtis

Feminist Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies (FDWP) is a collection of essays by women on what feminism means to them, curated by Scarlett Curtis. It is a fantastic read and one I recommend to all of you (duh, that’s why it’s in this list). I love the variety of topics covered in this anthology, it is educational, eye-opening and extremely relatable. Body positivity isn’t really spoken about explicitly in the book, at least not in the way we imagine it. Dolly Alderton lists it in her essay ‘Dismantling and Destroying Internalised Misogyny: To-Do List’; “Remember that when you stand in front of the mirror naked and examine every opalescent stretchmark and knobbly toe and undulation of flesh of your body (every night) and feel a deep, sour hum of self-hatred, it’s probably not because you’re hideous”.

I think that body positivity is spoken about in broader terms, whether it is in the power of our bodies during childbirth, claiming ownership over our bodies as a result of the #MeToo movement, buying empowering pants or seeing representation in the media of people who look like you, FDWP offers up a whole variety of body positivity for you to enjoy and hopefully find at least one essay that speaks to you.


Evelyn in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg

Fried Green Tomatoes is one of my favourite books and quite possibly my favourite film. It is both incredibly poignant and funny. The story charts the lives of Idgie and Ruth and deals with issues such as racism, domestic violence, female friendship, grief and love. Set across two different timelines, we learn about Idgie and Ruth via the stories told by Ninny to Evelyn during Evelyn’s trips to the local nursing home. Whilst I could talk endlessly about Idgie and Ruth and the many other fantastic characters in this book, it is Evelyn’s journey that I want to focus on for this piece (but please do go and read/watch this, you won’t regret it).

Evelyn is a 1980s housewife struggling with the idea of growing older; her weight, the menopause, and her stale marriage. Every time we meet Evelyn she is trying a new crash diet, skipping meals or wrapping herself in clingfilm, however, over time as she learns more about Idgie and Ruth’s lives we begin to see changes in Evelyn. She becomes empowered by the tales she’s told, and is more confident and sure of herself and even creates an alter ego by the name of Towanda. Towanda gives her that extra boost when she needs it, for example, if someone steals her space and she needs to ram their car out the way to make room for her own – we’ve all been there. By the end of the book, she embraces herself for all that she is and starts making choices that benefit her and make her feel good about herself whilst still carrying Idgie, Ruth and Ninny with her.


Words and Images by Eleanor Manley for September Sex Education Week 2019 on Anthem Online.

We Need To Talk About Vaginismus

There are so many sprawling aspects of women’s lives that the patriarchy impacts every day, and that it continues to impact in complicated and fractured ways. One of the most important of these, to me anyway, is the sex lives of women. It’s one of the reasons that I love that Anthem does this sex education week every year.

We’re not told so many things, and there are so many things not discussed, and our voices have been silenced for so long, that it is hard to break the cycle and to begin these conversations.

One of those conversations is vaginismus.

Vaginismus is a condition that affects 1 in 500 women in the UK. It is an involuntary tightening or contraction of the vaginal muscles around the opening of the vagina. It can make sex, or putting a tampon in, painful, difficult, or even impossible.

How painful women often find sex has only recently become an issue of public discourse, but even these conversations are limited. There are so many reasons that this might be the case, and even within vaginismus, there are layered and multiple reasons.

The complicated part of the condition is that it is psychological. Feeling anxious about sex can cause it to occur, but once it has occurred once, the nerves that it will occur also play a part until you’re nervous about feeling nervous about feeling nervous.

It can also occur randomly. You could have years of painless sex before it happens. Or alternatively, you might suddenly stop experiencing it. It can occur for a multitude of reasons, some including;

  • You have a bad sexual experience or medical examination
  • You feel bad about sex
  • You have fears and worries about your body
  • You have a painful medical condition

There are a few different options in getting treatment or help. Some focus on your body, i.e. your actual vagina, and getting it used to having things inside it, and some focus on your mind, and your feelings around sex.

As ever, the NHS website has plenty of advice, and you can always go to your GP. But, from one gals personal experience, the way I thought and felt about sex was transformed by a very kind and caring partner, who just wanted to make sex fun (and sometimes funny) for me, and who has such a healthy attitude towards sex that it influenced the way I think, feel, and talk about it.

I’m still learning, but it feels like the conversation is starting. At last.

You can find out more on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginismus/ 

Words by Sian Brett for September Sex Education Week 2019 on Anthem Online.

My Journey To Body Acceptance

My body and I have been through a lot. As a trauma and self-harm survivor, my body has really been put through the mill over the years. I have punished my body and it has been punished by others.

As a teenager exposed to The Sun, I saw the Page 3 models and felt ashamed of my flat chest and seeming lack of ‘curves’. I was surrounded by girls at school who had developed breasts much sooner than me, and I had an A cup until I was 16. The girls in the magazines all had thigh gaps, so I became obsessed with how my thighs touched. There were no images of scars, stretch marks or spots in the media. We had no talk at school about how our bodies would change over time. All of the women on the telly had similar body shapes and types. There was no one telling me that my body was okay.

The older I get, the more I decide to push back at the beauty standards placed upon women by a patriarchal society, the media, and diet culture. I’ve largely stopped giving a shit what other people think about my body. I have stopped putting on a face of make-up every day, which I only ever did to look ‘presentable’ for others. I shave when I want to and not because I feel I should. I wear clothes I like and feel good in. I wear a bra if and when I want to. I eat when I want and need to, without thinking about how my body will look as a consequence. If I’m at home I’m naked 99% of the time, which now feels so empowering and freeing to me.

image1

I convinced myself a long time ago that I was on a journey to self-love, but actually, it has become more about body acceptance and neutrality. Sometimes it is hard to love our bodies; they often let us down and don’t do what we want them to do. Seeing my body for what it is, what it has done for me and what it continues to do for me, enables me to feel at peace and acceptance with my body. My body has defended me against harm in multiple ways, has seen me through ridiculous gym routines and a restrictive diet, lets me know when I have not eaten enough or had enough water, lets me know when I am tired. Our bodies do so much for us in just one day. Learning to appreciate that has really allowed me to see my body for what it is: a vessel of life. My body is not here to be looked at or enjoyed by other people.

I feel that social media has been pivotal in my journey to body acceptance. The influx of social media ‘influencers’ who are unapologetic about the appearance of their bodies has not only allowed for more representation on our feeds but there is also more discussion about how harmful the beauty ideals placed on us are, which inspires us to let go of them. Seeing images of so many different types of bodies helps us to realise that we are all perfectly normal, no matter how we look. Hopefully, this can lead to us letting go of shame surrounding our bodies.

image2.png

If like me, you are striving to be at peace with your body, there are so many wonderful resources right at your fingertips. I can’t list them all, but here are just a few of my favourite Instagram accounts who help me feel like I’m okay:

@selfloveliv
@wheelchair_rapunzel
@kenziebrenna
@meg.boggs
@bodyposipanda
@bodyimage_therapist

I want to acknowledge that as a white, slim, able-bodied woman, I fit into eurocentric ideals of beauty. I realise that this also means I can see people represented in the media who look like me. As someone relatively free from physical illness, my body allows me to move as I want, which is not the case for people with chronic and physical illness.

Words and Images by Amber Berry for September Sex Education Week 2019 on Anthem Online.