Author: brionybrake

The Body Diaries with Briony

With this project, I’m entering a very messy area in which everyone struggles; some of my favourite feminist outlets still can’t write articles about being fat or big without slamming someone thin. That’s not how it works. If someone discriminates against an actress for being ‘curvy’ or ‘plus size’, you can and should oppose this and say that a person’s weight has nothing to do with their ability or talent, because it doesn’t! But you cannot and should not oppose this by praising her for not being thin or for being different to all those other skinny models on the scene.

Although it encompasses it, body positivity does not just mean fat positivity. It means body positivity... for all bodies. Don’t judge or discriminate based on someone’s weight or skin colour or height or hair colour or cup size, and above all, do not pit women against each other. If you do, and you claim that you are body positive, then I feel I should let you know that actually, you are not. (Did I mention this was a messy area? I mean I’m barely scratching the surface, gang).

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Let’s get into it. Personally, people I know have called me slim, and I probably am. I have also been called curvy, but I’m probably not. I’m not exactly big or small, and although I would like to be smaller in my waist and arms and thighs (look at those ideals go!), my weight is not really my biggest problem. My lovely friends would likely question why I am writing about bodies when I’m totally fine, but believe it or not, that’s also not how this works.

Most of the world is insecure in their looks, and you don’t have to be a genius at this point to know how much the media and advertising and outdated gendered (masculine and feminine) ideals have impacted that. So pretty much everyone I’ve ever met hates something about themselves and as terrible as that is, the one thing most likely to change that is the very knowledge that everyone is insecure and feels bad about their looks in one way or another. If we’re all in the same boat, there’s better odds at compassion and changing attitudes.

Me personally, I hate a lot of things about myself. In the first draft of this article, I listed out everything I hated and upon reading it back, I felt the most ungrateful I’ve ever felt and deleted it. It’s so hard to talk about because you’re often seen as just phishing for compliments or complaining and it’s practically common knowledge at this point that comparison is the devil.

It is near impossible to condemn a beauty ideal when people exist who present that beauty ideal and look the way you ‘should’. It’s a double edged competition between women (and truthfully, the rest of the world) to look better and to look worse; ‘She’s got better eyebrows so I need to improve mine’, opposed by ‘I look like shit’ and ‘No, I look worse, look at my eye bags’. It goes on, and it all sucks.

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It’s no secret that low self confidence is key to the beauty industry; if we feel good about ourselves, we’re not going to buy things to ‘fix’ ourselves. What would they sell to me if I felt happy with the way I looked? So how do you feel better about yourself when magazines and an entire retail trade industry is willing you to think otherwise? Honestly, I don’t know. If I added up all the time I spent looking at my face in the mirror and closely examining my pores and spots and freckles in my lifetime, it would probably be enough time to have mastered a new skill or language. Just think, I’d be able to say more than ‘Hello, I have bread’ in German. Amazing.

I don’t think there is a secret. I don’t think it’s helpful to tell people that it’s a state of mind. When 1/4 of people in the UK suffer from poor mental health which is frequently linked to body dysmorphia and appetite problems and a general self loathing, how is it at all useful to tell people that happiness and self confidence is a state of mind? I like to think that I’m pretty blasé about my weight and appearance but of course I care, and now that I’m experiencing problems with my skin (shout-out to my stress eczema pals!), I really really care.

I saw a photo of myself the other day that I absolutely hated. I zoomed in on my face – naturally – and looked at my eyes and mouth and just zoomed back out and resolved not to look at the picture again because I hated it so much. ‘Is that really what I look like?’ I thought. I immediately thought about taking up exercise again to get rid of what is realistically a pretty small amount of fat. I considered never wearing that outfit ever again. It’s a natural photo where everyone looks genuinely happy but I absolutely hate it and I shouldn’t.

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Earlier this year I started to suffer from very dry skin which turned into me trying every moisturiser and steroid cream and wash and soap you can feasibly buy. It started in March when it was freezing but I seem to have maintained it through my thoroughly poor handle on day to day stress. In April I stopped wearing makeup because washing my face hurt too much. I haven’t worn makeup in over 4 months and I sit at my desk rubbing a weird white cream into my hands every time I wash my hands and I have red marks on my hands that have only managed to make me cry in the work loos once – so take that, eczema! I’m getting patch tested in November and have yet another new product and new prescription to try in the meantime.

It’s all shit and there’s no other way of talking about it. It sucks. Let me tell you, getting stressed about a stress created illness not going away and then making it worse because you’re stressed… it ain’t fun. So I’m not one of the wonderful humans who actually feel wonderful in who they are look-wise. I wish I was and maybe I will be many years down the line, but for now I’m trying to navigate my body and make it work for me.

 

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What can we do to make us appreciate how excellent it is to even have a body, despite anything we might consider to be ‘wrong with it’? Because comparison isn’t a consideration here. Really, it isn’t. None of this ‘I should be grateful I have legs that work and both my arms’ or some shit, because of course you should be but number one – people who don’t have those things are still valid and might even be more confident in their own body than you are(!) and number two – you need to be more than just grateful that you have a body that’s doing it’s best to look after you.

I know I can’t tell you all to just start forgetting everything you’ve ever been told by everyone because you’ll want to hit me. We do, however, need to start paying more attention to ourselves. It’s not selfish, it’s vital. Pay attention to who you are, and dress accordingly. This doesn’t mean don’t wear v-necks if you’re flat chested or crop tops if you’re bigger than a certain size, it means wear bright colours if you’re a bold and bright person, wear trousers if you hate skirts, cut your hair off if you hate it. All that ‘your body is a canvas’ may seem like rubbish but there’s truth to it. If you want to feel at home in your body, then turn your body into that home.

The key to it all is how you feel about it. If something makes you feel good and you like how you look then keep going. If you feel uncomfortable and you feel like you’re not representing yourself then try something else. I’m immensely open to people choosing things for me, because they have a less biased view of me. Some of my favourite items of clothing were gifts I had no part in choosing. Equally, talking to people really helps. 9/10 times I’ve told someone ‘my skin is really bad’ or ‘I look really tired’ or whatever stupid thing it is, they’ve said that they didn’t notice. They never notice. They aren’t trying to look for the bad in you.

Another thing you can do is to curate your social feeds. If you are following people promoting diet culture or who offer false confidence then maybe consider replacing them with more friends, body positive creators or a miniature dachshund account. That last one always works wonders for me. Your social media absolutely should not make you feel bad. You are in control of it and can make it feel like a safe and welcoming space for you when you need it.

For now that’s all I have for you. This is such a difficult topic to tip toe around because the way we’ve been socialised to see the world means we think things we don’t always realise are exclusionary or rude. Everyone matters and everyone’s body is just fine as it is. So stop thinking about everyone else for a minute, and look out for yourself. I’ll see you all back here for another Body Diaries entry in a month or so, but for now please enjoy the rest of September Sex Education Week and take care.

 

Words: Briony Brake
Images: Briony Brake
Written for September Sex Education Week 2018 on Anthem Online

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September Sex Education Week 2018: Welcome Back

For some reason, a proper sex education is something I’ve become very passionate about in past years. I did a short speech about it while at university, and ever since researching it and learning all the terrible statistics, I’ve become fixed on the subject.

It seems to be that the more you think about your own sex education and you talk to others about theirs, you realise you’ve learned almost everything the hard way – or haven’t even learned it yet! To be quite frank, that’s a load of rubbish.

I appreciate that it’s 2018; there’s a lot we’d like to be on the curriculum that currently isn’t, from issues of race and gender to politics and how to get a mortgage. A proper sex education deserves a spot on this list because, as I said last year when I began this project, a proper education allows people to make their own informed choices and to be safe and healthy and (god forbid!) to even have fun.

The project came to Anthem because we are all equally angry about the lack of knowledge we left school with about our own bodies, and I’m so excited to be introducing September Sex Education Week 2018. This is our second year, and as always, we want you to be involved and to feedback what you want to learn about and hear about. What do you wish you had learned?

With that thought in your mind, let’s begin. The first article will be going up tomorrow all about body image and we’ll have a series of fantastic articles coming up this week from the team here at Anthem. Make sure you’re following us on social here, here and here so you don’t miss an article! We can’t wait to share this years project with you.

Thank you for reading! We’ll be seeing you tomorrow…

Love, Briony!

 

Words: Briony Brake
For September Sex Education Week on Anthem Online

How Can We Be Better Allies To The LGBTQ+ Community?

As a straight, white feminist, it can be really easy to just focus on your own problems and disadvantages, but it’s common knowledge that we can’t all move forward when half of us are being held back. Equality can’t ever be achieved if we don’t work together to boost everyone up so we ought to start closing that gap. 

As it’s Pride month in the UK, I wanted to focus on some of the injustices faced by women within the LGBTQ+ community. Someone I know pointed out just how frustrating gay clubs can be, especially when taken over by straight women trying to escape the sometimes literal clutches of straight men in straight clubs. When it’s pointed out, you realise how unhelpful you’re being in what should be a safe place for a community you’re not a part of. It was also pointed out to me that even gay clubs weren’t particularly welcoming to lesbians or bi women. It was pretty disconcerting to hear that they can’t even enjoy clubs intended for their use and it got me thinking. I decided I would try to learn a little more.

I reached out to friends and to colleagues,one of whom actually teased me, knowingly asking why I had chosen to question her instead of others I worked with. I wanted to know how a straight person could make a good – or just a better – ally. We need to band together properly, so I asked for the community’s opinions and tips, and here’s what I got back…

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LILY ANN PROCELLA 

“A  couple of simple things are calling out homophobia/transphobia if you see it. Often it is left up to the victims to call this behaviour out which is not a position everyone can accept for a whole host of reasons. Solidarity feels good because (from my experience) when you are lgbt/closeted etc it is incredibly isolating and there aren’t too many examples of people standing up to this discrimination in popular culture, straight or otherwise so it feels like you against the world. If your workplace or colleagues don’t respect other people’s identities or insufficient training is provided try suggesting training is provided. If someone tells you their pronoun, refer to them with that pronoun and treat them with respect. It can feel uncomfortable at first but it is way better to suffer slight discomfort than to invalidate someone else’s whole identity.

Others are; donating to or volunteering at local homeless shelters as not everyone is accepted by their family and there are a lot of homeless lgbtq+ people in the UK at the moment and not too many specialised services. Donating time or money to organisations or even just sharing news articles and petitions that are related to the community would be awesome. Try to respect that there may be lgbtq+ spaces where it is purely for the community not allies. These spaces can be vital in giving people who suffer discrimination and misunderstanding on a daily basis some much needed breathing room, in a similar way to how we have women/nb only spaces it comes down to celebrating yourself and connecting with others in a safe space. It’s not personal, and getting offended thinking you are being excluded can be very invalidating to people within the community. Also taking some time to research art, film, books by lgbtq artists and supporting them is a rewarding way to be an ally. I think a lot of lgbtq+ people feel like straight allies get involved for the big events like pride and that’s great but we need support in the small scale everyday stuff too so try to be a year-round ally not just a seasonal one. Pick just one thing you’re going to try to do for the next year/month etc that will help the community and try to do it”


LARA SCOTT

“My only note in terms of being an ally would be not to ask about labels straight away. Especially if your friend is having a new experience. I sometimes think the worst question to ask a queer person is: so what are you? It put a lot of pressure on that person. I think the best way to be an ally is just to listen to your friends story & their experience.”

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REBECCA [surname removed for anonymity]

“Education of what LGBTQA+ is and all the differences etc. It’s still not massively talked about in secondary school, and why is labelling so important. Respect each other as fellow humans and not see differences. Most of the shit I have is from people from a different generation that don’t see it’s okay to be gay.”

AMBER BERRY

“One huge thing I want to emphasise is for people to be inclusive of bi* and pan* people. Despite us being a huge part of why pride even came about in the first place, and despite us being a large percentage of the LGBTQ+ population, so often we are missed out of conversations. This includes things like not assuming that two people who are together and masc presenting or femme presenting are always gay.

Another thing I’d say is that straight and cis folks should do their reading. Educating yourself is a great way to become a better ally. Sometimes I’m more than willing to help folks understand the bi/queer experience but other times I don’t want to because it’s exhausting and because I struggle with mental illness. Straight people can’t always rely on LGBT folks to educate them. A really good way of integrating LGBTQ+ content into your life could be watching YouTube creators, podcasters and by following/supporting people on Instagram. Not necessarily just reading books or articles!

Lastly to be aware that there are people who are LGBTQ+ and also POC or disabled or other far more marginalised identities than the average white gay man, and their voices should be amplified and supported.”

I am hugely grateful to all of the women who were kind enough to explain things to me and to share their own experiences and advice. I’ve learned a lot, and I hope you have to. To everyone in the UK enjoying pride, don’t forget to take note of the above advice, and to support the community all year round, through times of struggles as well as in celebration. Happy Pride everyone.

Words by Briony Brake with interviews from Lily Ann Procella, Lara Scott, Rebecca and Amber Berry for Anthem Online.
Images from Briony Brake and Lara Scott.

 

365 Days in London

Friday 23rd June 2017. I graduated from Oxford Brookes University at 3pm in the afternoon. I took photos, stole a bunch of mini scones and headed into town with my family. I then boarded a coach to London in my nice graduation dress, switching my new heels for my favourite beat-up trainers. 

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Hooray for me!

A lot of people move to bigger cities after uni – some by accident, some with sincere intent to live a big city life. I didn’t plan on it and wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do. Five or six months prior, I had gone for an interview for an internship that was successful and so I was heading to London for at least two months to try that out. I arrived in London on a Friday night and got straight to work on Monday. Even as I moved into London, I didn’t know if I wanted to stay forever but knew that now was the time to try. 

It’s been a year since I moved to London – yes I’m still here – and I have a full-time job working on a different team at the company I started interning for last June. I live in a flat share, I have a cinema loyalty card that I don’t use as much as I should (the sign of a true grown up), and I’m staying here. I’m staying in London and I’m staying at my job. I have a set of great friends that also happen to be my colleagues, and have access to so many cool events and things going on in London.

I wanted to write this piece for two reasons – firstly to celebrate my first year in London, and secondly to share some of the things I’ve learned since being here. So let’s get to it!

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I live (near) here now.

Being a grownup is exhausting.  

The thing about London is that this all sounds really glorious, partly because I’ve written it that way and partly because I’ve totally omitted the countless times I’ve wanted to go home and all the stressed-out evenings and weekends spent fretting over work or social events. London is hella tiring. Very few people live close to where they work and if they do they don’t live near their friends and if they do they don’t live near their family or favourite market or museum etc. London is praised for having everything but if you thought about it logically, you’d realise how much space you’d need to have everything you loved. Everything is spread out and not everything is accessible when you want or need it. It’s very easy to glamourise London and say ‘well it has the best doughnuts and pizza’ which it probably does but you have to actually have the energy to go and get those doughnuts and pizza.

I moved to London and thought to pretty much everything I faced ‘it will get easier’, but I don’t know if it does. It’s not that you’re not used to it, it’s that it’s freaking hard. Travelling with hundreds of other sweaty bodies for hours a day, lugging bags around, working, exercising, enjoying a social life. It’s ridiculous. I had resigned myself to long periods of coming home, showering, cooking and watching a film before going to bed until my laptop broke. Now I watch TV on my Kindle.

The thing is that everyone is the same. I thought my London friends were London people and let me tell you, I think that’s a myth. London isn’t a fictional place where everyone is either a businessman or really super unbelievably cool. First of all, my London friends are all equally shattered and tell me how hard London is, and secondly, it’s a city goddamn it, not a club. Anyone is welcome. 

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I won an award for always having biscuits at my desk. #Winner

There’s room for everybody.

Everyone is welcome in the Big Gherkin (is that right?). It’s a funny double-edged sword because nobody gives a shit what you do or wear (drags old merch clothing out the wardrobe) but also nobody gives a shit what you do or wear (sits in pile of Gryffindor t-shirts with a sad, hopeless face). I work in an office that deals with a lot of film and television. As expected, my office is filled with merch; we probably keep Funko in business and that’s cool. I had been to an all-girls school which although relatively progressive still separated out the nerds from the rest, and then a university where I didn’t make many friends. I didn’t proudly support things I loved in my possessions and clothing anymore, but I hadn’t realised until I started this job.

My desk has only just started gathering stuff but it’s great. My birthday presents were all cat or feminist related and what more could you want? I frequently wear a Bart Simpson printed shirt to work or jumpers printed with slogans about equality and quotes from Pride and Prejudice. It doesn’t matter what you’re a ‘nerd’ about, it’s all good. Nobody gives a fudge. It’s grand.

I went to a Comic-con for the first time in May and was taken aback at how little people cared that anime girls and Jon Snows were boarding the DLR. Princess Belle in a giant yellow dress? Didn’t notice. It was so nice that I actually got a bit emotional. These people were doing what they wanted and nobody was making fun or questioning them for it. I actually cried when I went to Pride last year too. I’d only been in London for a short while at this point, but here were all these people celebrating and mourning simultaneously with thousands of allies just happy to be around. Everyone was friendly and talking to one another and there was music and glitter and colour and people were allowed to be themselves. What a dream. 

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I did not win this cat, and I am low-key furious.

I can be myself, whoever that is.

For the first time in years, I haven’t even considered dieting or getting fit to lose weight. Why you ask? Because I don’t care. Because nobody else cares. I had to stop wearing makeup earlier this year because my skin went to pot and although I started my internship wearing a full face of makeup every day, I have not worn makeup to work in at least a month or two. Nobody cares. It’s a great thing to embrace. Share what you love, talk about your passions. 

*I know I should’ve started this article with the disclaimer that I know I’ve been pretty lucky getting a job where I work and very occasionally being able to afford some of the fun things London has to offer (like DOUGHNUTS) but it’s too late now, the disclaimer is going here.*

I actually got to help on a friend of a friend’s short film as a runner this summer which was amazing. Suddenly I felt like filmmaking wasn’t off the table again (although realistically I don’t have time so it’s back off the table but still!). I’ve made friends who would gladly support or help my writing if I wanted feedback because they write too. Most of the time I can find someone to take advantage of cheap theatre tickets with me, and most excitingly I’ve discovered karaoke. Karaoke is fun damn it.

Then you have the fact that I can discuss feminism with my boss or Wonder Woman or Pusheen the cat or some obscure animation on Netflix with someone at work. It is no longer a secret that I’ve watched pretty much every Christmas movie available on Netflix, and not necessarily in December either. I like stuff and people know, and nobody thinks any different for knowing. Maybe it’s a growing up thing and not a London thing, but I feel like I belong at my current job. 

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Get it, girl.

Difference will help you grow.

This last one is less something I have learned and more something I’ve always believed that’s confirmed on a daily basis. I know a lot of people that are quite old fashioned and think it would be better if we could just get rid of or stop dealing with certain people. The thing is, we cannot get rid of people we disagree with. I’m a proud feminist and if I got rid of people who disagreed with me, then there probably wouldn’t be a population crisis anymore. You will never ever learn or grow or change if you only spend time with people like you. I genuinely believe that you will learn way more from people you dislike and disagree with than you will from similar people.

Learning to get on with people you don’t like is one of the most valuable social skills you can learn. Learning and changing to not be like people you dislike or learning how to defend yourself and your argument against people who disagree with your beliefs is equally valuable. The thing about everyone in London being different is that you learn to be friendly with dozens of people for different reasons. Being able to talk to people and discover something in common is brilliant, and learning to deal with people you don’t like is only going to help you. Living somewhere where every single person you pass is different is an amazing confirmation of how much you’re going to learn and grow and become accepting of so many different people. So remember that. 

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Treat yo’self to a good doughnut.

That’s it really. I just can’t get over how solid that message of acceptance has been since I’ve been here. I know it’s not the same for everyone but this is my personal account of London. People are either going to like you or they’re not, and there’s actually not so much you can do about that. You can be the most pleasant person in the world and someone’s still going to think you’re too pleasant. London is so busy and there’s so much happening all the time that it kind of forces you to just get on with it.

People who are very different end up being friends and that is so good for you. It is so unbelievably good for you to make friends with people who have different interests and backgrounds and lives. If you can support your friends and their super niche hobbies and interests then they will support you in yours. It’s a win-win. 

It’s been a tough year but an interesting one. I’m confident in my job and my personality in a way I haven’t been before. I’ve learned to take the bad with the good. If nothing else, I’ve learned to say “it’s swings and roundabouts” at least once a day. Welcome to London, I guess.

 

Words and Images by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.

‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’: A Review

I’ve never been to Edinburgh Fringe, hell, I haven’t even been to Edinburgh. I’d love to, but it’s not exactly cheap, but that’s the great thing about being in London. Since coming here, I’ve been able to experience theatre and stand up at local comedy nights and festivals. Most recently, I was invited along to see ‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’ at the Catford Fringe starring Anthem’s very own Courtney McMahon.

Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an impressive debut piece from the Ghosted Ink arts collective featuring spoken word, karaoke and dancing. It aims to bring a story from a working class family into the light where it belongs, and it is lovely. Watching Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an experience comparable to catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in years, or perhaps even better, meeting someone for the first time and learning about their life.

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In the lead, Courtney doesn’t take on a character that’s been made up or fictionalised; Courtney plays herself. She, along with the rest of the team at Ghosted Ink, take you by the hand and ask you to step inside for a moment, and to listen to one woman’s tale. I really appreciated this piece for such an emphasis on pure storytelling, yet simultaneously for not being afraid to get creative with it. The set design was simplicity at its finest with props evoking both laughter and sadness, yet never taking away from the story being told.

Courtney walks the audience through selected moments of her own childhood, working you through a set of themes that include loss, confusion and anger. We learn about her siblings and mum, and we experience as many highs as we do lows as she takes us on a trip down memory lane.

“Layers and layers and layers and layers of nostalgia” she yells from the floor of her childhood bedroom, and layers of nostalgia is exactly what Beige Walls is. I didn’t live this life, and there are aspects of her life I couldn’t even begin to understand having not experienced them myself, but the brilliance comes from just that word – nostalgia.

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Nostalgia means a remembrance of something that never was, so we have a habit of using it to refer to our childhoods when we think about the presents under the tree at Christmas or the simple games we used to play with friends. Courtney remembers these things hand in hand with fleeting moments of reality. She discusses the great and terrible moments of living with her sister and I laughed. I laughed because I understood and have shared a room with a sister. It’s small moments like this that transferred her very own and very personal nostalgia onto the audience. An audience who were only too grateful to join in and were laughing from start to finish.

Like all good theatre (in my wholly uneducated opinion), Beige Walls doesn’t keep you down for too long. Though there are several times of anger, disappointment and grief, it is not long before Courtney’s pink hair and glittery eyes are up again, singing Wham or dancing to The Ketchup Song.

The team at Ghosted Ink did an absolutely terrific job with Beige Walls, and created a totally new experience for me. It was a pleasure to sit down somewhere new for 45 minutes and to witness a life story play out in the way they have pulled this piece together.

Four stars for Beige Walls & Navy Sofas!

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem
Images courtesy of Ghosted Ink

You can stay in the loop with all things Ghosted Ink via the following links:
Instagram – @ghostedink
Twitter – @Ghostedink_Arts
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GhostedInkArts 
Website – https://ghostedinktheatre.wixsite.com/ghostedinkac  (best viewed on desktop)

Why We Focus On Women

Why do we march for women and not men? Why do we have an international day for women but not for men? Why do we have girl power but not boy power? Why is it called feminism if it supports women and men?

There is a very simple answer to all of these questions, and it is as follows…

We march for women because equality is the finish line, and men had a head start. We march for women, because we’ve got further to go before we can catch up. We’ll meet at the finish line and celebrate together, but we cannot push you to the finish line when we are too far back to even see you.

We celebrate women’s days and not men’s days because in a patriarchal society, every day is a men’s day. You might not have wanted it that way, but it’s how it is. One day a year is all we take, and in all fairness, we did give birth to the entire human race.

We celebrate women because someone has to. We are not raised to shout and scream and praise ourselves. We are not taught to believe in our power the way that men are. So we celebrate ourselves once a year as a baby step. One day we will celebrate humans altogether, but we’ve got a long way to go until that day.

Girl power was born because we were sick of not having power. Men and boys have power because they are born men and boys. We are born female, and thus powerless. We have to fight for what we want. We have to claim our own power. Girl power is how we celebrate our claim and our fight. You can have boy power if you really want, but then you already do. You just don’t have a name for it, because it’s the norm. It’s how things already are.

It is called feminism because women are the more disadvantaged and wronged party. We all have a long way to go, and none of us should be discriminated against for being born one way or another, but women (and really anyone who doesn’t identify as male) have greater obstacles preventing them from gaining equality. We want everyone from every background to feel equal, and not judged for being a boy or girl or somewhere in between. We just need your help getting a foot up first.

We’re not sure why this is such a big ask, and this is why we get angry sometimes. We march because we’re sick and tired and want to shout about how unfair it all is. We don’t do it often though. We just want equality, and don’t understand why some of you don’t too. It’s just equality. It’s not that hard, is it?

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Words and Image by Briony Brake for Anthem.

How’s It Going?

Hello, there. Happy first week of February! How is it going? Have you given up on all your resolutions yet? Have you realised that you cannot alter your entire being in just 31 days? Will you promise to set yourself easier targets next year? No? Alright then, fine.

My new year resolution, if you can even call it that, is to watch lots of films – preferably ones I haven’t seen before. I did this last year and I did a great job and it made me feel better so I’m doing it again. I’m not really bothering because I don’t truly want to lose weight or eat better or run more. Sure, I’m trying to get back into swimming a couple of times a week, but I’m not totally grilling myself for it. What’s the point?

I don’t really bother with resolutions because not only do they not make sense (are you supposed to lose weight for the year, or forever? Is there a time limit on it?), but also because I have never once kept a resolution in my life that wasn’t something super easy like watching a bunch of new films. Surely, it is better to enter into a new year promising to yourself that you will look after yourself and endeavour to make yourself proud. So this year, I’m not really bothering at all, and so far I’m doing pretty damn well.

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With no real resolutions or goals to fulfil, I have managed to finish three whole (and admittedly rather short) books in January that I loved, and I’m now halfway through a fourth. I’ve read an autobiography, a professional toolkit and a book on women in ancient civilisations. I’ve learned so much in such a short space of time, and I’m genuinely quite proud of myself. I never finish books, I just carry them around London until ultimately putting them back on the shelf the next time I clean out my handbag. So I’ve celebrated, and I’ve bought new books to try and keep myself going. I’ve not set a target, I just want to read some more books.

When I was ill in the middle of January, I had two days at home that led me to finally starting my self-taught British Sign Language course (which I paid for a long time ago). I had so much free time because I was off work, that I had time to complete multiple lessons from it. Hell, I even signed up for a free online screenwriting course this week, because why not? I’m learning, and learning is what really makes me happy and makes me feel accomplished. It’s what I love, and when there are so many opportunities available to me to learn new things, and for free(!), I’d be a fool not to have a go.

I’ve been proud of myself for also signing up new people to Anthem; for finding great new people to join this family. I’m happy that I made it to the cinema a few times, particularly when I missed so many releases last year. I socialised and met friends (see below picture of cake for proof) for dinner, which is frankly an achievement for anyone working full-time in London, let alone someone desperately trying to budget their spending, living with anxiety, and only knowing a handful of people in this big ass city.

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I’ve been struggling to finish off this article because everything I think sounds really lame in my head, but it’s got some truth to it. We need to celebrate the happy more and stop being such a pain in the butt to ourselves when we make mistakes or feel sad. Life happens and part of that is that we feel sad and angry and we do things wrong, but if we focused on the things that we did well and the fun times we have with the amount of energy we focus on the bad… we’d probably be a lot happier. The thing about happy and wonderful times is that we only recognise how happy and wonderful they are because we’ve experienced the kind of shitty times. If every day was wonderful, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate them the way we can now.

So revel in the goodness. Make it your new motto to celebrate the teeny tiny victories. Buy yourself flowers and comfy socks. Go to a free exhibition or make time to see that new release in the cinema. I looked after myself this week by having one evening in to tidy my bombsite of a room, shower, eat, and watch a cheesy film from the 90s. You don’t have to spend all your money or scream and shout to do this well, you just need to remember that you saw a tiny dog in a tracksuit this morning. How great is that?

The next time you’re hard on yourself for not losing 1000lbs in two days, make a note to find a way of enjoying exercise so that you’ll actually want to go (Zumba, dance, boxing, swimming etc) and don’t waste your evening bullying yourself about it. The next time someone says you did something good at work, say thank you and smile and believe in yourself a little bit. The next time you spend a day reading in your room, be happy you had the time to read and be grateful that you’ve had the chance to learn more and experience new lives and worlds through that book.

There’s good and bad to be found in everything, it’s just up to you to do the searching. Here’s to February, guys. You’re going to do great!

 

Words and Images by Briony Brake