Author: jessyang

The ‘P’ Word

A few months ago, Anthem shared this incredible video by Glamour that showed us exactly what happens during our menstrual cycle. I don’t know about you, but a lot of this was actually a big shock to me! It really got me thinking about how strange it was that I knew so little about something that happens to me on a monthly basis. And if you’re male, or grossed out by all things bodily fluids, don’t go away – because this is for you too.

Did you know that 48% of girls in Iran think menstruation is a disease? How about that 70% of women in India think menstrual blood is dirty? I guess some of you are thinking that this might just be because of a lack in education. So let’s think a little closer to home. Just think about every sanitary product advertisement ever. Have you ever actually seen any blood on one of those? Or just that bizarre blue liquid that, if anything, makes your period look more like an incontinence problem? You might think that that’s because there are people who are frightened by blood and that it’s just a regulation thing – but there is no regulation against blood in sanitation product advertising. In fact, regulations only require these adverts to not cause offence and not be shown too close to children’s programmes. Because God forbid children might see something that could prepare them for adulthood. And don’t even get me started on the actual content of these adverts. All the talk about ‘discrete’ and ‘you can’t even tell’ and choice phrases like Tampax’s ‘Mother Nature’s monthly gift’. As if having a period is something to be ashamed of. As always, society finds a way to ridicule women for things completely out of their control. Do I even have to mention tampon tax?

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I’m sure you have felt it too, either you or the person at the check-out being embarrassed by your sanitary products, or maybe if you were buying them for someone else. Or someone saying ‘oh god, she must be on her period?’ and your plummeting heart when you think “how did they know?!” Isn’t it common knowledge that women bleed from their vaginas regularly? For some reason, pointing out specifically that I will be bleeding from my vagina sometime in the future makes it all the more unbearable.

Periods aren’t talked about openly and that has resulted in girls not being prepared for it. Research commissioned by the period education campaign Betty for Schools in the UK found that 60% of women were scared and 58% were embarrassed when they started their periods. Furthermore, 44% of girls had no idea what was happening to them at the time. This shows a clear problem: the menstrual taboo. Why are people so afraid of something that happens so naturally? What is it that’s so embarrassing?

Researchers Rempel and Baumgartner (2003) have actually found benefits of thinking positively about our own menstrual cycles. They found correlations between positive attitudes towards personal menstruation (and comfort with menstruation generally) and sexual attitudes, desires and behaviours, including being more comfortable with personal sexuality. They also found that women who were more comfortable with menstruation had more liberal views on sex and became aroused by a wider variety of sexual experiences. Basically, women who were open and accepting about their periods had more sex (which included when they were on their periods). Now, you might think that just means that women with more liberal views are likely to have more sex and be positive about menstruation. But the researchers took this into account, as well as how susceptible these women were to disgust, and found that the relationship between attitudes towards menstruation and sexual behaviour occurred regardless.

One of the things I think would help women become more positive about their periods is actually understanding them. People are afraid of what they don’t know and this is the exact reason why a worldwide fear of something so completely harmless has taken hold. How can we expect men to show periods respect when we can’t even do that ourselves? So, male or female, start talking. Start asking questions about how and why the amazing female body does what it does. And to get you started, here are a few talking points and answers:

1. Periods can be regular even if they don’t occur every 28 days – some women might have them every 18 days whilst other have them every 32 – they only count as irregular if they come at different intervals

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2. Just because you have periods, doesn’t mean you are fertile – a period where an egg is not released is called an anovulatory cycle.

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3. Clots in your period are perfectly normal – it just means you’ve got a heavy flow – but if you’re going through pads/tampons faster than every 2 hours this could be a sign of a problem.

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4. PMS does not actually occur during your period, it stands for Premenstrual Syndrome and occurs one or two weeks before the period. Women can get symptoms during this time and during their actual period due to the changes in hormones in the body.

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5. On that note, there are some ways of naturally improving your PMS symptoms. For example, increasing magnesium a few days before your PMS starts will reduce cramping. That includes foods like nuts, beans, whole grains and even dark chocolate (woohoo). You can also reduce bloating by increasing vitamin B6 levels with pork, poultry, cereals, eggs and vegetables. For that matter, eating a balanced diet can seriously benefit your period experiences, including drinking enough water.

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6. And for those who are on birth control – the ‘period’ that occurs once a month whilst you are on them is actually a withdrawal bleed. This happens as your body readjusts to not getting the hormones it’s been accustomed to for the past month.

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Words by Jessica Yang
Part of the September Sex Education Week, 2017.

Sources:
Bustle
Bustle
Buzzfeed
The Guardian
The Independent
Rempel and Baumgartner (2003): Rempel, J. K., & Baumgartner, B. (2003). The relationship between attitudes towards menstruation and sexual attitudes, desires, and behaviour in women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32(2), 155-163.
WASH United
Wikipedia

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I’ll Wear What I Like

I love make-up. I love wearing it, I love buying it and I love trying it. But I don’t wear a lot of it very often because frankly, I feel self-conscious. How many times have I heard someone being called out on the make-up they wear: Are you going out on a date? Who’s the lucky guy? Are you trying to impress someone? Hell yeah, I’m trying to impress me!

Sometimes, I wake up and I think today I’m going to make an actual effort with my appearance. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel powerful. Like yes, I’m wearing a beautiful red lipstick and I can get shit done whilst I’m wearing it. Yet, there’s this assumption that you’re trying to show yourself off. There are streams and streams of men online complaining about how women use make-up to lie to them. Lie to them. Don’t you think there are much easier (and cheaper) ways to do that?

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For one thing, wearing a lot of make-up, and doing it well is just another new trend; how many videos have you seen of girls doing their make-up online? You don’t get berated for wearing a crop top and high-waisted jeans because you’re trying to show off to boys. Everyone knows you do it because you look cute af. So why should make-up be any different? Why does it have to be for someone else?

Sure, for a lot of girls, they are trying to impress someone. And it’s such a shame that we’ve lost our way so entirely as a society that there are girls who think the best way to do that is by covering as much of their face as possible. Yet it’s understandable why they think that with ridiculous movies like ‘Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs’ and its advertising campaign suggesting that one type of body is more beautiful than another.

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And it doesn’t help when other women are just as bad as men.  Honestly, how many times have you heard your friend talk shit about a girl’s eyebrows, or how much foundation she’s wearing? And if you have (I know I have), did that really make you feel any better about yourself?

As for the people who think that all the girls who wear make-up are dumb and won’t get far in life or aren’t ‘true’ feminists – just think for a second. Think about Beyoncé, Emma Watson, Michelle Obama. Do you really think they rolled out of bed that way? Hell, they’ve got whole teams of people to do their make-up. So that they can feel confident and empower women – and show us just how easy it is to do both.

Feminism isn’t about whether you shave, or wear make-up or pamper yourself. How many times do we have to say it – it’s about equality. It’s about not judging people or treating them badly because they do things a bit differently to you. You do you. As for me, I’ll wear that beautiful red lipstick.

 

Words by Jessica Yang
Images from YouTube and Locus

Michiyo Yasuda: Seen But Not Heard

I remember the day I watched Spirited Away for the first time. I was 7 years old and my sister brought home the DVD because her friend had let her borrow it. It was the most outrageous, exciting, and heart wrenching film I had ever seen. I’ve probably watched it around 20 times by now. The story is one of those timeless, beautiful things that I will show my kids, and hopefully, even their kids. And it would never have been as magical as it is without Michiyo Yasuda.

Michiyo was the mastermind behind the vibrant colours and seamless design of some of Hayao Miyazaki’s most loved works. And after hearing the news of her passing last week, I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to one of the most prominent women in animation history, in true Anthem style.

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Michiyo was born in Tokyo, 1939. Growing up then, women had sensible roles such as bank workers, and rarely held positions of power. However, her parents actively strayed away from traditional Asian child rearing practises, and encouraged Michiyo to pursue her love of the arts.

She began her career in animation straight out of secondary school with Toei Doga, nursing an active aversion to the ‘boring’ paths other women were pursuing. Toei Doga, a company not often heard of in the UK, were behind some major animations such as Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon. Not only that, but a handful of other renowned animators including Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata (Studio Ghibli founders), and even Leiji Matsumoto (the artist behind many of Daft Punk’s iconic music videos) also spent their early days there.

Michiyo began her career like most in the media field; at the bottom. Doing the laborious, time-consuming jobs with little recognition (shout-out to my media pals), but it soon paid off. In 1968, Michiyo Yasuda, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata worked all together for the first time on the Little Norse Prince (1968) for Toei Doga. Although the film was not particularly popular after its release, Film4 heralded it a ‘key film in the history of anime’. And that it was. This was to be the beginning of the two most important business relationships for Michiyo, making striking and unique visual media to enchant the world.

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Michiyo was a part of Studio Ghibli from the very beginning. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) was written by Miyazaki, and is often credited as the foundation of Studio Ghibli due to its incredible success in Japan. Michiyo by this point had sharpened her skills, and dedicated her attention to the incredible colour palettes of the films she worked on.

In an interview with the LA Times, Michiyo stated ‘Colour has a meaning, and it makes the film more easily understood. Colours and pictures can enhance what the situation is on-screen’. Despite this passion for colour and the clear importance it plays in Studio Ghibli’s work, Michiyo was rarely recognised as a major contributor in the company’s work. Many did not know her name and yet millions were touched by her enchanting work. From the painfully sad Grave of the Fireflies (1988) to completely confusing and adorable My Neighbour Totoro (1988). And let’s not forget the dazzling and exciting (and my personal fave) Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).

Michiyo’s legacy lives on. Her colours subtly brought Studio Ghibli’s stories to life, without screaming to be acknowledged.

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Although retiring after Ponyo (2008), she could not resist returning to work on The Wind Rises (2013) as a final contribution to Hayao Miyazaki’s work before his own retirement. Her work will forever pay a stunning tribute to the beauty of nature, and the wonder that can be seen in the most mundane of things.

She is an extraordinary example of a woman who worked her way up from the bottom, and even more so in such a male-orientated field. And she will forever inspire me to see the loveliness of things we so often take for granted.

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Words by Jessica Yang

Images courtesy of Studio Ghibli

 

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT LOVE BY 20

One of my most vivid memories of Year 5 and 6 in primary school, was getting asked out by a boy’s best friend and then giggling every time we held hands. Then being constantly asked by your friends if you love each other and replying ‘of course!’ It’s safe to say that my idea of love has matured a little bit since then.

When you’re young, it seems so simple. You either love them or you don’t. But one of the things I’ve learned is that sometimes it’s not so easy. Sometimes, people who you love do things that you hate. Maybe the first time in your life, it’s your parents. They don’t want you to have that cuddly toy and you just can’t understand why. When you’re older, you realise that it was just because they didn’t want you to be a spoilt brat. They loved you and wanted the best for you then, even though you just thought they wanted to be cruel. That showed me that love requires learning to respect someone else’s thoughts and ideas. Even if they don’t make sense to you. Lesson number 1.

And then came the first wave of ‘romances,’ if you can call them that. That first nervous little peck on the cheek and playing kiss chase with all the people your friends fancy. Your boyfriends and/or girlfriends came and went faster than you could eat your packed lunch. Do you remember how that felt? It was exhilarating at the time. Yet you look back now and you think, ‘that wasn’t love!’ And I don’t know about you but what that showed me is that love is more than just nervous kisses and games. There is more than living for the chase and hurting people just because we can. Love isn’t just lust and playing games with each other. Lesson number 2.

Soon there came secondary school. This is where I honed my cynical perspective on love to perfection. ‘Love is pointless’ was my mantra. Every time someone said the word I’d cringe. I had watched my parents fight and stay together and enough soaps by this point to know that there was more to love than just liking each other a lot. I thought that I was above my friends who would gush about their boyfriends as if they were their knights in shining armour. I saw my sisters have their first big relationships and scrutinised why they went wrong (maybe I am a Psychology student). And I thought I was smarter because I knew that love didn’t mean giving up as soon as things got hard. Lesson number 3.

Then, quite unexpectedly, I joined in the band wagon and had that typical school romance where you hang out at lunch and maybe even outside of school and you’re completely ‘in love’. This was around the time where I thought that I knew best and that no one older really understood. Classic. I remember me and my friends breaking up and making up and it all seemed so real and genuine. Now, those relationships seem so insignificant. And yet, those were real tears and real heartache that was felt. This is what made me believe that love isn’t always about your age. If it was real for you then, it was probably real. Just because it may have ended badly or you now don’t think of them as the love of your life doesn’t make the experience any less important. People grow up, and that just means changing the way we think about things. Getting older doesn’t invalidate our feelings when we were young. Don’t underestimate a teenager’s ability to love just because you think it’s different to how you do it. Lesson number 4.

For a lot of people, secondary school and college marked a lot of firsts. First kiss, first time and first ‘real’ love. Not always in that order. On top of that, everyone would be whispering about each other’s personal lives every chance they could. It was like a competition, who was having sex first, who had been together the longest. Even your best friends told people you didn’t really know. For some reason, this was everyone’s business just because they passed you in the hallway sometimes. Rumours would start, fingers were pointed. But love shouldn’t have to involve the whole school anymore. The gossiping got less brutal as you got older; but that still doesn’t mean your friends want to know every detail. Lesson number 5.

Like most things, love got more complicated after everyone left school. People had to get serious about long distance relationships because of university, and everyone matured out of their secondary school ideals. Love wasn’t just about making out on the sofa anymore. It wasn’t the most important thing, just one of. There was money to think about, a career, maybe travelling and learning to look after yourself. Sure, people go on dates, move in together and go on couple’s holidays. But there’s also family, socialising and food shopping. My point is, love requires just as much care and attention as your taxes. It’s work. Lesson number 6.

The most important thing I’ve learned about love by now, is that it’s different for everyone. It’s a cliché but love is complicated and I would never claim to be an expert. Maybe it’s not always a fairy-tale ending and maybe it seems like more hassle than it’s worth. But what if it’s not? It’s time to break away from the notion that love is just a fleeting thing that only happens to a select few. It’s something that you can make happen and has to be worked at so it can thrive. Then again, maybe I’m wrong and in 10 years’ time I’ll be the cynic I was at 14. But rest assured, everyone’s bumbling along trying to figure it out just like you and me. Lesson number 7.

‘I AM LUCKY’

Recently a lot of things have changed for me, and as always in these sorts of stages in my life, it’s meant I’ve been learning a lot of important lessons. Moving away to university has meant having to learn to cook, clean and generally fend for myself. On an emotional note, it’s been an incredible learning curve.

The first thing I realised was that I was not the person I thought I was. Perhaps university changed me, or maybe I’d always been this person, and maybe it took moving away from my comfort zone to realise. My first year at university was hard. My head was constantly preoccupied with what I felt I should be doing, what I wanted to do and why this distinction between should and want was important. But you know what? It’s not. Now in my second year, I am blessed with new opportunities, better friends and most importantly, a far greater insight.

As well as all the lessons about friends, people and growing up, I learned the power of my own mind. I don’t mean that I realised I was some sort of genius or that I’d found enlightenment. Rather, that I could control how situations affected me, simply by changing my perspective on them. Instead of wasting my time and energy thinking about the things I should or wanted to do, I began to just pick one and go with it. And there’s another lesson in that, because you don’t learn unless you do things. This by no means meant I was making better choices, but the fact I was making choices at all meant I had something to show for them. I could go out for pre’s and decide that actually I’d rather be doing something else, and honestly what’s the worst that could happen? You just say you want to leave and you leave. I could go home and then go back again or even go to a different party and what would be the problem with that? Really, I’m lucky enough to have so many options for good night. Why waste time regretting an option when you made it yourself and that’s what you wanted at the time?

There’s a saying out there that goes something like, ‘keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows’, and I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. Believe me, I am not an optimistic person. Keeping this sort of mindset is far from easy. It’s so cliché. The ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ outlook on life seems naïve even to me now. But I’m beginning to see just how much it makes a difference.

Take my two sisters; both successful in their jobs, one married and the other in a long term relationship. In very similar situations really, but one is constantly troubled about where she wants to be in her career next, when she hopes to have kids, and always seems to find the negative side of any situation. The other has just as much stress in her life, but seems so much happier; laughing and joking about her daily stresses and enjoying herself regardless. She tells me, ‘I am lucky’. And that’s so important. Where both are high-functioning, powerful women that I look up to, only one of them seems to really appreciate where she is. Rather than constantly striving for more, she stops to look at where she is now, and sees everything she has made for herself. I don’t mean that people shouldn’t aim for the best, but never should that goal mean sacrificing your happiness, your relationships or your lifestyle. She is a great inspiration to me and above all else, has taught me that your mindset is everything.

Next year, my boyfriend will be moving 3,400 miles away for 8 months on placement and honestly, I’m terrified. Yet it will also be an incredible year, because I’ll be on placement too, and will have time to spend on my film editing, and sport and other things that take a back seat when he’s around. I have amazing friends, I’m doing a rewarding degree (even if I don’t always enjoy it) and these days I’ve probably got 80+ years to make something of myself.

So yes, I am lucky. Sometimes, I don’t feel like it, but I am. And so are you, whoever you are. You are fortunate enough to live and breathe, and be there to appreciate everything that life is and will be, for you. Look at where you are now and see not what you don’t have but what you do and exactly what that means for you.

Never forget that you are always the most powerful person in your life.

 

Words by Jessica Yang