Social Issues

There’s Nothing Wrong With Being

Recently, I read an article that defended Mandi Gosling’s boobs. Her dress at the Oscars meant she looked great, but all anyone could talk about was her breasts – like breasts are something new and unheard of. Sure she looked great, and yeah she’s got boobs, but really? Like is that all we care about now? We’re not even going to pretend we like her dress first?

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There was literally nothing about Mandi that didn’t mention her cleavage. When I did finally find this article in defence of her boobs I was overjoyed, until I got to the end of the piece. The article started to talk about how we should be grateful that Mandi wasn’t like all the other ‘stick’ women on the red carpet that night.

Using the word ‘other’ when talking about women is outrageously problematic. Don’t defend someone by putting someone else down, that’s not how it works. Mandi Gosling isn’t ‘different’ because she has cleavage. I have cleavage for God’s sake, so do half my friends, so do members of my family, and strangers I pass on the street. Cleavage is just boobs. Boobs are just boobs. Get over it. Don’t call people out and say they’re different for having boobs, and don’t call them out for not having boobs.They’re just women, and they’re just people.

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Take a look at this picture of Ashley Tisdale. She looks great. It’s a great dress. She turned up to a charity event wearing it, which was quick to be followed by Twitter users writing that she looked pregnant (and most of them weren’t nice about it). To me, she doesn’t look pregnant, she looks like she usually does. However, when people say female celebrities look pregnant, they mostly just mean it looks like they’ve put weight on. Again I can’t help but think, why the hell do you care?

All these articles always get me a little stressed out because I can never understand why anyone gives a shit about who has a bit of flab, or who had a nip-slip, or who got botox. I do not care. I never have, and if I ever do, I hope you all slap me round the face until I snap out of it. Just because they’re celebrities why should it mean we’re allowed to bully them? Famous men and women are both subjected to this kind of treatment, but it does seem to come part and parcel of being a female celebrity as opposed to some of the male celebrities who we don’t seem to criticise, for example, the wonderful Chris Pratt whom we love on the left, or on the right. But then double standards are also inbuilt with this whole issue.

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At the end of the day, my point is that we shouldn’t be so hard on people for being the way they are. It sounds obvious, and it sounds like something we should already be doing, but it isn’t. We talk about celebrities for being fat, thin, breasty, flat-chested, pregnant-looking, old, flabby, or whatever, but what’s arguably worse is that we even do it to people we know. We talk about people we used to know, or people in our classes, or ou jobs, and talk about them behind their back. I’m not necessarily saying w should all be nice to each other all the time (mostly because it’s impossible), but there’s just no need to criticse people for being the way they are if they can’t help it, or if they’re happy. If Mandi Gosling wants to wear that dress to a televised event, she probably couldn’t care less what you think about her boobs.

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If Mandi Gosling wants to wear that dress to a televised event, she probably couldn’t care less what you think about her boobs. If I wear skinny jeans and a crop top on a night out, I know it doesn’t look that nice when I sit down, because as a human who doesn’t exercise, I have a belly. I’m only 20, but I’ve had plenty of photos taken of me when both my friends and I have laughed about how ‘out’ my boobs are. Let me tell you, I will wear what I want, and what makes me feel comfortable or nice, and if you want to talk about it then go ahead, but frankly there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being comfortable and happy in yourself. There’s nothing wrong with wearing v-necks if you have big boobs, and there’s nothing wrong with wearing things that show off something you’ve worked for, or something you’re proud of. Wear what you want for god’s sake.

You do you xo

 

Words by Briony Brake
Images from Maxim, Romper, GymViral, NY Magazine

Q&A: Oxford Dignity Drive

Hello to the gang at Oxford Dignity Drive! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves; who you are and what you all do?

In March 2015, Dignity Drive was set up by Wadham College students Rachel Besenyei and Niamh McIntyre, to raise awareness and combat period poverty! This took the form of an initial week of fundraising events, and a drive for donations of sanitary products which were then delivered to homeless shelters, and refuges around Oxford. We (Laura, Issy, and Hannah-Lily) took over last summer., and since then we have been raising more funds, and distributing products around Oxford. 

Why are you working for this cause? Do you believe it to be an international issue?

The issue of period poverty is especially prevalent in the UK at the moment because of the current government’s massive cuts to homelessness services, which often hit women harder. There has been a 50% cut in services since 2010, and in that time homelessness in the UK has doubled.

The lack of sanitary products for women is often talked about as the ‘unseen’ side of homelessness, and so even when people donate to food banks, often they just don’t consider it. Periods remain a taboo subject across the world, but we are focusing on Oxford in particular because of the widely acknowledged issue of homelessness in the city.

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So what do the Oxford Dignity Drive do to help?

In 2015 we ran a week of events aimed to raise awareness around the unspoken issue of period poverty, including film screenings, panel events, and an exhibition. Increasing the discussion around menstruation as a means of combatting this taboo is vital, and we hope that by doing so it will become part of every discussion surrounding homelessness.

The other major work we do is raising money, and taking physical donations. Recently we have been raising funds through union motions, and then delivering them as soon as we can to food banks and refuges in Oxfordshire. As necessary as raising awareness is, we know that this is a tangible, urgent issue, and so our aim is to provide resources as quickly as possible.

Tell us about some of these events that you’ve been holding, or plans you have!

Last term we worked on diversifying the places we donate to, and identified that there was a potential issue in that homeless shelters are predominantly used by men. So we contacted a number of women’s refuges, and are now aiming to help them too. We’ve also been continuing to raise awareness through social media, and are planning some more events, as well as a week-long drive in mid-February. You can follow our Facebook page to keep up-to-date, and watch this space!

What would you ask of local residents to do in support?

If you’re thinking about donating to food banks or shelters, make sure you include sanitary products as well as food products (this can include toiletries too, they’re all greatly appreciated!).

Spread the word, confront the taboo, and tell all your friends about Dignity Drive!

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Perhaps on a more national scale, what can everyone do to help?

It’s really the same as above; there is a nationwide campaign called #thehomelessperiod which has a big petition, and takes just 10 seconds to sign. There are also a number of regional campaigns doing the same as us – at universities in particular – so check whether your university has one, and if not you could consider setting one up! We can help, so please get in touch if you would like any advice.

Would you like to say anything else to the lovely Anthem readers?

We would like you to help us in raising awareness around period poverty. Whether it’s sharing an article, telling your friends, or making donations to food banks yourself. We are always looking for more people to help Oxford Dignity Drive as well, so locals to the area can contact us on Facebook, and we’ll let you know how to get involved.

Lastly, we will always continue trying to combat this issue, but ultimately we are picking up the slack of deficient government services. Write to your MP, and be considerate of any party’s policies surrounding homelessness when making personal political choices!

Sanitary products are not a luxury – they are a necessity. 

 

Oxford Dignity Drive do some great work, and you can keep learning about their work, and what you can do via the following:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oxdignitydrive/?fref=ts 
GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/sfdprg

Words by Briony Brake with responses from the team at Oxford Dignity Drive
Images by Oxford Dignity Drive

Blue Monday, Blue Winter, Blue Year.

Blue Monday is not the most depressing day of the year, nor is it any more or less depressing than any other day of the year.

January can be a difficult month as we tend to pile even more pressure onto ourselves with sweeping New Year’s resolutions that often force us to think we should be fitter, stronger, or better than we already are. My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to watch more films because I keep watching the same ones over and over .

I do not plan to get smarter, thinner, or better at riding my bike because I have as much control over the year as I do the weather. This year I’m going to try my best to look after myself while I attempt to embrace the mess that is life after uni.

I don’t believe I will be happy all year. I don’t believe I will be healthy and happy for the next New Year because I don’t know what life will bring. My attitude differs to the popular resolve I’m sure, but it seems fair to me.

As such, I know people will think I’m being negative by saying that Blue Monday is as depressing as any other day. I feel I should however remind you that Blue Monday is false, has no scientific backing, and was made up by holiday company Sky Travel in their 2005 press release. Blue Monday is pseudoscience, and an angle for marketers. So all of this (see below) is bullshit.

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My point with this piece isn’t to mock you, or to tell you how foolish you are to buy into all the companies and newspapers telling you to be depressed every January 16th. My point is to tell you that for many people, the entire month, season or year can be so awfully blue, that one day won’t make a difference.

We should not see Blue Monday as a day to feel bad about ourselves unnecessarily, but as a reminder of how much work we need to put into looking after ourselves, as often as we can. Whether it’s a seasonal affective, or year-round depression, it’s important to focus on the good.

Articles from the Daily Mail (*cough* trash) telling us why things are terrible and ‘more depressing than usual’, should be replaced with good news, and things to be happy about. We should not feel bad for being upset, and we should definitely not feel bad on behalf of others when we are sad. It is a human right to feel. It is a part of living to cry and feel down, as much as it is to laugh and feel joy.

This Blue Monday, I ask that you stop reading articles about the bad in the world and to instead watch a film, or have dessert or a hot chocolate. I don’t want you to feel bad because you’ve been told to. I ask that you look after yourself as well as you should every other day of the year, and to do your best to keep it up from now on.

Blue Monday isn’t real, but your health and feelings are. Look after what counts, and be kind to yourself.

 

Words by Briony Brake

The Lions Barber Collective

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 years old in the UK. Let that sink in for a second.
In 2013, over 4,000 of a total 5,140 suicides were male. Nearly 80%.
For every female who commits suicide, there are four males who do, but the numbers aren’t going down…

The ratio of male to female suicide shows a sustained rise over the last 30 years.  In 1981 men accounted for 62 per cent of suicides, this rose to 70 per cent by 1988, 75 per cent by 1995, and 77 per cent in 2012, to 78 per cent last year” (CALM, 2013).

The statistics are worrying, and aren’t even slowing down. So what the hell can be done about it?

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The Lions Barber Collective is a group of professional barbers from England, Ireland and Holland who are trying to help prevent it. How? They want to talk. It’s widely known that people are often likely to confide in bartenders, salon workers and barbers more than their friends or family. It’s not a bad thing, but it does raise the idea that perhaps these guys should know what to do when dealing with vulnerable members of the public.

This particular group has begun working in partnership with #BarberTalk and Papyrus (suicide prevention). Their general work, in conjunction with BarberTalk involves raising awareness, and training. The training aims to have barbers recognising, talking, listening and advising their customers. Here they’ve realised their relationship with the men they work with, and the trust that already exists, and are putting it to good use!

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Through a variety of public projects, demonstrations and merchandising (you might even have seen these badass t-shirts before), the charity is able to spread the training, knowledge, and most importantly, the awareness. It may seem like a little change, but being able to actually tell someone what’s going on in your life, or how you’re feeling can make the world of difference. For men who frequent the barber multiple times a year, it can become a chance either to get a few things off your chest, or simply be distracted from any problems long enough to have a nice chat.

Founded by Tom Chapman, the organisation is still very young, and really deserves the chance to grow and become a household name. Having lost a friend to suicide himself, Chapman felt the need for a safe and open environment where men were free to express themselves, and be listened to if they were feeling depressed or suicidal. The work they have done in such a short space of time has already saved lives, and as Chapman says in the interview below, if they can shave off just 1% of the suicides, it’s still lives being saved.

I emailed Lions Barber Collective and received a joyous reply from Tom Chapman who wanted to pass on the main goals of the collective; “to destroy the stigma around mental health and suicide, and through the BarberTalk program to train barbers to recognise the signs of mental health, the skill of non-judgemental listening, and signposting”.

It seems like a small ask that could save lives.

You can like them on Facebook to keep up to date with their events and partnerships here: https://www.facebook.com/TheLionsBarberCollective

Or check out their website instead for more information and merchandise: http://www.thelionsbarbercollective.com/

All photos courtesy of The Lions Barber Collective
Words by Briony Brake

Statistics from CALM: http://www.thecalmzone.net.gridhosted.co.uk/2014/10/male-suicides-in-england-and-wales-hit-15-year-high/

Maintaining Friendships (How To Lose a Friend in Ten Steps)

The thing about friendships is that you don’t plan for a future in the way that you do with a romantic relationship; there is no natural path to follow, or a map with which you can navigate the success or lack thereof. It’s blindly attaching yourself to someone because at one point in time you shared something. Whether it’s school, a job or an interest, you make a connection with someone, often it is superficial yet other times it is not, and that person becomes someone you can’t imagine not being in your life.

Part of growing up is that you lose friends. Maybe it’s the girl you used to walk home with, or the person from work who you’d always catch up on all the gossip with, but sometimes they’re more important, they’re the people you grew up with, the people who helped you navigate your torturous teenage years, the ones who calmed you down after blowouts with your parents, and sometimes those friends disappear from your life and you’re not really sure why.

Moving away from home and going to university mean that people change, circumstances change, and opportunities change. Rather than being in the same place at the same time, friendships start to require upkeep; you need to plan visits to make sure that you keep in touch. Although our generation has it easy with the invention of social media (meaning keeping contact with people is at our finger tips), there is still the dreaded moment of sending a message after not speaking to one another for a while. What do you say? Do you say anything? That’s how most friendships die, not because of massive fall outs but because no-one is prepared to put themselves out there for fear of rejection.

There are many people in my life who I wish I could ask how their day was, or what they’ve been up to, but I don’t due to the fear that they want nothing to do with me, or that we don’t talk anymore not because of a series of inaction but rather because their life is better without me in it. I should hazard a guess that this is rarely the case, and on every occasion where I have reached out to someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, they seem as happy to have reignited a lost friendship as I am. Sure there will be people out there who are lost to you, but you’ll never know if you never try. This means reaching out to someone you haven’t spoke to in a while and hoping that they want to grab a cup of coffee, and then it’s hoping that you still have things in common with each other and that you’re not sat in uncomfortable silence until someone calls it quits. It’s not always easy. People have different schedules and will want to do different things, so it’s about compromise. It’s deciding that despite your differences it’s worth being in each others lives.

Getting over a lost friendship can be more difficult on the occasions where someone has unforeseeably cut you out of their life. You’ll wonder why, or what you did that could make someone not want to spend time with you anymore. The most important thing in this circumstance is to put yourself first, and that does not mean desperately trying to understand why, or what you could have done differently, or trying to change their mind. You have to accept that they have made a decision and attempt to move past it in your own way. Let go of any hostility you hold towards that person.

There will be times when you have to cut people out of your life, because their friendship is toxic. Part of being younger is believing you have to be friends with everyone but this is not the case. If someone only brings negative energy with them, or the best side of you isn’t brought out when you’re around them, then say goodbye. You’ll realise it’s better to have a handful of great friends who you trust, than a load of people you keep around because it’s what’s expected of you.

At the end of the day you’ll experience a lot of things growing older, and although it’s rough at the time, letting go of people and resentments can be liberating, and so can throwing caution to the wind and getting back in contact with someone only to rediscover a friendship you thought was lost.

I Don’t Need Two Halves To Be Whole

Singing birds in the morning sun,
or do they quiver at what you’ve done?

Echoes of laughter bounce off walls
just like the therapy balls
that weren’t good enough either.

Love is learnt in pairs
But then surely I am half empty.
Or am I half full, with her brown eyes,
much deeper than cuts and
much brighter than cigarette butts.
Pay attention:
Thick skin sentry. 

Every new pair he’ll slip through,
in between cracks, which can be filled into.

And she has already outgrown you.

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I have always thought that I’d be half empty because I didn’t want to inherit any resemblance of my father. Thinking about it now though, if he were to be anything in my life, he would be the sickness.

Like with sickness, sometimes the less you know the better. I never had a great relationship with my father. I think this answers a lot of questions about my teenage relationships: the over-attachment, the insecurity, only being able to understand love and kindness from guys when it came in the form of degradation.

This poem says that I am complete without my father. I am whole without him because my mother was enough, as a parent, as a friend, and most importantly, as a woman. She did not allow him to be the making of her and only now do I realise how empowering that has been for me.

The absence of my father has meant more room for my mother and has come with a profound understanding that I do not need a man to validate me.

I no longer worry about searching for my other half. I am already full.

 

 

Words by Jasmine York
Illustration for ANTHEM by Ellen Forbes

Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Before I expose a very weird moment from 2015, I want to make sure you are aware of what an emotionally abusive relationship is.

Source: http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/emotional-abuse-definitions-signs-symptoms-examples/

I haven’t had the greatest experiences with relationships, I can pinpoint a few guys who I think are amazing people, but I can also pinpoint a time where I was emotionally abused but too young and ignorant to understand. So I’m writing this article is to raise awareness of emotional abuse in relationships.

Let’s name this guy Ben Circles.

Ben Circles and I met around July 2015, and like any other first impression, I thought he was pretty cool (him being an art student, and looking like Damon Albarn from Blur). We were very different people but had similar interests, so me forgetting to think before I act, we decided to go on regular dates.

Ben Circles was in fact, a loner. As peak as it sounds, I don’t think he had a ‘squad’ the only person he spoke about was his recent ex-Girlfriend of two years. During our short-lived “relationship”, I came to realise that Ben Circles had some serious issues with how he views women. I can safely assume he identifies as a feminist just to get girls to like him *vomits*. Late July, I get my first job, and things start to go wrong. Ben Circles began to whine about how my job was limiting our time together. My internal reaction was “Fuck off mate”. My external reaction was “Sorry, let’s meet up after work”. As you can see, I knew it was wrong for him to complain but tried to be nice. One evening in particular when I met him in Southbank, I had a good time but wanted to return home around 10:30pm. Ben Circles became incredibly frustrated with me because I turned down his offer to go back to his house. I make my own decisions of what I want to do and where I would like to go. As we walked towards Charing Cross station, I was incredibly taken aback by his behaviour. To make things worse he pulled a face that looked as if he was about to cry. Mate, grow up. You’re not entitled to me, and crying isn’t going to change my mind.

Ben Circles started to complain about our relationship because: I hadn’t been over to his house, I’d only wear my wigs around my friends, and during lunch I’d look at my food more than I looked at him. At this point I realised that I wasn’t standing up for myself, I began to only consider his feelings over mine. This is one of the first signs of an emotionally abusive relationship.

August 2015: my cousins wedding in Las Vegas. I reached a point where I was ready to dump Ben Circles’ foolishness into the trash. Ben Circles had asked not to be in contact with me while I was in Vegas, because he would become anxious if I didn’t reply to him *rolls eyes*

I’ll let you judge from these receipts:

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This is how emotionally abusive partners manipulate you.

They convince you that you are unworthy.

They convince you that they are entitled to you emotionally and sexually.

They teach you to consider their feelings over yours.

They convert you from human to object.

After the “you probably aren’t worth it”, my feminist agenda stepped forth and said enough! I took out the trash and dusted my hands. You should never ever let anyone speak to you in that way. Men and women like Ben Circles are nothing but dirt. They’ll never love or respect you, only abuse you.

If you are reading this article and realising that your partner is a “Ben Circles”, please remove them from your life. Fuck the memories and fuck how long you’ve been together. If someone is emotionally abusing you, there’s every chance things could worsen, and even end up physical. If you have children together, you ought to protect them too before social services steps in or worse, your partner begins to abuse them.

After Ben Circles, I entered my first year of university with the mind-set “fuck relationships”. Now I can happily say I met the most wonderful guy that’s ever entered my life; you are worthy of being loved and respected. If your partner is emotionally abusing you, you need to act on it. Abusive relationships are not romantic, they are poisonous.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who supported me during the Ben Circles period. Thank you for giving me confidence and laughing at his ridiculous behaviour.

Peace, Love and Cacti
Courtney McMahon

 

 

Further advice and help can be found here: http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/emotional-abuse.html

Words by Courtney McMahon, definition originally by http://www.healthyplace.com
Images courtesy of Courtney McMahon

Don’t Let the Bra-sterds Grind You Down

I don’t remember buying my first bra. I remember everyone else slowly getting bras, and me decrying them, and refusing, partly because I was an incredibly contrary child, and partly because I was scared of growing up and my body changing. A bra suggested shame. You must hide away these markers of womanhood – no one should see them.

I remember seeing an older girls boobs and wondering when mine would start to look like one unit – when will they get big enough to make the t-shirt stretch? Rather than two strange little lumps sitting on my chest.

I remember my mum coming home from work and joyously removing her bra. I remember it being an occasion of great joy, being able to free your breasts from the pockets they were confined in all day.

I remember the girls I would get changed in beach huts with, us all desperately trying to hide our bodies, putting bikini tops on over bras and fiddling about undoing various things, so that bare skin was never exposed.

I don’t remember when I stopped wearing a bra. I think I saw a video on Facebook about the damage it can actually cause. Shoulders and back problems and badly fitting bras. I saw a series of photos of the imprint that clothing leaves on us after we take it off, and marvelled at the fact that we put these tight-fitting things on our bodies to the point where they leave a mark. I bought some bralets, which are lacy and sexy and make me feel great. Sometimes I wear them, if my boobs hurt or my top’s a bit see through. Most of the time I don’t. Most of the time I don’t wear anything under my top. It is so comfy. I love my boobs a lot more, now I see their normal shape on a regular basis. I love it when they’re a weird shape and pointy and wonky. It feels real. Like they’re real parts of me. I’m not scared of them anymore.

I get changed in front of my friends and care a whole lot less about my body. When my friend MJ asked me to take part in a topless photo shoot, I did it. I think I did it because I’d stopped wearing a bra. I feel a lot more comfortable with my boobs, and in turn, my whole body.

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I asked fellow Anthem writer Sophy to look into the history of women’s underwear for me. This is what she got:

Throughout history, some form of garment has always been used to mould, shape and support women’s breasts. In Ancient Greece and Rome, large breasts were seen as unattractive, comical even, so women wore bands of cloth that flattened their chests. By the 14th and 15th centuries, the corset was used to push up the breasts and create cleavage, which was desired as it was seen as a symbol of wealth and elitism. We can thank the Victorian feminists and doctors that ousted the corset due to health concerns over constraining women’s bodies.

The growth of flappers in the 1920s saw androgynous styles of bras that aimed to minimise curves. On the other hand the 1930s created a complete reversal of this, with the invention of cup sizes and the underwired bra (that created a curvier look) meant that women were categorised in terms of the size of their breasts. 

The metal shortages of WW2 ended the popularity of the corset (thank god) and the 1940s and 50s cubist movements inspired the pointed bosom and “bullet bras” that are so iconic of the post WW2 era. The feminist movements of the 1960s introduced comfy bralets/crop tops. Sports bras weren’t invented until the 1970s and the 1990s created the wonder bra and cleavage enhancing bras. The shape of bras and how they mould breasts have changed with the political and social trends of the time.

Bras are a commodity. An optional commodity. The growth of consumerism throughout the 19th Century (and especially so since after WW2 with booming economies and the growth of young people with disposable income) meant that the purpose of bras shifted even more so from functionality to fashion. And how do you sell something? Make people feel bad about themselves.

Your boobs are too small. “Look we’ve invented a two size up bra”

Your boobs aren’t perky enough. “Look, we’ve developed a cleavage enhancing bra”

Your body isn’t sexy enough on its own. “Look we’ve got a pretty lacy sexy bra set that will fix that”

Since ancient times, boobs have been manipulated, squashed and shaped to suit certain types of fashion trends. Like Sian, although I haven’t stopped wearing a bra (who knows maybe one day I’ll convert), I have started to wear bralets a lot more and my god it’s so much comfier. My boobs can take pretty much the shape they want – not the shape that current fashion trends have dictated.

Recently American high school student Kaitlyn Juvik got sent home from school because teachers were concerned that her not wearing a bra under her black t-shirt was distracting, and inappropriate. Yup. A girl turned away from education, because she wasn’t wearing something under her clothes.

Kaitlyn Juvik consequently set up No Bra No Problem, an online community fighting against this institutionalised sexism, which has garnered support around the world. And good on her, because how dare anyone decide what we should wear under our clothes.

Boobs are boobs. They’re fatty lumps on our fronts, that we’ve evolved in order to feed children. Isn’t that great? Isn’t that amazing, that our bodies have developed in this way so that we can feed newborn babies? And isn’t it mind-boggling that what we do with them, even under our clothes, is questioned and put in the media?

I got 99 problems but a bra ain’t one anymore.

 

 

Words by Sian Brett and Sophy Edmunds

Images Courtesy of Walt Disney, Ellamae Cieslik and MJ Ashton, Retro You, and Kaitlyn Juvik via Metro.co.uk

My Body Image & I: From Feud to Friendship

Body Image. Seems like quite a self-explanatory phrase doesn’t it; an accurate reflection of your body. But it hasn’t meant that in a long time. Instead it stands for the dislike many young people feel towards their own bodies, how uncomfortable they feel in their own skin, how looking at themselves in a mirror makes them feel like they’re never going to be good enough.

“I’m too fat.”
“My hair’s too frizzy”
“My nose is too big”
“My cheeks are too round”
“I don’t have long legs”

Words you would never think of saying to the people around you. So why do we talk like that about ourselves? Thinking more about your body during puberty is normal. We develop, we grow, we change and all do so differently. And that’s normal. But when I was growing up looking at adverts spread across billboards and magazines all I saw were the perfect bodies of models and celebrities.

I began to see this ‘perfection’ as normal, found myself wanting to achieve beauty standards that are beyond possible without the help of Photoshop or silicone. Looking at myself in the mirror, I was constantly comparing; my waist wasn’t as small as the celebrity’s in the next advert so I was fat, my hair wasn’t as smooth as the model’s in the magazine so I was obviously ugly. This seeped into everyday life. I saw girls in school who seemed to have achieved this amazing image, making me question what I was doing wrong. Why couldn’t I look like that too?

The sad reality was that seeing the girl sitting in front of me in class with a figure like Kate Moss, my first thoughts weren’t “she looks lovely like that and I look lovely as I am” or “everyone is built differently, I shouldn’t compare myself”. Instead thoughts of “why don’t I have that figure?”, “I need to lose weight”, “she looks amazing and I look horrible in comparison” led me to continuously beat myself up about the way I looked. Influenced by the media, my self-esteem was pushed down to a point of sadness and self-loathing, never feeling like I was perfect.

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I looked at myself in the mirror and cried. Got angry. Was I fat? No. I was overweight for my age by a few kilograms, but I was also 12, loved the Sugababes and covered my Facebook profile pictures in stickers. I was a normal child, with a bit of puppy fat that would disappear in a few years’ time. I had nothing to worry about. But everything made me feel like I did. I was sure that I’d never be thin or pretty and therefore never good enough.

Honestly, I had this mind-set for most of my teenage life, until I came to what I thought was the solution. Of everything I saw when I looked in the mirror my weight bothered me the most. So I decided that action needed to be taken. I monitored my diet, measured portions, made sure I covered all food groups, didn’t eat sweets and followed a strict exercise plan. Did I lose weight? Yep. Did I feel amazing? Nope. But to me this was the logical solution. Alter my body until I looked like I thought I should.

I’m 5”3, let’s be real I was never going to look like a model, but that didn’t even cross my mind. I was determined to carry this through until I felt happy with myself. Until I came to uni, struggled with my course and fell into this pit of sadness. I would look at myself in the mirror, and see my round 12-year-old self. No matter what weight I had lost, it still hadn’t given me the confidence or the happiness I so desperately wanted.

Throughout first year, with the help of some fab people, I did a lot of thinking, learning about myself and appreciating who I am to get myself out of the rut I had become stuck in. And this led me to a realisation. My body image had far less to do with how I actually looked, and far more to do with how I thought of myself. I didn’t see a confident and happy person because I wasn’t. I was broken and frail and that made me feel worse and worse about myself.

I realised that it felt so much better having positivity shine through your body, than having my positivity rely on my body.

Appearance is never something to rely on. Everyone who looks at you will perceive you differently, and most likely won’t be half as critical as you are of yourself. Any physical change you make, should be to aid your mental well-being, something you want to do, not something you feel like you have to do. I wear make-up, because I enjoy it and I honestly find it relaxing, but I don’t feel any less pretty not wearing it. I just feel normal. Like me. Which is why it’s so important that you learn to understand yourself as a person, not just a shell.

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Study your personality in as much detail as you would otherwise look at your face for spots. Know your ins and outs, the things you love, the things you want to improve and familiarise yourself. They’re yours. And next time you go out wearing that crop top you doubted would suit you, think about yourself. Not your appearance. But you – your great sense of humour or your open-minded attitude. The satisfaction you feel with yourself will emanate from you like a confidence you’ve never experienced before.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want to go to the gym 5 times a week and tone up, you do that! But do it because you’ll feel good showing off your hard work or it’s your hour to get away from everything, not because you won’t go to the beach this summer without a “bikini body”.

Now, someone out there will have read this and thought “but there’s nothing good about my personality either”. I know this, because a few months ago, I would have thought the same. Learning to love yourself is a journey that everyone has to go on themselves, at their own pace, with their own ups and downs. But I do have a word of advice, something a friend told me recently which has really stuck with me: go out, and do something good.

Don’t think about whether you’ll be good at it, don’t even think about it too long. Just do something good. Be it buying a homeless man a meal, or baking muffins for a bake sale. Something that you can walk away from, knowing that deed benefitted someone besides you. And from that point forward, every time you doubt yourself, or think there’s nothing to have a positive attitude about, remember that thing. Remember the good you did and it’ll help remind you that you are, and always will be a valuable human, an amazing person, someone you can always be proud of.

There are days where I wake up, take one look at myself and feel so sad. My mood reflects in my appearance and I just feel worse and worse. So instead, I for example, remind myself that I’m vegan [oooo controversial] and that through that I’m doing so much good for the planet, which in turn makes me very happy. So yes on that day I might think my thighs are too big, or my eyes are too small, but that’s okay, because I know that I’m more than that, in fact I’m great, so I smile and carry on with my day, and I hope that after this, you lovely ladies and gentlemen do too.

 

Words by Maxene Sommer
Photos courtesy of Maxene Sommer

How To Cheer Yourself Up When You’re Down

This post is an interesting one, because it’s not just me talking about my issues, it’s not just interviews with friends on similar issues, and it’s not just advice being passed on to you lovely readers. Instead, it’s all three.

The Personal

Since going to university (and generally just growing up some), I’ve become notoriously bad at looking after myself. It’s something millions of people struggle with, and it’s not something they teach you at school, but it is important to deal with. Often the worst part isn’t just feeling sad or upset, but feeling that way when you’re alone.

Everyone has friends, or partners, or family that they feel comfortable turning to, but sometimes these friends are asleep, at dinner, at work, or uni or so on. Sometimes, they can’t help. In some cases, people don’t want to reach out, or ‘bother’ their loved ones, but whoever you are within this mix, I’ve gone out to research what other people do, to help us both.

When I used to feel sad as a teenager, I would often watch YouTube videos and vloggers, or listen to my awful iTunes playlists, but I don’t really go for that anymore. These days I tend to light candles, carry on listening to music, don some comfy pjs and eat (and not just when I’m sad). It’s basic but effective. On better days, I’m smarter when it comes to looking after myself.

As a result, I’ve decided to ask what other people do. I’ve asked around and posted to social media to work out how my friends look after themselves when they only have themselves to turn to, and the results are all achievable and easy things to do. Seems only fair to start with myself…

The Interviews

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When I get down these days I tend to watch a classic Disney film like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, because they’re very uplifting. Alternatively I’ll stick on The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh – sounds childish I know but it’s so innocent and pure that it just makes me so much happier. Other methods involved adult colouring or dot-to-dot, and ultimately a cup of tea and an early night.

 

Next up, my housemate Nathan offered up his solution:anthemnathan
Most of the time I’d message a friend, but if I couldn’t do that I’d probably find a film or TV programme to watch. That always takes my mind off whatever is wrong, and I can just keep up with any current show I’m watching. If not, I try to get some fresh air and go for a walk. If all else fails, music can a God send, for me rock or grime especially – it’s a bit more fun and energetic.

 

What about fellow Anthem writer, Jess? She always seems to have wise words:anthemjess
To be honest, I do tend to just watch TV, or binge on whatever series I’m on currently and then I can forget about being down. Occasionally I’ll paint, bake or maybe cook a meal. A lot of it is mental, and so a lot of the time if I’m down I’ll sort of sit and take a moment to just redirect my thoughts to things that I know I’m lucky to have like family, my degree and so on. Something that always helps is going for a walk to look at all the lovely things that exist, and then I’m able to tell myself that good things have to mixed in with the bad so that we can understand and appreciate them better.

 

If you haven’t quite got the hang of the mindfulness skill yet, sometimes it really is quite simple to cheer yourself up. I asked my friend from uni, Jamie how he went about it: anthemjamkie
If I need cheering up, I’ll normally turn to a film and most of the time it will be Love Actually. It always makes me laugh and smile.

 

And what about my friend Amber? Well hers made me feel a bit better too:
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I had to think about this quite hard. It depends why I’m feeling sad I guess, and what kind of sad; like if I’m feeling defeated or shit about myself then I tend to write things down that are good about myself or that I have achieved. Sometimes I do something simple like having a nice long shower, or ‘mindful’ washing like really taking in smells of shower gel etc. which might sound super lame but it works. I have a teddy (judge me) and I cuddle that sometimes. If I need distracting, I watch Netflix or I’ll read. I like to go for walks as well if it’s a nice day and really take in my surroundings and tune out of my head if I can. A lot of them seem quite obvious but whatever works!

 

The Advice

So it’s not as hard as I (probably you as well) make it out to be sometimes. Just have a drink (tea/hot chocolate/wine) and some food, watch a film that makes you happy, binge on some TV, do some painting and colouring or writing. These guys are a great bunch of people who I consider quite happy people as well, so how can I be sure I can do this next time I need to?

I guarantee that a lot of time if I’m sad I’ll either text Jess into the night until I fall asleep, or moan at my friends and boyfriend until they tell me I’m probably being silly and should just have a cup of tea and calm down (which is correct), but when I’m alone it is harder to get happy again. Something that you, I, and generally all of us can do is plan ahead. I know it sounds stupid but hear me out. 

Blurt Foundation Buddy Box Depression Care Package

There are companies built entirely on care packages (see: BuddyBox, PinkParcel), but if you’re as skint as I am, then you can make your own, or be super cute and make one for a friend. The idea in this case is to make sure you have what you need to look after yourself when sadness strikes. You can either go full Monica Geller and set aside a box full of snacks, treats, books and fun things and DVDs, or you can make sure you know what makes you happy. Simple as.

Asking other people has been useful because I feel like I’m not missing something that everyone else is doing. It seems clear that looking after yourself is as simple as eating, drinking, sleeping well and making time for a walk, or bath, or favourite film. If I can just remember that there are good things and happy things then all I need to do is find them and make use of them.

What else do you think is important to remember? Let us know how you look after yourself!

 

Words by Briony Brake
Interviews with Nathan Oliver, Jessica Yang, Jamie Clarkson, Amber Berry
Photo by BuddyBox: The Blurt Foundation