feminist

The Lionesses

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I have been thrilled at how the World Cup has been received here in the UK. Record after record was broken, people were talking about it at work and at home and it felt like there was a real buzz in the air. Could this be it? Could this be the time we win? 

Unfortunately it was not to be, and after Tuesday’s heartbreak (and truly I have spent time mourning that loss), I think it is important to reflect on the impact that the Lionesses have made this past month. I wrote before about the Change The Game initiative launched by the BBC at the beginning of May and how excited I was by this prospect. But my expectations have already been exceeded and it’s only the beginning. 11.7 million people tuned in to watch the Semi-Final, just over 50% of the audience share and the most watched programme this year so far, what a result! 

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I have been far more emotionally invested in this World Cup than I thought I would be, but I think that’s because it has been a real watershed moment for women’s sport. When I was growing up (which wasn’t too long ago – I’m not that old), the only time you could see women’s sport on the TV was Wimbledon or the Olympics. Now, across the country there are little girls turning up to football training sessions wanting to be the next Lucy Bronze, Ellen White or Nikita Parris and that just shows that representation does matter. 

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My friends at work and I have been talking about it. Gearing up for every game. Talking about the one that was on the night before. I even got a wall chart (cool right?). I hope that enthusiasm continues not just over the summer but for years to come (anyone fancy going to watch the Euros in 2021 with me?!). The moment that really solidified what an impact this team have had on women’s sport came on Wednesday when I heard an interview on Radio 5 Live. A 17 year old boy called Abe had phoned in when they were talking about Tuesday night’s match, and he said that at the beginning of the World Cup he and his mates laughed at and mocked women’s football. But on Tuesday they were all down at the pub cheering them on, getting annoyed at VAR when the decision went against us and cheering VAR when it went our way. At the beginning of June, he knew nothing about the team, now he knows all their names and the teams they play for and he’s looking to watch the Women’s Super League come winter. Now isn’t that an achievement! They may not win the World Cup but they have changed people’s hearts and minds like you wouldn’t imagine and that’s arguably bigger than any trophy. Although I would still like to see them bring that bronze back!!

Catch the third place play off live on BBC One at 4pm!!

Radio 5 Live: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sq4 

Photo credit: @Lionesses (Twitter)

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Feminism 101

Here’s the situation, for anyone who is unclear: if you don’t believe a person should be discriminated against because of the way they were born, and later how they wish to align on the spectrum of gender, then you are a feminist. I’m very sorry, the doctors did the best they could. If you think it kind of sucks that women are frequently treated as incapable of certain skills or jobs because they are women, then you are a feminist. If you think it sucks that men aren’t ‘allowed’ to like pink and talk about their feelings and hate sport, then damn, you’re a feminist.

I appreciate this seems basic, and feminism can become incredibly complex, and has developed so much in quite a short space of time, but ultimately the idea behind feminism is that people should not be discriminated against because of their sex and that people should have equal social, political and economic rights. So that’s where it’s simple. If you agree, then that’s that. Don’t say you believe men and women should be equal but that you’re not a feminist. Stop it. Just stop, it’s pants. Feminism is not extreme. It’s really quite sensible.

I think a lot of the confusion and urge to not identify as a feminist might come from the fact that discussions around it are always so academic and inaccessible for the average person. It’s partly why I started Anthem and I think it’s such a shame that we’re not taking more time to help people when we are able to. So I’ve written up a bit of a glossary for you to refer to when the conversations you want to be a part of aren’t making sense.

Feminism: A movement aiming to achieve equality between the sexes

Misogyny: Hatred toward/prejudice against women 

Misandry: Hatred toward/prejudice against men

Misogynoir: Misogyny directed at black women in particular

Cisgender: If your gender matches the sex you were born at birth then you’re cisgender, or cis for short. I was born a female (sex) and identify as a female (gender). I’m cis.

Intersectional feminism: A movement that builds other issues such as racism, classism, transphobia, homophobia or ableism into it’s path to achieving the equality of the sexes. Intersectional feminism accepts that some struggle more than others on the way to equality, and are disadvantaged by our existing society for more reasons than just being a woman (i.e. it is harder to be a black, disabled woman or a trans woman than it is to be a cis white woman in our current society).

White feminism: This isn’t used to label all white feminists (confusingly), but to address a kind of feminism that only focuses on cis white feminist issues and tends to ignore issues faced by other races. In some cases, it has refused to accept that non-white women face greater struggles than white feminists. It’s sort of the opposite of intersectional feminism and has increasingly been used as a negative label in online discussions (for good reason).

#MeToo: Quite simply, a movement against sexual harassment and assault in all forms. Popularised by celebrities such as Rose McGowan and Natalie Portman, #MeToo began around this time last year and was started by Tarana Burke as a social media movement to show just how widespread the issues were in the world. In light of big Hollywood sexual harassment and assault cases, anybody could and can use #MeToo to express their own experiences and help others feel confident to share their stories. 

Time’s Up: Started on the back of #MeToo, the Time’s Up movement was founded at the beginning of 2018 to fight sexual harassment and assault. Time’s Up saw celebrities wearing all black to the Golden Globes and, as a movement, focuses largely on issues within studio and talent agencies as well as offering legal support to lower-income women who have faced sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. 

Gendered: If something is gendered, it relates to one specific gender. For example, gendered marketing means products might be marketed specifically to women or men (for absolutely no reason; go look up some traditionally feminine or masculine fragrance adverts and you’ll see what we mean). You can also have gendered occupations, which tend to be more female than male, such as waitress, barmaid, tea lady, lunch lady etc etc. 

Glass ceiling: A metaphor relating to the unseen barrier preventing certain groups of people climbing career ladders. Although most frequently referred to in discussions about women, it is also a barrier for people of different ethnicities, sexualities or with disabilities. It’s pretty bad for everyone (unless you are a cis white male).

Gender pay gap: The average difference between the money or wage paid to men and women, with women generally earning less than men (for the reason that they are women, which is sex-based discrimination and thus a LOAD OF RUBBISH).

Gendered stereotypes: Thinking back to stuff being gendered, gendered stereotypes suggest that people should be a certain way because of their gender. It’s where we think of things as typically masculine or feminine. For example, assuming girls like pink and boys like blue are stereotypes based on gender. These stereotypes can become harmful when they limit what men and women are able to do.

Toxic masculinity: An example of harmful gender stereotypes relating specifically to men and male behaviours. Most often it refers to the idea that men have to be these very masculine, dominant, alpha male type beings that can’t show emotion. It’s very damaging and has had a serious impact on male mental health. 

Feminazi: A derogatory slur used to refer to radical feminists, popular among conservatives and idiots who can’t be bothered to learn about feminism.

Hopefully, this helps you. You do not need to be able to use these words to have or to join a discussion about feminism but it will help just to understand what they mean and what people are talking about.

Unfortunately, feminism remains a difficult-to-access movement for many and it often gets caught up in moving forward, and not stopping to help people up on the way. Feminism is for everybody, and understanding a couple of words from the above list is huge. You can be a great support if you can stop people and say ‘hang on, that’s not right and here’s why’ because the more people that join in, the less of a problem sexism and other forms of discrimination become. 

Feminism and the politics surrounding discrimination continue to be a hot topic that the news love to sensationalise, so it is incredibly useful to know what these things mean. It’s not just about being able to support one cause, but also about learning to think for yourself. It is absolutely vital to be able to formulate your own opinions and ideas so that you can stand up for yourself and others, particularly in today’s slightly odd world.

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.

UT-WHY?

Thanks to people like Caitlin Moran, I knew about cystitis long before it turned up to put a dampener (as it were) on my day. She talked about it in public, in columns in The Times. There’s a lengthy passage in How To Build a Girl where the character Johanna locks herself in the bathroom, sits in a hot bath for two days and demands cranberry juice. If it wasn’t for old Caitlin, a whole generation of girls wouldn’t know why, sometimes, it appeared that their urethra was on fire.

For those who might still be unaware, A urinary tract infection (or UTI) is basically an infection in any part of your urinary tract, including your bladder, urethra and kidneys.

They began to plague me and my life about a year ago. I once moved the entire set for a play whilst feeling like I needed to piss every other minute and I consider it my greatest achievement.

“Well are you weeing after sex?” a friend asked me when I went to meet her on the way to uni, moaning about my urinary tract once more.

“In a way, every wee is a wee after sex now.” I answered.

“You get UTI’s if you don’t wee after sex.”

You… you what? You get them if you don’t… but then…

WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS! WHY HAVE I BEEN DOWNING GALLONS OF WATER AND CRYING ON THE TOILET WHEN THE CURE WAS THIS SIMPLE?!

I looked on the NHS website. It’s true. Pee as soon as possible after sex (and also wear loose cotton underwear but that’s for another article about how women’s clothes aren’t really built for women). I’m not a complete idiot. I went to the doctors. I did a urine sample, but then wasn’t really sure of the protocol so had to sit in the waiting room holding a warm cup of my own piss for an uncomfortable amount of time. She gave me antibiotics, I took them, few weeks later, I was UTI-ed up once more. I assumed this would be my life now.

I was never taught about this at school; like I said I gleaned what I could from Caitlin Moran, but not every 15 year old is reading The Times on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t want to exaggerate here but learning that I should wee after sex if I don’t want to piss fire for the next three days was one of the most important life lessons I’ve ever learnt so WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO LEARN IT? My sex education focused so much on me not getting pregnant, and the intricacies of every STI under the sun that keeping my vagina healthy and unhappy went rather neglected. You’d think the sex ed teacher, faced with 27 teenage girls, on the cusp of their sexual adventures and ready to face the world vagina first, might have thought to mention it.

“Pee after sex so you don’t get a UTI.” It takes 2.5 seconds to say. I just checked.

Ways to not get a UTI:

  • WEE AFTER SEX
  • It’s bad to use perfumed bubble bath or soap on your lovely lady garden (your vag has a delicate pH balance)
  • Nylon pants aren’t good
  • If you need to wee, don’t hold it in, FREE THE WEE

 

Words: Sian Brett
For September Sex Education Week 2018 on Anthem

‘Congratulations You B@$T@*D!’: Edinburgh Fringe Review

Showing from 20th – 25th Aug 2018 at Venue 36, The Perth Theatre @ theSpace on North Bridge Hilton Edinburgh Carlton Hotel, 19 North Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 2HE.

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Whether you’re a die-hard fringe goer, or you’ve just popped up for a weekend to see what it’s all about, there’s no doubt you’ll find something that’s up your street.
An explosion of veteran stand up comics, first time performers, scripted, unscripted, spoken word, silent movie; you name it, it’s probably at Fringe.

And whilst it can be great to immerse ourselves in the kind of shows we know and love, a lot of the beauty of Fringe comes from the unexpected. It comes from experiencing the unknown and choosing to see something you might not usually go for. So when I got the chance to see Congratulations You B@$T@*D, I decided to do exactly that.

A theatre piece created by South East London based Ghosted Ink, the up-and-coming art collective’s debut show sees Mia and Nick, two down on their luck writers, wondering if they should give up on their ambition. However, after one drunken night of creativity, they find they might just have cracked it.

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Congratulations You B@$T@*D delights the audience with its humour and witty dialogue from the outset. Brought expertly to life by both performers, creating recognisable characters we all know (or are) in our lives.

We meet the wonderful whirlwind of nuanced expletives that is Mia (Georgia Crowther) and the seemingly more logical and tempered Nick (Laurence Platt) just as their newest script has been rejected again. Their carefully crafted characters are instantly brought to life in a relationship familiar to us all. Two friends who in equal parts love, and are infuriated by, each other.

The first half of the performance builds the dynamic between the two friends wonderfully. Despite the piece only lasting 45 minutes, I felt as though these were people I was so familiar with; people who had struggled together but also experienced joy and hilarity with one another. I laughed with them, got angry when they did, was sad when they were.

The comic timing of Crowther is spectacular and the way both actors seem to effortlessly bounce off one another is incredibly enjoyable to watch. The intimate space, and minimal but carefully thought out set design works perfectly to set the atmosphere. As soon as I saw all the crumpled-up-uncrumpled-and-then-crumpled-again pieces of work discarded everywhere and the random array of ideas and inspiration pinned up on stage, I thought “yep, been there.”

I spent most of the beginning half of the piece belly laughing at Nick and Mia hurling raucous insults, drinking copious amounts of ‘Pan Juice’ and spouting sparks of creative genius as they try to invent the next best thing. Punctuated with music from the likes of Bowie and Kate Bush as they take turns to type the masterpiece, the phrase that immediately came to mind was the popular mantra of ‘Write drunk, edit sober’. Yet as the play progressed it became clear it was much more like ‘Write drunk, edit drunker’, and whilst this was fabulously funny to witness, the script is very much flipped as we come into the second half of the play.

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A poignant scene arises as the two characters disagree on what the next step should be. Nick laments that he’s sick of being an “artist” and is sick of how they live, scrabbling to make ends meet and waiting for it all to get better when it never seems to. A far cry from the drunken hilarity witnessed moments ago, it suddenly hits home the reality of trying to make it, of struggling to pay rent, of doubting your own ability. It’s here that I really appreciated the thoughtful writing. Platt conjures a well-observed depiction of young friends and creative relationships in today’s competitive world those of us in the arts can relate to all too well.

For a group’s first Fringe run, its a credit to them how well they take the audience on a hidden rollercoaster of unexpected emotion, and it’s far more than just a play about getting wasted (even though they get very wasted.)

Congratulations You B@$T@*D explores artistic integrity, success and what ‘making it’ can actually mean. Moreover, we see the ever poignant themes of friendship throughout; we see two people pushing and pulling to hold onto a changing relationship as the both of them try to find their footing in the creative world, without sacrificing their own morals.

Ghosted Ink’s first show is a very worthwhile watch that I’d highly recommend checking out if you’re at Fringe this year, where it’s running from the 20th -25th August. If not, you can keep up to date with all their creative ventures by following @ghostedink on Instagram, @Ghostedink_AC on Twitter or Ghosted Ink Arts Collective on Facebook as well as with #CYBFringe.

A well deserved FOUR STARS for Congratulations You B@$T@*D!

 

Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem Online.
Images courtesy of Ghosted Ink.

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.

The Girl Power Gift Guide 2017

It’s time for another Christmas gift guide! I’m over the moon to continue the new tradition of Anthem Christmas gift guides for you and all your feminist pals. This year, I’ve been fed dozens of ideas from my friends and the fabulous women of the BOSSY forum, so a huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed, and don’t forget to support your local girl gang/business!

  1. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls‘ book by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo
    £17.99 hardback from Waterstones
    Find it here.9780141986005
  2. A Queernormative Body Positive Card or Print by Somebodies Art
    £3-15 from Etsy
    Find them here.il_570xn-1426323355_n31w
  3. Upcycled Ethical Woven Palm Leaf ‘Oluka’ Earbobs 
    £12 from AFRORETRO
    Find them here.OlunkaEarbobYellowWEB
  4. Totes for Women canvas bag 
    £9.50 from Amnesty
    Find it here.otforw-totes-for-women-bag_3
  5. Women & Power: A Manifesto‘ book by Mary Beard
    £7.99 from Waterstones
    Find it here9781788160605
  6. Wonder Woman‘ DVD or Blu-ray
    £9.99-£11.70 from Amazon
    Find both here.911yvjcax0l-_sy445_
  7. Sisterhood enamel pin by Glitter Punk Jewellery
    £7.50 from Etsy
    Find it here.il_570xn-1328013833_bnjb
  8. Carrie Fisher t-shirt by Girls On Tops
    £20
    fom Etsy
    Find it here.il_570xn-1367589018_jx1d
  9. 20th Century Women on DVD
    £5.32 on Amazon
    Find it here.71zc7gsqvdl-_sy445_
  10. Feminist Accessory Bag by Chibi Chi Designs
    £13-£14 on Etsy
    Find it here.il_570xn-1237259020_kjqw

 

There you have it! Ten items that will hopefully make the feminist in your life happy this Christmas. There’s so many books and films and even items of clothing this year that I know would at least make my heart happy so get searching and browsing and see what you can find! We’ll be sharing a lot of these on our Instagram too as well as some items not featured on this list so make sure to follow us @fem_anthem.

Last of all, Merry Christmas from Anthem!

 

Words by Briony Brake
Images by Waterstones, Somebodies Art, Etsy, AFRORETRO, Amazon, Amnesty, Glitter Punk Jewellery, Girls On Tops, and Chibi Chi Designs.

Let’s talk about cysts, baby.

In recent years, crippling conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovaries have become more widely discussed thanks to women such as Lena Dunham talking about their experiences. The increasing awareness of these conditions is fantastic and needs to continue, yet very often, little is spoken about their cousin – dermoid cysts.

Dermoid ovarian cysts are benign tumours made up of a collection of cells that are used to create eggs. As eggs have the ability to create any type of cells, dermoid cysts can consist of a wide range of different types of human tissue, including blood, fat, bone, hair and teeth all in one beautiful lump, and effect on average 1 in 5 women, with cysts that cause symptoms affecting 1 in 25. They can vary in size and symptoms, with some women never even knowing they have one if it remains small. They can range from being 1cm up to 75cms. My first cyst was 15cm, my new one is currently sitting pretty at 4cm.

Dermoid cysts are a recurring problem and must be surgically removed when they begin to cause problems, yet there is surprisingly little information available on them. A quick google search led me to a forum of women asking for information from each other on the issue. These were women who had had multiple cysts removed, who’d had ovaries removed and yet still had very little information on the condition. I myself had never been told that they reoccurred until another one decided to pay me a visit, but I was quickly informed when I questioned the doctors that this is incredibly common and should have been unsurprising to me.

So why am I so keen to tell you all this? Well for one, I think it’s important for all of us to know a bit more about what can go on down there, but also, I want to spread awareness of how much this can affect people’s lives when they do show symptoms.

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My first cyst was diagnosed after over a year of constant pain and tests. I had to take a year off school, and during that time I frequently cried and vomited from pain, and on multiple occasions, I was unable to move from my bed for several days at a time because of it; it really was a literal pain in the backside. I had scans of my brain and my spine – at one point they thought I had MS because the cyst was pressing on my spinal nerves and causing neurological symptoms such as my hands being unable to hold pens and cutlery. Eventually, after eighteen months (and a very perceptive trainee nurse) they found it, and I had emergency surgery. I was lucky. My surgeon was amazing and saved my ovary, but this is not the case for so many women. Many women who have dermoid cysts have had to have their ovaries removed for the sake of their health, but in turn, give up their fertility. I myself now have a life plan in place to manage the condition.

I can only speak from personal experience, but being told that I had another one devastated me. I remember practically skipping to the hospital to rid myself of this thing back in 2013 and three years later I was being told that I had to go through all that again.

I’m nowhere near where I was last time with the pain and discomfort, in fact, I can forget about it a lot of the time but then it comes back to remind me that it’s still there. I have missed meeting up with friends and going to their parties because “I have a really bad headache”, or “I just have too much work to do” whilst in reality I’ve typed that whilst curled up in a ball crying in pain desperately waiting for the paracetamol to kick in so that I can have the smallest slice of relief.

I have come to terms now with what lies ahead, I have a life plan organised with my doctors and I’m working on techniques to manage the pain (FYI – if you’re ever really frustrated it helps to watch YouTube clips of Malcolm Tucker and just let him channel your anger). Some women, as I have mentioned before, aren’t as lucky as I have been; they’ve had hysterectomies and cysts which have been much larger and more aggressive than mine. This is why I want to raise more awareness of dermoid ovarian cysts. I described my experience of my first cyst – a year and a half of pain and frustration whilst being poked and prodded – but my second one has so far been much better because this time I knew what to look out for. I went to the doctor, I got a scan and it was diagnosed early and now they are able to monitor it and largely keep it in check. I cannot express enough how much better it is to go to your doctor if you suspect anything than sit around hoping it will go away – it could be nothing, but it could be something and that’s worth finding out.

 

If you want more information about the signs and symptoms of dermoid ovarian cysts along with general gynaecological information visit the ‘Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ website.

 

Words by Eleanor Manley
Artwork by Celia Mohedano