girl power

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

The Body Diaries with Briony

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

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

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

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insecure in their looks, and you don’t have to be a genius at this point to know how much the media and advertising and outdated gendered (masculine and feminine) ideals have impacted that.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September Sex Education Week 2018: Welcome Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Briony!

 

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

Likeability: An experiment into being more “popular”

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I have always been interested in Psychology, investigating why we do what we do and what influences our behaviour and thoughts. One of the most recent books I read because of this was Popular by Mitch Prinstein. It was an eye-opening analysis of popularity and how our early childhood and adolescent experiences with ‘popularity’ can have power over how we act today.

I use ‘popularity’ with inverted commas because the first thing I was surprised to learn was that there are actually two types of popularity that can be discerned from research. One is status based, and one is based on likability. A very brief overview is that whilst the popular crowd at school who we all longed to be in with had very high status, they were usually not very likeable. And whilst many of us become obsessed with striving for status, especially in the age of social media, it can be more rewarding to improve how likeable we are. This will not only affect how others perceive us but also how we feel about ourselves.

As a kid at school, I always felt as though I was on the sidelines, and from reading Popular it’s clear from my point of view that I would have fitted into the ‘Neglected’ social category. This means that I’m a textbook introvert, and as a teenager and for most of my adult life, I’ve dealt with social anxiety, so reading this book was extremely interesting when it came to describing ways we can change how we’re perceived by others and also how we think about ourselves.

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One of the book’s anecdotes I particularly appreciated involved the author having telephone conversations with various members of call centre staff to try and fix his internet. He informally conducted an experiment, deliberately making an effort to be polite and warm and interested to some call operators, whilst being curter with others. He then tested out being more positive in his day-to-day life. I was impressed by how different the author said he felt after making such changes and wanted to try it out for myself.

For the first few days, I did not make any deliberate changes to the way I behaved or acted. I did, however, jot down notes on who I had conversations with, and how often. After a few days, I started to change how I acted. Here are the small changes I made an effort to consciously adapt over the next week:

  • Be polite/positive in interactions with people. Whether it be family and friends, or someone over the phone, or a complete stranger who moves to let you past on the pavement.
  • Be interested in what the other person is saying.
  • Smile more.

To start, these simple things were the only 3 items I included. They sound basic and obvious (because they are) but they are things that sometimes slip or I don’t always pay attention to. Practising these three ways of approaching interactions with others, and life in general, had some interesting results…and a few situations stood out.

The first instance I recall was at a job interview. I’m not someone who naturally smiles a lot, and I have a severe case of ‘Resting Bitch Face’: not a great thing for a prospective employer to see. “Right,” I thought, as I went to introduce myself, “start smiling.” As the saying goes, smiles are contagious, and I definitely felt more at ease as the receptionist returned my smile. I paid attention to each interaction, even tiny stuff like being offered a drink. And not in the way of being obsessive or over analytical, just paying attention to how I conducted myself. It was very surprising how being attentive made me feel more present and actually took away some of my nerves, because I wasn’t allowing myself to overthink about where I was, and was instead focusing on who I was with.

I was surprised overall at the effect that these changes had in making me feel more grounded and present, and building up little likeable acts created a bigger picture that boosted my self-esteem.

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Before starting this, I was initiating 1 or 2 conversations a day, i.e. with a shop assistant, or other mandatory transactions when out and about (this is excluding conversations with people at home). Including these, the conversations themselves tended to be short. By the time I’d finished the next week, I made deliberate changes to the way I interacted – I was averaging about 6 conversations a day, including one I struck up with a randomer who sat on the same bench as me (which I would never have done in a million years).

As the number of conversations I participated in increased, I found that consciously being more aware of the way I interact lead to a number of discoveries:

  • Very quickly I was beginning to see interactions with others as opportunities rather than as chores. To start with I initiated conversations to observe what happened, but in the end, I just enjoyed having a chat and was more willing to learn about people I chatted to. Like the guy who runs our local convenience store or people I see walking their dogs in the morning. (The perks of living in a little town where it is customary to say ‘morning’ every five seconds came in handy here.)

  • I was less analytical of myself. If a social interaction got ‘fluffed up’ i.e. I got flustered and said something that didn’t come out right (which I do a lot), I made an effort to not be as hard on myself and laugh it off.
  • I found the more I try to maintain these ideals the more they become second nature. Instead of setting time aside to be conscious of these likeable factors, they started crossing over into work too. I found it less of a challenge to speak in meetings and was less nervous to ask questions and make suggestions. I was less hung up on being right and more concerned with attending to what was happening and being involved.
  • Making an effort to be more interested in what another person was telling me ended up in me being more interested in others generally. Asking questions, being present and discussing details with other people; whether it be chatting about family, work or some other topic like the latest Avengers movie ended up in providing the chance to strengthen my interpersonal relationships both professional & personal.

The more I strived to put effort into my day-to-day interactions, the more positive I felt. The littlest instances of finding out details of someone’s day or taking the time to thank someone where perhaps I usually wouldn’t have felt good and made me less socially anxious when initiating conversations.

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I am not saying that we could all do this, all of the time; or even that we should do. Obviously, there are still days when I’m not in a great mood or don’t feel like talking to anyone when I’ve gone out to run errands. However, being more mindful of how I present myself and how I listen to other people has surprisingly made it less daunting to be sociable. Which is interesting as this isn’t what I was intending to use it for, and was rather approaching it as a way of learning how to come across well. What I enjoyed the most about doing this is that it taught me how to listen more effectively. Now I make a better effort to really listen to what someone is saying to me and be present when I talk to them.

I’m also not saying for a minute that I’ve turned into a completely different person. There were still a couple of days throughout this week where I was exhausted from socialising. There are still times where I get pissed off by something or someone and the last thing I want to do is be interested and present so instead shut myself in my room and watch Netflix. What it has done however is make me more open to interactions with others. I still get anxious chatting to people, but I’ve seen some positive changes.

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Who knows if my efforts during this time have really made me more likeable? I definitely feel better about myself as a result, and I’ve noted changes in my own behaviours. Of course, I could just be coming off as a complete stalker who has an unhealthy interest in other people(!) but I hope that’s not the case.

After this experience I hope to continue my effort not to improve how ‘likeable’ I am but rather, to improve how confident and content I feel within myself.

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If anyone wants to read more here is a bad quality pic of the book ft. my thumb.

 

Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem Online.
Images from Nathaniel Russel/Mitch Prinstein/NY Times, Explorying Your Mind, Robert Rolih, Salt 10.65 and Lauren Barnard.

THE MANLEY GUIDE TO FEMALE AUTHORS – Part 2

part 2

‘The Outrun’ – Amy Liptrot

As I sat writing this I realised that Amy Liptrot’s ‘The Outrun’ is one of those hard-to-describe books. It is an autobiography, but it also feels in some way like a travel guide, and love letter, to Orkney (I myself now have a long list of places to visit). Really though, it is about her journey through alcoholism, her descent into it, her recovery and her re-discovery of the wild and beautiful place she grew up.


‘I’m the King of the Castle’ – Susan Hill

If you didn’t read this at GCSE (as I first did), you should definitely give it a go now. ‘I’m the King of the Castle’ is written entirely from a child’s perspective – Kingsley’s. This is a particularly effective method as we the reader have to experience his bullies, his fears and his pleading with adults first hand and the devastating effect all this has on him. Susan Hill, in my opinion, is a fantastic writer and I believe this to be one of the best examples of her work – and a great gateway to her other books.


‘He Named Me Malala’ – Malala Yousafzai

As I’m sure everyone knows, in 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for the equal education of women and girls in Pakistan. She survived, and is now studying at Oxford University and continuing her fight on a global scale. Yet her autobiography tells us the stuff we didn’t know. Malala documents her life growing up in the Swat Valley, the beautiful mountains and it’s fascinating history, the rise of the Taliban and her road towards activism as well as her life after that moment in 2012.

I loved this book because of that different knowledge; it was refreshing, heart-warming (and a little heartbreaking) to hear about life in Pakistan for the normal people like you and I and not just what we see on the news. ‘He Named Me Malala’ is an informative and inspiring read that should be added to your shelves.


‘The Bloody Chamber’ – Angela Carter

‘The Bloody Chamber’ is a collection of short stories by Angela Carter. Each story is based on a traditional fairy tale, but with a twist. Carter takes the basic narrative of each tale she is using and infuses them with something both dark and mystical whilst also echoing reality. As with a lot of traditional fairy tales, each story centres on a female protagonist. However, Carter uses her stories to highlight the very real problem of violence against women, whether that is social, economic or physical.

This was the first book I read by Carter and it got me hooked (which I’m sure you’ll hear about in other posts), I loved the twists and the ability to debate and discuss the topics with others. I also found it fascinating (and a little sad) that the issues raised are still so relevant today almost 40 years later.


‘Women and Power’ – Mary Beard

The fifth book on this list is the critically acclaimed ‘Women and Power’ by Professor Mary Beard. In this book, Beard chronicles misogyny all the way from ancient Greeks and Romans through to today and assesses how these ancient mythologies are still used to undermine, and target, powerful women in modern times. Perhaps one of the most notable was the use of the Medusa head against Hilary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Although this is a bit of a challenging read, it is well worth the time and effort.

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‘And Still I Rise’ – Maya Angelou

‘And Still I Rise’ is one of Maya Angelou’s poetry collections featuring the two poems that first lead me to fall in love with her – ‘Still I Rise’ and ‘Phenomenal Woman’. Angelou’s poems discuss love, life, her experiences as a black woman and growing older,  and whilst each one is deeply personal the themes have universal resonance.


‘Everyday Sexism’ – Laura Bates

This book was the cumulative result of a social media campaign started by Laura Bates in 2012 to document the sexism experienced by women on a daily basis in all areas of life and work. Bates has split the book into various chapters (as authors often do) so as to best examine each sectionality and area of life as closely as possible and backs everything up with facts, which are quite often depressing.

However, despite this, I found it weirdly inspiring and after reading it I bought it for a friend who gave it to her friend and recommended it to others, as I also did. It really is a book that no matter how old you are it is relatable to every one of us (unfortunately). It is a book that should be read by, and affects, everyone. It not only educates, it also makes you say ‘me too’. To quote Caitlin Moran, “it will make most women feel oddly saner”.


‘H is for Hawk’ – Helen MacDonald

‘H is for Hawk’ is a moving account of grief, depression and falconry. Following the death of her father, Helen MacDonald travels to Scotland to buy a goshawk and sets out on a mission to train it – despite no previous experience and only what she has read in books since she was a young girl. I get that this sounds like a slightly strange mix, but it makes for a beautiful one. It is a combination that makes you laugh, cry and gasp in awe along with MacDonald every step of the way and leaves you fascinated by these fantastic birds.

 

Click here for Part 1 of Eleanor’s guide.
Words and images by Eleanor Manley for Anthem.

 

A Space of One’s Own

In many creative industries, as well as in the wider world, women are not encouraged, but are actively discouraged from taking up space. When you don’t see women like you, or in fact any women at all, in mainstream media, it can be hard to convince yourself to take up that space. Taking up space is both physical and metaphorical here; if society expects you to be thin and petite, then being anything other than that feels wrong. When you are told be quiet, talked over, and interrupted, speaking up and out can feel hard.

A solution to this is to carve your own space. To create something that is for you and for other women like you to share in. I chatted to some women who have done just this.

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Kate Eveling is the creator of The View From The Other Side, a blog and youtube channel where she talks openly about what it’s like to have Cystic Fibrosis. The videos are incredibly informative, well-made and fun to watch. “CF has always been a negative in my life but creative writing and making videos is something that I thoroughly enjoy – so I thought, why not take that and use it to turn something negative into a positive” she told me.

It’s particularly interesting to explore CF online, because, as Kate puts it “us CFers can’t actually meet face to face because of the risk of giving each other chest infections.” When you can’t meet the people who share in your experience, creating an online space to talk and discuss (and also to explain what it’s like living with your condition to everyone else) is key to changing the conversation around something like CF.

Kate also says that it’s important most of all to keep these videos interesting. “The ‘10 Facts About Me’ video isn’t one where I sit in front of the camera and drone out ten facts. I try to make it energetic and fun but also cringeworthy – it wouldn’t be a Kate Eveling video if it wasn’t cringeworthy right?!”

I ask Kate who inspires her, and she describes how starting A View From The Other Side led her to discover other CFers documenting their lives. “This might sound cheesy but every story I read on their lives was such an inspiration to me. Because they have CF and they are fighting it every day. Simple as that.” It’s clear to see here how one person carving their own space can inspire another.

It’s a space that’s growing as well. Kate recently made a video campaigning for the drug Orkambi, which greatly improves the lives of CF sufferers but which the British Government claim is too expensive.

Find out more about The View From The Other Side.

 

Splint

Another online space for women is Splint, a platform for innovative women looking to network, collaborate and create. “We just kind of decided that it was necessary to provide a space for women to share creative skills, successes and experiences, whilst also championing the women we know and love” co-creator Abbie Claxton tells me. Abbie and her co-founder Syd interview a series of women about what they make and why, and what it’s like to be a woman doing that. “We both know a lot of women doing things that should really be talked about, and we just realised that not a lot of people know about them or what they’re up to. I am always asking people how they got to where they are today, and Splint kind of offers that answer for people.”

The wonderful thing about Splint is the way it’s pure purpose is to champion women doing cool things, and allowing them to share that.

I ask Abbie who inspires her. “The women around us inspire Splint, without them we would have nothing to talk about.” It’s the perfect description of what sharing space means for women today.

Find out more about Splint.

 

Liberate

Laura Mead is an actor and playwright whose debut play Liberate was recently performed at the White Bear Theatre. I asked her about the move from acting into writing.

“There’s a lot more freedom in writing than I personally found in acting. That goes along with flexibility. I also find I’m not having to ‘look’ or ‘feel’ a certain way to write – I just let what I want spill out on paper.” And why is theatre right for this?

“Art forms are so great because they can be enjoyable whilst also showcasing an idea, which may or may not have been in somebody’s minds beforehand. I also think it’s all about HOW you discuss it; Liberate is full of humour – so it means that feminism is being pushed to the front of the discussion whilst a joke is being made.”

I asked Laura what’s next on the agenda.

“Carry on making coffee at my little coffee-shop. Read books. Shove the candles on. And have a bloody large gin. Who knows?!”

Liberate is on for one more night at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

 

Words by Sian Brett with interviews from Laura Mead, Abbie Claxton and Kate Eveling.
Images from The View From The Other Side, Splint and Liberate.

Why We Focus On Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Words and Image by Briony Brake for Anthem.

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.

Unconventional Christmas

I’ve had Twitter since I was 15. It’s my constant companion; the voices of these journalists and comedians that I have followed in many ways for seven years now. I check it when I wake up and I check it when I go to bed. A good tweet is like a good joke – satisfying.

My favourite time on Twitter is Christmas Day, when the connection it gives you to other people makes the day feel bigger than whatever is going on in your own Christmas. In recent years, Sarah Millican has started the hashtag #joinin, so that people can follow this directly and share what they’re doing, as a way to reach out to people who might be having lonely or difficult Christmases. I get to see commentary on Christmas TV, quotes from racist grandparents, and see everyone share their best and worst gifts. The tweet I look out for especially though, is comedian Robert Webb who reminds us that Christmas without a parent or both parents can be tough, shitty and sad, and what’s more, that that’s okay.

Christmas is a particularly tough day if you’ve lost a parent, or don’t have a strong family unit. It can be hard to admit you’re not enjoying yourself on a day with so much pressure on it, when everyone else seems to be having a jolly old family time. The traditions you grew up with change, as they inevitably do with age, but they change because of absence – because no matter how hard you try, on that day it will always feel a bit like something’s missing.

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I miss Christmas with my dad. I don’t have anyone to watch It’s A Wonderful Life with anymore. The responsibility of being the person who’s too drunk by lunch has fallen to me. I once told my dad that I hated Wilkinson’s because he dragged me there every Saturday, so one year he bought things he knew I’d like from there and left the labels on so I knew I was wrong (I was wrong Wilkinson’s is the best shop ever). Fairytale of New York is my mum and dad’s Christmas song. There’s no one to argue with over the 80’s pop Christmas CD (my choice) and the Rat Pack one (Dad’s). We don’t drive to see grandparents in his car, with it’s very specific smell. There was always a moment on Christmas morning where we had to say ‘Dad – please stop checking your emails and come and watch us open stockings for god’s sake you grumpy bastard.’ We’d hand him what he always got – a) a DVD, b) a book, or c) a box of Sports Mix and he’d say ‘A football!’

So for those who find the festive season a bit tough, like me, I’d like to offer some advice, that I’m trying very hard not to make condescending. Instead, you must make your own traditions. Build your own family. Appreciate the new.

My favourite part of Christmas is the flat meal; an important trip to Lewisham Shopping Centre, lucky dip with Poundland gifts, Secret Santa, Frankie’s honey parsnips, the glee with which Rob rearranges the living room, Steve’s Christmas jumpers, and more roast potatoes than anyone can conceivably eat. On Christmas day the group chats light up with everyone’s best presents, wishes we were all together, and tales of whose nan is pissed. We compare potatoes.

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We have a ridiculous new year’s eve party and watch the fireworks from Best Hill in London, Telegraph Hill with the entirety of SE4 (you can take your Primrose Hill and shove it). We spend new year’s day mopping the floor and feeling sorry for ourselves, regretting our dancing and then decamp to the seaside the day after to clear out the cobwebs.

I’ve taken on new present buying responsibilities – I buy my cousin a different sit-com box set every year so I can educate him on these things the way my dad educated me. I am the best at making presents for my sister. Together, we watch all the Christmas TV, and drink wine, and miss our dad. Last year she gave me a framed letter that he’d written me. We always cry.

And it’s okay to miss him on Christmas Day because, to be honest, it’s a bit shit that he’s not here. He was a grumpy old bastard, but that’s what you need at Christmas more than ever. Someone to point out that the whole thing is bloody ridiculous.

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To me, grief is like a bruise that never goes away. At first, it’s the stabbing pain, it’s the injury, and the shock. Slowly that bruise changes colour, and maybe it gets a bit smaller, but I don’t think it ever goes away. And sometimes, you need to poke it. To check it still hurts. To feel that pain again, because when you feel it, you remember the injury, and you remember why it hurts. And it’s the remembering that’s so important.

For more on this see the amazing tweet from Rachael Prior about her dad and M&S Jumpers that recently went viral. The replies are full of people sharing how their Christmases aren’t the same now that they’ve lost someone, but there’s a bittersweet quality to it all.

 

Words by Sian Brett
Tweet from Rachael Prior, ‘@ORachaelO’

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