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Winter is Coming – Finally!

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The time has come, the nights are getting longer, the days colder and the spiced lattes are out in force…and I’m loving it!

I have always loved autumn and winter, it’s the time of year I’m always excited for; the crisp frosty mornings, seeing your breath as it hits the air and not sweating from blinking are particular highlights. However, not everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about freezing their butt off for months on end, so here are a few ways in which you can try and make the autumn and winter months that bit more joyful and enjoyable and I’m hoping that I can convert at least one person.

1. COSY JUMPERS AND GIANT COATS

This is potentially my favourite part, as people who know me will know I have a minor obsession with both of these. The more jumpers and coats I get to wear the better in my opinion. So instead of being a classic Brit and whining about the cold, seize the chance to be a real-life Yeti and embrace the jumpers…and hats…and gloves…and scarves, basically anything warm and fluffy.

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2. NIGHTS IN

Lots of people say that they find it more difficult to socialise in winter/autumn because people don’t want to go out. So you could switch it up and have a night in instead. Organise a movie night with lots of snacks, or have a games evening – as long as you’re prepared to lose friends over Monopoly or a finger over Irish snap!

3. FOOD!

There are some great foods that come out at this time of year. Lots of amazing veggies come into season, the roast dinners are in full force and it’s the perfect time to bake some sweet treats and eat all the cheese and all the pies (you see why we need such big jumpers).

4. TEAS

Obviously, you can drink tea at any time of year, this is Britain after all. However, I feel like, at least for me, teas really come into their own at this time of year. Aside from the traditional builder’s tea, I love a mint tea or anything with ginger in – it really helps to add to that cosy feeling and is super warming inside.

5. SPORT

I love a winter sport (I play hockey), as it’s a great way to get out of the house, make friends and keep warm – you may get soaked through by the rain occasionally but you’ll have fun doing it, so it’s worth the hypothermia right?! Also if you’re lucky and pick the right sport you may well get free food at the end of it. If an outdoor sport in the middle of winter doesn’t float your boat then there are plenty of indoor sports you can try out either with friends or a club, such as badminton, table tennis, squash, basketball or an exercise class. What’s more is that sport is perfect for battling the winter blues, not only can it be social but also the endorphins released can help boost your mood.

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6. ENJOY THE OUTDOORS

Autumn (in my humble opinion) is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The colours are changing, there’s that crisp fresh smell in the air (unless you live where I do – surrounded by fields – then it’s mostly just manure), and if you’re into photography then autumn and winter offer up some great shots – even grey skies can have their charm.

7. CULTURE

If you’re looking to do something at a weekend, other than lay around wrapped in a blanket, then it’s always worth being a tourist in your hometown and visit some museums and galleries. Yes, you can do this at any time of year but the advantage at this time is that the summer crowds will be long gone – making for a more relaxed visit. Alternatively, if you’re not still full from all the pies and cakes you’ve already eaten you could check out that restaurant or cafe you’ve been meaning to for ages. Not only does this make you get out of the house and experience something new, or learn something new but you also get to be warm and toasty whilst you explore.

8. TREAT YO’SELF

When it’s really grim outside (or you’re just feeling extra cosy), bundle yourself onto the sofa with a mountain of blankets, pillows and the odd duvet. Stock up on snacks and tea galore and relax into your marshmallowy pit with a stack of DVDs or a Netflix binge and maybe a face pack if you’re feeling lavish. This is made all the better when you think about all the poor sods who are outside braving the rain.

9. BOOKS

Now, I couldn’t write this whole post without mentioning books in some way. This time of year is great for reading books, the long cosy nights in front of the fire, or the long trips you might be taking to visit friends or family (please don’t read and drive). If you’ve had a long list of books to read or you had ‘read more’ as one of your resolutions but you haven’t made too much of a dent yet then why not set yourself a challenge; write a list of books that you want to read by Christmas, or New Year (realistically) and take advantage of the opportunities to snuggle down. Or, whilst you’re cocooned in your duvet on the sofa – or in your bed- take out an old favourite and travel back to Hogwarts or Hobbiton.

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10. ENJOY THE FESTIVITIES

Autumn and Winter are full of some of the most festive times of year (Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas). Even if you’re not a big fan of some (or all) of these, you can still embrace the spirit in some way or another. I love Christmas (possibly to excess), and I love a good bonfire, but I’ve never really got Halloween. In the past, I have tried to actively avoid it and I’ve also tried to force myself into it – neither of which I have truly felt comfortable with, so now I’ve found my happy medium. I get a good pumpkin to carve (which is a great work out if you’re struggling to think of a sport you might like to do), I get a good selection of sweets and instead of dressing up in costume I dress up in my pyjamas and watch a Halloween-y film with pizza – always with pizza.

A FEW FILM SUGGESTIONS:

  • Beetlejuice
  • Nightmare Before Christmas (this is a perfect transitional film between Halloween and Christmas)
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Labyrinth (Bowie, not Pan’s)
  • Coraline

 

Words and images by Eleanor Manley for Anthem Online.

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

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

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

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

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LILY ANN PROCELLA 

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

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


LARA SCOTT

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

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REBECCA [surname removed for anonymity]

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

AMBER BERRY

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

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

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

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

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

 

Stop WINE-ing About Women Drinking

 I am fully and wholly aware that alcohol is bad for you. It’s bad for your physical and mental health. It is a drug.

But my god it’s fun, isn’t it? When you’ve had a few, and you dance your way back from the pub, eating some chips that taste like the best chips ever… and it is my god damn right to do that.

In the wake of New Years and Christmas festivities there have been a spate of ‘oh no binge drinking women how awful’ articles in the typically awful right-wing press. The narratives of these stories are often about how terrible it is for us young girls to go out in short skirts, or heels, and to get merry. They depict us as ‘messes’, as out of control, or loose.

If you’re decrying young women going out and acting disgracefully on nights out, you should probably stop putting photos of it in national newspapers.

I am sure that some of this notion of women going and getting drunk being a terrible thing stems from the fact that many of these women probably end up having one night stands, and that many people still have a problem with women being in charge of their own sexuality and sexual freedoms.

I wonder if there’s a rise in young women drinking because the pressure on us to be everything is so intense that we need something after a long day of the patriarchy to take the edge off.

Or if it’s because we are made to feel so constantly self-conscious and aware of our looks -as that is taught to be the only thing that defines us – that having a drink is sometimes the quickest way to feel good about ourselves.

In her article ‘Pictures Of Today’s Young Women That Make Me Weep’ (I’m not going to link you to it or even suggest that you look it up because any more hits on their website is exactly what The Mail wants, and I’m loathed to ever give them what they want, the absolute fucks), Sarah Vine writes “[e]ven more depressing, however, is the fact that these are not the usual suspects – thuggish male louts or football hooligans – we see brawling and barfing their way to destruction; but young women”.

OKAY. LET’S DELVE IN. Vine seems to be suggesting here that if it were ‘the usual suspsects’ that would somehow be okay, and that the fact that it’s not makes it worse. She even calls it ‘depressing’.  

I wonder why, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove, young women would feel the need to go out and get rat-arsed these days. No idea? Me neither, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove.

I’m not okaying binge drinking. It’s silly, and foolish, and is a strain on public services. People put themselves in dangerous positions and many die or are hurt. I’m just saying that being a woman doing it is not any worse than being a man doing it.

Also, being drunk is a right laugh. There is something intensely powerful about a group of girls on a night out. It is one of my favourite places to be. When you give up with glasses and swig from the bottle, and do each other’s eyeliner and cackle. When you hold back your mate’s hair as they’re sick in a bin. My two best friends from school and me would take it in turns to be the most drunk on a night out so no one was always the one doing the looking after. That’s not being a ‘mess’ that’s being considerate. Rae Earl put it best on Twitter when she said this:

Vine’s article also says this: “These girls have grown up in a post-feminist society that tells them anything a man can do, they can do better. And that includes getting monumentally, catastrophically bladdered.”

You know what?

Yeah. It does. Today’s young women can do whatever they bloody like. Have a drink mate. Mine’s a pint.

Words by Sian Brett (@sian_brett)
Tweet by Rae Earl (@RaeEarl)

#Cam4Art

Let’s just state the obvious here; we’re glued to our electronic devices. Even if you consider yourself someone who is not glued to an electronic product, you probably still use one to make life a bit easier. But this article is not about how you might ignore your Grandma to check on your Instagram likes, this article is about a new movement in the art world called #Cam4Art!

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#Cam4Art is a product of our time, an event responding to digital intimacy and our intense internet culture.

#Cam4Art is a live-streaming performance art event created by my home-dawg Kia Nicole Noakes and Nicholas Tee. #Cam4Art will be taking place between the 25th-30th of November 2016 and is possibly the most accessible piece of performance art you could ask for, and you should not miss out on this opportunity! Here are just a few of its benefits:

  •   #Cam4Art is completely free!
  •   Even if art is unlikely to gain a double tap from you, #Cam4Art includes over 30 artists from across the globe who produce different forms of performance art. So there’s a chance you’ll find someone you will enjoy!
  •   #Cam4Art is online! No matter where you are or what device you are using; you can watch and enjoy performance art without the hassle of leaving your house!
  •   If you miss the #Cam4Art event, it’s not a problem! The performances will be recorded for you to look back on!

Before you grab your diary and save the date, I’ve selected four female artists who I’ve taken an interest in and who will hopefully interest you also, and may even feed your feminist appetite!

Emily Roderick
“Microscope Performance II”
Friday, 25th Nov. 21:00 (GMT)

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Emily Roderick uses technology such as digital microscopes and screens to explore her body and surroundings during a live art performance, and you can see more of her work here: http://cargocollective.com/emilyroderick

Why did you choose performance art to express your work?
I find performance art one of the most interesting art forms for both the artist and the audience. With quite a strong interest in the senses, the body, and digital identity, performing my ideas felt like the most suited form. I am relatively new to performance but it already feels like a very valuable decision that I have made within my work.

What responses do you get from the feminist community?
The feminist community have been very supportive of the work that I make. I think what has been most intriguing is the interest and support of the technology that I am integrating into my performances and videos. It is great as a woman to be working with code and physical computing. Embracing a male-strong industry within my practice has brought me nothing but respect as an artist. Due to only recently getting my face into the art world, most of the support resonates on social media, which is great when I am referencing cyberfeminism and networked feminism. I hope that this support continues to build within the artists community.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be feminists? If so, how do you respond?
I personally haven’t received any negative responses about my work or ideas. I’d like to think that people approve of my ideas and like to promote feminism, more recently cyberfeminism. If I were to receive anything negative, I would be interested in hearing their view and why they feel that way. I am not here to preach but would express the ideas of equality, and that art is a great platform to express these views to a wider audience.

Why have you chosen to participate to #Cam4Art?
I first saw mention of #Cam4Art through my university. I was attracted to the fact that the organisers were pitching their ideas to a wide range of artists and were keen to get students involved. The ideas seemed fresh, and looked to celebrate the online platforms that we have access to today, as well as suggesting new platforms for exhibiting work. Despite having a digital aspect to my work, I was yet to experiment with the online world to display my live performances. #Cam4Art seemed like the perfect way to explore the online community and give an alternative output of my current work.

Lindsay Dye
“Variety Show”

Friday, 25th Nov. 22:00 (GMT)

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Get ready for Lindsay Dye’s “Variety show”, where the clue’s in the name: webcam mutations, readings, and visuals. See more at: http://www.lindsaydye.com

Why did you decide to use your job as a Cam Girl in your art?
I was making art about internet relationships and Miami strip club culture while I was in graduate school in NYC. My research about sex work brought me to cam culture. I became a camgirl to analyze the community and to understand conceptual projects like the Camgirls Copyright Infringement Dress that cannot be worn in public, and the Buy Me Offline Shop, an e-store where you can purchase physical screenshot prints, originally used as blackmail from my chatroom clientele. Three years later, it’s my full-time job and continues to be a source of artistic fodder.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be feminists? If so, how do you respond?
Disengagement is the most harmful response I receive from anyone. It’s painful when another human disregards your intellect because of your occupation. My long-term response has been the integration of my two jobs: camgirl and artist. This has made a smoother entrance to talk about sex work and feminism to both men and women through the art I make, and the chatrooms I inhabit. The response is that women and feminists are more than this one thing that supposedly defines us; we are complex and attach ourselves to many identifiers, by choice and by experience.

Why have you chosen to participate in #Cam4Art?
This show represents the exact space in which I’ve been working for the past few years, an autonomous one. Autonomy is the silver lining to camming and #Cam4Art’s fundamental concept, that is to exhibit work on the artist’s terms. The juiciest part is that performative work online becomes mutated immediately just by using the medium of the internet. The layering of audiences on multiple platforms becomes innumerable and lost. There’s a level to live-streaming that can’t be perceived.

Kate Durbin
“The Supreme Gentleman”
Saturday, 26th Nov. 20:00 (GMT)

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Kate Durbin will be streaming her pre-recorded work “The Supreme Gentleman”, which was created in response to the tragedy of the Isla Vista shooter, Elliot Roger. See more here: http://www.katedurbin.la

Why did you choose performance art to express your work?  
The Supreme Gentleman was initially commissioned for Yes All Women, an art benefit in Los Angeles created by Jessie Askinazi and emceed by Rose McGowan, with the proceeds going to the East Los Angeles Women’s Center. The Yes All Women benefit was inspired by the hashtag #YesAllWomen, which was created in response to Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger’s 2014 killing spree. Rodger espoused misogynist and racist beliefs on YouTube and gamer websites prior to his shooting rampage in my home state of California, and no-one did anything about it.

The Supreme Gentleman is a re-enactment of Rodger’s final YouTube address. It was important for me to physically embody Rodger’s words as the type of body he felt so entitled to: a white woman. I wore a long Lady Godiva wig and BMW panties because he objectified blonde women and cars (BMWs were his favourite). I spoke his horrible words out of my own mouth in order to diffuse their power; the change in tone of the voice reflects that these are not even Rodger’s words, but the words of a white supremacist patriarchy, a collective belief system larger than individuals.

What responses do you get from the feminist community?
A lot of people who consider themselves feminist like my work. The Supreme Gentleman was commissioned for a feminist project, the Yes All Women art auction benefiting the East Los Angeles Women’s Center.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be feminists? If so, how do you respond?
I do, at times. I listen to critique but when it mischaracterizes my work
 or becomes hateful, I tune out. I don’t feel obligated to personally respond.

Why have you chosen to participate to #Cam4Art?
I want the work to continue to have an online viewership, especially now with a Trump presidency looming in my country. One of the things I was thinking about when I put the work back on YouTube, along with the addition of the karaoke sing-a-long text, is how we turn mass shooters into gods through the media. I was thinking of how we help that process along through clickbait. I am thinking about how we have done something similar with our current presidential election. As artists we can draw attention to this process, can try and interrupt it.

Seren Metcalfe
“Laying Within a Bed of Spring Greens”
Monday, 28th Nov. 22:00 (GMT)

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Seren Metcalfe’s performance focuses on the relationship between a person expressing emotion onto an inanimate item. Find out more here: http://www.serenmetcalfe.co.uk

Why did you choose performance art to express your work?
I wanted to convey a sense of intimacy and discomfort within my work as this just wasn’t being conveyed through the videos and photographs I was creating. I am a performer because I realised the only way for me to truly be intimate with the viewer is to be present. There is something amazing about a viewer being able to watch my body move,  hear the sound of my breath, and watch the emotions on my face in real time!

What responses do you get from the feminist community? Could you give an example?
I’m not sure about using the term ‘feminist community’ so exclusively but I guess my work is very self-empowering, and when I perform I put myself in a very vulnerable position. It’s strange when I get comments saying “you’re so brave for being able to do that”. I wonder if I would get the same reaction if I was a man performing? But then to flip that around, I think maybe the performance would be a greater success if I was a man portraying myself as vulnerable.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be Feminist? If so, how do you respond?
I mean, I don’t think you have to be a feminist to understand my artwork. My artwork isn’t exclusively for a feminist audience, it’s for anyone.

Why have you chosen to participate to #Cam4Art?
I’ve done performances through webcam previously and they’ve been less successful so I’m really excited to develop something better than I have done previously. Its really great to be part of a network of so many unique performers. There’s a real sense of togetherness about it.

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If you are an artsy-fartsy individual like myself, it’s now time to consider: “Is live streaming the future for performance art?” (Huck Magazine). I believe that the #Cam4Art event will most definitely answer this question, so make sure to tune in between the 25th– 30th of November 2016 here: http://www.cam4art.com

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cam4art/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/cam4art.cam4art/?fref=ts

Images courtesy of #Cam4Art, Emily Roderick, Lindsay Dye, Kate Durbin and Seren Metcalfe.
Words by Courtney McMahon and external opinions from Emily Roderick, Lindsay Dye, Kate Durbin, and Seren Metcalfe.

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