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Blue Monday, Blue Winter, Blue Year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Words by Briony Brake

Here’s to Michelle

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Donald Trump is becoming the second most powerful man in the world this month (second only to Vladimir Putin), the White House will simultaneously be losing potentially the most inspiring and captivating First Lady it has ever had. Michelle Obama has been the role model that America needs; inspiring women of all backgrounds and ethnicities that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and not to let anyone hold you back.

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 If I’m ever feeling a bit down, or doubting myself,  or (especially) if I’m pulling an all-nighter, and need motivation to finish an essay, I tend to watch a bit of Michelle to get me back on track.  Not only does she have a law degree from Princeton and Harvard Law School, she’s also launched a campaign, ‘Let’s Move!’ in an attempt to combat childhood obesity, and she’s used her position as a way to encourage girls to pursue the careers they are interested in (‘Let Girls Learn’).

Michelle has also been extremely vocal about being a black woman in America, and the challenges those facing discrimination come up against. On top of all that, Michelle has never been afraid to be herself; she’s even been shopping with Ellen DeGeneres and on Carpool Karaoke with James Corden. Not to mention she’s also raised two kids…

Here are some of my favourite Michelle quotes that will hopefully get you through those exam/ January/ dissertation/ general blues:

1. “I wanted them to understand that the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls. And I told them that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and I told them that they should disregard anyone who demeans or devalues them, and that they should make their voices heard in the world”

Talking about meeting young girls in the US and around the world in her New Hampshire Speech Oct 2016.

2.There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish, whether that’s in politics or in other fields.”

Talking about what she tells her daughters in a 2012 speech about the US.

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3. “The women we honour today teach us three very important lessons. One, that as women, we must stand up for ourselves. The second, as women, we must stand up for each other. And finally, as women, we must stand up for justice for all.”

In a speech in 2009 at the Women of Courage Awards.

4. “If had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the president of the United States today… Compete with the boys…Beat the boys.

During a panel session hosted by Glamour in September 2015.

 

So there’s your inspiration and reminder that you can do this. Go slay x

 

Words by Sophy Edmunds
Photos and videos by NY Times, The Late Late Show with James Corden/YouTube, and Let Girls Learn/the White House.

 

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)

Stop Picking on Feminists

I will fight you. Of course I won’t fight you. I only yell at people over feminism if they’ve just felt entitled enough to grope me on a night out. Aside from that you’re pretty safe. I don’t fight with people over feminism firstly because I know there’s no point. I don’t believe in changing people to suit your needs, I believe in finding and loving the people who do share your thinking and beliefs. Some people won’t have their minds changed. Instead of yelling at them, try having an intellectual conversation; try understanding why they think the way they do. The second reason I don’t argue about feminism (at least not seriously) is because I know about the pedestal.

Image from Buzzfeed

In a great book called Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay talks very early on about celebrities, authors and women of note who claim to be a feminist, just moments before they are attacked for doing things wrong, or at least not right, and get pushed off again. I won’t lie, I know people who say they are or aren’t feminists because of things that simply aren’t true, but there is absolutely no-one with the right to say ‘no, you’re not a feminist like I am, so I’m not interested’.

So this pedestal affects us too. I’m not famous, but I still tell people I am a feminist (in case founding a feminist blog wasn’t clear enough). A lot of people I know have met that ‘coming out’ with complete, unshielded disgust in the past. Most of the time that happens, it’s because people have a funny, old-fashioned ‘feminists are hard-core dykes and man-haters’ vibe, which is obviously just complete shit. I mean, grow up.

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Image from Tumblr/goldenpoc

When I tell people I’m a feminist, I am ready and happy to discuss why I identify as such, or what it means to me. When I say I am a feminist, I’m not exclusively saying I believe in women’s rights. When I say I’m a feminist, I’m not saying I fight for everyone’s rights because I don’t, because I’m a white woman and have no right to butt in and start claiming I know what it’s like to be something else. I’m pretty sure I’ve got this right, but feel free to stop me. When I say I am a feminist, I mean that I don’t like people being discriminated against simply and purely because of the gender they identify as.

The fact that the leading cause of death for men my age is suicide has become something I’m deeply interested in, and want to change. The reason it exists is because we live in a society that perpetuates the idea – the myth – that men should not be emotional, should not talk. In reality, men should talk or cry if they want, it should have nothing to do with their gender. This goes right along with women’s positions at work, and in power, and their disadvantages, because throughout history (think suffragettes, then think a few thousand years before that) women were painted as insufficiently educated to make decisions, be in control, and even sometimes just too darn frail to lift a box (or run for president with pneumonia, am I right?).

Image from Bustle

Image from Bustle

I get a lot of friends making jokes because they like to tease, and to be honest I’m used to it, and it’s fine. Generally, if someone tells me they think women belong in the kitchen, I know they are not in earnest.

I know not to shout and yell because people want that. They want the crazy, irrational woman shouting about how hard her life is, how hard she has it. Yet stop being a dick for a minute, and consider that I’m not fighting for me. Sure I don’t want to get paid less because I’m a woman, but I’d like to think I could protect myself. There’s always a bit of an ‘it’s not happening to me so it’s not real’ thing going around with issues like feminism. This is actually where feminism is most important.

Feminism is about making sure people don’t lose out because of their gender, and as much as in the US and UK it can be quite balanced in men’s and women’s issues – abroad, there’s a few extremes for each case.

Image from Davina Diaries

Image from Davina Diaries

You may have just seen that Polish government tried to ban abortions. What the hell Poland? Just force women back in the early 20th century and make them have their babies and do the housework. Sure, sounds cool. You might not know however of a study highlighting how many Egyptian women had experienced sexual assault and harassment (a ridiculous 99.3%)*. Oh, or what about the 10 year old divorcee from Yemen**. You probably didn’t think you were lucky your parents didn’t marry you off aged ten, but circumstances being what they are, you are. There was also the other young girl from Yemen who died on her wedding night to a man five times her age, when intercourse caused uterine rupture***. Not to mention the fact that the number of Palestinian women dying as part of so-called ‘honour killings’, often by family members, is not going down, oh no, it’s going up. It doubled between 2013 and 2014****.

Feminism isn’t just a bit of fun; it isn’t just white privileged women getting together with wine to talk about how oppressed they feel in their BMWs and London houses. It’s actually a necessity. You may not see the point. Like it or not, though, this is the only chance we have to help these deaths, child marriages, mutilation, and assault. I mean, does that not sound serious to you?

Back in the UK, men are actually killing themselves instead of living to see another day in which they have to pretend to be something they are not. Abroad, children as young as 10, who haven’t even been through puberty or started their periods yet, are being raped and married off, and it’s all just ok? I’m sorry I can’t agree.

Gender is a social construct, not a death sentence.

Graphic from Bigger Issues

So this has all gotten kind of far away from picking on me because I’m silly enough to voice my opinions out loud, but it needed to be said.

The next stage is why you should stop bullying people who actually care about you, and are trying to improve your life. Mostly, feminists get angry around the themes of pay, health, and education. Much like most people in the world tend to care about their pay, health and education. I mean, is it really such a crime to think I shouldn’t have to pay £4 not to bleed through my £7.99 jeans? (I’m talking about pads and tampons here in case that wasn’t clear…). We shouldn’t have to be setting up charities for homeless women to have access to sanitary products for something they can’t even help. How ridiculous is it? A homeless woman bleeds for a few days a month, and if she can’t afford pads or tampons then she has to bleed through pants and trousers that she may only have a few pairs of. Pretty poor show really.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable either to want to be paid the same as anyone, male or female, doing the same job as me. Men don’t get paid less because they have a penis, so why should women get paid less because they have a vagina. Sure this is less of an issue now in the UK but it still stands in some places (also ridiculous).

I also don’t think I should have to say any of this. It should just be fine that some people are born one way, and some another. Big whoop. I don’t want to be sat here defending myself for not wanting to be disadvantaged; for wanting basic human rights. I don’t want people to make jokes about how I should be in the kitchen, or how I must be a lesbian, or ugly, or lonely and deformed, or something else. It’s not even original humour for goodness sake.

I just want to be able to wake up and not hear about the stories that I’ve been telling you. I want to be able to wake up to news that, actually there is no news about Trump and Hilary because for once, Trump didn’t say something outrageously disgusting and degrading towards women, and that somehow people are finally moving past the fact that a woman (shock horror) is running for president. If someone that awful is allowed to run for president and get this close, with people thinking he is still a better option than a woman, there’s a problem.

Quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie/Image from For Harriet

Quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie/Image from For Harriet

Gender is an issue. Don’t lie, don’t brush it under the carpet with all the women trying to voice their opinions on Twitter like men can. Don’t brush aside domestic abuse for both men and women, genital mutilation, pay gaps, glass ceilings. Don’t just forget about it. It matters. It matters for everyone. Joking around and picking on men and women trying to focus it and fix it, is real mature. For real, stop picking on people you know nothing about.

So stop picking on me because I tell the truth about what I believe in, and bully me for fairer things (short arms and snort laugh included), or at least use original humour.

 

Words by Briony Brake

Statistics:

*  Egyptian Sexual Assault
** Yemen Child Divorcee
*** Yemen Child Died on Wedding Night
**** Honour Killings of Palestinian Women

 

Angry

I’m writing this piece because I’m angry. I’m so angry and tired and sad, and I don’t know what to do about it.

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I’m angry that my university decided to raise their fees, because a rule changed, so they could. Because they love to paint themselves as a liberal arts university, and boast the artists who come from the environment they create, but don’t love those artists enough to allow their next generation to flourish. Because the government want to perpetuate an elitist university output.

I’m angry that women in Poland had to protest so hard to maintain control over their own fucking bodies. That women in places like Ireland have to travel to other countries on their own, for a procedure. That in this day and this age, we still have to shout, not even ask, for control. Other people have more right and dominion over what they do not own, than we do.

I’m angry that women are still being determined by their appearance. That the Girlguiding association ran a survey and found that a third of girls between 7 and 10 had been made to think by people that their appearance was the most important thing about them. Because they’re made to feel that whatever goes on in their head just doesn’t matter.

I’m angry that clothes for young children are so gendered that we present women as princesses or socialites, and dress them solely in pink, whilst boys clothes are covered in slogans that encourage them to be troublemakers and messy.

I’m angry that Kim Kardashian was attacked, and because she’s a woman who makes money from her appearance, people reacted with scorn, and cynicism. Whatever you might think about Kim Kardashian as a pop culture figure, she is a human being, and to blame her is abhorrent.

I’m angry that Brock Turner was in jail for half of his six-month sentence, and that the media portrayed him as the victim, whose swimming career was ruined.

I’m angry that Theresa May wants to chuck out foreign doctors, but only once we’ve found English replacements. I’m angry that these people who have made homes and careers, and worked hard as doctors and nurses and in the NHS, to look after everyone without discrimination, are being made to feel unwanted by the Tory government.

I’m angry that Donald Trump can do whatever he likes and people will still vote for him. And I’m angry that because Hilary Clinton is a woman, he can continue to do whatever he likes, and will still seem like a better choice to people who have a problem with that.

I’m angry that police in America can shoot and kill black people, and get away with it.

I’m angry that I still get men mansplaining. I’m angry that when they ask a question, they ask the other men, not me.

I’m angry that I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how we can keep fighting, and shouting, and making a mess, before it stops making a difference. How long can you keep protesting before it’s not a protest anymore? It’s important to talk about these things, but I’ve had enough of blog posts, they don’t make a difference. I want to shout and scream and rage, and make people understand that it’s not okay. But I don’t know how.

I don’t know what we can do. And that makes me the angriest of all.

 

 

Words by Sian Brett.
Images courtesy of Eva Crossan Jory, The Independent, The Daily Beast and The Guardian.