writing

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

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‘Little Eden’: A Review

In a world where reptilians rule and demand daily doses of blood from all of the earth’s citizens, Little Eden tells the story of Jim, an office worker happy to comply with the rules, but who slowly becomes aware that all he has been told about how the world works may be untrue. As secrets unravel, Jim’s safety and life as he knows it hang in the balance.

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The debut production from Neon Peach Theatre is full of slick performances and big characters that make for an enjoyable romp through this world. Although the world could do with being a bit more solidified, and the set up a bit clearer, the fact that there’s a yearning to know more about the world demonstrates that it’s an interesting one. But with a slightly off version of reality, without clarification of what exactly is going on, it can become hard to follow and properly appreciate when the rules of the world start to come undone.

13320957_10154059108736233_6691409396024720195_o[1]An ode to 50’s sci-fi B-movies, Little Eden’s set, sound, and lighting design perfectly encapsulate this little pocket of cinematic history. Although this is a genre rife with joke possibilities, there was definitely the opportunity for more of this within the piece; the set-up is so rich, I was desperate for more gags and over-the-top self-awareness.

Liam Farmer gives a lovely performance as ‘The Vicar’, who narrates the entire show and is bombastic and incredibly fun to watch. Having a narrator on stage continuously can be a difficult thing to balance with the action of a show, but Neon Peach manage it perfectly. A special mention should also go out to Sophie Miller De Vega whose performance as the local nurse never becomes too ‘bimbo’, or dull, but continues to be funny despite her high-heel, pinned-up-hair, white-coat stock character.13316950_10154059108191233_8984799620704698462_o[1]In a small studio space like Camden People’s Theatre, it can be hard to visually engineer a whole world, but the transitions between different spaces and the way that the narrator interplays between it all is one of the strongest facets of the piece.

A work in progress that needs just needs a bit more of everything, Little Eden has potential, strong performances, and most of all, it’s proper good fun.

 

Here’s how to follow Neon Peach Theatre on social media:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neonpeachtheatre/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NeonPeachTheatre/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NeonPeachInc

 

Words by Sian Brett
Images by Jon Lee
 

 

‘Watermelon’: A Review

“It’s okay if the love of your life is your best friend”

Last Sunday night I had the absolute pleasure of watching Box Room Theatre’s production of ‘Watermelon’ at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in London, as part of the Camden Fringe. The play was written by Georgia Green and takes a new and exciting look at the role of female friendships in modern life. Quite simply, Watermelon follows two girls named Abbie (Alexandra Proudfoot) and Zoe (Grace Hudson) on a night out, and a boy they bring home named Joe (Henry Taylor). Yet in just 55 minutes, it manages to introduce so many different layers and subtle hints at a wider life I desperately wanted to know. 

In case you hadn’t guessed, I loved Watermelon (and I don’t even like the fruit). The piece was exciting and dynamic, and ultimately showed the immense skill of Box Room Theatre in all aspects, particularly in the writing, and acting that came from Abbie, Zoe and Joe.

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To me, it felt like a case study of sorts on all the different relationships we have. The cast of Watermelon portrayed fantastic chemistry but were equally all able to hold their own in scenes. A relationship between a girl and the stranger trying to sleep with their best friend is one I hadn’t seen before, but thoroughly enjoyed; the sharp dialogue between the two was constant and entertaining. 

One thing I found most interesting was how it showed the friendship between Abbie and Zoe. A lot of things they showed, I had never experienced with my female friends such as taking boys home or discussing sex lives, but then there were so many things I had experienced a hundred times over, like the classic boy talks or even facial hair bleaching… It got me thinking about how no one female friendship is really the same, and how lovely that is.

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Watermelon is a beautifully open piece of theatre that takes the audience’s hand and invites them to share these experiences. Friendships are complex and can involve so much worry, and so to have a piece of theatre normalise that in front of my very eyes was comforting. 

Although very lively and, at times, laugh out loud funny, the piece also enters into some intense scenes, and some equally tranquil ones too. Fear and paranoia come into play when Abbie’s character goes missing in the night, and the relationship between Zoe and Joe develops immensely through the next half an hour of the play. They took a little slice of everyday reality and gave it so much life and depth; the audience is thrown into the drama with no warning, and it allows you to experience a great deal more emotion whichever way it swings.

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In the above photo, you can see one of my favourite scenes of the play. The team at Box Room have a huge imagination but are clever in their delivery. This simple use of fairy lights and music gave such intelligent lightness to the personal drama Zoe’s character was going through. I genuinely thought about the light sequences for the whole week after, I loved it that much.

Watermelon is an excellent example of young new writing that we should be paying attention to in the theatre. A simplistic but secretly challenging piece that is dotted with feminist quandaries most of us face on a regular basis (but perhaps aren’t as brave as Zoe when it comes to resolution). There’s so much to discover and explore that it’s hard not to love.

Four Stars for Watermelon!

 

You can follow Box Room Theatre on social media, and keep up to date with all the lovely events they host (enough to satisfy all your comedy and theatre needs)!

Words by Briony Brake
Images from Box Room Theatre

I’m tired of fighting.

I’m a 20-year-old woman in her final semester of university, and in my spare time I write and edit for this website that I started almost a year ago. I haven’t posted much recently for two reasons: firstly, I’ve been working on a dissertation among a few other deadlines at university, and secondly, I’m exhausted.

My friends all like to wind me up for being a feminist. They like to tell me about stupid things people have said who claim to be feminist but aren’t (if you hate men, you’re not a feminist, so if you would kindly stop dragging the rest of us down, I’d be grateful). I have colleagues too, everyone enjoys telling me about stupid things ‘feminists’ have done, or how they enjoy taking them down online. Obviously, for them, it’s very funny, but for me, it’s wearing. I always clarify what feminism is and why I believe in it, but it doesn’t stop it. 

“Power to the Girls”

When I see girls, particularly younger girls and teens wearing t-shirts that say anything feminist, I smile. I’m so glad that the work of previous generations won’t end, and I’m hopeful that the future will be better. But I’m also not an idiot. I know full well that some minds won’t be changed. I know that Trump isn’t going to come out tomorrow and say ‘Gee those feminists are on to something’, nor are the Daily Mail going to cover female politicians saying ‘aren’t these women smart and powerful’ instead of talking about their legs (don’t get me started).

I know we aren’t equal. We don’t think equal. And I can’t help but agree with Emma Watson in thinking that we won’t be equal. I don’t see equality in my lifetime. I’d love to, but if it took a woman getting crushed by a horse to get us the bloody vote, I dare not ask what it would take to get where we want to be. 

I’m a feminist. I don’t really care about my personal equal pay because I’m paid the same as my male colleagues, but I care about the statistics suggesting black women lose out on almost 40% of white men’s wages1234. It’s not about me, but I still care about it. I raise an issue with men’s pressure to be manly and unemotional as it leads to dangerous numbers of suicides and mental health issues. I struggle with the international treatment of women such as FGM, truancy because of periods, rape, child marriage, and so on. It’s not something I will experience in this country, so should I just turn a blind eye? No, because I’m not an arsehole. This is deathly important and we’re all just making out like it’s not our problem.

The skirt in question…

I face issues in this country that anger me on a daily basis. It was the hottest weekend of the year so far recently so naturally, I wore a skirt, but with trainers and a long sleeve top. That didn’t matter though, legs were visible, so three different men in cars slowed to shout things or whistle. You can bet that made me feel horrible. I wanted to put my jeans back on and suffer in the heat because I felt so uncomfortable that 3 different cars of men felt perfectly comfortable to make comments on my appearance and sexualise me. It’s absolutely disgusting. It is not a compliment to make someone feel unsafe. I don’t need to excuse myself, that is not a compliment.  

I’m really sick of being called girly for liking pink, watching a lot of Julia Roberts films, and shopping excessively. These things make me happy (plus I walk double my normal steps a day when I shop so at least I’m exercising), but it’s stupid because I’m a girl and girls are stupid. I’m just so fed up. I could honestly just curse for hours and throw things because I’m so damn sick of all of it.

Why should I get stressed out because I care about something that is inherently right? It is moral, and just. It is not that we are asking a lot, we are asking for life as it should be. I should not be less than a man, nor treated less than, because I am not less than a man. I am equal. I am equal to a man. 

The necklace I now wear on a daily basis

I’m so tired of doing this. Sometimes I don’t want to do it anymore. Sometimes I think, like right now, that I don’t want to be a feminist anymore because it’s so much hard work and no one cares in the slightest what I think. I feel as though I’m wasting my time, and annoying my friends. It’s ridiculous. I shouldn’t have to fight in the first place, let alone be questioned for doing the right thing. I know I’ll post this and someone will either question a point I have made, or people will continue to joke about being a woman or a feminist and how I am lesser.

As someone who struggles to keep her head up a great deal of the time, I don’t really need the extra negative emotion that comes with pushing the way I do. I’m constantly down, or humiliated, or angered, or panicked, or uncomfortable and I could cry just thinking about how bad I am made to feel. I just want it to stop.

I’m doing the right thing. So either join me or leave me alone because I can’t leave this fight. I made a commitment, I started a platform to help, and I can’t quit. It’s so exhausting and even if I don’t want to do it anymore, I have to. If you have no support to offer, I’d kindly ask you to leave off, and save everyone the unnecessary negative emotion; there’s enough going around as it is. 

The Guardian: ‘Gender wage gap costs minority women more than $1m in some states
2 National Women’s Law Centre: ‘The Lifetime Wage Gap by State for Black Women
Bustle: ‘8 Startling Statistics That Show How The Pay Gap Affects Women Of Color Differently
4 American Association of University Women: ‘The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap

Words and images by Briony Brake

Q&A: Oxford Dignity Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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So what do the Oxford Dignity Drive do to help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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)