THE WOMEN

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Women are strange creatures, I’m not afraid to admit that.

We say that we’re fine when we’re just about ready to burst into tears or throw something at the wall. We can text our friends for 16 hours and still find stuff to talk about when we meet for dinner later that evening. We tend to own a ridiculous amount of something we like, be it lipsticks, shoes, skateboards or vinyls. We fixate. We work out what we adore and then love it to death.

We have in-built alarm bells that tell us if you’re a bad egg, our ability to multitask is second to none and we just sort of… know when something’s not right.

We push something the size of watermelon through something the size of a lemon (thanks for that one, ‘Look Who’s Talking’), we bounce back from the bad times and we bleed for five days a month and don’t die.

But more than anything?

We’re fucking resilient. We have been fighting the battle for gender equality for decades and we won’t stop until we get what we want. Or rather, need.

However, despite our strength and persistence, I know that there are those of you who aren’t quite sure what we’re still fighting for. Many of you are left stumped as to what else we could possibly want; after all, we can vote now…

And what do I say to that?

Go and pick up a newspaper or talk to someone with a vagina.

Not only are we struggling in western society to have our voices heard, to make sure that we’re being paid the same as our male colleagues and to eradicate sexual and street harassment, but women on a global scale are suffering in ways that we can’t even imagine- and guess what? We ain’t quitting until every girl is offered a worthy education, until women are allowed to wear what they please without being objectified and until sexual pleasure for women becomes a right, not something that can brutally be taken away using a dirty scalpel and bad intentions. Basically, we just want women around the world to be treated equally – not better than – men around the world. But apparently, this won’t happen until 2133 if we don’t actively campaign for progress, starting now.

Think about all of the wonderful women who have shaped who you are today. Think about the struggles they’ve faced, that you’ve faced together. And then think about what you can do to stop our current, unjust normality from affecting your children – sons included – because I believe that as long as women are at a loss, so are men too. Both genders offer different strengths and by working together, we can move mountains. Or – more realistically and beneficially – cure cancer, explore the universe hand in hand and generally make the world a happier (and more peaceful) place, side by side.

I’m not doubting how great men are. That’s not what feminism is about. But today is about womankind and I think it’s important to take some time to celebrate us in all our glory and make that (hopefully final) push towards global equality.

We might come in many shapes, colours and sizes, but our bodies are machines; we can sometimes be a little insecure about the way we look (although that will change once attitudes towards us change); we can be sensitive, insensitive, hairy, scary, fearless, fearful and everything in between. These are all things to celebrate today, not berate.

Just because the shackles have been loosened, ladies, that doesn’t mean that we’re free. We can still feel the cold metal resting – albeit loosely – around our ankles and that just isn’t enough for me. And neither should it be for you.

Men say that we are hard to work out. And I quite like it that way.

Once you let us live as you do, only then will we let you know the true magic that lies within us.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY EVERYONE!

THE KIDS

Little cherubs.

Great bundles of joy.

The apples of our proverbial eyes.

Sure, all of these things are true, when you don’t have them for longer than an hour at a time. But as soon as you make the mistake of offering two, sore-eyed parents a weekend off from their little ones, this opinion soon changes.

As they wave you off with a wild smile and prosecco already in hand, you should start saying your goodbyes. There’ll be no brunch buying, coffee drinking and gallery hopping for the next two days. Say hello to toilet stops, cartoon binges and game playing. Get used to question answering, knee plastering and “are we there yet?” ringing in your ears. Your weekend slowly disappears before your very eyes. Your time is not your own anymore. You are not number one. Not only is this a wasted weekend but your entire life is changed forever. You call your friends in case you don’t make it out alive and give them all your next of kin, just in case.

No, I’m not being dramatic. It’s just that this weekend confirmed something to me: that even as I edge closer to 30, I am not ready for children yet. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are two of the most pleasant, well-mannered children I have ever met. They don’t moan. They’re easily pleased. They get on with each other. They are intelligent. They like to have fun. Basically, they’re the type of children that those who have given birth to squealing spawns of Satan are jealous of. Almost too good to be true. Which is why I couldn’t understand why it put me off having kids so much.

But I’ve come to realise that, basically, I’m just too selfish.

Prior to the weekend, the subject of kids had come up quite a few times between me and my girlfriends. We ignorantly proclaimed that we could handle kids now that we’re at the ripe old age of 26 and 27. We discussed names. What they would look like. How we would discipline them. We pictured our lives not changing very much (which is just plain stupid). We spoke about how we would carry on as normal, wearing the same clothes and being able to maintain manicures and waxes, just with a baby attached to our boob. No big deal. We wondered what people were complaining about.

All of the parents reading this are probably laughing at our ignorance.

And after this weekend? I’m right there with you.

But above anything else, I am left wondering how people actually do it. Parenthood, I mean.  After those few hours spent looking after little ones, 11pm felt like 4am. I didn’t reapply my lipstick once. I didn’t want a drink, I just wanted my bed. I don’t think Ryan and I spoke for most of the weekend, we just took it in turns to take toilet trips and made eye contact only to say “it’s your turn”. AND THIS WAS ONLY TWO DAYS OF PRETEND PARENTHOOD. Imagine what we’d be like if the stork came and dropped one off prematurely- screwed is the only word I can think to describe it.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the first time I’ve looked after little ones. In actual fact, I have been surrounded by them my entire life. Cousins. Second cousins. Pupils. Family friends. The list goes on. I actually find kids funny, I like the questions they ask and I somehow enjoy their company. But do I want one by my side from now until forever? Hell no. Well, not yet anyway. I guess sixteen rounds on an ice rink, a few messy food stops, a Disney film or two and a ring stuck on a child’s finger saga will do that to you.

So, parents of the world, I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before and I’d like to take this opportunity to say it again, I salute you. You are Gods, Goddesses, angels and miracle-workers. You are magic-makers and dream weavers and to those of you who manage to parent whilst maintaining a functional relationship, applying make up and ensuring that you’re wearing matching underwear each day? You’re not even human.

I’m off to watch Netflix in bed with snacks. Yet another one of my favourite past times that is just impossible with children.

BAGS OF KINDNESS

Whether it stems from a fear of the cold or a belief that no one should be alone at Christmas, winter time makes me feel far more charitable than the rest of the year.

Although I am, of course, aware that there are still people in need in the height of Summer, I seem to give more money to charity as we head towards December, am more likely to stop and talk to a person in need on the street and I am certainly more likely to promote projects such as this one. And being a feminist and an admittedly seasonal charitable person, this drive for ‘Bags of Kindness’ is an opportunity to help sent from heaven. And it’s so easy to do. So whether it’s Christmas at yours this year which means that you’re unable to put your hours in at your local Crisis centre or whether you don’t have the cash to donate to your chosen charity, I have a solution. And it comes in the form of a rucksack filled with kindness. Kindness in the shape of sanitary towels and a toothbrush no less, but kindness all the same.

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Unless you live on Mars, (in which case, why are you reading this?) you will know that there are thousands of vulnerable women sleeping rough on the streets of London and across the UK and that they need your help. These women have wound up on the streets, not out of choice, but because of abusive relationships, familial fall outs or a series of unfortunate events. But their struggle doesn’t stop at finding some spare change for food or somewhere dry to sleep. The streets are a difficult place to be and – often – it’s only a matter of time before vulnerable women end up sex working to survive. And some of them with children to protect. This is not only dangerous, but mentally damaging for the mother- and even the child.

So what can you do to help?

Although it is impossible for us to drag each and every single one of these women away from their dangerous circumstances, the amazing women at The Kindness Project have come up with a way of helping those women in need in ways that we take for granted. The idea is that we each buy a rucksack (or even rucksacks) for these vulnerable women and then fill them with everything – from moisturiser and knickers to sleeping bags and socks – to make their life that little bit easier over the coming winter months. There is a Facebook group that you can join that tells you exactly what to put into the bags and exactly what not to put into the bags and it’s important that you follow these guidelines. Where and when to drop your bags off is also included here, so make sure you click.

Whichever way I seem to look at the moment – on the news, in the papers and online – there seems to be violence, torment or just something negative for people to shout about, so let’s give kindness a voice this Christmas and get this female-focused project off the ground. I have never seen girl power like it. Except for the Spice Girls. And they would definitely donate a rucksack or two.

See you at the drop off point!

THE STRANGER DANGER

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A man grabbed my arse once as I scrambled for the District Line at Earl’s Court. Sorry, make that ‘happens once every few months since I was fourteen’ and it’d be a little closer to the truth.

No, I’m not exaggerating. And no, before you ignorantly ask, I’m not wearing a short skirt every time it happens. In fact, if you must know, I hate wearing skirts. I’m very much a jeans girl, not that it matters. I don’t ‘dress like a boy’ because I’m scared of what sort of attention I might attract. I wear whatever I want to wear because – shock horror – how I dress has nothing to do with the hip rubbing, hand stroking and prolonged staring that are – unfortunately – part and parcel of my daily commute.

Rather than kick up a fuss, it’s so much easier to just ignore those subtle movements and that man who gets a bit too close. People are tired after work, the carriage is silent except for sniffles from the poor soul that forgot their hanky and you’re too embarrassed to make a scene. After all, that thing you felt on your back really might have been there by accident. It was probably just a bag. The train is super busy. And he doesn’t seem the type- he’s wearing a suit for Christ’s sake… Usually, by the time you’re above ground, you’ve already convinced yourself that it was all in your head and have started figuring out what you’ll do with that leftover mince later.

But sometimes it’s not rush hour. Sometimes there’s a ton of space around you but they decide to stand right by your side. Sometimes it’s something more than an accident. And when it is, you’ll just know it, whether you choose to admit it or not.

When someone happens to bump into you, there’s normally an – albeit begrudging – apology and a quick look back at their phone for fear of further words being exchanged between the two of you. An accidental tap to the bottom with the back of one’s hand doesn’t require the human whom it belongs to, to breathe down your neck or continue to stand right there once half the commuters have vacated the carriage. It doesn’t require their thigh to touch yours as you both nab seats next to one another and it certainly doesn’t require grabbing or pinching of any kind. It’s something that thousands of us put up with each year and it’s just not on.

These acts of sexual harassment – because yes, that’s what they are – range from the overt to the very small. I sometimes see stranger’s willies more times in one week than my own boyfriend’s and I have been what appeared to be the subject of someone’s down time as they tossed themselves off across from me on the Piccadilly line. The worst part? I was alone. Even worse than that? I was fourteen and no one did anything to stop it. I hadn’t even kissed a boy and I was already being used as someone’s sex object- what a great way to spend my journey home from school.

Basically, if I haven’t asked you to touch me, then don’t. Even staring for longer than to check where my jumper is from is not okay. And before you say it, I’m not being sensitive. I’m open to smiles and even a brief chat about the weather, but don’t stare at my chest hoping to, at some point, develop the capacity to visually penetrate clothing and see a nipple because you’ll be sorely disappointed- not to mention the fact that you’re making me feel really very uncomfortable.

I’ve put up with this for a long time, yet it’s taken me five years to write this post. I haven’t put it off because I didn’t want to speak out, but because I was so used to it happening to me that it didn’t seem worth it. Thankfully, The Pool reminded me that it shouldn’t be a part of my daily routine and informed me that people are doing something to stop it.

The British Transport Police have released a video to raise awareness of the subject. (If you aren’t able to watch it right now, it’s basically a short film showing a woman being assaulted on the tube as everyone around her remains totally oblivious; a daily occurrence in the capital.) I could go on for days telling countless tales of torment on the tube or my local bus routes, but here’s something that you can actively do to help instead:

If you experience anything – big or small – on the tube that you’re not comfortable with, then text 61016 to report it.

Store those digits in your phones ladies, because sadly, you will have to use them if you live here long enough. And it’s a great way to kick up a silent fuss if you’re not so keen on having it out with your attacker on the 7.01 to Waterloo. You’re not alone in this desire to keep the peace on your commute by the way: 1 in 10 Londoners have experienced such trauma and 90% fail to report it. Even just the fact that this issue is finally being acknowledged after such a long time is a huge step in the right direction I think.

Women should be able to navigate their city without fear of being abused. Raise awareness and be sure to pass on the number (61016) to report anything untoward.

And remember: if something doesn’t feel right to you, it means that it probably isn’t. Let’s make some changes. Starting now.

THE FEMALE

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My most memorable International Women’s Day to date was the year I saw Florence + The Machine at Ally Pally. Granted, I didn’t buy the tickets in celebration of womankind, but it was a nice coincidence all the same.

I went there with a secret hope that she would acknowledge the day, and Florence being Florence, she did. In the best way ever.

After howling her way through hundreds of hits, she asked the men in the audience to lift the women nearest to them onto their shoulders. My brother is 6ft2 and frequents the gym daily, but I assumed he’d still tell me and my thunder thighs to jog on. Much to my surprise however, I felt myself being lifted into the air, along with hundreds of other women, desperately clinging onto my pint of wine and high-fiving everyone within reach.

I felt like a rock star.

And that’s how I think women should be made to feel every day.

Forget the princess crap – although a tiara would be nice – we would instead simply love to live on the edge with you, to be believed in like you, to be as bold and brave as you’ve been allowed to be, to run across stages barefoot; screaming and howling like Florence herself because it makes us feel good. Chuck us in the air, challenge us, swear at us (we’ll swear back) and let us be wild and free and live like the creatures we were made to be. We’re resilient you know, all it takes is for you to give us a chance to be.

Asking the men to lift women onto their shoulders in celebration was so symbolic of our fight for equal rights, because without men lending us a helping hand, we’re fighting a losing battle. You, dear gentleman, are crucial. Despite this, there are still so many who will do anything to avoid being deemed a feminist, mainly because they’re unsure of what the word even means. So if Emma (Goddess) Watson wasn’t clear enough, then I’ll try to be: a feminist is someone who wants equal rights and opportunities for both men and women. That’s it. No frills, no fancies, no shouting, no screaming; just a world where you, your mum, your niece and your brother, all have the same chance to be the best human they can be.

So although we are a long way from our end goal, I think it’s important to acknowledge the advances that we have made so far because, well, glass half full and all that. We now live in a time where The Oscars are less about manicures and more about Lopez, Streep and Arquette coming together in raptures for equal pay. A place where Amal Alamuddin is no longer referred to as George Clooney’s wife. And a world where being called a slut on the street is being challenged (finally).

Believe it or not people, times, although slowly, are a-changing. And I’m excited.

So lift up the women in your life, high onto your shoulders and celebrate them this Sunday. I don’t need to list the reasons why you should.

Have a good one.

THE FRIENDSHIP GROUP

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At school we were called cliquey, at university we were deemed long-distance lovers and now we’re not sure what people say because it’s just us, without anyone looking, or getting in.

Some might focus on the downside to surrounding myself with the same five women everyday; they might wince at some of the intimate details we’ve shared with each other from the bedroom… or bathroom; they probably think we should get out more and meet new people and some might not give a damn.

Don’t get me wrong, we have our own friends, a few of us have men in our lives and we spend enough time with work colleagues and university pals in our free time, but when the shit hits the fan, or we sky-rocket to success, we know who to dial (or WhatsApp) first.

Although I adore my home town, it can be a scary place when you’re growing up: being robbed is a reality; navigating the tube at eleven years old is the norm; bomb scares at school were a regular occurrence and being turned away from the clubs of Soho at 16 years old was a rite of passage. So, as opposed to growing up in the country, where the biggest threat is the nearest cow, living in the big city since birth means that there is more of an urgency to cement yourself within a group of friends- not only to listen to your tales of woe, but to make sure you make it home in one piece.

I’m lucky. The girls who surround me now are the ones that I have grown up with. From first loves, first times, and first Bacardi Breezers, to graduating, getting engaged and securing the perfect jobs; we’ve been there. These ladies aren’t just around when times get hard, nor are they only cheering you on as you complete your most recent triathlon or to welcome you home from a year-long adventure across the globe; they’re there all the time. When you’ve over-filled yourself on dim sum or when you’ve broken a nail: they’re interested, they’re present, they’re listening.

And that is why friendship is important.

Finding the perfect partner is a wonderful thing, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. I’d be perfectly happy spending my final days with this lot; reminiscing about teenage flings and that night in Mexico that we’ll take to our grave. Sounds like a much better option to me than watching your other half lose his teeth, hair and marbles trying to keep up with your progressive banter.

Although we never go to the bathroom in a bar without a hand to hold and are deemed to be the less independent of the sexes, men need friends too. My bearded buffoon has a group of friends so tight that I think they might one day combust. Secrets never to be divulged and infinitely fall-out-proof, this group of men make my girls look like we don’t even know each other. And that’s pretty cool if you ask me. People with friends are people to rely on and are the types of people you want to have relationships with: their loyalty has been tried and tested, they’re guaranteed to have some great stories and if you’re really, really lucky, their friends will become your friends too.

I know that with most things in life, quantity doesn’t trump quality, and friendship is no exception to this rule; one really good friend is far better than five average ones. But what if you have five epic ones?

I’m starting to think I’ve struck gold… until I remember that they too are flawed.

One tells me off for putting salt on my toast; one farts freely in my presence; one (I’m almost certain) is unsure of what planet she’s on half the time; one insists on getting the night bus home instead of a taxi and one nicks all the male attention on nights out. But for all of their flaws? They’re the most water-tight bunch of women in the world with a collection of the best brains and beautiful faces this planet has ever known. Without them, I’m not sure I’d still be standing.

So here’s to the friendship group; your very own handpicked family- a little shoddy, embarrassing at times, but arguably more important than your best friend or lover.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd, more than that is a fucking adventure.

Cheers to them.

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The Period

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Never before have I met someone with such a good working knowledge of menstruation than that of my current boyfriend. I’m going to put it down to the fact that he’s had a long term relationship, plus a few others before me, as opposed to him being a menophilliac.

I actually find his natural curiosity really quite impressive, although I do sometimes feel as though he knows my ovaries better than I know them myself. He has taught me everything from symmetrical faces and the rules of attraction during ovulation to the spots on my chin being a sign of things to come. I guess it’s just one more thing to add to the list of older men perks: an understanding of the female anatomy. But we already knew that one anyway…

For many blokes, however, this is not the case.

For instance, one guy at school, who i shan’t name and shame, once said: ‘I don’t get why girls moan so much. You just sit on the toilet, it comes out, and you’re done.”

I’m going to put this remarkable statement down to being young and immature but, if you know who he is and you’re still in contact with him, could you just make sure that after the ten years that have passed, he now knows that menstruating is not the same thing as taking a shit? In any way. At all. Ever.

Snowballing on from said blokes ideas about the female reproductive system, I’d like to clear up another assumption. It’s not like Noah’s bloody Ark crossed with The Shining when we’re on. Sometimes it does, in fact, feel like we are going to bleed to death (particularly on day two) but I can assure you, with some certainty, that we won’t. We may also be slightly cranky but no, we do not need you to tell us this. We may look a little paler and wear a hell of a lot more elasticated clothing; again, do not comment. We may leave tampons lying around that make you feel a bit uncomfortable and we may complain of swollen feet but FYI: asking me if I’m ‘on’, will lead me to ending your life – even if you do look like Ryan Gosling. Oh, and calling it ‘the blob’, is not okay. Ever.

Also, a far cry from when we’re ovulating and feeling like we are the most attractive thing on the planet, craving a child and wanting to eat the universe, we couldn’t feel less attractive when we have a piece of cotton stuffed up our vaginas or a nappy strapped to our pants. We feel fat and spotty, our tummies are sore and what IS it about being one HUNDRED degrees? So please do not tell me that ‘you don’t mind’ and try to have sex with me. Instead, remember that reaching for a hot water bottle or getting us a pack of Maltesers from the shop-for that moment in time- is better than a diamond ring or a Marc Jacobs purse.

I, for one, have no qualms about holding my hands up to the fact that I am a complete and utter biatch in the week leading up to my period but when I, or a woman you love, gets a little too much during her time of the month, just imagine this: bleeding. from. your penis.

Yep, that should put things into perspective.

Now I have a question for you: what the fuck is a moon cup?

The Twenties

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In my final year of secondary school I was asked where I’d like to be in ten years time. I had pictured that, at 25, I’d have a tall, dark, handsome non-stranger and a job that didn’t involve autism and nits. Now, almost halfway through this decade of not-achieving-that, I’m contemplating exactly where these ideals were lost and when it became wrong to desire a pristine portrait of a life?

A 24, I feel a little too old to be getting with randoms in clubs, a little too poor to be dating all the time and a little too young to be contemplating picket fences and the perks of Peter Jones. But at the same time, I want babies eventually and that clock is, believe it or not, ticking. This probably means that I should at least be attempting to find The One before my face crumples with age; but where? Everyone is far too drunk in bars in Brixton for me to decide whether they’re going to be the love of my life and I’m having too much of a good time to care.

I look at my friends who are blissfully in love and can’t wait for them to get hitched. But the thought of me being more than a pissed bridesmaid makes me want to throw up in my own hands. In fact no, if it scared me that much, I wouldn’t be writing this post. It’s the very fact that I don’t want for either which is the problem.

And that’s when I realise: It’s just not a priority of mine right now.

Gone are the days of Mrs Bennet frantically marrying off her daughters to men in mansions; I’ve moved into the twenties which means that I actually own my own uterus. I’m allowed to be decadent, free and drunk; for now at least.

Until I absolutely have to, I’m going to stop worrying about it.

And worst comes to worst?  I’ll freeze some eggs.

Too much info?

Never.

THE HEROINE

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If I were to tell anybody my life-long list of heroines, I would be laughed at for years to come. But the reason why I’m cool with that is because, much like food taste, it’s all relative.

This year, as I approach my 23rd birthday, I’ve decided that my heroine is the minx. And I’ll tell you why.

She is someone who is considered pert, flirtatious, and promiscuous. However, she is also deemed impudent and I think now is the time to eradicate this derogatory view of one of the most powerful types of women and embrace one’s inner fox.

For years, women have waited patiently to be courted. And sadly, I’m not exclusively referring to the Austen era here. Up until December, I myself was still living in the dark ages (of pub corners), waiting to be spoken to by men that I was attracted to, but I’ve realised that much like ordering a drink at the bar, when it comes to guys, I can decide which flavour I want, and when. So, following the lead of some of my oldest girlfriends, I have taken it upon myself to approach men that I wish to talk to, and despite my reservations, have been successful.

And although yes, my incredible looks and irresistible charm meant that it didn’t take much to land a date (I’m kidding, obviously), it isn’t only me that has benefited from this forthright flirtation. Instead, most of my gorgeous girlfriends who have embraced this attitude over the festive season have landed themselves with a date, fondle and even a snog at the very least. But before you say that this luck in love must be put down solely to the season of goodwill, there have been plenty of women who believe that being proactive is always the best option and have been living as such since the seventies. And I shall follow suit.

So ladies, go forth and flirt. And men, even if you aren’t so keen; be nice. After all, for years you have had to tolerate the insufferable nerves of approaching a beautiful woman in a bar and now it’s our turn. So smile, give us your number and we’ll call if we want to.

But bear in mind…

We don’t ask twice.