#IAMUNEDITED#IA MUNEDI TED #IA MUNEDITED#IAMUNEDITED#IAMUNEDITED#THE UNE DI TGOE S DI GI TAL
# I AMUNE DI T E D# I AMUNEDITED#IAMUNEDITED#IAMUNEDITED#IAMUNE DI T ED# THEUNED ITG OESDIGITA L
Here at The Unedit, we say no to beauty standards and reject the damaging messages that mainstream media outlets so frequently perpetuate. You won’t find any of that here. Since we launched online back in 2017, our mission has been to encourage people to think about the way that we – women especially – digest the media that we come into contact with. The dire lack of representation in mainstream magazines is telling, and it’s impacting the way that women view and think about their bodies. Magazines have a lot to answer for; building you up on one page to pull you apart the next, seeped in diet culture and unattainable beauty standards under the guise of ‘aspirational content’. That’s not what we’re about. We’ve been working to create a safe space online for women to engage with body positive, feminist, lifestyle content, and we thought it was time to take it to the next level. The whole purpose of this digital issue was to see if we could create something of our own that offered our content in a similar way to that of a magazine – and going digital was the most accessible way to go about that. You could consider this issue a campaign of sorts – it’s ad-free, it’s anti-diet, and it still holds its own as a feasible publication in terms of content. We want people to look at this issue and realise that magazines can – and should – do better. Inclusivity should not be a pipe dream. It’s time to create a wider conversation around the women’s media and fashion industries and show them what consumers really want to see. We all deserve more, and this is just a little more from us to you.
EX T R A S Our Manifesto 1 Contributors 4 Editor’s Letter 5 P O P C ULT URE Pop Culture Gems That Shaped A Decade 8 A Quick and Easy Guide to Making Your Social Media Feed A Happier Place 12 4 Reads To Bring You Body Peace 14 White People, Welcome To Race 101 16 The Dancing In Your Underwear Playlist 20 B O DY POS I T I VI T Y Time To Break Up With Diet Culture! 24 The Ugly Truth Behind The World’s Most Famous Diet Plans 26 How Body Positivity Is Helping Men Fight Toxic Masculinity 30 Here’s How You Can Swerve + Shut Down Diet Talk 32 I Share My Scars, Not My Wounds 36 F EMI N I S M White People And Our Relationship With Performative Activism 40 Is Your Feminism Intersectional? 42 Who’s Your Feminist Icon? 44
MOVE ME NT Why Don’t We See Bigger Bodies In Sport + Fitness? 48 How Becoming An Amputee Changed My Relationship With Dance 50 Here’s How You Enjoy Exercise Without Thinking About Weight Loss 52 The Warm Up 56 FA S HI ON Fat Girl Goes Shopping 68 Loud Bodies 70 Saccharine Dream 74 How We Wear 82 ON T HE C OVER MEGAN JAYNE CRABBE: Behind Bodyposipanda 84 BE A UTY Botox On The Clock: The Rise of Lunch Hour Cosmetic Surgery 198 Colorama 102 How I’m Finally Learning To Fall In Love With My Hair 108 ME N TA L HE A LTH How Do You Talk About Mental Health When You Don’t Have The Words? 114 Can Imposter Syndrome Actually Be A Good Thing? 118 Got Anxiety? Time To Give It The Boot 120 How Did Millennials Become The Therapy Generation? 122 Take 10 124
H EALTH What’s Health Got To Do With It? 128 How To Advocate For Yourself At The Doctors 130 Why Is Invisible Illness Still Faced With Such Stigma? 132 IDENTITY Sexuality: What Is There To Prove? 136 These Are The UK Initiatives Helping LGBTQA+ Youth 138 What Happens When Your Five Year Plan Goes Up In Smoke? 140 Who Are Your Fab Five? 142 CAR EER S Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves 146 Should You Talk About Your Salary? 152 The Busy Epidemic: Why Do We Put Work Over Welfare? 154 LOVE + SEX Why You Should Try Ditching Your Dating Apps 158 Why “Awkward” Sex Conversations Don’t Have To Be 160 Questions From 2720 Days Of Monogamy 162 Dump Them! 166
the un e d i t . F OU NDER & ED ITOR T E RRI WATERS C R EATIVE & ED ITORIAL AS S I STAN T SCA RLETT HATCHW ELL C ONT RIBUTORS : W RITIN G CASE Y ALLEN J OE L EY BIS HOP ST E VIE BLAINE M E GA N JAYNE CRABBE E SSIE D ENNIS M ICHELLE ELMAN IM OGEN F OX KAT HAW K INS M ICHELLE HOPEW ELL HANNAH LEW IN J UL IE T S AW YER HO L LY TATEM-W YATT SA RA VEAL C ONT RIBUTORS : ED ITORIAL L INDA BLACK ER ASHL EIGH BU NCE L UISA CHRIS TIE L A UR A K RZYS TON E M ILY MORGAN B IANCA MU Ã‘IZ NYOME NICHOLAS -W ILLIAMS KIT T Y U ND ERHILL E L L IE YATES SPECIAL TH AN K S TO CLEAN P RO SE W W W.THE -U N EDI T. C O M
Magazines have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. First it was Top of the Pops and Smash Hits!, where I’d jump straight to the lyrics pages and feel like a badass when a swear word had clearly been redacted. Then it was the entire Sabrina’s Secrets subscription – you got a different (kids) make-up product each week, and the purple hair mascara worked perfectly well on my dog the year I took her trick-or-treating as Barney the Dinosaur. Then I jumped to Shout, and from Shout I spent my pocket money on the holy trinity: Bliss, Cosmo Girl and Elle Girl. It’s probably pathetic to be able to recite every single magazine I had some sort of love affair with, but there is a point to this, I promise. I got my first Vogue very young, and I still remember how excited I was by the concept that writing for a magazine was an actual job(!) where you got paid(!). I’m not entirely sure where I got the idea from that magazines were some volunteer-run non-profits, but I remember knowing that I wanted to work in them. Fast forward a number of years and I did end up working for magazines, many in fact, and the dream was to create my own one day. I used to mock them up as a teenager, working out exactly what the articles and shoots would be of this issue that didn’t exist. That’s why I find it rather overwhelming to be writing this at my desk as I’ve subbed the final article from this digital issue of The Unedit.
FR O M THE E DITO R The Unedit is all about creating a safe, inclusive space within media for women to enjoy, and this digital issue is a combination of the online platform with my love for editorial. But this issue is not perfect. It’s not as polished as it should be. It’s not as diverse as it should be. But it’s a start. I commonly hear magazines blaming budgets as the reason that the same kinds of bodies are being repeatedly represented. Well, I’ve strung these 160-something pages together on a near non-existent budget, so I’m calling bullshit. It’s no easy feat to decide to take on a project of this size with little to no money or outside resources, but it was necessary. And whilst it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, if one person can read this and realise that they’re not the problem, society is – then I’ve achieved what I set out to do. I’m so grateful for all of the love and support – Teenage Terri would be pretty chuffed right now. Enjoy. Terri x Terri Waters Founder & Editor
POP CULT C U LT URE 7
P OP C ULT U R E MOMENT S T HAT S H A PED A DE CADE WORD S SCA R L ET T HATCHWE L L A s we m ove i nto a new dec ade, it’s hard not to paus e and appreciate a l l t h at t h e 10 s h as g i ven us . From B eyoncé’s ris e to ultimate s t ard o m an d th e p ro p elled succes s of s elfie culture, to the s tar t o f t h e # M e To o movement and the found ing of B lack Lives Matter, grou n d- bre a king events h ave not b een few and far b etween.
2011 sent the world wild as Game of Thrones started airing, and hot off the heels of 2009’s Kanye-Taylor VMA gate, Beyoncé once again took to the stage, not only to receive an award, but to announce her first pregnancy live on air post-performance. Practically breaking the internet, she sent Twitter into overdrive with 8,688 tweets about the announcement posted a second. Also in the world of music, Lady Gaga dropped the long-anticipated single and album, Born This Way. A work of art championing the LGBTQA+ community, it became an anthem for many and was the catalyst for the Born This Way Foundation. Snapchat was the new kid on the social media block, and we were introduced to the idea of disappearing snaps, and another way people could get away with shady shit.
2010 might have been a slow intro to the decade, but it was by no means ordinary. Pinterest released its first BETA, which meant hobby enthusiasts finally had an online portal to store their ideas. FaceTime was introduced by Apple along with the first iPad, connected more of us together than ever before. 2010 also birthed two cultural heavyweights: Instagram and One Direction. Both became phenomenons in their own right, and the world’s not seen anything better since. Sounds like success to us, right? Honourable mention goes out to The Great British Bake Off, which has now cemented the age-old routine of sitting down with a cuppa and some biscuits to watch a new episode.
2012 saw a lot of things, and the rapid growth of dating apps was one of them. Enter, Tinder. The massively successful – and in some cases, wildly controversial – dating platform came onto the scene and revolutionised the way we date. Along with it came a world of new dating terminology – were you even on Tinder if you never got ghosted? In the book world, Fifty Shades of Grey was smashing it and sending women across the globe into a frenzy. While it’s arguably trash with an overwhelmingly problematic plotline, one thing it did do was open up the conversation around sex for women in a way that nothing else had since the days of Sex and the City. Also, just in case you forgot, Call Me Maybe was stuck in our heads.
2013 gave us Orange Is The New Black, and it was the first time we ever really saw women of all shapes, sizes, races and ages represented in a single series, all while exploring the complexities of a life lived by incarcerated women at the intersection of America’s prison-industrial complex. That same year saw the founding of the first of the decade’s biggest social movements, Black Lives Matter. The movement saw growth through the popularity of its hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, in response to the acquittal of a white murderer in the shooting case of Trayvon Martin. Bringing light to the the injustice faced by African-Americans at the hands of white police officers, BLM continues to campaign against systemic racism.
2014 was the year of Frozen-mania and saw both Idina Menzel and Demi Lovato’s versions of Let It Go release into the world, driving p arents across the globe to the brink of smashing every sound system in their vicinity. On the celebrity front, 2014 had some moments. From tabloid coverage of that Solange and Jay-Z’s lift spat to ‘conscious uncoupling’ becoming the new way to announce a divorce, all thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. There were no shortages of scandals but plenty more in the years to come. At the same time, the body positivity movement finally began to pick up some steam across circles in the UK – yet, it would remain very under the radar and anti-mainstream for some years to come.
2015 was a busy year for us all. In probably its biggest news, the world got to watch on as Caitlyn Jenner came to life for the first time in her 60 years on the planet. Arguably one of the most prominently covered and wellknown trans persons in the history of the world, she made headlines and headlined change all at the same time. On TV, the first season of L ove Island aired and its impact on body image still remains. Hamilton hit Broadway, and we were left questioning whether it was acceptable to like Justin Beiber’s new, grown up music. Kim Kardashian released ‘Selfish’ – a book literally filled with just her selfies, sending selfie culture to new, stratospheric heights. Also, two words: Hotline. Bling.
2017 saw a mass public awakening. January welcomed the first Women’s March, as record numbers of women protested and more entered politics by running for their local offices than ever before. But nothing quite encapsulates the political feeling of this time quite like the birth of the #MeToo movement. Born from a phrase originally coined in 2006, the outing of the Harvey Weinstein scandal brought the injustice of a sexist, abusive Hollywood into the light of day and forced us all to question the industry’s practices. Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the NFL’s traditional playing of the national anthem made an incredible statement to those in power and their aiding and abetting of white supremacy.
2016 will be forever etched in all our brains as the year Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar. Our beloved Beyoncé dropped Lemonade, the first visual album of its kind, and with it came a new vibe: fiercely unapologetic blackness, which seemed to upset some white folk who didn’t like the idea of a black woman acting like a black woman. Wild. On a breathtakingly painful political note, so many things changed for the worst in our world. Leading up to the end of year elections in both the US and the UK, something in the air shifted. Trump won the US Presidential elections, as Hillary took home the popular vote, and the UK voted to leave the European Union in a now historic ‘Brexit’ referendum.
2 018’s Commonwealth Games became the first multi-sport event to achieve gender equality with equal numbers of male identifying to female identifying athletes. On our screens, the reboot of Queer Eye and an introduction to its new ‘Fab Five’ gave us wholesome, happy watching, a s the release of Black Panther would go on to break records across the globe. Things even started to change in the political sphere, as the rise of Alexandria OcasioCortez shook up even the most hardened of White House representatives and the body positivity movement started to become a mainstream ideology. With big name titles and unlimited online sources starting to discuss the movement, its coverage became a global call to arms for better representation and diversity across the media. Tess Holiday became the first woman above a UK size 14 o n the cover of Cosmopolitan, and opened up all sorts of previously inaccessible conversations around fatphobia in the fashion industry.
2 019 hasn’t been entirely pleasant – hi, Brexit deadline – but there are some big things that deserve to be celebrated in 2019. While half the beauty community were cancelled for various reasons, the other half become more inclusive and interactive than ever. And as influencer culture continued to grow, we saw it push more and more diversity into all aspects of the media. This year could easily have been dubbed The Year of Lizzo™. As the first massively successful visibly plus size black woman in the music industry, she’s been showing up and kicking arse in everything she does. Since her album dropped, she’s finally started to receive the mainstream attention her music has been crying for since 2010, not to mention eight Grammy nominations and a Vogue cover in tow.
Socia l m e di a c a n be a m ental h e a lt h m ine fie ld a nd a rabbitho le fo r c ompar is o n. H e lp s afe g uard yo ur s ocia ls w i t h t h e s e t i p s and t ri c ks ! WOR D S TER RI WATE R S 12
W EED O U T YO U R F OL L OW I N G L I S T
It’s the most common suggestion you’ll hear from influencers when it comes to curating your feed, and that’s because it works. The people you follow are the people who pop up on your timelines every single time you open the app, and they also largely speak for the kind of stuff you’ll find via Discover pages and recommendations, so, it’s the obvious place to start. Go through each any every account on that list, and ask yourself any (or all) of the following: Do I even like this person? Do I like their content? Am I following them for a purpose unrelated to their body, or mine? Do I feel good about myself when I see their content? If you answered no to any of the above, bin ‘em and don’t look back.
M AK E F R I E N DS W I T H T H E M U T E B U T TO N
You might find that hastily getting shot of someone could cause you more trouble than it’s worth. If you know that unfollowing someone is going to start some unnecessary drama (which, let’s face it, you could definitely do without), then there’s always the mute button. It’ll give you peace of mind that you won’t have to see their posts and updates anymore, and they’ll be none the wiser.
F IN D N EW P EO P LE TO F O LLOW
The point of social media is to extend your network, and you can do that entirely on your terms. Besides, if you’ve just ditched a bunch of your following list, it’s a great opportunity for a replenish. Go through your favourite influencer’s following list – what other influencers do they follow that you think you’d enjoy seeing on your feed? Make use of Instagram’s feature that lets you follow hashtags as well as people, so you can stay involved in the communities that you care about whilst finding new people to fill your feed with.
P LAY WITH ALGO R ITH MS
Across all social media platforms, creators are having trouble with their content’s reach dropping because of the algorithms that are now in place, especially on Instagram. This means that only a small fraction of followers are seeing when their favourite influencers are posting new content, which ultimately damages engagement stats and results in you seeing even less of their posts in future. Don’t want that happening? Engage as much as you can. If you haven’t seen their stuff for a while, head to their page directly and like, comment, or even share their work. The more you engage, the more you ultimately see. Whilst the algorithm isn’t technically something you can control, you can definitely try to use it to your advantage.
4 REA D S TO BR I N G YOU B ODY P E ACE WORD S S C A R L ET T HATCHWE LL
All year round, we find reasons to hate our bodies. In the summer, it’s bikini season and we feel we don’t measure up. In the winter, we indulge in the foods we actually like and feel guilty for enjoying them so much. It seems we’re on a never-ending cycle of feeling our bodies aren’t good enough. But what if we told you there’s another way? That you could make peace with your food, and your body, all year round? We’ve gathered four books to top the reading lists of anyone looking to heal a relationship with their body through food. We only hope they’ll help you as much as they’ve helped us.
HEALTH AT EV ERY S IZE by LIN DA B ACO N
If you’re just beginning to learn what a healthy relationship with body image and food truly looks like, this is a great place to start. Written by a non-diet dietitian, it’s packed with real life facts around nutrition and helps you cut through all the bullshit advice you’ve been given on it before. Cut out meal planning, obsessive thinking and calorie tracking, and replace them body compassion through Thomas’ words.
Imparting the simple message that our bodies are not the problem, but rather the culture around them, this book might just become your body image bible. The ultimate guide to living your life in a body you’re proud to call your own, Bacon dispels your misconceptions around health in an easily digestible way. Calling on society as a whole to do better, and to question why it is we’re so afraid of fat, you’ll soon realise the problem was never yours in the first place. Rather, a product of a world so caught up in looks and the appearance of ‘health’ that it forgot to actually take care of us.
BODY P OS I T I V E P OW E R b y MEG AN J AY N E C R A B B E
THE F *CK IT D IET by CAR O LIN E D O O N ER
Less focused on mending a relationship with food specifically, and more concerned with mending your relationship with yourself, this book is a bestseller for a reason. Helping you trace back to the beginnings of your body image problems and unpicking the diet industry thread by thread, Crabbe gives you the tools to undo them and holds your hand through the process every step of the way. Through her own stories, and those of guest essayists, you’ll be more inspired to scream “FUCK DIET CULTURE” than ever before.
Encouraging you to ditch the diets once and for all, this candid account of all things diet culture turned a life of joy will surely inspire you. Focusing heavily on your relationship with food as a tool to turn your body image around, Dooner calls you in to practically tackle the problems headfirst – mentally, physically and emotionally. Teaching you to let go of shame and embrace your hunger, it’ll soon get you on the road to diet culture recovery.
J US T EAT I T b y LA UR A T H O M A S P h D
WHIT E PEO P L E, WELC OM E TO R ACE 101 WORD S T ER R I WAT ER S There are few topics that white people shy away from like they do race. And, if we’re being honest, white people are clueless when it comes down to it. Now, if you’re white, read that previous sentence and thought to yourself, hey! I’m not clueless! – then I’d strongly advise you to keep reading. Living with white privilege means that life as you know it is unaffected by racial prejudice; you can go on about your business quite happily without ever having to really worry about it. But should you be? The answer: hell no!
by choosing to opt out of what makes us feel uncomfortable, we abuse our white privilege and further reinforce racial power structures.
Why? I hear some of you say. Well, by choosing to opt out of what makes us feel uncomfortable – which, for some, is even the mere acknowledgement that racism still exists in this day and age – we actually abuse our white privilege and further reinforce racial power structures. In reality, it should be our responsibility to be knocking those structures down. It’s a common misconception amongst white people too, that – in their own ignorance – it’s down to the marginalised folk to play the role of the teacher as well as the oppressed. Newsflash: when it comes to being educated on the various intersections of society, it’s your job. Popular culture won’t change the way that race is experienced globally, or how it’s understood on a wider scale, but it’s a start. Whether it be picking up a book, watching a film or documentary, or even listening to discussions about race, all white people can do their bit to educate themselves about the lived experiences of people of colour, both past and present. So, if you want to be able to learn (or unlearn, perhaps), and take the time to address your own internalised prejudices, we’ve got a brilliant selection of resources for you.
REQUI R E D R E ADIN G : W H Y I ’M N O L O N G ER TALK IN G TO WHITE P E O P L E A B O U T R ACE by R EN I ED D O - LO D G E If you’re looking for a perfectly-rounded summary of racism, both home and away, plus thought-provoking tidbits that will be sure to smack you straight in your privileged parts, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race is a must-read. Delving into her own experiences, modern-day racism, and the UK slave trade, she covers all bases in this brilliant page-turner. Whether it’s your first dive into the topic of race or your thirtieth, you’ll be glad you picked it up.
T H E G O O D IMMIGR AN T e d i te d by N IK ES H S HUK LA This compilation of essays explores the experiences of 21 BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) writers who share their stories about navigating society in Britain. The book discusses really important themes, each from personal perspectives, ranging from the representation of the generic South Asian family on TV, to the pressure of changing your name to something ‘whiter’ to be accepted. Its success prompted The Good Immigrant USA, America’s counterpart which shares powerful stories from first and secondgeneration immigrants navigating being othered across the pond.
EX T RA CR E DI T: WOMEN, RACE, AND CLASS by ANGELA DAVIS THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLORBLINDNESS by MICHELLE ALEXANDER WHITE RAGE: THE UNSPOKEN TRUTH OF OUR RACIAL DIVIDE by CAROL ANDERSON HOW TO BE LESS STUPID ABOUT RACE by CRYSTAL M. FLEMING WHITE PRIVILEGE: THE MYTH OF A POST-RACIAL SOCIETY by KALWANT BHOPAL BRIT(ISH): ON RACE, IDENTITY AND BELONGING by AFRA HIRSCH WHITE FRAGILITY: WHY IT’S SO HARD FOR WHITE PEOPLE TO TALK ABOUT RACISM by ROBIN DIANGELO SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE by IJEOMA OLUO
REQUI R ED WATCHI N G : 13TH Named after the American Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States and involuntary servitude (with the exception of those punished as a result of criminal conviction), 13th explores the “intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States”. The incredible Netflix documentary – directed by powerhouse Ava DuVernay – examined the suppression of African Americans through history, the criminalisation of drugs that affected more minority communities, and the mass incarceration of people of colour. Critically acclaimed, 13th was nominated for and won countless awards, including an Oscar nomination for the Best Documentary Feature and winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
WH EN TH EY S EE US The latest of DuVernay’s projects on Netflix, When They See Us tells the stories of Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, and Raymond Santana, the five teen suspects of the Central Park jogger case of 1989. The mini-series documents the experiences of each of the boys as they are convicted of the rape and murder of a white woman – a crime that none of them had any part in. The episodes address the pressure put on the prosecution to convict suspects, racially-motivated police brutality, and how five innocent children were depicted as monsters and imprisoned despite having no evidence to link them to the crime. The four-part series ends when the true assailant confesses, and their convictions are overturned, but the scars still remain. The series follows with a special, Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now, saw both the cast and the exonerated five sit down for interviews.
EXT RA CR EDI T: DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (2014 FILM and 2017– SERIES) HIDDEN FIGURES (2016) FRUITVALE STATION (2013) 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013) IMPERIUM (2016) BEATRIZ AT DINNER (2017) DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)
REQUI R E D L I ST E N IN G : A B O U T R AC E If either reading’s not your thing, or you just want to soak up as much as possible, About Race is a great addition to your podcast faves. Hosted by Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, this podcast discusses a number of subjects under the umbrella of race and racism, and takes them a step further from her best-selling book. Episode topics include intersectional feminism, the far right and left of the white working class, political blackness, and the concept of being woke.
CO D E S WITCH Code Switch is the podcast brought to you by a team of journalists of colour, tackling conversations around race and identity that impact the United States and beyond. Using their lived experiences and their work, Code Switch looks to the past, present, and future, talking about how race impacts communities, how it has shaped history, and how the current affairs of state plays a role in the sociopolitical climate.
EX T RA CR E DI T: ALL MY RELATIONS THE STOOP IDENTITY POLITICS THE NOD 2 DOPE QUEENS SOOO MANY WHITE GUYS STILL PROCESSING
“in a racist s ociety it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” – ANGELA DAVIS 19
T HE ULT IMAT E DA NC ING I N YO U R U N D ERWEA R P LAYLIS T OU R E D ITO R T E R R I WAT E R S SHARE S HE R FAVO U RITE CA N ’ T- HEL P - B U T- DANC E SONGS TRUT H H U R T S L I ZZ O DANC IN G O N M Y OW N R OBYN SORRY NOT SO R RY D E M I L OVATO I ’ M C OMIN G O U T D I A N A R OSS WAS ABI L I T T L E M I X M IL K S H AK E KE L I S WOM AN KE S HA HIP S D ON ’T L I E S HA KI R A G ET RIG H T J - L O WORK RIH A N N A LEV EL UP CI A R A I D ON ’ T WA N T I T AT A L L K I M PE TRAS JUS T F INE M A RY J B L I GE I ’ M EV ERY WO M A N CHA KA K HAN I ’ M A S L AV E 4 U B R I T N EY SPE ARS M E TOO M E GHA N T R A I N OR N EW R UL E S D U A L I PA HEL L A G O O D N O D OU B T P YN K J A N E L L E M ON A E M OT IVAT I O N N OR M A N I B AD G IRL S M . I . A . WORK IT M I S S Y EL L I OT TAM BOUR I N E E VE I ND EPENDE N T WO M E N P T. 1 DE STI NY’S C HI LD B OYS L IZ Z O FEEL ING M Y S E L F N I CKI M I NAJ FE AT. BE YONC É WAN NABE S P I CE GI R L S G ET M E BO DI E D B EYON CÉ CAN’ T H O L D U S DOW N CH RI STI NA AGU I L E RA FE AT. LI L K I M 20
LI STE N ON
B ODY BODY P O SIT IVIT Y POSITIVIT 23
TIME TO B R E AK UP WIT H DI ET C ULT URE! PA RTING WAYS CAN BE TOU GH SOM ETIM ES, S O WE’R E DOING IT FOR YOU. S I M P LY DELETE AS AP P R OP R IATE A ND YOU’LL HAVE YOU R OWN C USTOM BR EAK- U P LETTER !
Dear Diet, You have been the [longest] [shittiest] relationship I’ve ever had – and that includes [long-term and/or shitty ex’s name]. I’ll always [treasure the memory of] [heave at the thought of] that [tasteless] [bullshit] meal plan we followed together. I’m done with [skipping dessert] [counting calories] [hating my body] and it’s time to [eat cake] [love myself]. My body is [a temple] [my home] [a wondrous organ-filled fleshbag] and it deserves to be treated as such. My next plan of action is to [throw out my scales] [go out to the all-you-can-eat buffet] [sleep], and unlike when I was with [insert ex’s name], there’s no second chances this time. It’s not me, it’s you. So, [bye girl] [bon chance] [off you fuck], Me (P.S. This was the easiest break-up ever.) 25
TH E UGLY TRU T H BE H I ND TH E WO RL D ’ S MOST FA M OUS DIE T PLA NS
If you’re reading a copy of this special edition issue, there’s a pretty good chance that you already know that diets don’t work. And if you didn’t know that, let this be a perfect entrance into the anti-diet world. Over 95% of diets fail, with 80% of people gaining back not only the weight they’ve lost, but in some cases, inheriting some extra pounds too.
WO R D S T ER R I WAT E R S
We live in a messed up world where we believe that we’re the problem when dieting fails, rather than the diet. That’s all wrong. Try looking at it from a different perspective, perhaps. I mean, you’d be pretty pissed if you bought a pricey car that promised the best ride of your life and it broke down beyond repair six months later, right? Buying into diet culture is a bit like that. You’re promised the world, a better life in a slimmer body, you’ll likely drop an obscene amount of money on memberships, special foods, and so on. And then in six months time, the diet company is laughing its way to the bank and you’re either starving and miserable, or heavier than you were to begin with and filled with self-hatred. Not exactly a fair trade, is it? Whilst these companies are selling us false hopes and broken dreams, and profiting off of ‘thin’ (there’s so much to delve into there, but now’s not the time), what they’re failing to disclose is that there’s a real dark and dangerous underbelly to the plans that we spend our time, money and memories on. Of course, we’ve heard of some weird and notso-wonderful diets that you’d just never even spare a moment to consider embarking on, but you’ll be surprised to know that even some of the most popular diet plans and companies have their secrets. Not knowing these little nuggets of information not only leads us into a false sense of security by risking our own wellbeing – because so often diets are sold as a health solution, too – but it means we’re actively paying someone to put us in that position. The lack of disclosure around these risks is terrifying, and just adds to the multitude of reasons as to why diet culture is so damaging.
WEIGHT WATCHERS WAS DEVELOPED FROM A DIET FACT SHEET It’s safe to say that Weight Watchers is one of the biggest diet franchises in the world. But it didn’t start out that way. It actually started in a Queens living room belonging to 40 year-old housewife, Jean Nidetch, in the early 1960’s. Having tried countless fad diets that hadn’t worked, she reached out to six friends who were also trying to lose weight, and began holding ‘support group’ type meetings in her home in order to stay motivated. It’s said that Nidetch started the group after a neighbour mistook her as pregnant, effectively birthing (no pun intended) what came to be Weight Watchers out of shame and body hatred. Nidetch had no professional or clinical experience; she relied solely on information from a single-page factsheet that she’d received from a prescribed obesity clinic, then, as the groups grew, charged people for attending. When you think about it, it’s a bit like someone reading a chapter of a book and pronouncing themselves an expert in the field. Yet, by the beginning of the Seventies, Nidetch was a multimillionaire, with the company releasing books, weight loss camps, branded foods, and more, before it was sold in 1978 for $72million. Not bad business for someone who wasn’t actually qualified. Weight Watchers was championed for dismissing the concept of calories and replacing them with their own-brand Points system, citing more food freedom and easier dieting. In reality, switching out one food tracking system for another creates an equally toxic ‘measuring’ mindset around food and portion control – this was just for brand benefit rather than for members. For years, Weight Watchers has relied on celebrity endorsements to keep people attracted to the brand, even more so since it’s poorly-executed rebrand to step away from dieting and into ‘wellness’. Whilst they’re not the only diet company to involve celebrities in their brands (pounds lost for dollars gained can sound a very friendly offer to some), one might find it a bit suspicious that main ambassador Oprah Winfrey – who seemingly lives and breathes WW – actually owns 8% of the company’s shares. You would say something works if you’re getting an 8% piece of the pie! 27
MILLENNIAL METHODS ENCOURAGE LAXATIVE ABUSE AND COMPROMISE BIRTH CONTROL Whilst there’s no actual diet that’s known by that name, it’s important to take a look at the gnarly side of the various weight loss methods popularised amongst Millennials. These are the companies that you’ll find most present on social media, because it’s the best place to target the age groups that they’re looking to make a profit out of. Whilst there have been a number of trends that have come about in this age, the biggest two to focus on primarily are detox (or skinny) teas and appetite suppressant lollipops. When we hear the word ‘detox’ we think of cleanses, ridding the body of toxins, and assume it’s doing good for our insides, which is primarily why detox teas are so tempting to the average person. The reality? These teas (or whatever other beverage they’re marketing it as) contain laxatives or diuretics, and in some cases, both. Search the ingredients of most, and you’ll likely find senna, a laxative which is used to treat constipation or to empty the large intestine, for example, before surgery. Some brands try to trick people into buying products by purposefully stating that they’re senna-free, but that’s where you’ll likely find ingredients such as dandelion root, which is a natural form of diuretic. The only results you’re going to see from using this garbage is diarrhoea, severe dehydration, abdominal pain due to stress on your digestive system, and for some, even unwanted pregnancy, as a result of the laxatives knocking out the efficacy of oral contraceptives.
As for the appetite suppressant lollipops, they’re probably one of the most dangerous products on the market. The reason for that is because lollipops hide behind the false pretence of innocence; for example, you’d link lollipops to fun, harmless, and predominantly geared towards children. Celebrity influencers came under fire for advertising a brand of appetite suppressant lollipops back in 2018, with the product’s key ingredient being Satiereal. Derived from saffron, the website claimed that it was “clinically proven to manage appetite and reduce compulsive snacking”. A few clicks on the Internet shows that the clinical trial that proved its supposed efficiency was actually funded by the company that manufactured Satiereal, and was set to make millions from the lollipops. Go figure. Not only are products that claim to reduce appetite dangerous, they also normalise the suppression of hunger and are reminiscent of tricks to restrict food amongst those who have suffered from eating disorders. And what makes these kinds of diet products even more detrimental is the way that they’re marketed. They’re heavily present on social media, reliant on influencer collaboration and endorsement, and more often than not, can be found in pretty pink packaging, meaning they look great on a store display, as well as in their highly effective targeted marketing campaigns.
THE FOUNDER OF THE ATKINS DIET HAD A HISTORY OF CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE AS A RESULT OF FOLLOWING HIS OWN PLAN Unlike Weight Watchers, the Atkins Diet was founded by a medical professional, cardiologist Dr Robert Atkins. After opening a practice on New York’s Upper East Side in 1959, Atkins found himself depressed and gaining weight, so he began following a low-carb diet based on research from World War II and published by Alfred W Pennington. He applied the approach to his own practice, and it became known as the Atkins Diet. He published his first book in 1972, and the diet soared in popularity. In 2002, Atkins suffered a heart attack, which he blamed on a chronic infection, but people were quick to point out it was likely linked to his high consumption of saturated fat as a result of following his own diet plan. Atkins continued to deny this, but a year after his death in 2003, records were released that showed he had a long history of congestive heart failure and hypertension as well as his documented heart attack. His medical history was linked by health professionals as a consequence of following the Atkins plan long-term, with the diet suggested to increase the risk of heart disease, plus a number other health issues including: suppressed immune function, decreased thyroid output, increased cortisol levels, muscle catabolism, impaired cognitive function and more. It’s also said that there’s no good evidence of the Atkins diet actually being effective in achieving lasting weight loss, so the risks definitely outweigh any plausible reason for giving it a go.
THE GP BEHIND THE DUKAN DIET BREACHED MEDICAL ETHICS CODES In 1975, Parisian GP Pierre Dukan was faced with a patient who came to his practice with “a case of obesity”. Rather than prescribing them smaller portion sizes and low-calorie meals – the recommended prescription – he took it upon himself to design a high-protein, low-carb fourphase approach that he believed would stop people from regaining their lost weight. He began promoting the plan as the Dukan Diet, and over 20 years later, released a book of his research findings, Je ne sais pas maigrir (I Don’t Know How To Get Slimmer), which became a best seller. The Dukan diet is widely recognised as not nutritionally sound, and has been named by multiple organisations as a diet to avoid. The Dukan Diet has been linked to poor cardiovascular health and chronic kidney disease and amongst people who have followed the plan, with increased risk of Nephrolithiasis (or kidney stone disease). In 2013, Dukan was given a short-term ban of practising after being found in breach of medical ethics by prescribing a diet pill to a patient in the 1970’s that was removed from the market.
H OW B ODY P O SIT IVIT Y IS H E LP ING ME N F I GHT TOX IC MAS CU L IN IT Y WORD S S T E VI E B L A I N E
I’ve been told to “man up” for most of my life. I’ve been told this simply because who I am, and the way I present myself to the world, doesn’t align with our society’s ideals of what it means to be a man. Our society favours toxic masculinity as its standard of manliness, and men are expected to adopt these standards at a young age. It’s a standard that perceives attributes such as strength, violence and assertiveness above all else as well as physical attributes such as broad shoulders,
we’ re pu sh e d i nt o th e ‘ m a n b ox ’ a n d fo rc e d t o b e st ro n g an d n eve r sh ow o ur fe e l i n g s .
body hair in the ‘right’ places and a chiselled jawline. These standards are demonstrated to us everywhere we look and idolised time and time again. In all forms of media, men presenting these characteristics fill the pages, take the lead roles and dominate billboards, which sets the expectation that this is the only possible definition of what it means to be a man. Toxic masculinity is so ingrained within our culture that to even question it is deemed emasculating, which for most men is the worst possible thing you can be labelled. This feeds into the way men feel about their bodies and the way they show – or don’t show – these emotions. For women, it’s socially acceptable for them to discuss their bodies, especially their body image insecurities. Many of my female friends have a communal sense of camaraderie when it comes to their bodies, and when one is feeling down, the others will collectively pick them up or encourage them to feel better about themselves. For men this isn’t the case; we’re pushed into the ‘man box’ and forced to be strong and never show our feelings. Even discussing these things makes us vulnerable which goes against what masculinity looks like in the eyes of society.
This is exactly why men need body positivity, and a safe space to openly discuss their thoughts, feelings and emotions without fear of persecution. It’s also why men need to see more representation across the mainstream media that showcases a variety of bodies. Unless you’re white, thin, cis and built like a Greek god, chances are your body isn’t widely represented. This is partly why I started my Instagram page (@bopo. boy) as way of advocating for others like me. I use it as a way to show men and boys that it’s okay to look the way you look right now, and that you don’t need to change to fit into someone else’s ideal of beauty or masculinity. Opening up, speaking honestly and asking for help doesn’t make you less of a man, but more of one. I’ve seen first hand the way Instagram can build communities which truly change lives, as it changed mine. That being said, I couldn’t help but notice that there’s a distinct lack of male representation online. There are no men talking about body image openly and honestly like women are. There are no men redefining beauty standards, and no men baring all in an attempt to be truly authentic. I knew this wasn’t because men don’t have body insecurities, but rather because this ‘man box’ keeps us from expressing how we truly feel. Since sharing my story, I’ve encountered men from all walks of life sharing their stories and struggles. Many of these people I would never encounter in my day to day life, and if I did, I’m certain we wouldn’t be talking as honestly about our bodies as we have been online. Part of this openness comes from the anonymity that social media permits; it’s a safe space for men to get it off their chest without the fear of judgement. My page is a start to the conversation, that otherwise deter men, and with these barriers down, it makes it easier for others to join in. This is the beauty of the community that social media provides, and whilst many men don’t feel comfortable breaking free from this ‘man box’ in their real lives, they have a place online to talk freely with one another and receive the support they need to tackle their own body hang-ups.
u n le s s you ’re whit e , t hin , cis a n d bu ilt like a gre e k god, cha n ce s a re you r body is n ’t wide ly re pre s e n t e d. Being male comes with a huge amount of privilege, and rich white men are responsible for creating the diet industry amongst other repressive systems. Over time, however, diet culture has taken absolutely no prisoners and men have fallen victim to its damaging rhetoric too. But thanks to toxic masculinity, many men feel that they aren’t able to talk about it without being judged and ridiculed for being less of a man. To me, the concept is mind-blowing as it forces men to suffer in silence and ultimately stops them from accessing the help they need. It’s because of this that I’m using my influence to fight against the ‘man box’, to show men that living by these outdated stereotypes is a thing of the past and there is ‘no one size fits all’ approach to being a man in 2019. If I’d have seen more men being unapologetically themselves, as opposed to trying to fit someone else’s idea of ‘manly’, I’m sure I wouldn’t have had spent so many years of my life trying to be someone else. How refreshing it would be if we could all be living, rather than just existing.
H E R E’S HOW YO U CA N S WER V E & SH UT D OWN D IE T TAL K WORD S S CA R L E T T HATCHW E L L
AR OUND FRIENDS
We’ve all been there. You’re sat with your friends, family or acquaintances, having a lovely time until someone comments on the portion size of someone’s lunch, the circumference of their thighs, or the fat content of whatever just happens to be passing your lips at the time. We can all agree that diet talk’s a buzz kill, and one we all hope to avoid as much as possible. But how do we do that?
Having a chat with your friends should be one of the safest spaces for dodging diet culture. All too often, though, this isn’t the case. As we all start to unlearn the teachings of a society obsessed with body size, it’s not uncommon for our language to falter in understanding it. You might even have friends so invested in watching their weight that they wouldn’t know where to start with body positivity. Our advice for dealing with all these friendship scenarios stays the same: open up to them about your journey as and when you feel ready to, and remind them of how hard you worked to get there every time their conversations trigger you. Telling them how difficult it is to be around dieting or diet talk, and sharing your beliefs on body positivity should be enough for them to refrain from discussing it – at least in front of you. They’re your friend, after all. With time, they may begin to unlearn some of those damaging teachings too. If all else fails, talk about literally anything else that’s been on your mind! They’ll soon realise there are so many fun things to talk about that don’t have to involve food, workouts, or the size of anyone’s body at all.
IN THE WORKPLACE This is one of the hardest places to challenge diet culture, as so much of so many offices rely on it as part of their conversation culture. At the printer, across the desk grabbing a staff canteen lunch – you name the place, and you can guarantee something diet-related has been said there. So many of us are stuck saying nothing for fear of being socially outcast and left out of work events, or even worse, fired for having the opinion that all bodies are good bodies. In this case, sometimes it can feel easier to start small and work your way up. Try reminding people that work should stay a professional environment, and no one is morally – or professionally – better for eating an apple at lunch instead of a chocolate muffin. Show them how good it feels to be a kickass diet culture dropout. If – and only if – you have the energy to, perhaps share some tidbits with your colleagues. Things like books, podcasts – anything that can give them the slightest indication of where you stand when it comes to diet culture. You never know, you might just find your team begin to pull away from their Fat Fighters allegiance.
T HING S YO U CAN D O: Share things on your social media so your friends/colleagues can see what kinds of things you take interest in. If you think something will benefit someone, share it with them. Always advocate for yourself regardless of how awkward it may be. if someone makes you feel uncomfortable with what they’re saying, you have a right to call them out on it. Have a mental list of phrases to fend off any unsolicited body comments (even the ones that they thought were harmless). If a comment is being directed towards someone else, offer them a handful of amazing qualities about them that are more valuable than their size
FAMILY HOLIDAYS As holiday season approaches, all of our excitement can sometimes be drowned out by the prospect of family time. If you find yourself surrounded by a total family of fat liberationists, then you’re most certainly blessed. Most of us, however, function in a familial unit that stays stuck in outdated notions of what society says a body should look like. When the dreaded time comes that talk turns to overindulgence, calories and all the time they’ll need to spend in the gym in the new year, it takes no time at all to feel that sinking feeling of diet culture sucking you back in. Instead, change the topic of conversation to the joy of the season. Ask what everyone’s favourite holiday film is, ask Uncle Robert if he likes his new socks, see who wants to pull a cracker with you and, above all, remind them that food – and life – is always enjoyed better when you simply stop caring about your size. If that doesn’t work, simply excuse yourself and take some time away from it all. Family is family, but they have to respect your boundaries around body talk, especially when you’re all together. If you can get everyone on the same page for conversations around the dinner table, It’ll be the best gift they could give you.
PROT E CT IO N AGAI N S T FA M I LY: If you know that you’re going to be coming up against a tricky member of the family, there are things you can do to be perpared for whatever comes out of their mouth. Find an ally in another family member. Speak to them beforehand, explain how your relative makes you feel and ask for some back-up Keep yourself separated – simple but effective. If you’re sat down for dinner, see if the host can place you on the other end of the table. If you don’t have the energy to respond, simply clock out and stop listening. They get bored of talking to themselves, so it can work pretty well. 34
Gyms are a hotspot of diet indoctrination, but they don’t have to be. Using headphones when working out or stretching can block out the general chatter, and any troubling talk of personal trainers in the space. If there are any triggering posters or signage up, try using machines and spaces away from them. You could even speak to the staff at your place about how they could be doing better for all who visit the gym with their choice of décor or marketing. If people do approach you for conversation, as can often happen in changing rooms and classes, it can often help to take an educational approach when you have the time, heart and energy to tackle such conversations. When you feel up to it, challenge these comments with a reminder that gyms should be a safe space for all that choose to work out in them.
Every single body is entitled to partaking in exercise should they choose so, regardless of their size. Let people in on the fact that you yourself attend the gym solely to feel the joy of movement, not to lose weight or to tone up. You’ll be amazed by how many people would be taken aback to an answer like “I just really love spinning.” If the conversation allows, perhaps share the key principles of Health At Every Size or intuitive movement with them. Remember, most of the people attending the gym around you are still living in the confines of diet culture hell, and know no better than to believe gyms are part of the diet prison package. Let your presence prove otherwise!
AT THE GYM
I SH ARE M Y SCAR S, N OT MY WO U N DS WORD S M I CHEL L E EL M A N When I first launched my campaign #ScarredNotScared, it was as thoughtthrough as I could possibly have done at the time. I sat down and contemplated the worst thing anyone could ever say about me was, and all I could come up with is that they would call me fat or ugly. What I could have never foreseen was the response it got. This was back in 2015 when, not only was body positivity on Instagram still a baby hashtag (please note: the body positive movement started long before Instagram, although social media definitely popularised it), but surprisingly – or perhaps unsurprisingly – no one had thought to broaden the conversation to surgery scars. That’s how the idea came about.
I was frustrated that a movement about how every body is beautiful and was all about representation, still didn’t include or represent my body and that, despite the hundreds of posts under the hashtag, the focus seemed to be predominantly on weight. I was fat myself, but did these people know how much body hatred can come from your body – and towards your body – when it won’t cooperate? When the sole reason you have to not enjoy your life is literally your body? Your body becomes the reason you stay home. It becomes the reason you’re separated from your friends, and the reason you’re in unthinkable amounts of pain. I had started an Instagram account to support my brand new coaching business at the time and it was upon finding this community that I started thinking, why not me? My confidence had been cemented in place for years. In fact, the majority of my coaching clients were coming to me for confidence, body confidence specifically. So if I wanted representation for scars so badly, why wasn’t I being that person? I had prepared myself for criticism and backlash but what I couldn’t begin to prepare for was the amount of attention the campaign received or how viral it went. After all, most people don’t go viral for a simple bikini picture. That’s certainly one way to truly find out how different your body is. The response was overwhelmingly positive and, whilst that itself was unexpected, it would be even more shocking to 21 year old me to discover that one post would change the trajectory of my career in a way I could never predict.
T H E V ERY F I R ST # S C A R R E D N OTS C A R E D C AM PAI GN BAC K I N 2 0 1 5
In the same way you go through a journey in therapy, it was like I went through a journey with my Instagram page. The first few feelings were of shock and realising how many other people had scars. It was surprising to me, being someone who waited 21 years to see someone else with a scar outside of a hospital setting or in the media. Then came the cathartic release of sharing stories that for the majority of my years remained secret and hidden, and somewhere between then and now, I changed my username to @ScarredNotScared and my book was finally released. I started writing Am I Ugly? when I was 13 years old, long before any of this. Once it was out into the world in the summer of 2018, something shifted. I had said everything I wanted to say about my trauma, my scars and my hospitalisations. In many ways, these memories had been behind me for a while and it wasn’t my reality any more. It wasn’t my day to day life. I hadn’t been in hospital in six years and I hadn’t had PTSD in five. I had put everything I had ever wanted to get out of me on paper; it was out in the world, and now I wanted to move on. I wanted to be more than my surgeries, more than my scars and more than my worst trauma. But how do you go about doing that when most people know you as Scarred Not Scared before they know your real name? How do you go about doing that when people yell Scarred Not Scared at you across the street? Quite simply, you do so by setting boundaries. Scarred Not Scared, both the initial campaign and later as my page, is one of the proudest accomplishments and will always be. I helped make surgery scars part of the body positive conversation – and still do – and for that, my little 10 year old self is proud, but accomplishments and trauma are different. I wanted to be respected for everything I have done for the community and the industry, not for the amount of pain I’ve been able to survive. I take no pride in merely surviving, especially in a situation that I gave me no choice. And if I did have the choice, I would’ve definitely opted out.
So over the last year, I figured out a way to share without oversharing. I learnt how to post in a vulnerable way whilst ensuring the vulnerability was safe for me as an individual. Ultimately, I always come back to a phrase: I share my scars, not my wounds. I share everything I go through in the past tense, once it’s healed and I’ve recovered. I share it once I have some emotional distance from it and it’s not overexposing a part of me that I don’t yet understand. And in a more distinct way, I have realised that if I don’t want to share something, I won’t. I get asked daily what my surgeries are for, and yet you will never see me answering that question any more. If someone wants to find the answer, it’s easy enough to find out via Google. Just because I’ve shared my medical information before, it doesn’t mean I’m obliged to share it again. I had an issue with thinking that I ran a page that revolved around trauma but then I realised, I don’t. I run a page that revolves around me, and if my trauma is no longer a large part of me, then it shouldn’t be a large part of my page. I have changed, proudly so. And giving myself, and you yourself, the permission to change and evolve is an everimportant part of being human.
FE MINIS EM I NIS M 39
WHIT E PEO P L E AN D OUR RELATIO NSHI P WIT H PERFO R M AT IVE ACT IVIS M WORD S J OE L E Y B I S HOP I remember first seeing the phrase performative activism around the time of the first Women’s March in 2017. It was used to describe the droves of white people who headed out to march for women’s rights following the election of a humansized Wotsit to the White House. Millions gathered in cities across the world wearing their pink pussy hats and taking videos and selfies along the route to share on social media. Their colourful signs were centred around vaginal themed messages, and for a lot of them this was probably the first time they’d ever mobilised to march for a cause. The phrase terrified me because it was seemingly aimed at people like me, and by that I mean a white lady who can throw it down and ask to speak to the manager with the best of them. I was freshly into educating myself on social causes and dipping my toe into exploring my own privilege, so I was confused by the venomous tone put behind the term ‘performative’ because surely it was a good thing that all these people wanted change? And, surely, sharing it on social media could only help spread the word further? If you’ve ever engaged with activism online, then chances are that at some point you’ve been accused of performative activism: activism engaged with just to appear woke, make a profit, or to fit in with the crowd, but without any of the actual activism involved. But just because somebody is sharing their attendance to march on their socials,
does it mean that they’re only engaging in performative activism? Or is it much more nuanced than that? So I sat with it. If white people are going to come along to a march for a fun day out and get some great snaps to show the grandkids in a few years when the earth is in tatters (“look kids, this is what snow looked like back in 2017 before we destroyed our habitat and our only home”), but are going to continue going to yoga and then brunch with Patricia on a Sunday who voted for Trump (but we don’t talk politics because our friendship is deeper than that), then that is definitely performative and counterproductive. By continuing to not challenge Patricia on her views, we are part of the problem. Anyone who says that politics shouldn’t affect a friendship is privileged enough to not need drastic systemic change in order to survive. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in an ideal world where all of my friends and family vote left and we all huddle around a stone carving of left-wing leaders in the moonlight praying to the socialist gods. In fact it’s the opposite of that; the majority of my family vote Conservative and have done since I can remember. In fact as far as I can tell, I’m the first leftie in a long time, and goodness me, do my family let me know. Does it mean I love them any less? No. But it also means that not a week goes by that I do not challenge them on their views and how their voting history is killing marginalised people. Sure it causes huge arguments every Christmas and Boxing
Day, but it’s a small sacrifice compared to those who have suffered under our current government’s austerity. But back to performative activism. Let’s be honest, for the majority of people who show up to mass protests they are genuinely there because they want to make and see change for future generations. But the problem with white people and activism is that we’re not often seen to be engaging in anything that doesn’t concern us directly. Sure we’ll show up for Pride, and #MeToo, and the Women’s March, and most recently for Extinction Rebellion, but where were we during the Black Lives Matter protests? Or speaking up about fresh water crisis in Flint, Michigan? Or flocking with our pink pussy hats to Standing Rock to stop the pipeline? The simple answer is, we weren’t there. It was not a cause that we saw to concern ourselves, so why bother? And the answer is uncomfortable. We are marching to protect ourselves, but not those who’ve been stepped on in order to get there. Our activism is not only performative because we’re not continuing the work off of social media, but it also doesn’t better our society as a whole. This kind of activism doesn’t bother to try and level out the playing field, it simply helps reinforce the complex racial structures that our western culture is built on and that keeps white supremacy thriving. So is performative activism always a bad thing? When I was 17 I took part in the student protests against rising fees. Why? Because it meant that if I chose to go uni, which I eventually did 7 years later, I’d come out with almost £50,000 debt to my name.
I was from a low-income family and would be the first to go to university, so this affected me directly. And as much as I was taking action because it wasn’t fair on others like me or worse off than me, I was taking action because all my friends were and also I got the afternoon off of lessons. Most definitely the definition of performative. But also it changed something within me. I became properly politically engaged for the first time, I registered to vote 11 days later when I turned 18, I read political party manifestos and engaged in debate with friends (debates with the family came a little bit later). If it hadn’t have been for my blind following of my peers I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today and would probably have followed in my families footsteps and voted the way I’d been told to vote. Dear fellow white people, I’m not asking you to stop protesting; I’m not asking you to stop publicising your attendance at protests; I’m just asking you to do better. We need to do more. We need to get involved in causes that don’t just affect us directly. We need to stop tagging ourselves at a march with an ambiguous peace emoji as the caption, and start writing fleshedout captions that explain why we’re there. We need to start challenging our relatives and friends on their destructive behaviours and we need stop letting our grandparents off the hook just because they’re from a different generation (because those people can still vote). And most importantly we need to think. Don’t just show up, speak up.
IS YOU R F EM IN ISM D O YO U B ELIEV E IN EQUALITY F O R *ALL* WO MEN ?
YES YES NO
D O YO U I D ENT IF Y A S A F EMINIS T ?
B Y ALL WO MEN , WE MEAN O F ALL S H AP ES , S IZES , CO LO UR S , AB ILITIES , GEN D ER S , AG ES , R ELIGIO N S , ETC?
I NTE R S EC T IO NAL ? IS F EM IN IS M ACT UAL LY S O COMP L EX T HAT A M AG AZIN E Q UIZ C OUD L N ’ T P OS S IBLY D EF IN E IT IN 3 QUES T ION S?
YO U’ R E AN IN TER S ECTIO N AL F EMIN IS T!
NO YO U’ R E P R O B AB LY A WH ITE F EMIN IS T. TRY HAR D ER .
D O YOU M A K E SPAC E AND ADVOC ATAEK E DO YOU M FO R WOM EN SPAC E AND INA POS IT ION DVOC AT E S T YOU FOH RAT WOM EN PERS ON LYS I N P OS ITAL ION C ANNOT TH AT YOU REL E TOLY ? PE R SAT ONAL CAN NOT REL AT E TO ?
YO U’ R E D EF IN ITELY TR AS H . GET IN THE B IN .
W HO’S YO UR FE MINIS T ICO N ? W H ET H ER T H E Y ’R E L I V I N G O R D EAR LY D EPAR TED , A ST RAN G ER O R A L OV E D O N E, EVERYO N E N EED S A B ADAS S WO M A N TO L O O K UP TO . WE S AT D OWN W IT H T H E WO M E N B E H I N D O UR ED ITO R IALS TO TAL K ABO U T T H E I R S MEGAN JAYNE CRABBE: PAULINE HENRIQUES
NYOME NICHOLAS-WILLIAMS: KATHY TAVERNIER I don’t have too many icons, as I don’t tend to look outward for them; I really try to find peace within and try and be my own icon and be the best version of myself. The one person who I look to as my inspiration, though, is my mum. The person she is, and the love and care she shows to those she cares about is something to be admired. Even those people that only meet her for a short time talk of her magic and the energy she carries within – she just exudes light. The strength within her is unmatched. She is a blessing to me, my brothers and my family, and even as I continue to get older I will always aspire to walk around with such love for others – and with the ability to show others how to love without a limit despite our differences. There aren’t many people in this world as pure and beautiful as her, and I am lucky enough to call her Mum! 44
My clearest memory of her is an afternoon spent trying to master forward rolls on the grass outside her flat. I offered her a Malteser and she told me that I was generous and how that was a very special thing to be. She had the kind of presence that kept me still, waiting for her next words, hoping that they’d be approving. I knew she’d been an actress and I knew I wanted to be just like her one day. I didn’t know until years later – after she’d died and after I’d grown up – that she was the first black actress ever to appear on British television, in a play broadcast by the BBC called Man from the Sun. She’d moved here from Jamaica when she was a child and I wonder if she had any idea the kind of greatness she was set for. Besides acting, she pursued a career in social work with a particular interest in supporting young mothers and removing the stigma surrounding single motherhood. She became Britain’s first black female court magistrate, and was later award an OBE. I would have loved to have had the chance to get to know her as an adult, both as a role model and simply as my grandma. I can’t remember much more about her but I know she loved to swim and she kept avocados in the airing cupboard. I didn’t get many real world years with her, but I count myself very blessed to be able to say that my feminist icon is running through my veins. So in a way, I get all my years with her.
KITTY UNDERHILL: MUNROE BERGDORF What is so key to the progression of feminism is not only challenging external, oppressive structures but also challenging biases we have internalised and confronting our uncomfortability head on. When Munroe was dropped from the L’Oreal campaign for speaking out against white supremacy and the tacit and overt violence it incurs, she did just that. This event forced people to question their own internalised racism, and she did not back down in the face of her critics. The ‘I said what I said’ energy was so strong in her response! I admire her so much for standing her ground despite the wave of white fragility and vitriol that came her way via Instagram followers and the media. She shook tables and made people uncomfortable; growth and change is impossible without both of these elements. What is also so wonderful about her is how she constantly challenges the mainstream media on their transphobia. TERFdom is violent and rife worldwide, and especially in the British media. Transphobia is so normalised and by using her platform to speak out against it, she gets people to challenge what they have internalised about gender and rallies people to fight transphobia where and when they see it. Racism and transphobia have no place in feminism. We need to keep challenging these forces, otherwise we so our fellow womxn a disservice. I am forever in awe of the work that she does, and the huge role she has played in sparking conversations which rattle the white, male, cisgender status quo.
LUISA CHRISTIE: LIZZO She radiates love and celebrates bodies of all shapes, sizes and colours - she’s doing it for the plus sized community! She has captivated millions with her empowering music and amazing personality - funny, intelligent and unafraid to speak her mind. I’ve been lucky enough to watch her perform a few times, and met her twice too - she’s just a delight to be in the presence of. Thinking about her performances, or the brief conversations we’ve shared fill me with happiness. Her songs never fail to pick me up. If I’m having a down day, or need to sass myself up for something important or scary, I’ll always put her music on. En route to my shoot with The Unedit, I listened to the Cuz I Love You album from start to finish. Without her music and lyrics of self love I don’t think I would have felt up to doing a shoot so out of my comfort zone, but I’m over the moon with the outcome and so pleased I did it! Lizzo is exactly the kind of musician the world needed: someone unapologetic, stepping into her power, with a *real* message of self love, inclusion, and positivity... She really is “that bitch”. To quote one of my favourite tweets this year: “I’m so done with being insecure, I cannot be letting Lizzo down like this anymore.” 45
M OVEM MOV EM ENT 47
WHY D ON’T W E SE E BIG GER B O DI ES I N S PORT A ND F IT NE SS? WORD S T ER R I WAT ER S As a child, the only plus-size woman who took part in sports that I saw in popular culture was Agatha Trunchbull, the evil headmistress in Matilda. Shotput. Javelin. Hammerthrow. Not only was she the movie’s villain, but absolutely no part of her identity was feminine or ‘pretty’ – not that that’s the issue – rather, that her lack of femininity was seen as an undesirable trait, and the take of her as an athlete amplified that. Her involvement as a competitor in the Olympics was shown throughout the film as
© TRI STAR PI CTU R E S 1 9 9 6
an ugly and unladylike, and it (thanks to the brutish portrayal of athletics sports) added to the fearful nature of her character. It says a lot that this is the only memorable portrayal I have in my brain that showcased a larger body taking part, or being presented as, an athlete. It’s the same portrayal that made 14 year old me refuse to go to county and national level athletics competitions after winning in javelin and discus in my district. It was the same portrayal that made me worry that boys wouldn’t find a girl training for her black belt in jujitsu cute, focusing on her time in the dojo rather than mascara and lip gloss. Matilda was released in 1996, when I was three. We’re now in 2019. So where are the plus size hunnies in sport and fitness, and why don’t we ever see them? A simplistic (and rather short-sighted) answer to this question would be that athletes or those who partake in sports just happen to be thin, ultimately as a result of sport or exercise being a core part of the job description. And whilst there does lay some fact within that, at least for the mainstream part of the sports and fitness industries, it’s actually pretty damaging that there still remains such little representation of plus-size women. So why is it so hurtful? For one, it further perpetuates the idea that plus-size or fat people don’t exercise, and upholds the stigma and discrimination against their bodies. And secondly, because the lack of fat representation within these spaces reaffirms those damaging messages
to the plus-size community directly, many of whom are too anxious to exercise publicly, or feel excluded or ridiculed if or when they do. Plus, it wasn’t until I really sat and thought about it that I realised the only time I’ve seen visibly fat bodies taking part in exercise or sport was for weight loss TV shows, which reinforces just how messed up and saturated in diet culture the concept of fatness meeting fitness really is. Whilst representation, or lack of, is the main problem, the representation that does exist within popular culture (such as Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull or shows like The Biggest Loser), do little to even the playing field (no pun intended). One is the role of sadistic tragic spinster, and the other is a group of fatties starving themselves thin; neither of them serving as a fair representation of the place that bigger bodies deserve within the sport and fitness sphere. Social media has allowed us to discover a handful of plus-size or fat athletes, dancers, and more over time, but until we show these active bodies on a mainstream level, fatphobia and body shaming will always have a part to play in the conversation around larger bodies and any kind of exercise. Fat athletes and fitness personalities aren’t glamourised or glorified in the same way that their thinner counterparts are. The discourse around them may shift away from the ‘lazy, unfit’ stereotypes we so commonly see surrounding larger bodies, but instead of their bodies being celebrated in the same way that a smaller body would, the conversation delves into the multitude of possible reasons why their body is the size it is. Is it food? Is it an underlying illness? Have they tried this new diet plan? Do they include HIIT in their exercise regime? Apparently that’s good for you too. They
do? Oh. Maybe they’re just not trying hard enough. In short, society feels entitled to pass comment on bodies, especially fat bodies. The harsh reality of it is that you could be the best in your field, and your body will still be up for debate purely because of how it looks. I guess if you wanted to play devil’s advocate here, you’d say, if bigger bodies are subject to scrutiny whether they’re represented or not, does representation even matter? And the answer to that is absolutely yes, of course it does. There’s a lot to be said for representation, and its benefits are manifold. If someone was to only be able to take one thing away from the clear need for plus bodies to be showcased in these sectors, it should be that representation matters for the people who exist in those bodies, regardless of whether they run, swim, or absolutely despise any form of physical activity. By making fitness and sport not just something exclusively for smaller bodies, there’s the potential to break down barriers and diminish stigma and untruths around the relationship between fatness and fitness. That would also make fitness way more accessible to all bodies, regardless of shape or size, and – if we’re looking at this from a capitalist perspective – it would make more money, because it would finally be properly embracing a previously untapped market. It’s clear that asking the question of where bigger bodies can be found in fitness isn’t something that can be answered in a straightforward manner. But, for the sake of the people living in those bodies, and for the sake of the future of the sport and fitness industries, it would certainly be nice to see some celebration around them as opposed to deprecation.
H OW B EC O M IN G AN AM P UT EE C HAN GE D M Y RELAT I O NSHI P WIT H DA NCE
WORD S KAT HAWKI N S The words are in my head forever. “I’m really sorry but we’re going to have to amputate your leg, it’s not healing.” What followed is a blur, it seems that somehow I protected myself from the worst moments, fading the edges so it’s not as sharp as it should be. I remember screaming out loud. 50
I was 19, and didn’t know how I would even begin to think of my body in this way, without one of my legs. When I found out I was also going to have my other one amputated, it just compounded the feelings of dysphoria, fear and devastation. I had so many questions. How would I navigate the world? How could I look myself in the mirror? Would anybody find me attractive again?
So many of these questions came because I had a certain idea of what a body should be. And at the time I knew little to nothing about disabled bodies, or disability justice. For me, impairment equalled weakness, vulnerability. How was I supposed to fit suddenly into a new group - disabled - that I had known nothing about and wanted no part of? I had grown up dancing, and so much of what I saw about the body came from what I thought dance was, and who it was for. Two arms, two legs, a head, torso, thin, and standing. When I found out my body was no longer going to be that, one of my first thoughts was dance. It had been a part of my life since the age of five, starting by weekly Irish dancing lessons in my local church hall where my mum would take me every Friday and sit, as so many devoted mothers do, whilst I learnt step after step. Dance was a huge part of who I was. It was release, escapism and language, although I didn’t realise this at the time. Only when I removed it from my life. I thought that without legs, I couldn’t dance. No way. It wasn’t possible. And physios had told me that they could get me doing a two-step in the club, but that would be it. Dance had always been so much more – huge leaps and pirouettes. It was jumping so high you thought you were flying. I thought that I needed my body as it was in order to call myself a dancer. And so, I pushed dance away. I shut down thoughts about it. I moved choreography ideas into a sealed box and silently cried after every dream in which my legs were back and I was dancing. Recurring dreams in which I was on pointe, or doing exercises which would slowly come to a standstill as I began to wake up and realise my body was not able to do those things anymore. I think my brain was trying to catch up with what had happened, and every time was as painful as the first.
Until one day, I found Candoco whilst looking for disabled dance classes online, and a glimmer of hope re-opened. They were a professional dance company made up of disabled and non-disabled dancers. Their view of the human body in all its differences and its place in dance changed my entire outlook on who is and isn’t a dancer. Suddenly, every misconception I’d ever had was challenged. Beginning to work with them, and then others, made me learn and unlearn about what bodies are given respect, and deemed worthy, and ultimately are given access to dance spaces, and all spaces. When I look around a space now, I ask myself who is not there, and why? Because anybody can dance, all bodies are valid, all bodies are interesting and worthy and able of expression. And if they’re not there, then there are always systemic reasons why. That’s because we’re told that spaces are for certain bodies, and are made for certain bodies, and so often these are white, thin, non-disabled, middle class, and cisgendered. As soon as I found Candoco that was it. I knew I needed to move again, to dance. At first, literally with nobody watching, and then, as I got used to my changed body, with others, and in front of an audience. It was, and still is, painful. Using prosthetics is hard work before you even begin to move, and trying out different ways of moving with my body has challenged me in ways I didn’t expect. I’ve had sores, broken prosthetics, and it’s made me confront grief for my legs in a way I hadn’t before. A lot of the time the spaces are still not designed for non-normative bodies, whether that be inaccessibility issues, ableist language or feeling as though you’re always trying to catch up with a normative focus. But what dance has brought back into my life has made it all worth it. Because what is dance really? It’s so much more than set routines or steps. It’s humans revealing, it’s humans interacting, learning, showing, feeling, enjoying, crying, unlearning and learning again. And I couldn’t imagine my proudly disabled life without it.
HE RE â€™ S HOW YOU ENJOY EXERCI S E WI T H O U T TH I N K I N G A B OUT WE I GH T LOS S WO R D S HANNAH LE WI N 52
The first association people make when you inform them that you’ve started introducing additional movement into your life, is usually related to fat loss or other aesthetic changes. This can prove frustrating, demotivating and potentially triggering if you are wanting to exercise for reasons of simply wishing to raise your fitness levels, recover from injury or for a whole host of other non-aesthetic based reasons. All are perfectly valid reasons, whatever our dietculture driven societal values would have us believe.
and providing you with some markers of progress.
As a personal trainer who has had the privilege of working exclusively with women in this way for a number of years, navigating this conversation has become an almost daily occurrence for my clients. Even in 2019, it seems to be unfathomable to many that weight loss doesn’t have to be the focus of wanting to exercise, or that fat loss isn’t the driving factor behind every workout.
Frustratingly, diet culture is still rife amongst most mainstream fitness environments. They remain a mostly fat loss focused space and adverts for personal training and classes are loaded with terms such as “shred” “burn” and “torch” – aggressive, intimidating and demotivating terminology. Most commercial gyms still equate fat loss as the only form of progress and give little or no merit for other forms of progress such as strength gains, increased aerobic capacity, postural and mobility improvements, as well as the overall increase in movement levels.
As a trainer, the most impactful changes I see have nothing to do with gym performance at all. To be witness to an improvement in personal confidence, to see a change in how they approach life outside of their workouts. The real transformation is when my clients give themselves permission to live their lives by their own design – that for me is the true magic of non-aesthetic focused training. It is wholly possible to add a solid, efficient and regular exercise routine into your life without there ever having to have a conversation about fat loss. Goal setting from a non-aesthetic focused mindset can help initially whilst establishing a routine
Increasing the amount of load you can squat, deadlift or press, the time you can complete a 5k run in or attending a class are all ways of determining improvement without focus on fat loss. In my experience, these types of improvements are often much more permanent and provide a deeper level of accomplishment rather than purely reducing your efforts to a number on a scale.
a s a t ra in e r, t he mos t impa ct fu l cha n ge s i s e e ha ve n ot hin g t o do wit h gy m pe rforma n ce a t a ll.
Luckily, there’s a myriad of options available, with some requiring no set-up cost or gym membership at all, aside from the potential purchase of suitable clothing. If your time is a factor, taking a look at your weekly diary is a great first step to work out if there’s any existing time you already have in your day to incorporate exercise. This could be taking the stairs, alighting the tube/bus a few stops earlier and walking to work, or consciously standing up more during the day if you are desk-based. These seemingly small steps can quickly build to have a noticeable impact on your fitness levels – and not a single diet in sight. When it comes to enjoying fitness, if you have been trying something for a little while (say, four to six weeks) and your enjoyment and/or fitness levels haven’t increased, it may be time to find something else. There are absolutely no rules that state you must run, cycle or swim if it doesn’t work for you. Once you’ve found the exercise that works for you, I truly believe movement is for all, which for me is the true brilliance of health focused fitness. 54
HOW DO I FIND A BO DY POSITIVE PERSONAL TRAI NER ?
Within social media, far from being the positive, inspiring spaces that they claim to be, fitness Instagram accounts can also prove an unhelpful arena; images and captions detailing restrictive dieting and extreme exercise habits can be a damaging place for many. There are ways to navigate through this – an effective and extremely powerful quick fix is to unfollow all accounts that cause negative comparison and low self-esteem, and find accounts that you personally find positively impactful. It’s a simple task that enables you to take back control of the content you’re absorbing and reduce triggers.If you’re starting from a place of limited weekly movement, taking the first step can seem initially extremely daunting, and my experience with clients has shown me many times that this can often be the most difficult part of the process. Little emphasis can be given on the types of exercise that are available, and it often seems that going to the gym can be the only option available, particularly for those who are new or returning to exercise.
A H EALT H - FO C U S E D P T W I LL ALWAYS TAK E THE TIME TO ENS UR E T H AT YO U F E EL CO MF O R TAB LE D UR IN G AL L S TAG E S O F YO U R T I M E WITH THEM. The relationship between PT and client is absolutely key to a positive PT experience. From initial consultation through to your first sessions, it is imperative that you feel comfortable and at ease with your selected trainer. Working one-to-one with a trainer can sometimes be an exposing experience, and it is important that you feel comfortable, supported and able to potentially “fail reps” and ask questions without judgement.
A BODY PO SI T I V E P T W I L L TAK E THE TIME TO D IS CUS S YO UR EX E R C I SE H I STO RY WITHO UT F O CUS IN G O N YO UR WEIG H T. Have they taken a genuine interest in your exercise history? Are they asking what your exercise likes and dislikes are? This should be standard process for an authentically body positive PT.
D O T H EY U SE LA NG UAG E ?
T R I G G E R IN G
IN F LAMMATO RY
During your consultation/initial sessions, common fitness industry phrases such as “burning” or “shredding”, or calorie-focused conversations are your cue to keep looking.
IF YOU WA N T TO S E T G OALS , H AS THE P T LET YO U LE AD T H E G OA L S E T T I N G PR O CES S ? Have they assumed that fat loss is your sole reason for working out, or have they let you openly discuss goals and motivation for wanting to exercise? Goals are incredibly personal, and the dialogue when goal setting should be open, and not led by your trainer.
THE WARM UP
PHOTO GR AP H S + STYLING TERRI WATERS FI T N ESS CONSULTANT HAN N AH LEW IN FA S HI ON ASSISTANT SCARLETT HATCHW ELL M ODEL KITTY UN DERHILL
Ki tty w e ar s b o d y su i t + trai n e rs, b o th A di da s
Kitty wears hooded top + s horts, both N ike
K it t y wears m e sh top Wo lf a nd W h istle; spor t s bra Nike; shor ts ASOS 4505
K it t y wears m e sh top, spor t s bra + sh or t s, all ASOS 450 5; t rain e rs stylistâ€™s ow n
Ki tty w e ar s sp o r ts b ra + l e g g i n g s, b o th Wo l f a n d Whistle; t ra i n ers s t y l i s tâ€™ s ow n
Kitty wears s ports bra + leggings, both N ike
K it t y wears spor t s bra + sh or t s, bo t h Nike S pe cial t h anks to El eva te LDN
K it t y wears m e sh top Wo lf a nd Wh istle; spor t s bra Nike; shor ts ASOS 4505
FASH ION FA SHION 67
FAT G I RL G OES SHOPP ING
P l u s s ize fas h io n is s l ow l y b u t su re l y be c o m in g m o re avail ab l e , b u t t h at d o e s n ’ t m e an t h e s h o ppin g e x pe r ie n c e h as go t an y b e t t e r. . .
I love shopping. I love that I can spend hours on end traipsing through shopping centres and not get bored. I love that I can stay excited looking through every rail. I love fashion, I love clothes. Yes, I’m that girl. But I also hate shopping. I hate the fact that nine out of ten items I’ll take into a changing room won’t fit. I hate the fact that nine out of the ten items that do fit are boring basics that don’t express my style. I hate the fact that plus size women aren’t catered for properly on the high street. To put it frankly, the plus size shopping experience is a joke. This is a reality that is all too common with fat women. The majority, at one time or another, have played the role of the friend sat in the changing rooms watching another friend trying on lots of cute clothes. They’ve probably also found themselves saying that they’re “just gonna look at the shoes and bags”, because there’s no restrictive size label on those. They’ve likely had more than
one meltdown in a changing room because they’d love it if just for once there can be a pair of jeans that actually fit above their hips, or something in that ballpark. If this sounds like you and the thought of having to nip out to the shops last minute to find something fills you with absolute dread, I feel you. Fat women deserve more than what they get in fashion, especially when it comes to the social ritual of shopping itself. Inclusive sizing is practically MIA on the British high street, which means that the shopping spree montages you see in TV shows and movies are far from a realistic portrayal of a plus size woman’s trip to the mall. Various leading brands have introduced lines with extended sizing to make room for plus size customers within their brands, but very few actually host these collections in stores. When they do, more often than not, they’re relegated to a small corner, with minimal effort made in comparison
to the main lines. Mannequins are basic (if present at all), lighting seems dingier, the selection is abysmal, and the atmosphere is far from welcoming. With very few plus-size focused stores actually present on the high street, fat women are regularly relegated to online shopping and trying on everything at home. Whilst trying things on from the comfort of your own home can actually be quite nice, and in some cases, nicer than changing rooms in-store (why is the lighting always so gross?), but it shouldn’t be your only option just because of your size. By making the majority of plus size shopping online-only, it’s perpetuates the idea that the mainstream fashion market’s priority is smaller bodies, and excludes plus size women from fully embracing the social aspect that clothes shopping offers. Heaven forbid anyone over a size 18 finds themselves needing a new outfit with less than a 24 hour turnaround – neither walking into a store nor next day delivery will save you. The problem doesn’t stop at the lack of availability on the high street, though. Plus size consumers often have to accept higher prices, even for the most basic of, well, basics. And when the prices aren’t necessarily higher, quality control can often be lax, with some garments being so poorly constructed that they’re unwearable. Bad quality products – whether it be the fabric, the stitching, or any other component – also means that plus size women are often required to buy clothes more frequently, ultimately increasing their expenditure even further, and all because they want something to wear. The biggest problem, however, is design, and plus size women have been screaming this from the rooftops for years waiting for brands to pay attention. I’d love to know who was responsible for the memo that went out to brands telling them that plus size women only want to wear black (or navy), baggy pieces,
because I’d be more than glad to enter a boxing ring with them. The same goes for the guy who told them how much fat women love tunics (ick). Plus size women, for some bizarre and unknown reason, are designed for in an entirely different way to their thinner counterparts. Colour and shape are completely avoided, and it’s safe to say that there’s often a very big style deficit between what plus size women want to wear and what plus size manufacturers actually give them. You know how, every now and then, there’s that one item from Zara or Topshop that goes so viral, that everyone and their cousin seems to have it? That’s how plus size women feel on a regular basis. It’s seen as a major fashion faux pas to show up somewhere wearing the same outfit as someone else, but within the plus size community, it’s practically a right of passage. It’s also pretty common to find exactly what you’re looking for in a piece of clothing, only to try it on and realise that there was absolutely no way it was designed for a plus size person. I can’t be the only plus size woman that’s tried on a cute top to see that the arm holes would only fit a size 10, or a dress that has a bust section so small the only thing the fabric is supporting is my collarbone. The plus size fashion industry can have its credit where it’s due: it has got better. There are more options available now, with brands like ASOS Curve leading the charge. That being said, it’s still undeniably obvious to see how differently plus size customers are treated versus ‘straight’ sized ones, but we all want the same thing: stylish, wearable fashion that makes us feel good. It’s not a big ask. Should it have taken all this time for brands to see that fat women want – and hell, deserve – to be stylish? Absolutely not. And yet, that’s the world we live in. I look forward to the day that the plus size fashion is seen as taken equally as seriously as the rest of the market, because if brands are happy to take our plus size money, they should be waking up quicker to realise that plus size matters. 69
ph o tographed by Em il Co strut for Lo ud Bo die s
L OUD B ODIES WORD S S CA R L ET T HATCHWE LL W i th a l l the clot hin g ma de and sold by Loud Bod ies, a very re a l s e n s e of pride come s a ttached to the p rice tag – p rid e in yo u r s i ze , in you r fa s hion sense, and , most imp ortantly, in yo u rs e l f . I n t e n t ion a lly imple mented by the brand’s founder, P a t ri c i a L uiza Bla j, it’s ju s t one of the ways the brand chang es u p o u r e xpe ct a t ion s of a usually lacklustre size- inclusive cl o th i n g i ndu s t ry. Fro m u s i ng on ly re cycle d materials in its p ackag ing , to d i s c u ss i n g pe rs on a l polit ics and ethical b ody p ositivity on its b l o g, this Roma n ia n bra n d is taking the p lus- size fashion wo rl d b y s t orm. Offe rin g clothes in sizes XXS to 7XL, with cu st o m si ze s a n d Ta ll a n d Pe tite op tions availab le, it’s clear Bl a j t a ke s t he t e rm ‘in clu s ive’ seriously, and is p aving the wa y fo r a ll fa s hion bra n ds t o do the sam e. When did you first realise you had to create fashionable clothes for all bodies? Patricia Luiza Blaj: I’ve been into fashion for as long as I can remember. My mother’s a very coquette woman, and her wardrobe was a literal wonder when I was little. I’ve always looked up to her and her style, which only made it more heartbreaking when, growing up, I realised they don’t make the same clothes for anybody over a size M. I remember being in Zara, wanting a shirt in an L. When I asked the shopkeeper, she looked me up and down – you know the look – and said for certain models, they only carry sizes up to M. It was a shirt, not some sort of outlandish item they’d expect plus size women wouldn’t be bold enough to wear (not that an L is plus size in any universe).
In my career, I’d started out as a journalist but it was difficult to find work as, in a country as deeply fatphobic as Romania, brands really didn’t want to work with me. I’ve been writing and blogging since I was 14, and working in the industry was my dream – a dream I was forced to move on from when I realised I had no chance of making it here. If the problem is that I don’t look ‘appropriate’, and don’t shy away from subjects like body activism, LGBTQIA+ rights or feminism, then it never would’ve mattered how hard I worked. And compromising who I am and what I believe in to become easier on the eyes, and get paid in the process, has never been an option for me. So, I guess Loud Bodies is sort of my Phoenix, rising from the ashes of my dead dream.
How would you tell the story of your own journey with body image? PLB: I was a very skinny kid, but after a two week hospitalisation for a serious allergy, its treatment caused me to gain weight. So, I became a chubby kid and was suddenly aware of my body even before my teenage years. As a teenager, I struggled to lose weight. I couldn’t see working out or eating well just as a means of taking care of my body, but only as something I desperately needed to do to shrink, and this slowly but surely slid me towards bulimia. I only managed to accept it, and start kicking it, in my second year at University. In my started couldn’t my size
recovery, my body growing. The fact I find clothes I liked in only added insult to 71
injury, and made the journey that much harder. But my body positivity was born in a moment when I had to make a change – otherwise I would’ve never gotten better, and I never could’ve surmounted my eating disorder.
i p u t al l t h a t i a m int o t h i s b ra n d , s o i w i l l n eve r n o t c are if o u r c u st o m ers a re h appy o r n o t. And how would you describe your relationship with radical body positivity and fat acceptance? PLB: Now, I believe that every body is worthy of respect, love and opportunity – regardless of weight, health, ability and every single other thing some use to discriminate against us or to divide us. Is there a stand-out moment from this journey that led to your self-acceptance? PLB: I remember breaking down once in the car, when I realised I had to give up my dream for reasons as stupid and superficial as the fact that I am fat and not apologetic about it. That was the moment I truly let it go and allowed my heart and mind to start looking for something else. I could’ve decided to lose a couple of pounds, to stop wearing colourful clothes, to go blonde and start talking about the weather and diets. But I would much rather give up on an old dream than who I really am. I’d rather give a career up than my voice, and from there, Loud Bodies slowly started taking place in my heart. 72
With Loud Bodies, what would you say is your unique selling point?
Which, of all the items you’ve ever created and sold, have been your favourite?
PLB: What makes us special is we’re a love brand, and it’s my love child from all points of view. I started from the ground up and worked my way through everything, and learnt how to do it all because I couldn’t afford to hire people to do things for me. Some assume I’m just a rich girl who says yes and no, and has a whole team doing everything for her – and honestly, in the days when I feel like crying from how badly my feet hurt, I wish they were right.
PLB: Two of my favourite designs are the Gabrielle dresses and the Constance. There’s no particular reason for it, I just like very romantic and dramatic clothes! And the Gabrielle is named after my mother too.
So, when I say I work for it, I mean it. I put all that I am into this brand, so I will never not care if our customers are happy or not. What is it you love most about creating bold clothes that challenge the typical offerings for women above a size XL? PLB: It’s seeing the above XL ladies absolutely rocking them. People keep saying bullshit like, this pattern can’t work on bigger sizes or they won’t make bold items for them because they won’t sell. As I keep pushing and growing our community, I’m seeing so many babes looking absolutely stellar in clothes we’re told are ‘not for us’ or are ‘not flattering’, and it fills my heart with joy. It’s also the incredible feedback that makes all the hardships you experience as a startup so, so worth it. My reason for starting this was to make people happy, to make them feel good about themselves, and being told I manage to do that feels unbelievable.
You work with a very small team of seamstresses at Loud Bodies, and act as the brand’s designer, creator, founder, clothing modifier and customer service and social media departments yourself. What drives you to be a truly independent, female-led business? PLB: I definitely have a sense of community from the fact I manage the brand’s social media and customer service, so I keep in touch with every client and follower. And I believe, in a way, they can feel it too, that they’re talking to a person who really cares about them and their needs and not just someone who can’t wait to get through their 9 to 5. But as for the team, I definitely hope it grows, as that means we’re doing better! A key focus of Loud Bodies is beauty with sustainability inherently attached. What encourages you to be so ecofriendly? PLB: Something that’s clear about me is I care a lot, and that doesn’t exclude our planet. Just as I find it natural to respect my employees and customers, I also find it natural to respect our environment. I only hope to not add to the damage the fashion industry’s already done.
The concepts created for Loud Bodies’ editorial shoots are always so well executed. How do you come up with the creative ideas, and the visual stories, behind them? PLB: For the photos themselves, I have to give all credit to Emil Costrut, my partner, who is an out of this world fashion photographer. We both love to create visuals of women feeling confident, empowered and happy. One of the most important things, when it comes to our imagery, is not using models. All the beautiful ladies you see are friends, or friends of friends or people I approached on social media. We want to show people that absolutely everybody is photogenic, and
clothes look amazing on them too – not just the models. The fashion world needs to offer more to all bodies. How do you see the industry getting there in the near future? PLB: By realising profit is not everything, and lining your pockets with millions won’t make you happy. Give up some of your profit to cater to all sizes, give up the cruel manipulation that has us feeling shit about ourselves and makes us believe buying your product will make us happy. I hope the industry stops seeking to be fuelled by insecurities, and truly works at empowering their customers and making this world a little better.
If you could impart one key message to our readers today, what would that be? PLB: Never doubt the power of your voices or your choices. Each and every one of us can make a change, even if we feel small. As the cliché goes, we have to be the change we want to see in the world, so please never listen when people say you’re not good enough. You are magnificent, you are a force and you are the universe in ecstatic motion. No damn pant size should ever make you doubt that.
m y re as o n fo r s t ar t in g t h is was t o m ake pe o pl e h appy, t o m ake t h e m fe e l go o d ab o u t t h e m se l ve s, an d b e in g t o l d i m an age t o d o t h at fe e l s u n b e l ievab l e .
p h o to g rap h e d by Emil Costrut fo r L o u d Bo di e s
SACCHARINE DREAM PHOTOGRA PHS + C R EATIVE DIR ECTION LINDA BLACKER FA S HI ON DI RE C TO R S LIN DA BLACKER + TERRI WATERS HAIR AND M AKE UP ASHLEIGH B UN CE FA S HI ON ASSISTANT SCARLETT HATCHW ELL M ODEL LUISA CHRISTIE
Luis a wears velvet pyjama t op Playful Pro m i ses; bra + brief, b ot h G abi F re sh x P lay f u l Pro mise s; bow Claire’s; jewellery + so cks mo de l’s own ; shoes stylist’ s own
L u i sa w e ar s b ab y d o l l A S OS ; briefs Elomi; sc r u n c h i e C l a i r e â€™ s
L u isa wears bra + knickers D ea r Scantilly; bow Claireâ€™s
Luis a wears bra Savage X Fent y special thanks t o Anne at Sh ut terhouse Studio
H OW WE WEAR ... WORD S HOL LY TAT E M - WYATT
Holly Of All Tra de s’ H o l l y Tat e m -Wyat t sty le s th i s s e a s o n’s m u st -h ave pie c e : the le a t h e r t rous e r.
Wearing this season’s biggest trend of leather – or faux leather, depending on where you stand ethically – can be a bit of a daunting prospect. Finding the perfect balance of leathery chic without looking too much like a full blown biker chick can be tricky. Personally, it’s my favourite trend this season by far and my leather trouser collection is already up to three pairs [insert monkey-covering-his-eyes emoji of shame here]! I was so inspired to try this trend after seeing those chic Parisian girls strutting around the streets of Fashion Week. A lot of the time, for a plus size gal, it can be intimidating trying to translate the trends – which are so clearly designed for a much smaller person – into something suited for someone with a more ample body. But it doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it’s super versatile and more wearable than your average statement piece.
The first look is a day time casual look. I’ve paired my peg-leg, anklelength trousers with a fitted vest and an oversized snuggly cardigan, with my old faithful white trainers. It’s comfy and casual and adds that little bit of edge, but is still totally wearable for a chilled-out Sunday mooch around the farmers market.
Next up: work wear! Those same trousers are now paired with a soft, drapey, classic white shirt which I’ve French-tucked into the front of the trousers. This gives the outfit a smart casual feel but keeps it comfy, exactly what we need for work! I popped on my ultimate favourite shoe style (a pointed mule) in a black and white animal print – it jazzes up this monochrome look into something a little more fun.
LO O K 3
The last look is not for the faint of heart! Full. On. Leather! With this look, I’ve tucked a puff sleeve faux leather blouse into the trousers, and added chunky gold accessories: a pair of gold faux croc mid-heel loafers, and a chunky gold chain choker. Those little pops of metallics break up the all-leather look and the puff sleeves make it a touch more feminine. You’re only a gorgeous black bag away from the perfect outfit for a night on the town.
if you want more ways to wear this season’s best trends, check out my full AW19 trend rundown!
Me g an w e ar s ve st + jewe l l e r y, b o th A S OS ; tro u se rs A S OS C u r ve
BEH I ND BODYP O S IPA NDA Whe n you’re a s up e r-in f l u e n ce r, social m e di a c a n bri n g so m e o f t h e hig he st hi g hs , but a l s o t h e l owe st l ows. M EGAN JAY N E C R A B B E talks im p os t e r s yndro m e an d t h e a nxie ties t h a t c ome w it h b e in g B odyp os i p a nda . P H OTO G R A P HS L AU R A KR ZYS TO N WO R D S + S TY LI N G TE R R I WATE RS P H OTO G R A P HY A S S I S TA N T BIANCA M UÑ IZ Megan still remembers the first ‘positive’ post she uploaded to Instagram. “It had a yellow background, and it said something like, ‘when you’re down, lift yourself, and when you’re up, lift others’. I remember thinking to myself, people are going to judge the fuck out of you for this, who do you think you are?” Fast forward five years and 1,500 posts later, and she still has anxieties around her content, but her anxieties are different now. She’s different now. That sunshinecoloured inspirational quote was just the start as she began to explore the body positive community, and now she’s one of the UK’s largest non-celebrity influencers, with 1.2million followers and a very loyal fanbase. When it came to writing this piece and doing this interview, I didn’t really know how it was going to turn out. Megan and I have
been best friends for 15 years, so sitting down with her and asking the same kinds of questions that everyone else does didn’t seem right. We agreed that we were going to talk about Megan; not Bodyposipanda who everyone knows and loves, but the human being behind that perfectly pastel Instagram grid. It’s important for me to point out here that when I differentiate the two, I don’t mean it in a way that implies any type of online facade. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Megan is basically the same person in real life as she is online, but her boundaries and what she chooses to share with her audience play a large part in the side of her that isn’t shown too much. Even she describes the difference between Megan and Bodyposipanda as the latter being “who I’d be in real life if I had less mental health issues.” I’ve watched the evolution of Bodyposipanda. 85
Megan wears coat, cami, trous ers + shoes + choker, all ASOS
Me ga n wears co at + s hoes, bo t h ASOS; bike shorts ASOS Curve; bral e t Meganâ€™s own
Me g an w e ar s swe ate r d re ss, b o o ts + jewe l l e r y, al l A S OS
I still remember the day that we questioned whether you really could make peace with your body whilst on one of our five-mile ‘diet walks’. I still remember watching her first TV appearance. I’ve seen her celebrate her triumphs, but I’ve also seen her really tackle the underbelly of social media. She’s handled both sides of the coin like an absolute champ, so I wanted to talk to her about those things – the good, the bad, and the ugly. “I’ve been in this space for five years, and I’ve kind of been in the position I’m in now for the past year or two. But I’m only just realising – and I forget all the time – the power of social media, and how big of a thing it still is. It’s very easy for me when I’m sat at home in my living room with my dogs in our tiny little hometown, not seeing anyone, to be quite insulated from it all. It’s just something that’s on my phone that I can detach from. But more and more these days, that’s not my reality. I’m finding myself in spaces with genuinely brilliant people who are super successful in their field – actual famous people – and I’m in the same spaces as them… all because of this thing that I started doing on my phone.” Megan’s favourite part of having access to these spaces and experiences, for the most part, sits on the fact that she gets to bring her sister, Gemma, along with her. “My absolute highest of highs was when I was able to get Gemma to meet Little Mix. Nothing will top that, nothing will be better than that. I’ll never be able give her anything better than that as a sister.” “Those highs are spectacular, and obviously the kind of privileged-as-fuck positions that I get to be in now – where I’m in boujee hotels with a brand overnight, or going to some fancy event – they are dripping with imposter syndrome for me. I had a bit of a realisation the other day where I’m living this life that is so privileged and that so many people would look at and think, ‘Wow! I want this!’ And yet, I find it so hard to be present in it. I find it so hard to enjoy it because don’t feel like I deserve it, and I don’t think I’m ever going to feel like I deserve to be there. I don’t feel that what I do is valid enough, or that I work hard
enough. So for the outside world, those would probably be what people would consider as the highest highs and yet for me – and for a lot of influencers, I think – actually come with a lot of intense lows. But I never talk about that because I don’t ever want to come across as an ungrateful dickhead – it’s a tricky balance.” It’s very easy for someone who isn’t an influencer or perhaps doesn’t have access to those kinds of spaces to assume that the lows that come with those highs can’t be all that bad, but you’d be sorely mistaken. “There are still days where I’m terrified to look at my phone. There are still days where I cannot click on the Instagram app because I’m so deeply convinced that there are hoards of people hovering, waiting for me to step one foot out of place or say one word slightly wrong, to absolutely destroy me.” This kind of anxiety is not an uncommon one amongst influencers, and the unforgiving impact of cancel culture is very real. In fact, there’s science behind it that, should you find yourself in a position online where you’re being attacked or having accusations thrown at you, your body has the same fight or flight response to that of a physical threat. “You get the same adrenaline, you get the same set of processes in your brain and that leaves a genuine mark. It becomes a very real after-effect. I’ve never been able to shake it.” It’s undeniable that there’s a number of mental repercussions that come with being a person on the internet, and both the treatment of influencers and the expectations that are set for them create standards that are hard to uphold. And with that comes the struggles around navigating mental health issues when a large portion of your life is out in the open for everyone to see or pass comment on. I asked her if being an influencer made dealing with her mental health issues harder than it used to be. “It’s made them different; I don’t have exactly the same mental health issues I 89
Me gan wears sweater + beret bo th ASOS
had five years ago, I don’t have the same anxieties. In some ways, they’re miles better, but in other ways, they’re hugely worse. I talk a fair bit online about taking care of yourself, and prioritising your mental health. I talk about how you’re allowed to set boundaries, and essentially, to be nice to yourself. How deeply ironic it is that I use the internet to tell people that they’re worth taking care of, and they’re allowed to protect themselves. And actually, most of the time, if I were taking care of myself, I would not fucking be there – I would not be on the internet. I would not be being Bodyposipanda, and that’s unfortunately the truth of it.” “I’m starting to try and do things that are more in line with actually taking care of myself and prioritising my mental health – going to therapy is one of them. A few weeks ago, someone asked me, ’what would you be doing right now if you were just putting your first – if you were just doing whatever you wanted to do with your day?’ – and you know what? I really just fancy sitting with a coffee and reading some poetry, so I’ve been setting time aside and have been doing that once a week.” Whilst everything about Megan as Bodyposipanda is how it is IRL, we discussed the importance of defence mechanisms in order to get through some of the more gruelling and emotionally exhausting days. For Megan, Pandaface has always been her weapon of choice. “Pandaface came about a few years ago when I first started taking what I do off the internet, and started doing interviews and events. My biggest anxiety around that, and around meeting people who followed me, was always whether I was going to be the version of me that these people think I am – am I going to live up to their expectation of me? Especially in those early years, everything I put up on the internet was so intensely positive, like so sickeningly rainbow happiness and joy. I would not write an honest post about my mental health, it would all have to be uplifting happiness, so I had to be that in real life as well – and I am not that. I am actually, at times, a deeply sad and negative person, as most people are sometimes.“
“The effect of having to try and live up to these expectations after the events left me utterly exhausted. I was so drained because I’d been putting on this persona of the Panda, so we started calling it Pandaface. I think over the years I started realising that I couldn’t keep doing that at my expense – it made me tired and it was also just so deeply rooted in this fear of people not liking me. I thought I had to be the most positive version of myself in order to be likeable, so I just started allowing myself to take that mask off a bit, and start being more fully human. I found that even then, the people were still there, they were still showing up to the events, they still wanted to hear what I was saying. Plus I didn’t have to give quite so much of my energy away.” Admittedly, Pandaface is now semi-retired, as the act alone is something hard to keep up with. We spoke about how influencers without big teams protecting them either end up being too vulnerable online, or put on such a persona that they meet accusations that they’re fake. Somewhere in the middle there’s probably a balance, but for now, it’s just important for people outside of social media to recognise why there’s a need for this extra defence layer. “Sometimes I still wish I had more of one to keep myself protected but I just couldn’t keep it up because of the amount of energy it took. I couldn’t keep feeling that I was being inauthentic.” One of the refreshingly wonderful things about Megan is that her acute selfawareness means that she can work out her limits in a way that few others do. For example, there was a prominent awards ceremony earlier on in the year, and just an hour before us heading out the door, she’d reached her influencer quota for the day, and decided she didn’t want to play Panda any more. “I had a moment where something in me just broke… I had no fucks. I think I’d hit my limit of influencer culture for whatever reason and I was just like, you know what? I can’t go into this space and be switched on, I can’t be an influencer right now. I decided I was going to wear the same outfit I wore to the same awards the year before, I wasn’t 91
Me g an w e ar s c o at A S OS
going to wear a bra, I wasn’t going to wear make up or contacts… I was just gonna go in and be myself, and be a bit sassy, and quite outspoken and go off script.” “Afterwards, the only thing I felt was scared, because I was too real for that space. I was worried I’d burnt bridges and lost opportunities. And that’s something I’ve noticed in spaces where we’re talking about mental health and women’s empowerment and things like that – you can’t go and be a real person yet.” That’s one of the things that Megan’s followers love about her – her refreshing outlook and authenticity. She cares so deeply and it radiates from her page, which is why her following has been rapidly increasing since the early days of her account. But with big numbers and high engagement come assumptions and misconceptions, a frustrating reality that she has to face from followers, strangers, and even influencers within similar circles. “A couple of years ago, there was a table of influencers and a close friend was sat with them, and they were discussing the deals and money that they thought people were making. My book had just come out, and they said that they thought it was unfair that I was clearly making millions and taking all the deals. They said I should step down and let someone else have a turn. At the time, the number of sponsored posts I’d created over three years was one. I’d done one sponsored post, I wrote a book with a tiny fucking advance, a sum of money which had absolutely no reflection on the fact that I had an audience. After three years of pouring myself into this space, creating content, giving advice, the emotional work, I’d made next to nothing – but because of the following I had, people assumed I was raking it in.” Whilst Megan’s reality looked very different from what people assumed, it wasn’t because she couldn’t make money, but rather because she was scared to. Despite having such a massive platform and the opportunity to make a killing as Bodyposipanda, she found that her discomfort around money was stopping her.
“This year has been the first year that I’ve started doing paid ads and accepting fees for speaking events, and it still sometimes feels very murky and gross and I don’t like it. I get huge amounts of anxiety around it still, especially if it’s a paid ad.” “I think part of my discomfort with money is because I grew up in a family of five, where my dad was a teacher at a public school and my mum looked after my sister. It was very scrimp and save, everything was second-hand. We had enough, don’t get me wrong, I’ve never thought that we went without anything – but we didn’t have disposable income. So this idea that I can post something on the internet and be paid a significant sum of money for it is absurd to me, and it’s taken a lot of getting used to. My discomfort also sat in the belief that I was making money just to hoard it, just so I could keep it potted up and then spend it on really frivolous things. Then I realised that money allows you to build things; it doesn’t have to be about expensive things, you don’t have to cover yourself in gold and roll around cackling – money can also used be for good things, and that’s helped me make peace with the concept.” It’s really important to have people like Megan on our feeds; she’s without question one of the most genuine influencers you’ll ever come across. I’m not saying that because of bias, but more so because she’s a good person who has saved people’s lives with the work that she’s tirelessly putting into making her page the safe and resource-filled space that it is. I find the reality of her immersion into influencer culture a fascinating one, and one that perhaps people don’t get an opportunity to see when it comes to the world of superinfluencers. It’s easy for us to forget about the people behind the accounts that we scroll through every single day. Influencers deserve the recognition for the shiny, pretty things that we see them share with us, but they deserve all the more when they choose to share the not-so-pretty parts too. And it’s for that reason – the unfiltered honesty and total transparency – that makes Megan’s success all the more phenomenal to witness. 93
Me g an w e ar s swe ate r d re ss, b o o ts + jewe l l e r y, al l A S OS
B E AUT BEA UT Y 97
BOTOX ON THE CLOCK: THE RISE OF LUNCH HOUR COSMETIC SURGERY The rise in this generation’s rates of plastic surgery is undeniable. Thanks to shows like Love Island, the Keeping Up ‘Kulture’ and a problematic – but emblematic – rise in female insecurity, women are more likely to choose surgery to change something about their appearance than ever before. WO R D S SC A R L E TT H ATC HWE L L 98
In 2018, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons revealed global rates of minimally invasive cosmetic procedures have risen by nearly 200% since the start of the 2000s. A UK-based study conducted this year also found that women who rated their own attractiveness, self-esteem and satisfaction in life as low, and had a high amount of media exposure, were definitively more likely to undergo cosmetic surgery. But why is this? Over the last few years, there’s been an exponential increase in procedures dubbed the ‘lunchbreak surgeries’; non-surgical aesthetic procedures that can be performed in an hour or less. As changing our appearance becomes more terrifyingly accessible, it also becomes easier to give in to criticism of our looks rather than working towards accepting them as they are. While this type of self-acceptance might still be a romanticised, unrealistic notion to some, we ask the question of what truly is beyond the surface of this trend? What are these surgeries? Where did they come from? And why are they occurring more now than ever? Looking into four of the UK’s most popular quick-fix procedures, we break down the realities of what happens when you go under the metaphorical knife.
THE NON-SURGICAL NOSE JOB Officially named the non-surgical rhinoplasty, this minimally invasive procedure has all the makings and results of the typical surgery without the lengthy recovering period or as much of a threat to a patient’s airways. More casually known as nose filler, this procedure does exactly what it says on the tin. By injecting small amounts of dermal filler into a patient’s nose, aesthetic surgeons can alter the whole appearance of the face without ever picking up a scalpel. Injections above or below a ‘bump’ can seemingly straighten the nose, while injections to the tip can make it look thinner – nothing’s more important than even your nose staying skinny, right beauty standards? More invasively, injections into the depressor nasalis – better known as the inside muscle of the nose – responsible for holding the nose and airways in place – are carried out to lift the tip of the nose also. Since 2017, the British demand for this procedure has risen a further 29%, now accounting for a vast amount of all lunch-break surgeries carried out daily. Thanks to its non-surgical nature, this procedure offers less risk and less downtime than a traditional rhinoplasty and the appeal to a social media obsessed audience is clear. Speed: 10 to 15-minute procedure Pain scale: Risks involved: This is one of the safest procedures on the list, with risks including redness, tenderness, swelling and bruising. However, injecting a foreign property into the body is always a risk, regardless of how safe for the skin it may be. The placement of the filler is massively important as hitting a vein or having them close enough to veins to compress them can cause massive vascular complications.
THE FACETUNE FACELIFT The non-surgical facelift is a procedure that can be performed in a number of different ways, but all involve getting more filler to the face. This filler can be made of many substances again, but mostly used are hyaluronic acid injections or the movement of fat cells from other areas of the body. When using fat cells, it crosses over into the territory of plain old surgery, so we’ll be focusing on man-made fillers and their effects here. Most commonly, the Ulthera facelift is performed by injecting these dermal fillers into any area of the face that shows visible signs of ageing. By replacing what surgeons have called ‘lost volume’ to the facial features, they use filler to plump out facial lines and areas where the skin appears to have decompressed. While the patient would never have been under the knife, you might get the impression that they had been with how lifted their skin and facial features become. All signs of ageing are reversed here, and the life lived on your skin will lose its chance to be celebrated – until the filler dissolves, that is. Speed: 30 to 60-minute procedure Pain scale: Risks involved: This procedure carries the exact same risk as those discussed for the nonsurgical nose job, as well as those discussed below for single-site filler injections. Again, it carries less risk of complication than traditional surgery would – but the risk of a complication occurring is no less regular.
SO WHAT IS IT THAT’S DRIVING THIS RISE? AND COULD PLASTIC SURGEONS REALLY HELP US UNDERSTAND?
LIP, CHEEK AND FACIAL FILLERS Dermal fillers are now more popular, and entirely more common, than they ever have been. Gone are the days where only celebrities knew of their elusive appearance altering powers, and they’re sitting in the faces of more women than you’d ever know. The obvious trend-led nature of these ‘enhancements’ became all the more clearer when Kylie Jenner, the arguable pioneer of the fuller-lip trend, had hers dissolved and thousands of British women did the same. Fillers are normally made of hyaluronic acid, a substance normally found in our skin, and injected into specific areas the client is hoping will appear fuller. The most trusted name in fillers is currently Juvederm, followed closely by Restylane. Common practice sees these areas as the lips, the cheekbones, the chin and the jawline. After they are injected, the acid begins to integrate with the skin, drawing water to the healing area and hydrating its surrounding tissues; this being the reason behind so many people’s post-procedure glow. Speed: 10 to 30-minute procedure, depending on placement and amount Pain scale: Risks involved: While the skin will break down any hyaluronic acid filler naturally over time, it’s important to note that some serious complications could arise. They’re still invasive procedures that have rare (but still occurring) side effects of vascular occlusion, which can lead to tissue necrosis, lumps and tissues irregularities, infection, ulceration and scarring, just to name a few.
Dr. Mayoni Gooneratne and Dr. Jonquille Chantrey, both leading female plastic surgeons and pioneers in the world of nonsurgical aesthetic procedures, share their opinions on the rise in the popularity of lunch break procedures. What do you feel is driving the rise in women undergoing quick-fix, nonsurgical procedures? Dr. Gooneratne: I think people generally aren’t ready to have anaesthetic or surgical treatments. They want to be in control of it, they want a change to be subtle but enough to make themselves feel better about how they look and feel. Non-surgical approaches are definitely on the rise, because people want results but they don’t want the commitment. Dr. Chantrey: Accessibility with clinics popping up everywhere has made it much easier. Of course, social media has played a significant role in both good and not so good ways. There’s been some excellent information available to the public helping them to make informed choices. However, with the mass marketing of before and afters, it can be very difficult to sift out the important medical points that patients need to be aware of. What reasoning do you hear from your female clients most often for them having these procedures? Dr. Gooneratne: I think we – certainly, as a group of women – are wanting to look good for longer... I’d say the majority of my patients are women in their late 30s or early 40s, and on that trajectory where they’re returning back to work to maybe an environment which is quite hostile. Because they’ve got younger competition or they may be overlooked for promotions, for
example. So, that confidence they get from how they look is a big part of it. Dr. Chantrey: I performed a large research study this year with a team of doctors where consumers and physicians were studied from 18 countries. Some of the top reasons were: They could now afford it, they saw a photo of themselves that they didn’t like and wanted to improve, major life events such as illness, post pregnancy, new job and divorce are very common prompts. Do you personally feel these procedures are helping women to gain confidence in themselves? Dr Gooneratne: It’s a funny one, because I guess if you were really confident you wouldn’t be having [treatments]. I think most of my patients, they are definitely lacking in confidence because they feel life may have taken its toll slightly – especially if they’ve had children. And they’re returning to an environment where they want to feel confident. We all feel that if we’re looking good our confidence definitely improves, so the two things go hand-in-hand. I think it’s important to not encourage, or dictate to women, how they [should] look. Dr. Chantrey: My whole personal purpose in my work is to help people develop improved self-esteem. I see first-hand how thoughtful, subtle work can help to transform self-confidence. Sadly, there is a lot of substandard work, particularly in the UK which can make people feel worse. My personal endeavour, ØNE Beauty Project, examines the self-acceptance of inner and outer beauty through meditation – we also focus on other aspects of beauty to help develop a deeper sense of authentic selfesteem.
THE VIVEVE REJUVINATION The last of these speedy procedures might come as a shock to some, but is exactly where non-surgical plastic surgery has been headed for years. Moving away from the face and outside body, this procedure focuses on the internal walls of the vagina and increasing the strength of the collagen found there using radiofrequency waves. By doing so, it’s said that women find their vaginal muscles become firmer and tighter – in some cases making sex more pleasurable and helping increase the strength of their pelvic floor when suffering stress incontinence problems, with its product pages even claiming to restore new mum’s vaginas to their pre-birth states. Whilst it may come with its benefits, the key question of why they might choose to undergo such a surgery is unignorably prominent. Are they truly choosing to increase their own sexual pleasure, and to minimise their chances of a leaky bladder? Or do they rather feel pressured into what they see as a chance to enhance their sexual performance for men, under the glare of the ever-lingering patriarchy? Speed: 30-minute procedure Pain scale: Risks involved: While this procedure could be said to be the safest of all those discussed – there aren’t any syringes or needles going into your tissues here – it’s still not without risk. Some side effects can include an elevated amount of discharge, redness, painful swelling, an overall altered sensation or sustained tingling following treatment and even infection of the area.
P H OTOG R AP H S EM ILY M ORGAN FASHION DIR ECTOR TERRI WATERS M AKE U P ELLIE YATES FA S HI ON ASSISTANT SCARLETT HATCHW ELL M ODEL N YOME NICHOLAS- W ILLIAMS
Nyom e wears r in gs TH I S STORY O p p osit e: Nyom e wears b od y TUTTI ROUG E
N yo m e we ars b o d y T UT T I R OUG E ; r i n g s T H I S S TORY
S p e c i al th an ks to A n i ta at F H I VE S t u di o
HOW I’M FI NAL LY L EA RNING TO FAL L IN L OVE WIT H M Y H AI R WORD S MICHE L L E HOP EWE LL I’ve been on a turbulent journey with my hair. A journey that I truly believe is not exclusive to me, but nonetheless has been difficult for me. You see, the experience of black girlhood into black womanhood in relation to hair is one that’s a journey full of twists and turns, high nuance and emotional triggers. Not too long ago, Netflix released the trailer for a new film that was originally based on the book by Trisha Thomas, called Nappily Ever After. It chronicles the experiences of Venus Johnston, a black woman who has it all, including the long, thick, jet black 4c hair that every young black girl has dreamed of her whole life. When life doesn’t go exactly according to plan, she finds herself chopping it all off and going on a journey of self discovery. After watching the trailer, I found myself wondering why, when I went to see my hairdresser a few weeks before, I’d not just taken the leap and buzzed everything off my head. The last couple of weeks I’ve mentioned to friends and family how my greatest desire was to chop off all my hair. But the truth behind wasn’t because I thought I would be like a badass Wakanda Warrior Woman — but because then I wouldn’t have to acknowledge the things that I knew to be true about me and my hair. For the last few months I’ve had a love — but more hate than love — relationship with my hair. It’s in the most transitional state it has ever been in, in my life. I find myself feeling completely disconnected from my hair, and sometimes that even prompts me 108
to feel disconnected from my entire body. There have been more moments of feeling completely unaligned, spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally, all because of my hair. Now I know this probably sounds quite dramatic. After all, is it not just hair? Well this is true, it is just hair. It’s not something that defines me as a person, it isn’t the be all and end all, it doesn’t make me money or maintain my relationships or further my career or bring me closer to God. But I
think it would be fair to say that men and women can have, and historically have had, volatile personal relationships when it comes to hair, on any part of the body. I don’t think there’s a human being alive that doesn’t hold experiences or memories that are exclusively about hair. Whether it grows too much (or not enough), or in places that society’s beauty standards say it shouldn’t grow, we all have connections to feelings of unworthiness or shame or rejection or pain because of hair. Through the ages what is fashionable in the black community regards to hair has been eclectic to say the least. If you’re visualizing wet perms and big puffy afro’s and corn rows and grills, you’re probably on a track — not the only track, but then again are we talking about weave tracks? I digress. Each era proceeding our original freedom and source has offered a degree of different perspectives on hair, culture and representation, but I want to discuss my personal experience with hair and most importantly, my own. When I was a little girl and first became aware that my hair was different to all the other little girls, I instantly wanted to change it. I didn’t think my hair was beautiful; already at a young age I was conditioned to accept European standards of beauty. I wanted to be able to swish my shiny hair like all the other little girls in the playground. I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted to be an English Rose. I wanted porcelain skin, but not too light — like olive, because otherwise I’d be made fun for being a ghost. I wanted to be slim, because already I was a chubbier child, and bigger than the other girls around me. I wanted a slim nose and pink lips and blue eyes and I wanted the holy grail of thick, luscious, cascading locks. The truth is, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to look like what TV and magazines and books and poetry and film and music told me was the epitome of beauty and the way to be loved and adored. I wouldn’t get those things with my kinky, coily, weird-shaped, differently-smelling, because of the numerous products it takes to care for black hair, and the constantly shrinking afro atop my head.
There are memories logged in my mind of coming home and crying on my mother’s lap because I didn’t want to look like me. My mother at the time was incredibly sick, and I felt guilt, crying onto her lap as she sat in a wheelchair, for bringing such trivial things to her… but who else can you talk to about these things as a young girl, but your mama? She told me I was beautiful too. She told me that the reason I was different is because I was so special, and that whilst the things that made me different didn’t define me, they were also worth celebrating for their individuality. This message took about 25 years for me to realise on my own, but I can’t ever say I wasn’t told, but that didn’t stop me feeling what I felt. Because my mother was sick, it meant that I didn’t always get to have those all important moments where you learn these, what I call ‘black hair tricks’. Now don’t get me wrong, I still had my hot comb moments, my sitting under the hair dryer for two hours in your auntie’s salon moments. The screaming from the burning because of the kiddie hair relaxer moments, my sitting for six hours at a time while my hair was braided moments, and then having the screaming in pain as I tried to sleep on those tight braids moments. But I didn’t actually get the blow by blow of how to care for my hair. I assumed that every other black girl and woman had had this talk, and as I got older, I became more and more ashamed to ask anyone — even my own sisters — exactly what I was meant to do to care for my hair. As I got older and entered my teenhood and straighteners became a thing, I discovered that I could in fact wear my hair ‘straighter’ in order to fit in, and wasn’t always condemned to carrying around heavy braids. So, I proceeded to create a heat damaged emo look that made me fit in with my peers, side-sweeping fringe and all. All I knew was, I would wash my hair, but only when it got too greasy to work with because I had been piling on grease and pink hair
cream. I was then straightening constantly in order for it to retain its European look, sticking to braids in the winter and then using that creamy crack in the summer. (If you don’t know what creamy crack is, I would suggest watching Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair. Creamy crack is a phrase used for relaxer, which is what some women choose to use to chemically straighten their hair so it retains a straightened look for a longer amount of time. You better believe that I was one of those girls and woman... until the last time I relaxed my hair, and it basically all fell out.) Yes, my hair became brittle and thin and I had to give up relaxers. I swore that I would never let another relaxer touch my head, even though it had been my lifeline for so many years to look like the other girls around me, but I couldn’t continue to abuse myself in that way any longer. It’s been 11 years and I am proud to say that creamy crack has not touched my hair since then — but this created another problem. I entered into the sacred world of the natural hair community. Here were all of these natural beauties, with minimal makeup, crazy long hair regimes, and textured hair that looked like it had been touched by the holy spirit to retain shape, sheen and colour. I had to be one of them; but the question was how? So fast forward to reading blogs, watching YouTube tutorial after YouTube tutorial, visiting too many hairdressers that didn’t know what they were talking about, and hiding behind braids because protective styles are really convenient ways of not dealing with your hair — not to mention your feelings about your hair — and that brings us to the present. You see, the first time that I have truly had to engage with my hair, was when I realised that I would be having to wear wigs for my job. It meant I couldn’t just be in braids or stick a hat on. It meant that I would have to personally ensure that I was taking care of my hair, and that it was in the right hairstyle to be prepped to wear a wig. This fact was daunting and initially, I wobbled, thinking, 110
let me go back to straightening my hair with relaxer so its easier to deal with, but I’m glad I didn’t fold, or there’d be even more complicated feelings. The compromise was to wear wigs in the show at work, and a wig in real life. Once again, I was safe. In fact I reasoned with myself that I had graduated to a new phase of adult black womanhood: I saved up and bought myself my first wig. I felt bougie, I felt unstoppable, and I also felt relieved that I, once again, wouldn’t have deal directly with my hair, safe for making sure that I washed it occasionally and put some kind of moisturiser on it. I’d been wearing wigs for the last two and a half years and suddenly it all came to a head; for some reason I just couldn’t do it anymore. For no reason that I could think of the time, I couldn’t imagine having to wear a wig. I wanted to be free of them. I didn’t want to be wearing one everyday, and chained to the process of having and wearing one. I couldn’t keep putting on a wig, taking off a wig, putting it on, taking it off. I couldn’t keep brushing them and washing them the same amount of time and care it took to care for the same hair on my head (that I didn’t want to deal with in the first place), and I certainly couldn’t keep dropping coin on getting whatever the most recent trend was to seem fashionable, or at least acceptable. And I also didn’t know how to order bundles from a Chinese website, get a wig cap and sew a wig myself; at 28 years of age, I had had enough. I couldn’t keep running from my hair and I couldn’t keep running from myself. I’ve noticed a pattern in my life. When I’m stressed and anxious and down and doubt myself the first thing that I neglect is my hair, which means for years I have neglected a major part of myself and how I feel about myself. I find that, even writing this down in this very moment, I’m facing a revelation. I’m looking a dragon in the eye and I’m having to stare it down, even though I feel like I have no chance of winning. There’s actually nothing wrong with wearing your hair in braids or waves or wigs or knowing
how to take care of your hair or not knowing how to take care of your hair, but I’ve reached an impasse where I know I must address what the root of the issue is, because its not just about ‘hair’. When India Arie, released the song, I Am Not My Hair, I remember singing along and feeling as if I couldn’t have identified with anything more, but now, as an adult woman, for the first time, I think of the song and its lyrics and I truly do understand them. For so long my hair has been the physical representation of all the ways that I feel a fall short as a person. It was the representation of my feelings of unworthiness, of fear, of lack of understanding, impostor syndrome, the girl that would never fit in and the one that didn’t think she was worthy of love. How many times had I secretly thought, don’t bother with your hair Michelle, no one’s looking and even if they are, it won’t make you good enough and it won’t make them love you. If I were to expose myself, my hair, then I would be the most vulnerable I had ever been. I couldn’t hide behind sass and makeup and a wig, I would have to deal with myself. I would have to accept my true self. A while back, I had a consultation with Amber Curry, hair dresser and stylist extraordinaire. I can’t remember how I first stumbled upon her on social media, but when I did I was obsessed. Her courage and strength as a human being always leaves me inspired let alone the fact that she knew what to do with natural hair — she was a unicorn to me. I booked in for an internet consultation, because she lives in the States and I’m here across the pond. We talked about actual accessible things that I could do to take care of my hair. We talked about the kind of hair I have, the lifestyle I lead, and the effects that it has on my hair directly. We talked about how to take steps to stop being afraid of my hair. We talked about the whitewashing of hair and the nuanced culture and traditions that come with having black hair. We talked about seeming and looking presentable enough to be part of society, and adhering to its beauty
standards that are exclusively targeted, and made for, white women. For the first time, I found myself being able to articulate my feelings of displacement when it comes to hair. I said that I had always felt like I’d never gotten the ‘black girls hair card’, where all the other black women knew how to lay their edges, lay their wigs or what products to use to activate those curls. Amber gave me a gift. She told me that no one, not a single black woman, hadn’t felt these same things at some point in their life, and I was shaken to my core. It seems pretty simple. It seems like common sense right? Wrong. In that moment, a light bulb literally switched on and I thought, of course, hair like every other thing in life is trial and error. It’s a process of getting to know yourself, what your hair likes and dislikes, what you like and dislike, what it responds to, what it doesn’t, what’s happening in your life and your environment, and how that directly impacts you and your hair. It’s a lesson, a constantly evolving concept, that just happens to take physical form, but has no bearing on who I am as a woman and the things that I will do as a human being to accomplish the purpose I have on this planet. So I’m learning, I’m on a new journey with my hair. It’s not perfect; I have days where I stand in front of the mirror and I cry. The little girl in me still cries because she doesn’t look like the other girls, because she cant figure out why her textured hair won’t curl like the YouTube tutorial — but I am trying to be brave. I’m trying to unashamedly embark on a journey to loving and accepting and caring for the parts of myself that I neglected when I rejected the idea of accepting and caring for my hair. I may never be a demure and beloved English Rose, but I sure as heck know that I can be a strong and sturdy — and most importantly brave — Willow Tree. Standing, tall, and being me.
M E NTA L MENTA H E ALT HEA LT H 113
HOW DO YOU TA L K ABOUT M E N TA L H E A LT H WHEN YOU H AVE N’ T GOT TH E WORDS? 114
Whether it’s your first time struggling with mental health, or your fiftieth, it’s always daunting trying to find the words to talk about it. With research to suggest over 40% of GP appointments now involve conversations about the treatment of mental health, there’s never been a better time to reach out. Know that you’re not alone in this struggle, and we’re here to help. In collaboration with mental health charity Mind, we’ve come up with a stepby-step guide to getting you talking when it feels like words escape you. With the advice of clinical psychologists and therapists alike, Mind’s mental health experts have masterminded the advice below. Together, we believe nobody should suffer in silence, and hope to help even one of you find the words you need to share your needs.
# TH EUN ED ITX MIN D
STEP 2: LEARN TO RECOGNISE YOUR FEELINGS BEFORE TRYING TO EXPLAIN THEM STEP 1: BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND RECOGNISE THE PROBLEM According to Mind, it’s best to speak to someone when you’re experiencing any of the following: “worrying more than usual, finding it hard to enjoy life, not sleeping, having thoughts and feeling that are difficult to cope with, and that are having an impact on your day-to-day life.” It’s hard to admit that we’re suffering, or that we believe we have a problem. It can often feel like we’re in life alone as we face issues with our mental health, but the most important thing you can do for yourself as you adjust is to take as much practical care of yourself as possible. “Keep trying, [and] don’t give up,” says Mind, who believe that the bad experiences we may have when trying to figure ourselves out will never outweigh the good that comes from that learning. “Planning positive ways to look after yourself while you’re waiting can help you cope. There may be something you haven’t tried yet that’s useful, [and] getting support and encouragement from people who’ve been in a similar situation can be really valuable, even if they can’t change what you’re going through.”
Turning your attention to the things happening inside of you, rather than those occurring around you, may be the most surprising advice on this list. But it is truly almost impossible to get to grips with your mental state without ignoring the things happening around you, and assessing your internal response to them instead. “Write down what you want to say in advance, and take your notes with you.” Why not try taking a piece of paper and answering the following questions: How have you been feeling lately? Has anything happened or changed in your life recently? Are you eating normally? How are you sleeping?” While these questions won’t cover everything you’re experiencing, they’re a great place to start. “If there’s anything else you want to mention – or you just need a bit more room – write it down on another piece of paper,” says Mind, and use all your notes to aid with any conversation. “Writing down responses to these questions and discussing them might help you express how you’re feeling.” Researching the symptoms you’re feeling can often help when trying to put thoughts into words. Having a look around the internet if this feels healthy for you – maybe looking through some support chatrooms or licensed medical sites, such as WebMD – can help with your own understanding of the condition you’re facing. “Highlight or print out any information you’ve found that helps you explain how you’re feeling,” says Mind; a great idea that helps you recognise your own feelings and develop a deeper understanding of them.
STEP 3: MAKE SENSE OF YOUR OPTIONS AND FIND THE COURAGE TO MAKE YOURSELF HEARD
yo u d o n ’ t h a ve t o g o th ro u gh t h i s a l o n e.
Taking the time to find what methods of communication feel best for you will help move any conversation along more smoothly. “This might be a face-toface conversation, or you might find it easier to talk on the phone or write a letter,” Mind tells us. Finding a time and a place that you know works with your circumstances is also important; “There may not be a ‘good’ time, but it can help if you’re somewhere quiet and comfortable, and are unlikely to be disturbed for a while.” The way that feels safest and most comfortable and safe is the right choice for you. “It’s common to feel worried about upsetting people you care about, and feel nervous about what people will think, or how it might affect your relationships. You may feel more comfortable opening up to friends or family, or you may find it easier to approach a professional first. There’s no right or wrong way round. But the people closest to us can often be a valuable source of support.” Learning to care for your own well-being just as much as the happiness of those you love will be integral to finding the confidence to fight for yourself.
STEP 4: APPROACH SOMEONE FOR HELP By taking each of the previous steps, you’ll soon find yourself ready for a helpful conversation. You’ll know when it’s the right time to speak up and reach out. Whether this be with someone you know or a trained professional, doing these final-step exercises will make the process easier. Mind recommends reaching out to your doctor, a trained therapist, peer support groups, student, workplace or community support services, charities and friends, family, carers or even neighbours. You don’t have to go through this alone. Talking to loved ones is a great way to start, and the charity recommends the following: “Practice what you want to say. You could do this in your head or make some notes. Phrases like ‘I’ve not been feeling like myself lately’ or ‘I’m finding it hard to cope at the moment’ might provide a starting point.” “Offer them relevant information and examples” – for example, the online descriptions you’ve liked or anything you’ve seen on TV or in a book that resonated with you. “Be honest and open. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable sharing something so personal, but explain how your feelings are affecting your life [will] help others to understand. Suggest things they could do to help. This might just be listening and offering emotional support – or there may be practical help you need.” Most importantly, Mind will always recommend you speaking to your GP. “Give yourself enough time to get to your appointment, so that you don’t feel rushed. If you have a few things
to talk about, you can ask for a longer appointment (you’ll need to do this when booking in).” And if you’ve already had this conversation with someone close to you, consider taking a friend or family member along for support. “It can be hard to talk [to your GP] about your mental health – especially when you’re not feeling well. Be honest and open, focus on how you feel [and] not on whether or not you meet a diagnosis, try to explain how you’ve been feeling over the past few months or weeks. Use words that feel natural to you – you don’t have to say specific things to get help – [and] try not to worry that your problem is too small or unimportant. Everyone deserves help.” “It’s not always easy having that first conversation about your deepest feelings with your GP, someone you may hardly know. However, it’s always okay to ask for help, even if you’re not sure you’re experiencing a specific mental health problem. Talking about your mental health at an early stage can help you to stay well. They can offer you support and treatments, make a diagnosis [and] refer you to a speciality service.”
For more information from Mind on getting support from your local GP practice, please visit: www.mind.org.uk/findthewords For further support, you contact Mind directly on:
03001 233 393 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
CA N IMPOST ER S Y ND ROM E ACT UA LLY BE A GOOD T HIN G? WORD S S A R A VE A L Imposter syndrome is a term I encountered when I entered the tech industry, during a lightning talk from a beautiful woman with blue hair. It refers to a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and is worried about being exposed as a fraud.
to individualise a structural issue, and to place the burden of responsibility at the door of the undervalued, or excluded. This only adds to the list of things that workingclass and marginalised people already have to contend with in the continuing struggle to achieve any kind of self-esteem.”
When I first heard the term, it felt like a powerful term to own. When something has a name, it can be conquered, like Rumpelstilzkin. When you begin to feel nervous and like you don’t belong somewhere or shouldn’t bother going - ah! That’s imposter syndrome. When your friend worries the same, you can tell them - don’t succumb to imposter syndrome! You deserve this! You deserve to be here! Calling out our own and each other’s imposter syndrome can be a way of empowering one another and motivate each other to keep going for it.
I had the good fortune to grow up in a strong female household, lower-middleclass, with parents who believed that I could do anything I set my mind to, so I was mostly blissfully ignorant about inequality according to my own race, class or gender. Although I am mixed-race, growing up in Nigeria, Cambodia and Tanzania, meant I had privilege and power as a foreigner.
But the truth is, we often have imposter syndrome for a good reason. It’s not a delusion - it’s a natural reaction, shaped by experiences. Even if we are amazing at what we do, if we are marginalized in some way - as women, non-binary, queer, persons of colour, working class - we will likely have had repeated experiences where we were treated as a frauds or imposters. In a recent Guardian article, Nathalie Olah, author of Steal What You Can, calls out the term imposter syndrome as “an attempt
So as I remember it, I didn’t really experience inequality until I moved back to the UK as a teenager. As one of the few people of colour at my secondary school, I was referred to as the “chinky” girl, and people sometimes spoke about me as if I couldn’t understand them or complimented me on my ability to speak good English. As I grew older, I encountered more instances of sexism. As an 18-year-old trainee reporter in Dar es Salaam, I blithely dashed around town gathering updates on cholera and was sharply brought down to earth when one of my sources tried to manipulate me into thinking I had to have a romantic relationship with him in order to get the best stories on cholera. (Yes,
really.) I remember the deep shame I felt in that moment as I tried to extricate myself from the situation. I realised someone I had assumed to respect me as a professional acquaintance, simply saw me as a naive young woman. This situation was repeated many times in my 20s and into my 30s, in different guises, from a married literary agent suggesting he could help my career in publishing if we went to dinner to another author pinching my cheeks in front of all my colleagues. Working in industries dominated by the highly privileged (privately school educated, generational wealth) also gradually opened my eyes to class inequality. But where I used to feel excluded by my lack of contacts and Oxbridge education, I’ve come to embrace it because all industries benefit from creativity, and all creativity benefits from having a diverse group of people whose different experiences can enrich one another’s perspectives - if they are willing. Imposter syndrome can be an asset, because it makes those of us that experience it
more realistic. By now we are all familiar with that statistic about how women (and by extension, most who are marginalised) tend to only apply for positions they feel completely qualified for, while men will go for it. Yet the flipside of the matter is that while women are more selective about applying for roles, they are also more likely to get the roles they apply for, as a Gender Insights Report from Linkedin reveals. So our cautiousness can be useful - we’re wasting less of our valuable time on futile endeavours. It is useful to realise that so many of the people we look up to - whether friends, colleagues or celebrities - will continue to experience what we have come to understand en masse as “imposter syndrome”. Our experiences are completely individual, as well as a likely reaction to the inequality we experience, but to get a sense that you’re not completely alone in a feeling that can hold you back from appreciating your own accomplishments or continuing to progress can be practically helpful. That’s the true value of the term.
GOT ANXI E T Y ? TIM E TO GI VE I T THE B OOT Nearly 8% of us in the UK struggle with anxiety, a disorder that pops up in our lives in many different ways. Even with an evergrowing public awareness of the issue, it’s still a struggle for some to admit they experience it. So, why are so many of us suffering in silence and trying to treat our problems solo? Continuing to talk about the reality of anxiety will only ever help, and coming to terms with your suffering can be ground-breaking when treating it. Don’t let it run, or ruin, your life. And if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered.
WORD S S C AR L E T T HATCHWEL L 120
MAKE PEACE WITH THE FACT THAT YOU’RE HAVING A HARD TIME The first step to dealing with any kind of anxiety is to recognise it, and accept that it’s having more than the average impact on your life. Although it may feel daunting to be so honest with yourself, the importance of knowing what you’re dealing with and how you’re feeling cannot be understated. Try getting a diagnosis for your kind of anxiety if you think it would be helpful.
TRY GROUNDING TECHNIQUES If you’ve not heard of these, then now’s the time to get to grips with some. Grounding techniques are little exercises that help bring our thoughts back to the present, and can work wonders when you’re in the throes of anxiety. One of our favourite techniques is to use the numbers 1 to 5 to list some sensory things surrounding you. It goes a little like this: name 5 things you can see, 4 sounds you can hear, 3 items you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 you can taste. This takes the attention away from anxious thoughts, and gives your mind something to play with until they pass.
TAKE UP MEDITATION, JOURNALING, OR ANY HOBBY THAT WORKS FOR YOU Finding a calming activity to distract your mind has proven effective when dealing with anxiety, and even with treating its symptoms when they’re absent. Take up something as simple as journaling, meditating, making time for a walk outside, having a routine date day with your friends or even knitting. The possibilities are endless, but with them, your anxiety won’t be.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF MEDICATION Too often we’re told relying on medication for help with mental health is a sign of weakness, when, in fact, it’s always a sign of strength. The health of our minds is no different than our bodies, and no one shames anyone for taking painkillers when their leg is broken – why should a broken mind not be treated the same? So, go ahead, make a doctor’s appointment to discuss your options and try some prescribed medication for your anxiety if it feels right for you.
EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS FOR HELP Anxiety’s most isolating trait is the way it convinces us we don’t need any help, and shames us into believing we don’t deserve it either. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when reaching out to others about your anxiety; be this through counselling or talking therapy, at university or a scheme at work, or even just a simple conversation with your friends and family. Just take that leap, and we promise things will feel much easier from there.
HOW D ID MILLENNIAL S B E COM E T HE T H ERAPY GE N ERAT IO N ? WOR D S T E R R I WAT E R S Millennials get a lot of stick. Did you know they’re the most lazy and entitled generation? Did you know that they’re the most in debt generation? Did you know that they’re the most educated generation? Did you know that they’re the most politically correct – Snowflake – generation? But, did you also know that they’re the most lonely generation? Or that they’re the most likely to attend therapy? According to a study by Mind Share Partners, SAP and Quantrics, it’s said that over half of millennials have left a job because of mental health issues, with 75% of Gen Z-ers having done the same. A 2018 Blue Cross Blue Shield study indicated that there’s been a 47% increase of major depression diagnoses amongst millennials since 2013. A 2017 report for the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University showed that the number of college students seeking help for mental health grew at five times the rate of new students starting college from 2011 to 2016. The figures are shocking, especially considering this is the generation that’s supposedly got it all. It’s a proven fact that Millennials, as a generation, are therapy-goers, and the numbers of those attending therapy or
counselling is on the rise. It’s the first time that therapy has been deemed as somewhat accessible, eradicating the preconceived notions that therapy was exclusive to the rich or famous. So what brings entitled Millennials to a therapist’s office? A multitude of reasons, actually, and they pretty much all stem from being a product of their own environment. Depression, anxiety and extreme levels of stress are unfortunately fairly commonplace in the Millennial psyche, with things such as burnout, extortionate living costs, outstanding student loans, the cost of childcare and healthcare adding to the pile. The Millennial generation is also plagued by perfectionism thanks to the likes of social media (not to mention parental pressures), they often seek help from therapists or life coaches when they struggle to meet their own expectations. Therapy has become a cornerstone of Millennial life. It would be wrong to say that Baby Boomers and Gen X didn’t struggle with some of these aspects too; mental health and other external factors have troubled humans for centuries. So why was therapy not an option for so many? The first reason, to put it simply, is stigma. Even now in 2019, there’s still stigma surrounding mental health, but with the conversation opening more doors
and breaking down more barriers, it’s slowly dissipating. It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that the stigmatisation of mental illness or disorders was even recognised as a scientific concept, and it was eventually established empirically in the 1970s. Prior to that, those struggling with any kind of mental health issue were openly treated as lesser members of society, with history documenting improper – and in too many cases, horrific – means of managing such individuals. It takes time for these kinds of prejudices and stigmas to break down, so it’s really no surprise that this alone would’ve stopped many people from pursuing help. A second issue revolves around money. Therapy was – and for the most part, still is – a privilege, with treatments often being too expensive for those who needed it. Combining cost with stigma and the lack of awareness around mental health as an invisible illness, people weren’t prepared to invest their time and money into their mental health because it wasn’t socially seen as something to be prioritised. Even when therapy did become more widely accepted, popular culture contributed to social misconceptions of what the process looked like by presenting therapy as laying on a leather couch talking to a well-spoken, suited white man in his seventies. Really, it’s no surprise that this combination of factors took therapy off of the table for previous generations.
discussions surrounding mental health, and subsequently, therapy, to a bigger platform and audience. The concept of going to therapy has become more normalised thanks to these conversations, and a number of celebrities have used the opportunity to talk about their own struggles and how they were able to receive help. At a time where celebrity culture is one of the most influential aspects of society as we know it, even a single tweet or Instagram post from a famous face has enough clout to generate awareness and work towards undoing the damage caused by mental health stigma. But it’s not just celebrities who are working to normalise therapy: it’s Millennials, too. Companies are taking advantage of smartphone usage to create therapy and counselling apps, catering for busy schedules and a variety of budgets. The loud call for mental health support amongst Millennials is encouraging their educators and their employers to better look out for their mental welfare, and it’s shifting the learning and working environments respectively. Normalising therapy is one of the best things that could come from our ‘trending’ culture, and it will undoubtedly show its benefits, not to mention inspire the future of mental health awareness – and that’s all thanks to Millennials. Therapy is recognised amongst this heavily-criticised generation as a tool worth utilising for their own good, even beyond their mental health. It’s no longer as a quick fix prescription and more like a long-term commitment to themselves, and other generations might just want to take a leaf out of their book.
Luckily, we live in a society now that’s trying to normalise therapy. Whilst social media can be a catalyst for so many mental health issues and the perpetuation of unattainable standards, it’s actually allowed us to take
TA K E 10 We asked our Instagram followers t o t e ll us t h e ir favo u r it e ac t o f s e lf - c a re t h at t h e y can d o in und e r t e n m in u t e s. H e reâ€™ s s o m e of t h e i r a n s we rs.
D O A 1 0 M I N U T E M E D I TATI ON • GO FOR A WALK I N N AT U RE • TA KE A B R EAT H • WRI TE I N YOU R JOU RNAL • S C RE A M • S T R E TCH • M ASSAGE YOU R JAW • SAY A FFIRMAT I ON S I N T HE M I RROR • 3 DE E P BRE ATHS RIG H T WHE N YOU WA KE U P, 2 DE E P BRE ATHS RI GHT BE FO RE B ED • CL EA R OUT YOU R I NBOX (AND JU NK ! ) • C H A N GE YOU R B ED S HE E TS • LI GHT A C ANDLE • D RIN K WAT E R • PA I N T YOU R NAI L S • SI T DOWN • TAK E A S H O R T N A P • S L OW T H I NGS DOWN FOR A M I NU TE • MA K E A HOT D R I N K IN YOU R FAVOU RI TE M U G • G O T H R OU GH OL D P HOTOS OF HAPPY M E M ORI E S • MO IS T U R I S E • T U R N YO U R PHONE OFF • DO YOU R S K IN C AR E R OU T I N E • L I STE N TO RE L AX I NG M U SI C • W RIT E DOWN E VERY T HI NG YOU NE E D TO GE T DONE IN T H E WE EK A N D B R E AK I T DOWN FOR E AC H DAY • MA K E YOU R B E D • S I T ON THE SOFA AND C LOSE YO UR E Y E S • HAVE A HOT SHOWE R • HAVE A QU I C K FAC E M A S K • P L AY S OM E GRE AT M U SI C L OU DLY AND DA N C E • P U T ON CL E A N C LOTHE S/PYJAM AS • WRI TE A L IS T OF T HI N GS YOU’RE GRATE FU L FOR • OPE N A W IN D OW A N D L ET I N SOM E FRE SH AI R • STAND IN T H E S U N • B R U S H YOU R TE E TH • M ASTU RBATE • S AY A N D T HI N K N I CE THI NGS ABOU T YOU RSE L F • E AT YO U R FAVOU R I T E S NAC K S • WATC H A YOU TU BE V ID E O • CA L L A F R I E N D OR FAM I LY M E M BE R • PLAY W IT H YOU R P ET • R U N AN E RRAND • E X FOL I ATE • T IDY UP YOU R L I VI N G S PAC E • E NJOY THE M OM E NT
H E ALT HEA LT H 127
W HAT ’S HE ALT H GOT TO DO WIT H IT ? WOR D S J U L I ET S AWY E R
When it comes to body positivity, the word ‘health’ is often thrown into the mix. The two topics go hand in hand, it seems. But actually, if we peel this movement back to its core values, it’s not about health at all. In fact, it’s rather irrelevant. But how can this be true? Every other social media post, news headline and conversation concerning body positivity seems to revolve around our health – and how the movement is supposedly threatening it. “‘Fat pride’ promotes dangerous weight levels” wrote The Guardian last year. Glamour magazine “call[ed] bullshit” on body positivity. But while these discussions are indeed taking place, if we’re honing in on how body positivity does or doesn’t affect our health, we’re ignoring the movement’s true priorities. Body positivity is about claiming your characteristics. It’s about embracing aspects like your weight, shape, skin colour, and gender, and owning them. Yes, I am fat. Yes, I do wear plus sized clothing. That’s who I am and I accept myself. Somebody who ate donuts for lunch can say that just as easily as somebody who had a quinoa salad, and neither of them would deserve any less respect. Because above all else, that’s what it’s about: respect. The body positivity movement isn’t about healthiness – it’s so much bigger than that. It gives a voice, confidence and clarity to those who don’t have the privileges we often
overlook. This movement is about giving space and respect to bodies that go beyond white, cis, able bodied social narrative. It’s about being equal. But nevertheless, too many people are ignoring that. They’ve turned the place into a firing range. While they squabble over the health debate that overshadows this social movement, however valid they claim their points may or may not be, they don’t acknowledge the fact that this isn’t the place to make them. We all know perfection is a social construct. You can live quite happily outside of society’s idea of ‘perfection’ and still be just as perfect. How? Because perfect doesn’t exist, nor would it actually matter even if it did. ‘Perfect’ or not, you’re no less of a person. Fat or thin, you should be treated equally. Big or small, nobody can stop you from loving yourself. You deserve that right. The ways in which we define people aren’t simply opportunities to degrade them. Your size or health, or whatever it may be, is not a measurement of how much respect you are entitled to, or how deserving you are of a safe place in society. You aren’t any less valid just because you made less healthy choices today than you did yesterday. You aren’t lower down the social hierarchy if you chose not to exercise today – or ever. You had seconds after your dinner? Seriously, who gives a fuck. If we’re talking about health, we have to remember that such a subject is pretty
bo dy p os i t i vi t y isn’t a b o ut he a lt h . t hi s m ove me nt is a bo ut g i vi ng sp a c e a nd re s p e ct to b o di e s t ha t g o be yond t h e wh i t e, cis , a b le - bo di e d soc i a l na rra t i ve . tainted in today’s society anyway, and that society’s idea of what the picture of health is, is deeply ableist. And that’s something that the movement wants us to realise. We dictate our healthiness on measurements like BMI, or a number on a set of scales, which is, to use the technical term, a load of bollocks anyway.
movement wants us all to understand is that, overweight or not, it doesn’t make you a bad person. As you gain weight, you do not lose respect or a valid place in today’s world. When it comes to loving, supporting, and accepting people, that applies to everyone. Big, small, fat, or thin. Able bodied, disabled, white, non-white, cis or transgender. It doesn’t bloody matter. You could be everything society doesn’t want you to be, and not only would that be completely fine, but you haven’t actually given anything up. You have the same value. Perhaps it’s obvious, but body positivity is about being positive towards bodies. All of them. You can love and accept your body, whichever form it takes. Scream it from the damn rooftops. However you look and whoever you are, you are allowed to exist as you are without guilt, shame, or discrimination. People can throw health related rants at anybody who doesn’t resemble the norm, but the argument itself is still obsolete. Health only touches the surface layer of a movement much bigger, bolder, and braver than they care to realise.
BMI (Body Mass Index) calculates your ‘healthy’ weight by comparing your height and bodyweight. And while that may seem logical, it’s not actually that accurate. BMI doesn’t take into account bone density, overall body composition, and racial and sex differences. It doesn’t tell us where in the body fat is stored, as areas such as your boobs are obviously going to contain more fat than, say, your feet. It’s a highly flawed concept invented by a bunch of white dudes in suits. This also explains why the number on your bathroom scales can be misleading. Don’t assume that you’re unhealthy just because some outdated (and totally incorrect) measurement said so. Weight doesn’t equate to health. What the body positivity
HOW TO ADVO CAT E FO R YOURSE L F AT T H E D OC TO R S WOR D S IM OGEN F OX Being in regular contact with medics due to a new or ongoing health condition or impairment can be a confusing and unsettling time. The reality of health care in the UK at the moment is cold and disheartening. Despite the fact that the services is undoubtedly filled with many warm, hard working individuals who want the best for the people they support, the stark truth is that they are fire fighting and have little time to invest in the true care they went into their role wanting to provide. Interacting with your doctor shouldn’t be more painful than the reason you’re there, no one wants to spend hours banging their heads against a wall – so here are a few things you can do to make advocating for yourself a little less stressful.
REMIND YOURSELF THAT YOU ARE WORTHY I could write you a long list of really handy tips that might help you navigate medical appointments, but if you don’t feel like you’re worthy of that person’s time, they won’t be much use to you. I know it can feel impossible, especially when we live in such an ableist society, but you are worthy of good health care. This reminder is the first thing I think to myself before attending any medical appointment – it’s almost like a shot of steroids to build me up before I go into the ring.
PREP What is it you need from this appointment? Spend a little time thinking about what you want to convey, ask or understand and write it down. Appointment time is limited, so focus on just a couple of things. Long rambling stories about how your aunt Lily’s cat had something similar won’t help anyone. Your medic needs you to get straight to the point and you want them to do the same. These days, I make a short list of no more than three or four things that I need to talk to them about; the bigger the questions the shorter the list. It’s helped me to prioritise exactly what it is I need, and in turn that helps my medic support me in the best way possible.
TAKE A TEAM MATE Appointments are confusing, you spend hours in a stuffy waiting room only to be in and out of the doctors office in what feels like seconds. Take someone with you. Someone who will make you laugh, who you’re comfortable with knowing your medical situation, and who will laugh off seeing your cervix. I take one of about three people (never family), all of whom have blow dried my knickers in public bathrooms.
meant that my care became collaborative, rather than my hanging on their every word waiting for them to fix whatever it was I was seeing them about.
Our bodies are complex and so are our minds. I spent many years absolutely horrified at any suggestion that stress or mental health might play any part in my impairment, angry at the suggestion, I disengaged in care that could have saved me significant pain and hardship.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH It can feel almost impossible to go into that room feeling like you know best, but this is your casual reminder that you aboslutely do. This is your appointment. It’s about your medical situation. Talking about your body. Doctors are in habits, they do the same things over and over – it’s easy to slip into thinking that they’re running the show, but they don’t. I had to practice driving the consultation at my own speed, interrupting when I was unsure or saying no when I didn’t want to do something. You’re behind the gear stick, so use it.
YOUR DOCTOR IS A PERSON Okay, not all of them, but most of them. They are not all knowing beings and they don’t hold all the answers. The reality is they could be going through a horrible divorce, nursing their kids through cancer, or struggling with their own mental health issues. Show them the compassion you want to receive and remember that they’re not God. I found striking up solid relationships with my medics drastically increased the likelihood of receiving good care; it also
Be real about what’s happening for you, including the stress and anxiety you’re likely experiencing. No one is out to trip you up or judge you. Leave your own preconceptions at home; treatment isn’t always surgeries and drugs (in fact, sometimes those are far more harmful than helpful). Talk everything over and remember you don’t have to consent to anything there and then.
END THE DAY WITH SOME JOY I know so many of you will have to go back to work, or back to your bedrooms. If at all possible, find a way to take a little glimmer of joy home with you. Have the hot chocolate with the cream on, binge watch vintage Great British Bake Off or let your best friend hold you while you have a good sob if that’s what you need. Finish up the day knowing that this is just a moment in time, memories will fade, life will carry on and nothing stays the same forever.
W HY IS IN VISIBL E I LLNES S S T IL L FACED W IT H S UC H ST I GM A? WOR D S T E R R I WAT E R S It’s said that 96% of illnesses are invisible. Let that sink in for a second. That means, that for every ten illnesses that are diagnosed, at least nine of them aren’t visible to the human eye. Given that’s the kind of figures we’re working with, it begs the question as to why invisible illnesses still aren’t taken seriously by society. Despite being something that affects so many people, why does society allow there to be so much stigma surrounding it? And how do these stigmas impact those living with an invisible illness? What is invisible illness? To put it simply, it’s an illness, disability, or other chronic condition an individual can suffer from that doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in a physical – or visible – way. The vast majority cannot be seen at all, and, whilst some invisible illnesses can present themselves in some physical capacity on occasion, they’re not something that can be immediately noticeable. The main problem when it comes to the stigma surrounding invisible illness comes entirely down to lack of awareness. For the most part, we’re socially conditioned to believe that all disabilities are visible, like someone disabled would immediately be a wheelchair user, for example. This is as a result of imagery that’s presented to us, such as the wheelchair symbol on the doors of accessible toilets, or even on the front of Blue Badges (permits that allow more accessible permits to those
with disabilities). Whilst its symbolism is universal, it’s majorly outdated, and further perpetuates the idea that we can physically see all disability. It encourages the black-and-white thinking that there are two groups of people: physically disabled, and completely able-bodied, which, of course, couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, a few years back, Invisible Illness Awareness Week took a look at data from the 2002 US Census Bureau and acknowledged that 73% of Americans living with a severe disability didn’t use a wheelchair, cane, or other form of mobility apparatus. These ways of thinking further stem from merely not understanding the complexities of invisible illness, whether that be as a result of society’s expectations of a seemingly ablebodied person, or the way in which such conditions can wildly fluctuate from day to day. It’s also important to recognise that stigma is also upheld by prejudice; ableism continues to be a massive problem within our society, and the levels of expectation and ignorance around ability is shocking. Those living with invisible illness experience the full brunt of this stigma. One of the most common things that people with an invisible illness describe is the fear of not being believed, both in society and by medical professionals. In society, people are regularly accused of faking their symptoms or attention-seeking, which ultimately encourages them to remain silent about their struggles, and in medical environments, many people don’t receive
73% of a me ri c a n s living wi t h a s eve re disab i li t y d o n’t use a whee lc ha i r, c a ne , or ot he r form o f mobil i t y a p p a ra t us . treatment for extensive periods of time as a result of feeling the need to prove their illness or disability to their doctors, nurses, or consultants in order to be believed. There’s also plenty of other things that get overlooked, for example any assistance or aid you may require, whether it be on a daily or occasional basis. A wheelchair user may have more obvious requirements, such as needing help reaching something from the top shelf in a supermarket. And yet, when it comes to people who don’t ‘look’ disabled, people don’t give time or consideration for what their needs may be.
with fibromyalgia or a similar condition that causes pain flare-ups, they might be met with, “but you were fine yesterday..?” People living with ME or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) might be greeted with “How can you be tired? You’ve only just woken up.” There are a million more examples, but it illustrates the point of how invisible illness or disability is rarely treated the same way as one that’s visible. Invisible illness also often – unfortunately – attracts unsolicited advice, namely from those who believe that someone’s illness can be fixed with a mere lifestyle change. This just goes to show how little regard there is for invisible illness, especially as the same people would think absolutely nothing of going to their doctor for treatment of an ailment that presented itself with physical symptoms. In short: it’s the same thing. Invisible illnesses are just as important to manage and treat as their visible counterparts, and those living with them shouldn’t be left to worry about being dismissed, judged or criticised by society. It can impact all aspects of life, and the stigma surrounding it only makes living with it harder for people. There’s a multitude of facets surrounding the topic of invisible illness and disability, and there are plenty more conversations that need to be had to give people who live with it the respect and understanding that they deserve.
Social impressions and attitudes play a large part in people fighting through their symptoms in silence, or worsening their condition by trying to do things that aggravate it, in a bid to be seen as unfussy, or ‘fine’. This in itself reinforces ableist ideals, but for many with invisible illness, they see it as something they have to do in order to survive. Under the same umbrella, there are throwaway, ignorancebased comments. For someone living with depression, someone might tell them to “cheer up” or “get out more”. For someone
I D ENT E NT IT Y 135
SEX UALIT Y: W H AT IS T H ER E TO PROVE? WORD S E SS I E D EN N I S I often make the joke that I grew up straight amongst my queer friends. It is usually a joke which distinguishes those of us who were out to those of us who weren’t. It also distinguishes who could hide and who could not. Those who didn’t “look” queer. Of course, these jokes can only be made in a setting where a group of queer people understand the nuances of queerness and respect the differences. However, they also rely on an understanding of how a heteronormative society sees queerness, and how we then must navigate our identity. To be visibly queer is to know that you are a target to someone, somewhere, so growing up, it can seem logical to hide parts of yourself away for fear of what will be done to you if you don’t. When I make the joke “I grew up straight”, it does not refer to my sexuality, but to how I could assimilate into a heteronormative culture. This assimilation however, has also caused a sense of reduction, a sense of not quite belonging. It took me years to identify with the label “queer” as queerness felt like something I could not aesthetically fit with. As a bisexual woman, there were a number of queer stereotypes – both from the LGBTQA+ community and an overarching heteronormative society – that did not refer to me. I felt like a fraud. My body was all curves. I thought I had to be thin to be a queer woman. All the queer women I saw represented were thin. Inherent fatphobia within our society does not only affect cishet women, but women within the LGBTQA+
community also. I never wanted to use the word femme to describe myself as my own gender presentation can be fluid, yet femme is what I was assigned. Even within queer communities, we have to reconcile with binaries: femme and butch being the one I have struggled with. Femininity in queer communities is often such a difficult concept to navigate. When I was younger, I did not know there was a difference between gender identity and gender presentation. I didn’t know how to reconcile the feelings of both being a girl and wanting to present more masculine at times. A problem I have realised, after talking with other femme queer women, is that femininity is inherently considered a consumable product for cis-het men. Femininity is complex yet frequently reduced into cis-het terms. Many femme presenting queer people are often not taken seriously in straight spaces, yet treated like they don’t belong in queer spaces. Assumed heterosexuality is so vital to the way our society currently functions, that if you don’t go out of your way to show some kind of visible queerness, you, by default, are straight. Somehow, this even filters into the LGBTQ+ community. It’s these standards that begin to create a culture of “not queer enough”. It brings up questions of who this definitive queer person is, what they look like, and what they represent. As a bisexual woman who has dated men, I have seen countless suggestions
that bisexual people in het-coded relationships have no business at Pride and should not bring their straight partners. Almost every queer woman I have spoken to has been asked the age old question: “which one is the man in the relationship?” or have faced the ridiculous remark, “you are too pretty to be gay”. They are hounded to prove their validity as a queer person. I am forced to continually question people: do you need to see my sexual history before I can be let into Pride? How do you know that a het-coded couple are not queer – one or both could be trans or bi or pan? Why is a relationship between two women considered so inherently vacuous that they must prove their affection in public? Many queer people, myself included, express that coming out is an ongoing process. I personally find this exhausting but unfortunately necessary. Regardless of the pressures within our own communities, the nature of our society means we are continually assumed to be cis-het until told otherwise. There is often a sense of having to prove yourself, validate yourself. People often want you to be one thing, one category so you can be easily defined.
WHAT’S IN A NOUN? My lover’s I is nothing like your you That second person can’t contain their grace. Think not of he or she for someone who Only among the plural can find space. The spacious word, the universal they, Encapsulates my lover to a tee; Because, you know, it is my lover’s way That gendered pronouns would not let them be. Some say that we are not to use these words If they be right then to be wrong is bliss, For I would fight a thousand grammar nerds To gain the favour of my lover’s kiss. Perhaps it’s wrong but I know in my soul For them it is the only way they’re whole.
Since becoming more involved in LGBTQ+ activism, I find myself being told time and time again that people feel as though they don’t belong in queer spaces. It can be for many different reasons and can stem from many different places. It is something that I believe needs to be addressed more openly. However, ultimately, it brings up the same question over and over again, a question that I tend to pose to both myself and others: What is it you feel you have to prove and why?
B ELFA ST
CAR DIF F
C OR N WA LL
THESE ARE THE UK INITIATIVES HELPING LGBTQA+ YOUTH WOR D S + GR A P H I C S J U L I ET SAWYE R HIGHLAND LGBT FORUM (INVERNESS) Based in Inverness, they provide social events and outdoor activities for the local LGBT+ community. They heavily campaign for fair treatment of LGBT+ people, working closely with national and local companies. LGBT HEALTH AND WELLBEING (EDINBURGH + GLASGOW) This Scottish charity was formed in 2003 with the aim of supporting the wellbeing and raising the voices of those in the LGBT+ community. CARA-FRIEND (BELFAST) Cara-Friend was set up back in 1974 to provide confidential support for the LGBT+ community in a country that only recently legalised same-sex marriage. They run youth groups in various places across Northern Ireland and worked on the LGBT+ inclusive schools programme. MERMAIDS (LEEDS) Mermaids support gender variant and trans children, young people and their families. People can reach out to Mermaids through their regular meetups or by contacting their helpline. They work hard to reduce suicidality and self-harm rates within the young people contacting them. AKT (MANCHESTER, LONDON + NEWCASTLE) Akt was formed in 1989 to help homeless LGBT+ youth. The charity can step in as a safe environment for those with violent, hostile and abusive home lives, while also helping people to find emergency accommodation.
UMBRELLA HEALTH (BIRMINGHAM + SOLIHULL) This sexual health clinic offers free sex education and relationship support for the LGBT community. You don’t need to see a GP before coming here and everyone is welcome. Their services are discreet and speedy – for instance, HIV tests can be done in 60 seconds. IMPACT LGBT (CARDIFF) Impact provides a comfortable space for young people who identify as LGBTQ+ between the ages of 13 to 21. They hold meetings on Thursday evenings. OUTSTORIES BRISTOL This is a community history group which shares the stories of LGBT+ people living in or associated with the Bristol area. They shed light on stories within their community in the form of writing, video and audio work. ALLSORTS YOUTH PROJECT (BRIGHTON, HORSHAM, CHICHESTER, WORTHING) Allsorts provide a non-judgemental, safe space for young people to be themselves. X-PLORE (DEVON) X-Plore provide a range of activities for LGBTQA+ youth. They have weekly meetups (Wednesdays in Barnstaple, Thursdays in Exeter) and offer a safe space for young people to talk confidentially. YOUNG AND YOURSELF (YAY) (CORNWALL) YAY run services ranging from film nights in Truro, to gender identity sessions. Those seeking help are welcome to attend their drop-in sessions between 2-4pm. 139
W HAT HAP P E N S W HEN YOU R F I VE Y E AR PLAN GO E S U P I N S MOKE? WOR D S T E R R I WAT E R S
I had it all sussed out. I was going to be engaged at 26, married at 27, a mother at 30, and completely financially stable in my dream job long before that. Fast forward to now, I’m six months shy of my 27th birthday. My long-term relationship ended a year ago, I didn’t get engaged at 26 (thus pushing back the whole marriage thing), and the only child I currently see myself with at 30 is my dog. Oh, and to top it all off, financial stability feels like a pipe dream. You could probably say things haven’t quite gone according to plan. But this isn’t a pity party. I’m describing the downfall of my five-year plan because I know that I’m far from the only person that this has happened to. We live in a world where something like planning our life out in front of us seems so rational in theory, yet when things don’t pan out quite right, what happens? Half of the problem is that most of us live our lives based loosely on expectations. Whether they’re that of society, our family, our friends, our significant other(s), or even of our own, so many people find that marching to the beat of your own drum is great – but only if you’ve got a plan. When it comes to life, we all have our own ideas of what make up our milestones, but the way in which we live generally comes down to two main pillars: the age at which we do things, and the order in which we do
them. As individuals, we rank and prioritise different things that make up our ‘perfect life’, and then we set to work on how we go about bringing them to fruition. The burden of this falls disproportionately upon women, thanks to the societal concept of your ‘biological clock’, and we’re taught that life is made up of a series of windows. If we enjoy ourselves too much – or for too long – without a partner, we’re scared into believing that all the ‘good’ ones will be taken and we’ll never settle down if that’s what we want. If we work too hard or take our careers too seriously, we’re scared into believing that we’ll miss our shot as a mother if that’s what we want. We see the pressures that are ultimately placed on women everywhere from the privacy of a conversation amongst friends, where your friend is worrying about her future, to popular culture, where the fictional single supernova Bridget Jones has become the poster woman for the “tragic spinster”, eventually beating her biological clock to the punch. There’s no wonder that when this kind of social strain is applied to our own life, and our future as we see it shifts trajectory, sheer panic ensues. Similar to diet culture, when things fall apart, the blame falls on us, the individual, rather than society or the external factors that contributed to it. Our mindset
© MI RAMAX F I L MS 2 003
immediately shifts to failure mode, we begin to pick holes in ourselves. Life is a pretty hefty thing to have supposedly ‘failed’ at. As I’ve seen my friends and I all find ourselves in similar situations, all living completely different lives, but none of them going quite as scheduled, I’ve witnessed existential crises and total breakdowns – and I know we’re not the only ones. Whilst a meltdown of that calibre can feel hard to wriggle free from, having to go back to the drawing board isn’t the worst thing that could happen. If anything, it’s a blessing in disguise, even if you feel like you’ve just watched your hopes and dreams smoke themselves up the chimney.
person you were when you first set your milestones; in fact, it would be worrying if you were. Evolving is natural, expected, and it’s a huge part of navigating the big, wide world. We’ve been socially conditioned to think that we need to do everything at the right time and in the right way, but really, the only person who can make the decision on what’s right is you. Your five year plan is just that: a plan. Whether you put pen to paper, or just stored it mentally, it’s just a plan. And if you think about it, enough plans in life have gone tits-up before now, and you came out unscathed, more often than not with a better plan of action than you had in the first place. So if you’ve found that life has taken a detour that you weren’t quite anticipating, think of it as an opportunity to undergo an audit. Wiping out any preconceived ideas of what life should look like for you – which can sometimes just be a reflection of others – and focusing on the things that you want rather than what you feel obliged to have, you’ll find that you’ll create a life for yourself that’s goes beyond what you could have ever imagined. And if you’d rather no plan at all, taking it one day at a time can work out pretty damn great, too.
The real reality, when it comes down to it, is life would be really bloody boring if we were to do everything by the book. Unless it’s a bedside unit from IKEA, you don’t need to follow the instructions, and the world won’t end as a result of things going off-script. Waving goodbye to the plan you set yourself five, ten, even 15 years ago shows strength in adversity, growth and development, and proves the most important lesson of all: change is inevitable. No, you’re not the
WHO AR E YOU R FAB FI VE ? WORD S S CA R L ET T HATCHWE LL Science says that every person on this planet becomes the average of their closest five friendsâ€™ personalities at some point in time. The five-friend-theory is nothing new either, with experts around the world advising on how you should select these people, social media memes telling you the names they should take and the reboot of Queer Eye making it look more appealing than ever. The theory becomes important to us in the way it shows us the kind of external input we need to live our happiest lives.
These specific types of friends may come into your world for a reason, a season or a lifetime, but their impact on your life will always remain the same. As each of these five friends shape us, we become them for others too. Appearing in many different ways at many different times, we all wear different hats at different places in our journeys â€“ why should the friends accompanying us on our trips around the sun not do the same? So who are the five friends who impact us the most?
THE INSPIRED This first friend is the one who always sees the beauty in life, and in yourself too. They inspire you to go out into the world and make a path for yourself that feels right, and you aspire to have a more positive outlook on life yourself after being around them. Often, their go-get‘em attitude reminds you of the opportunities you are capable of creating for yourself in this world, and they might also highlight to you some opportunities of life that hidden right under your nose. Their uplifting nature makes them a pleasure to be around, and leaves you feeling at ease after every meeting. The Inspired is a great friend to have in life simply for the way they look at the world, and how they are happy to share that great positivity with you.
THE PASSIONATE Passionate, fiery friends are bloodline of anyone’s life. These are the people who love deeply and vocally, with both tough and unconditional love simultaneously. They want more than anything else for you to feel good about yourself in every way possible, and to love yourself enough that you too become passionate towards what the universe has in store for you. However, this type of platonic true love is not all roses and self-assuring compliments. They respect you and your needs far too much for that. Instead, they love you enough, and care about your life and wellbeing enough, to give you the emotional honesty and reality checks that we all need from time to time. The Passionate is a friend your life will always need, and when they are missing you can often times feel as though your little world is lacking something. In these instances, don’t forget to be your own biggest cheerleader through it all.
THE MOTIVATED In a way different to The Inspired, The Motivated is a friend that will also show you new ways to live life – only this time, they’ll be bringing a little discipline and practical advice to the table. This is someone who has goals in their life and often meets them, motivating you to
strive to do the same. Watching a person so close to you achieving all they want from life – and maybe more – can do wonders for the negative self-chatter than oftentimes tell us we’re not capable of achieving all we dream of in life. If they can do it, and do it so well, what’s to say there’s truly no chance of you doing the same? Their drive to succeed and do well for themselves, in all areas of life and not just in the workplace, will drive you to want better for yourself. Who knows, maybe they’ll even help you find the courage to go out there and make that better life for yourself without you even realising?
THE GRATEFUL This is a friend who boosts your appreciation, both for life and for your own being. It’s someone who shows you how lucky they feel to be in your life, and shows you how lucky you both are to be living and sharing everything you have – both together and individually. By reminding you of all there is to be thankful for, over time you yourself will come to resemble your grateful friend in many new ways. Sometimes, without us noticing, their wonder for life rubs off on us and can change even the most stubbornly pessimistic of minds.
THE OPEN-MINDED Lastly, The Open-Minded is the friend that will challenge your whole belief systems if you open up enough to let them. This is someone who makes no ills or qualms of trying to lift your mind up, but makes it clear that an open outlook on life is truly the best to have. This is a person who pushes your boundaries and wants only the best for you. They want you to be happy however you are, with no care for how you or your friendship may look to the outside world. Always, they’ll encourage you to throw away any idea of what society deems normal and live the exact way you feel happiest living. They’re here to remind you, if it’s not hurting anyone else then there’s no harm in liking anything outside the ordinary. With The OpenMinded by your side, you’ll find new, out-ofthe-box solutions to your problems and you’ll feel encouraged to learn and experience as much from life as you possibly can. 143
C A REERS CA 145
S IST ERS AR E DO I N G I T FOR T HE M SELV ES SARA V EA L ta lks to th re e insp irational wome n about d es i gn i n g th e i r c a re e rs a ro und wh o the y are and what mat t ers t o th e m .
ANJALI RAMACHANDRAN DIR ECTOR OF STORYTH INGS CO- FOU NDER OF ADA’S LIST
“I ’M FOR TU NATE TO BE ABLE TO WOR K A N D DO A BUNCH OF TH INGS THAT GE N UINELY INTER EST M E IN DIFFER ENT WAYS, SO FOR M E IT’S ALL ABOU T KE E PING BALANCE IN LIFE.” Anjali is a director at content studio Storythings, which specialises in telling complex stories and a co-founder for Ada’s List, an online forum where women in tech can talk off the record about professional and personal technology-related topics as a closed community of women. She began her career in international development and moved to advertising and technology, originally joining Storythings as a freelancer. Storythings creates content such as podcasts and videos for clients such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. One project is Nevertheless, a podcast for Pearson Education about women changing teaching and learning through technology. “Putting human stories first, for people who have interesting, complex stories to tell - not stories or messages that can be communicated in a 30-second ad,” says Anjali. Nevertheless tackles issues that are challenging to talk about. The show has featured survivors of Columbine and Parkland, and has investigated financial inclusion and identity in Brazil, examining how those who fall through the cracks reinvent their lives and gain access to credit. 146
As Head of Innovation at an advertising agency, Anjali encountered many start-ups. This led her to co-found Ada’s List in 2013, which aims to help women help one another up the career ladder so they can collectively change the tech industry for the better. Ada’s List, which has 7,000+ members, encourages women to celebrate their success and does not allow promotion of unpaid internships. Anjali recommends avoiding working for free because it contributes to an uneven playing field. She advises building inclusivity into your business from the beginning, and not seeing it as something that can be added later. Anjali believes that remote and flexible working is integral to achieving gender equality - she mostly works remotely, using technology to communicate effectively with her team at Storythings and her co-founders at Ada’s List. Her key to juggling so many projects is to avoid seeing everything she does as distinct from one another.
yo u ’ll n e e d t o be dis ciplin e d a n d orga n is e d, b u t it’s a ll a c hieva ble .
“Otherwise there’s always a pressure of having to do project A versus project B, and soon you begin to feel the toll of it.” Being an entrepreneur means being prepared to do everything. “Literally everything: from picking up the phone and cold calling people, to ordering food, pitching to venture capitalists, applying for grants, thinking about your company strategy, taking care of the people you employ, working on the product - you’ll have to live life at the coalface,” Anjali says. “That will also therefore be made much easier if you work on things you enjoy. There will be ups and a lot of downs, you’ll need to be disciplined and organised, but it’s all achievable. Take care of your mental health and don’t lose sight of the larger goal.” 147
FR EELANCE P R ODU CER , BOOK ACTIVIST AND P ODCASTER “I T ’S BEEN R EALLY GOOD TO M AKE MY WOR KING LIFE WOR K AR OU ND M Y N AT U R AL INCLINATIONS R ATHER THAN T RY I NG TO FIT M Y NATUR AL INSTINCTS I N TO A WOR KSPACE ENVIR ONM ENT.” Leena has been freelancing for four years, alongside full-time roles in publishing. Since May, she freelances around a part-time role as a producer at Vintage Books. She describes her day-today as a patchwork quilt - creative writing backstage for big brands, making video trailers, interviewing authors at festivals. PH OTO CRAI G SI MM O N D S
Her main motivation as a freelancer is having the time to do the things that no one would commission her to do - writing her first novel, writing poetry and creating thoughtful video essays on topics such as censorship in China and the treatment of obesity in magazines. Although she always found the traditional nine-tofive work environment counterproductive, Leena was cautious about taking the plunge. She realised although many of her contacts made freelancing look fun and easy, they often had secret sources of financial support. This wasn’t an option for Leena, who created a twoyear plan to transition from working full-time to freelancing, as she built up her savings, contacts and confidence. “As you get better at what you do, and you progress through an industry, you become more confident in your ability to do things, even if you’re not confident in the market itself.” Throughout her transition from full-time to freelance, Leena has experienced mostly ups. She has more time to look after herself and to work in a way that suits her. Leena notes that even salaried roles don’t equate to job or financial security.
w h e n yo u l ove so m e t hi n g , yo u wa n t to m ake s u re it kee ps hap p e n i n g . “Even if you’re incredible at what you do, no one has job security, so if it’s also making you really unhappy and it’s not actually job security, there is a revision to be made there.” Part of Leena’s security comes from her Patreon. Leena has been using Patreon for three years but only became more vocal about it a year ago. She sees her Patreons as micro-investors, which makes them more reliable than any employer or client. Leena doesn’t tend to make exclusive content for her Patreons. She believes that the people who might benefit from her content might not necessarily pay for it in the first instance, and that the people who already support her might be interested in helping her continue to create. “My content can be free because other people are paying for it. Anyone sensible knows that it takes time to make things and time can be money. How I talk about it, is really how I believe it is. I’m not ashamed to ask,” she says, citing Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking. Leena recognises that she has the privilege of a supportive family in the Midlands that she could go and live with if things did go wrong. However, she remains motivated to sustain her career as a freelancer -- “I really like London and I don’t want to leave it” and aims to improve her financial management on a more complex level. “When you love something, you want to make sure it keeps happening.” 149
FRE E LANCE JOUR NALIST, BODY- P OSITIVE A DVOCATE AND AWAR D- WINNING BLOG GER “I DON’T TH INK I COU LD SUR VIVE A S A FR EELANCER WITHOU T SOCIAL ME D IA. IT’S BEEN A HUG E TOOL TO M E FI N DING WOR K OR WOR K FINDING M E. I ’M M YSELF ON THER E, I TALK ABOU T T HI NGS I’M PASSIONATE ABOU T.” Stephanie is a content creator, working with brands on an influencer level to create video and photo content. She has been blogging for ten years and went freelance in November 2018. She recently rebranded her awardwinning Nerd About Town blog to StephanieYeboah. com. She studied law at university and her first roles were in healthcare, but through her blog, she became interested in brands behind-the scenes. Her blog enabled her to land PR and marketing roles despite her lack of formal marketing experience, as it showed off multiple relevant skills. “Throughout it all, it was my blog that helped me get my foot in the door,” Stephanie says. Her last full-time role was as a press executive until her role was made redundant last November - with no redundancy package as she’d been there less than two years. “The first three months were very difficult... but I have such a passion for what I do that I wanted to go for it and pursue it,” she says. By the fourth or fifth month, her situation began to improve. She announced she was going to stop blogging so she could find a full-time role again and two weeks later won blogger of the year at the Blogosphere awards. The award helped her find an agent, and her profile has been steadily increasing. Stephanie recognises that social media has been instrumental in building her profile and creating work opportunities. She sees her blog, Twitter and Instagram as a portfolio.
The best opportunity so far has been getting a book deal with publisher Hardie Grant, to write a book that explores the original black radical roots of the body positivity movement. “To be asked to write a book is mindblowing. My writing must be affecting people in a positive way,” Stephanie says. Besides planning, saving and having a pitch deck, Stephanie recommends tenacity. “Don’t take no for an answer, especially if you’re in an industry where you may think that people who look like you are used to hearing no. Break a window or find your niche.”
the f i rst th re e m o nt hs [ o f free lan c i n g] we re ve r y d i f f i c u l t ... bu t I h a ve su c h a p as s i o n fo r w h at I d o t h a t I want ed to go fo r it and pu rsu e i t . 151
SHOULD YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR SALARY? LET T WO O F OUR E X PE RT S C ONVINCE YOU WHY M ONEY SHOU LD B E T H E WO R D ON E VE RYON E ’S LIP S.
ELENA AUSTIN-WILLIAMS OF THIS GIRL TALKS MONEY It’s undeniably one of the most awkward topics for Brits, but I firmly believe we need to start having open discussions about what we earn amongst family, friends and colleagues. Money is a highly emotive subject – the feelings of embarrassment when we earn more than we feel we deserve, or the shame when we feel we don’t earn as much as our peers being just some examples. This lack of openness around salaries is problematic for many reasons. Most of us believe in equal pay, which has been proven in recent years to be a distant dream in both the public and private sectors. Yet, how can we expect to achieve equal pay when we don’t know what our friends, family or colleagues earn? How can we know what we are – or aren’t – entitled to without being open about our own personal circumstances? Social media influencers regularly comment on the lack of transparency in the industry, but I’ve yet to see someone volunteer their accounts to be broadcast online.
spend. For many women, thoughts about money lead quickly to debt. But before we can open the conversation around debt comfortably – something we need to do to start tackling the vast mental health issues that come with it – we need to be able to talk about income. Trying to tackle one without the other is like trying to walk in a straight line blindfolded. The reality is that everyone is in a unique situation when it comes to money, and salary is only a small part of the wider picture. By starting to have frank conversations about money, I have found my friends opening up about far more than their finances. Money isn’t an isolated issue for anyone, yet our inability to talk about it often isolates those who are struggling most. Especially those with other related issues, who truly fear bringing up the topic of money. Talking about money will only become more comfortable the more we normalise it.
Yes, we have a right to privacy, but sometimes positive change requires uncomfortable action. I strongly believe that in the case of equal and fair pay, transparency is the only way forward.
Some people will put up barriers and won’t partake in the discourse; don’t let this deter you. Be open and sensitive to the discussion. Above all, remember that salary is by no means reflective of someone’s financial situation. You can earn £100k and be in £10k of debt. You can earn £25k and be a homeowner with no mortgage.
I am passionate about empowering women to manage their money confidently, and this involves talking about both what we earn and what we
You’ll never know what’s going on beneath those numbers, but through being more open and transparent we’ll soon start to understand them a little better.”
SADE TAIWO OF THE PENNY PAL Speaking openly about salaries in the workplace can definitely be something that is looked down upon by those higher up. I think the true reason for this is because if there was complete transparency, people would have to be paid what they’re worth instead of what their company has budgeted for. Despite brands enforcing pay secrecy in employee handbooks, there is a massive issue at hand encouraging us all to disregard this rule: pay gaps. More specifically, people being drastically underpaid for the work they are doing. We’ve all discussed the following at some point; Do I get paid enough? How much does my manager earn? Does that colleague on the same level as me get paid more? Before asking these questions out loud there might be some fear, or the feeling that we are expecting too much – decades of tradition and taboo can do that. But this politeness can be dangerous, and doesn’t help anyone. Hiding our salaries means organisations can get away with not paying people their worth, as they continue to count on our fear of speaking on the topic. We probably all know someone who’s had a slap on the wrist for speaking openly about their salary. But are our managers actually allowed to stop up from asking our colleagues how much they earn?
Short answer, no. We have the legal right to discuss pay if we wish to. However, if you like your job, aren’t bothered by the legal stuff and would just like to have an open talk about being fairly paid, do tread carefully. Yes, you are legally allowed to ask a colleague how much they earn but they are not obliged to disclose this. Also, consider if you are willing to share your own salary before asking others for theirs. It’s not fair to expect them to be radically open while you are a closed book. Lastly, make sure when you’re comparing that you’re taking into consideration job role, experience and responsibilities as these all contribute to the pay you receive. If you believe you’re not being paid your worth, speak to your line manager. Always. Opening up about money can be awkward. But if you find you’re being undervalued in line with co-workers of a similar role, then challenge yourself to try overcoming the discomfort society purposefully makes you feel about this topic!
T H E BUS Y EP IDE M IC: W HY D O W E P U T O U R WORK OVE R O U R W ELFARE? WOR D S T E R R I WAT E R S There’s a lot of societal expectation that surrounds being a woman. If it’s not about your looks, it’s about how you keep your home. If it’s not about your home, it’s about whether you’re ever going to settle down. The list goes on. With every aspect of life under scrutiny from the outside world, the pressure is intense. And work is no different. Women have faced no end of criticism around their careers. Whether it’s about the need to take maternity leave or your choice to wear lipstick in the office, there’s always something that women are made to feel bad about to purposefully keep the professional playing field uneven. But now, things have shifted. The past few years has seen the birth of the new era businesswoman. Women are finally taking charge of their careers in ways that society has never had a chance to see before, whether it be going solo from home, running their own company, taking on more senior roles, or freelancing on the move. With the scores of women ripping up the rulebook, they’re redefining what it means to be a working woman. It’s empowering AF, but is ‘Girlboss’ culture always a good thing? The criteria for what it means to be a ‘Girlboss’ is different for everyone. On the surface, it’s fairly harmless, with positive connotations. Synonymous with the hustle culture that’s permeating working industries the world over, it focuses on work ethic, steadfastness, and determination to create a happier, financially stable future – 154
something that pretty much anybody would jump at the chance of. But the underlying, more toxic characteristic that tends to be found in every understanding of the term is busyness. The moral value that hustle culture places on being busy and constantly working unearths a trending career phenomenon of its own, and it affects all genders. Encouraging a work-til-you-drop mindset, it’s bringing new pressures to those who seek to take control of their own professional destinies. Hidden under the guise of dedication and determination, the concept of being busy is acknowledged as a key measure of success and drive, and it’s as damaging to those on the outside looking in as it is to those living in it. The overwhelming requirement to treat your own time as over-time is a one-way ticket to Burnoutville, population: you. I think it would be accurate to say that those who fall prey to hustle culture only have the purest of intentions, wanting to better their careers and, ultimately, their lives. What they weren’t sold was the depression, sleep deprivation, anxiety, and having no social life, that comes part and parcel in the quest to find happiness and financial comfort. It’s kind of like the smallprint that nobody tells you about. In fact, burning the candle at both ends is now so common – especially amongst Millennials – that the World Health Organisation has classified burnout as an
actual “syndrome”. As the tables turn for what it takes to work the ‘right’ way, the concept of success becomes distorted as we feel increasing amounts of stress build around the expectations of our professional performance. Similar to the endless beauty standards thrust upon women, these business standards are just as unattainable or unsustainable, and the weight of adhering to them are equally as intimidating. Just like that, there’s another ideal that we’re expected to meet, and just like every other societal pressure, social media plays a large part in it. Social media as we know all too well, houses the perfect environment for oversharing, and ultimately, performing. Whilst, of course, social media exists for you to share your life online, the rising trend of documenting ‘the hustle’ is undeniable. No, it’s not a photoshopped body, or something else that you may necessarily take at face value as harmful to your mental health, but its effects are very much present, and you may not even notice. Hash-taggable phrases like ‘no days off’ or ‘stay on the grind’ saturate social media feeds, and its motivational subtlety makes it hard to avoid. If you can’t sit down for a break without thinking about work, you’re a victim to hustle culture. If you look at others working and put yourself down for not doing enough, or find yourself comparing your successes, you’re a victim to hustle culture. And if you find yourself working all the hours God sends whilst drinking a triple-shot coffee out of a mug with ‘you have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé’ plastered across it, then you’re probably the biggest victim of them all. (Editor’s note: I’ve never felt so attacked by one of my own sentences. I love that mug.) We live in a world that refuses to slow down in any capacity, so it’s unsurprising that such suppositions have spread to our working lives too. Investing in these ideals are not only dangerous, but it further questions the age-old debate of ‘having it all’. This notion
has overshadowed discussions around the way that women choose to work, and in society, it’s deemed as way more difficult for a woman to ‘have it all’ than her male counterpart, especially whilst juggling all of the other roles that society bestows upon her. But what does it even look like to have it all? Whilst the concept itself is subjective, and each woman has her own idea of what that means, outside influences such as celebrity culture undoubtably play a part in the added strain to define exactly what ‘all’ is. An easy example is Kim Kardashian West, arguably one of the world’s most famous women. She’s a mother of four children under five, she’s got an app, a shapewear brand, a beauty brand, a long-running reality TV show, and a trail of businesses in her rearview mirror. Plus she’s studying to become a lawyer. Her younger sister, Kylie Jenner, was named by Forbes as the youngest self-made billionaire (which ruffled some feathers), with her brand Kylie Cosmetics bringing in $420million in its first 18 months. Since then, she’s launched Kylie Skin too, and shows absolutely no sign of slowing down any time soon. That’s wonderful and all, but what so many of us overlook is the fact that these women have full teams and extensive resources to get shit done, and compare their ability to juggle to our own. With women thinking this is standard, it’s no wonder that we’re setting the bar so impossibly high for ourselves. What does this mean as we leave this decade behind and venture into the new Roaring 20s? Who knows. Will we see the backside of Girlboss or hustle culture and welcome in a more intuitive and mindful attitude towards work? I look forward to seeing if society can settle on a work culture that prioritises balance over burnout, but still allows women to reach for the stars.
LLOVE OV E A ND SE X SEX 157
W HY YOU SH O U L D T RY D ITC HI N G YO U R DAT ING A P P S WOR D S S C A R L ET T HATCHW E LL In a world where we’re all taught to be relationship-obsessed, choosing yourself can be a radical act. Singledom is often seen as the sister of rock bottom, a place you go when your dating skills and general attractiveness have gone down the drain. But isn’t rock bottom also the place where you grow the most? Ditching your dating apps we all find so addictive may require a shift in attitude, but it can lead to big revelations – and maybe even the realisation you’re complete all by yourself.
on the apps that nourish this trend, Tinder routinely sees more than 1 billion swipes daily, and Bumble’s total users had risen to 26 million with over 20,000 marriages confirmed by the end of 2018.
“It takes a strong person to remain single in a world that is accustomed to settling with anything, just to say they have something.”
There’s this unspoken, yet omnipresent, social pressure for us all to be ‘coupled up’. Driven by the mass media’s heteronormative reporting, so-called ‘reality’ TV and a culture that thrives off public likes and follower counts, we’re coming into a dangerous twilight zone – one fuelled by mass selfabandonment in the lengthy pursuit of love.
Reading this phrase as I scrolled through my Instagram stories, it struck a chord with me. And it has done with every friend, colleague and confidant I’ve shared it with since then. For the first time in my adult life, a simple screenshot-and-share quote truly made me reconsider my understanding of romance. In a world where everything’s instant, and our love lives are expected to keep to the same use-once-and-replace pace, it’s no wonder we spend so much time on mobile dating apps. With an average of 6.2 million Brits actively using them at any given time, and 1 in 5 relationships now starting digitally, it’s crystal clear that technological matchmaking is a cultural staple. Speaking
So, why is it that every single person is expected to pour their time and energy into finding a new partner, lest they end up ‘forever alone’? And why is being single still seen as something we’re forced into by circumstance, instead of something to seek out? We’re told to place all our value as a person on how well we do romantically, how stereotypically attractive we are, how actively we look for new loves or how well we please our partners when we get
yourself for a change, and one heck of a way to reclaim your time. It’s not necessary to spend hours upon hours scrolling and swiping our way through profiles aimlessly, waiting on the approval of others, when we could be spending them making ourselves happy instead.
them. It’s high time we flip that script, and take some of this narrative power back for ourselves. It’s empowering to make the conscious choice to stay single, in a life where everything shouts at us to do the opposite. When we throw away thoughts of true love, of princes and princesses and the expectations of the generations before us, we lean into a new, truly radical movement of self-discovery. As finding ourselves single becomes increasingly common, it doesn’t have to be something so sensationalised – it can change lives in its quiet. Once upon a time it was considered brave to be single; to embrace the life of a ‘spinster’ and take no heed to what people around you thought of that choice. It’s the kind of stuff that saw women burned at the stake, divorced simply for ageing or playing the role of evil temptress in so many of the classic Disney films. Remember Ursula or the Evil Queen, anyone? But this is a choice that shouldn’t have to be ‘brave’ at all. It’s not a case of having the courage to go against society in such a horribly villainised, yet so often personally ground-breaking, way. Rather, it’s the simple choice to put yourself first. Above anyone else, you’ll always choose you and won’t give a damn what anyone else thinks about that. Being consciously single is a moment of resuming the role as your life’s narrator, a time to romance
Imagine all the things you could learn about yourself, and what you enjoy, in the time it normally takes to secure a first date. Or a second, or third, or fourth, before you finally see they were never the one for you anyway. Sure, you might think dating fulfils all your needs for now, but really pay attention to how it feels when the dates are over and your phone’s turned off at night. That’s where the real work needs to be done – not in the arms, or DMs, of a throwaway lover. Find your thing outside of dating, and you’ll find who you are when you’re truly alone: no second chancers or could-have-been’s waiting in the wings. There’s this grand idea that we find the love of our lives when we stop looking for them. I say, we find them when we stop looking outside ourselves and finally turn that loving gaze within. After all, isn’t it better to be ‘self-partnered’ – in the words of Emma Watson – and choosing life for yourself than to settle and give up a great deal of your ‘me’ just to appease society’s norms? To appease the judgemental, closed-minded people around you that find it hard to believe a woman could be truly happy all by herself? I say screw them, and show them just how wonderfully complete you can be all by yourself. Or maybe even keep all your newfound joy for you? If someone can’t learn to accept the way you’re loving yourself solo, then maybe they just don’t deserve a place in your purposefully single life. And as you grow into this brave new world of you – a revolutionary version of single without all the shame attached – you’ll find all the love you ever needed.
W HY “AWKWAR D” S E X CONVER SAT I O NS D O N’T HAV E TO BE WOR D S S C A R L ET T HATCHW E LL Nearly everybody’s having sex, and everyone that has will have felt the pain of seemingly awkward conversations at some point in time. Our socially-ingrained sense of shame around sex, and particularly anything to do with its realities outside of ‘getting off’, often forces us out of the discussions we really should be having. We’re here to remind you there’s nothing shameful in open communication around sex, and no topic too taboo to bring up with your bunny-bumping partner. So, let’s talk about sex, ba-byyy and we’ll get you over your patriarchal-fuelled awkwardness in no time at all.
T H E R U L E S O F C O N SE N T This one seems to be the hardest to discuss in heterosexual relationships, as these are the ones where the ‘stereotypes’ of consent seem to cause the most confusion. And yet, it’s the most important conversation to have of all. As increasing numbers of us begin to unpack the effect of toxic masculinity and the patriarchy’s gaze on our sexuality, this is a conversation opening up to us more and more. While some may say having to talk about consent effectively kills the mood, we’d argue the opposite. What could be sexier than your partner checking in with you, making sure you’re happy at every stage and letting you know they feel comfortable with everything right back? Ongoing consent is a turn-on. Making this a part of your everyday sex life will make you so much happier, and removes any leftover awkward air with your partner after a few tries. Just the same as you’d make sure a condom was on right, that you’d taken your pill that day or you’d found a comfy position, you can make sure both parties – or more – are happy and consenting in any and all sex acts before you move on.
S TI TES TIN G AN D S TATUS While there never seems to be a non-awkward time to bring up STD testing with a new partner, we want you to throw any sense of embarrassment out the window. There’s absolutely nothing shameful about wanting to make sure you’re in a safe sexual situation, and asking them for their most recent results – or even to get tested with you – does not insinuate you think they’re dirty, unwell or any of the things you think it does, nor does it make you distrustful for not relying on their word alone. It simply shows you care about the sexual health of your partner, and yourself, and that you want a happy, healthy, honest sex life going forward. Remind yourself of this before asking to subdue any less-minute nerves. And if they react badly? Find yourself a new partner who’s actually willing to be open with you, and safeguard your situation.
P R E V I O U S PA R T N ER S This might not be anyone’s favourite topic of conversation, but you can certainly learn a lot about your partner from having it. Whether you’re in a relationship with them, or are solely hooking up, the way they speak about their previous partners will give you a good insight into their sexual habits and practices, and the way they respect their partners too. Remind yourself that the most important part of this chat is that you’re their partner now, even if you aren’t their only one. Instead of approaching this conversation from a place of insecurity, try having it at a time when you feel confident and capable of hearing your partner’s thoughts without comparing yourself to those who came before you (both figuratively and literally).
K IN K S AN D FAN TAS IES This should be one of the most exhilarating conversations to be had with your lover, yet it still fills some of us with an unspeakable dread. What if they don’t like what I like too? And what if they think I’m weird – or worse, a pervert – for wanting this? Well, as the old saying goes, you’ll never know unless you try. Any compassionate partner will respect your likes, fantasies and kinks, regardless of their own persuasions, and might even be interested in trying something new. Until you have this conversation, you’ll never know what might be on their mind and, ultimately, what you might have in common. Forget any stigma attached to your kinks, as long as they’re not endangering anyone else. Establishing boundaries is also helpful with this one, particularly in the way of what your hard no’s and yeses are. While your partner may be madly into something, it won’t hurt you to let them know it’s not your cup of tea. Eventually, you’ll find something you’re both into and you’ll get to explore your wants and desires from a comfortable common ground.
QUES T IONS F R O M 2 7 20 DAY S O F MONOGAMY WOR D S M E GA N CR A B B E
I’m not looking to be anyone’s girlfriend again for a long while. That’s the phrase I’ve gotten used to typing out over the last nine months when people I match with on dating apps come out with the inevitable “so what are you looking for?” It seems like a simple way to sum up something much more complicated. Something that typed out, looks more like: I’ve just finished being someone’s girlfriend for the last seven and a half years and towards the end of that relationship I was growing increasingly sceptical of monogamy and all the toxic ways it manifests itself in how we believe relationships should look; from the idea that being attracted to someone other than your partner makes you a bad person to the sense of ownership over another individual. I don’t want to belong to anyone. I don’t want to put anyone’s needs above my own. I don’t want to make myself smaller to fit another person. I don’t want to feel trapped when I still have so much growing and changing to do. I’m not looking to be anyone’s girlfriend again for a long while. Most of the time that condensed one line is interpreted as meaning I’m just looking for sex. Which makes sense given that none of us have been raised with any framework for romantic relationships outside of the binary one-or-the-other. It’s either single or taken. One person or no-one. Relationship or just
sex. And when it’s a relationship, we have quite narrow rules for how it has to look. Within our representations of monogamous love we see the same unhealthy behaviours being played out again and again: the ownership, the outbursts of jealousy, the control. Outside of monogamy, we’re left with no representation at all. We’re presented with monogamy as the only valid option from the get-go, it’s woven into our cultural idea of what’s acceptable and desirable as seamlessly as thinness or straightness or youth is. You find someone, you fall in love, you stay with them and only them and that’s the happily ever after. So what happens when you realise that the happily ever after is built on things you’re not sure you believe in? I was someone’s girlfriend for a lot of days. Two-thousand-seven-hundred-and-twenty of them. I held on tight. I followed the rules. I committed. I stayed even when it didn’t feel quite right. I stayed even when I started to see the toxic patterns we were falling into. I stayed even when I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay. In the end, I had a long list of things that I never wanted to feel again, and an even longer list of questions. Is it possible to build a relationship that doesn’t fall into those patterns? What does monogamy
without the toxic parts even look like? Do I still believe in monogamy at all? I’ll give you a heads up now that this piece won’t be wrapped up neatly in a bow with all the answers, because I’m still very much figuring it out. But I know that I no longer trust in monogamy as the only option, as the only way to love, as the guaranteed happily ever after. This is the questioning. It’s imperfect and incomplete but I think it’s worth writing down, because there’s a chance some of you might be doing the questioning too. Or at least searching for someone to tell you that you’re allowed to start. So here’s how I got here. Here are some of the questions I’m asking after all those days. If you have the answers, give your girl a shout.
T H E EA R LY DAY S Why do we need ownership to feel secure? In the beginning I was young and bruised and ready to accept any kind of love that I could try and fill my self worth up with. Predictably, at 18 years old the kind of love that fell into place was built on bad communication, constant jealousy and the idea that clinging onto each other was the most important thing we could do with our lives. We secretly checked each other’s phones and fought when the other found out. We threw guilt around like confetti when time with friends was chosen over nights together. We ruined evenings out before we’d even left with interrogations of who would be there, and casual comments about not seeing why one of us was wearing that unless it was for a reason. We were a tangled knot of possessive need because it was the only way we knew. And it still felt better than being nothing. Rather than reflecting on where the insecurity came from and working through it with reassurance and patience, we did what young people in relationships so often
see as the solution: we cleansed our lives of anything and anyone that could make the other jealous. I stopped speaking to all of my male friends, wiped my phone clean and promised to text, call, check in wherever I was. He said he thought we should wear rings as a sign of our commitment, nine months in. Looking back those early days are a howto of toxic monogamy. The kind of romantic love that we absorbed growing up had planted the seeds that when you love someone, they are yours. Only yours. Every need that they have and every feeling that they felt before you is now yours to fulfil or erase. Every song lyric about belonging to each other and every wedding vow echoed back on old VHS copies of 90s rom-coms ran deep. There’s only one way to be in love, and if it doesn’t look like that you kick and scream and break it down until it does. And I don’t blame us, as the saying goes: you can’t be what you can’t see, and we sure as hell never saw a relationship being modelled for us that didn’t buy into at least some of that toxicity. I told myself that I was a terrible person for not being able to turn off my attraction to other people. One day on a long autumn afternoon, I was walking with a friend down the middle of a road with rust-coloured leaves collecting themselves near the pavement, and I let myself say out loud that part of me missed being single. Then I felt guilty for months. I really thought I was meant to be able to turn that part of my brain off. After all, it’s only possible to feel things for one person at a time, right? I learned to push that down and lie when he asked me if I ever thought about being with anyone else. That’s how insecure toxic monogamy is – even your thoughts aren’t yours to have anymore, they belong to the relationship. Even imaginary attraction is enough to convince the other person you don’t love them. It was exhausting and repetitive and I didn’t even recognise what
it was until years later, when I allowed myself to ask those first questions.
TH E MID D L E Y E A RS Does it make any sense to expect one person to fulfil every need, forever? It took me about three years to settle into the idea of being someone’s girlfriend. And when I say settle into, I mean push and squeeze and chip away at my idea of who I was meant to become until “someone’s girlfriend” fit there. I didn’t know it at the time but the part I had a problem with was the belonging. I never wanted to belong to anyone but myself. I wanted to be whole already, not a half that needed another. I was still struggling with the guilt of finding other people attractive. I never ever acted on any of it, but god damn, my fantasy life was thriving. One year I hugged someone who I thought was cute for just a little bit too long and had an emotional reaction more suited to having stabbed someone in the neck. A hug. I know, forgive me father for I have sinned. I’d started thinking about non-monogamy in a very abstract, far-off way. I can’t remember where I saw it, but I’d read something that said when you break monogamy down as a concept, it really doesn’t make much sense at all. Every one of us has so many dimensions, constantly changing and requiring new kinds of understanding and fulfilment. Our lives might look totally different from year to year, our potential for growth is endless – we might be new people in six, twelve, twenty-four months time. How could we expect one human being to be all that we ever need throughout? To fit us exactly? To see and understand every dimension and fulfil every need? The toxic parts of the relationship were still around, but they weren’t as close to the surface. And in monogamy’s defence, there were some beautiful parts too. At times it
really felt like it was the two of us against the world. Like together we were a dual forcefield that nothing and no-one could get through. I decided that it was okay to have all these questions, because choosing to stay was what mattered. Choosing to love the same person every day. Choosing just them. Besides, the other option didn’t really feel like a choice I could make.
TH E END What does monogamy without the toxic parts even look like? Kate Nash sang that song about holding onto the cracks in a foundation. Somehow, we’d managed to build years of a relationship on groundwork with cracks so deep my sense of self fell right through them, and giant crevices where communication should have been. Those early toxic behaviours became our roots, and they grew up and into the light right until the final months. Not too many days before the end there was a sarcastic comment made about enjoying sex scenes on TV too much, as if being turned on by something outside of the relationship was a betrayal, as if my pleasure had to belong to him and only him. Side note: I’d like to meet the person who isn’t at least a bit thirsty after watching Kerry Washington do what she does, that woman can act an orgasm like no other. I’m sure I was still doing and saying things that sprang from places of insecurity and ownership as well; I have no interest in painting myself as faultless or him as deeply flawed. We were both deeply flawed. There was never any other way we could have been, because we just didn’t have the framework. I haven’t written much about the not-sogreat parts of the relationship since it ended – there’s a fine line between writing things
that help me heal and writing things that feel like throwing him under a bus. I hope in this it’s clear that I haven’t tried to do that, and that the examples of behaviours I’ve given have been for a purpose. I don’t want to cause any more hurt than I already have, but I do need to be able to explore, and express, and heal. Writing helps with that. Throughout the break-up I thought a lot about whether I ever wanted to do it again. Whether it’s even possible to commit to one person and avoid all the traps we fell into when we were younger. Whether non-monogamy just made sense to me in theory, or whether it was something I might genuinely be able to practice. It’s been nine months and I’m still thinking a lot about all these things. Like I said at the start, this is imperfect and incomplete and I’m figuring it out as I go (turns out it’s a lot more complicated than the 90s rom-coms would have you believe, who could have guessed?). But I knew one thing for sure when it ended. I never wanted the kind of monogamy that looked like that again. I never wanted to do the possessive jealousy thing. I never wanted to do the policing of friends or outfits. I never wanted the ownership and I never wanted to feel like keeping parts of myself small or hidden was okay if it meant we stayed together. I still can’t quite believe I ever told myself that was okay.
NOW I do have answers to a few of the questions that came up over the years. If you ask me now whether it’s normal to be attracted to other people when you’re in a relationship with someone I’d say: of fucking course it is. You don’t stop being a human with instincts and impulses and brain chemicals simply because you’ve decided to call yourself someone’s partner. That part of you isn’t a switch that you can just flick off and feel nothing. And finding other people attractive doesn’t diminish how you feel about the
one you’re with. You can believe they’re the most beautiful person in existence and still find someone else beautiful too. You can be entirely sexually satisfied and still wonder what being with someone else might be like. Sexuality – and love – isn’t a finite resource that gets used up when you put it in one place, it’s possible (and natural) to feel more. You are not a bad person for letting your imagination do its thing; your partner is not entitled to own every thought and fantasy and desire because your sexuality belongs to you, first and foremost. In fact, every part of you belongs to you first and foremost. Your goals, your choices, your voice, what you do with your body and where you want to go in life. The part of our culturally accepted kind of monogamy that I see as the most harmful now, is the part where we believe we have to let these pieces of ourselves go in order to carry the other person instead. Their wants, their needs, their preferences. You should never have been taught that love is carrying someone else at the expense of yourself. You are yours first, and always should be. If you can show me a kind of relationship that takes that into account, that allows for each person to grow and change in the ways they need to, that respects each being a whole person, and not a half of the other, that doesn’t hold on too tightly, that has roots made out of communication and trust, rather than jealousy and guilt, that never requires one person to make themselves smaller, that doesn’t police or control or try to own. Then maybe I’ll be ready to give monogamy another try. But for now, I don’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend again... For at least a little while.
DU M P THEM!
We a s ke d o u r fo l l owe rs fo r t h e ir re d f la g s w h e n d at in g so m e o n e , a nd t h e y s u re as h e l l an swe re d !
S E L FIS H N E S S • N O A M B I TI ON OR GOAL S • C OU NTL E SS A P O L O GI E S WI T HOU T CHANGI NG • GASL I GHTI NG P H YS IC A L VI OL EN CE (E VEN THE “SM AL L” THI NGS L I K E G RA BBIN G) • N O R ES P EC T FOR PE OPL E WHO C AN’T G IV E T HEM S OM ET HI N G I N RE TU RN • DI SRE SPE C TI NG P E O P L E I N T HE S ER VI CE I NDU STRY • C ONTROL LI NG • RUD E TO OT HE R S • B A D TABL E M ANNE RS • I F THE Y RE FUS E TO HEL P T HE M SE LVE S • C HE ATI NG • TAL K S N E G AT I VE LY A B OU T PA ST RE LATI ONSHI PS • ANY FO RM O F LY I N G• N OT FE E LI NG 100% SAFE AROU ND T H E M • N A R CI S S I S T S • NOT WANTI NG TO M E E T YOU R FA MILY • B E I N G M A D E TO FE E L I SOLATE D • THE Y BL A ME T HE I R M EN TA L HEALTH ON YOU AND E X PE C T YO U TO S OLVE I T A L L • POOR GRAM M AR • VE RBAL V IO L E N CE I N A N Y D EGRE E • LYI NG ABOU T WHE RE T H E Y GO/ WHAT T HE Y DO • NOT WANTI NG TO DO T H IN G S TOGET HE R • NOT LI K I NG YOU SPE NDI NG T IME WI T H YOU R F R I E NDS OR FAM I LY WI THOU T T H E M • M A KI N G YOU D OU BT YOU RSE L F • NOT BE I NG K IN D • M OOD I N E S S • AC TI NG LI K E A M AN- C HI L D • T H ROW I N G S T R OP S • WH E N THE Y DON’T RE SPE C T M Y BO UN DA R I ES • B E I N G S E XI ST, RAC I ST, M I SOGYNI STI C , H O MO P HOB I C, T R A N S P H OBI C , FATPHOBI C • DOE SN’T “AG RE E” WI T H F EM I N I S M • NOT TRU STI NG YOU • NOT L IS T E N I N G • N OT TA KI NG YOU SE RI OU SLY • ONLY TA L K IN G A B OU T T HEM S E LVE S • BAD BRE ATH • NOT C O MMU N I CAT I N G • COMPARI NG YOU TO THE I R E X E S
LETâ€™S GET S O CIA L ! FO LLOW U S O N INSTAGRAM + T W IT T ER @THEU N ED IT OR LIKE U S O N FACEB O O K ! REMEMB ER TO U S E T HE HASHTAGS #TH EUNEDITGO ESD IGITA L #THEUNED IT VO L U M E1 #IAMU N ED IT ED
#IAMUNEDITED#IA MUNEDI TED #IA MUNEDITED#IAMUNEDITED#IAMUNEDITED#THE UNE DI TGOE S DI GI TAL
# I AMUNE DI T E D# I AMUNEDITED#IAMUNEDITED#IAMUNEDITED#IAMUNE DI T ED# THEUNED ITG OESDIGITA L
want more? head over to
The Unedit's first ever digital issue is here! The Unedit Vol. 1 features over 40 articles and editorials covering everything from body pos...