PCOS · Stephanie Breedlove

‘PCOS Awareness’ by Stephanie Breedlove

At the young age of 20, my high school sweetheart and I, who were both fresh out of college, made the decision to get married. Our young minds were filled with anticipation of buying a home and starting a family. Both our parents had high hopes that we would be the ones to give them their very first grandchild and many more to go along with him or her.

A year later, we bought our very first home. We still didn’t have our baby, but we were told it was normal for it to take time. Our new home was located right by the library, the local park and the schools. I was excited and thought that since we were buying a house and being responsible that we would get our baby. I’m a spiritual person, so I thought that our efforts would be rewarded. The house was a two bedroom, little start up home with a nice back yard. I had high hopes that I would be able to walk around the town with my baby’s stroller and later on walk him or her to the park, library and even to school.

Fast forward to 2012, it had been four years since we started trying for a baby and there was no success and definitely not for the lack of trying. Our sexual life had become a chore and at this point, to me, became pointless. For the first time, we had health insurance so we both made appointments to see specialist.

Before going to the doctor, I had begun doing my own research. Keep in mind, it’s 2012 and even though infertility was becoming a big issue, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), was still kind of a subject where the details were blurry. I did find a lot of women’s self-produced information about the matter though. I was physically sick after all the reading and trying to cope with the idea that this may be what I was dealing with. Sure enough, at my appointment with the OBGYN, my doctor said those three dreaded words.

“From what I can observe, you may be dealing with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Have you heard of this?”

My heart sank; I could feel the tears well up in my eyes, but I remained calm on the outside. I nodded and she continued to explain that the only way to treat this was to put me on medications and told me I’d never get pregnant if I did not go through rounds of treatments. She started me out on birth control since my periods only came every few months. She also put me on progesterone and Metformin. I cringed at the idea since I’d never been the type of person to take medications for anything. I was also told I needed to lose weight, which I already knew and I had been trying without luck. It didn’t matter how well I ate or how much I worked out, the weight just kept coming back and in larger amounts.

My husband’s doctor visit was a little more positive. We went in and had to come back a week later with a sample. They analyzed it and said he was fine that he should be able to get someone pregnant. The doctor gave me a look that made me feel as if I was placing blame on my husband. I never did and I never had blamed my husband. He made the decision to see if there was anything he needed to do to help increase our chances. Since the doctor said he was fine, there was no advice or anything given to him about improving his overall sperm health.

It was good to know that my husband was fine, but it was sad that I was the one with the issues. I began taking my medications right away as directed and was horrified at the results in just a few days. The Metformin made me sick every day. I couldn’t keep food down and I had no energy to work out because of this. The progesterone made me even more hormonal than normal and I was lashing out at my husband a lot and it put a strain on our marriage. When it came time for my first period on birth control, I discovered it was the worst pain of my life! I had always had really mild periods ever since I was in the fifth grade. I thought maybe it was like this because it was the first time and it would get better. Six months later and it was still so painful.

I made up my mind at that time. I was not going to take any more medications. For six months, I was in pain, starving from not being able to eat anything without throwing up, tired even though I slept most of the day and losing my temper over every little thing. I was miserable and if this was the only way I’d have a baby, then it just wasn’t going to happen. I talked it over with my husband and he was okay with this. He understood that I didn’t want to feel this way and that it would greatly upset me if I were to become pregnant and it be a miserable experience.

I did notice that the medications did start to mask some of my symptoms such as thinning hair or hair in all the wrong places, but to me, that wasn’t enough to keep myself medicated any longer. My period never came back after going off birth control and to this day, I’ve yet to have one. I hadn’t lost any weight either, in fact, I think I gained twenty pounds. I slowly felt the real me come back as the medications wore off and I got some energy back. Sadly, because I had been eating so little, once I ate normal again, I gained even more weight. It was a horribly depressing time for me. I didn’t know what to do.

Instead of embracing my invisible illness that is PCOS, I went into denial. I convinced myself since the medications didn’t work that it must mean that it was not what was wrong with me. I didn’t think about being infertile and kept to myself. I lost myself in video games and online chatting to find that piece that was missing. My marriage suffered; my fur-babies felt neglected. I was emotionally depressed and physically addicted to my “social” life online. Eventually my husband and I separated since he was working many long hours and I was just lonely. We had both become pretty selfish and were emotionally abusive toward one another. Our once happy and loving marriage had become very toxic.

While we were separated, I moved back home with my brother and parents. I ate whatever my parents cooked. This put me from eating about four or five times per day as opposed to the two times a day I would eat before that. I began working out all the time with my dad and would go to work in the evenings. I slept a lot more since they didn’t want me on the computer all the time anymore. I respected their request, after all, it was their internet and they weren’t charging me rent. My addiction to online life had been replaced with working out. I was getting thinner, but still felt sick and drained all the time.

After a while, my husband and I decided to give our marriage another chance. I moved back with him in 2014 and things got better. We learned how to talk to one another and work on things rather than bottling them up or ignoring them. I continued to eat the way I did at my parents’ house. I did get a full-time job and couldn’t work out as much anymore. Slowly the weight came back on despite my new eating habits. I didn’t understand and punished myself for not having time to work out. I made up my mind to look into PCOS once again. At this time, there was a lot more information on PCOS. I began looking into things and reaching out on social media.

I had read an article about the link between casein, the protein in dairy and PCOS. I was terrified as I ate cheese on everything, had yogurt every morning and drank milk and creamer all the time. Then, a woman named Kym Campbell reached out to me on Twitter and told me about her program that would start in April of 2016. Her program confirmed that dairy is something that women with PCOS should be avoiding. This began my journey to a better me. I went on her program for the 30 days and found that it worked pretty well. I still felt sick each day and my period had not returned. I didn’t know what was going on but I continued using her advice. I ate more often so my body wouldn’t go into starvation mode and I was conscious about what I ate.

Somewhere along the way, I had developed a sensitivity to gluten, so I omitted all gluten. I felt a little better, but it still didn’t help me lose more weight. I then read that Paleo was the best diet for PCOS. I gave this a try. I lost some more weight and dropped all grains. I replaced my grains with vegetables and ate a lot of meat. I was looking kind of rough and felt sluggish. I remember my breaking point was while I was at work and I could barely keep my eyes opened while trying to run the machine I operate on. I knew this wasn’t working for me and I had to change.

I noticed that my body craved sweets all the time now but I was told to stay away from them; even fruit that were high on the glycemic index. I eventually caved in and felt guilty. I didn’t realize that getting rid of grains would make me feel so deprived. I found gluten free grains and began to feel better after adding them to my diet. I had omitted so many foods from my diet that I was down to just veggies, berries and meat. Food became boring to me and I realized that I was eating less and less. Now, for me, this is dangerous as I’ve struggled with eating disorders in the past. Before I met my husband, I had been anorexic and when we started dating, he made sure I ate. My appetite came back and I had become a binge eater. I didn’t know how to balance the way I ate until later on in my life. Since eating disorders can be triggered at any moment and can slowly take over your life, I had to be conscious of this.

My husband and I decided to watch some of those Netflix documentaries on food and health and one in particular really caught my attention. It showed how eating a plant based diet could reverse heart disease and diabetes. I gstarted to wonder if PCOS could be treated the same way. After all, the disease is a lot of different symptoms that work against the body to create this ultimate illness. Doctors have even said they aren’t sure what exactly causes this or how to cure it. I’ve made it my goal to find a way to cure this disease. As of today, it’s been about 85 days since living this way and I’ve already seen incredible results. I plan to keep going this way. My diabetes have gone away and my blood pressure is in the ideal range; not just good, but ideal!

Thank you for reading about my journey. We are not alone and we will overcome this. Getting awareness for PCOS to the public is the most important thing we can do to as a group of powerful women so that others won’t have to struggle the way we have in the future.

You can follow Stephanie on Twitter: @Shara_Elyse

 

 

PCOS · Sarah Miles

‘My PCOS story’ by Sarah Miles

I was officially diagnosed with PCOS in 2002, but in all honesty, I think I had been suffering with the symptoms of PCOS for several years beforehand. I had put on a lot of weight in a short space of time, and I had been having to pluck the hairs out of chin every day for at least a year before I was diagnosed.

In order to get a correct diagnosis, I had to have a series of tests done, including full blood tests, urine test, MRI scan and an internal Ultrasound scan (which was quite frankly yuck).  I was referred to see an Endocrinology Consultant at my local hospital, who told me the news that I had PCOS, and there wasn’t much to help me with the condition, just to try and manage my weight and when I wanted children, go back and see them and they would offer me some fertility help.

I felt very isolated, as I had never heard of anyone else with the condition and there was no information out there to help or advise me on how to manage the condition. I decided to try and find out more about the condition on my own, but when researching on the internet, I found a lot of the information and support networks were all American based. I then discovered Verity (the self-help group for UK women with PCOS) and without a shadow of a doubt, Verity saved me. I was at the point of feeling so alone, so isolated and feeling like I was the only person in the whole world with this condition.  I was able to get information about PCOS, what causes it, how to manage it, and just knowing I wasn’t alone helped to feel more able to cope with everything.

After having PCOS for over 10 years now, I still struggle every day with the symptoms and managing the symptoms. I also struggle with my self-confidence, which is mainly due to the effects of living with the symptoms of PCOS. The symptoms I mainly suffer with are excess facial hair, being overweight, bad skin, and losing hair. I do sometimes feel that having PCOS has robbed me of my femininity, especially when it comes to plucking the excess facial hair out of my chin – there is definitely nothing sexy or feminine about doing that every day.

We live in a world where people make assumptions about you from the way you look, and I do struggle with this as well. Yes, I am a larger lady, but I am not a fat pig who eats cream cakes all day – in fact nothing could be further from the truth – I have lost over 5 stone following the Slimming World plan, and I intend to keep going – to help myself manage not only my PCOS, but my self-confidence as well.

It has only been in the last few years that I have really started telling people about my PCOS, and feeling more comfortable talking about the condition, and knowing that I am not alone makes it all the more easier.

If you would like to find out more information about Verity and the work they do to help women with PCOS, have a look at their website www.verity-pcos.org.uk.

You can read more of Sarah’s writing on her blog: beautyaddict32@blogspot.com

Hattie Farley · PCOS

‘Living with PCOS’ by Hattie Farley

When I was fourteen years old, I started to realise something was different about my body. I started to notice the black hair that grew above my upper lip, my infrequent and heavy periods and the way my eyebrows, arm and leg hair was thick and black despite my hair itself being blonde. Most of these symptoms were passed off as typical ‘teenage girl troubles’ (even by my GP) and I didn’t see a reason to disagree. PCOS was not something that I was aware of throughout my teenage years, yet it is something that impacts my life as a woman every day.

So, what is PCOS?

PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) is a metabolic disorder that affects 1 in 10 women in both the UK and USA. This metabolic disorder affects women’s hormones, leading to higher than normal levels of sex hormones (in particular testosterone) and insulin being produced. This disorder can trigger symptoms such as weight gain, fertility problems, period problems (irregular periods or no periods at all), excess hair growth (commonly male-pattern hair such as across the face and chest), acne, anxiety, weight gain and depression. Alongside this, women with PCOS may have at least twelve tiny cysts on their ovaries; made up of empty egg follicles. These symptoms commonly begin during late teenage years and early twenties.

Strangely enough, despite dealing with weight gain, irregular periods and anxiety for the majority of my life, I only started to question whether I had PCOS when I started to develop acne. I had struggled with heavy and irregular periods for so long, that I had stopped thinking of it as a problem and started to think of it as just another aspect of my life that I had to deal with every month. Yet, when I developed acne at twenty years old despite never having had it before, I started to question whether something was wrong.

At first, I passed it off as stress. I was in my final year at university. I was writing a 10,000 word dissertation and dealing with countless other deadlines and commitments, that I decided it was no surprise that my face was covered in angry, red spots. However, after four months they still showed no sign of leaving and I decided it was time to visit the GP.  On my first visit, my acne was brushed off as a side-effect from university related stress. I was prescribed with a cream and antibiotics and told to return in eight weeks if the acne hadn’t faded.

Nothing changed.

When I returned to the doctor’s eight weeks later, my GP started to ask me about my life style, my diet and my periods. As soon as I mentioned my irregular and heavy periods, she started to ask me about other aspects of my body that had been brushed off for my entire life. The thick black hair that covered my arms and upper lip. My fluctuating weight and my anxiety. It was then, that she bought up the word ‘PCOS’. She booked me in for a couple of blood tests, an external and internal ultrasound and reassured me that once I had a diagnosis, I could start making the necessary changes. I went home, and started to Google PCOS. To my dismay, I couldn’t find much information. It was then that I started to realise how, despite affecting one in ten women, PCOS is a massively unknown topic. Over the next few weeks, I underwent blood tests and had an uncomfortable internal ultrasound. It was then, that I was diagnosed with PCOS. I was told by my GP that there wasn’t much else she could do for me. She printed out some documents from Google and informed me that once I started trying to get pregnant I should return. I walked out of the surgery that day, feeling underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time.

I ordered several books (particularly those written by Colette Harris) on PCOS, after finding my Google searches largely unhelpful. These books have provided a large source of comfort for me, especially within these first six months of diagnosis. I started to educate myself on the types of food I should avoid and increased my daily exercise. Slowly and to my relief, my acne began to fade and I started to feel as though I had control of my body once again.

The cause of PCOS is still unknown. It is estimated that more than half of women who suffer from PCOS are undiagnosed. Perhaps, this is because even our GPs are not sure of exactly how to identify this syndrome. Perhaps, as women we are so used to health related issues being brushed off as ‘women’s problems’ that we start to believe it ourselves. Perhaps it is the name ‘Polycystic Ovary Syndrome’ that hides what PCOS is all about. The truth is that PCOS is not just about women’s ovaries; it is something that can affect every aspect of health for women – mentally and physically.

Some parts of PCOS are easier to manage than others. I can manage my excess hair growth; making sure I am booked in for regular waxing and threading appointments. I can pluck the black hairs on my chin that appear every morning when I wake up. I can apply the prescribed cream for my acne and the scars that follow them. I can manage my diet, making sure that I maintain a whole food diet, cutting down on processed foods in order to make sure my hormones are under control, consequently reducing the symptoms. Other parts of PCOS, are not so hard to manage. I have to deal with the fact that I may not be able to easily fall pregnant. I have to deal with sometimes not feeling as feminine as I would like.

As of yet, there is no cure for PCOS. We can read books on it, manage our diets, exercise, mentally learn to deal with it and ultimately – help to raise awareness. We need to normalise the concept of PCOS and educate our fellow women (and men) on recognising and dealing with the symptoms that come with this disorder.

September is PCOS awareness month. If you suffer from PCOS and would like to submit an article on your experience with PCOS then please email thefutureisfeminist@gmail.com. 

Anonymous · Inequality

‘The BBC pay-gap’ written by Anonymous

This week, I have been left absolutely astounded as the BBC have released their pay roll for their top earning stars and subsequently revealed their blatant gender inequality and highlighted the ever present gender pay gap.

Funded by the tax payer, I have always viewed the BBC as a company that could be trusted. We’ve been paying for news updates, radio and entertainment and our money must be being spent correctly? However, after being pressured to release the wages of their presenters and actors, it was revealed that of the top 10 highest earners, only two of them are women. When I first read this news I was amazed, surely a company as established and world renowned as the BBC couldn’t be so sexist? Yet, as you delve deeper into the numbers, the pay gap becomes even more prevalent.

The highest earner on the BBC’s pay roll is Chris Evans, making a staggering £2.5 million. Somehow, the first woman doesn’t appear until number 8 on the list, with Claudia Winkleman making only £500,000, 1/5 of Chris Evans’ salary. Granted, both presenters have very different roles within the BBC, however if you compare Alex Jones and Matt Baker, despite having identical jobs as hosts of ‘The One Show’, Baker manages to earn £50,000 more than Jones.

As a corporation funded by the public, the BBC should be setting an example in gender equality, rather than giving a man a higher wage simply because of gender. If we ever wish to live in a world in which every woman, in every job can be earning the exact same salary as her male counterpart, then we have to start at the top. The BBC are now in a powerful position in which they have the ability to portray a positive change. If in a years time they can reveal 2017’s pay roll, showing they have made changes to decrease the gender pay gap, then they can be used as an example to other companies, proving if they can, why can’t everyone. However, this is an idealistic and unlikely outcome. The BBC have taken a hit from the release and now they have appeased the public by releasing the data once, it’s unlikely they’ll take the risk to do it again, despite the positive steps they could take towards gender equality.

Harassment

‘The attitudes towards women in nightclubs’ by Katie Frost

The attitude towards women who defend themselves against the objectification of today’s society has yet again proved to be a disappointment. Recently, I was subject to harassment in a club unlike any I have experienced before.

Here is a little context:

Men grope. If you are going on a night out, particularly a girl’s night out, you have to be prepared for unwanted attention in an overcrowded club, as disgusting as this concept may be in the 21st century – hungry hands will usually find you.  This is what happened on ‘said’ occasion. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing a glare and a ‘leave me alone’ won’t solve.

The ‘star groper of the evening’ moved around my small circle of friends, putting his hands around waists, touching butts… and each of us, in turn, told him to go away. Once he had completed the circle, finishing his groping with me – I told him none of us were interested, and told him to move away from us. Unbelievably, he asked me to clarify, as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing (because he’s just such a catch with his hands all over my friends) so I repeated; and the ‘groper’ finally sulked off.

The night carried on.

A while later, he reappeared. Bumping into me with force, hands venturing “unconsciously”. The ‘look’ did not warn him off this time. After the third or fourth time of his launching his drunk self into my body, I had had enough. I turned around and pushed him away me. With this, he fell right on his arse… literally. My shock of having actually pushed a somewhat 23 year old bloke to the floor in my frustration of being touched and pushed about – shocked me… let alone the shock it brought him – along with the humiliation and anger.

He stood up and began to get aggressive, bee lining for anyone who happened to be standing in his way. My friends were holding him back, as he was trying to get to me. He was lashing out manically, and in his anger, he managed to get a hold of my friend’s top. She was desperately trying to get him off while completely freaking out and in the struggle he ended up ripping her top. Finally, three guys turned round to help, and they managed to pin him against the wall – but in the chaos, he’d grabbed my other friend and had her in some form of, what I can only describe, as a backwards headlock. Eventually, we managed to get him off her. Someone had to go and find security to defuse it all.

He was kicked out of the club. We were told he had a life long ban. However, when we explained to the bouncer that he had grabbed my friend by the neck, and showed him the developing marks – he said if we wanted to involve the police, then we would have to say quickly so they can take his name and details. In all the panic and shock of the situation, it didn’t click… to have to ban someone, you need their name at least surely? Let alone some details of who the person is. The bouncer did not even consider what had happened to be much of an issue… so yet again this guy got away with it! His next targets may not be as confrontational as my friends and I. Who knows what will happen to his next victims.

Here comes the pinnacle point of the event….

By this point, my friend with the ripped top was making her way to the Ladies, when some guy stopped her and said something along the lines of “you deserved that.”

Now. Excuse me?! How in god’s name, did we deserve that? Did any of us deserve it? We had simply stood up for ourselves after repeatedly being touched inappropriately. Not only did this one guy make this comment – but in the jam packed club, only three people stepped up to help. Three. It is not as if this “groper” was haphazardly being violent, he was raging with it! Even when I tried to thank the lads that helped, they looked at me with such disregard, almost a look of disgust as if I was the one in the wrong.  The whole attitude towards us that evening was just that of pure unimportance. As if we had caused the problem, and were more of a nuisance than anything else. Very few people came to defuse the situation and the bouncers did not seem overly concerned.

When telling a member of my family how I’d defended myself, I was told that I should have told the bouncers and let them deal with it… my instant response to that was “the bouncers don’t care.” If I had approached a bouncer and said, “that guy won’t stop touching me and bashing into me” the response I’d have most likely been faced with is, “move away from him.” Now, why should I have to be the one to move, when he was the one causing harassment?  Involving the bouncers did not even occur to me until he became a raging lunatic. I am perfectly capable of being able to tell unwanted hands to leave me the hell alone. I always have done, and I will continue to do so. Because I will experience it again and again and again, and it is not acceptable, nor should it be belittled.

This is how “rape culture” has become a thing, through belittlement. Harassment is so mundane in today’s society, nobody is shocked or surprised by it. Not bouncers, not club goers, not even me. Slowly but surely, we have begun to expect harassment. How has it become so acceptable for straying hands to explore our bodies without consent? How is that more acceptable than telling those hands to fuck off?

Speaking of telling harassers to fuck off… this same evening my friend asked me if I had just been tapping her butt as if it were a drum… (we are very close friends). I looked at her blankly – it wasn’t me. I pulled her towards me and we shuffled as best we could across the dance floor, not being able to get very far due to the popularity of the club. We carried on dancing – until I felt someone tapping on my butt as if it were a drum. I turned round and attempted to confront the guy. He would not even look at me in the face! He was just smiling, staring at the floor (with a slightly sheepish look, embarrassed that I didn’t fall at his godly knees with adoration for his masterful butt tapping) and completely ignoring me!

Nightclubs should be a place where people can relax and have fun. I always considered clubbing to be a rather beautiful thing despite the stigma surrounding club-goers. People crowd together to drink something that relaxes and provides them with confidence, they dance for hours focusing on nothing but what is in front of them.
That has been tainted now. When out, I’m on constant alert, watching out for friends, making sure nothing is slipped into my drink when I’m dancing, chatting, crossing the dance floor… Clubs are now uncomfortable places.

The attitude towards drunk, club-going women is that they are vulnerable and inviting. My parents are always telling me “don’t ever walk back by yourself” because I am deemed vulnerable, an easy target. My clothes are never suggesting and even if I do not happen to be wearing any at all – it still does not suggest anything.

I am not vulnerable. If you refuse to leave me alone after a fair warning, I will get annoyed.

I am not inviting. You keep your hands off me. My outfit is not an invitation.  We are not objects to be marvelled at, neither are we pets to be stroked. If people feel they will be unable to control themselves in a club environment. Then they should be the ones to stay at home. Women should be comfortable and confident in being able to go on a night out, without the constant fear and unease of unwanted attention. There are plenty ways to grab a girls attention. But grabbing her is NOT one of them.

Attitudes towards club-going women need to change drastically. Respect that women are out to have a good time, and do not want to be touched up all night. Being drunk is not an excuse to manhandle women.

Have respect. Do not belittle harassment. Do not put up with it.

Hattie Farley · poetry

‘The Roots’ by Hattie Farley

we are taught from a young age
that happiness can be found
once we have met the person
that we want to spend the rest of
our lives with.

we aren’t allowed to consider
even for a second that perhaps
happiness can be found
in the nights spent in
the corner of a bar with friends
or in those moments of solitude
when it’s just you and a car
and the open road.

i am learning that perhaps
i will never meet the person
who is the root
of my entire happiness.
but luckily for me
they are wrong.
i have found my happiness

in country songs, solitude,
friendships and feminism.
the world changing
and watching an entire city
build itself up from the ground
after an afternoon of terror.
i crave for sisters and
sunsets and music
because
they are the roots
of my entire happiness
more than one
singular human
could ever be.

Carly Miller · Female Representation · Social Media

‘Two Steps Forward, One Step Back’ by Carly Miller

Why are we still so hesitant to write about Feminism?

“Why aren’t people more excited to write about feminism?” I ask myself as I finish reading yet another text message with “Umm… Thanks, but I don’t really think I could write about that.” Or, “I’ll think about it.”

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I mean, why are we so afraid to sit down at our laptop, in the private of our own coffee shop (or home) and be honest with how much bullshit us women put up with on the daily basis?! I was so excited and my brain burst with stories and ideas of how to reach out and connect with people with my personal experiences with feminism, so I thought the people I reached out to would be on board without a blink of the eye. Turns out I was either left on ‘Read’, lightly let down, or simply ignored. I would understand if it wasn’t July 2017 and the entire world hadn’t just witnessed Hillary Clinton become victim to countless sexist comments and be ignored about her warnings of Prisident Cheeto Head.  However, that is almost, if not exactly what year it is and exactly what happened.

Us women have to stop giving so many shits about what men or other women think about women sticking up for feminism and promoting it. It drives me crazy that there seems to be a trend on Tumblr and Twitter about the “perfect feminist”. When Tumblr got the wind of feminism back around 2012 or so, I remember it was a very aggressive stance, almost shoving it down outsider’s* throats. I recall there was a certain feminist aesthetic that rolled around, short and brightly colored hair, the idea of not shaving facial hair, etc.

** meaning those who either didn’t have a Tumblr, or the side of Tumblr who didn’t care to post about feminism.

Having this sort of “idea” of what a feminist looks like, trickles back to my main theory of society being visual adapters to life and social changes. Thus, creating the “negative” notion against feminism in society’s eyes (which, let’s be clear, what closed minded people think) that feminists might be ugly, that they are oversensitive, and just need to “change their tampon”. Is this why five years later after feminism hit the internet, we still have such a struggle identifying with it? Because anyone and everyone should be able to identify with this social movement, us individuals don’t have an idea in our head to latch on to. Think about it, when I think of:

  1. Super model: Gigi Hadid, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington. Not myself, as I am 5’4 and a size 14.
  2. Actor and actresses: Andrew Scott, Emily Blunt, Gina Rodriguez, Kevin Spacey. Not any of my acquaintances who act in a local play for one weekend in the summer.

We can’t identify a sole feminist because any of us can be feminists (and should be). Feminism isn’t an aesthetic. It’s a mindset and a way of life, it is the radical notion that women and men are equal. Why are we so afraid to accept this? And why does social media still have the roots of glamorizing the lifestyle of relying on a man? I see it all the time throughout my timeline of users aspiring to get a sugar daddy, to get rich and to not worry about a thing in life. Yes, the idea of money and being financially comfortable is an amazing thought, to not have any debt and to live in a nice fancy house. But why wouldn’t you want to work for that yourself? Make your own money, and pay off your own debt. Why in the hell would anyone want to put their financial trust in a man? Twitter loves to argue how progressive and socially aware they are but are out here ready to, from some tweets, just quit school and marry rich.

Why are these groups of people so afraid to work hard and achieve their goals? Is it because everyone has taught women that by 22 you should probably have met your future husband, by 26 you should be getting married and by 30 you should have your kids (and that timeline is being generous, I know a girl who said she wanted to be married and have kids by 25). Why is it that all of us, at one point or another, have bought into this fairytale fantasy, and why are we so afraid that it won’t happen?

These are some of the thoughts I believe that are holding back the last few who don’t believe in feminism, or only certain bits of it. Some believe if you’re a feminist you can’t be a wife. That you can’t be a mother, or a housewife. Some of the Twitter users out there are afraid to speak up for their rights of their sex because they are afraid they will sound silly or stupid, or even crazier, that no one will find them “datable” because their points of view is too threatening for the average man. Us women need to stop acting like the damsel in distress to sway a man. Us women need to go after what we want and who we want, no matter what our hair, skin, nails or outfit looks like. We need to stop this bullshit of not looking like a feminist enough and start embracing the notion.

Hattie Farley · Intersectional Feminism

‘Let’s talk about the F-Word’ by Hattie Farley

“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?” – Ellen Page

I have been asked, by both men and women, as to why the word ‘feminism’ is still used in this day and age. If feminism is for everyone, why include ‘fem’ in the title? Surely, if feminism does include fighting for the equality of not only women but also men, non-binary people, the LGBT community and POC then we should modernise the title to a more inclusive one? In 2015, Meryl Streep claimed that she did not associate with the word ‘feminist’ but instead stated: “I am a humanist, I am for a nice easy balance”.

So, the question is: should the word ‘feminism’ be updated? Should we start defining ourselves as ‘humanists’ and ‘equalists’ to avoid claims that the label ‘feminism’ no longer fits the list of people that it claims to help?

The thing is, by referring to ourselves as ‘feminists’ we are highlighting the social, political and economic disadvantages that women face every single day; this ranges from unwanted cat-calling in the street, FGM, the Bathroom Bill, to the gender pay-gap. Of course, we can claim that defining ourselves as ‘humanists’ and ‘equalists’ we are taking into account and fighting for the equality of everyone. However, the key to understanding why we refer to the word ‘feminism’ when referring to gender equality is to remember that feminism is all about addressing the current state of the world. In the current world we live in, women are the gender group who are heavily discriminated against. This includes the discrimination against WOC, transwomen, gay women and bisexual women.

As Vlogger Steve Shives claimed in a video in 2014:

“The reason why it’s called feminism while advocating for gender equality is because females are the gender that are the underprivileged, underserved gender…You attain gender equality by advocating for the rights of the underprivileged gender”

Despite popular belief, especially amongst the older generations, that feminism is all about women wanting to be better than men, it is actually about bringing women up to the same level as men. How is this possible, by using definitions such as ‘Equalism’ when we have not yet reached that target? This is not to say that men are not discriminated against or affected by the patriarchy. From a young age, society teaches men that they shouldn’t show emotion; that they should act ‘manly’; that they shouldn’t wear the colour pink; they shouldn’t play with dolls but with cars instead. Through my time at school, I watched as boys were labelled as ‘gay boys’ if they let their guard down for more than a second. Statistics show that this behaviour is incredibly damaging for men in later life. Men are statistically more likely to struggle with alcoholism as a coping mechanism rather than women.  Additionally, the 2017 Samaritans Suicide Statisics Report claimed that the highest suicide rate in the UK was for men, aged 40-44. If we want to smash the patriarchy and consequently, these problems and ideas, men must realise the importance and the impact of feminism. We need to stop cowering away from the word and use it as a sword, to smash and protect ourselves from that glass ceiling.

Essentially, it is not the WORD ‘feminism’ that is the problem, and none of us should be afraid to use it, whether you believe in ‘Equalism’ or ‘Humanism’ or not. The thing that both men and women need to continually focus on is making sure that the feminism itself is intersectional. We need to make sure that our feminism isn’t just the type of feminism that only impacts ourselves. In order to make sure that our feminism is progressive, we need to make sure that it includes fighting against the discrimination against race, class and sexual orientation.

Feminism is not a dirty word. Feminism does not mean burning bras, does not automatically make you a lesbian, does not mean you hate men and certainly does not mean you want to be better than men. Without the acceptance of the word and definition of the word ‘feminism’, equality is not, and will never be possible.

Carly Miller · Female Representation · Sexism in the Media

‘The accuracy of ‘average’ female characters: Suits’ by Carly Miller

As someone who didn’t really know what they wanted to do with their life until they got to University, I am proud to say that I have my goals set on becoming a lawyer, and with that, the academic goal to get into law school. This goal is a very big deal for me as when I started my university career, I thought I had my heart set on media technology and communications; turns out, I was wrong and I believe you have to make a few wrong turns in life to find yourself on the right road for your future. After coming to terms with myself, and what I really wanted to do with my life, my parents never seemed 100% for it. In fact they were, and still are very weary; weary in the sense that they don’t believe that I can achieve this goal; with my father constantly suggesting that I should go into speech-pathology (not once in my life have I sparked interest in that field of study). While the wheels continue to turn in my head, I can’t help but wonder why no one in my family can see me as a lawyer, and if I am the only one who experiences this. Thus, leading a few other thoughts: If I am the only female who experiences this, which I can’t possibly be, because that would mean one of two things:

  1. The world is actually caught up with feminism and supports women with what they set their minds to and what they want to accomplish.
  2. My parents are just as muted as my personal testimony suggests and they are part of the problem society has created.

However, being more realistic with the concept of society not being “there” for women and their career choices; it seems as though most of the world are “visual” learners in the sense that when it comes to us women and how we “should” make our career choices.  We may or may not realize that women are profiled by a constant marketing whether it be in a simple 30-second ad on YouTube you cannot skip, a new Netflix show or a groundbreaking new-summer blockbuster. Yet, all of these things have one thing in common: the precise calculation of how relatable a female character can be.

For years and years, men have had their hand in media in which women have been boxed as nothing more as a housewife from the 60’s up until Mary Tyler Moore broke the stigma that women actually wear pants and have the desire to hold a job. While television became more politically correct with their roles for women, people of color and sexualities, there is still an apparent stigma and formula that television and media follows. Now, I do deeply apologize because after reading this theory, you won’t be able to ignore any of the signs of shitty writing and lazy producing. Over the course of a few weeks, I will be analyzing some of my favorite television shows: USA’s Suits, BBC’s Sherlock and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.

Suits
Back in summer of 2011, USA released this snazzy, sleek, New Yorker, law firm drama centres around three white guys, a redhead, two women of color, and another white woman just to make sure white people are secure enough while watching the drama.

suits promo

Race doesn’t have much of a narrative to this show, as it is centered around the two main characters defending clients whilst trying to keep the other’s secret about not being a lawyer. However, it does cover all of the average checkmarks: men and women, of any hair color, or skin color can be lawyers if they are sleek enough, have great legs, can afford a $1500 pantsuit, and master the art of power walking down Fifth Avenue whilst eating a bagel paired with a coffee and going over a deposition with the new associate.

Examining the point of feminism for this show: notice how the women are standing, with confidence; and their hair? Sleek and polished. Along with their top designer dresses and suits. Just looking at this promotional photo alone, what are the first adjectives that come to mind? Having their shit together, ivy league schools, too cool for school. Along with all of these adjectives, one can argue that to achieve all of these listed above is to be in the upper class or come from some sort of money.

Circling back to the main point of this post, when society thinks of lawyers, they don’t tend to think of a woman who once had a passion for screenwriting and acting to now have a profound passion for the study of law. When I’m out in public or even in the safety of my own home, I don’t tend to look at average conversations with a stereotypical lawyer’s point of view of “you can’t prove this or that”, I tend to speak like a somewhat normal twenty-year-old.

Had I had graduated with a 4.3 GPA in high school with all honors, gotten into an ivy league school, then maybe I (as well as countless other women) the people I encounter in life would “see” me more as a lawyer. Profiling the way someone dresses, speaks, chooses what they watch, how many tattoos one has and even their gender is bullshit. But yet, because of shows like Suits, often in the dominate control of men producing, writing and directing. The vision of those actresses portrayed on Suits are focus group’s ideal box of women, never once thinking outside of the box of what real women look like, dress like or even talk like.

Examining the female characters: Donna and Rachel (yes, you may recognize the actress who portrays Megan as this is Prince Harry’s fabulous girlfriend), are the two main female characters on the drama.

Suits - Season 5

The writing does get very repetitive: 

  1. Actor says something clever
  2. Other actor responds with something equally as clever
  3. Actor one closes dialogue with a dumb punch line or pun.

Starting off with Rachel Zane, a paralegal at the firm, who is evidentially the secret daughter of a wealthy/successful lawyer; she is the first person at the firm to befriend the main character, Mike Ross (fake lawyer). They fall into the stereotypical “we are only friends, but we love each other, but won’t sleep with each other because it would ruin the friendship blah blah blah” Rachel has every potential to be an amazing lawyer and get into law school, yet her character has a clutch: test anxiety. Which, I can’t get mad about, because the show doesn’t over hype it and make her character surrounded by the anxiety. The show gives the character the tools and an example of a semi-decent support system to power through the LSATs and become her own person.

Donna is portrayed as the secretary, in fact so much of the power held in the, I believe she is titled as Harvey Specter’s personal assistant (don’t quote me, it’s been a while since I’ve watched). Donna falls under the “motherly” type of woman written for television. Constantly making sure Harvey’s tie is the “right” tie, that no one goes into his office unless she gives them approval, keeping the secret that Mike Ross hasn’t graduated from Harvard. Donna is in other words, the wheels behind the bicycle.

Donna’s character proves that Harvey really wouldn’t be the lawyer he is in the present season of the show without Donna always having his back. She never really sparks an interest in wanting to be anything more than a personal assistant to Harvey (that I’ve seen, again, have not seen the whole series), while this is perfect for the angle of how women can be whatever they aspire to be if it is a personal assistant or a partner at a law firm; the show does an exceptional job at one thing: Donna putting Harvey in his place.

We have all watched shows where the creators portray women as paper machete, the writers of Suits do an exceptional job of having the women stand their ground. Harvey is a womanizer and an asshole for at least 12 minutes per every episode. Donna sees through all of the designer suits and the hair gel, and puts Harvey in his place and keeps him on planet Earth. The platform of the show encourages women to stand their ground to their boss, man or woman, to stand up for what they believe is right and to speak up for what they think is right. While I’m aware our readers probably haven’t seen the show, as it isn’t the greatest show on American television, I do encourage our readers to delve into a few episodes if you all can get past the cringe worthy writing.

Hattie Farley · poetry

‘that overgrown path’ by Hattie Farley

i have lived my entire life scared.
every path i have ever taken
has been overgrown with the footsteps
of every man who has been there before.
i have cowered in fear from shadows in the streets,
a metal key pressed between my knuckles
but there is more than fear
that pulses in my veins

but then i found a word
and that word felt like a sword.
a safe space, where nothing can break
that word protected me time and time again
when that overgrown path
felt a little too narrow

so imagine my despair
when that word
is tossed aside. i watch noses wrinkle,
as that word becomes dirty.
the word is left to rot
as men still walk that overgrown path

but they don’t know
beneath their feat
there is an army of women
and men
who chant that word as they fall asleep.
who one day will rise from the undergrowth,
and find their place,
breathing fire, as they burn their way through
that narrow path.