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. 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Hattie Farley · Sexism in the Media

‘Sex(ism) Sells’ by Hattie Farley

My parents read The Daily Mail pretty religiously. I’ll come downstairs in the mornings and be faced with a headline that will normally make me roll my eyes in annoyance. Quite often my father will read out a fact or statement to which I will reply dubiously: “Did you read that in The Daily Mail?’ and 9 times out of 10 I will be correct in my prediction. I’m not sure why my parents trust this newspaper so much. They are not sexist people, they are educated and are able to identify sexism whether it be found in a social situation or in a newspaper. So, why do so many people (just like my parents) read and trust this newspaper? Infamously labelled as ‘The Daily Fail’, this paper is read by 23 million readers per month in either print or online. The online news website is, in fact, the most viewed news website in the world. Those are the insane numbers, considering the fact that print is supposedly a dying breed. So perhaps we are right to assume that 23 million readers per month are unaware of the sexism that takes place within its pages.

I was horrified this week when I browsed the front pages of the newspapers in Tesco to be faced with headlines from The Daily Mail which appeared to be mocking Harriet Harman for bravely opening up to the fact that she had been sexually harassed multiple times throughout her adulthood. Instead of showing support for Harman, the newspaper appeared to discredit her claims, the headline stating ‘Now, Harriet claims that THREE men have sexually harassed her’. I am unsure why these claims are being treated as ludicrous by The Daily Mail given the alarming statistics in regards to sexual harassment. Popular magazine Cosmopolitan conducted a survey in 2015, where they discovered that 1 in 3 women (aged 18–34) have been sexually harassed at work yet 71% of these cases were not reported. This is unsurprising, due to the society that we live in where sexual harassment is simply not treated seriously within our day to day news. If you don’t believe me on this, The Guardian also made a report on this issue a few years ago where they claimed that in 2012 The Daily Mail published around 54 headlines reporting on women ‘crying wolf’ about rape. This is a strong and solid indicator as to how exactly how The Daily Mail feel about sexual allegations and the ‘truth’ behind them. Yet, what The Daily Mail appears to be unaware of are the consequences that these ‘crying wolf’ headlines can have. I am thinking especially of young women who are afraid to speak out about sexual harassment, in the fear that they may be shunned and disbelieved by society.

Quite often, the sexism found within the pages of The Daily Mail can be surprisingly subtle and it is this kind that is the most damaging. Subtle sexism helps to normalise its place in society so that we end up expecting to find it around us, rather than being truly surprised when we do. I know this because I have grown up with The Daily Mail on the kitchen table. I’m no longer shocked at articles on actresses being reduced to their list of boyfriends rather than their list of accomplishments. I’m no longer surprised to see racist and homophobic headlines scatter the pages. I’m certainly no longer shocked at the ‘side-bar of shame’ on the Mail’s online website, where headlines such as ‘How Kate Took Ten Years Off Her Face’ by ‘ditching her heavy eyeliner’ can be found. That’s Kate Middleton they are referring to, by the way. Not Kate Moss or Kate Winslet. But the Duchess of Cambridge. I can’t be the only one questioning whether this type of journalism on any woman (let alone our future Queen) is entirely respectful.

Yet, an article in The Daily Mail in May 2016 pleaded with the royal couple, stating: ‘Kate and William, stop trying to be like us!’ in reference to the ‘horrific’ event in which Kate Middleton dared to refer to her husband (in a private conversation) as ‘babe’ at the Chelsea Flower Show. The article then went on to claim that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge behave too much like ‘our friends from a grammar school’. I don’t know about you, but I have friends who went to grammar schools and no offence, but they act nothing like Kate Middleton and Prince William.

Is it just me, or is this a slightly hypocritical thing for The Daily Mail to claim. They are the ones who fuss over Kate Middleton’s skirt length, with headlines stating ‘Please learn to cover up, Kate’ and referring to her underwear as ‘a thong that would make even a cheese cutter wince’. Royal titles do not appear to be an important significance for The Daily Mail, as they confidently label our future King and Queen as ‘Kate’ and ‘Wills’. If anyone is normalising The Royal Family and encouraging their so-called ‘unstately’ behaviour, then surely it is them?

Of course, it’s not just The Daily Mail that is guilty of this. Newspapers around the world could be found sporting sexist headlines in regards to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Other well-known brands and corporations such as ‘American Apparel’ use sexism and the ‘male gaze’ in order to make successful sales. Despite Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s promise to ban sexist body-shaming adverts on the tube they can unfortunately still be found.

I don’t know whether sexism sells and if it does I don’t know why. What I do know is that they are not just silly, little harmless headlines. They are headlines from powerful papers, which have the ability to have catastrophic effects due to their ability to warp our views without us really knowing and recognising it.

How to survive this? Recognise it when you can, make your voice heard and join the fight into breaking down that glass ceiling. As Hillary Clinton recently claimed: ‘The Future Is Female’. We’ve just got to work out a way to get through the tide of sexism in our way.

Hattie Farley · Intersectional Feminism

‘Things I Wish I Had Known About Feminism’ by Hattie Farley

Feminism: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”

‘I’m a feminist.’ I say proudly to anyone who will listen. I’m 13 years old. My hair is cropped short. I’m spotty, uneducated in most aspects of the grown-up world and all I know is that I’m sick of the boys at school. I’m already tired of the struggle of being a female. I’m already sick of periods and break-outs, the unwanted mood-swings and the boys in school getting away with making sexist and unwanted remarks. Of course, this was before I knew anything about feminism and what it all meant. My thought process revolved around the idea that girls were better than boys and that was that. Yet despite this, I felt proud of accepting this word that everyone else around me appeared to be terrified of.

For a few years following this acceptance of my feminism, I began my process into learning what feminism was really all about. At first, I grew very angry at the world and took this out on any man who dared to hold open a door for me (‘I can open a door on my own you know’). This, of course, is not the way we will ever achieve in our fight for equality as (obviously) you can be a feminist and still enjoy men holding doors open for you and carrying your bags. But it certainly made me feel like I was doing my bit for the rights of women when I was fourteen years old.

Slowly but surely, I began to pick up on sexism that was happening outside of my own little world. I began to pick up on Taylor Swift being ridiculed by the media for writing about boys when male artists such as Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith were able to write entire albums on falling in and out of love while being praised for their bravery. I began to learn about the high levels of discrimination that trans men and women go through in the workplace and the battle that they face every day. Despite the fact that gay marriage was passed in the US in 2015, there is still an ongoing fight in regards to the treatment of the transgender community. Just last year, Obama’s policy that transgender school students should be allowed to use a bathroom of their choice was blocked by a US judge. It is pivotal in our fight for equality that discrimination against the LGBT community should be treated the same in the eyes of the law as any other type of discrimination. Yet, we witness these discriminations happen in the public eye every day. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trended two years in a row last year due to the fact that out of twenty nominations, not a single person of colour was nominated. Additionally, Carol a romantic film following the story line of two women was snubbed of an Oscar in 2016 proving that despite the fact that lesbian relationships are heavily sexualised within the media and the porn industry, they are not appealing to men if they cannot see themselves as a part of the narrative. It could be argued that this was certainly the case in regards to the Academy (made up mostly of white men) and their choice to overlook Carol entirely.

Unfortunately, these issues don’t just happen in America. Similar comments and headlines can be found in pretty much any copy of The Daily Mail. In September 2016, a political storyline revolving Theresa May and a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk was reduced into a tacky headline about the ‘daring thigh-split skirt’ that she had ‘dared’ to wear to such an important meeting. Similarly, actress Maisie Williams was targeted by The Daily Mail last year, for audaciously going ‘bra-less in a sheer lace dress’ at a charity event. Maisie William’s responded to this headline, suggesting that The Daily Mail should focus on her help in raising thousands of pounds towards a charity rather than her choice of clothing.

These are the aspects of feminism that I wish I had known when I was thirteen and simply sick of the boys at school. Because the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that if your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism. If it is the type of feminism that only impacts and revolves around yourself, then it isn’t feminism.

Most importantly, I have learnt to strive off that anger that builds up inside you when Hillary Clinton and Theresa May are reduced to items of clothing rather than their well-established careers. Let it fuel you. That anger is the reason why one day our generation will see the end of the pay gap. That anger is how women won the vote. That anger will see us through Donald Trump’s misogynistic, racist and homophobic comments. That anger will keep you fighting for a braver and brighter future because despite what people think, equal rights does not mean fewer rights for anyone else.

 

 

You can also find this post on my Medium account.

Hattie Farley · Introduction

Welcome to ‘Feminism is the Future’

Hello. My name is Hattie, a recent English Language and Linguistics graduate from the University of Kent. I have been blogging since January 2016, on a personal blog where I focused on university advice, book reviews and feminism. As much as I enjoyed this, recently I have gravitated towards the idea to solely focus on feminism. This can be put down to a number of reasons.

I have been passionate about the social, economic and political equality of the sexes since I was a young teenager, even when I arrogantly knew nothing of intersectional feminism or the fact that feminists do NOT want to be better than men. Despite spending the first half of my teenage life living in a naive-feminism bubble, it wasn’t long before I sat down to do some proper research in order to discover the true meaning of ‘Feminism’.

The second reason for starting this blog hangs in various different social interactions which I have recently encountered. I have been told that I should ‘hold back’ on my beliefs in equality; that I should be silenced or I would fail to be employed by men. I was told that I should be careful in what I put ‘out there’ on the internet. Funnily enough, these words made me want to do the exact opposite. I spent a lot of time mulling over these words, until I was sick of thinking about them. I discussed them with my friends, parents and sisters and I spent a lot of time re-reading articles written by Caitlin Moran, whilst listening to girl-power inspired anthems. By the end of this process, I decided that I wanted to set up a new blog, separate from my previous one. I wanted to start educating people on the truth about feminism, because I was never taught about feminism in school. No one ever sat me down and explained to me exactly what feminism is all about. So, how can we blame people for misunderstanding feminism, when it has never been properly taught to them? How can we shift away from this viewpoint of burning bras and man-hating if we don’t have a system in place for both younger and older generations to understand what feminism is really about: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

We have a long way to go, and hopefully this blog can help, at least a little, in making sure that equality is within reach.