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The Skin I’m In

Author:

By Anna Hill

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Trigger Warning – Self Harm

Since I was born I’ve had eczema – a skin condition I still can’t spell, that leaves me with itchy, red, dry patches of skin in various different areas. When I was younger it was much worse, more of my skin was covered in the bumpy patches – behind my knees, my ears, the inside of my elbows and so on. The constant scratching and obvious red areas made me very shy of showing my body in any capacity, and I would hate specifically showing my arms. The skin between my forearm and my upper arm was the worst, particularly in summer. I would often scratch until I bled and the whole cycle made me feel ashamed. The eczema sometimes got so bad that I would have matching bumpy red, bleeding skin behind my knees and my elbows, all at the same time.

It was so obvious my skin was angry, it was writhing with anger, just under the surface. It was so evident inside me, around me, irritating me. I had so much restless energy, which ultimately led to more itching. My itching was never commented on explicitly but it was always present, implicit in the glances and the stares of my teachers, classmates and adults who I came into contact with. The feeling I got after I had itched – namely pain, after some satisfaction at first, forced me to be anchored to my body, and so did the glances at the patches on my skin. Not only is it dull, but it is very tough to be present, only so far as the confines of your body, to the landscape of our physical selves rather than the present where the world exists both internally and externally.

One of the reasons why eczema made me feel so insecure, was that it was not discrete. Whilst I felt my friends were growing up daintily (which in hindsight is not true), and had pretty skin (to me they always looked nice even when it was dotted with spots), I imagined myself as a tomato. The redness of my skin wasn’t helped either by the fact that I too am a blusher. My whole body was red, it was a walking wound sometimes and I felt like my weeping skin took up too much space.

After a while I started to see that my skin became alive with that itching feeling – you know the one, that little tickle starts and once you give in you’re gone – especially when I was stressed. During my G.C.S.Es not only was I very stressed but I also itched a lot, and then I realised that my skin was more raw (because I made it that way – even when I was sleeping) during that time I made the connection.

It went further than just stress being a trigger for it though later on, and although it took a while, I excavated my pain and my pressure in a way that made sense on my skin. It’s difficult when you have a skin condition that actually shows those around you your feelings. My anger and my stress all come through on my skin, and undoubtedly they still will, because I have a diagnosed skin condition. But it is what the stress and the anger are directed at is what I want to change. The further I went into my ruins the more I understood that a lot of the reason I continued to itch was to punish myself. It was to show myself that I was angry, angry at the world that hurt me and told me being queer was wrong, and also at myself for failing to live up to my impossible standards in life and school. I felt guilty for all these things. I felt my anger was not allowed – I was a girl, I was supposed to be pretty, sweet, kind and mostly importantly have soft skin. I wasn’t supposed to be covered in red scars and full of a yearning to burst out of my skin. To peel away all the bad skin and be shiny and new born.

When I itch now I recall all that itching that I did when I was angry and frustrated at life and myself. I recall all those times I did it to inflict pain, or to inflict any type of feeling on myself. The repetitive action of itching is very difficult to get away from and when I look at my body now I often feel like I look like a wound, my body is a visible reminder that I hurt, that I felt pain, that I damaged myself. That my trauma bleeds out of me, visible to everyone that looks at me.

But is this thinking helpful to me now? My skin will always be bumpy and itchy, so is it helpful to talk about it in the context of self-harm? Does the way I talk about it reinforce the pain, and the cycle of tearing at my skin? Leslie Jamison, in The Empathy Exams, wrote that “[her] feelings were also made of the way [she] spoke them”. It is a constant balance between the “state of submission” to feelings and thoughts and the “process of constructing” them.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to approach not only my eczema but my whole body with more compassion, with more understanding. I could completely accept my interpretation of my actions – that they stem from a place of hatred, but then it would be too easy for me to continue to hate, to continue to despair at myself, and thus punish myself when I fail all the more. Instead I want to make a home for myself in my self. Regardless of how aesthetically pleasing my body is, it is mine. It is the only constant home I will ever have and it will be with me my whole life. It’s presence facilitates a lot of what I do – my fingers typing these words for example – and so my goal is not to be perfect in treating my body, it is to be kinder to it. My body is not just made of scars and it is easier to remember that when I attempt to be kind, in little ways and big ways. I aim to be less angry at myself and at my red bumps, to be less frustrated when I fail to reach an academic goal, to be kinder when I do mess up. I aim to accept the skin I’m in rather than revolt against it.

 

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If you are interested in hearing more about self harm from a young person, go here.

If you want to know more about self-harm, go here.

Let’s Talk About Sexual Assault.

Author:

By Issy McConville

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Trigger Warning

So we’ve reached January. That month that feels like an endless Monday – it’s cold, it’s dark, and aside from the few extra pounds gained purely from Turkey consumption, Christmas feels like a distant memory. But there’s one memory in particular I want to talk about. Christmas is a truly unique period – perhaps it’s the glint of the tinsel dazzling your eyes, or perhaps it’s those ill-advised 2 for 1 Wetherspoons pitchers – but inevitably, your reunion with your school friends in the pub ends up on the sweaty dance floor of the same terrible club you used to sneak into underage.

Sadly for me this year, despite the promise of reliving the fantastic memories of the Hippodrome Foam Party 2012, my return to this particular club was a marred experience. There I was, throwing some shapes to the Spice Girls in the cheese room (no regrets) when I felt someone touch me. And this happened 3 times in this night alone. I’m not proud to admit that eventually I snapped – I turned around and slapped a man as he laughed with his friends. I know that violence was not the answer. And I also know that wine makes me a little aggressive. But this should never have happened to me. I should be able to go out with my friends without having strangers touch me as they walk by.

Last night’s shocking episode of Big Brother saw Jeremy Jackson removed from the show after inappropriately touching Chloe Goodman. Trying to explain his actions, he stated that he was ‘drunk’ and it wasn’t an ‘aggressive’ move. But what could be more aggressive than a complete violation of her body, of her personal space? He said he thought she was flirting – but she was just a woman helping him as he got sick. This isn’t flirting. The fact that this could happen on live television, and the fact that so many on Twitter jumped to Jackson’s defense is revealing of the damaging attitudes that exist. Groping someone when you’re sober IS sexual assault. Groping someone after a few too many drinks IS STILL sexual assault. This image of sexual assault as the creeping stranger down a dark alleyway needs to be dispelled for good, because it means that too many of us don’t recognise assault when it does happen. Being felt up in a club is an experience that is almost too common that we’ve become immune to it – but we need to stop letting these things slide. If a man touches me in a club, he should be removed, just as Jackson was removed from the Big Brother house. Watching Chloe’s distress was very upsetting, and this is happening to girls every single day. The response of Channel 5 was pretty questionable, as they still aired the footage, and advertised it as ‘explosive drama’ – making Chloe’s assault into some kind of entertainment for viewers.

Despite this, I am glad Big Brother took action in removing Jeremy Jackson. But let’s build on this example. Let’s stop our acceptance of regular incidences of assault, just because it’s easy. Let’s have better structures in place in bars and nightclubs, so women never feel afraid to report. Let’s challenge this sense of entitlement towards a woman’s body. It is a strange facet of humanity that we enjoy gathering in a small dark room to move around to some electronic beats for hours – but we really do. And when we do, we should all be able to feel safe.

 

 

Pop Culture of 2014

Author:

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

A week into the new year, let’s look back on all of the things  that have happened in the worlds of music, film and fashion in 2014, and hope for a year of awesome things ahead.

Some of 2014 has been truly awful and problematic (Meghan Trainor’s skinny-shaming in All About That Bass, and her subsequent comments on eating disorders, for example!), but we have also had some wonderful things come out of 2014. Of course we must examine the bad in order to overcome it, but it’s always nice to reflect on the positive, so here’s a round-up of some of the highlights…

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  • The brilliant Ellen Page came out, with bravery and grace. A world of feminist queer girls cheered – partially in support and solidarity of this wonderful woman, partially in utter delight. In all seriousness, it was a very moving speech, leaving us all bursting with pride, and gave many a fresh wave of courage.
  • Beyoncé released a music video for Pretty Hurts, which is obviously everyone’s favourite song on her latest album. It sends out a powerful message against beauty standards and perfection, critiquing beauty pageants in particular for pitting women against each other in the name of homogenous beauty.
  • Many popular women’s magazines began to take on the ‘feminist’ label. They still have a long way to go, quite frankly – they’re still airbrushing photos, keeping adverts which perpetuate the hyper-sexualisation of women’s bodies etc. etc. However, they are including some pieces on important issues and featuring strong women (and allowing them to talk about more than their make-up routines!). I’ve seen spreads on the dangers of diet pills, sexual harassment, discussions on abortion laws, and heaps of coverage of incredible things done by incredible women! It’s a very big step forward.
  • The greatest independent British film ever happened. PRIDE! Based on the real action of a London-based LGBT group supporting striking miners from a village in Wales, Pride embraces stereotypes and simultaneously smashes them. It’s very feel-good, whilst also being incredibly moving and will bring you to tears in several instances. If you’re not cracking up five minutes after choking up and vice-versa, you’re watching the wrong film.
  • Amazing actress Emma Watson turned activist! In September, Emma gave a very emotive speech to introduce the brilliant He For She campaign. Having such a prominent figure openly denounce the feminism vs. man myth has done wonders for the movement, as can be seen in the influx of support worldwide – including more famous faces to spread the word…
  • Taylor Swift became queen of the whole world (she’s always been queen of my personal world, but hey, the wider world has woken up). The release of 1989 signifies a massive change of tone in Taylor’s music. The singles Shake It Off and Blank Space (although the music videos of each single have been controversial) are total anthems, sending the message that this girl does not care what people think of her anymore, and as a listener, empower you to feel the same. Alongside the songs, Taylor has been vocal about the inequality within the music industry, how she has experienced backlash for writing about relationships and heartache, whilst male musicians do the same thing, but are simply praised for the quality of their song writing. Every criticism this girl has had over the years, she’s just shakin’ it off, because haters gon’ hate, and Taylor’s gon’ slay.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt. 1 was released, and with all the action and emotion came a total reversal of stereotypical gender roles in film! Whilst Katniss is, as ever, our badass heroine, Peeta is the damsel in distress, as the hostage of the Capitol. It makes a refreshing change.

A more personal highlight for me has been joining Powered By Girl – and I am honestly not just saying that! I feel so fortunate to be a part of this, and to know these wonderful girls, some of whom have swiftly become some of my best friends. You all continue to inspire me, make me smile, and make me proud, every single day. Here’s to more feminist adventures in 2015!

A Christmas Wrapped In Rape Culture

Author:

By Jess Hayden

Trigger Warning

Christmas shopping. Love it or loathe it, it’s an activity which most of us will be partaking in this Christmas. The annual dilemma resurfaces – what to buy the sister who’s hard to find gifts for? Will Dad appreciate another pair of socks? Does Mum even like scented candles? Many companies will lure you in with unique gifts for your loved ones, but one website in particular has left me shocked and offended. There’s no easy way to say this, Cafepress.com has a range of Christmas themed presents, designed by members of the public, with “rape” written on them.

My first thought was, who would even buy it? Is there honestly a market for pro-rape merchandise? And then I realised, it’s all a bit of a joke to them. The designers, and the customers, all find this a bit amusing. This isn’t about wearing a T-shirt to offend p
eople – I honestly don’t think anybody would seriously wear one outside the house. Instead I think these are Secret Santa presents, novelty joke gifts which are meant to be amusing.

Well personally, I don’t buy it. I don’t think it is ethically right to trivialise rape to the extent of a “today I feel raped” bumper sticker, as if rape is somehow synonymous with a feeling like “tired,” or even a baby-grow with the word “rape” written on it.

If these T-shirts are so funny and light-hearted that I get told I’m over-reacting for tweeting about how much this has offended me, then we are defending rape-culture. We live in a society where many people will happily declare they just “raped” their friend at FIFA, or could “rape a full English”, yet as soon as a victim says they’ve been raped, you’ll find many of the same people shouting “over-reaction” and “liar”.

rape, baby clothesI’m not linking these products with an increase in rape, but when in England and Wales a woman is raped every 6 minutes, I think it is far beyond a joke to trivialise such a violent crime. It mocks the victims, encourages shame and is just completely ethically wrong.

Here at Powered by Girl, we decide to stand up for what we think is right and we encourage other young people to do the same. Therefore, we have just launched a petition – asking Cafepress to censor what they sell before selling it. Sounds pretty obvious, but this is something Cafepress are still not doing. I had to send them images of some of the rape-glorifying merchandise for them to delete, and to be fair to them, they did delete the content almost instantly. However, we believe strongly that these products shouldn’t have been on the website in the first place, and Cafepress should censor the products before they appear on their website.

So we ask you to please sign our petition and share it with your friends.

Thank you.

https://www.change.org/p/fred-durham-stop-glorifying-rape-and-violence-abide-by-your-content-usage-policy-by-moderating-content-before-it-goes-live-on-your-site

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