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Powered By Girl’s Winter Feminist Gift Guide

Author:
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By Anna Hill

As winter fast approaches and various celebrations come about you might be thinking about what you want to ask for, and what you want to get others!! So I made a handy list of suggestions for you to peruse and/or send to a parent/friend/add to that amazon wishlist!

Fiction

She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya

This masterpiece of a book is so beautiful! It’s written by a bisexual trans woman of colour and is full of accurate depictions of what being bisexual and experiencing biphobia is like. Its an illustrated novel chronicling the life of one specific boy as he discovers himself and learns to define who he is himself, alongside a really lovely re-imagining/retelling of Hindu mythology.

Carol/ The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Perfect for those wintery-Christmas-cold feels, Carol tells the story of Therese Belivet, a shy but artistic set designer and Carol, an older glamorous women on the brink of divorce. It’s a story set in the 1950s and is full of intricate and deep silences and omissions, portraying the lives of lesbian and queer women at that time. It is a great reminder of survival and love. This is also now a film which you could watch and discuss especially with the context that Patricia Highsmith, a lesbian herself, wrote it originally, but the director of the film was a straight man named Todd Haynes – how might that switch up perspectives?!

New Virginia Woolf Vintage Editions

Vintage has just released some beautiful new versions of Virginia Woolf’s work – my favourites are The Waves and Orlando. The Waves is an experimental modernist novel about five people and the way their lives wind together throughout their lives. The prose and imagery are amazing and inspiring. Orlando is very different – it’s a fun novel detailing the life of Orlando, a character that fluidly switches gender and time span, traveling from Istanbul to London to Russia.

Refugee Tales

This book is a double gift!! Refugee Tales is a collection of testimonies set out in a similar form as The Canterbury Tales and the entire profit of the book goes to Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Refugee Help! Which means you get a shiny new book, and someone else gets funds that will help their wellbeing.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

This is a Young Adult Novel about a young Bruja [Latinx witch!]!! Perfect for the aspiring witch in your life; this is a story about mistakes, growth, family and identity. The novel is also part of the #OwnVoices movement, which means that it was written by someone who identifies with the main characters the story is about!

Ragdoll House by Maranda Elizabeth

Maranda Elizabeth is currently my favourite author and I attempt to include their work in every conversation! Ragdoll House is a wonderful novel about queer girl friendship, survival and love. This was described as a “queer punk classic” by one goodreads review and I couldn’t agree more! The prose is great and its always great to support mad disabled self-published authors.

Non-Fiction

Where Am I Now by Mara Wilson

Yes!! This is by The Mara Wilson, of Matilda fame! This is a collection of personal essays Mara has written about what it has been like for her growing up as a young girl and a former child actress. Her twitter account never ceases to entertain me and neither does this. Her honesty and wit is enthralling and her perspective is really interesting.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book is a current feminist classic! You might have seen the ted talk this small book is based on, or you might have heard the section that is played in the Beyonce track Flawless. Either way, you probably will have come into contact with this book! With a stunning cover this is the perfect gift to baby feminists to help them on their way to greatness!

The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions Of A Wildly Better Future

This looks like a really interesting and hopeful read – what does a feminist utopia look like? What exactly do we want from liberation? In this collection over 50 authors discuss their feelings!! Including but not limited to Melissa Harris-Perry, Janet Mock and Sheila Bapat, in various different formats including interviews, poetry and short stories.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

A collection of voices from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic British folks today exploring ideas about why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it feels like to be “othered” – in all its forms, from being an “ambassador” for your race to having to jump through hoops to be seen as a “good” immigrant. Get angry when you read this!! Get challenged by your own prejudices!! Get learning! Perfect feminist work to enjoy and digest over the winter so in 2017 you can reify your perceptions, refocus and really help to destroy inequality and racism wherever you see it.

Comics and Zines

Beyond the Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology edited by Sfe R. Monster and Taneka Stotts

A beautiful collection of diverse and exciting comics! Featuring, but not limited to, an agender ghost working at a tea shop, constructed gay robot aliens falling in love, Chinese-russian bi polyamorous astronauts and a monster queen falling in love (with no words!)! In other words, it’s everything you have been missing! More information on it here

Jem and the holograms!

Jem is one of my favourite comics because of how diverse it is, and not just sexual and romantic orientation wise, but also in terms of body type!! This comic tells the story of a band made up of sisters as they try to thrive, using technology that is so advanced it can create a holographic lead singer! Full of vibrancy and excitement, Jem and the holograms is especially good for pop punk fans!! (but I pretty much think everyone should read it because all the band members are so god damn CUTE.).3 volumes are out so far!

Hysterical femme – karina killjoy

This is one of my favourite zines of 2016. It’s about being a femme survivor, taking up space and working to love yourself and other femmes and other survivors too. It’s so affirming to read that there is no right way to heal and that there are others who feel how I feel! Its about still being angry and hysterical and mentally ill and still being treated with kindness and understanding rather than being deriding and frustrating. This zine is beautiful and validating and I hope everyone reads it one day!

Queer Indigenous Girl #2

This is a lovely submission based zine for black, indigenous people of colour who are queer, trans, 2-spirit, mentally/chronically/physically ill and neurodivergent. In prioritizing these folk’s voices it’s really great to support and read their work! It’s a colour PDF zine with art and illustrations. It also talks about what living with ADHD is like, depression and survival.

Poetry

milk and honey by rupi kaur

This is a firecracker of a collection of poetry. It’s split into four sections and each of them meticulously breaks your heart and sews it back together over and over.

the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

Another energetic feminist poetry collection, this one focuses on being the main character in your own story, recovering from abuse and inheriting the power that is inside of you! Plus it’s written by an asexual author who is outspoken about books and social justice on tumblr.

Radical Softness

This is the CUTEST feminist poetry pocketbook made by wonderful graphic designer and general cool person Soofiya. Perfect for the person who is SO busy kicking the kyriarchy to the ground that they only have short amounts of time to read poetry. You can read this anywhere and everywhere ingesting all the great vibes from it whenever you need to!

Heartless Girls

This is a poetry zine by Emma T and it has such brilliant poems! My favourite line is probably “I don’t know how to stay tender/ with this much blood in my mouth”. Emma’s poetry is raw and vulnerable and that’s why its so great!

That’s it for my suggestions, I hope you found something fun off this list!

The Unconventional Summer Reading List

Author:

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

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School is out – well, almost, in the U.K – and that means one thing… SUMMER! Summer means a lot of different things for different people; be it swimming in the sea; festivals; camping in the middle of nowhere; road trips; backpacking – usually something pretty cool. Sometimes, it’s just chilling out at the park or in the garden with ice-cream, homemade smoothies, barbecues, spending times with friends and family – which is equally wonderful, of course.

For me, though, the biggest appeal of Summer (and yes, I realise this makes me a huge nerd) is that I have plenty of free time… to read. In the year, I don’t get to read nearly as much as I’d like to, what with work, work, work, oh, and more work! But for two months, I can read a book a day if I want to, no problem! There’s absolutely no better way to relax!

I’m not the only one who thinks Summer is a time for reading, as magazines and newspapers begin to publish their lists of essential Summer reading around early June. Unfortunately, it would seem that I have the wrong idea with my mixture of the Brontës, John Green, and feminist manifestos. Because, each year, magazines’ lists are nothing like mine. Typically titled ‘beach reads for women’, ‘books for your beach bag’, ‘hot summer reads’ and so on, the lists compiled are beyond frustrating to see. Not only are the titles blatantly sexist, but the content tends to be, too. The message sent is that all women are the same – we like shopping, we’re obsessed with our looks, and WE JUST WANT A BOYFRIEND! This plays right into the kyriarchy, this idea that ‘real’ women are white, heterosexual, cisgendered, and of course, one-dimensional, dependent creatures.

It honestly really upsets me, the whole thing. But I’m not letting it get me down too much anymore. There is a way to combat this norm. There are always alternatives; you’ve just got to look a little harder sometimes. Here I’ve compiled a list of suggestions to start you off – Some are a little obvious perhaps, some you may not have even heard of. There’s a wide range of fiction, some young adult, and some adult. But be warned – whilst some are easy to read, these books are not necessarily all light. I like these books for precisely this reason – I have personally found them empowering, liberating, moving, thought-provoking, stereotype smashing, as well as simply enjoyable. I really hope you’ll find something in them too.

  • Matched – Ally Condie. ‘In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die. Yet for Cassia, the rules have changed.’ This Young Adult trilogy is astonishingly poetic in the way it is written, as well as being an exciting, emotional, compelling read. It is difficult not to find the characters endearing, with incredible development throughout the books. Cassia, the protagonist, is particularly interesting, as she begins as a standard ‘good girl’, complacent to the rules, but as the story goes on, she begins to really challenge the ways of the world around her, in spite of the consequences. It provokes intense political thought, whilst being very funny in places as well.
  • If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch. ‘A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. Suddenly taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.’ This book is beautifully written, and provides a critical narrative on our society, whilst reminding the reader to be grateful for what they have. It deals with several very sensitive issues, including childhood neglect and abuse, mental illness, and addiction, but does so very sensitively, and provides a lot of hope too, through the perspective of Carey. It is easy to relate to this girl – despite most readers living rather different lives from her, on the surface – as we recognise the outsider that is in ourselves, both highly sceptical, yet desperate to belong. A stunning debut.
  • A Gathering Light – Jennifer Donnelly. ‘Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true.’ Exploring familial relationships, and friendships, as well as romantic love, to a backdrop of history and mystery, this book is incredible. The main character, Mattie, is intelligent and hard-working, but also rather cheeky, which makes her a very appealing character. She also adores of her teacher, who is pretty darn cool, and writes feminist poetry. A well-written story, which discusses the personal and universal together, A Gathering Light is a great read.
  • Chains – Laurie Halse Anderson. ‘As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom.’ If you don’t cry a little whilst reading this, I will be surprised. It appears to be historically accurate, meticulously researched, doing justice to those affected by slavery. It is moving, empowering, and as a reader you find yourself feeling fiercely protective of Isabel. It is impossible to put down until the very end, as quickly you become thoroughly attached.
  • Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson. ‘Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. Where can it lead?’ This is released just this Summer, and is a great, easy read for the beach. It’s fun, hilarious in places, and immensely enjoyable. The main character Emily is wonderful, she is so normal, it’s fantastic. Checking things off her list is an adventure, and the way it’s narrated makes it all seem very liberating, like she’s learning a lot about herself. It’s inspiring in the way that it’s made me want to go out and do things that I often feel too scared to do. But it also reminds you not to assume things about people, stop making judgements – you don’t know anyone like you may assume. Nobody is perfect, life isn’t perfect, and it’s a reminder that these are true, whilst reminding you that it’s still beautiful. It stresses the importance of friendship, and makes you really, really, really want to hug your best friend.
  • The Help – Kathryn Stockett. ‘Three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town.’ Poignant, at times hysterically funny, thought-provoking, inspiring and hopeful. You would not expect an affluent white woman to be able to write accurately or sensitively about issues in the lives of black women in 1960s America, but this book is a real surprise. Everyone will take a lot away from The Help, about class, race, friendship, and more.
  • The Colour Purple – Alice Walker. ‘Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate.’ This book requires a TRIGGER WARNING, as the description of abuse is very graphic. However, I do believe it is an incredible book. It is such a powerful narrative, and an extremely emotional story throughout. It is also a great example of how female empowerment benefits society as a whole. The characters are multi-dimensional, you learn about their thinking, their beliefs, their reasoning. You see all sides of these people, the good and the bad – nothing is sugar-coated. This is a rare kind of book, and a brilliant one.

Happy reading girls!

Bikini Body Folly

Author:

By Olivia Murphy

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It’s summertime again. That’s code for ‘buff beach bod’ time. A time where muffin tops are a sweet, sugary no-no, and barely-there bikini’s become the necessary garment for your ‘designer vagina’; a place that must be transformed from ‘muff madness’ into ‘pornstar pussy perfection’. Should I St. Tropez or Fake Bake to banish my plain, pasty paleness (God forbid an English Rose should de-robe au naturale on the beach amidst bronzed Brazilian babes)? In fact, should my regular wicked waxing sessions bypass the Brazilian and go head on for Hollywood? Perhaps if I deny every natural bodily process and biological function I might achieve the unachievable? Is that what it takes to be perfect? Will I be happy?

My mind filters these thoughts instinctively as I prepare for my holiday to Brazil. The line between ‘banging babe’ and ‘beauty blooper’ is unfeasibly thin, and my fate lies in the lap of the media-gods. Rule one: colour your skin a dark shade of fake tan, but tangoed hands, mud-like build up and streaky bacon legs are a school girl error. Rule two: the more expensive, exclusive designer sunglasses the better (in fact, the more ‘bug-eyed’ the better; covering up your face is probably a blessing to the public), but remember ‘panda eyes from sunbathing’ is a serious epic fail. Rule three: never over-pluck your eyebrows, but if you infringe on the ‘Scouse-brow’, ‘tatoo-brow’ and ‘monobrow’, then forget leaving the house altogether. How can one keep up with such inconsistent trends? What is permitted and what is forbidden? Brazilian booty? Ha, my skinny ass couldn’t do enough squats in a lifetime to achieve the perfect ‘belfie’. The closest I’m ever going to get to J-Lo is Livvy from the block.

So why is the anxiety of bikini body perfection so infectious; a vicious cycle of relentless bitching, glorifying, then more bitching? Do we hate or hanker for the unhealthy size-zero fad? Why do we fervently invest in the trashy body-obsession produced by the media? Are we not educated; knowing full well that adverts are airbrushed, models malnourished, and ‘cutting-edge’ cosmetics are a con? You know as well as I do that these facts are true, yet we persist to invest in such a culture despite our opinions and awareness. If I take up Pilates, will I really get ‘Brazilian legs’ like Gisele Bundchen? If I take up boxing will I get ‘Brazilian arms’ like Adriana Lima? If I do a yoga class twice a day will I achieve the ‘Brazilian composure’ of Raquel Zimmerman? If I refuse to consume anything but stewed spinach and kale smoothies will I achieve glossy, ‘Brazilian locks’ like Ana Carolina Reston?

We praise curvier figures for being ‘real’ women role models, yet this is just a front to disguise our true desire to be perfect; our need to be anything but ‘real’. We attack ourselves physically, verbally, psychologically and emotionally. Chicken wings, thunder thighs, sausage fingers – the cruel glossary of image-obsessive terms is endless. Stomachs and breasts that have carried and nourished babies are rewarded with ‘repulsive’ stretch marks and saggy skin. Cover up that skin damaged décolletage! Cover up that flat, deflated chest and bum! Cover up that crepey knee skin! Are you really entertaining legs of cellulite? Is your vagina too loose? Such terminology is so extreme I find it comical, but the fact it is so dehumanising makes the matter anything but funny.

Imagine that the beauty and body ideologies are goalposts. I fear the rate at which these goalposts constantly change; getting narrower and narrower at a faster rate than our shrinking waistlines. If we don’t stay firm, what will become of reality? My culture encourages lighter-skinned girls to tan their skin and darker-skinned women to lighten their skin. Why does our image-obsessed world wish us to deny our true selves? I fear living in a world where expectations are so skewed and perverse that body hair on women is considered monstrous and eyelashes, nails, breasts, hair, bottoms and lips are either fake, implanted or lifted to deny the laws of physics, biology and chemistry. Shopping, dressing up and make-up should be fun, shouldn’t it? Fact of the matter is, what used to be a source of enjoyment and self-confidence is quickly becoming the stimulus of intense female angst and insecurity. Is it really realistic to live your life caked in expensive tanning agents and cosmetics, tottering on skyscraper stripper-stilettos with that itsy-bitzy Agent Provocateur thong that is so far up your bum god forbid you should take a trip to the restroom (it’s ok though, girls don’t poo right?)? What happened to the time when clothes reflected our personalities, identities and unique body shapes? Are we trying to convey our characters and individuality? Are we trying to celebrate or exploit our womanly assets? Or are we simply trying to conceal our imperfections and conform to an unrealistic ideal?

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Come on girls. You know we have more important things to worry about. You know we can make a serious contribution to science, politics and the arts. This will never transpire if we continue to use our time and money consuming, investing and propelling our image-crazy world. I know that we are serious about our lives and our careers. I know we are.

As my suitcase lays open and I debate whether I include my F+F Sundress or my Kaftan from Accessorise, I know that neither will transform me into Victoria’s Secret model, Alessandra Ambrosia. My nail colour will not be a bright yellow to reflect my ‘inner Brazilian radiance’, nor will I invest in a red lipstick to boost my chances of seducing Mr. Brazilian-Fifa-World-Cup-knob cheese -Charming. My image is an expression of my personal taste, and no one else’s. I love a floral dress. I love my Mac eye shadows. I curl my hair. My new, fluorescent court heels are so gorgeous they stop traffic (quite literally). And why should I deny myself? They make me feel great. Feminism is not the rejection of femininity, but having the strength to express the real, unique you. Perfection is undefinable and beauty is subjective therefore there is certainly no such thing as the ‘perfect body’ or the ‘perfect female face’. I don’t believe that anyone has ‘problem areas’, ‘fat armpits’ or ‘mosquito-bite nipples’ – these terms are cruel inventions. For heaven’s sake, have your cake and eat it! Fight back against covering and concealing your true self; for I fear we are at risk of disappearing altogether.

In a nutshell, I beg you to listen to your own voice, your own soul, your own heart. No one has the right to dictate what you should or shouldn’t do, or how you should or shouldn’t look. Confidence is strength, strength is empowerment, and empowerment is peace. You can succeed in anything if you put your mind to it; the real challenge is to permit yourself to reach those goals. We must stop the bitching, the loathing, the envy and the competition. We must listen to our sisters and be supportive, not fault-finding. If Kate Moss gained a few stone, would we praise her for rejecting her previous mantra: ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny’? Or, would we invest in headlines such as ‘Miserable Moss Mirrors a Mountain’? More importantly, why do we care? Someone else should not make us feel threatened or inadequate. We must stop manifesting in our own insecurities and criticising other women for their supposed ‘flaws’. What does criticism achieve? Does this really make you feel better about yourself long-term?

Of course it is not simple, but I have faith in our generation. Only we can choose to change the way we think and talk about ourselves and others. Only we have the power to regain control over those ever-adjusting goalposts. So what are you waiting for? It is time to find something more fulfilling and worthwhile – and for god’s sake more exciting – than achieving the ‘perfect’ bikini bod. I’m coming for you, Rio de Janeiro, skinny ass and all.

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