We Need to Talk. Period.

It’s safe to say that women are far better off today than 50 years ago, but there’s nothing that reminds me more of how much further there is to go than the stigma around the time of the month when Satan – I mean, ‘mother nature’ – comes to visit. It’s amazing how many people are ‘grossed out’ and pull a face whenever someone mentions anything to do with periods. A tampon falls out of your bag and suddenly everyone is looking at it in horror. I mean I could understand if it was a used one, but when has anyone ever had a used tampon in their bag? That’s not what happens.

I went to an all-girls secondary school, so luckily was in an environment during the dreaded teen years where everyone was pretty accepting about periods. The times girls used to bring it up to male teachers to see what would happen occurred fairly often, and nine times out of ten the male teacher would pale, panic, and send the girl to matron. The only negative experience I’ve had about periods in school was when one teacher literally yelled at the class about how girls just needed to ‘man up’ (great use of language there) and stop asking to leave the class because you felt ill from your period, which was then repeated in an assembly. This was only made up by the fact that another teacher completely disagreed, explaining that when she had her period as a teenager she would often have to call in sick. It seems to me that not many people understand that, like bodies, everyone’s period is different. Some girls have light periods, some girls get heavy periods, and some girls have different kinds every cycle. Some throw up, some get cramps, some get excruciating headaches, and some barely notice their period come and go.

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So why don’t people know these sort of things? Well, despite the fact that are society is improving, the ‘period’ is still a taboo topic – and when you really think about it, it’s difficult to understand why. Those who have periods, whether they identify as women or not, are made to feel ashamed for bleeding each month like it’s disgusting, as if we can just choose not to. Is it just not common knowledge that periods are 100% natural, aren’t unhygienic, and literally happen to everyone who has a vagina? Hell, it’s still front page news when someone posts a photo of themselves with blood spotting through their jeans. There are protests and campaigns with women free bleeding that make people lose their minds. I didn’t know that everyone experiences something different when they have periods until my late teens, simply because we just don’t talk about it. It’s like we have to act like having our period is some dirty little secret, despite the fact that everyone knows about it anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic recently due to the campaigning about the moon cup, known in some places as the diva cup depending on which brand you use. Typically there are two main ways to handle your period, which are using tampons or sanitary towels or both. Both of these aren’t good for the environment with a lot of packaging, but it’s all that was on offer. There are some other options like some birth control that stops your period all together, but who knows the long term effects that has on someone’s body – you’re literally using drugs to stop a natural cycle the body goes through.

Despite this, there have been some new products being introduced. The two that I’m aware of are the THINX underwear, which are underwear that you can wear on your period that you can just stick in the wash after wearing them for a few hours, holding as much as two tampon’s worth of blood. Reusable, completely hygienic, and far less hassle. The second is the moon cup, something that’s recently taken a real spike on social media and has won plenty of awards. Essentially it’s a cup that sits slightly lower down than a tampon does and it collects the blood. Again, it’s reusable as you can easily clean it out, and overall better for the environment. I decided to give one a try and, when I had some positive results, I talked to a few friends and family members about it. I was mildly surprised to find that some just didn’t want to know about it, the very mention of the word ‘period’ striking such horror in their hearts that they couldn’t bear to go on. The mere idea of blood leaving someone’s vagina just as bad and disgusting as discussing explosive diarrhoea. And it’s simply mad.

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Why is society still enforcing this stigma around periods? Why are we still teaching young kids that this is something you don’t discuss or talk about, that it should be kept ‘hush hush’ because people just don’t want to hear about it? Why must those who have periods have to suffer because of everyone else’s unwarranted distaste? Again, a period is 100% natural, and trust me – it is far worse for the person who actually has to have the period. When I was a young teen I became physically sick each month, and still get excruciating cramps that I have to pretend aren’t happening and just breathe through, feeling sick for a good couple of days. Why should I have to keep quiet about it? Why shouldn’t I be talking about it? Why can’t I discuss something natural about my body without worrying that someone else will be uncomfortable?

This is why we need campaigns like the moon cup and THINX. We need to normalise periods and stop tolerating those who punish us when it’s mentioned. I was going to talk about these campaigns in an application for a job answering a question about important campaigns, but was advised not to because it might put off any men looking over the application. This is not what we should have to be concerned about, and it is not a precaution I should have to take just to protect someone’s sensitive ears from talking about what so many of us have to experience. We should be making a move to stop this kind of behaviour. We need to march up to them, sit them down and say:

“We need to talk. Period”.

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It’s a Sad World

Politics makes me sad. The news makes me sad. The world makes me sad.

Most days I want to just unplug the tv, turn off my phone, and just read a book, pretending that everything is ok. It seems every time I look at the news there’s been another rape, another terrorist attack, another earthquake, another racist attack, another misogynistic arsehole, another injustice, another another another. I’ve only lived 20 years and I’ve had enough with it all.

I created a series on here called ‘On Being Happy’, in an attempt to have an outlet for something positive. If the news doesn’t cover anything good in the world, I might as well create a source for something happy. Yes, the world is better than it used to be, but it’s still not great. What with Brexit this year and now Trump, it feels like we’ve gone backwards. How have campaigns that are fuelled by hate come so far? Why are people with racist, homophobic, and sexist tendencies been given the opportunity to do so much damage? Why are so many people blind to the truth? Brexit was fuelled by the hate for migrants, when really we shouldn’t be hating the people fleeing their homes but those who are the cause for them to flee in fear. Trump took this to a new level. It’s things like this that give people justification for hate crime, as we’ve seen with the rise of racist attacks. Anyone who isn’t a white heterosexual male has cause for concern and real fear.

I hate that when I hear about another bombing or tsunami or mass death that I feel almost numb to it, simply because we’ve had so many in the past months and year. If you try to really dedicate your energy and emotions to them all, there’s just no end to the torment – and I’m not even a victim of these things. Sure, if we’re using the examples previously raised, I’m affected by Brexit as I wanted to stay in the EU, but at the end of the day I’m a white female who only has to worry about sexist attacks – and the amount that I deal with pale in comparison to a woman who is black, or a man who isn’t a Christian, or someone who isn’t heterosexual. How have we allowed a time where so many people live in constant fear and grief, scared to leave their homes because it’s highly likely they could be targeted.

There’s not much I can do to help, but one thing I can do very easily is speak out. This blog has been my platform for my thoughts and feelings and musings for years now, and it would be wrong to pretend that everything is fine, because it isn’t. Who would I be, if I just sat back and pretended it wasn’t happening? What would that make me, if I did turn off my tv, ignore the notifications on my phone, and act that the world isn’t going downhill – just because I can.

It would make me into the one of the many people who sit back and do nothing. Who vote out of fear and prejudice. Who claim not to be racist, but don’t see racism as a deal breaker. Who dislike campaigns such as ‘Black lives matter’, because they’re white and aren’t ‘included’ – who instead of supporting their friends and community, they choose to hate it and see it as an attack to themselves. Who can’t look past their own worries, and try to help others.

So, this is me trying to do something – and it won’t end here. This is me using a platform I have to voice something that not everyone listens to. Yes, there’s not much I can do to change the way the world is, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing I can do.

One thing remains true: although there is sadness and dejection, there is always hope and kindness. Those don’t go away. Not everyone has got what they wanted this year, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up and accept this. We can go on fighting, campaigning, and talking to one another, but not fuelled by hate. I choose kindness.

The One When I Used to Play Golf

I used to play golf. There were times I loved it and there were times I hated it – let’s just say it was a complicated relationship. Part of that just had to do with my ‘compatibility’ with the sport, I suppose. Four hours is a long time, especially to a 14 year old – which is around the age I started to play.

I mainly picked up the sport because my parents played, and still do, a lot. On a Saturday we would go, usually early, most of the time in cold temperatures, and always with my groaning about said things. I would play with the ladies, because playing with the juniors wasn’t so great (more on that in a bit). The thing with golf is that it’s very difficult to be consistent. One day you could be brilliant, and the next your swing just isn’t working and you get caught up in your head and the next minute you’re throwing your clubs at the ground.

Maybe if all I had to worry about was myself and just playing golf I’d still be playing today. There were times when I loved it, especially when I managed to somehow get a hole in one. The last golf coach I had told me that I had a great swing, and it was nice to find something that I could be good at. Unfortunately, there are many other factors that I had to deal with.

Like with several other sports, you don’t see a lot of female golf players. On the TV it’s the male competitions that get the most attention, just like with football and rugby. For me, it was very similar at the golf club I played at. There were no other girls my age, so in the juniors it was myself and boys of all ages up to eighteen. There was a ladies team, but most of them were over forty.

The first coach I met was called Mike, or Mark, but we’ll go with Mike for now. He was an all-around arse anyway, but he clearly believed that women didn’t really belong in the golfing world. His comments to me were far from encouraging, and I remember him telling me not to compare myself with the others as I’d never be able to hit as far as them because I’m a girl. The first time I went out on the course, Mike announced that I would go around with two 8/9 year olds instead of those my age because I had to go off the women’s tee, as if that made me less worthy. The two boys immediately complained about having to play off that tee with me and I remember quitting halfway through the round because of how awful it was. The embarrassment of not being able to putt well, especially it being my first time playing on the course, was only made worse by the two boys already having finished and telling me to hurry up.

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Luckily I didn’t have to deal with Mike for long, and a different coach came to the club, the exact opposite of Mike in every way. Despite this, it was now the other players I had to deal with. I remember a lot of staring and laughing. On a Monday night the coach offered a training session for juniors for £5 which I attended, only to be avoided by the boys who refused to instigate any conversation with me. When we were partnered up, they were wary of answering me or just trying to even speak to me. The coach once set up something to help us concentrate, where each of us would try to make a putt whilst everyone else jeered and shouted and tried to distract the player. Each boy stepped up, each boy received the same shouting. Yet when I went to putt, everyone was silent. In my embarrassment, I tried to quickly make the shot to get it over with and still missed it. It was very apparent that I didn’t quite belong there, or at least that’s how they saw it.

My experience of playing golf is usually the first thing I bring up when people try to downplay sexism. But my tales of woe and melodrama don’t end there.

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I talked in another post about the difference a good teacher can make and within that I briefly mention my PE teacher whose treatment of me was the final nail in the coffin of my golf-playing days. The lack of support in my chosen sport was astounding, and maybe it was just through lack of knowledge of golf on her part but it was like she didn’t even try to help me. There was definite favouritism in that AS PE class, and it seemed like those favourite pupils were the ones to always do the best. Maybe they simply blossomed under the light of favouritism and the constant remarks about how wonderful they are, whilst the rest of us were left to wilt. Every week that teacher would demand to know if my handicap had dropped yet, as if I could just simply drop by 10 in a few days. A completely demoralising experience, which just made me want to give up because how the hell was I supposed to compete? I even played a round of golf with her and won, but that didn’t help.

The whole class went to a local driving range where the professional there told myself, and the teacher, that I had great technique and a good swing. The two of them assessed me as I coached my classmates, and the professional told us that he’d give me full marks for everything. There were about five categories all marked out of five, and when I came to find out what my teacher gave me it wasn’t what the professional, let me emphasise the professional, had said at all. I was given one 4, two 3s and two 2s. She commented that she didn’t know if I’d had a ‘fluke’ that day, and she was trying to reflect that in her marking. And that was just for the coaching. For my playing, she scored me a low C – and by low I mean it was a C by a couple of marks. There was a man in my club that was a mediator for PE, so he assessed me on perhaps the worst day possible – freezing temperatures, and even some hail – so although I wasn’t playing my best, he still told me that I was a high B on that day and he would assume in better conditions I could be an A student. He called my PE teacher, and next thing I know she’s telling me that she’s decided to bump up my grade – to a middle B.

It should come as no surprise that quite PE after a year. There were other moments in that class of absolute dejection – such as being made to swim against my classmates, most of whom were talented swimmers whereas I was not. I lost, on every front, and was met with laughter, and then the classic scene of being picked last. Definitely my worst school experience by far, and I’m surprised that I managed to actually get through the year when I think back to it.

There’s not much else I feel like I can say. I decided to write about this a few weeks ago when talking with friends about bullying, and this popped up in my head. My experience with golf doesn’t even come close to the horrors some people have had to survive, but it’s still one that, looking back, I have more bad memories than good. I remember the sexist coach, the staring, the boys who refused to talk to me, feeling isolated, alone, different, unwelcome, that PE teacher, feeling worthless, and just wanting to give up. There are moments I consider trying to play again, when I think about when the nice coach told me that I had a great swing, or how that professional at the other club told me I had talent. I think about getting fantastic at golf, just so I could go back to that PE teacher and show her theream good at something.

But for today, I’m happy, and I’m not going to risk that.

Misogyny – it’s still around

Time for a more serious post and, to kick it off, I’ll start with a definition.

Misogyny: dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

Ok, so a lot of people these days are celebrating the fact that women are equal to men and that all prejudices against women have been completely eradicated. Hate to burst your naive little bubble there, but misogyny is still a part of everyday society. A lot of people will dispute this idea, but there is so much evidence to support it.

Let me begin with my own experience and I’m going to use some that I’ve encountered over the past three days. Not years, not months, but within the past few days I’ve witnessed misogyny. I work at a football stadium and already warning bells should be ringing as football is always coined with masculinity. Again, people will argue that women are equal in this field of the world as well as we have televised female football, but still this is not publicised by mainstream channels. Turn on Sky Sports, for example, and all you’ll find it men playing football – not women. In fact many men find the idea of women playing football ridiculous and this has been tackled by the media in films such as Bend it Like Beckham or She’s The Man. In the latter particularly, the only way the female protagonist can play football is by disguising herself as a man. Unfortunately, the view that football is a masculine sport has not changed at all.

So, back to my work. The next strike against me is my uniform which is tailored to heighten my ‘femininity’ to set me far apart from any masculine connotations. Just to say now, I do love my job as I meet some amazing people and I enjoy what I do, so I’m incredibly grateful for it, but of course my uniform is a dress that either shows too much cleavage or has a tendency to ride up my thighs. Top that off with the required red lipstick, bow and high heels, you have an objectified woman. This presentation of women practically encourages misogynistic views and ideas that women are objects to be possessed.

Over the past few days of work, I’ve had men take one look at me and say things such as ‘Give me your name, darlin’ or ‘Come on, give me your phone number’. Not too bad, you might say, disregarding the fact that I’m still only seventeen. This then advances to catcalls and wolf whistles, being called a ‘good girl’ by some condescending idiot who thinks that I’m completely incompetent because I’m the pretty girl in a dress who is there to ‘serve’ him. Next, you get the men who take it up a notch and start shouting abuse. My friend and I had finished our shift and we were heading back to our changing rooms to get out of the dresses when we had men shout out abuse at us, calling us ‘prostitutes’ among other foul language which I’m not going to repeat.

A lot of people will tell me that we were ‘asking for it’ being dressed like that and that we ‘deserve’ being abused due to the way we were dressed. Others will say that what we experienced is hardly something to be complaining about as nobody actually physically abused us. To counter this, a phrase comes to mind that I found the other day: why is it that girls are being taught how not to get raped instead of everyone being taught not to rape. Rape is the extreme form of abuse, but it is the physical form of the verbal abuse I have experienced not just at work, but in everyday life – and I’m only seventeen. I’ve been taught in school not to wear certain clothes and different tactics for staying safe so as not to be abused by men. It’s taken as a certainty that male abuse will happen, and don’t even get me started on why we’re not taught that abuse in this form can happen to boys as well. It’s seen as a fact and tackled by addressing the victims instead of preventing future abusers.

On that note, let’s take a look at the media as I’m sure you’ve all heard about Elliot Rodger who, I hate to tell you, is not the only man who has taken action against women because they’ve denied him what he sees as a male ‘right’. Women are seen to be possessed and are shown to young children that they are objects, even if unintentionally. Women are seen to be things to marry, to have sex with, to cook dinner – just take a look at all the stereotypes where women should stay in the kitchen and clean the house whilst the man goes out to work. That idea has not just disappeared over the years, no matter how much we wish that it has. I want to say that the vast majority of men do not treat women like this at all and abuse has declined, but when you’re in ‘typical male territory’ such as a football arena and BAM, abuse is a common, mundane affair.

Someone who talks about this far more eloquently than me is Laci Green and you can find her here. She addresses the example of Elliot Rodger in far more detail than me and discusses the misogyny still ingrained in our culture. What terrifies me is the vast amounts of people who are pitying this man, encouraging others to take a ‘stand’ like he did and that he is a victim. A man who killed innocent people, including three of his housemates, is apparently a victim.

What I want to know is why – WHY is this still a problem for today’s society? Why are we called an ‘advanced race’ when we can’t even address and prevent something like abuse among our own species? Why do people like Elliot Rodger get celebrated by some where we should all be disgusted and try to support the families who lost their child, cousin, neice or nephew who are the real victims? A man with a gun who kills due to the fact that he hasn’t ‘had’ a woman is as much of a victim as a man shouting abuse at two seventeen year old girls because they’re wearing dresses ‘just because he can’.