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Inside Jeans and Arms like Madonna

As I’ve got so much more time on my hands, and am avoiding cleaning the fridge, I’ve resurrected the blog. But don’t worry, it won’t be the usual feminist stuff because these are crazy times. Of course, there are no more feminist rants to do anyway because, as you know, this whole corona crisis is just a plot by the patriarchy to force women back into the home and be proper housewives and make bread and shit. Joking! Or am I…

So how’s your lockdown going? My lockdown plans included; learning a language, getting abs, painting the bathroom, finishing my book and getting better at sleeping. Two weeks in and none of those things have happened yet but I like to think of a lockdown like a marathon; you need to pace yourself and build up slowly or you’ll end up wrapped in a foil blanket with bleeding nipples doing a poo in the gutter. Or something.

There’s a lot of pressure to come out of this a better person, but I think we need to give ourselves a break and just get through it the best we can. Aren’t we all learning valuable lessons about ourselves anyway? This past week I learned that it is possible to get through a whole jar of peanut butter and a whole block of goats cheese in 3 days, all by myself.

I also seem to have slipped into some kind of routine that basically revolves around the following activities. I can’t remember how I managed to fit in a social life.

  • Exercise, despite sabotage attempts by the cat. In my head I am like Linda Hamilton in Terminator doing pull ups in a vest in her cell, in reality I am just a sweaty, sweary woman in 40 quid’s worth of Bazalgette – league sports bra in her front room, but I have been reliably informed by the eternal optimist in my head that I will come out of this with arms like Madonna and a core of steel
  • A couple of hours of work. Again, the cat is heavily involved with this. She particularly likes walking across the keyboard during important emails. At some point I have a break to moan at my husband for typing too loudly, then one of us asks if it’s too early for wine. In case you were wondering, it’s never too early, lockdown time is like dog years
  • Catch up with messages on the 150 WhatsApp groups I am now part of, including the spin-off groups. By the way, completely unrelated to the previous sentence, my new lockdown-induced word is Mutification, it’s a wonderful thing and you all need to go and do it now.
  • Go to the shop for essential supplies (tonic, a lemon, crisps and chorizo), commando crawl back so the neighbours don’t see that I forgot to offer to get stuff for everyone else on the street WhatsApp group.
  • Free time. Ideally this should involve some kind of self improvement activity, or something that improves my living space, maybe cleaning my oven while learning Spanish. In reality I’ll spend this time muting people on facebook. I’ll then feel guilty about not copying and pasting all the things I’m supposed to copy and paste while sending any chain letter type posts straight to Blue Peter and wondering why everyone else’s family is making videos of themselves singing, while we’re just swearing. Then I’ll stress bake five batches of banana loaf and some shit bread and eat it all
  • Napping
  • Read some conspiracy theories
  • Have a disco in the kitchen, by myself
  • Walk through husband’s Very Important video call while looking for clean clothes and flash all his colleagues who don’t care because it means they don’t have to look at the cat’s bumhole for 30 seconds
  • Annoy my daughters. This could be by referring to their TikTok as a video and then dabbing in the wrong place, or just breathing
  • Take part in a family zoom where we all talk over each other while listening to my parents argue about where to look
  • In a bizarre bit of parent/child karma, remind parents that they are grounded
  • Worry again about whether or not the cat’s habit of tarting herself around the neighborhood means she’s now bringing us bit of corona instead of dead birds and fleas
  • Look at more Tiger King memes and seriously think about whether or not I can afford a lion
  • Cook meals that nobody really wants because we’ve all been eating non-stop all day and the concept of ‘meals’ and ‘time’ no longer has meaning
  • The highlight of the day, when I change out of my inside jeans into my outside jeans and go for A Walk
  • Do a face mask. We might all be doomed but at least I’ll have good pores. Two weeks in and we’ve had two glycolic peels and a face full of turmeric
  • Undo all the good work of the face mask by necking loads of wine and gin
  • Watch ALL of Netflix. Cry at adverts
  • Sometime between 1am and 5am but never for more than an hour, I’ll go to sleep and have very weird, wine/end-of -the-world induced dreams. And remember this lockdown top tip – nothing clears a room quicker than the words ‘shall I tell you about the dream I had last night?’

So keep going, people, look after each other and stay safe. Also, there’s a lot of lockdown shaming going on and a lot of anger towards people who are maybe not doing lockdown how you think they should be doing lockdown. They’re not idiots, they’re just trying to get through a situation none of us has ever had to deal with before, so be nice.

I’ll see you in the pub once this is all over, and I will hug you ALL.


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The One Where I Don’t Beat About The Bush And Quite Possibly Ruin Flipper For You, Forever. You’re Welcome..

Recently, my husband and I were in Amsterdam for the weekend and in the midst of all the culture and apple cake and beer and canals we went to the Sex Museum. Stop rolling your eyes at me, it was research! That and the fact that I am a 15 year old boy trapped in a 47 year old woman’s body…

We ended up being in there for ages because, apart from the novelty aspect of it, and the queue to take a selfie in front of the giant plastic penis (what? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t), it’s also a really fascinating place.

The bit I was most interested in was their display of pornography through the ages, from the 1890s through to the 1970s, which highlights the way that our idea of what makes a woman sexy has changed over the years. The biggest difference is, of course, pubic hair. Back then, all the women in those photos looked like they had Leo Sayer’s wig stuck to their bits (google it, kids, you’ll thank me later) whereas now all the porn stars have a vajanus that is weirdly smooth, like a load of dolphin’s mouths looming out at you (sorry Flipper, The Porn made me do it…).

So what is that saying to our teenagers? And I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong, your teenager has definitely seen porn, they all have, deal with it. For a lot of young boys, their first experience of a naked woman is one without any pubic hair, it’s what a lot of them expect. Which in turn means it’s what a lot of young girls think they need to do. Add to this the increasing popularity of programmes like Love Island and it’s no surprise that young girls are feeling not good enough before they’ve even got started. 

The idea of what is sexy has been homogenised. If you look at the vintage porn photos the women are all different, some have big breasts, others have tiny ones; all of them have round stomachs, some have big wobbly arses and thighs, others are skinny; the point is they were all attractive in different ways because we are all different. The idea that there is one type of body that people find attractive is ridiculous, we all know this and yet the images that are pushed on young people hardly have any variety, apart from maybe hair colour. They all have flat stomachs and big breasts and tiny waists and long legs and pert arses and while that is nice to look at, so are other types of bodies and it completely ignores the fact that someone’s appearance is only one part of why we’re attracted to certain people.

It’s difficult, even as a grown woman who’s pretty comfortable with her own body, when you’re bombarded with this unattainable ideal every time you log on, so I can’t imagine how hard it is for a teenager. We know that this stuff really doesn’t matter, we see all these women with amazing abs and pert breasts and we know that they’ve probably got a personal trainer and maybe even had surgery or are airbrushed, but we also know that these are the ones who get all the likes so the messages are mixed. 

In the past these things were private but in the world of visual-based platforms like Instagram we can see what everyone else is looking at and liking. Social Media is like a big magnifying glass and there’s no hiding anything. Everything is available to everybody; to think that nobody notices what you’re looking at is the same as little kids thinking you can’t see them if they cover their eyes when playing hide and seek.

We can talk to our kids and push body positivity but, and brace yourselves for this, we are not the ones who influence our kids, Social Media is their rose-tinted filter on the world and while things are getting better and there are some really strong role models out there, women like Jameela Jamil for example, there’s still a long way to go, it’s not enough.

Teenagers are too young to put porn into context, too young to know that it isn’t a real representation of the complicated world of sexual relationships. It teaches them nothing about intimacy and love and respect and consent, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the wonderful, ridiculous importance of sex and it doesn’t portray men and women as the unique, brilliant creatures we are, and while it is entirely normal to want to look at it we need to make sure it’s balanced out. We need to make sure we’re not lazily relying on porn and popular culture to carry out our sex education for us. 

While I’m not saying you should take your kids to the Sex Museum, although why wouldn’t you want to explain to your child that the toilet isn’t shaped like a flower, it’s actually a giant clitoris (insert own tired joke here about how they had to put extra signs up for the men to find it…), we do need to think about the messages our kids are picking up from the world around them, boys and girls, we need to teach them how to be and not assume they’ll just pick it up by osmosis because we’re nice, decent people. 

We need to remind our kids that you can make all the changes you want (or can afford) to the outside, but no amount of money or surgery or highlighting or completely bonkers eyebrows can change the important bits inside, the bits that affect our self esteem. There’s a really interesting documentary on Channel 4 at the minute where Kathy Burke explores what it means to be a woman. There’s a part where a former Love Island contestant talks about her extensive plastic surgery and how it didn’t stop her feeling insecure and it’s heartbreaking. 

So shave or don’t shave, but think What Would Leo Do?

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I Love Your Blog! Send Nudes!

I haven’t blogged for a while, work was mad and, like a complete idiot, I’m in the middle of writing two books. I also needed a break from all the nonsense; in the last blog post I stupidly mentioned that women enjoy sex, which is obviously code for ‘please DM me to find out just how much I enjoy sex and be sure to request your free tit pic while you’re at it’ and I’d had enough. Actually, that’s not fair, in the spirit of #notallmen and all that I’d like to add that some of the men who message me aren’t interested in my tits at all, they just want to call me a Shehadist.

But not to worry, because it seems that my blog posts have virtually been writing themselves while I’ve been gone because everyone is in such a mess.

So what have I missed? Well, it turns out that we have no problem accepting a fictional woman who has a fish tail instead of feet, who can breathe underwater and comfortably wear a bra made out of sea shells while talking to lobsters and sea witches. But make her black? No way, we’re not having it.

It also seems that while society absolutely bloody idolises male athletes, allowing them to get away with beating their wives up and raping young girls like the total legends they are, the minute someone like Megan Rapinhoe comes along there is outrage. Just what is it about this strong, self-assured, confident, talented, inspiring woman who really doesn’t give a shit about what men think of her, that men don’t like?? It’s a mystery. 

Ambition and arrogance are great in a man, but listen love, it’s not really natural in a woman so pipe down and go and pose in your bikini and shush, we’re watching Love Island. 

Also, newsflash, women over forty are no longer sexy, soz, a man said so. Like any woman over forty gives a shit about what you think anyway, sunshine, but crack on. 

I do have to say though, women, you’re not helping. This week on Twitter there’s been a post going round, asking what flavour of man women prefer. There are about fifteen photos of men with differing physiques, each numbered, and we’re supposed to choose our favourite. Imagine if that was a post about women? We all have to take responsibility, we can’t just expect men to change while we sit back and take their place, that’s not what we’re fighting for, the right to be just as obnoxious.

Talking of Twitter, it’s also a mess at the minute, everyone is so angry, but not about the things they should be. They’re just going round in a spiral of pointless anger, getting cross with people who are getting cross and then getting more cross with the people who are getting cross about the people getting cross, you with me?

(An example of this is the recent posts about the anniversary of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olypmics. Half of Twitter is saying, Look! Remember the halcyon days of Pre-Brexit Britain when we all pulled together and there was drumming and James Bond and those nurses and shit? Remember that? Although surely part of that was sheer relief and amazement that we didn’t fuck it up?

You can almost see the rest of Twitter saying, here, hold my coat, I’m going in because – are you mad? London was overrun by armed police and racism, you idiot and the NHS was already being dismantled and the Olympic bandwagon was socially divisive. I can’t believe you’d even think anything different, you racist, unfeeling bastard. And everyone feels shit. Meanwhile, a group of people nobody voted for are now driving the country and distracting us with arguments about the Oxford comma and double spaces, rubbing their hands with glee because we’re all so wound up we can’t get ourselves organised to come up with a valid alternative to the cabinet of doom they’ve just put together.)

So I’m going to carry on ranting, and carry on blocking those message requests, particularly the ones that start with ‘I love your blog’ because those invariably end up with a request for nudes. Mate, I’m not sure which part of my ranty, feminist blog complaining about the sexualisation of women gave you the impression that I am up for sending you a photo of my forty-plus, non-sexy tits, but good on you for trying. Maybe that’s part of it, maybe they’re trying to prove a point, reduce us all down to the same thing and what more of a challenge than a ranty feminist? Much more satisfying.

But I’ll carry on, because while we have people like Johnson and Trump in charge, it’s more important than ever to keep getting cross. While we let men like this get away with the things they get away with we’re sending out a huge message that with the right connections and education and privilege you really can be a misogynist, racist liar and hold a position of power without any fuss, and this is trickling down into our everyday lives. No wonder people are confused, this is all becoming so damn normalised and we need to fight against it.

And in case you were wondering, it’s an occasional yes to the Oxford comma, a big fat no to the double space. You’re welcome.



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Heart Skips a Beat. Also Known as No Sex Please, We’re Women…

This week in the US, the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp (a man who wrote a letter of endorsement for Brett Kavanaugh, just saying) signed off a new law, HB 481, more commonly known as the Heartbeat Bill. The new law bans abortions from as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, about six weeks in. The current law is twenty four weeks, so this brings it forward by roughly four months. That’s a huge difference.

This new law criminalises abortions after six weeks so anyone who terminates a pregnancy after this could face a murder charge (I’m just putting this out there, convicted criminals aren’t allowed to vote, we’re living out our own dystopian novel, right here). Women who miscarry could also face investigation. It’s worth noting that 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Do we really want a woman who has miscarried to go through that at a time when she is already feeling devastated and empty and guilty?

But let’s look at this six week thing.

Most women don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks. Because it’s impossible to pinpoint when conception actually happens, the medical definition of pregnancy is measured from the date of your last period. This is assuming that a woman’s cycle is four weeks. We all know that women’s bodies don’t really work like that, but let’s say it is four weeks, this means that the first day you miss your period you are already four weeks pregnant. This leaves you with just two weeks.

Six weeks is when a heartbeat can be detected, but this suggests a fully formed heart in a fully formed person. This ‘heartbeat’ is the pulsing of the tissues that will go on to form the heart and there’s a lot of discussion around whether or not this can be called a heartbeat. The language surrounding this is confusing and often emotionally charged.

This new law recognises a six week fetus as a living person, a person with more rights than its mother. This taps into the long-held belief that women aren’t to be trusted, particularly when it comes to their own bodies. Periods are thought of as distasteful and something we should hide away, walking across the office with a tampon stuffed up your sleeve so as not to alert anyone to the fact that you are bleeding, you dirty cow. And as for pregnant women, their bodies become public property as they are far too emotionally unstable to be trusted to make their own decisions. They are shamed for what they eat and drink (and the rules change constantly) in case they damage their baby, they are not allowed to get too upset, in case they damage their baby. The emphasis is on the things that the woman can do to damage her baby, never mind that their bodies are bombarded on a daily basis by environmental toxins and domestic abuse against women increases during pregnancy.

Now this law will face legal challenges in the months ahead, but the fact that it’s got this far is really worrying. What’s the next thing? If women who don’t even know they’re pregnant can be convicted of murder, what about women who use contraception? And presumably men who use condoms can be convicted too? And what about men who masturbate? Aren’t they wasting the beginnings of human life? Because mate, if that’s the case we’re going to need a bigger prison….

There has, understandably, been a lot of outrage about this law and people want to do something, which is great. But what’s the right way to protest?

A lot of actors and production companies are refusing to work in the state until this law is overturned; Georgia offers tax benefits to attract film and TV companies and lots of films and TV series are filmed there. But this also brings employment to the area and is a huge part of the economy so while a boycott is admirable, in the short term the wrong people will be affected.

Some women have also suggested a sex ban, saying that women should withhold sex until this law has been overturned, and this makes me cross. I know, me cross, imagine that. I’m as surprised as you are but hey, what can I do.

A sex ban suggests that sex is something that women do for men, that withholding it is something in our power that would hurt men and not us.

This idea is something we’ve been fighting against for a long time because, here’s the thing. Brace yourselves and please look away if you’re of a delicate disposition:

Women like sex.

There, I said it.

This idea that women only have sex to keep men happy is outdated, damaging and insulting. Women’s bodies are designed to like it, we actually have a body part that is designed purely for pleasure, why wouldn’t we like it, are you mad??

And not all women like sex but here’s another newsflash, not all men do either, and it is not just women who withhold it. Withholding anything in a relationship, whether it’s sex or affection or freedom, or anything that makes the other person feel just a little bit rubbish, is hugely damaging and happens all the time in so-called ‘normal’ relationships. This is not something we should be encouraging. And who are we hurting by withholding it? Mostly ourselves, but also, unless our partners are the kind of men who want to exert their power over our bodies and our reproductive rights (in which case you have far bigger problems) then again, we are hurting the wrong people.

If this doesn’t scare you, why not?

Also, on a lighter note, if you didn’t read the title of this blog post and immediately start singing Ollie Murs, complete with the Rizzle Kicks rap, I don’t want to know you.

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Get Your Arms Out For The Lads…

This is my favourite time of year; the nights are lighter, there are daffodils everywhere, Love Island is just around the corner and women are made to feel like they’re doing it all wrong.

Scrolling through Instagram earlier I saw loads of ads aimed making women feel a little bit shit.

The best one was ‘Have bare arms in 14 days’.

Now then, I have a few questions about this.

Why will it take 14 days? What kind of complicated Crystal Maze-type top do you have to own for it to take 14 days to put on? What if I want to have bare arms now, what if I brazenly get my arms out right now, what will happen? I’m already pushing it by being 46 and wearing a top with three quarter length sleeves, are the fashion police on their way right now? Who will look after my children and hide them from the shame of having a mother who dared to show her arms??

I’ve discussed (ranted about) this before, here, where I complained about being called brave for having bare arms. Do men get called brave for having their arms/legs out? I’m genuinely interested. I suspect men are made to feel equally as inadequate, just in different ways.

But for future reference, you can stick any bare arm advice up your arse, along with any article about how I can get my body beach-ready in time for summer. My body is already beach ready, thank you very much. All I need is an actual beach and some hot weather and me and my 46 year old, bikini-clad body are all over it.

I’m also being targeted at the minute by plus-size fashion ads, which is fine, except there are NO PLUS SIZE WOMEN IN THE ADS. How does that work? Who signed that off? What exactly is a plus size woman anyway? That suggests that it’s a woman who is more than the normal size, but what is normal? Who decides that? Were any women asked? Do we have minus sized women’s clothes? What happens if, like me, different parts of your body fall into different categories? Which misguided ads do I look at??

I’d say all my female friends are normal size, yet we’re all different. So how about just making clothes that fit all sizes of women without labelling and separating us, and showing us normal women in ads and on TV and in films etc. And while we’re talking about this, we were watching something the other night that had lots of naked people in it (don’t judge me, it was art, innit) and I noticed that there were no big breasted women. Where are all the big breasted women on telly?? Where have they put them all? Because you never see any. Is there some kind  of Logan’s Run – type situation going on in TV where once your breasts go over a certain cup size you get incinerated?

Unsurprisingly, I’ve discussed (ranted about) this before too, here, because if you see a big breasted woman on TV then that’s all she is, there’s no room for anything else, maybe because her breasts take up ALL the space. Or something.

You never see a ‘normal’ character who just happens to have big breasts, not that it would work anyway. Imagine a police drama with a big breasted main character; bullet proof vests are designed with men in mind, so that doesn’t work and there is too much running around. And you can’t have anything with a sex scene with big breasts in it, because big breasts don’t behave, they don’t stay where they’re supposed to, it would be a logistical nightmare.

(Now I’m trying to think of another example just so you don’t all think I just watch Love Island, police dramas and things with sex scenes in, but in all honesty that does kind of sum up my TV watching habits…)

So women, get your arms out, wear a bikini if you want to, love your body. Our bodies are amazing, they can do some amazing things and they can make you feel amazing things and the one you have now is the one you’re stuck with, so don’t take any notice of the society that makes money from making you feel like there is always a better you around the corner. Don’t keep putting things off until you look like what you think you should look like.

And if you have small breasts, wear a bulletproof vest and run proud, do it for the rest of us.


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Black Holes and Revolutions

So, lots going on this week.

We heard that an MP is calling for the removal of the parental rights of fathers of children conceived through rape. Yeah, I know, you thought that was a given already. And while it’s not as black and white as this and there have to be a lot of other things in place first before the father is involved, the fact that this is even a possibility shows that we’re still living with the remnants of the kind of medieval, patriarchal society where men have more agency over women’s bodies than women do. It all feels a bit Game of Thrones-ey. (Nearly there, people. I am nothing if not topical).

And while we’re talking about laws, as of this week it is now a criminal offence to take a picture under someone’s clothing without their permission. I know, who knew that was a Bad Thing? Certainly not all the men who have been doing it for years, hence the need for a law to remind them. It’s so bloody hard being a man, when all the rules keep changing and women keep making such a fuss about what is obviously just a bit of fun.

Take stalking, for example, what’s not to like about that?? Are you women ALL on your period or something and just being over-sensitive? It’s something women should feel flattered about, a sign of how attractive we are, of how men just can’t control themselves around us. Isn’t that what we all secretly want? Make your bloody minds up.

Well, no, it isn’t. When it happened to me I didn’t feel flattered, as I was told I should when I tried to tell someone who showed more sympathy for that poor, love-struck man than for me. It didn’t feel romantic or sweet that he pursued me to that extent. Being followed, even when I moved to another town, did not show me how much he really liked me, it just made me absolutely bloody terrified. I didn’t feel like I was in a romantic comedy, it was much more It Follows than Bridget Jones.

We need to change the way we talk about this kind of thing, and let young women know that if it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. Remind them to trust their instincts. We need to stop excusing bad behaviour by telling young girls that a boy is behaving badly because ‘he likes you!’

We are told by films and books that love is often shown through bad behaviour. You often see a male character pursuing a woman at quite an intense level, and eventually she caves in, accepts that actually she does love him, and everyone lives happily ever after. No wonder some men are confused.

The recent (ish) Netflix hit, You, dealt with this. The main character was the perfect leading man, he could have been picked straight out of any romantic comedy. He was good looking, caring and sensitive. In the first episode he meets a woman he likes and becomes obsessed with her, stalking her on social media, standing outside her house (surely I can’t be the only person who spent most of the first few episodes shouting ‘shut your damn curtains’ at the screen?).

But this show very cleverly showed the fine line between right and wrong. A lot of the things he did were things you see in many a rom-com film, things that are usually dressed up as romance. And who here hasn’t gone through someone’s social media feed to find out more about them? You haven’t? You’re either a liar or a complete amatuer, either way you don’t deserve a Twitter account.

But we also need to look at how crimes against women are reported. In a recent case in Leeds where a man killed his ex-girlfriend, he was described as a Maths graduate who was ‘fuelled by jealousy’. (By the way, he stabbed her one hundred times). They are often described as a loving husband, or family man almost as though the aim is to humanise him more, to soften his crime. That of stabbing her one hundred times.

The woman’s description usually dehumanises her, she is reduced to her status in relation to him, or her physical attributes, or her age.

These attacks are often described as a crime of passion and there’s an unspoken, vague, underlying assumption that she probably pushed him too hard, poor chap. You know what women are like, they go on and on, they twist your words.

He just got carried away with his emotions, and aren’t we always saying that men need to show their emotions more? Men’s emotions are used as a reason for carrying out violence, women’s are the reason they are victims of violence.

So let’s just get this straight as it’s hard to keep up; men’s emotions are good, women’s are so bad that they get fenced off into a male-approved, society-friendly arena called PMT, a place where women can shout and swear all they like, like Roman gladiators wielding tampons for swords, because hey, hormones. But relax, the mens, because they don’t really mean it. (*spoiler alert – we totally mean it).

So here’s a suggestion for some men on the internet; your time might be better spent looking at these issues, rather than spending what must have been HOURS going through the coding of the algorithm that produced the first images of a black hole, just to prove that Katie Bouman did not, as was suggested, produce it all on her own because God forbid a woman should take any credit.

Just remind me again why we’re struggling to get girls into STEM careers?

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Women, stop being so stupid and let us into your vaginas!

One in four women don’t go for their smear test, in fact, the rate of attendance is at a nineteen year low.

So what can we do about that? I recently Tweeted about it (I know, what was I thinking, stick to wombats in teacups, Kuhn, you know the rules…) and I was bombarded with people (mainly women) telling me how silly women are, how it only takes a few minutes and it could stop us from DYING, don’t we want to not die?

Women are quite clearly crazy and vain, they would rather risk death than go through a few minutes of discomfort and the embarrassment of some doctor peering into their vajanus. It’s only a vagina, stop being so precious about it. Just another example of women being rubbish. Tell them to stop refusing!

Let’s start with me telling you most women aren’t refusing, they are putting it off, that we get how important it is, but scaring us into doing it isn’t going to help. Also, we are intelligent women, we can weigh up the risks ourselves.

You could try looking at the reasons women hate these procedures and address those reasons, because they are legitimate fears. You have no idea what some women have been through, which isn’t your fault, it’s how life is, but just because you can’t personally understand why some women might feel uncomfortable, it doesn’t make it less valid. As I say a lot in this blog, we are telling you how we feel, that should be enough.

Talking down to us does not help. Patronising us does not help.

Having a load of cartoons and photos of celebrities having them does not help. Shaming us does not help, showing us pictures of women going through cancer treatment does not help. These things only make the fear worse for some women and makes them shut down from it even more. The more we are told we need one, the more terrified we become. And telling women ‘it will be fine’ doesn’t help either. We’re not stupid, we’ve all been in lots of situations where things have been most definitely not fine, so back off.

So how have we got to this? If we look at all the huge medical advancements that have taken place over the last one hundred years, how is it that certain procedures haven’t moved on at all?

A more cynical person than myself might say that it’s because this particular procedure is one that involves women, and that it is indicative of the way that women’s health takes a back seat. (A good friend of mine, @amandajanemason, summed it up perfectly on Twitter when she said “Seriously, if men had to do it, it would be a matter of spitting into a test tube by now”.)

Women are conditioned from an early age to just get on with it and accept that things are going to hurt. An example of this is sex. Young girls are told that it will be uncomfortable the first time, that’s just how it is, something you have to go through. But this is wrong and instills from an early age the idea that sex is primarily about male pleasure, instead of teaching young people what to do to make sure it’s not uncomfortable for anybody.

We are told that some things ‘just are’ and there’s nothing that can be done.

Women with very valid reasons for not wanting to give birth vaginally are being made to feel ashamed of asking for a C-section. Any woman who’s ever had depression will forever be lumped into that group with any ailment she presents to the doctor. This means that women are seeing huge delays between their first visit to a doctor and eventually being diagnosed. Let’s not even get into the whole thyroid thing. But they are just not listened to.

(Imagine a condition that affected every single man in the world, imagine them being happy being told that it will pass eventually, it will just take another eight to ten years. Hello Menopause).

I’ve been having regular smear tests for over twenty years, but the process has hardly changed.

There’s the way they shut that curtain as you get undressed from the waist down, leaving you to sit on that awful paper sheet that sticks to your arse. Then the strip of paper they give you, for modesty. Whose modesty? Is it mine? Is it so I don’t see what’s happening? Because I can’t see anyway, because boobs. Is it for the nurse? Mate, you’ve got your face inches away from my vagina wearing surgical gloves and you haven’t even bought me lunch, that line has been well and truly leapt over.

There’s the way they tell you to relax as they not-so-subtly prise your knees apart before cranking up the speculum.

Ah, the speculum. That shiny, metal, duck-billed torture device.

This lovely bit of equipment has hardly changed in design since it was invented over one hundred and fifty years ago, and if you delve a little deeper into the history of its invention, it’s a story of patriarchal domination and racism, tested on female slaves with no pain relief.

It symbolises the long held fear of women’s bodies, this tool that ensured no physical contact was made, because hey, we don’t want to make the women hysterical.

And so it carries on, the discounting of female discomfort, the blame being placed on the woman herself. I personally am proud of my tilty cervix, I picture it as one of those false floors in a fun house, but it has always been up to me to remind them and to then get into the right position with my hands placed in a certain way so that they can find the damn thing. All while being told to relax and with the threat of ‘the bigger speculum’ hanging over me. Believe me, there is nothing guaranteed to make a tilty cervix swish away like one of the lands in the Magic Faraway Tree than being threatened with the big speculum.

So sort it out. Talk to us. Find out what we don’t like, find another material to make the speculums, there are loads out there, maybe even talk to the sex toy industry, I don’t know, just do it. Find out if we’d be happy learning how to do it ourselves? I’d be happy doing that and I bet if you had an easy-to-use kit that we could just pick up and take home, the take up would be higher.

We are not stupid, we are happy to let you into our vaginas if needed, we’d just like some say in how you do it.

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Mum’s the word.

Mum. What a word. It summons up images of warmth and love, the sound of it in our mouths. Visually, the actual symmetry of the word conjures up a sense of completeness. There is so much weight carried in that word, so much pressure.

And today we celebrate Mothers.

Except the day is loaded with emotion, and those emotions aren’t always good. Motherhood is often used as a way to turn us against each other, just another thing we’re bound to get wrong because the goalposts are constantly changing.

There are so many ways we can fuck this up, so many ways we can be divided into two groups and made to judge each other, right from conception.

Eating prawns? Risky. Working until your due date? Raised eyebrows and a sharp intake of breath. Half a glass of wine? Do you want your baby to have foetal alcohol syndrome?

We give birth wrong. Too much pain relief? That’s not natural, you’re more or less giving your baby ketamine before it’s even born. Having a home birth? How ‘brave’ of you, you reckless fool. And you had a cesarean?? Woah, you shouldn’t even be allowed to open a Mothers Day card unless you can show us your episiotomy scars on your battered perineum.

Then we feed them wrong. Breastfeeding? What are you? Some kind of hippy? Save your tits for the mens! Bottle Feeding? You might as well leave your baby propped up with a bottle of newcastle brown ale in one hand and a fag in the other, watching porn.

Wean them too soon and you’re damaging their intestines. Too late and they will never learn to swallow, you idiot.

You stay at home with your kids and you’re a brain dead moron who has nothing to talk about, you go to work and you’re a heartless bitch who’d rather have nice shoes and cars than spend time with her baby. (Incidentally, I have been both of these and been judged and criticised in both instances, go the sisterhood).

But this is all fine, because these are the women who chose to have children in the first place, at least those women are natural. There is a separate category of spite for the women who chose not to have children. The head on one side and the thinly veiled, patronising as hell comments about how you’ll change your mind one day, when you see the light.

But it goes on, women being made to feel inadequate by society and ads and other bloody women and to top it all we have the Mother’s Day police. Like a twisted version of a Line of Duty where they try to hunt down anyone corrupting the sacred idea of Motherhood.

It’s everywhere, cards in the shops, flowers in the supermarket, restaurants doing special Mother’s Day deals, dedications on the radio, there’s no escaping it. I know lots of people who avoid social media on days like today because actually, it can be really hard to deal with, that cheerful steamroller of celebration that will not be stopped.

But it’s not that simple, because there are so many reasons today can be shit for lots of people.

There are people who are missing their mums, who would love to be able to spend the day with their mum but can’t. There are people who are missing their children and who have constant reminders of how they have to rewrite their future without them, we don’t even have a word for those people in the English language.

There are people who desperately want to be a mum and feel alone, and people who really don’t want to be and feel alone. There are people who desperately wanted to be a mum, but then realised after they became one, that actually it’s really bloody hard and they’re not sure they like it. There are people who have found themselves having to be mum suddenly, without any warning and while grieving, and people who play the part of a mum but are not recognised as such.

There are people who never knew their mum, but have other people who took her place. And people who knew their mum but wish they didn’t. Because there are people whose relationship with their mum has never been what they want it to be, which is really hard to talk about. Because hey, how bad do you have to be to either not like your mum, or even more so, to not be liked by your mum? Especially when there are people out there who would desperately love to have their mum with them, so shut up and be grateful.

We need to stop glorifying Motherhood. ‘Is your mum awesome??’ I saw one flyer say. Why do we have to be awesome? Can’t we just be enough? Next year I want to see flyers saying ‘Did your mum manage to get through the day without muttering “for fucks sake”, under her breath at least 20 times?’ Hell yes, give that person a medal.

Mothers are just women, and women are just people and people get things wrong. Here’s a bombshell, we don’t know what we’re doing. There, I said it, I’m sorry other parents, I’ve let our secret out. But it’s about time people accepted that we’re just bumbling our way through it without a guidebook.

Do you know what parenting is like? It’s like getting home from Ikea and realising there isn’t an instruction manual in the box and your allen key is the wrong size, but you’ve got to build that bloody chest of drawers, like right now, with everyone watching, and then you’ve got to build it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, because there is nobody else to build it, it’s all down to you and not only do you have to build it, but you have to build it with mittens on and no sleep and everyone else gets to pass judgement on it, even though they’re all trying to build their own bit of furniture. And you have to make some huge, far-reaching decisions about that chest of drawers, and you can’t even stop for some meatballs or a hotdog, because the chest of drawers needs 24hr care and the rules keep changing, overnight sometimes, so the way you built it yesterday is wrong today.

OK, I may have got carried away with the Ikea analogy, but you get the drift.

So give everyone a break and accept that if they are reacting to this day in a way you don’t agree with, or understand, then there is probably a really good reason for that.

So let’s celebrate everyone who has played some kind of nurturing, supportive role today, whether you’ve pushed a person out of your vagina or not. And if you’re finding today hard, for whatever reason, lots of love to you. Just put your head down and deal with it in whichever way works for you, you’re doing great and there are bloody loads of us out here all bumbling through it with you x

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I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Lady Garden…

Ladies, ladies, ladies.

How does that word make you feel? Do you like it? Does it make you feel nice? Special? Or does it make you want to rip out your ovaries with a rusty spoon?

Let’s see if you can work out which camp I fall into.

To me it feels patronising and condescending. It suggests fragility when women are anything but fragile. We push whole people out of our vaginas. Also, waxing.

It attributes certain characteristics to us that we have no control over. It’s old fashioned and harks back to a different time when society was different, and women were viewed differently and seen as inferior to men. I know, imagine that, what a ridiculous idea. Thank god we’ve moved on and now have jetpacks and spaceman food and equal pay and oh…

But this word is out of place in 2019 so I think that even if you’re not bothered by it, even if you quite like it, you need to realise the impact. They are never just words.

What image comes into your head when you think of the word ‘lady’? Now compare that to the image that comes into your head when you think of the word ‘woman’. Are they the same?

It’s a watered down version of the word Woman, because woman is a very strong word. We need to reclaim these words and use them, own them if you like, because we are not taught to refer to ourselves in that way. We have to almost hide it away, in the same way that lots of women use other, less direct words for periods and vaginas. Sometimes having a conversation about these things is like doing a cryptic crossword. You had a what where? We teach our children ridiculous words for their genitals, programming them from an early age that there is something to be ashamed of. 

The male equivalent, Gentlemen, is not used as much, or in the same way, you wouldn’t substitute the word Man for Gentleman unless you were specifically trying to convey a certain message.

My hatred of the word Ladies touches on the whole chivalry debate. Whenever you mention the word chivalry a chorus of men tell us how difficult women are. Jeez, do you ladies want a man to open the door for you or not? What are the poor mens to do? All they want to do is hold a door open for a young lady without being garotted by a burning bra brandished by a feminazi!

So let’s clear this up.

Yes, please hold the door open for me, help me on with my coat, do all of that shit, but do it because you’re a nice person, not because I have a vagina, because holding doors open for each other is what we should all do for anyone. Sorted.

It does make me smile though that the men who complain about not being allowed to hold doors open anymore, are the same men who bulldoze their entitled way along the street, refusing to move out of the way, forcing us all to play a daily game of Pavement Skittles that we’re never going to win.

So don’t refer to us as ladies, in the same way that at the age of 46 I don’t want you to refer to me as a girl because however you mean it, it just keeps us in our place, it infantilizes us and has certain connotations which we have been conditioned to believe. It doesn’t make me feel young and protected and special. It makes me want to use your testicles as nunchucks.

So that’s all I have to say about the word ladies, although I will just say though that despite my hatred of vagina synonyms (vaginanyms?) you will of course have to prise my favourite vagina synonym, Vajanus, from my cold dead hands.

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One Hand in my Pocket….

So recently I bought a dress with pockets.

I’ll just leave that sentence there for a few minutes and let it sink in because a lot of men reading this might think, what’s she banging on about now? ALL my clothes have pockets, in fact even my pockets have pockets, that’s how OK I am with pockets.

But, men, you’re probably reading this blog post on a phone that you have just taken out of your pocket, so bear with me because if you’re a woman reading this, chances are you haven’t just taken your phone out of your pocket, unless maybe it was the back pocket of a pair of jeans in which case the last time a mobile phone fit properly into one of those was in 2004 when everyone had a flip phone. (which, by the way, need to come back. It is nowhere near as satisfying hanging up on someone with just a swipe).

The stuff men carry in their pockets, we have to hold in our hands, or put in a handbag that we have to lug around with us, or, and please tell me this isn’t just me, we put them in our bras.

There are lots of reasons why our clothes don’t have pockets; for example, they apparently spoil the line of our clothes (mate, in my experience, having the set of keys for a 1989 Volvo 240 tucked into your bra is not exactly streamlined or elegant).

Historically, without pockets to put things in, women were less likely to be independent and do crazy things like travel alone or own property, because you can’t get very far if you can’t carry your own money. Thanks, The Patriarchy.

It’s testament to how ingrained this kind of nonsense is that we’re still struggling to find an item of clothing that lets us carry keys/phones/tampons/snacks around with us. The fact is that clothes have always been caught up in sexual inequality.

Women are still accused of ‘asking for it’ because of what they were wearing when they were attacked. Open any tabloid newspaper after an awards ceremony, for example, and read about how a young female actress was ‘flaunting her assets’. For ‘assets’ read ‘just normal legs’ and for ‘flaunting’ read ‘just walking along, using those legs because that’s kind of how legs work’.

We’re taught to adapt our clothing so as not to excite the men, because one thing women must avoid at all cost is exciting the men, because men will be men and it’s only natural manly instinct and it’s not their fault they can’t control their urges and it’s almost a compliment and as you’re reading this you know it’s bollocks, it’s massive, hairy bollocks, but you will still look at the picture of a scantily-clad woman in a newspaper and make a judgement about her.

We tell young girls that they can be whatever they want to be, but hey, do it in a school skirt that comes below your knee because we don’t want to distract the boys.

Snap decisions are constantly being made about someone based on what they’re wearing, and by someone I of course mean women, because nobody really gives a shit about what men are wearing. Men are never accused of asking for it. Maybe women can’t be trusted to take responsibility for their own money or property or pocket snacks, but they seem perfectly capable of taking ownership of their own sexual responses.

We need to get rid of the idea that a woman’s value is measured by how many items of clothing she has on. As well as the idea that if we’re showing some flesh it is society’s right to comment on, and maybe even touch, that flesh.

And we need to do something about the fact that some men seem incapable of hearing us when we say no, or that we’re not interested, or that we don’t want to be kissed or touched, or that it’s over, yet these same men can somehow read the most subtle messages in what we choose to wear. They read our breasts and our hair colour and the length of our skirts based on some out-of-date phrase book and end up getting it completely wrong.

The whole #metoo movement has shaken up a lot of things, and fashion is one of them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that for the last couple of seasons the midi dress has been hugely popular, particularly with high necks and long sleeves.

So give us our pockets. We might use them to spread leaflets around, encouraging rebellion, or we might use them to carry around an emergency snickers, you’ll never know. But we do know that having pockets is a whole new world. So women, go out and buy all the pockets. Then wait for the signal. You know what to do…

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