It’s been a shitty couple of weeks and my patience is stretched pretty thin. Paper thin. So, when some random man started emailing pleading with me to get to know him there was no give left.
Variations of this happen all the time. To be a woman remotely online is to be seen as fair game. Wow, am I tired of it. Contrary to popular male belief the entire internet is not in fact a dating site. Men, I beseech you, please stop it. If you see an attractive woman online you don’t have to tell her. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we didn’t post that picture to lure strange men into our dms. Women do not exist to give you an opportunity to shoot your shot. We don’t want to know what you think of our bodies or what you’d like to do them. For the love of god, don’t tell us about your kinks.
Women do not owe you anything. You are not entitled to a chance, a reply or a second of our time. Listen to me, do not send that message. Don’t call us babe. Don’t type a bunch of kiss emojis and absolutely do not send a dick pic. No one wants to see any of it. What’s actually going to happen is immediate BLOCK. I mean this sincerely, take your creepy messages & fuck off.
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Last year was tough. Long covid/Pots really did a number on my already subpar health. It was hard to keep on top of even basic daily tasks. All aspects of my life suffered. In an effort to shake that not quite enough feeling I’ve raided the brain for my 2022 highlights.
I contributed to the book Rebel Bodies by Sarah Graham. It’s an incredible piece of work about the gender gap in healthcare. Sarah covers the intersections of gender, weight, age & disability whilst deconstructing the barriers women & non binary people face when trying to access appropriate medical care. I am so proud to share my story of medical weight stigma and be part of this book.
In April we took my Mum on a birthday trip to Salzburg. She had a big birthday at the end of 2021 & we wanted to do something special. Mum loves The Sound of Music & has always talked about going to Salzburg. This year, she finally got there and it was magical. We stayed at Schloss Leopoldskron, where the movie was filmed, took a private Sound of Music tour and had a generally amazing time. Salzburg is incredibly beautiful and taking Mum on her dream holiday was wonderful.
At the very beginning of ‘22 I was a guest on the Anti Diet Club podcast. The pod creators Gillian Wilson and Tamsin Broster are dedicated to helping others divest from diet culture. I love the work they do and was honoured that they considered my voice worth hearing. It is such a pleasure to connect with others who are committed to fighting fat phobia.
This summer I got to revive a love from my youth. I thought festivals were a thing of the past for me, but thank to TRNSMT’s comprehensive accessibility accommodations I was back in the game. Watching bands, whilst sipping cider in the sun with my bestie & sister made me feel 22 again. Screaming along with The Strokes as the the sun went down was such a highlight.
This one might seem small, but felt significant to me. The Guardian journalist Martin Belam recommended me in his Friday Reads. Having a writer I respect enjoy my work enough to share it felt good. Especially in a year when my health has interfered with my creative output.
Last, but never least is of course being an Auntie. It is my biggest joy. I am so excited to watch all of my niblings grow. Last year they continued to surprise & impress. I am endlessly grateful to be part of their lives.
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We’re all familiar with the reminder letters and campaigns urging us not to miss our cervical smear test. We are rightly told how important they are in detecting cancers early. I’m glad these tests are available. I am also happy that we are educated on why these tests are so necessary. However, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the messaging.
So often when a person or organisation wants to encourage people to attend cervical screenings they focus on how easy it is. We’re told it is silly to be embarrassed and it will be over in a flash. Don’t risk your life over 5 mins of feeling awkward is repeated. Smear tests are confidently declared to be not painful. Just a little discomfort, nothing to worry about. While that might be true for lots, it is not full the picture. The patronising assumption that people miss smear tests because they’re self-conscious is harmful. Many people have valid reasons for their reticence. Addressing those issues would be a more effective way of increasing uptake numbers.
Research from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Rape crisis revealed that 72% of women who have experienced sexual violence have skipped or delayed a smear test. When you consider that at least 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted you can begin to understand the scale of the issue.
Birth trauma & pregnancy loss also impact a significant portion of those who require smear tests. Gynae exams & cervical screening require being in vulnerable positions that can trigger a trauma response. Recent research is finding that baby loss & birth trauma often results in PTSD. So, it’s easy to see why a smear test would be not a easy exam for those who are affected.
There are also medical conditions/physicalitys that can make a smear test very difficult. Conditions like ,vaginisimus, endometriosis, cervical ectropion and more can make smear tests painful or difficult. Cervical position, vaginal dryness, menopausal changes and FGM can also impact how a smear test feels.
Trans men may find smear tests hard for all obvious reason. Dysphoria, stigma, discrimination and more. I’m sure everyone can understand how having to deal with any or all of those things is a frightening prospect. It can also be difficult to access information; trans men may not be invited for cervical screening, there is confusion about who requires the test etc. Of course this may be combined with any of the other issues on this list.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I just want to be clear that there are many real reason for a person to avoid cervical screening. That being said, how can we make it easier? Well, there are actually a lot of accommodations you can ask for. I don’t see this talked about enough, so I wanted to share that information.
Before I get into the details, I want to be clear that you do not have to disclose anything you are not ready to discuss. You can ask for accommodations without revealing your trauma.
Before the Test
You can ask you GP to take your name off the automatic reminder list if those letters are distressing.
Ask for the test to be performed by a person of your preferred gender.
If you have an established relationship with a Dr/Nurse you can ask to have them do your smear test.
Make an appointment to talk about the smear test. Discuss anything you need to talk about. Be that how the test is done, why is it done, your fears, worries etc.
Request a double appointment to allow time breaks, extra time.
Plan what you will do after the test. You may not feel up to returning to work or you might not want to be alone.
Take an emotional support person to the appointment.
Request a chaperone be present for the test.
Ask to talk through the ‘mechanics’ of the test before you start. Have the Dr/Nurse show you the instruments used.
Tell the person performing the test any words or phrases that could be triggering for you. If there are words of comfort that are helpful for you ask them to use those.
Explain how heavy/light a touch you are comfortable. If there are areas you would like them to avoid touching if possible, tell the Dr/Nurse.
Ask to insert the speculum yourself.
If you are concerned about specific trauma/pain response discuss that with the Dr/Nurse. For example tell them this part of the exam is usually painful for me or I might be unable to chat/answer questions.
Agree a plan of action beforehand; what would you like to happen if you are triggered/pain is too much. You can decide on a word or sign to use if you are in distress.
Mindfulness Techniques – Exercises like naming three things you can see, smell, hear can help route you in the now.
Distraction – Play music, make small talk with Dr/Nurse, your support person.
Squared Breathing – This sometimes helps me get through acute pain/the onset of panic. Breath in for 4, hold for 4, breath out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat.
Take a comforting object. Fidget object. Scent that invokes calming feeling. Hold support person’s hand.
Discuss having medication prescribed. Things like benzodiazepines can help with anxiety, allow your body to be less tense. Maybe you need a stronger pain medication to deal with the test/after effects.
Know Your Limits
It is ok to stop at any point. If any part of the process becomes too much, stop. You can reschedule the appointment. It is ok to try as many times as you need. This test is for you. You are not obligated to fit into anyone else’s timeline or expectations.
Smear test are an important part of early cancer detection, but your whole health & well being are equally important. Shaming people or dismissing the reason for their reluctance does not help. If we are to increase the uptake rates we need to acknowledge what is actually preventing people from attending. We also need to facilitate ways to address those concerns.
This month’s Charity of the Month is the wonderful Scottish Trans Alliance . If you’re not mad about the current discourse surrounding trans rights then this probably isn’t the blog for you.
The mainstream media in the UK is nothing short of vile to and about trans people and the government (uk) refuses to protect them. The political climate is repulsive. It feels very much like we are reliving the late 80’s persecution of gay people. Obviously both groups have been discriminated against outwith these periods, but there is a mirroring that I find particularly disturbing. We’ve been here before; we know those views are wrong and disgusting. Yet, here we are. Demonising, endangering and excluding people who have already had to fight too hard just to exist.
The Scottish Trans Alliance do incredible work in trying to ensure we live in the world in which a person’s gender identity, expression and history do not lead to discrimination. They participate in campaigning, legislation consultation, fund research and hold conferences/other forums to connect and support trans people in Scotland.
For the record, you are not a feminist if you do not support trans rights. Equally you are not fighting for diversity or equality if you want to remove letters from LBGTQ+. If like me, you know that trans rights are human rights please donate to Scottish Trans.
Let’s talk about breasts. Boobs, titties, knickers, baps. Whatever you want to call them. Just a human body part. So, what is all the fuss?
For a long time I thought I hated my breasts. I resented the attention they brought, the assumptions & limitations they imposed. I even looked into a surgical reduction to be rid of their weight. It’s only in recent years that I have realised that there is actually lots I enjoy about breasts. I didn’t hate them, they had just been weaponised against me.
Boobs are great. They feel nice. Breasts can be comforting. Nipples can have incredible sensation. They add lovely curves to the body. Mine look great in lots of things. They can sustain new life. Sure I wish my own didn’t give me back ache but they’re part of me and I like me.
Why all the hate, then? Well, we live in a world that projects so much onto these mounds of tissue. It starts so young. If you are a late bloomer, you are free game for mocking. Develop fast or bountifully and you will be Objectified. I managed to combine both. I was flat as a pancake and then between 14-15 years old my breasts went into overdrive. There’s years of being sexualised. Your peers will do it and you’re told ‘boys will be boys’. Then it somehow becomes a teenage girl’s fault that adult teachers are uncomfortable that they can see bra lines through a white school shirt or that her breasts bounce in P.E. Strange adults on the street will shout gross comments at a child in a school uniform. The bus driver will come onto you every day on the way home from school. Friend’s Mums will view you suspiciously because your body means you are not a ‘nice girl’. All along assumptions are made about who you are and how you can be treated purely by the fact that the tissue on your chest grew bigger than other girls your age.
As you grew older it just becomes more overt. Men in bars will comment on your body and if you complain you’re told it’s your own fault for showing cleavage. Any night out will include at least one random groping from a person you didn’t even say hello to. Getting angry garners insults. You are a slut or you’re ugly because you object to being sexually assaulted. Friends of friends will refer to you as ‘that girl with the huge boobs’. Jokes are made, envy expressed, inappropriate bra size enquiries are never ending. All the while there is an underlying implication that this is your fault. You are judged because of a body that you didn’t choose or have any control over.
It extends way beyond individual experiences. Everyone in possession of a pair is bombarded with messages about our own form. We have all had lists of things we can & cannot do. Don’t show bra straps, but you need a bra to control or enhance your shape. Clothes that aren’t ok for your body. Clothes that are sending a message. Activities we give up because we’re so tired of the attention we attract. We’re shamed if someone can see the outline of a nipple. Censored everywhere because a female presenting chest is sexual; even when it is feeding an infant. We still live in a world where using a breast for its intended purpose can be controversial. It’s all patriarchal bullshit.
Our bodies are not inherently sexual. Seeing a nipple isn’t provocative. Breasts are just fat and tissue and skin. No more or less obscene than a nose or an armpit. The size and shape of our constituent parts bears no indication of who we are. Neither does how we choose to adorn them.
I feel sad that I ever considered surgically changing my body purely to avoid misogyny in its many forms. I am exhausted that at 41 I still have to explain the same point I was making at 16. None of this new. Yet, there are still umpteen men in my DMs every week talking only about my tits. I still get cat called and disapproving looks. A few years back a GP pointed out that she could see my bra poking out of a vest top and asked what message I thought that sent. This educated, professional woman could not understand my anger or the reason I complained about her comments.
I don’t how or when we bring this to an end. I do know it starts with me (& you) taking back my body. I am not for public consumption. I will continue to wear whatever pleases me. I’ll delete gross comments and if you dare to sexually harass me the very least you can expect is a loud fuck off. My breasts are large, my cleavage exquisite, but most of all they are mine.
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What better way to start the year than in some gorgeous new knickers?
I can never have enough lingerie , so I’m always excited to get some for Xmas. I’m loving all the lace detail especially since the fabric is super soft. I adore the shape the bra is giving me. The whimsy of the French knickeresque pants is delightful.
You know your knickers are making you feeling yourself when you have the urge to snap a booty mirror selfie.
I’ve had another sleepless night and I used the extra hours to clean up outstanding admin. One of the tasks I enjoy the least is dealing with the angry dms/emails etc I get from random followers who hate fat, single woman being happy & online. Recently there has been a sharp upturn in the number of messages telling me I should be ashamed, i’m a bad influence, should have more self respect… To those I say, SUCK IT,
You’re not a slut (unless you like that term) if you enjoy lots of sex. Nudity is not inherently sexual and even when it is, it is not dirty. No one has to justify their sexual agency. I’m a grown ass woman with a healthy sex drive & I give zero fucks about what anyone thinks of that.
I have a sex life. Fat women are desired. I’ve had various partners. Some were great ideas others not so much. I’ve shed some tears, discovered things about myself, been frustrated & had a fucking ball. I’m am sick & tired of the contempt for female sexuality. I’ve regretted some of my sexcapades, but I’ve never been ashamed. In fact, I’m delighted to offer some high(& low)lights in service of the sex positive feminist agenda.
There was the Brazilian bus driver turned surgeon who was fun and precipitated an embarrassing incident.
The night club bouncer I fell arse over elbow for only to have him wreck my life.
The university professor who was kind, smart, committed & gorgeous, but just not the one.
The stunning aspiring stage actor who had the sexiest curves I’ve ever seen. She soothed my broken heart, boosted my self esteem and invited me to her wedding years later.
The film critic who gave great date and turned out to be full of shit.
The part time novelist who was a talented writer (& lover), but wanted me much more once he couldn’t have me.
The librarian union rep who presented as the ultimate lefty. Unless it related to feminism, then he was the laziest of ‘not all men’ misogynists.
The post man who was just a terrible rebound mistake and had to get up way too early.
The student whose very catholic Mum popped in when were having sex on the sofa. The 3 minutes it took me to find anything to hide behind were probably the most awkward of my life.
The bar manager who got clingy two dates in despite telling me she didn’t want anything serious.
The biologist who was fine really, but always thought he knew best. Good time in bed. Frustrating conversations.
The IT analyst who wanted to move way too fast. Very romantic, but scared the shit out of me with detailed future plans.
The tax man who started out a lot of fun. Settled into something comfortable. Ended up a huge cowardly disappointment.
The electrician who was a whirlwind. Crazy night outs. Cuddly weekends watching old movies. Fizzled out fast.
The newly divorced Mum who was actually pretty incredible, but really wanted to live the party girl life. I was just too old & tired for clubbing on a Wednesday.
The rugby player who was an entirely different person in front of his friends. I met a cool, sensitive guy. Every time we went to the pub I was with a rugby boy cliche. Big nope.
The lottery fund allocator who could have been perfect if i wasn’t so ridiculously bad at recognising the nice guys.
The mental health worker who was all erudite and kind. Big social conscious. Fostered rescue cats. Was also way too interested in my scars in bedroom. Creepy & ugh.
The photographer who was exciting & hilarious, but only because he took copious amount of cocaine. Pro tip ladies coke is no friend to the old erection.
I have a favourite who blew my mind. There were crazy hot folk, guys that others thought weren’t attractive at all, relationships, flings & the odd one nighter. It’s all fine. Every (consensual) sexual encounter was ok for me. Sex is fun. It’s natural. It can be as big or as little a deal as you feel it is.
Safe sex between consenting adults is A OK. Have as much or as little as you want. Talk about it or don’t. Your body is yours to do with as you please. Enjoy.
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I’m one of those people who gets started on the Xmas pressies. Thus I’m pretty much done already & ready to share some independent/small business gifts. If you’re not ready for Christmas chat yet, I’m sorry! Everyone else, let’s get to it.
If like me, you (or someone you love)find yourself exceptionally attached to pieces of music this one is for you. These beautiful visual representations of sound waves feel like a special present to me. I found MuckaStudio on Etsy, they created exactly what I wanted for a really reasonable price.
Robyn Boyle is a beautiful artist & person. I first found her art on Instagram, then got to know her & now consider her a friend. I have bought commissions as gifts & have her art hanging in my home. Why wouldn’t you want to buy a stunning piece of art from a wonderfully kind person.
Bonnie Bling is an old favourite. They are an independent Scottish brand who create quirky acrylic jewellery & accessories. I’ve been buying their Scottish centric wares for years. They use all recycled plastics, so they tick the ethical & desirable boxes. Buy some pretties.
Another artist that I discovered on Instagram is Edoniworks. They do gorgeous architectural drawings and take commissions. Their communication is great, quick turn around & reasonable pricing; 5 stars from me. I think a drawing of your forever home/wedding venue/favourite bar makes a really lovely gift. Someone in my life is getting one this year.
I’m never going to write a small business guide without including Wilde Mode*. They make the cutest, comfiest underwear I’ve worn and they are all round good eggs (their ethics are tip top). They have so many excellent xmassy products this year. Definitely the kind of thing I will be giving.
If feminist, inclusive & sometimes ridiculous are up your street you need to check out Crudely Drawn. Unique prints, mugs, tees & more can be found here. I can think of a few people who would love a Louis Theroux with boobs mugs and I really want some tidy hating bits for myself. I love quirky, cool gifts like this.
* I am a Wilde Mode brand ambassador, but I was not paid for this post.
After two cancellations (at the behest of Covid) & almost forgetting the rescheduled date, I finally got to see Rachel Fairburn on Sunday.
I’ve been cracking up at Rachel’s chat on the All Killa No Filla podcast for a couple years now. This was my first time seeing her stand up. I wasn’t disappointed. Her show was hilarious. If you like gobby, feminist comedy you should definitely check her out.
I think this may have been my first night out since before the pandemic, so I wanted to look tip top. I have this banging dress that I bought to wear on my 40th birthday, but Covid scuppered that plan too. I haven’t had anywhere to wear it in the year since & it needed an outing.
Sunday night comedy didn’t feel like the right event for the dress, so I experimented a little. Teamed with my favourite velvet trousers and some trusty leopard print the dress took on a whole new vibe.
I felt super cute, Rachel was on top form & I had an excellent night with my sis. It was exactly what I needed.
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