I’m tired. To the bone exhausted. It’s been a relentless year, like everyone else I’ve just kept trudging along. This weekend I hit a wall. I doubt I’m alone.
The convergence of Mother’s Day, police violence against women & the flood of abuse/harassment stories that women have been sharing was overwhelming. Especially when I realised how many similar cases of missing or dead WOC I had never even heard of. Women the mainstream media had little interest in. Women who in some cases haven’t even had their death investigated. I’m not shocked by any of this. I know this is the world we live in. The abstract knowledge doesn’t make each individual case less painful. When you combine one’s own pain with the agony of the collective it’s crushing. It never stops. It never changes.
I’m aware that I’m feeling all this from a position of privilege. I have more space & safety to process. The police would likely pay attention to my family if I disappeared. I know my exhaustion is relative, but god, it’s heavy. I wish it were possible to ease the heavier weight I know many are carrying.
I don’t have any new answers. I’ll keep writing to MP’s, protesting, amplifying marginalised voices, putting my money where my mouth is. It’s a struggle to feel hopeful at the moment. So, I’m going add to taking care of myself to that list. I don’t know what that care looks like yet, but I’m working on it. I urge you to take whatever time you can & give yourself a little TLC too.
The discourse around Sarah Everard’s disappearance has been horribly familiar. The tired victim blaming about where she shouldn’t have walked. The same sinking feeling as the days go by. Duplicate faux shock from men when we recount what life is like for women. The self-same chorus of ‘not all men’. Year after year. Case after case. Victim after victim. It is always the same. None of this is new or surprising. It’s just horribly sad & terribly frightening.
Women aren’t under any illusions about the world we inhabit. We know that we aren’t safe. We’re scared when we walk home alone from the train station. We calculate the threat of each interaction with a man we don’t know. Fashion make shift weapons from handbag contents. The rules are ingrained; no headphones at night, carry your keys, shout fire instead of rape, call me when you’re home! We have been absorbing the message that we are in danger since childhood.
There is no poor decision making. We are simply living our lives. Avoiding all risk isn’t possible. No matter what complex precautions we take, we are exposed. If the journey from my bus stop to my house is along dark, quiet streets then I have no option but to regularly walk alone on dark quiet streets. We don’t have personal escorts, we can’t control who will sit next to us on the train, taking taxis can be cost prohibitive & most cab drivers are men anyway.
We know that ‘not all men’ are dangerous, but we don’t know which ones are. From childhood girls are bombarded with harassment. It never stops. Teachers & drs & bus drivers & our friend’s dad & policemen & strangers on the street & priests & guys in bars & colleagues & friends & lovers. Lots of women aren’t even safe in their own homes. We all have stories of close calls and false alarms. Most is can tell you about the encounters we couldn’t escape too. It is not a revelation that most guys aren’t going to murder us. Knowing that doesn’t change our real fear because often it’s the one you trust who will. The worst case scenario is a reality and we’re reminded of that every single time a man stands too close or lingers too long. We are adding up where this is headed when a creep makes a crude comment or gets aggressive when told no. Here’s the thing that not many men will admit, you know it too. You all know men that you wouldn’t want alone with your sister/daughter/girlfriend. You see those scary men shouting at us on the street and grabbing us in bars. Every time you tell a woman you care about that you’ll see her home or to her car it’s because you are fully cognisant if the threat. The more insidious of you get a kick out knowing you can frighten us without losing plausible deniability. Not all, but definitely enough.
I read a story recently about a guy who got a big cash in hand payment & had to take public transport home with the money. He was on high alert for the whole journey. Everyone looked suspicious. He second guessed his every move. When he relayed how stressful the journey was to his wife, she replied ‘ now you know how I feel everyday’. The solution to this problem isn’t changing female behaviour. Our awareness is at code red. Let’s tackle the predators not prey.
Instead of rushing to shout ‘not me’ men need to listen. They must examine their own complicity & learn what would actually help others feel safer. Challenge your gross friend. Know when your voice is helpful and when it is silencing. Let’s begin to have real conversations about getting more women into key positions. Our criminal justice systems approach to violence against women still needs an overhaul. Perhaps most importantly we all need to think about how we raise our children. The cycle must be broken. Too many women have already been lost.
We have a new strain and new lockdown. Infection rates are rising. As are long covid cases. I can attest that the long term symptoms are a struggle. Now is not the time to get lax. Please stay home as much as you can. Wash those hands every opportunity you get and wear a damn mask.
With a mask you can show that you care about the welfare of others and make a statement. Facemasks don’t have be boring, go for it!
I have a Sara Conde and I love it. Handmade, three layer with a nose wire. It’s super comfy & she has the cutest prints. Who wouldn’t want all these beautiful boobs on their face?
I’m a loud & proud feminist, so this amazing design from KultKutie Handmade rings my bell. If you want to support the sisterhood & public health, this is the way to go.
The advent of masks has scuppered our lipstick game. If you’re missing a big bold lip, KhaatiMeethiLondon has got you.
Fuck the Tories can do no wrong in my eyes. This lyrical beauty gets your point across with a little humour. Three layer with a filter. You’ll feel safe & sassy.
If like me you are prone to losing things DearSoho have the cutest fix. Chains that will up your cool factor and ensure your face mask is always at hand.
I recently received delightfully BoPo gifts that instantly inspired an idea. Since the presents in question are a hat & socks, they seemed perfect for a cute top to tail photo.
As I put my vision into action I became frustrated. My attempts to capture a simple, joyful picture of my fat body were complicated by the reaction I knew it would receive. No matter how carefully one covers provocative areas or unseductive the pose female presenting bodies are sexualised. Marginalised bodies receive even more pressure to up the sexy in order to be perceived as worthy of viewing.
As a fat woman I know from experience that any picture I put in the public domain will be insulted & ogled. No matter the context or reason for my showing the world the image I can predict a portion of the responses. Some creepy men will always make creepy remarks and fat phobic comments will appear. It can feel like I am being asked to either apologise for or eroticise my form to make it acceptable.
I’ll never apologise. I won’t forever play the sexy fatty either. My body is just as worthy as any other. I am attractive, I can be alluring. I’m also just a person. I like myself in jammies & unwashed bun. I like myself with hairy legs and tired eyes. I’m worthy when I’m limping along with my walking stick. I can find pleasure in my body just as it is.
Naked doesn’t equal sexual. All bodies are glorious and remarkable. I Iove the idea of embracing the normal. I want to celebrate all the different incarnations of me. I want others to see that they are enough.
I used a hand sanitiser in a train station the other day. It was one of those super strong types that you find in hospitals. As soon as it hit my skin I was whisked back in time. For a second or two I was somewhere else. Somewhere I didn’t want to be.
The cold sensation drifted through my body. A zoetrope of mixed up images spun in my head. Blurry flashes conjured by the clinical scent. I felt dizzy. I sat down, took some deep breaths. It passed. I was grateful.
It wasn’t entirely gone. That night the whirl of disjointed scenes dipped in & out of my dreams. Random words have jarred memories. My mind has wandered mid thought or conversation. I have felt the panic rising. Spells of forcing my head to connect with my physical reality have emerged. Struggling to focus on what I can actually see, hear, smell in this moment. Ignoring the feelings climbing my throat.
Tonight in the shower I couldn’t shake the feeling that the hot water streaming down my legs was blood. I couldn’t wipe the hospital aroma from my nostrils. Nor soothe the ache that spread from my back to my thighs. The hand sanitiser has triggered a reaction. My body is recalling the trauma stored deep within. It’s a phenomenon associated with PTSD known as body memories.
I haven’t experienced this symptom in quite some time. It lies dormant; rising unpredictably. Sometimes reacting to obvious & painful stimuli. Or, like this week, triggered by a tiny insignificant detail. My olfactory senses seem particularly attuned to old wounds.
This time it’s the initial loss. I feel my body failing. I know it isn’t happening. I have learned how to pull myself back to the here & now. Still, those moments when I’m dragged to the past feel completely real. I am not just thinking about unpleasant events. I am feeling them. My flesh & nerves & senses are reacting to something that happened 20 years ago.
Body memories are excruciating. It becomes a battle between what you know & what you feel. Fighting strong emotions is a challenge. When you add physical sensations grounding yourself is an onerous task. I have experienced these episodes replicating the sensations I felt during miscarriages & pregnancy. At times these physical memories are accompanied by flashbacks & other PTSD symptoms. Other times they occur in isolation. They mirror my actual experience so completely that I’ve found myself taking multiple pregnancy tests when I knew it was almost impossible for me to have conceived.
It’s another aspect of PTSD that I rarely see discussed in the mainstream. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not only (or even mainly) associated with combat trauma. Yet, it’s the link most people draw. The violent outbursts in media portrayals of the illness are not accurate. New studies are highlighting how prevalent PTSD is in women who have experienced baby loss & birth trauma. For most of us, managing PTSD is an internal process. Distress may leak out, but the grind is with yourself. Accessing the right help, surviving that help (trauma therapy can be brutal), learning to manage symptoms, accepting the parts you can never fix & the impact they will have on your life.
It’s painful & exhausting & many of us never completely recover. To stand any chance of healing specialised therapy is essential. There are so many barriers to reaching that help. It can take years to obtain any psychological intervention without the resources to pay privately. Even longer to receive the specialised therapy that can actually help. So many people can’t afford to wait.
This month I’m supporting The Birth Trauma Association and Sands. Both organisations support families who have experienced trauma surrounding baby loss & birth. Please join me if you can.
I am often asked how I learned to feel good in my body. Whilst the answer to that question is long & winding there is one thing I always suggest. I’ve noticed tonnes of folk in the Bopo community offer the same advice; immerse yourself in fat positive content.
It’s an easy starting place. You can follow social media accounts, read articles & watch shows without having to make deep commitments to changes. Removing messages that make you feel bad and replacing them with joyous fat imaging works. It was my first step into accepting my body as it is. It remains something I expand upon.
This is how I came to create my sexy self love wall. The deep red wall in my bedroom long hankered for some art, but I could never decide on what I wanted up there. When I commissioned my first Spunk Rock piece a vision began. I decided to create a kinky, feminist ode to myself. If that sounds conceited, I don’t care. It’s a private part of my house. My bold proclamation is for me.
Which leads me to my newest pretty. This gorgeous water colour is by Mia Macauley . She reproduced one of my all time favourite selfies. I am in love. Hot curves, delicious rolls & leopard print knickers too. I cannot wait to get me up on the wall.
I know things are tight in the money department at the moment. Earnings are uncertain for lots of us, but if you possibly can, these charities could really do with your help.
The wonderful women behind All Killa No Filla are killing it during this crisis. They’re not only creating hilarious content, but continue to support worthwhile causes. Kiri & Rachel entertained us with bonus & live from lockdown episodes of their epic podcast. In return for the merriment they asked that fans donate to Every Month Manchester. They’re a group tackling period poverty and have been struggling during the corona pandemic. If you can manage, even the price of a box of tampons would be a big help.
This month I also made a small contribution to Pink Lip Day for SMA. This is Kelly Fletcher’s annual fundraiser in memory of her beautiful little girl. Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK support those impacted by the condition and fund research. It can be a devastating diagnosis, please help if you can.
For this year’s International Women’s Day I thought I’d stay close to home. There are of course many, many wonderful women doing important things across the globe. However, sometimes you have to recognise the people on your doorstep. Thus, I give you a special women I’m lucky to share DNA with.
When my mum was pregnant with my sister I was determined that she would be a girl. People kept telling me that I might get another brother, but I would have none of it. A sister is what I wanted and a sister is what I got. Thank god! I have loved just about every minute of being a big sister. From her cute toddler babbling, playing (& fighting) in our shared bedroom, taking her out to clubs she wasn’t allowed to be in and so much more. She has been a blessing.
These days I sometimes have to take a minute to remember this powerful women is that same chubby cheeked wee girl. My sister astounds me. Her determination knows no bounds. She cannot be stopped. Lauren combines running her own law firm with being a literal supermummy. She does exceptional work in an often taxing field. The impact of practising criminal and family law is frequently overlooked. Solicitors really take a bullet for the rest of us. By dealing with issues many of us do not want to think about too deeply they ensure our justice system continues to function. A service we should all be grateful for.
When she’s not bossing it in court my sister is a fantastic Mummy. My nephew wants for nothing. He is showered with love and attention. No bedtime story is skipped, homemade food, home made costumes, even elaborate home baked birthday cakes; my sis is not sleeping on any detail. It shows, her boy is smart & funny & a total love bug.
If balancing career & motherhood wasn’t enough my extraordinary sibling also finds time for friends and family. Oh and she looks bloody beautiful whilst doing it all. Seriously, even her lazy days are chic. My darling sister has spent too many hours by my side in a&e. She’s ferried me about and offered very wise counsel. We have also spent countless hours gabbing & dancing & laughing. I know she offers the same support & good times to many others. Quite simply, my baby sister is a phenomenal woman.
Inspirational women aren’t all winning Nobel prizes or running for high offices. They’re all around us. So, this Women’s day give the fabulous females in your life the credit they deserve.
International Women’s Day is coming right up and that feels like a great excuse to celebrate women helping women. My March charities of the month are two awesome organisations doing amazing work for women in Glasgow.
SAY focus on providing semi supported accommodation for young survivors of sexual abuse who have no safe place to live. They also have a resource centre to provide practical & mental health support. Plus provide training for other orgs working with women who have experience sexual abuse and/or domestic violence. This is vital work. Escaping sexual abuse leads to homelessness for too many young women. Having a soft place to land can save and change lives. I am in awe of the work SAY is undertaking.
I am equally impressed with the amazing Glasgow Women’s Library. This inspiring institution is the only accredited museum in the uk that is entirely dedicated to the lives of women. They maintain a wonderful lending library that is open to all. Whilst also running an exceptional education programme. Many of their courses and events are open to all. They also provide opportunities more tailored to specific groups. I can not shout loud enough about this inclusive, safe space. So often the achievements of women are ignored, it is refreshing to discover a place solely dedicated to recording our history.
These are two of many organisations working hard to support and uplift women. Women fighting to make the lives of our sisters better is a truly beautiful thing. Please give generously if you can.
Valentine’s Day is rolling up this week. I know it’s a marmite type celebration, but I’ve always liked it. I think it’s nice to devote a day to being a little soppy or sexy or both. Obviously don’t save it all for that one day, but a bit of extra lurve in the depths of winter is no bad thing.
That said I know that not everyone is feeling romantic. Some folk are lonely, some revel in their Singleton status, some eschew the expectation of performing on a certain day. All are absolutely right to feel what they feel. So, I thought I’d offer a range of valentine’s gifts to suit all. Buy them for a lover, a friend, yourself or just because they’re cool.
She’s Angry is one of my favourite insta accounts. I pretty much love everything they create. Their Self healing piece proudly hangs on my bedroom wall. This is another triumph.
Now back to the bawdy. If you want to add a bit of kink to your life; Spunk Rock is the place for. Whether it’s sexy prints, drag queen portraits or one of a kind commissions, art doesn’t get hotter. I own a few of their pieces & I cannot wait to purchase more.