Monday, April 23, 2007

Why women?

Today's newspapers have all commented on a report by ActionAid. This report ("Who Pays? How British supermarkets are keeping women workers in poverty") looks fantastic and well worth a read. Just wanted to quickly tag it up - I'm going to try and get through it in the next couple of days and report back but there are loads of good summaries in the 'papers. I've been trying to give up my supermarket habit recently and I hope this will spur me on to resist the two tescos, one sainsbury's and one somerfield that are within a ten minute walk of my flat!

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Hello to anyone out there who still occasionally checks this. Sorry for the lack of updates - in August last year I moved to Bristol and began the Legal Practice Course there. I have been really busy with the course and really poor with money so I can't afford the internet in my flat and have had no time to update at uni. However my final term begins in a week and the workload has eased off a bit so I should be back...until then I'm still around enjoying all of your writing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I've enjoyed reading everyone else's and have been tagged by Laura at I'm not a feminist, but and Michelle at LonerGrrrl so here's my contribution to the book meme (tried to go with my gut feeling and not think or analyse my choices too much...)

One book that changed your life?

The entire Patricia Cornwell Kay Scarpetta series – I wrote a dissertation on them for my degree and got a first.

One book you have read more than once?

The Penguin Complete Saki – I’ve read this over and over again and fantasise about living in a world where Clovis and Reginald could actually exist.

One book you would want on a desert island?

I’m not a very practical person so I’m going to go for Ulysses, I could (and do) read that book again and again and always find something new in it – it would keep me entertained forever (or at least until I died of starvation or hypothermia).

One book that made you laugh?

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel, it doesn’t sound like it will be funny but the humour in it is so sharp – I laughed out loud.

One book that made you cry?

A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens – I’m not usually a sucker for heroic self sacrifice but the end of this novel is so beautifully written that I cried.

One book you wish had been written?

I wish Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli had been written when I was younger. I wonder how different my life would have been if I had read it. You should give it a go.

One book you wish had never been written?

Mansfield Park – I’m aware that given my readership this is probably a contentious choice but Fanny Price is the most excruciating character I have ever had the misfortune to be acquainted with.

One book you are currently reading?

La Bete Humaine by Zola. I do like Zola but can only read him when I’m feeling a bit upbeat.

One book you have been meaning to read?

Too many to name them all, I’ll go with the first two books by Fred Vargas. I love detective fiction written by women, and Seeking Whom he may Devour was amazing.

Now tag five people.

Everyone I read regularly seems to have been tagged already so I tag anyone who is reader not a blogger – leave your list in my comments if you like :)

Body image(s)

Working lots of overtime recently so haven’t been able to blog much (excuses excuses). However I was interested to read the article discussing thinness in the Observer Women magazine last weekend. Siberian Fall posted about this article at Mind the Gap and asks has feminism failed to make an impact on eating disorders and obsessional thinness?

Identifying as a feminist has had a hugely liberating impact on many areas of my life, but has made little or no difference to my issues with my body. I do not have an eating disorder, but I do go through periods of experiencing a huge amount of loathing for my body. I am 5’4” tall, size 10, bra size 32 CC. Objectively I think I look pretty good. But living in this body in this society can be a whole different matter.

We are bombarded with images of female bodies all day every day. These are invariably used as a marketing tool, either selling the body, or selling a product. Where the body is the product the image is usually directed at men. The women in question have enormous breasts, tiny waists and very round but slim figures. The breasts are often fake, bodies unnaturally hairless, the images air brushed. Fashion photography is usually aimed at women to sell clothes, and clothes look best on tall, skinny figures. These images are different to those aimed at men because the women are very straight and bony. They have small breasts, no hips or bottom. The clothes glide over their bodies.

Neither of these bear any relation to what my body looks like. I am small and round, not skinny, and my breasts don’t look like those we see so often on telly and in the red tops. They aren’t like a big circle of perfect roundness, they hang down, and if you look side on the silhouette is lower case j or l shape. My body is in proportion, but I don’t feel like it is because the bodies that I see every day aren’t in proportion. If someone is terribly skinny, for example Nikki on Big Brother, their breasts usually get much smaller. Nikki had breast implants for this very reason, and now has enormous boobs and a tiny body. This makes me feel like my body shape is unnatural when in fact it is the other way round.

I don’t feel that there is an alternative to these images where I can feel comfortable in my own skin. Even though objectively I know that the average dress size in the UK is a 16 and I am therefore in very good shape, subjectively I compare myself to these images of women without a pot belly, with no fat on their arms and legs, and I feel large. There are some parts of my life where I know that patriarchal bullshit is so ingrained in the way that I think that it is unlikely I will ever change my mindset. Body image is one of these areas. Why do I compare my body to other women? And would it be any better to compare myself to society’s image of the perfect body if it was more akin to my own?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Some mixed and inconclusive thoughts about the pill...

I love the NHS for many reasons, one of them being the fact that it has given me the pill for free since I was 17. When I was younger they also gave me a lot of party bags full of condoms as well. You just can’t fault this amazing service.

However I do have a problem with the pill. My experience is one of constant compromise. I began on Dianette because it is a treatment for acne as well as a contraceptive, and as an acne treatment it was amazing. Unfortunately after a couple of years on this pill I was called into the doctor’s and advised to stop using it because of the extremely high risk of blood clotting. Since then I have also discovered that it has been linked to severe depression. So, not great then.

Following this I had a few hiccups about finding a new pill primarily because the doctors doing the prescribing knew little or nothing about the contraception they were giving me and ignored my concerns about the return of my (severe) acne. Things got a lot better when I realised the Practice Nurse could prescribe, and knew a lot more about what she was giving me. The fourth brand of pill I tried, which lasted for about two years, was Femodette. This was another combined pill, it didn’t make me spotty, and had few other side effects. So far so good.

About two years ago I started getting occasional but debilitating headaches which lasted about a day. It took me a while to realise that these headaches began the day before my period in the pill free week started. I was also having terrible nightmares in the days leading up to this period and generally feeling pretty crap. So went to the nurse who diagnosed it as an oestrogen withdrawal headache. She advised I try the mini pill. I tried Cerazette, which gave me so many spots I looked thirteen again, so I then tried Norgeston, which didn’t help the spot problem and was horrible inconvenient. The nurse I see is amazing. When I went back and told her I was feeling pretty low anyway and just couldn’t cope with the spots as well she took me off the mini pill immediately.

For the last three months I have been using the contraceptive patch. I was hoping this might be the solution to my problems but unfortunately the headaches have come back worse than ever. I’m going back to the nurse on Friday hoping for some miracle invention, but I’m fairly sure I will be disappointed!

Having a child is not an option for me at this point in my life (who knows if it ever will be?) and I am very responsible about contraception as a result. I love the freedom the pill gives me but hate the constant compromise I have to make, the days of illness I suffer because of it. I’m aware of the position from which I am whinging – being an educated, white, middle class citizen in a country with a health system that provides contraception for free is pretty damn hot, and maybe I should just be pleased with what I’ve got. But when I’ve got headaches so bad I can barely focus it is a little difficult to be grateful no matter how lucky you know you are.