Friyay Feelings

There are a lot of them…

It’s finally the weekend!

This week has been a bit of a doozy at work. I’m battling a cold for the fourth week and it’s made everything seem a little more stressful.

There have been some highlights, though, and I thought I’d share them with you to end this week on a bit of a high.

Firstly, I’ve been keeping super hydrated! My water bottle is getting a bunch of laughs from colleagues (which is fair – it’s bloody massive), but two weeks with no dehydration headaches is testament to how necessary a purchase it was. Having 1.5 litres of water in front of me and being able to sip away while I work has been so useful. I’m terrible at remembering to refill my water bottles. And I’m not really missing out on the steps to the kitchen and back because I’m making twice the number of trips to the loo! You can grab your own from Primark for £4 – bargain! My skin is really thanking me for it, too, and the stress break-out I was suffering from on my face and chest has really calmed down.

Yup, I’m cute and like it when things match

Speaking of skin, I’ve treated myself to another Smoothie Star breakfast scrub body smoother from Soap & Glory. My legs are so smooth and it smells delicious. It’s a bit pricey (£8 for a 300ml tub at Boots), but I find a lot of other scrubs are too harsh for my sensitive skin. This one gives just the right amount of exfoliation, without ripping away layers and layers of skin. Which is lucky, because I need to be well buffed in the run up to my holiday!

Today was a long one. Like, reeeeaaaally long. So long that I ended up indulging in a bit of retail therapy. I’ve purchased 3 new outfits (2 dresses and a playsuit) from Zara and I’m so excited for them arriving tomorrow!! I’ll post an update with pics and thoughts once I’ve tried everything on, but if they fit they’ll be going in the holiday suitcase (with the occasional outing beforehand if the weather gets any better).

On the topic of holiday shopping, I’m struggling a bit to find a pair of sunglasses I like. I need a deeper frame, but it can’t be too thick or I’ll end up getting lost behind them… I like a classic tortoiseshell, but I’m seeing a lot more block colour in the shops already, so maybe that’s an option? What do you think? If you have any suggestions, fire them my way!

My last sun holiday (I don’t count Lisbon because it rained almost everyday…) – how do you top these sunnies?

Going on holiday is really exciting. This will be my first sun holiday in 2 years, and my first time going away with my boyfriend. While I can’t wait for the holiday itself, I’m really succumbing to the gossip-mag-mentality of not being Beach Ready. It’s infuriating knowing that I have so many internalised body-negative views – and if anyone else was to peddle that rhetoric I’d shake the negativity out of them until they were only filled with self-love and joy.

The problem is that I’ve not been happy with my body in a very long time. It’s something I’ve struggled with for years, and holidays only exacerbate the issue. Being more exposed – literally and metaphorically – is daunting. That vulnerability is prime breeding ground for negativity and my anxious brain has grabbed onto the self-loathing vibe pretty strongly this time. I’m trying to remind myself that my enjoyment on this holiday won’t come from my size or shape, only from the fun I have. Nonetheless, to try and assuage some of the fear I’m feeling about my current weight and the social implications (although I know technically there are none), I have promised myself to eat better and exercise more.

Exercise has never been my friend. My asthma and joint issues make that difficult. I’m not going to start gymming daily, but I’m making an effort to be more active. I’m walking 1.5-2.5 miles extra a day. It’s not much to some, but for me, with my sedentary lifestyle and desk job, it’s a big step. I’m hoping to up the distance as the evenings get lighter and warmer, too.

I’ve also committed to cutting out junk food. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a crisp fiend. I love salt and vinegar crisps more than just about any other edible thing around. But, for the purposes of feeling better about myself and promoting a healthier lifestyle, I’m saying goodbye to them for two months. I’ve been at it for just over two weeks now and it has been really hard. I am surprised at how much energy I’ve had on some days and just how accustomed I had become to snacking. I’m hoping to break a bad habit, however difficult it is.

Today’s lunch from Rocksalt Cafe was incred
For me, this is less about losing lots of weight, and more about becoming healthier. I don’t want to struggle to climb the volcano or play on the beach when this holiday is such a big one for me, and for us. I want to get there knowing I’m a little fitter and healthier than I was a few months back. That I’ve made steps to ensure I’ll enjoy myself and not worry about how I look in my swimwear.

So, while it has been a long week, it has also been a fairly positive one. I’ve taken lots of time for myself. I’ve not overcommitted to plans outside of work. I’ve slept lots, indulged in good skincare and haircare products, enjoyed watching my new tulips bloom, and eaten really well. I feel better for it. I’m starting to feel a bit more on top of things, and accepting that sometimes I have to let the chips fall where they may.

(I’ve written the word chips and now I’m back daydreaming about S&V McCoys…help me!)

Pamper night is in progress

The Cost of Kindness

I recently saw a Tweet about compliments:

I responded, saying that I get this a lot, but I also enjoy complimenting others. I also said that I reckon compliments should be free – “don’t expect thanks/gratitude/compliments in return and then you lose nothing by putting yourself out there, just the good feeling of the compliment giving”.

My last comment, I realised later, was a little glib (which I now feel hugely embarrassed about) and it didn’t really consider times where compliments (or kindness more generally) cost the giver a great deal.

How much does kindness really cost?

I suppose the answer to this is context-dependent and a bit complicated.

When interacting with strangers, I guess kindness costs the emotional toll of the potential embarrassment or upset of being ignored or a poor response.

When interacting with loved ones, kindness costs the energy you put into cheering them on or propping them up.

Kindness can cost people physically – by doing something tiring or strenuous to help a friend out. It can be a mental endurance test, too. For example, spending time with a toxic person as a show of solidarity to a loved one. When interacting with loved ones who are emotional leeches, kindness costs a hell of a lot.

Then there are acts of kindness you commit for yourself.

Acts of self-kindness

When being kind to yourself, the pay out is all the more complex. You might weigh up self-kindness against social expectation or cultural norms or external pressures or internal biases. You might pit self-kindness against your own expectations or goals or dreams.

Self-kindness should be a ritual; a habit instead of a fad. Unfortunately, we live in a society of infuriating oppositions.

Be the best – you’re not worth it.

Find your inner strength – you’re meant to be weak.

Be open – vulnerability is unattractive.

You deserve better – you’re the reason you’re not treated the way you want to be.

Nothing can stop you – why would you aspire to be something unrealistic?

It takes a great deal of courage to block out the negativity perpetuated by our society. It’s even more impressive when that negativity comes from the people who are supposed to lift you up.

Lora Mathis (a favourite artist of mine) talks extensively about self-care. I’ve written before about her concept of radical softness as a weapon – whereby living authentically; emotionally, is a form of political protest and you are weaponising your feelings in a positive way.

She is currently writing an essay called “Setting Boundaries as Self Care” (according to her Insta Stories) and I for one can’t wait to read it. Boundary setting is something I’ve been consciously trying to get better at. There are people I love, and those I don’t, who are negative for my wellbeing. I do my best to avoid putting myself in situations where I have to deal with that, now.

A friendship break-up two years back made me realise just how important it is for my wellbeing that I not put myself in positions where I know I’m going to be hurt, made to feel uncomfortable, or be surrounded by toxic negativity. It would wear me down and take days to fully recover from, because trying to make all that negativity bounce off you and not latch on and wear you down is bloody exhausting.

The value of kindness

Kindness is an invaluable, but not unending well. It’s a finite resource and you need to save some of that for yourself. I tried to come up with an equation to estimate the cost of kindness. This is overly simplified and definitely flawed, but in the broadest of strokes, I think the true cost of kindness is this:

the cost of kindness

If you find the toll to be much greater than the energy required to be kind, then you should evaluate whether that act is a necessary one to perform.

Finding ways to cut back on kindness is hard. Prioritising those you hold dearest may not actually reduce your emotional toll deficit by much, especially if a loved one is struggling through something right now.

The best way to ensure you don’t completely burn yourself out is to prioritise yourself. Use up all the energy you need to take care of yourself, first and foremost. You’ll probably soon find that you have more energy to spend on others, because you’re fully concentrating on yourself. We let ourselves take the brunt of our kindness deficit far too often. Self-care is not selfish, it’s absolutely necessary to ensure we’re performing to the best of our abilities as often as possible.

Be kind to yourself, and you’ll find it easier to be kind to others who deserve it most.

Homelessness in Scotland

Homelessness in Scotland is on the rise again. In 2016-2017, 34,100 homelessness applications were made. Latest figures saw a 2% increase in applications for housing assistance. There’s been a 10% increase in the number of children facing homelessness in the last year. In August 2017, there were an estimated 800 rough sleepers in Scotland. Analysis from researchers at Heriot Watt University predicts that things are only going to get worse – with an estimated 53% increase to be seen in the number of rough sleepers over the next 20 years.

Shelter published the following diagram, which highlights that single males make up nearly half of all homeless individuals in Scotland.

shelter statistics homelessness

Shelter helped 21,145 people in need last year and actively tackles homelessness and housing problems in Scotland

The Beast from the East

The Beast From the East has hit the UK hard. Scotland has been issued with amber and red weather warnings. This is serious, you guys. Red weather warnings equate to “risk to life”. While most of us rushed home from work to the warmth of our heated flats and excitedly made hot chocolates because any excuse, others are not so lucky.

In this current treacherous weather, the homeless are likely to suffer massively – especially rough sleepers. I’ve put together information on charities and shelters that can provide help and shelter to those in need of a bed and hot meal over the next few nights. If you see someone who looks like they need help, please approach them and offer to reach out to a charity. Even just buying them a sandwich and a coffee would make a huge difference. Compassion and empathy is crucial at times like these, when the homeless are most vulnerable.

Edinburgh

Shelter – www.scotland.shelter.org.uk – 0808 800 4444

Streetwork – www.streetwork.org.uk – 0808 178 2323

Bethany Christian Trust – http://www.bethanychristiantrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Signposting-leaflet-updated-Sep-2017-4.pdf

St John’s Episcopal Church

Meadowbank Parish Church

meadowbank parish church night shelter

Glasgow

Glasgow City Mission

Glasgow Night Shelter – 07555 591 466 / 0141 221 2630 – 35 East Campbell Street, G1 5DT

The Simon Community Street Team – 0800 027 7466

Dundee

Homeless Services Unit – 01382 432001 (24hrs) – East District Housing Ofice, 169 Pitkerro Road, Dundee DD4 8ES

Night Ministry – 07999 872 928 /01382 871144 – www.nightministry.co.uk

Aberdeen

Aberdeen Cyrenians – 01224 625 732 / 07870 230 692 (out of hours) – Street Alternatives, 62 Summer Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1SD

Elsewhere

If you don’t know who else to call, please call 111. The Police Scotland phone teams will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Look out for each other

At the end of the day, we need to have each other’s backs. If you’re passionate about the safety of homeless people and want to push the Scottish Government to do more, contact your local MP. Ask them for their opinions on the effectiveness of current legislation and what they think could be done to improve it. Show you care. Show you’re not going to let this issue slide. Show that you believe every human has the right to more than concrete for a bed.

Profiting From Beauty

The Grid Girls

A few weeks ago, there was a rather noisy controversy around Formula 1’s decision to scrap the Grid Girls. This left many women jobless and caused quite the stir among Formula 1 fans, feminists and many others.

On the one hand, many were exultant because they saw this as progress towards a society free from sexism and oppression – of which the existence of Grid Girls was a symptom. By this reckoning, the Grid Girls were considered to be existing in a male-dominated community. The Girls’ freedoms were devalued because their jobs made them vulnerable to men, and therefore inferior; thanks to the patriarchy.

Others were furious about the decision and accused F1 of pandering to over-the-top pressures from militant feminists and others who are pushing for a puritan ideology to take hold in our progressive, increasingly liberal society. This side of the debate argued that these women were not forced into the jobs they were hired for and that their dismissal was a puritan persecution of those who refuse to accept that humans can profit from their bodies, appearances, and – most importantly – beauty. The slippery slope argument (that if Grid Girls are acceptable then it sets a precedent for misogyny elsewhere) is exactly that; slippery.

Source: Getty Images

Society is heavily divided in arguments like these; consider the divisiveness around conversations about sex work. For some, legalising sex work gives those who sell sex legal protections from harm, while others believe that the patriarchy has conditioned us into believing that sex work is a job we should encourage when it is not. I’m aware that this barely scratches the surface of the sex work debates, but I’m going to save the intricacies of that for a future blog post. To delve into it now would likely result in this being 5,000 words long and I’d still have more to say! Back to Grid Girls…

Here’s a difference between sex workers and the Grid Girls, though: the Grid Girls are capitalising on their beauty. There’s also the fact that Grid Girls were not, to our knowledge, ever trafficked or forced into working against their will. Grid Girls did not face potential prosecution as they earned their wages. Grid Girls did not deal with nearly the same stigma or potential danger that sex workers do.

For me, one of the most important points made in the Grid Girls debate was made by Sara Pascoe during her performance for The Guilty Feminist podcast’s Suffragette Centenary Special – Part 1. The perfect-star-alignment of this conversation is not lost on me: we are still debating what women can and cannot do, whether it be voting, sex work (or any work), or breastfeeding in public.

pin up girls spray paint

Sara made a brilliantly eloquent point about 24 minutes in which I’ve done my best to transcribe accurately:

…feminism is this huge thing and some of us are running in different directions…I think that what happened with the Grid Girls is really shocking and I don’t want feminism attached to that kind of thing…I feel like sometimes there are these massive misunderstandings, like, beautiful people of any gender are allowed to make money from that. The difference between the Grid Girls and the Presidents Club where people were being harassed at work – they’re entirely different things. It isn’t about outfits, and I feel like I don’t want to be part of something where some women get to decide who women are based on the bodies that they’re born in. And I feel like something like this is so huge that sometimes in a group we get kind of pulled along – we have to remember that it isn’t…it’s interesting that it’s women in their 30s with money who got the vote first. Quite often in feminism, and I speak as one of them, we are the people who also have a voice.

I bloody love Sara Pascoe. The example she gave comparing the Grid Girls to the women at the Presidents Club is perfect. The Presidents Club dinner in January deserved the media attention. Those men deserved to be outed for the sexist, chauvinistic pigs they were. They were harassing women who were there to do a job. Those women didn’t ask to be grabbed, leered on, or assaulted. They were there to do a job, collect their wages and carry on with their lives.

Beauty as a commodity

I also loved Pascoe’s highlighting of a maddenly uncomfortable truth – people don’t like other people profiting from their beauty or looks. Models have such a bad rep as being vacant or uneducated and that they have no prospects outside their looks. It’s completely unfair, widely inaccurate and drilled into us from a very young age.

I remember a friend of mine at primary school, a beautiful girl with blonde hair, fabulous cheekbones and legs a mile long at age 10 being so upset when others suggested she become a model. She asked if that’s all we thought she was good for, if they didn’t think she was clever enough to expect more in her life. Looking back, that breaks my heart. Why can’t such a young girl have both? Why can’t she want to be a model and be intelligent, conscientious and successful?

Pascoe’s point about profiting from beauty is thought-provoking. Beauty as a commodity makes it valuable, tradable and, most importantly, valuable. It is not vain to admit to being beautiful – it is important for us to recognise and accept ourselves for who we are and what we have. While what we consider beautiful is highly subjective and in the eye of the beholder, when others recognise that beauty, do we not have the right to capitalise it like we would our musical ability or aptitude for maths? What makes beauty so different from the ability to compose or design or build or create? While the questions don’t sit entirely comfortably with me, I’m asking myself whether that discomfort is with the idea of beauty being an acceptable trading token, or whether there’s a deeper issue I’ve yet to articulate.

girls

Grid Girls weren’t scrapped as a concept because the women dealt with workplace harassment, misogyny and potential harm. They were removed from the F1 to give off the impression that the F1 bosses are woke and tuned in to world politics. They were removed under some illusion that sexism can’t exist if the women aren’t there. That the problem is only surface deep, and not in fact ingrained so heavily in society it’s painful when we do exorcise those demons.

Whether you think the Grid Girls were outdated and misogynistic or not should not be the sole focus of this debate. In fact, we may well find that we settle on an answer when we delve a little deeper into the other problem – whether women are capable of making such employment decisions for themselves.

We need to highlight that women do have the capacity to make decisions for themselves – we need to remind ourselves that maintaining women’s agency is vital. Women who have agency have the right to decide for themselves what is acceptable and feasible employment and what is not. To start arguing that these women were misinformed or fell victim to the patriarchy or misogynists or whoever else is an insult to women worldwide.

We’ve seen through the patriarchy’s bullshit long enough now – we know our own minds and our own bodies. We should be able to decide for ourselves what we do with them. Isn’t that what feminism is truly about: having the right to choose for ourselves and escaping the patriarchy’s cold, unwavering grip?

solidarity sisters

Lady Doritos? Seriously?

BREAKING NEWS: Women Are Too Complicated For Men

Do you ever read a headline and think it’s a hoax? Recently, I’ve been finding myself checking whether the publisher of articles is The Onion or Reductress, because separating fact from fiction is becoming increasingly difficult. Today was no exception when I was confronted with this headline:

doritos for women article headline

facepalm

It’s almost comical. Almost.

In trying to prove how complicated women are, Doritos have managed to make women out to be so simple.

You’d think brands might have learned by now that people find unnecessarily gendered products insulting. There seems to be no real point to it, unless you consider the company’s profit margins. All it seems to do is drive up the price of a product while “male” or gender-neutral counterpart. The cost of razors depends on whether you’re standing in the men’s aisle or the women’s, we pay more for tampons than condoms, and BIC found out the hard way that women don’t need their own pen.

This latest attempt by Doritos to make “lady-friendly” crisps that are quieter, less crumbly and “handbag” sized tells me three things:

  1. there were no women high up in the decision-making process at Doritos HQ
  2. the men behind this idea really don’t understand women
  3. sexism is alive and well

What’s the problem?

By creating this female version of the wonderous golden triangle snack, Doritos must have made several assumptions about women:

  1. women hate crumbs
  2. women’s handbags are too small/full of other things
  3. women dislike making noise/are embarrassed by loud eating sounds they make
  4. women, alone, take issue with the above problems (i.e. men don’t have the same relationship with a bag of Doritos)

While this blunder may seem somewhat insignificant, it’s only a snapshot of a bigger picture that represents the everyday sexism women face. When women are distilled down,minimised and stereotyped by brands to sell a particular product, a message is sent out to the masses that this is an acceptable way to view women. This kind of behaviour from brands also harms worthwhile activism by distracting the public from issues that matter. Rather than working with women to shed light on real issues like violence, poverty and trafficking, it perpetuates the notion that women are superficial and care more about perception and appearance than they do about the real problems we’re facing today.

This particular product from Doritos promotes the idea that women should be quiet, clean and endorses the “ladylike” shtick that women have been actively trying to shrug off for years. Ladylike is a term that is often used to stifle female expression – be that emotional, intellectual, creative or sexual. Thrown around when a woman’s actions lie outwith society’s restricted ideals of how a “proper” (read – oppressed) lady should behave, ladylike has long been used by the patriarchy to keep a handle on women and their acts of societal defiance.

It’s about damn time people started treating women as human and not as empty shells.

It is not a woman’s duty to shrink herself to satisfy the patriarchy’s ego and obsessive control issues.

A woman is not defined by her looks, her femininity or her ability to placate others.

When will society accept that women are complex, multifaceted and unique?

Why do brands continue to pedal antiquated ideas of what a woman should be or how she should behave?

Can we just get rid of the patriarchy already?

A post shared by La Huesera (@laynearlina) on

Personally, I’m pissed off because Doritos are one of my go-to snacks. I don’t want to be giving money to a company that values women so little. Then I’m reminded that most companies are the same and, like with ethical clothing brands, if I was to cut out all the businesses with crappy ethics I’d end up naked and hungry. Neither of those things are what I want.

What next, then? Well, for starters, keep making noise. Keep proving to these decision makers (regardless of gender) that you will be heard and your opinions matters. Keep rallying, writing, tweeting, sharing – use whatever tools you have in your belt. This is about so much more than those delicious corn triangles. This is about representation and forcing brands to gain a better understanding of half the human population (which would be easier if they were hiring more women to become those decision makers).

From now on, I’m asked why I choose to label myself a feminist, this Doritos debacle will be added to the laundry list of issues I have with how women are treated in society.

Oh, and Doritos? Next time you want to make a product for women, try asking them what they want first. It’s not as hard as Mel Gibson made it out to be.

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My Winter Roses

In December, my Mum made me a window box for my Juliet balcony. It’s a beautiful box (and I’ve already put my order in for a second!), filled with hardy plants that will endure the icy Edinburgh wind this winter. Among the planted foliage, Mum gave me a winter rose. A beautiful evergreen perennial, it has blossomed five beautiful, stark white flowers during the snow flurries and windy winter days we’ve been having over the last two months.

A post shared by Amy King (@amyckx) on

There’s something stunningly poetic about the winter rose. It needs very little in the way of care. It actually reacts very badly to being overwatered, which I found out the hard way. The hellebore (check out the Latin/gardening knowledge Wikipedia has taught me) is happiest left to thrive on its own with a little help from the elements. It really loves the Edinburgh weather. My winter rose sits proudly among the greenery Mum planted, making the view from my sofa prettier, and providing me with the perfect analogy for my friendships.

Long distance friendship is hard. Long distance anything is hard. But with friends, there’s the worry that they’ll think you’ve forgotten or moved on or things have fizzled. It happens. Sometimes, though, you find people and with them it doesn’t matter how long you go without seeing them or speaking, you know they’re only ever a message away should you need their advice, support or stories.

Those friendships don’t need much – as life gets more hectic (which life tends to do), and keeping in touch regularly becomes more of an in-joke than a promise, it can be tricky to feel out where you stand with some people. Not your winter roses, though. Your friendships with those beauties will thrive regardless, even after long spells of no communication. The smallest gesture will mean a lot and the friendship will continue to blossom with the knowledge that your friend will be there anytime you need them – day or night, July or December.

I said this to a friend the other day and realised it applied to some other wonderful people who continue to support me, share their love and keep me smiling:

Good friendships don’t need constant tending to. They’re like winter roses – a little sprinkle of water is more than enough to keep them blooming, even on the coldest, darkest days.

winter roses
(image source)

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Let’s Talk Consent

Before we get started, I’d just like to point out that this is a post about consent (obviously). It’s going to cover consent violations, including one of my own, but I’m going to do my absolute best to steer clear of any potentially triggering phrases or sexually based examples as much as possible. Please keep in mind though that, unfortunately, a lot of consent violations are sexual in nature. I’ll be as implicit as I can, but if you think this post might be triggering for you – don’t read it. Look after yourself first, please x

Right, so, consent. It’s something of a buzzword across all forms of media just now. Everyone’s talking about it, whether in relation to violation, enthusiasm or the “grey area” that exists around it. I thought I’d skip passing judgements on the bad guys (because I think we’re probably all in agreement that they’re bad) and focus on this tricksome issue of consent.

As a young woman who has been to clubs and bars in Scotland and abroad, I have first hand experience of consent violations. For the most part, these have been sexual in nature, but not always.

A few summers ago, I was leaving a club with a friend. That summer I had decided not to drink. My mental health had taken a hit and I was sure that excessive drinking would only be detrimental so I decided to have a dry summer. Granted, there were one or two occasions where I had a gin and tonic or two, but for the most part I stuck to my resolve (which, if you’ve been around Edinburgh during the Fringe, you’ll know to be no easy feat). A friend and I had gone out dancing and, on our way out of the club, I had my stomach grabbed by a man who I would guess to be in his thirties.

I cannot fully articulate how violated I felt in that moment. It still elicits an incredibly visceral reaction from me thinking about it today. It makes me want to shower in scalding hot water. It makes my skin crawl. It makes me feel vulnerable. This man not only grabbed the stomach of a 19 year old girl, but he did so and laughed.

At that time, I was 10 stone. I was wearing high waisted jeans and a crop top that displayed – at most – half an inch of midriff. Not that it should matter. But, for this man, it was enough of an invite to put his hands on my body and exploit my insecurities and vulnerabilities. Had I been drunk, I would probably not even remember this. But I was sober as a judge. I don’t exactly remember what happened next because I was enraged and embarrassed, but I know I was pulled up the stairs fast enough to stop me from swinging for the man or get into a yelling match.

This particular instance stands out for me because it was not inherently sexual in nature. Young women have been conditioned to brush off or defend against sexual harassment from men in a variety of settings, including the workplace, the street and clubs.

“Don’t wear this, don’t say that. Ladies sit with their knees together. Flirting has consequences. That tone will get you in trouble. Be one of the boys to keep them on your side. Put up with the sexual harassment or deal with hostility. Don’t ever expect respect.”

But this was something entirely new. This was a man, yes objectifying me, but finding it completely acceptable to put his hands on my belly and pinch my visible and covered skin between his fingers while laughing. It was invasive and it was far too intimate.

To this day, I think about that incident. It’s a driving factor for a lot of my conversations around feminism and my belief that we need to drill home the importance of consent and body autonomy and goddamn respect for women.

Why consent matters

Because humans have the basic right to choose. It’s that simple. This applies to all thing – law, shopping, GDPR (can you tell I work in marketing?), sex.

To be a little less facetious, consent is a hugely important part of human interaction. Consent helps identify boundaries in interpersonal relationships and is an agreement to do something. This agreement is usually verbal, but can also be granted through non-verbal cues, although this can cause issues with miscommunication.

A great quote I picked up from a website while doing some cursory research for this post summed up consent quite nicely:

Consent allows people to have more control over their decisions and their bodies, which makes people feel more comfortable in social encounters.

At the end of the day, consent is there to ensure the safety, wellbeing and happiness of everyone. By appreciating and looking for people’s consent, we create a culture that understands and respects the views, wants and needs of others while they do not infringe on our own experiences.

What is consent?

According to Merriam Webster online, consent is defined as:

v. to give assent or approval

Definitions of consent in particular situations do vary, though. The law is a great example of this. In America, for instance, individual states have identified different ages of consent to marry.

There are various phrases thrown around in various circles to refer to acts of giving consent, each with a slightly different situational meaning.

Informed consent

Most often found in medical situations (but also works for relationships – consider cheating), informed consent can only be given by an individual after they have reached a sufficient understanding of relevant information that would affect them. For a surgery, for example, informed consent is given after a patient fully understands what is going to happen.

Implied consent

This is an area where much of current debate around consent violations sit. Implied consent is consent which is not expressly granted, but instead implied by actions, circumstances or – as is often the case with the many victim blaming scenarios, inaction.

Explicit consent

Consent of this type has been expressly granted, verbally or written. This type of consent is still fallible, but certainly more likely to result in a happy outcome (as long as such explicit consent has not been coerced in some way).

Active consent

Some would argue this is a duplication: consent is itself an active thing.

Passive consent

The flipside to active consent, most would argue that consent cannot be passive, because to be passive means you have not consented.

Enthusiastic consent

Unless someone shows enthusiasm about a proposal, you cannot assume consent has been given. As my boyfriend pointed out – you don’t tend to go to a restaurant without everyone agreeing and being happy with the choice (there are, of course, fussy eaters and exceptions to this rule, but for simplicity’s sake, it’s a good analogy). Why should any sort of intimacy be treated differently from going to dinner?

Thoughts on consent

Jameela Jamil (goddess, actress and writer) wrote a great piece following the Aziz Ansari shitstorm that has been dividing the internet more than that blue/gold dress that had us all topsy turvy.

Anyway, Jameela is all about enthusiastic consent, and wraps my thoughts in a very neat bow with far more finesse than I ever could:

CONSENT SHOULDN’T BE THE GOLD STANDARD. That should be the basic foundation. Built upon that foundation should be fun, mutual passion, equal arousal, interest and enthusiasm. And it is any man or woman’s right at ANY time to stop, for whatever reason.

Preach it lady!

Final thoughts

Consent should not be so hard to understand. Someone broke it down for those of us who are tea drinkers in a rather nifty analogy video which, if you haven’t seen, is worth a watch (if only to make you thirsty).

We really need to change our approach to consent conversations. Starting with highlighting that no one will get it right 100% of the time. People will continue to miscommunicate as long as communication exists. That shouldn’t stop us from trying though.

Consent matters.

Give people the chance to choose for themselves. With a better understanding and ability to negotiate mutual consent, we might actually build a better society, including how we respond to victims of consent violations.

Wouldn’t that be something?

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Oversharing? I Don’t Think So

Attention seeking?

I’m not shy when it comes to talking about my feelings (unless I’m in an anxiety-fuelled spiral, or that time when I spent months pretending I wasn’t head over heels for my boyfriend, but those are stories for another day). I’ll happily broadcast my thoughts, experiences and emotions for all to see on social media and my blog. I guess I wouldn’t have created this blog otherwise.

However, it seems to be something that makes some people uncomfortable. They don’t understand why I “overshare”. The assumption from a lot of these people is that I’m attention seeking. I’m often branded a “drama queen” (the jury’s still out on that one) and loud (guilty as charged). My openness has elicited more than a few eye rolls and shudders of discomfort.

I thought it might help to explain my reasons behind living like Gina Linetti – out loud.

I think I caught feelings

I wrote an article last year on the concept of “radical softness as a weapon“. If you haven’t read it yet, you should! Basically, the term is attributed to artist Lora Mathis who considers open and vocal emotional vulnerability to be a form of activism against our oppressive society which hampers emotional expression.

Radical softness is the idea that unapologetically sharing your emotions is a political move and a way to combat the societal idea that feelings are a sign of weakness.

Think about the weird relationship we have with our emotions. Sometimes we comfort those who are crying by telling them to “let it out”. At the same time, Britain is notorious for its Stiff Upper Lip mentality and emotionless approach to life. We’re squeamish about feelings. And heaven forbid a male displays any sort of emotion other than aggression – that’ll surely result in his sexuality being called into question. (I have HUGE problems with this behaviour, but again I’ll save my rant for another time). So boys don’t cry, but criers should let it all out, while never allowing emotion to rise and it’s unattractive for women to get angry (or sad, or political, or horny, or anything really, depending on who you’re talking to). Talk about mixed messages!

So, I’m challenging our collective societal discomfort and pushing myself – and maybe you – to question WHY we are so uncomfortable receiving an honest answer to possibly the most asked question around the world: “How are you?”.

#NoFilter

Another reason for my “radical softness” is that I don’t want to fall a further victim to filtering my entire life and only exhibiting the ‘good bits’. It’s unrealistic, unhealthy and unnecessary. Ignoring valid experiences and feelings like this feeds the poisonous train of thought that we somehow fail when we are unable to provide evidence of a happy, successful, fulfilled life. In reality, we all have our ups and downs. Mass media is pretty lacking in the realities of normal life – that includes the bad days, illness (mental or physical, but especially those that are invisible), and general quiet spells where nothing Insta-worthy occurs. We run the risk of manufacturing alternate realities for ourselves that coincide with our quiet, “unfulfilling” lives, which in turn breeds further malcontent as to how we view ourselves and use those around us as a benchmark for our own satisfaction.

I will continue to share my struggles and bad days. I will keep on showing the “unflattering angles”. Why? Because they happen. In being open about my fluctuating mental health among other things, I hope others realise that they are not alone in feeling down, anxious, low or in some way not good enough because their life doesn’t reflect what they see around them.

The truth is that social media can create further isolation, but has the potential to connect and unite people in ways that we rarely see offline.

I have bad days, just like you. In being open about mine, I’m taking a stand against the oppressive Stiff Upper Lip mentality, reaching out for help and support when it seems so difficult to ask for it and hopefully reassuring others that filtered lifestyles of social and mass media are exactly that – filtered.

That isn’t to say that I’m giving up my Valencia or dog filters. I still love me a good selfie, and Valencia raises my photos to the next level. I’m just trying to document my life as it happens and keep my feet planted firmly in reality.

#liveoutloud

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ASMR – Tingles and Triggers

What is ASMR?

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, is the phrase used to describe the tingling sensation people experience on the skin. It usually begins at the scalp and works its way down the spine, but not always. For the majority of those who experience it, this sensation brings about a sense of relaxation and well-being.

It sounds whacky, but I promise you it’s real. I know because I experience it, and it’s awesome!

ASMR tingles are usually brought on by acoustic and visual triggers and these vary from person to person. It’s also possible to bring on the sensation by thinking about it, but this doesn’t happen for everyone.

There has been little academic research into ASMR. In fact, it was only relatively recently that anyone tried to give the sensation a name. Conversations on forums like Yahoo! and Steady Health saw contributors sharing anecdotes of personal experiences, and discussions grew informally from there, giving rise to the blog The Unnamed Feeling. The term “autonomous sensory meridian response” was only coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allan for her Facebook group.

Some have referred to the experience as a “head orgasm” or “braingasm”, but many within the ASMR community (yes, such a thing exists) refute that terminology because it attaches sexual connotations to an otherwise asexual experience. (Although, there are those who do gain sexual pleasure from these sorts of sounds, leading to a sub-section of the community focusing on ASMRotica, or ASMR erotica).

Most people react in one of two ways upon hearing about ASMR. They’re either intrigued and glad to finally put a name to the sensation they’ve been experiencing for years, or they’re plain weirded out. So, now it’s time to clear something up – this is a natural, physical response that the body creates to relax a person.

As explained in a blog post called “Talking Names: What do we called these tingles, then“, Andrew MacMuiris pointed out that ASMR is:

  • Autonomous – spontaneous, self-governing, within or without control
  • Sensory – pertaining to the senses or sensation
  • Meridian – signifying a peak, climax, or point of highest development
  • Response – referring to an experience triggered by something external or internal

It’s honestly not that weird. Although I will admit that I’m not a fan of all the types of videos you can watch on YouTube within the ASMR community.

Who experiences ASMR?

Have you ever watched someone reading a book intently, or type on their laptop and get a warm, fuzzy feeling spread from your scalp and down your neck? Then you’ve experienced ASMR!

love ASMR. I have found the videos on YouTube to be incredibly helpful at calming me when I’m anxious. They can cancel out the white noise in my brain when I’m desperate to sleep but it feels like sounds are rushing around my skull. I can’t count the number of times I’ve drifted to sleep listening to an ASMR video. They have become a huge part of my self-care routine.

My biggest triggers are ambient, repetitive sounds. I love the sound of turning a book’s pages, light tapping and the sound of hairbrushing. I do have visual triggers too – mostly when I see someone intently carrying out a simple task, like reading or writing. Spiralgraphs and cooking videos (without Gordon Ramsey’s sweary rants) are other great triggers too!

ASMR on YouTube

The ASMR community is arguably most prevalent on YouTube. There are countless ASMR channels whose videos are all created with the intention of triggering viewers’ ASMR. These include audio and visual triggers, with many incorporating a number of different triggers into each video to maximise the ASMR experience.

Since my introduction to ASMR a few years ago, I’ve found a couple of videos incredibly useful for helping me unwind after a stressful day or send me to sleep when I’m really struggling with my anxiety.

Ikea’s venture into ASMR just makes me love the brand even more! While these types of videos don’t usually work so well for me (it’s a bit too Role-Play-esque for my tastes), the sounds are lush and the video has a wonderfully calm vibe which sends light tingles down my scalp and neck.

I once made the mistake of watching this video at work on a particularly stressful day during my lunch break and nearly fell asleep at my desk… (Note to self: ASMR videos are not condusive to a productive afternoon!). The repetitive motion and soft crunch of the sand lulls me into a zen state, which is pretty apt if you think about it.

Tibetan singing bowls have become one of my all-time favourite inventions. This particular video is probably my most-watched on YouTube. There’s something incredibly wholesome and warm about the sound of Tibetan singing bowls. They resonate deeply and never fail to help me relax, even at my most anxious.

I’ll finish off with some unintentional ASMR. Bob Ross is the KING of unintentional tingles. He’s so softly spoken and that deep hum melts my stress away, and do I even need to mention the bristles bouncing gently off the canvas? His videos are ASMR heaven!

So there you have it – that’s the basics of ASMR! Give those videos a shot, you might find they turn you to a puddle of relaxed goo too!

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My Top 5 Fave Poets

I’m back! I know it’s been ages. I’m terrible. And busy. Like, soooo busy. But, I managed to find time to knock this bad boy together.

So, today I want to talk about poetry.

Do you ever read a passage in a book and instantly imagine it brought to life in a hazy, Baz Luhrmannesque kind of beauty that you know would reduce you to tears just looking at it? Or listened to a song and thought you belonged in the music video? (You’re lying to yourself if you say no – everyone imagined themselves in Taylor Swift’s music video for Love Story).

Well, that’s how I’ve begun to feel with poetry.

taylor swift love story
(image source)

Last Fringe, I went to the Loud Poets’ show at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a friend. A friend of ours used to perform with them regularly and it sounded like a sophisicated way to spend an evening at the festival. At the time, I wasn’t much for poetry. I mean, sure, in theory it was great and beautiful and, well, poetic. But in practice I rarely read or watched anything that wasn’t Shakespearean or woven into a film or tv show.

The Loud Poets’ Fringe show changed that for me. I was awestruck by the beauty and fun and sadness their words were eliciting from me. It’s hard to verbalise the experience – you really had to have been there. My love for poetry has since been reingited and I thought I’d share some highlights from my recent readings and watchings.

Slam poetry is new to me, but I have fallen in love with the rhythmic, raw passion it is so often performed with and the realness of the words. It’s one thing to read a poem, but to feel those words seeping into your skin and crawling up your neck with the goosebumps they produce? That’s something special.

Speaking of special, my first slam poet recommendation has to be Neil Hilborn. He has lived with mental illness since childhood and discusses his experiences openly and with an uncomfortable honesty that you can’t help but enjoy.

I went to his Fringe show this year at the New Town Theatre on George Street. We sat in the front row (which after he reduced me to tears for the third time I was starting to regret). He’s an incredibly funny, self-depricating, hugely talented man. He tells stories as easily as breathing and was born to share his words with the world.

This is the poem that convinced me to follow his work and the one that emotionally broke me at the end of his set. I hope you enjoy “Joey” as much as I did.

Savannah Brown is my next recommendation. This poem was my first introduction to her, and I went on to buy her book and artwork created from this poem.

This poem has been shared across social media a number of times. In my opinion, people need to watch it now more than ever. This poem is something of a battlecry for women everywhere who have been marginalised, categorised, appraised, disregarded, sexualised, trivialised and minimalised.

She’s soft and bold and her words reflect many of my experiences growing up. Give her a watch, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Next up has to be Sabrina Benaim. Yes, there does seem to be a theme here in mental health chat (and the fact that Button Poetry is the source – a channel I’d urge you to follow for more great content), but I swear you need to watch this one.

It’s real and it’s painful and she gives you a real insight into the fear and frustration that comes with depression. Her other work is fantastic, but personally this one pushed a button and it has stayed with me ever since I first saw it.

 

I first came across Iona Lee through BBC The Social’s Facebook page, watching her perform this particular poem.

It might be her Scottish accent that endears me to her words so much, but she is a wonderful storyteller and the rhythmic cadences are almost hypnotising.

 

Some written poetry now, but just as worthy of your time as the videos above. You’ll likely have heard of Rupi Kaur by now. Having hit Number 1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List and become an Instagram superstar, her words are world-famous.

I bought her first book, Milk and Honey, a few months back and putting into words how her words made me feel is incredibly difficult. She writes about growing up, falling in and out of love, loss, feminism and her experiences of abuse.

While I can’t relate to everything she has lived through and written about, many of her poems really moved me to tears. Her words are magical and I truly appreciate her craft. I’m currently waiting for my copy of her second book, The Sun and her Flowers, to arrive so I’ll be sure to update you when I’ve had a chance to read it!

🌱😌🌱

Une publication partagée par rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) le

So, there you have it. There are many more poets I’ve found and fallen in love with, but this post was getting to be a hefty length so I’ll save them for a Part 2 in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

Are you a fan of poetry in some form or another? Do you have any recommendations for me? Share them in the comments below!

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