Health and Fitness · Lifestyle · Uncategorized

Doing Dry January

If you know me well, you’ll be well aware of the fact that I am very much pro-drinking. My parents introduced me to alcohol (safely, of course) at quite a young age, allowing me to try wine, have a drink with my meal, and letting me go to parties without the worry of me potentially calling them up from hospital after having my stomach pumped. As a result, I have always known my limits with alcohol, and have never been sick from it.

I have never had a bad experience with any particular type of alcohol, although as I have got older I have learned what I like best, what gets me drunk quickest, and what is not a good idea for me to mix.

The past year and a half has taught me a lot about what I shouldn’t mix. As a teenager and young adult, I never experienced a black out or any serious effect to my memory, simply heightened emotions. However, the last year of university and the first nearly two years in the ‘adult’ world, I have had quite a few drunken experiences that have left me struggling to remember how I made it home, and, more recently, what I might have said to people in my inebriated state.

And I really, really hate that. Even if it was a great night and no mistakes were made, how am I supposed to enjoy the memories of it if I don’t have any?

So  I decided to do Dry January, not as a fundraiser, not necessarily for my health, but just to give myself a well needed break from the stuff. And, to my horror, it was surprisingly easy.

As in, I didn’t feel the need to drink. I didn’t want to drink. And the only time I was tempted in the slightest was when we went to the cutest pub in the world and everyone was trying different craft beers with interesting flavors. I don’t even like beer. I just wanted to see if they tasted different to me. But I didn’t crack.

The thing was, that I had been having such heavy drinking nights throughout December because of Christmas, that I was beginning to feel sick of it anyway. I felt acidic and full of cold and just generally tired and dehydrated. Starting the year off alcohol free was one of my better shouts for my health, because it meant that I caught up on sleep, ate slightly better, and was able to do exercise without feeling like I was dying.

It also meant that I had a pleasant January that I could actually remember clearly and know when I had embarrassed myself. Which, because I was sober, wasn’t that often.

I made it through January with ease, and feeling positively about the sober life.

The only draw back was that I celebrated the beginning of February by drinking 5 drinks and ended up, yep you guessed it, black out drunk. I woke to my room completely trashed, mysterious bruises, and a split lip, just from getting home. I assume I fell over.

But this is still a good thing, and a learning curve. Now I know that my tolerance has gone down, it means I need to consciously drink less when I am drinking. This is cheaper. This is control. It also means I’m going to buy things I actually like the taste of rather than stuff that’s going to get me drunk, because I don’t really particularly want to be drunk. From now on (with the exception of maybe my birthday and New Years Eve), I am going to be drinking because I want to drink something nice and be sociable with my friends, rather than just to become confident in social situations, or to fit in.

This might have come across as preachy and I apologize, because I am the last person to judge anyone for drinking or being drunk. I actively encourage it in my friends and loved ones, because reaching that sweet spot of drunkenness is the best time ever. But for myself, I have only reached it maybe twice in the last two years, and I hate to feel out of control. I think drunk me is a terrible, embarrassing and annoying person, even if others agree.

This does not mean I’m going to stop drinking completely. I’ve just made the decision to not drink during the week, and to limit myself to drinks I actually like.

Hopefully, this will be easily maintained!

Au revoir.
xxx

Books · Uncategorized

What I’m Reading: Asking For It By Louise O’Neill

One of my favorite Youtubers, Hannah Witton, alongside Leena Norms and Lucy Moon, started an online book club this year, one that focuses on books about sex that they have suitably named the Banging Book Club (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/179796-banging-book-club). For each month of 2016 they have nominated a different book to read, and I decided to join simply because I love learning about, reading about and talking about sex within our culture.

There are spoilers in this post and references to rape, sexual violence, abuse and exploitation so please do not read on if this is going to effect you.

They kicked the year off with a book that is very relevant to the issues I deal with on a day to day basis at the charity I work for. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill is a novel that talks about rape culture and the reality that many survivors of rape and sexual violence experience every day. It centers around the main character of Emma, a teenage girl living in Ireland, and the traumatic events leading up to, during and after her violation. Within the story, O’Neill highlights many issues that we face today in society when talking about rape, and as a result, has created a very real story to be read.

The very first thing that struck me when reading Asking For It was how disturbingly relatable Emma is as a main character. I’m not sure if everyone would agree, but the way she thinks is very similar to how I remember thinking as a teenager. It’s probably not great to admit, as she is not a particularly nice character, but it struck a chord with me because I could relate to her, I had felt some of the things she felt, and understood many of her actions. This may not be the same for everyone, but I feel positive that if you did not see similarities in yourself, you would have seen similarities between her and another female in your life, be that friend or enemy.

I think Emma is made to be a slightly unlikeable character early on because it presents the question that is the title of the book – if someone isn’t a nice person, if someone is flirty and ‘promiscuous’, then do they deserve to be raped? Are they asking for it? Victim blaming is something that is massive in rape culture, and a big problem that we need to deal with. After Emma is abused we are presented with different reactions, from her friends and school mates turning their backs on her and the town rejecting her as a slut, to her brother and strangers online believing her and wanting her to fight back. Emma as a victim is overwhelmed with differing opinions when all she wants is for people to like her, for them to believe her, but also for her not to have to hurt anyone else. This story points out something that I think everyone needs to hear – not every survivor of sexual violence wants to or has the strength to report their abuse. It is a long, grueling process that often does more harm to the mental health of a survivor than help, mostly because rape survivors are the only victims of a crime who are treated like criminals themselves.

The idea that I felt was repeated a lot in Emma’s mind was the idea that she has known the boys who raped and abused her since she was a small child. They had grown up together, went to school together, and their families know each other well. This makes their actions all the more shocking, and her reaction more understandable – why would she want to ruin the lives of the boys she had grown up with, who she considered her friends? If they had not been her friends, the story also suggests, then she would not have felt comfortable with them in such an inebriated state. No one expects your friends to put you in danger. This again points out a very realistic fact – many rapists and abusers are people that the victim knows and often trusts to a certain extent.

Reading this book, I so wanted Emma to fight back. I wanted her to gain confidence, to tell her story about what happened, and for the boys who violated her to be punished for their actions. But that isn’t what happens, because in real life, that isn’t always what happens. When the story ends and we leave Emma, she has decided not to continue with the court case, and she feels relieved about it. It is easier for her to retreat into herself, to think about killing herself every day, rather than to watch justice tear her family apart. Emma has been made to feel, in the end, that it is still her fault, and no one can change her mind about that.

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this book, because it isn’t a happy subject, does not end the way you would want it to, and is not pleasant to read. But it is well written, engaging, relatable, and most importantly, it shows a side of the issues survivors face that is not often seen. The messages within this book are ones that I want everyone I know to understand, and it’s taken all of my self control not to ramble on about it all the time. It’s not very long, I read it in a couple of days, but it is thought provoking and, I think, a very important book at the moment.

The next book is not so much about sexual violence and so hopefully will be easier to talk about. As it is, the charity I work for supports survivors of rape and sexual violence, and so it is a subject that I am passionate about, and do not find difficult to discuss.

I hope you will join the Banging Book Club and read along with me!! It’s giving me more excuses to buy books.

Au revoir.
xxx

Travel · Uncategorized

Australia, Part Three: Sydney

I visited Sydney with Chantal midway through my three week trip for two days and a night, and let me tell you, it was bloody hot.12391802_10207469880219422_4492881862891431960_n

Of course the rest of Australia is hot. Melbourne was hot. Perth was supposed to be hot. Its a hot country. Maybe its because we spent a lot of time by the water, maybe it’s because I was with Chantal, who hates the heat, but Sydney felt hotter than everywhere else I had ever been to. The moment we stepped off of the train from the airport, we were covered in a sheen of our own sweat, and we weren’t exactly rushing around doing anything that should make us sweat. Not like the hundreds of runners we saw around the opera house during the hottest part of the afternoon.

What the heck. Why do that.

Anyway, I found Sydney beautiful, although it has a completely different kind of feel to Melbourne. Sydney feels much more touristy, more business oriented, and is way more complicated to get around then Melbourne. Everything isn’t organized into neat little blocks for you in Sydney. But it does have a massive Asian district and lots of delicious places to eat all in one place, and although using the public transport can be super expensive, it was easier then walking.

What I loved about the transport system was that you can tap your travel card on and off boats, so you can use boats just like the trains. This means that we got to see all of the main landmarks that we wanted to see from the water, which trust me, is way more exciting. We departed from Darling Harbour (which looks exactly like it does in Finding Nemo), sailed right under Harbour Bridge, saw the beautiful buildings and sky scrapers surrounding the harbour, and saw the Sydney Opera House in all its glory, the water sparkling around it in the near unbearable sun.

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Honestly, I don’t think anything can beat the sight of it, it’s so distinctive.
We got off so that we could walk around the opera house, indulging in sweet treats, and enjoying the wind that picks up around the back. I didn’t realise that the point parts of it are separate above ground, and I wish we had learned more about it and gone inside, although we were unsure whether it would cost us anything.

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We then found somewhere that is legitimately one of my favorite finds whilst in Australia, and that is the Chinese Friendship Gardens. In this middle of this massive, bustling and confusing city, juxtaposed against the shiny chrome buildings and massive expanse of water, is this gorgeous green utopia, designed in accordance with Feng Shui to make it the most pleasing to the eye. We spent a long time in here, because the greenery and the beautiful buildings made it feel cool, and the water and art work kept it feeling peaceful in comparison to the outside world. We missed the traditional tea ceremony they do, but it was wonderful just to walk around and absorb the beauty of it.

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It’s so important to remember that Australia has a massive Chinese population, and that they have a place in the city too. This lush garden quietened me and made me think about how difficult it is to move hundreds of miles away from your own country into another one. I know from my own friend moving how hard it can be to keep relationships strong through long distance. It’s nice to keep a piece of home close by.

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After seeing all these things, we went to China Town for dinner, which was obviously delicious, but by 8.30 we were back at the hotel and in bed. Early flights and hot weather is not good enough preparation for going out in a city that is unfamiliar to you. Instead we cranked the air conditioning up and watched Keeping Up With The Kardashians. We are so classy.

The next day, though, was much more exciting – we went to Bondi Beach! This is the beach that so many people have gushed to me about, and I guess is a stereotypical Australian destination! We walked from the nearest train station to the beach, which was obviously a mistake in terms of the heat, but it did mean that we saw a lot of the area as we wondered down, and saw it from the top of the hill as an amazing view. We spent a few hours just soaking up the sun and I went in the sea, although not too deep; the current is strong and although I trust my ability, I am always wary of beaches that I’m unfamiliar with, and I would never go out of my depth without someone. But it was cool and refreshing after the heat of getting there, and we saw a lot of surfers having fun in the waves.
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Bondi Beach reminded me a little bit of Sandbanks Beach at home, and of some French beaches I’ve visited before. It wasn’t as big as I thought it was. But it was still lovely and felt typical of Australia, chilled, stylish, and sporty. Even the drinks we went to get in the shade felt hipster and arty (I had a strawberry milkshake and banana bread and it was yummy).

Sydney overall was one of those places where I felt like I was seeing things but not doing anything, and that was good. I needed that break just to look and enjoy things without taking part in some kind of activity. Because it’s only an hour from Melbourne, the flight wasn’t too bad, although getting back to Melbourne was ridiculous due to a storm that brewed up in Sydney as we left. I don’t think I could live in Sydney, but I would go back.

Maybe when it’s not quite so hot.

Au revoir.
xxx

 

 

Travel

Australia, Part Two: Perth

Whilst the majority of my time in Australia was spent falling in love with Melbourne, I also had the opportunity to stay with another friend, my dads friend’s daughter Claire, in Perth, where she lives and works. Perth is a four hour flight from Melbourne, and I had the bright idea to try and get to Perth for nine. I don’t want to discuss how early I had to get up for that flight.

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Although a loyal native to Melbourne, Claire is really into her watersports, and is an avid kite surfer, and I was lucky enough to arrive on a day when she was taking part in a kite surfing competition / race. I was picked up from the airport by her boyfriend, given a mini tour by two of her friends (one of which is also British!), and then we went to the beach to watch Claire kite surf across from the island of Rottnest – or Rotto, damn Australians, shortening everything – to Perth’s coast.12347703_10206835732325361_4392980454713213949_n

Perth is notorious for being a really hot and windy part of Australia, but typically, when I visited it was rainy, and the kite surfing race was nearly called off because of how low the wind was. Everyone kept apologizing to me about the abnormal weather, and all I could do was reassure them that I was used to it, and not worried about rain in the slightest. Luckily, the race still went ahead after a slight delay, and I got to see the amazing view of hundreds of kites soaring like birds across the horizon. Claire, of course, landed on the beach looking glamorously windswept and not really that tired. 12346341_10153830141694319_7187940196074156249_n

Anyway, despite the rain, Perth was still an amazing place to visit. It is one of the most isolated cities in the world, and boasts gorgeous beaches, the perfect place to get up to those weird and wonderful watersports. There is a lot to do, although most of it involves being outside as it’s usually sunny, and if the weather had been better I would have been able to go to Rotto and see the quokka’s – a teeny weeny marsupial with the most Australian sounding name which I’m still not quite sure is real. Claire described them to me as a cross between a rat and a kangaroo. Not buying it.

Yet it was raining, and so I didn’t get that chance. Instead, Claire took me to the markets that surround Perth, like Fremantle (or Freo. I know. Stop shortening things.), full of amazing food, fresh produce, and beautiful handmade items. Then, for lunch, Claire took me to a place called Little Creatures, where I tried kangaroo. It is honestly delicious, kind of like venison, although I felt bad about eating an animal that as a kid I was convinced were extinct. Turns out they aren’t. Lucky me.12301655_10206835735885450_1041483581579357471_n

The thing about my trip to Perth that I noticed most was the difference between the friends I had in Melbourne and the people I met there. The people I hung out with in Perth felt way more stereotypically Australian, and introduced me into their culture almost without trying. One of the main things we talked about was the social differences between the UK and Australia, and I learned way more about Australians and the way they talk, act and work than I did in Melbourne, I suppose because in Melbourne I spent time with friends who were originally from elsewhere. But whilst everyone I met in those three weeks gave me a different insight into how things worked, I think Claire and her friends just let me relax. Maybe if it had been sunnier, that experience would have been different?

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I wouldn’t have experienced Western Australia in quite the same way though!

When I go back to Australia – and I will go back – I’d like to experience more of the life my friends in Perth lead, as well as more of WA in general. It didn’t feel like a city the way Melbourne feels like a city, but that was a nice contrast.

I do want to see the quokkas, though.

Au revoir.
xxx

Travel · Uncategorized

Australia, Part One: Melbourne

When we were eighteen, my friend Chantal’s parents decided to up and move, relocating to Australia and taking herself and her three brothers with them.  It was a change that was a long time coming, and we had plenty of time to prepare our goodbyes, but their leaving was difficult for all of us. I saw Chantal (and her family) almost every day from the age of about thirteen, right up until the day they flew out. Needless to say, we were best friends, and losing a best friend at eighteen is incredibly hard.

Luckily, social media is a godsend, and since her leaving, I have spoken to Chantal at least once a week, if not every other day, through Facebook and Twitter and Skype and even, at the beginning, emails. In November 2014, she and her boyfriend Kaedin came over to visit, and she hadn’t changed one bit, except for the incredibly twangy Australian accent she has picked up.
This December was my turn to go and visit her. We planned it for months, and I guess part of me wasn’t quite sure that it would really happen. But, here I am, I have returned from what was one of the happiest trips of my life, and I don’t think I’ve laughed so much since she first left the UK. And I wanted to talk about it because, and I will say this until I can no longer speak, Australia. Is. Awesome.

There will be three posts about Australia because I visited three major cities there. I hope to soon return and do the rest of the country. But I will, of course, always return to Melbourne, because I have never fallen in love with a city so fast and so hard.

After twenty four hours of travelling, most of which I could not get any sleep on, I thought that I would be exhausted arriving in Melbourne airport. But from the moment I stepped outside, got into a nice, cool, air conditioned car (we Brits are not used to the heat) and saw the city, I suddenly felt like I could stay up for hours. It is hot in December, but not quite as hot as it is in January, I was told repeatedly. I’d like to say I got used to the heat, but I really didn’t. There were days when it was so hot that I could only stay outside for about five minutes before giving up and having to go back into the shade. Those were not good days.

Chantal’s family live about forty minutes from the city by train, just on the beginning of the Mornington Peninsula, which meant that I experienced both the beautiful beaches nearby, and the glory of the city. For me, Mornington was a sunny little seaside town, with clear, calm water, a relaxed, laid back atmosphere and absolutely delicious gelato, which Chantal and I ate too much of. It took two hours in the sun for Chantal to remind me that there is no ozone layer over Australia, but by that point my base tan was set anyway. There were stingrays by the pier, although I didn’t get to see them, and sharks are apparently quite common, on top of the jellyfish. No swimming for me then, just a bit of a paddle.

Not that the idea of sharks usually puts me off going in the sea…

We also went, in Chantal’s spare time, to the hot springs, which are about an hour out from Frankston, and where hot pools follow a leisurely climb up a hill to a gorgeous view above, which I was misfortunate enough not to bring my camera for – where can you put a phone when wearing a swimming costume, really? The beauty of the Australian countryside, despite being a strange mix of browns and greens, is truly breathtaking. I don’t think I’ll ever get used the lush gorgeous sight of the landscape and the sea, and in Aus, where everything is bigger, it was even more dazzling

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But the city is where I fell in love. I was lucky enough to be shown the city twice, once by Chantal (we frequented a lot of shops) and once by my dad’s childhood friend and his son, who took me to the library, to architectural wonders across the city, and to one of the cool, hipster lanes where I was lured into the trap that is Melbourne coffee. Nowhere will ever have coffee quite like Melbourne does. The rumors are true. I’ve come back to the UK to realise that we burn coffee. We’re much better at tea.

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My dad’s friend also took me into some of the bush you can find right there in the city, up to another spectacular view of Melbourne. Having someone who loves the city show you around is an amazing experience.

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But exploring alone was just as fun. I went to galleries and museums, I used the tram system, I found Minotaur, the gigantic pop culture store, I walked all the way up from Flinders Street to the Queen Victoria Market and ate amazing food and drank more delicious coffee (they have a thing called cupping which I still don’t really understand) whilst watching the fruit merchants sell their fresh, amazing smelling produce. I sunbathed in the Botanical Gardens and walked along the Yarra River. I spent time on an adventure with myself, in a city where you fit in whatever you look like, and where no one ever shouted at me or gave me disgusted looks. Nobody is weird in Melbourne, or everyone is, and that is why it is so easy to want to stay there.

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During my second weekend in Aus, we went to Phillip Island, about an hour and a half drive along the coast from Melbourne, where you can watch fairy penguins come in at night and waddle into their little penguin houses. I decided on that evening that if I can’t live in Australia and spend half my time on Phillip Island raising money for the penguins and half my time in Melbourne city with the friends I have, old and new, who live there, then I will have wasted my life.

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There are of course, so many things I’ve missed out, the little moments, the tiny things you notice that are different from where you are from. But the simple fact of travelling in Australia is that you really do have to be there to experience it for yourself, especially Melbourne. Maybe it’s because I spent the most time there, who knows. But any chance I get, I’m going back to Melbourne, and I’m determined to spend longer than three weeks there.

Three weeks is never enough time.

Au revoir.
xxx

Lifestyle · Uncategorized

New Years Resolutions 2016

Hello! I hope everybody has had a wonderful Christmas / holiday period and is ready for 2016. I do have some posts lined up about where I’ve been for the last month or so (spoilers, I was in Australia, and it was awesome), but seeing as it’s New Years Eve tomorrow I thought that I would share my resolutions for 2016.

I really like making New Years resolutions. I know that many people think that we shouldn’t need an excuse to make a fresh start, and I agree to some extent, but I think that making resolutions for the year to come is an important tradition. It gives us a chance to reflect fondly on the year we’ve just had, and to actively try to make the next one even better. Yes, we should always be trying to do that, but making an effort at the very start is just good practice.

For me, I’ve always managed to keep one resolution a year, although for the last two years, my resolution has been the same – to say yes to more things and to not worry so much about the consequences. I have stuck to these proudly, and it has ended up that 2014 and 2015, although sad in places, have been the most memorable and entertaining years of my life so far.

In 2016, I am going to attempt to be slightly more adult with what I want to achieve, but I am keeping the “Yes Year” aspect in my head as I go through them. Yes, I want to be successful and make a name for myself, but I still want to enjoy my life and have good times with the people I love.

Anyway, enough rambling, here are my resolutions for 2016:
1. Read 50 books.

2. Write 1 blog post a week.

3. Make 1 video a week.

4. Have 1 cultural experience a month.

5. Go to 1 judo class, 1 PT session, 1 fitness class and 1 park run a week.

6. Go to 1 flute lesson a week.

7. Visit 2 different countries.

8. Make notable progress in your career.

As you can see I only have 8 because I don’t want to over stretch myself or become upset if I don’t complete any. 8 is enough for now.

And, I fully intend to try and continue with these, even if I fail, I’m going to pick myself up and start again.

Now I just need to stuff all this chocolate in my face before Thursday.

Au revoir.
xxx

Rea

Uncategorized

Why I Became A Founding Member Of The Women’s Equality Party

This Sunday, whilst he was on the phone to me, a male friend of mine finally understood where women were coming from about equality. He didn’t realize it by thinking about female representation in politics, or the issues of women’s safety at night, or by the fact that women are still paid less then men on average for doing the same job.

He realized it by me talking to him, not about feminism, but about how if I was to publish a book, I would do a JK Rowling and publish it with my initials, so that readers would not make an assumption of whether the book was for them based on my gender.

In ten minutes, after we had discussed what books we had read as children and how we had decided what we would like, or how our parents had decided what we would like, based on the gender of the author, he had moved on to female directors, and, in an usual moment of clarity for him, he had said, “I wonder how I would feel if the majority of film directors were female. I’d feel pretty under-represented.”

From this, we agreed that in most things, it would be better to have an equal amount of men and women in order for the world to be fair. Having more of one than the other, either way, was a stupid and unfair way to do it. We pondered why it was this way in the first place for a while. And then we went back to talking more nonsense.

It is because of this idea about equality, and the misunderstanding of the issue, that I joined (with some encouragement from my friend Alice, who is more on the ball about these kind of things), the Women’s Equality Party last month. I am now one of their founding members, and whenever it is that I can vote for them, I will most definitely be voting.

The whole idea about equality for everybody has resided very deep inside my psyche for as long as I can remember. I am all for fairness, and all for everyone’s voice being heard, no matter what gender, race, sexual orientation, ability etc. My female friends and I are all of the same opinion, give or take, and that is simply that women should be as present in the world as men, with the same rights, the same abilities and opportunities, and the same level of safety in the world. It is only as I have grown older that I have been surprised to find out that a lot of people don’t feel the same. My aforementioned friend, for example, uses sexual slurs, doesn’t believe women have the same abilities as men, and thinks that men should have more power in certain issues. He thinks things are different because we are different, and that society wouldn’t work in any other way. But he is changing, albeit slowly.

Only recently, in the last three years, have I considered myself a feminist, but now I am here I don’t see any way of going back. I didn’t think of myself as active, but hearing one of my female friends use the phase “careful what you say, there’s a feminist in the room”, in reference to me, has shown me that there is a way deeper problem then just not thinking women are equal to men. People are so uneducated and unaware about what the term “feminist” or “equality” actually means that they allow the situation to continue.

The Women’s Equality Party has set out it’s priorities so clearly that I fail to think how anyone can believe that it is purely a women’s party. Their policies are clearly driving for equality for everyone – and yes, that means men too. They want men’s voices to be heard too, because they recognize – unlike many feminist bashing friends I have, male and female – that patriarchy and misogyny effects men as much as it effects women. They aren’t all about women overpowering men. That’s not what a feminist is. They are about men and women being equal in life.

Anyway, I could talk about this forever, but I joined the Women’s Equality Party because I want to be a part of the solution. I don’t want to claim myself as a feminist and receive abuse for no reason. If I’m going to be pointed our and laughed at, at least it will be because I am getting involved, not just sitting on the sidelines and thinking things should change. I want to be part of the change.

It disheartens me to have female friends who don’t consider themselves feminist because it is such a bad word. I want to shake them and ask, do you really think you are not equal to everyone else? Do your own rights, and the rights of your loved ones, mean so little to you?
I want to be able to raise my children to think that everyone is equal. If I don’t, if society is still in the state it is now, then I will have failed as a human.

Sorry if this is ranty but it is super important to me. If you have joined the Women’s Equality Party, let me know!! And if you’re thinking about it, do it!

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about then stand by because I will be recommending a whole buttload of feminist reading soon.

Au revoir.
xxx