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Once again for all you gals in the back.

SEX DOES NOT EQUAL PENETRATION.

A sentence I have struggled with for most of my adult life, but finally as Pelvic Pain Awareness comes to a close, I am opening up about this very intimate subject to remind many women and people with uteruses out there that painful penetration is very common and something that many of us have experienced.

I have always struggled with pelvic pain and this has made sexual intercourse hard for me, pardon the pun. My vagina is a sensitive soul who is always pissed off from dealing with pain so the last thing she often wants is anything going inside. This is something I have struggled greatly with and to accept. When I first started having penetrative sex, I was 18 and very insecure. I had just recovered from anorexia and knew very little about being a sexual being. I had no connection to my body, I felt nothing for it, except anger that after recovering from anorexia I now had a mystery pelvic pain that no one knew or seemed to care about investigating.

When I experienced pain with sex I went to my doctors, who unfortunately told me this was normal. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. A recent survey found that 1 in 3 women find penetrative sex painful. That’s a lot of women and people with uteruses who are finding pain in the most pleasurable thing we are meant to enjoy. I think that the great emphasis on society to place penetration on sexual completion is why that often women and those AFAB feel that they can’t talk about painful intercourse, or that it’s normal or something they just have to live with. The feelings of inadequacy, of brokenness are something I too felt. It’s hard to feel like a wonderful empowered sexual badass when you can’t even have sex. But this is the mindset and narrative we have to change.

My heart breaks for those in support groups who share how at odds they feel with themselves as they cannot have penetrative sex, those whose partners have left them or who have left their partners as they don’t feel whole not being able to consummate this act. There is so much pressure and emphasis put on sex. From as a teenager being warned not to have it, to when your married being constantly asked if you’re having it (ie. WHERE’S THE GRAND BABIES AT?). This pressure for someone who is already undergoing pelvic pain is immense. Imagine how much you already are upset at your body for causing you pain and now it denies you this pleasure?

It’s a tough circle, one of fear, blame, rejection and some more blame thrown in. But IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! When people talk or ask how they will ever be able to date when they can’t have penetrative sex I always pipe up. I have been with my partner for 8 years and we are getting married next year. He knows the deal, sometimes my V is playing ball and sometimes it is not & that’s cool. He loves me, not my ability to be a love machine. This is why the conversation needs to be rewritten. Sex does not equal intimacy and intimacy does not equal sex. Things such as gentle baths, sensual massages, spooning, oral, exploring the vast variety of couple’s sex toys that often take the focus off penetration. There is so much that you can do together that does not put pressure on either of you or will not result in your pain. You DESERVE a beautiful sex life no matter what, you DESERVE pain-free pleasure and should not suffer for anyone else’s pleasure. Your body is important, your joy is important, and your orgasm is important, but that’s a whole other story.

What I’m trying to say here is that this Pelvic Pain Awareness month, you owe it to yourself to find your pleasure, whether that be with a significant other, a whole group of people, someone you swiped right to or with yourself. If you find penetrative sex painful then there are ways to help ease this. Ask for a referral to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist who will assess your pelvic floor muscles. Many conditions can cause these muscles to be overactive which means they are too tight for penetration. Conditions such as Vaginismus, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, Endometriosis, Interstitial Cystitis and Vulvodynia, to name a few. Your pelvic floor physiotherapist will be able to explore internal physio that can help relax those muscles and will train you how to use dilators, which you will be able to use to slowly stretch these muscles.

There are also many products now out there that can help you, the OhNut is an amazing invention that was created by a woman who experienced pain during sex. It works as an amazing cushion between the penis and vagina and allows you to take sex and penetration at your pace. There are also lots of helpful products from Dame Products, such as specialist pillows that help you get the right angle and lots of sex toys that will help your V get in the mood.

My message to anyone out there, who is suffering pain during penetrative sex is to talk to someone. Go see a doctor & if they tell you it’s normal, go see another doctor. If you are concerned, visit your local sexual health clinic as they will often see people who are suffering from something similar. If it is impacting on your mental health, ask to be referred to see a CBT councillor. NEVER suffer this pain in silence or think that you are to blame in any way. You are not alone in this and there are lots of others in your situation out there. There are fantastic communities in Instagram who are here to listen, to advise and educate you on these issues and how you can help yourself. But at the end of the day remember that even if your body can’t have penetration right now, that doesn’t define you or your sexuality. You are a beautiful, wonderful, sexual being and you deserve happiness, support and plenty and plenty of pleasure.

Hi, I'm Sarah Rose a gal in her late twenties from Belfast, who has suffered pelvic pain for ten years. I decided to start the conversation regarding pelvic pain after suffering in silence for so long and created my Instagram @mypelvicpain & blog Mypelvicpain.co.uk 4 weeks ago. I've been overwhelmed by the love and strength of so many amazing people who are going through this. Together we can raise awareness & support one another through anything. You are not alone and I believe you, your pain is real.  

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Being talked over isn’t just bloody annoying. It’s probably one of the most pervasive acts of disrespect that one can experience in the workplace. It’s frustrating, demeaning and often goes completely unchallenged. So where does it come from? How does it manifest? And what can we do?

Look, sometimes we get a bit over excited and can’t wait to get our thoughts across in earnest, so we interrupt someone. That’s cool - just apologise and move on. Maybe you’ve been stuck in a conversation where the other person is just getting it so wrong that you want to stop them in their tracks, so you interrupt them. That’s less cool and I suggest you re-evaluate your responses. In either case though, we can all identify a little bit, whether you’re the interrupter or the interruptee. We all make mistakes!

The biggest problems occur when these interruptions keep on happening; when the same person keeps talking over you, time and time again. And once you get talked over enough times, others start to follow suit.

As women, it’s something we are all too familiar with. And don’t just take my word for it. Numerous studies confirm that men interrupting women is a universal phenomenon and it’s all there for you to google to your heart’s content. My favourite piece by the New York Times delivers this lovely chunk of wisdom:

‘Academic studies and countless anecdotes make it clear that being interrupted, talked over, shut down or penalized for speaking out is nearly a universal experience for women when they are outnumbered by men.’

And this is just it. Women are conditioned from an early age to speak less, to not tell tales and that sharing feelings makes you too emotional for this planet. So it’s hardly any wonder that these attitudes have continued into the workplace (and beyond, most likely.)

As you may know from my previous article, I call out sexist bullshit in the workplace. I do this because I have worked in some incredibly toxic environments; namely in the world of sport and television. But really, if the top level is made up of old white guys, the culture is all gonna be one in the same, regardless of where you work.

In essence, I have been talked over A LOT, and funnily enough, I have a lot to say about it. In recent times, I was appointed to a senior role for a sporting charity. The role was a bit of a promotion for me (but not unfairly so, I’ve got a shitload of good experience.)

As a Head of Department for said sporting charity, I wrongly assumed that my days of being demeaned and disrespected based on my gender would be over (in part.) At the very least I was thrilled at the prospect of being listened to and my opinions carrying some weight. I mean sure, I knew that the percentage of women at my organisation was 13%, but, I had an almost entirely female team (bar the white, male CEO lols.)

Now, without going too much into the technicalities, I put together a very detailed and well-thought-out plan as to how I was going to drive the organisation forward into the digital age and bring about a huge shift in brand awareness. My career thus far, has sort of been based on this kind of stuff so I knew what I was talking about. So I took the plan to my (female) line manager, whose response was underwhelming at best; particularly when she passed the whole situation off with a response along the lines of:

‘It's so sweet to try to change things, but you know, you're only going to achieve 30% of what you're looking to do' - despite driving change being a leading feature of my ACTUAL ROLE description.

Sure, this is bad enough and for certain a conversation for another day, but the very worst part of it was when I sat down with our very senior board member/decision making trustee.

A white man in his fifties - the shock! - the man preceded to, in front of my colleagues, mansplain exactly what he thought I should be doing with my role, right down to the very basic level that I would have been executing ten years ago. Oh, and he went on. And on. And on. After about 10 minutes of him talking at us, I realised he was pretty much describing the exact plan that I had been presenting to my CEO when she patronised it into oblivion. In the first space in the conversation, I started to go through what we had achieved thus far, only to be interrupted by him. Then, when I tried to speak again I was interrupted again. And so continues the pattern. Only towards the end, I was not only being talked over by him, but by my female counterpart. It was humiliating, infuriating and a complete discredit to the hard work and research I had done already.

So how did I react? Well, I was polite and thanked him for his time. Later, I sent him an email with my attached plan and research to back it up, along with a link to my CV.

After this situation and others much like it, people have often said to me - ‘why didn’t you stand up for yourself?’ We hear that a lot don’t we. Women should do this, women should do that, women should stop it in their tracks and speak up. Er, fuck off! That is so much easier said than done! As soon as we speak up, WE become the problem. So my proposed solution is this:

How about you just stop interrupting me you rude bastard???

As for my female colleague, she was also a very rude interruptasaurus-rex who ended up throwing me under the bus on a number of occasions, most likely because she thought she could (pack mentality.) It’s a known fact that women can interrupt just as much as men. (Although it is important to note that the victim of the interruption is almost always a woman.)

The lesson I’ve learned here is that actually, all women have an inner old white guy inside of them (not literally, ew) and his name is internalised misogyny.  We display behaviours that we have been taught we need to display in order to get ahead. There really is no more powerful way to crush someone’s progression, to make way for your own, than to slowly chip away at their soul through demeaning them through belittling and disrespectful attitudes.

I recently did a course in mindful communication that looks at the space we can give to ourselves and others in the workplace. We can all learn how to better our listening skills and bring this to where we work - perhaps taking it higher up, to become part of learning and development. We can often get so caught up in what we want to say, formulating a response before the other person has even finished. This means that we aren’t pay attention to what the other person is saying, or what their non-verbal cues are presenting to us - which leads to us making judgements and assumptions, and often remembering the account inaccurately.  In these murky assumptions, sexism can bread rapidly and this is how toxic cultures manifest.

I hate to even say his name, but just look at Donald Trump. In his presidential debates with Hilary Clinton, he persistently interrupted her to the point where nothing she said seemed to stick. We all forgot what she had to say and the media coverage was saturated with biased accounts of what this vile, uneducated, bigoted cheeto had said instead. I mean, you have to hand it to Donald for consistently shining a light on the shitty male behaviours that men often get away with outside of the spotlight, but otherwise, it’s all just really awful. 

However, from this shit, rose an app called Women Interrupted, which uses voice frequencies to keep tabs on how many times mens’ voices overlapped with women’s in order to determine the number of interruptions. It’s quite wonderful. So if you’re struggling to get your voice heard in the workplace, or suspect that there’s a culture of interruptions that is chipping away at you, I suggest you download it and take it into a meeting. I certainly wish I’d used it sooner, but then again, I wouldn’t have all this high quality sexist content to share with you!

 

Well hello there. I'm Sian. Writer, communications professional, yoga teacher and loud, proud, intersectional feminist. I enjoy long walks, a glass of very pale pinot blush (or three), and dismantling the patriarchy through a unique blend of subtle humour and not-so-subtle finger pointing. When not working as a jack of all trades and master of none, I can mostly be found chasing cats down the street, desperately trying to get them to be my friend.

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NEON MOON® by Shaakirah Iqbal - 1M ago

As a multi-hyphenate artist, I have spent much of my life contending with the illusion of a single-path life. In order to live as many lives as possible, I even decided the best way to ensure my happiness would be to become an actor. It didn’t take me long to find out that due to my ample body I was likely only going to get given one type of role, woman-who-doesn’t-look-the-way-the-industry-expects-women-to-look-and-is-therfore-a-joke. Despite my best efforts to go after a career in acting with everything I had, there were so many more things I wanted to do other than play a disgruntled woman in a phone-service commercial.

I make visual art, I perform drag, I love helping other people make art. And then there’s my life’s great romance with language. I believe in words, their power, their failings and how we use them to tell stories, change minds, and connect each other. And I love to write them. I’m not special in my penchant for spinning many plates. Every single one of us is complicated and multi-faceted. For some of us, it’s business, activism, parenthood, gardening, pickling, dancing, eating, making ships in a bottle. So while I looked to acting to liberate me from being reduced to a single story it started to choke and even limit my view of myself. I defined myself as a performer and everything else was simply a side note. If I was not acting or doing something in support of my acting career I was wasting my time. I believed that if you wanted to do something it had to be your sole, unyielding focus.

I had always struggled to dissect who I am from what I do. And I have also had one million different jobs that seemingly have nothing to do with art. I’ve been a cheesemonger, a chef, a nanny, a housekeeper, an assistant, a manager, a data entry analyst, and a dog walker to name a few. All of those things paid my bills when I was trying to knock down the gates around those paid acting jobs. And yet when people asked me back then, who are you, what do you do? I would feel deep shame about the answers. An actor? No one was paying me to do it. An artist? I made art in secret. A dog walker? I hated walking people’s dogs but it’s what I did.

I learned early on, from having to choose and defend my subjects in school, to identify with my work as a performer or an artist. This approach then lead to a habit of with identifying with anything that could be deemed work. I was the dog-walker, the cheesemonger, the data-entry monkey.

When you go to university you decide what you are going to focus on and you become the person pursuing a degree in that subject, with the expectation that you will go on to create a career and in turn an identity around that subject. We are delivered stories of the “greats” in our field to keep us going in those early days. These stories of success inevitably include a myopic focus on a single goal. But when you live this, when you attempt to shut out the noise of your complexity you starve yourself of yourself. You suffocate your beautiful intricacies.

This tightening of identity spread to my gender and sexuality too. As I tried harder and harder to fit into the “woman” role, I found it more and more difficult to express my identity as a queer woman. I now proudly identify as queer or bi, but then I felt like I was always trying to pass. I would want to be read as straight in straight worlds or gay in queer spaces because these were singular identities that I felt people could understand. Letting go of my identity as an actor or performer or comedian I freed myself to start doing drag. This then led to being out as queer on stage and in turn out in the world. By opting out of a story I was telling about who I was, I was able to live my truth.

I think about all this pressure. The pressure to define oneself. To choose a path and stick to it. To decide, I am this, this is who I am. I wonder how we got here. It can be really useful to have shorthand to communicate. What is your name? Where are you from? Where do you live? What language do you speak? What pronouns do you prefer? What is your job? These are questions with helpful answers for navigating respectful dialogue. But when we start to limit people to their answers we veer into territory where we don’t allow any of this to be malleable. When we start demanding that people pick something and stick to it we limit that person's potential growth.

There is an ideal set out by generations that came before mine. My parents are baby boomers. If you take a look at their lives from afar you see a man and a woman, married, with two children. Both with careers in one field with a steady progression toward something that can easily be recognized as “success”. This is the kind of narrative that stops people in my generation feeling like they can explore the edges of who they are. But if you get up close to any person’s life you start to see the details. And often the details betray the narrative used to keep us in place. Looking closely at the details of my parents' lives, features begin to emerge of two people who have explored many different paths. They have made big leaps leading to enormous wins and devastating failures. They have switched paths again and again and again, using the lessons from each to enrich the journey on the next.

So while I was spending so much time trying to keep to the path that “made the most sense” for me I wasn’t taking into account the stories of the people I admire most. And anyone who tries to sell you a story of a straight path from birth to death is leaving all the best stuff out.

It’s one thing to talk through the steps, analyze the whys and whats of the limiting expectations placed on us by demanding these singular identities. But it’s another thing to truly let go and an embrace the multiplicity of identity. You get to self-determine. I am reminded of the old question successful women get asked to an infuriating degree, “Is it possible to have it all?” In my mind, I don’t see why we are trying to "have it all" when we already have so much, we already are so much.

It took me a while but I now find myself exploring many paths, simultaneously. I make art but I use words, image, performance, films to tell my stories. I also do a ton of things that have nothing to do with art making and they are as much a part of who I am as the art I make. I identify with my multitudes rather than forcing myself into a singular, easy to swallow, idea. I am a million different things and let me tell you, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had! And I haven’t exploded into a million pieces, gone broke, or collapsed from exhaustion. Quite the opposite, my life is full of color, texture, and light. And if anyone is confused by me, I don’t give a fuck, I’m not here for them, I’m here for all the multi-hyphenates.

Rose Arscott is a multi-hyphenate artist from the UK, living in Los Angeles with her two wild cats. 
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NEON MOON'S WOMEN WEDNESDAY
We love how women are changing the world and making an impact to their home countries that we're talking all things awesome and new every Wednesday!
INDIA
(gaystarnews.com)
A group of trans women has realized its dream and will open their own hotel in Kerala , India.The women planned to open the hotel called Hotel Ruchimudra in the state capital of Kochi in south east India. Aditi Achuth, Saya Mathew, Preethi Alexander, Pranav, Ragaranjini and Meenakshi received US$14,320 in local government funding to set up the hotel. The six women decided to start their own business to help promote a more positive representation of trans people in Kerala. ‘The major aim of ‘Ruchimudra’ is to change the negative attitude of the society towards transgenders,’ she told Mathrubhumi. Along with the local government funding, the women also received funding from a charity. But the funding only covered some of the renovation costs of the four storey building. So the women decided to complete a lot of the work themselves in order to save money. The building will house the hotel along with other support services for trans people. Those services will include counseling, office co-working space, shelter and yoga. Kerala is one of the most progressive states in India when it comes to trans issues. In 2017, the state government assigned 23 roles to trans people on the new Kochi Metro Rail service. In the same year, it also launched a housing scheme for the trans community. Despite these advances and other, the trans community still face high levels of violence and discrimination . LGBTI students also have high school drop out rates. A 2017 study found that 70% of LGBTI high school students drop out because of stigma, bullying and discrimination.
UK
(OxfordUniversity)
Nearly 200 years after her death, fossil finder Mary Anning is finally getting the credit she deserves for her revolutionary work pioneering the field of paleontology — and a feature film to boot. While the name of the legendary fossil hunter is relatively unknown, scholars say that Anning was emphatically denied credit from the scientific community for the “momentous discoveries” she made during her life — including by the so-called “founding father of paleontology,” Georges Cuvier. Anning, whose father died of tuberculosis in 1810 when she was just 11 years old, made a living for her working class family by finding and selling fossils as souvenirs to tourists — or when she found something “particularly spectacular,” to museums. In 1812, Anning successfully excavated the full skeleton of an almost 5-meter long ichthyosaur, an ancient crocodile-like marine reptile that went extinct 90 million years ago. It was the first complete ichthyosaurus skeleton to ever be seen by the London scientific community, according to Dr. Adrian Currie, a professor of anthropology at the University of Exeter. In 1823, she discovered the skeleton of a plesiosaur, a massive Mesozoic-era marine reptile whose likely appearance serves as the inspiration for depictions of the Loch Ness monster. But while her work was widely known to the scientific community at the time, as a woman Anning wasn’t allowed to become a member of the Geological Society — or even to the enter the building. And Cuvier, incredulous that a working class woman could be capable of such discoveries, inspected the skeletons and declared them both fakes. “Originally he thought that this must have been some kind of hoax … but he did admit later on that he was wrong,” said Currie. Today, Anning is considered by many scholars as “the greatest fossilist the world has known,” according to the British Society for the History of Science. An upcoming biopic about her life, Ammonite is set to begin principal photography in March.

USA
(Matika Wilbur / Elle.com)
Matika Wilbur was teaching photography at the Tulalip heritage school and at Northwest Indian College and, while building curriculum for class, she discovered a serious lack of images of Native Americans taken by Native Americans. That void inspired her to launch Project 562, a Kickstarter-funded pursuit to photograph every federally recognized Native American tribe. The ambitious project’s name came from the number of then-recognized tribes. It has since risen to 573, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. In November 2012, she sold everything in her apartment and set out in an RV she called "Big Girl." For nearly seven years now she's traveled the country sleeping on couches and relying on speaking engagements for food money and to pay her small staff. She's captured thousands of portraits from over 400 tribal nations so far, all with the goal of challenging stereotypes and shifting the consciousnesses of contemporary Native America. "Each of us, as citizens, has a responsibility to change that narrative within ourselves," Wilbur says. "To seek new information and to build relationships with the Indigenous people of the territories we're occupying." On shoots, Wilbur asks her subjects about identity, race, racism, and blood quantum, the highly controversial practice of trying to determine how much Native American heritage one has. They often discuss marriage, family, and the meaning of tribal ceremonies. Eventually, she plans to compile her endeavors in a book to, "shed some light on our heroes and some of our everyday folks." "I hope it piques the interest for individuals who want to know more about their Indigenous relatives, wherever they’re from," she says. "Hopefully it inspires them to want to want to connect in some way.”

Have a positive week,

Love Neon Moon x   

Let us know your thoughts about this week's Women Wednesday below. 

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NEON MOON® by Shaakirah Iqbal - 2M ago

I was at a gig not so long ago when a man I didn’t know moved to push past me, placing his hands carefully, but deliberately on my waist.

‘Sorry Darling.’

It is a common, everyday occurrence. It is something that happens all of the time. In bars, pubs, clubs and pretty much everywhere else, women are frequently referred to with terms that sit within this lexical realm. It’s benign, right? It’s nothing. Except, this time, for whatever reason, I decided it wasn’t. It may have been a momentary delusion, it may have been the gin, but this time I spoke back.

‘Don’t Call Me Darling.’

I’m pretty certain he didn’t hear me. If he did, he didn’t react. But boy, did it feel good.

Because, the way women are spoken to is different. The words used toward, and in reference to, women in everyday speech are words often reserved solely for us. Darling. Love. Flower. Petal. Baby. Sweetheart. The variations are endless. They are sometimes even geographically specific; (I have never been called Petal outside of Newcastle) but they are all implemented in the same way. On their own, these expressions are actually pretty harmless. Sweet, even. They are neither offensive nor rude; nor do they prompt parents to gasp in horror - frantically racing to cover their children’s ears. They are terms of endearment. They are used by some of my favourite people; and more often than not, in situations that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I frequently get called Darling by my most loved and adored. It’s an expression of care and familiarity. But it is also used by men I’ve never met.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Darling as a noun, ‘used as an affectionate form of address to a beloved person,’ or a descriptor for ‘a loveable or endearing person.’ I am, to these men at least – neither. I could be foul. I could be vindictive and spiteful and cruel. I could be arrogant and obnoxious and I could be the furthest possible digression from whatever you imagine a ‘Darling’ to be. How could they possibly know? I might be unkind, I might be selfish. I might be a descendent of Machiavelli himself. But it doesn’t really matter, because in that moment – I am Darling.

Look a little more closely at the dictionary entry for Darling, and it is worth noting another, informal use of the noun.

Phrases

[…] be a darling

Darling is cute. Darling is sweet. Darling is sugar and spice and all things nice. And Darling is almost always female. Because Darling is just one aspect of the neat little box that anyone who identifies as female is pushed to reside in. Darling allows no room to be loud, tenacious, or unconventional. Darling does not shout back or call bullshit, nor does she complain about the fact that she’s just had a stranger’s hand wrapped firmly around her waist. Darling can be, in many ways, both sweetness and submission. Sometimes, I am Darling. I am sweet as sugar, and nice as pie. I can fit every stereotype that the word might bring to mind. I am, or can be, Darling. But not to them.

I am not by any means suggesting that every person using these terms is an incurable misogynist. Much of the way these words are received is influenced by the tone of voice in which they are employed, and, often; they really are simple expressions of kindness. I do not believe that the man handing me my shopping with a gentle, ‘There you go Love,’ is using his words to coax me into unwitting submission. But, I do believe that the language around women needs to be questioned. Because we do not, for the most part, use these words to refer to men. I do not thank male bartenders with ‘cheers Sweetheart’ and a wink - even after a tenth gin and tonic. These phrases can be, and often are, intended to be kind and caring; but they can also be demeaning. Many of these words are frequently used in conversation with, or in reference to, children. They are calming, comforting and occasionally, coercive. But I am not a child. It prompts us to ask whether these phrases are appropriate. Are they really as harmless as they appear?

It is also worth noting that men are not the only culprits. We are almost all guilty, as women, of referring to each other as ‘girls,’ or ‘girlies,’ not forgetting of course the infamous ‘Hun;’ a word which makes me seethe inside. They are, we expect, entirely harmless. They are largely accepted terms for anyone who identifies as female. I myself almost always refer to other women in this way. In fact, it can feel uncomfortable to be called anything else. Lady can sound too old, and Woman seems larger than life – imposing, even. But why? We are, after all, adult females; and Girl, in its origin, is a word reserved for female children. I am in my twenties. I have not realistically been a girl since the last time I wore pigtails and a gingham school dress; but I am frequently both the subject, and the orator of this term. And when we ourselves use language that presents us as less than we are; when we use language that links us intrinsically to children; we arguably mark ourselves as the stereotype. We, with all the best intentions; unwittingly present ourselves as Darling.

There is also the matter of escalation. These expressions have been used countless times with no negative impact. It would be easy to suggest that they really are entirely harmless. But, how often has their use made your skin crawl? How many times have you performed a strained smile as a man asks you, for the fifth time, if he can ‘get you a drink, Sweetheart?’ How many times have these words been hurled at you from a van as you walk home alone, eyes fixed on your feet? Because, in these incidences, these words are far from harmless. They are the manifestation of exactly who Darling is supposed to be, and the resulting treatment she is to expect.

There is of course, always a way to challenge Darling. Question it. Discuss it. Oppose it. It might mean shouting back at the vans as they trundle past, heads hanging out dusty windows. It might be giving these words the middle finger - literally or metaphorically. It might be muttering your protestations to yourself, or venting to a friend. It might be as easy as ‘Don’t call me Darling,’ and it might not. It might just be a roll of the eyes. The way we receive and understand the language used towards us is personal, and the way we react to it is entirely our choice. But, question this rhetoric. They might not hear us, they might not react; but boy, does it feel good. Because you might be Darling, but you are also so much more.

Steph is much further into her twenties than she’d like to be, and is constantly susceptible to the panic that this brings. She is a proud feminist, aspiring writer, and superb over-thinker whose favourite person is her cat. You can find her sharing pretentious photos on Instagram @stephhebdon, or being sarcastic on Twitter @StephHebdon. Steph also writes for www.aureliamagazine.com

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You’ve probably heard the following statistic that on average, men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.We also know that women are more likely to feel like imposters in their roles, and get paid less than men for doing the same job. So the odds are stacked against us, and we have to work twice as hard to prove we are as good at our jobs; and three times harder if you are a woman of colour. We become less and less in number as we rise up through the ranks, and the politics becomes harder and harder to manage. The notion of ‘not being good enough’ increases and we become more aware that we are only ever going to ‘make it’ if we are a certain type of female leader; which, when you consider all the other bullshit that comes with being a female leader, we are completely put off by progressing upwards.  
 
All of this is just ‘a feeling’ of course, because recognising sexism in the workplace is becoming much more difficult. But this doesn’t make it less endemic. Today’s sexism is insidious, sneaky and hard to put a finger on. In fact, it’s so deep seated that men and women are guilty of displaying it, perhaps without even realising it. That’s the trap of the patriarchal structure - it’s a tricksy bastard. But be under no illusions, it is just as damaging as the outward go-and-make-the-tea kind, and perhaps even more so, as it’s much harder to call it out.
 
As a woman who enjoys the company of male friends, loves sport and laughter - I’ve always been drawn to industries that are male dominated. I can add sport, television and the armed forces to my complicated career path. The triple threat of masculinity! The irony is that I was fairly blind to sexism as a younger woman, but working in these industries has opened up my eyes to the complexities of gender equality and the sheer plight of women in the workplace. And more so, the lack of protection for women in the workplace.


 
In the future, perhaps we will have legally binding policies in place to ensure that all of our workplaces are equal. But we are absolutely not there yet, not by a long shot. So what can we do to protect ourselves?
 
We start by sharing our stories. By helping us to recognise patterns, behaviours and collectively working together to put a stop to them using the tools that we have available to us. We must be armed with weapons to take sexism down from the inside, whilst digging deep to find the courage to employ the skills and tactics to protect ourselves in a world that doesn’t particularly give a shit about our safety.
 
I’ve got some excellent tales from the worlds of rugby player parties,  fast car television shows and puffed up men in uniform; but let’s start at the beginning. How do you know if your work environment is sexist? Are you suspicious but not sure? Are you questioning why you feel so uncomfortable? Do you find yourself fake laughing at comments from your superiors? Is your appearance a topic of interest to your boss?


 

Here’s a handy guide on how to identify sexism in 2019.

You receive backhanded compliments about what you’re wearing.
‘Your shoes are unusual.’ Sure they’re loafers, and Stella McCartney ones at that, but don’t let that get in the way from the expectation that a woman needs to wear a heel to look professional in this MAN’S WORLD.


Your boss refers to ‘pink jobs and blue jobs’.
This is an absolute classic. Cheers Teresa May for perpetuating the gender roles we’ve worked so hard to dispel! People will refer to these types of comments as ‘traditional’ and dismiss it with a little wave, as they would Jacob Rees-Moobs, or, say, the topic of colonialism.

 

If you don’t wear makeup, you’ll be told you look tired.
You must NEVER let your skin breathe for fear of looking worn out. Because we know for sure that there is no weaker woman than a tired or emotional one.


They’ll expect you to work extra hours and take no lunch break.
Perhaps you’re one of those people who works consistently within your 8.5 hours and will stay late when there’s a big project or deadline. Or perhaps you’re one of those people who fucks around a bit, pretending to look busy at all times, despite being in constant email contact with your fiancee to plan meal times, thus needing to work late to make up for this. I know which one I’d rather be.


You must love the cause but not enough for it to be a hobby.
Because work should be your only hobby and if you have enough time for an actual hobby, are you even working hard enough?


Gossip will circulate around your office like a virus in winter.
Your bosses will use the gossip train as a vehicle to cast doubts about your character and ability. Anyone who's stuck up their butts will do their best to perpetuate whatever tale is the rumour du jour. How very Mean Girls.


You have to pepper your emails with exclamation marks and emojis so as not to sound too direct.
Lacking efficient communication will make you much more approachable and won’t ruffle any feathers. It also won’t make anyone feel as though they have to do their job in order for you to do yours.


The only leadership styles that are responded to are either passive aggressive or straight up aggressive.
Listen you guys, women can only be leaders if they either behave like ‘a man’ in the toxic masculinity sense; the bully boy, straight talking, takes control) or if they employ manipulative ‘women’ tactics, such as bitching and manipulation with a side of smiley face emoji.

Your boss will want to know what you’re doing at all times and then accuse you of needing ‘hand holding’.
The most effective method of management is the micro kind. This is a sign that your boss doesn't actually understand what it is that you do and therefore regular reporting of your workload is necessary in order to prove to their bosses that you are actually doing things.


It’s Friday. On your to-do list of 32 tasks that your boss has given to you on a Tuesday afternoon, you’ve missed something.
In the spirit of prioritising deadlines you have missed something smaller off the list. You can guarantee that it will become huge because you’ve missed it and it will definitely affect everyone in the office. But ,despite its importance, it had no deadline and your boss will absolutely not have chased you up on it because you cannot be chased by the boss. You can of course chase your boss every 10 minutes for not doing the thing that your role is dependent on. Also, if you’ve got 32 things on your to do list, why aren’t you staying late?


If, heaven forfend, you need to have a meeting outside of the office, you will need to check in before, afterwards and potentially during.
The second most effective method of management is to show a consistent lack of trust. Women have to EARN trust, as they are not natural workers. Their head is too full of boys and babies. Oh and they talk too much.


There is no HR.
Because there is no place in this organisation for humans or indeed resource.


You cry in the toilet.
No wonder you look so tired!


You’re a bit confused as to what exactly the problem is here.
Classic gaslighting. You’re the problem here, obviously.


You start to feel as though you’re in an emotionally controlling relationship.
Gaslighting, micro management, lack of trust, subtle put downs and the expectation to slap a face on and slip into your best dress are all textbook features of an emotionally controlling relationship.


Now you've had this run down, perhaps you're asking why you are allowing this to happen at work. But here’s the thing. We all let it happen, because we don’t know what to do about it. I work in an office that’s 90% women, yet the sexism I encounter on a daily basis is worse than I worked with 30 men. Women and men can be entirely guilty of displaying patriarchal attitudes within the workplace without even really realising it. But here's some advice. Doing a good job is not dependent on how you look or how you dress, what your personal preferences outside of the workplace are (unless they are illegal, in which case that will most likely negatively impact all areas of your life ), or how many extra hours you put in. These are all things that can be directly attributed to control, or lack thereof, depending on how competent your boss is. And never, ever forget that you are only as good as your boss allows you to be. So if you're not being upskilled, or developed, or if you're experiencing any of the treatment outlined above then you can almost certainly guarantee you're in a toxic working environment. And that my ladies, comes from sexism. Let’s start by sharing our stories so we can find common ground and recognise when it’s time to send out an SOS.

 

Well hello there. I'm Sian. Writer, communications professional, yoga teacher and loud, proud, intersectional feminist. I enjoy long walks, a glass of very pale pinot blush (or three), and dismantling the patriarchy through a unique blend of subtle humour and not-so-subtle finger pointing. When not working as a jack of all trades and master of none, I can mostly be found chasing cats down the street, desperately trying to get them to be my friend.
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I could use this space to write about the various types of sexual violence that I have experienced throughout my life, including ‘shocking’ details that in reality are - depending on your own experience - too mundane, too experienced, too relatable or too alien to truly shock. There is of course nothing wrong, and many things very right, about sharing one’s own experience if it is what the author wants for any number of reasons, from catharsis to activism. But I want to contribute to a discussion on a related but often overlooked conversation and instead of reliving some of my most painful experiences for potentially little gain, to consider what comes after, particularly in relation to sexuality and pleasure.

There is no redemption arc here; it is not a linear, easy story to tell. But after sexual violence there is (or there can be) recovery, there is enjoyment - and there are backwards steps and in-betweens. What would have helped me so much, both as a lost teenager and more recently as a quasi-lost twenty-something, would have been greater conversations about the opportunity to continue pleasure after trauma.

I know too many women who have been assaulted and gone on to thrive, survive or some combination thereof to truly doubt that life goes on afterwards. But what about sex? What about intimacy? What about masturbation? What about things that are often taken for granted like simple physical proximity of another body close to your own? How do you exist in a body where desire can make it feel like a battleground once again, between the want and the drive to protect, when stimulation is confused?



No-one spoke about pleasure and intimacy - especially for girls - much anyway when I was growing up, let alone after something as stigmatising as sexual violence. Because, despite all the talk of support for survivors, there is still shame, there is still embarrassment - some of it internalised - and there are still narrow boxes for us to fit into in the public gaze, and consequently in our own bodies and minds.

Pain is an easier narrative for women to fit into than pleasure, and this is especially true for those who experience sexual violence. Our discomfort, silence, forced smiles and exhaustion facilitate comfort and ease for others whilst we minimise ourselves. There is an established path for speaking about pain following sexual violence but it is not a wide one and is inaccessible for some - usually marginalised women, like women of colour, whose pain garners less sympathy.

Even for those who can go down this path, it has the potential to be stifling as mainstream discourse tends to focus on sexual violence as an individual experience rather than a systemic problem and hones in on graphic details. Discussing pleasure and sex after sexual violence is a way to widen this conversation beyond these confines to allow messiness, rawness and the radical potential for the kind of knowledge-sharing that allows us to accept the scale of the problem - and of our resilience. Is there a way to talk about orgasms during rape? After rape? How do we discuss not wanting or being able to have sex after sexual violence? Or being able to have sex with no problems and enjoy it? How do we talk about our (misplaced) shame or the shame we feel we should experience if we don’t feel any?



Feminine pleasure is under-funded, under-researched, poorly understood and only recently discussed - I had already been sexually assaulted by the time I had any meaningful understand of the clitoris. Extending the conversation about trauma and pleasure needs to start early and urgently; leaving out consent from our education and our society leads not only to moral and emotional bankruptcy but bodies denied their capacity for pleasure too.

Now, even in therapy I find that I don’t even have the language to start articulating what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained; the interstices where pleasure develops only to be whisked away by an instinct a moment later. Sometimes it feels like my body is fighting against itself, in a constant civil war with the aim to protect. I will want to do something, whether sexual or not, and despite the genuine desire to do so my body - with the best of intentions - will thwart me with instinctive fear.

I want to explain all the places trauma feels trapped and all the places there is freedom, liberation. Yet the language is not only unspeakable, but non-existent; I feel I don’t even know where to start in a patriarchal discourse. Even the very act of naming is a struggle; a friend and I recently had a long conversation about whether the term ‘vulva’ is too clinical and what part(s) most people would understand it to refer to.



Still, there are gains and opportunities to reshape things in ways more to my liking; to widen definitions. One of the things that has made a big difference in the search for some enjoyment in my body is comfort.

It is notable that I haven’t only changed inwardly over the various incidents of sexual violence but also outwardly; my main aim in clothing and underwear is now how comfortable it is whereas it used to be appearance. Grounding techniques are often used by people post-trauma and I find it easier to ground myself in comfort. I initially felt depleted by change, feeling like it was a shrinkage and denial of one of the key pillars of myself; a defeat by someone who hated me making me hate myself. What I didn’t understand was that just as beauty doesn’t have to be pain, attractiveness - to oneself and others - doesn’t have to be uncomfortable in all senses of the word. Finding some bodily comfort, in softness, in fabric, in not squeezing myself into shapes that will never fit, has helped me to find some mental comfort also - an important reminder of the need to listen to one’s body even when what it’s saying might be hard to hear or tune.

Justice looks different for everyone but part of justice for anyone who has experienced sexual violence is the opportunity and the hope to feel pleasure and enjoyment in all its different shades in your own body; your own home.

Hey! I'm Elspeth, a researcher, writer and survivor of sexual violence who is passionate about sexual and reproductive health and justice. I'm currently thinking about pleasure after trauma and looking at creative ways to explore this under-researched issue. You'll find me on Twitter @ellijwilson - please do reach out and say hi! Always open to collabs, discussing research and meeting like-minded people.
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NEON MOON® by Shaakirah Iqbal - 2M ago
‘Oh, you do burlesque? That’s so sick, respect that massively, it’s a proper art form’
‘Yeah, thanks!’
‘So you gonna do a private show for me??’
No… no, I’m fucking not.

Telling straight men, I do burlesque is an exercise in entitlement. Just as posting a slightly more risqué picture on Instagram seems to translate as an invite for vultures to circle your DMs, there’s something about even the suggestion of female skin that looks like an open sign. So many of our celebrations end up stigmatised and squashed as society tells us that safety requires clothes, if we don’t want unwanted advances, we must celebrate our bodies fully clothed or in secret.


I could’ve done that. I could’ve listened to my mum when she told 18-year-old me to stop posting slightly revealing pics on my Instagram. I could’ve chosen to remain covered up after being sexually assaulted, wearing long sleeves as armour and throw out my lingerie. I could’ve quit trying to reclaim my body and my sexuality, signed it over to trauma and let it go. It the sad reality for so many. Our bodies, our sexualities are so powerful, so when the weapon is turned back on us, its so easy to become scared. Feeling soft and small in a cage of sharp edges and skin.
 
Nothing about this society lets us be neutral about our bodies. Advertising wants us to pay with our hate, tries to fuel itself through self-loathing. It feeds us images of ‘beach bodies’ and airbrush fantasies, then tells us the remedy is weird powders of unknown origin that will definitely taste gross and definitely make you shit yourself. Or on the other-hand, it wants us to be head over heels in love with ourselves 24/7, to don the future is female t-shirts sold for £19.99 by the big man’s big business, made by oppressed, underpaid women, owning our sexuality in the regulated arena of the male gaze; hairless and lacey. There’s no room to breathe, it would be easier to quit.


I considered it but then became a burlesque performer instead.
Erotic performance seems like the furtherest place from neutral. I can see why from outside it may look the ultimate act of sexualisation, getting up on stage and getting your kit off, but from the inside, it’s a process of control and release. Burlesque, as with sex, sits right on that line between private and public, personal and political. While the final product is a public performance, it remains a deeply personal act. In its creation, you’re free. You build your own gaze, holding all the cards of representation.  My routines are character based, I escape into them fully from staging to costume to music and movement. Every second is crafted by me from the first notes to the last step off the stage. The final performance is a fleeting moment, a blur of adrenaline. When I’m on stage, I see no one, think of no one. Far from the myth that women’s sexuality is for the favour of men when I perform, I couldn’t care less, in fact, I couldn’t even tell you if there was even a man in the audience. I care only for me, for how it feels when I move my hips like that, how it feels when I touch my thighs without a single worry of appearance, how my shadow looks cast onto the black curtain caressing my silhouette. I am in my own space of fantasy, the sound of applause appears as an articulation of my own self-love, I know I deserve it.


I have been a cocktail waitress, a sugar baby, a cannibal, Eve, and Juliet. I’ve whipped a stage, licked a vibrator, poured water all over me, rubbed fake blood on my boobs. And I never cared about what the men in the room thought. I didn’t care when I picked out the lingerie, nor when I did my makeup or took my bra off. My sexuality doesn’t exist for consumption. There is more to it, far more space between being sexy and having sex, there’s a whole world of performance and fun in that gap.
 
Just like with the DMs popping up a minute after you pressed post, when I tell people I do burlesque I feel their assumption that I must be sexual, up for it. It's assumed that every celebration of our bodies, sexualised or not, is a statement of promiscuity, proof that I will have sex with you, consent. No.


The claws of patriarchy need to be peeled off our bodies. To me, my sexuality, my body, my performances exist in the realm of feminism. They’re personal, a part of a recovery process as I learn to take control of my body with each movement, each routine crafted and choreographed for me by me. It’s a safe space. So, no I don’t invite you in, no I won’t perform for you. You can pay to witness it, never truly knowing the thoughts and feelings behind it, but enjoying the end product. You can buy a ticket, sit in the audience, join all the others I’m performing in front of, not for.

Lucy Harbron fancies herself to be a regular Carrie Bradshaw, writing about everything from gender politics to skincare, and forever sharing her unqualified opinions on fashion. As a part-time content creator and burlesque performer and full time soft-girl, Lucy is passionate about empowering open and honest conversation, refusing to shy away from her over-emotional heart. Find her at @lucyharbron_ on insta and over at thingsthebooksforgot.blogspot.com
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NEON MOON'S WOMEN WEDNESDAY
We love how women are changing the world and making an impact to their home countries that we're talking all things awesome and new every Wednesday!

USA
(CNBC)
Scroll through Samaira Mehta's Instagram and you'll see that she is a lot like other kids her age. She posts about having a lemonade stand, going swimming and doing the "In My Feelings" dance challenge. But she also stands out from other 10-year-olds — Mehta is CEO, founder and inventor of CoderBunnyz, a board game that teaches players as young as 4 basic coding concepts. Players draw and move their bunny piece along the board with the goal of eating carrots and hopping to their final destination. "CoderBunnyz will basically teach you all the concepts you ever need in computer programming. There's the very basic concepts like sequencing and conditionals to more advanced concepts like loops, functions, stack, queue, lists, parallelism, inheritance and many others." Mehta says she first conceptualized the board game when she was "about 6½, maybe 7," after her father, an engineer who serves as an official advisor for the company, started teaching her how to code. As she researched learning materials for first-time coders, Mehta noticed there was an opening in the market for a product that helped young people pick up programming. "I'm really passionate about coding," says the budding entrepreneur. "I want the kids to be the same way, because coding is the future and coding is what the world will depend on in the next 10 to 15 years. So if kids learn to code now, [when] they grow up they can think of coding maybe as a career option." So far, Mehta says her company has generated about $200,000 in revenue since April 2018 and sold about 6,000 games. She says she is reinvesting that money in the company, saving for college and donating to charities that address homelessness in her community.
UK
(Hedgehog Friendly Town)
Hedgehogs are disappearing at an alarming rate. Most recent figures reveal that since the millennium, the population of these spiky mammals has fallen by a third in our towns and cities. It’s thought that there are just 1.5 million in the UK, when there was around 30 million in the 1950s. Schoolgirls Kyra Barboutis and Sophie Smith are on a mission to reverse the trend in their local area of Stratford upon Avon. The 13-year-olds set up the group Hedgehog Friendly Town three years ago after becoming worried about the issue. With the support of local vets, the pair run a “hedgehog hospital” in each of their back gardens and have helped rehabilitate more than 400 after the animals were brought in by the public. Helen, a 42-year-old early years family worker, said both Kyra and Sophie work round the clock to help the animals. “They make trips back and forth to the vets to get hedgehogs help or collect those they’ve been asked to nurse. “They get up early before school to check on the hedgehogs, feed them and administer medication if needed, and again in the evening. We take in a lot of hoglets and they need care through the night. “Both my family and Sophie’s chip in but the girls do 99 per cent of the work. They work closely with another local rescue centre and pass on any animals they don’t have room for but it would be great to be able to help more hedgehogs.” These girls are fighting for the little creatures who are so often overlooked and doing an incredible job at it!
NEPAL
(CAB Nepal)
Bhagwati Bhattarai-Baral has been playing cricket since 2007, after receiving a one-week training at school. “I was in eighth grade then and the training was open to everyone in my class. We started playing amongst friends, sometimes even skipping classes to play cricket. Back then, our families weren’t supportive. No one believed that we would make it very far. Our society did not have confidence in blind players like us.” Forming the team was a challenge in itself, “it was hard to find players and come together to practice. People living with disabilities often undermine their ability to play sports due to mobility restrictions and negative stereotypes and perceptions towards people living with disabilities.” Despite this, they persisted. In 2014, they defeated the English team in a 3-match series and this year they have won the First International Women’s Blind Cricket Series held in Pakistan. Bhattarai-Baral believes this win has finally earned her respect in her society as a national level cricket player. Due to limited financial resources and facilities provided to blind players, the team still face many challenges in terms of accessing suitable ground and equipment, even when preparing for international matches. But they haven’t given up. Bhattarai-Baral wants to continue playing and lead her team to the World Cup. “I also want to support the blind community. I want to bring more women and girls to the game and coach them. With everyone’s support, my plans might just work out.”

Have a positive week,

Love Neon Moon x   

Let us know your thoughts about this week's Women Wednesday below. 

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I’ve always had a complicated relationship with body hair. One of my earliest teen memories is plucking out hairs on my stomach with tweezers, terrified of the drag of puberty. When my mum noticed my first armpit hairs, she loudly and embarrassingly crowed ‘You’re a woman!’ (Scoff, the irony of becoming a woman via a masculinised trait is not lost on me).

So, like every other woman on this good earth I developed the traditional stigma and hatred of whatever sprouted from me. I shaved, waxed, foamed and plucked my whole way through my teens. I’d break out in a cold sweat if I forgot to shave before a night out. The only accessory I cared about was a bald vag. So what changed? And why does having body hair not make me a radical?

Once I stopped feeling like I’d be dumped for having pubes, I had the freedom to actually consider my relationship to my body hair. It was a process. While travelling, a razor was the last thing on my mind, and it allowed me to break the habit of literally a lifetime. A habit passed from generation to generation. Once my priorities were shifted from what I looked like to enjoying my life, shaving became less and less of a thing. And, on the inside, I realised that what my body looked like bore no relation to my identity or womanhood. It was sick.

Although my journey with hair has been empowering, it doesn’t make me radical, or brave, or boundary pushing. Amongst a lot of my peers, I feel in a kind of post-shave generation. But, speaking as a light-haired, white, cisgendered person, my choice not to shave has little bearing on the rest of the world. It is a complete privilege that how my body looks doesn’t infringe or conflict with my chosen identity category. #blessed. For the most part, how I move my body through the world is no big deal.

For womxn of colour, the choice to keep or remove body hair is an altogether different conversation. POC are far more likely to experience discrimination for their body hair than white people, often by other womxn, and yet often POC are written out of this feminist story. From shaving adverts to feminist photo shoots, white cis gals are marketed for their ability to appeal and assimilate within either category, their blonde and brown wisps of whatever just subtle enough to appear on the average insta scroll.

When it comes to folk who’s bodies exist outside of the cis matrix, body hair and what they choose to do with it has a massive significance in their day to day life. For many people, the removal of body hair can be empowering. Trans female activists regularly document their laser hair removal processes on the gram, celebrating leaving the trappings of masculinity behind. For trans men, the growth of body hair symbolises a right of passage into the male world from which they were previously closed off from.

And for those who face racial and gender prejudice simultaneously, things get even knotty. Gender non conforming or trans people endure violence, discrimination and harassment for their physical appearances. Without the privilege of passing for cis, or white, the choice to display body hair can have massive ramifications for the safety of those who refuse to conform to the rigid societal boundaries of gender. Artists and activists Alok Menon and Travis Alabanza have stormed through the raging waters of gender to create a path for GNC POC, and I would recommend heading to their socials and shows the minute you finish this.

What I’m trying to say is that bodies, and what we do with them, are political. Want to learn more? Then stop glorifying white womxn for not shaving their legs. Everyone’s journeys are unique but honestly, if your feminism doesn’t go beyond Miley’s multicoloured pits then it isn’t feminism. Open your eyes to your trans and GNC sisters. Open your ears to POC when they articulate their experiences. And for gods sake, the world won’t end if you forget razors at Boots.


Hiya! I’m Daisy, a part-time postgrad student and full-time hustler. I write about gender, sexuality and culture and can usually be found eating brunch or enjoying bevs in Manchester. Slide into my DM’s for collabs and/or banter (I take 5-7 working days to reply to any messages) x 

 

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