Can you survive a digital detox? | New Years Resolutions

When I was approached by a production company earlier this year about undertaking a Digital Detox experiment for a radio documentary, I smugly accepted. ‘How hard could it be?’

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My phone has been my companion for many years now. My legal guardian who looks after my friendships, keeps me updated with the outside world, entertains me and puts me to sleep at night. The world of Twitter and Instagram acting as my alarm each morning and tucking me in at night. News outlets would be my breakfast date, one thumb firmly stuck to the screen scrolling through the papped pictures of Z-listers and articles on a man in Sheffield who grew a potato which resembled Boris Johnson, the other hand shovelling in the cereals of which I’m not acknowledging the taste. I best get ready for the day. I jump in the shower, my right arm stretched out from under the waterfalls thumping away on the touch keyboard of my phone. Now is the the perfect time to check my emails. The conditioner sits fully soaked in my hair as I click through the link of the ASOS newsletter and end up eight pages deep on their sale section, again. *Ah I just remembered!* The Disney themed PJ’s I spot in the sale remind me of my friend who’s just got back from Disneyland. I open up Facebook and search for their profile, I must brush up on how their trip went before whatsapping them to ask how their trip went. I look down and catch a glimpse of my thighs, is that cellulite glistening amongst the suds of my shower gel? I should probably go to the gym at some point. I open up the gym’s app and scroll down through the classes. I might go to yoga tomorrow night, but I’m sure I’ve got something planned. My thumb hovers over the calendar app and scrolls through the dates- AHA! That’s it, I’m already booked. Dinner with a friend at the new Sri Lankan restaurant in town, the perfect opportunity to get some new Instagram content. Yoga and cellulite will have to wait. Maybe I’ll do some stretches at home. I step out the shower and dry myself with one hand, my eyes fixated to the screen in my palm. Google: Quick Yoga poses you can do at home. I scroll through the articles with little intent, I’m laying down on the bed, my ten fingers wrapped around the device. Ouch. A shooting pain runs through the front of my head. What it could be? I wonder if Google can answer me. Google: Sharp pain on side of head, causes. Brain Cancer. Brain tumour. Blood clot on the brain. I nervously laugh, what does Google know anyway. My phone rings, it’s mum, up pops the front camera. ‘What are you upto?’ Oh nothing much really.’ We FaceTime for half an hour my mum, the dog and me. ‘I’ve got to go, I’ve got things to do’ I close down the screen and open up ‘Notes’. I’ll jot down a to-do list to help motivate me. ‘Head to the gym. Buy some food. Need toilet roll and milk. Check invoices have been paid. Book eyebrows appointment’. I think I deserve a break. It’s lunch time now, what should I make? Google: Healthy lunch recipes for one. Chickpeas, Lentils, Eggs and Salad. As if, my eyes roll as I reach for the tin of beans and sausages. Two minutes on the microwave, what do I do in this wait? I open up Twitter to have a debate. “@_JessicaDavies Are beans a breakfast food or a side dish for dinner?” I scroll through the trending. Impeach him. Man City. #MondayMotivation. PING. Thank god, the timeline had stopped refreshing. My second date of the day, and this one was hot. Beans and sausages and an Instagram bot’. I scroll through the feed as I finish my lunch, then open up WordPress ‘It’s time for some work’ I think. I type and I type, the words flowing out then my thumb reaches down and clicks out of the app. It’s reaching for Insta’, it needs to see more. A mind of its own, it’s becoming a chore. I look at the clock, it’s 1.30pm. I’ll be awake for another twelve hours, I’m sure.

Ditching social media came at the perfect time for me. I was a slave to my screen, brainwashed by the apps. My mind trained never to switch off from the online World, my thumbs muscle memory trained to automatically hover directly over the Instagram spot. I was frustrated, I was tired and I was ready to make a change. The Digital Detox saw me have all my social media passwords changed and the app’s deleted. My online world vanished in a flash. I felt a sigh of relief but also a gasp. What do I do now? How do I bide my time? When I’m waiting in a que until it’s my place in line? When I’m waiting for a mate in a coffee shop or a pub? And where will I post all the pics’ of my grub? I met professionals, professors and influencers throughout the week who gave me some tips on how not to be weak. Do I ask for a selfie? I’ve got no page to update. By the time I’m back online it’ll be four days too late. I spent time getting to know the crew I worked with, chatting and sharing our thoughts and ideas on the car journeys instead of building up an invisible wall and having my nose permanently stuck to my screen in any awkward silences. I took onboard all of the tips the coach gave me, I bought an alarm clock so my phone wasn’t the first thing I see. I felt better, I felt energised, I felt like I’d turned a corner. But just three months on from my experiment and to the digital-free world I’m nothing but a mourner.

I’ve got a new phone, its exciting and new. I’m constantly checking and swiping and scrolling and uploading. I hate the habit I’ve got back into, the addict I’m slowly becoming.

In the New Year I’ve decided to make it my goal to stick to the limiting of my social media usage. I felt so much better when I felt I was utilising my time effectively, and enjoyed engaging with social media more when it was viewed as a reward. This time around I won’t be going into the Digital Detox blind, so hopefully I’ll be able to spot the slip ups more efficiently and correct them before the endless scrolling creeps back into my life again. Do you think you could complete a Digital Detox? What tips would you give to help prepare me for my break offline?

My Digital Detox Documentary is available to listen and download on BBC Sounds here

The Alternative Christmas Soundtrack: Podcast reviews

Nothing screams ‘it’s festive season’ like belting out Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas whilst decorating the tree, but sometimes we could all do with a break from the festivities (December is a long month right?) To help drown out the noise this Christmas, I’ve reviewed three of my favourite podcasts.

Happy Place Podcast with Fearne Cotton

Happy Place with Fearne Cotton

A special space for mindful conversations, Happy Place with Fearne Cotton was the first podcast which had me hooked. A follow up to her hit book ‘HAPPY’, Fearne uses the podcast as a platform to share her own experiences with mental health and explore the topic of feeling blue with a variety of well-known and inspiring guests.

The topic of happiness leaves an open invitation to endless conversation; What is being happy? And can you ever truly reach a state of happiness? The subject matter may seem a heavy one, but what Fearne is best at is making you feel as if you’re sat in your own living room having a natter over a cuppa tea with your mates. This easy-going approach to what are hard-hitting issues including depression, heartbreak and addiction allows you to reflect on your own emotions, and sit comfortably in the thought that it’s okay to not be okay. Featured guests range from the extremely funny Dawn French in the first series of the podcast, to none other than former secretary of state and leading ‘Nasty Woman’ Hilary Rodham Clinton in more recent episodes. Lesser known names but equally as inspiring, are the likes of writer, journalist and all round bad-ass Bryony Gordon, and Poorna Bell who courageously leads a discussion on grief after losing her husband to heroin addiction.

This heart-warming club of which we are all invited to join is Fearne’s greatest work yet, and I’ve blissfully adopted her noteful ‘Mmmmm’s into my every day life. Insightful, endearing and a virtual hug through your headphones, this podcast is perfect for anyone who needs a little extra support this Christmas.

Happy Place is available on all podcast platforms, for more info click here.

My Dad wrote a Porno

My Dad wrote a porno

I mean, it’s quite literally what it says on the tin. Jamie Morton’s dad wrote a porno, or to be specific- a dirty book about the pots and pans industry and a horny AF women called Belinda. But instead of burning it on the log fire and gifting his Dad coal for Christmas, Jamie turned his Dad’s filthy thoughts into a groundbreaking comedy podcast. I mean seriously, he really did. Joined by his two best mates Alice Levine and James Cooper, the cringed out trio narrate the books whilst picking apart the porn inside. It’s simply genius. The child-like laughter at the mention of bodily fluids and the grossed out sighs let-out by the three friends as they bond over the ludacris which is Jamie’s Dad’s sexual fantasies, teleport you right back to when you accidentally first watched a sex scene on the tv with your parents. Imagine Kevin and Perry Goes Large, but in 2019. No thank you Mrs Patterson.

The show has become a cultural phenomenom, touring the World as a Live show and garnering a loyal celebrity following. Ever thought you’d hear Lin-Manuel Miranda review an independent porn fiction? Well now you can with the addition of the Footnotes episodes. This podcast is probably not one to listen to whilst dishing out dinner with your gran (be sure to scrub those pots and pans kids), but it certainly will help break the ice at a work’s Christmas do’.

My Dad wrote a porno is available on all podcast platforms, for more info click here

The Guilty Feminist with Deborah Frances-White

The Guilty Feminist Podcast

I’m a feminist but I got paid money to pose topless for men’s magazines, and I enjoyed it. Yep, I think I qualify for a membership into this movement.

This comedy podcast is anchored by tear-rollingly funny comedian Deborah Frances-White, as White and her panel of mischevious accomplices share their 21st Century Feminist views, along with their insecurities, hypocrisies and fears that undermine them. As a self-confessed feminist who’s outspoken about the movement, I am all to aware of my actions, morals and principles which pop up on a regular basis and scream ‘BAD FEMINIST! BAD FEMINIST! GET DOWN FROM THAT MAN!”. Whilst we live in a society which continues to scrutinise eachother’s every move (can you be a feminist and get a bikini wax!?) this refreshingly honest series allows women across the World to breathe, and remember we are not perfect. Think you thought you knew what a Feminist was? Think again.

The show is filmed in front of a live audience and carries a similar feel to panel shows such as ‘Mock the Week’, keeping the content light in it’s delivery, but heavy in it’s topics. White is joined by a variety of guests, from fellow comedians to trail blazers and ambassador’s. This series provides women with a safe space to share their anger at the patriarchal society, whilst also admitting that we secretly like it when you pay for dinner. Me? Guilty as charged.

The Guilty Feminist is available on all podcast platforms. For more information click here

Check out the other blogs in the 12 Blogs Of Christmas and let me know what your fave podcast is!

Escapism

Have you ever fully felt present? Inarguably engulfed in the here and now? Void of any outside influence or worry? It’s what we all desperately search for, isn’t it? The peace, the stillness, the seemingly flat-line of life, where gargantuan levels of life exists.

I’ve escaped to the country for the weekend, which isn’t difficult to do when you live in Wales. A fourty-five minute drive out of the bustling Capital which is Cardiff has transported me inland, where I seem to be the only human who exists. A desire to escape my normality and the four walls of my city life flat has led me to a charming Air B&B on the cuff of Monmouthshire, where such is so peaceful that the dull hum of the fridge and the fizzing of the WiFi router is enough to distract you from the happenings which lie outside. My creative juices- as an overtly confident drama student would declare – have felt somewhat confined over the last couple of months. Not due to a lack of ideas or ambition, but of the ‘get up and go’ which entails distracting myself from the familiarities which lie in my flat long enough to put my phone – and social media – away and pick up my laptop to write and to edit and to exhert excitement into a piece of machinery of which I’ve sat in an office chair staring at for seven hours previously. I needed to detach work from my personal passion projects, and reconnect with the exuberance I’d left behind on the office desk. I needed to look up and look out of an unfamiliar window and inhale the essence which laid outside it. I needed to fling open the glass and breathe in the crisp air which lifted the fog that shrouded my brain. I needed to escape.

The brilliance of nature is widely scoffed at. An olde-worlde answer which doesn’t stack up with 21st Century problems. I’m guilty myself of ignoring it’s miracles, eyes glued firmly to the device which sits pride of place in my hands. But there is no better practice when mastering the art of being present and alive than sitting amongst the trees and the life which thrives amongst them. ‘She’s a treehugger!’ I hear you cry. Not quite yet, but there’s still time; As I relish in the beauty of the birds and the ahem- bees which dance on the opposite side of the pane of glass I can’t help but feel connected, feel inspired, feel creative again.

Through the looking glass. I spent most of my
Time at this window.

I closed my eyes and listened to the life unfolding around me. I’m failing to recall a time I noticed such a variety of bird songs flounceing through the air; The edgeless purring coming from the chicken pen was in stark contrast to the high-pitched call which echoed from the Red-Kite soaring above. I opened my eyes and everything seemed brighter. The leaves fell in a spiral, mincing off their branches to their final resting space. Apples lay at my feet, bruised by their hardship, damaged goods. A squirrel leapt across the grass with grace which could challenge a RAD trained ballerina. In the distance, pillows of clouds consumed the top of Sugar Loaf mountain, its peak name-sakingly peaking through the fog to expose it’s greatness to those quick enough to capture it. In hindsight, none of these things were extroadinarily obscure in themselves, but the anchoring of the present moment of which they provided was a step towards creating my own corner of extraordinary.

Connecting with yourself, with your aims, with your goals, is a necessary step in reminding ourselves why we’re here and what it is we want to do. It is so easy to get caught up in the mundaneness of life, the 8am alarm clocks and the 7pm microwave meals. Allowing yourself time to escape, gifting yourself those moments of stillness you will never get back is an act of kindness of which you will never regret. Whether you physically escape to a bolthole in the country like myself, or step outside and take in the greatness of your local park, next time don’t just watch the World go by, entangle yourself amongst it.

It’s time to check in with your mindfulness.

It’s time to check in with your mindfulness.

I’m sat with an ahem, double gin and tonic on my one side, and ‘The Motivation Mainfesto’ by Brendan Burchard on my other. I’ve claimed my position on the balcony of a bar down Cardiff Bay with my visions of living the idyllic, ‘writer inspired by beautiful views’ high life, interrupted by a sea of Swansea accents which penetrate my eardrums as they toast the hot weather with pints of Welsh Cider, and the NSFW bedroom antics they got up to the previous night (honestly, nothing like a overhearing a conversation on grey hairy balls to inspire you to look within). An array of suspicious black curly hairs are entwined in the sticky alcohol infused table I call home for the next 80 minutes or so as I settle in for some much needed *me doing something I actually enjoy doing * time.

This blog has been a long while coming. Something I’ve pushed to the side whilst continuing to convince myself I have no time to write. No time amongst the endless scrolling. No time amongst the moaning. No time amongst the worrying. No time amongst the smiling, the laughing, the creating, the making. I try and practice my mindfulness as often as possible, but the last two months has seen me drift away into no-mans land on a leaking old kayak; Doing everything, but doing nothing. It’s about time I checked in with my mindfulness.

Mindfulness to some may seem like a load of codswallop. A land of airy-fairy; for hippies and yuppies and that weird group of kids at school who wore blankets as jackets and ties around their head. Although it’s admittedly questionable whether the cheap skunk they were smoking may have fogged up their adolescent minds, those hippie kids were sure onto something great. I’ve been practicing mindfulness for about five years now, since I discovered ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne. Some of you may have heard of it, some of you may have fallen in love with it, some of you may have turned your nose up at it. But one thing you can’t do is deny it; deny it’s basic message which is the Law Of Attraction- you attract what you think. Now hang in there, I’m not about to go all Uri Geller on you, I’m just highlighting something which has got me out of a few down-and-out places over the years. I have thought my way out of a mediocre reality and into a World of wonder and glee; a World full of experiences beyond my wildest dreams. And by ‘thought‘ I don’t mean I’ve sat in my room in my own self-pity whilst hoping the winds may change. But by continuing to envision a better life for myself; to hold on to the positives, the dreams, the unreachable, whilst working until 2.30am pulling pints in my local pub and living in parents spare room. And this was after I’d peaked at glamour modelling.

You’re going to have to get a full time job Jess” my Dad would tell me, as I prepared for another slog at the bar. I’d graduated University and had had to move back to Aberystwyth because I couldn’t afford to live in Cardiff now the safety blanket of my student loan had evaporated. The Ban The Lad Mag campaigns were in full swing and my modelling work had dried up, and when the work did come in, it was a six and a half hour Arriva trains (trust me, this matters!) train journey away in London. I had a degree in a topic I had no interest in pursuing, and years of experience in an industry which was disappearing. “Something’s going to happen” I’d tell my Dad, refusing to let go of the dream of a life outside of working in the one clothes shop in town. Days and weeks went by as I would shrug off my Dad’s validated worries with a spring in my step on my way to another 2am shift. I was adamant that there was more than this, and I refused to accept the reality which was point blank staring me in the face. Then I received a call from my friend of a last minute job that had come up, in none other than the Bahamas (I mean seriously, I’ll take that sign from above thank you). With a joint ‘fuck it‘ we both agreed to go together and that trip was the start of my “Something’s going to happen’“; The start of my new life. Fast forward three months from that trip and I had moved back to Cardiff into my own apartment, working in a job role I would never have thought up for myself, but which seemed as if it was made for me. Since then, I’ve held onto the practices of ‘The Secret’ as proof that miracles do really happen, but positivity isn’t an easy ride.

Three years on and I’ve rode the waves of a rough sea. With mind-blowing highs, comes mind-numbing lows. I’ve found happiness, then I’ve lost it, I’ve felt as if I had everything planned, and then I’ve never felt so unstable in my life. I’ve discovered yoga, I’ve collected crystals, I’ve meditated for hours, and I’ve thought it was a loads of bollocks. When things aren’t exactly going your way, it’s hard to wake up and smile and tell yourself everything is going to be alright. No one has a great day every day, not even the Dalai Lama. But having some positive thoughts to anchor yourself too in times of distress is a damn good place to start. The last few weeks I’ve lost sight of my mindfulness; I pushed it aside like a banana skin lobbed out the window, playing second best to a phone which refuses to leave the grasp of my hands. But in its absence, boy did I miss it.

Because what can’t be denied is the power of positive thoughts, happy minds and simple actions of love. It’s quite simply science (seriously, you can look it up).

If you think good things, you’ll feel good things. If you do good things, you’ll feel good things. If you say good things, you’ll feel good things. If you tell yourself everything is going to be okay, and you believe it, then everything is really going to be okay. Somehow (I haven’t quite figured that bit out yet).

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be downward dogs and breathing techniques, it can be sitting in silence whilst in the bath, or putting your phone down to talk to your friends. It can be looking up when you’re walking through nature, or smiling at the person cycling passed you (honestly, people always look so surprised when I do this!). It can be putting your favourite cheesy music on full blast when you wake up in the morning and dancing around your flat naked (just me? Okay). Check in with the things that make you feel good, that release that hit, that serotonin (The instant happy chemicals) or dopamine (the happy chemicals which come from anticipation), that feeling of “ah, that was nice”, and do them tenfold.

My personal biggest challenge at the moment is quietening my mind when it throws the big question of “How?” To the forefront of my brain with a mighty sling shot (I’m convinced this is how headaches occur). How am I going to achieve everything I want to achieve? How am I going to make my money to live a comfortable life? How am I going to settle down and start my own family? You can get so caught up in the How that you can miss it happening right in front of you. See the thing is, you’re not supposed to know how; the innocent and untraveled and inexperienced 22 year old me knew that. She didn’t worry about the how, she laughed in the face of the how, she just knew that it would. And that was enough to change the direction of my life. I think I’m ready to meet her again.

The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

This week saw the daytime TV talk show ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’ cancelled permanently by ITV after a guest committed suicide just one week after being publicly humiliated over a lie detector test whilst filming the show. A father, grandfather and an individual suffering from mental health, Steven Dymond’s death has garnered the attention of MP’s, psychiatrists and experts who are all calling for urgent action to be taken by production companies to provide up-to-par aftercare for their guests, with Downing Street adding that the case was ‘deeply disturbing’.

And that it is, but what is perhaps more deeply disturbing is how it has taken fourteen years of degradation of their participants- many vulnerable individuals- across three thousand, three hundred and twenty episodes for the show to be cancelled. Or how 1.5 million people regularly tuned in to watch what a district judge once described as ‘human bear-baiting’ unfold on prime-time tv with their cup of tea and toast as part of their morning routine. Or perhaps how anyone expected nearly twenty-odd-thousand guests, most seeking help with sex, alcohol and drug related problems, to be provided with top-level aftercare by a production company profiting off their pain. And maybe the most deeply disturbing of them all, is the hypocrisy of the MP’s claiming a tv entertainment show, for right or wrong, need to take responsibility for the care of their vulnerable participants, whilst child poverty figures sit above 50% in some of the most deprived parts of Britain.

Reality-tv has provided a platform to spread hate and propaganda towards our societies poorest and defenseless. From shows like The Jeremy Kyle Show who entice guests in with the promise of first-class therapists, a posh hotel and a cigarette allowance before Kyle screams judgements at them in front of a baying audience, pointing our their dowdy appearance whilst they sit in the tracksuit they’ve been encouraged to wear. To documentaries’ such as ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ which follows enforcement officers as they repossess the homes of those too poor to pay their bills; and ‘Rich House, Poor House‘ which sees families from opposite ends of the financial and class spectrum swap houses and budgets for a week, providing a cruel insight into the lives of their rich counterparts who take pity upon their debts and less-than appealing lifestyles, some of whom take it upon themselves to be their knight in shining armour and buy the poor family a new carpet, before slipping quickly back into their comfortable life in their sought after postcode. And let’s not forget reality shows aimed at a younger audience such as Geordie Shore, who handpicked young adults from working-class backgrounds and struck them off the dole and into the limelight; ploughing them with free alcohol and a new found infamy in the World of television. All of these shows garner Nationwide attention and aim to highlight the worst qualities of the lower-classes in order to humiliate and ridicule for the gain and entertainment of others, all the while whilst pushing an ideal supported by decades of austerity that these individuals are a nuisance to our society. And we the public buy into it every single time.

Reflecting our ancestors medieval traditions, we throw insult and judgement’s at those airing their dirty laundry on our screens, one rotten tomato after another whilst cackling at the despair of others like the sadist’s we so desperately claim not to be; Unfortunately social media only acts as an enabler to these views. I recently watched an episode of Blind Date which portrayed a lady as being a little ungrateful at being picked and who giggled along with the crowd at the appearance of her date. Twitter lit up with negative comments about this woman’s looks, her attitude, how she ‘wasn’t a looker herself’. Tweet after tweet nitpicked away at this woman’s body image whilst she desperately tried to personally reply to all the criticism coming her way by sharing how nervous and awkward the heckling audience made her feel, and that she wasn’t used to being on television. I felt extremely uncomfortable watching all of this unfold, it was as if she had been thrown to the lions and was furiously trying to crawl away, with I imagine very little aftercare on how to deal with such a scrutiny from the Blind Date team. This raised the question Why we as a society use TV as our output in taking so much pleasure from another’s pain? Watching someone else’s misery is a leisurely activity for us, our Friday night wind-down. Our Saturday’s are spent finding their social channels to tell them how we feel about their performance. And as Sunday comes around, we prepare for our own battles we’ll face in the week ahead that are, thankfully, not played out in the public eye, whilst our ‘willing’ participants (a term many like to use to support this theatre of cruelty) deal with the aftermath of their lives changing forever. Chris Lyons, a previous guest on The Jeremy Kyle Show has claimed the show “Ruined my life. All of a sudden, I wasn’t Chris Lyons any more. I was just that guy off The Jeremy Kyle Show”.

No one can prepare you for the mass judgement of others, whether you’re semi-aware of the publicity the show brings i.e: being a contestant on Love Island, to filming a one-off tv appearance you thought would be ‘a bit of fun’. The cancelling of The Jeremy Kyle Show is a step in the right direction toward ending poverty porn and the glee in which others find in it, but whilst production companies have a duty of care to their participants, we have a responsibility as humans to be a little nicer to each other; And to recognise that we are contributing to a class-divide problem which stretches much wider than the channels encased in our small screens. Would Steve Dymond have felt the immense pressure and humiliation which led to him taking his own life from just Kyle’s comments alone? Maybe. But a heckling audience and the thought of the widespread embarrassment and judgement from failing a lie detector test in front of 1 million viewers to come might have just been his tip of the iceberg.


If you are struggling with your mental health and would like someone to talk to, please contact mind.org.uk or call 0300 123 3393.

The currency we place on our bodies: Mental Health Awareness Week.

The currency we place on our bodies: Mental Health Awareness Week.

This week marks the annual Mental Health Awareness Week, and this years theme is a topic which effects most of us, across all ages and gender- Body Image. Body image is the way we think and feel about our bodies.

Recent statistics show that 1 in 5 adults have felt shame over their bodies in the last year (MHF, 2019) and over a third have felt anxious or depressed because of concern over their body image (MHF, 2019)


Last week gifted us the hotly anticipated MET Gala, and after a Twitter Moments feature showed up on my feed of model and activist Emily Ratajowski’s appearance at the event, it also blesssed me with a Twitter exchange which got a few of us hot under the collar, for all the wrong reasons. Ending in damaging hashtags such as #aimfortheconcave in reference to Emily’s stomach being thrown around as a ‘joke’ and accusations that I was tweet shaming (is that a thing now? I’ll take it) it was clear to all that this women’s body got us all fired up. But I’m not here to psycho-analyse and breakdown each tweet- Lord knows I’m not perfect when it comes to my views and we’re all welcome to our own opinions and being able to share them online, I mean that’s the beauty of Social media, right? – but instead of hide this exchange under a bed of RuPaul’s Drag Race retweets, I wanted to sit in all it’s uncomfortableness and explore and explain why these words offended me, and Why, when it comes to validating- or criticising- women’s bodies, we shouldn’t all have to ‘ Calm down, sweetie‘.

The initial tweet was one of thousands, and I mean thousands, referencing Em Rata’s body at the Gala. Sure, she was wearing a stomach showing dress so I’m sure she was well aware of the attention it was going to garner. Tweet after tweet queried how hungry she must be, how she’s probably never ate, how is she human, how do her organs fit in her body. All remarks that aren’t that offensive, right? I mean, people are saying how skinny she looks! They want to know her secret! Who would get offended by that!? But slim-shaming, or perhaps even more damaging, slim-praising, is just as unhealthy to our society and to young, impressionable individuals as it’s treacherous cousins, fat-shaming and obesity worshipping. We wouldn’t dream of publicly tweeting about how someone’s organs must be bursting at the seams because of their large size- it certainly goes both ways. I understand the many of these tweets were meant with no malice and as throw-away comments, not to be broken down on little old me’s blog pages, but it’s not individual comments I want to concentrate on. With hundreds of women taking to social media to praise and fawn and critique and judge the body of a woman who spends a good proportion of her time championing the fact she is more than her body and image- I’m curious, What is it about the female body which leaves us obsessing over each other’s biological being?

There were men at that Gala. Many men. I did not see one tweet commenting on their bodies. I mean jeez, these guys turn up to the hottest fashion event of the year with the theme being none other than ‘CAMP’ in a black suit, and have fan girls Worldwide drooling over them. These women turn up in a gown they’ve spent months designing, going to fittings, HOURS in hair and make-up, and their bodies are immediately scrutinised under a microscope, from the way they’ve parted their hair to the colour of their toenails. It is rare that these men are subject to the vast amount of scrutiny, or validation, over their bodies as their female counterparts. The female anatomy has, for many years, been a pawn for society. Used as a weapon in this game that we call life to belittle, or give currency in the form of validation, to women who fell under it’s spell.

From a young age, I have been fully aware of the body I am in; How it looks, it’s flaws, it’s, it’s highs, it’s lows. I remember shaving my legs at around the age of ten and taking a chunk out of my ankle (who knew you’re not supposed to shave your ankles?). I remember lying to my teacher that I had my period so I wouldn’t have to take part in swimming lessons and have the boys in my class make comments about my growing breasts, at the age of eleven. I remember hating my chunky thighs and how they looked in my football shorts, at the age of twelve. I remember shaving half my eyebrows off too look like tadpoles at the age of thirteen, because I thought the ‘bushy’ bit was too bushy. My teenage years were tinged with a dark cloud that loomed over it, in a constant state of worry from my feet, to my earlobes, of the way my body looked. But perhaps most telling of my shift towards full awareness of my body and it’s acceptance within society- and why terms that are applauded on pro-anorexic sites like #concave trigger me- is that by age 17, I frequented these sites too.

What ironically started off as a sixth form project where I had to investigate a topic and write a diary following my journey and my findings (honestly, I’m dumb-founded how this was ever signed off by my teachers) turned into a regular habit of me browsing pro-ana sites and eventually engaging in content. Starting my interest in body image and Feminism young, I chose to explore the pressures on young women and whilst searching for individuals I could interview, I came across a forum which included teenage girls praising each other for not eating that day; posting pictures of them looking extremely skinny and other girls commenting underneath how jealous they were of their bones sticking out. Aha! I had my subjects. I browsed these forums regularly, chatted with girls on there, lifted exchanges and comments and embossed them into what was probably the hardest-hitting Welsh Baccalaureate essay the school has ever seen (probably?). But as I studied the behaviour on these sites I soon realised after a few months of anonymously engaging, I kind of…. wanted in? I posted a couple of pictures my friends had taken of me celebrating the end of my exams at the beach where my ribs sort of poked out, and waited for the replies. And they flowed in thick and fast. Girls fawned over my boney physique, sharing their jealousy and how they wish they looked like me. It was bizarre, and strange and a time in my life where I was very, very, unsure of who I was and what I was doing. I kind of tried not to eat much, but I wasn’t very good at it. Luckily, I was not a victim of an illness but just an impressionable teenage girl and once I had finished school for the Summer I was lucky enough to have my attention directed away from these sites and towards a boyfriend and my friends. And I’ve never visited them since.

I’m absolutely not taking anything away from those who suffer from the debilitating and evil illnesses such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or any other eating disorders, and I am no way in a position to begin to share what it must feel like to suffer from those diseases. But what I can and hope to do is highlight how impressionable we are from a young age, and throughout our life, and how the habits and opinions of others when it comes to body image and the way we look can invigorate, embody and overtake us for all the wrong reasons. How do we possibly begin to combat this epidemic of obsession over the way we look, that has been drilled into us by society from a young age? I don’t have the answer for that. But a good place to start would be to eliminate the currency in relation to our body image, the idea that the way our flesh and bones are formed make us any better or worse of a human. Any more or less worthy of love and respect. The admiration of others, the judgement of others. The shaming. The praising. The fact that a women’s stomach is Worldwide news.

Roughly ten years on and I still have a very up and down relationship with my body. I’ve worked in an industry which profits solely off of my body. I’ve profited off my body. This means I’ve had to pay very close attention to it’s weird and wonderful shapes, it’s reoccurring dimples and stretch marks. I’ve put on weight. I’ve lost it. I’ve had people comment I look too slim. I’ve had people comment I look too chubby. I’ve filled bits out (literally), and I’ve wanted to take parts away (also literally). Do I still look at my body in it’s undressed state every morning in the mirror and subconsciously evaluate it? Yes. Do I allow myself to be validated by my body anymore? I’m working on it.


For more information and statistics about mental health awareness week and this years theme click here .

If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this blog , you can contact BEAT, Beating eating disorders, for help and support here .

For mental health support and advice, contact MIND, at https://www.mind.org.uk 7

FYI: Always take No as an answer.

FYI: Always take No as an answer.

Scrolling vigorously through Twitter for the eleventh time that hour I caught on to a theme in which had been imploded onto my timeline over the last 48 hours. For this week, Twitter has been alive with the sound of men having to be told that no means no. And I’m not talking the deep, dark, deadly bloody serious rape terms of ‘No’. I’m talking in terms of “Hi Can I get your number?” And the answer being ‘No’ category. For something that may seem rather innocent, and I’m sure for many it starts out as just that, these spur of the moment advances can take a deep turn into the “Is this guy gonna follow me home and murder all my cats” lane pretty quickly.

I’m not saying men have a problem with rejection. But men have a problem with rejection. If that churns a feeling of anger or irate in you, you may possibly be relating to that on some kind of level. And I’m not judging you, because it is engrained deep in in our past. In women being viewed as objects, as something to own, as a mans property. Something you are well within your right to claim ownership of. Except, you’re not. I know this sounds cave-man like, and we’re like, totally in the 21st Century you guuuuuys, but this is not an occurrence which only happens in the dregs of the dark ages. You see, worryingly I cannot recall a single time in my life where I have turned down a guy, whether that be for the offer of a drink, a dance, a date, or to give my number out, where I haven’t felt the need to give an excuse. I’m just going to repeat that for effect. FELT THE NEED TO GIVE AN EXCUSE. Because when it comes to respecting a woman’s simple ‘No’, this seems to be a concept of which is extremely difficult for some men to process. “WhY nOt? HaVe YoU GoT A bOyFrIeNd?” No. Can I just not fancy you? Can I just not want to give my personal number which holds the key to the backdoor of my fucking Narnia to a bloke who’s not wearing any socks and has strolled over here after approximately – eiiiight? We’ll guess eight– pints of lager? There’s an entitlement. They want an answer. They want a reason why, like they deserve it. Guys, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but you don’t deserve it. And no, I’m not trying to tease you (HONESTLY whoever decided to teach us all as little kids that we’re being mean because we like you has a lot to fucking answer for). I’m not going to change my mind if you keep following me around the club, cock-blocking me whilst pretending to be my boyfriend every time a guy steps within four foot of me like it’s cute and endearing- it’s not, it’s fucking crazy! Honestly, if a girl acted like that (and I’ll hear you out boys, I know they’re out there) you’d be marking her down as a psycho before she could mumble the words “Beeeeb, do ya wanna buy meh a drink?”

New age Feminist Icon (and slowly becoming my fave person ever) Jameela Jamil tweeted this week of her experience when a guy asked for her number and she said no, well, sort of. She explained (are you catching on to the trend here?) that she had a boyfriend. And then THANKED HIM for the offer. That’s right folks, we even thank you for the privilege now! Thank you for considering me kind sir, but this young maid already has an owner.

What comes as no surprise but is equally as terrifying is how quickly the ahem- kind gentleman- starts reeling off threats and insults. Ahhh, the insults. I know them all to well. “Don’t fancy you anyway you slag” “Didn’t wanna shag you anyway you minger” Awww, that’s the reason you came all the way over here just because you don’t want to get in my pants? Weird flex but ok hun. Jameela continued:

Jameela’ s confessions impacted me on a level in which I could relate. The “I’ve got a boyfriend” trick is the oldest in my little black book of excuses. As someone who’s stayed relatively single my whole adult life (honestly I’m FINE *insert Ross Geller voice) I’ve had to arm myself with a plethora of weapons, ready to unleash as soon as those five dreaded words drop out of a guys mouth. “Can I have your number?” is a phrase which lives on a level beyond the “What’s the WiFi code?” And just below the “Why don’t you have any kids yet?“. Because “Can I have your number” means “I want to see you again”. It means this has gone swell. All 30 seconds of it. It means you want me to invest my time, which you don’t know how little or much I have considering you met me one gin and tonic ago, into messaging you. It’s a commitment. And it’s not one I’m going to jump into lightly with some guy I just bumped into at the back room bar of Revolution. Of course, I’m not that much of a cynic. I’m not talking about the once in a lifetime attraction. The “we’ve just eye-fucked across the room for two hours and snogged on the dance floor and she’s told me about her Aunty Sue’s alcohol addition and we’re going to run away to Vegas and get married” attraction. If there’s a spark. Then go for it. But know when there isn’t. Like, erm, two minutes after you’ve met. Or when I serve you the drink that you’ve just paid for because it’s part of my job. (Are you keeping up?)

Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Jameela’s story wasn’t a one-off case. Many women replied with their own experiences of having turned down men and their reactions, and some are quite simply fucking terrifying.

There are literally hundreds of them. This is our life. Day in. Day out. It is exhausting. I used to work at a pub where drunk guys would ask my sober self for my number. I would politely decline, even laugh along (that’s another one of our tricks, we don’t think you’re funny, we just don’t want you to get angry at us), but they wouldn’t stop. When it was quiet, I would have to glass collect. They would follow me around “Why won’t you give me your number then?” “Is it cos’ you’ve got a boyfriend?” ‘Yeah” I’d lie. They need the validation. They need to know that if you didn’t have a boyfriend, of course you would pick them. And then they go. One simple lie about a made-up boyfriend and they’re off to the next pub with nothing but a “I hope he treats you nice” on their way out. You see the thing that I have sussed out with guys is that they respect my made up boyfriend, more than me, as a human, standing in front of them, saying no.

Then there’s the drink situation. You offer me a drink. I decline. You get arsey. You offer me a drink. I accept. You expect something from me. One small gesture from you, is a mind-fuck for me. If I politely accept, then you’ll glare at me every time another man dares to talk to me like you’ve bought ownership of me via a £5.95 glass of Sauvignon. If I decline, I’m the stuck up tart who you and your mates make comments about every time I go to the toilet. I swap my ring to my wedding finger. It keeps the guys away. My friend and I make a pact to be lesbian lovers. It draws guys in.

I’m not saying that all men are shit bags. I’m not even saying these men are shit bags. But what I am doing is pointing out how consent and respect aren’t limited to the worst case scenarios. Something as simple as offering a girl a drink can be lovely thing to do, when it’s done properly. When it’s done wrongly, I’m being escorted to my car at night after my shift or walking home with my keys entwined in my fingers because you might still be lurking around waiting for me to finish work. No means no, in all circumstances.

*Featured image by Robin Duister https://cargocollective.com/robinduister/filter/drawing/No-Means-No-1


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