The Feminist Movement has had a mainstream comeback: Who are the haters who want to tear it down?

Brilliantly, the last few years has brought in a new wave of mainstream feminism. Greater focus has been placed on women’s issues and on furthering gender equality. Many mainstream celebrities, both men and women, have “come out” as feminists. This has been extremely welcome for most people who want the voices of their sisters, mothers and wives to be finally listened to. It surely must be a much more peaceful time to be a teenage girl, being able to grow up knowing that you are worth far more than just your physical appearance. However, there has also been a significant, reactionary backlash against the renewed feminist movement. Why is this?

The other day I posted a comment on a mainstream left of centre newspaper on an article that concerned a story of a campus rape in America. I posted a very benign comment that was relatively free from my deeper anger regarding the issue of campus rape; offering my sympathies to the victim and praising her bravery in speaking out candidly about the attack. I came away from social media for a while and got on with my day; worked on a few articles and went out to grab some dinner with friends. I didn’t give my comment a second thought. I’m a fairly active commentator to the point where its become something of an addiction; I can’t really keep up the various sentences that I fling out into the world. When I returned I was shocked to see that my quietly sympathetic little comment had been torn this way and that by what felt like an angry internet hoard.

I was described by one person (who had put his job title as Pokemon Master) as an “idiot feminist”. This was despite me giving no mention of feminism within my comment. Indeed, I wasn’t aware that sympathy for a rape victim directly correlated with being a feminist. Many of the angry comments appeared to be quite aggressively opposed to the notion of women’s rights. Looking at their facebook profiles, these men appeared to have quite strong opinions against the feminist movement; sharing video and content that pointed towards strange conspiracies regarding a feminist movement that would make you think that there is a secret underground bunker somewhere where Gertrude Stein and bell hooks are planning the worldwide genocide of all men. It quickly became apparent that these men were not arguing against me, they were arguing against a boogeywoman lefty stereotype that they wished to tear down. They argued against points that I hadn’t made and it was a strangely fascinating process to watch.

Anti Feminists latch on the more cliched aspects of feminism and treat these as representative of the whole movement. Feminism is one of the most diverse movements, rife with debate; with activists and writers taking various and strongly opposed viewpoints. However, this diversity is not always reflected in anti-feminist debate. For example, the amount of times that I’ve seen a dated and extreme Andrea Dworkin quote dredged up out of context as “proof” that feminism is illogical, aggressive and irrelevant. I am a feminist. I also personally don’t feel that certain radical thinkers such as Andrea Dworkin represent me and that is okay. Just as many men might find fault with the views of certain philosophers who also may share some of their core values. There are certain fights within the feminist movement that I am completely behind and others that I find problematic. For example, I am personally against the opinion that pornography automatically degrades women, which is a view held by some prominent feminists. There is no one size fits all feminism, and like all movements, it is far better this way.   

Bizarrely, there are many women who identify as being strongly anti-feminist. Could it be that in a world where everybody identifies as a feminist, seeking an alternative identity is somewhat of a means of being counter cultural for many young women? I still meet women every day who shudder at the thought of being labelled a feminist. I met a girl not so long ago who expressed the view that she couldn’t support feminism because feminists took things “too far”. She gave a rather confused example of more women getting jobs simply because they are women. This is a strange and very narrow perspective to take and ignores the significant disadvantages that women can and do face in the workplace.

However, such views are not uncommon. Last year a hashtag trended entitled “I don’t need feminism because”. Over 3,400 women tweeted pictures of themselves holding placards with staggeringly ahistorical reasons written as to why feminism isn’t relevant to their lives. Many of these women were young and perhaps without extensive research it is difficult to see how the history of feminists fighting for their basic human rights has shaped the lives of women and girls forever. Modern girls have feminists of previous generations to thank for the reproductive, voting and economic rights that we take for granted today.   

Moreover, many of the reasons given for why women don’t need feminism seem to be grounded in the notion that we have now reached a stage in society where men and women are equal in a way that means that feminists are now irrelevant and “bang on about nothing”. Although it true that great strides in terms of gender equality have been made in recent years, women all over the world are still facing significant discriminatory barriers that are restricting them in many areas of their life due to the nature of their sex.  We as a global society still face pressing women’s issues such as female genital mutilation and child marriage. There are still a lack of female representation in industries such as politics, science and technology.        

There are some groups of men who fear feminism, viewing it as a direct attack on their masculinity. They wrongly view all feminists as being man hating and sexist. There are many things wrong with this stance. First of all, it is extremely problematic to talk about sexism in relation to men as being comparable to sexism against women. This isn’t to say that you can’t be sexist towards a man. However, men have not been systematically oppressed due to their sex over many years and therefore male directed sexism is a different issue entirely. Feminism is about working towards the equality of both sexes and is certainly not about championing women over men. I for one care deeply about many of the issues that particularly affect men such as more flexible paternity leave, unreported male domestic abuse and the disproportionately high suicide rate amongst young men. Just as women are under pressure to be feminine, men are under pressure to be masculine and I can appreciate that there are difficulties involved for each sex respectively.      

It is therefore a shame that many men’s rights organisations don’t recognise that many feminist are sympathetic to and actively support male orientated issues. As Journalist Suzanne Moore once argued, it is as if some men’s rights activists “don’t seem to realise that feminists not only have relationships with men, but sons too”. The Men’s Rights Movement, for instance, was built with the specific aim of countering feminism and casting doubt and ridicule on the significant social changes brought about by the feminist movement. They run highly offensive campaigns such as the scaremongering Don’t Be That Girl campaign, that accuses women of fabricating rape allegations on a large scale. This is despite false rape allegations being at such low level that this is pretty much a non existent issue. Members of The Men’s Rights Movement also turn up to feminist demonstrations and events and use bullying and harassment to intimidate feminist women who they openly see as the source of their problems.

Writer Anne Theriault has spoken out brilliantly about the need for men’s rights activists to stop scapegoating feminists and to address the roots of so many of male based problems. For example, the marginalizing issues such as race and class. Theriault has also suggested that the patriarchal forces that make life difficult for women also make things hard for men. She argues that perceived social norms regarding masculinity mean that it is often more difficult for a man to speak up if he is suffering from depression or experiencing domestic violence. I sincerely believe that hatred against the feminist movement comes from a mixture of misinformation and misdirected anger. Feminism is about equality and fairness for everyone and both men and women need to understand this before they can make a sound judgement.           

       

Why are we letting the Conservative Party destroy the lives of disabled people and their families?

This month David Cameron will scrap The Independent Living Fund (ILF) as part of the emergency budget. This sentence in itself is unremarkable and cannot do justice to the tremors that this will send through the lives of our most vulnerable citizens; ripping their last remnants of their fiercely fought for independence to shreds. The Independent Living Fund is a vital financial pipeline for people with complex disability issues who wish to live in their communities rather than in residential care. Working with around 200 local authorities, the ILF ensures direct cash payments to disabled people so that they might purchase care that is suited to them; either through an agency or through a private care provider. The ILF also provides ongoing, round the clock support and work related guidance for service users so that they can be active members of society.

The effects of destroying the ILF would be catastrophic and this cut has already been severely delayed due to a court case pushed by five disabled people that found that the government was neglecting its duty of care and pushing through with a decision that hadn’t been clearly thought through in terms of its consequences. Despite this, the government have now pushed on apparently undeterred by the court’s decision.   According to Disability Campaigner Jane Campbell: “Around 18,000 ILF claimants will be at the mercy of hard-pressed local authorities, who have said that they’ll not be able to provide the same level of support that people have had under the ILF”.  By shifting the responsibility to other lesser equipped, overburdened services, the government are simply piling extra pressure on struggling local authorities. This will have long term detrimental effects. 

It is bizarre and downright cruel that the Conservative government are continuing to cut corners in regards to the welfare of disabled people. It is atrocious that this is explained away rationally as tightening the country’s purse strings as if this is the national equivalent of making the switch to Tesco value ready meals.  Without this fund, disabled individuals will be further restricted and will struggle to pursue full and active lives outside their homes. Many will have to give up work. Furthermore, many struggling families will be forced to put disabled family members into supported care when they would much rather keep them at home.   
It was only in 2010 that Cameron stated in an interview with BBC Journalist Andrew Marr that “the test of a good society is you look after the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society”. However, this now feels like a very long time ago indeed.  David Cameron should understand the difficulties of being a disabled person. His own late son Ivan was severely disabled and Cameron has spoken bravely and candidly about the impossible strain that this placed on his family life. The Cameron family benefited from government support such as the Disabled Living Allowance during Ivan’s tragically short lifetime. Why then is this same dignity and care not afforded as an absolute priority to other struggling families?   

Love and Relationships: The Cringe Inducing Nature of the Pickup Artist Movement

It is strange that still in the twenty first century, there are still a number of young men still do not view women as being quite of the same species. Rather, they see them as computer systems to be hacked by clicking the correct buttons and entering the correct passwords. It is therefore no great wonder that so many of these young men end up being lonely and disappointed. They believe that they were getting a foolproof set of instructions, kind of like when you get a flat pack furniture manual from Ikea. Much to their confusion however, a sexual scenario cannot be orchestrated in the same way as a liatorp coffee table or an uppleva wall bracket. Women are sentient, intelligent beings with their own minds and sex drives which is a tricky obstacle for those immersed in the pick-up artist movement or the “seduction community” as they are sometimes known.

The aim of members of the pick-up artist movement is to have “sexual success” with women. Nothing of course immediately wrong with that. Men and women have been trying to pull each other since we were frequenting caves rather than clubs. However, this is a manipulative and misleading movement based on a pretty weird and misogynist set of principles. Unlike traditional methods of seduction, this movement is wrapped up in pseudoscience babble based loosely on vague psychological principles. There is also a strange preoccupation with social hierarchy with the fetishising of the idea of the “alpha male” drawing unreasonable comparisons with predatory animal societies such as wolf packs.       

It is directly and aggressively opposed to traditional seduction methods such buying a girl a drink or a nice present. This they see as something known as “supplication” with the obvious insinuation that women are money grabbing and shallow. This helps to prop up myths that are feeding a seedy new breed of misogyny, again backed up by shaky pseudoscience. Such men draw from the writings of anti-feminists such as James Taranto who uses dubious evolutionary language to explain his idea that men and women’s sexual desires are absolutely opposed. Taranto argues that men are naturally inclined to have lots of sex with lots of different women whereas women are driven by financial gain. These men refer to all women as “hypergamous” or “gold diggers” once you strip away any faux intellectual pretensions. The idea is that women aren’t really interested in the act of sex itself, viewing it as more as a sort of a bargaining chip to trade with “high status” men; ie. men who are more financially able.

Bizarrely, this has led to a crucial aspect of the pick-up artist movement being training men in how to appear to be “high status”. This, they are promised, will allow them to get more sex. The cynical leap of faith that this must involve is baffling. First of all, there is the tired, long since disproved notion that women are less interested in sex than men. Not only is this extremely offensive, it is also detrimental to a man’s success in terms of long term relationships. How can a person have a mutually satisfying and enjoyable physical relationship if you believe that your partner is not receiving any real pleasure?

Another problematic aspect of this attitude is the general bitterness that it reflects, that is just not healthy. As a straight woman, I have been in various scenarios where I’ve come home furious about the whole male race who I felt sure at times “Only want you for one thing”. Afterwards with a cool head, I have been able to see things much more clearly with the knowledge that there are many lovely men folk out there and a few creeps are not representative. For any men out there tempted by the promises by the PUA movement, please know this: feeling pained by heartache and rejection is natural for both sexes. Building a movement that thrives on the immediate anger that this usually accompanies this is not. One woman treating you badly does not represent the entire female sex. Moreover, a woman rejecting you does not equate to her “using you”. It is so much more easier to label those who have hurt us romantically as being shallow idiots who are of no real worth. However, part of a healthy development is to recognise that everyone receives rejection at some point in their lives and to deal with this is a mature manner.                        

Pick up techniques include some fairly questionable practices. Members are taught in the art of “negging” which involves paying a girl (or a “target” as they are so winningly referred to) a backhanded compliment in order to undermine her self self esteem, making her more susceptible (ie vulnerable) to “seduction”. Think comments such as “You would be really pretty if you lost weight” etc. This is a very deliberate and worrying method of weakening a woman’s self confidence and borders on psychological abuse. Another disturbing technique is Last Minute Resistance tactics. This is the practice when even after a woman has clearly signalled that she doesn’t want to engage in sexual activity, the man will try to convince her otherwise. The pushiness of this gesture raises a very serious debate about the nature of consent. Is the sex still consensual if a woman feels pressured into it? Clearly this is a question does not factor too greatly in PUA philosophy.      

       

Pick Up Artists, or PUAs as they often refer to themselves, see themselves as part of a community, or rather a sub culture. There is something slightly cultish about the movement that draws upon the loneliness of many young men. Not only is this a dangerous for the women who are being objectified, this is also takes advantage of by men who see the seduction community philosophy as an exact science for curing their loneliness. Many of these men will struggle from communication difficulties that need to be dealt with using kindness and understanding. These men will fork out hefty sums of money to attend courses and seminars ran by experts speakers. They will invest a significant amount of time frequenting online forums, reading newsletters and books by “experts” such as Neil Strauss and Ross Jeffries. They will meet up in specialist clubs; rather oddly named “lairs”. Such immersion into this culture creates an echo chamber where their own views are recited back to them over and over, with no real debate or diversity of thought.              

Often failure to get a woman into bed, by using what they were assured to be foolproof techniques, with them can lead to bitterness and even rage. This is what they refer to as being “friendzoned” in what is only one toe curlingly lame term in a PUA thesaurus of gamer style terminology. The fault will be placed firmly on the woman, or women, who have rejected them without factoring in the notion that their carefully honed approach might be perceived as being a bit creepy to say the least. Such rejections have led to the development of an equally misogynist anti PUA movement, founded by men who have felt that the PUA movement has let them down by not allowing them to have the endless stream of sex that they were promised. Their aggressive disappointment is channelled through a forum known as PUAHate.  Of course, the main villains of this backlash forum are still women who are still apparently keeping sex from these men despite pressure and coercion as some sort of punishment. Much like the adult who keeps the sweeties on the top shelf.  

In extreme cases we have seen this mentality lead to horrific eventualities. Perhaps most memorably was the tragic, hate driven university massacre carried out by Elliot Rodgers in retaliation to feeling repeatedly rejected by women. Rodger’s was an active user of the PUAHate. Many have noted the similarities between the language used by Rodger’s in the “manifesto” he wrote before his attack, and the language used within the PUA movement. He referred to himself as “superior” and an “alpha male”. He believed that his wealth made him a high status male who should have automatically got female attention, according to the rules laid out by the PUA movement. Rodger’s was dismissed as a lone, dangerous psychopath by many people but his actions reflected a wider philosophy of male entitlement. Rodger’s felt that he was entitled to female attention and to sex, viewing the female gender as a homogeneous, passive mass.             
One of my own personal regrets is that i have witnessed pick up artistry first hand, both towards myself and other women, and haven’t challenged it. Possibly because the general social awkwardness of the scenario leaves me flabbergasted. If you see it happening then make sure to speak up. This culture promotes real division between the sexes, demeans women and makes it incredibly hard for its members to foster meaningful long term relationships. It preys on the insecurities and lack of self confidence of both men and women and makes a few pretty shady people quite a lot of cash in the meantime.        

Five telltale signs that you are 100% out on a night out with your old school friends

Your friends that you’ve known from school are a funny thing. After the first  wave of chatter about how everyones doing and job enquiries etc, you find yourself back in a cosy little bubble that doesn’t seem to pop no matter how many years have passed since you were passing notes to each other in history. Time or age doesn’t matter in this zone and nobody outside the bubble will quite get the complex web of references spun over a period of years of various eccentric supply teachers, chavs-who-got-expelled and awkward sex education lessons. Everyone else in the pub blends into into humorous insignificance and woe betide the well meaning blokes on the pull who try and infiltrate your giggly reminiscences.  

So through many drunken years of very serious research, here is my irrefutable list of all the times when you undeniably know that you are on a night out with your school friends.  

  1. A girl who used to write her name all over a toilet cubicle has had a baby. Talk will inevitably turn to who has had babies with whom and how many. And when I mean who, I mean the people you last saw with their shirts covered in different coloured gel pens on the last day of year 11. You don’t know them as real three dimensional people with adult hopes, aspirations and difficulties. But you do know that they have a baby. Because of your facebook feed, or somebody else’s facebook feed. Talk will eventually take a more scary turn, prompting a discussion about when everyone wants babies. “Oh not for ages” you will say “not for ages and ages”. But you will suddenly be paralysed with fear that you are looking people in the face that you remember playing imaginary games with. Some of your contemporaries now have kids too old for that sort of crap. And you start to hear a quiet but unmistakable clock ticking in your lady parts….
  2. You will at one point in the night explode with sheer embarrassment. Nobody quite knows how to embarrass you quite like the people who knew you when you were still stuffing tissue in your bra. Sure, you portray yourself as being a normal adult human being but underneath you will always be the girl who threw up in the middle of French class or sang the wrong solo during the Year 6 production of Joseph and His Technicolor Dream Coat. There is absolutely no need to make small talk with your school friends. They know your every dodgy ex boyfriend, baffling crush and perhaps even the time on the first day of reception when you cried because you missed your mum too much.
  3. Somebody will have seen a teacher. No matter how old you get, you will never get over the shock of seeing your teacher in a public human place such as a supermarket or a bus. Or even, a bar (!). Such sightings will be pored over with the same wondering detail as a yeti spotting. You will be thoroughly amazed that even after so many years the same people who tortured you with algebra and cross country are still dominating your conversations and, weirdly, how fond you are of them after all. Although, you will be completely astonished at the realization that you have never gotten over that totally unfair lunchtime detention….
  4. Remember that arsehole who was a complete arsehole? Well, sources have confirmed that he is still a complete arsehole. There will always be that little weasel who everyone agrees on the stoat like nature of; and somebody will have seen him a bit ago and he was up to his old prattish tricks. All involved in the conversation will agree that it is just so typical and horrid.
  5. You will laugh one hundred times more than you ever will with anyone else. Proper, full on getting sent out of biology for laughing at cartoon illustrations of reproductive organs kind of laughing. Friends you make at uni or at work are brilliant, but they will just never tickle your funny bone the way that people who sat in the same dreary assembly hall with you week after week, where you absolutely aren’t allowed to laugh but you can’t help it, can. It still only takes momentary eye contact to set you off. They got you good then and they got you good now.        

Have you been out with any of your old school friends lately? Think that there is anything else that should be on this list? Let us know!

    

World News: Its brilliant that Caitlyn Jenner’s transition has made global headlines, but what about all the non famous transgender women out there?

Last week, Vanity Fair released an edition with a front cover that showed Caitlyn Jenner. This was the first image that the world had seen of Caitlyn Jenner and it was a truly stunning one. Her hair was long, full and wavy; her face was feminine and softened. In the glare of the studio lights, her skin appeared to glow; radiant with warmth and happiness. Her figure was delicate, shapely and womanly; complemented by an ivory coloured, clean cut corset. Caitlyn’s physical beauty was remarked upon by fans worldwide, who were left jaws to the floor after her swan like transformation.

It is wonderful that Caitlyn Jenner has emerged as a gorgeous, outspoken and strong transgender woman. However, we cannot discuss her transformation without remembering the many transgender women out there without a team of makeup artists, fashion designers and top plastic surgeons at their disposal. Not many of these women will get the chance to introduce themselves through a glossy, airbrushed piece in Vanity Fair; for them, their transition can be a much messier period of time. Caitlyn Jenner is a privileged individual in terms of wealth, contacts and fame. Perhaps most cruelly, she is applauded for her ability to “pass” as a “real woman” whereas many trans women with less wealth and power might be ridiculed for their inability to match cis gender normative standards of beauty. All women are judged on impossible beauty standards, but for trans women this can be especially true. There is added pressure on them to look feminine, to look “normal”.   

For many transgender women, their transition can be an expensive business. Moreover, the end result of years of gruelling plastic surgery, many trans women find that they cannot “pass” in terms of strict cis gender norms. According to transgender Writer Meredith Talusan:  “The way in which socially progressive, cisgender people – who are otherwise critical of conventional beauty standards and economic privilege – give themselves permission to talk about trans women in aesthetic terms reveals a certain truth that sometimes feels insurmountable to trans people: affirming trans women’s attractiveness also often affirms our sometimes-limited understanding of the gender binary”. I would not dream of judging any woman by her appearance. However, why has Caitlyn’s undeniable gorgeousness become such a focal point?  

Caitlyn’s reemergence has been criticised by many as not being representative of the diversity of the trans community. National Director for Trans Women of Colour Collective explains that “When we hear Caitlyn Jenner’s story, we’re not compelled to now go help out poor, homeless trans youth because that’s not the story that’s being told. When we hear Caitlyn Jenner’s story about how she went to her surgeon, and her surgeon gave her facial feminization and breast implants, we’re not talking about how that costs tens of thousands of dollars.” Caitlyn’s story is of course inspiring but it is also very much a story of privilege. We now need to look to the plight of non famous trans men and women and the very ordinary struggles that they face every day. I greatly look forward to her documentary but would love to see more stories out there from trans people of various ethnicities and backgrounds.

Salut Wines Review

Part of the hazards of doing a bar or restaurant review is that I often waltz into the venue after a day of work; hair scraped back into a ponytail, rucksack sagging at my back. I don’t look like the sort of sophisticated clientele that the waiters are used to, and give off the impression that I might just be a bit lost. I also am usually alone which means I normally get treated very kindly, as my apparent loneliness possibly gives off the vibe of being stood up. I wandered tentatively up to the bar at Salut Wines, about a foot shorter in my Vans than all the other ladies in their heels, and right away I get a warm smile from the waiter. “You’ve not been here before?” he said after I asked whether I should just take a seat.

He then went on to explain how Salut Wines worked and I was amazed that this is a concept that isn’t more widely used. Patrons are given a card at the bar, which they top up to a minimum of ten pounds. They then use this card to choose a selection of wines from the Enomatic Wine Machines that run along a single wall. Think a row of fancier water pumps where you insert your card and choose a precise measurement. You can choose to have a measurement of 50 ml, 125 ml or 175 ml, each measurement priced accordingly.               

I have a confession. I don’t know half as much about wine as I should, despite it being a particular vice of mine. I’m quite happy to knock back supermarket rose in a manner that would probably turn the staff at Salut a dark shade of merlot.  When in a nice wine bar I often get in a flap about what wine to order. The quasi poetic descriptions often elude me. I therefore panic and flap about a bit when it comes to ordering wine in a nice bar or restaurant. Should I, for example, play it safe with a crisp apple white or, more daringly, opt for the dark earthy red with the complex flavorings?

Price ranges and fear of order-regret have therefore always prevented me from fully exploring my tastes wine wise.  So Salut’s manner of doing business is as refreshing to me as a nice glass of summer chardonnay. I was able to try out a wide range of very good wines on a shoestring budget. The choice of wines that you can select from the wine machines is impressively diverse and broad. There are 42 wines to choose from in total and every one looked tempting. I was able to try out four wines in total, each one distinctive and interesting.

Salut has a cosy, familiar feel to it, despite its trendiness and feels very European. The music was well chosen by someone with a good understanding of electronic jazz and helps to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere. I was led to the table by the very patient Waiter who showed me how to use the wine machines, which may at first look daunting but are very simple to use. Admirably, a tall bottle of water was brought to my table on the house without my even asking. When combining a wide variety of wines in a relatively short period of time, it is super easy to get dehydrated so its brilliant when bars don’t take advantage of this by charging for water.

There are a variety of sides to choose from, with very fresh ingredients from local suppliers such as North Star Delicatessen. Platters include a cured meats selection and a humous and pitta bread plate. There are also lighter snacks such as lightly salted popcorn, olives and pork pies.       As I firmly believe that I must have been a mouse in a past life, I ordered the cheese board. This included a rich, flavorful stilton, a butter soft brie and a mild but very tasty cheddar. This was accompanied by two miniature loaves of fresh bread, a pot of moreish tangy chutney and a tiny pot of very round white grapes. This was a lovely, good quality little platter that was complemented by both the red and white wine flavorings.  I would however have appreciated a cheese knife in order to slice the cheese in a more delicate manner.

All in all I would certainly recommend a trip to Salut Wines, both for wine experts and complete beginners. Salut Wines really is what all wine bars should aspire to be: innovative, forward thinking and also extremely ethical. I was pleased to learn that Salut Wines work with local businesses to support the local economy, as well as supporting organic producers. All staff members at Salut Wines are paid at least Living Wage, and are allowed full tips. The fair treatment of the staff is reflected in the high standard of customer service, where you get the feeling that Salut Wines staff genuinely enjoy their work and have a real passion for wine. This passion is somewhat infectious, and by the end of the evening I found that I wanted to expand my knowledge of different wines. I must say that I am now very tempted to sign up for one of Salut Wines Wine School Courses!                 

Health + Nutrition: What to eat after a weekend of partying

Hangover food is one of those funny areas. You feel like there is an almighty warzone in your skull and a triple tornado in your belly. You do not feel like thinking sensibly about nutrition. Nor are you really in the humour to be rustling up some Nigella style masterpiece. Admittedly, after I feel steady enough to descend the stairs I tend to crave grease and salt. None of which exactly screams wellbeing and can actually be detrimental to your hangover recovery. Greasy food such as good old bacon butties for example can act as an irritant for your already queasy tummy and should really be avoided.

Luckily, there are plenty of yummy and nutritious foods to see you through your hangover in a (relatively) painless way. Now all you need is plenty of pillows, a duvet and a decent, but none taxing, box set.

  1. Peppermint tea. Switch that sugary strong coffee for a soothing cup of peppermint tea which gently massages your overly sensitive stomach from the inside. Peppermint tea can help tame those disorientating waves of nausea which can so often be the worst part of the hangover “Journey”. I personally get mega affected by the chemicals in cheap wine which can make my stomach feel as though it is sailing solo on the rocky seas the next day. Therefore, I try to opt for day-after beverages that are simple, comforting and natural. Other teas that work wonders include prickly pear tea, chamomile tea and green tea. If you can then finish your tea of with a slice of hangover defying lime and a grating of tummy-loving ginger.
  2. Oats. Make like the three bears and grab yourself a nice bowl of hot porridge for an instant energy boost. Oats are a vitamin packed super food that will help you rebuild your strength. If you are up to it then add a generous swirl of toxin slaying honey; a spoonful of this sweet stuff is proven to help you burn away the alcohol in your system, meaning that your body can recover quicker. A few almonds stirred into your porridge can also do wonders for that much needed energy boost.
  3. Beans on toast. I was very happy to hear about this particular hangover cure, as it also happens to be one of my all time favourite comfort foods. It is also a deceptive little number, being seemingly built to combat the toilet hugging blues. Beans are stuffed to the brim with fibre and folic acid. They are also a brilliant source of protein which will help your poor, misused body on the way to recovery. Toast is, obviously, a godsend from the saints of the spinning room. Carbohydrates are magical in that they mop up all the nasty remnants of alcohol in your system. Plus, that bland yet comforting bready taste is easy for your zambuka clogged taste buds to handle. Some insist that toast works best as a hangover cure if it’s a little on the crunchy, charred side.   
  4. Spinach and mushroom omelette. Eggs are your best friends when you are feeling a bit scrambled.  They help to give your body a thorough spring clean to rid it of any nasty lurking antitoxins. Mushrooms are full of B vitamins which support and protect your liver, super important for long term health. Spinach, as anyone who has ever watched Popeye will know, transforms you into a phenomenally strong superhero ready to take on anything that the world might throw at you.
  5. Broth. Always make sure that you have a good batch of homemade broth in your freezer for days like this; rich in vegetable based minerals and nutrients to help you get your glow back. Broth rehydrates you which is vital after consuming large quantities of alcohol which can be dangerously dehydrating. It is also easy for your fragile digestive system to process, and so has a low heave factor. Serve with a few doorstep slices of fresh, spongy carb filled wholemeal bread. Perfect.

What’s your go to foodie cure for a hangover? Let us know!              

Why is there still a taboo against female masturbation?

The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU), a swedish reproductive rights non profit, have now unveiled a brand new Swedish word for female masturbation in an attempt to normalise the act. This is after a nationwide competition where over 200 words were considered. The of aim of this was to promote an “open, positive view of sex and relationship issues”. According to RFSU Spokesperson Kristina Ljungros “Women are not expected to have desires and be turned on in the same way as men, which is reflected in the lack of words [for masturbation]”. It is therefore vital that issues of female sexuality are reflected in public discussion and in public vocabulary.    

After much debate, the RFSU decided on the word “Klittra” which I particularly like due to the obvious focus on the clitoris. Also, I like that it also sounds, well, glittery. Other shortlisted words were “pulla” and “selfa”, which sound a little bit too masculine to my ears. Klittra will be the first accepted Swedish word for female masturbation, which is really quite astounding when you think about it. Men on the other hand, ahem, have long since had a number of words and phrases with which to speak loudly and proudly about yanking the crank. What this campaign has brought to many people’s attention is the severely limited language, an issue that appears to be universally true, when it comes to speaking about female masturbation. This is of course crucial. After all, how can we speak about something that we do not have the words for? For example, the common slang term for masturbation in the United Kingdom is “wanking”. Now, to my mind this doesn’t linguistically reflect the female experience of masturbating.        

It is not so very long ago in our shameful human history that women were believed to have no sexual desire whatsoever. In fact, women who exhibited signs of arousal or orgasmic activity were often considered to be insane or unnatural. Although that mindset now seems so very alien, we can still see more than a few traces of it in modern British society. Female arousal is still seen as somewhat less real, less tangible than male arousal. Take social perspectives regarding masturbation. This is something that every adult human being does whether they will readily admit to it or not. However, it is often spoken about primarily as a male activity that women can’t quite relate to or understand. It is seen as somehow more necessary. I believe that this is partly the reason as to why we have such an inadequate vocabulary to draw from when discussing Klittra (which I will now totally call it, swedish or not).     

It is now more or less understood that women do have sex drives which they have full ownership of. It is, reluctantly by some admittedly, understood that a woman is able to be as promiscuous as she likes, copulating with one hundred partners a day if she so wishes. In fact, we are somewhat more built for this kind of rampant resilience with our magical ability to enjoy multiple orgasms and to recover much more easily after a session between the sheets. However, despite rocketing sales of viabrators and dildoes in all shapes and sizes, I’m not entirely sure that all men entirely believe in it. Or if they do, then they see it as an act that is done with the main aim of titillating men.    

Increasingly, vocal declarations of womanly alone time have become a somewhat subversive thing to do, linked closely with the burgeoning feminist movement. In 2013, an educational app called HappyPlayTime was launched to teach women about their anatomy and how to touch themselves. Great idea, but I didn’t like the slightly infantilizing insinuation that us girls don’t know our way around our lady garden.  2014 was the year of the transgressive, proud, public declarations of lady self lovin’. Pop culture was brimming with feisty ladies who weren’t shy about admitting to flying solo. Miley Cyrus made a masturbatory gesture on stage and the tabloids were, fantastically, disgusted. Rihanna wore a top, that I actually really want, with the slogan “DIY” and an image of a ladies hand slyly slipping down her pants. Now, this was an attitude I liked much more.

According to Elle  Journalist Alice Pfeiffer, today’s Klittra loving Pop Stars are of a much more feminist breed than controversy seeking breed that Pop Stars of wanking past. Pfeiffer argues that: “unlike the riotous, feminist rock stars of the ’80s—such as Blondie and Madonna, who simulated masturbation during performances of “Like a Virgin”—modern provocateurs are presenting self-service as an intimate practice. Instead of seeking out the male gaze, it seems like they’re building an allegiance with womankind”. It does indeed seem that by creating a modern dialogue about Klittra, contemporary cultural icons are reclaiming female sexuality as being something that is primarily for the pleasure of the woman rather than the man.                

I for one have been greatly inspired by our Swedish sisters. We still don’t have a properly recognised term for female masturbation in the English dictionary; which by the way includes terms such as “twerk” and “selfie”. This are currently culturally relevant terms but why are they prioritised over a term given to something that has always been relevant and always will be? As a Writer, words are pretty important to me. What could our new word be?  

Cartoonist Alli Kirkham has brilliantly summed up the issue of consent

When The Everyday Feminist Project asked Writer and Cartoonist Alli Kirkham to sum up sexual consent through the medium of cartoons, she jumped at the challenge. Some might claim that the use of cartoon imagery to discuss such a troubling issue is too simplistic. However, that is because the notion of consent is, well, pretty simplistic. Her candid cartoon has now gone viral and has attracted worldwide attention. Bizarrely, even in our increasingly equal society there are still many people who have worryingly limited understanding surrounding the nature of sexual consent. This has led to a nasty and misinformed culture of victim blaming where women who have been sexually coerced are afraid to come forward for fear of being accused of lying.         

Consent needs to be discussed more widely. It needs to be taught as a compulsory element of secondary sex education. It is insane that we drum into teenagers the possibilities of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases but we do not bring up a full and frank discussion surrounding issues of consent, which is just as much of a vital topic. As a society, we still discuss rape as being something outside of the perceived safe zone of relationships and friendship groups; of homes and beds. By doing so, we are inadvetently keeping certain acts of sexual abuse in a socially acceptable sphere.     

We still see rape and sexual abuse as something that happens down a dark alley, committed by a shady stranger who one might spot a mile of as being “dodgy”. Not only is this dangerously reductive, it also belittles the very real experiences of those who have been made to have sex against their will. It is easy to forget that marital rape has not long since been recognised as being sexual abuse; that not long ago it was considered acceptable for Bill Cosby to publicly make jokes about date rape. We live in a society where many young men see it as acceptable to delibrately get a girl drunk so that she will be more susceptible to his unwanted advances. We need to start examining the grey areas which are not actually so very grey after all.

         

There is now a beauty competition for vaginas: are female beauty ideals being taken too far?

I used to be merely self conscious about my face. I felt life would be so much better if I could just peel it straight off and replace it with a more beautiful, even featured one. I was seen as being one of the ugly girls at school, which I can laugh about now but at the time I let it define me entirely. Then I became self conscious about my body. I put on a tonne of weight at university and used to daydream about pulling chunks of my flesh away like dough. Again, I felt as if my life would be enhanced tenfold if I could just manage to trim away my excess flabby bits like bacon fat. However, not until very recently have I begun to consider beauty standards in relation to vaginas. Surely this should be a realm beyond strict beauty regimes and advertising. So many times in my life I have felt that my plainness has represented boundaries and imprisonment. To express myself sexually with a partner has always felt like somewhat of a release.

However, making women self conscious about their vaginas is now big business. Not only are women now expected to wax, pluck and bleach every suggestion of a hair from their pubic region, they are now expected to perfume their private parts to cover natural, healthy odours. Most worryingly of all, women are increasingly turning to invasive procedures such as labiaplasty. This is a cosmetic procedure where the labia is cut at to make it neater, less visible or more even. Such an operation can have serious and harmful effects. For example, a labiaplasty can come at the price of damaging nerve endings in the vulva that can lead to a loss of sensation and consequently decreased pleasure during sex. It is a very strange and worrying phenomenon indeed that some women are willing to essentially give up their enjoyment of sex in order to fit a visual ideal of what they believe their genitals should look like.            

Now there is a competition to find the world’s most beautiful vagina. I have always had a problem with the term “most beautiful” when applied to any part of the human body. After all, beauty is subjective and can’t, and shouldn’t be, accurately measured. This competition is being held by Autoblow, a sex toy manufacturer. Participants will send a picture of their vagina to Autoblow, where they will be judged by a group of “sex toy experts” in terms of their vaginal attractiveness. I am not sure what sort of criteria this will entail but I strongly suspect that this will involve finding the pelvic region  that most closely resembles Barbies. Pictures will be uploaded online in order to gain the public vote. How very democratic.
The lucky winner will then get the opportunity to have a mold of her vagina taken as the basis of a new, personalised line of fleshlight sex toys. I just want to say for the record that I am totally for fleshlights and any ingenious form of male sex toy. Fleshlights come in a range of shapes, sizes and colours and cater for individual tastes. There are toys for men who like longer lipped ladies and toys for those who prefer the more “manicured” look. This diversity is important and reflects and celebrates individuality. I cannot say the same for the world’s most beautiful vagina competition.