A-Z of Being Female: D is for Dating

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“A busy, vibrant, goal-oriented woman is so much more attractive than a woman who waits around for a man to validate her existence.” – Mandy Hale

I’ve been there; wishing I could stroll in to a book shop in Notting Hill and immediately fall in love, hoping that my male family friend in the Christmas jumper would see the beautiful Bridget in me, considering becoming a prostitute in the hope one of my rich clients would see me as more than a Pretty Woman. The films that I loved so much as a single pringle, I also despised. I was my own worst enemy; I’d be sobbing in to a bowl of popcorn balancing on my muffin top, watching these films that romanticise life and encourage me to unrealistically fantasise about, for example, being a secretary for the prime minister and ending up snogging him at my nephew’s nativity play because he spontaneously turned up at my house and declared his love for me. In reality, the thought of tongueing Boris at a primary school isn’t something I would do on a normal day. Fuck you, Love Actually. Yet, I still get excited over rom-coms more than I should. The truth is, dating in the 21st century ain’t like that. It ain’t like that AT ALL.

I’d say my thumbs are pretty damn strong. I swiped the living daylights out of Bumble and Tinder for two solid years. The outcome? An album of dick pics and some great memories with my friend Hollie, sending hilarious one liners to matches I was never going to meet. After getting bored of constant rejection/ghosting/requests for nudes, I decided to try one more app. If this didn’t work, I was going to pack it all in. I deleted Bumble and Tinder, and set myself up on Hinge. The outcome? Went on a date with a guy called Lewis and now I’m with him every single day. I guess it worked out for me in the end. But why did it take me two years? And what was I doing wrong before? On reflection, I have a few ideas on what I may do differently if I’m ever single again or how dating could be less complicated if I just tweaked a few bits, so I compiled a list.

Being a female on the dating scene in the 21st century

1. First and foremost, make sure you’re ready and you actually want to date. I signed up to the dating apps way before I wanted to. I was perfectly happy being single, and dating was never a priority. Maybe that’s why I got nothing out of it for two years. Don’t bother unless you’re ready and willing to meet someone. If you’re enjoying the single life, embrace it and stay away from the dating scene!

2. I started on Tinder first. It was pointless matching with anyone though, because I would NEVER message them first. That’s why I then moved on to Bumble (the same as Tinder but the female has to send the first message). Why should the men always speak first? If you’re like I was, be brave – slash the stereotype that the man always has to speak first. If you like the look of someone, speak up – you’ve got nothing to lose.

3. I received a lot of dick pics. I didn’t ask for them, I didn’t encourage them and I didn’t love them when I received them. But I got them. What to do? I used to laugh to myself and then un-match. Thanks, but no thanks.

4. I never did this, but I know a few females that did/still do and it irritates me. Do not expect the man to pay for everything on the first date. If he insists, at least offer. It shows you’re in it for a genuine connection rather than his wonga, and gives a good impression that you can financially support yourself.

5. Very cliché, but be yourself. On the apps and on the dates. There’s nothing worse than creating a connection with someone based on falseness, masks and lies. Embrace who you are and if you find someone, you know they want you for you.

6. Be open-minded. Being fussy will get you nowhere. Men are nervous too. I find a lot of men I know find selfies and witty bio’s awkward as hell, so give their profile a break if it’s a bit shitty. Lewis’s profile wasn’t amazing but he looked fun, so I matched. Never looked back.

7. Be safe. There are dangers around meeting someone off a dating app – make sure someone close to you knows all the details of where you’re meeting, what time etc and make a code word you can text them if you feel uncomfortable or threatened. I would also switch on your location on your phone, just in case!

I should also mention I am most definitely not an expert and there is more to dating than the apps, that was just my experience. The two years I was single was a bit of a rollercoaster in all honesty, but maybe I learned what I needed to. Even though I was on the apps, I spent a lot of time alone. Sometimes I loved it, sometimes I absolutely hated it. But I did it. Maybe, before we date anyone else, we should date ourselves. Take solo trips,

go for lone days out and get to know yourself inside out first. Fall in love with your mind, your quirks and your reflection. Take the time to be you again, whatever that may mean for you. The more you love who you are, the easier dating becomes. As I say, I am no expert, but when I threw all my love in to myself, I then met Lewis and it all fell in to place. It could be a coincidence or it could not be, all I know is dating and loving others goes hand in hand with loving yourself too. So get swiping, be you and, most importantly, enjoy the dating scene as much as possible! If you love being single, enjoy dates with yourself – there’s nothing wrong with not having a partner!

Stay safe x

Dating

Mental health awareness week should be mental health acceptance week.

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It’s mental health awareness week – I think the main issue is that everyone is well aware of mental illness, it’s being accepting of it that’s society’s issue. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more reassuring to see your friends post about how they also struggle with poor mental health, or those offering an ear to listen to your problems. But this means very little if everyone has fair access to mental health services, or if there is still a stigma surrounding the ‘ugly’ aspects of mental illness. It’s all very well and good that we have this week, but it’s not making enough of a change to help those who are suffering. Only £9 per person is spent on mental health per person who is affected by it. The fact that this equates to two coffees from an artisan coffee shop in the West End, proves my point that these mental health awareness days/week/month are nothing unless they’re bringing about significant change.

This year’s theme of kindness really epitomises how shallow this week is. It’s like people show that they care about mental health for this one week, but then after that they just don’t give a shit. And it’s the same with the government; they back these mental health awareness weeks, but won’t give those suffering with the proper help. The thing is, mental health help shouldn’t be coming from your friends and family. That doesn’t mean that they’re not able to supplement the recovery process, but there needs to be a core psychological support system in place. And people aren’t getting that, unless they’re paying for it privately. I feel that by supporting the week, the government feels it has done its bit.

There is no doubt that the way that we view mental health has changed – there is more of an awareness, but I think that this just isn’t enough. For a start, society might be more open to talking about depression and anxiety, but what about borderline personality disorder or bipolar? What about the symptoms that are more than just being sad, but instead it’s an eating disorder, or an attempted suicide?

I’ve always had problems with mental illness – even when I was young, I had compulsive thoughts about all the different things that could kill me, and I would obsessively check doors were closed, hair tongs were off, and the gas cooker wasn’t on (checking each of these five times as part of a ritual when leaving the house). After being assaulted nearly four years ago, it all got worse – I started to self-harm, I didn’t sleep properly, and when I finally got help, after sitting on my window ledge, ready to jump, I was prescribed a cocktail of drugs, but no counselling. After waiting for nearly two years, I received the counselling I needed, but after a perfect storm of shit situations, I tried to take my own life last year. I was kept in the hospital for two days, and then I was diagnosed with complex PTSD.

I’m in a very privileged position – I have an incredibly supportive network of friends and family, as well as having access to counselling. But so many people suffering don’t have this in place, so what needs to be done? The coronavirus pandemic has not only highlighted the issues with the current system in place for those suffering from mental illness, but the restrictions of lockdown will generate a whole new cohort of people experiencing poor mental health.

I’m very open about my poor mental health, and some may argue that maybe I’m too open. There’s nothing more awkward than slipping into a conversation that I got completely overwhelmed to the point that I tried to end my life, but it shouldn’t be. I’m all for supporting each other through poor mental health. Some of the best friends I’ve made came from being open about my mental health, and bonding over similar struggles. I’m not shitting on the concept of a mental health awareness week, but it needs to have substance, more than people supporting this for a week, and just accepting that contribution is fine.

It shouldn’t just be those with poor mental health that need to advocate for change – everyone does. Considering mental health affects one in four people, someone you love will suffer from it – so fight for that person. Don’t just be kind – campaign for those who are struggling.

Bekah x

Bekah @ TEWP x

A-Z of Being Female: C is for Careers

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“’What’s your favourite position?’ ‘CEO’” – Lauren Conrad

My first ever job was a cameraman. I was about six years old and it was to assist the aspiring director who trained me on the job – my 8-year-old brother. It was a challenge; we had limited props and an under-qualified cast member (my Dad), so the films were not exactly going to be plastered all over the box office. After being sacked due to lack of skill, I tried my best at being a goalkeeper during the summer for Dad and Rob’s football league, became a pilot for Plane Bunk Bed and practiced my surgical skills during heated games of Operation. Of course, I did most jobs in my Mum’s high-heels and sent any admin to my Furbee; I couldn’t manage my work diary alone.

When I went to secondary school, I was taught about the ‘glass ceiling’ – a name for the invisible barrier in the world of employment, stopping some high-achieving, working women from reaching the same level of hierarchy or salary as men in the same career. It appears there is a ceiling that women can look up to and gaze at the stars; the stars being men, doing the same jobs as the women but with the recognition and larger payslip. If the men look down at the glass ceiling beneath their feet, they will see a lot of under-paid women wearing the same uniform as them, sticking their fingers up at them no doubt. Despite this happening a lot more in the past than today, it seems it does still exist – the glass ceiling has been smashed, but not completely destroyed.

The little Liz in me was horrified; you mean, in theory, Rob would’ve been given more pocket money than me, even though we both flew Plane Bunk Bed? And he probably would’ve been promoted to captain, even though that bunk bed was in MY room? Piss take.

In my early 20’s, I watched ‘Made In Dagenham’ on screen and on stage. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend. It is based on the true story of the female sewing machinists working at Ford. They made the car seat covers and there were four rates of pay: a skilled male rate, a semi-skilled male rate, an unskilled male rate and a women’s rate (which was only 87% of the unskilled male rate). The female machinists demanded equal pay and actioned a strike, stopping production for three weeks. As a result, not only did Ford agree to pay them equally, but their actions led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970. I’d bloody love to meet those Dagenham girls.

Now, in my late 20’s, I see more women smashing gender stereotypes in the workplace than before – my boss, my colleagues getting promotions, my mates handling their own businesses and me, I suppose! All women and all climbing up the hierarchy, deservedly so. It’s nice to see that things in the world of work are changing, so all genders have a shot.

So, here’s to the female captains, directors, chiefs and CEO’s, but also to the males who have achieved the same. At least now, most people who have worked their way to the top have earned it through their ability and skill, rather than whether they have a dick or not. Hopefully, one day, we can all party on that glass ceiling together and it can be something under women’s feet, not over their heads.

The more us women strive to smash through the glass ceiling, the quicker it will shatter and make way for our daughters, nieces and their daughters and nieces. Let’s raise little leaders, baby bosses and managers in the making. Whether it’s a hard hat, a helmet or a hairnet, wear it like a crown!

Liz @ TEWP x

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What Normal People teaches a Survivor.

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Normal People premiered on BBC iPlayer this weekend, and it is no surprise just how much people love it already. I read Sally Rooney’s novel back in 2019, and finished it in one sitting; I was in love with it all, the plot, the setting, the characters. I could easily dedicate a whole piece just to how beautiful Connell’s eyes are, or how the backdrop of Dublin was perfect for the evolution of both characters and the relationship. Instead I wanted to discuss Marianne, and how, as a trauma survivor, the lessons she has taught me.With Marianne as a focus point, the show tackles the difficult topic of trauma, and how this intertwines with self-opinion, and how we all allow others to treat us, especially through intimacy. Marianne is lonely. She comes from a family where her father hit her mother, her brother is manipulative and emotionally abusive towards her, and her mum takes a very passive position to it all. Always there, but never reacting.

And this undoubtedly affected the male treatment – such as accepting to be Connell’s secret.

Her compliance translates into the intimacy of her relationships, often being hit, or being an actual submissive, but always showing how detached she is from the situation. This isn’t the same kind of trap James fell into when writing Fifty-Shades; that an abusive past is the only reason you would enjoy a domination/submissive kink. Instead, Rooney highlights the link between the treatment of the men in her life, and what she thinks she deserves, but she doesn’t become obsessed with the idea; it’s more nuanced than that. Although not resisting the submissive position, Marianne is shown to be vacant, like she’s there for the benefit of the guy, not for herself. So when she asked Connell to hit her during sex, and become embarrassed when he declined, I wept.

I was always very lucky with my family life, my parents were always kind to me and loved me. So it’s not the same situation as Marianne, but after I was raped, I didn’t become a submissive, but I became submissive. I never did it for my own enjoyment, even with guys I thought I loved, and would just prefer to get it done, like it was a contractual obligation. I disassociate, and that was something that I did when I was raped, because my body can’t deal with it. Sex is meant to be whatever you want it to be – casual, a way of assuring someone you love them, but like Marianne demonstrated, it is never something you think should be inlficted upon someone. Her love for Connell is one of the only things she is sure about, so when she thinks that the only way she can be intimate with him is by him ‘punishing’ her

By the end, even though their story is left to be imagined after deciding to part ways on their boxed-up, living room floor, Marianne is happy to get on with her life, she isn;t tied to Connell with the fear that no-one else will love her, she’s confident in the belief that she will carry on her own path. When I first read the book, I was in a relationship with the guy I thought I was going to marry. This was a guy that I got into a relationship with, a mere month after being assaulted, so he was my safety net. Someone I would never separate from, because without him, how was I supposed to carry on with my life? Someone wasn’t going to love me because of how damaged I was.

So watching the series, nearly a year on, after breaking up with my boyfriend of three years was never a position I thought I’d find myself in. And it was watching Marianne choose her own path, that showed me just how far I have come. It shows to any survivor how far they’ve come, if they have confidence in their

own decisions. Did that mean I didn’t bawl like a baby when they decide to go their separate ways? Nah, cried for twelve hours, but I understood it.

Demonstrated perfectly in both the book and the TV adaptation is the reality of carrying on with your trauma. It tends to be polarised; either your trauma is an indefinite burdening weight, or you use your experience to completely change the world. Marianne demonstrates the reality that both go hand-in-hand. Trauma will always linger, mine tends to appear whilst I sleep, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot harness it to drive you forward. Marianne chooses to live her life the way that she wants to, it doesn’t have to be this big announcement, but just chooses to get on with her life the way she wants to be.

I think, as anyone who has experienced trauma, there are days being ashamed of it, and days of wanting to be this big middle finger to the world, and those that hurt you, but it’s okay just to live.

Bekah @ TEWP x

A-Z of Being Female: B is for Bodies

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“Girls have got balls. They’re just a little higher up, that’s all” – Joan Jett

I was on my bed; half curled up in my sunflower duvet, half leaning on the windowsill cluttered with photos of my school friends and half-eaten Pic N Mix bags. I was pretending the raindrops streaming down the glass were in a race to get to the bottom. I was bored, moody and feeling extra sorry for myself. All that was missing were the violins in the background, or a whole orchestra. I was only thirteen; why suddenly did my boobs feel like they were stuffed with balls of steel and why did I have a sudden urge to shit? I got up and there was the answer. I was dying. The Grim Reaper had found me and was making me bleed to death. And giving me the shits at the same time. I went downstairs to say goodbye to my family.

“It’s just your period, honey!” Mum laughed.

Fucking fantastic. So, in a nutshell, I was going to bleed every month for the foreseeable future, accompanied by wet farts and menstrual rage. I felt like a caged beast.

Mother Nature. She’s a funny woman, isn’t she? Throughout my adolescent years, she really pissed me off. I hated being a woman; half of my knickers got ruined (Always Ultra don’t Always Absorb), my boobs suddenly went from being ‘cute’ to ‘WATCH OUT’ and I briefly considered star-fishing in the garden when my step-dad mowed the lawn, because hair was sprouting out of me like a wild bush that couldn’t be tamed. The worst part? My friends appeared to hit it off straight away with Mother Nature; they always seemed to have legs as smooth as a wet dolphin, symmetrical breasts that sat perfectly in their pretty bras, and the lightest of light periods. Of course, this was most likely untrue, but thirteen-year-old me was convinced she had been hit the hardest. Cue the violins.

One day, I was moaning (again) to a girl from school about being a woman. I can’t remember who it was, but I remember vividly their response.

“Don’t you get it? All of this is great. Mother Nature loves ya!”

And there it was. A well-deserved slap in the face from Mother Nature. Was I looking at this all completely wrong?

In hindsight (what a wonderful fucking thing), yes, I was. As I grew older, instead of pure hatred and disgust, I formed a love/hate relationship with my two bouncy bumps on my chest; I even named them (they are called Phil and Grant because, like them, they do what the hell they want but are loveable all the same). I got used to my periods, however they never regulated normally so I took the magic pill (amen!) to manage them better. The other shocks of puberty, such as suddenly sprouting out hairs from everywhere, seemed to calm down and now my worries are revolved around the colours of my hair strands (not even grey, think more shiny silver you can spot from a mile away), and how long I can avoid shaving my legs and pits until someone notices. Overall, the current grown-up me thinks the female body is nothing to despise; in fact, it’s a miracle worker and a fucking genius.

Mother Nature doesn’t spring periods on most of us to be a bitch. She is giving us fertility – something that is taken for granted. Every month, our bodies get ready to cosily nest a baby for nine months, in case one of our eggs gets fertilized. Periods are just our bodies way of releasing any tissue that is no longer needed, if we don’t get pregnant. If we do get pregnant, the female body is even more transformative and impressive, and childbirth is a biological miracle alone, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time! I used to feel so sorry for myself during that time of the month, but now I realise it’s a gift. Mother Nature hasn’t given it to all women, and, for some, this is heart-breaking.

So, I embrace it all – the tits, the hairy pits and the monthly period shits (don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean). I love our hurricane of hormones and our viva la vagina’s. Most of us are blessed with the ability to carry a tiny egg inside us, as it grows and develops into a mini human, and then magically deliver a baby nine months later. If you aren’t, you may care or you may not, but you are still a woman so own it! Let’s face it, the female body is powerful and something to rave about, not be angry towards or ashamed of.

You’ve all got it, so all go and fucking flaunt it. You’re a woman, after all.

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Liz @ TEWP x

A-Z of being female: A is for Appearance

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“When you judge a woman by her appearance, it doesn’t define her, it defines you” – Steve Maraboli

I remember the first time I wore a pair of heels on a night out. I was wobbling down the road to the bus stop and, quite frankly, resembled more of a foal walking for the first time than a sophisticated woman out on the town. As I got closer to the bus stop, I could see the double decker charging down the road. Shit. Do I run, I thought, or do I wait for the next one? It was evident what choice I made when I turned up to the bar with blood pouring out of my knee and a twig in my hair. However, all the other 18-year-old girls were heeled up, so I had to wear them too, right?

I decided the next day, after throbbing feet, a grazed knee and seeing video footage of me trying to dance without toppling over, that I wasn’t a heel person. Goodbye to the left heel, which was sticking upright out of a drain when we were last together. Hello to my Ugg slippers, who carry me to wherever I want to go in the house and never let me fall. I will always love you.

The truth is, it’s not just heels. I’m not really a make-up person, a hair person or a ‘dress to the nines’ person. I’m a scrape-your-hair-back-in-pyjamas person at home. If I go out, I put on minimal make up, straighten my hair at best and usually wear the classic outfit we all know and love – jeans and a nice top. For me, the best nights are when I’m comfortable.

No one really bats an eyelid; all my friends and family have different styles and looks, each to their own. The people that seem bothered are, surprisingly (although not really), strangers. When you go on a first date, when you have a job interview, when you go to the gym – your appearance is mainly judged by those who don’t know you or have just met you. Take celebrities for example. They get judged the most by the media, trolls on social networks or people they don’t know on the street. All our lives, we have been bombarded with headlines such as, ‘What is Selena Gomez wearing?’ or ‘Look at Jennifer Aniston without make-up!’ or ‘Britney Spears has piled on the pounds’. I would place a bet that their parents, friends or even acquaintances probably don’t make the harsh comments strangers do. What I find the biggest shame though, is this mostly applies to one half of the population: people with vaginas.

You don’t tend to see men discussing whether they should get implants in their arse cheeks. You don’t usually see men panicking if their hair is going frizzy in the rain. It’s simple; the pressure of appearance is mainly applied heavily on to women.

Now, this isn’t to say men get away with it. This is not a bitter rant against men. I know lads who hate the fact their bodies are all out for everyone to see, if they are around a pool or at the beach on holiday. Guys still worry about styling their hair or wearing the right outfit. But I have to say, the pressure on women seems so much heavier.

Therefore, I don’t obsess over my appearance. Don’t get me wrong, I like to wear nice clothes and I love the feeling of leaving the salon with a new hairstyle. However, I refuse to let the way I look control me. I’ll wear whatever I want and, if people judge me, so be it. I rarely wear heels and I don’t care. If my hair gets wet in the rain, oh well. I just can’t be arsed to get down over the appearance of something. There’s more to life.

So, fuck it. If you want to do a Lady Gaga and own it in an outfit made entirely from raw beef, do it. If you want to rock up to your wedding in pyjamas instead of a white dress, BLOODY DO IT. People who feel comfortable are way more fun than people who look the part but feel incredibly insecure. Be you. Be fun. Appear however you like. Ignore the pressures and do you. As Lizzo advises, do your hair toss, check your nails and feel as good as hell!

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Liz @ TEWP x

 

Quarantine thoughts.

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It’s been a LONG time since I’ve written anything on the blog so it’s nice to be here and feeling motivated to write and share.

The Empowered Woman Project has now been in existence for over 2 years but in that time, it’s become so much more than just the blog itself. It’s a community. A loving community of womxn who want to share ideas and support each other to learn and grow.

A few of you know that the last year or so hasn’t been easy for me personally for a variety of reasons. Since January 2019, I have felt wildly existential and have been questioning the meaning of life pretty much constantly. If it’s not on my mind then it isn’t far away from thought. I think it when I look at buildings built by people who no longer exist, I think about it when I see an elderly person and wonder if they are aware of their own mortality. It’s constant. It’s not even a sense of dread any more, it’s more like a constant low level pessimism. Why try to achieve anything when none of it matters? We all die so why bother? It’s weird and the gravity of it and what it does to me is terrifying.

But for some reason, the current circumstances we find ourselves in is helping me in a weird way. As much as the pandemic is scary and we are losing thousands of lives to it across the globe every day, I think it’s mother nature’s way of asking us all to slow down. To pause. To spend time with our loved ones. To practice gratitude for all of the things we were taking for granted. The planet is the master of us, not the other way around. Being stuck indoors at the request of our government due to the ongoing pandemic has made me realise just how much I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for yoga stretches. I’m grateful for the space I get to call my own. I’m grateful for the health of my friends and family. I’m grateful for technology so I can stay connected. I have paused. A pause which I feel was long overdue for many of us.

What are you guys feeling grateful for?

Mandy @ TEWP x

Mirror Image.

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Recently I’ve noticed a peak in comments about how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror and – spoiler – it ain’t good. The constant hope for beauty to look back at us when we pluck up the courage to stand in front of a mirror is a daily struggle for so many of us. So in the month of spring, of new beginnings and the promise of birth & growth, I’m going to tell you something that you’re probably not expecting: you are under absolutely no obligation to think or feel beautiful when you look in the mirror. In fact, you can believe 100% in the message of body positivity, without putting pressure on yourself to feel flawless every time you see your reflection. If that’s thrown you off a little bit, let me explain…

If we’re talking about the journey to making peace with our own bodies, it is completely unrealistic to expect people who’ve spent a long time at war with themselves to find body positivity, wake up the next day, look in the mirror, and suddenly think they’re hotter than Beyonce booty shaking in a frying pan.

You are in the process of unlearning a ​lifetime ​of negative conditioning about your body. The lessons that we’re all taught about weight, and food, and beauty are so deeply ingrained in our sense of the world and of ourselves, it’s unfair to expect anyone to shake them off after discovering a hashtag or reading some inspiring quotes about self love. This process of unlearning is bloody hard work.

It’s tirelessly digging into the hardened landscape of our beliefs, unearthing the seeds we thought were truths, realising that their roots have been poisoning us all along, tugging them out and then ​still ​having to discover the REAL truths to fill that space with. These truths will nourish us and allow us to blossom but our landscape, so scarred by the marks the old lies made, will not accept them easily.

Not to mention the fact that while you’re doing this unlearning, you’re still existing in a sexist, fatphobic, diet culture drenched society, which is ready to squash any flowers you cultivate the minute they start to bloom. In short: do not beat yourself up for not being able to magically erase every negative feeling you’ve ever had about your body since the very first time you thought that it was wrong. And give yourself credit for how far you’ve come, you’re already miles ahead of where you once were before you even considered body acceptance as an option.

 

Like I said: you are under absolutely no obligation to think that you’re beautiful when you look in the mirror. Because ‘beauty’ has so little to do with what body positivity is all about. You don’t have to feel beautiful to believe that all bodies are worthy of respect. You don’t have to feel beautiful to recognise that those old lessons about our bodies are lies and that we deserve better. You don’t have to feel beautiful to fight against the prejudice and descrimination that certain bodies face in our culture because they’re deemed less worthy. You don’t have to feel beautiful to know that you are so much more than what you look like on the outside, and your value in the world isn’t dependent on being visually appealing according to our culture’s arbitrarily designed beauty standards.

Would we all love it if we were able to see ourselves as beautiful when we look in the mirror? Of course. But it’s not the be all and end all of your journey or this movement. And if setting that as your end goal is only making you feel inferior then forget it. Aim for body neutrality. Or body acceptance. Or body respect. Or stop seeing this as something that has an end goal at all, and just work on unlearning, bit by bit, every day, giving yourself credit for all the work you’re doing along the way. Body love is not a requirement. Beauty is not a requirement.

We are all doing better than we think we are!

Love your ever loyal bopo warrior, Lauren (@missmethven) @ TEWP x

Women can be resilient.

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On the back of the tragic death of Caroline flack, It reminds me again how women are treated when it comes to the media and the criminal justice system. Caroline was vilified in the media for her actions more that some of her Male counter parts have been in the past. This is not unusual. I cannot judge and I was not involved. I am making no excuses for anyone, as assault and domestic violence is never to be accepted.

However, a trial by media and trial based on who you are, your gender and social standing continues to be an issue primarily for women.

I could bore you all with the facts and figures on this subject but I will give you a brief outline of why this happens all the time to women who struggle in areas not unlike Caroline.

In recent years the number of women in prison or on remand has been noted to have increased. This information had been gathered by a government report commissioned in 2011 ( lead by a woman! )

Women’s offending and the drivers behind it differ from men for the most part. In many cases they are related to their own experiences of domestic violence, sexual abuse, poverty, social exclusion and drug and alcohol misuse. It can be seen that women’s offending behaviour and their experience of domestic (physical and emotional) abuse, coercive control and sexual abuse continue to drive their offending behaviour. Women in prison have often been victims of much more serious offences than the ones they are being prosecuted for.

While many of the convicted woman are parents, there is still a strong element of misogyny and they are frowned upon in the media etc for committing such crimes instead of being a ‘focused parent’. When remanding these women without considering the reasons why they are committing these offenses they pull them away from their families and possible help and support.

I understand that this is not true of all woman who commit crimes and people have to be responsible for their actions. The law has to function to protect but we also have to look at looking after and protecting one another. There are changes being made. Services and groups have been developed to support woman and the issues that bring them to the point of offending. Some of which I have worked for.

I feel for so many who struggle to break the cycle and to find someone who will help or even just listen. They are scared to come forward for fear of being judged and making their situation worse. This stereotyping and fear of being judged is what stops women seeking help. In the same respects the stereotypes and old ideas of masculinity are what stop men from seeking help for issues such as their mental health.

I know its hard to see past the actions of those who commit these crimes. It is something that I have had to struggle with through out my career but the stereotypes and boxes the media and various institutions want to put us in are not helpful and drives us to put each other down and not lift each other up.

I am hoping with a more positive outlook with the likes of the empowered woman project we can focus on our strengths, how resilient we as women can be.

We all make unwise decisions and we never know what’s around the corner. I want to believe that people can change and their characters are not set in stone. As so many of the messages I have read since Caroline’s passing have said if you can do anything nowadays, just think of others and be kind.

 

Lesley @ TEWP x

Tips & Facts on Staying Safe Online.

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In the recent, tragic and completely preventable death of Caroline Flack I think now is a better time than any to evaluate the way we interact online and how to keep ourselves safe. A lot of information currently being circulated makes it sound like the online world isn’t much fun for people. But it can also be an amazing source of support, friendship and information. And pressure is on social media companies to tackle the problem. In the meantime, it’s just sensible to be aware of the potential downsides, though hopefully you won’t experience them yourself. And the good news is that there’s lots you can do to protect yourself and stay safe online.

The easiest way to protect yourself online is to think of the online space as if it were a real space – think of your social media accounts like your home. If you wouldn’t invite strangers into your home, don’t let people you don’t know access your profiles or accept their friend requests.

If you wouldn’t let a stranger in the street start flicking through the pics on your phone, don’t share images with someone you don’t know online. If you wouldn’t put up with someone shouting abuse at you outside your house then shut the door on them when they do it online too – block their account.

If a real-life stranger started contacting and following you you’d probably tell a trusted friend or someone who could help – you can do the same if it happens online.
If someone makes you feel unsafe by hanging around, following you from one place to another or harassing you, you can report them to the social media company as well as raising the alarm in real life. If they threaten to hurt you, or seem to be stalking you, you can also report them to the police. These things are just as illegal online as they are in real life.

The way you respond to online harassment is 100% up to you. If it feels powerful to respond or retweet, that’s okay. If you prefer to log off and take a break, that’s fine too. You don’t have to go online if you don’t feel like it – it’s OK to take breaks from social media. In fact, I’d advise it from time to time. If you spend too much time glued to the screen you start to go weirdly electronic and forget how to communicate effectively with real humans.

 

So here is my Top 10 Tips for Staying Safe Online:

  1. Privacy Settings – All social media accounts come with privacy settings – have a look at them and make sure they are set so that strangers can’t access and view your information. This doesn’t mean your friends won’t be able to find you, but it means you are in control of who sees your stuff.
  2. Pictures – You can usually set individual privacy settings for pictures too. Remember, once a picture is posted online there’s no stopping it. Even if you delete a picture it could already have been copied and shared by someone else, so the only way to completely control what pictures are out there is to think carefully about what you put up in the first place and what privacy settings you put against it.
  3. Passwords – A ‘strong’ password is one nobody else could guess – so don’t use family names or dates of birth etc. Adding numbers and/or symbols also increases strength and keep your passwords separate so you have a different one for each online account – that way even if someone hacked into your email or Facebook they wouldn’t be able to access your online banking or your Twitter.
  4. Personal Information – Never put out your address, phone number, what school/university/college you go to or any other personal details online. Don’t give them out to anyone who contacts you online either. ‘Why could you possibly need to know?’ is a solid question to ask here.
  5. Two-Step Verification – This is a nifty setting available on most email and social media accounts. It’s a bit of a faff but it’s worth it if you want to stay extra secure. You add a phone number to your account and when you access your profile from a new computer you get a code texted to you to verify it’s you and not someone else trying to get in.
  6. Reporting – Social media companies are running a business just like anyone else and they have a responsibility to keep their users safe. If someone is harassing, abusing or trolling you online or sending abusive messages, take a screenshot, block their profile and use whatever reporting function is available. If harassment, abuse or trolling is a regular occurrence, repeat as many times as needed until action is taken.
  7. Stranger Danger – Remember anyone can set up a social media profile using photos they’ve stolen from elsewhere online and all is not always what it seems. This means being wary of people you don’t know who befriend you online – remember, they may not be who they say they are.
  8. Keep It Online – Don’t agree to meet someone offline unless you already know them in real life.
  9. Think Before You Post – As with most advice on this list, this sounds pretty obvious but as recent history shows, plenty of people still need to be reminded. The internet has done this weird thing where it’s taken away the feeling that we’re talking to a real person and the time we had in the good old days to think before communicating with them. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face in real life you probably shouldn’t day it online. In fact, saying something out loud before you post it is a brilliant way to see whether it sounds completely ridiculous or harmful or just plain rude before you click that button and it’s too late to take it back.
  10. Help Is Available – You’re never alone. If anything goes wrong or feels scary online, it’s probably best to talk to someone about it, just to set your mind at rest. Talk to a friend or someone you trust, and if you don’t feel able to talk to someone you know, there are great organisations which can provide support over email, phone, Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook. I’ll list some fantastic resources at the end.

All of this is fairly easily done, and the occasional downsides shouldn’t put you off using social media if you want to. If we were all a bit more diligent, responsible and kind to one another, the internet would be a safe place to be. The circumstances that Caroline Flack found herself in were unenviable but we don’t have to let history repeat itself, it’s time for change, let’s all be a part of that.

Caroline Flack 1979-2020

Lauren @ TEWP x