An English Girl in NYC’s Thoughts on the Election

Having lived in America for two and a half years I was almost certain nothing could shock me more than the combination of marshmallows and potatoes that they insist one eating yearly in this culinary confused country, and then came the 2016 election, and everything changed. My hatred for sugary spuds suddenly paled in comparison to the overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger, outrage and hope that I have been fluctuating between for the past few months.

img_6935As a New Yorker (I have a cockroach infestation in my apartment so I officially count) without a vote it’s hard to know how to react to the current political situation in America. I love Hillary with a passion I’ve only previously felt for my year 4 teacher whom I asked to adopt me, and hate Trump with a fury I’m not sure I’ve felt before; but with no where for these emotions to go except into long angry texts to my American friends it’s hard not to feel like a passive and pointless voyeur. 

The fact I can’t personally do anything to stop Trump is painful to me every day that I live in this country with so much potential for beauty and so much inclination for hate. However Donald Trumps horrific treatment of women and minorities throughout this election is by no means one crazy man’s single handed diatribe. Trump is representative of a systematic problem within our society that still places the rights of women and people of colour beneath those who should by now be their equals. Wherever you live, whatever you think about this election, you can’t ignore the fact that there are other men like Trump out there, we all know a man who would grab them by the pussy, and it’s time we spoke up and made them stop.

img_6936For any foreigners watching this election we need not to see it as entertainment but as a call to action. A painful and brutal reminder that our world is not free from hate and there are things we all need to be doing to change that every single day. If you can’t vote tomorrow I implore you to use that day and go out and do something else instead. Don your pantsuit, raise your feminist flag and find some small way to fight the patriarchy even if it’s just trying to explain to your little brother why it’s wrong for the rappers he love to refer to women as ‘bitches’ (an activity I personally like to partake in weekly).

No matter the outcome of this election, no matter where you live, at the very least I hope the past year has shown us that we all need to speak up more. Just like the gas bill sitting at the bottom of my handbag that I’m trying to pretend doesn’t exist, the more we sweep conversations around sexual assault, misogyny, racism and inequality under the rug, the more powerful these issues become. So let’s talk, let’s fight to make things better, and let’s bloody well hope Hillary wins.

Images via @alia_pop

Advertisements

​Five Things I Know Now I’m 21

landscape-1469032703-scarlettcurtis

A month ago I turned 21, and in my first year free from the suffocating pressures of ‘being a teenager’, I may have changed more than any other year of my life.

Read more here.

Has Anxiety Become ‘Trendy’?

One of my favourite developments in the main stream media over the past few years, aside from feminism and a continued obsession with cats falling over, has been the opening up of a new conversation about mental health. Especially mental health in young women.

tumblr_nv2ngrDKTy1qglhc3o1_500

There’s been a subtle but powerful loosening of the screws on that box we call ‘THINGS YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT EVER, EVER, EVER’. A shift in the boundaries of what we share and what we keep hidden, a slow diminishing of shame and fear around something that should never have been shameful, and was only made fearful because it was kept hidden. From Lena Dunham’s beautiful writing on her fight with OCD to Emma Stone talking about her experiences with panic attacks, the oppressive and universally accepted rule that feeling sad or crazy was just something you kept to yourself is being beautifully overthrown.

In my own experience suffering with any kind of mental illness or oddity, I was given too much advice, and not enough stories. I had a whole closet full of advice. I had to build a storage centre in my bedroom to try and house all my newly gifted advice. But as well-meaning and hopeful as all my advice givers were, the trouble with most advice is that what works for one person is almost definitely not guaranteed to work for another. ‘Exercise will save your life!’ – ‘You just need to push through it’ – ‘I promise you, drink this tea, and everything will be cured!’ – I tried it all, I drank the tea, and nothing changed.

Finding advice that works for you is like finding a pair of jeans that miraculously fit four best friends, it happens a lot in movies and rarely in real life.

tumblr_ny6lun0Ee51qglhc3o1_500

But what did help me, more than the tea, more than any therapist, more than any pill – was hearing other people’s stories. I spent a long time thinking I was the only person in the world who could possibly be going through the kinds of things I was going through. Convinced I was the only person so weak that they couldn’t even manage a trip to the grocery store, the only girl so odd that she couldn’t hang out with people her own age. I was surrounded by people who were ‘doing it’, who were cracking life, while I was slowly unravelling and falling further and further apart. It’s not that there weren’t stories out there, it was just that none of them really seemed to apply to me. They were the stories of older women and older men, people who’d fought their way through the forest of mental illness and emerged, years later, victorious on the other side. They talked about rehabs and years spent in recovery and none of it seemed to apply to my methods of coping, which mostly included watching The Good Wife and painting my nails five times a day.

For me, hearing people like Lena, people like Zoella, talking openly and honestly about going through experiences so similar to mine they could have been taken from my diary, felt like the biggest gift on earth. Not only were these stories comforting in being so relatable, they also created a tiny door in my brain titled ‘it’s not just you’. They led to conversations with my family, conversations with my friends, conversations online, that would never have been possible without these seemingly small stories acting as a catalyst.

tumblr_nv1mvbSGSj1qglhc3o1_500

If you’re someone that fears anxiety has become a ‘trend’, that this new conversation is trivialising a deeply serious issue, I have one thing and one thing only to say – perhaps anxiety has become trendy because anxiety is a trend. Because it’s something that more people that we would ever like to admit suffer with every day, something that tears apart more lives than you can imagine.

I WANT anxiety to become a trend. I want it to become more trendy than avocados. I want it to become so trendy that it gets it’s own clothing line and homeware range. If we can make anxiety trendy. If we can talk about it, yell about it, shout about it from the rooftops – we can take away some of it’s power, and hundreds of thousands of people who would have been suffering in silence can feel the full warm hug of knowing they aren’t alone.

Talking about these issues publicly doesn’t diminish their seriousness. It doesn’t stop the fact that anxiety and depression are diseases that are probably only going to be properly healed by a doctor or a therapist. But it does diminish the shame and loneliness. It does diminish the isolation. It does diminish a little bit of the fear.

All drawings by my FAVOURITE Ruby Etc.

A New Generation of Feminists

We were told the fight was over, and we were told that we had won. I was born into my ridiculously comfortable life and told this was a new world, that all were equal, that I could do anything. At school I learned that the Suffragettes won it for us, that some women in the 60’s burned their bra’s to finish the job and that Madonna put the cherry on top. We were told it was a new world, barely even told there was an old world.

7d39154919717e402cf40a5400676333

I grew up, or began growing up, and began to feel things I would never have defined as gender issues, never even defined as issues worthy of anyone else’s worry except my own. I watched boys in their bodies and watched myself in mine. The way I began to hate every inch of the skin that I was in, the way that I began to compare, to contrast, to judge and to hurt myself in a way that just didn’t occur to them.

My parents told all four of us we could be anything, grow up to be anyone, do it all, have it all. I was the only one asking myself if I wanted it all or if I wanted a family. I was the only one who questioned whether my ambition was attractive. I was the only one embarrassed for being bossy. My three younger brothers watched my dad go to work every morning and come home every night. I watched my mother feel guilty for every meeting, every day spent away from home, every meal she didn’t cook.

tumblr_nd7pq9i9fH1r0pgvko1_1280We all went shopping on the weekend and bought posters to pin to our walls. They loved their heroes for their strength, for their wit, for their comedy. I loved my heroes for their hair, for their breasts, for their legs. We set
out trying to emulate what we saw. I tried to fit myself into a box. I tried to define myself by what I saw around me. I called myself ‘the stupid one’ because I didn’t ace every test. I called myself ‘the funny one’ because I wasn’t quite as pretty as the rest.

These seeds that had been planted were watered with full force sprinkler systems. They were fertilised by everything around me, every TV show, every rap song, every magazine. It wasn’t political, because at fourteen nothing is political, it was purely emotional. I began to hate myself, detest my body, fear my ambition, my will power. I began to be oppressed by systems I wasn’t even aware were formed to put me down. Told by doctors that was I was lying. Told by teachers that I was weak. Told by the world that I didn’t quite fit it’s model of what a human girl should be.

tumblr_nvqbhxaVCB1r0pgvko1_500

And then, very slowly, like a rumour of a surprise math test spreading round a school cafeteria that no one quite wants to believe, I started to hear stories. Stories far worse than mine. Stories about women of colour. Stories about women living in poverty. Stories about women being hurt, about women being killed. Stories about women who’s lives were determined before they were even born, who’s fates were decided by what lay between their legs, by the colour of their skin.

And I began to put the pieces into place. That maybe this feeling, the one I had turned inward, used to hurt myself, to punish myself, to slowly start to kill myself, maybe this feeling wasn’t one that I created, maybe it wasn’t my fault. Maybe this was the last battle of this war I’d heard of in a classroom a long time ago, a battle now silent, now hidden, a war that had convinced it’s soldiers it was long gone and tricked them into turning against each other and against themselves.

tumblr_ng2aocIlu41r0pgvko1_1280

And then, like the child at the beginning of every superhero movie, looking up at the sky in desperation only to see superman’s red cape glint against a skyscraper, I heard of a group of people who called themselves feminists.

A group of people who had realised, as I was starting to, that no one is victorious until equality wins. That as long as there are women who are hurting, who are in pain, who are suffering because of the box they check when they fill out a form, that we must keep on fighting.

We were told the battle was over. But we grew up feeling the war with every breathe we took. We are fighting now because we know there is something to fight for. For many of us what we’re fighting for may seem small – a slightly higher pay check, being allowed to play football instead of play dress up, not feeling ashamed of the size of our thighs – but it’s part of something bigger, it’s part of something far more serious than any of us had ever imagined.

If I make the choice that I once felt so conflicted about having to make and decide to have a daughter one day, I want to tell her, like I was told, that the fight is over, that the war is won. But I want her to believe me. And I want it to be true. 

All beautiful images via the incredible AMBIVALENTLY YOURS.

An Interview with Mary McCartney

Moving to New York, the idea of the vast quantities of incredible art just a subway ride away was one of the things that first drew me to the city. But once you arrive and life takes over it can often feel hard to appreciate and take time for the beauty and wonder that lies just inside the various glamorous art galleries littering the city. Overwhelmed with choice, overcome with the intensity and beauty of it all and often just a little bit too lazy to jump on the train.

Read more on Elle.co.uk…

Crying with Cool Clothes On

For a very long time, clothes were pretty much the last thing in the world I could think about. The wardrobe of someone who is ill, sad, or doesn’t tend to leave the house very much can be a sorry affair. For years I would change, every morning, out of my nighttime pyjamas into my daytime pyjamas to ready myself for yet another day of being bed-bound and in pain, resulting in a nightwear collection that outgrew the bottom drawer and required an entire wardrobe for itself.

Read more on Elle.co.uk…

 

Find Your Fight

The first time I remember engaging in philanthropy of any kind I was seven years old and being sat on by a babysitter who I didn’t really like. My parents were away, again, working on Comic Relief, a charity that they founded and have worked on for my entire life, but at seven I’d had enough. They had been away from me for too long and I was beginning to feel restless.

Read more on Elle.co.uk…