Clara Novelli Interview, Don't Edit Me

Clara Novelli Interview

Don't Edit Me

Italian Photographer Clara Novelli shares her ‘don’t edit me’ ethos and some of her beautiful images with us bitches…

Tell us about some women who have inspired you and what you do?

I have always loved art. The first woman who introduced me to art and inspired me was my mom. She has a degree in literature, works as a teacher, loves books and any kind of art. When I was twelve she brought  me to a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition in Florence. I fell in love. The second was my history of art teacher – that woman was like a goddess. A well of knowledge. She opened doors to the amazing world of art and its symbolism. Now I’m inspired by every woman I see, pretty much… friends, people on instagram, my two sisters, and obviously music and art as well.

If you could pick one thing to improve about the photography and fashion industry what would it be?

I would love to see a big change in woman’s idea of beauty. I hate that we need to be perfect, or photoshopped, or just you know, not us, covering and changing ourselves with make-up, crazy hours at the gym etc.  I hate it. My close friend is fighting an eating disorder, and I believe if there is a change in society there’ll be fewer girls suffering. We are all beautiful. We do not need all of this pressure to look or feel different from how we truly are.

What message would you like to share with other women?

More or less what I said in the previous answer. Love yourself. Treat yourself. Don’t let ANYONE, no girl, boy, man or woman tell what you should be or what you should do. Take off your make up, take off your bra. Feel free and do what you want.  Remember, ‘none but ourselves can free our mind’.

If you could change society what would be the first thing you do?

– I would love to see Donald Trump go to hell. Can I say that?
– I would love to see more peace everywhere.
– And well maybe I’d change  something in my country. Politicians are doing what they want to too much – it’s unaccountable.
– I’m not against men (I have nothing to say against respectful men) but more women in politics could really change things.

Tell us about a beauty campaign that made you feel angry or ugly?

I feel this way about every  big lingerie or bikini brand. They make girls feel bad, every woman I think sees an Intimissimi pic for example and feels uncomfortable with her body.  We’ll never be perfect like Irina. Please. Show some normal people. Thanks.

Tell us something about yourself that you once perceived as ugly/unattractive that you now love about yourself?

When I was little people laughed at me for having no boobs.  Now I love my small boobs. go fuck yourself. I don’t need to buy bras. Well, just cute ones cause I like them  maybe. Also my eyebrows – I’ve always had big ones. I love them (and maybe the girls who used to laugh at me are jealous now). 

What advice would you share with yourself 5 years ago?

Don’t care what people say.

I was still at high school five years ago, but actually I had already started  not caring about other people’s opinions. When I was eighteen I shaved my head. I loved  it but lots of people said ‘you look toxic’ or ‘you are disgusting, too skinny etc’ I’d tell myself – WHO CARES? Now I don’t.

What are your three favourite smells?

I love rose, jasmine, and the smell of weed. Oh and pizza smell. The smell of pizza is actually my favourite.

What does the word bitch mean to you?

I believe the world bitch has changed its meaning in the last few years. It depends who uses it, but for me a bitch is a strong woman.  Someone who can do what she wants. Get naked, have sex, get drunk, be bossy how and when she likes. I don’t care about people calling me a bitch.

Are you more of a bitch or a witch?

I think I’m half and half.

@clellinovara
#donteditme #nophotoshop

See more of her work here: www.patreon.com/clellinovara


Moody Girl

MOODY GIRL INTERVIEW

We interview Emily Fazah founder of Moody Girl an initiative to start a conversation about PMS… 

Tell us about the inspiration behind Moody Girl and how it got started?

Moody Girl was created after years of suffering with PMS. From the age of 15 onwards I noticed a huge difference in the way I suffered with my periods compared to other girls at school. When trying to open up about both the psychological and physical effects it had on me I realised that this wasn’t something people spoke about honestly and from then on I learnt to suffer in silence and to just get on with it. There came a point when I just couldn’t ‘get on with it’ any longer and I decided to speak with my local GP. As a young girl seeking answers I thought surely my doctor would have some answers! Unfortunately this was not the case and GP after GP met my woes with the same blank expression. All that was offered was the contraceptive pill (which sent my moods completely wild) or anti-depressants, which I refused to take, as I knew deep down what I had wasn’t depression. Finally after extensive research I was referred to the Chelsea and Westminster PMS clinic where I spoke to the first doctor who seemed to understand and since then things have got much better. For so many years I felt so alone as if no one else was going through the same as I was. But then I thought ‘what if other women have been suffering in silence too?’ It was then that I decided to start Moody Girl. Moody Girl aims to open a line of communication between women suffering with destabilising hormonal conditions. You can see moody girl here.

How can we get involved?


The whole purpose of Moody Girl is to build a community of women who have suffered with any type of period drama. Moody Girl has an online forum for women to chat through everything menstrual related. The best way to be involved is to sign up to the Forum and post any questions you may have or answer existing questions asked by other users. All we ask is that users are non-judgmental and inclusive when listening to any girl or woman who reaches out.

What has been the response been like for MG?

So far, so good! At first it was a daunting process sharing my PMS struggles after keeping them locked up for so many years but after the initial website launch I have learnt to be PMS and proud. The Moody Girl Stories that have been submitted have made the whole project worthwhile. To be able to hear from other women who have been suffering too is sad but also a relief, seeing as I felt so alone for so long. One of the stories we received came in all the way from Virginia, USA, and completely blew my mind. You can read all of our Moody Girl stories here


What would you like to see MG achieve over the next year?

At the moment it is just me working on Moody Girl with some help from my amazingly talented girlfriends and supportive boyfriend. In the next year I would love to have a more permanent Moody Girl team and a space to work from. My first fundraising event is coming up in August and this is to raise money for further research into PMS & PMDD and the team at Chelsea and Westminster PMS Clinic. The goal is to continue with fundraising events & too start retreats for PMS & PMDD sufferers. The Moody Girl retreats will offer educational and nutritional talks, meditation, yoga, music therapy and a general opportunity for women to meet and talk through their experiences of coping with PMS & PMDD.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day?

All of the women who have had to suffer in silence with a destabilising condition over the years. My auntie was a beautiful, intelligent women whose whole being changed after she had children. She was put on antidepressants which then spiralled into alcohol addiction and sadly she passed away. My mum and I feel she had undiagnosed post-natal depression. I identify with all women who have been fighting for answers or have been misdiagnosed throughout their lives.

My Mum. She has been the only woman in my life that has believed in my symptoms fully since they started at age 15. She has suffered with PMS herself and has come out the other side fighting. She pushes me to not let it dictate my life. Companies such as Bloody Good Period, GurlsTalk, and Freda are doing amazing things too!

Tell us about a beauty campaign that made you angry? 

To be honest most campaigns relating to periods right now make me happy. I’m overwhelmed to see finally people are opening up and being proud! What does make me angry is GPs handing out antidepressants to women suffering with hormonal problems before steering them in the direction of specialists to get a definitive diagnosis.

What do you think makes a DAMN REBEL BITCH?


In my opinion a Damn Rebel Bitch is someone who fights for answers and pushes through the PMS fog better and badder than ever.

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

You aren’t alone. You aren’t depressed. Keep pushing for answers, you will find them!

What do you think are the three biggest lies out there about periods and period pain?

1) Women use PMS as an excuse for everything. 

2) Menstrual pain is a myth. 

3) It’s wrong to talk to boys about periods.

Get involved with MOODY GIRL! Join the conversation or get involved with their fundraiser, Sat, 18/08/18 more details here


Keep Your Laws Off My Body

KEEP YOUR LAWS OFF MY BODY

We interview Dutch law student about why she wants the world to ‘keep your laws off my body’…

What do you do?

I’m studying a masters in Dutch health law and am currently writing my thesis about equal treatment in healthcare. I also work 2 jobs one the side – one in customer service and one as a doorhost (read: doorbitch) at a weekly electronic music festival in Amsterdam. I’m also on the board of a European study association based in Amsterdam, which has the slogan ‘a world in which there is respect for human dignity and cultural diversity’. Let’s say I’m living my student life in Amsterdam to the fullest and enjoying it very much.

Which women do you most identify with from history to the present day?

In Holland, the ‘Dolle Mina’ (crazy Mina) movement played a big part in the feminist movement of the 1970s. I have big respect for those women (read: heroines), who preached their own opinion, fought for their rights and didn’t care about what the outside world thought. As a humble dutchie, I wouldn’t say I identify with them, since I don’t know if I would be brave enough to have joined them, but if I would say nowadays, I identify with their actions and would do whatever I could to help.

Tell us about some women that inspire you

Probably very cliché, but first: My mum of course, since she is a hard working, kind mum whom, as well as having 3 kids, started her own company and helped my dad with his company as well. She always has a positive approach, enjoys every day as it comes and finds solutions for every problem. I still learn from her every day!

My older sister has struggled to find her passion for a while and now puts her creative energy into photography and I am so proud of her! She inspires me in the way she lives in ‘the now’ from day to day and doesn’t worry about the future. I sometimes get caught up in negative thinking about past or future but now is all we have.

What changes would you like to see in your community?

Hey. Not only in my community, but nationwide and maybe worldwide. The way we use language. I saw a recent discussion online and I have to admit that I never thought about it before, but I think language is a good place to start. It is common in Dutch to call an adult lady a girl (meisje in dutch, -je is a word to make things smaller), but not very common to call an adult guy a boy. (jongetje in dutch) In Dutch you really notice the difference. We choose words that make women seem like a small, sweet and cuddly things, while we don’t use those words for men. This inequality should be simple to fix. But whenever I tell people, they think it’s not that big a deal. So I guess there is still a long way to go.

Another personal experience – I was born as Yvette, but my parents always used the nickname Ted. Ted is a boy’s name but I prefer it over Yvette. So I decided to use Ted in my personal life and Yvette for business. When I’m at a party I introduce myself as Ted and people tend to get a bit confused. In the end names are not who we are, it’s just something our parents gave us and if I like my boy’s name I use it! The change I would like to see is people stop using labels – my name is a boy’s name, so what?

Overall Dutch women are very down to earth, practical and independent. I think we should honour that more instead of seeing it as a bad thing. I notice sometimes the word feminist gets used as a bad word, like ‘one of those feminists’. In my experience, these things are most said by men from countries with a macho culture. What should change is that everyone should be feminist and men shouldn’t feel threatened by strong and powerful women.

Next to this I would like to see change in the public perception of body hair. Shaved legs and armpits are still the standard and I don’t see why. A man is accepted for having body hair yet as a woman there is this idea that you should give men pleasure by shaving everything off?! HELL NO. I’ll decide for myself!

Tell us about who has inspired your personal life and style?

When Alicia Keys stopped wearing make-up I didn’t for 2 years either. In this period my style became very basic. Now I enjoy make up and dressing up again, so I do it if I want to. But I learned in this period to be happy with less clothes hanging in the closet. A kind of minimalistic approach, which works well for me. The bottom line is I do whatever feels good and when I dress up I do it for myself!

What would you put on one of our sticky bitches*?

Women just want to have FUNdamental rights!

Men of quality support equality.

Stop forced (child) marriage!

*Sticky bitches = our free gender equality cause stickers.

What are your three favourite smells and why?

Since I grew up on a farm the smell of fresh cut grass and hay will always be a special memory. Because I live in Amsterdam now, I don’t get to smell this often, but when it happens I feel like a kid back on the farm again.

The smell of the sky after rain on a hot day (yeah we have some of those), like nature is saying thank you for the refreshing shower.

The signature perfumes of friends, families and loved ones! (no explanation needed I guess)

What gender equality causes mean the most to you all personally?

What really really shocked me recently is the fact that the forced marriages of under-age girls is still widespread. From 2000 till 2010 there were 250,000 under-aged girls forced to marry a much older guy. Not only in religious communities, but also outside those. It is still happening every day. I can only imagine what hell these girls must be going through. A story I read about Sherry Johnson, who was 11 when she had to marry her rapist. Instead of sending her rapist to jail, her parents trapped her in this marriage.

It is crazy to realise that Afghanistan has stricter laws on under-age marriage than the US. In half of American states there is no minimum age for getting married. Legally speaking even toddlers could get married if their parents agree. In my opinion it is about time to get some legislation on this topic!

Read more here. 

Are you a bitch, a witch or a bit of both?

I would say both.

I am very interested in the spiritual side of life and think there is more than the dimension we live in. I feel this is not my first journey on earth and probably not my last.

On the other hand I always say how I feel, am very direct and can be slightly bitchy in a positive way.  

So I would like to use the term ‘bewitched bitch’.

Thank you for letting me part of this movement. I feel it can be hard to unite even though we are all connected through the internet. Initiatives like this make me feel #uniTED again!


GIRL Magazine Interview

GIRL Magazine Interview

We spoke with Fidele from GIRL Magazine about her take on the female form, the importance of self love and her favourite smells…

Describe GIRL Magazine…

Strong yet at the same time sensitive , that’s how I see myself. I can cry in a minute but after 5 years of cancer , I’m stronger than I thought. Each year that passes , each pain makes me more empowered , attached to my dreams, to myself , to life and the dreams that give me hope.

Empowering : I wanted to create a platform to empower others the way I empowered myself through the hardest times of my life. I was able to find hope within the importance of God , my family and dreams.

Caring and loving: there isn’t much love in this world and a light can go a long way.

What is the inspiration behind the publication?

Though it is odd to describe GIRL Magazine as a person, I am one with the magazine. My heart is intertwined with it. I was going through my relapse from cancer, when what started as a photography project turned to an online magazine , a platform to spread self love for every type of girl . I have learned through my experience that nothing strengthens the mind and willpower like forgiving yourself. 

Nothing builds your immune system from the hate others inflict on you, the way looking at your naked reflection does. The hate slowly turns to forgiveness, acceptance, admiration.

What message do you hope people take when looking through your images?

As a rule, I never post anything if I don’t feel an attachment to the photo or the words in the description. If there’s a message I want to share, either of my own or lyrics from a song that transmits a message, it’s important to connect to people through your raw emotions rather than just post for the sake of appearing on their instagram feed and that is how I was able to build something different online as there are many online magazines and zines that spread feminism but I wanted GIRL Magazine to focus on the innocent girl within – the one who jumps up and down at the thought of ice cream, who dances in her underwear, who doesn’t get sad for too long. In a way I wanted to immortalise the idea of our inner selves staying young and the words “PURE”  and “different” are often the words I receive from strangers to describe the magazine.

If you could pick one thing to improve about your industry what would it be?

They talk about self love but yet not how to attain it in the simplest of ways: 

Don’t give up on your dreams. 

Look at your naked reflection.

Take 30 minutes to be mad , it’s enough time to think things through yet  not long enough to waste a whole day ( it’s a rule of mine and it works , it gives my mind 30 minutes to find inspiration and a solution rather than focus on the problem).

It’s a whole new mechanism.

Turn the music up, take a shower, dance naked or in your underwear (it is one of the most cleansing forms of self love rituals you can perform). 

What advice would you give yourself 5 years ago?

The same thing a friend told me “YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK” and that was even before I knew I had cancer. They were the perfect words for the unknown that was coming my way.

If you could implement a big change is society what would it be and why?

Dismembering  jealousy from people’s minds and cores. It is the cause of self hate, wars, hunger and every other rat race.

What women have inspired your career?

I spent my young years coming back from school, doing my homework and watching Oprah with my grandmother at 8pm… you can almost say , these two women raised me along with my mother. There are countless reasons, stories and people that have moved me to tears and helped open my eyes to a world I didn’t know, it made me eager to grow into someone who makes a difference rather than just building a successful career.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

I’m strong in my opinions and goals but I take other people’s advice better now. I don’t get too sensitive about it. I guess it makes me a bit of a white witch and a little bit of a bitch because I’ve learned when people are only using me and I don’t allow their negative energy to affect me.

What does the word bitch mean to you?

Bitch: sleeping around with men you don’t know, wearing short skirts but in truth that’s not who or what a bitch is.

What are your favourite smells?

REEK Perfume! Other smells would be : a new book , coffee , chocolate , the smell of food my grandmother makes, the smell of my mother’s baking, the journey of cooking for others, I love food memories, my father. This song comes to mind…

You can follow Fidele and GIRL Magazine here.


LGBTQ+ Centre London Needs You Bitch

LGBTQ+ LONDON NEEDS YOU

The LGBTQ+ community in London is working together to create an LGBTQ+ community centre and they need your help. 

The word ‘community’ is hard to define. For some, it’s a common geography, a shared history or passion that brings a group of people together. For LGBTQ+ folks, it’s who we are. For us, community, can be a lifeline.

When we heard about this project we wanted to put all the bitches on red alert!

We know you will want to support this initiative as much as we do. The much-needed centre will be a space away from nightlife for LGBTQ+ of all ages and backgrounds to feel safe and call home. It will be completely accessible and multi-purpose, run by and for LGBTQ+ people as a not-for-profit. It will be open from morning until night for use by individuals and campaigning groups.

The Centre will serve as a cafe, a meeting point, a workspace and a social centre, with an information hub, research facilities and a signposting service for those seeking support to discover the brilliant charities and organisations that specialise in LGBTQ+ specific service provision.  

In just six months the Centre project has already engaged with hundreds of people through meetings, events and online, and they have garnered the support of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, the Mayor of Hackney, MPs in the local area, business owners, community groups, charities, health practitioners and the press.

The team of volunteers needs to raise £50,000 by June 13 – if they don’t make the target, they’ll lose the donations that have already been pledged. Please dig deep and give what you can.
www.crowdfunder.co.uk/londonlgbtqcentre

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can reach the team at londonlgbtqcentremedia@gmail.com


AFTER EIGHT

AFTER EIGHT

So how did it feel to be part of the historic Irish vote? We asked one of our best bitches, Niamh Kelly.

We came, we saw, we wore the t-shirt. We repealed the 8th.

Friday 25th May 2018, was a historic victory for Irish feminists, who had been campaigning for the 8th amendment’s repeal ever since it was passed in 1983. The Catholic Church’s influence in Irish politics has been in decline for years, and this referendum shows that a new secular, but compassionate Ireland is here to stay. At 18:30 it was announced that Ireland has voted to repeal the eighth amendment of its constitution, with an astounding 64.51% voting Yes.

As an Irish woman, being part of this change is something I am beyond proud of. It’s a moment I won’t ever forget. I was lucky enough to be able to make the journey home and join the thousands of Irish people who were #HomeToVote.

The trip home was emotional and scary. It was filled with an uncertainty whether the beautiful small country I call home, would do the right thing, and vote for a change that affects so many women on a daily basis. Hearing the stories and reading the news throughout the campaign I was sure that Yes would be the outcome, but as the days became closer uneasiness set in.  

Coming from a small town it’s easy to come into contact with closed minded people – you know they are there, even if you don’t agree with their opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, the same way all Irish women should have a choice. The yes vote seemed like a no-brainer,  but apparently not. Seeing so many YES signs around the town and people holding signs saying “Beep for yes!” I was pleasantly surprised by the people behind the pro-choice movement and the chance for change.

Being back in Ireland a couple of days before the vote allowed me to speak with amazing Irish men and women of all ages, who restored my faith in the nation. We are a compassionate country, working to make good changes for our citizens. Throughout this campaign, the people of Ireland came together for yes, a yes for the women of our country.

The movement to repeal the 8th has shown me the power of community and the compassion the people of Ireland have for women. Being an Irish women in 2018 is a feeling like no other, but the fight doesn’t stop here. Northern Ireland is still campaigning to bring the same choice to its women. Friday’s referendum has no impact upon the law in Northern Ireland and we need to rally together to make the same choice available there –  and to women all over the world.


STRONG AND SHAVED

STRONG AND SHAVED

It’s on trend and has been for a while, but what is the reaction to these brilliant bitches and their shaved heads our in their day to day lives. REEK finds out…

Jamila

Why did you shave your hair?

To be honest, I’d been wanting to shave my head for almost 5 years. I was always too self conscious to do it, thought my shoulders were too big, my head too small blah blah blah.

My hairs always been something that people commented on. I could almost sit on it. But it’s so much upkeep and I’m a lazy bitch when it comes to grooming on a good day. So it made sense to get a fresh start.

Worst thing anyone’s said to me since shaving it all off?

I don’t think anyone’s said anything nasty to me, they’ve just questioned my sexuality. My mum always said ‘if you’re not planning on sleeping with them then it’s none of their damn business’

Best thing someone’s said about your haircut?

I don’t even think I can choose one comment. I’ve had an unbelievable amount of kind and beautiful words from friends, family, even strangers! It’s mainly been positive and now I’m wishing I had just bitten the bullet and did it sooner.

Titana

Why did you shave your hair?

I am a born-free South African (born 1994)  I was in a society where Afro hair was not considered beautiful , so chemically straightening my hair was the norm, even though I had beautiful Afro hair I disliked the fact that it was so curled and I wanted it straight – straight hair was considered more beautiful just as European features were considered  more beautiful. Afro hair was also looked down upon as untidy in a lot of schools. So my hair was damaged by all the chemicals though it was dead straight. Being a dark-skinned black woman in that society I experienced a lot of prejudice which caused me to be insecure and my self esteem was very low. 2 years ago I saw a lot of black women shaving their heads and letting their natural hair grow. I also saw how it made them feel emotionally. When I decided to shave my head I started to notice who I ,Titana, is and was. I noticed the amount of self love that started to pour in. The fact that I had to face myself and look in the mirror and see all that I am. I can only speak for myself but there is something liberating and powerful in looking at yourself in the mirror with no hair and no make-up. It’s a form of true acceptance. I am truly blessed to have experienced it. I’ve always wanted confidence and now, that’s how I feel!

What’s the worst thing someone has commented about your hair?

Someone pointed out that I don’t look feminine . I had to ask them what femininity was, and challenge them on that.

What’s the best?

Someone said that I look beautiful, strong , and that I’ve gained a beautiful confidence in myself.

How do YOU feel with your hair shaved?

I feel incredible. I feel like I have accepted who I am. I feel liberated , confident and beautiful.

Misha

What inspired you to shave off your hair?

In terms of my hair, up until recently I have found myself doing what was expected of me as a model. I allowed others to dictate and decide what haircut would be best for my career, and I just went with it! This may have been what the clients were after but when it comes down to it, I truly believe that confidence is more attractive than any hair cut, and it’s impossible to be fully comfortable with yourself if you are not being true to yourself. This is why I went for it!

Worst thing anyone’s said to me about my haircut?

There was one taxi driver who GENUINELY thought he was doing me a favour by informing me that every single man he has ever known would agree that long hair is more attractive on women. He then asked me with genuine confusion “Has no-one ever told you this before? Really?” And I was just sitting there, wondering how it became acceptable to tell a woman how you would prefer her to present herself? And how on earth people in this day and age are baffled by why she would dream of prioritising her own interpretation of beauty, over yours? I told him that I do not decide what I do with my appearance based on what others (men/women/humans) find attractive, and I do not let others dictate how I express myself.

Samantha

What made you want to shave it all off?

I’ve felt so empowered since shaving my head. Its allowed me to accept the insecurities that I had before and learn to love myself fully for who I am. I’ve never felt more like my true self, than when I got rid of my locks. I totally think more people should feel comfortable about it and try this look, it brings out the uniqueness in a person’s face and gives you real confidence as you can’t hide behind anything.

Worst thing anyone’s said to me about my haircut?

I’ve had a lot of uncomfortable and horrible comments surrounding my choice of hair. So it’s hard to choose a particular incident. It usually goes one way or the other, either I’m having my sexuality questioned (even my gender on one occasion) or I’m being over sexualised by men, who think its okay to touch my head or take photos without asking. Which once sadly ended up with me being sexual assaulted in a club. I think the stigma surrounding girls with short hair needs to change. Its something which can be completely empowering for a women as it isn’t the social norm. What I think people need to remember is that our femininity and particular our gender, doesn’t lie in a hair cut.

How do you feel since shaving it all off?

I’ve felt so empowered since shaving my head. Its allowed me to accept the insecurities that I had before and learn to love myself fully for who I am. I’ve never felt more like my true self, than when I got rid of my locks.  It’s scary but I recommend everyone to do it!!! Love a buzzcut!!!


THE BEAUTIFUL BODY HAIR DEBATE

THE BEAUTIFUL BODY HAIR DEBATE

We asked Danni, a Body Positive Advocate who runs the Chachi Power Project, to give us her wise words about body hair. Oh my.

#imafeministbut

At a recent all-female networking dinner event in Glasgow, the conversation came around to body hair removal. How pathetically stereotypical of a women-only event you may groan, but wait… it’s not that old cliché. After starting my Body Positive Side Hustle: The Chachi Power Project in 2017 I’ve realised just how much women are dictated to about how they are supposed to ‘be’. What I find most shocking is the form we are ‘supposed’ to take isn’t only a slightly modified body… at times it can be the complete converse. It’s as if we’ve been told to hunker down in a corner and make ourselves busy with unrealistic, impossible tasks so the big boys can play.

Body hair has been a big player in my conversations with fellow females throughout my whole life. Only in the past couple of years did the conversation flip from ‘do you wax or do you shave?’ to ‘why should women need to exist as hairless pre-pubescent lust-filled objects?’ And that’s exactly where that conversation went that night in Glasgow.

Up until a couple of years ago my almost robotic reaction to seeing hairy female legs was ’”ewwww she doesn’t shave her legs”. These days it’s tough not to Hi-5 women with a curl under their arm or scream ‘YES SISTER’ across the street when I see a pair of hairy pins.

I’m still bewildered at my previous reaction. I mean, how fucked up is it that women are controlled and brainwashed to the degree that ripping out our natural vulva hairs isn’t just a thing we do once in a while but it is expected and we’re demonised if we don’t partake.

Internalised Misogyny is incredibly powerful and I’m glad I am slowly but surely unlearning its Women v. Women vibe and escaping its toxic grasp.

There are so many facets that play into why we remove (and are expected to remove) our tache, beard, leg, arm, underarm, vulva, ass, foot, finger, brow, tummy, tit hair… and YES for some women it is ALL of the above… Hours and hours, hair by hair just so we can get through the day without being stared at, laughed at, called names and told to go back to the circus.

Here’s a wonderful essay which discusses where body hair removal started, what caused it, what hair implied about women in different times and how hair was removed from the body in days of old… check out how horrifying it got:

“How to Remove or Lose Hair from Anywhere on the Body

Boil together a solution of one pint of arsenic and eighth of a pint of quicklime. Go to a baths or a hot room and smear medicine over the area to be depilated. When the skin feels hot, wash quickly with hot water so the flesh doesn’t come off.”

Nowadays the abuse, the judgement, the worry, the self-criticism often remain too much to bear. So we still epilate, shave, wax, pluck, pull, depilate and laser. It seems a painful and expensive price to pay.

I’m not pretending I’m not one of those people. Sometimes fighting the fight is more tiresome than removing the hair.

Whilst being a Body Positive advocate sometimes makes me angry, most of the time I’m taking part in heartfelt conversations, showing compassion and understanding and finding the humour in ridiculous, unreachable standards.

Last year I took part in a magnificent hashtag on Instagram: #botanicalbodyhair

It was started by @sarah_louise_ferg and @unfounddoor. Two women who, from what I can tell after following their online lives, live in a world of poetry, nature, sunsets, humour and creativity.

With this hashtag they made something beautiful out of an important topic which encouraged vulnerability, shone light on something which women find shameful, while poking fun at impossible beauty standards.

They started the hashtag by replacing the hair they removed from their body with beautiful botanicals and took artistic photographs of the results. Slowly but surely other’s followed suit and an excellent hashtag was born.

Alongside this article are my contributions… beautifully styled and photographed by my sister Lisa. You can check out the hashtag and it’s 263 beautiful inspired posts here. Sarah Louise Ferg’s blog regarding her reasons for starting it and some of her favourite posts here.

As humorous and light hearted as the hashtag may seem I think it was a beautiful and important piece of feminist and body political activism created in a gentle and accessible way.

The conversations it started were enlightening, empowering and sometimes frustrating – the best type of conversations. We don’t all have to agree but let’s open the floor for different voices and opportunities to learn from and challenge others.

Perhaps the fact that all the images created were visually stunning and typically beautiful but with an important underlying message made it easier for people to enter the conversation who may otherwise have stayed quiet. Who knows?

I just know it was a fun way to spend a Sunday with my sister. We nearly wet ourselves laughing at the ridiculousness of figuring out how to attach purple fronds to my upper lip… in the end we just shoved them up my nose.

Because I believe in our right to bodily integrity I respect everyone’s right to do with their body as they see fit.

So, I say, do what you like when it comes to your body hair. Grow it or take it all away- it’s your body- do what feels right to you.

If you are going to remove your hair then great but let me ask you this: you may think it is nicer/ cleaner/ sexier/ preferable but… if everyone else in the world didn’t remove their body hair… would you still do it?

Sometimes it’s a good idea to question our motives. To dig deep and ask interesting questions about our choices. Sometimes the answers are uncomfortable. That’s ok. Asking the question is the important bit.

To broaden your idea of what a normal female body is, why not follow bearded model and body political activist Harnaam Kaur (her Instagram is great but if you wanna get a real taste of her wit and vibe then head over to her Twitter). Also learn from Dana from @dothehotpants as she traverses round NYC with her gloriously hairy pins and figures out her thoughts about the male gaze and socially acceptable bodies.

Perhaps invest in a cute pin from the @yourwelcomeclub and show off how you celebrate body hair.

And one last suggestion: No more commenting on other people’s body hair, no more commenting on other people’s bodies full stop, unless you want to exclaim how beautiful the being in front of you is.

Danni holds talks, workshops, events and retreats which encourage people to be part of the Body Positive Movement and figures out ways we can all have better body confidence.

Website:           https://www.chachipowerproject.co.uk/

Blog:                 https://www.chachipowerproject.co.uk/blog

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/chachipowerproject/

Instagram:       https://www.instagram.com/chachipowerproject/

Twitter:            https://twitter.com/chachi_power


IT'S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE GETS PREGNANT

IT'S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE GETS PREGNANT

Growing up in Ireland, abortion was always considered a bad word; something that would be spoken about in private or as hypothetical. “If I ever got pregnant, I’d be on the first boat to the UK” was an ongoing joke…

I don’t know how many girls ever did “get the boat” but all I can say is my heart truly pains for them that did. On top of an extremely stressful and scary situation most would have had to travel into the unknown, likely alone, to get this done.

On my 26th birthday last year I found out I was pregnant. After three years of living in London, being single and broke (the London dream), I don’t know how to begin to tell you all the thoughts, fears and stresses that came with seeing those dreaded blue lines. I’d just been home to Ireland for a week and while I was there I knew deep down that I was pregnant but I was avoiding the facts. A week later on Tuesday 22nd August, I decided to suck it up and take the test. That evening, unexpectedly, there was not one emotion going through my brain. I was dealing with a blank. I don’t remember anything about that night – what I said, or what I did. I felt numb and silent, something had switched.

Stress and worry are natural reactions to situations like this, but the emotions running through my body at that time are something I don’t recall experiencing before. Figuring out what to do next felt like another obstacle to overcome, so I cannot even begin to comprehend how I would have been able to organise traveling to another country to have an abortion. Currently, 10-12 financially-able women travel to the UK every single day to undergo safe abortion services because they’re unable to at home. These women travel across seas feeling shameful, without a choice and without a guarantee of future medical support.

Getting an abortion was an extremely personal decision and was affected by many things other than just becoming a mother. I was brought up in a society which would judge me for being a single parent, but they also didn’t want me to get an abortion – what the fuck was I supposed to do? At the time I couldn’t even tell my closest friends, simply because I couldn’t get the words out. I didn’t know how I felt about myself and I couldn’t deal with the added stress of worrying about how people viewed me and my decision.

Nine months on and my family still don’t know. I think that is the hardest part. My family aren’t backwards, we’re actually very open, but growing up in a catholic environment we’re told to believe that abortion is wrong and even for me the negative connotations are still attached. A lot of energy is put into reminding myself that I made the right decision and keeping this a secret from my main support system has been one of the biggest burdens. I’ve always been a strong individual who’s been able to handle everything life has thrown, so the thought of having people, especially my family, take pity on me would be the worst.

Living in the UK has helped me realise how common this scenario is, and, most importantly, that I’m not alone. Many of my friends have been in this situation and having someone to speak with about my feelings regularly has allowed me to get through this. It is a massive strain on your personal energy to make sure you’re ok everyday, and I have no doubt if I was in Ireland and this had happened I would be in a very different situation mentally.  Having the option to speak to people about this anytime I need to do so has been vital. If I was in Ireland I wouldn’t have had that and I don’t know that I would be ok now for that simple reason. I was met with nothing but compassion and empathy during this situation. The NHS services in the UK made this entire situation feel like less of an obstacle, I was met with solidarity and support from all of the nurses and doctors I encountered, something I will be eternally grateful for.

Regularly I think about my decision and although I have no regrets I can’t help but think, what if? I have no doubt that one day I will be an amazing mother but it was not the right time for many reasons and I am ok with that – even if it’s not something I can’t talk about openly right now. I want women to feel empowered to make their own decision when it comes to their body and not feel shame when making the choice that is right for them. I’ve done all this myself, my way and learned so much about myself in the process.

Repeal the 8th is how we lift the stigma surrounding abortion, removing ‘shame’ or embarrassment for women in Ireland doing what’s right for them.

The REPEAL THE 8th VOTE is on the 25th of May. Want to get involved and show your support? Follow these links…

https://www.repealeight.ie/memberssupporters-submissions/

http://www.abortionrights.org.uk/quid-pro-choice/

Keep an eye on our social media on the 25th to hear from women who have travelled home to Ireland for the repeal vote. Ladies, we salute you.


EMMA BRESCHI

EMMA BRESCHI

Photographer, model, and lover of red, Emma Breschi, talks to REEK about why she’s a bitch’s worst nightmare…

 

Tell us about your day to day?

Each day is something new and different. I’m lucky that I get to experience life like that! But when I’m not working you can guarantee I’ll be spending the day with my dog, Lebron.

What has been the most exciting thing to happen to you this month?

Well today I’m hungover and I’ve lost my voice… safe to say I must’ve had an epic night.

Tell us about some of the women who inspire you in your personal life and career?

I’m inspired by bitches that rage with anger and give everybody hell. I’m inspired by the mothers who care to be kind. I’m inspired by women, because they really are quite something.

What gender equality causes mean the most to you personally and why?

I mean most of us know the textbook meaning and how it should go, but gender equality is a topic of discussion that could go on forever and ever. So how can I put it simply? The way I see it, is that we should be able to raise our daughters more like sons and yet have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.

What signifies female strength to you?

Powering through your day with severe menstrual pains.

What are your 5 favourite smells and why?

Smoke from a wooden fire, Jasmine flower, the sea, eucalyptus oil and puppies… those smells rid me of anxiety.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

I’m a bitch’s and a witch’s’ worst nightmare.

Find out more about this brilliant bitch here!

Images: self portraits by Emma Breschi.