This week, something which most women have known for years has finally been confirmed by actual scientific research. Taking the contraceptive pill is linked to an increased risk of depression. Girls aged between 15-19 who are on the pill are 80% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than those who are not on hormonal contraception. Many young women choose to begin using birth control methods such as the pill in their late teens, which is also supposed to help out with acne, period pain and other unpleasant lady stuff- as well as being 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
I am going to speak quite frankly about this, as it’s something I have struggled with for a long time. When I heard about this study, there was a really weird mix of emotions and I guess a degree of validation awarded to my experience. I first experimented (it is a literal experiment) with going on the pill aged 18, I was prescribed one which many of my friends had spoken positively of. I thought I would never have a spot on my face or a cramp in my ovary again! But within three months, I had broken out with severe acne (something which I had never had a previous problem with, and haven’t since), my boobs had ballooned four sizes and I was retaining more weight than I usually did. In trying to take responsibility for my sexual health, I had totally lost control of my body. With frantic repeated googling, I realised these “minor” side effects were commonly linked to this particular form of birth control, and that it was time to switch. Apprehensively I moved onto pill number two and after six months, in a miraculous turn of events, both the acne and the weight had shifted . Yet I struggled to grapple with the combination of anxiety and depression which I experienced, and to relay this information to a rather unsympathetic and unhelpful GP. There was no real mention of a potential link to my pill, and it was only through talking to friends that I discovered this was a relatively common occurrence. Stories of being “crazy” and a “hormonal mess” had lead many to abandon it altogether, or try out the other invasive options of implant or the coil. There were equally off-putting stories which have been enough to deter me from these options: of non-stop bleeding on the implant for months at a time, and women passing out with the pain of insertion of the coil. (There is a really good article here on Broadly about some women’s experience with the IUD). The depression which I experienced as a side effect of birth control interfered with my personal relationships, and I struggled to convince my boyfriend at the time that this behaviour wasn’t normal or in character for me. I had experienced a detrimental effect on both my physical and mental health, and I didn’t really have any other option. These side effects left me genuinely scared to move onto my third different pill- what if they returned or worsened? Thankfully the lower dose in estrogen agreed with my body, but many women I know have abandoned hormonal contraception altogether unable to find something to agree with them, and with no real alternative, that is a big risk to take. There aren’t many other viable options presented as generally the GP’s I visited were older men, and although they did their job, there was no level of understanding or common ground between us. I felt like they wanted me out of their office as quickly as possible, and had little understanding of the toll these unwanted side effects had taken.
It’s strange having been on this pill for two years, and thinking about what my personality or body might be like without it. Hearing of contraception for men certainly changes things up a bit, yet ignites many more questions over the level of trust put in a partner in this department. The saying goes that it takes two to tango, but right now it seems that only one of the the dancers is putting in any leg work (10/10 metaphor!!!). I guess 4 years isn’t too far away and hopefully this offers up a solution which makes the entire situation less one-sided, and which less women have to endure these side effects as a necessary evil.
Today, images emerged of a woman being forced to remove a Burkini whilst sunbathing on a beach in France. Yes, a woman was stripped of clothing she wanted to wear by armed police because apparently her outfit symbolises religious oppression/extremism.
If for one moment we ignore the fact that quite obviously this woman elected to, and felt comfortable in this item of clothing, and suppose that this Burkini is a symbol of “the enslavement of women”- why is a woman not allowed to be modest? Just as women have the freedom to sunbathe topless, why is she not allowed to cover her body? If this is how she chooses to spend a day at the beach, who is the government to intervene? Marine Le Penn, as a poor excuse for the regulation cites that ‘France does not lock away a woman’s body’. Instead of free will in the matter, her body is forcibly stripped bare by society to be scrutinised outwith her own free will. Arresting a woman for her choice of clothing in 2016 is now a reality. I’m 99% sure this constitutes as a violation of a basic human right. We are simply perpetuating the time honoured tradition of a group of men (and Marine Le Penn) dictating what a woman can and can not wear. This is obviously a thinly veiled attempt on the part of a country which has suffered a great deal to attempt to assert control, and at the same time wrongly blame an entire religion for the terrible events which have taken place. But why is the woman one to suffer, why is her ideology compromised?
At the other end of the spectrum, away from women being shamed for modesty, women are shamed for choosing to expose their bodies. And perhaps more worryingly, for being proud of their bodies. As an over cited, but nonetheless important example- take Kim Kardashian’s naked selfie. The selfie is an key method of asserting ones individuality in the digital age. It’s self-representation in its crudest form. You take a few photos, pick the one you look best and post it online for all to see. This is how Kim chose to represent herself: she’s naked, she looks amazing, and she doesn’t give a fuck. If I had worked out that hard I’d probably do the same! (Although right now I eat so many potatoes that I myself have begun to resemble one, so it’s out of the question) So why are there people angrily pounding on their keyboards and lamenting the state of feminism because of one woman’s personal choice to post a photo, taking pride in her body. Is it then a sin to be confident, for a woman to know in herself how she wishes to be seen? For the woman in the Burkini perhaps she does not wish for her body to define her, whilst for others, her body is something to show off and take pride in. Either way should the female form still provoke such outrage, as it seems to have for centuries. Too much confidence means a woman is trashy, and a disregard for convention is equally damaging. So what is “the right way” for a woman dress? Why is the female body a constant cause for debate, a battle ground to be fought on by the opinions of others. We live in a society where women are raped for wearing too little, and arrested for wearing too much.
So wear a Burkini! Wear a tracksuit! Wear a bikini! Wear nothing! DO WHAT YOU WANT! Just don’t let a government, or a weirdo on the internet, or your parents, or ANYONE ever tell you what you should or shouldn’t wear, because although it might seem superficial- it isn’t. Your body is your body. And your choice is your choice. It’s nobody else’s.
It’s the middle of August and it’s 12 degrees outside. I am £200 deep in my overdraft. I worked quite hard for three days, so I obviously deserve a new pair of trainers. Three minutes later, I have minus three hundred pounds. I want to go out but I can’t afford it. But all my friends are going, so I just go anyway. The problem escalates. I keep buying trainers, I buy some plants, assorted overly priced items for lunch each day, maybe I decide it’s time to get one of those micro-pigs people were talking about for ages. This pattern continues for several years. It’s a vicious cycle of spending money I don’t have so I can have nicer clothes, gluten free meal options and the latest trendy pets. Now I am a million pounds in debt and own twelve animals. Before I know it, I have to declare bankruptcy, I go to jail and all my teeth fall out.
This is what I think about, late at night before bed. This is going to be my life.
Okay- most likely not, at least I know for a fact I will not own a micro-pig because everyone knows it’s a scam and most of them grow up to be full size oinkers. However, I am holding out hope that I will be able to retire aged 25, and have a small family of tiny chihuahuas with tiny outfits that I take on tiny walks all the time.
BUT HOW WILL THIS BE POSSIBLE IF I DONT HAVE A FULL-TIME, ADULT JOB?! An arts degree leaves you with no guarantees. It’s like being in a lovely fluffy cloud world for four years and then the cloud evaporates and you fall out the sky and there’s no parachute, and you hit the ground and there’s nobody there to help you up. While people were learning useful stuff like open heart surgery and how to earthquake-proof a building, I was spending hours pondering the role of the surrealist muse. It was interesting as flip and good for my brain, but it’s not as practical as proficiency in Microsoft Office. Lately though, I’ve been thinking that I don’t want someone to help me up from my metaphorical free falling journey. Rejection is hard and it’s frustrating. Especially when you pour hours into a job application which someone looks at for five seconds (that isn’t a figure I’ve pulled from the air, it’s a real life internet fact). That means I spend longer reading my horoscope than someone does my CV. But there are hundreds of thousands of people in this exact same in-between rut. And it might take a while, but I guess this is just adulthood. It’s not like an American movie where everyone’s hair is really neat and all problems are conveniently solved as the camera pans out to a chirpy pop song. For a fact my hair is very messy, and right now I think the ending of my movie would have Tragedy by Steps playing. Things that are straightforward are rarely interesting, and Tragedy is actually a great song. It’s times like these where you learn a lot about yourself, and grow as a person. Even if it means sometimes feeling like you’re standing still whilst everyone else is moving forward. It’s difficult to watch people you know “finding themselves” on holiday in Thailand for three months sitting on a beach drinking brightly coloured alcohol out of fish bowls, when you’re still living with your parents. But I am much less likely to get sunburnt or lose my passport. I’ve also learnt new skills, like how to work a spreadsheet and loads of keyboard shortcuts like ~insert page break~. I’m sure this means I’m pretty much a cool hacker girl now. And hopefully now my future career as ‘someone who can do good keyboard shortcuts’ will simultaneously protect me from the clutches of bankruptcy, keep me out of jail and ensure all my teeth remain safely lodged in my gums.
My childhood experience of Pokémon wasn’t rewarding. I loved horses, so spent the vast majority of my weekly pocket money buying up packs to find some cool horse type guys. I collected about five of them and I thought that was the point of the game. I didn’t understand that you were supposed to battle them until years later; I was just too busy pretending to be a horse. My Dad set up a showjumping course for me in the back garden and everything. It was really nice of him to encourage me to be whatever I wanted to be, although I think he might have thought it might have led to something constructive, such as sports (lol).
So when I hatched an egg this week, and a Pikachu emerged in all its yellow-y, lightning bolt-y glory, I thought ‘this is amazing’. The grasshopper had finally become the cricket, or whatever that phrase is. I mean, I don’t know if that is considered impressive, the fact that I didn’t wrangle and catch it myself, but I felt cool as flip- and I got a great screenshot that I could potentially post on social media to show how hip and happenin’ I am. But deep down, did I really care? Of course not. I feel bad enough spending as much time as I do on my phone, walking around the streets disconnected from my surroundings and unable to see actual real life cool things, like dogs and free sample cans of Coke Zero. Plus about 6 people asked me if I was lost over the course of one day, which I guess could demonstrate that there’s still hope about how kind the human race is or something.
Seeing that people have gotten out the house and are now actually walking excitedly about is great. It’s what life must have been like back in the good old days! But people are getting mugged, falling over, walking in front of cars. It’s just like those idiots who try to take cool selfies, but they die because they aren’t paying any attention to the cliff that they’re about to step off. It seems like that when technology is involved it’s easy to forget that there’s an experience outwith the one you’re having. At the end of the day, life can be really boring when you’re doing something mundane. I hate it if I don’t have my phone for my hour long bus journey. On the other hand, I end up overhearing really funny conversations, chatting to old ladies, or just getting even more pissed off by those people who blast their music without headphones (WHAT NORMAL PERSON DOES THAT!?!?!). Sometimes it’s nice just to disconnect for a while though, and not have to worry about running out of data, or a dead battery. It isn’t necessary to be entertained 24/7, to always have something you need to do. Sometimes it’s good to be bored! That’s how you realise that you need to do interesting things to fill your time. Somebody was once so bored they invented a television. Think about that.
Anyways, I’m just going to call it early on though and say that it’s the beginning of the end of human intelligence, and the start of government mind control tactics.
If I disappear after this post, you know why.
Wake up sheeple.
This week, instead of spending my money on clothes or food, I bought two new books and earmarked several more for later (I didn’t actually forgo food by the way, that seems very dramatic when I read it back).
I recently re-read an essay by George Orwell called ‘Books vs. Cigarettes’, in which he explores the idea that buying and reading books is ‘an expensive hobby’. To combat this perception, he compares his £25 annual expenditure on books and other reading materials (the essay was written in 1946, so with inflation this equates to roughly £975 now) to his £40 per year on cigarettes (£1560!).
Now, I can’t put myself on the same plane as Orwell, namely because I’m a terrible writer, and he’s dead. Also because I don’t actually smoke and I think it’s gross, so cigarette expenditure doesn’t really enter into my financial pie chart. I do always think twice before spending money on a book though, but if I’m going out for dinner or drinks I don’t hesitate; despite it invariably costing more. Yet of all the things I do on a weekly basis, reading probably proves the most enlightening- and it’s great for making “friends“… I asked a couple of “friends” about these ideas and none of them had spent any significant amount of money on books within the past six months, despite being keen readers and spending money on other things. (I bet George Orwell had many friends and many books just like me but they probably smelled a lot smokier.)
I wonder why then, this reluctance still emerges. I would hazard a guess that reading- although hugely entertaining- is something which requires a level of engagement that going out for a meal does not. Also, in order to truly enjoy a book, it’s important to disconnect entirely from the outside world- which is harder than it may seem, especially if your mum keeps calling you to ask if you’ve emptied the dishwasher (this is just a random example – it doesn’t happen to me…). Couple this with the fact that new books are relatively expensive, an 100 page book costing almost ten pounds has a certain pressure to be mind-blowingly fantastic when you’re on a shoestring budget. But this defeats the point of literature, and of escapism by such means. Finance shouldn’t enter into this realm, and the value of an idea can’t be confined to a price tag set by some guy in a suit earning more money than I ever will. I guess then, that borrowing and lending are probably the way forward, despite the inevitability that your book will never be returned. The selfless act of book lending therefore, inspires my new motto for the week : Passing on a great novel is better than passing on a bad attitude! :-))
I took a trip to the cinema with my sister last night to see The Neon Demon, Nicholas Winding Refn’s latest offering, centred around the competitive modelling business in LA. To emphasise to the viewers just how cutthroat the industry really is, the film opens with a shot of the beautiful protagonist Jessie -Elle Fanning- reclining on a chaise lounge, covered in blood, with her throat slit (very clever imagery). The first two thirds are visually appealing, yet remain rather dull. There is little attention paid to any narrative or character development, and the impressive colour and light show, coupled with an powerful soundtrack, seem to act as a lengthy exercise in brainwashing one into thinking Elle Fanning is the most beautiful girl on the planet. Let me add that I don’t have a problem with that idea, it just isn’t interesting enough to hold my attention for however long we are forced to endure close up shots of her admiring herself in mirrors.
However my real (and perhaps slightly strange) frustration with this film stems from its latter third, housing a violent climax in which two beautiful, yet ruthless ‘ageing’ models and a makeup artist, push our pretty protagonist into an empty swimming pool before proceeding to eat her flesh and bathe in her blood. What a bloody twist! These women are cannibals! They literally eat this girl because she poses a threat to their careers! Why is this allocated such a short amount of screen time?! I am all for allusions to sinister plot elements, but these models- who don’t eat anything- literally ate a person and we are expected to leave the theatre feeling satisfied having parted with our hard earned cash. Thankfully there was a promotion on at the Odeon and we only paid £4 for our tickets, but still I remain unimpressed. I have sat through countless films about muscular werewolves and sparkling vampires and nerdy outcasts with superhuman strength, and I can’t even get one decent offering about models who consume the flesh of their competition. I suppose that cannibalism just isn’t as sexy as vampirism because at the heart of this issue, it is really, really, really weird. I also concede this wasn’t the point of the film, and it was attempting to articulate a wider comment on beauty or youth or whatever, blah blah blah. Despite this, The Neon Demon is one of the coolest premises for any film I have heard in a while, and I was really disappointed that more people weren’t eaten over the course of its two hour running time. I personally am volunteering to remake this film, and I now throw my hat into the ring. I give this movie a solid three stars, but if Hollywood gives me a chance I know I could take it to a four and a half, if not five star affair.