Feministy Shit.

CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of domestic abuse – in particular, financial abuse.

At the start of the summer I completed my university course (Ciao for now, Lancaster!) and came home to find myself jobless. I decided that while I was trying to find a job I didn’t want to be sitting at home watching the endless bore that is daytime television, so I started to volunteer at Your Sanctuary – a charity based near me in Surrey which offers emotional and practical support to those who are experiencing or have previously experienced domestic abuse.I’ve learnt a lot from the training I’ve had so far, and I thought I’d share some of it with you.

I am aware that men are also victims of domestic violence – 1 in 6 men will be victims of it in their lifetime – and my blog is titled ‘Feministy Shit’, but the battles within feminism are not exclusive to women and nor is domestic violence.

Fia x

Part 8: Financial Abuse

When people say ‘domestic abuse’, often, the first image conjured is of a physically abusive relationship. As one starts to develop the picture further, the concept of psychological and emotional abuse is probably the next thing to come to mind. Unsurprisingly, domestic abuse comes in many different shapes and sizes which can usually be categorised into five main types: physical; sexual; emotional; psychological; financial.

Financial? Yes, financial. Financial abuse.

You’re not the only one – I hadn’t heard of it either. I’d considered that in intimate relationships money could be manipulated by a perpetrator, but I hadn’t considered it as a type of domestic abuse in its own right. In fact, in a survey, 75% of Americans failed to recognise financial abuse in connection to domestic violence.

To consider financial abuse as a type of domestic abuse, we must first remind ourselves of the definition of domestic abuse itself:

‘Domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

Stripped down to its core, domestic abuse is about power and control of one person over another, as opposed to a loss of control, and financial abuse is a means of control – a very powerful means of control.

Examples of financial abuse include a perpetrator preventing their partner from getting or keeping a job, to ensure their dependence upon their perpetrator; at the opposite end of the spectrum a perpetrator may force their partner to work and pay for everything or demand their partners salary, their savings. A perpetrator may force their victim having to account for any money they spend or deny them access to any finances. Perpetrators of financial abuse may put all bills and accounts in their partners name so that any debt they incur falls upon their partner. Other possibilities include the abuser may withhold information about benefits from their partner, hide the money from them, or prevent them from having access to their own benefits. Financial abuse also extends to situations where perpetrators provide money for sexual activity, use of physical force r the threat if violence to obtain money. A final example of financial abuse is when the perpetrator forces their partner to commit crimes for money.

Each of the above examples describes a means of forcing dependence on a perpetrator – a precise mechanism of control, causing the abused party to remain in the relationship and the abuser to remain in control. Due to the personal nature of financial affairs, people rarely discuss their financial situation in normal relationships, let alone in relationships dictated by control and abuse.

Unfortunately financial abuse is rarely recognised within its own right, in fact research by the charity Platform 51 has shown that those in financially abusive relationships rarely recognise it from within either. Platform 51 have also said that they’ve found the average age for those in the clutches of financial abuse is 20 – an age at which few individuals are entirely aware of financial situations and possibly are more easily manipulated by a financially abusive relationship.

While financial abuse usually occurs alongside other forms of domestic abuse (it has been reported up to 98% of abusive relationships have involved some form of financial abuse) it can, and does, occur singly and is equally as destructive in both short term and long term effects as other types of abuse.



If you, or someone you know, are affected by discussions within this article, local and national helplines are available. In the UK Women’s Aid and Refuge jointly run a 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 is free to call and won’t show up on BT bills.


Feministy Shit.

Some people watch Made In Chelsea, others TOWIE, I watch The Jeremy Kyle Show. It’s a habit, and probably not a good one, but shit happens.
Fia x

Part 7: Dear Jeremy Kyle

I have a bone to pick with you. It’s been bugging me for a while now and I’ve decided I can’t ignore it anymore. I’m hoping that by addressing this issue, you may consider treating such situations differently – especially since you are a figure in the public eye amongst such discussions.

Let me set the scene. We’re dealing with a couple struggling to trust each other, or perhaps it’s an ‘exes at war’ type scenario. One of the pair comes out on the stage; they’re nervous:
‘Don’t worry about this lot, they should be at work.’
The situation is discussed, an abusive relationship (be it physical, psychological, emotional etc) is described.
‘She headbutted me.’
‘I’m scared of them.’
‘He gave me a black eye.’
‘They control me – I can’t leave the house or see my family.’
And here is where you make your error: ‘If they’re abusive, then why don’t you leave them?’

The problem is not necessarily the question itself, but the implication of the question: ‘You should leave them.’ Obviously no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship, but to leave them? It’s never quite that simple…

So some people would say I’m making a fuss over nothing here. You’re the host of a talk show based on discussion, surely it’s a perfectly valid question – if someone is treating you badly, why would you continue to be around that person? Ignoring the fact that such a question can make you appear to be judging the victim for their decisions, there are other issues to take into account here.

Now, I hate to laden this discussion with statistics, but I’m a mathematician at heart and old habits die hard: research has shown that victims of domestic violence are actually at a higher risk when they leave their partners. Their leaving may cause the perpetrator to lash out or track them down (we all remember the horrific story of …, the hairdresser who was murdered by her abusive ex-partner after she’d left them). Oftentimes victims of domestic violence are actually safer staying with their partners, biding their time until they can leave safely with enough resources to seek the help and possible refuge they may require. Furthermore, on average, victims of domestic abuse will leave their abusive partner, and then take them back seven times. It can take SEVEN attempts at leaving before the cycle of abuse is finally broken… And this is only the start of the survivor’s journey. It can take years for the psychological and emotional effects of domestic abuse to be broken: years of belittling, of being judged by the person who claims to love them most, of never being good enough cannot be washed away overnight. This leaving process is a ceremony, if you will, it requires preparation and time.

So it may seem like I’m being rather harsh – in fact it’s quite a common mistake to suggest that a victim of domestic abuse should ‘get out of that relationship’ – but there’s a reason I’m not giving you an inch here.

Weekdays at 9:25 on ITV, smack in between Lorraine and This Morning. Double (or is it triple these days?) bills on ITV2 in the afternoons – and I’m not including The Jeremy Kyle Show USA. If I should so wish, then in one week off on holiday, I could easily watch 15 hours of relationship drama, people storming off the stage, families at war, lectures on contraception. the importance of a biological father’s name being put on the birth certificate… And you asking victims of domestic abuse why they choose not to leave their partner.

You, a figure in the public’s eye, with millions of viewers on this side of the Atlantic alone implying, (albeit probably unintentionally) with your choice of words, that victims of domestic abuse should leave their partners without truly discussing possible repercussions is not okay – not with the power of your influence, not with your number of viewers.

If your viewers are under the impression that abusive relationships are simple enough to just ‘leave’, then you are the only one with the power to educate them.

One in six men are victims of domestic abuse. As a women in the United Kingdom you are more likely to die at the hands of an abusive partner than you are to die from heart disease. In England and Wales alone, on average two women are murdered every week as a result of domestic violence. Thirty men a year are murdered as a result of domestic violence. This is the truth. Domestic abuse is everywhere, and to fight it, we need to educate the public about it. It’s not a pleasant discussion, but it’s one we need to have and it’s one you have the power to address more so than most. So next time a victim of domestic abuse sits on your stage, please don’t ask them why they haven’t left their abuser, but perhaps instead ask them if they do want to leave them, and if so why they have a right to feel that way, discuss with them the struggles of leaving the perpetrator, and impress the importance of getting out of the relationship as safely as possible, even if it takes some time.

Jeremy, if you read this, I would love a response. Please help change the way that the public perceives domestic violence.

Thank you

Feministy Shit.

CONGRATZ TO THE CLASS OF 2014 =D . I hope you all had fabulous days, regardless of the weather, and had millions of photos taken with family and friends fit to burst with pride.
Fia x

Part 6: A Patriarchal Graduation

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my graduation. My parents wandered around looking super proud, my dad actually wore a suit (he only wears them when forced), my mum looked like a news reader – smart and fashionable – and my brother was on his best behaviour, smiling perfectly in all the photos. Adding to this the free wine and a nice, sunny day, it was truly lovely… But I did have a few complaints.

‘How the fuck am I meant to fit my hair under this hat?!’ When you have a short, curly bob which rarely obeys you on the best of days, there is nothing more panic-worthy than being given a mortar board on a day which you want to look smart, and preferably ‘nice’. This, I noticed, was a generic complaint. No matter who I talked to, we were all looking for the earliest opportunity to be rid of our ridiculous headpiece…

Except women couldn’t remove theirs during the ceremony. That’s right, at the start of the ceremony graduands were informed that only men were allowed to remove their mortar boards once they were in the ceremony hall and, in fact, women could be removed from the hall if they took theirs off. I’ve attempted to research into why this is, but have struggled to find an historical, factual root(if you know why, please fill in this part of the mystery in the comments). The only reason I’ve heard, I sincerely hope is just urban myth – women aren’t allowed to remove their caps since it represents a ‘cap’ on their learning. The fact that this little scrap of information exists, be it true or otherwise, is deeply disturbing itself.

Complaints about the robes came in torrents too ‘IhatethisIhatethisIhatethis… My hood keeps riding up!’ After going to military school and spending 7 years attempting not to look stupid wearing my blues (photograph attached for your hilarity), I am no stranger to slightly ridiculous, incredibly uncomfortable uniforms – the kind of uniforms that your parents insist upon proudly photographing you in. So when it came to my graduation, a day dedicated to wearing robes that made you look like Professor Snape, and a hat which inevitably makes you look like a pineapple, I was prepared for the inevitable battle with the required outfit of the day.


What I failed to take into account, however, is that the graduation robes were initially designed for men. Women going to university and respectively graduating was not commonplace looking back 100 years ago, let alone before that (women have only been graduating since 1878…), and subsequently robes were designed to be worn by men. The structure is designed for broader shoulders, so even upon taking into account chest size, the robes do not sit properly upon the shoulders of most female wearers and again are awkwardly shaped around their breasts (I felt very lucky to be part of the itty bitty titty committee on this day). The hoods, too we’re initially designed for the male physique and broader shoulders, so often, do not sit properly on women’s shoulders – even when pinned in place.

My final feministy comment on the subject of graduation is more of a sad observation than an angry rant. As a Mathematics student, I was graduating with a majority of students completing both Bachelor and Masters courses in fields of science and technology… But there was a lacking of self identifying women students. Given that, at Lancaster University, there are actually more women students in the population than male students, the fact that there is still a noticeable imbalance in the number of women enrolling in scientific subjects is a sad one.


Autistically happy.

On the 17th of June 2014 I turned 21 but, oddly enough, this was not the most exciting part of my day. My dad had booked himself and me to go to a talk about autism, given by Peter Vermeulen and hosted by my younger brother’s school, Freemantles. The talk was titled ‘Autism and Happiness’. 

Autism is a subject close to my (and indeed the whole of my family’s) heart after by brother was diagnosed with autism and severe learning difficulties at the age of three. Gregory turned eighteen just a few weeks ago and we are all more than aware of his becoming an adult – not in the least because he’s 6″1 and still growing! His school education will finish next year and we are currently exploring the next stage of his life: we’ve been considering colleges in the nearby area which may take him on for basic courses in life skills, and also discussing the possibility that one day he will require full time care that my parents will be unable to give.

While some ‘high functioning’ autistic individuals are able to live independently, have a job, etc, this is not necessarily the case for all autistic individuals and we are under no illusions that Gregory will probably never be able to live on his own. While we have come to accept his dependence, there is one thing which still preys on our minds constantly – his happiness.

So my dad and myself were sat in a room filled with mums and dads sat on the edges of their seats, hoping to hear pearls of wisdom that could improve the happiness of their children. My dad knocked over his glass of water, I sneezed seventeen times in quick succession (damn you, hay-fever) and the talk began.

The first thing we were confronted with was the statistics, and the statistics didn’t look good. Autistic individuals are more likely to suffer from depression and have a lower quality of life compared to others – according to studies. And here we encounter the first hurdle: the studies. I mean, how on earth do you measure the happiness of an individual?! It’s hardly a subjective, quantitative measure. Further to that, merely 4% of all research into autism covers this topic of ‘happiness’ and surely the happiness of any individual is worth more than 4% worth of our research resources!

Studies often measure happiness by accounting for certain lifestyle aspects – having a partner, living independently, having a job – but these aspects themselves do not necessarily correspond to happiness. Sat in the audience my dad and I were more than aware that Gregory was currently ticking very few of these happiness tick boxes, and probably never would: living independently – probably not; being employed – probably not; forming romantic attachments – probably not. Yet Gregory doesn’t appear to be unhappy. Sure he can be a grumpy teenager – he hates it when I change the TV channel and he really doesn’t like it when I kick him out of the bathroom in the morning – but that doesn’t translate to unhappiness. Instead we should think of what these factors actually represent in terms of happiness; relationships, jobs, living independently, these aspects all have the ability to give someone a sense of worth, and this does translate to happiness.

So now we were asked to think in far more simple terms – what does make people happy? Doing things they like. What doesn’t make people happy? Situations and doing things they don’t like. While these factors may not come into play with regards to having a job or learning maths (maths is ‘icky’ for most people apparently?!) perhaps we can manipulate them to overlap; perhaps we can manipulate these small pleasures into useful means to give an individual a sense of self worth.

This technique is particularly poignant with autistic individuals, since they have the tendency to fixate and obsess over a certain subject. While subjects of interest will vary between individuals, as carers we have the ability to apply these obsessions in various ways to give individuals little tasks to help them learn or to make them feel useful. In fact, there is a whole book written on the subject called ‘Give him the whale,’ which was inspired by a young autistic individual who was obsessed with whales. When the child’s carers asked for advice as to how to get the child to interact in subjects other than whales, the reply given was simply ‘give him the whale!’ By aligning the child’s interests with knowledge they are required to learn, we can encourage their happiness and enjoyment of such subjects.


Hello all!! Sorry it’s been quiet over here for a while: with both Floss and myself rejoicing at getting 2:1s (martini, anyone?) in our degrees, we have been out celebrating/starting new jobs/job searching… But behind the scenes a fantastic idea has come from one of our readers – why not set up an Agony-Aunt type column?

Obviously this is one of the most fabulous ideas EVER, and we couldn’t say no to it!

How will we be doing this? Well, we’ve been putting together a group of women to read various situations submitted by absolutely anyone (including you!), and forming some well-rounded, varied advice from a decidedly fresh, feminist perspective. Further to that, we’d like to see comments from the public giving any useful advice they may have.

So this message is a call for any personal problems you may have and we will give you the best advice we can! If you have an issue you’d like us to discuss, please feel free to get in touch through our Facebook page or our email gspotfiaandfloss@gmail.com . 

The identity of the contributor and all those involves will, of course, be kept confidential – no real names will be revealed.

Fia x

Feministy Shit

Casually finished a maths degree last week (well, excluding possible resits). I’ve also been applying for jobs. And my twenty-first birthday is next week. That’s too grown-up sounding for my liking. Someone want to take me to play on the swings later?
My favourite form of procrastination, as ever, is clicking on billions of links to feminist articles. While there have been many worthy of a ranty article from myself I have, for the sake of my own happiness/sanity, decided to go with something much more positive.
Fia x

Part 5: Monokini 2.0

‘Monokini 2.0 is a social art project that re-examines popular culture’s narrow view of a woman’s ideal appearance.’ I was already sold. Pretentious, art-loving Fia thought this was a great idea and wanted to read more about this fantastic overlap between her passions of feminism and ART.  I continued reading…

‘The artistic director of Monokini 2.0 is the [Finnish] art duo Nutty Tarts.’ Now they’re just teasing me. The artists behind this rather obvious ingenuity are called Nutty Tarts, could this get any better? Well yes, and it does.

‘We strive to expand what is accepted and considered beautiful by designing a swimwear collection for women who have gone through breast cancer. Swimwear is conventionally designed for women who haven’t suffered a mastectomy. The fact is that many women who have had one breast removed due to breast cancer don’t wish to have breast reconstruction surgery, they wish to continue their lives with one or no breasts at all.’ Now you appreciate the awesomeness.

The website features the images of breast cancer survivors  all of whom have undergone mastectomies whilst forgoing breast reconstruction surgery, all modelling various swimming costumes designed for said survivors.

The project was inspired by Elina Halttunen a survivor and passionate swimmer, Elina found herself struggling to find a swimming costume that was stylish and practical. Swimming costumes with prosthesis proved uncomfortable for Elina, and why should she have hide her scars? Elina then designed her own swimming costume to suit her and the inspiration continued.

Elina Halttunen: the muse.

Obviously one of their main aims was to give these women something super awesome to wear on the beach, but they also have another, feminist and all-kinds-of-awesome aim:  ‘Seeing an exposed breast is considered nakedness, but why is exposing no breast also considered nakedness?… It had to do with more than what to wear on the beach. It was about a changing culture throughout all society, about freedom and emancipation.’

At this point I’m going to include some pretty pictures (yay, pictures!) and a link to the website, because it really does speak for itself. All I have left to say is that I hope to see more projects like this in the future: after all, who says you need two?




In New Territory

Content Warning: in depth discussion of periods, menstruation and blood.

Disappointment was actually rather overwhelming in my first few days of trying out the Mooncup. I was disappointed in my friends who already owned and used theirs: WHY hadn’t they told me to try it out? WHY hadn’t they persuaded me? WHY? I am not going to be that friend to you. I will be the friend who openly rants about the Mooncup and will march you to the shop to try it.Because the other feelings were absolute bliss, amazement and, well, triumph – over The System, about my bank account, anything really. I was convinced I had had a revelation and was feeling rather proud of myself for discovering it. In reality all the Mooncup is is a small cup, but it felt so much bigger than just that.

Let me first introduce the Mooncup basics:
The Mooncup is a reusable soft medical-grade silicone menstrual cup, about five centimetres long (or 2 inches for those of you who are into that). You wear it during your period just at the base of your vagina, where it collects the blood – this is different from tampons and towels that only absorb blood, and can be met with problems of overflowing. The Mooncup actually collects as much as three times more than a heavy duty night tampon. It is designed to be inserted into your vagina, where little holes in the top of it create a seal (with a funny little sucking noise) to secure it in place. The seal means there can be no leaks: smell, blood or otherwise. You change it more or less every 8 hours by releasing the seal, emptying the contents, rinsing/wiping it and reinserting it.

Now for some facts and info (if you want to skip to the excited rant, feel free to scroll down); the mooncup has, as far as I can see, just positives:

Cost – At Just £19,99, the Mooncup costs the equivalent of three months’ worth of tampons and pads for the average person. In the UK we spend over £5 billion a year on sanitary products (which are taxed, by the way) and it constitutes one of the costs which is hardest to eliminate from a budget. Meanwhile, the Mooncup will last you for years – mine has already paid back for itself.

Greener – Used sanitary products are most often disposed of in landfills or in the sea (I know.) Every year, in Britain alone, we would need to dig a hole 300 feet wide and 300 feet deep to bury our used sanitary pads and tampons. But the plastic in the majority of sanitary products mean they do not disintegrate and are harmful to the environment. Because it can be reused, the Mooncup’s only waste is the tiny cardboard box it comes in, which is recyclable. You also get a fancy little cotton bag to carry it in. In fact “Mooncup Ltd. is the first sanitary protection manufacturer in the world to be awarded Ethical Business status for its people and environmentally-friendly practices”.

Health – As well as being made from soft medical grade silicone, the Mooncup is latex-free, hypoallergenic and contains no dyes, BPA, phthalates, plastic, bleaches or toxins. (Did you know what most sanitary products contain pesticides from the cotton they’re made of? Ew!) It doesn’t have any additives, perfumes or gels – it completely respects your body’s balance. The Mooncup doesn’t absorb your natural moisture (which is 35% of the fluid tampons absorb) and unlike tampons doesn’t leave fibres behind. It also has little measurement marks so that you can keep track of your blood flow.

Comfort – Oh lordy, is it comfortable. It comes in two sizes, A and B, which depend on your age or if you have given birth vaginally. The cup will mold itself to your inner walls and is, in most cases, completely unnoticeable. Because it is worn much, much lower than a tampon, it is also a lot less invasive.

Convenient – No more packing dozens of tampons and pads for holiday, no rustling tampons in your bag, no worries about disposal when camping… The Mooncup is really discreet. Because it can contain more blood, you also have to change it less often and are less reliant on there being toilets nearby. The seal means no more leaks or overflows and less worry and stress during the heavier days of your period. It is completely safe and will stay in place during sport or other activities.

So, me and my Mooncup.
The last few months of using tampons had been increasingly painful for me, causing dryness and discomfort and really just not sitting right. I had also always had trouble dealing with my period in the first few days as it was always really heavy and would require changing up to every 2 hours. In the end it was the pain that got me: I was walking into town in absolute agony and decided it was enough. I had heard of the Mooncup from a few friends, as well as those old signs on the inside of women’s bathrooms in the library (ask a friendly librarian…?) , and was willing to try anything new. I went right into Single Step (the organic shop under The Whaletail Café in Lancaster) and searched for the Mooncup, only to find they were out of stock in my size. I resigned myself and shuffled my way over to my revision spot. A few hours later and after a near-fainting episode, I charged into Boots, grabbed the little green size B package, paid and got to meeting this new intimate companion of mine.

The Mooncup has a little stem that you can shorten to suit your comfort needs. I ended up cutting mine off almost entirely. Wearing it felt amazing, mainly because I just… couldn’t feel anything. The first day I went and checked it every hour and was astonished to find it almost empty each time, when just that morning I had gone through three tampons. Inserting it and taking it out took some getting used to but by my second period with the Mooncup I was a pro. Today I don’t even bother wearing a pad for protection – I have complete faith in my Mooncup.

Besides saving me money (SO MUCH MONEY) and rescuing me from pain, I’ve also noticed a decrease in period cramps and just generally feeling healthier down there, more natural and clean.

And speaking of clean, the biggest reaction I get when talking fangirling about my Mooncup is “ew, but isn’t it gross to see your blood like that?”. Simply put, no. I’ve found that I actually have less of an interaction with my period blood. When I overflowed using tampons I used to have to fish it out and find my fingers covered in blood (we’ve all been there!), or it would soak through the toilet paper. Because this doesn’t happen with the Mooncup, the only gesture is to twist it out, turn it upside down and slip it back in: unless you’re particularly clumsy, you won’t get any blood on you. I also find it oddly nice to be able to see and track my blood – after all, it is my blood, why should I be afraid or disgusted by it? From the very start of our periods we are told to hide it, soak it up and not talk or share about it. Why the shame? Since using the Mooncup I have had a much healthier approach to my period: I no longer suffer through it, but I experience it with my body, I am able to make sure everything is fine and almost look forward to it every month.

Those aspects are also what make the Mooncup really trans-man friendly, or anyone whose body menstruates. The packaging it comes in is really discreet and is a one-off buy, avoiding the repeated purchases of flashy tampon and/or pad packages. While it does need to be inserted into the vagina, it sits very low and is entirely unnoticeable as opposed to bulky pads or uncomfortable tampons. As mentioned above, less direct interaction with menstrual blood can help avoid feelings of dysphoria, and the measurements on the side allow you to track the amounts of blood you’re losing – this is particularly useful if you’re transitioning or taking hormone treatments since you will able to tell your doctor precisely how your blood flow is changing.

And finally, because this wouldn’t be complete with a feminist touch, it has made me think hard about the impact the sanitary tax and purchase of sanitary products has on women. On average, tampons and pads will cost you close to £100 a year, that’s £100 more than cis-men will spend. A single mother with two menstruating daughters will be dishing out £300 a year extra! On top of this, the wage gap means that we’re already starting off at a disadvantage. The Mooncup is not widely advertised because of the prohibitive costs to such a small ethical company, which ultimately serves bigger companies who don’t want you to know about the Mooncup: you need to keep spending money on potentially harmful products, not have a one-off £20 safe and healthy purchase. I wonder how different women’s financial/career position in society would be if she received equal pay and did not have to add the cost of sanitary products (repeal the tax! buy a Mooncup!)

So, dear friends, I am talking about the Mooncup. Because it could change your life, and it certainly has changed mine. If you have any questions please do comment and I’ll answer. If you need someone to come with you to buy one, just ask. I’ve asked Single Step to restock – online on www.mooncup.co.uk they are £19,99, in Boots £21,99 and in Single Step just £16,99. What are you waiting for! If it doesn’t work out, £20 is just a small drop in what you’re going to be spending on sanitary products anyway. Go ahead, convert, and when you’ve been won over, start spreading the news. Let’s change our planet, our bodies and society!

The Mooncup Enthusiast