Why do you come hair? And why do you hang around?


I just read a pretty spot on article about the ‘beauty’ obsessed nature of body positivity movements.


In summary the article basically says that ‘beautiful’ shouldn’t have to be a requirement of having value as a person. Body positivity shouldn’t be “everyone is beautiful” it should be “who cares if you’re beautiful? You’re still very important!”.

Firstly I’d like to acknowledge that I don’t have a great need for body positivity myself. I have a pretty decent amount of self confidence and aside from the usual adolescent insecurities I’ve never suffered too much. Sure, I don’t think I’m the most stunning creature ever. I’m alright. I’m definitely not the most photogenic (hence the lack of photo in this post), my nose is a bit bigger than I’d like and I could do without my broad shoulders. Given the choice I’d wake up tomorrow looking like Charlize Theron. However I’m young, white and slim enough that I am not too much opposed to narrow beauty ideals.

The one insecurity that gets on my nerves nearly every day is my hair. If you’re my facebook friend or my friend in any capacity you’re probably already bored sick of my hair-based angst or at least had a giggle at one of my self deprecating jokes.

I have Irish Hair. For those of you without Celtic genes and a weirdly spelled name, you probably don’t know what that is. I have Irish blood on both sides of the family, mostly from my Granny who emigrated from Roscommon. Mostly, I like being vaguely Irish. I wish I was more Irish. I have an interesting name, I got a slightly different perspective on the world growing up Catholic in a Church of England country (we’re more dramatic and interesting, and our churches are ostentatious and fabulous) and I can credit it for my distinctive colouring (pale skin, dark hair, blue eyes). The hair, however, I could do without.

Irish hair is never neat. It is dry and wild no matter how expensive your conditioner is. It is neither curly nor straight, it simply twists and turns of it’s own accord.  It is so fine and light it feels like it’s not there. It is extremely breakable particularly when stressed. In my case, it also happens to be thinner than a potato-free stew. It also gets greasy quickly, whilst still remaining dry and brittle. The slightest presence of wind or rain makes me look like a crazed fortune teller. You know when you tie your hair back and endearing little strands of it fall down around your face? Irish hair springs out in wild curls that stick out horizontaly. In short, everything that can possibly be wrong with hair is present in my hair. It almost never looks good and I also happen to be cursed with a total lack of ability to style hair. My immediate family suffer the same thing, but aside from them no one seems to have much understanding of what wild Irish Hair is like.

I remember at school having to wear a ponytail (my hair was down to my waist, scouse Mums don’t do bobs) and always despairing the little wiry curls that would escape the bobble and surround my face the second I got to school. So began my life long fight with my hair. In secondary school when I started to notice everything wrong with me I tried to take control. I cut my hair short. After a lifetime of freakishly long hair I was bored. I dyed it every possible colour to distract from the fact it was terrible and I couldn’t style it. I washed it every day and during my punkier phases I straightened it almost every day. Naturally my hair viscously bit back like a lion when I tried to tame it. It thinned out more than Donald Trump’s. So I layed off the dye and the heat application. Now it was just boring and brown and wilder than ever. Last year I panicked when I saw actual bald spots and thin, witchy patches. I started taking iron tablets and consciously upping my protein (being vegetarian and a student probably doesn’t help). I reduced the amount I washed it by half and, sure enough, it has got better. For a while, though, it was bad. I would cringe and feel close to tears of I caught sight of my pathetic amount of whispy hair in a mirror.

I would burn with envy when other girls would swish around their thick, healthy hair and style it constantly without the ugly results I had to put up with. I still bubble with anger when thick haired people complain about the cards they’ve been dealt. It weighs down on your head? It’s hard to style? It takes a long time to dry? Cry me a river. Why don’t you complain that you’re wallet is too heavy, or you have nowhere to store all the flowers Tom Hiddleston sends you? I may sound bitter and it’s because I am. Thick haired people seem genuinely surprised that I have zero sympathy for their “problems” or that I simply can’t, or rather refuse to, understand how “difficult” it can be to have stunning, healthy, thick hair. And no, you would not prefer mine. After washing it’s so flimsey and unimpressive a professional hairdresser probably wouldn’t notice it. A day after washing it’s so wiry it looks like the insides of a scarecrow. Catching sight of it in the shadow of a projector is the worst, I look like a Quentin Blake illustration.

Speaking of hairdressers, I feel like they are an alien species. They ask me if I want layers, a side fringe, feathering when all I want to say is “help me. Just look at this and do the best you can”. I remember getting it curled professionally for my sixth form prom and picking out an airbrushed model in a magazine sporting the hair I would sell semi vital organs for. “Ha! I’ll do the best I can!” said the stylist. If I was Joan Rivers I would probably say something like “Hairdressers call most people that come into their salons their ‘clients’, they call me their ‘patient’!” In my dreams I either have flowing, shiny mermaid locks, or the hair of Princess Merida, or even an adorable pixie bob. Even a cute cropped hairdo wouldn’t work, although it would get rid of a lot of my problems it would only exacerbate my less-than-delicate features and big face and most likely make me look like Dylan Moran or a less hot version of Helena Bonham Carter in Fight Club. Mostly I just get a shoulder length boring cut that is as uninspiring as a cup a soup. Any longer and I look like a witch, any shorter and my face looks weird. Of course such haircuts never last. Another fun thing my hair does is growing faster than bamboo.

So we’ve had the other stages of hair grief, when comes the acceptance? I’m working on that. No, I’m not working on the part of this blog post where I wrap it up and tell you I am in fact a goddess and my hair is perf, I am working on accepting my hair. Is there anything good about it? It does style easily. If I actually knew how to style it this would be a huge bonus, but recently I attempted a quiff which looked somewhat impressive and stayed in place with only a shot of hairspray. I like the colour. It’s dark brown and it suits me. Sometimes it falls nicely and can form  natural curls when left to dry on it’s own. It always feels soft, too soft, like “brown smoke” as my friend says, but I suppose that’s something. I have other decent features I suppose. I like my hands and my eyebrows, I’ve been told nice things about my eyes. My face is sometimes like “daaaayym!” to me and sometimes it’s “damm!”. I am beginning to finally accept my hair. I know it won’t change and when I try it turns into a battle in which my hair always wins. My hair is not a benevolent helpful force that enhances any beauty I might have, it is a political enemy I grudgingly make peace treaties with. So I just leave it as it is. I distract from it. I keep it the least interesting thing about me. I push it back from my face, where it stays, I work with what I have rather than trying to force something I don’t. I try to take this position with all my insecurities, including my big nose and broad shoulders and weird little hump thing I have at the top of my back. You can’t have it all, although some people seem genetically blessed. My hair isn’t good and it probably never will be, unless I find a hairdresser who is also an actual wizard. Don’t tell me my hair is pretty, it’s not and that is ok. Pretty hair isn’t everything. Compliment something else about me, laugh at one of my terrific puns. And for the sake of all that is holy, begorrah and bejaysis, do not complain about your thick hair in front of me.Ir


Bad Romance


Cartoon – Kate Beaton http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php

I am a terrible writer in that I have definitely not read enough books. I was really bookish as a kid but when my true passion for movies took over I became far more picky and read far less. However my last two New Year’s Resolutions have been to read more and I have been catching up.I have actual opinions about books now rather than just superhero movies.

One genre of both movies and books that I’ve always held at arms length is romance. I’ve never actually been in love, unless you count unrequited affection for actors and singers (Morrissey for life), so for one I felt they were not for me. I’ve always seen them as cheesy and mass produced. Mills and Boon and formulaic romantic comedies have ruined my perception of the genre. A fun game my Mum told me about is to read the ridiculously floral and exotic names of the characters in the summaries of Mills and Boon books (ten points for a ‘Cassandra’). The romantic subplot has always been a tacked on feature of most movies, mainly to prove the inevitably male hero is straight and to provide him with extra motivation and a reward at the end (write to me for more film based gender studies rants). The entertainment environment I am so engrossed in has enough to make me cynical and unaffected when it comes to fictional romance.

Recently, however, I have dipped my toe into the world of classic romance in the form of our future ten pound note gracer, Jane Austen. I watched both major adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and read the book. I have now moved on to Emma. I found myself reacting to Pride and Prejudice exactly as women have been reacting to it for centuries. I laughed, I swooned, I fell slightly in love with Mr Darcy. Ok, a lot in love. He’s a major babe. And I feel a connection to Lizzie. The bolshy (scouse word meaning sarcastic and rebellious) second daughter of a female dominated family, the marriage resistant cynic, the girl who prides herself on being a good judge of character yet is sometimes blinded by her prejudgement, I can relate. She is flawed and three dimensional, as is Fitzwilliam Darcy.The “they hated each other at first” trope has never been better or less trope-y. I wanted them to get together, I booed Mr Whickham, I felt Darcy’s anguish when Lizzie rejects him. The question is, why did I have this reaction to THIS romance?

To explore this I am going to compare the book to my two least favourite in existence, Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. Beginning with Twilight: I picked up the book as a teenager with every intention of enjoying it as much as my peers. I have since been accused of “hating it because it’s popular”, but that has never really been my way. I tried to read it BECAUSE it was popular! I was in the target market, the premise was gripping, every girl my age loved it, why wouldn’t I? Some things are popular for a reason. I found that I couldn’t find a reason to read it after around 10 chapters and returned it to the library, much to the shock and disbelief of the girls who recommended it to me.  I have since been told things like “ooh how can you know it’s bad if you didn’t read the whole thing?” and “it gets good in the second/third book, you just have to give it a chance. To the first I say if a book doesn’t grip me within 10 chapters it is clearly not worth my time and online extracts and those terrible movies have since proved my original Lizzie Bennet style dismissal. To the second I reiterate: if a whole book isn’t enough to grip a reader then it is badly written. The first thing you learn about creative writing is to hook the reader in the first sentence. My problems with this book could take up a whole dissertation but I’ll attempt to cover them in one paragraph.

Firstly I found both the main characters utterly un engrossing. Bella Swan is a dullard. She moved to a town of her own volition and complains about it constantly. Her Dad is perfectly nice to her and she is dismissive and cruel to him. Similarly the kids at her new school are friendly and kind to her and she mocks them, ignores them and treats their attempts at friendship like harassment while playing the “ugh I’m such a lonely outsider” card. She is also two dimensional, she doesn’t really have a character beyond complaining about everything, allegedly reading a lot and being clumsy. Ah, the ‘clumsy’ trope. Take an infeasibly perfect yet character free character and make them clumsy. Hey presto! You have a relateable! Flawed! Female! Character! As an actual clumsy person it irritates me when this pain-in-the-arse trait is played off as endearing. No one ever made eyes at me after I smashed a plate or bumped into a chair. Also what irks me is her total dependence on her vampire boyfriend Edward. The romanticising of codependency has never been worse. She goes into a deep depression when he kind-of breaks up with her. Similarly he attempts to kill himself when he hears sketchy reports of her death. This is not a healthy romance, it is two unstable people using each other as crutches. And as for Edward, I think he is not just a bad character but a dangerous one. Darcy’s unfortunate legacy is the “brooding serious guy”.  Edward is controlling, abusive, humourless and possessive. He watches her sleep. HE WATCHES HER SLEEP and it is played off as a romantic sign of his utter devotion to her. That is my main problem with this series. Teenage girls are being taught that such behaviour is romantic and not emotional abuse. He basically loves her because he wants to drink her blood the most, which is the strongest metaphor for an abusive relationship I have ever come across. The two never banter, or have fun, or enjoy each others company much. They stare at each other and brood. This isn’t a story about love, it is a story about dangerous obsession.

I thought it wasn’t possible for me to hate a book more than Twilight. Then came 50 Shades of Grey. The demon spawn of Twilight. The hastily written and seemingly unedited and unrefined fanfiction of Twilight. I could write a book on how abysmally it is written and the cardinal sins of writing it commits but for now I’ll focus on it’s dreadful story and characters, which make Twilight look like a seminal exploration of love.  Ana is so dull and one dimensional I hated her within the first page. She stands at a mirror and complains about being skinny and having big eyes, as though they are bad things to have. She complains about her friend being ill and leaving it to her to take this once in a lifetime journalistic opportunity to interview a billionaire. She is unrealistically out of touch with the world and bafflingly naive. I refuse to believe a modern college student does not own a computer and has never gotten drunk. It is simply not possible. And as for Christian, whom the authour Evil. L James described as a better romantic hero than Mr Darcy, I have never hated a fictional character more. He is abusive, manipulative and takes advantage of Ana’s worrying and unrealistic innocence. He treats her like crap and all his awfulness is dismissed and excused  with a “bad childhood” backstory. He’s just so tortured, you see, he may treat her badly and have the maturity of a stapler but it’s only because he’s so deep and dark and tortured! And again their romance is one of unhealthy obsession and emotional instability. And once again an abusive relationship is being highly romanticised and sold to the masses in undoubtedly the worst written anything I have ever come across.

Compare these books and those like them to Pride and Prejudice. When Lizzie brutally rejects Darcy he neither begs for her acceptance nor spirals into melodramatic sadness. He explains his actions politely and says he will never bother her again if that’s what she wants. The line “Forgive me, madam, for taking up so much of your time” would never be spoken by a Christian or an Edward. Even after admitting his deep love for Lizzie and being told he doesn’t have a hope in hell and she hates him, he takes it graciously. He doesn’t harass her or cry “but I’m a nice guy!”, he doesn’t resent her. Even after saving her family from ruin and more than redeeming himself, he tells her that if she still doesn’t want to accept him he will leave her alone. THAT is maturity. That is a healthy romance. That is where the swoons are. Not “I must have you and I can’t live without you”, a respect for the other person’s wishes despite a deep attachment. Similarly, when she sees who he really is and falls for him she believes it to be too late and attempts to move on. The tension comes from their unwillingness to bother the other against their wishes. Neither of them see each other through rose coloured glasses. On their first meeting Darcy disputes her status as a beauty and refuses to dance with her. She knows his flaws and publicly calls him out for them. In fact, that is one of the reasons he falls for her. Their relationship is not a constant boring cycle of telling each other how great they are, and that’s why it’s healthy. Lizzie is a woman who isn’t afraid to stand up to him and can clearly think for herself. She is not a submissive waif who will bow to his every whim. She’s a bit of an idiot herself, jumping to conclusions and having every confidence in her assumptions about people. She has an over zealousness I and many others can relate to. The romantic element doesn’t come from seeing each other as perfect and ignoring the flaws, it comes from seeing the flaws and loving them anyway. Similarly in “Emma” the hero Mr Knightley is described early on as the only person who ever criticises Emma. She is bossy, proud and interfering, her romance with Mr Knightley is based on the fact he can get her head out of the clouds better than anyone, not on his constant praise and obsession.

These romances are human, realistic, healthy and take place between flawed and relateable people. The obstacles to their romances come from their own faults and miscommunications, not from ridiculous outside sources infringing on their perfect, argument-free relationship. Their physical beauty and personalities are not exaggerated or unrealistic, and the circumstances of their getting together reflect real life. The reason I and other people love them so much and why they endure is because we can see why they are suited and we can imagine it happening in our own lives. Darcy is such a dreamboat because he is such a gentlemen even in his lowest moments. Lizzie is such a babe because she is every bit as smart, witty and interesting as Darcy thinks she is. Not because he regularly declares it despite a total lack of proof for the reader. They aren’t self insert fantasies, they’re real people.

Damnit, Gym!


I don’t have a gym membership and I refuse to get one. I know myself well enough that I wouldn’t use one and it would be a waste of money rather than an encouragement. Being this self aware of my own laziness is maybe a sign of maturity.

I always thought of going to the gym as a thing only particularly athletic people did. Or something people say they’re gonna do as a new year’s resolution. It’s only as I hit young adulthood that it seems the vast majority of my peers actually go to the gym on a regular basis. It went from being something only a select group of people actually do to something only the laziest of unhealthy slobs didn’t do. It has become a weird social requirement.

I’d like to know when this came about. My Mum says no one went to the gym when she was my age. People played sports, but no one felt the need to add to this with a few hours on a treadmill. Gym going has become a part of lifestyle fashion like so much sushi.

My main problem is it’s part in the creation of health bores. Posting selfies of their abs, lecturing you about additives, being unnecessarily cruel to fat people and then claiming they only care about their well being… People who somehow thing doing a jog at seven in the morning somehow boosts the health benefits even though a few hours sleep would probably do them better. In my mind they are the flagellants of our time. Pious types used to walk from village to village in Game of Thrones times, whipping themselves as punishment for their sins. Nowadays people half brag half boast about their three hour swimming session and the minuscule kale salad they had for lunch for the same reason. They want recognition and awe for their self imposed suffering.  It’s a need for superiority over the rest of us. Of course this doesn’t apply to all gym goers, just people obsessed with health culture. It becomes a real problem when this culture looks down on those who won’t participate in it and then claim they only care about their health when challenged. Making fun of fat people doesn’t help them lose weight. If you live a healthy lifestyle good for you, for the rest of us who like wine and pillows it can come across as preachy and lecturing when you try and convert us to kale (I still don’t know what kale is).

So much of what goes on in gyms seems completely tedious to me. Treadmills are basically human hamster wheels but less fun. Lifting heavy weights is something no one actually wants to do. Spin classes are allegedly really painful. There are plenty of ways to move about without boring or torturing yourself. I recently joined a performing arts society and our tap routine to “the old bamboo” breaks a sweat every time. The reason zumba is so popular is that it actually makes an effort to be enjoyable. Dancing in general is fun, expressive and no less beneficial than running on the spot for an extended period of time. Why would anyone pay to do a boring repetitive exercise when there are so many fun ones available? Most people go out to a club regularly, is that not enough? Ok, clubbing isn’t healthy, but it is fun. Gyms can be aggressive in their salesmanship. I remember freshers fair last year where a guy representing some local gym or other basically started shouting at my friend because she wouldn’t give him her card details then and there. We remarked on the name of the classes available too. “Fat blast”, “body attack”, why does it have to be framed in such negative terms? Fitness language all seems to be negative. No pain no gain, endure, attack your body, blast your fat, hate yourself enough to force yourself through a physically unpleasant task to conform to ideals of fitness. Why must we suffer to be healthy? Is that not a contradiction?

There’s an idea that going to the gym or being healthy in general makes you a better person. In an age obsessed with appearance and totally opposed to positivity towards fat bodies being ‘unhealthy’ is a cardinal sin. ‘Unhealthy’ meaning ‘possessing outward attributes that magazines have told us means you’re unhealthy’. You can be thin and have arteries like pigs in blankets. You can be fat and have a clean bill of health. Even if you are a lazy person with a bad diet, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Being a gym goer doesn’t make you any nicer, in fact it can make you a bit of a pain. I’ve always had a poor relationship with sport. Asthmatic, uncoordinated, clumsy and always picked last in PE (that’s when I didn’t get my friend to forge a note getting me out of it). I have been spectacularly awful at pretty much every sport I’ve ever tried. I can’t even ride a bike. My family aren’t particularly sporty either, I don’t have it in me. For me exercise either has to be fun or a natural by product of my life. Right now I live in a house around a 20 minute walk from my Uni. I have no problem walking their and back. Or to the supermarket. The same with dancing, or my participation in the performing arts society. For me true laziness is where you inconvenience yourself or others, or when you avoid going to the effort of doing something easy. Last year I lived in halls about a ten minute walk from the town centre. I was about the only one of my flatmates who didn’t get buses in regularly. My Mum lived in the same halls in her day and was shocked when I told her my friends had taken a bus into the town to get pizza rather than walking. So perhaps we haven’t become more health conscious, we have simply shuffled our priorities. You can take a taxi to avoid a short walk but you can’t refuse a gym membership.

Dial C for Catcall


If you are a woman who has to walk down a street on a regular basis chances are you’ve had things shouted at you by men. This can range from a presumptuous “hello!” a mildy degrading beep from a car or a more terrifying and vulgar suggestion (GET YER TITS OUT). Maybe someone even followed you around.

A viral video has been doing the rounds showing a woman walking through the streets of New York dressed in jeans and a t shirt and receiving around 100 catcalls. At one point a guy does follow her around for several minutes, asking why she won’t respond to him. Another guy tells her she should smile and be grateful of the attention. It certainly highlights what women have to deal with. It has since come to my attention that the video is problematic in its own right (accusations of editing out white men) but the interesting thing is what the video has generated.

Some people still fail to see what the problem is. A debate has opened up with a large amount of people (mostly men) asking what the big deal is. The fact is men just don’t get catcalled. Unless they pass a drunk hen party on a night out it is very unlikely a woman will try and grab their attention on the street (or anywhere else for that matter seeing as we’re conditioned to be submissive in romantic situations but that’s another topic for another time). Some dudes are genuinely curious as to why this all seems to bother us so much. After all, it’s mostly complimentary! Some guys are simply out to tell us to stop whining and get over it. The same points come up over and over again so I thought I’d throw in my opinion about them. Do with it what you will just don’t pull any gamergate shit on me.

 We are social animals and there are hundreds of opportunities to pay someone a compliment, strike up a conversation or greet them. That’s what friends, family, acquaintances and so on are for. You can even start a conversation with a person while you wait for a bus or buy a cup of coffee. There really are so many ways to make friends or brighten someone’s day. Don’t waste your energy on women in the street. No woman has ever turned round to a catcaller and thanked him or tried to continue the conversation. It’s just social etiquette. You would be freaked out if someone you’d never seen before beamed at you and said GOOD MORNING, and that’s without the obvious sexual undertones of catcalling. And you have to keep in mind this happens constantly, it isn’t a one off. One reason it pisses us off is because it happens so often. Even the most polite catcall makes you feel self conscious, like someone is obviously sizing you up and feels the need to inform you they like what they see. Recently I was walking to Uni and a builder walking with his coworker said “hiya!” I gave him a weak smile of the ‘leave-me-alone’ variety, which is more than I should be expected to do, and I heard him say “I didn’t get a hiya back!” It seems harmless but it pissed me off. I felt like I was only there to give him some amusement. What he was saying was “you exist to please me with how you look.” That gets a little disheartening.

I read someone say that men are “just like that”, that it’s a natural by product of a testosterone fuelled sex drive and men will never stop acting on. Firstly I would like to point out that is never us so-called “man hating” feminists who say men are mindless sex beasts who can never be changed. Feminism believes such behaviours are produced by social conditioning and a warped view of masculinity presented by the patriarchy. Yes I said patriarchy. We’ve had one female prime minister in the history of our country it is not a great leap to say we live in a world built by and for men. It’s this thinking that tells men they must constantly give off an air of sexual vibrancy and women an air of sexual timidness. We can reverse that, we are reversing that. The very fact not every man catcalls women is proof enough this behaviour is not inherent. I am always saying we should not simply accept bad things and ever so britishly put up with them. We should always consider if there is a better alternative and head for that.

It is often said by men that they would love it if women tried to hit on them everywhere they went. That’s how most male-fantasy-beer-and-body-spray ads work anyway. Women flinging themselves at men. Hetero heaven! However it is still different for a woman. In a world where we still blame victims of rape for their attacks and catcalls can turn into “fuck you bitch!” when they go unheeded, being chatted up by a stranger is no fun. The reason I smiled at the builder even though I didn’t want to? I didn’t want to deal with the potential consequences of not smiling. Hell, I even got a sulky response for not returning his greeting! Catcalls don’t come from a place of sincere romantic approach. At best they are wind up attempts. Men of immature dispositions showing off in front of their mates. They don’t want to make you feel good, they want to irritate you. Men shouting at you in the street are not out to improve women’s confidence, they are out to control it, to mock it. They are out to feel big. Sometimes I flip the bird at such comments, assuming I am at a safe enough distance that I wont have to deal with any potential ugly consequences. Most of the time the van has beeped at you and is halfway down the road before you can get indignant. Even if you can make some sarcastic response, you still feel humiliated.

For those men who still don’t get the picture I will outline an alternate reality. Imagine living in a world with an abundance of gay guys, almost all of whom are bigger and stronger than you. In fact you are regularly told that they are bigger and stronger than you, which really helps you feel safe. Also, small side note, they own and control pretty much everything. Now on a regular basis such men shout things at you. They may comment on your appearance, ask you for your number or just generally be lewd and gross. If you don’t respond they get angry. They may even yell abuse. Sometimes they may even shout insults at you and tell you how ugly you are. In nightclubs they might grab your backside without permission and then have a smug satisfied look on their face when you turn around to glare at them. You are also told by your Mother that if you try anything they might beat you up or worse, so don’t do it. Gay guys twice your size feeling you up without permission is a standard part of a night out. Now imagine the same type of people are telling you it’s not a big deal you should be grateful for the attention, you should get over it, at least you don’t live in a country where small straight guys aren’t allowed to drive. Imagine some people like you say they actually like being approached by such men and they take it as a compliment so you should to. Just imagine all of that. Now tell us again why catcalling is no big deal.