It’s my party and I’ll take a fucking selfie if I want to

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 22.39.01

A journalist wanted a photo of me from my teenage-days. I went on Facebook to start looking. I quickly realised that I have never uploaded any photos from my teenage years. Oh well, I went to look through old folders and real-life-photo-albums (yes, I know, I’m an ancient 27 year old. We also had dinosaurs back in the early 2000s.) but sigh – none was to be found. It dawned on me. I have almost no photos of myself from the age of 15 to 21.

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 22.36.10In an age where Instagram is a thing, that would seem ridiculous to a lot of people. But I know why. Back then, our phones had the game Snake on them (bring that back!)  – but no camera for selfies. Actually, ‘selfie’ was not even a word. A thing. Sometimes you would try and turn a camera around and pray that the photo would look decent 2-3 weeks later when you would go and pick it up from a counter in the mall, after it had been developed. It never did look decent.

So I did not take selfies. I hated how I looked. I was a teenager, but I was also a fat teenager. A fat teenager with constantly static and flat hair, a pointy nose, pimples and years of bullying in my personal baggage. My self-hatred was almost to be expected. No one took my photo because they knew how I would react. One bad photo and I would be in a fetal position for days.

I am still fat, my hair is still constantly static and flat, my nose is still pointy and I still get pimples and I still recall the hurtful words from the bullies. But – through years and years of therapy and contact with the body-positive online community, of reading about mental health, of learning to love myself and my body and my little pointy nose, I can honestly say that I love the way I look.


Ever told people that you think you look hot?
It is frowned upon, usually. People lift an eyebrow and make sure to let you know that arrogance doesn’t suit anyone. It is not arrogance. It is a personal struggle ended. It is a defiance against the beauty industry and horrible kids all having done their best to break me and my spirit. All having been part of the force that sent me to a Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 22.33.33psychiatric hospital at the age of 17. When I say I love myself, that is a fact. When I say that I love how I look, that is somewhat of a miracle. No one ever told me that. I am not repeating a large group of people’s praise. I am repeating the sentence I had to tell myself repeatedly to not end in a bottomless depression-pit which I would never leave. If a fat woman with pimples, a pointy nose, flat and static hair, says to you that she loves herself, that’s a goddamn fucking brave thing to say, an important thing to say – and the truth. I think I am beautiful, therefore I am beautiful.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 22.31.59So I take selfies. I take loads of selfies. Sometimes I wear make-up in them, sometimes not. Sometimes they are taken from an unapologetically flattering angle, sometimes they are not. Sometimes I take 40 and post one, sometimes I just post the first one I take. Sometimes I filter them to the point where I’m almost unrecognisable, sometimes I leave them untouched. I take selfies in which I am smiling, I take selfies in which I am genuinely crying. My Instagram-account is full of them. Every selfie I take is a fuck-you to a culture that wants women to loathe themselves, so they are too busy buying mascara and push-up bras to, oh I don’t know, ask for a raise or consider running for president. Why not stop spending your time and energy on hating selfies and selfie-sticks and the consumers of these? All it does is magnify your own insecurities for the world to see. What does it say about you if you need to criticise people celebrating self-love or attempts of self-love in a world where we’re all taught to be insecure? Why not just be happy that I look fucking gorgeous in a photo, that I think I look fucking gorgeous in a photo and that I tell people that I think I look fucking gorgeous in a photo?

Maybe take a hard look at yourself. Figure out why you need to bring others down. Hey, you know a really good way of looking at yourself? Take a selfie.

Remember that the second episode of our podcast The Guilty Feminist is out now. Find it via iTunes or through our website guiltyfeminist.com. And if you are anywhere near Leicester, I am doing my 2015 show ‘Bubblewrap’ on the 5th and 7th of February 2016.

 

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How to Start Doing Yoga (for people who are never going to start doing yoga)

First posted in The Standard Issue Magazine.

Just bought another book about yoga. I already had four books about it, which I have not yet read. The stress about not having read them made me buy another one to learn how to deal with the stress. It makes perfect sense.

I swear, if buying books about yoga made you flexible and free of stress, I would have both legs wrapped around my neck while baking my own homemade, gluten-free bread; or whatever it is that stress-free people do.

I decided to get help. And who better than the incredible online yoga phenomenon, Jessamyn Stanley?

yoga4Jessamyn, 27, has over 80,000 followers on Instagram, where she uploads photos daily of her doing yoga in her home. We are best friends. Okay, we’re not, but I have definitely liked most of her photos and I have a major crush on her awesomeness.

Talking to her seemed like the perfect plan. Not only would I get to procrastinate even more instead of actually going to yoga, I would also have the perfect excuse to talk to someone who is an inspiration.

“I am scared of going to a yoga class.” I tell Jessamyn when we Skype from London (me) to Durham in North Carolina, USA.

“What scares you?” she asks.

“Well,” I sigh, “I haven’t moved my body in 10 years.”

“Listen, first time I did yoga it was horrible. It was Bikram yoga and it was so hot that when I left the class, I got nauseous and I thought: I am never doing that again,” she says.

“Later on, my ex-girlfriend and I had split up and I was kind of a mess. A former classmate of mine had a Groupon for a yoga class and it totally changed my life.

“I was never athletic before. I don’t like to exercise. But it was just a way to not be stressed out. To refocus my energy.

headstand“It’s such a huge part of my life,” Jessamyn continues. “It’s the way I’m able to cope with everything. It really transcends being healthy and exercising. I always wanted to lose weight. But I like cheeseburgers. I like French fries. It will not change.

“I just wanted to be able to feel better about myself, about things that didn’t have to do with my weight and once I stopped thinking about losing weight, I actually started to lose weight. I really don’t care anymore.

“Now I just feel so good about everything. Does being smaller make you better? Funnier? Or smarter or more interesting? Yoga is therapy on a level I can’t explain.”

Jessamyn makes good points, but my inner screaming anti-yoga-voice has other ideas. I tell her: “I have found 10 excuses to not do it already.”

“Alright, what’s number one?” she asks.

“Well,” (I know I’m going to sound like a stupid teenager) “what if I’m the fattest one in the class?”

“It’s the way I’m able to cope with everything. It really transcends being healthy and exercising. I always wanted to lose weight. But I like cheeseburgers. I like French fries. It will not change.”

“You probably will be. I’m usually one of the largest people and the instructor will usually look at me and think I’m the person they need to help. At first I get defensive but then I think: if someone has decided to become a yoga instructor, I have to believe that they actually know the true purpose of this.

“It does not have to do with size. But other students don’t and won’t feel that way and they will contribute to an environment that is not comfortable.

doing the splits“All we can do, as larger-bodied people, is to just be present and go to classes and wear your real clothes and make sure that people know that we’re out here, because that’s the only way that they’re going to learn.”

“What if you fart?” I say as the voice in my head gets more and more panicky.

Jessamyn is quiet for a second. I’m not sure if she is going to laugh or yell at me.

“Oh my god,” she laughs, “I have peed on myself. I have farted. Oh god, so much pee! If you fart – no one is going to say anything. Farting, peeing, it’s fine… shitting? That’s more complicated to explain. Especially if you do it quite early. I wouldn’t recommend it.”

There goes another excuse. I am running out. “Are they going to ask me to be upside down in the first class?”

Jessamyn smiles: “You don’t know what your body is capable of. Your body is so incredible.”

I sigh and realise I have to get down to basics. “What do I wear?”

“If you’re going to a regular non-hot class, I recommend leggings and a form-fitting top,” she says. “Don’t wear baggy clothes. It’s so important that you can feel and see your body and be intimate with it, so don’t wear baggy clothes.”

“All we can do, as larger-bodied people, is to just be present and go to classes and wear your real clothes and make sure that people know that we’re out here, because that’s the only way that they’re going to learn.”

“But…” I pout, “why even bother? Why do it?”

“There are a lot of different ways to move your body, but it’s rare that you get a physical exercise that’s also therapy and that is also spiritual,” Jessamyn answers. “I’m not a religious person but I do believe in the universe and it puts you in connection with that. It’ll open a part of yourself that you probably don’t even recognise has always been in you, and it will provide more comfort than anything else in the world. So if you want that… I think that’s a reason to do it.”

“Good point.” I say out loud while mouthing “I love you” into my hand, so she cannot see it.

crab-style poseThe voice in my head has gone quiet, which can only mean one thing. I start searching for yoga classes in my area.

I thank Jessamyn, who laughs and offers: “If you ever need motivation to practise, let me know and I will give you motivation to practise!” I thank her again, even though it sounds more like a threat than a friendly offering.

And then I book a yoga appointment.

Follow Jessamyn on Instagram: @mynameisjessamyn; Twitter@JessNotJazz; and her hashtag #SizeDoesntMatter

more like #nomakeupselfiSH, amirite?

I’ve been meaning to cure cancer for a while. Breast-cancer in particular, because if we didn’t have boobies, men would be sad and there’s nothing we hate more than sad men. Remember International Women’s Day? So many men were so sad and it made it very, very hard to masturbate with the vibrating pieces of plastic we’ve replaced them all with.

Whilst attempting to cure breast-cancer, I have also been attempting to watch all ten (!) seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. Not because it’s good. Trust me. Not. Because. It’s. Good. But because I am curious to what they are going to do when each doctor runs out of family members that can either die or fuck the other doctors’ love interests. And when will McDreamy realise that Meredith is a boring brat? And when will Sloan start taking off his shirt more? Diagnose me, Sloan. Diagnose me.

Watching terrible TV has gotten in the way of curing cancer. So when #nomakeupselfie became a thing, I was on it! ON IT LIKE CALLIE ON GEORGE IN SEASON FOUR! I posted a picture of me not wearing make-up. Phew. That was close. And just to make sure, I double-checked my boobs. I do that often, but I have no idea what I’m searching for. Lumps? They are lumps. Anything unusual? They’re big weird meat-lumps in the middle of my chest-area. They seem quite unusual already.

No one told me I was brave for posting a picture of myself not wearing make-up. I was disappointed. I barely got a thank-you for attempting to cure a dangerous disease. Ungrateful bastards, I thought. That night I went out without make-up on. YEAH, LIKE A FREAKIN’ HERO. Take that, girls-with-low-self-esteem. No biggie. No. Biggie.

The world was my oyster. I had cured breast-cancer in one morning, by posting the picture. Going out without make-up surely must have cured lung-cancer too or at the very LEAST testicular cancer (the worst one of them all! No testicals means no kids OR NO TEABAGGING!).

“What’s next?” a bitter voice sounded, “To raise awareness for stomach-cancer, we all post pictures of our bare stomachs?”

Heart drop. CODE BLUE. Page Doctor Burke. Yes, I know they fired him from the show because he was a homophobe, but he’s a better doctor than Doctor Hahn. What, with her being a WOMAN and all. If showing my stomach to the world meant that I would for definite cure all kinds of cancer, AIDS and the flu, I would still have a good and long think about it. A good and long think.

When I was 16, I hated every single part of my body. I’m 25 now and I’ve learned to really love most of it. I mean, I am almost angry that I can’t look at my legs, thighs and ass as much I would like to. It has taken me a while, but my face is freakin’ awesome. My boobs are good boobs because they are boobs and they are mine. You can quote me on that. They are there, they’re doing their job (attracting unwanted male attention) and eventually they’re going to make someone very happy (a man, not a baby. Ever.). I’m fine with my arms – there was a time where I would NEVER show my arms, not even the un-wobbly part, because I have dark hairs on them. Then I met a kick-ass teacher who always wore tank-tops and she yelled at me, “Do you think I’M disgusting because of my hairy arms?!” and I only thought she was cool. So I started showing my arms.

I have even learned to live with my huge feet.

But the stomach. Oh.

I started noticing that men who were sexually interested in me, had a tendency to touch it. They would just place a hand on it. Just like that. Like they wanted my fat-baby to kick or something. Like they were testing it before taking it for a ride, like men who kick car-tires do. It was terrifying. I’ve learned to take it as a compliment, even though my insides curl up into a little ball and press against my heart. Every time.

One day I’ll do a #noshirtonstomachselfie. And that will be the day I have won. Because I have never had a man tell me, that he didn’t find me attractive because of my stomach. My fat, sure. But my fat is everywhere – ass, boobs, chins. But it has never been the stomach alone. It does not deserve this hatred. I have been taught to hate my stomach by women’s magazines, commercials, MTV, Weight Watchers, fitness centres, movies and so far, five seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, where the token plus sized women are pear-shaped (If you don’t know what pear-shaped means, good. Live in happy ignorance of that little pearl of knowledge.) or dying because of a large-ass tumor in their stomachs.

So many have declared war on the beauty industry recently. Or maybe I have just started noticing it now. Either way, it’s happening. Poetry slammers, comedians, models, actors, websites, musicians. On Twitter, Instagram, blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, Vine. Women (and men) are getting stronger and tougher and dare to speak up. We are now posting our gorgeous make-up-less photos on the internet. Fat men and women are posting beautiful pictures of themselves naked. Disabled people are taking over the catwalks. LGBTTIQQ2SA people are claiming their rights to be represented. It’s inspiring.

So really, not only have we just cured all cancer, we’ve taken quite a bit step. Another big step. Martin Mor said it. Angela Barnes said it. That maybe one day, #nomakeupselfie will be nothing but a Wikipedia-page about this weird point in time, where women thought smearing chemicals all over their faces was essential for going outside. And that there were people for whom just the thought of showing a part of their body would result in cardiac arrest. There was a time where a bunch of old men in suits ran this beauty industry that was basically killing people all over, by the weapon of self-hatred.

There was a time when Derek still thought Meredith was awesome, when Alex still hadn’t dealt with his mommy issues, when George and Issie still hadn’t found each other and most importantly, there was a time where “cancer” was a thing. That, of course, was before Sofie Hagen cured it by posting an awesome photo of herself online – with loads and loads of filter, of course. No one’s THAT confident, that they’d post it without filter.

You’re fat and I don’t mind that much so let’s have the sex now okay?

After my gig, a man in a silly sailor’s costume walked up to me. Here we go. Another stag-do-freak-a-ton. He introduced himself as Mark and explained himself. See, Mark was an actual sailor and worked for the Royal Navy in an actual nuclear submarine, where he spends three months at a time and then has ten days off. This was his first day off. He nodded towards the three big suitcases, he had brought with him.

Now. It’s really hard to not fall into the trap of slightly liking men in uniforms, but it’s without a doubt impossible not to indulge yourself in a fantasy, where your boyfriend spends three months in a closed space with only other men. The perfect man.

“I loved your set,” Mark said, “Especially the thing about men who likes fat girls. I can relate.”

Oh, can you? CAN YOU? Because you absolutely love us fat girls? Because you’re the perfectest man in the universe? In and out of water?

“Oh. How so?” I asked.

“Well, I’m a sailor.” he smiled, “Sometimes, we don’t get what we want either.”

“… What?”

“Yeah, we often have to settle!”

“You mean… Settle for a fat girl.”

Mark paused,

“Uhm. When you say it like that, it sounds offensive.”

“…”

“Can I buy you a drink?” he asked.

“No, thanks, I’m tired. I’m going home.” I excused myself and left. On the bright side, I’ve never before thought there was anything at all positive about a nuclear war. And men in uniform are somewhat less interesting now.