I’ve officially finished my Masters degree

Image: Pexels (A representation of a students life if they are way more hip than I was/ somehow have enough time to use a type writer, and like coffee). 

A short(ish) and slightly personal post ahead. This is just a warning so you know for what you’re getting yourself in for, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!!! Anyway, to the point. The other day, I got my dissertation results and I’m proud to say that my calculations come to the conclusion that I got a distinction overall for my Masters (I really hope this doesn’t come to haunt me lol and it turns out I worked it out wrong).

People who know me personally will know how much this meant to me, not least because I’m a perfectionist but also because I didn’t get the grade I wanted in my undergraduate degree. While blame can of course be blamed on me (and the demon that is procrastination- mostly fear of failing procrastination); a lot of the reason for my result was because of events in my third year of university that essentially meant I was feeling the lowest with my mental health I have ever felt in my life. Although, it has been hard; I’ve finally started to feel like there is a way out of that black hole (though I am by no means magically ‘better’) thanks to the support of my friends and Martin. And due to a whole lot of fighting on my own part. However, at that point in my life I’m not surprised now I didn’t get the result I wanted- I can barely even recognised myself in the person I was that year. I basically should have asked for help and said I was not coping. But I was too stubborn/ afraid to. So what I am saying is, if you’re struggling, ask for the help, confide in someone, I know it’s scary and feels more challenging than whatever you are going through, but it will help so much more in the long run. I honestly wish I had and should have done.

And for those like me who didn’t quite get what they wanted the first time round, I just wanted to let you know you can do it. And basically you’re going to go through a lot of things that suck, and make you feel like there is no way out. But there is, you can do it, and if you need someone to talk to message me. Alternatively, please check out the helplines just below.

Mind (mental health charity)

0300 123 3393

info@mind.org.uk
Text: 86463

https://www.mind.org.uk

The Samaritans (free support for anyone who needs it) 

116 123 (UK) (24/7 every day)

jo@samaritans.org

https://www.samaritans.org

I also want to say a big congratulations to Callie and a thank you for all your support. Ciara- you did amazing, I’m so proud even though you’re older than me lol but I’m definitely the middle aged one of the group. Mitchell- I know you’re going to do amazing. Holly, well done on your Masters, and 4 years putting up with me-we did it (again)!!!

There’s so many more people I could mention and want to but it would make this post far longer than it already is. But everyone else on my Masters course (you know who you are if you’re reading this- well done you’re all amazing).

I also want to say a longer big thank you to the long suffering individual that is Martin, thank you for actually attempting to read my dissertation- it was much appreciated. A big thank you to my mum too for always believing in me.

To anyone else reading, it’s never too late to change your path, whether it be job wise, grade wise, mental health wise. And don’t worry I’m going to stop pretending I’m a life coach now (though let’s face it you’d all buy my motivational DVD because it’d be hilarious).

🍂April🍂

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My Cruelty Free Journey

Image: Pexels (so is free from attribution, but I’m putting the attribution here in case anyone wants to use the image!)

So I think it’s appropriate to start this post by saying that I’ve been a vegetarian for quite a long time now. Although, I can’t exactly remember the year I fully committed (there were a few failed attempts before then); I think it was about aged 16. So about 5-6 years of vegetarianism is probably a good estimate.

For a while I was afraid to admit this, but at the start of being a vegetarian I didn’t really at first catch on to the other animal products that surrounded me like leather, etc. I finally did however realise and started to genuinely phase leather items out, though I will admit this was not without me failing a few times because I put fashion above my beliefs. I do now though only own leather items that I bought quite a long time ago now (and are up for sale on Depop, unfortunately no one wants them). Although, I have put my items up for sale; I personally can’t just throw those items away, as that to me personally feels more like a waste; but at the same time I feel uncomfortable wearing the items.

So basically what I am trying to say is I understand the struggle, and would never call you out for what you wanted to wear. I also love vintage clothing, and can understand why people might be alright with wearing vintage leather (or even fur, though personally, although I know it is skin like leather, real fur has always felt more ‘icky’ to me). I however do not feel comfortable personally with that either, though if you’re vegetarian (or even vegan) and want to buy vintage leather items- go ahead- like I’ve mentioned I think it’s worse to just waste the suffering of the animal and throw the item away. I also think it’s ok if you like a vintage bag for example but the strap is leather (but not the main part of the bag) and tell the store to keep the leather strap to use on another bag, and then replace the strap with a faux leather one (you can find them quite cheap online). There is then always ways to make a item work. I also mentioned the bag idea, as this is something I am considering doing- if you have any thoughts on this ethically let me know, as I’d like to hear opinions.

This dilemma is also part of the reason I decided to make this post, as I am still not fully through my transition and fully cruelty free in my life. I think part of the reason is because when I started this journey I didn’t realise how many things are not cruelty free, which I will talk more about later within this post.

Clothing 

So there are a number of different materials to consider with clothing, and those are leather (and suede), silk (there is however a cruelty free silk option so make sure to always do your research), fur, and for some people wool.

The most prolific of these items that you are most likely going to encounter however is leather, which nowadays is not that hard to avoid with high street clothing retailers often opting for cheaper faux-leather alternatives for their items. Higher end items however are mostly leather and a lot harder to avoid though Stella McCartney and Moschino (I don’t think this is true for all their range however but I know that some of their range is- so make sure to check!) are known for their leather free ranges. As for the high street just make sure to look up the product online before you buy it, as it will say if the product is made out of leather in the product description. Topshop, for example, are about 50/50 with their shoes though I’ve noticed unfortunately that more and more are starting to be leather- you can usually tell however by the higher price bracket before you even look at the item. Leather gloves whatever the shop always seem to be real leather so to be honest I would just avoid them.

If you’re looking for a little stress in your shopping routine Iron Fist shoes are vegan and free from leather, and they are known for their alternative designs. For vegan bags (and shoes I just recently realised) check out Matt and Nat ,who are on the pricey side but are effortlessly stylish and chic (definitely one for those times when you are trying to be all chic and Parisian). I’ve also noticed that Unif stock loads of vegan leather products (I’m not sure if they stock anything leather, though if I was going out a limb I don’t think they do- definitely check though), and are a great alternative brand- they’re a little like Lazy Oaf in execution but much more about the cleaner lines and tighter fit (they also have a bit more of a straight up 90s vibe going on). A lot of the amazing shoes stocked on DollsKill (like all the amazing Current Mood ones) are usually vegan/ not leather (but make sure to check, as I know they have a few styles that are leather). Also, if you’re like me and obsessed with Dr Martens (I do still have a pair that I saved, and saved for but that I feel weird wearing now that are on my Depop) then they do a vegan range. However,  unfortunately their collaborations are usually not vegan so no, Adventure Time (please, please, Dr Martens on the very unlikely chance you are reading this bring out vegan versions of these designs) or Lazy Oaf collaboration for me!

I’ve also noticed that in regards to brands like Vans, Converse and Adidas, and all the similar brands that are popular right now (due to sporty casual making a comeback) that some of their shoes are vegan, but some are not- so be sure to look out for that!

Makeup 

So makeup and whether or not certain brands are cruelty free is being talked about a lot recently, which is amazing. It also gets a bit confusing, as often I see one source telling me a brand is cruelty free and another telling me it is not. Therefore, I thought I’d sum up all the information I’ve gathered about what someone means when they say a product is not entirely cruelty free. Also, I’ve put skincare on a separate post, as I personally don’t tend to buy my skin care stuff from the same brand that I get my makeup from.

Ok, so first of all a brand may be cruelty free but that doesn’t necessarily mean their products are entirely vegan- so they may for example still have dyes in their eyeshadows like carmine (or cochineal), which is essentially made from crunched up insects. At the moment, my makeup bag is cruelty free (minus a few old products that I don’t use but just have not got round to throwing out/ seeing if a family member/ friends wants it) but not vegan, however I am striving to have it both cruelty free and vegan in the near future.

The other confusing bit in regards to makeup being cruelty free involves China. Essentially to sell a product in China, the makeup then has to be tested on animals (though makeup produced in China does not have to go through this testing so theoretically companies could sell in China and be cruelty free by having a factory in China to distribute products there- as far as I’m aware) so therefore retailers who sell in China are not classified as cruelty free, though they themselves do not necessarily test on animals.

To make it a bit simpler here is a list of all the companies that test on animals. However, there is then another issue that arises in regards to cruelty free. This is when a parent company, basically the big organisation that owns lots of smaller makeup brands (L’Oreal is a good example, as they basically own everything) is not cruelty free but the company itself is. An example of this is the brand Too Faced who are generally considered a brand in their own right and describe themselves as cruelty free with a lot of their products being vegan. However, in 2016 they were acquired by Estee Lauder who are not cruelty free. There is also a lot of other controversy surrounding the brand regarding the Youtuber Nikkie Tutorials, which I won’t get into but if you’re interested you can read about. Especially, as a lot of this as far as I’m aware is speculation. So brands with a parent company that are not cruelty free obviously are a bit of a grey area, as it means that your money still ends up going to a place that condones testing on animals. I think parent companies are basically up to each individual to decide on, but if you want to buy products from them still I don’t think it’s something to destroy an individual over (though just to note I don’t think you should ever aim to destroy an individual) if they are someone who says they are cruelty free.

Also, if you’re like me and a fan of some of the Japanese/ Korean makeup trends (mostly because they often do cute collaborations with Disney or Pokémon) I’m afraid these brands tend not to be cruelty free. For some interesting information regarding this see this post on Soko Glam, which also discusses how it is possible to sell some makeup products in China, without having to have the ingredients tested on animals.

If you’re looking for a list of cruelty free brands check out this list by Cruelty-Free Kitty, as it is by far one of the most definitive and informative lists out there. Basically, check out their site if you want to know more about going cruelty free and what brands are and aren’t. Personally, if you want great brands that are cruelty free I’d recommend Kat Von D and Urban Decay.

Perfume 

One thing I never thought about being cruelty free is perfume. Something, which was particularly sad for me to realise, as my favourite perfume of all time is Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel, and is actually very comforting to me. However, a while ago I finished the bottle Martin bought me (he bought it ages ago), and have decided from now on to only use cruelty free scents, which trust me is easier said than done (as unlike makeup the options are a lot fewer).

There are though options out there. Honey Pop Kisses in fact did an amazing post on this, which I suggest you look at for suggestions or again turn to the always great Cruelty-Free Kitty. Also, Kat Von D Beauty recently came out with two perfumes Saint and Sinner that I’m going to assume are cruelty free, since Kat Von D has took a very public stance on this, but I have emailed them to check and will update this post once I’ve received a response.

Nail Varnish

I don’t often paint my nails but I really want to more, and when I looked at my cupboard of ancient nail varnishes I came to the conclusion that pretty much all of them are not likely to be cruelty free. However, after a quick search I was happy to see, that a few brands like ORLY that I expected not to be cruelty free, are.

If you want to see a list of cruelty free and vegan nail polishes click here, or if you want to see 5 vegan nail polish brands (that are more UK based, and include brands like Barry M, who are cruelty free, with some of their products being vegan) click here. Both lists are definitely something which I think are useful to have with you when visiting the nail salon so you can quickly and easily make sure your selection is cruelty free!

Other beauty essentials 

Other beauty things you have to look out for are bath bombs/ general bath stuff. I’ve mentioned Lush’s policy in my latest Lush post for all those interested but there are some great companies out there (usually independents are a great place to look) like Geeky Clean that are cruelty free and vegan. The Body Shop, a old school cruelty free brand and fighter against animal testing has come under fire as they were recently acquired by L’Oréal (who are not cruelty free). However, L’Oréal recently sold the brand to Natura Cosmetics who are reportedly cruelty free (they have not been certified by a board like Cruelty Free International but as a company they have stated they are cruelty free).

In regards, to shower gel I know that Original Source products are generally vegan  and they do smell great. However, I have not found anything definitive to say they are cruelty free so I’m probably going to stop using them, but will email them if anyone would like me to!

Skincare is also something to pay attention to, particularly sunscreen (click the link for some cruelty free brands) but also look up whether your moisturiser, spot cream etc. contains animal products/ is cruelty free. I’d recommend trying to avoid supermarkets and bigger chains and trying to do your skin care routine from somewhere you know to be cruelty free and clearly labels their products, as being either vegetarian or vegan, like Lush (though whether you consider Lush to be cruelty free is up to you- see this post mentioned earlier). Or of course just look up your products before you buy them, though this could end up with you having to do a bit of the emailing and probably a lot of frustration.

Deodorant is something else to look out for and one of those products that I did not even think about. I have a can that I need to finish but soon as that is gone I will be trying out some new products (let me know if a cruelty free deodorant review series is actually something you’d all want!). However, I haven’t found a definitive list of which brands are not cruelty free, so I recommend just looking up your deodorant bottle (if you want me to compile a list let me know). For now here’s a list of 5 cruelty free deodorants that reportedly work and a list helpful for those of us in the UK (since I have a Holland and Barret’s really close to where I live I definitely will be trying out Dr. Organic soon).

So there we have it! My complete list of all the things I’ve started to consider on my cruelty free journey. This post is not designed to lecture you, but as a helpful guide for those looking into being cruelty free in their ‘beauty’ routine or for those who are cruelty free. Also, if I have made any mistakes in this post please let me know, as obviously I don’t want to tell people whether things are cruelty free or not, and then that information be incorrect. If I’ve missed something important out please also let me know, as a lot of this is still very new to me!

If you’ve enjoyed this post let me know, as I’d love to do a ‘Home’ (so cleaning products, etc.) version of this post, as that for me is the next planned stage of my cruelty free journey once I’ve fully completed this stage.

🍂April🍂

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Post University Panic: A Hopefully Helpful Post

(I chose the above image, as it is kind of a good image to define what I looked like for most of university-I miss my long hair so much! I would have posted a picture of my Masters graduation ceremony, but it hasn’t happened yet! Image credit: Holly Campbell.)

I almost didn’t post anything today but I’m really trying to be consistent with posting so thought I’d post instead how I’ve been feeling recently. Plus, I just did some exercise and it helped clear my head a little bit so think I might be able to actually get something out that is not a rambling mess. So for those of you who do not know I’ve finished university for the second time, as I’ve just completed my Masters course (though I’m still waiting for my final grade). Alongside that my significant other has also finished their course, and my friends who were on the course I did.

Although, I can pretty much just about cope with the fact that we are all not students anymore; I have to admit that the thought still kind of scares me. The last four years of my life have been defined by me being a student. A lot of my most memorable moments in my life like taking up running, going travelling alone, and meeting a lot of my friends and significant other all happened at university. I’ve changed so much that to be honest it is hard to connect to the timid, shy person that I was in some ways before university (though she’s still there and definitely comes out when I’m anxious or stressed). And while parts of me have come bubbling back recently- I’ve started to revert a lot more back to the middle aged, no drinking, serious April and away from the fun loving, carefree persona I tried very hard to adopt- I think now I land somewhere in-between.

However, changing or not, the time after university is hard. Everyone wants to know what you are going to do now. What you want to do. Basically, they want to know if university was worth it career wise. I’m lucky that I actually have found a job after university that I will start at soon (but I’m not going to post what it is or anything like that just out of privacy), but it is within the industry that I went to university to study for. I did though on my way get an endless stream of rejections. I also still see my friends being rejected. Bright, qualified, friendly, amazing people that should be fighting down job interviews. Yet, we can all barely make ends meet. Seriously, don’t look at my bank account right now it will make you weep. And no it’s not fair. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is for anyone who is in that position right now. I just want you to know I get you. I know what’s it like to have no money, and to be scared that you will never find a job. I know this may not be what you want to hear from someone who is lucky enough to have found a job, but I am still going to have a good few months of struggling to make ends meet left. Also, I just want to point out here that I know that there there are always people who have it worse, and I am incredibly privileged to have it as good as I do but comparing people’s issues (unless in an appropriate scenario) never helps. We all have pain, and I would never dismiss someone’s experience because it is not as “bad” as my own.

So for those of you finishing university who do not know what to do take a breath.

Write down a ten year plan of where you went to be. Brainstorm things you like if you don’t know what industry you want to be in. Then, write down your skill set (not focusing on experience), writing down what you enjoy, and also what you want to know/ be able to do.  Set plans on how you will get there. I’ve done my fair share of unpaid voluntary work (for charity’s I have to mention I have no issue with this) and internships that yes, should have been paid. But those positions gave me experience and got me noticed. I know the struggle of trying to fit unpaid work around your paid work. No, I cannot afford to just be paid expenses and come in 5 days a week (I have bills to pay!). There are though lots of places that take submissions (this is for writers)- it sucks but write for free, and get that portfolio out there. Then, when you get to that position of power, help me tear the whole system down.

Also, just so you know tonight I’m genuinely going to sit and take my own advice, and force my significant other to as well. As yes I have a position I’m very excited about starting, but I’m not going to give them my best self unless I know what direction I want to go in. So that involves making sure I tie up my loose ends and projects I’ve been neglecting. As I’m determined to go in with the best positive mindset.

I understand wanting to wallow, and trust me my friends can tell you that I have done more than my fair share. But, I’m so happy that they actually know that for once (minus an incident in my second year of university where I sat on the floor in a teddy bear onesie eating Nutella). Wallowing though surprisingly enough has never made me feel better. Neither does pretending everything is ok. Faking it till you make it is not necessarily something I recommend either. Asking for help, and trying your best is what I do recommend.

Trust me, this is not where I thought I’d be after university but although it’s not perfect; I know I’m going to be happy. I have so many things in my life to be lucky for, and there is so much promise in my future. And I know that you have promise too. So I’m going to keep writing, and keep posting here even though I stress out over every post and think it’s imperfect, uncool and not polished because I’m boring, not attractive enough to be interesting, and just plain not interesting. I’m going to keep going because I enjoy writing for this blog. It’s the only diary I’ve ever consistently wrote in at my life. It stops me repeating myself. It gives me an outlet (I really don’t like not being busy). So to anyone who actually consistently reads my posts, thank you for reading, and if you’re a fellow creator message me and let’s create something together (especially if it’s autumn themed-I’m one of the people who is definitely autumn obsessed). On that note, my goal by the end of this year is to FINALLY start my own YouTube channel (something I’ve wanted to do for years); I just have to wait till I can afford a camera and pluck up the courage. However, it’s now on the internet so please call me out if I don’t do it. I’m also going to hopefully post a blog post with a list of all my goals for the end of this year and next year so I can kind of categorise how I do.

So this post may have got onto a bit of a tangent but what I wanted to say was life is going to feel like it sucks for a while, and I hate that but don’t give up because trust me if you can get through university you can get through this. Yes, “adulting” sucks and your life may feel like an unfunny version of Friends; but just take a step back, breathe, and keep pushing on. After all, think of the relief when you finish this part of the run (sorry a running analogy is the best I can come up with)- and hopefully the promise of the “runners high” will get you through it. I know this may seem like generic, unhelpful advice, but it’s just how I’ve been soldiering on, and I think more than anything it helps to talk about this issue and know that everyone else’s lives aren’t perfect and that they are struggling too.

I know it at least helps me!

🍂April 🍂

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What I got for my Birthday: 2017 (Age 22)

So it was my birthday recently (the 12th June) and I turned 22. And pardon the pun but I am not feeling 22. Anyone older than me is going to laugh but 22 just feels so much older than 21. It doesn’t help that I feel like I’m going through another career crisis again where I’m not sure about what job my skills are best aligned for. At the moment though I just would like to earn enough to survive, and then figure out how I’m going to take the world by storm (tragic I know but we all have to start somewhere).

Let me also just start this post by stating that I am not doing this post in any way to boast about what I got for my birthday. I know I am very lucky and privileged to have this many people care for me and take the time to send me cards and presents. I just have always enjoyed these kinds of post on YouTube, so wanted to do my own blog version. Plus, another reason I started this blog was to make sure I not let significant moments just go by anymore. Forcing myself to catalogue everything in this way is the best scrapbook I will ever make and it means you get the thrill of delving into my not so fascinating private life.

Before I talk about the presents I received I first want to thank everyone who sent me cards, which includes my godmother Rita, my Nanny and Grandad, my aunts, Dave, Karen (who also got me some awesome TIGI Bed Head Colour Goddess shampoo and conditioner, which I would have took a photograph of but I’ve used half it already so it’s looking a bit worse for wear!), and to Holly who treated me to a meal at Harvester before my birthday. Also, thank you to everyone who wished me happy birthday on Facebook. If I’ve missed anyone out I sincerely apologise, it’s just being an idiot trust me, rather than a personal slight.

But now let’s get to the presents. I first have to talk about what my mother got me, though she is in fact yet to get the present (because she wants to give it to me in person) but I know that she is getting me some vegan Dr Martens. Expect to see me wearing them constantly as soon as I get them!

Before I show the rest of my presents however I’d like to apologise for my hideous carpet in advance- I did not chose it as I rent the property I’m living in.

From my boyfriend…

The Kat Von D Alchemist Palette 

The Alchemist PaletteI am especially fond of the rainbow effect that occurs when light reflects off the packaging. 

Alchemist Palette Inside

So it appears that constantly sending your boyfriend links to makeup pays off. In fact, he was actually really sweet and signed up to the notification list for the product (it sold out pretty quickly when it first came out) so he could buy it soon again as soon as it was back in stock.

Before this palette I was already a big fan of Kat Von D makeup. Firstly, because it’s vegan and cruelty free, and secondly because the liquid lipstick shades are ridiculously beautiful (which reminds me I NEED more of them- I only have Lolita II and Nosferatu so far).

The alchemist palette is kind of an all in one highlightet. I’ve experimented with it as a eyeshadow, on top of liquid lipstick and as a highlighter- all of which work! I have to say my favourite has been using it on top of eyeshadow and on top of my eyeliner (to turn it a bright blue!) but this is also partly because I need some more darker lipstick shades for the colours to really pop on top of lipstick (for lipstick I definitely recommend using a brush to apply).

You’ve probably already seen a million swatches of the product already but I took a quick swatch on the back of my hand if anyone is interested (finger swatches- no primer). From left to right the colours are green/emerald, blue/ sapphire, (by the way I have an insect bite under that swatch, apologises!) ultra-violet/ amethyst, pink/ opal. The palette is also tiny but I’ve been experimenting quite a lot and barely dented it so far so a little product definitely goes a long way.

Alchemist Palette swatches

Alchemist Palette Shades

Inside the Alchemist Palette 2

Chocolate and flowers 

I know that for a lot of people chocolate and flowers are kind of clichéd but I just really love having flowers in the room (plus I like using some of the petals to make dried flowers, which make your books smell nice too).

Also, it was nice to come home after work (yes, I worked on my birthday, I am a living martyr!) and see the chocolates and roses waiting on my bed.

Martin's presentRose Birthday

From my Grandad 

My grandad always likes to give each member of a our family a mixture of different pieces he’s picked up, or what he dubs a pandora’s box for our birthday. So I’ll go through each item one by one.

A blue pendant 

For anyone who looks at my Instagram story (so my sisters and Callie basically) you might have caught a glimpse of me wearing this necklace on my latest trip to London. I am also wearing a birthday present from my friend Callie in this photograph (and in the rose photograph as well), but more on that later.

Blue Pendant

Small ornament

I’m not really sure what this is or if it is of any historical significance but as far as I can tell it is a little tableau scene that you could prop up like a picture frame. Ideal for those who like to have a little bit of a vintage theme to their room. Since, I’m considering using the theme ‘vintage rose’ to decorate my room in the future this should fit in perfectly.

Small ornament 

Rose Scented Gifts 

My grandad recently went to Bulgaria to visit his sister so for my birthday I received a lot of rose scented items, as I believe that is a signature of Bulgaria. I haven’t tried them out yet so I will let you know how I find them but the packaging for the products is beautiful.

 

 

Rose Face Cream

 

 

 

 

Rose themed box 

So there was definitely a rose theme going on with the box, which I throughly appreciated since my favourite flowers are roses. This box also fits my ‘vintage rose’ theme nicely, and will be a great box to store jewellery in.

 

 

Owl ornament 

The other theme of the box was owls and reading. I don’t know about anyone else but owls and reading have always been linked together in my imagination, and since my grandad has always known me to be a bookworm I appreciated this theme a lot.

Owl ornament

Owl bookmark 

I love, love, love decorative bookmarks like this. It beats what I used to use as bookmarks any day, which was usually whatever was lying around so everything from receipts to spoons (yes, spoons). This is definitely a much prettier option.

Bookmark

Beatrix Potter bookplates 

I think this is a really lovely idea for anyone who has a lot of books, or someone you know who has put a great deal of time putting together a collection they want to keep or pass on. Basically, they are little pieces of card, which you can write your name on and stick into your books so everyone knows who that book belongs to. I also love that these are Beatrix Potter themed as I had the whole collection when I was younger (and hopefully still do- my book collection is everywhere) and loved them (and still do).

Bookplates

Notebook (with possible religious iconography) 

I get through notebooks with ridiculous speed so I am always very grateful to receive more of them. I’m not sure if the symbols on the front of this are religious, as I definitely think I see a cross. I don’t count myself belonging to any particular faith, though I don’t have any issues with using a notebook with this imagery unless anyone has any issues with me using it.

 

 

Leather gloves 

The last item I received are something I am going to give to another member of my family who is comfortable with wearing leather, as I’m not. I know my grandad wont ‘t offended by this (he probably did not know I don’t wear leather, as the subject hasn’t really come up between us).

Leather gloves

From my friend, Callie

My friend Callie was actually the one who made the cake in the main image for this article (with help from her friend Vickii who actually bakes for a living!). It was a glittery unicorn cake (as she knows I have a problem) with jelly beans in the middle (as I was really craving jelly beans the week before my birthday so subtly suggested they should be included in the cake).

Unicorn cake

Unfortunately because of the heat a lot of the roses melted but it still looked absolutely gorgeous (it also tasted amazing).

Inside of cake

The cake itself was raspberry and vanilla flavoured with funfetti sprinkles baked into the cake. It was also massive as you can tell from the picture above.

I actually have a video of me cutting into the cake and getting slightly stuck because I didn’t realise how big it was but I can’t upload it here, as it requires upgrading my WordPress plan (which, I really should probably do but I am also broke- the video is also not that interesting).

Pug Mug 

Anyone who knows me is aware that I have a minor obsession with pugs! Though to clarify I want to make it clear that I believe breeders should be encouraged to breed pugs with other breeds to help their health problems or make sure they breed the pugs with the least health issues. One day I dream to have my own pug, who I will love more than anything (sorry Martin though you knew this was coming), but for now thanks to Callie I have my very own pug mug for hot chocolates and green tea, as they are the only hot drinks I drink!

 

 

Lime Crime Velventines True Love Set 

Lime Crime is cruelty free and vegan. Two things I look for in my makeup (as a rule I won’t wear anything that is not cruelty free, and I try to wear vegan makeup as much as possible). These shades are also beautiful, especially the darkest shade. I’ve told Callie (who is a makeup queen and needs to do my makeup one day) that I’ve wanted to try some darker shades, as I’ve only really wore light shades and this shade did not disappoint. It wasn’t too dark to overwhelm me and it had a nice warmth to it that compliments my pale, freckly skin. You can see the picture of me holding one of the roses Martin bought me above, or the image of me wearing the blue pendant my grandad bought me to see what it looks like on me!

True Love Lime Crime

Here’s also some swatches on my really hairy arms! If anyone has any swatches of this product on a darker skin tone to mine and is happy for me to include them in this blog post let me know! I’m sure though there is a lot of swatches online of this product- I just wanted to highlight what they look like on my complexion.

Lime Crime True Love swatches

Also, the brown shade is really far apart from the others because I’m an idiot basically. The swatches on my hand are also the opposite way round to how you see the shades in the picture with the packaging.

Jelly Bean Magnet 

I think the magnet says it all really…

Fridge magnet

Though to be clear I do actually consume a lot of vegetables because as a person I’m quite healthy apart from my massive sweet tooth.

Tinkerbell Notepad

Tinkerbell is small and sassy so therefore I feel like we connect on a spiritual level. I’m sure quite a few people who know me will agree.

Tinkerbell notepad

Martin’s family 

I won’t mention all of Martin’s family individually by name in case they don’t want me too but thank you all of you for my present and card. Special thanks to Martins’s mum especially for sending it in the post to me.

Fjallraven Kanken Pastel Pink Backpack 

I LOVE this. Seriously, it’s so comfy and I really don’t get the strain I’ve experienced with other backpacks on the back when I wear it. Ever since I got it I’ve took it with me everywhere and since my colour palette is pretty much either pastels or black it goes with everything. I would definitely recommend this backpack for university or college (as it has a built in system that ensures laptops, etc. will be kept upright) and also as a day backpack for travelling. In this weather (I am not enjoying the UK heatwave!) I also appreciate the two spaces at the side of the backpack where you can store water bottles.

It also makes me miss when my hair was this colour.

Fjallraven Kanken Backpack

 

In my parcel was also a Cadbury’s bar but I’ve already demolished that so there’s no picture for that I’m afraid!

So that’s everything I got for my birthday this year! Despite the crisis it brought on I am thoroughly happy with everything I got and so grateful for everyone who liked me enough to buy me presents. I hope I can do as well as you all did for your birthdays!

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Childhood fashion staples that shouldn’t be the latest trend

Image: Pexels 

Before I start this (short) blog post I have to say that I love some of the pieces that have emerged from the 90s and early 2000’s revival that is occurring at the moment. Like, for example choker necklaces. But some of the pieces I’ve seen recently, although they’ve give me a glowing bit of nostalgia when I see them, have no place in my (semi) adult life.

  1. The hairbands of doom

I LOVED these when I was little. Though, I also loved a hairstyle that basically consisted of my mum putting my hair into several small ponytails, which I had poking out from every direction out of my head (which, I’ve recreated below). However, these hairbands also caused some serious injuries. Yes, those little rainbow ball hairbands from Topshop look cute but I remember the damage that those balls can do (not a sentence I thought I’d be writing anytime soon).

Image: Topshop on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest

Childhood HairImage: April is the Cruellest Month 

2. Double Denim

For those who are cooler than me and can pull this off I salute you. However, double denim has no place in my life. I think it’s because I still get horrible flashbacks to some of the truly awful combinations that came out of the trend in the early 2000’s.

3. Neon

Neon enthusiasts please do not take offence! First of all, neon now is a lot less all over, but despite this neon will not be having a place in my life anytime soon. Just because I definitely prefer a much more muted palette (ok, so basically I’m just obsessed with pastel colours). Saying that if I could pull them off I’d probably wear these.

Image: Topshop on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

This is more 80s than 90s but I’m not sure why this is allowed to exist in the world!

4. Visors

Just no. Maybe I’m just not cool enough for this but still no. Either wear a cap or don’t. Like the one in the Hello Kitty x Lazy Oaf collection that is coming soon (on a side note if someone can just buy that whole collection for me it will be much appreciated).

Image: Topshop on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

However, I will forever thankful for the return of velvet (every Buffy fangirl’s dream).

If you like this post let me know and I’ll do a post with my favourite pieces that have come out of the 90s/ early 2000’s revival! Also, comment with your favourite childhood fashion staple of the childhood. Mine has to be the jelly sandals (which, are on sale at the moment FYI!!!). 

Image: Office on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

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Feminist Reading Journey: Naomi Alderman ‘The Power’

This book has quickly become one of my new favourites. Seriously buy it. Read it. Especially if you’re interested in gender relations.

The narrative is set in the future but looking back on a significant change in human history that occured. That change is when the world switches from a patriarchal society to a matriarchal one. The switch occurs because women around the world, particularly teenage girls, start to discover that they have the power to emit electrical shocks, some stronger than others. Slowly, but surely, women then start to rise up. However, when the power shifts so do women’s attitudes.

The PowerImage: April Wilson 

I don’t want to give a lot more away than that, and hopefully I’ve not given away too much. I have to mention the negatives this power shift brings though because as the title suggests the book is very much focused on power balances. The idea being that if any group has too much power that power will be abused.

Since the novel is also called ‘The Power’ I thought then it would be apt to pick a quotation that exemplifies how masterly Naomi Alderman explores power relations within the novel.

As always the lovely Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective has provided the illustration for this post.

“One of them says, ‘Why did they do it?’ and the other one answers, ‘Because they could’. That is only answer there ever is.”

-Naomi Alderman 

The Power NaomiImage: The Kawaii Kollective 

For real life examples of how easy power relations can shift you only have to look at the Stanford Prison Experiment. For those who don’t know what the Stanford Prison Experiment is it was an experiment conducted by the psychologist Zimbardo in which he assigned a group of volunteers the role of either prisoner or guard for a 2 week simulated prison experiment.

Soon the prisoners started to protest the conditions, and the guards started to harass the prisoners, and become sadistic. Eventually after 6 days the experiment was ended by Zimbardo after he was told by an outsider (he had become too involved in the experiment) that the conditions lacked morality.

If you are interested in learning more, as I’ve only briefly described what happened and not gone into some of the sadistic, humiliating tactics that the guards used, I suggest you read ‘The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil‘ or watch the film based on the experiment simply called ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment‘ (be prepared for graphic content). If you are interested in more examples of similar effects you can look up the Abu Ghraib prison atrocities (be warned graphic images will most likely come up in your search).

Also in relation to power dynamics, the novel does an amazing job at showing the reactions of different groups such as feminist groups, anti-feminists and everyone in between on the debate feel when the power balance starts to shift. And that power shift does a brilliant job more than a lot of arguments I have seen at showing what the current power balance is in the world today.

The novel also reminded me of how much a dialogue does need to exist. I will admit it is hard for me to watch content by anti-feminists. I however am going to make an effort to do so and not instantly judge the content. To do this I am going to watch ‘The Red Pill’ documentary by documentary film maker Cassie Jaye about the men’s right movement From watching the trailer so far some of the arguments brought up I do agree with. There needs to be more men’s shelters and men who are victims of abuse need to be treated seriously. I however, argue this should be a feminist argument (not that it has not been made as one before) if feminism keeps to what I believe it to be: the pursuit of equality. I can’t comment more on the rest of their arguments however without seeing the documentary first.

I also have been taking into consideration the words of the youtuber Laci Green (who I also just discovered- I’m more than a little late to the Youtube world), who talked about the need for an open dialogue, and debate. Though I admit it can be hard I am always trying to learn, and I want to make the effort to do so.

One part of ‘The Power’ that I also think makes it so effective is the way it shifts across different narrative viewpoints. Something, which when it is done masterfully I absolutely love (and ‘The Power’ certainly fits this brief). Though, when it’s done horribly it’s just confusing and a mess. ‘The Power’ follows the viewpoints of Roxy, a Londoner whose family runs a significant crime syndicate, whose world turns upside down when discovering her power; Allie a teenager who after discovering her power reimagines herself as Mother Eve and starts a new women’s movement that brings the women in religion iconography to the forefront; Margot who aspires to move up in the American government (and her daughter Jocelyn whose power comes with some complications) and significantly the male Nigerian Tunde who discovers the power of citizen journalism, as he documents women as they start to discover their power and makes it his mission to map this new movement around the world.

Tunde as a character however is not the only way that Naomi Alderman does a brilliant job at exploring how this event would unfold through social media and website forums without being cringe-worthy, which you can sometimes find from authors who either has not spend enough time on social media; cannot seem to understand it or are not digital natives.

Overall, this is a book that needs to be on university reading lists (I haven’t included younger audiences just because of the graphic nature of one of the scenes), especially when talking about gender. A lot of the times university can look back (which I cannot stress is still an incredibly important thing to do) but this novel is important in that it looks at gender balance in terms of the current political climate, which is something we all need to be aware of and do more.

This also needs to be on a university course reading list so I could talk about this with other people interested in debating gender (though I’ve also finished my undergraduate, and will be finishing my postgraduate degree soon so university is for NOW almost over for me). However, if anyone wants to allow me to teach a module on contemporary gender studies go ahead… (I’d be excited to see what the class could teach me as well).

So basically if you haven’t got the message of this blog post yet it’s basically to just read ‘The Power’ already.

Update: This is in regards to ‘The Red Pill’ by Laci Green. I am still very new to the concept of feminist debate and critique (though I’ve been engaging with feminism for years) so was not sure what to think when I first saw the video. For me personally it reminded me that I need to be ready to take part in more debate (and try to be on the defensive automatically), though I did not entirely agree with the way Laci seemed to be attacking feminists more than anti-feminists (I understand both sides have faults but the debate seemed very one sided). However, if you’ve watched the video I also highly suggest you watch Kat Blaque’s response video, as she highlights many very important issues with the video.

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May for me has been the month of heat. I am pale, freckly and by all rights should have been naturally a ginger so heat does not sit well with me. However, despite having to invest in a fan because my flat has absolutely no air circulation; May has seen a whole lot of new favourites be added to my list of things I love. Hence, why I thought I would join the monthly favourites train!

So without further ado here are my favourites for this month…

Sailor Moon Crystal 

I’m incredibly late to the party with Sailor Moon but then again I’m kind of just incredibly late to the party with anime in general. However, I’m not going to lie I’ve always been a fan of the Sailor Moon aesthetic and I’ve watched what I would class as a few similar type shows such as W.I.T.C.H and Mew Mew Power.

I opted for Crystal because I knew it was a later incarnation of Sailor Moon, and I tried watching the original and found some of the commentary just that little bit dated. Also, from the few episodes I watched of the original Sailor Moon in comparison with what I’ve watched of Sailor Moon Crystal so far; Crystal is a lot more focused on the romance between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask (which, I’m so going to force my boyfriend to cosplay as with me for October MCM). Though I may just have not got enough episodes into the original anime so someone please correct me if I’m wrong!

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 21.21.04Image: Sailor Moon Crystal/ Toei Animation 

I can definitely see a bit of Buffy in Sailor Moon. Not only because she’s blond and has a brooding, dark haired handsome hero destined to be with her but because both Buffy and Sailor Moon are what society would deem as unlikely heroes. Though Buffy does kick a lot more butt (and generally has way better fight scenes). But like Buffy, Sailor Moon is the leader when she needs to be, and is not afraid to be the hero and be conventionally feminine at the same time.

I also like the way in which Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask look after each other, and save each other at various points (though Sailor Moon does fall off buildings and faint a lot). But yes, there are a few creepy romance moments á la Twilight.

With my criticisms taken into account however I still enjoy Sailor Moon, and I’m the kind of person that actually enjoys the criticisms as the academic side of me then has something to talk and write about.

In regards to my other criticism I will briefly mention them here. One such criticism that I have is that it is concerning when you think of the actual age of the characters compared to the age I argue they are depicted (though this is generally true of anime in general). Overall though the message of the show is quite mixed, and for beginners I think you need to go in taking the positives (women saving the day) and negatives of the show (lack of people of colour, confusing messages about girl power).

I’ve seen people describe Sailor Moon as being a force of positivity and empowerment for them so I think everyone needs to remember that side of the show (after all, Tuxedo Mask doesn’t have powers; he usually sits back as the Sailor Scouts save the day) when criticising some of the other aspects of the show.

However, I have not mentioned the main criticism I have about the series (that actually I find useful to compare to Buffy), as I will discuss that in a separate blog post, as I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible for anyone who has not seen the series yet.

I also love the fashion of Sailor Moon, and am considering starting a fashion series talking about the shows I love that I think have some great fashion moments. Maybe starting with Sailor Moon Crystal, and then moving onto to Buffy (which I will do season by season).

This idea was also partly inspired by an article on Buzzfeed about the fashion of Sailor Moon. As well as the amazing Twitter account Bad Buffy Outfits, which highlights some of the occasionally cringe-worthy 90s- early 00’s fashion on the show (not going to lie though I still love like 90% of it).

Also, before I finish talking about Sailor Moon I just wanted to mention that the images were sourced from this website, which someone took a lot of care and attention in getting the screenshots for, so be sure to check it out!

Dear White People 

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this show. I haven’t finished it yet because my boyfriend has been *forcing* me to watch Parks and Recreation; but from what I have seen so far it’s  brilliant. The massive irony being of course that all those people complaining about the title are completely wrong (which, we knew anyway) as the strength of the show is that is shows the viewpoints and perspectives of everyone within the debate.

For those interested you can check out the show on Netflix.

Dear White PeopleImage: Logan Browning as Samantha White on Netflix’s Dear White People 

Emma Blackery 

I know for most people Emma Blackery is a proper old school Youtuber but I’ve only just properly got into Youtube (I’m sorry please don’t kill me). I’ve been enjoying her videos because she’s just relatable and honest in a way I wish I could be. I know that she does care but she does such a great job of pushing past that and giving her opinion while also reflecting on her self. She has definitely got me into vlogs, something I hope to eventually do with this blog!

Also, in regards to her music, ‘Don’t Come Home‘ (from what I can gather I should point out that I am talking about the latest version) is definitely my favourite single from her.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 15.55.34Image: Emma Blackery in her ‘Don’t Come Home‘ video 

Paramore- After Laughter 

First of all, for those who are old school Paramore fans like me, don’t get me wrong I miss the more rock elements of Paramore but I don’t hate the new songs and their aesthetic. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to listening to the new album pretty consistently since it was released. The stand out tracks on the album for me are ‘Pool’ and ‘Rose Colored Boy’.

Paramore Told You SoImage: Paramore, ‘Told You So’ video (Hayley’s makeup and overall look is goals) 

Pop Figures 

So I finally bought my first ever POP figures at MCM London Comic Con!!!

Sailor MoonImage: April Wilson

Since Sailor Moon has become my new obsession I got a Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask POP! figure because I’ve always liked the idea of having the POP figures for the characters I have cosplayed or plan to cosplay.

However, I’m starting to feel a deep infinity to Sailor Venus/ Sailor Mercury so am considering changing cosplay plans but it’d be easier to source a Tuxedo Mask costume.

Nooderella

I’ve been a fan of the Youtuber Noodlerella for a while now but I’m mentioning her on my May favourites list because I had the opportunity to meet her at MCM London Comic Con where she signed one of her prints for me! I should have got a photograph but I was a bit too shy but if she is at comic con in October I am determined to get over my shyness and ask her.

I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the sweatshirt she is wearing in the print I bought and managed to find what I think is the same version (though it is a design I have found in different colours on a few websites so I’m not sure if the version I found is the original). I’d love to buy it but since it’s so hot at the moment I am struggling to justify it!

Image: @noodlerella/ Twitter (the print I got is the second picture)

 

Geeky Clean 

I became aware of this company from seeing their stand at MCM London Comic Con. Basically, they sell geeky themed bath stuff and candles. And everything is vegan! I can tell you from first hand experience that their Butterbeer (which, is out of stock, and I am incredibly devastated) and Unicorn Breakfast candle smell divine.

They also offer monthly subscription boxes and this month’s box is Game of Thrones themed to celebrate the new season that is coming out in July. I’m planning to subscribe and do a review here so watch this space!

Image: @geekyclean/Instagram 

So here’s my monthly favourites for May! Let me know if anyone is a fan of anything I’ve mentioned or has any recommendations of things they’d like me try and review for June. I’m already planning to finally invest in some Tsum Tsums because I’m obsessed with them!

Disney Character Inspired Mugs are now for sale at the Disney Store UK

Image aprilisthecruellestmonth (Martin (my boyfriend) and I at Disneyland Paris for my birthday last year). 

So I don’t know who else occasionally peruses the Disney Store website but for those of you in the UK I noticed the other day that they’ve started selling some merchandise that is available at the parks. I’m not sure however if the products are available in store too , as it’s been a while since I’ve been to a Disney Store. If you know please let me know!

One such product that caught my eye are these amazing character themed mugs, which I want the entire collection of. One, because I like completed sets of things. Two, because I’m too Disney obsessed. And three, simply because of the aesthetics.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

Speaking of aesthetics, I have to say the Ariel (The Little Mermaid) mug is my favourite. It doesn’t help that Ariel’s hair colour is the same colour as mine at the moment. The colour scheme is also just so pretty.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

April Wilson ImageImage: aprilisthecruellestmonth (showing off my Ariel hair). 

After the Ariel mug my next favourite is the Rapunzel inspired mug. Not only does Rapunzel have my favourite Disney princess hair (one day, I will COSPLAY her) but I love the corset style detail they use to represent Rapunzel on the mug.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

After the Rapunzel mug I love, love, love the Jasmine themed mug. I don’t even know how to put into words how pretty it is. Also, it’s a bit of a bizarre thing to say but the style of Jasmine’s hair really suits the handle detail.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

The Belle mug is also suitably beautiful and out of them feels the most decadent. I was so excited when I realised how much it really does give me the same vibe of the colour scheme of the film. Though as much I love the colour scheme, it also feels just a bit too much at the same time.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

Although, I’m not a big fan of Aurora as a princess; this is one of my favourite of the mugs design wise. As for why I don’t really like Aurora, it’s probably because they didn’t even really try to give her much of a personality. After all, she only spoke 18 lines of dialogue throughout the whole film. However, I have to say that I love the Aurora mug, especially how they included her tiara on the handle. I also am ridiculously excited that one half of the mug is pink, and if you turn it over the other half is blue, so it mirrors the famous fight over dress colour at the end of the film.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

Like the Aurora mug, although Cinderella has never been my go to princess; I can definitely see myself with this mug, as the colours on it are gorgeous. And even though I’m not a Cinderella fan; I love the glass slipper imagery surrounding the film.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

The Snow White mug is a bit ‘meh’ for me (though I do like the bejewelled apple). Just like how Snow White has always been a bit ‘meh’ for me. I was always a lot more interested in the seven dwarfs in the film to be honest. I also think it’s because like Aurora she belongs to the generation of Disney princesses that they didn’t even try to give an personality too.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

I was however pleased to see that there is a Mary Poppins inspired mug in the collection, which is designed to look like her parasol. This one is definitely the most high class out of all the designs but it’s just lacking a little bit of the whimsy of Mary Poppins for me.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

Now to the villains…

There’s only two villains unfortunately that are represented by the mugs and that is Ursula the Sea Witch and the Queen of Hearts.  Both of which are mugs I love and would have in my collection over some of the princess themed ones any day.

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

Image: via the Disney Store on aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

The mugs are priced at £17.99 each (apart from the Mary Poppins mug, which is £12.99)  so are on the expensive side (I don’t drink tea so generally don’t spend a lot on mugs, as they are mainly hot chocolate receptacles for me) but they are definitely a collectors item alongside their practical purpose.

If only there was  a Tiana, Mulan, Merida, and Moana mug to complete the set. Maybe this is something they sell at the parks, if so someone let me know! As let’s face it they’d be ridiculously pretty. I’d especially love to see what they’d do with the Mulan and Moana mug! Some more Disney villain mugs as well (such, as Maleficent- though of course not a villain if we’re talking about live action Maleficent) would be much appreciated.

Either way I just want to buy all of them and only ever drink from them again!

 

 

Feminist Reading Journey: Maya Angelou, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

Before I begin talking about Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ I want to talk a little bit again about why I started this journey. For those who don’t know, or haven’t read my previous posts, I began what I have deemed as my ‘feminist’ reading journey because I had still not read a lot of the ‘classics’ of feminist literature.

Although, so far in my journey I am quite confident that most of the authors I have read would identity as feminists (in fact, I have seen the majority say they are one) but that doesn’t mean all of them will identify as feminists. Since, I want to explore works not only by feminist authors but that have feminist themes, or more importantly showcase an experience that I have no authority on; I personally don’t see this to be an issue. Also, many people also forget that feminism, as part of its mission for equality should also take into account other issues, such as class inequality, racism, prejudice, and abillity (so I intend to look at works that cover this experience as well). Some times then the books I read may not have feminism, as its main theme, but it will always be there lurking in the background.

For me this journey is about learning about other experiences. I have heard about a lot of the voices of people who have had different experiences to me from seeing their quotes plastered on social media. Maya Angelou was a voice that cropped up again and again. I engaged with her, yes, but only on a surface level. The reason I started this journey then quite simply was to stop mildly paying attention and full immerse myself in feminism.

I also think Maya Angelou is important when we live in a world where people try to speak to an experience they have not lived through, or completely understand. As although a lot of people may think they know what it was like growing up black in the 1930s and 1940s in South America; Maya Angelou actually knows what the experience was like. She lived it.

After all, one of the main debates within feminist theory started from the idea that as woman we all share the same experiences, and so can be united over this experience. This train of thought however was shattered when many pointed out that women of colour, for example, not only face the world with the prejudice of being a woman, but an added prejudice because of their skin colour. Low income women also have a different experience from women with a higher income. Queer women have a different experience. Trans women have a different experience- one that should not be discounted.

Recently, the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, received backlash over her comments about the difference between a cis women and a trans women’s experience:

“My feeling is trans women are trans women…I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men and then sort of change, switch gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman.”

Laverne Cox, famous for starring in Orange Is The New Black responded in a series of tweets in which she weighs in other Adichie’s comments:

“I was talking to my twin brother today about whether he believes I had male privilege growing up. I was a very feminine child though I was assigned male at birth. My gender was constantly policed. I was told I acted like a girl and I was bullied and shamed for that.

My femininity did not make me feel privileged. I was a good student and was very much encouraged because of that but I saw cis girls who showed academic promise being nurtured in the black community. I grew up in Mobile, Ala.

Gender exists on a spectrum & the binary narrative which suggests that all trans women transition from male privilege erases a lot of experiences and isn’t intersectional. Gender is constituted differently based on the culture we live in. There’s no universal experience of gender, of womanhood. To suggest that is essentialist and again not intersectional.

Many of our feminist foremothers cautioned against such essentialism and not having an intersectional approach to feminism. Class, race, sexuality, ability, immigration status, education, all influence the ways in which we experience privilege. So though I was assigned male at birth I would contend that I did not enjoy male privilege prior to my transition. Patriarchy and cissexism punished my femininity and gender nonconformity. The irony of my life is before my transition I was called a girl and after I am very often called a man. Gender policing and the fact that gender binaries can only exist through strict policing complicates the concept gendered privilege & that’s ok cause it’s complicated. Intersectionality complicates both male and cis privilege.

That is why it is paramount that we continue to lift up diverse trans stories. For too many years there’s been too few trans stories in the media. For over 60 years since Christine Jorgensen stepped off the plane from Europe and became the first internationally known trans woman the narrative about trans folks in the media was one of macho guy becomes a woman. That’s certainly not my story or the stories of many trans folks I know. That narrative often works to reinforce binaries rather than explode them. That explosion is the gender revolution, I imagine, one of true gender self determination.”

What Laverne’s response to Chimamanda’s argument reveals is that the argument over shared experiences vs. intersectionality is one that is still taking place within feminist politics. What the response also demonstrates if that stating why you disagree with an opinion is more powerful than declaring the other person should not speak, and that you can have a dialogue without it turning to aggression.

Hence, why like Laverne suggests to do, I have made it my mission to read as many different voices who have had as many different experiences as possible (though unfortunately there is still quite a sizeable gap in experiences written by trans women). I might not always agree with what they define in terms of feminism. I, for example, don’t agree with Chimamanda’s views about transgender women, but agree with her on many different issues. However, though I disagree with her on this issue that does not mean I will ignore ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, for example, and it one of the books I intend to read in my journey. I will also read books by people that have created very polarising opinions such as the works of  Lena Dunham and Sophia Amoruso because I think it is better to engage these works for their positives and negatives rather than ignore them.

However, I’ve talked enough about my reasonings now; it’s time for me to talk about ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’.

For those who have not read the book yet I shall start by issuing a warning that the book contains rape/child abuse. This discussion also contains quite a lot of spoilers, which is something which my reviews/ discussions usually do not contain, but I found it hard to talk about the significance of this novel without raising significant plot points. 

Maya I Know WhyImage: April Wilson 

The first in a series of autobiographies by Maya Angelou, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ deals with the period in Angelou’s life up until she is 17 (date wise that is up until 1944). Like Angelou, the book is fearless, and honest in the way so few books are. Unsurprisingly, it instantly gripped me in a way that I hadn’t felt about in a book in a while (and in fact needed- I was getting way too distanced from my earlier love of reading).

The book’s honesty reminded me of the book ‘Chinese Cinderella’ by Adeline Yen Mah that I strongly suggest you read if you haven’t already. Like Angelou, Adeline Yen Mah wrote her autobiographies later in life, which is why I think both books are so ‘honest’ (I’m not saying that everything is completely 100% true- just that it feels like the authors are not holding anything back). Time, as we all know, gives us perspective and most importantly lets us distance ourself from the embarrassment we felt over particular events. There are many events that I am able to freely talk about now, like, for example, the stress that came with having an extremely heavy period during a class trip; that would have embarrassed me to talk about as freely as I do now at the time.

The themes of the book are best summed up by Maya Angelou herself and the quote I chose to accompany the illustration for this book, which Caroline from The Kawaii Collective very kindly illustrated, does just that:

“The black female is assaulted in her tender years by all the common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in a crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and black lack of power.”

-Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

This drawing, along with all of my other collaborations with The Kawaii Collective was originally inspired by Kimothy Joy’s collaboration with The Huffington Post.

Be sure to also check out Caroline’s Etsy shop if you like what you see and want to purchase her art work!

Angelou’s experience demonstrates this quote and then some. Not only does she have to cope with the hatred from the white children who came into her grandmother’s store; she has to deal with the threat of the Klux Klux Klan in a scene early in the book.  Although the sheriff tells them of the threat; he does not offer any protection and they are left hoping that their Uncle Willie will not be lynched (and end up hiding him in a bin of potatoes and onions in case anyone comes by the store). Maya herself is also sexually abused and raped at age 8 by her mother’s boyfriend.

Through all this Angelou remains a fighter, despite her vulnerability. In fact, she remains a fully realised human being. This might seem stupid of me to mention until you realise how it is only when black people tell their stories that they are in fact given fully realised characters. See this article for a better explanation of what I am referring to, as I do not feel I have further authority to speak on the subject, not having experienced the same situation in terms of representation, as the author of the article.

However, Angelou is unsurprisingly failed by the world. She becomes pregnant towards the end of the novel through sex she doesn’t even enjoy, “I…didn’t enjoy it.” Not at all surprising considering the experience ended with: “My partner showed that our experience had reached its climax by getting up abruptly”.

Why have the sex then? Because she feared she might be a lesbian, which spells out why sex education is needed stronger than most examples I know (I know this is of course set in an earlier time period, but sex education today is lacking in the way it teaches consent and LBGTQ+ issues).

Especially, considering the stereotypes she believes make up a lesbian still persist today:

“After a through self-examination, in the light of all I had read and heard about dykes and bulldaggers, I reasoned that I had none of the obvious traits- I didn’t wear trousers, or have big shoulders or go in for sports, or walk like a man or even want to touch a woman.”

Not only do these stereotypes perpetuate the idea that someone who identifies as female and has a muscular body frame cannot be attractive (which is completely untrue, they are beautiful and rock); it opens up a whole host of other problems, like putting woman off sports. Something which still persists, as I personally know women who have stopped sports they were good at, as they were told they had to bulk up and were afraid of looking like a ‘man’. Gender does not have to exist under this binary lines, and putting being a lesbian under this category damages not only lesbian women especially, but everyone.

There is though still hope within the story. Like I mentioned Angelou is a fighter. Within the novel alone she becomes the first black female streetcar conductor in San Fransisco because of her refusal to back down when they repeatedly tell her she cannot have the job. It also shows in the wide range of roles she has played, as USA Today reports: “Angelou has been a memoirist, poet, civil rights activist, actress, director, professor, singer and dancer”.

Maya Angelou also is now Dr. Maya Angelou, as: “Although she never went to college, she has been awarded more than 30 honorary degrees”.

Her birthday also coincides with the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on the 4th April, 1968. In response, for year she didn’t celebrate her birthday. Instead: “She and King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006, would “meet or talk or send each other flowers” on April 4. Each year, she continues to say a birthday prayer, “a prayer for the country.”

Maya Angelou then refuses to back down, and be defeated. It’s no coincidence that one of her most famous poems is called ‘Still I Rise‘. You need only read her work to see it.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about Maya Angelou’s life, although I recommend reading her autobiographies first, here are a few articles to read that may provide helpful:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/may/25/biography.mayaangelou

(Covers the subjects of some of her later autobiographies)

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/growing-up-maya-angelou-79582387/?no-ist

 

 

Living out my embroidery dreams

Well, now I’ve gotten over my fear about talking about fashion, I see no reason not to continue onwards and upwards and talk about another trend that has been gracing the high street this spring: floral embroidery (well, embroidery in general but I’m going to focus on pieces with floral motifs).

For those of you who did not read my previous post whenever I mention a retailer I will mention a little bit about their ethics and sustainability, not to be judgemental or anything like that, but just so you know more about the retailer you are buying from. Now, before I even started this I knew that this list of my favourite embroidery pieces was going to be dominated by Topshop and Zara. However, I tried to scour the internet for some other retailers, especially retailers with a good track record for ethics and sustainability.

As always however let’s start with my favourite:

Topshop (I think my love for Topshop is partly fuelled by that I longed after their pieces for years but they were way out of my price range so now that I can sometimes actually afford some of their stuff I get way too excited).

7/20 on the Ethical shopping guide. 

For a list of pro’s and con’s for Topshop click on this link. To summarise, Topshop is committed to the Sustainable Clothing Plan and its targets, but the brand does not publicly share the detailers of its suppliers.

First of all, I’m going to talk about this beautiful dress (£29.00) I picked up from them, purely because of the sleeve details. However, I have to admit I was a little bit disappointed to realise that it’s a bit too transparent for my tastes to wear without a white cami dress underneath. However, it would perfect for the beach (not that I am a frequent beach visitor- I’m much more of a autumn/winter person) with a swimsuit or bikini underneath. I wouldn’t have minded if it was advertised as see through or it looked see through in the pictures on the website, but it was not so I have to admit it was a little bit disappointing. Especially, as it means I have to purchase another item to make it wearable.

18362622_2248264658732685_1528254569_o        Image: April is the Cruellest Month 

As for my other picks from Topshop, they’re numerous so I thought they’d be best summed up in a Polyvore set.

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 20.11.16 Full set available on my Polyvore!

Top left shirt: £29.00 (clothes will now be described as seen from left to right).

I love, love, love this shirt- it’d be such a good piece for when you want to dress up an outfit (maybe a black skirt) a bit more but aren’t feeling like going ‘all out’ that day.

Cream jacket with blue embroidery: £55

At first I was not sure about this piece but I have been feeling the pastels recently, and this totally fits that vibe. It makes me wish I had pastel pink hair again to match.

White blouse with floral shoulder detail: £36 (currently sold out online but still available at time of writing in some stores).

Ok, so I am very upset that this is basically almost sold out because I only managed to discover this the other day on the Topshop website. Especially, as I’m really loving all the floral embroidery pieces with detailing around the shoulders at the moment and this blouse so perfectly fits that bill.

Black moto western borg jacket with rose embroidery detail: £85 (Petite) Available here in standard sizing (same price).

So this is quite expensive (please, please go on sale) and maybe a little out of season that is if we ever actually start to warm up here in the UK (which I’m hoping we don’t as I am not a child of the sun) but I just adore borg jackets.

Denim flatform trainers with rose embroidery: £29

I don’t know why but I’m really feeling denim trainers in all forms at the moment so these for me are a must (that is if I didn’t need to invest in some solid shoes that will work for all day everyday since all my other pairs have holes in).

White studded shoulder bag with floral embroidery and a gold strap: £25.00

I’m not going to lie I am not a fan of the gold strap but other than that I love this bag and it would look lovely with some denim.

Denim pinafore with floral embroidery on the pockets: £45

Ok, so I cannot decide between this denim pinafore or the other one shown- I love them both. I’m slightly more inclined to the other one however as I’d rather not draw too much attention to my hip area just because the way I am proportioned means it might not neccessarily flatter me.

Floral embroidered MOM jeans: £59.00

Confession time. I have yet to venture into the world of MOM jeans though they’ve grown on me over the last year, especially when they feature floral patterns like the one on this pair.

Black denim jacket with summery floral embroidery details: £65.00

I don’t know if it’s just me but I feel like these have a slight fruity vibe in terms of the colours of the florals, making this a jacket that I think (as long as the weather is not too hot) could make the transition into summer.

Denim pinafore with floral detailing at the top: £45.00

I think this pinafore just beats the other one for me, however, I’m not sure what the fit would be like for me, whereas I know what the other dress fits like (as I have a plain denim version).

White embroidered ‘Jamie’ jeans: £59.00

I saw someone wearing these, or at least a similar pair the other day and once again I started dreaming of white denim. I don’t know why but I always loved white denim especially when I was a teenager and these jeans kind of rekindled that love in me.

Black platforms with floral embroidery detail: £34.00

These are so pretty that I might actually attempt to wear heals for once just so I can strut my stuff in these.

Zara 

I could not find a rating on the Ethical Sustainability guide for Zara. However, I found some information about their ethics here, which talks about how the company is committed to a living wage for all workers, however, the brand has been implicated in the appalling working conditions of workers in Bangalore, India.  

Ah Zara, home of embroidery. I went on the website in search of treasures, and treasures I found. Since Zara is refusing to clip onto my Polyvore for some reason I had to pin the pieces I liked to my Pinterest board. On the plus side it’s encouraged me to start using my Pinterest board alongside this blog.

Source: aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

This dress combines a lot of things I love. Sheer polka dot details, floral embroidery and the fact that it is a jumpsuit underneath so you do not have to worry about the perils of wearing a dress. I love it so much it’s making me wish I was going to my university’s Summer Ball this year simply so I would have an excuse to buy it.

Price: £29.99

Source: aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

So you know what this would go well with? Gingham! For those who are confused why I sound so excited about this it’s because in my last post I came to the realisation of how much I loved gingham and daisies together. These shorts would also look great with the gingham crop shirt from Topshop that I wore in that post.

Price: £25.99

Source: aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

So this shirt basically ticks all the boxes for things I love right now. Especially since I have been meaning to get a top with a built in choker neckline. I think this definitely needs to go on my birthday list.

Price: £17.99

Source: aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

Unsure if you love or hate this? Me too. But I figure there must be something that keeps drawing me in. I think it definitely will look amazing when its unzipped. Either way, it’s a must have statement piece for anyone looking to jazz up a normal parka.

Price: £99.99

Source: aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest

There’s some definite flapper vibes going on with this dress and I love it. It also looks like it will be super comfortable on hot days due to its flowy feel.

Price: £59.99

Source: aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Pinterest 

This is another dress that looks like a dress but is in fact actually a jumpsuit. You can’t see it on the pin but the dress has a beautiful tie up detail to the back and from the pictures on the Zara site I am pretty sure it has pockets. That’s right, pockets.

Price: £29.99

Rokit (vintage) 

Rokit is a UK based vintage clothing retailer that according to their website has recycled over a million tonnes of discarded clothing and accessories over the last three decades. In terms of sustainability vintage clothing is always a plus, as it ensures clothes are not being wasted and given a new life. 

My love affair with vintage clothing started in my teenage years. It was as I begun my vintage journey that Rokit came on my radar, despite that they specialised in denim and I was more a fan of the ‘classic’ vintage styles. While places like Rokit are great for sustainability they can be irritating in terms of sizing, as since they stock individual, unique options they might not always have your size.

The piece that I am going to showcase from Rokit will only fit the size indicated on the listing, so I chose the piece based on whether they fit the trend/ aesthetic I was looking for rather than whether they’d fit me personally or not.

The piece I am talking about is this amazing 80s blue denim sleeveless dress (perfect for nailing that Rachel from Friends aesthetic) for £40.00, which would look amazing with this long sleeve crop top from Topshop (in burgundy) for £20.00, some black tights and the pair of vegan dr. martens I am forever lusting over (£100.00).

Source: aprilisthecruellestmonth/Pinterest 

So those are my embroidery picks! I also spotted some pieces I liked at New Look so I would definitely take a look there too but there was nothing that stood out to me enough to make this list. As always if you know a good sustainable retailer I should check out please let me know!