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!

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Crazy about Gingham

Image: Wizard of Oz/ Warner Bros. 

I’ve not written about fashion before on this blog. In fact, I’ve always been nervous about talking about fashion fullstop. For the longest time I was afraid that feminism and fashion could not align. I always kind of felt that too many people considered fashion too frivolous and that it concentrated too much on looks. As I got older I realised that this does not have to be the case. Fashion can be liberating. It can help people break away from the gender identity imposed on them by society (although it can often make us want to conform to it too). Fashion can (mind the pun) make a statement.

Fashion is also problematic. Sweatshops are a real reality, which we seem to ignore until it’s brought up occasionally. I along with others justify it because well every clothes retailer is doing it. Some of the brands you think are the worst also are not. The highest scoring brands according to the Ethical shopping guide by the Ethical Consumer include H and M (probably due to their Conscious range) with Asos and Topshop scoring just above average. While difficult at times I try as much as possible to avoid the brands with the lower scores.

Fashion can also be difficult as a vegetarian (for those who don’t know I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 16). For the first few years being vegetarian I just made choices based on food, not remembering that the clothes we wear can contain animal products too. Consequently, I still own things that are leather that I now feel uncomfortable wearing. Though, I of course feel it would be worse to throw these items away. Currently, my plan is to sell them on my Depop shop so they can be used by people who don’t feel the same as I do (as it makes me feel worse they are not being used), and hopefully I can raise myself the funds to get some vegan Dr. Martens.

So as you can see I find it difficult to talk about fashion, especially fashion trends. As it is the demand for fast fashion that has helped create the need for mass, cheap labour. However, I do not see the trend market as something that is going to change. That’s capitalism. What I feel we can change is the pressure we put on companies to be ethical and transparent about what they are selling. We can also ensure we support local, ethical and sustainable businesses where possible (I am aware these companies are often more expensive, which is problematic if you are on a low income). Another fantastic option for sustainability is vintage clothing.

To help everyone make informed decision when shopping when outlining my favourite pieces from one of Spring’s current trends, gingham. I have to admit when I saw the flurry of gingham hit the shops I was super excited, probably because Wizard of Oz was my favourite film growing up so this was my moment to live out my gingham dreams.

Topshop 

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. 

One thing I have seen combined a lot is pink with gingham (usually a pink top with gingham trousers). And although she does not wear gingham in the video the vibe I am talking of reminds me of Hayley Williams look in Paramore’s Playing God music video.

screen-shot-2017-05-01-at-19-56-49.png
Image: Paramore Playing God Music Video/ Fueled by Ramen 

I’ve also seen the look pop up a few times on my Instagram feed.

Image: @kaylahaddington/ Instagram 

Image: @asos/ Instagram 

Therefore, these trousers from Topshop that combine both pink and gingham are definitely on my to buy list. At £45.00 they are going to have to wait a while however!

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 18.10.58How I’d style the trousers. Full set available on my Polyvore!

Items featured

Look 1:

Top: Topshop £26.00

Sandals: Asos £46.00 (Brand however is River Island so they should be available on the River Island website also)

Look 2:

Top: Topshop £22.00

Shoes: Topshop £28.00

Look 3:

Top: Monki  £8.00

Jacket: Topshop £49.00

Ring: Asos £11.00

Bag: Matt and Nat (vegan)- No Longer Available. You can find similar backpacks here. Average price is around £98.00-£110.00. There are also some Matt and Nat backpacks available from Asos, which offer a student discount.

Shoes: Vegan Dr Martens £100.00

The next piece I love featuring gingham from Topshop is this beautiful, oversized gingham crop top showcasing another trend I’m loving at the moment, embroidery. This piece retails from £29.00, but I bought mine when Topshop were offering a 20% off student discount. I paired mine with a denim pinafore (£36.00) from Topshop that I bought the same time as the crop top.

Image: @aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Instagram

My other favourites from Topshop include this cropped jacket with frill sleeves (£49.00); this off the shoulder dress with tie straps (£36.00)- the version I have linked is for Petites but there is a pink version available (£30.00) on their website that is not Petite (I also looked on the Glamorous website for the dress but could not find it); these adorable  wedges (£39.00) and finally this pinafore (£39.00) that basically combines the look I created with my gingham top and dungarees.

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 18.45.53Full set available on my Polyvore

On another note all these pieces would look amazing with some form of daisy accessory (daisy earrings, perhaps?)!

Another thing to remember with Topshop, along with Asos is that they also stock brands that are not their own that have different manufacturing processes so remember to look up any brand that is not their own brand, as their ethics and sustainability might differ. 

Asos 

7.5 on the Ethical shopping guide. 

More about Asos and sustainability can be found here. On the Asos website they have a ‘Eco Edit’ section featuring brands that fit Asos’s criteria for sustainability. 

First of all, I want to talk about a top that I recently bought from Asos which is also part of their eco-edit from the Scandinavian brand Monki. It’s a off the shoulder, bardot blue gingham top with ruffle sleeves. Overall, it’s generally very lovely but is quite tight on the shoulders and chest area (despite me buying a size that should have been fine in that respect so bear that in mind when buying). It retails for £25.00.

April GinghamImage: Aprilisthecruellestmonth. My choker is also from Asos as part of a set of 2. I gave the choker featuring the Hamsa symbol to my sister, as I did not feel comfortable wearing such a spiritual symbol. 

A lot of the rest of my picks are also from Monki including this red gingham cami dress (£30.00) and this black and white gingham shirt with massive ruffle detail (£20.00). The pieces I loved not from Monki included a yellow gingham halter neck dress (there needs to be more yellow gingham pieces- I love the combination!) retailing for £30.00; this jumpsuit that I wish I had the height to wear (£38.00); this gingham sundress by a brand called QED London with adorable daisies embroidered all over it (which made me so happy considering I not just ranting about how daisies and gingham were a match made in heaven) that is on sale for £15.00 and finally this high waisted gingham skirt for £35.00 (because I have seen long gingham skirts everywhere and I have to admit they look ridiculously pretty).

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 19.13.29Full set available on my Polyvore

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.  

There are many beautiful gingham pieces at Zara right now with many featuring embroidery, my favourite however has to be this yellow gingham crop top and skirt set (though I only really want the skirt- it’s a shame they don’t sell them separately) for £29.99. The skirt would go amazing with a 60s style wicker basket bag (I’ve seen some at vintage stores and always wished I picked one up).

Image: @orangwanita/ Instagram 

The bag closest to the left had side is the kind of bag I mean.

New Look

5.5 on the Ethical shopping guide. However, it has also been commended for its approach to ethics by the ediTRACK blog

Another trend that is everywhere this season is mules. Although, I was resistant at first as they are just not the style of shoe I usually prefer; I have to admit they have grown on me. Though the fact that Betty Draper sports them in Mad Men might have something to do with that.

When I saw this embroidered pair in New Look (£25.99) I couldn’t help but fall in love. My other top pick from New Look is yet again another Gingham skirt (£24.99) but the ruffle detail at the bottom that adds just that bit of drama clinched it for me, and it would look amazing with a red lip or top, or both! My final pick from New Look is this midi dress that I just love for it simplicity and 90s music video vibes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my gingham picks. Comment with your favourites, and if you know of any places that stock any more ethical and sustainable options please let me know, as I know that it may seem a bit hypocritical that I talk about sustainable fashion and then show clothes from places that do not completely advocate those ideals. My point wasn’t that, and I don’t want to call out people for supporting these companies (one, because it would be hypocritical, and two, I know that’s not realistic); I just wanted to make sure people had the information there, so that if they liked a piece from two different companies, and couldn’t decide- maybe this would help.

Why healthcare needs to be free and accessible

My sisters as babies. Image: Provided with permission from my family. 

I have two twin sisters. They are kind (selectively to me of course as I am their sister); intelligent and though being a good person is more than this, and being a woman is much more than this; they are beautiful inside and out. They were also born premature. Devastatingly so. 10 weeks to be exact.

The reason they had to come out so early (my mother had a caesarean) is because one of my sisters was consuming all the nutrients so my other sister did not have enough. However, when they came out ironically it was her lung that collapsed. Both of them had to be kept in incubators. They were so small and under developed that their heads moulded to the shape they were lying in the incubators (something I can now tease them about). The twin whose lung collapsed still has a scar from where they saved her life, that has faded with age but is still there. However, she is braver than me, and never that I could see, showed any insecurity about it.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 00.06.26
My sisters as babies. Image: Provided with permission from my family. 

I’m telling you all this because if we had lived in the US, or another country which does not have free, universal healthcare; our lives would have been radically different. We very likely would have not been able to pay for the care and attention my sisters needed. And while what happened to them at birth did not affect them later in life, so would have not effected our family’s insurance policy later; the initial specialist treatment they needed might not have been available.

Don’t just take it from me, watch Jimmy Kimmel talk about the recent birth of his son, and reflect on how healthcare should not be something that is limited to you based on how much you earn:

“No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life.”


Source: Jimmy Kimmel Live/ YouTube 

What I am trying to say is do not take the NHS for granted, please make sure nurses are not struggling to survive (I’m looking at you Theresa May) and that junior doctors do not feel they have to go on strike. Do not let privatisation be the answer. Let us just please accept finally that human beings deserve healthcare as a basic human right.

An Interview With Kimothy Joy

Image provided by Kimothy Joy

I stumbled upon Kimothy Joy’s artwork last month after seeing the awesome illustrations she provided The Huffington Post for their campaign #WeMakeHerstory, which inspired and intrigued me so I set out to find out more, and to of course follow her on Instagram! The collaboration was also partially what inspired some of my own blog posts and collaboration with Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective, who provides me with illustrations for my feminist reading journey (in each blog post I have credited Kimothy Joy for inspiring the artwork).

For those who aren’t familiar with Kimothy Joy she is a Denver-based illustrator who specialises in watercolours and ink drawings. Her work generally centres on female empowerment, usually through painting heroines from the past, and present (like in The Huffington Post series). Her art is art of resistance, as she believes art and creativity can be a powerful force for social change. Therefore, she often partners with companies that aim to make the world a better place for everyone.

It’s unsurprising that the popular items that she sells (for UK readers she sells internationally on Etsy) carry the slogans, ‘Make America Kind Again’, ‘The United States of Nasty Women’, ‘The Future is Female’ and ‘Rise Up’.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

I of course was interested to find out what her favourite quote to live by was as someone who illustrates so many inspiring quotes…
“Find joy in life. Share joy with others.” It’s so simple but very meaningful to me. My mother had it printed out and taped to our fridge during her last year fighting breast cancer. She maintained an overall resolute disposition – determined to find the beauty in her battle. That lesson will also stay with me. And the irony of Joy being my middle name. I think I’ve recently really brought that sentiment into fruition in my own life. I know she’s proud.

How do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration from other women who have found their own voice and found the courage to speak their own truth to the world. This comes from something as casual as coffee dates or via books, music, podcasts, poets, and documentaries. Books written by Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, or modern day women such as Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club or We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Currently, I am so utterly moved by the music of Tank and the Bangas, a group from New Orleans. They’re on repeat.

What artists inspire you?
Lately, I’m really inspired by poetry. I don’t think I’m alone in this becoming something the general public is yearning for more and more in these very confusing, conflicting times. Nikita Gill’s work is stunning. So is the poetry of Cleo Wade, Nayyirah Waheed, Warsan Shire, and Rupi Kaur. Their words provide so much understanding, peace, and healing. They inspire a lot of my paintings.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram

Do you think art and creativity can drive positive social change?
Immensely! Art, music, dance, any creative expression – these are the languages used by us humans that are able to transcend barriers whether they be cultural, racial, gender, whatever. They harness so much power. In challenging times when we’re trying to work out how we feel or what is happening around the world – there is always art and creativity to help us feel heard, connected, understood. Art transcends words. It heals and unites. I have so much faith in its power and magic. It’s the language of our soul.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

What has been your favourite campaign you have worked on/ supported so far?
My favourite campaign has been the project in which I created art in celebration of Women’s History Month with The Huffington Post. The editors selected a great variety of women, some lesser known; these women peaked my interest and I was happy to get to know them better before painting them. I love that Huffpost used their platform to spread the words and stories of these women.

Image: @HuffPostWomen/ Instagram                                                                                                       

Have you always called yourself a feminist? Has your work always been centred around women’s rights?
I didn’t call myself a feminist in my youth and my work became rooted in feminism before I self-identified as one. Over the last few years as a creative consultant, I chose to partner with organisations that focused on women’s rights and empowerment. I was completely moved by what they were doing especially organisations like Smart Girl who work with middle school girls on building emotional intelligence, mental health awareness, confidence, anti-bullying, etc and Threads Worldwide who promote fair-trade goods and economic opportunity for women around the world. I think I was too busy trying to figure out how to advance the work they were doing that I didn’t stop and categorise myself. I didn’t think to state it publicly or draw a line in the sand. If feminism means believing in equal rights / human rights than it should be a given, right? – something that you don’t have to claim. However, I think it’s important to claim now more than ever because of the negative connotations still associated with it. We need to break down those misconceptions and make it commonplace for all humans to call themselves feminists. It’s a no brainer. It shouldn’t be taboo or divisive. We also need to collectively work to clarify its definition in being inclusive of people of color, the LGBTQI community, etc. and recognize the privilege and disadvantage that groups within the feminist movement are experiencing.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram

How did you choose the quotes for your series with Huffington Post Women for Women’s History Month?
The editors at The Huffington Post selected the women and quotes then I narrowed down a list that I wanted to paint. I liked the diverse, wide array of people they chose. Some were classic heroines of the past and others were modern day leaders of movements like Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, co-founders of Black Lives Matter and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and Illyse Hogue, president of NARAL. I also love that they chose provocative, challenging quotes. Their selections sparked a lot of conversation and engagement online especially regarding intersectional feminism and resistance.

Image: @HuffPostWomen/ Instagram                                                                                                          

Image: @HuffPostWomen/ Instagram      

Who is your favourite author or activist/ quote out of the women you drew?
That’s a hard one! So many gems in that mix. I think it’s a tie between the quote from Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Cheryl Strayed who said, “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.” I love that she’s telling us to get in the game, get dirty, show up, be brave, wrestle around with it. Do not shy away from finding your own truths, beliefs, opinions. Give it your all.

What charitable organisations do you support?
I support Southern Poverty Law Center, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Move On, and I think I’m missing a few more. I support these organizations by donating a portion of profits from my products to their mission.

Have you ever seen someone wear one of your designs?
I’ve seen many photos of people sporting my designs which is the best! I’ll run into people with my tote bags or wearing a t-shirt. It makes me so happy to know these messages resonate with others and they’re proud to share them with me. I’ve never felt so connected to so many (once) strangers before.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram

Your work is all about positivity, how do you stay positive in the period America is in at the moment? Have you ever received negativity about your work?
This is a real challenge for me, actually. I practice staying positive and actively seeking out things and people who inspire and uplift me. There are days when I feel so low about what’s happening. But then I have to try harder to find a poem that that brings me back to life, or a book, or a story, one act of bravery or love, then I sit down to paint. Then I share it online and find that it helps to heal others, as well. I’ve been being very diligent and intentional about it these last few months. It’s my sacred habit. I love that I can share it with other people who are craving it just as much as me. And yes, I have received some negative feedback about my work, which is expected when you share of yourself online, especially creative work, and your reach expands. The issues that I choose to paint about are usually divisive topics for our country so that invokes strong opinions one way or the other. Art itself is subjective and open to various interpretations. That’s what makes it powerful. Also, I’ve learned to listen to the criticism that starts off from an emotionally correct or respectful place.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

Do you think it is important that feminism remains inclusive of all women (i.e. inclusive of people who identify as non binary and trans women) as I’ve noticed those themes in your work?
Definitely. One of the mainstays of my work is to portray a diverse, all inclusive, array of people. I don’t necessarily include a lot of masculinity in my work, because it just doesn’t come natural to me, but I don’t want to exclude them from my messages, either. It is really important to me to include all ethnicities, sexualities, body types, varying body abilities, ages, trans, non-binary, queer, everyone. Feminism is about passing the mic to the most disenfranchised and marginalised. It’s about demanding human rights from the bottom up, by putting those that are the most threatened at the forefront.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

What is next for you with your artwork? What are your plans for the future?  
I would love to publish a book of my illustrations. I’d like to partner up with organisations I support and different campaigns to promote positive social change. Whatever I can do to leverage the power of visuals to change minds, perspectives and unite and connect.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

Feminist Reading Journey: Helena Kelly ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

First of all I want to apologise for being so behind with posting, as if you look at my Instagram you will find that the actual book I am reading is several posts ahead of this post! April is deadline time (I’m currently studying for a Masters) so I am afraid I won’t be catching up anytime soon, but be prepared for a serious amount of catch up work in May (I am hoping that May is going to be the month I bombard this website with content). This post then is about the third book in my feminist reading journey ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’ by Helena Kelly.

This book was actually purchased right at the start of my reading journey when I had not really formulated a plan yet to what I wanted to read, but I actually like how it fits into my journey because of the way it paints the secret feminist history of one of the world’s most famous writers: Jane Austen (and I think before I look forward I need to a certain extent look back). Having been a Jane Austen addict in my youth (both of the novels and the various film and TV adaptations); I instantly gravitated towards this book when I saw it in my local Waterstones.

Jane Austen The Secret RadicalImage: April Wilson 

When I saw this book it reminded me of how I wished when I was doing my literature degree that we studied Jane Austen more, and I also was fascinated to see how the author was going to convince me that Jane Austen was a radical. Though I did by no means position her as a conservative or the alt-right icon that was recently bizarrely attributed to her (and has been frequently attributed to her in the past). I always thought for the time period she was in she had to be different and strong willed. After all, she was a female author when they were sparse/ often censored and she allowed her characters to breach class boundaries, which was radical for the time.

I was also interested in reading this book, as although I have read most of Jane’s novels I have to admit I have never read ‘Persuasion’ or ‘Emma’ (though I have seen a TV adaptation of it) so was interested in learning more about the novels, especially ‘Persuasion’ as I often seen it credited as a bit of a dud in the Jane Austen canon.

What was refreshing when reading was that each chapter had an equal amount of attention and care dedicated to it making me want to go out and read each Austen novel again just as much as the other. I have to admit though that it made me want to read ‘Mansfield Park’ again the most because of the complexities surrounding slavery that Kelly reveals lie within the novel that I had not picked up on (seeing the adaptation on ITV starring Billie Piper before reading the novel I think made my reading of the novel clouded by wanting to compare the two). I think it also didn’t help that Britain’s past concerning slavery is often glossed over in the school curriculum. We learn about the Tudors, the Egyptians, the Romans and then we usually end up skipping a great chunk of history and covering the First and Second World War (or at least that is what I remember from my experience).

I have seen and read a lot about American slavery, but British slavery and the true cost of the luxuries that were in Britain at the time are often overlooked, and not mentioned. I studied the effects of the empire in Victorian Britain but Jane Austen belongs to the point in British history that I think has become lost a little in school education (at least from my experiences in the UK).

I think if you are going to take anything from the book it is the desire to read Austen again. Though that doesn’t mean you will want to devour every work she ever wrote. Despite, the merit her novels have in discussing issues relating to the time she lived in; some are still more enjoyable and well written than others.

I for one plan to read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Mansfield Park’ again, as well as delve into ‘Emma’ and ‘Persuasion’ for the first time.

Whether Helena Kelly’s findings are new and revolutionary I do not know. I have not studied Austen enough academically to judge, but either way she gives an accessible starting point to both those used to academic scholarship and to those who are not. Whether you agree with everything she says about Jane Austen’s works or not doesn’t matter as she does her job by making you think about them. You end each chapter wanting to read the work she is talking about and see if your reading will now match hers, or if there will be differences.

In this way Helena Kelly certainly achieves what she intended to do:

“I’ve been working quite hard in this book to convince you Jane is an artist, that her work is carefully considered, structured, themed, that she uses her writing to examine the great issues of the day”.

 – Helena Kelly, ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’ 

That is why the quote I choose and Caroline from The Kawaii Collective very kindly illustrated is one that calls on the reader to read Jane Austen’s novels again, as all Kelly wants is for Jane to have the voice that in her life she was often denied.

Helena Kelly Jane AustenImage: 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!

For all Jane Austen fans, ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’ is a great book to read to get you excited about Austen again (though I doubt a lot of people need this encouragement), and a valuable part of my reading journey.

The book I am reading this week is yet to be announced. Be sure to check out my social media channels tomorrow for the announcement!

Last week’s book was Rupi Kaur’s ‘Milk and Honey’.

If you have any suggestions for what I should read next please comment below.

If you are interesting in collaborating with me on this project as well please let me know. My inbox is always open!

Riverdale’s Archie and Miss Grundy and the worrying repeated sexualisation of student-teacher relationships

Image: Riverdale/ The CW/ Netflix 

Student-teacher sexual/romantic relationships are so common in media, particularly in TV that they are regarded as a trope of the genre. So it was unsurprising that the trope showed up in the latest teen drama on Netflix, Riverdale.

What is disappointing about this however isn’t the trope itself but how so far it is being handled. It was stated within the first episode that Archie (KJ Apa) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) are in their Sophomore year at High school. Now I’m not American so I had to do some googling to find out what age that actually is, and according to my findings that puts Archie and Betty at 15-16 years old canonically. Yet, the relationship between Archie and Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel) is heavily sexualised within the show, and depicted as ‘wrong’ but in the sense that the relationship is ultimately romantic. And it is society that does not understand the relationship, and the relationship itself is pure and ultimately acceptable.

And this is a common reoccurring theme when student-teacher relationships are presented on screen. Now, I mentioned the age of Archie before, which although is of importance in terms of consent laws in America (though I know this changes state by state); the real reason Archie cannot consent is because she is his teacher and in a position of power because of that. From the beginning of our schools lives we are taught to always obey the teacher, refer to them formally and treat them with respect. Teachers we are taught have authority over students. Consequently, Archie can never hope to achieve equal power status in their relationship.

In fact, this is shown to a disturbing degree when he stresses (*plot spoilers ahead*) that they need to go to the police about the gun shot they heard on the 4th July, as it could possibly help the police in the case of Jason Blossom’s (Trevor Stines) death but she stresses that they can’t because they’ll both get in trouble, not just her. He could get expelled she stresses. For what? Having an affair with a teacher? He is not the one to blame.

Archie and Mrs GrundyImage: Riverdale/ The CW/ Netflix 

Right from the first sexual encounter we see of them their relationship is treated as something sexual, hot and steamy, just like the windows of the car that fog up in the screen capture that Netflix uses to advertise the show. That this is the image that advertises the show is important. Netflix has done extensive research on what images inspire someone to click on a show, as artwork in a study Netflix conducted in 2014 was revealed to be the biggest influencer to a member’s decision to watch content. It seems pretty obvious why Netflix thinks this image would attract an audience: sex sells. Even sex that in my view would constitute as a sex in a relationship where one half couldn’t fully consent.

One thing I will say in defence of Riverdale is that they make it clear that this relationship cannot last, just like Miss Grundy’s place in Riverdale. However, she manages to escape with no consequences other than losing her job. Although her leaving scene where she smiles at two members of the football team through red heart sunglasses (ironically very reminiscent of Lolita) hints that maybe this is not the first time she has pursued such a relationship, and subsequently that the relationship she had with Archie was not fair to him.

I do really hope that the show will pick up what they have hinted on, as the show has been refreshingly transgressive in other ways (though you’d hope by 2017 this still wouldn’t be something I’d have to call transgressive) with the way they exposed the football players ‘playbook’ and highlighted the very real and scary slut shaming that still happens in schools today (on that note if you haven’t already watch the Netflix documentary Audrie and Daisy do so). Also, the way they handled Archie writing songs for Josie and the Pussycats and the discussion that Josie (Ashleigh Murray) brought up surrounding race, and how although Archie thinks he can understand, but he never can fully relate because he has not been a victim of racism, was brilliant.

Josie RiverdaleImage: Riverdale/ The CW/ Netflix 

Ethel RiverdaleThe playbook storyline also featured Shannon Purser (famous for her role as Barb in Stranger Things) as Ethel. Image: Riverdale/ The CW/ Netflix .

However, in regards to the troubling storyline between Archie and Miss Grundy I am not the only one to think this about the show. Internet superstar, Felicia Day tweeted about the storyline saying: “If the sexes were reversed on Archie and Ms Grundy no one would be ok with this storyline”, followed by the hashtag #callthecopsplease.

Source: @feliciaday/ Twitter 

But in TV world this is not necessarily the case, as you only have to look at the relationship between Aria (Lucy Montgomery) and Ezra (Ian Harding) in Pretty Little Liars. Now, I haven’t watched every season of Pretty Little Liars to know where they end up in their relationship but I’ve seen how their relationship started.

In the TV show at least Ezra mistakes Aria for a college girl (which Aria lets him do), they hit it off, and ‘hook up’ in the bathroom of a bar. However, at school Aria then walks into class to realise the person she ‘hooked up’ with is in fact her English teacher.

Now, as stated this relationship started with Ezra not knowing who Aria was, however, they later end up rekindling their relationship with Ezra knowing full well he is her teacher now. Although, I know he later breaks up the relationship again in what is a bit of a cycle and quits his teacher position so they can have a relationship (ending the teacher-student power dynamic issues); however, that doesn’t change the fact that the added student-teacher part of their relationship is treated like ‘forbidden love’, and something romantic because of the danger behind it.

Romanticising these encounters is dangerous as it makes student-teacher relationships a desirable fantasy in teenager’s minds. Regardless, of what you want to argue about how the relationships I’ve talked about may occupy a more ‘grey’ area; the people watching the show might be in a completely different situation and use the show’s example to justify it.

Now, let me be clear I fight against the standpoint that films and TV cause behaviour we wouldn’t commit without their example. Horror movies in my mind do not a serial killer make but there is a difference between showing violent acts, and condoning the behaviour and making it something desirable.

And student-teacher relationships should not be depicted as desirable because it is a couple that can never hope to have equal footing in their relationship (regardless of any other age issues) and these relationships should not be treated as ‘forbidden romance’ but an unfair, and unequal illusion.

Picnic Ms Grundy ArchieImage: Riverdale/ The CW/ Netflix 

Rewatching The Craft: Why it’s still important

Image: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

I was first introduced to The Craft by one of my friends who was just as obsessed with all things 90s and loved the aesthetic of  Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much as I did. Of course, I fell in love with The Craft, one because I have a weakness for 90s fashion (along with 80s- someone please send help), but because of the way it tried to more than just your standard ‘teen’ film. The Craft touched on serious topics and refused to shy away from them.

Last year in fact was The Craft’s 20 year anniversary (I am not enjoying all these 20 year anniversary’s at the moment- they make me feel old, even though I would have only been about 1 years old for most of them!), but I think it’s as good a time as ever to take a look back at all the topics that The Craft covered, and in my opinion tried to show a honest portrayal of.

Before, I start though I think it’s important to mention that the witchcraft elements of the film were realistic, as the scenes were filmed, “with Pat Devin, a Dianic Elder Priestess, on board as technical advisor”. Therefore, “the four main cast members can be seen practising proper Wiccan rituals throughout the movie”. Fairuza Balk who played Nancy, also is reported to have become a practicing Wiccan due to the film. In 1995 she bought the store Panpipes Magical Marketplace after filming (though she no longer owns the shop).  However, in the interview with The Huffington Post, the director Andrew Fleming said that at the time of filming, “she was a practicing Pagan”, something I have seen repeated in other articles about The Craft. Either way, Fairuza out of all the cast members was involved the most with the witchcraft side of the film in her personal life.

Also, the God, Manon, they reference in the film is not real, and according to Fleming in the same interview with The Huffington Post this is, “because it might have been offensive to people if we had used people’s real gods”.

Whether the God they reference is real or not (and I actually agree with their thinking that it is better not to talk about someone else’s God); many credit The Craft for spawning a new generational interest in being a Wiccan, which I think is pretty awesome. The film also made it be cool to different, and standout, or as Nancy infamously says, “We are the weirdos, mister”.

giphy
Source: giphy.com

The Craft then is one of the cult teen films, and this is largely because of the way the film covered several issues that affect teenage life today, and were unapologetic about them.

Racism 

Rochelle (Rachel True) in the film is seen to be the victim of racist bully, Laura Lizzie (Christine Taylor). This is significant because it is Laura who is shown to be in the wrong for her horrible behaviour (though Rochelle’s magical revenge is also shown to be the right path to go down), and Rochelle is shown to be just as beautiful and talented as she is (perhaps even more so). At the time of filming True was just happy to actually have a part, which contained more than one line: “A lot of times, the roles I played, I literally say the words “Are you OK?” So this time I got to play a character who actually had something going on”.

This is depressing in itself, however, it gets worse. Although Rochelle was as much a lead  as Neve Campbell’s character Bonnie was, she recalls that she was not treated the same by the studio during the press junket: “There was a publicity junket that they were only going to take the other three girls to. At the time, 20 years ago, I was like, “Oh, it’s me, it’s me, it must be me.” And now I realize it wasn’t me — it was marketing. They didn’t really think it was going to get a black audience is my guess”.

Therefore, while the film did break boundaries for the time by having a black woman as one of the leads (though its upsetting in itself that this was something boundary breaking), and did give her an actual role instead of make her a side character; it’s important to note that she was not treated the same way by the studio higher ups.

The Craft Bonnie and RochelleImage: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

Self harm

The lead character of the film, besides Nancy (Fairuza Balk) is Sarah (Robin Tunney), who reveals to the other girls early on in the film that are scars are from her attempting suicide.

Teen suicide in the 80s had become a epidemic in the media, yet the subject was still not really talked about. Instead, teenagers were lectured on to just say no to suicide (famously satirised by the film The Heathers), but never actually listened to. In the 90s suicide almost became glamourised, along with other dangerous trends such as the ‘heroin chic’ trend for models.

It is refreshing however to see in The Craft that it is not. What we see instead is that Sarah has gone through real pain, but yet she is determined to keep fighting. Cutting becomes something nightmarish, and is the way in which Nancy attempts to kill her. There is nothing glamorous about it. Perhaps, this is why the film has such a large cult audience, it does not attempt to lecture teenagers but actually tries to authentically connect with what teenagers are going through.

The Craft Sarah

Image: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

Horrible home life

Nancy is truly the most tormented of the girls. It’s revealed she has a horrible home life in which her mother is an alcoholic and her mother’s boyfriend also appears to be a deadbeat (but actually leaves them a lot of money through his life insurance policy that surprises both Nancy and her mother).

However, even the death of her mother’s boyfriend doesn’t help, as Nancy’s mother remains as frantic as ever. The only happy moment we see between the two of them is when they learn the news about the money, and even then it is tarnished by Nancy’s guilt as she knows she is the one who killed him.

NancyImage: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

Toxic masculinity

The film also talks about High School and its damaging culture that means men are still encouraged to date as many women as possible and keep a tally (or play book) of all their conquests. In the film we see Chris (Skreet Ulrich) invite Nancy on a date, which they go on, and he then invites her back to his place, which she refuses. Nevertheless, the next day he tells everyone they had sex, despite it not being true.

The scene very much reminded me of Netflix (and CW)’s Riverdale in which Veronica (Camila Mendes) learns that her date, Chuck Clayton (Jordan Calloway) has been slut shaming her to the rest of the school. She confronts him, but he refuses to stop, so Veronica teams up with the other women in the school to find evidence of the shaming.

This episode also features a character called Ethel who is victim of the slut shaming by the football team, who is played by the awesome (Shannon Purser) of Stranger Things fame. Yes, that’s right Barb! There’s also a little fourth wall shout out in there (seriously just go watch, Riverdale).

What I think is interesting about The Craft in particular is that they make it clear that Chris’s behaviour is largely due to wanting to be accepted by the other guys, as they goad him on, and give him weird looks when he is under enchantment by Sarah so does whatever she says.

They also show that despite his horrible behaviour Sarah still wants his attention (until it gets too much under the enchantment); showing the sad truth about how these cultures operate.

The Craft Skeet UlrichImage: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

Female friendship

If Mean Girls taught us anything (though of course time line wise it came after The Craft) it is that as women we shouldn’t pit ourselves against each other.

Or as Ms. Norbury puts it:

“You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.”

It’s true that you’ll often find harsh criticism about women from other women, though I am happy to say that I am starting to see a culture developing more and more where women support and prop each other up instead of tearing each other down.

It was nice then to see actual female friendship and loyalty between the girls. That is however, until they ultimately turn on Sarah, after she disagrees with them. This was the main part of the film that I wish could have been changed, as it was so refreshing and lovely to see women on screen empowering each other, and supporting each other.

However, it’s not to be because as Sarah deftly puts it in the film what they had however was ultimately not friendship:

“I disagree with them once and they turn their backs on me. It’s not friendship”.

Female friendship The CraftImage: The Craft/ Columbia Pictures 

I only hope that The Craft remake keeps these themes, and makes something as unique and  different as the original. This is a film that most of the crew are bewildered got made, but it did and there is a reason it a cult classic- the characters felt real and were not impossible to live up to.

Hopefully, since it has been revealed that The Craft remake is less of a remake and more of a continuation there is hope. As the director, Douglas Wick told UpRoxx it’s feels more like it’s set, “twenty years later”. He also said, there will be, “callbacks to the original movie, so you will see there is a connection between what happened in the days of The Craft, and how these young women come across this magic many years later”.

It will be interesting then to see if any of the original cast are in the film. Since Fairuza Balk responded on Twitter about the event saying that: “Personally I don’t care for the idea of remakes”.

Source: @fairuza

Source: @fairuza

I think it is fair to see we can probably count Fairuza out, though it is hard to imagine anything associated with The Craft without her. All I can say then for the remake is that they have some big black boots to fill…

black boots the craft    Source: via giphy.com

For anyone interested in reading more about The Craft here is my round up of all the articles mentioning The Craft that I found interesting/ inspiring:

For all of you obsessed with the fashion of the film like me: http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/30973/1/creating-the-cult-fashion-that-defined-the-craft

Background information about the making of The Craft (including an interview with Andrew Fleming and Robin Tunney): https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/mar/01/how-we-made-the-craft-horror-movie-interview

Fun facts and trivia about the film:                       https://www.buzzfeed.com/leonoraepstein/10-weird-things-you-probably-dont-know-about-the-craft?utm_term=.lebA1BjEL#.pr7MQlaRP

Interesting article talking about the significance of each of the filming locations of The Craft (including what has become of the locations now): http://www.laweekly.com/arts/revisiting-the-la-filming-locations-of-the-craft-20-years-later-6870417