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: Rupi Kaur ‘Milk and Honey’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

For anyone who isn’t aware of Rupi Kaur, well for one you should be. And two, let me do a little summary that although won’t properly categorise her awesomeness; will help give you an idea of what I knew about Rupi Kaur before reading ‘Milk and Honey’.

Before reading due to the cover of the book I knew that she was a New York Times bestselling author. I also knew that she had become famous after a photograph she posted on Instagram, depicting a woman lying on a bed having bled through her trousers  on her period, was removed from the social media site. Twice.

She responded with a public post that basically destroyed Instagram and made it clear she would not be censored. You can read the full post here, my favourite lines of which are:

“Their patriarchy is leaking.

Their misogyny is leaking.

We will not be censored.”

Well, I for one could tell she was a poet right away. Like how you can probably tell from my writing that I definitely am not.

It was this controversy surrounding Instagram that was the first time I was made aware of Rupi Kaur, as I had recently been researching the shame that surrounds periods and menstruation. Something, which had particularly grabbed my attention when I started to think about what homeless women must go through when on their period. I was of course not the first person to think about this, and in my research for the article I then wrote about the subject; I came across the charity #TheHomelessPeriod and Binti.

After, writing the article I actually also contacted Binti about volunteering for them, and I have since written several articles around the subject for them. Some of which you can find on my published page.

So as you can tell I went into reading ‘Milk and Honey’ having known Rupi Kaur through her photography and her position as an advocate to end the shame surrounding periods. What I found is a book of poetry so rich and full about all the struggles women go through life. Some I could relate to. Some I could not (due to my heritage in comparison to Rupi Kaur). But what I didn’t know I learnt from. And what I did know gave back that feeling that is hard to describe, but maybe is best described as being like honey to honour Rupi Kaur. As the feeling I am describing is both sweet and familiar, and also soothing just like honey. It is that feeling you have when you have read something that reflects back an experience you have also had and makes you no longer feel alone.

What Rupi Kaur has written I think intends to do just that, which you can see by the different subsections she chose to categorise her poetry by: ‘the hurting’, ‘the loving’, ‘the breaking’, ‘the healing’. Also, her poetry although devastatingly brutal at times is easy to read if you are not used to poetry. Or are new to poetry. As if I am being honest, although there are some poems I love; poetry has never been my go to option. I’ve never been able to have the same sustained connection with poetry, as I have been able to have with novels.

However, as ‘Milk and Honey’ depicts a journey through poems it provides a narrative and so a safe, similar space that us novel readers are used to feeling. Not that of course this is anything new for books of poetry, but when thinking of narrative poems; many people probably remember the long poems written in old English that they used to struggle with. Here is instead something you can sink your teeth into with being an english student.

However, all the while you are reading Rupi Kaur manages to sink her teeth right back into you. Partly, because there is an undeniable sensual edge to a lot of the poems that is open and unafraid (and of course makes me slightly uncomfortable to talk about just because that’s who I am) in its explicitness.

Rupi’s poems reflect how in recent years there has been an increasing movement of women taking back their sexuality and talking about it openly and honestly. Including the highs and the lows, and what sexuality is like for women from their own perspective. Rather, than the male lens that is constantly thrown on sexuality.

Women then are no longer giving into the theory that women have to be in competition with each other over these matters. Instead they want to discuss it. Something, which connects to the poem, which I chose to showcase alongside Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective’s beautiful illustration of Rupi Kaur.

“other women’s bodies

are not our battlegrounds”

-Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur 1Image: The Kawaii Kollective

I’m also happy to share a special bonus image of Rupi Kaur by The Kawaii Kollective, which is for now exclusively on this blog post!

Rupi Kaur 2Image: The Kawaii Kollective

The reason I chose this poem out of all the beautiful poems in the collection is that it is something I have personally over the last few years really tried to drum into my head.

I used to obsessively reading ‘women’s’ magazines. You know the ones that talk about who’s gained weight and who’s lost it. No one was perfect. Everyone who was tiny was revered (and then berated the next week). I didn’t enjoy the content but I couldn’t put it down. I internalised what the right weight was, the right size, always chastising myself for never living up to that ideal.

This continued into the start of my first year of university, and was not helped by the internet (not that I didn’t use the internet before university but I generally started to spend a lot more time on my laptop in general at university) where you could easily google someone’s weight and height. There were even websites dedicated to guessing (which I’m not going to put here because I don’t want to encourage anyone to go to them) celebrities weights and sizes. In the comments I would read I’d see people debate someone’s weight extensively, and argue passionately about whether a particular celebrity was telling the truth.

I hated the way these comments talked about women, and each other. But it was something I couldn’t stop.

I’m not sure how, though I knew why, but at one point I did stop.

I made a conscious decision to not read these magazines or look at the websites anymore. And I found myself a lot happier. No, it did not automatically cure the anxieties I had about my weight. But my weight and body image became something that no longer took up almost every working hour of my day.

The reason I am talking about this is because it is not just celebrities we do this to. I think Facebook as we are all aware is one of the biggest culprits for this. We all look on in glee if someone has gained weight, or slightly annoyed if someone has lost it. When quite frankly it’s none of our business. I’ve managed to stop myself doing this recently, as I’ve become more aware of the damage always talking about someone in terms of weight has done to me and others I know.  Now, I try not to engage with the changes in people I know past surface value. If someone loses weight and is happy about it, good for them, as long as they are healthy and happy, that’s all I care about. If someone gains weight, not that I’d ever make it my business or talk to them about it (I never know why people think it’s their business to comment); it’s none of my business. All I try to look for now is if someone is happy, and if they are not.

Personally, beyond this kind of conversation I will not talk about changes in my weight. This is only because I know I’d obsess over the figures. The weight before. The weight after. The gain or loss. It made the situation worse for me. Obviously, I am not saying no one should not talk about it ever. But I personally don’t have any sage wisdom to share. I don’t know enough about nutrition or exercise. Therefore, I don’t want to say anything. I’m not saying someone cannot be proud of their weight loss or weight gain for that matter. I’m just avoiding the subject because of my own personal experiences.

That’s why this poem was one that resonated with me the most. Though I can also think of an extension to the poem as well. Other women’s bodies are also not our aspiration. Your body is never going to live up to someone else’s. We all have different body shapes, etc. This also applies to men, non binary and trans individuals, or the gender identity you define yourself as (as these are categories in which issues with weight are still not discussed as much as they should be). Personally, this was something that took me way too long to realise, and plagued my teenage years, as my body shape then was different to all my friends.

I think in the end what I take from ‘Milk and Honey’  is that you can always rebuild yourself back up and start anew. You can change the way you think. About yourself. About other women. Don’t let anyone ever make you think you can’t. It’s never too late to change the way you think. We can all heal (as cheesy as that sounds).

Whether you can relate to the struggles that Rupi Kaur covers such as bad relationships, father issues, the way women are sexualised within society, or not, ‘Milk and Honey’ delivers Rupi Kaur’s perspective of being a woman. Read it if you can’t relate and prepare to cry if you can.

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!