Why Do I Blog?



Recently I found myself sat at Woking station for over an hour waiting for a connection. As Gilmore Girls buffered, I took in my surroundings and my eyes settled on a pretty standard safety sign, which unexpectedly reminded me of a blog post I wrote almost exactly six years ago, sitting in that exact spot. The sign said, "Please keep back from the platform edge. Passing trains cause air turbulence."

"But wait," I hear you cry, "Your blog isn't six years old!" You are quite right, dear readers. This blog most certainly isn't six years old. However, I've been blogging in some guise or other since I was about 12 years old. First of all I used the blog function on Myspace, before starting a succession of blogs on Blogger.com. Some documented my long-term online "relationship" with someone I met through a Harry Potter forum who may or may not have been a total catfish, and one I started right before I left school and kept for the first two years of university. I posted poems and unfinished song lyrics, and odes to boyfriends past. I had a blog dedicated to my doodles and drawings, some of which I'd like to revisit and redraw sometime.

It's funny looking back on these archives of pre-trigger-warning content, written because I felt like writing was my only way of coping. I talk in detail about my depression (at least five years before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder), about an event which I now know to be the cause of my PTSD, and about how betrayed I felt when the guy I lost my virginity to fucked another girl on my birthday. I knew nothing about branding or analytics, I didn't really care about page views, bounce rate or adding images to my posts. The only only thing you could call consistent was me starting and ending each post with part of a song lyric, because I was a cool tortured soul.

Blogging, as a while, used to be a form of journaling, a diary you could share. For some I'm sure it still is. It's strange to see how it's evolved into this incredibly complicated and varied industry, for many becoming the main form of media consumption.

As a writer, and a creative, I am fairly secure in the knowledge that my blog will never become my day job, and with the blogging world becoming increasingly competitive I often find myself asking why the hell I do it. Why do I willingly enter myself into this crowded, and occasionally vicious, public forum? Am I desperate to stay relevant? Do I like the sound of my own (digital) voice? Do I even have anything to say?

I'll never be the next big blogger, and that's ok. I guess I'm happy to just be a passing train, and maybe cause a little air turbulence from time to time.

Fight, Flight or Freeze: Surviving Assault

(TW: This post is all about unwanted touching, sexual violence, consent, misogyny and feminism.)

If headlines in mainstream news are to be believed, Gigi Hadid is an ungrateful, unladylike miscreant who violently attacked a fan.

Fortunately there’s a video of the incident, in which “prankster” Vitalii Sediuk grabs the supermodel from behind only for her to defend herself by elbowing him in the nose. He puts her back down and she, understandably, shouts “Who the fuck are you, you piece of shit?”

Discourse about the event has varied. While some people are completely on Gigi’s side, and say she has every right to retaliate when her personal space is invaded, others have said that her reaction was disproportionate.

What many people may not understand is that when someone is touched without warning or consent, it’s not just a case of feeling that our “personal space” has been invaded. Particularly when someone from a minority group (whether on basis of gender, race, sexuality etc.) is unexpectedly touched, we feel that our safety is at risk. It’s beyond being annoyed or inconvenienced, we feel endangered.

Being lifted off the ground, touched intimately, surprised, grabbed or otherwise interfered with is startling. It’s alarming. It’s frightening.

At a young age we’re taught that fear causes a rush of adrenaline, and we’re told that this hormone elicits one of two actions: fight or flight. When I was bullied at school, my mum used to tell me to ignore it and walk away, whereas my dad always told me to “punch ‘em on the nose”. My parents often remind me of a time when my youngest brother had just been born, and having watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang I was worried that the Child Catcher would come for my new baby brother. My dad went to the loo in the middle of the night, and opening the door to go back to his bedroom he was confronted four-year-old me, brandishing a baseball bat as long as I was, ready to fight the “intruder”. One of my defining characteristics throughout my life has been my bravery.

Now, evidently Gigi Hadid is a fighter, and that is to be applauded. But it’s not fully accurate to say that fighting or running away are the only two responses to fear. For many people who have been assaulted there’s secret option number three: freeze.

While Gigi’s assault (and that’s what it was) occurred in broad daylight and was observed by numerous people, including press with cameras and her own sister, the situation could have gone very, very differently if it was dark, or somewhere secluded, or if the victim didn’t go for regular boxfit sessions. There are times when fighting an attacker would put the victim in more danger, and where running away simply isn’t possible. In these situations, the victim enters a kind of self-preservation where they comply with their attacker to prevent further harm. While I whole-heartedly defend Gigi’s reaction (I may have fist-pumped when I saw her in the video) I think it’s really, really important that we stop saying “fight or flight” and start talking about “fight, flight or freeze”, and I’m going to tell you why.

The “freeze” reaction is very common, especially in cases of sexual assault. The fact that we only learn that adrenaline causes “fight or flight” means that victims are scared to come forward because they question whether it "counts" if there wasn't a struggle, or screaming, or an escape attempt. I’m going to use myself as an example and talk about four occasions where I’ve been the subject of unwanted touching and sexual assault from strangers, and how I’ve reacted quite differently to each one.

Me on the outward journey to Weymouth (on the right)

The first time was when I was 16, at around 5 in the afternoon. I’d been to the beach as an end-of-exams trip with a group of friends, and we were heading back form Weymouth on the train. A man in his early 20s came and sat next to me and started talking to me. I was polite, and responded to his questions. Then, out of nowhere, he slid his hand across my thigh and into my crotch. I leaped up out of my seat and silently walked to the back of the carriage, and my friends followed. I was shaken and uncomfortable for the rest of the train journey, and I still jump when strangers accidentally brush against me on crowded trains. For weeks afterwards I wished I’d followed my dad’s advice and punched him on the nose. I felt a responsibility to teach the stranger a lesson. I wondered if he’d do the same to other girls because my reaction hadn’t been strong enough. I felt guilty.

When I was 18, I went to Venice alone. I stayed with a host, and I attended language school in the afternoons. I was preparing to study Italian at uni, and I was keen to learn as much as I could, so I took down the email addresses of a couple of people who advertised on the school’s notice board, asking for tandem conversation classes. I got a response from a man called Gregorio, who wanted to meet up with me and practice his English while I practised my Italian. We met at a bar I’d been to a few times and he was perfectly charming. He confessed that he’d found my blog because the URL matched my email address, and that he liked my writing. He insisted on walking me home, all the way across the island, and kissed me goodbye on both cheeks. Several days later he sent me a text saying he was walking past my apartment, asking if he could come in for a cup of coffee. I didn’t see an issue with that, so I invited him up. Within minutes he had me by the hair and was telling me that 

if I didn’t give him oral sex he was going to rape me.

I complied because I was frightened. I couldn’t run, and I was scared that fighting him would make the situation worse. He’d already threatened to rape me, so who knew what else he was capable of. I mentally checked out until it was over. Once he’d left I numbly showered, feeling dirty and angry, and upset. But above all I felt weak and guilty. My dad’s voice was in my head. I should have punched him on the nose. I should have bitten down when he forced himself into my mouth. I should have poked him in the eye like you do with sharks. I promised myself that if anyone so much as looked at me in a way I didn’t like, ever again, I’d fight them. I should have done more. I should have done something.

I felt like I’d let it happen. I felt like it was all my fault. I felt guilty.

Me in Venice

That night I took myself for an evening walk in the rain. I walked to the bar, hoping to bump into friends from school. As it was I met a couple of men I’d met there in my first week and we got chatting. One, named Stefano, spoke very good English and was smiley and chatty, while the other, Evin, only spoke Albanian and broken English. I was soaked through from the rain, my shoes were sodden, but I wasn’t cold. As I prepared to take myself back to my apartment, one of the boys offered to lend me some of his sister’s shoes. We were apparently about the same size, and he said that his mama would be ashamed of him if he let a lady walk home in wet shoes. His flat was a couple of minutes away. I figured any young man with such a sense of chivalry was safe. In truth, I naively thought “Well, I’m not going to get attacked twice in one day.” I walked to the flat with the two young men, wondering if his sister would be in, so I could thank her for the shoes.

When we got to the flat, Stefano went straight to bed, then Evin locked me in. My stomach dropped into the soles of my feet and my gaze went straight to the floor. The last solid thought I remember having was, “There are no girls’ shoes here.” Evin, who hadn’t spoken a word of English all night, said “You scream, I kill you.” He forced me onto the bed, and took out a condom. When I started crying and saying no, he pinned my arms above my head and muttered in my ear, “Why no fuck? Is it because I Albanian?” For the second time in 12 hours I was forced to give a man oral sex to prevent him from raping me. When it was over I asked to leave. He wrapped his arms around me tightly and told me to go to sleep. I tried. I wanted morning to come. I wanted to get out of there and hide in my apartment until my flight the next week. I was beyond feeling damaged, I felt broken. I felt stupid and sick to my stomach. I didn’t understand how mere hours before I’d sworn to myself that I would fight harder. I felt filthy. I felt guilty.

Me at 21, working in the opticians

When I was 21, I worked in an optician’s. It was generally pretty quiet, and often people from local businesses would pop in and talk to us about their offers. It helped pass the time. Mo was one of those. He came in on several occasions, waiting until my manager had gone on lunch before coming in to talk to me, and only ever me, about the discount he could get me on gym membership. He was persistent. He was sort of sweet in a sort of overly-friendly way, showing me his muscular arms and once flashing me his abs. After a couple of weeks, I finally gave in and booked an induction. I went to the gym after work and he got me to sign all the paperwork, including a comprehensive membership contract which said I couldn’t cancel within 12 months, unless I had a doctor’s note saying I was incapable of using a gym, or if I moved out of the area. He showed me the ladies-only area of the gym, the changing rooms and the pool. Then he took me into the studio where yoga lessons happened, which was empty and dark. While we stood in the abandoned, dim room he asked if I had any injuries and I mentioned that I had plantar fasciitis and tight calf muscles. He demonstrated a calf stretch, placing his hands on the barre, extending one leg behind himself and asking me to do the same. When I did, he them moved behind me, pressing his unignorably erect penis into my bum. He held my body firmly against his, and when I tried to move away he held me tighter. We stood motionless for a long time, and I said and did nothing. After what felt like hours, the light suddenly turned on and Mo sprang away from me as a gym instructor entered the room. Nobody said anything. I completed the induction then went home. I cried myself to sleep feeling passive. Weak. Guilty, again.

When I finally told people about any of these assaults, one of the most common responses was, “Why didn’t you fight them?” The simple answer is that I was terrified, and it didn’t feel safe to fight back. As horrible as it is for a stranger to non-consensually jam his erection against you in a dark room, or to force you into sex acts and threaten to rape you, there is something inside you that says, “Being raped is better than being dead, and those may be my options.” I know now that I am far from alone in going boneless in the face of an assault and just doing the bare minimum to survive with the least possible damage. Freezing is sometimes all we can do.

Even brave girls can’t fight the world. There is always someone stronger, with home field advantage, with scarier threats and more power.

I wish someone had told me sooner that compliance under coercion isn’t consent. I hadn’t “allowed” or “encouraged” these men’s actions with my own inaction. It wasn’t my fault.

Gigi Hadid is a great example of a woman who took control of a frightening situation and fought back. But please know that if you’ve ever been attacked in the same way and been unable to react as Gigi did, you are not weak and you are not alone. Sometimes self-preservation isn’t about fist fights or elbows to the nose, it’s just about making it through any way you can. You are no less worthy of help, empathy or support regardless of how you survive, and you shouldn't feel guilty or weak for not physically retaliating.

Fight, flight or freeze. You are a survivor. We are survivors.

“She Might Be” Might Be the Online Magazine We’ve Been Waiting For

It seems that barely a week goes by without some mainstream magazine or fashion brand putting their foot in their mouth. Whether it’s O magazine saying that you should only wear crop tops if you’ve got a flat stomach, or BOB by DOP creating prints with images of plus people on clothes that only go up to a size 16, it seems almost impossible to find inoffensive media.

One section of society where I’ve always been able to find a spiritual home is among fat-positive bloggers. So you can only imagine my delight when I heard that Georgina Grogan was launching an online magazine called She Might Be, by fats, for fats.

But wait, I hear you cry, shouldn’t inclusive media be for everyone? To that I say, “Shush. Let us have this.”

Fat people are constantly told, directly or indirectly, that beauty, fashion and popular media are not for us. Despite the average dress size of women in the UK being a size 16, clothing ranges in mainstream stores typically go from a 6-18, meaning that people up to five sizes smaller than average are accommodated but generally only one size above average is catered to.

She Might Be will be written by contributors representing a wide age range, and a huge range of body types from size 18 upwards.

Personally I’m really excited to have an online magazine to turn to when I don’t feel like being bombarded with body shaming imagery and writing.

She Might Be promises fashion and beauty features, lifestyle guides and interviews with industry professionals, and I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to having a site that won’t leave me feeling like an unwelcome outsider, as I often do when I try to buy magazines off the rack.

I’ve been fat for all of my adult life, and its only in the last few years I’ve been exposed to the fat-positive and body-positive movements that tell me that I am free to be my own beautiful, unique, wobbly self. These wonderful women of Twitter and the blogosphere taught me that it’s ok to be thin, fat, average, tall, short, freckly, stretchmarked, scarred, to wear tight clothes or baggy jumpers, or to be whatever gender I feel I am along an infinite spectrum. My body is my own and my sense of style shouldn’t be dictated by my size. Despite men who tell me I should be ashamed of my body, family who see fatness as a flaw, I rely on fat-positive friends and content creators to remind me that I am pretty great, however I choose to be.

With that in mind, I can’t wait to dig right into She Might Be, and wish everyone involved the best of luck, the most happiness and every success. 

Man on Online Dating: An Open Letter

Dear Man on Online Dating,
Thank you for your interest. I'm sorry to have initially concerned you with my glaring lack of a full-body photo. While I generally find it slightly creepy when a complete stranger asks to see a top-to-toe photo of me, I get it. People have a type. That's why I uploaded a photo for you to scrutinise. I figured that was a helpful thing to do.

Imagine my surprise when you say to me, "that's not you... it's obvious you're probably a bigger girl. You don't have to be embarrassed you know."

First things first, it is a photo of me. 
Second things second, yes, I am a "bigger girl".
Third things third, I'm not embarrassed, but clearly you think that I am, or that I should be.
The funny thing is, when I took that photo and uploaded it to Instagram, I captioned it with the words: 
"I would wear this outfit every day of the week. Seems a silly thing to post, but I so rarely feel comfortable in my clothes and this get-up made me feel great. So... Yeah. There's that."

I'm annoyed. I'm not annoyed because you say I'm "obviously a bigger girl" - I know I am, I live in my body, I'm fully aware what it looks like, besides which my profile mentions it under "body type". 
I'm not annoyed that you don't believe that I could look the way I do in the photo in question - wearing all-black, tight jeans and high heels makes me look slimmer than I would in something loose-fitting or knitted. 
Nor am I annoyed that you then told me that I'm "the perfect size for you". It's always just swell to hear that someone finds my body shape attractive. Fab. Marvellous. My body clearly isn't too bootylicious for you, babe.
What annoys me is that you believe that I would be so ashamed of my "bigger" body that I would steal photos to portray as my own because god forbid I am happy to show someone my actual body. I'm annoyed that you think, by fetishising my body type you can counteract this fictional embarrassment. You're an internet stranger with poor grammar, you have nothing to offer me that would in any way affect my self esteem. It annoys me a little that you believe that you could.
Anyway, Man on Online Dating, best of luck in your endeavours to find an "obviously bigger" girl whose self worth is so damaged that she finds your ham-fisted approach in any way effective. Unfortunately that girl is not me.
Yours, 
Me and my fat arse.


I Was a Teenage Racist: A Plea

This week has really shown some of the best and worst of humans in the country I call home. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will have seen a series of threads (here, here and here) where I talked about the murder of Jo Cox, and I don’t think I need to talk about that specific event any further right now (though I highly recommend this piece on the media’s portrayal of the murder as the work of a “mentally ill loner” rather than a hate crime by a far-right extremist). 

My Twitter rant kind of took a turn when I admitted something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while.
It took me a long time to say it in these words, I gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em. Teenage Elena, I see you.



I could skirt around the issue and say that I was ‘confused’ or ‘ignorant’. I could blame my middle-class background and my private, boarding school education. I could ignore that phase of my life altogether. But, the more I talk about politics, culture, feminism and race the more I feel at odds with my history. Whenever someone on Twitter retweets or praises me for discussing these issues, the more I feel pressed to say, “I’m shit. I have been so shit. I’m so sorry.” I feel terrified that I’ll be ‘found out’. With Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ feature I live in fear of being provided with archived digital proof of my crappy former views. I feel a bit haunted by it. Am I judging myself too harshly?

It’s always my aim to be honest, open and balanced in my writing. Integrity is one of my core values. I feel like if I get this off my chest, if I document it and make it freely available to read, that I might feel less like a fraud. If I say the words “I was racist”, does that absolve me?

It’s not like I’m a reformed neo-Nazi. I never confronted a Muslim in the street to question them about acts of terrorism. I never excluded someone from an event based on the colour of their skin. I never wished violence or misfortune on other races. I never laid a finger on anyone. Does that make it better?

I did think that hijabs, niqabs and burkas were a ‘security risk’ that shouldn’t be allowed in public places, and certainly not in schools. I thought that asylum seekers should have to ‘assimilate’ if they wanted to live in the UK. Of course, by ‘assimilate’ I meant they should act like middle class, secular white people. I’d argue that ‘I’d have to learn to fit in and play by the rules if I moved to Saudi Arabia’, despite also trying to argue that I shouldn’t have to adhere to ‘oppressive values’. I was scared of Brixton, because pop culture references and comedic anecdotes has created a vision in my mind of any ‘black areas’ of London as a living embodiment of Jay Z’s Run This Town video. That video also scared me. I thought casual racism was ‘just a bit of fun’ and that anyone who took offence was being ‘oversensitive’. I was fearful. I was ignorant. I was narrow-minded. Was I the worst of people? No. Was I racist? Absolutely.

It took a few years and very, very good friends to change all of this. When a group of uni friends had a discussion about politics (particularly about burqas if I remember rightly) which made me feel increasingly uncomfortable I was faced with a question that all bigots must be faced with in one way or another. A simple, three-word question that pops up in your brain when you find your views and beliefs being challenged by passionate, intelligent, well-rounded people:

Am I wrong? 

I was lucky. I was surrounded by people who were patient, calm, gentle and, most of all, who I admired. I’ll be honest, part of the reason I listened while they opposed me is that I wanted to be liked. I didn’t want them to stop interacting with me because of my politics. That sounds cowardly, and maybe it is. But when people you like, people whose company you cherish and who otherwise seem to be on your level look horrified when you voice your opinions, it’s inevitable that your resolve will start to weaken a little, even if you’re incredibly stubborn. When you realise that your views make you unlikeable, you start to look at them differently.

I am so grateful to my friends from uni, I’m so glad they didn’t give up on me the first time they heard me say something stupid and racist. I’m also extremely thankful to people on Twitter who are there to pull me up when I unintentionally tweet something harmful and who are kind enough to actually explain what was wrong with what I said, rather than just descending into name-calling. I love the feminists I’ve met in real life and online who have taught me the meaning of intersectionality and White Feminism, and the bloggers and journos who helped me to recognise my own privilege and how to live without letting my past blinker me.

Everyday racism isn’t lynching or pipe bombs or hate crimes. Everyday racism is a middle aged woman muttering about halal stickers on meat in the supermarket. Everyday racism is someone saying that immigrants should have to do jobs that “hardworking British people are too good for”. Everyday racism is complaining when Beyoncé releases a racially-charged song or when Rihanna sings in Patois. Everyday racism is panels of white people discussing race issues in the media without consulting a single POC. Everyday racism is excusing anti-Islamic behaviour by saying “I don’t want my grandchildren being forced to wear headscarves to school”. Everyday racism is believing that certain traits are inherent to people based on their race. Everyday racism is denying POCs safe spaces because you feel left out. Everyday racism is being complicit in the othering of other races to your own advantage.

Everyday racism is subtle. It’s quiet. It’s worryingly socially acceptable. It’s insidious, viral, dangerous. It’s also reversible.

My old mindset makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel guilty. But most of all it makes me hopeful. If you’d told 18-year-old Elena that she’d turn into a 24-year-old intersectional feminist, blogging about white privilege, voting Labour, condemning my own past racism and tweeting angry satire she’d have thought you were nuts. Yet, here I stand.

Everyday racists aren’t the ones killing people, not directly. But their existence, their proud stance and vocal bigotry stretch the boundaries of what we consider to be acceptable, and it’s those greyed-out limits that let Britain First fundamentalists go by unchecked. Everyday racists didn’t kill Jo Cox, but everyday racism almost certainly played a part in allowing her killer to become who he was.

Please learn from this. Learn from my guilty past. Make it mean something.

How Not to Be a Dick: Blogger Edition

Welcome to the first instalment in my "How Not to Be a Dick" series. I'll be doing a few of these, but today's is about responsible blogging. Enjoy!


Yeah, this picture is pretty much irrelevant. I'm writing in it, what more do you want?
For most of us, blogging is a hobby. We do it because we want to share about products we love and hate, to talk about moments that mean something to us, or to discuss causes close to our hearts. We find our little place in this community which comes with a readership, supporters and, for some of us, detractors.

I try to stay encouraging as far as I can, and I am always open for discussion and debate. However, today I saw a post about veganism that was so terrible that I couldn't find anything positive to say about it. As well as being poorly researched (i.e. barely researched at all) and misleadingly-worded, it was just really badly written. Not only that, but when challenged on this, the original author was defensive and played the victim online, rather than engaging in a discussion or allowing people to educate her on her dangerous levels of ignorance. To add insult to injury, she's deleting comments on the original post by more informed individuals attempting to set the record straight.

I can't sit this girl down and tell her to stop being so wilfully irresponsible, but what I can do is try and turn it into a more general learning opportunity. So, without further ado, here are some tips for being a responsible blogger.

Don't State Opinions as Facts

Having an opinion is fine. After all, putting opinions in writing for mass consumption is basically the definition of blogging, right? However there a world of difference between fact and opinion. I thought this was obvious, but I've seen numerous instances of people making inaccurate statements (i.e. flat-out lying) and defending their bullshit as "a matter of opinion". In case you need a lesson, here's the difference:

Opinion:
I think that the way slaughterhouses operate is acceptable.

Opinion masquerading as a fact: 
I believe that 90% of slaughter houses are killing humanely.

Fact:
According to HSA information, 2.6 million cattle, 10 million pigs, 14.5 million sheep and lambs, 80 million fish and 950 million birds are slaughtered for human consumption. EU guidelines dictate the minimum measures that should be taken to avoid unnecessary suffering, however whether there is any way to humanely slaughter an animal is a matter of opinion.

If you're unsure whether you're voicing an opinion, stating a fact or spouting shit, take a look and see whether you're making claims that you can substantiate. If there are studies, reports or other reliable resources you can use to back you up, then cite them. If not, make sure it's clear that what you're saying is genuinely an expression of opinion and not a poorly-worded, unreliable pseudo-fact.

Be Discerning

Some bloggers thrive on drama. Some people just like attention. Fine, you crack on with flapping your fingers at the keyboard until someone throws you a cookie. However, if you don't want people thinking you're a moron and a dickhead, then be honest with yourself and have a think about why you want to put out a post before you click the "publish" button. Is it informative? Is it balanced? Is it accurate? If you can't tick all these boxes maybe it's time to look at it again. If you can't find a way to rewrite it that fulfils those rather generous criteria then the delete button is your best buddy.

Ignorance Isn't Bliss, It's Just Ignorance

If you have the wherewithal to set up a blog and social media, we can assume that you're able to read. This means that you are also able to research. With this in mind, I am allowed to call you out if you haven't bothered to look into a topic you're discussing. Unless you're already an expert in the subject, have the decency to read up on the thing. You never know; what you discover might surprise you. 

You can bury your head in the sand if you so choose, but be aware that people who do know a lot about the subject you've chosen to discuss will point out the holes in your argument. 

Be Receptive

When you put a blog out there, you do it to be read. It's completely delusional to believe that everyone who reads it will be congratulatory/complimentary/in agreement. When you create content it is for consumption, and the consumer is just as entitled to hold an opinion as you are. The only way you can hope to avoid the "haters" is by writing well, having popular opinions and crossing your fingers that those who disagree with you don't see it. If however, you write like a toddler, tell bald-faced lies and have shit opinions then you're basically throwing a manure grenade at the internet.

It's all well and good to drop the blogging equivalent of a stink bomb, but you can't then wonder why everything suddenly smells bad. If you throw horseshit at the internet, the internet is going to throw shit right back at you.

If, however, someone approaches you with a metaphorical can of Oust, you should probably let 'em spray you. Even if you don't love the scent they've chosen, it's got to smell better than the hot guano you just littered about the place like an angry hippopotamus.

That figure of speech got away from me a bit there... Basically, if you blog then people have a right to respond. Listen to what they have to say, be respectful and be kind. Don't be an arsehole, or people will tell you that you're an arsehole, and nobody likes to be told that they're an arsehole.

Have Grace In Defeat

Believe it or not, I haven't always been a particularly well-rounded or open-minded human. I would even go so far as to say in my younger days I was actually a racist bigot. I wasn't a nice person. 

I have a long way to go, and I know damn well I don't get it right 100% of the time, but one of the most important steps to becoming a better person was to learn how to admit when I'm wrong, and to grow from it. You can't do that if  you respond to criticism or discussion by being a petulant child. If someone has an opposing view to you, you should have a listen and ask questions (politely!) You might still disagree with them at the end of it, but at least nobody can accuse you of being an immature ignoramus. 

Be Honest

Integrity is pretty crucial to blogging, and forgetting about it can alienate your readers. Whether it's "forgetting" to declare a sponsorship, endorsing an irrelevant product just for the cash or just making shit up, you will piss people off. We're all guilty of stretching the truth a tad to make a story more interesting or impressive, or maybe omitting unflattering details. What's a different matter is full-on lying.

Only make claims you can back up if challenged, and don't resort to name calling and aggression if you get caught in a lie. Don't contradict yourself on your own blog/social media just to attract attention. Don't be the Donald Trump of blogging.

Ultimately...

If you don't want anyone to ever criticise, argue or find fault in your blog then make it private. If, however, you want to make a worthwhile and responsible contribution to this ever-growing pool of content then try not to be a twat. 

What to Do If You’re Concerned for a Stranger’s Safety


This weekend I went to a wedding in the midlands (Maid of Honour swag, yo) which meant three hours on public transport. I’ve been taking long train journeys on my own for around a decade now, so I’m pretty confident travelling alone. However, this journey was a little different.

On the first leg of my trip, I squeezed myself into the last available seat in the carriage, which happened to be at a table, with three strangers. On my left was a roughly 25-year-old woman with headphones in, and opposite me was an elderly gentleman and a middle-aged lady. The train had barely started moving when the elderly man started singing and talking to himself. This was sort of annoying but bearable, and I initially just passed it off as an eccentricity. Then he started howling like a wolf.

The English are known for their stoic, stiff-upper-lip approach so I probably shouldn’t be surprised that nobody did or said anything. The issue was that I became increasingly concerned for this stranger’s welfare. He appeared to be alone and “out of it”. Did he have dementia? Did he know where he was and where he was going? How would I feel if my grandfather was alone on a train, singing and chatting to himself? I realised that I really didn’t know what to do in this situation. So, I’ve done a bit of research, and here is what you can/should do if you are concerned for a stranger’s safety.

On Public Transport

One of my best friends works for London Underground, so I asked them what I should do if I’m worried about someone’s behaviour on a train. They said,

“You can anonymously text the BTP [British Transport Police on 61016] or tweet the train company. Or just be straight and ask the person if they are ok.”

I know that not everyone has the confidence to just talk to a stranger, particularly one who is acting strangely and if you are travelling alone, so the first two options might be the most practical if anxiety/nerves/fear prevent you from directly interacting with the person in question. Try and stay within eye/earshot of the person you’re worried about so you can keep the authorities informed should the situation deteriorate and get more urgent.

This advice doesn’t just apply to elderly or other vulnerable people; if someone on a train is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or is making you feel uncomfortable, you can use these options to alert the proper authorities. The only difference being that, if someone is behaving dangerously or in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you should attempt to remove yourself from the vicinity if it is safe for you to do so.

You can, of course, ask a train guard or ticket inspector for assistance if you’re able to leave the carriage and find one.

If you’re on a bus, try and discreetly speak to the driver when the bus next makes a stop; generally bus companies ask that you don’t distract the driver when the bus is in motion. You can also call/tweet the individual bus company for guidance.

In Shopping Centres/Public Buildings

If you see an elderly/vulnerable person in public who seems confused, distressed or disorientated then you can approach them and ask them if they are ok, if you feel safe to do so. If you’re not comfortable doing this then there are a few things you can do, depending on where you are.

If you’re in a shop, shopping centre or other sort of public facility like a library or leisure centre, engage the assistance of the people working there. Shopping centres generally have security teams; if you don’t know how to contact them directly speak to an assistant in any of the shops, as they will have a contact number.

On the Street

If you’re on the street then the time of day might change how comfortable you are when it comes to approaching a stranger, especially if they are behaving out of sorts. If this is the case, use the maps app on your phone to get an accurate location and call the police. The individual situation will determine whether you should contact the emergency services (by calling 999 from your mobile or a payphone) or the non-emergency police number (101). Use your judgement here. Again, if you feel safe in doing so, try and keep an eye on the person so you can give the best guidance to the emergency services.

If the person appears to be homeless then beware of outdated advice. There is a post making the rounds on social media advising the public to email St Mungos if you see someone sleeping rough; this is no longer what you should do. If you see someone sleeping rough, get the most accurate reading of your location you can (try using the GPS on your smartphone and taking a screenshot) and either call StreetLink on 03005 000914, download their StreetLink app on your smartphone or use their online form.

It’s always important to keep yourself safe, especially if you are alone, in a secluded place and/or in the dark. If you’re concerned about your own wellbeing then call 101 for police advice!

Victoria Wood Killed the Ghost of my Relationship

I tried to do a drawing of Victoria but it was offensively bad.
I was bullied growing up. I needn't go into detail at this point, but I had a rough time in childhood. I got given lots of advice on how to cope, but the one I latched onto is, "If they start to laugh, then you should laugh too. Then they're not laughing at you, they're laughing with you." It wasn't always easy, or indeed possible, but I learned to laugh loud enough to drown out their spite. I started to make self-deprecating jokes before they could do it. I became complicit.

When I was in my late teens I had a boyfriend who did stand-up comedy. Throughout our relationship I went with him to numerous gigs and sat dutifully in the audience making sure to laugh at his jokes, whether or not I found them funny (though, to his credit, most of them were). I even forced a giggle at the jokes that were at his own expense and actually made me slightly uncomfortable, like an anecdote which claimed his ex had compared sex with him to being “repeatedly slapped with a pillowcase full of jelly”. I’ll respectfully decline to corroborate this comparison.

Like most people who go to enough amateur stand-up nights, I started to think “maybe I can do this”. My boyfriend thought I was funny, my friends thought I was funny. In fact it was in my first year of uni that I discovered that my no-filter, off-kilter way of talking was actually interesting, or at least amusing, to the people around me. After  a childhood of feeling like an irreversible freak, I realised that I could make people laugh, and that was empowering. Rather than using my flippant self-criticism as a form of defence from my enemies, it became a way to entertain, and sometimes shock, my friends. The more I watched aspiring comedians bumble their clumsy ways through their first gigs, the more I thought that I could give it a go myself some time.

Eventually I broached the subject with my then-boyfriend, suggesting that I wanted to try a mix of stand-up and comedy songs, hoping for some pearls of wisdom, or at least a pep talk. I can’t remember exactly what he said word-for-word but it more or less amounted to “people won’t laugh as much because you’re a girl, and that’ll distract them from the jokes, you’ll need to be twice as funny just to catch up.”

Ah, little baby feminist, Elena. You should have left him there and then. Instead I let his sexist, horseshit statement put me off even attempting stand up for at least a year after he said it.
In that year, he and I broke up anyway. His pre-graduation crisis and my depression became more than our fledgling relationship could handle and by the summer I was single again. My heart was quite badly bruised and it messed with me for months afterwards. Like many post-breakup-humans I felt haunted by the ghost of my failed relationship.

What didn’t remotely help is that shortly after the relationship was officially dead, I almost died too. My lungs were evidently jealous of all the attention my broken heart was getting, so they decided to break too. Not content with having one thing wrong with them at a time, I had suspected blood clots on both (which meant self-injecting with blood thinners, which sucked) as well as pleurisy (where your lung lining is inflamed, causing laboured, painful breathing when your lungs rub on the lining), pleural effusions (where the lung cavity fills with fluid, which is also bloody painful and affects your breathing) and, long term, pleural adhesions on my left lung (where the lung tissue sticks together and gets scarred.) In the diagnosing process the doctors also mentioned scary diagnoses like pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer. It was a very bad time.

Once I was out of the hospital, whacked out on two types of heavy painkillers, I was pretty much just a human beanbag for a few weeks while I recovered. While I was propped up in the living room I did weeks of channel surfing, tiring quickly of the constant repeats on E4 and endless episodes of Friends. This was a pre-Netflix era for me, and I got sick of my usual channels really quickly. One day, too tired to change the channel, and vaguely recognising the name from videos my parents had, I struck up re-runs of Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV. 

It didn't take long before I was hooked. Here were some of the great actresses like Julie Walters and Celia Imrie who I recognised from Harry Potter and Bridget Jones, starring gamely alongside this warm, hilarious woman who could make me laugh while she pulled at my heartstrings. Her astute, observant, bittersweet brand of comedy was not only something that made me laugh, it was also reflective of the kind of jokes I wanted to write and had been assured wouldn't be funny. I watched as Victoria Wood put live audiences in stitches with musical comedy, which I had been told wouldn't be accepted. My body was all bent out of shape and I still felt betrayed and heartbroken, but suddenly my faith in my ability to overcome adversity with humour was restored.

There are, of course, other comedians of all genders who have gladdened and inspired me along the way. I quote Shappi Khorsandi on a near-daily basis, and I still have a huge crush on Mae Martin after I saw her at a gig the comedian boyfriend did a slot at. Probably my earliest and most enduring experience with comedy was cassette tapes of Rowan Atkinson, Live in Belfast which I can recite word-for-word.

By my third year of uni I'd been gigging regularly as a singer/guitarist for almost two and a half years, and when a gig at one of the student bar started going terribly due to technical issues, I took the opportunity to joke away the awkwardness. When the microphone stand continually collapsed I quipped, "See, I've been single so long that even inanimate object don't want to be that close to my mouth." People laughed. They laughed quite a lot. At the end of the gig someone asked if they could book me to do a stand-up slot at a benefit for Amnesty International. I seized the moment and agreed, and when I got home that night I wrote my set, including four new songs, in about two hours. I was pumped.

I can't remember my first gig too clearly. I was nervous as all hell and I'd been to enough amateur comedy nights to have an acute fear of the pin-drop silence that follows every bombed punchline. I downed a few whiskeys and took to the stage with my trusty uke, and sang songs about bisexuality, hangovers, self-doubt and the inevitability of drunkenly snogging a bellend on SU nights. To my relief, people laughed. They laughed hard. In fact the girl who had booked me cried with laughter. I was flying.

I did a few gigs, all fairly successful, but once uni was over I lost steam. I was too poor to travel to venues to continue on my streak and eventually depression took over again and I lost motivation for simple things like eating and other basic self-care, let alone schlepping into London for gigs. But that almost wasn't important any more.

My short-lived comedy career was fun. It was empowering. And, ultimately, it proved my ex wrong. I couldn't stop him falling out of love with me, or writing about me on his blog. But I could make a room full of strangers laugh. And that felt way, way better.

Style Rules EVERYONE Should Follow

The other day on Twitter I flippantly shared some of my all-time greatest style tips, and a number of people suggested I write a blog! Let it never be said I do nothing for you guys. Without further ado, here are my super-important, very serious style tips.

Ripped up denim, plaid and black t shirts are my casual staples.


1. If you like the thing, wear it. Put the thing on.
This seems like hideously obvious advice, but if an item of clothing makes you feel something positive, then you should wear it! I’m not suggesting you should wear your banging new bikini to the office, or a tee shirt with lewd sketches on it to your niece’s nativity play, but if it’s location/occasion appropriate, let your sartorial desires run riot. Glitter roots? Ugly sweaters? Bonkers shoes? Do it. Do the thing.

2. If you’re worried the thing isn’t “flattering” remember that you look fucking great. You don’t need to hide/compress/disguise your body.
As far as I am concerned, “flattering” is a filthy word. It’s a toxic concept that attempts to restrict the choices of people whose appearance doesn’t fit the narrow standards of beauty, creating a set of rules to de-emphasise perceived flaws. I still wonder if my aversion to colour is a direct result of being brought up with the “advice” that dark colours are “flattering”. Fuck “flattering”, and refer to rule one.

3. Fashion should be a fun challenge, not a frustrating and limiting set of rules.
Fashion trends come and go, and if you enjoy fluttering merrily along with the new ideas, revivals and silhouettes of each fashion week then that’s cool! For some it’s a way to stretch your boundaries, change up your wardrobe and introduce something new into your life. What is probably less healthy is feeling forced to adhere to these changing trends at the expense of your own identity. Again, look to rule one.

4. You don’t have to pigeonhole your “aesthetic”.
Having a strong style niche, or being part of a subculture, is fine! I’ve been a goth, an emo and a grunger in the past, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. If nothing else, being part of one of these groups, or having a very specific idea of your sense of style, can make it a lot easier to have an Instagram theme! However, it’s also ok to step outside of your usual aesthetic if you find something that speaks to you. For instance, I do not wear pink. I never wear pink. But last week I bought myself a pink t-shirt covered in sequinned unicorn emoji. I have yet to wear it out of the house, but as soon as it happens I’ll let you all know. Rule one, people. Rule one.

5. One person’s “flaw” is another person’s “fabulous”.
Just because you’re not a fan of one of your features doesn’t mean the sentiment is universal. While I totally encourage flaunting your favourite parts of yourself, compliments and appreciation might come from unexpected places, and completely change the way you view a part of yourself that you previously weren’t so keen on. At the very least you might soften your opinion of that feature.

6. Your style should play with your own boundaries and comfort levels, not be limited by other people’s.
Following on from rule five, I know how important it is to feel at ease in what you’re wearing, but challenging yourself to wear something out of your usual range could have surprising results. If all that's stopping you is fear of what other people will think, then try and put that to bed. Your appearance should be a state of play for yourself to enjoy, and enjoyment comes in a whole spectrum of emotions from squashy and comfortable to adrenaline-inducingly risqué. What you shouldn't feel is anxiety or terror, especially if that's just because of other people. 

7. Imitation really is a sincere form of flattery, but interpretation is better.
There are a number of people, particularly in the blogging community, whose style makes me various shades of green with envy. Whether it's gothy/grungey/alt girls whose sense of style is within my wheelhouse (I'm talking Sarah, Kimberley and Jessica) or my favourite Balamory-resident-meets-Elmer-and-Alexa-Chung, Belphoebe, I find myself in a community of people whose wardrobes I would happily steal, wholesale. I would let them dress me every day. Blogging makes it even easier to "steal the style" of people you admire, as people are more than happy to share the stores they shop in. However generous they are, it's probably more polite, and more fun, to reinterpret someone else's outfit choices and adapt them to yourself, rather than taking it literally. Nobody likes a copycat, and most people would rather be seen as an inspiration than a personal shopper.

8. “Seasonal dressing” should keep you temperate, not prevent self-expression.
In the words of Miranda Priestly, "Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking." We have all been taught some basic "rules" of seasonal dressing. Certain fabrics and textures are even referred to by the seasons - winter knits, spring florals, summer gauzes, autumn browns... It's tried, it's tested and it's... well, it's a bit boring. So what if you want to wear a bright, busy floral print in the depths of November, or black all through summer? It's obviously sensible to wear clothes that keep you warm when it's cold out, and vice versa, but that should be the only limit you feel pressed into observing. Rule one still applies. Just don't get sunburn/frostbite/extremely soggy and then blame me, ok?

9. Gender norms can get fucked.
I could be very lazy and just scream "RULE ONE" until my eyes bleed, but I'm not good at being concise. If you can physically get the clothes onto your body and you feel good in them, then it shouldn't matter what section of the shop it came from. Similarly you shouldn't feel like you need to stick to one "gender" for even the confines of a single outfit, let alone your wardrobe as a whole. Wear "men's" jeans with a "ladies'" lace crop top if it makes you happy. Whether you wish to express yourself in a masculine, feminine, a-gender or gender-fluid way is absolutely your prerogative. If someone gives you the stink-eye for rifling through the racks in the "wrong" section, remind yourself that the only thing "wrong" with the situation is their bigotry. 

10. It is your body, your wardrobe, your happiness, your identity, your life.
Depending on your religious beliefs, we get one life to live. I imagine very few people reach their final days worrying about what they did or didn't wear, but self-expression is so important to your overall happiness. Your identity is more than just the way other people see you, it's how you see yourself. I know that sounds a bit trite, but I know from experience that making your outside match your inside is a tricky thing to do, and it can be daunting, but when you strike that balance it's borderline euphoric. No cruel criticism, arbitrary rules or outdated beauty standards should prevent you from being a perfect version of exactly what you are. You're a brilliant, unique, original little weirdo, and that's an awesome thing to be.

Cruel to be Cruel: Body Police are Horrible

This weekend I went out clubbing for maybe the second time this year. I'm not a big drinker, and I don't really go out much unless it's a gig or something to do with the band, but I've made some really close friends at work and we went out with a small group. We got dressed together, did hair and makeup at one of the other girls' houses, helped each other choose outfits... it's something I haven't done since uni, and it felt really nice to be surrounded by girls, doing unabashedly girly things. It was such an open, supportive atmosphere, and I didn't really realise how much I'd missed this girl-group dynamic since I moved home. Don't get me wrong, I love my Trash Panda bros and my guy time, but it was just really nice to be part of a girl gang. We all left the house feeling like nines.

Eyebrow game is strong
 I took a number of selfies and felt actually pretty. My much slimmer, much fitter friend pointed out that our legs are a similar shape and I was hugely, enormously flattered. Instead of disagreeing with the compliment out of habit, I actually took a look and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't hot air. I looked at myself in the mirror before we went out and thought, "Well, sure, I have a belly. And yes, I have some squidge. And from certain angles my ass looks weird, and I know I have a moon face and more than one chin. But none of those things is inherently bad or unattractive, in this day and age. My boobs look cracking, my hair looks great and these heels are actually relatively comfortable. I feel like a Vampire queen. I'm ready to go out." After years of bulimia, binge-starve cycles, hair-pulling, self-loathing and dissociative visual disturbances all based on my body, this is kind of a big deal for me. 

Tipsy duckface
Of course there were points in the night where I caught sight of myself in the mirror and thought, "Jesus, as a size 16 with a sizeable spare tyre, should I really have worn such a tight skirt? Or a lacy top?" But for a change I put those feelings to rest. Gone are the days of "hide your fatness under something baggy so as not to offend the thin people". We live in a world of Ashley Graham, Kardashians, Tess Holliday, Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy, all big(gish), beautiful, proud women.

Myspace mirror selfie
I'm fat, but I get a certain level of "fat privilege" by being an hourglass - which many argue is the only fat shape generally thought to be acceptable by mainstream media. I saw these "flaws" in myself, I acknowledged them, and I rationalised them away until I felt good about myself again. And I did feel good about myself. I was surrounded by my friends, beautiful girls, and I didn't feel like the "fat friend" or "the ugly one" as I've so often felt before in a group of beautiful girls. I felt like a legitimate part of the "squad".

Last selfie before I fell asleep
Even this morning, with yesterday's makeup still clinging to the creases around my eyes, and my hair extensions matted up from a short, restless sleep I looked in the mirror and thought "You look better than usual today, kudos." I looked at photos of us from the night before and didn't cringe at the sight of myself, even in the photos where I have VBO (that's Visible Belly Outline to the uninitiated.)

The morning after
I looked more dressed up than usual, more made up, preened, polished and yes, the photos were taken at a flattering, double-chin-concealing angle. But for the first time in a long time I was looking at photos of me taken by somebody else and not wanting to screech "Oh, Jesus, delete it! Please don't put that on Facebook." I felt cute, in the most and least "attractive" photos (like the Instax photos we took where my face looks like a white planet in a wig). I felt closer to my friends. I was tired, slightly hungover, and my feet still hurt now, but I was happy. Genuinely happy.

Hungover, in my pjs
Then I got home.

I showed my mum some of the photos from the evening, buoyed up from the confidence boost the evening had given me. She sort of nodded and grimaced while she looked at them and then she said, "But it's not the real you, is it. You can't see your double chin." I tried not to let that comment take any of the wind out of my sails, and I mentioned what my friend had said about my legs. "Your friend must have big legs, then," she said. When I replied that I thought that my legs were proportionally slimmer than my upper body she just declared outright, "You don't have slim legs. You look nice in PICTURES but when we look at you all we see is your double chin." I pointed out that I know I'm photogenic, and that I know I look better in photos than in real life. She said, "I don't want you to have body dysmorphia and think that you look good when you know you need to lose weight." This was the point at which I left the room.

Later she came upstairs and said to me, "I'm sorry... but you don't have slim legs." I told her that apologising by repeating the things she was apologising for was a pretty poor excuse for an apology. She left the room in a strop.

I am too goddamn old to be blogging about hating the way my mother speaks to me.

I know what I look like. I'm very, very aware of how my body looks both in and out of clothes. I know I have stretchmarks in a colour range from angry purple to almost-imperceptible silver across my tummy, thighs, hips and boobs. I know that I have crappy skin on my arms and legs thanks to keratosis pilaris. I could draw you an unsettlingly accurate sketch, from memory alone, of the way my stomach folds at the top of my thighs or the sides of my back, at my waist, which my brothers dubbed "flub lines" when they saw me in a bikini as a teenager. I know I have "thighbrows" when I kneel and a crease in my neck from my double chin. I know I have a flat ass for a fat girl. I know I have a bump in my nose, scars in my eyebrows and on my thighs. And my wrists. And the back of one hand.

My rational, twenty-first century brain tells me that none of those things are something I should be ashamed of or feel forced to change. My liberal, body-positive, accepting, tolerant heart would see any one, all or combination of these things in another person and not judge them. I know that your body size doesn't accurately reflect your health and that BMI is trash. "Fat" is just an adjective.

The fact of the matter is, if someone stabs you with a kitchen knife, you wouldn't call it cooking. If someone uses words as weapons, they hurt. It doesn't matter that I already know when I look like; if someone tells me that they hate or are disgusted by something about my appearance it's still going to sting, regardless of how I initially felt about it.

My relationship with my body is chequered, complicated and incredibly dark in places. I have hated myself and felt such deep despair that I've wanted to hurt and punish myself, and times I've sincerely wanted to disappear or die. There are still things I want to change, and am working on changing. But I have learned from bitter experience that progress that comes from a place of self-love is so much better than progress from self-loathing.

I know I'm fat. I know I disgust and disappoint my mother.

I also know that I can sing pretty well, and write lyrics that people can relate to. I am good at my job, I'm compassionate, and I can make loads of different things, even if it does mean the occasional hot glue gun burn. I also know I can do squats with a 71kg woman sitting on my shoulders. And as someone reminded me on Twitter, if I can lift up an entire human woman, I can lift myself up too.

I don't really know how to end this post. I don't have a punchline or anything revelatory to say. I guess all I can add is that we get one chance at life, and one shot at being remembered. And I'd much rather be remembered as "squishy, but kind".

In Celebration of Kim Kardashian

I initially titled this “In Defence of Kim Kardashian” but given that she doesn’t make apologies for herself, I don’t see why I should.

I’m the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of calling Kim Kardashian horrible things in the past. In my pre-feminist, unenlightened teen years a combination of naïve prudishness and envy made me judgemental, bitter and rather short-sightedly cruel. Thankfully I met people at university who were cleverer than me and took a crowbar to my closed mind, cranking it open and teaching me to look at the world very differently.

Kim Kardashian is pretty much always in the headlines for one reason or another, whether she’s changed her hair, taken her daughter to ballet or simply left the house that day. This week she’s trending because she popped a photo up on instagram of her naked but for two black censor bars over her nips and foof. Surprise, surprise, people have opinions about this. Mostly negative ones. In my lunchroom at work people were laughing about her “attention seeking” and calling her “talentless”. I may have schooled them.

It seems that most people have conveniently forgotten that Kim Kardashian is the victim of some of the most lucrative revenge porn in history. As is almost always the case when men release videos of women committing sex acts (whether the woman consents to these acts or the filming thereof) Kim has been shamed, ridiculed and dismissed as trashy. Wagging fingers cast her as the cautionary tale and say things like “if you’re going to play with fire you’re going to get burned” as if this analogy even fits the situation. Even in cases where the woman didn’t know she was being filmed or was even conscious during the event, it’s always the woman (or in some appalling cases young girls) who bear the brunt of the blame.

The narrative for the aftermath of abuse, and revenge porn is abuse whether it features a celebrity or not, is supposed to follow an unspoken protocol. The woman involved should keep a low profile, and speak only when spoken to. Her family should release statements on her behalf asking for privacy and talking about the shame, the hurt, the trauma of it all. Victims are meant to act as society sees victims: eyes downcast, modestly dressed, quietly broken. Of course, Kim defied this shitty, sexist convention and did the opposite.

Maybe Kim Kardashian wouldn’t have chosen to have been thrown into the spotlight off the back of a badly-lit home movie, but that’s what happened. She didn’t let it shame her into obscurity, she didn’t let it cause her ruin. She built an empire from it. She made a career out of the body that was shared with the world without her permission.

What I really don’t understand is the rampant double standards here. The misery-lit genre makes millions from the abuse of adults and children alike. If Kim had written a book entitled “How Could He Do This?” would we still dismiss her? Maybe not. She would be capitalising on pity and shame, which is just as exploitative, the difference is that she would be leaving the power with her abuser, and for some reason society find that concept a lot easier to swallow than her self-empowerment.

The thing is, even if Kim hadn’t got her initial fame, or notoriety, the way she did, I would still whole-heartedly support her right to get all kinds of naked for photographs if she wants to. She’s an adult. She’s not walking up and down the street forcing strangers to look at her nudes. She’s not sending them to children. The only difference between Kim’s instagram shots and “tasteful art shots” of scantily-clad starlets in magazines is that Kim is taking wholesale ownership of the photographs, and for some reason this makes her less worthy of admiration and acceptance. You only need to look at her, frankly rather measured, response to Chloe Grace Moretz’s attempt to slam her to see that even people who have participated in near-nude photoshoots are keen to invalidate Kim’s self-portraits (doesn’t that sounds better than “selfie”?) Maybe the fact that Chloe’s expression on her next-to-naked magazine cover is sort of sad and reproachful makes it ok?

Speaking of portraits, we as a species have been celebrating naked bodies for centuries. People pay good money to see naked people in all kinds of materials, from paintings and photographs to sculptures as high as houses. You don’t see people tutting at the Venus de Milo and saying, “That girl must have had no self-respect, getting her baps out for someone to carve in marble. She must be some kind of attention-seeking whore.” Even though (and here is the real kicker) art historians say that the majority of women who posed for these statues were literal prostitutes and it’s likely that the woman depicted in the Venus de Milo was as well. Yet the statue has been celebrated for thousands of years, and Kim’s selfies attract ridicule and insults. This is because it’s completely ok for men to commodify and celebrate a woman’s body, without even naming her, but it’s another thing entirely for a woman to celebrate herself.

Empowered and self-confident women are routinely undermined, mocked, and insulted both by individuals and the mainstream media. This is because they are seen as threatening.

While Lady Gaga is lauded for her music about her rape (and rightly so) and people publicly stand by Kesha (again, completely rightfully), Kim is dismissed as trashy because she uses her body as her art form. Beyoncé or Diane Kruger can go to an awards ceremony in a dress comprised of about the same amount of lace as a decorative hanky and be praised for their “brave fashion choices” but if Kim wore the same thing she’d be dragged for it.

Would I want to be Kim Kardashian? No, probably not. But there is a lot to learn from her strength, her attitude and her defiance. In a world where women are “supposed” to wither away from shame after being exploited like Kim was, it’s refreshing and powerful to see someone who rebels against that expectation so wilfully and so publicly.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Reasons I Have Cried

In case you're new here, I have bipolar disorder. One thing I've noticed is that when I'm in "neutral" I barely cry at all. I don't really laugh either, but my eyes don't leak. When I'm depressed I'll laugh for no reason until my whole body cramps up. When I'm either astronomically high or devastatingly low, I cry. A lot. For really ridiculous reasons. I thought I'd clue you in on some of the reasons I've cried in the last two months.

1. Because Sebastian the crab said "You could go home with all the normal fish and just be... just be... just be miserable for the rest of your life." And because Ariel looked sad. By the way, I watched The Little Mermaid for my Zusterschap series "Feminist Film School"!

2. Because I remembered the Center Parcs advert with the morose mummy bear.

3. Because my rabbit died. This is admittedly a rational reason to cry, but I cried so hard I made myself ill, which is less rational.

4. Because I re-read the synopsis of the Oscar Wilde story "The Nightingale and the Rose". Do not read it if you're feeling fragile, okay?

5. Because I started writing a song and I could hear it in my head and it sounded good.

6. Because I heard that J.K. Rowling is releasing The Cursed Child's script as a book.

7. Because I met a really great dog.

8. Because I saw my friend Claire and we shared a long-overdue, very long hug.

9. Because the new Army recruitment advert made me so angry.

10. Because C3-P0 showed up in The Force Awakens. I should point out, I cried five times during The Force Awakens.

11. Because I was still awake at 5am on a Sunday night.

12. Because it was light outside when I left work.

13. Because someone left a comment on my Zusterschap piece about tropes in film which complimented my writing.

14. Because the clouds were really pretty.

15. Because my dad sent an uncharacteristically sweet and gentle message to me after my rabbit Dexter died.

16. Because I told my mum how much I wanted to die last year, but how grateful I am to be alive now.

17. Because the boys in my band said very, very nice things to me and made me feel like I matter. This has happened more than once.

18. Because I sneezed.

19. Because I wrote a little post about how much I love my friends, and how much I value them.

20. Because sometimes my brain tells me everything is hopeless, and I am too tired to argue.

That's not even all of the reasons I've cried so far this year, but it's a pretty decent selection. If you, or someone you know is crying more often, or you're in any way worried about your mental health, please talk to someone. Don't suffer in silence. You deserve better.

If you liked this post, check out my health blog, GREEN ABOUT THE GILLS, for mental health and more!

Saying Goodbye to my Dexter

This weekend I lost two of my rabbits. It's never easy to have a pet die, and I love, and have loved, all of my pets. I've cried when my goldfish and shrimps died, and just thinking about the fact that my dog is getting old cuts me up. Losing two rabbits in one weekend has been horrible enough, but one of the two was my boy Dexter.


All of my adult rabbits have been rescues, and I feel very strongly about the ethics surrounding animal adoption. But, part of the problem behind adopting is that you can't guarantee that the animal had been raised in a wholesome, healthy environment. I know for a fact that Dexter (along with Teddy and Oliver, who I rescued from the same woman) were all kept in terrible conditions and given an appalling diet of white bread and breakfast cereals. Oliver died from kidney problems associated with this upbringing last year, and Dexter had ongoing digestive issues. That said, Teddy is in the peak of health, despite some initial behavioural issues that look a good nine months to resolve.


I love all my animals, from the littlest minnow to my big soppy labrador. But Dexter really was my baby. He was the first rabbit to ever actively seek contact and affection from me. He was the first bunny to fall asleep on my lap, or snuggle into my neck for security.


He needed me for more than just food, water and shelter; Dexter made it clear that he needed my love in a way no other rabbit ever has. Losing him has left a weird hollow feeling in my chest, and I've been crying so hard over the last few days I've actually made myself ill.


I know part of the grieving process is trying to make some sense and meaning out of the lost life, especially when the death was so sudden and unexpected. This is definitely the case here. I want to do something to remember my tiny boy, something good and important. And, after a little thought, I think I know what it is.


I've been toying with going cruelty free with my choice of hair/beauty products and cosmetics for a long time. I've been vegan and vegetarian previously, though I'm currently omnivorous, and I plan to spend this year re-aligning my life to a fully vegetarian diet, if not completely vegan.



While Dexter was never a lab-rabbit, he did experience a lot of suffering in his early life, and if my actions can go even a small way to help prevent animals going through unnecessary pain then it's something I have to do. So, I'm going to start eliminating all non cruelty-free products from my life. So, if anyone had a dupe for MAC's "Men Love Mystery" I'm all ears.


So, in a few months' time if someone asks why I only shop cruelty-free, I'll tell them I'm doing it for Dexter.


If you're thinking of getting a pet, please consider animal adoption first. Contact your local shelter for more information.



Why Your DA Dropped - And Why It Doesn't Matter

It was impossible to find an interesting image to illustrate this post. So here's a dinosaur.

This weekend bloggers all over the world had their fingers on their "refresh" keys, pressing feverishly as they waited for the all-important Moz update. For the weeks preceding people had been asking for help on how to improve their scores, and the best quick fixes, hoping to increase their numbers.

Unfortunately, it seems that for a lot of people the results weren't quite what they hoped. In fact, I've found that a lot of the people who put in the most work have actually seen drops in their scores, which is obviously super disappointing. But before you fling your laptop across the room in rage, let's take a look at the reason it may have taken a hit, despite your best efforts, and what you can do to prep yourself for the next update?

You recently learned about "No Follow" links

If you read my post on hyperlinks you'll have learned all about this nifty and important piece of code. Long story short, this type of link can't be seen by crawl bots that score your site for Google and Moz, and they should be used to stop your site looking spammy and whenever you've been paid to include a link (Google's rules to avoid black hat SEO techniques).

Lots of people have only learned about No Follow quite recently, and have updated their existing blog content accordingly. In the long run this is absolutely a good thing, and for Google's purposes it is far better to follow their rules. However, Moz could very well have interpreted this differently. 

Everyone knows that people linking to your blog is helpful (and we'll come to that later), but what you might not realise is that having links within your OWN blog to other good-quality, well-ranking sites is good for your DA and SEO scores. So, understandably, if you've changed a lot of links to No Follow, you'll have taken a bit of a loss. 

Why doesn't this matter? How can I fix it? 

This isn't too much of a drama, because you will be in Google's good books for following their rules. The penalties for linking incorrectly are worse than the sharp, temporary drop you'll experience for correcting them. 

Over time, you will rebuild this range of links. The best way to do this is to link to other blogs, products, and websites. Just remember: if you link to the same site often, or you've been paid to include the link you MUST use a No Follow. You'll make life much easier for yourself if you do that from day one.

Broken links

If you've ever mentioned a product, you'll probably have left a link to places people can buy that product. That's obviously a good thing to do. However, when a page on a website is deleted, moved or deactivated the link on your page doesn't disappear, it will sit there being broken. Whenever bots crawl your site, they find these broken links and they will affect your score.

This means that the last Moz crawl might have spotted lots of lovely live, relevant links, and this time around it found the same links are busted. You got doubly penalised for the loss of a relevant link and for the fact that you've got a broken link on your page. Nightmare! 

Even if you've found and resolved all of your broken links in the run-up to the Moz update (and I know some people who dealt with thousands of them), if you removed them, rather than replacing them with equally relevant live links, you'll have still lost points for losing appropriate external links. Sorry. 

Why doesn't this matter? How can I fix it? 

Similar to the No Follow issue, you're better off finding and fixing these than leaving them where they are. Just keep posting and you'll build up your links again, and subsequently improve your score.

To find and fix existing broken links, use a scanner like Broken Link check to help you spot them all. Where possible, replace any broken links with another one rather than simply deleting it. For example, if you've linked to a product that's no longer available, change your content to reflect this and put in a link to the retailer's homepage.

To make sure you don't end up with a bunch of broken links in the future, try to only link to permanent pages, like homepages. If you regularly link to products then that's not a bad thing, but consider using a No Follow link so you can protect yourself if/when the page is deactivated, and run regular broken link checks so you can stay on top of them.

You've got lots of comments... but it's quantity, not quality

You can gain a lot of SEO/DA brownie points by having comments on your posts. It makes crawl bots think that you have engaging and popular content. If you'd already figured that out, you might have been pushing to get more comments, and you may well have succeeded! You might have joined comment trains, or you might simply have readers who like to tell you what a good job you're doing. 

However, some comments are causing you more harm than good. Very short comments (fewer than 10 words) are just seen as spam by crawl bots. Also, a lot of bloggers try to use little hyperlinks as a signature in their comment, which turns out to be broken! This is a surprisingly common problem; I've reached out to at least five bloggers to tell them that they've left tons of comments on lots and lots of blogs with broken links in them. These all work against you, and the more "bad" comments you get, the worse it will be.

Why doesn't it matter? How do I fix it? 

This is probably the easiest fix, unless your blog is obscenely famous and you get hundreds of comments a day (in which case I doubt you're too worried about your DA anyway). It's worth taking some time to go through your blog and just delete any spammy-looking comments, and checking any hyperlinks left behind.

Going forward, be careful which comments you allow to stay on your blog, and which comment trains you join, if that's your thing. Some specify that you need to leave comments over eight words long - stick to these.

You've lost backlinks

There's a bunch of ways this could have happened. Sites or blogs which referenced you at some point might have become inactive. You might have paid for advertising a while back, and the person you paid realised that they should have used No Follow links to your blog, and has subsequently fixed them. They might have linked to a post that you've binned or changed the location of. They might have just got rid of the post where they mentioned you. LOADS of possible reasons.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it? 

This is sucky, and really there's not a whole lot you can do about any specific backlink you might have lost. If it's because it was a paid link that's been corrected, it's definitely better for you, in the long run, that it's been corrected. 

The only way forward is to build up your backlinks. You can do this by joining Linkys, getting involved in tags and campaigns and taking on unpaid work for exposure, where they agree to link to you (remember, if you've been paid then No Follow links should be used and it won't count.)

You've recently changed URL/hosts

If you've changed your domain from a .wordpress.com or a .blogger.com you'll have seen a colossal drop because previously your site wouldn't have been considered a site on its own, rather it would have been seen as a page on wordpress/google. Basically, if you don't have a custom domain your DA doesn't really count. Also, if you've just changed your hosts for whatever reason, you might have seen a bit of a loss. This is because the crawl bots will go looking for it in the old location on the old servers and will get confused when it finds it somewhere else. It's also possible that, in changing hosts, you've broken some bits of code, like images and internal/external hyperlinks which might have needed fixing and will have had their own effects.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it? 

The bot will eventually realise where you blog actually is, so this drop will eventually resolve itself. If it's because you've moved to a custom domain, I'm afraid you're going to have to start from the bottom and work your way up. This is one of MANY reasons I advocate getting a custom domain from day one. Try and find a host you like and stick with it.

You've dramatically changed your theme

A theme might look cosmetic to you, but when you change the appearance of your site you change an awful lot of stuff under the hood. Again, the bots are going to visit your site expecting to see one thing, and when it finds something unexpected it gets confused and just takes points off. This is a real bugger, and is likely to be much worse if you change lots of things all at once rather than making gradual "soft" changes.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it? 

People don't visit or follow your blog based on your DA score, they visit it because it looks cracking and has quality content. Or because you're famous. Or running a giveaway... but the point still stands. If you want to tart your blog up, go for it. If you're worried about any effect it could have on your scores, try to do it gradually rather than all at once.

You've deleted old posts

If you've been running our blog a while you might have looked back on some of your old contents, cringed, then decided to have a bit of a deleting spree. Losing page volume on your site will unfortunately give you a bit of a battering, especially if you delete lots at once.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it?

Deleting old poor-quality content is no bad thing, and for user experience it's probably a positive. Just keep writing brilliant new posts and you'll soon build up your catalogue again. 

Your posting patterns have changed

If you've changed your posting habits or structure you may have seen a drop. It's not so much the fact that you're posting in a different way, it's how you've changed it. If you're not posting as often, you'll lose points. If you're posting more frequently but your posts are very short, you'll get penalised.

Why doesn't it matter? How can I fix it?

In my experience, the golden number for post length are 300-700 words. Any shorter and it looks spammy to the bots. Any longer and people get bored (though admittedly most of my posts are much longer - oops). Try and post as often as you can at regular intervals, and make sure posts are a decent length.

A final note about DA...

DA is not that important. I know, I've written a whacking great big post about it, but I promise you it's not the be all and end all. Some brands and PRs will use it as a benchmark for choosing people to approach for campaigns, but real talk, this is because DA is a lazy way to assign an easily- comparable value to a website. I've seen beautiful, interesting blogs with relatively low scores, and trashy sites with inexplicably huge ones. Ok, so a low score might exclude you from certain campaigns but as you'll have seen from above, you could negatively affect your scores by doing all the right things! My honest advice is to concentrate on producing awesome content and building relationships with readers and PRs over social media. Do you think PRs ask Zoella for her DA before they pitch to her? Of course not. Because, ultimately, when your reputation is good enough, nobody will care about the numbers.

Bratty Bloggers: What I Hate About Blogging

I've been blogging for about 10 years. Initially I had blogs that were cryptic streams of consciousness and random poems that I never expected anybody to read. They were like typed-up diaries for public consumption, and I had a pretty free-form approach to writing. I wrote when I needed to, because I needed to.

Fast-forward to 2016 and blogging is a colossal industry, with some bloggers making their entire livelihoods through their websites. This is a great and wonderful thing, and I'm absolutely not knocking the idea of making money from your blog. Whether you place ads, take on sponsored work or accept gifts for review, that's totally cool. If I had exciting brands offering me money to get stuff and write about it then I'd be totally on board. I'm the first to openly admit that I'm pretty jealous of any bloggers who get offers to promote products I love - and for a fee.

What I really, really, really can't stand is the number of bloggers who bitch and whinge all over social media about brands who dare to approach them without a metaphorical fistful of cash. I can't count the number of times I've seen tweets saying things like, "A brand approached me to tell me about their competition, but they aren't willing to pay. #nothanks". I even saw a girl asking how much she should demand from a PR company who sent her a press release. Then, on a blogger Facebook group, a girl asked: 

Advice: me again. Sorry to pester! 😁 I had an email off a company to do a post with clothing ideas from their site which enters me into a competition to win a voucher to spend on their site.

Am I right in thinking this is just a fancy way of getting backlinks?

In case you've ever wondered the same thing, brands do competitions like this for a number of reasons. 

Firstly because they want a more interesting/engaging/competitive post type than a simple sponsored post. A lot of people switch off or stop reading the minute they see the words "ad" or "sponsored", and this can help to circumnavigate that. 

Also, as you'll know from reading my post about hyperlinks, when a brand pays you to write a post, you MUST use a no-follow link. In other words, if a brand pays you to mention them, they get no SEO benefit from it. By doing it in the form of a competition like this, it allows them AND you to use regular links. Not only does this give them backlinks, but having links in your own blog to well-rated websites actually improves YOUR SEO score/DA as well, where no-follow links have no effect.

For small brands, it could be that they simply don't have the budget to pay you as well as giving you free stuff. Simple as that.

I explained this (not very well admittedly) in the comments, and the original poster was grateful for the info.  However, a little while later, another girl posted this:

it's a cost effective way for them to get links basically without doing much.

Now, in case you've forgotten or you're new here, I actually work in marketing. My day job includes doing things like running competitions (though ours are aimed at customers and the general public, not bloggers). Let me burst your bubble, random Facebook girl: competitions are a LOT of work. They take time, prizes cost money and creating all of the imagery, promotion and all that jazz all takes man power. It's a pain in the butt, frankly.

I guess what this boils down to is that I'm getting really, really tired of cynical bloggers trying to wring cash out of nothing, and publicly trying to "shame" brands for having the sheer brass balls to approach them if they aren't going to stump up wads of wonga. I completely believe in people being paid for their skills and their time, but if you're so inexperienced that you think you should be getting paid to receive press releases like someone I saw on a group the other day, honey, you don't deserve to be paid to blog.

If you have your email address public on your blog for brands and PR companies to approach you, then guess what? THEY MIGHT APPROACH YOU. Stop making yourself look like a dick by tweeting every time you get an email about a campaign you're not interested in. If you're not a massive, well-known blogger then you're probably getting a generic email that's being sent out to hundreds, even thousands, of other bloggers. Your blog might be your baby, but to big PR companies you are not a special unique snowflake, so don't expect to be treated like one. I work for a multi-million pound company, and we get these "Dear blogger" emails on a daily basis. Our blog is one of the top 100 pet blogs in the world. You don't see us whingeing.

I totally support people demanding to be recognised for what they're worth, but part of that is actually knowing what you're worth. If you have a tiny DA, a very young blog and you take your photos on an old Nokia brick phone, then don't expect to be paid top dollar to feature brands. Don't be a dick about it. Keep working at it, and maybe you'll be the next Zoella. Just be mindful that brands remember, and some marketing companies work for multiple brands. The PR you slag off on Twitter and chew out over email will remember your name, so if you treat people like dirt when you're small fry, they'll do the same to you when you've made it big.

Six Things Saving My Life

(TW: Mental Health, Suicide, Self Harm)

I do what I can to make this blog a positive place, and it's certainly my intention to largely focus on the fun and whimsical aspects of my life. However, something happened recently which reminded me of some less fun stuff, and I felt compelled to talk about it.

For those of you who don't know I have Bipolar Disorder. I'm coping fairly well the bulk of the time. I'm medicated, I'm working on a care plan with my doctors and I'm doing a decent job of exorcising toxic influences from my life. I haven't self-harmed in four months, and it's been a long time since I was unable to go to work due to depression. It's mostly been good. Mostly.

That last two years, in some ways, were really great. In others they were challenging. Very, very challenging. In fact 2014/2015 were nearly the death of me, more than once. That's not a joke or a turn of phrase, I mean it very seriously. On two occasions in the last 15 months my suicidal thoughts almost became more than thoughts. I don't really want or need to get into the details of those hideous days. Misery is a self-nourishing monster, and sometimes we can break the cycle ourselves, and sometimes we can't. I'm in therapy and taking 100mg of quetiapine/seroquel daily, and this goes a long way to helping keep me safe. However, I would like to recognise some of the non-medical things that have stopped me from going to the darkest places in my mind.

My Band

This sounds like a cliché, but my band

Trash Panda

has been such an incredible outlet. Not just because writing songs about my heartbreaks and depression has helped me make sense of it all, but because I have made amazing friendships with these three boys, and knowing that I get to spend several hours a month making loud noises with them can help me push through dark days, and they're always there when I need them.

My Friends, Both "Real" and "Virtual"

I've been geographically isolated from a lot of my friends since I moved to the countryside, and that's been a challenge. I still see and talk to my uni and school friends when I can, but modern life is tricky and I'm terrible at staying in touch with people. I have kind of found my refuge in social media, especially within the blogging community. It's crazy that even five years ago it was considered a bit unusual and creepy to make friends on the internet, but right now, I don't know what I'd do without my "web friends".

My Pets

I have so much love for animals in general, but obviously there is a spectacularly special place in my heart for my own pets. I have seven bunnies, a beautiful dog called Buffy and a small tropical fish tank with bala sharks, tetras, minnows and a shrimp called Sid. Not only do they make me happy with their clowning, cuddles and mere presence, but taking care of them provides even my worst days with structure. During those grim periods where I don't want to face the world, I know I have to get up and feed my creatures and make sure all their needs are met.

Creative Efforts

I have read a number of studies about the psychological benefits of doing creative things. For me, I find a huge sense of pleasure and accomplishment in doing creative projects, regardless of what they are. Even just the activity can help engage me, especially when I'm having a manic episode.

YouTube

When I can't work up the energy to make things, YouTube can provide a distraction from my mutinying mind. Mindlessly watching playlists doesn't solve or cure anything, but it can give me something to focus on when I'd rather not concentrate on myself, and a little laugh goes a long way.

Family

My family, I think it's fair to say, aren't particularly clued up about mental illness. I went to boarding school when I was eight, and I've spent years hiding my mental struggles and breakdowns, so we're working on our communication. They're going to get involved in my developing care plan, and I'm trying to be more open about what I need. All that aside, being at home has been the best thing for me, especially last year when I hit some really deep lows. Rather than living alone and bunkering in when my depression really hits, having my family around me forces me to function a little better. They don't always get it right, and we all have a lot to learn, but they're trying. And more than that, they're my family. Even just watching TV with my mum or chatting with my brother about trivial stuff can make me feel a bit more normal, and that can help set me back on balance. And as much as we argue and rub each other up the wrong way, a hug from my family can really help on days when only a hug will do.

If you have any concerns about your mental health then please, please get in touch with your GP. It might not be a quick or easy process, but you deserve to have your mental health addressed and taken seriously. Don't suffer in silence.

5 Times to Keep Your Mouth Shut

This week has been a bit interesting on Twitter. A couple of girls have taken it upon themselves to drag a friend of mine for offering various blogger services, and then subsequently slagged her off for writing a post championing sisterly support. One of these mean-spirited girls has now written a post effectively saying that she believes that offering unsolicited criticism is “healthy” and that instigating arguments is something she enjoys.

Well, good for you mate. If being bitter, underhand and vindictive is your thing, don't let me stop you.

I happen to be the kind of girl who grew up with the philosophy of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”. I was bullied physically and verbally at school, and a lot of that bullying came in the form of “criticism”. People making uninvited comments about my appearance, taste in music, preference for books or lack of social skills may have been interpreted as “helpful comments” from the bullies but on the receiving end, it just felt like being ripped apart by people who hated and derided everything I was. When you “criticise” someone, you could well be making fun of someone’s identity, or acknowledging and highlighting perceived flaws that they’re already well aware of, and sensitive about.

This face sums up how I feel about your mean opinions.
In short; when you say something negative about someone, they could take it badly. You’d think this was common sense, but some of the conversations I’ve had on Twitter this week would indicate contrarily. Some people clearly enjoy being unpleasant to others and social media gives them a platform to spread their nasty opinions to huge audiences.

HOWEVER, if you’re a positive sort of a person and don’t derive a sick sense of pleasure from publicly tearing other people down, here’s a handy list of occasions where you should probably keep quiet.

1. If you don’t like someone’s selfie
If someone’s posted a photo of themselves and you don’t like their eyeshadow choice or their fluffy coat, don’t say anything. If they haven’t asked for an opinion, don’t give one. Say something nice, or say nothing.

I see a lot of posts on social media of people (mostly girls) asking for help in choosing an outfit, or for a lipstick to go with what they’re wearing. In these cases you’re obviously invited to give an opinion, and by all means do so. Though, if you are a positive sort of a person, do it by complimenting the things you DO like, rather than criticising the things you don’t. Positive reinforcement is just so much better than negative.

Of course, if the reason you don’t like it is because they’re in blackface, pissing on graves or murdering babies then you crack on and shred them. But if you think their lipstick is too dark for their skin tone, don’t say a word.

2. If you don’t see the use in a service someone is offering
This is close to home for me this week. As previously mentioned, one of my friends was viciously subtweeted for offering blogger services, purely because someone didn’t see the value in it.

Now, I dye and cut my own hair, and I take control of my own personal grooming; eyebrows, manicures, body hair removal, I do it all at home. But you’ll never see me on a public platform being rude about beauticians and the people who visit them. By the same token, just because you don’t see the point of something doesn’t mean others will feel the same. By being rude about this service you run the risk of angering or upsetting both the provider and the users. If it’s not for you, that’s totally fine, but you probably don’t need to share that opinion with the world. They’re not hurting anyone by offering their skills, but you might be causing hurt by being dismissive about them.

3. When someone gets insignificant details wrong in a story
This is something my mum is particularly bad at doing.

Picture the scene: you’re at a family dinner and telling one of your favourite anecdotes, and all of a sudden someone cuts you off to clarify an inconsequential detail. It throws your flow. At best it makes you look like your memory is dodgy. At worst, you look like a liar. It makes you feel stupid, not to mention annoyed.

This kind of nit-picking is so unnecessary, and it doesn’t make anyone look good. Don’t do it. Don’t be that person.

4. If you’re not keen on someone’s wedding choices
Recently a very good friend of mine got in touch with me in a bit of a state. She’d been showing someone the engagement rings she likes, only for that person to be super disparaging, saying that my friend’s choices were “common”, “not expensive enough” and “not special or unique”. My friend couldn’t quite explain why she was so affected by this, but long story short she was very upset.

Some people know for years and years what they want from their wedding and their engagement. Your wedding is an important day, and the aesthetic choices you make for that day are a reflection of your sense of style, your relationship and your identity as a whole. So, when you criticise someone’s decisions about their wedding or engagement rings, you’re not just criticising that individual thing, you’re criticising the person. Also, if their partner bought the ring for them it could be the best they could afford. If you’re rude about that, you’re opening up a whole can of worms.

Their choice of ring doesn’t affect you in any way. If they want a fist-sized rock or an amethyst the size of an ant, that’s their taste. Likewise, if they want jam jars filled with pansies at their reception and you think that’s tacky then keep your trap shut and just don’t do it at your wedding.

5. Just after a break up
I’ll admit, I’ve fallen into this trap before, so learn from my mistakes guys! When a friend has just gone through a break up, it’s very easy to say things like, “We always hated him” or “She was always a bitch”. This might make your friend feel better in the short run, but it creates one hell of an awkward mess if they ever get back together with that person.

Also, even if they’re done with them for good, your friend will probably be quite emotionally vulnerable shortly after their relationship has come to an end. Any attacks on their former partner could be taken completely the wrong way. It’s probably safer to concentrate on taking care of your friend, rather than on cussing out their ex.


Ultimately, the internet is a free-for-all and you can do and say as you please. It’s just worth remembering that, whenever you open your mouth or press “send” you’re opening yourself up to criticism, argument and potentially some hate. The best way to avoid that is to keep it positive and only send out the kind of vibes you want in return. 


10 Things to Consider Before Getting a Rabbit

You only need to take a quick look at my Instagram to see that I’m a big fan of animals in general. I love fish (and I have a small tank), I love both local and exotic wildlife, and I even have a soft spot bugs and insects. I’m not keen on arachnids, sloths or horseflies, but for the most part I have a huge emotional investment in animals. In fact, my day job largely involves writing pet care guides. In addition to my small tropical fish tank, I have a dog named Buffy, and I have bunnies. Seven of them. 

I often get comments on my rabbit photos from people saying how much they want one, or questions from people thinking about buying their first rabbit. I love my rabbits and I wouldn’t give them up for the world, but I feel like it’s important for any aspiring bunny owner to know a few things before they head off in search of a new pet.

1) One is not enough



If you’re home a lot and you are planning to keep your rabbit as a house bunny, then you can just about get away with having just one rabbit. However, if your rabbit is going to live outside, or if it’ll be home alone all day they need a friend. Rabbits get lonely, just like people do, and just as you need human friends as well as animal ones, your rabbit needs buddies of the same species. Bunny bonding can be a tricky process, which usually works better with two neutered (i.e. castrated/spayed) rabbits of opposite genders.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule; I’ve successfully bonded a neutered male with an “entire” one, and they’re the best of mates. I’ve also got a group of five, comprised of three unspayed females and two neutered males, and they get on very well. However, you are making more work for yourself this way, and the bond could be harder.

2) Rabbits need rescuing


When you walk into a pet shop, often the first thing you’re greeted with is a pen full of baby rabbits of different breeds, colours and sizes, so it’s little wonder that lots of people see the pet store as their first stop to finding a bunny. However, buying animals from pet shops can actually be a bit of an ethical nightmare. First and foremost, I recommend against buying animals from pet shops when you can rescue instead.

I never aspired to rabbit ownership and I took on my first rabbit (Thomas) because I got into conversation with his previous owner, who was desperate to rehome him. Since then I’ve rescued or fostered nine more rabbits from people who were giving them up for various reasons, and this was just in my local area. Ok, so rescuing means you probably won’t get a baby rabbit (called a kit or kitten) but adult rabbits can be just as affectionate, funny and adorable as a baby can.

3) Check your sources


As much as I advocate rescuing over buying, I would strongly recommend that first-time or inexperienced owners rescue from a shelter, not from individuals. Shelters will generally vaccinate, neuter and assess the rabbits they care for, so you know what you’re getting in terms of temperament. They may even bond two appropriate bunnies together, so you can adopt a friendly pair right from day one.

If you do decide to rescue a “pre-loved” rabbit from another owner, then you have to be prepared for potential health and behavioural problems. I ended up having an accidental litter of babies after adopting a pair I was assured were both female, only to find for myself that “Alice” was in fact a boy. He’s still called Alice though. I also lost one of my rescue boys to a kidney problem brought on by a very poor diet and care routine with his previous owner. Bottom line, if you adopt from another person, prepare yourself for heartbreak and/or hefty vet bills. Speaking of which…

4) Bunnies aren’t cheap


Having seven rabbits means I’ve got pretty savvy when it comes to buying things in bulk and grabbing things when they’re on sale. I have to be a smart shopper, or else the costs become completely crazy. To be honest, if I wasn’t currently living at home I’m fairly certain I’d be almost unmanageably tight for cash, and rabbits (depending on their breed and overall health) can live 8-12 years. This means, all going well, I’m going to be a rabbit owner into my 30s. A rabbit should be eating its own bodyweight in hay every day, as well as a small regular mix of veggies and pellets. As well as the basics like food and bedding, I also put money aside every month in case of unexpected vet bills. Which leads me on to…

5) Find a good vet


Not every vet you’ll meet will be particularly rabbit-savvy. Your local surgery might be great with dogs and cats, but that’s no guarantee they have much experience or expertise dealing with bunnies. You need to make sure there’s both a regular and emergency vet that you can get to easily for routine check-ups and in case of a sudden injury or illness. If, like me, you are relatively friendly with your vet you might be able to negotiate a package deal on your regular vaccinations (if your rabbit lives outside then you want to vaccinate them against myxomatosis and RVHD, both of which are deadly and highly contagious.) Unless you’re planning to breed (and you probably shouldn’t breed anyway) you should get your rabbits neutered if they aren’t already. This prevents pregnancy, but there a host of other benefits, like eliminating the risk of reproductive cancers or other illnesses.

6) Breeding is generally a bad idea


I have very strong and mixed opinions about pet breeding. I understand preserving breeds through sparing and responsible breeding is important, but that isn’t always what happens. I have had two accidental litters of rabbit babies, once due to a confusion over genders and once because of an opportunistic mating by two who were let loose by a neighbour’s child. My experience both times was pretty heartbreaking, and though I did everything I could and took my vet’s advice with both litters, I only have one surviving baby out of 17. It cast a bit of a dark cloud over my summer and while baby rabbits are very cute once they start growing fur and hopping about, many don’t make it that far. If you really, really want to breed I can’t stop you, but please think really hard about whether it’s the right thing to do. If you decide you want to then please get the advice of an expert and prepare for a very rough ride.

7) Winter is hard work


One of my favourite things to do in the summer is laze in the sun, in the garden, and just hang out with my rabbits. I love watching them play, munch on fresh grass and just generally do the kind of stuff that bunnies do. I don’t even mind cleaning out hutches when it’s nice outside. But I live in England. In England we get nice weather for maybe a month and a half of the year. This means that, for the rest of the year, I’m scrubbing grubby hutches in the rain, hail, frost and even snow. It also means that throughout the winter, I’m getting up 45 minutes earlier to defrost water bottles in the dark, change out extra bedding and make sure everyone has extra food. It’s cold, it’s gloomy and I have to do it in a sort of zombified auto-pilot. It’s not fun. If you would rather have the extra sleep then I don’t blame you, but it probably means you’re not ready for a rabbit.

8) Prepare to be dirty – a lot


If the idea of dealing with pee, poop and mud on a daily basis is an unimaginable horror to you, then you really shouldn’t get a pet. Other things I have to deal with daily are: getting hay stuck in my clothes, fingers and hair; spiders; slugs; snails; grubby shoes; and checking all seven rabbits have clean butts so they don’t get fly strike (where flies lay eggs in your rabbit’s fur, and your rabbit gets eaten alive by maggots – it’s revolting, painful, deadly, and very real). If you can’t picture a life where you have to deal with any and all of these things, then you may not be a rabbit person.

9) Your rabbit might not like you

Rabbits may look like passive little furballs, but they have personalities and opinions. You need to make peace with the idea that their opinion of you might not be too great. Most rabbits can be won over in time, especially when they come to realise that you are the Food Person. However, at least at the beginning, you can’t expect them to want cuddles and attention, and the majority of rabbits don’t like to be picked up. If you want a furry creature that will tolerate poking, prodding and posing for photos then get a teddy bear. Just like any inter-human friendship, you have to put some work in.

10) You’ll become a crazy bunny person


There’s a joke that goes: “How do you know there’s a rabbit-owner in the room? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” This has absolutely been the case in my experience. I’m bad enough, but any rabbit-owning friends and acquaintances I have made are just the same. Personally, I don’t care. They’re a part of my life as much as my band, my job and my other hobbies, so of course I’m going to talk about them. But just try not to be one of those people who uses even the vaguest tangent to show of photos of their rabbits. Nobody likes that person. Except on twitter, then it’s totally allowed.


I promise I’m not trying to put you off having a pet. Rabbits are awesome little weirdos and I love mine to death. It’s just incredibly important to think long and hard before you take responsibility for another life.


Using Hyperlinks: How, What, Where, When and Why?

As a community, we bloggers are getting a lot more switched on when it comes to the techie stuff. DAs, PAs, SEO scores and at least basic code are becoming a regular part of our language. This is brilliant, especially as, for most of us, this is something we’ve had to learn on our own. For my part, I picked up odds and sods of HTML when I was a teenager playing with Myspace templates, and the rest I’ve learned on the job as a content writer and working alongside SEO companies.

I think it‘s fantastic that bloggers are taking it upon themselves to learn basic coding and web design skills. I’m absolutely not disregarding the value of a professional web designer, but for bloggers just starting out, or running routine maintenance, it’s really helpful to understand at least basic bits and bobs of HTML. However, recently I’ve spotted a slew of similar errors, and noticed some general confusion surrounding one of the most commonly-used pieces of code: hyperlinks.

What’s a Hyperlink?

Starting at the beginning, a hyperlink is a handy little function where, instead of having a full URL displayed in a piece of text, you display a piece of text which, when clicked, takes you to a target URL. You’ve probably used them a billion times before, whether or not you knew what they were called or how to make them. There are basically four types of Hyperlink we’re going to talk about here: Basic, No Follow, New Window, and Image.

A Basic Hyperlink operates exactly how you’d expect: you click on it and you are directed to the target webpage, within the same window or tab where the hyperlink was. These basic hyperlinks can be seen by Google and other SEO ranking programs called “bots” which crawl your site looking through your content at code level. It’s these bots which determine your SEO scores, DA, PA etc. Having relevant, authoritative links on your own site, and having hyperlinks to your site elsewhere on the internet, can improve these rankings. This is why doing guest posts, getting involved in other bloggers’ projects or appearing on the websites of brands you’ve worked with can be beneficial for you.

A No Follow Hyperlink works in the same way, and you won’t notice a difference in how they function. However, under the hood there is some extra stuff going on in the code, which is quite important. The No Follow attribute means that, when the crawl bots find these links, they are told not to count it. Based on what I’ve told you so far this might seem like a terrible idea, but bear with me. Yes, having relevant, appropriate, authoritative links on your page is good. But the links have to be valuable. Linking to the same thing too many times in the same blog can be interpreted as spamming by the crawl bots, and you could be penalised. So, there are some occasions where you’ll want to include a link for reasons like user experience or for driving traffic to your blog from other sites where a No Follow link is your best bet. Basically, sometime you need readers to have access to a link, but you don’t want Google seeing it. More on this later. Also, and this is very important, you should always use a No Follow link if you’re linking to something you were paid to mention. So, if you’re doing a sponsored post on a product you must use a No Follow link. These are not my rules, they are Google’s rules. If a brand tells you to use a Basic link you have to refuse or you will be penalised.

New Window Hyperlinks, as the name suggests, opens the link you clicked (you guessed it) in a new window. This requires an added bit of code, and can be applied to Basic and No Follow links. Within my own blog I always pop this into my code. Again, you’ll find out why later.

Finally, Image Hyperlinks are used so you can click an image and be taken to another webpage. This image takes the place of the text in any other kind of Hyperlink, and can be used with Basic, No Follow and New Window links.

Phew. Next up…

When can I use Hyperlinks?

Hyperlinks are useful in so many contexts. You can use them within your own blog to link to relevant external content, such as sources, products or to your social media. These are called external links.

You can also use hyperlinks to send your readers to other posts, relevant to the one you’re writing, for instance if you’re writing a series or if you are following some kind of theme. For example, if you posted about being sent a skirt for review, and then you wear the same skirt later in an OOTD post, you could link to the review within the new piece. These are known as internal links.

You can also apply the same logic to images to turn them into “buttons” (like the ones you usually see in footers and sidebars, for instance my social media interaction buttons on the right). The code for this is slightly different, but I’ll touch on this later. You can use these images in your own site as part of the design, or you can create a button that advertises your blog, and place them on other sites.

And, finally, it’s becoming quite common for bloggers to whip up a nifty little hyperlink to leave in comments on other people’s blogs by way of a signature.

Why should I use Hyperlinks? And which ones should I use?

In your own blog, external links enhance user experience by putting all of the information readers want at their fingertips; you wouldn’t want to read a blog all about a product and then have to trawl the web to find it, would you? You want to be able to click once and find it immediately, and Hyperlinks make this possible without cluttering your post up with full web addresses. If you are linking to a specific page within a website (i.e. anything other than the homepage) you will usually want to use a No Follow link. If you are linking to a homepage (i.e. another blog, but not a single post) then it’s up to you, but I would use a Basic Hyperlink. Whether or not you want to enable the New Window part of the code is up to you, but I usually do. This way you reduce your bounce rate (i.e. people who view one page and then exit your blog altogether) and make it easier for people to read your blog while still open links as they go along. In fact, as a general rule, I like to add the New Window function to any links I leave.

By using internal links, you keep your audience engaged by presenting your blog as an unfolding narrative and helps you to make all of your content continually relevant. Internal links help to reduce your bounce rate, and when used sparingly and appropriately, they can help to improve your SEO rating. For internal links, you want to use Basic Hyperlinks, and it’s your call whether to use the New Window attribute, but I would. For the most part, for internal linking, you want to use Basic Hyperlinks for SEO improvement, however if you’re linking to the same piece a lot, or finding that you need to use a lot of internal links in one piece, use a No Follow one. Balance and moderation are important.

The logic behind using buttons over plain text URLs should be obvious: my sidebar would look horrible with a list of web addresses in it. The little buttons just look tidier, as well as making it clear which pages you’ll be linked to by using the relevant logos. You also need to know how to do this if you want a button to put on other websites: it’s all well and good to visually advertise yourself and your blog, but if people can’t click through to it they probably won’t bother. In your blog, for social media, use No Follows. Social media sites don’t need better SEO. They’re fine. When making your buttons you must add the No Follow attribute, because the same principal applies as is does to sponsored posts. If it’s been paid for, it must be No Follow, or both you and the person displaying your ad can be penalised.

When it comes to leaving hyperlinks in comments, I just think this looks a bit neater and more professional than leaving your full blog URL in a comment, and it can drive traffic to your blog. In this instance you can get away with using a Basic hyperlink now and again to help improve your backlinks and, by extension, your SEO score (especially on prominent blogs with good DA scores). However, if you comment a lot, you should tend towards using No Follow links. This is polite to the blog owner as it stops Google from thinking they have lots of spammy links, and it’s better for you because Google doesn’t think that you are a spammer while still driving traffic to your site. It’s a win-win.

How do I make a Hyperlink?

Finally, the important bit.

Within most word processing programs, and the posting features of most blogging platforms, there is usually a feature that allows you to create links automatically, without ever even having to think about code. On Blogger, for instance, you highlight the text you want to use, click the little picture of a chain link, and insert your destination URL. It even gives you the option to add the No Follow and/or New Window attributes for you. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But hold up, amigos. Just because the computer CAN do the work for you, doesn’t mean it should. You’ll never learn if you let robots do all your hard graft. That’s how the androids will eventually take over the world. Ok, sorry, I’ll take my tinfoil hat off, but the point still stands. Knowing how to make these codes from scratch, whether or not you’ll regularly NEED to, can help you when I comes to bits of basic web design, not to mention troubleshooting if your automatic code isn’t functioning the way it should. It also means that if, and when, people are leaving busted code in your site you can get in touch with them and let them know how to fix it. That way you don’t end up with SEO-negative broken links on your site, and they will be happy with their sparkly, new, functional code.

So, how do you write a Basic Hyperlink?

<a href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/">Elena Bjørn</a>

That is a basic Hyperlink for my blog, which would display like this: Elena Bjørn. The highlighted text on the right can be edited to say whatever you like, while the URL on the left can be swapped out for the relevant target URL. So, say you wanted to link to a friend’s blog. You’d put their URL on the left and their name on the right, like I did in one of the above paragraphs for Holly.

If you want to make a No Follow link, you do exactly the same, except you add rel=”no follow” between the a and the href parts. In other words:

<a rel=”no follow” href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/">Elena Bjørn</a>

This will display like any other link. To make either of these link types open in a new window, you add target="_blank" after the URL but before the text. So, for a Basic link:

<a href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/"target="_blank">Elena Bjørn</a>

And for a No Follow link:

<a rel=”no follow” href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/"target="_blank">Elena Bjørn</a>

And, finally, if you want to do any of these types of link, but have a photo instead of text, you pop your image onto an image hosting site, or host it on your own servers if you’re that way inclined (though if you are you’re probably too advanced to need this post) and grab the image code. This includes the image’s URL and any borders or dimensions. Then, paste that into the place where the text would ordinarily be (in my examples that’s the highlighted text that says Brave Mermaid.) Don’t just plop in the URL of your image or it’ll display the URL of your image as a hyperlink to your target URL and that’s just too noggin-boggling to cope with. Your image code should look something like this:

<img src="http://i1308.photobucket.com/albums/s602/BraveMermaid/button_zpsdunykv8s.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo button_zpsdunykv8s.jpg"/>

So, all together, it's going to look something like this:

<a rel=”no follow” href="http://www.elenabjxrn.com/"target="_blank"><img src="http://i1308.photobucket.com/albums/s602/BraveMermaid/button_zpsdunykv8s.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo button_zpsdunykv8s.jpg"/></a>

If you've been paying attention, you’ll notice that I’ve included the No Follow and New Window attributes here, because that’s how you’re usually going to use these kinds of links. In situ, this just so happens to be my blog button.

Things to remember!

  • If it links to something you were paid for, always use No Follow.

  • If you’re worried you’re linking too much in comments on other blogs, be selective. Use Basic links on bigger blogs, and No Follows on smaller ones, or ones you comment on frequently. Don’t be spammy. Nobody likes a spammer.

  • Check your code works, especially if you’re using it in comments.

  • If it doesn’t display look at it. Have you made sure the full URL is in the code? Excluding the http://www. will stop it from working. If you’re sure all your code is correct and it still doesn’t display properly in a comment, chances are HTML commenting is disabled on that blog.

  • Ask someone if you’re not sure. A second pair of eyes is sometimes all it takes. Proof reading is tricky enough, let alone in a second language. Because, really, that’s what code is: a whole new robot language.

So, I hope this has helped make sense of this common, but deceptively tricky, little chunk of code. If you have any questions please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to help!

If you think you've nailed the code, why not leave me a nice hyperlink to your blog in the comments? Remember to make sure it works!

The Equality Collection: Not So Equal

Clothes: BOB by DOP Model: Angela Scanlon Photography: © David Loftus
I loved Dawn O’Porter’s Channel 4 series about vintage and sustainable fashion last year. I loved it when she opened an online vintage and vintage-inspired clothing boutique. I loved it when she opened pop up shops. So when I saw the press release for her Equality Collection I think it’s fair to say I got a bit overexcited.

It started with so much promise; a print called “Love Wins” is described as a “funny and vibrant print featuring couples of all shapes, sizes, creeds, colours, sexes and even species”. That sounds cute. It looks nice in the little image accompanying the press release.

The “Boys Toys” print promotes genderless play, by putting typically “boy” toys into a print on women’s clothing. I mean, from what I can see it’s mostly a dinosaur print but whatever, I like dinosaurs! I’m sold!

And then there’s the “Women Are Boss” dress, using images of mums, office workers and women just doing stuff. That’s cool too – acknowledging that women can fulfil multiple roles is a great thing, and turning it into a print is an interesting concept. So far, so good.

And then, hidden away in the final paragraph, I see the words: Each piece is a limited edition with sizes ranging from 8-16*”.

Oh. Oh dear.

The UK average dress size is 16. As someone who could probably only just about squeeze into the largest size this collection has to offer, I still have to ask: what is “equal” about a collection that only caters to the UK average dress size and smaller? In fact, what is “equal” about a collection that features fat people on a fabric, but doesn’t make sizes that would allow real fat people to wear the print? Nothing. There’s nothing equal about that.

I think this collection’s heart is in the right place and the pieces themselves look lovely. Dawn O’Porter says in the press release:

Fashion and politics go hand in hand, the way women dressed throughout history changed the way they were able to live their lives. Anyone who denies that clothes are not powerful and a huge part of feminism is massively missing the point. Designers from previous decades created shapes and ideas that transformed what it meant to be female, and now I get to take those vintage styles and incorporate a modern sensibility. The Equality Collection prints are beautiful and funny, but they also carry a serious message. Our prints look fantastic, but they also have a lot to say.’

That’s all well and good, Dawn, but a truly “modern sensibility” would take into account the actual bodies of modern women, and as such women above a size 16 should be considered. Evidently BOB by DOP haven’t done this.

Plus size women are used to brands not catering to us. We’re used to being excluded from limited edition ranges and high-fashion brands. It’s frustrating and upsetting that the majority of retailers are happy to provide for women up to 5 sizes below the average size, but will only usually stretch to a size 18 on the higher end. The fact that this collection doesn’t have anything larger than a 16* on its own would be disappointing, but the fact that the clothing actually has fat people in the prints without providing fat people with an inclusive size range is borderline fetishistic. It’s definitely exploitative. It’s really just a complete fail.

If you're happy to put fat people on your clothes, you should be willing to put fat people in them too.

*UPDATE:

Since I published this blog, Dawn O'Porter tweeted me to say that her press release mistakenly stated the size range. Apparently they stock sizes 8-18. Except in the skirt. I argued that this wasn't really much better. She also said that the two plus size people clearly seen on the shirt in the image above are normal-sized people in "giant animal costumes". Draw your own conclusions from that one.