I'm a Bad Person - But I'm Trying to Be Better

I wrote a while back about how I used to be racist, and how I grew up and, through my life experiences and because of wonderful people I have met, my worldview drastically changed. Living with white privilege (or any privilege) means constantly adjusting to be the best ally you can be, and I don't always get it right.

I'm a bad person, and this cup of coffee is part of the reason

What does coffee have to do with being a bad person, you ask? Read on!

Taking a hard look at your own behaviour can be really difficult. Facing up to your own bad habits and mistakes isn't an easy task, but sometimes it's the first step to making improvements to your lifestyle and the way you treat the world around you. I know I don't tread as lightly or live as nobly as I can, or should. So, in the interests of becoming a (slightly) better person, here is a list of reasons that I'm a bad person, and how I plan to better myself.

(Ok, maybe "bad person" is a bit strong, though maybe it isn't. But whether you think these things make me objectively a "bad person" or subjectively "morally wobbly" that's your call.)

1. Using non-cruelty-free makeup

If you asked me how I felt about non-CF makeup I'd say "There's no real excuse for using makeup tested on animals, especially if you call yourself an animal-lover. There are so many options and awesome CF brands, there's no reason to support brands that are complicit in animal abuse." Yet, if you looked in my makeup box or even my handbag you'd find a ton of lipsticks from Rimmel and Maybelline and Urban Decay, which either sell in China (and therefore their products are tested on animals) or are owned by parent companies which do the same. If I think about someone forcing my animals through the torture of cosmetics testing I fill with rage and sadness, so the fact that I've knowingly supported companies that pay for animals to be used in this way actually makes me feel a bit sick.

BUT I've fully committed to only replacing my used makeup/cosmetics/bath and beauty products with cruelty-free, vegan alternatives. I haven't totally settled on whether I'll continue to use CF brands owned by non-CF parent companies, but what I can say is that I won't be buying from brands that sell in China and therefore allow mandatory animal testing of their products. I've already ordered some stuff from Tarte! What's more, when I've finally moved into my own house, I also plan to use CF and vegan cleaning products in my home.

2. Using an ad blocker

This might not sound like a "bad" thing on the surface, but using an ad blocker means that the producers of online media you consume, from news sites to blogs and YouTube videos don't get their ad revenue. Some creators rely on these paychecks to survive, particularly YouTubers. If I think about it, it seems unfair that I'd undercut the earnings of people whose work I enjoy and admire for the sake of saving 30 seconds, or avoiding a banner here and there.

BUT when I can afford it I do contribute to content creators whose work I regularly watch/read via Patreon or other similar schemes, and I plan to get organised so I can whitelist certain sites to allow their ads. I also buy merch that my favourite musicians/YouTubers bring out, and retweet/share sponsored posts that my friends do. In fact, my beautiful new header was done by my blogging friend, Kelly. Check out her work and hire her, she's awesome.

3. Contributing to "fast fashion"

I think it's fair to say I'm not very "trendy". I mean, I'm secure in my sense of style, but my style isn't exactly stylish, if you catch my meaning.

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me rant recently about how modern life prizes convenience over ethics, and this is very true of the fashion industry. Most of us know that in order to produce large volumes of clothing very cheaply, companies rely on exploitative working environments for their factory labourers. In short, this means sweatshops, pitifully low wages, dangerous working conditions and, in some cases, slave labour and the forced employment of children. If this is something you care about on any level, I highly recommend you do some research - it really is eye-opening. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I put my disgust at the abuse of vulnerable, impoverished workers aside for a cute, cheap item of clothing.

BUT I'm trying really hard not to let consumer culture get the better of me, and to only buy clothes from charity shops or ethical companies. I also want to try my hand at making my own clothes and I want to focus on being more inventive with clothes I already own instead of feeling a constant need to buy new things.

Yes, my beloved car is also part of the problem...

4. Speeding

In all fairness, this is not on purpose. I am a fairly new driver, and a generally absent-minded person. Now and again if I'm driving alone, or it's night time, or there are no other cars on the road, I just don't pay as much attention to my speed as I should. This may sound like pretty average behaviour, but really there's no excuse for it, especially when you bear in mind that excessive speed is the 2nd most common cause of car accidents. Every time I get in the car I think to myself "remember your speed" and yet on most journeys I find myself at least a couple of miles over the speed limit.

BUT fixing this bad behaviour is simply a case of paying more attention. Apple's new update even means that the Maps app shows the speed limit of whatever road you're on, which will be a help. Considering how anxious I used to be about driving, careful motoring should be in my nature.

5. Wasting resources

Laziness isn't an excuse, but it is the reason. I leave things plugged in, I leave the tap running while I brush my teeth, I leave the shower running while I condition my hair, I drive when I could feasibly walk or take public transport, I don't use food in my fridge and have to throw it away, I use plastic straws... the list is, to my shame, somewhat endless.

BUT, first things first, I've ordered these reusable straws so I can stop using plastic ones, and plan to take my reuseable coffee cup with me when I go to coffee shops. I will start turning the tap off while I'm actually brushing my teeth or conditioning my hair, and I'll try and be more organised about making food, using food scraps and turning appliances off at the wall when they're not actually in use.

Ok, so maybe doing all of these things just means I'm a fallible, lazy product of consumer culture. But I don't have to be a fallible, lazy product of consumer culture. I hope that writing all this down and owning up to it is the first step to making myself accountable and doing a better job.

No, I Don't Have to Respect Your Opinions

Cute plant babies soothe my irate soul
I don't want to talk about the politics any more. I don't have anything left to give for now, I just don't. I've run dry.

Instead, I'm going to have to talk about something else. I'm going to talk about this statement, which makes up about half of my Facebook and Twitter feeds:

"I have a right to my opinion. Your opinion is no better than anyone else's."

With respect, that is bollocks, and you know it is.

Imagine a scientist is leading a lecture about Earth's atmosphere. Specifically he's talking about the colour of the sky, and why it's blue. He presents all the scientific evidence, counter-arguments and reasoning, and says, "And that's why the sky looks blue on clear days."

Now imagine someone at the back of the lecture hall says, "Well, I don't believe it. I believe that the sky is made of cheese and that the cheese in question is bright yellow. You're wrong."

The scientist is a bit baffled, but asks the other man, "What leads you to believe this, despite all of the evidence to the contrary?"

The man at the back crosses his arms and says, "I don't need evidence, mate. It's my opinion. You can't tell me my opinion is wrong."

Are you seriously suggesting that the scientist's assertion that the sky is blue is of equal validity to the other man's completely fabricated idea of the yellow cheese sky? Of course not.

This is why I absolutely do not accept this woolly, kumbaya rubbish. An incontrovertible fact, or an opinion based on one, is OBVIOUSLY of more value than one pulled out of someone's arse. Besides which, if you really believe that "everyone is entitled to hold an opinion without being challenged on it", then you can't challenge my opinion that your opinion is a shower of shit.

Ultimately, people who rely on "Well that's my opinion and I have a right to my opinion" only argue that because they have no actual leg to stand on. If you're finding yourself relying on "It's my opinion" then have a look at what you're basing your opinion on, because it's likely to be insubstantial.

Additionally, when you say you "don't believe" in something, bear in mind that if it actually happens/exists, what you mean is that you don't "agree".

"I don't believe in casual sex". It happens. It exists. You can't "not believe" in something if it's real. You mean you don't agree with it.

"I don't believe in homosexuality". You mean you're a homophobe. Because gay folk exist. You don't get the option of "not believing".

"I don't believe in being transgender." Again, hundreds of thousands of trans people have existed through time. You mean you're transphobic. Because, here's the deal. You think by saying you "don't believe" in something you're implying that you can't help what you feel about it. Agreement, on the other hand, is a choice. It's affected by upbringing/environment, but you still choose whether you agree with something.

By saying you "don't believe" in something that you actually don't AGREE with you're trying to shirk responsibility for your opinion. Presenting it as a "belief" not an "opinion" is your way of saying that you can't help what you think, when actually you absolutely can. You're basically saying "I think this thing is bad, but that's not my fault" rather than "I think this is bad, and that's my opinion." It's also implying that your opinion is some kind of immovable spiritual pillar, rather than subject to change or persuasion. Agreement is open to debate, discussion and change. Framing an opinion as belief is an attempt to shut that down.

So by saying "I don't believe in this" you're actually saying "I think this thing is bad, don't try and tell me otherwise."

The implication of "believing" is that there's no concrete/absolute proof of the thing's existence/efficacy, but you put faith in it anyway i.e. you can't know for certain that it's definitely real, or that it definitely works, but something in you makes you think it is/does.

Things you can "believe" in are deities, spirituality, homeopathic medicine, magic, soulmates, horoscopes, ghosts, unicorns, an afterlife.

Things that exist, beyond doubt, are religion, witches, stars, LGBTQA+ people, people who have casual/premarital sex, marriage.

So, for an example of the nuance, you can "not believe" in God, but you can't "not believe" in religion, because it definitely exists.

What you mean is "I don't believe in God, and I don't agree with religion." You see the difference?

(To make it clear, "belief" can also apply to things that exist, but haven't been proven to fulfill their intended purpose. For instance, reiki, homepathy, tarot reading, runes, horoscopes, divination in general etc. So you can "not believe" in crystal healing, but you can't "not believe" in blood transfusions/chemotherapy/organ transplants.)

It's an abuse of nuance, not necessarily intentional, but it's a way to throw a shit bomb and then claim you don't stink.

When you say "I don't believe in being gay" you mean you have a moral objection to it. That's not about belief, not really. It's a choice. Much like you believe in God, but you choose your religion/church. You choose what part of the bible to adhere to and what to ignore. And honestly, that's totally ok. That's your choice. But don't pretend that it ISN'T a choice. Own your opinions, take responsibility.

Basically, if you say you "don't believe" in something that is proven to exist, you need to have a little think about your opinions. It might not be intentional, but you're trying to abandon responsibility for your thoughts/feelings/behaviour and deflect conversation.

And, by definition, if you don't agree with the LGBTQA+ community you are homo/trans/bi/aro/queer/acephobic. That is the literal truth.

If you don't "agree" with gender/racial equality then BY DEFINITION you are sexist/racist.

Calling an opinion a belief doesn't change that. You are what you are.

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:

I think that the way slaughterhouses operate is acceptable.

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

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.


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!

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.

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. 

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.


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.

Body Positivity and Weightloss

Me (in the green dress) at my highest weight
This is it: the first day of the rest of our lives. A new year is just beginning and the decadence of December is soon to be a distant memory. I've seen a slew of inspiring and invigorating posts about New Year's Resolutions and hopes for this shiny new year. TV advertising has moved away from the indulgent foods of Christmastime, and is already telling us all to start getting fit and slim. So, I suppose it's appropriate that many of the New Year's Resolutions I've seen involve weight loss.

I have no qualms or shame in saying that I am a large girl. I'm 5'7" and I'm a size 14-18. I'm a fervent advocate for body positivity, and we are starting to see great steps being taken when it comes to fat fashion. Social media has wonderful pockets of support for people of all sizes, shapes and styles, and it's becoming more accepted to be big, beautiful and proud. So why am I one of those people resolving to lose weight this year?

At my lowest adult weight
I have always been unhappy with the way I look. At higher weights, at lower weights, when I work out, when I don't, when I eat freely or when I restrict myself, I am never satisfied. A huge part of that is absolutely because of social conditioning, after years of being told that my achievements were tainted by this physical failure. Backhanded compliments telling me I'd be "so pretty if..." have taken their toll. Fat-positive bloggers and beautiful plus-size models have helped to reverse some of this damage, but it does run pretty deep.

Also, I have a couple of mental and physical health issues that would be improved by losing weight and getting fitter. I have some lung problems that are alleviated slightly when I am regularly doing cardio, and the relationship between mental health and exercise is undeniable. I will stress this now, you can never judge a person's overall health by the shape of their body. I am not equating "slim" with "healthy" because we all know that this is a flawed concept. However, I find exercise easier when I am carrying less extra weight, and my lungs and brain work a lot better when I exercise.

Me at a high weight after a quick weight gain

It's not all about fixing the negatives, though. Exercise also helps me with singing and stamina while performing. The band has huge plans for this coming year, and I want to give it my all, and that includes being as fit and ready as I can be.

Weight and body image are such touchy subjects for so many people, and I feel a little conflicted talking about it at all. I completely believe that everyone should be allowed to look how they want to look, eat what they want to eat, wear what they want to wear and exercise how, when and where they choose. People should be allowed to take pleasure in things they find pleasurable without being subjected to the unsolicited disapproval of others. This is why it's important to stress that I'm not changing the shape of my body for anyone's comfort but my own.

I'm going to be joining Slimming World, and I've written myself a workout plan inspired by my favourite female characters, like Buffy, Jessica Jones and (of course) Ariel, the Little Mermaid. I don't know how much I'm going to continue discussing my weight loss/fitness efforts here, and I don't really have any concrete goals. I'll try not to be boring about it, because this isn't a fitness blog and I don't want it to become one. But I know this will be a lot easier with some support.

I do not believe that any body type is better or more attractive than any other. In my imaginary utopia all clothing ranges would come in all sizes and tailoring would be free. Everyone would feel free to express themselves however they chose, and airplane seats would be universally comfortable. But, even in this judgement-free dream world, I know I'd want to be slimmer and fitter than I currently am. And, really, that's what tells me that I need to do it.

If you're losing, gaining or maintaining your weight this year, I wish you all the love and luck in the world.

Spots, Stretchmarks and Wobbly Bits – Why I Don’t Photoshop

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will have seen the Worm. For those of you who haven’t, the Worm is my affectionate nickname for one of my less photogenic facial expressions.

Ok, so I pull this face a lot. A LOT. But this particular shot was grabbed from a video I made for work, and it made me laugh more than usual. As a result I put it up as my Facebook profile photo. I thought it was funny, and it made a change from my usual pouty/fish gape photo. While some people saw it for what it was, others used it as an excuse to open up a critical discussion of my appearance. What was most disappointing about this is that it wasn’t random trolls or internet strangers who took it upon themselves to make demoralising comments about me, but members of my own family.

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not 100% happy with the way I look. Of course there are things I would change if I had a magic wand. Of course I think there are things about myself that could so with some work. But that’s my work to do. It’s my battle to fight. It’s not anybody else’s job to “suggest” ways that I should feel obliged to change myself, especially when they are working to outdated, sexist, heteronormative, ableist, racist standard of beauty that exclude so many wonderful, beautiful ways of existing.

I’m a work in progress that won’t be completed until the day I die. I will always see room for improvement. I will always be trying to get better at something. And I see my blog as a way of documenting that, for better or for worse. That’s why I am pledging, here and now, never to retouch any of my photos (aside from Instagram filters because they’re just fun.)

For some people a blog is like a museum of their life, with all the best pieces laid out for public view, and you know what? That is absolutely fine. If you want your blog/website/social media to show you at your peak then that is completely your choice and you have my full support. If you want to airbrush, alter, amend or otherwise edit your photos, that’s ok too. You do what you need to do. Your life, your choice.

Does this mean I’m going to only show you my Worm face from now on? Of course not. My social media and blog will still feature more flattering photographs. But it’s ok to acknowledge that everyone takes Worm photos now and again, whether they mean to or not.