Warning: These words may hurt..

Scrolling through my timeline, just like everyone else nowadays, I notice as I read through post after post, the majority of what I am reading is all the same. Although I deactivated my Tumblr account over a year ago, I cannot delete it from my other social media sites. I must admit I find some of the screenshots of posts on the site hilarious but then there are the posts that remind me exactly why I deleted my account in the first place. I believe that this particular social media site is incredibly toxic. Blogs containing pictures of emaciated women, morbidly obese women and limbs covered in self inflicted wounds are nowhere near as horrifying as their captions, encouraging those who view them to inflict pain on themselves as it will show strength and empower the people that do so. It is also home to the illogical, the easily offended and the ones who claim to be some sort of hybrid on a broad spectrum, each person competing with the next over whose gender or orientation is the most rare or most impossible to explain.

Though I would like to think that I am accepting of people and adapt a “to each their own” type of attitude, -I have to draw the line somewhere. I feel that a lot of this is regression instead of progression.In this day and age open-mindedness excludes those who are born cis heterosexuals. If you are biologically male and attracted to the opposite sex, you are not deserving of respect or sympathy during tough times. If you are a white heterosexual cis man in this day and age then you do not deserve a voice because of how much you were apparently born with.

Privilege is separating everyone despite those demanding it to be checked claim to be fighting for equality. If you own a computer and live in a heated house with food and running water, how can you possibly complain about privilege? In a world where equality and unison are the aims of the left, why is everything and everyone given a name and put in a box they are forbidden to get out of? Why is the ‘norm’ suddenly becoming such a terrible thing?

Acceptance and diversity will never be achieved if in an effort to reach those targets, entire groups within society are alienated and shamed. An example, fat people will never be accepted if they continue to shame thin people, that argument in general is disgusting. Placing one type of unhealthy on a platform and condemning the other form of unhealthy is ridiculous and a complete and utter contradiction. Also, what about those who are in between? Those who aren’t fat but aren’t thin either? Are they like the bisexuals? Indecisive? Refusing to pick a side? Please.

I could go on about just how ridiculous people are becoming but at the same time it’s the fault of the Left, freedom and encouraging diversity brings this out in society and we have to learn to deal with it. The Right may have some messed up views but Christ on a bike! We Lefties have a lot of sorting out to do. We need to have a serious think about what our actions mean in the long term. A world where free speech is tainted because “words hurt” is a world in which there are very few words we can use and very few topics that can be openly talked about.

 

 

High heels and higher horses

Little girls sneaking into their mothers’ wardrobes to try on their high heels was once considered an adorable sign that the little ones were excited at the sheer thought of growing up. Plastic high heels for kids were all the rage and you couldn’t stop a girl from click clacking around the place no matter how hard you tried. Nowadays, it seems that all of these little girls are now women who, no matter how hard you try, you cannot get them to wear high heels.

The story that has inspired this post has been making headlines and been discussed on radio programmes over the last week or so, the response to this story has been incredibly interesting and many have raised the question as to whether or not this is plain old sexism or just another mishap as a result of the infamous ‘unspoken dress code’.

Having read the story on the BBC website, I initially felt sorry for Nicola Thorp and angry that women were being judged more so for their attire than their ability to do their job. However, as I read it again, I noticed that the article was looking a little sparse. A few questions come to mind;

  1. Was Nicola Thorp aware of the fact that high heels had to be worn when she first took the job?
  2. Did Ms Thorpe review the appearance guidelines before signing?
  3. If PwC does not prohibit female secretaries wearing flats, then which party should be held accountable?

Honestly, I don’t think this is purely an issue of sexism as it is more of a health and safety issue. Dress codes are not soley for the purpose of the image of the company, they are also enforced in order to avoid problems with health and safety. I completely understand and agree with establishing dress codes in the work place, however, making it mandatory for women to wear high heels is not some thing I agree with particularly on the grounds of health and safety. Companies that make it imperative for women to wear heels at work are leaving themselves open for all kinds of trouble. If for example a high heel wearing employee is going about her jobs for the day and falls, she can sue the company for any injuries that occur. It is very easy to lose your balance and if you’re running a company that doesn’t mind paying off employee hospital bills, then by all means, rock on. Make the men wear heels too while you’re at it, after all, they started it!

As well as the long term effects of wearing high heels for several hours a day such as bunions forming around the feet (they have to be operated on in order to remove them). It increases the risk of developing arthritis much earlier in life and causes damage to the lower back, hips and knees. I know a lot of women who struggle to wear high heels, they just cannot walk in them no matter how hard they try, on the flip side, I also know women who can walk perfectly in high heels and go all day in them without any trouble. There are also a lot of women who choose not to wear high heels because they are already very tall as it is and feel that they just aren’t necessary. I myself wear heels now and then but if I know I’m going to be walking a lot or running errands I tend to opt for flats because they’re more practical. With all of that in mind, if a woman cannot walk in high heels because of a medical issue or because she simply cannot walk in high heels, how does that affect her ability to get the job done? Should a woman who is excellent at her job but cannot wear high heels be sent home or not allowed work for a company?

In terms of women’s footwear, there is quite a selection to choose from, different heels, thin or chunky, wedges or stilettos and all at varying heights. Formal flats are also very easy to come by and can look every bit as professional as high heels and the risks are practically non-existent.

From what I’ve read, I think maybe we are too quick nowadays to categorize every single thing we read about. Most people seemed to only jump on the sexism bandwagon instead of looking at the facts and thinking about what lead to this event. Though I support feminism and firmly believe in equality I would look at this in terms of practicality, or in this case, impracticality.

Rights, responsibilities and the thing about privilege

“As a cis white hetereosexual woman, you seriously need to check your privilege. As a queer, I have it far worse than you and live in constant fear because of sexist jokes.”

If you raised an eyebrow or your jaw dropped as you read that sentence, then let us be utterly flabbergasted together. No, this is not some troll. This is the reply I got for not recoiling in horror when a video called ‘Dear Feminists’ was posted in a group I was in on Facebook.

It has gotten to the stage now where I feel as though the movement I love and believe in has been taken over by the very thing it is not. I cannot help but think that if the feminists of the past could see what was happening today they would bow their heads in shame. What I see on social media every day saddens me, it saddens me because it is twisted and counterproductive. Over sensitivity is killing feminism.

Two years ago I would never have called myself a feminist because I was disturbed by what I was seeing online and reading about in magazines. Man-hating, skinny-bashing, anti-shaving women who victimized themselves and blamed the patriarchy for everything that was wrong with the world. I believed that this was feminism and I wanted no part in it, until my older sister came to visit and she, my mom and I sat down and discussed it.

The type of feminism my mother and sister described to me sounded incredible, nothing like the feminism I was seeing and reading about. We talked about the objectification of women in media and film, we talked about the issues women face in their place of work and we talked about the roles the women of the past had no choice but to carry out.

I believe that feminism is not about shaming anyone, I believe that it is a driving force for every woman and girl, yes a man can do that job, but so can you.  A man can speak out about injustices or express an opinion and so can you. Some women are mothers and love being mothers but your anatomy doesn’t mean you have to be a mother if you don’t want to be. Feminism is about opening your eyes to the endless possibilities as to what you can do with your life and why your gender should never be the thing to hold you back.

Looking at this issue as a whole, both men and women have some pretty bad habits which have kept us more or less divided on a lot of things socially and politically. Politics is a dirty, dirty game that will never be fair so you just have to toughen up and get on with it. If women want to have an impact, if we want to be taken seriously then some of us need to stop playing the victim. Do you think Countess Markievicz would have been remembered if she played the victim all the time and whined about men instead of getting up and fighting like she did? Hell no! She was one tough cookie and she got shit done, the kind of shit you don’t get done if you wallow in self pity. I understand that life is tough, it is, but you have a responsibility to make your life as simple as you can, blaming everyone else is not simplifying anything, it’s creating more problems for yourself.

Over sensitivity stunts growth, makes freedom of speech impossible and makes socialising an even bigger pain in the hole than it already is in this day and age. Between the whinging going on and the “triggering” topics affecting third level education in the States, I am finding myself on the brink of pulling a Van Gogh.

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we need to do something about political correctness and how we choose to get messages across. If anyone is to be educated or simply to be heard, then we need to simplify things a little and understand that not everything is a personal attack. In CSPE (Civil, Social, Political Education), a subject taught in Irish secondary schools, I remember learning about rights and responsibilities, a responsibility accompanies each right you have. In this instance, you have a right to be offended, you have a right to express an opinion but you are also responsible for dealing with what comes with exercising both of those rights. Be a victim, that’s your right, but someone else has the right to call you out and for your own sake, I hope you’re prepared and self pity is not your weapon of choice.

 

 

The Bubble

You often hear about the comparison made between school and prison and to an extent it is true, except if you’re in school, you know, you get to go home at the end of the day.

Secondary school (high school) is a very unpleasant place to be for some people. Understandably, you have to get up early every morning, put on a uniform and spend the day stuck in a building with people from all walks of life, whose personalities can clash with your own meaning you don’t like everyone in your class let alone your year group. It’s like being stuck in a job you hate with homework instead of a salary.

Fortunately it’s only temporary, unfortunately it’s still a part of life everyone has to go through but while you’re there, try to pick up on a few things;

  1. You are not going to like everyone you meet and as fabulous as you are, not everyone you meet is going to like you either.
  2. You are going to be good at some things and bad at others. There are going to be people who are better than you and people who are worse than you. Be proud of your achievements while knowing how to handle your mistakes.
  3. Everyone is winging it, no one knows what the hell they are doing so don’t be so hard on yourself. Just work on your acting skills like everyone else so no one knows you’re absolutely sh*tting it.

There are a number of things I would change if I could go back but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to change a thing because of who I am now. I think it is important to take into account that you are not in control of your surroundings but you are in control of how you handle yourself. It is difficult to take control of a situation in which you feel you are the victim, as helpless as you feel about it you need to look outside of the “poor me” mentality and view the situation with an open mind and figure out how to solve it. One of my biggest regrets was letting insecurities get to me which lead to a “what’s the point?” type of attitude, you need to find the solutions to your problems, talk about them with friends and family and take on any advice that they give but ultimately it comes down to you.

School is tough because although it is a place of learning in the academic sense, you learn a lot about society and how people work too. No matter what is going on around you, you are there to learn, being able to regurgitate all of that useless information after six years is what will get you to where you want to be (not). You are not a passenger on this journey you are on which is life, you decide where you want to go if you want it enough and if you’re not sure then explore your options. Doing well in exams is something you do for yourself, if you can say that you’ve done your best then that’s enough. Everyone wants to do well, you want to have something to show for all these years but at the same time these grades will not decide your future or represent just how intelligent you really are.

My fondest memories from my years at school were not actually made at school. I made friends in the city and also hung out with people from school outside of school. It was fun while it lasted and I will remember those couple of years and smile because I learned and I laughed and I looked like an absolute nutter half the time but I had fun. I don’t regret any of it no matter how difficult it was sometimes because the good stuff outweighed the bad always.

Another thing you need to remember is that not everyone you meet will always be in your life and that’s okay. We outgrow each other and sometimes we just don’t fit, if it ends badly learn from it, don’t wallow in self pity because someone decided they didn’t want to stay. It is also important to understand that some relationships just aren’t healthy and you need to go with your gut, if a friend or boyfriend/girlfriend is not bringing out the best in you, you need to consider your options.

You may meet friends for life but chances are you won’t. However, there’s still time after school,  like college or work, wherever you end up because those are the places where you learn what to do with your new found freedom and you are all screwing it up together. Everyone is finding themselves and learning some hard lessons that no institution can ever teach you, we’re all just learning about what’s beyond the bubble.

Take control, not offense

“Oi you! C’mere ya fat bitch!”

Standing alone in a car park as I waited for my mother to finish work, this is what I hear coming from a a beat up light gold car. The four men in it had walked passed me a few minutes earlier, laughing, shouting and swearing. I wasn’t surprised by what they had said, cat calling and having abuse shouted at me isn’t exactly new. I was however, surprised at myself for not being in the slightest bit offended by what he had just said. Why didn’t it upset me? Why was I not horrified that a complete stranger had the nerve to shout something like that at me?

Let’s look at this way, we are our own worst critics and I can say with absolute certainty that there is nothing another person can say to me or about me that is worse than what I have already thought about myself. My teens were spent mostly looking in the mirror and pointing out every single thing that needed to change because it was ugly and disgusting and when I was done outlining my physical flaws, I would move on to my personality. I am embarrassed to say that I wasted all that time, what was the point? It wasn’t constructive, it didn’t lead to productivity and it didn’t make me a better person.

I know what I look like, I know I have a lot of imperfections, I know more than anyone else what my body looks like and the remarks made by a complete stranger who has only been aware of my existence for a matter of minutes is not going to change how I see myself. I am fairly comfortable with who I am as a person and am fully aware of the fact that change is inevitable and that I will change as time goes on, I know all of this, that man does not know what I know and does not know any of the others I saw him shouting abuse at. If this had been said to me a year ago, I probably would’ve taken it to heart and had a little cry to myself when I got home but not now.

Now, I couldn’t care less. I know that it’s nothing personal and the most anyone will get is an eye roll. Have you ever noticed how rare it is to see people shouting abuse at others by themselves? It’s done mostly in groups because when someone is in a group, they have more confidence and feel like they can get away with anything because someone else is there to back them up. No one is going to act out when they’re alone but they will if they’re in a group thinking that they appear to be more intimidating than they actually are it’s pathetic, so pathetic that it’s laughable. Words said with false confidence should not have a profound effect on you, you should not look at yourself negatively just because some muppet decides to show off in front of their friends, chances are, at least one of the friends is absolutely mortified to be in their company.

You know yourself better than anyone else, accepting criticism is what helps us to grow and become better people but if someone says something negative to you or about you that doesn’t quite fit with who you are, then I would suggest tuning it out. A complete stranger is incapable of summing you up in a matter of seconds so don’t make them feel like they can get to you. A nasty comment is like a piece of gum on the footpath, you can step over it and carry on with the rest of your day or you can step in it and let it ruin your day. It’s insignificant and only an annoyance if you allow it to be.

Where words are seen

For such a small city, Limerick has a lot to offer when it comes to music and literature. Poetry is one of the most beautiful aural forms of art you will find here.

Walking down the steps to the basement of Hook and Ladder, a homely café on Sarsfield Street, I am trying my hardest to make each step quieter than the last. It has begun, on time as usual, and I as usual, am not on time. As I enter, I can see that the place is lit up with fairy lights and furnished with wooden tables, chairs and booths, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, as are the people. This is where you will find me, every month, here at Stanzas.

This month, the theme is ‘Still’ and there’s a twist, the poems are portrayed in the style of short films. A strange concept when you think about it, the idea that poetry can be acted out, but it works in an unexpectedly brilliant way. It was a truly incredible thing to see, a perfect example of what young people are capable of creating when given the opportunity to think for themselves and are left to their own devices. For those who are interested in poetry but feel that they cannot put their ideas in the traditional format, this a great way to get your work out there, particularly for those who are more gifted when it comes to working with technology than they are at writing.

Stanzas started in a café called Cellar Door. The event started out with only a small number of people and has grown over the last two years or so with over ninety people attending the event every month. The event is run by Jared Nadin, Dan O’Malley, Shane Vaughan and Caleb Brennan, a diverse group of young men whose enjoyment for what they do is truly inspiring and instills happiness in a captivated audience.

Stanzas is not just an event for poets, it’s something anyone can attend. Any age, any job, any level of education. (Maybe not primary because it ends relatively late and involves a trip to the pub!) It’s a night of laughter, relaxation and learning and for any readers living in Limerick I would highly recommend going to check it out.

I will not tell my sister that she is pretty

I remember the first time I held her in my arms, she was so tiny yet her limbs were so long, her skin was tanned despite having never been in direct sunlight, thin strands of white blonde hair covered her scented head and through squinted sapphire blue eyes she appeared to be staring right at me. From the first time I saw her, I knew she was not like my brother and I.

After nearly nine years of images of animals being created on walls by picking off paint (in her defense, it only happened once or twice), from a vendetta against the wearing of clothing of any description (underwear was simply the work of the devil) to endless costume changes and a broad interest in toys and television shows, whether they were for boys or girls, it didn’t matter and it shouldn’t ever matter. In recent years, not a day goes by without interesting but strange conversations taking place, the cat being dressed up, wrapped up and given a variety of odd yet hilarious nicknames and impressions of family members or the brush dance are frequently performed in the evenings.

My little sister isn’t just a funny child, she’s incredibly smart, ambitious and creative, she is such a positive person and she just gets it, she understands things a lot better than most kids her age. She loves to colour pictures and draw her own, she loves reading, Harry Potter and Beast Quest are some of her favourite books and she likes to come up with her own stories too. There is so much more to this child than what she looks like. My other siblings and I used to refer to her as “Tweety” when she was a toddler because of her big blue eyes which at one point looked as though they occupied most of her tiny face and her short blonde hair which was straight but then curled up at the ends. As the years have gone on,  she has grown to become more and more beautiful, she is tall, thin, her eyes are a striking shade of blue and her long blonde hair falls past her shoulders while a full fringe and thick eyebrows frame her face. With everything I have said earlier, why is this important? That’s the thing, it isn’t.

Her appearance is not a reflection of the wonderful qualities she possesses, so why should it be the only thing that she is credited for? Why is being ‘pretty’ the only thing little girls are ever given credit for? What happens when they stop hearing it? A pretty face, although a nice thing to have, changes over time, if looks are the only thing we subconsciously encourage children to focus on, it’s going to damage their self esteem when they hear otherwise.

As a young child, I heard all the usual “you’re going to be a real a heartbreaker when you’re older.” “oh isn’t she just gorgeous?!” and so on, so forth. These were nice things to hear, the tone of voice used when saying these things wasn’t always convincing, in some cases, it sounded almost sympathetic. I was not a pretty child, I was a cute one, but not a pretty one and there’s nothing wrong with that, I was only a child! But when what grown ups were telling me differed greatly from the things that other children were telling me, I started to feel self conscious about how I looked, I was teased about my hair, it was frizzy with the odd few curls here and there, big round glasses which made my eyes look large in an unflattering way and losing my baby teeth didn’t do anything to help the situation either. Why did any of this even matter? Why did I feel bad for looking the way I did? There wasn’t anything wrong with it but it was mostly the only thing anyone would comment on.

If there is one good thing that I think came out of it all, I think it was that when I was about thirteen or so, I started to think to myself, ” you know what? You’re not pretty so that means you’re going to have to be something else, if you don’t have many photos of your younger self when you’re old and wrinkly, have something else to be admired for, be someone worth admiring.”

My sister is beautiful, in every single way, she is kind, smart, funny, strong and talented. As she ages, as the physical traits fade, her colourful personality will always be vibrant, it will always be remembered and smiles will always form on the faces of people who think of her when they remember who she was and not what she looked like.

One of the cutest things about her is her confidence, she is proud of herself when she finishes a book or a picture, when she is told that what she has done is so creative and that she is so clever, she puts her hands together over her mouth and as she giggles proudly to herself, her little button nose scrunches up as it did when she would shyly giggle as a toddler. She loves it when someone points out her creativity and it pushes her to come up with new things and to try harder. I am already in awe of the person she is right now and her life hasn’t even fully begun.

Children should not have any concerns about how they look, it does not matter and so many changes have yet to occur, never feel as though you should comment on how a child looks only if they ask you to do so.