“You must use your vote, we suffered for it.” (Alice Hawkins)
A statue was unveiled yesterday (Sunday 4th February) in Leicester to commemorate 100 years since women were first given the right to vote (women aged 30 and above). The seven foot bronze statue is of Alice Hawkins, an exceptional woman who led the suffragette movement in Leicester back in the early twentieth century.
A parade took place around the city centre which was led by Elaine Pantling, a city councillor who played the part of Alice Hawkins. Many other women dressed as suffragettes helped to lead the parade which lots of people joined.
The statue has been placed in the New Market Square in Leicester, an area of significance for the suffragette movement. The market was a busy area so suffragettes took the opportunity to demonstrate and campaign for votes for women, including Hawkins as well as Sylvia Pankhurst.
Hawkins was originally born in Stafford in 1863 but moved to Leicester in her twenties to work as a machinist at the Equity Shoe factory. She joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) when she realised the inequalities between men and women in the workplace. A Leicester branch of the WSPU was formed in 1907 shortly Hawkins had experienced her first imprisonment. Hawkins invited Pankhurst to Leicester to speak at a WSPU meeting, as well as the crowds in the New Market Square.
I couldn’t make it to the unveiling of this magnificent statue, but the coverage reflects how important it is for people to recognise the suffragettes fight for emancipation and that the move towards gender equality is still continuing today. You can check out the coverage of the parade and the unveiling of the statue on the Leicester Mercury website.
I’m thrilled that a statue has been made to commemorate the centenary since the major breakthrough was made, and in honour of an inspiring woman of ‘true grit’. I thank you Alice Hawkins for your bravery and determination to make the world a better place,. Thank you, ‘sister of freedom‘.
January is usually considered as a ‘downish’ sort of month, since people are back into a routine after celebrating Christmas and the New Year, there’s Blue Monday which is half way through January, and of course people are trying to keep up their New Year’s Resolutions.
January for me has been quite the opposite and has flown by. I haven’t really set myself resolutions as I mentioned in my blog looking back at 2017, but this year I just want to be happy. 2018 has been a good start, which is mostly due to my sister giving birth to her first son, so I became an auntie recently! I’ve been enjoying and making the most of cuddles with my newly born nephew and I’m looking forward to the upcoming years of spoiling him with love.
This year has also been a good start as I’ve been going to the gym on a regular basis. I’ve managed to go twice a week recently and walking to work and back also helps to keep up my fitness. I’ve been contemplating going out for a long distance run which I’d like to do this month, in the hope that the weather is starting to improve. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to how hard it can be to go to the gym sometimes, but there’s the amazing feel good factor when you’ve had an intense workout, which I aim for when working out at the gym.
I recently went to a national poetry competition called UniSlam which was a fantastic experience. You can read about it on my poetry blog.
My next update should include a lot more content as there are a few things coming up. Firstly lent starts on 14th February, which feels really early this year! So from Valentine’s Day I will be on a meat free diet as I have done for the past two years. Secondly there’s a parade happening in Leicester this Sunday, which I can’t make but will definitely write a blog about. The parade is in honour of Alice Hawkins who was part of the suffragette movement in the early 20th century. A statue is being placed in Leicester so I will have a look at it some point next week and take a photo. And finally, I’ll hopefully embark on a long distance run, which I’ve not done since the half marathon.
It’s already proving to be an interesting start of the year for me so far. My sister is due to give birth to her first child any time soon, so I’ll be becoming an auntie! My family is on high alert waiting for a phone call from my sister or brother-in-law. I wish them both a prosperous year ahead with plenty of joy and sweet times ahead.
So looking back at 2017 on my blog, my main focus was definitely fitness. I was more determined than ever to run my first half marathon, which I’m glad to have completed on Sunday 15th October 2017 in 2 hours and 47 minutes. With 9 months to train, I gradually built up the distance I was running, starting with 12.5km, then 15km for the Resolution Run, followed by 18km and then the target of 21km. The training was certainly challenging, especially as I experienced a brief period of pain in my shins. I was worried about this, but luckily the pain started to subside and I had no pain in my shins on the day itself. The Leicester half marathon was an incredible experience and one I’d like to take part in again!
Due to the nature of my training for the half marathon, I didn’t run in many parkruns last year since they are 5km. The last parkrun I ran was in May, which was my sixteenth parkrun. I was even contemplating reaching the 25 or 50 parkrun target last year, but waking up early every Saturday morning can prove challenging for me. I only need to run nine more parkruns to complete 25, so that could be possible to do this year.
Looking back at feminism last year, one of the biggest topics was definitely Donald Trump. I would love to have gone to one of the many worldwide marches protesting against Trump, which was known as ‘Women of the world unite‘. Another topic that became popular on social media was the taboo surrounding periods when Bodyform released a ‘controversial’ advert. The advert showed a young man buying menstrual products and a woman in the shower with blood running down her leg. I believe that this was a breakthrough as it was the first advert to show blood, which was aimed to help break the terrible taboo around period shaming. My most recent blog on feminism was briefly about sexist statements that I’ve heard throughout my life. I also wrote about a poem this called ‘Things I(we’ve) heard‘.
As with last year, I’ve decided not to set myself any New Year’s resolutions for 2018. The simple truth is, I just want to be happy. Unfortunately I experienced a few things which really made me unhappy, and quite frankly a bit down too. My experiences from last year have made me realise that a weakness of mine is letting people walk over me. I don’t like disappointing people to the point where I end up putting myself at a disadvantage and often uncomfortable position. It’s a weakness that I need to work on, as I’ve put up with enough (sorry to use the word) s***.
Therefore this year I would like to be happy, not put up with nonsense and work towards becoming more willing to speak out when I need to, rather than letting things go aside. As well as this, I will take part in the Leicester half marathon again and work to beat my first time of 2 hours and 47 minutes. I will also give up meat for lent and continue being a feminist working towards gender equality!
Walking to work usually gives me time to think deeply about my thoughts, usually about things I could’ve done better, what I’m having for dinner in the evening, what tasks I’ve been procrastinating on, the meaning of life and all sorts of various things. One thought that came up for me recently was sexism.
You know when someone says something to you, but you can’t think of how to answer them back and then you think of a brilliant comeback or what you should’ve asked them miles down the line… unfortunately I’ve had that moment quite a few times in relation to sexism.
I was dating a guy over a year ago when he said to me, “Women shouldn’t have equal rights because they’re too important.” I didn’t know how to respond at first, so I said “I’ve not heard that one before” because genuinely, I hadn’t. He then went on to explain how much he loves the Queen and that we have to protect her, and protect the Mother state.
It didn’t occur to me until much later that he held the traditionalist view that women are caregivers and are only useful for one thing: producing children. He may have thought himself chivalrous in feeling the need to protect women, probably thinking of the example in the film Titanic where women and children get on the lifeboats first. Considering that there has been full emancipation for almost 90 years, I was surprised that someone not far off from my generation (he was four years older than me) believes that women shouldn’t have rights equal to men.
You’ll be glad to know that I’m not dating this guy any more and it was only a short waste of my time (a few months). I think the conversation came up as the Brexit referendum wasn’t too far away. Before he said what he thought about women, he said “We’ll probably have conflicts over feminism as we’ll have conflicting views.”
“Women shouldn’t have equal rights because they’re too important” kept on going over and over in my head while I was walking to work, and then I thought of all of the other things I’ve heard and that have been said to me throughout all of my life so far. Some of them include “Man up”, “Grow a pair” (aka balls), “Don’t be such a girl” and the list goes on.
I wrote down all of the phrases and made a short ‘found poem’ out of them, which you can read on my poetry blog. This blog serves as a commentary to my poem ‘Things I(we’ve) heard”.
It’s cases like this which prove that we still need feminism. A lot of the phrases in the poem can be heard on a regular basis and are often used in everyday conversation. I wrote a blog a while back about the power of language which explores some of these phrases and the impact language has on gender. Just some small changes to our language could help to eliminate the barriers which prevent women from being on equal grounds to men. A progressive society works together where everyone is involved, so any phrase, no matter how implicit, which undermines a person, should stop being used.
As with my previous update, I mostly focused on fitness on my blog since I was preparing myself for my first half marathon, which I successfully ran on Sunday 15th October at the Leicester Marathon.
It has almost been three weeks since I completed my toughest physical challenge so far, and I’m still buzzing about it now! The atmosphere was electric and it was amazing to see so many people running for different causes and charities. I enjoyed the experience so much that I am tempted to sign up for another half marathon on Sunday 11th February 2018. Starting at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough, this will be the first ever Leicestershire Half Marathon, so it would be exciting to run at a new event.
After reflecting on my first half marathon, I have decided not to opt for the full 26 miles. I consider myself to be fit enough to run a half marathon but I would need to be much fitter to run the distance of a full marathon. I found 13 miles hard enough to do and the Leicester Marathon was certainly my hardest challenge yet. For the meantime I would like to focus on improving my time of 2 hours and 47 minutes, which is what it took me to run 13 miles almost three weeks ago.
I am also considering participating in shorter runs, such as the Charity Santa Fun Run in a village called Broughton Astley. Taking place on Sunday 3rd December, there is the option to run 3km or 5km dressed up as Santa Claus! I am very tempted to have a go at this for fun, as well as getting in the Christmas spirit (even though it’s before my birthday, which is on the 7th December!). I would opt for the 5km option, and it would be nice to have a run somewhere new.
It had been a while since I wrote a feminist blog, but I managed to post one last month about the negative stigmas associated with women, including periods and body hair. The blog explores how the negative impact of these issues affect women, and how we are also starting to gradually talk more about it.
I’d like to get back into parkruns, as it has been almost five months since I last ran a parkrun! Training for the half marathon means that I have been focusing on running longer distances, but 5km is a nice distance to run. Plus there are people I haven’t seen for a long time who make up the friendly community of the Braunstone parkrun.
You’ll be glad to know that I have fully recovered from running my first half marathon! I haven’t done any intense exercise or been to the gym since running the half marathon, but I will be aiming for a regular exercise routine soon and getting myself back down to the gym.
I haven’t written a feminist piece for a while, so I decided to write a piece about subjects which are traditionally taboo, after watching an advert for sanitary towels.
I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline and saw an advert from Bodyform, which is not unusual, although this advert was different from any I’ve ever seen for women’s menstrual products. Traditionally adverts demonstrate the absorbency of period pads and liners by using a blue liquid however, I saw a red liquid! The advert also shows a man buying a packet of Bodyform sanitary pads, and a woman in the shower with blood running down her thigh.
For an area which is a taboo and has a negative stigma, I think it’s a great step forward that Bodyform has produced the first ever advert to show the absorbency of its pads with a red liquid, rather than an unrealistic blue one. For something natural to happen which shows signs that a woman is fertile, society is just great at making women feel ashamed about it.
The notion of blood coming out of a woman’s vagina on a monthly occurrence seems to be uncomfortable for many people. I’ve seen men squirm when other people talk about periods, and yet we see blood on almost a daily basis, on the news, in TV series and films. We have become desensitized towards the presence of blood on screen, but some can’t stand the thought of a natural bodily function?
Another area which I myself have felt embarrassed to talk about is thigh chafing. I am thrilled that society is starting to become more accepting of different body shapes with less of a focus on women trying to be as thin as possible and have a thigh gap, but I feel that thigh chafing is not talked about much.
As a child I used to suffer from eczema quite badly between my legs, which made it difficult for me to walk comfortably. While I don’t suffer from this anymore, I do experience chafing between my thighs. I have large thighs which means no thigh gap, so if I wear dresses or skirts I always opt for tights or leggings. When I finally achieved the confidence to not wear tights or leggings (I used to feel ashamed if I had my legs on show), I would apply talcum powder between my legs but unfortunately the effects of this didn’t last for long, so I would end up with red raw thighs. The summer of course is the worst season for chafing.
However, I recently saw, also on Facebook, an advert for garter bands. These bands are worn around the upper thighs which help to prevent chafing. As soon as I saw them I thought to myself, that’s such a great idea! The advert shows women wearing them underneath their dresses and skirts. The bands are discrete and offer a comfortable solution for women who want to free their beautiful legs without the dreaded issue of chafing.
I became aware of gels and lotions earlier this year to help prevent chafing, but the garter bands look adorable and help to make women feel great! I don’t know how long they have been available for, but they will certainly open up the eyes of people who don’t talk about or avoid talking about thigh chafing.
While I’m on the subject of legs, another area which I feel is not talked about much, even though it’s advertised on a daily basis, is hair removal.
It has always irritated me that adverts for hair removal show women using a razor on a hairless leg or armpit… if you really want to show how effective a product is, have a woman shaving or waxing a leg with hair on. There are adverts of men removing facial hair which is actually on their faces; we don’t have adverts of men shaving a hairless face, so why don’t we have adverts of women removing leg hair? Is it because there are people who are disgusted at the thought of women having body hair in certain places, just like they are disgusted with periods, that they don’t want to see it on TV?
The issues I have focused on in this blog are associated with women’s bodies, since the female body has long been a controversy and subject to criticism, as well as denial. I know that there are issues men face which society doesn’t talk about, such as the issue of toxic masculinity and men’s mental health. Overall I believe that people are generally getting better at discussing issues related with both sexes, although I feel that the taboos are still ever looming. The more we talk about these issues, the more normal they will become and the more accepting people will be.
The month of the half marathon has finally come around! And as usual it’s hard to believe that it’s October already; there’s only this month, November and December, and then it will be a new year before we know it.
Looking back on September, all of my blogs have been focused on fitness. This comes as no surprise since my main focus has been training for the half marathon in Leicester. I ran 18km for the third time at the start of September, and then I very recently ran the distance of a half marathon for the first time. I was very pleased with how it went, despite being absolutely knackered afterwards. I now know that I can run that far and I’m raring to go for Sunday 15th October.
To facilitate my training I bought a fitness tracker which counts the number of steps you take in a day. I have found it more useful as a timer for my long distance runs, as I don’t think it’s entirely accurate for running. My mother has a fitness tracker as well as she’s walking 10,000 steps a day this month, so it’s more suited for her challenge.
I was aiming to post foodie and feminist blogs, but time and life got the better of me, and I’ve been mainly focused on my biggest physical challenge yet. I did however write a few poems last month which are on my poetry blog. I wrote a pessimistic poem about the current state of the world called ‘Ticking time bomb‘, and a more upbeat and satirical poem about online dating called ‘Swiping away‘.