Why you should try a menstrual cup…

I was hesitant at first. I googled the risks and horror stories. I read and re-read the instructions and “FAQs” on every website. I have heard peers and strangers vocalise their disgust at the idea of such a devise that collects menstrual blood, which you have to clean, in public!?

But after buying one and LOVING it as well as successfully encouraging friends to try it out, I think it’s time I bite the bullet and tell you why you need to buy a menstrual cup.

Society’s generally negative (not all, might I add) gut reaction to menstrual cups comes from the pressure on people who have periods to conceal their monthly cycle – both the physical and emotional symptoms. That’s why adverts for menstrual products use blue liquid and have only recently started to open up about the sometimes harsh reality periods can bring.

So why should you try a cup?

Pros of Menstrual Cups :

  • Menstrual cramps can be reduced and cups can increase comfort during your period
  • Lower costs – many cups are designed for long term use (up to 20 years if you take care of your cup)
  • Better for the environment as they are re-usable
  • Vaginal pH and beneficial bacteria stay in place unlike when you use tampons
  • More time between changes – cups can go up to 12 hours before they need emptying, depending on flow

Disadvantages of Menstrual Cups :

  • It can be messy – emptying the cup can be tricky at the beginning, but with time you learn the best way to do it
  • Taking time to learn how to insert – just like learning how to use a tampon, you need to allow time to get used to it
  • Maintenance – before and after each cycle, you will need to clean and sterilise the cup using boiling water and/or sterilising products

I have to admit, the disadvantages were a stretch to think of and are so worth the generous positives cups offer. I can say wholeheartedly that using a menstrual cup has been amazing and I really recommend that anyone who has a period should try it. What have you got to lose?

 

More info:

11 Reasons for using a Menstrual Cup

11 things that happen when you start using a menstrual cup

Precious Stars Pads – “How to choose your first menstrual cup”

 

 

 

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2017

2017 has been kind to me in many ways. Goals I have been working towards for so long have been accomplished and the vast, untouched future that lays before me is dazzling and scary.

In the past few months, a lot has happened. I graduated with a First Class degree, secured my first job out of university and bought my first property with my partner. My life has changed significantly.

The world beyond my personal life has perhaps seemed a little less hopeful this year. Politics continues to shock, confuse and upset. But there have also been a few glimmers of hope –  for example, accountability for sexual harassment cases and people coming together to campaign for positive change.

I apologise for my absence for the past couple of months. I have been re-adjusting and trying not to be too hard on myself about it. I think that you need to engage in tasks and activities that are fulfilling and help you to move forward. Over the Christmas period, I had a social media detox. An interesting and somewhat anti-climatic experience. It was nice to have a break but it’s also good to be back. I would like to try discussion about new topics and invite more guest bloggers onto my blog and social media platforms. If you have any thoughts or ideas on this, please drop me a message!

My hopes for 2018:

  • Read more fiction
  • Increase my Yoga practice
  • Work hard and learn as much as possible in my new job
  • Develop my understanding of LGBTQ+ support networks in the Third Sector and amongst SMEs
  • Live in the present

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2018. Let’s make it a good one.

Body Positivity

A sigh of relief overwhelms me as I notice crisp early mornings and rainy days gently crawling back into my daily routine. I love the Autumn. It feels like coming home. Cosy evenings and hot drinks in living rooms with the shimmer of Christmas on the horizon.

One of the many reasons I like this time of year is because I enjoy the fashion. Layers and black tights come back into the norm. The panic of what to wear to the beach or swimming with your mates takes a back seat, and film nights with a feast creep back into the norm. But in a way, it makes me sad. I know many people prefer this time of year because they feel safer. It’s much easier to protect ourselves when we can wrap up and feel less on “display”.

This is what has inspired me to give my thoughts on the “Body Positivity” movement.

A general definition is something like this: “The Body Positive Movement is a movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being.”

In some ways, I feel like we are being exposed to a more diverse range of body types. Social Media influencers such as Bodiposipanda and Grace Victory are championing this movement and running with it. In my opinion, this is bloody fantastic and I am going to tell you why.

A few months ago I saw a Facebook status arguing that a body positive article was essentially encouraging obesity and that’s creating an unhealthy message to young people. This disheartened me for many reasons. I think body positivity is all about embracing yourself and body for what it is. It celebrates how you look and aims to improve how you FEEL – uncovering the reasons why you might not be happy with your body. Those reasons may also explain your behaviours surrounding the way you treat your body.

Body positivity is encouraging people to take the time to learn more about themselves and look after themselves. Here’s the thing. No one will decide to be healthier (this doesn’t just mean losing weight) because they have been bullied into thinking how they look or are isn’t good enough. If you teach people to love themselves and that they are valued, they are going to be healthier people. They will treasure their bodies which otherwise might play a big part in self-destruction. Negativity rarely results in a direct positive change.

In general, we need to give people the tools to feel included and well resourced to be happy. There is nothing wrong with that. Let people embrace their bodies and feel unashamed – openness to diversity is never a bad thing.

 

Body Positivity Resources:

Brighton Pride 2017 

On Saturday 5th August I attended my second Brighton Pride. The atmosphere, love and pure joy I witnessed and experienced made for an amazing day. In the challenging times we live in, it was beautiful to see people coming together to celebrate the LGBTQA+ community. When we come together and champion love, great things can happen.

I wanted to share some photos from the event… Enjoy! 

How to write a First Class Dissertation

I started googling the title of this blog almost a year ago exactly. I knew I wanted to do a dissertation (I know that this is compulsory for some courses) and I also knew the area I wanted to research. This post is for those of you who want to get a First, or at least do well in your dissertation.

This post is for those of you who want to get a First, or at least do well in your dissertation.

(If you get a choice) Make sure you’re doing a dissertation for the right reasons…

Dissertations don’t suit everybody’s skills or schedules, so if you get a choice, make sure you’re doing it because you want to do it; not just because you think it’ll make you look good.

Pick a topic you like

Make sure you select a topic that genuinely interests you and that you’re going to enjoy reading about. My dissertation had over 200 references – so I am so thankful I selected a topic that I loved to learn about. It is also a good idea to pick a topic that you know a little bit about, you have a lot of time but you don’t want to be spending that just reading the basics.

Your dissertation tutor / academic support 

I began my search for my dissertation tutor way in advance, I looked at my university’s staff database and found someone who had expertise in my area. I contacted them early on to ask to meet and to see if they could be my tutor. You need to have a good relationship with your tutor and find the best way to communicate with them in a way that suits you both – email, meetings, etc. You also need to tell them that you want a First (right at the beginning)! In my first meeting, I used the words “I want a First for this, so tell me what I need to do to get that”. This shows that you’re serious and willing to put in the work. If you get allocated your dissertation tutor and you don’t get on with them, don’t panic. Try and flag the issue early on with someone senior at your university. If nothing happens, don’t worry I know how these things go, find other lecturers to look at your work and get as much feedback as possible.

Resources 

Use a variety of resources for your dissertation. Make sure you use credible and up to date sources to add substance to your paper. Check out what’s available in the library, try your university’s online resources (journals and articles) and Google Scholar is great too. Don’t shy away from using the internet and video sources, just make sure you reference everything properly! Find out what reference system your university wants you to use and stick to it.

Organisation & time management

Organisation and time management is really important. You need to set time aside each week and specific goals for what you need to do. You could even pencil in sessions to work on your project as if it were its own module. This might seem obvious, but with such a big project ahead of you, the basics can be forgotten in the panic.  Part of the purpose of a dissertation is proving that you can work on an independent research project; use this as an opportunity to develop your skillset and ability to work well on your own – it can become a great example for interviews / your CV!

Speak to other students doing a dissertation 

You are going to need support from other students doing dissertations. It can be a very isolating time for students as it is independent work, so it is really helpful to be able to talk about your ideas and ask each other for advice.

Learn how to work smart

This is advice I would give in regards to revision as well as writing a dissertation. There is no point in spending endless hours of half-hearted energy on your work. It is much better to set yourself goals and be more task-orientated in your working style. Manage procrastination habits (e.g. checking Instagram) and be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have.

Balance 

I’m just going to say: self-care, take breaks and don’t worry about it too much. Just work hard, listen carefully to feedback and you will see results.

 

Great advice videos:

More detailed help:

GOOD LUCK! 

What’s your advice? Let me know in the comments or tweet me! @maldrichwincer 

 

Let’s Talk About Love Island (Who Knew?!)

This year I decided to watch Love Island. Last year the show got a lot of attention and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I also think that to have an opinion on something, it’s probably a good idea to engage and learn more about it.

The show could be seen as problematic from a feminist perspective for a number of reasons. But that isn’t actually what this blog is about. I want to talk about the #TeamCamilla / #TeamJonny drama that unfolded last night. First I will explain very quickly what the show is about and what happened. Love Island is a show in the UK where single young people go to a villa and have to “couple up”-  it is made up of sunshine, mini-challenges and drama. Camilla and Jonny recently coupled up and their relationship was slowly growing. Here’s what happened next:

To summarise, Jonny told Camilla that if a girl wouldn’t let him pay for a date, he would feel emasculated. When Camilla disagreed with this idea, he went on to say “You’re a feminist, aren’t you”, where Camilla replied, “Shouldn’t we all be feminists?”. At this point, my heart did a little jump for joy.

Now I want to say my piece about what happens next in the clip. Jonny isn’t sure about feminism, saying that feminism is about inequality and essentially argues that women don’t need feminism in the UK. Camilla then goes on to get upset about getting involved with Jonny without really knowing him and his beliefs.

I think the issue here is not that Jonny doesn’t identify as a feminist, but that he doesn’t recognise the need for equality. I personally like the “feminist” label, but I also understand that others don’t. There is freedom of speech and belief. However, you simply cannot disagree with the fact that women are disadvantaged and oppressed, even in Western societies. Yes, despite the fact we have a “female Prime Minister”. How? I’ll give you just a few examples.

  • The gender pay gap
  • Sexual harassment – The TUC (2016) reported that more than half (52 %) of all women polled in their research had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Cat calling
  • Abortion rights 
  • Tampon Tax (and the higher cost of “female” products in general)

In other parts of the world women still cannot vote, drive and work. Some are denied education and even stigmatised for menstruating. 

Gosh, listening to him talking about feminism and women’s rights (especially as a white, straight and cisgender man) made my insides cringe.

As soon as the incident happened, I quickly turned to Twitter to find out what other people were saying. I was pleased to be met with some strong #TeamCamilla posts:

“If you think Camilla is upset because of a ‘difference in opinion’ and ‘him wanting to pay for women’ you have missed the point. #Loveisland” 

“Seeing men moan about Camilla talking about ‘something as small’ as equality is exactly why we need feminism in the first place. #Loveisland.” 

“Remember though, Camilla has worked in many different countries where women have no rights and are treated with no respect #Loveisland”. 

However, the misconceptions about feminism and lack of education also shined through.

“Definition of irony is Camilla walking around in a bikini with her arse out claiming to be the queen of feminism #LoveIsland” 

“So Camilla pays 50/50 on a date. Does that mean she’ll only let the guy hold the door open half way?!! Get a grip hun.” 

“Camilla please man up. Wrong show for you. Tonight’s viewing was boring.” 

Feminism is about equality and pro-choice, in every sense. That means that women are allowed to dress as they like and behave how they wish. In my opinion, Camilla had every right to be upset, especially in response to Jonny’s shockingly immature attitude and tone towards her. But I know that’s up for debate.

I am pleased that a show like Love Island (widely watched and enjoyed as a guilty pleasure) is highlighting these kinds of conversations. Who knew it could be a tool for social justice? Not me, that’s for sure.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @maldrichwincer.

Have your voice heard on 8th June

The UK general election is fast approaching and I wanted to say my piece to make sure that you use your voice. Amongst my friends, it is a very tricky subject. Not because we have polarising opinions, but because it’s actually really hard to choose a party we genuinely feel represents our views – politicians can often all seem as bad as each other.

But it is really important that you use your vote – there are lots of resources that might help you decide:

You should also spend some time reading through each party’s manifestos to work out which one is your preference.

Of course, there are also other ways of getting involved in politics, such as getting involved with online forums or supporting organisations who lobby for change.  But it is critical to use your vote as well, particularly if you are a young person.

Voting gives you the opportunity to get your voice heard,  don’t miss it.

Other good stuff to check out:

 

Feminism 101

It should come as no surprise that feminism is one of my favourite topics to talk about. I even decided to write a dissertation about it. I wanted to outline some of the basics. Feminism is arguably becoming more “mainstream”. The good thing about that is that more people are talking about gender equality and calling out sexism and all of that fab stuff. However, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding what feminists want and what it really means.

So let’s start a little discussion about what feminism is about…

To me, feminism is about representation and opportunities. It means that the world needs to be more inclusive and needs to listen to the voices of those who are oppressed. It is knowing that sexism still exists as it always has but in new ways. Terms like “Girl Boss” are being printed on t-shirts at the same time as a photo with two female politicians making front page news not because of politics but because of”Legs-it”. Everyday sexism and lazy stereotypes fuel my passion for fighting for equality.

DEFINITION: Feminism is aiming to achieve equality for all genders. 

(tw: rape culture)

Some Keywords

Feminist – a supporter of equal rights.

Patriarchy – we live in a society where masculinity is systematically viewed as superior to femininity, which often leads to the oppression of women.

Privilege –  unearned benefits that members of ‘dominant groups’ get based on social identity factors. For example, straight people experience the benefits of living in a heteronormative society (whereby you are assumed to be straight unless told otherwise).

Political Correctness – avoidance of saying or doing something that could exclude or marginalise people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against. More thoughts on political correctness here. 

Intersectionality – recognising that individuals are made up of lots of identity factors and each of those will contribute towards how they perceive and experience the world. Read more about this here.

Equality – being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities. Sometimes this requires more support to those who are systematically oppressed or discriminated against.

Sexism – stereotyping, discrimination or prejudice, typically against women, on the basis of sex; this can be against men too.

Genders – there are more than two genders; gender is a social construct.

Consent – rape culture is a huge topic in feminism. This video explains consent using tea very well…

 

Books & Resources 

I wrote a blog a little while ago about some of my favourite books which you can read here. 

Other stuff you should check out:

 

What’s next? 

Want to know more? Luckily for you, there is so much out there about feminism. I have barely scratched the surface in this post. Obviously, you have to take everything you read with a pinch of salt. It is all open to your own interpretations.

I hope I have at least opened up some thoughts and ideas for you… I’d love to hear what your interpretation of feminism is in the comments!

How to Survive Exam Season

I am fast approaching the end of my degree – mixed feelings fill my brain on a daily basis about that. Although I am organised, I am also a huge worrier and find this period of the academic year really challenging. So,  I thought  I would share some tips on how to survive exam and deadline season.

Here’s some advice:

Self-care is SO important at this time. Look after yourself.

Every day set yourself some goals about the work you want to achieve

Find out when and how you work best – and stick to it! Are you a night owl or lark? Do you work better on your own or with friends?

Be realistic about your expectations. If you have been working towards a particular grade all year, chances are this is what you’re going to get

Work for 20-30 mins then have a break. Keep the breaks short and regular (I never used to believe this, but trust me, it actually works!)

Don’t spend more time making a pretty revision table and selecting stationery than on your actual revision

Make it fun – I find A3 paper and sharpies provide a lot of entertainment

Book/plan something for the end of exam season which you can look forward to

If you really can’t concentrate and you feel crap, take a break and call a friend

Keep your surroundings tidy!

Get dressed in the morning – it can be tempting to stay in your PJs all day, but studies show you concentrate better when you have made the effort to get ready

Use all of the resources available to you – ask your lecturer/teacher questions, go to your library and read through your notes

Concentrate on the topics that you’re less confident with or dislike the most, then move onto the areas you like

YOU HAVE GOT THIS!

 

Tweet me your own advice – @maldrichwincer 

Make Gender Inclusivity Compulsory in University Surveys

During the course of my degree,  I have designed and distributed at least 6 surveys for various modules. Times that by the number of students studying my course and that is a lot of questionnaires and desperate pleas for respondents. We have all seen the Facebook statuses and received the messages- – “it will only take a few minutes and it would REALLY be helping me out”. We have also all felt the slight sense of doing our good deed for the day once we have completed it and message back with the three relief inducing words of “I’ve done it!”.

Now, for all of these fun surveys, a majority of the time we will start with some demographic questions. This is to try and prove our research is relatively “representative” (ignore the fact that we might ask our mate to pretend to be a 45 year old professional to even things out). We get asked our age, gender and ethnicity.

Today I want to focus on the gender question. Often, we get 2 options: Male or Female. Sometimes if we’re “lucky” we get a couple of extra options: Other and prefer not to say. Before I go on, let’s go back to the basics. Gender and sex are different, although arguably both are a social construction. The gender binary does not exist and we all belong somewhere on a spectrum.

Side note: I recently enlightened one of my close friends with this information and she was delighted to discover that gender is a construction and that she gets to decide how she identifies, quote “so if I wanted to, I could be a boy?!”.

Some are cynical about all of the language available to describe gender and sexuality…. Ash Hardell does a good job in this video talking about “Snowflakes”:

Long story short, we need to give more options when we require information about people in surveys. Enforcing the gender binary can be triggering for some and can isolate and exclude individuals.

Surveygizmo gives some really useful information on the topic, click here to read what they have to say.

To put it simple, if you are going to ask for someone’s gender try:

  1. Leaving it open ended, i.e. Gender? __________
  2. Give MORE options

I am disappointed that in class during modules specifically about research and how to conduct effective research projects, these issues were not discussed at all. I believe that gender inclusivity should be made compulsory or at least talked about during academic studies. This is because EVERYBODY regardless of identity deserves to be included and represented.