Graphic by Brenda Liang

GUEST BLOG: “Makeup & Feminism” By Brenda Liang

In this blog I would like to introduce Brenda Liang. I asked Brenda to share her thoughts on her relationship with makeup and feminism:

“Molly was so generous and kind to offer me a guest blog on her inspirational blog so here I am. Oh wait, let me introduce myself, duh! I’m Brenda Liang, a 16 year old blogger over at www.Butimbrenda.com. Just as a little ice breaker, here’s a few facts about me.

  1. I take short (3 minute) showers.
  2. I relish in nothing more than taking my bra off after a long day.
  3. I find so much joy and glory in putting on my makeup.

And…that’s all you need to know. So let’s backtrack to number 3 really quickly because a topic that is overseen often times is the connection (or lack thereof) between feminism and makeup.

Here’s my thing: I’m a feminist. I believe in equal rights. I know, how far-fetched. If you are a feminist too, or have even said something in the remote realm of feminism, I’m sure you’ve heard comments like “man-hater” etc, etc. But a new comment that Molly opened my eyes to is such of: “Wearing makeup makes you a bad feminist.” What…?

My first instinct was a crinkled forehead and a sharp inhale. I was taken aback. I mean what does makeup have to do with feminism? Absolutely nothing. Feminism means equality for women and men. There is nothing about makeup in relation to feminism because makeup is a personal choice, a daily decision. Makeup is about my face and how it looks when I first wake up. Makeup is about the inevitable bags under my eyes. Makeup is about the newborn family of pimples that decided to take a journey down my face. Makeup, however, is not about my beliefs towards equality.

To be brutally honest, it’s no secret that the beauty and makeup industry has contributed to making women think they have to look a certain way. But I think a fair portion of the industry has been revolutionized for the better. There are many brands like Glossier, Josie Maran, Milk Makeup and more that embody an empowering effect rather than a self-deprecating and sexist effect. While you can look through the brands’ websites and read their philosophies, all I need to do is use the product and know that, “Wow, this isn’t making me look like the model in the magazine but the more polished version of myself.”

Now, people either wear makeup for themselves or for other people. And at this point, yes, makeup and the overall beauty industry was born from the marriage of both sexism and capitalism, but people, like myself, wear makeup anyways in spite of its roots because I’m not trying to fit into the (beauty) criteria the media has molded for women today.

I wear makeup sometimes because I like the way it makes my non-existent lashes visible to the human eye. I like makeup because of the way my highlighter catches the light. I like makeup because sometimes it makes me feel like the best version of myself. And I love makeup because I love the sense that I’m painting on my face, not to cover, but to enhance.

I do not wear makeup though, to impress the boys I see at my local Walgreens while picking up my much needed dose of tampons. I wear it for myself. And myself only. But I’m not a feminist for myself, rather for my fellow community of strong and powerful women and my sister, my mother, my grandmother, my future daughter, and generations of intelligent women to come.

Wearing makeup does not make me or anyone a bad feminist. There is just no correlation. None. Wearing makeup does not make me or anyone a good feminist either. Why is that though? Wearing makeup is neutral. NEUTRAL. It does not relate to anything other than the way one decides to present her or himself to the world on any given day.”

 

What are your thoughts on the beauty industry and makeup? Let us know in the comments or tweet your ideas to @maldrichwincer! 

 

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LABEL

IN: Labels

“Could you define your identity in one word? Maybe. Personally, I can’t. My identity is made up of lots of things. My occupation, family, educations, hobbies and values are all contributing factors to how I describe myself. I would say that it is near impossible to describe  yourself using any single category or label.

I recently attended an event which taught attendees how to design a ‘verbal business card’. In the professional world it’s really important to be able to articulate what you do in a quick and clear way when networking (your elevator pitch). You are competing against other candidates or potential service providers and you’re trying to sell your skills! In these circumstances, labels might be necessary.

We can’t get away from the fact that humans have this need to categorise. We categorise objects in order to understand and identify them. In the same way we categorise people, including ourselves, in order to understand social environments. When we are able to understand people and add some context, it tells us more about them and we learn more about ourselves. With categories come social norms and behaviours that allow us to assign others and ourselves to groups.

I have mixed feelings about this. Generally, without having to give it much thought, I would say I’m not a big fan of labelling other people. Those assumptions we make can be restrictive and oppressive. Stereotypes and presumptions are never good. For some people, categories or ‘labels’ are really important for their identity and where they feel that they belong. The difference here is that they are labelling themselves. The label is the choice of the individual to describe their own identity. When the label is being forced upon them by another person and society, this is where it gets dangerous.

For me, whether or not a label is a good thing depends on its purpose and who is benefitting from it. If it helps an individual learn to love themselves and have a sense of belonging, I am all for it! If the label is pushed onto an individual, born from ignorance and laziness, I’m not a fan.

“My sexuality is not the most important thing about me”
Cosima Niehaus, Orphan Black

Another important thing to remember when talking about labels is that we can all have more than one. We all belong to a diverse range of categories. It can be really frustrating when others fixate on one label you identify with. Labels and categories are rarely mutually exclusive. Allow yourself and others to explore different labels. These can also change over time, identities (whether that be sexuality, gender, religion or values) will grow and develop as you do.

We are all complex beings, made up of a mass of contradictions and that’s a big part of what makes humans so beautiful.”

I am thrilled to be able to say that this article was published in the first edition of the #THISISME magazine! Read more about it here. 

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Bees

A couple of months ago I was in Waterstones picking up some summer reads. I was drawn to a gorgeous yellow cover… The title of this book – “The Bees”, also caught my attention. I read the blurb and instantly knew that I wanted to read it. Little did I know how fascinating and thought provoking it would be.

“The Bees” is a tale of survival, bravery and defying expectation, in the intriguing setting of a hive. The book explores issues of prejudice and racism, all within the insect world. What the story really highlights, are the mirroring challenges that can be found in the human world. “The Bees” is also surprisingly frightening – I really couldn’t put it down. You can buy it here.

Prior to reading “The Bees”, I didn’t have much knowledge of what a bee hive is like or how they operate. Of course “The Bees” isn’t necessarily a 100% accurate depiction of hives and the insect’s life. However, it sparked an interest in why bees are important and actually made me see them in a new light. I started considering them as individual creatures contributing towards the world we know. Unfortunately, bees are endangered due to disease, natural habitats being disrupted and destroyed; as well as the decline in beekeepers.

Eleanor Owens, Horticulturalist, says: “ I focus on planting flowers that bees enjoy and I have seen an increase of bees in my garden by doing so! A garden with bees is a more vibrant and exiting place, I always encourage clients to consider bees and wildlife when we’re designing their outside space.”

So, why are bees important?

  • 1/3 of the food we eat would not be available but for bees. Bees are pollinators vital to our food chain.
  • The social life of the honey bee colony provides a controversial start to thinking about the structure of societies.
  • Pollination by bees is important for genetic sustainability.
  • The harvest from honey bees of honey, pollen, wax and propolis has nutritional, craft, manufacturing, and medical applications.

[Click here for source and more information from the BBKA]

Luckily, there are things we can do to help to protect bees and ensure their future: 

  • Avoid using insecticides and pesticides, there are lots of natural alternatives.
  • Make your garden bee friendly!
  • Find out more about bees and share what you learn with your community
  • Support your local beekeepers and buy local honey
  • Help to protect swarms
  • Make you own insect hotel
  • Become a beekeeper
  • Contact your local MP or MEP
  • Encourage your local authority to do more to help bees
  • Look after the bees you meet. Bees only sting when provoked, just stay calm and walk away. They will soon buzz off!

 

I hope that this blog has taught you a thing or two and that I have encouraged you to explore the world of bees! Not only is it enchanting, it is also really important.

 

 

 

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Placement Year: Reflection

I know it can be a little repetitive hearing “I can’t believe how quickly the past [insert amount of time] has gone”. So I’ll skip that part and get straight to what I learnt, how I’ve changed and why I can’t recommend doing a placement year more.

I was always keen to choose a university course that would give me the opportunity to gain practical experience, increasing my employability. Now I can safely say that deciding to do a placement year was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

In my “What’s Next?” blog in June 2015 I wrote “My hope for this year is to gain as much experience and learn as many new skills as possible. I also want to really figure out the types of jobs I will be applying for when I graduate in 2017. I am sure the year will fly by, so I will try my best to enjoy it and get the most out of it.”.

I am thrilled (and relieved) that the year exceeded my expectations. I met great people and I feel that I have learnt so much about business and social enterprise. I have also learnt a lot about my values, strengths and weaknesses. I instigated exciting projects, gave presentations to over 900 people, worked with brilliant people and made amazing memories that I’ll treasure.

Due to the nature of my various job roles, I had control of my timetable. This meant I had time to pursue some personal projects. For example, I had more time for my blog and other writing projects. I also fell in love with yoga again, joined the gym and got back behind the wheel!

Next year I’ll be finishing my degree, so the plan is to make the most of my final year at university. At the moment that entails writing a dissertation on a topic I am passionate about (more about that later), visiting Berlin in January and continuing my work with some of the projects I have been working on; prioritising the degree of course!

If you’re thinking about doing a placement year, I say do it! The application process is challenging and stressful when you have to juggle studying with interviews. However, what you will gain from your time working in industry will make such a difference come graduation. You will leave university feeling ready to tackle the real world and isn’t that what Higher Education is all about?

Over the past 9 months my confidence has grown immensely. I have built my network, learnt new skills and started to build my reputation in the business / social enterprise world. I really have loved every minute of it and if I’m honest, I can’t wait to graduate so that I can get back out there.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone I have worked with for the duration of my placement year, it’s been truly inspiring.

 

If you’d like to check out any of the projects I’ve been working on, please see below:

 

 

 

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Calling the Garage

I am disappointed to say that I don’t know a lot about cars. It’s not through lack of trying or even lack of interest; my brain just isn’t very “practical” and common sense isn’t a strength. Recently, I have had two problems with my car, 1. A soft tyre 2. A roof tile fell onto my car and dented the bonnet, brilliant.

It was actually my dad that pointed out the tyre; I heartbreakingly discovered the dent myself and to be honest I had no idea what to do about either. Obviously I understood that I needed to get them fixed but I didn’t know where to even start, beyond taking it to the garage.

I was forwarded the details of a local garage and I made the call. In preparation for this I scribbled down everything I knew about the whole car situation because I was determined to seem like I knew what I was talking about. To be honest I felt embarrassed and nervous that I would look stupid… Why’s that? GENDER ROLES!  Disappointment filled my veins.  I couldn’t believe I was reaffirming gender roles; I was the walking stereotype that women don’t know anything about cars. How complicated.

I am pleased to say that my phone call was greeted by a friendly customer service person called Eleanor. She put me at ease and didn’t make me feel like an idiot- woohoo!

I had quite different experience when I visited a timber yard with my partner last summer. My SO is a million times better at real- life- common-sense- problems. Our experience with the assistants at the yard was terrible. The shop was filled with men who couldn’t even begin to imagine that we knew what we were talking about. They were unhelpful, rude and condescending. I can’t say for sure that they acted like this towards us because of our gender, but it definitely looked that way.

I am always desperate to be knowledgeable about topics that aren’t stereotypically associated with women – I aim to be armed to challenge assumptions. However, is this attitude adding unnecessary pressure to myself and other women to be all things to all people, in an attempt to be treated with respect?

Feminism is about believing in equality for all genders. So surely, in order for women to be treated equally, we shouldn’t have to live up to masculine ideals in order to be treated like “men” and therefore fairer in our patriarchal society. Men face their own pressures in terms of masculinity and what makes a “real man”. Feminism aims to challenge this, which actually benefits everyone. I guess the point I am trying to make is: isn’t it time we abandon the ideals surrounding gender? Can we please just acknowledge that the human race is made up of individuals, who are all good at different things? Everyone is entitled to the same opportunities and to be treated fairly.

It is also okay that I am a woman who doesn’t know a lot about cars and that doesn’t make me a bad feminist; At least, that’s what I think anyway.

 

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Young People & Opportunities

I have recently had the privilege of meeting some pretty inspiring and driven young people. Generally, I think young people get a bad reputation. Our generation has been deemed social media obsessed and spoilt for choice in the consumer driven society we live in.  There are many young people who are studying, working and squeezing in hobbies, social lives and sleep. University fees are ridiculous and student finance is a mess.  What a time to be young…

One observation I have made during my placement year is that a majority of the young people I have worked with, have worked for no money. They had taken on projects that are demanding and time consuming solely because they saw it as an opportunity. They saw beyond the lack of pay and saw it as a chance to add to their portfolio and to perhaps make a difference. Although I must say it is a shame that young people’s enthusiasm isn’t always enough for them to get paid  – or at least having their expenses paid.

On the other hand, I have to say that I have also been experiencing some youngsters who aren’t taking up opportunities that have the potential to be real game changers. Or they are taking up opportunities half-heartedly – which I think could actually be more harmful that beneficial. As you grow up, your life starts in a bubble. You have your circle of friends, your routine and a list of fun stuff you like to do at the weekend after you have finished your homework. But when you enter the real world, there is no room for such egocentricity  and you have to start thinking about the dreaded phrase…. “the world of work”.

More and more people are going into further education and getting degrees. There are degrees that are churning out more graduates than there are jobs.  That’s pretty scary.  There are also many students and young people who aren’t pushing themselves to take opportunities that could really put them ahead.  This includes work experience, putting extra effort into assignments and going beyond what is expected of you.

I guess this is just a little word of advice.  Even if you’re not sure exactly what job you want to do, take up opportunities.  Over my placement year I have been thrown out of my comfort zone numerous time, which has been pretty terrifying but my goodness am I grateful for it! You are likely to face some stereotypes about young people – how we don’t care about anything other than “selfies” and that we’re obsessed with the internet. But I am calling on you to help me prove them wrong.

Besides, one of the biggest lessons I have learnt this year is that everyone is winging it – no one really knows what they’re doing. You just need bags of enthusiasm, the ability to get stuff done and a good sense of humour.

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“No” is a complete sentence.

“No” is a complete sentence.” (Anne Lamott)  is my new favourite quote. I am someone who finds it difficult to say no. That is not to say that I don’t say the word – I do, including variations of the word. But the element of no that I really struggle with is the guilt that comes with it. Letting people down and not delivering on what I promise or internally expect of myself is truly challenging for me.

There has been a big increase in portfolio and flexible working in our modern workplaces. This means that we are expected to juggle multiple roles and projects at one time. As well as “life stuff” – relationships, housework, children, pets and making time for leisure. One of the first rules of time management is the ability to prioritise the most important tasks.  Prioritising doesn’t only involve listing your tasks in the order of importance. Prioritising also consists of being able to say no to tasks you can’t do to a high quality or jobs that won’t actually benefit you.

It is a real skill being able to say no to people and jobs. It is crucial to your happiness to be able to set boundaries and know your limits. Even if you can find the time and energy to squeeze more work in – should you? You need to make time for self-care and doing things you enjoy.

Another area of life that poses resistance to the word “no” is your social life. One of the negative sides of social media is being constantly bombarded with the fun that everyone is having. This puts us at risk of FOMO (the fear of missing out) and makes us feel like we not making the most of our short precious lives as much as we should be.

We are all guilty of holding onto friends who we’ve outgrown and make us feel bad about ourselves. Or there are those people that we love but we can’t spend too much time with – we can only handle them in small doses. I would even go as far as saying that we have different friends for different purposes. Some friends with whom we enjoy a drink and dance, others we have intellectual discussions with and there are our childhood friends who we love forever (mainly because they know too much).  But how can we say no when they ask to see us for the second dinner in one month and we’re desperate to find another excuse which isn’t – “I’ve have my monthly dose of you already!!”. It would be great if we could be honest and explain. But let’s be more realistic.  A step forward would be being able to say “no I can’t that day I am afraid, but I will let you know when I’m next free.” Or any equivalent that isn’t a long winded, overly apologetic and defensive response.  We should be able to give a one liner as to why, as most people will require some explanation, and then that’s it. No guilt, not another thought about it.

That’s what I am working on at the moment anyway. I am secretly hoping that other people are facing the same problem too, it can’t just be me!  The ability to say no without becoming defensive and guilty is a skill I am working hard to obtain. I want to live by ““No” is a complete sentence” and I urge any other worriers to do to the same. We can do this.

 

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Political Correctness

 

The importance and purpose of political correctness is a debate that is becoming more and more prominent. In this blog I thought I would share my thoughts on the topic and I am going to start by saying – oh my, this is a tricky one.

Something I feel that we can all agree on is that language is one of the most powerful tools humans have.  Words can change the world. We use words to communicate our thoughts, feelings, ideas and beliefs.

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of political correctness is: “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

At first glance, I think it’s difficult to argue against avoiding exclusion or marginalisation of socially disadvantaged people. Political correctness allows us to use language that reduces a negative impact on other people. Some argue that it is easy to choose one word over another. Yet saying the wrong thing can have serious negative consequences for someone else in terms of whether they feel safe and welcome. Political correctness is also arguably an acknowledgment of an awareness that your experiences aren’t the same as everyone else’s experiences.

I can understand the concerns some have about political correctness going too far. There is the view that PC-ness can shrink space for debate and get in the way of progress – which could have negative implications on change.  Political correctness can even “hide” discriminatory beliefs a person has – just because someone is saying the right things, it might not match their actual thoughts. This in turn could mean that it dismisses the chance to further educate people and challenge their perhaps outdated views on various issues. Other arguments against PC-ness is that it is a form of censorship. Freedom of speech is a human right and losing this could lead to a downward spiral.

The controversy that surrounds political correctness stems from personal experiences and to an extent, privilege. People tend to believe that what isn’t offensive to them, won’t offend anyone else. Whereas if you have experienced someone who has not been considerate with their choice of words and know what it’s like to be offended, excluded or hurt; you are much more likely to understand the importance of political correctness.

There has arguably been an increase in the prominence of political correctness in every day conversations. You often here “this isn’t very PC but…” and “I’m not sure what the right words are to say this nowadays…”. Personally, I think this is a good thing.  It is important that we are mindful of the impact that our words can have on the people around us. I do believe that political correctness can protect and encourage inclusivity. But really, the most important thing is to make sure that you are open to listen and learn about the language you use and be prepared to be challenged. We will all use the wrong word or phrase at some stage – that is inevitable. But how we deal with these mistakes and how we learn from this for future conversations and debates is the most important thing.

 

I would love to hear what you think about “Political Correctness” – tweet me your thoughts @maldrichwincer or comment below!

This post featured on the Inclusive Networks website. Find out more about what they do here and check out their Twitter @incnetworks.

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Michael Aldrich (22 August 1941 – 19 May 2014)

Today we remember my Grandpa, Michael Aldrich – inventor, innovator and entrepreneur.

I have spent the past 4 months working on a community arts project – a collaboration between Balfour Primary School and the Aldrich Collection.

The Aldrich Collection was set up in 1995 by my grandparents, Michael and Sandy Aldrich. It now has over 800 pieces of art.

I was keen to be a part of the project because the Aldrich Collection was always meant to be in the community and inspire people. For many reasons, this hasn’t happened until now. It was important to me as unfortunately the arts are slowly being cut from schools. This is devastating for children and society, particularly for talented creatives who are not academic. There are many forms of intelligence and success, I hope our project highlighted this to the children of Balfour Primary School.

One of my favourite bits about the project was contacting the artists whose art forms part of the collection and hearing lovely things about my Grandpa.

“I am honoured to be involved in the collaboration between the Aldrich collection and the Balfour Primary School because I believe that the awareness of the visual arts should be fundamental to the education of children at an early age. This is something that the Aldrich family believe in and I admire the generous and enlightened way they have pioneered and created such an interesting and wide-ranging collection of artefacts.” – John Vernon Lord, Illustrater & Children’s books author

“Lovely to hear from you and thank you for getting in touch.  I’m sorry to hear of your Michael’s passing, he was a very special man. I am so excited that you are taking up the mantle of the Aldrich Collection to which I am so proud to be a part of.  I love the idea that the collection will be used to inspire children so I would be delighted to get involved. Michael and Sandy Aldrich hold a special place my heart, not only did they buy my work but they helped sponsor my artist residency in 2002/2003 to Japan which changed my life and art. Being involved in the arts for all of my life as an artist, gallery owner and curator I have realised there are very few people like Michael and Sandy who believe in the power of art to transform lives, heal, empower and inspire.” – Kellie Miller, Artist & Gallery Owner

“I hope I can help with your project, I really liked and respected Michael…A very lovely man, very sad to hear of his passing.” –  Tanya Brett, Artist 

 

Thank you for teaching me that nothing is impossible Grandpa; Know that the gang are out there making you proud.

Love,

Molly

 

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Balfour Primary School & Aldrich Collection Project

I am thrilled to announce my latest project with the Aldrich Collection and Balfour Primary School.

The project aims to raise awareness of the Aldrich Collection and to inspire the children of Balfour with real works of art and working with local artists to produce their own interpretations of pieces in the Collection. The art will be created during an “Art Week”, where each year group will have a dedicated piece of art. These masterpieces will then be displayed at the Balfour’s Art Open House on 21st May as part of the Brighton Festival.

The Collection aims to promote the University’s “rich portfolio of courses in arts and design” and to encourage community interest in the visual arts.

Marcelo Staricoff , Head Teacher at Balfour Primary School says “When the idea of collaborating with the Aldrich Collection first emerged, I was really thrilled as I felt it would be a great way to enrich the experiences of our children, staff and families. I also thought that developing such an exciting partnership could be part of our long term strategy and not just a one off initiative.”.

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John Lord – Runaway Rollerskate

**OPEN HOUSE ART EXHIBITION** 

SATURDAY 21ST MAY 2016

10:00 —15:00

Balfour Primary School Balfour Road Brighton BN1 6NE

 

 

 

Be sure to follow @Balfourprimary, @maldrichwincer & @thfutureperfect on Twitter regular updates on the project!