Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day in the UK.

Father’s Day comes with its own issues. One of my main complaints is the cards. Oh my goodness. If you weren’t already having a crisis of masculinity, this is the day where you would question your identity. It is near impossible to find a card that isn’t navy featuring beer and sports in some way. There are jokes about being a “taxi” or “bank”. There are DIY tools and slippers galore. A day where sexism that can be nicely packaged in an envelope, with “Dad” scribbled on the front. No, thank you.  To be honest, I find it pretty patronising and a little bit sad. Mother’s Day cards aren’t much better, featuring a whole lot of pink, flowers and quotes about kindness.

I understand that with the gender revolution, masculinity and what being a “man” is, can be a little confusing.  We are, however, slowly seeing social media campaigns about encouraging men to open up, be honest about their feelings and trying to elimate damaging phrases such as “man up”.  This is only the beginning of a complex journey to gender equality – for everyone.

My own beliefs about gender is that it is fluid. Every human has the capacity to express varying degrees of masculinity and feminity. How you identify and labels you do or do not choose, is up to you.

On Father’s Day in my family, we normally go for lunch or do something low-key where my sister and I can spend some quality time with our dad. I know that Father’s Day can evoke a lot of emotions for people. Dads who have passed, are absent or perhaps haven’t built good relationships with their children. Sometimes, Father’s Day is for mums who have done parenthood alone. Some families have no fathers at all. Families come in many shapes and sizes, with no “model” superior or inferior than another. It’s important to remember that.

This day makes me very grateful to have my dad, who in my opinion (of course I am biased), is a great example of what a “father” should be like.  He works hard, is kind and thoughtful, works as a team with my mum in a true partnership and he’s funny, really funny. He is a feminist ally and is always educating himself on various issues; but he will also put these into practice and is keen to share what he’s learnt. For example, at his work, he initiated a change in their assessment forms for clients to make it more inclusive.  He did this by adapting a question about gender to “How do you identify”, rather than “are you male or female”. He is emotionally available and is truly interested and invested in his family’s lives. He also, very importantly, never tries to be the know-it-all-alpha-male.

In a lot of ways, he demonstrates what I think the future of masculinity will be, should be.  So, I am more than happy to celebrate this day with him, he really deserves it.

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Meet Rupert (plus some chat about gender).

(TW: gender dysphoria, suicide, misgendering)

A few weekends ago we made a spontaneous decision…. to buy a hamster. We got the cage and all the toys. We bought the food, bedding and oh my goodness I was so excited.

We had selected the name and were ready to go. We got to the pet shop, chose the cutest and sweetest little hamster I have ever seen. Got home and boom, we are now pet owners! How exciting.

The name we chose was Rupert (Rupi for short). Like Rupert bear because hamsters are like tiny little winnie the poohs –  in my opinion anyway. Our little Rupert also happens to be a “female”.

Despite people thinking this was a political statement, it really wasn’t. We loved the name, loved the hamster –  a match made in heaven. At least that’s what we thought!

A sample of the conversations that have followed:

“Rupert… how old is he?”

“Well, she is a couple of weeks old!”

“Did you pick the name before you realised…..?!” *shocked face* …. “What about RupertAA”.

People think it’s weird and don’t get it. “Oh, everyone has to be gender fluid now!?” roars of laughter and looks of how ridiculous the world we live in must be. “We’re not even allowed to say the word gender at all are we!”

Now as much as I love our little ball of fluff, I know that she is unlikely to make a big impact on the world. But what she has made me realise is that we have a long way to go.

On a daily basis, I am reminded of people’s small-mindedness towards gender, with disregard for other identities and how someone else might feel by clumsy language.

If you’re not sure why we need gender neutrality and what the “big deal” is with saying some things are for boys, some things are for girls. Then one thing I would say, is how lucky you are. You have not experienced the gut-wrenching feeling of being given the wrong pronoun or feeling left out of society. You may not know that 45% of trans pupils have tried to take their own life. It may seem all ‘too much’ or ‘over the top’. With the ignorant likes of Piers Morgan and other prime time telly people chuckling at the “confusing” gender politics that is becoming more and more prominent in our media, I can see why you might find it hard to take seriously. Often these shows don’t give a lot of airtime to educated allies and people from the LGBT+ community who may be able to explain why all this stuff matters.

Just know that if you can open your mind, be a little more self-aware and accept criticism if you make a mistake, you could maybe even save a life. You could make a parent worry a little less about the future of their recently out child or make a non-binary teenager feel like there is some hope left for them in this world.

As for Rupert, I am pretty sure she’s happy with her name if it comes with a few treats and extra bedding.

How do I get a job in the charity sector?

My first third sector job was volunteering in a local charity shop at the age of 15. This sparked my passion for working in the sector and it is all I have wanted to do since. 7 years later and I have graduated from university and now I have a full time paid role at a brilliant charity doing communications and fundraising.

But let me tell you, this journey was challenging.

It is difficult to get a paid full-time role in a charity without working for no pay or volunteering at least for some period. I wrote a bit about this a couple of years ago here.

I thought I would share some tips from my experience in this post because I know that I spent hours on end desperately searching the internet for anything that could help. I asked everyone I could think of. I attended various talks and careers fairs.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Reach out to your contacts and people in the sector
  • Volunteer as much as possible
  • Get involved in your local community
  • Find a way to stand out – could you start your own project?
  • Be clued up on key issues –  for example, donor relationships, GDPR’s impact on fundraising, transparency, communications, measuring impact and resource management
  • Be prepared to work your way up and create your own opportunities
  • Consider smaller charities which may be more accessible
  • Don’t give up

I think it is important to note, that in many smaller charities, you will be expected to do a real variety of work. One day you could be stuffing envelopes, the next researching potential funding options and then the following day you could be asked to come up with a new marketing strategy. Going into the third sector, you can’t think that you’re “above” tasks. You may need to prove yourself before you are trusted with bigger roles. You could argue that charities and SMEs, in general, have more to lose with their staff. Limited resources mean that they need to make sure that if they invest in you, that you will show them a real return on investment. Younger employees aren’t expected to stick around for long, so you have to either prove that you are going to stay or bring ideas and processes that will remain with the organisation even after you’ve left. You have to make a real impact.

You have a few options, you can try internships, work experience, volunteering, grad schemes and jobs that may be available. Unfortunately, your circumstances can force you down one path. But if you can persevere, it really is worth it.

 

Some useful websites:

 

Transparency and Trust in the Charity Sector

Mistakes happen. They are one of the few guarantees in life. But it is how you manage these and the way in which you take responsibility and are accountable for your actions that is the crucial thing.

It is no secret that the charity sector is under increasing pressure. Local charities, in particular, are struggling to find sustainable resources. Many don’t have enough security to offer full-time positions and they are having difficulty securing funding from ever-shrinking local authority funds and the competitive arena of individual giving.

The national corporate charities for a while felt untouchable. Many critics saying they are becoming much like private sector businesses. But the RSPCA scandal and Oxfam scandal more recently, beg to differ. On a slight tangent, I think it is naive to think that charities can’t function like businesses. Fundraising is as much to ensure the security of the charity and paying for its operational functions in the current climate as it is to go to the all-important beneficiaries.

The problem with the large scale scandals, however, is that it causes the public to lose trust in charities of all shapes and sizes. Lost trust is detrimental to most kinds of relationships. Supporter / Charity relationships being included in this. If we are donating money to charities which we hope will make a small difference in the world, we need to know that it won’t be misused. Now although this could be slightly subjective, I guess we can all agree that we want to ensure that the money will go towards whatever the charity said your money would be used for.

Accountability and governance are equally as important in the third sector. These are not just “tick box exercises”, they need to be at the forefront of strategic decisions and communications. We want transparency. When things go wrong in the charities we support, we need to hear about them. We need reassurance that they are being well managed and most importantly that the beneficiaries do not suffer for their mistakes.

Cover-ups are (thankfully) becoming more and more difficult in general. The truth usually and rightfully will always find a way to wiggle its way out. The third sector needs to continue proving that they exist to do good. It is critical that the correct processes and procedures are in place to effectively manage these circumstances. These processes and policies must also be reviewed and updated to reflect the times, encouraging best practice and the protection of all parties involved.

We can no longer rely on the old perception that charity = good. We must prove it with our actions, building trust and embracing transparency.

 

Other interesting info & reads:

Tweet me your thoughts @maldrichwincer. 

 

 

 

 

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”

 

 

 

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.