Reading room: May edition.

With every new month comes a new reading list. Here are some recommendations for you to put on yours!

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Thérèse Raquin
by Émile Zola

This is a book that took me completely by surprise. I’m not too sure what made me pick this up, but I am very glad I did. It is one of those stories that stays with you long after you’ve finished it and moved onto the next. Exploring themes such as deception and lies, sex, lust and violence to name a few. Zola takes the reader on an intense journey in an attempt to create a scientific study of the characters.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman

Something different to what I would usually choose but was an interesting change. The story follows the socially awkward protagonist through a change from a lonely, structured life to exploring more in terms of friendship, romance and self love. As the story goes on we see little snippets of Eleanor Oliphant’s past that comes through slowly revealing why she is the way that she is and what happened to her. Slow paced and fun to read, this is a book that would be great for travelling or to wind down before bed.

 

The Tell-Tale Heart
by Edgar Allan Poe

An intense short story that explores the concept of guilt and sanity. This is a fast paced quick read that will leave you shocked and questioning everything you thought you knew.

 

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Poem of the month:

In Memorium
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This is a poem inspired by Tennyson’s grief after the loss of his friend, Arthur Henry Hallam who died suddenly. Although it’s a long one, please don’t be discouraged! The poem is so great that Queen Victoria made him poet laureate because of it.

 

A little end note: if you don’t have access to books, you can find a free selection to read online on Project Gutenberg

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Fast fashion

Fast fashion is clothing retailers such as Zara, H&M, Primark and Topshop selling the latest trends at an affordable price, making fashion accessible to everyone.

 

But with cheap clothing comes cheap labour, taking advantage of underage workers in countries like Bangladesh who work long, exhausting hours for little money. And with new trends appearing constantly, comes the destruction of the environment which is progressing rapidly as past trends are being dumped into landfills and being left to pollute. The cost of fast fashion is a lot higher than what first meets the eye.

 

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In the long run, being caught up in this routine of buying new clothes to match the latest trends is detrimental to humans around the world, the planet and your own wallet. To effectively save money and dress well, the first thing to change is your mindset. To understand what makes a good quality garment and how to put together an outfit. Buying good quality wardrobe staples ensures you get years of wear out of them and can create new combinations as you slowly accumulate different pieces that represent you and your style, rather than buying a new top every week for the sake of having something new to wear. As great as retail therapy feels in that moment, that moment is fleeting. Understand that quality is more important than quantity.

 

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One for the lads.

A toxic British subculture that perpetuates casual sexism and is heavily reliant on misogynistic banter. It’s evident that lad culture creates an uncomfortable and unsafe environment for women and the LGBTQ+ community however, the irony of all this is that it is just as unhealthy for the boys who entertain this behaviour.

 

Currently in the UK, men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women (Samaritans). With lad culture banter, it is impossible for men to express themselves and their emotions. To express their sensitive side in fear of taunts such as ‘gay’, ‘take your tampon out’ and the classic, ‘man up.’

 

The sensitive nature that is often linked with women and gay men is seen as soft and delicate, something a ‘real man’ should not be. But why not?

 

Being able to communicate effectively, express yourself calmly and listen with the intent to understand are all valuable skills to have yet they are jeered at and mocked mercilessly by boys who think they have to be aggressive and take nothing seriously in fear of being called a woman.

 

So we can either address this subculture that seems to have settled into society and is acting as normal behaviour or we can sit and watch as you ‘lads’ give each other severe depression, anger issues, attachment issues, communication problems and the list goes on.

 

The fact that it is seen as normal by these males to talk to women in such a derogatory way, to mock LGBTQ+ people in the name of banter and roast each other and force forgiveness for their harsh words with peer pressure to conform and not feel anything. Forcing someone to be emotionalises and ‘have a laugh’ causes problems for them, their future parter(s), their kids, people they work with or use anyone they come into contact with. It is possible to be funny without insulting someone else, it’s possible to have banter without crossing lines and it’s possible to have a group of male friends be together without jeering, cat calling and sexualising every woman within their vicinity at any given moment.

 

If you need it help, you feel alone or you just want to talk then these are for you:

 

https://papyrus-uk.org/hopelineuk/

Samaritans free helpline: 116 123

https://www.prevent-suicide.org.uk

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

https://switchboard.lgbt

 

The bloody secret.

Menstruation is one of the most natural things to happen to a woman yet it is widely misunderstood due to a severe lack of education. Not only do girls need to understand what is happening to their bodies, but boys also need to learn because there will always be someone around them that is going through this.

 

In brief, it is the body getting rid of excess tissue and blood through the vagina. This happens monthly and lasts typically 3-8 days depending on the individual. The symptoms and side effects that come with this are abdominal pain, cramping, mood swings, bloating, headaches, acne and joint pain to name a few.

 

There is a lot of debate online as to whether women should be given special treatment or be allowed to act out due to their hormones. When instead all women are asking for is free sanitary products and some understanding from others around them. It is an exhausting, painful, expensive and emotional time of the month and for people to belittle and demean women for something out of their control is a big problem that needs to be addressed. The PMS jokes, the mocking of a tearful woman and the secrecy behind being on your period needs to stop.

 

We need to talk openly about the best sanitary products for each individual, we need to talk about irregular periods and how they can be a symptom for serious conditions such as cancer, infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome and many other things. (There are many causes for irregular periods, not all of them sinister. If you feel there is something wrong, please consult your GP!) We need to allow women the space and freedom to talk openly and comfortably about their own bodies. They should not be shunned into menstruation huts, they should not be missing school because they cannot afford sanitary products, they should not be ridiculed for taking their bag to the toilets; and they should not be voiceless when it comes to an issue concerning their bodies because society has conditioned them to think it’s unclean, impure, dirty or something to be ashamed about.

 

Some useful links:

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/menstruation

https://www.bloodygoodperiod.com

https://plan-uk.org/about/our-work/healthcare-and-clean-water/menstruation

https://www.freeperiods.org/mission

https://www.nomoretaboo.org/faqs

The F Word.

Over recent years, feminism has become somewhat of a controversial sore spot amongst society. The meaning of this word has been skewed and twisted to suit all kinds of agendas but the underlining definition remains the same: equality of the sexes.

 

Men and women have long been unbalanced in their social roles and responsibilities. Traditionally, girls were brought up to be passive, maternal, emotional and submissive whereas boys were encouraged to be breadwinners, leaders, dominant and strong. This narrative provides a world of problems for everyone and churns out emotionally unstable men who are too afraid to show their feelings and hesitant and complacent women who are often disregarded.

 

As 2019 approaches, a representational shift is needed within the media. Feminism does not belong to the Lena Dunham’s and Amy Schumer’s of the world but to everyone. To the trans women who are being attacked for using the bathroom, the women killed for being in love with someone who doesn’t fit other people’s expectations, the women murdered for expressing their sexuality; the list goes on.

 

Currently, the narrative being spun is that feminism is about hating men as if women having rights somehow strips men of theirs. This of course could not be further from the truth. The movement is for equality, for everyone. The lack of support from people who believe that it’s about pushing men down is harmful and cannot be overlooked. Women, constantly being compared to diamonds, cars and food are not objects put here to be controlled, used and discarded of.

 

Women are living, breathing human beings with thoughts, feelings and opinions of their own who deserve to be seen as such. Women are not just someone’s daughter, mother, sister, wife etc. Women are more than their relationships. All human beings deserve to be equal and to be safe, despite race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

The dangerous portrayal of romance.

Although the concept of romance has evolved dramatically over the years, the common theme that seems to never go out of fashion is chasing what you want. Expressed through poetry, books, movies and songs; there is a strong narrative that encourages men to ‘fight for her’. The expression of this idea suggests the correct way to handle a breakup or rejection is to convince her that she is wrong. The promotion of this toxicity from the entertainment industry is dangerous and irresponsible as it has serious repercussions, which have been highlighted in news media over the years. The blatant disregard for her autonomy entices a feeling of entitlement given to men over women leading to harassment, abuse and even murder.

 

Luke Howard who declared he would play the piano in Bristol around the clock in an attempt to win back his ex-girlfriend is an example of an entitled man attempting to guilt a woman into taking him back under the guise of ‘romance’. Another example of a male not being able to take rejection is Santa Fe shooter, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who killed Shana Fisher after harassing her for four months resulting in her publically rejecting him.

 

The romance ideology is distributed so extensively that it conditions girls from a young age to not only accept it but to consider it. This is detrimental to the growth, independence and autonomy of young girls who transition to adulthood expecting men to express their entitlement towards them. This causes a sense of guilt and responsibility to be with him which is associated with abusive relationships whether that be mental, emotional or physical. Staying in a relationship because he broke down, he expressed his love through repeated unwanted ‘romantic’ gestures and feeling sorry for him is unfair. Men painting themselves as victims to guilt their partners into staying with them are emotionally abusing someone who has been conditioned by society to accept your pitiful apology. This harmful ideology is passed onto the next generation when children see their parents playing out this role of abuser and submissive wife, creating the cycle in their lives as children accept what they see their parents doing as a way of life.

 

Society tries to raise girls as future mothers who must baby men and take responsibility for them; a very recent example being Ariana Grande and Mac Miller. Even though they split, Grande is being bombarded with comments blaming her for Miller’s death for ‘leaving him when he needed her’. The attempted break down of this woman is an example of the problem. Women need to be able to leave without negative repercussions.

 

This is not to say that every man falls into this role and does not know how to act around women who are independent and assert their needs and wants. There are men out there who understand the difference between harassment and consensual acts of romance. If throughout this post you got mad because ‘not all men’, you probably are part of the percentage who thinks they are entitled to a girlfriend. Take a step back and re-evaluate. A woman is not an extension of a man but an equal.

 

50 books to read before you die | New Years resolution

Years ago I came across a bookmark that had 50 books to read before you die written on it. This has always been on my mind and although I am a literature student, I could still be reading a lot more than I am now. These two things have always been in the back of my mind so my 2018 New Years resolution is to combine them and read 50 books this year. 2 birds, 1 stone.

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I found an online version of the bookmark which makes it a lot easier and you can tick them off as you go. I’ll leave a link at the end for anyone who wants to do this too.

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Some of them I might change for a different book because although this list will help to explore different genres and maybe help me pick up something I ordinarily wouldn’t, some of them I know I don’t want to read and there isn’t any point punishing yourself, this is supposed to be fun!

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Lastly, I know that some people can’t afford to buy loads of books and some people don’t have a library that is easily accessible to them so a good site where you can read ebooks for free is Project Gutenberg

The list of books: 50 books to read before you die 

And here is a link to where you can buy the bookmark just in case any birthdays are coming up: bookmark

Good luck!