Why Pride?

I am going to admit something I am ashamed of: I have never properly attended a Pride parade. There, I’ve said it. I am a 29 year old lesbian and I have never properly been to a Pride. I have been in London for Pride twice; both times I have missed the parade, wandered past stages and had a few drinks in Soho. For my local Pride, in Norwich, I have been in the city on the day but haven’t watched the parade or heard any speeches. I actually DJed a local gay club on Pride a few years back: what a night. So I am not a Pride novice but everything so far has been on the periphery. 2017 Norwich Pride will be different.

I recently put a question out on Twitter about what Pride means to individuals within the LGBT+ community and the responses were enlightening. Many people discussed how Pride events were about remembering our collective history and the struggles of the past. Others talked about it being about standing together in support of those LGBT+ people around the world that are not given the rights who are in Britain. Some mentioned that Pride is about visibility and raising awareness of the diversity within our society. The overwhelming majority of responses talked about Pride being a celebration. 

This discussion on Twitter led to me question why I hadn’t properly attended a Pride. The answer is embarrassingly simple: I hadn’t felt the need to. In the past I have, at times, felt embarrassed by my sexuality, as though it was something to hide; I didn’t feel like it was anything I wanted or needed to celebrate. How wrong I was.

In exactly a month today, Norwich, the city in which I live, holds its 9th annual Pride event that continues to go from strength to strength. Last year thousands of people lined the streets to celebrate the diversity of our ‘fine city’ with many local businesses and services supporting the event.  Those involved have work tirelessly to ensure the event continues to grow and that the celebration attracts a wide audience. The 2017 event is set to be bigger and better than the last.

This year I plan to pop my Pride cherry: I will be using my Twitter and instagram to report live from Norwich Pride, bringing the action to you as it happens. I will be looking around the different stalls, listening to inspiring speeches, watching the parade and sampling the Norwich nightlife. 

If any of your reading this live close enough to join us then please do; Norwich is a wonderful city with amazing architecture, a thriving university and a refreshingly liberal outlook. I feel immensely proud to live in a place that is so vibrant and that encourages such an open celebration of diversity. 

On the 29th July I, and the rest of Norwich, will be honouring LGBT+ history, raising awareness of those less fortunate than us, celebrating our differences and having a great deal of fun doing it: come and join us! 

It’s the little things . . .

Pay attention to detail next time you are in conversation with someone or listening to a presentation. Really listen. Do you ever hear the subtle, underlying messages that I heard today?

No teacher looks forward to a staff meeting; if you are in the profession you know the ones. Sat in a stuffy hall after a tiring day teaching, listening to things that you either already know or could have been put in an email. After one of the hottest days of the year this is the situation I found myself in today.  First on the agenda was an outside speaker talking about how to support young carers. 

In a sense, the topic of his presentation does not matter, it was the underlying gender stereotypes which caused irritation. I decided to carry out my own little test. As our guest spoke I began to notice him referring to ‘mum’ when giving examples of people who needed care. At the top of my notes pages I wrote ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. I kept a tally. In the 20 minute presentation our speaker referred to the person being cared for as ‘mum’ six times; not once did he refer to them as ‘dad’.

‘So what?’ I hear you say. ‘It’s just a figure of speech’. ‘Don’t be so sensitive.’ ‘You’re such a feminist.’

Sensitive: no. Feminist: unapologetically yes. 

Why was it mum and not dad on every occasion? Is it that a woman’s role is to be the carer? Women are seen as the ones who do the cooking and cleaning, looking after their family. Maybe it’s because women have historically been submissive and need protecting. Could it be that it would be weak for a man to admit he needs help? Is a man less likely to need the support of others?

Whatever the reason, clearly no malice was intended. I am also fully aware that we all have some innate gender bias. However, if this is to change for future generations we need to challenge each other and think more carefully about the impact of, what we deem to be, insignificant comments. 

A global citizen 

Political events over the last year have brought into question the concept of being a global citizen; Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the rise of Marine Le Pen in France.  Swaths of voters have chosen right wing, inward looking, isolationist policies at the very time that we should be looking outwards, reaching out and working together.

I, and many of my generation, have been left dismayed by political outcomes. As a teacher I have seen teenagers upset and angry that decisions about their future have been made by people that won’t be effected by the consequences. Whilst my passport says I am British, in many ways, I view myself as European: a global citizen. I don’t want to feel alienated from the rest of Europe due to my nationality and the decision by the 52% to leave the European Union. 

This will not become a rant about the referendum; yes I voted to remain but I fully respect the democratic process and the subsequent outcome. Would I prefer if we were remaining? Yes. Was I saddened and shocked by the outcome of the referendum: undoubtedly. However, one year on, we must accept and reflect on what has happened, finding the best possible solution for our country and our relationships with our neighbours.

When the news of the early General Election was announced I was shocked. The reasoning given was that, by electing a Tory government, we were giving Mrs May a clear mandate to negotiate a deal with Brussels. Suddenly the woman who had vowed not to call a snap election went against her word and did just that. From then on the election campaign was, for the Conservatives, about two things; Mrs May and Brexit. Their campaign was centred around a person not the party. In the eyes of the Tories this election was all about who is going to lead Britain through Brexit.

As voters we had a choice between a ‘bloody difficult woman’ and a sincere, honest politician. I want Brexit to result in a good deal for Britain but I don’t want a hard Brexit. I don’t want negotiations to break down and further alienate our European counterparts. I don’t want immigration quotas put in place to divide rather than unite. Quite clearly last year more people voted for a change to our relationship with Europe but at what cost? We are entering into the unknown, a period of uncertainty. No deal is not better than a bad deal. No deal leaves us even further isolated and powerless.

As the result of the General Election has become increasingly evident our questioning of the Tory campaign has become valid. Mrs May asked for a mandate to negotiate our exit deal from Europe and failed. Mrs May wanted to solidify her party’s control on British politics and has failed. Calling the election was a clear misjudgement and the decision has backfired. Rather than political stability and certainty we have the complete opposite.

When waking up this morning my faith in people to make politically astute decisions has been restored. There has been a lurch to the left with voters being won over by of Labour’s socialist policies whilst becoming disinterested with a tired Conservative rhetoric. As many of you wake you will hear Corbyn state that British politics has changed forever: I could not agree more.

Many voters will be rejoicing at the thought of Britain becoming a more equal and outward looking society. When speaking after the tragic London terrorist attack Mrs May made the mistake of suggesting changes to human rights whilst flippently stating that potential terrorists would be ‘deported back to their own countries’. This was the last in a series of catastrophic misjudgements. 

We are global citizens who want peace and unity, not division. We want equality whilst also celebrating our differences and diversity. My previous post discussed how Britain found itself at a political and social crossroad. Whilst that is still the case the events of election night have made the path just a little clearer.  

A country at a crossroads 

Today our country stands at a crossroads: by placing a small cross in a box we are making a monumental decision about which path our country takes. With  less than one hour until polling stations close I feel an immense feeling of fear and anticipation.

In recent years British politics has moved towards the middle ground. People have complained that there has been very little choice between the main political parties. This election has changed that. The campaigns of Labour and the Conservatives have been polar opposites: Labour have focused on public services ‘for the many’ whilst the Conservatives have been fixated on Brexit and May’s ‘strong and stable’ leadership. In many ways I welcome this variation; we finally have a clear choice with parties sticking to their core values rather than squabbling for the centre ground of politics. 

Six weeks ago nobody would have thought that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign would have been such a success. As a Labour voter I have been pleasantly surprised by his professional and robust campaign that has sparked both curiosity and admiration. Slowly, but surely, Corbyn has proved his critics wrong with a Labour campaign that gathered pace as we headed towards polling day. Whilst the last six weeks have not been a completely smooth path for Labour it has been a far bumpier ride for Mrs May and her counterparts. People have started to become numb to her tired rhetoric and the broken record of Brexit: their campaign has felt miscalculated. 

Our vote today is about more than Brexit: it is about the direction of our country. Yes, the winner of this election will lead us through negotiations to leave the EU but they will also be responsible for our NHS, education system and care of our elderly. Whatever the outcome of this election we will have learnt a few things:

1. Mrs May underestimated Corbyn’s ability to create a campaign that would ignite a passion for a fairer Britain.

2. Our country is more than Brexit and any politician who has neglected important issues such as education has misjudged our country’s priorities.

3. Young people have been inspired to take an interest in politics and vote.

The path chosen by the British people, at this time, remains unclear but, over the coming hours we will learn the direction of the country for the next five years. 

 Rebel Girls – The book all young girls should read

I stumbled across the book ‘Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls’ when a good friend of mine sent me a link on Facebook. We had met for a coffee earlier that day and had discussed my blog and potential topics I could write about.  That evening I clicked on the link which took me to an engaging YouTube video: ‘If Cinderella were a guy’ (https://youtu.be/p4OyCNctKXg), which was promoting the book.  The video led me to research the book  further and, finally, write this post.

The concept of the book is genius: 100 true stories about extraordinary and inspiring women, both past and present, who have changed the world. The women range from Elizabeth I to  Venus and Serena Williams and from Malala Yousafzai to Amelia Earhart. The ‘If Cinderella were a guy’ promotional video changes Cinderella to Cinderfella, ending the story with the caption ‘You wouldn’t read this to our boys, so why read it to our girls?’. As I watched the video I found myself nodding with agreement and thought back to the fairytales I was read as a child; princesses being saved from towers or being controlled by wicked stepmothers: women were all too often submissive. I can think of very few examples of strong, independent, successful women who could be seen as true role models.

At first I questioned the title of the book; ‘Rebel Girls’ didn’t seem right. What was rebellious about becoming a tennis player or being an American rock singer? If the concept of the book was to promote these achievements as attainable and the norm for women then surely labelling them as rebellious defeated the object? And then I got it. They were rebellious as they defied their gender stereotype. These women stood out in patriachal societies and did things that no one expected them to be able to do. They proved, beyond doubt, that women should not be confined to the private sphere of the home and should be in the public sphere taking on roles, responsibilities and challenges once dominated by men. 

‘Goodnight stories for Rebel Girls’ promotes female independence, ingenuity and integrity. It shows young girls that their gender is not a barrier to success and, no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation, they are able to be whoever they want to be.  The authors of the book, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, say that this is the book they wish they read when they were younger: I couldn’t agree more. There have been numerous news stories recently about young girls having less confidence than boys. Boys are surrounded by stories of superheroes whilst girls are often read books about princesses. ‘Rebel Girls’ is a step in the right direction in its quest to boost confidence and self esteem whilst highlighting to young girls the outstanding achievements of strong women. 

If I am lucky enough the have a little girl she will definitely be reading this book at bedtime.

The elephant in the room

Still, in 2017, there is an elephant in the room when it comes to health. That elephant is mental health. Many still don’t understand it, most feel uncomfortable talking about it and mental health services are under more pressure than ever. Why?

Over the past two Thursday evenings I watched the BBC’s gripping two part documentary, Mind Over Marathon. For those of you who haven’t seen this, or are living outside of the UK, the programme followed 10 people suffering from a variety of mental health disorders in their quest to complete the 2017 London Marathon: it was emotional and compelling viewing. Over a five month period the runners were supported by professional running coaches, dietitians, psychologists and, most importantly, each other. The physical and emotional journey that they went on showed viewers how running can act as an aid to improve mental health. In fact the official charity of this year’s London Marathon was a mental health charity ‘Heads Together’.

On Sunday 30th April I attended the ‘March for Mental Health’ in Norwich. The aim of the march was the raise awareness of the impact that government cuts continue to have on people in Norfolk and Suffolk who suffer from mental health problems. I was inspired by the way that mental health nurses spoke about their frustrations at not being able to give patients the care and support they need due to funding cuts. I was humbled to hear the stories of families who have tragically lost loved ones who were failed by the system. Both the television programme and the march have inspired me to speak out about my brief encounter with anxiety.

This may sounds like a cliche but I have always seen myself as a strong person, able to cope with difficult situations. A cliche, but true. This is how I perceived myself and, to an extent, still do. About this time last year all that changed. I had an internal interview at work for a promoted position. I had been teaching at my school for six years and was well-qualified to take on this new challenge. One other member of staff, who I worked closely with and respected, was also going for the job. Now job interviews are nerve-wracking but when you are applying for an internal position you know the people interviewing you and your colleagues know you are going for the job: it seems like there is a lot to lose. I had the interview and, later that day, was told by my headteacher that I didn’t get the job. I would be be the second in the department rather than leading it. I crumbled, I sobbed in front of him. That night, at home, I cried so much that it took all my strength to go into work the next day. 

I limped my way to the Summer holidays; in my mind the break would heal the wounds and allow me to go back to work in September feeling positive. As the end of the break approached my mind turned to work. I was worried and anxious. I was concerned about how I would cope not being fully in control of my subject area, which I had been previously. I didn’t know how I would be able to talk to the members of staff who had made the decision to not give me the job. 

Up until Christmas my overwhelming feeling about work was that I did not want to be there. I had times when I woke up in the night crying. On more than one occasion I cried on my way to work. When I thought about certain situations at work my chest tightened. I felt anxious and I hated it. The way I was feeling was out of my control and this scared me. I had previously played football every Sunday for a local team; playing competitive sport had always been a way of me letting off steam. Not even this was helping me control the way I was feeling; actually, it was having the adverse effect. For a couple of weeks I hadn’t been selected to start which made me feel dejected and upset. Not getting the promotion at work made me fearful of rejection, not being selected at football was cementing that feeling.

Things had to change. I was caught in a spiral of feeling demoralised and anxious. In January of this year I made two decisions that have helped me cope with my feelings about work. Firstly, I stopped playing football and started going to the gym. Football was bringing me down and I did not need to do something at the weekend that wasn’t making me feel good. I have always been a sporadic gym user but keeping to a routine and going regularly has been a revelation. It makes me feel good about my body and the endorphins have done wonders for my mental health. The second thing I did was start writing this blog. Writing about topics I am passionate about has been cathartic. The gym and the blog are for me, nobody else. Having these two things to focus on has made it far easier to get up, get in the car and go to work.

Mental health should not be the elephant in the room; it should be something we talk about. I still have days where I find going into work difficult but I am in a much better place now that I was four months ago. If you are feeling low then seek help. Speak to your friends or family, work out what you can do to change your life for the better. Those people who ran the London Marathon were an inspiration, they had gone through so much but were tackling their issues head on. Mental health should not be in the shadows and we should not be ashamed if we are struggling to cope. If you have ever struggled speak out, your story could inspire others to do the same. 

Fertility clinic lacks clarity 

As you may know from the ‘Cost of Becoming a Parent’ post my wife and I are in the throes of fertility treatment to try and conceive our first child through IUI. Unfortunately our first two rounds of insemination have been unsuccessful but this is not the focus of the blog; we are still positive about the process and our chance of becoming parents. This post is about our fertility clinic and the inconsistencies we have faced along the way.

Anyone who has experienced the process of fertility treatment will understand the emotional journey that you enter into: it is therefore absolutely essential to have a fertility clinic that you can trust and rely on. The clinic we have been using has been nothing but professional throughout the process but, after our second failed pregnancy test, we have been left feeling very frustrated.

Very early on in the process we had asked our consultant about going back to back with treatments. She had said that we could go back to back but that they sometimes advise, due to emotional reasons, for people to miss a month. My wife and I discussed this and we were very clear that, to start with least, we would want to go back to back. We did not want to waste time. After the first negative test we contacted our clinic to plan an appointment to start the next round of treatment straight away. However, we were shocked to receive an email saying that proceeding with round two straight away was not possible. The reason given was that my wife’s hormones had to return to normal levels before another attempt. This was a blow. Every month is precious when you are trying for a baby and, in a process that is so out of your control, losing one of the only things you have control over was difficult to take.

We moved on, waited and when, the next opportunity arrived, started round two.  Again, we had a negative pregnancy test. We were obviously upset and then our minds turned to the wait we would have until the third go. We emailed the clinic to let that know that we nad a negative result. The response to the email caused confusion and anger: we were told we needed to make an appointment if we wanted to proceed this cycle.  My wife rang the clinic and explained that we had previously been told that it was not possible to go back to back: it was confirmed that we could. The overwhelming feeling was one of frustration.

We had wasted a month. A whole month when we could have gone through treatment and fallen pregnant. This is us trying for our first child. My wife is 33 and we have been told that clinics rarely do IUI treatment on women over 35. The clinic does not know our plans for further children; I remain undecided in whether or not I would like to carry and, if I choose not to, my wife would try to fall pregnant with our second. This could, potentially, mean IVF which is far more expensive and intrusive.

We are angry, we are annoyed and, most importantly, we feel let down. This is private healthcare, with one specialism: fertility. Their systems should be watertight with inconsistencies being rare. Unfortunately we have other examples of a lack of clarity and miscommunication regarding the storage of hormone injections and blood tests. Friends of ours have also started this process with the same clinic and have come across similar frustrations. Any couple that enters their clinic is doing so because there is a reason why they cannot conceive a child in the ‘normal’ fashion. Starting the journey of fertility treatment is potentially a long, emotional and expensive process. When you enter the clinic you are entering into the unknown: you must be able to trust the professionals.

Buying a birthday card

Buying birthday cards is something we all frequently do. We try to match the card to the person: their hobbies; their sense of humour; their favourite colour. This process is easy for adults due to the wide range of cards available.  However, when buying cards for children, especially when wanting a card with an age on it, this process becomes confusing.

It is my cousin’s daughter’s 4th birthday at the start of May and I went to buy her a card.  When standing in front of the array of cards the lack of variety was so noticeable; cards aimed at boys were red and blue with pictures of dinosaurs and cars whilst the cards aimed at girls had shades of pink and lilac with pictures of princesses and flowers.  There was a clear divide with girls’ cards to the left and boys’ cards to the right. I stood looking for a while to see if there was an alternative to this gender stereotyping but, alas, I could not find anything different.  I chose a card that was the lesser of many evils; a yellow number 4 with a dog painting pink and lilac flowers.

The choice of a birthday card is only something minor and many of you reading this may believe I am being too politically correct and sensitive. However, please consider one of these situations.  You have a son who is a talented dancer or artist and has no interest in cars, football or dinosaurs. You have a daughter who loves superheroes, football or trains but hates the colour pink.  Which card do you buy for them? You can, of course, pick an appropriate card that matches their interests; after all the choice is yours, you don’t have to follow societal conventions and norms. However, we have been conditioned to look at those two rows of cards and automatically, subconsciously, decide which are for boys and which are for girls. Viewpoints are changing, barriers are being broken, but maybe shops can do something very simple to help: mix the cards up!

Dear Theresa May: an open letter

Dear Theresa May

The appalling and shocking news of the treatment of gay men in Chechnya cannot have escaped your attention; there have been reports of LGBT people being rounded up, tortured, beaten and placed in a form of concentration camp. There has been outcry on social media and protests to show solidarity and raise awareness of the situation. At the time of writing this I am concerned that no senior member of government has spoken out about these autrocities. I hope this letter outlines why it is essential for you to publically address this situation and explain how the British government can help put an end to this crisis.

The recent events in Chechnya are a sobering reminder that many LGBT people across the world still live in fear and under threat of persecution. When news such of this reaches us silence is not an option. In Great Britain we are fortunate to be able to live freely and marry whoever we choose; the law protects all of our citizens no matter their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. This freedom has not come easily: individuals and groups of people have fought to be treated equally in this country and recent events remind us that rights can be taken away as well as won. Communities across Britain have come together to protest against events in Chechnya with the aims of showing solidarity with those facing persecution as well as attempting to put pressure on our government to speak out and act.

Russian attitudes towards members of the LGBT community is anything but supportive; there have been numerous stories of people being mistreated in the country whilst it is illegal to discuss homosexuality with people under the age of 18. The last LGBT execution in Russia was in 1996 and, whilst it is currently suspended, the death penalty for homosexuality in still part of the country’s laws. The Kremlin has denied any knowledge of the events in Chechnya and the region’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said that the reports cannot be true as there are no gay men in Chechnya. Applications for LGBT asylum in Britain are up 40 per cent. My question to you, Mrs May, is: ‘What can you do about this?’.

A group of cross party MEPs have recently written to you requesting that you make a public statement to outline the government’s position and have also asked you to call an immediate meeting with the Russian ambassador. Currently neither of these things have been done. It is appalling that no senior official has made a statement over a week after this news surfaced. At a demonstration in Norwich on Thursday evening, I was proud to hear that our MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis, has launched an Early Day Motion regarding the mistreatment of gay men in Chechnya. The British government must discuss this issue in Parliament and stand up against this injustice; an inability to do this sends a message of acceptance. What value does Britain place on LGBT rights?

Rights for groups of people around the globe have been hard won and must therefore be hard protected. As the leader of one of the most powerful and influential countries, silence is not an option: stand up for what is right.

Yours sincerely,

The Gutsy Gay

Do we still need gay bars and clubs? 

The answer to this question, and therefore this post, could be very short: yes! However, the reasons behind this are vast and complex. Some people may ask: ‘In a mainly open and accepting society why do we need separate social spaces for the LGBT+ community?’. In this post I hope the be able to explain why these spaces are still essential.

When I decided I wanted to write on this topic I ran a 24 hour Twitter poll with the question ‘Do we still need gay bars and clubs?’ With two simple answers: ‘Hell yes!’ and ‘No, let’s mix!’. The wonderful LGBT+ twitter family kicked in and the poll received 1,948 votes.  The results were overwhelmingly in favour of LGBT+ social spaces, with 83% of people voting for ‘Hell yes!’.  Many people also took the time to comment, outlining the reasons behind their votes. Thank you.

I first started going to gay bars when I started university. As a fresh-faced 18 year old arriving in Norwich, I regularly spent my Saturday night at The Castle or The Loft; my eyes were opened to a world I had not yet been a part of. People were friendly, the music was fabulous and it was a safe space where you could just be you.  Going to these places was an important part of my self-acceptance and really good fun!  One of the main arguments for needing LGBT+ clubs and bars is allowing people to explore their sexual orientation in a safe environment; it is a way of meeting like-minded people and potential partners. People may argue that in the age of online dating apps the need for clubs and bars to meet people is reducing but for many, connecting with people virtually is not enough. Fast forward a few years and my visits to any form of club are far less frequent but I am definitely partial to a night out at Flaunt, Norwich’s newest addition to the gay scene.

A couple of Twitter comments made a very important point about gay bars and clubs serving as a reminder of how far we have come in terms of equality.  Some people may suggest that in a more open and accepting society the need for separate LGBT+ social spaces is reduced. Conversely, it can be argued that these places stand as historical affirmination of, and a tribute to, the progress society has made.  The LGBT+ community is no stranger to violence; police raids at the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969, a fire sweeping through the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973, a bomb exploding at the Otherside in Atlanta in 1997, the 2016 shootings at the Orlando nightclub to name just a few. These examples all demonstrate why LGBT+ friendly spaces are still relevant and necessary. Gay bars and clubs across the world stand as monuments to previous and ongoing struggles, creating a sense of community, acceptance and belonging.

All groups within society crave their own space where they can connect with like-minded people: religious groups have places of worship; readers have book clubs; singers have choirs. Why should the LGBT+ community be any different? Flaunt in Norwich is packed every Saturday night and attracts a diverse crowd of people drawn together by their acceptance of varying gender identities and sexual orientations. Worryingly, one of the comments I received from a transgender woman suggested she has felt uncomfortable in gay bars due to incidents of transphobia.  Stories like this make me angry. We should be one, large community that is supportive of all its members; gay bars must be inclusive for all. This got me thinking: by referring to them as ‘gay bars’ are we inadvertently excluding members of our family? Would LGBT+ clubs be a better phrase?

Lastly, they are just good fun! So many of the comments I received highlighted that nights out at LGBT+ social spaces are entertaining, exciting and enjoyable. Bars and clubs are quite often at the heart of any LGBT+ community and it is essential that we continue to give these places our custom.

Sexy shoes for toddlers are wrong

When discussing my blog with a friend, she showed me a picture of a pair of sparkly, red heeled shoes. Now my friend wasn’t giving me fashion advice or trying to subtly suggest that I needed to dress in a more feminine way: the shoes were actually aimed at babies between the age of 0-6 months.  Appalled, I decided to need to research this further.

After trawling the internet I came across several websites that are selling these shoes in a variety of colours and prints. The most notable, ‘Pee Wee Pumps’ (https://peeweepumps.com/), sells shoes with soft, collapsible heels and pointy toes that are designed for baby girls to wear before they can walk. Further investigation took me to the ‘about us’ section of the website which emphasised the shallow and arguably immoral branding of these products.  This section of the website opens with the statement:

“Fashion-forward moms love to dress up their little girls with the cutest bows and outfits, and are always looking for the perfect pair of shoes to complete any outfit.”

In this sentences lies the problem: these shoes are aimed at women who are extremely fashion conscious and self-indulgent. The women who would buy these shoes are almost treating their daughters like dolls: your child is not there to ‘dress up’.  There is a distinct different between a child who is old enough to choose their own clothes and shoes selecting sparkly, feminine products and a baby, with no choice, having this thrust upon them.  A baby between 0-6 months needs little more than baby grows and practical clothing.  The amount my four month old nephew dribbles, I see little point in spending money on expensive outfits! 

The ‘Pee Wee Pumps’ brand has received much negative media attention: the company has been blamed for fuelling the sexualisation of young children.  The shoes have been described as ‘horrid’ and ‘sick’ with many people calling for the brand to be banned. Founder of ‘Pee Wee Pump’, Michele Holbrook, has stated that the shoes were created to meet the “current and ever-growing popular demand for ‘high-fashion’ in infant apparel”. Demand from whom?

With society becoming more and more image conscious, the babies of today will grow up in a world of selfies, social media and filters.  Parents should be doing all they can to protect their children from becoming obsessed with the way they look rather than fuelling this from such a young age. 

Dear Daily Mail

Dear Daily Mail

I am writing regarding your front page on Tuesday 28th March which included a picture of Nicola Sturgeon and Teressa May with the caption ‘Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!’.  I am aware that you have received much media attention and criticism regarding this matter and I wanted to take the time to express my deep concern for the message your newspaper is presenting.

When driving home from work today I heard commentary on the radio condemning the headline and the subsequent article that made similar comments including that their ‘pins’ were their ‘finest weapons’.  I have to admit that I assumed that this was written by a man; it did not even enter my head that a woman would choose to objectify the two most influential women in Great Britain in this way.  On my arrival home I learnt that this article was in fact written by a woman: Sarah Vine. I was appalled. I immediately questioned why a woman would choose to lead on this highly important story with this tone.

Your later attempt to passify the outcry fell on deaf ears; referring to Vine’s comments as ‘lighthearted’ emphasises your inability to give the public what we want. We do not want our politicians objectified and we do not want important news stories to be made light of.  This is a turning point in British history and the public want facts and educated opinions rather than trivial, sexist comments.  As a historian, it both upsets and worries me that making comments about female politicians’ bodies and clothes is printed in our national newspapers, let alone making headline news. As a high school teacher, it concerns me that young people are subjected to this media coverage. Young girls are suffering more than ever from a lack of body confidence and mental health issues due unrealistic media expectations: you have a duty of care to ensure that your coverage does nothing to exaggerate this growing problem. It is bad enough that, due in part to media coverage, young women and girls already have poor body confidence, without the issue being reinforced, or even amplified, by today’s message that no matter how successful you are as a woman, you will never be more than the sum of your body parts.

Your response to critics telling us to ‘get a life’ is appalling: listen to the public and hear our disgust, do not ignore us. Vine’s comment of ‘that’s just what’ tabloid newspapers do is equally ignorant: you can make the news more accessible without causing outcry and offence.

I have no doubt that you will continue to report the news in the blunt and obtuse way that you always do but please be aware that this will always be met with scorn and criticism.

Yours faithfully

The Gutsy Gay