Flo la vita

Lifestyle and Think Pieces

My one and only New Years resolution this year was to read more. Initially, I was certain that I would purchase on book in January, read a chapter and then leave it on my bedside table to gather dust whilst I simply forgot about it.
Thankfully that hasn't happened yet and I've managed to stick to my resolution well into March. The reason being is that I've made a conscious effort to only buy and read books that I know I'll truly enjoy.

In the past I've been largely guilty of buying coffee table books exclusively, purely because "look how pretty it is" and never actually taking the time to read them. For a long time I treated book like I would treat a vase of flowers, their purpose being to sit on my shelf and look pretty.

But, in buying the genuinely good books that I previously wouldn't have batted an eyelid at, I've managed to surprise myself and rekindle my love for reading. Here are the last four book I read...

Feminists don't wear pink and other lies - Curated by Scarlett Curtis

Feminists don't wear pink and other lies was a book I was very much driven to buy by the hype surrounding it towards the end of last year and early this year.
The book is a selection of essays from a range of women (Grace Campbell, Lolly Adefope, Saoirse Ronan, Dolly Alderton and many others) about what feminism means to them. Each essay was incredibly unique and personal, most sharing their own experience of when they realised they were feminists and what prompted them to come to that realisation. Some were funny, some were relatable and some were downright heartbreaking. I gasped on multiple occasions whist reading this, purely because of the brutal truths that were bought into the light throughout the book.

My only criticism would be that some of the essays seemed to drag on a little, some not really getting to much of a conclusion. But, asides from that it was an excellent read and one I would recommend to anyone starting to take an interest in the movement, as its a great introduction into the world of feminism.

The book perfectly summed up my own feelings about feminism and being female, that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to articulate. Its also given me the vocabulary to be able to articulate my feelings to others, meaning that I am no longer in any situations where I'm thinking; "I know the way this person is treating me is wrong, but I can't put my finger on exactly why its wrong."

Life Honestly - The Pool

Life Honestly is a compilation of essays from a range of opinionated female journalists (Bryony Gordon, Sali Hughes, Zoe Beaty, Caroline O'Donoghue and many more). The book touches on all sorts of topics from friendships, love and relations, parenting, mental health all the way to feminism.

One essay that really struck a chord with me was "The Sad Inevitability Of The Grown Man And The Teenage Girl" by Caroline O'Donoghue in which Caroline spoke candidly about her own experience being pursued by an older man and the mentality of the men who choose to go after underage girls.
She made some excellent points, suggesting the attraction is as much due to the man's feelings about himself as it is about the school uniform, which seemed obvious to me after reading, but wasn't necessarily something I would have initially have though of upon seeing the multiple news stories of male celebrities taking advantage of underage girls.

In general the book very much has women at the heart of it and its no-holds-barred approach to discussing the issues women face in their day to day live (most of which are deemed too 'taboo' by mainstream media) was very refreshing.

"The man who seduced me as a teenager wasn't talented or intelligent, or even a capable adult. He had dropped out of several degree programmes, lost several girlfriends and had alienated various batches of friends before he met me. A grown man doesn't usually have a teenage girlfriend unless he needs to feel good about himself, unless he is fresh out of people to be impressed by him."

 - Caroline O'Donoghue

This is going to hurt - Adam Kay

This is going to hurt is a collection of Adam Kay's diary entries, documenting his time working for the NHS as a junior doctor. The book was both hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure, and I was very much surprised by Kay's ability to give such a witty commentary on his often horrifying experiences.
The book highlights the harsh realities of life as a junior doctor. Not only the realities of working on the the wards but also the impact such experiences have on their personal lives (or lack of them).

As someone who has spent large chunks of time in hospital, and under the care of the NHS, this book not only shocked me, but it fed my infinite amount of respect for the doctors working for the NHS.

The book provided witty anecdotes, making me snort with laughter on multiple occasions, graphic but hilarious descriptions of the patient's state (with a de-gloved penis being described as "spaghetti stuck to the bottom of the bowl by a smear of tomato sauce"), but also many heartbreaking stories. Particularly the ending, which had me in floods of tears.

On the front line with the women fighting back - Stacey Dooley

On the front line with the women fighting back was a book I was very much inclined to read due to my love for Stacey Dooley's documentaries.
Throughout the book Stacey tells the stories of each of the women she's met whilst making her documentaries, sharing their experiences and how each of them have overcome their struggles in their own way.

The book was informative of the struggles women face globally, from the Yazidi girls fighting ISIS in Iraq, to child sexualisation in Japan, whilst also having an incredibly personal touch as it was written from Stacey's perspective.

It was an easy read, although I found that certain sentences were phrased oddly, meaning I had to go over them a couple of times in order to totally understand what was being said. But, Stacey isn't a writer, she's a broadcaster and the purpose of the book was to give an insight into the lives of women globally, which it very much did.

Of the many things I’ve inherited from my mum, (her height, eyebrows - or lack of them) the thing that is most prominent to me is by far her attitude, something which she shares with the generations of women who came before her in our family. 
Her strong-minded, independent attitude and the fact that she stands for no bullshit is something that I admire in her and feeds the infinite amount of respect I have for her, which seems to grow with age. 

When I was four, my parents split. Since then my mum has raised both me and my brother almost entirely alone and - with the exception of the weekends once a fortnight that my dad would take over childcare - she’s had little to no financial or emotional support.

For my mum, having kids meant giving up her successful career as a freelance jewellery designer and instead  she spent an intense year studying for a PGCE at university (whilst bringing up two young children). She then became a primary school teacher, a profession in which she could rely on a steady income and had school holidays off to spend with my brother and I. 
How she managed to juggle being a full time university student and a full time mother is something I don’t think I’ll ever entirely understand. It’s certainly not something I think I would ever be capable of doing, especially not to the extent my mum has, having excelled in both aspects. 

Given the situation, I haven’t grown up in a financially stable family, like most of my friends have. In fact, my family were on benefits for a period of time. This is not something I intend to complain about as I know full well that so many people have it far worse than I do. In fact, I don’t even think I have it badly at all - I’m incredibly lucky to be living in the way that I am. Rather, I’m trying to provide context so that hopefully you get a better understanding of how strong willed the women in my family are. 

Our financial situation meant that as a family we weren’t able to indulge in the luxuries or extravagant holidays or throw away money with no thought on unnecessary Starbucks sandwiches in a similar way to the vast majority of my friends. But, my mum was sensible in her spending, teaching my brother and I the value of money and that in fact there are alternatives to buying overpriced sandwiches. She was careful with her money in order to facilitate a lifestyle for my brother and I and as a result we haven’t had to miss out on the experiences similar to those of our friends. 

Aside from her attitude towards money, my mum is the most emotionally strong person I know, having raised two children alone, undergone a career change and throughout all, kept spirits high.
Her straightforward honesty is something I have been especially grateful for in many situations throughout my life. During the long periods of time when I was younger in which I felt trapped in toxic, manipulative friendships her frank advice helped me a great deal in gaining perspective and understanding of the situation. She's the wisest woman I know, and has helped me extensively during periods of my life in which I have felt completely lost. 

This straight forward attitude is something she shares with her own mum and grandma, and something I see in myself to some extent. 
Possibly one of the most crucial reasons for her strong attitude is the experience of her own upbringing. 

My mum grew up in a family in which the typical parenting stereotypes were very much reversed, with my grandma being the sole breadwinner of the family and my grandad taking on to the typical ‘mother’ roles, as he worked from home. He would do the cooking and take my mum and aunt to school, all whilst my grandma was out working as a university music lecturer. Not only were my grandparents unusual in the sense that their parental roles were very much reversed, their attitudes most definitely went against the stereotypes too. My grandma - like my mum - had a head on, no bullshit attitude and was far more practical than my grandad, who is quite a sensitive man. 

Unfortunately, I never got the chance to meet my grandma as she died of cancer when my mum was a teenager. However, from the stories my family have told me about her, its quite clear that she is a perfect example of the strong willed attitudes upheld by so many women in my family. This is also true of my great grandmas, one of whom raised all three of her children alone due to the fact that my great grandad died whilst two of them were babies. And despite being widowed she continued to adopt a third child.

I firmly believe that the mentality of the women in my family is something that has impacted each of them throughout the generations, and inevitably has come to impact me too. The strong, independent attitude that each of them have upheld is something which I very much see in myself. In fact, its my favourite feature. 

I’m beyond proud to have inherited their outlook and all I can hope is that I will grow into a woman even the slightest bit strong and independent as those who have come before me. 
From a young age I have always been somewhat aware of my opinions and I’ve never shied away from vocalising my thoughts to the people close to me. Whilst some of my opinions are less well-formed than others, the one belief that I have always advocated - no matter what -  is the belief that people should be treated equally, whatever their sex. To put it simply - I’ve always believed in feminism. 

Feminism was something I first became properly aware of at the age of twelve. Immediately I took an interest and began to consider myself as a feminist. To me it seemed like an no-brainer. I believed in equal rights and was conscious, to some extent, of the inequalities and issues women and young girls faced globally. So why shouldn’t I be a feminist? 

By definition, a feminist is ‘a person who supports feminism’. Whilst I’m aware that, for some, referring to yourself as a ‘feminist’ can seem daunting (especially for those who aren't yet certain of their political beliefs)  I’ve been wondering lately, why so many people who support the movement are so reluctant to call themselves feminists?

In some sense, I think there is a sense that the term should be reserved for those activiely promoting the cause, which makes people disinclined to refer to themselves as feminists. Maybe, associated with feminism there is some kind of notion that you must be attending women’s marches, reading feminist literature and openly spreading the feminist message. The idea that unless you’re actively trying to make a difference, you're not a ‘real’ feminist is one I am very much inclined to disagree with. From my perspective, feminism means something different to each and every person, according to their own experiences of life. Therefore, how you go about being a feminist is something each and every person will do differently. Whether you want to be the kind of feminist taking more extreme measures in the fight for equality, or if you’re a quieter feminist who chooses to make smaller changes - wherever on the spectrum you choose to place yourself, you’re still a ‘real’ feminist.  As the definition states, a feminist is simply ‘a person who supports feminism’.

Amongst the misinterpretations and fear of commitment to the movement, I’ve also recently noticed a sense of shame from a lot of girls who support the movement, which leads to them refraining from calling themselves a feminist. This is something, I am ashamed to say, that I am guilty of myself. Just the other day I was asked if I identified as a feminist and I frowned and shook my head. After doing so I instantly felt a pang of guilt, simply because I realised if we aren't open about our political beliefs then how can we expect change?

I think, for me, the reason for denying my feminist beliefs was because of the judgemental tone the guy who asked me so clearly had in his voice. I feared that admitting to believing that I should be treated the same as my male counterparts would prompt streams of questions and, of course, judgement. This is a clear reminder that the stereotypes society have created surrounding the feminist movement aren't something of the past. The misinterpretations and ideas that feminists are purely angry women, burning their bras isn’t just something of the just suffragette era, the stereotype very much lives on today. 

The judgement that follows on from these completely ridiculous stereotypes has caused me to deny identifying as a feminist and has no doubt caused other likeminded people to do the same. The problem is as much the stereotypes as it is people like me giving in to that fear of judgement. If we continue to pretend we aren't feminists, simply because of the incorrect ideas others have of the movement, then we are essentially giving in to the patriarchy and those who choose to believe in these stereotypes will never see just how much feminism positively impacts everyone. I say, if you are a feminist, champion that title.
Ever since I started to take an interest in the Feminist movement, I knew that the pressure to appear macho and hide vulnerability was something that very much existed for males. I became suddenly aware of how clearly this pressure had left its mark on each and every boy I knew, and of course how it had influenced them to bottle up every emotion they felt that wasn’t deemed ‘manly’ but todays society, or any society for that matter.

However, it was only when searching out a new cleanser at my local Superdrug that I was prompted to question what was at the root of this problem. I’d noticed the difference in packaging and marketing techniques of the cleansers displayed, depending on which gender they were targeted towards. 

The women’s cleansers sat together on their shelf, most of them pink and giving out some sort of message of femininity. On the next shelf the mens cleansers were displayed. One particular cleanser that struck a chord with me was “Bulldog: skincare for men.”

I concluded that the reason for the difference in marketing was gender stereotypes. But, the clear difference in marketing techniques got me questioning what impact mens products conforming to male stereotypes has on mens mental health. And, if marketing health products in this way is adding to the pressure on men not to manifest vulnerability or any emotion other than anger. 

From a stereotypical perspective, skincare isn’t deemed ‘manly’ so in some sense naming a men’s skincare brand “Bulldog” is a smart move on companies side as it takes away some of the shame associated with men buying skincare products and it makes something deemed ‘feminine’ more acceptable to men. Not only that, using stereotypes in this way appeals to a mass audience, so essentially its in the brands interest to support these stereotypes as doing so means more cash for them. 

These products are so clearly a result of the gender stereotypes inflicted on us. But, my theory is that way we market these particular products adds to the pressure and further encourages men to hide their true emotions. 

The marketing of mens products is only a small factor leading up to this problem, and most likely not something many of us consider or think twice about. But advertising is something that surrounds us in our day to day lives and something that, with the rise of social media, is becoming impossible to escape. So, the idea that men can only appear tough really is forced upon us and does create a toxic stereotype that the vast majority of men feel they have to live up to. 

The thing that bothers me is that this is something we’re finally starting to have conversations about. We’re finally telling men that its okay for them to cry, show emotion and admit to feeling vulnerable. Yet, we continue to enforce a stereotype and in doing so enforce a pressure on men and young boys to hide such feelings, through the marketing of male products. 

Each of these products adds to pressure to appear a certain way and not display any feeling of vulnerability. They teach men to hide emotion and ‘man up.’ But, in the words of the absolute queen that is Paloma Faith herself, “You don’t have to man up, that phrase kinda sucks.” I say we all take a leaf out of Paloma’s book.

But, jokes aside, this is a real problem affecting the mentality of so many men in today’s society. The marketing of male products is just one factor amongst an uncountable number of others leading to this pressure to be seen as macho. But, combined with advertising and the the way men are represented in the media, its one that we see all the time. I say we stop enforcing this stereotype upon men and let them manifest their real emotions.
Scrolling through my Instagram feed I'm met with outfit photo after outfit photo, chai latte after chai latte and quite frankly, I'm bored...

You see, lately I've become aware of just how much people are actually sharing online. That constant need to update their profile’s on what they're doing, where they are, who they're with. The list goes on and on and on.
Being someone who, by todays standards, is anti-social (I can't remember the last time I opened Instagram just to post what I was doing on my story) the whole culture of sharing, or over-sharing on social media is something I find quite difficult to wrap my head around.

Saying this, I am conscious that I'm sounding like a bit of a dick. Of course I'm guilty of sharing a couple of slightly narcissistic selfies on social media, but the question that's been playing on my mind recently is why we share what we do?

After a lot of thought, I've come to the conclusion that over-sharing on Instagram is more than just a habit, rather a subconscious search for validation. Maybe we post our selfie’s when we feel like shit because we know that the likes and flattering comments will make us feel better. Maybe we post photos of our avocado toast (I know, so millennial) because we desperately want to seem like we've got our shit together, when really its been a long day and all you want is to curl up on the sofa with a dominos takeaway. Maybe we over-share because we just want the validation. And the more we share the more validation we get. But, my theory is that at some point we start depending on the validation of our followers in order to feel ‘worthy’.

That reassurance of our own personal worth, or validation as I've been referring to it, is exactly what we get. Our followers shower each and every one of our photos in compliments, and we do the same back to them. Over and over.

We comment and tell them just how great their life is looking.
In reality, I don't give a flying fuck about what Sally in Sussex is having for dinner. But still, I proceed to tell her just how delicious her sushi looks. Why? Truth be told, I don't know.
Maybe its out of habit? That's the etiquette on Instagram? Or maybe I just want to affiliate myself with that persons sugar-coated, seemingly perfect lifestyle?

I know, suggesting that I want to affiliate myself with someone else's 'perfect' life not only makes me sound delusional (we all know Instagram is a highlights reel when we think about it), but also incredibly insecure. However, I know I'm not alone in this. I know I'm not the only one who comments any old bollocks on strangers posts just to be nice. But, I'm also not suggesting that the 1 billion people using Instagram are all insecure losers, constantly updating their profiles in a never ending search for more and more validation.

So, what does make us share so much online? And what is it that makes us feel a pressure to reassure fellow Instagram users that 'yeah, you're doing okay'? Like I've said, I don't know. I don't know why I do it, let alone why every other person does it. But, I do know that its not necessarily the most productive way to spend my time online. So think about it, whilst you're updating your story. Why are you sharing it? Is it for validation?
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