When It Comes To Menstruation, We Shouldn’t Be Flippant Anymore

I’ve been trying to get this piece about the language we use when discussing menstruation published for four weeks now. Since today is #MenstrualHygieneDay, I thought I’d go ahead and post it myself.

Recently, I attended a sex talk and the conversation of period sex came up. The room seemed pretty divided and some of the panellists stated they didn’t like the idea of all that mess. I’m a writer – and a period positive one at that – and period sex is something I practice often, enjoy immensely, and talk about a lot. The talk was an open forum and a sex positive space where audiences are encouraged to participate, so without missing a beat I chimed in: “but it doesn’t have to be messy.” Getting ready to list my top period-sex tips off the bat, I was interrupted: “I don’t know why people say you get free lube, because lube makes it cleaner”. There wasn’t enough time to respond as the discussion changed quickly, but the comment stayed with me through the rest of the evening.

I completely understand some people preferring to use lube and I would never argue with somebody else’s sexual preferences. What irked me is the suggestion that you would need lube because guess what? Menstruation isn’t dirty. You may be reading this and thinking I’m overreacting, but resist the urge to call me a ‘snowflake’ for just a minute and hear me out.

Stigma around periods still very much exists

Sure, we’re seeing menstruation being discussed more (which is great), but for every positive story there’s about a dozen more heartbreaking ones. For example: there’s an ancient Hindu tradition where menstruating women are banished to an outhouse and in western Nepal it’s still being practiced. In America, the recent house-approved Affordable Health Care Act repeal bill suggests periods are a pre-existing condition, and people with absolutely no idea how vaginas work are trying to tell us how they do and flog ridiculous products. Mainstream menstrual products still use water in their ads in place of actual blood and use words like ‘vagina’, ‘menstruation’ and ‘periods’. And closer to home, it was recently reported that British girls are missing school because they cannot afford tampons.

With menstruation still quite a large feminist issue, ‘trivial’ things like this add up. I thought we had moved on from discussing periods so flippantly. Suggesting menstruation is dirty alienates and shames a large group of people for their sexual preferences. It’s disrespectful of people’s choices and frankly this is something they have to deal with literally everyday. Careless comments like this and letting them go unchallenged is the reason why period stigma is still alive and kicking today. After all, the most effective way to challenge stigma is to talk about it.

It’s not just people contributing to this stigma though, it’s brands too

There has been a rise in independent menstrual companies recently and some of them are no better than mainstream ones. To clarify, I am not a fan of mainstream brands because they refuse to ditch nauseating and exclusionary terms like: ‘feminine hygiene’, ‘lady parts’, ‘time of the month’ to name a few. They also refuse to declare what ingredients are in their products and dance around the fact that we don’t know the long term effects they can have on our bodies. I believe alternatives like menstrual cups, period pants and cloth-pads are the future. But like I said, recently these brands have been failing short too. There has been controversy after controversy with THINX, a brand who were not the first to invent period pants but the first to really market them. And more recently, a rise in brands who completely ignore potential customers altogether.

I guess the most recent example of this would be Mensez, a brand that nobody can tell is serious or not. In case you missed it, a few months back a ‘doctor’ attempted to patent a way for women to ‘stop menstrual leaking’. The idea is that you ‘glue’ your vulva shut using their product and then flush it all away when you urinate. The whole thing called quite a stir, particularly on Facebook, as the page was full of ignorant and sexist comments from the inventor himself.

Not only are they in dire need of an anatomy education, they banned anyone who dared to call them out from the page. The literature that accompanies this products and all the ‘reasons’ they believe this product is needed all stem from one thing: a disgust towards menstruation. At one point, their website stated their goal was to ‘better the lives of women around the world’, despite many fundamentally disagreeing with this across their social media.

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How I Keep My Hair Bright

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know I recently dyed my hair bright orange! I am so in love with it. So in love, I can’t stop taking selfies and even did a photoshoot with the lovely Kaye recently (I can’t wait to show you the rest!). I haven’t dyed my hair a different colour for a long time and I really fancied a change.

Since dying my hair bright orange, I’ve received a number of comments most of which have been lovely. My dad told me I need to let my fringe grow and my mum said it wasn’t her favourite. In addition to these mixed bag of comments, I’ve also had a ton of questions thrown my way too. Today, I thought I’d shed some light on how to get your hair orange and how to maintain it as well. Although this will be mainly for orange, you can probably implement some of these tips for other colours. Just maybe change up  your products.

How I got my hair bright orange

As a teenage emo, my hair has been a whole range of colours. However, red was always my favourite. It was impossible to escape and I just kept coming back to it. Bright red hair and a wonky fringe was my signature growing up. Surprisingly, I have only used bleach once on my hair (and it was on the ends only) in the eleven years I have been colouring my hair. To get my hair red, my hairdresser would strip it first then put the dye on. But this time round, I just thought fuck it! I spent last summer trying to go ginger and it just didn’t work. With the sudden urge to go one up and go orange, I decided to leave it to the professionals.

So I headed down to Rush and let them do their magic. She bleached my entire head and it was so weird. The burning sensation is really quite bizarre. After that, they put the dye in. It was really quite thorough, there was a lot of checking and they washed/conditioned my hair beautifully. The hairdresser also recommended adding something in called ‘Smart Blonde’, which essentially works as a conditioner and saves your scalp from some damage. I get my hair cut at a different salon and they said my hair was in great condition considering it has just been bleached. So, I think it was worth doing!

What shampoo do I use?

I haven’t dyed my hair consistently for a while, because I wanted to let it grow. For years, I have been using Mane n Tail. Described as a horse to human cross-over, this duo really helped me. It made my hair thicker, softer and also really helped reduced breakage. I make a point of getting my hair cut every six to eight weeks. Doing that, using Mane n Tail, along with some other tricks, has really helped keep my hair in great condition. Since going vegan, I’ve started to look at all the hair and beauty products I own. Annoyingly, the shampoo/conditioner I use (their Herbal Essences one) is the only non-vegan combo! For more info, see here.

I turned to Twitter and asked for some vegan hair recommendations. The lovely Tamsin from Eco Fluffy Mama highly recommended the Brave Botanicals range from Faith In Nature and I’m in love! From the packaging right down to how it actually feels, everything about it is just absolutely gorgeous. You only need a little bit to get a good lather going as well, which is good for dyed hair. My friend recommended trying not to lather up as much if you want dyed hair to last. I wash my hair once a week and my hair feels lovely and soft all week if I don’t use other products in it.

Ask anyone who has dyed hair and they’ll tell you dry shampoo is essential. I’ve been using Batiste for years and it’s definitely my favourite. I love that they have products for other stuff too such as creating more volume etc. Sometimes I use talcon powder in my hair instead, if there is a build-up of dry shampoo. But I try put my hair up during the week to combat that as well.

I’ve discovered a whole new conditioning technique and it’s great

My love for Faith in Nature also extends to the conditioner. I quite like buying shampoo and conditioning combos for more than one reason: 1) the matching bottles and 2) most of the time they do work well together. This combo is no different, together they make my hair feel incredible. The conditioner is really creamy, something I didn’t know I would enjoy. My boyfriend tells me that my hair smells good when I use it too, which is a nice bonus. If you want our hair to smell nice, I highly recommend!

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Do You Really Need To Be A Brand?

It’s no secret that I kind of hate what the blogging industry has become. Algorithms screwing everyone over, the fact that there is no originality anymore, and how Twitter seem to be a high school playground are just some of the few things that irritate me. After a short break earlier this year, I decided to look at blogging a different way. I’m actively trying to be the change I want to see and generally trying to care less. Which got me thinking, do bloggers really need to be a brand?

I guess we should start off by defining what a brand is

The easiest way to do this is to look at the shops you buy from. When you think about your favourite companies, it’s likely there are things that instantly spring to mind. For example when I think about Lush, I think about (or used to) colourful products, minimal packaging, celebrating alternative styles, diversity and equality. This brand has marketed themselves as a company that welcomes all. You see a Lush product and instantly recognise it. There are some bloggers out there with recognisable brands too.

Most influencer’s brands are meticulously crafted, similar and sometimes unattainable

If you take a look at some of the UK’s top influencers, you’re bound to notice some similarities. Whether it’s the similar flawless flatlays, loads of white backgrounds, or the same products being pushed, it’s becoming very tiring. There are so many smaller bloggers out there doing amazing things but not getting seen because they’re different. You only have to take a look at all of these blogger awards and you’ll see the same faces being nominated.

A lot of people have been taking to Twitter lately to air their frustrations with the blogging industry. One of the biggest things people seem to be divided on are the use of Instagram bots. There was a weekend where it just all kicked off, some people were even wrongly accused. People were frustrated by the fact that bloggers were jetting off on paid for trips and getting opportunities off of false engagement. The bots, the same boring images, promoting certain brands, it all annoyingly seems to work. Nothing will change unless we start to change.

Can having a brand be restricting?

Whilst following in similar footsteps can lead to success, I also think the downsides are starting to show. With everything that’s going on in the world, I think more people are looking to influencers. Mainstream media cannot be trusted, so this makes sense. You do take note of people you’re a fan of whether it’s for guidance or pure curiosity.

A criticism I am seeing more often is influencers not using their platforms. With the focus on young people to save us from the Tory government this coming election, people have started to call out influencers who remain silent. When things like elections and important events happen, you find that encouraging people to vote or promoting quality do not fit a lot of influencer’s brands. But here is where it gets confusing. Certain influencers have mysteriously started to write about certain topics only when they become mainstream. For example, when the news of period poverty happening right here in the UK broke, there was a sudden influx of posts/tweets from people who literally never talk about this thing. Should we be happy that they’re finally using their platform or remain skeptical? It’s a tough one. I personally just hope they continue when I see it.

On the other hand, there’s influencers who do use their platforms but irresponsibly so. Ask any smaller blogger and they will probably tell you they’ve gotten into more than one heated argument online with bigger influencers and their fans. I know I certainly have! So many people refuse to acknowledge their mistakes online and try erase any evidence of it happening. Do you want that to be your brand?

What’s my brand?

Here’s where the discussion gets uncomfortable because I’m slowly starting to hate what my brand is. When you start out as a blogger, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by what your brand should be. I’ve been blogging since 2009, but didn’t really start to attract a larger audience until 2015. I protested an advert, went viral, and became a lot more outspoken. Suddenly, my reach was growing at an enormous rate in a short space of time. I started writing about topics I didn’t see elsewhere such as: periods, sex as well as general empowering content. People seemed to love my honesty and the fact I’d call people out on their bullshit. And I guess that’s how I made a name for myself. By being some ballsy dickhead who didn’t know how to pick her battles.

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One Month Vegan Update

Well it’s official, I’ve been vegan for a little over a month now! It’s been a little confusing, but really fun. I thought it would be a good idea to put together a honest account of what it’s been like. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

I’ve been taking a look at my current products a lot

I’ve been vegetarian for four years, so nearly all of the products I own are already cruelty-free. I still have a few products that I don’t use much and have had for years. Things that you use in small amounts that I will eventually replace. Two examples of this would be deodorant and hairspray, I’ll be honest I haven’t looked into the brands I have. My focus, for now, has been products I use regularly and will need to replace soon. My makeup collection has grown over the past few years as I’ve been getting more into makeup. I recently went through all of it and did two things: got rid of any old make-up (and I mean old) and made a note of products I won’t be replacing. It’s been really interesting to see which cruelty-free products are vegan and which aren’t. Luckily, the majority of my makeup is vegan-friendly. I did however discover a face mask from Lush that I love contains honey, boo!

I’ve been thinking about where I stand with parent companies

This entire month I have been reading different blog posts, think pieces and facts. At the beginning, I was so ready to just completely cut ties with any brand that has a dodgy parent company. I walked into Superdrug, replaced a few things and soon learnt that even they have a parent company that tests! The goal eventually is to support more unknown independent brands and shop from mainstream brands without dodgy parent companies.

For now, I decided I definitely want nothing to do with brands that belong to L’Oréal. This means no more products from The Body Shop, which is a shame because they are a great brand. I also recently turned down an opportunity to work with Urban Decay, another brand I was a fan of. I was also a huge fan of Too Faced, but won’t be re-buying from them either.

Lush was about to become a saviour

I’ve reluctantly been a fan of Lush for some time now. I don’t like how expensive it is, but I still do make a point of buying some of their products. Consumerism affects me more than I like to let on. Bath bombs wise, I’m definitely more of a Bomb Cosmetics gal (note: some of their products contain getalin). However, I’m a big fan of their lip scrubs and I recently picked up one of their toners. Since dying my hair, I’ve been using one of their leave in conditioners too. After deciding to ditch The Body Shop, I was planning to replace my stuff from there with stuff from Lush.

As if out of nowhere, Lush then became the latest brand to use fatphobia as a marketing technique. To promote a film about veganism (which I had no idea that this is what they were trying to do), they posted this on Instagram. They have since apologised (it was a bizarre one in my opinion), but I don’t really feel comfortable shopping there anymore. So, that’s more products I’m looking to replace! I don’t want to go into all of this too much, but I highly recommend reading Amanda’s post on this. She sums it all up perfectly to be honest.

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Vegan Lunch at Caffi Pura

As you may already know, we recently took a trip to Wales. We stayed at Bluestone, visited a castle and also spent a day in Tenby. Today I’m bringing you the last of my Wales-themed posts and I definitely saved the best till last!

You see, this is the first trip we had taken since going vegan

In a short space of time, we’ve tried new dinners and even found places near us that are vegan-friendly. But a trip is different altogether. The first trip I took as a vegetarian was a group holiday to Florida with a ton of other families. I was weeks into the veggie life and on holiday with about sixteen meat eaters. It was struggle. So, I didn’t really have any expectations about our first trip as vegans. I figured it wouldn’t have been harder than the trip to Florida.

We uncovered a little vegan haven that goes by the name of Caffi Pura

Just moments walking into Tenby and we had already discovered where we were going to eat for lunch. This darling little cafe was a green paradise. Bamboo is running theme throughout the cafe and there’s plants in every corner. The place seems to be passionate about sustainability as they leave bags of coffee grounds out available for people to take away and re-use. I haven’t eaten in many vegan places before, but Caffi Pura definitely set the bar high decor-wise. It just felt like home for vegans!

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