Category Archives: body image

What is in a name

Would a rose smell as sweet … 

Okay this isn’t about names, at least not entirely. As some of you reading this will know, I don’t go by my given name on some social media platforms, predominantly Facebook. I have taken a gender neutral name which for the most part seems to be taken as a male name. I KNOW RIGHT? Assuming my gender like that. Coupled with this, apparently my profile pictures cause some confusion. 

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So my attempt at a degree of anonymity on line does appear to be bearing some fruit? Well I signed up to Sarahah on a whim at the weekend and combined with my then profile picture (a cat), I picked an illustration a friend had completed earlier which I kinda liked. 

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I didn’t really get much interaction, even after talking to my friend about this, and further inspired by an anonymous comment made about never using my own picture as a profile (profile pictures tend to be set as public, reasoning is to make it easier to tell if you are stalking the right person) which is untrue. However, I used a festival makeup look selfie I had taken a couple of weeks ago that I was pleased with. I changed both my profile picture on FB and within the app. 

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Now I have mentioned my perceived ambiguity on social media previously and how it can lead to frustrating and upsetting interactions. In groups that I spend time in which are mixed gender, it is often assumed that I am male. Luckily the downright rude comments are kept to a minimum. I didn’t realise how much of a different changing a profile picture would have to my interactions.

This is small scale compared to experiments where men pretend to be women on social media etc etc but it just proves again that we are all dealing with people on how they present themselves. I was going to write a blog on Cat-Fishing (a term I am going to assume that you are all aware of) and how this makes me uncomfortable.

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It is all linked in. I don’t tend to put up many makeup free/normal selfies of myself. I don’t encourage tagging in such photos either.  So while I do argue that most of my profile pictures are of me, they are of a version of me, a better version of me. With good skin, great hair, looking like a drag queen, a fairy, a unicorn, mermaid… I won’t go on but you get the idea. So I guess because I do control what images of me go on social media, I am editing how people can perceive me. This is cat fishing to a degree, as much as I struggle against it. 

I guess the problem here is that, there is no winning. Text lacks body language, and inflection and sound in order to be able to take cues from a person that one would normally expect when first meeting someone. So as much as I might struggle again using a ‘normal’ photo of me, my profile picture will be what most people use to base their initial and subsequent interactions on. That is if they don’t already know me outside the SM bubble, or if they do end up meeting me. The latter can be utterly terrifying, it is like you are being unmasked at the end of a Scooby cartoon.

 

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Sex sells, pretty brings gazes, it is not news to anyone. When you are picking a profile picture how much effort do you put into it. Do you just pick the first selfie you have, do you pick something more meaningful, a memory, event, your pet, child. All the considerations or lack thereof will all have a bearing on how you are interacted with. In the same way they are generally. When you get dressed in the morning, no matter what your personal style is, you know that people you interact with will respond to it. So, it is no different in this context. I chose cover myself in a little anonymity on line, and that is fine. I have no problem with it. But now I have written this reflective account, it is interesting to see how much different just changing a profile picture can make your interactions. 

Sorry if anyone was expecting a feminist rant 🙂 I am sure I can come up with one later! 

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Too old to tattoo ?

One thing that I keep hearing is ‘thing you shouldn’t do when you are XXXXX….’ you are always, too old, to big, to small, too talk, too male.. too female.

On my way into work this morning, I was thinking about a tattoo that I have wanted to get done for the longest time. I can’t afford it. I can’t justify it. I just. Can’t. It is a lot of money, not saying that it isn’t worth it, and I would want to get it done well.

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However, I then realised that to a degree, tattoos, and a lot of body modification has a sell by date, a best before date. Getting them done after a certain age, is … well… a midlife crisis I guess? 

We all see the ‘we will be awesome as grandparents’ memes. We are positive saying, hey you know that permanent modification to your body? It will still look amazing when you are in your 70’s. Own that shit. Work it girl. 

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But again, we are being positive about things done while younger. When it comes to being in your thirties, or older, there are still social expectations. You should be responsible. Have a house, married, 2.4 children. a good job. Responsible. And responsible people don’t get a full back tattoo. Or a sleeve. Or anything…. that may be seen to be against the norm. Because to a degree, as normalised tattoos and other body modification is, it is still seen to a degree as rebellion. Although what exactly you are rebelling against is up for debate. 

I am debating this, because it went through my head and I honestly don’t know the answer. While tattoos are becoming more accepted, it still comes with a degree of, you did it while you were younger, you have since changed and grown up. Or you are very much still living an ‘alternative’ life and there really doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

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Is it also, the point when you hit a certain age, the relationships will have been formed, generally speaking. So doing something like getting a massive thigh tattoo might be considered out of character rather than just a good investment. Or something you now have a disposable income for… because you know, house, kids etc. 

So I guess there really is no answer to this, if you want to get covered head to toe for you 45th because you have the means to do it…. go for it. Want to try out body mods? Why not. It isn’t that you have suddenly have a personality transplant. It is more, that you have finally been able to justify it.

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Keeping abreast of fitness

So, it has been a while since I last posted, and I do have a bunch of posts that I should publish. However I have a review that deserves to see the light of day within the month so here we go!

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As you may be aware, or if you have a look through my previous posts… I am not the best at reviewing products, However, after much soul searching (bargaining with my bank account) I finally took the leap and bought a new sports bra from Valkyrie Fitness . I had it on good authority that they would be a good fit. Now I have tried bras from all over, Nike, Reebok, Wild Bangarang, Primark, Sainsburys, in the hope that one of them would work. I end up either spending over £50 for a sports bra that binds me so tight I can’t breath, or around £25 for one that barely covers my breasts. In all fairness to Primark, they are value for money, but are good only as a cover for a standard bra.

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So.. let us get down to it. I have 34FF breasts, because of this, it is generally impossible for me to find sports tops that cover let alone off support. So you can understand the trepidation as I waited for it to arrive. Well, I took myself off to the gym, figuring the best ay to give it a go would be during an actual session. And I tried it solo which is not something I would normally risk.

I won’t lie, there was a moment were I thought that it just wouldn’t fit. Where I just wouldn’t get both breasts in. Sorry to be quite so blunt. But it is what it is. Well after a brief struggle, I managed to get into the bra, adjusted and off to start my work out. 

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Edit – I have now been using the sports bra for over a month, and in fact took the plunge and bought a second sports bra which arrived on Monday. I can honestly say that I have not found a more comfortable bra and given that I am not … how do you say, a standard fit? I am impressed that it firstly, fits, and secondly, works.

Not going to lie, it is not made for cardio, I won’t be wearing it to a zumba class in the near future. But honestly for a standard workout, including warm up, weights, yoga, etc it is … at the risk of sounding like Flanders, like wearing nothing at all. Which is also, as those ‘blessed’ with larger breasts, will find a rather strange feeling.

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Now if you are interested in buying one for yourself, head over to Valkyrie, either using the link above or on Instagram by clicking : HERE you are best going with your usual dress size, the material is stretchy but secure. And for those with a more endowed chest, the trick to getting it on quickly and simply, is pulling the back down before the front 🙂  

Also have a bonus picture of me in a Valkyrie baseball cap – when you have short hair…. you can look rather androgynous in the wrong gear…. whoops 🙂 That said, I do love it and had a bunch of compliments so it is now in my bag going forward!

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Boobs are fantastic

So in a recent post I explored (albeit briefly) the no existence double standard that suggests that women can (and do?) star at a man’s crotch with impunity, but if a man looks at boobs he is a pervert. I won’t really bother going over this again, it is a waste of time and energy.

But I would like to take a moment to discuss boobs. Boobs to a degree are seen as public property. That goes no matter what size you rock, or whether you have a small child latched onto the nipple.

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It is almost as if, as a community, we are all predisposed to have an opinion. For the record, I have large boobs, I grew them myself. And most of the time I hate them. I have been propsitioned by men on my walk to work and offered money to touch them, I have been attacked, man handled, groped and had items shoved inbetween, under or over them. I have had long discussions about their size, as if the cup size makes a different to most people. The assaults on my boobage is not gender specific and certainly not often able to be excused on alcohol. 

Every set, and often, the individual boob, is different. In the same way dress size, or weight is a bad way of generalising. So what might work for one, will not work for another. 

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A prime example is a conversion that cropped up on a friend’s facebook following something she posted that may or may not have been directly related to, boobs. It then descended into the ‘first thing I do when I get home’ discussion. Honestly, I LOVE not wearing a bra. Not because my inner feminist loves to spit in the face of patriarchy but refusing to wear the constraints passed down to me… or whatever bollox is behind bra burning. And let me ask you, can you afford to burn bras? I certainly cannot! But of course there was the argument for not wearing bras, that it is better for the boob etc. I pointed out that honestly, if I had smaller, or better positioned boobs, if I had boobs that didn’t run and try and hide in my arm pits at every opportunity, I would in fact not wear a bra. I spend more of my free time braless. Or rather, most of my time at home, after all my chores have been done, and I have no plans on leaving the house, braless. 

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At this point, not a single person had volunteered their bra size, and again all boobs are different so even a larger cup size does not mean that they would not be comfortable without a good underwire. But me? Nope. And of course someone chimed in to suggest I wear a sports bra. Because they are supposed to be more comfortable. Nope. Sorry no. When you get to my cup size you are pretty much just strapping things down to minimise any movement and therefore minimising pain. But I do know plenty of people who do wear them, they are generally speaking, wireless and this is a large part of the appeal. 

Now, I am trying not to repeat myself, but again, everything is individual. so what works for one may not work as well for another, when seamfree bras became mainstream I was so excited, the promises of comfort and support without things digging in or hurting. Yeah… no. They work great over a normal bra for extra support (or like me you just hate sports bras and aren’t planning on doing much cardio. I am going on a tangent. I was pretty offended that someone who had no idea about my personal situation or preferences, lifestyle or frankly, anything, would make a sweeping statement on what I should be doing in such a condescending way. 

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BOOBS ARE NOT COMMUNITY PROPERTY.

Unlike, say.. suggesting that wearing a pair of jeans to work out in might not be such a good idea.. when it is something so personal. But we all seem to have an opinion. We are all obsessed. We all love boobs, or have boobs, or are fascinated with them because you don’t really understand the attraction but… aesthetics ? 

One thing I will say, is that conversely, and with express consent by all parties, I have had plenty of discussions with other women regarding boobs, comparing and discussing issues we either shared or were unique to us. We are encouraged to check our boobs to ensure that there are no changed. We should be aware of our own boobs, shape, colour and encourage our partners to be aware. But please, please do not assume you know anything about boob life until you have lived boob life, and be aware, your boob life can and will be a different life to your friend, cousin, coworker or neighbours 🙂 

But boobs really are fab, be respectful though.

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What is good for the goose,

is good for the gander as the saying goes. But what is implied here is that in fact, women routinely look at mens crotch. I mean… yeah I guess we are expected to keep our eyes down and often that will lead us to examine many a belt buckle. I mean of course, we are traditionally shorter than men so our gaze would naturally settle lower… so obviously we are looking at the penis area imagining what is hiding underneath the clothing. It is why we love getting dick pics. I mean we literally have no imagination and require visual aids.

And as women, we enjoy being coy, and teasing, we love to put our wares on show but … hell, don’t even look let alone touch. Isn’t that right girls? Sorry, ladies! 

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You see the difference here is very simple, as simple matter of habit, or comfort, of conformity… I don’t know and really this isn’t the post to discuss it. Would it make for an interesting discussion?

Side Bar: A teacher in primary school once pointed out that we spend our time looking at the floor, and we should look up occasionally. It was actually homework. So you know, keep that in mind when you are out and about.

The fact is, women, are not really THAT interested in what you are packing, in a general sense. But what we do notice is when men don’t make eye contact. There is a very big difference between a casual gaze, we all do it for the most basic reasons when perambulating, so that you don’t walk into people. It is the searching gaze, the fixed gaze that settles on our breasts. Worse so when we are having a conversation with a man doing this. Or even if he is part of a social group and can’t manage to fix his gaze any further up. I mean that is why we jokingly ask ‘do you even know what colour my eyes are’.

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We all have boobs, they are all different sizes, shapes. We know they are there. We also know that they are sexually objectively objectified. So you know, it would be really lovely, if when talking to us, you could maybe … for a moment remember that we are human beings and not just objects. Which is exactly what looking at our boobs makes us feel like.

So, sorry Menninists, or anti feminists, or whatever title you will to offer yourself. If you honestly feel that women spend their time looking at your dick, so by suggesting looking at boobs should be allowable because we are all about being treated equally… I mean… 

Are you even kidding me with this? Are you even trying? How often do women spend their time looking at a crotch even when talking to you? I mean, random women, co workers, neighbours, how often do women find it difficult to tear their eyes away and look up toward at least your magnificent beard? I mean really, if you just grew a beard this really would be a non issue. I mean women can’t keep their eyes… oh sorry, getting facetious but the meme wasn’t even trying. 

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Hit (like) a girl

So, a friend posted a series of memes. I won’t give the originating page any credit. They don’t deserve it. It is just another page bashing feminists, or rather the idea of feminism and what is wrong, apparently, with being or identifying as a feminist. 

Now, of course, it is everyone’s right to both freedom of speech, and freedom of thought. It is not my place to tell someone they are wrong. They need to reach that conclusion by themselves. 

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Now the memes that were posted, the first is the featured image. It was reposted by my friend in an effort to highlight double standards. There are better ways of doing it. Frankly because what you have here is NOT what feminism has every been asking for. At no point did (or should) anyone state that they want equal rights, but they want them to be a little more equal. 

In this particular meme, it is very important to me, I have discussed violence, domestic abuse and self defence. So what am I supposed to take away from this?? Look at the wordings firstly, ‘women are brave if they hit men’ – yes, if a woman is able to STAND UP FOR HERSELF and DEFEND HERSELF she is brave. She is doing something that defies gender stereotypes, she is facing an attacker. You are damned right we should be commending that! Now, the second ‘Men are evil, brutal perverts if they hit women’ .. yeah sorry I am not sure how I can argue this. Why on earth is anyone being hit? What reason is there? Violence should never be the answer. Period. I certainly am not sure that ‘pervert’ is justified but it will depend on what the reason for the attack it?

Okay, now let us look at the image, in the first image, we have a ‘male’ stick figure in a prone position on the ground, with the ‘female’ stick figure standing over with the left arm drawn back, to punch? How is that okay, on any level. How would that image be okay reversed, both men or both women? It wouldn’t. And the second, we have a woman on her knees with the male stick figure standing over. Again, this is not okay. Of course it isn’t. 

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When you put the images with the wording, it jars, for obvious reasons. There is no correspondence between the first image and wording. How would anyone feel that beating down on someone clearly in a vulnerable position is okay? And the second, well… I am going to just say, it is not helping the ‘anti feminist’ cause. By suggesting that a man who pins, kicks and holds a woman down is brutal, and evil? Sorry are you suggesting otherwise? 

This is a case of 2 wrongs not making a right, abuse, violence, attacks. They are NEVER okay, it is not okay to use force, or surprise, to hurt or someone. It doesn’t matter whether it is animal, mineral or plant. Using superiority over someone or something is NOT OKAY. 

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I really hope that people understand, that fundamentally, feminists, me, we, I want equality. I want a woman to feel safe, I want a woman to know that she can walk away if she feels she is in a bad situation. I want her to have the tools to defend herself. I want her to know that it isn’t her fault. But you know what else I want? I want men to stop thinking women are weak, that they should be cowed, that a man who is unable, unwilling to defend himself is less of a man. That he is … a girl. That a man becomes emasculated with he admits he is in a situation, physical or mental, that he has no control over. I want that man to know that he can get help, that he knows where to get help. How to get help. But most importantly, that he won’t be laughed at, that he will be believed. That people, is what I am striving for. That is what feminism is about. It is not about double standards.

No feminist has ever stood up and said, suggested or implied, that they want to be able to hit men without reprisal. It isn’t a case of what is good for the goose, is good for the gander. It is more simply, looking that what is wrong with society, and addressing them so that they are fairer. Does that sound so bad? Does it sound like double standards, like feminists hate men? 

I have more of these memes to look at, so please stick with me!

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Fighting Fit part 5

So after an extended break from Combat Training, I went back last week (8th Jan 2017) and I can be totally honest…. I was terrified. I had been pushing myself at the gym but am finding it difficult without a P.T or gym buddy. However, recently I have found that I wanted to go to the gym. I have been honest in that I enjoy working out but often when you work long hours, over several different projects – the need or desire to just have down time can be a difficult call to ignore.

But I digress – Combat training. I had tried to up my cardio because I had felt after the last session that this was letting me down. More so than the strength. My stamina, and endurance was going to hobble my ability to continue. So I made a real effort to work harder and faster. And hoped it would make a real difference.

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Well… I should not have been surprised when I found this was just not the case at the first session of 2017. You see, at the Combat Academy, they sessions are never alike. There is never a real indication before the day of what will happen, or who in fact will be there. I have managed to avoid classic self defence classes prior to this. I had had some martial arts training (see Fighting Fit part 4 ) and done enough boxing to be relatively confident that a self defence class would hold no interest. The stereotypes around them do nothing to help my feelings toward them.

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So of course, there I was thinking that it would be lots of cardio, jumping up from the floor, running, jumping, changes of position. No. Well. Now really i should have seen this coming. In my last session it was made very clear (more so than in previous sessions) that old habits would be broken down, and I would become .. I want to launch into some speil about fighting machines which says as much as the type of movie I watch as anything else. But what we are looking for is breakthroughs and confidence. Where I will laugh or giggle to deflect from my short comings, real or imagined – this needs to stop as it hinders training and pushes back the breakthrough.

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Last week, well last week we went back to basics, we concentrated on grapples, on distance and what to do either to bridge the distance and to gain space. We also were reminded of Mohammed Ali – you know… float like a butterfly? Lots of dips, weaves and avoiding. We also worked on kicks or knees. What did I learn? First to change the knee and placement because all that happens is that you end up with a massive cumulative bruise on your knee. And that I needed to work on back strengthening exercises. Ironically i had started doing yoga  as part of my workouts so this was a simple fit. Once I could actually move again.

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Something that again was addressed was that killer instinct. I guess I am wording it wrong, I don’t mean the will or want to kill or end a life. But the ability to engage in the moment and put aside any feelings of self consciousness, or girliness, embarrassment. That worrying about what you look like, sound like, what others think… it is not something that should be on or in your mind at that moment. The point is that in combat training it is a safe space and place in which to practise real life scenarios. And if you can’t get into the correct mindset there and then… what is the possibility that you will be mentally prepared to do so if you happen to find yourself in such a situation.

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That is as simple as it gets, when I am being shouted at, pressure tested, when I am getting punched on the nose because I dropped my block. It isn’t because I am being belittled, or berated, or payback. It simple is to try and make sure that in a situation where it might we be do or die, I don’t black out, breakdown or freeze.

So I really do encourage your all to hunt out your local Combar Academy, and get down there to try it out. It isn’t a case of people being mean to you or trying to change you fundamentally. It is teaching real life skills in order to protect you.

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Posting for inspiration

I have been trying to write this blog post for the longest time but I have struggled with the right way to approach it. And I guess this close to the New Year is a good time to do it!

As you may, or may not be aware, I have separate I.G account which initially started off as my personal account (away from my makeup posts) and have somewhat merged into a fitness diary of sorts.

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And my news feed had also become much more fitness orientated. But I don’t feel bad about my weight or body shape, fitness level when looking at my feed. Instead it inspires me. I daily see people pushing themselves, sharing their tips, tricks and fitness journey’s and see the physical rewards.

When you post photos of your own workouts, pre/during/post and garner positive comments which makes you feel great. But not only this, people tell you that you are inspiring them?

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Well this encourages you to continue posting on IG, because you are being rewarded with positivity and feel that you are also helping others. This in turn means that to get things to post, fresh photos, you need to get back into the gym. And that helps you move along on your fitness journey.

So when people comment on my IG news feed (which they do) or ask about the photos I upload… it is about accountability. As it is for many of us. It is a way of documenting our journey as once the photo is uploaded, it is date stamped. You can see where you are and where you were. And you also have a reason to keep posting. Because people are waiting to see what you are going to do, wear, they are waiting for your next post so they can continue a conversation. They are waiting for an inspiration. It can act as a motivator.

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So yes, of course the entire episode is self centered, self promoting, it is vain. I won’t argue with you about it. But I would counter argue that it is great, because it is a way of encouraging people to get out and work out and that can only be a good thing (although like all things, only when done in moderation) and it is a great resource, you can find like-minded people, you have access to lots of different people, companies, be it meal ideas, clothing, fitness tips.

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But at the end of the day, it is about accountability, to yourself. It doesn’t matter if someone you follow on IG who lives half way accross the world notices that you haven’t posted for a few days. It doesn’t matter if you are not eating the healthy meals you ‘liked’ when they appeared on your news feed, it really doesn’t matter if you don’t buy any of the cool workout gear that you see in every other photo when scrolling down your feed.

Because at the end of the day, fitness, like anything, is personal. You need to do things for yourself. Not for likes, not for publicity, not for any other reason that I could list. But if you want to use IG as a tool in your fitness journey, as a journal of sorts, it comes with a bunch of benefits!

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Asking for it

So, as an introduction to this blog post :

Myth: Wearing revealing clothing, behaving provocatively, or drinking a lot means the victim was “asking for it”.

Fact: The perpetrator selects the victim- the victim’s behavior or clothing choices do not mean that they are consenting to sexual activity

Two-thirds of rape survivors know their attacker; more than a third of rapists are a family member or friend of the victim. The statistics are even more extreme on college campuses, where 80 to 90 percent of sexual assaults involve students who know each other

Jaclyn Friedman, sexual assault educator and author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety, told Cosmopolitan.com via email. “There is evidence that rapists choose victims based on how vulnerable they’re perceived to be. Will they go along? Will they make a fuss? There is literally zero evidence that rapists choose victims based on how sexy or sexual they’re perceived to be. None. Not one study. If that old toxic myth were true, someone would have been able to prove it by now.”

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 It is the myth that a woman dressing in a provocative manner, or one that drinks, or any other behaviours that might suggest in a non verbal way that she may have loose morals, will be a more likely rape victim. This is harmful in several ways, and I want to explore this in the hope that it might help further dispel the myth.
The first way that this is harmful is that it tells girls that if they dress in a certain way, they have to be expected to be treated in a certain way. This might be directly, through family and friends, or indirectly in society, via pop culture. This gives the girl low expectations but also might lead her to make poor choices for a number of reasons.
The second way is that it tells girls who are not dressed in a provocative way, or not drinking, not going out or generally behaving in a way that society dictates as ‘unladylike’ that she will be protected. That it will never happen to her. 
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Now if you look at both side by side, it is equally destructive. In the first instance the rape or assault may go unreported because the victim doesn’t feel that anything wrong happened, or that she will not be believed. In the second instance, the victim may not have skills to protect herself, and may let it go unreported because she isn’t sure that anyone would believe her. On one hand, we have a victim who feels that she should have expected it, on the other a victim who feels she shouldn’t have expected it with exactly the same result.
And in both cases, society has trained the victim to accept that the reason she was attacked is through something she has or hasn’t done. Victim blaming, which is abhorrent but easily done, you list the things that led up to the attack. What were you wearing, what did you say, what did you do, did you drink too much, say too much? What could you have done differently? What would you do differently? And this is compounded by the treatment you receive at the hands of professionals (although they may be compassionate) but then you have society at large. The fact I even used the phrase ‘loose morals’ says a lot about how little society has not moved on. And because of this a victim will not want to say anything to family and friends, so there will not be the support network you might traditionally have. 
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I know many women who have been attacked, assaulted and in extreme cases, raped. The worst thing is, the figured I quoted at the beginning of the post, they are not lying. In most cases, the victim not only knew the attacker. But knew them well. Not in a passing, barely know his name, but enough to trust him.
A friend recently recounted an episode that thankfully was a near miss as her partner called, but she got into a car with someone she considered a friend to get a lift home instead of getting a taxi. A friend who proceeded to drive in the opposite direction to her house although he knew exactly where it was. She was tipsy but she was not drunk, and has since questioned what happened. Why as she picked, what was he thinking, how can she possibly trust her friends? This was someone she had trusted enough to have in her house on several occasions.
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Personally, I had a bad experience as a teenager which little experience of men. A friend, older, kept pushing boundaries, every so gently. Subtle even, to see what my limit would be. Thankfully, as inexperienced as I might have been, I did managed to extract myself from the situations with no physical damage (I can’t say mental as it has taken years to undo but I won’t go into it). But it makes me wonder how many other women, girls, might find themselves in a similar situation? And this was before the internet, mobile phones. So in a way I was less protected as I had no way of getting help if needed. But it also meant that I was able to cut him out of my life pretty easily.
Something that happened a couple of years ago, again makes me see a pattern of boundaries being tested. I was waiting to be served at a bar, suddenly a hand is touching my bottom. Not over my clothes, no, a man whom I hadn’t even noticed, let alone spoken to, had taken it upon himself to force his hands literally into my knickers. Why did he do it? I mean obviously it was because I was a little drunk, I was wearing a corset, full length tutu and pink wig, that must have been what made him think it was a great idea, or that I would be up for it. On my way to the bar, I was asked a few times if I was celebrating an impending wedding.. hen night maybe. Did this guy think that I was up for one last hurrah before getting married? (for the record, I wasn’t, I had dressed up for a themed burlesque show). He was drunk, he probably didn’t really think things through. My reaction was to immediately grab his hand and twist it up behind his back. Then calmly order my drink and take it back to my table. He spent the night stalking me. Because I was obviously a willing accomplice? 
Do you see what I did in that last explanation? I am trying to legitimise and justify the guys reaction. Because that is what you do when something, good or bad happens to you. You try and rationalise it, make excuses, explain it. 
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This is not okay, there is no stereotype for what a victim of assault or rape looks like, there is no stereotype. The fact is, you are more likely to be targeted by someone you trust and because of that, your defences will be down. Of course many, many people are attacked by complete strangers, but again this is not dependant on time of day, area, activity. It is a crime of opportunity, like many crimes. So to try and work out what you did wrong or could do differently is unhelpful.
The fact is, what you wear, how much you drink, how you get home, who you speak to and in what way, will have no bearing on your potential to be a victim. So we need to bury the myth that the way you dress has any bearing on you as a person. We need to stop searching for visual clues and be more understanding. We need to make sure that we are opening our eyes, and listening, and stop being so judgemental.
For anyone who may have been a victim of a crime and isn’t sure where to turn, this website may be of some help Victim Support UK and it is worthwhile looking locally as there are often support services and groups organised by local charities and or NHS trusts.
One last thing…… simple words…. ‘I believe you’.

Fighting Fit part 4

Well, since I have a couple of weeks off from training, I am being more than a little reflective about what the Combat Training means to me, personally and generally.

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You see, as I briefly looked at in my last blog in the series, self defence is to a greater degree, different depending on your sex. Men will find themselves in a protecting situation either protecting their friends, family or pride. Women often defend themselves against predators, against sexual assault or domestic abuse.

Now, in my formative years, leaving teenage years and becoming an adult, I spent a lot of time with a group of guys who were all very interested in martial arts. They trained with me, it was interesting and they wanted me to be able to protect myself. It often involved jumping out of stairwells at me or having a foot land on my head at random intervals (although let us be fair, I don’t think there will be a real life situation where this will happen) and at no point did they suggest I couldn’t do something based on my gender. Although equally they were very protective when we were all out.

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That said, I remember them coming home more than once having been attacked on the way home, and I don’t think, on reflection, that their years of martial arts training helped them. Not that they would ever admit it. But their ego and confidence rubbed off on me, I am a fast talker and have often found myself in situations where I have engaged my mouth before engaging my brain. False bravado. But, as close as I have got, and my absolute refusal to back down if I know that I am right… I have never, ever been in a fight with a complete stranger. Nope. Never been attacked. I have got close, and even jumped into a taxi in broad daylight when I realised that I was being followed, and that the direction I was going would lead me to a very quiet part of town.

But I digress, like i have just said, I have never been attacked by a stranger. Most women are attacked in domestic situations. That, is to say, I have been a victim of domestic violence. I grew up in a household that suffered heavily with domestic violence. So you could say, I should have seen the signs. But no, there were really no signs. Or none that I was prepared to notice.

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It was one of the men that I had known for years, it was one of the men that had protected me on nights out, who had taught me to defend myself, correct form, how to punch. It was the same man that I had had a relationship with, who I trusted.

I honestly don’t really think about it often, I compartmentalise. And it was only on thinking about my last training session, and how broken I felt following it. I was thinking about something that was said, about training my reactions so I am able to react in a positive way if I ever find myself in a situation that I have to protect myself.

And what happened when I was attacked? Well, let us be frank. It was not a slap, it was no a shove, and lets remember, I had trained with this man before. I still have a pain in my breast bone from when he hyper extended a punch directing it to my spine. Training. So, it wasn’t just a tap. It was a full on punch, that I was no prepared for, or expecting. It wasn’t during an argument or an exchange.

I shut down. I totally, and utterly shut down. I had no response, I lacked the tools to be able to deal with it. I didn’t train for this, because this was done out of maliciousness and not in a safe spce.

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This is why self defence training, combat training in ‘real life’ situations is important. It is why I will keep going. I will keep pushing myself. It is why I am working hard at the gym so that I am able to participate more fully in the sessions. Because what happened to me, that attack? That was exactly what the training is talking about. It isn’t about same spaces, with comfortable mats on the floor, with a referee and people cheering you on. With a bell to announce the start of the round.

The Combat Academy will continue to challenge me, it will probably break me, I will try, I will keep training in the gym to work on my fitness. And I will do this, so I know, so I am prepared. So if I do find myself in a situation I have no control over, I am able to react.

As always, if you want more information CLICK HERE