In November 2020, Popgirlz Scotland found that ‘Scotify’, Spotify’s largest editorial playlist for Scottish music, was featuring a majority of male artists on the list.
Breaking it down, 68.5 percent of the artists on the ‘Scotify’ playlist were male versus just 31.5 percent female and non-binary acts. Not only was the balance of the playlist skewed in favour of male artists, but some of these musicians had more than one track featured.
Two weeks ago ‘Scotify’ returned with a new look. The playlist now features Scottish artist, Nova, on its cover. While this is a victory for female artists, it is only a small step towards recognition and equality. Looking at the latest playlist, even this is not good enough as more than half of the list is still dominated by male artists and bands.
Industry professionals and music PR specialists claim it’s just the algorithm or that it’s just the way it works. But why should underrepresented artists settle for that when the evolution of the industry has put them under immense creative burden with very little payout or support.
We need to support artists and fight for equality
From the underrepresentation of women on festival line-ups to the protection of abusers, there were and continue to be a lot of issues to tackle in the music industry.
Fighting for equality to create a transparent, safe and inclusive music industry is an unending task, but it is not impossible. There is a desperate need to redistribute power in favour of artists, particularly the underrepresented and marginalised communities within the scene.
Before the pandemic, grassroots movements and organisations such as Hen Hoose and Scottish Women Inventing Music (SWIM) were leading the effort in creating a more equal playing field for women across the Scottish music industry. Since March 2020, there has been a massive uptick in organisations and movements centered around female empowerment and equality in the industry.
Musicians such as Siobhan Wilson and Fiona Liddell, who run POWA and Cover to Cover respectively, have been working at community level to create networks for female artists and uplift underrepresented voices in Scotland. So many women are coming together in their own spaces seeing more opportunities and becoming more vocal about what they want from the music industry.
Building stronger communities
Inspired by SWIM, Hen Hoose and a desire to see a more collaborative and supportive music scene, Fiona has brought together 12 other promising creatives from around Scotland to raise money for SWIM.
The result is a beautiful album of 13 original tracks each covered by another artist from the project. Featuring tracks by Gefahrgeist, Jen Ella, sarya, Olivia Thom, Ceiti, Amie Huckstep, Mima Merrow, Post Coal Prom Queen, Chiara Baillie, PINLIGHT, Jen Athan, Francesca Ortisi and Aurora Engine. The project brings together up-and-coming and established femxle talent to build a collaborative space in which their voices are encouraged, amplified and supported.
Since she lost the majority of her income as a result of the pandemic, Fiona has been working to uplift other voices over the course of 2020.
Over the last year, Fiona has grown her following online and become a champion of new music with her Local Heroes playlist which she curates monthly and weekly Shout Out Saturdays series in which she reviews singles by bands from around Scotland.
Cover to Cover is a new but important addition to Liddell’s already jam-packed social media presence and she uses her platforms to introduce and feature one act from the album every week. This has allowed her to fortify her connection to her community and created a supportive and encouraging network between the womxn featured on the album.
Over the years, women in music have been vocal about their experiences and what they would like to see change in the industry, but everything has continued to move slowly and only with the approval of men in positions of power.
Work like Cover to Cover is valuable in this effort and continues around the world with projects such as Braw Gals in Music and Irish Women in Harmony, connecting female artists or raising money for charity.
The pandemic appears to have been the exact catalyst many have needed to say enough is enough. While the pandemic has been disastrous for the music scene in so many ways, there is now a big and forceful shift coming, women are done with asking for permission and are instead taking back control over their careers, and their performance and collaboration spaces. This movement is redefining what it means to be a female musician.
Cover to Cover is out on March 5, you can pre-order the album here. All proceeds are going to support SWIM’s efforts in fighting for equality in the Scottish music industry. You can see more from Fiona online @fionaliddellmusic or at fionaliddell.com
Naomi Head is a writer and media professional based in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has written for Time Out Beijing, The Collective Mag and more. You can find her online @naomieah or at naomihead.com
Dirty nappies, non-stop crying, no more freedom nor money to do what you like. A century ago, having children would have been an inevitability. Fate, if you like. However, thanks to movements such as the workers’ rights which enabled more women to enter the workforce, and the contraceptive revolution, people are now more free than ever before to choose their life’s path, and thus to choose whether to have children or not.
For many, children are still a natural step in the progression of life, but an increasing amount of people are realising that parenthood is simply not for them. From environmental anxiety to craving flexibility, there is a multitude of reasons for why individuals are deciding to be childfree.
We have interviewed ten childfree volunteers to get an insight into the reasons behind their decision, and to demystify the not-so-new phenomenon of the childfree lifestyle.
Childfree vs childless
Firstly, it is important to make the distinction between the terms ‘childfree’ and ‘childless’, which can get confused. Childfree refers to people who are voluntarily without children, i.e., they have chosen not to reproduce (nor adopt). Childless on the other hand, is a term used for people who do want a child but are unable to have one, such as in the case of infertility.
“I like the freedom of not worrying about someone who is dependent on me, but also I can book a holiday and not worry about school, or I can move to another country without having to consider school and children as a factor.”Paige, 26, UK
Why be Childfree?
Every important decision in life involves weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of possible outcomes. This is especially relevant for a decision that could end up in bringing a tiny little human into this world. Childfree people often get asked why they don’t want to have a child, and after interviewing the volunteers it is evident that most have thought about the answer thoroughly and for them, the disadvantages tip the scales against parenthood.
Let us look at the top reasons given for not wanting a child. Out of the ten volunteers interviewed, eight said that they don’t want to have a child because it would have a major impact on their free-time or flexibility. The second biggest reason, given by seven volunteers, was money. Specifically, volunteers were worried about not being able to afford a child or they wanted to save money up for other important life events, such as buying a house or holidays. As one anonymous volunteer contemplated, “Imagine you work a crappy exhausting job and instead of coming home to relax in your free time, you have another job to attend to, except this one is 24/7 and you don’t get paid.” Other reasons given included being afraid of pregnancy and birth, not liking children, and not wanting to contribute to overpopulation.
A UK survey of 344 childless individuals of various ages reflects the above. The study found that the top three reasons (after being too old to raise children) were: not wanting an impact on lifestyle, the costs being too high, and worrying about overpopulation.
Further reasons included mental health and genetic disorders – either being worried about passing on a health condition or being unable to adequately care for a child due to suffering from a condition. An anonymous woman from the US told us “I have a genetic condition (hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) that could be passed on to a biological child and would make taking care of a child of any kind extremely difficult.”, and another volunteer admitted that despite thinking she would make a good mother, parenthood is not worth the emotional effort. “I just do not want the commitment and sacrifices that come with having a child. I am simply prioritising my mental health.”
Take a look at some in-depth answers from the volunteers.
When did you know you were childfree?
Deciding to be childfree is often a long process that involves a lot of introspection into one’s personality and re-evaluation of life goals. Dane, a twenty-five year old man from the UK, pointed out, “Having children used to be part of my life plan, not because of some deep desire to have them, but because I thought it was a natural part of life that happened to most people at some stage. As I grew older, I realised that not only was this not the case, but that in fact, the life and the lifestyle I wanted was incompatible with children in it.”
For Syed, who is a twenty-six-year-old developer from the UK, the childfree lifestyle became a certainty later in life, while he was dating his partner. “Quite early on in the relationship we talked about what would happen if she did get pregnant and she always said she’d get an abortion straight away. There were a few scares till she got on the pill, and then a few scares after she was on the pill which we later found out was linked to endometriosis. But during all this time, the idea of kids became less and less appealing. It wasn’t like a switch flipped one day – but over time I just decided I don’t like kids, I don’t like the idea of kids and I don’t want to raise kids.”
However, there are some people who made the decision sooner than others, such as in the case of two female volunteers. Veronica, from Poland, came to the realisation at barely five years old when she had reluctantly become a caregiver for a pet. “I didn’t have much contact with younger kids and didn’t know how much effort it takes to raise a child. I was sitting on a blanket in my garden when my cat came to me and started giving birth. I said to my grandma ‘Oh look the rats are coming out of her, is she sick? Shouldn’t she give birth to little cats?’ My grandma likes to remind me those words on every family meeting as a joke. Afterwards, my cat didn’t want anything to do with her kittens, so it was my responsibility to “raise them”. Two to three months later we gave most of the cats away. I was so relieved, tired, and knew that if it was that hard to raise kittens, raising a human child would be so much harder, tiring and not fulfilling at all. I enjoyed the “kodak moments” but I was generally unhappy in that situation and felt trapped.”
The other young woman, from Australia, shared the sentiment. “Even when I was very young, I had no interest in “baby dolls” or other toys that simulated motherhood. I never had any of those toys bought for me either, so I’m not sure how much of that was me or the influence of my parents. When I was about 15, I started saying that I don’t see kids in my future, but if I end up changing my mind when I’m older then so be it. Now I am older, and I still don’t ever see raising children in my future.”
Then there are some individuals who figure it out in a moment of enlightenment. Hillary, a thirty-two-year-old nurse from the US told us “I decided to be childfree when I was 22. I had been married for a couple of years and I was thinking about how amazing my life was with just me and my partner and how happy I was. It hit me like a lightning bolt that it could be this way in the future and that I didn’t have to have kids.”
“Looking at online communities like r/regretfulparents makes me think many people have an idealistic vision of what it would be like to raise a child, then reality hits once the baby is born and they realise they hadn’t really considered the massive negative impact a baby has on all aspects of your life, particularly relationships.”Anonymous, 28, UK
What does the research say?
A lot of the research out there offers mixed views on the childfree lifestyle and its effect on different aspects of one’s life. We have looked at studies related to relationships and loneliness in particular, as they are often brought up in conversations about being childfree. What if you end up lonely? Who will visit you when you’re old? What if the love of your life wants a child? These are some of the questions childfree people have to face from family, friends, and the wider public alike.
There are countless stories on the internet about couples who tried to save their marriage by having a baby. Research done on couples before and after having a child shows that it generally isn’t a good idea. In fact, having a child has shown to have a long-lasting negative effect on romantic relationships. A 2003 study found that parents reported lower marital satisfaction compared with nonparents, and the more children a couple had the more dissatisfied they were with their marriage. The study pointed out that marital satisfaction decreased after the birth of a child due to role conflicts and restriction of freedom. More recently, a piece of research featured in the New Scientist suggested that parents are happier than non-parents, but only after their children move out and turn into being a source of enjoyment rather than a cause of stress. Parents whose children have left the nest tend to feel happier because of the sleep, money, and free time that returns to their life.
When it comes to loneliness down the line, the results are largely inconclusive and tend to be dependent on the support available to the elderly. As the study above pointed out, older parents feel “greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression than people without children”, with the caveat of not actually living with their children. A further study found that there was no significant increase of the prevalence of loneliness and depression in childless older individuals. However, men who were divorced, widowed, or never married were more likely to feel lonely or depressed than women in the same position. This certainly raises some questions about gender and ageing childfree. Other research found that having children “increased the likelihood of having [a] social [life] and maintaining connections.” It was suggested that this is due to childless older people not having access to “the practical help that enables participating in the community, e.g. someone to drive them to activities”. This highlights the gaps in care and provisions for our oldest generations, and reiterates the importance of initiatives such as the Ageing Well Without Children who aim to improve the living conditions of elderly people without adult children.
Childfree Women – Fear of Birth
An anonymous volunteer considered “Maybe if I was a man, I would want children.”
The choice to have a child comes with a lot more effort and potential issues for women than for men. The way a pregnancy can change the body, and the way birth can permanently hurt it is enough to make plenty of women decide to be childfree on the spot. For instance, take vaginal tearing during childbirth. How rare do you think it is? The answer is: not rare at all. In fact, vaginal tearing is extremely common – about 90% of first-time mothers end up with some degree of tearing during birth. Most women will experience second degree tears to their perineum which require stiches. Furthermore, studies show that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss of the child during or after pregnancy, and a very small percentage of women still die as a result of the pregnancy or mental health issues associated with it. Other data states that 8 in every 100 women will experience complications during their pregnancy that may harm the mother or the child, and let’s not forget that postpartum depression (PPD) affects up to 15% of mothers. In light of all this potential physical and emotional pain, it’s easy to see why some women do not want to follow society’s expectations and become mothers. The cost of motherhood is high, and now that women have more choices and more control over their bodies and their life, can you blame them for choosing to avoid motherhood?
“What if you change your mind or regret it?”
Non-parents hear this very often. Even though people are free to choose whether or not to have a child, the choice is still often met with criticism, disbelief, or even outrage from others. This is especially true for women, who for centuries were reduced to the social roles of mothers and caregivers.
There is some anecdotal evidence that most childfree people do not regret the choice later in the future, although more substantial data from older non-parents is required. It is conceivable that there will be individuals who later regret their choice to remain childfree, just as there are many individuals who regret having children. However, what needs to be addressed is how the lives of regretful non-parents differ from those who never regretted their choice. Factors such as a support networks, extended family, or good health may affect whether people are happy with their decision to be childfree which is in need of further research.
It is undoubtedly annoying when people, especially strangers, assume they know what’s best for you. Being told that you will change your mind about something denies the autonomy of choice, and it’s one of the quickest ways to irritate a childfree person.
When it comes to our volunteers, most of them have experienced being told they will change their mind or regret their choice later. When asked about their usual response, the answers varied from indifference to anger.
Difficult Parts of Being Childfree
As carefree as it may sound, childfree life is not without difficulties. Many childfree people have to deal with criticism and rejection from friends and family. Choosing not to have children is still frowned upon in our society. Historically, voluntary childlessness was seen as a sign of insanity; it was unnatural to not want to do something that your body was “made” for. These days, it’s seen as selfishness or a political statement.
“My mom was upset when my partner had a vasectomy, but I don’t have a lot of contact with her.”Hilary, 32, US
The majority of the volunteers interviewed said they are openly childfree, however, most also admitted that they have experienced disapproval from friends and family members. A young volunteer from the US is an example of what some childfree people have to deal with. “My mother is accepting of me, but my grandmother and my father are not. They try to get me to change my mind constantly, and my father in particular is very aggressive about it.”
Some people feel pressured to have children because they are afraid of their partner’s reaction. In some cases, couples break up after realising their life goals do not align. For Dane from the UK, his stance on children was the reason why he separated with his last partner. “She wanted lots of children, starting relatively soon and I wanted zero ever. It is hard to find a compromise in such a wide disparity.” Others find that being childfree can also put a strain on friendships, as one volunteer experienced. “It’s becoming difficult as more of my friends are getting pregnant and I just have less in common with them. It’s hard to catch up with friends who have a child because the child (no matter the age) takes so much of the attention. I’m friends with you, not your kid, and you are the one I want to spend time with.”
The workplace can be a source of discrimination and harassment against childfree individuals too. Non-parents’ are frequently treated differently to parents, and their free time is seen as less valuable than the time parents spend with their children. This leads to non-parents being expected to do extra work and can make it harder for them to get time off.
Despite the setbacks, an increasing number of people are choosing to be childfree and the decision to not have children is slowly gaining acceptance in society. There is still a long way to go, but eventually the term ‘childfree’ will cease to be a cause for moral outrage, once everyone finally accepts the fact that people are allowed to choose what to do with their life. Being alive in the 21st century has given us many opportunities, and one of the most important has been unavailable to most people in the past: the opportunity of choice. Those who are lucky enough to choose their life path ought to be encouraged to make a choice that will make them happy, not punished for exercising personal autonomy that is still being fought for in many areas of the world.
A big thank you to all the volunteers who participated in the interviews! Your answers were insightful and crucial to finishing this article.
Founder of Inksight
Have you heard of OneReason yet? It’s a heart-warming project by Sevara Rasulova, who approaches strangers on the street to ask them a question: what is just one reason why you are happy today?
Considering the current circumstances, it’s important to focus our attention to the good things that are happening in our life, and take it day by day. This is exactly what OneReason seeks to achieve – using TikTok, and her warm personality.
Originally from Uzbekistan, Sevara started the project to remind herself and others that “no matter what is going on in our lives we can always find something good to focus on“. Having only started posting the videos a couple of months ago, she has already amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok and Instagram. It goes to show that in a time of a global pandemic this is exactly the type of content we need in our lives.
What made you start onereason?
It started when I couldn’t find a job for a while and all I was focusing my attention on was that I don’t have a job. Along with a few hours on social media, it made me feel bad because I could see so many people living their best life and enjoying their youth. I understand that not everything is as black and white and that Instagram is like a magazine with pretty pictures that sometimes have nothing to do with real life. I noticed that focusing on what is missing in my life doesn’t actually help and I tried to switch my attention on things that fulfil me, make me happy and bring joy. I also did a free course on Coursera called the Science of Well-being which helped a lot in terms of understanding happiness from a scientific point of view. I genuinely started to feel better, and then closer to November I had an idea of filming people naming just one reason why they are happy that day and posting it online. I thought it would help both people who I ask in person as well as someone who will see it online. The question makes your brain analyse your day and find moments when you felt good. And once someone starts noticing positive moments, more good situations and people will be attracted to them. I have received so many lovely messages and support since the beginning of the project and it makes me happy to know that it makes so many people find their own reason for happiness.
What is your process?
I usually do a few videos in a day and then post them throughout the week. I look out for people who are not in a rush. I ask for their consent before I film them. Most of the time I post everyone who I filmed but sometimes there are technical issues with the video and I cannot post some of the videos. I also try to be inclusive of all nationalities as I want to hear from people from all backgrounds.
Do you find approaching random people on the street stressful?
I would not say it is stressful as I understand that not everyone has time to do it or not everyone wants to be filmed.
What has been your favourite answer from someone so far?
Honestly, I do not have favourites because all reasons are personal and beautiful. But out of all that I thought about it is being healthy. Just because sometimes we take our health for granted and when something is not right with your physical body or mental health it affects everything else.
And finally, can you name one reason why you’re happy today?
I am happy today because I received many responses from people who agreed for 3 minutes zoom call to name their reason for happiness while we are in lockdown
When there are few good things happening in the world and in our lives, it’s nice to be reminded that there are still things to cherish and be happy about. OneReason is a wonderful project that will brighten your day, and an inspiration for staying positive as we plod through yet another lockdown.
The revolution of normalizing female sexuality is happening right in front of our eyes. Women feel less ashamed to talk directly about masturbation, they break stereotypes and barriers that have been built over the years of upbringing, habits and social pressures. At a time where male desirability is perceived by the general public as normal and no one is surprised they like to enjoy life in this specific, pleasant way, women and girls around the world must maintain their stance, reminding everyone that orgasms are natural for both genders. Orgasms are a right, and physical self-love will not harm you like some old wives’ tales say it will.
The sex-toys industry is a big part of today’s topic. It can be unpredictable, mostly because a lot of people don’t know how exactly it works. It can also be extremely helpful in creating a new, healthier perception of body and bliss. I would even be inclined to say some sex toy companies should be put in the spotlight, as part of the bodypositive movement. In a way, it’s a great tool to emphasize the importance of knowledge about different bodies, different needs, and the fact that we all deserve to embrace our own pleasure.
This mission is well known to Womanizer, which has been on the market since 2014, with headquarters in Ottawa, Hong Kong and Berlin. More so, their intimate products are available in over 60 countries. I interviewed Johanna Rief, Director Public Relations & Head of Sexual Empowerment at WOW Tech Group, about Womanizer’s mission.
How does Womanizer help their customers build up their self-esteem and self-acceptance?
We try to show women of all shapes, colours and sizes, how important it is to fight the existing beauty standards that we grow up with. It’s about being happy with ourselves and accepting what we are without thinking we have to look one particular way. Plus, if you know how to give yourself pleasure, you can also change your life and feel more empowered. There are a lot of correlations with our daily functioning, work and achieving orgasm. Studies have shown this helps us sleep better, even work better, and strengthens our immune system. Of course being good with our bodies and accepting ourselves is a huge part of taking care of self-esteem, and this is what we want to do to support people & create products, which will help on a sexual level, but also prove “you are good the way you are”.
Womanizer started to collaborate with Lily Allen relatively recently. What’s the story behind it? What is her role in your mission?
Her role in Womanizer is being a Chief of Liberation Officer, because it’s the mission of de-stigmatize the topic of masturbation and getting people talking about it. The good thing is that we found each other, when she wrote a book in 2018 and there she mentioned our company. Lily said that it is “the best sex toy people can buy”. Then we saw that, so we already knew she liked our products. Lily Allen is convinced of that and truly authentic. She is open-minded and also fits the brand. We were very happy when we contacted her and started conversations.
Why was the motto “Making orgasm a human right” replaced by “I masturbate”?
“Making orgasm a human right” was basically the first claim for Womanizer. We started to use it years ago, but now we use “I masturbate”. We still use “human right” to put some emphasis on the thing we know is very important, but our company is selling products, and in some other countries human rights are another topic. And masturbation these days is still a bold sentence, but it shouldn’t be. It should be normal, something that everyone has access to – also women. It’s time to fix the orgasm gap. It’s about knowing our own wishes and taking our own pleasures as priority.
I already know what makes the company’s sex toys unique. But how is your way of work unique? Is it a matter of women making products for other women, or something else? What’s going on behind the scenes?
A lot of men work for Womanizer as well. Maybe it’s a little bit more women, but I would say that basically it’s 55 percent of women and 45 percent of men. I think all of our men-coworkers are happy they can support women. We are a team, made by people from different nations and countries. Besides, if you want to work in the sex-toy company, you should be kind of a liberal person and think that sexuality is a good aspect of life. We also put a lot of effort in the topic’s research and development – it is not so common in our industry. We are working for the future development of toys. We have a lot of experts, who want to figure out what people need.
Now a simple question. What is the hardest part in working at a company like this?
If you are producing mobile phones – everyone gets it, everyone wants one. You don’t need to convince people why they need one. As a sex-toy company, you often see the belief that people don’t need sex toys because “there is something wrong with that”. So convincing society that this is a benefit to people is hard. And changing the mindset when it comes to sexuality? This is not something you can do in a couple months. It takes a few years.
And what’s better than enjoying our own pleasures?
Empowering and encouraging women not to wait for approval, but to take their pleasure into their own hands? It’s still revolutionary, and I heard this from Womanizer, where working on many levels results in ideas which are passed on even beyond their clientele. It’s not necessarily about existing with our sexuality, as in a Britney Spears song. In fact, masturbating (#imasturbate) and talking openly about it is not exaggerating something that doesn’t matter. Self-pleasure is an important and valid act that affects other aspects of our lives. It affects our self-acceptance. We can have many kinds of love, and this is one of them. Delicate, adventurous – it can be different for everyone, and it must not be forgotten about.
You can watch the entire interview here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CIYTma2ntau/
Agata Rogozinska is a journalist and activist from Poland. You can find her at:
In her book, Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez exposes the data bias in a world “designed for men”. One of the book’s most important chapters addresses the biases against women in the medical world, specifically through medical gaslighting. Medical gaslighting is a set of behaviours displayed by doctors and other medical professionals, that make the patient question whether they are actually experiencing their symptoms. For example, blaming your physical symptoms on mental illness, or making you feel like you’re catastrophising or being dramatic. Essentially, medical gaslighting is when a doctor dismisses your symptoms and worries as unimportant, exaggerated, and/or not serious enough to require further investigation.
Chapter ten of Invisible Women, The Drugs Don’t Work, opens with an anecdote about a sixteen-year-old woman who had been experiencing painful, bloody bowel movements for two years, until it got so bad that she decided it was time to see a doctor. She was rushed to the emergency room, where a doctor asked her if she could be pregnant – no, she said. She hadn’t had sex; besides, the pain was in her bowel.
“The next thing I knew, a large, cold metal speculum was crammed in my vagina. It hurt so badly I sat up and screamed and the nurse had to push me back down and hold me there while the doctor confirmed that I indeed, was not pregnant.”
The young woman was then discharged with “nothing but an overpriced aspirin and the advice to rest for a day”. Over the next decade she sought help, and eventually she was diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. For years, she had been repeatedly told that all of this was in her head, and it wasn’t until she was twenty-six that she finally had a colonoscopy that diagnosed her condition (Invisible Women, p 195-6).
This infuriating account reminded me of two similar incidents that happened to me in the last few years.
It’s Just Anxiety, Dear
Some four or five years ago, I was on a commuting on a train when I started having very odd symptoms. Every minute, I would have an episode of what I can only describe as all of my senses short-circuiting which lasted for about twenty seconds and came back every few minutes. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, I was confused every time it happened. To begin with, I thought maybe it was vertigo or a migraine aura, but my vision wasn’t the only sense affected and my head was not hurting. I started to feel quite worried, so I asked the people on the train to call an ambulance for me.
At the hospital, I remember having blood tests and an ECG (a test to see how the heart is doing). No brain scan though. After many hours of waiting, I was seen by a doctor who concluded that it was all… anxiety. (Yes, female doctors can gaslight too). She talked to me condescendingly, and even gave me a patronising hug and pep talk about looking after my mental health. After the hospital visit, my symptoms lasted a whole week.
I went to my local GP to get a different opinion, who ran a few more tests and it turned out that my problem has been physical after all. He suspected I had a few simultaneous infections going on in my body. He prescribed me antibiotics and eventually I started feeling better. To this day, I’m still not sure if the diagnosis was right. I never even had a brain scan, and with symptoms like that and a concussion in my medical history, was I wrong to expect them to take me more seriously? Why didn’t they?
To refer back to Invisible Women, it’s possible that the way women are socialised to “downplay their own status” and behave in a friendly and approachable way, may prevent from effective diagnosis. However, a lot of the time even when a woman says exactly what’s going on and how much it affects her quality of life or safety, she is still dismissed. Invisible Women tells another story of a woman, Kathy, who was told by four medical professionals that her problems were all in her head, which later turned out to be a potentially life-threatening case of uterine fibroids which required surgery. Another woman, Rachel, was also told her pain was imaginary. She was consistently told that there was nothing wrong with her, until finally, years later she was diagnosed with endometriosis (p 223-4). Endometriosis is an incurable condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found on other organs. It can cause extreme pain (to the point of fainting and not being able to walk), and it takes an average of eight years to diagnose. Sadly, it is a condition I am too familiar with.
This Will Only Hurt a Lot – Endometriosis, PCOS, and Intrauterine Systems (IUS)
Four years ago I wanted to get an IUS (also known as the hormonal coil). I still do. I wanted something I could just forget about, something that wouldn’t make my periods worse, and something that didn’t involve a lot of hormones because I’m prone to blood clotting (due to a genetic disorder, a story for another time). An IUS seemed to fit my needs, so about four years ago I tried to have it inserted for the first time. A year later, I tried to have it done again. Then a couple of years later I tried it again. And again, and probably one more time. In total, it must have taken five or six tries before I just gave up because of the insane pain that nobody warned me about.
Every time, the doctor (or another medical professional) who was going to insert the coil told me that most women experience “some discomfort” on insertion.
Some discomfort? I have never experienced a worse pain in my life – I felt like my insides were being ripped apart. I nearly passed out each time I tried to get it done, but every time I would reach a point where I thought “this is not worth the pain”. Some discomfort my arse.
No one told me that it could be excruciating for some women, and when I asked to be sedated to have it done, it was refused because that’s “not how we do this procedure in the UK”.
Similarly, when I was diagnosed abroad with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), the doctors in the UK were refusing to officially diagnose me because I wasn’t overweight (which is a typical symptom of PCOS but all women with the syndrome are overweight). But did they offer to scan my ovaries and check? Of course not. They refused that too. What was I supposed to do? Have cancer so they take me seriously?
It took an actual cancer scare to finally get me referred to a gynaecologist. A blood test for ovarian cancer markers came back with a concerning result, so I was rushed to the hospital (by rushed I mean it took two weeks to get seen by a doctor), I had scans done and was diagnosed with PCOS and endometriosis. Thankfully, no cancer. It turns out endometriosis can also cause a spike in the ovarian cancer marker test.
The oncologist I saw there told me to ask my GP for a referral to Dr Gynaecologist to discuss my treatment options for PCOS . Even then, my GP told me that he didn’t think there was much to be gained from the referral since having a coil put in could resolve my symptoms.
Why don’t I just shut up and do what he (not a specialist) says, since he knows better than a gynaecologist (a specialist).
Why Does Medical Gaslighting Happen?
Why do women have to be in a potentially life-threatening situation to be taken seriously? To have further tests done? To be believed?
I thought, maybe medical gaslighting is happening because the NHS is under so much pressure, and they can’t afford better care. Although it could be a contributing factor, women are being dismissed and disbelieved by doctors around the whole world. This is not a UK-specific issue. It goes deeper than that.
“The result of this deeply male-dominated culture is that the male experience, the male perspective, has come to be seen as universal, while the female experience–that of half the global population, after all–is seen as, well, niche.” Because of this male-centric world we live in, research into the female body and illness is put to the side. There is an infuriating lack of funding for medical research relating to women’s conditions, decided by panels of men, which leads to a massive data gap that explains why a lot of conditions that affect women (or those that affect men too but show differently in women) are misunderstood and misdiagnosed. This, along with the tendency to see women as hysterical (which is still pervasive in medicine), leads to women being dismissed by medical professionals, and to their suffering being reduced to a figment of their imagination.
Personally, I have decided to stop feeling bad for talking to doctors when I’m feeling unwell. I am not imagining things. I am going to challenge a dismissive GP whenever I encounter one, and I encourage others to do the same. Only by challenging medical gaslighting and raising awareness about this issue, will we move closer towards fairer and safer treatment of women.
Do you have a story about being dismissed or gaslighted by a medical professional? Tell us in the comments below, or DM us on Instagram and we will publish your stories on our social media to spread awareness!
Disclaimer: All of the above can be relevant to any gender, I simply focused on women because they tend to be dismissed more than men by medical professionals.
This article ended up being half a personal account, and half a letter of praise to Invisible Women. Please read it. You won’t regret it.
Halloween is upon us, but this year it will be very different from the previous ones. And no, it’s not because of the pandemic. This year, for the first time in 76 years there will be a full moon on the 31st of October! Not only that, but it will also be a blue moon – the second full moon in a single calendar month. To celebrate this rare occurrence, we decided to treat you to a special Halloween article that will give you an insight into witchcraft and spirituality in the 21st century.
There has been a boom in people, especially younger generations, turning to non-mainstream spiritual practices in the last couple of decades. There are as many reasons for this as there are practitioners. Some do it as a way to find peace among the chaos of the world. Others do it to regain control over their life, or perhaps to connect with their ancestors. What really helped popularise “alternative” practices and belief systems, was the internet. Thanks to the world wide web, we are able to share and demystify what we believe and do on our spiritual journeys. Through the ongoing online conversations the taboos are broken, and more people find that witchcraft and other forms of non-mainstream spirituality are not wrong or evil as they were once claimed to be. Instead, they can be (and often are) a way to empower yourself and connect with the natural world.
To get a better insight into what modern witchcraft and spirituality looks like and what it means to those who practice, we have spoken with two lovely women who kindly answered our burning questions.
Our first guest is Kelly (@the.harmony.quest), who is a tarot reader from the UK. She specialises in specialise in spirit/guardian and intuitive tarot readings.
Can I ask you to tell me a little bit about yourself?
I am 35 and a single mother of two young girls and a Rottweiler that doesn’t listen.
What led you to tarot cards?
A friend who misplaced her tarot deck. She was very superstitious about a rule that you shouldn’t buy your own tarot cards. You have to be gifted them, so I offered to buy her some. I was surprised by the variety and the more I looked into tarot and how they are used the more I was drawn to them. They stopped being something I initially assumed were spooky and irresponsible, and they became intriguing. I brought her a beautiful white watercolour illustrated deck and I also brought myself a deck. I wasn’t bothered by superstition. At worst, I thought they wouldn’t work. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they did.
Do you have a specific way in which you prepare for a reading? What is your process?
I used to get wrapped up in different preparation rituals thinking that it would enhance my intuition or connection, but now I just pick the cards I feel to use and start shuffling. The more I do it, the more I am blown away by how relevant and accurate my readings are for others and myself. All you need is faith in your ability, knowledge of what each card means, and to be in tune with your intuition. I do have a relaxing playlist and I always cleanse my new decks with sage or moonlight before their first use but that’s it. When doing readings, I just shuffle and go with what feels right. Sometimes a card jumps or drops, other times I feel to stop and take one. Most of the time, I split the deck and have faith that all the right cards have lined up.
What is your favourite deck?
The first deck I brought for myself, The Ostara Tarot. I usually carry them with me and it’s the only deck I have a backup for. I have spent a lot of money on other decks, but I guess I was always meant to be drawn to my first.
Do you practice any type of witchcraft or spirituality, or just tarot readings?
All types of spirituality intrigue me. I started looking into mainstream religion, then Shamanism, astrology, spirit guides, all different types of witchcraft and their origins. There is so much history that seems to have been covered up. I don’t really practice magic, but I experience and appreciate it in my daily life. They say that it’s not the tools that hold the power, but the witch. So, in everything I do I try to remember that I am powerful and pour that into all that I do. Gardening, nurturing my children, being there for others, cooking and of course reading tarot. I try to be fully aware of life and my experience. Drawing in energy and giving it back when I can. I believe this is what makes me more powerful and successful in my readings and my life.
What does your usual day look like?
My usual day looks like any other full-time, single mum trying to better herself. School runs, house admin, studying, allotment trips, dog walking, quick coffee catch ups and chaotic evenings before bed with a few readings thrown in where I can.
Do you engage in any tarot or spirituality communities?
Me and a close friend started a spiritual group for anyone that wanted to connect to like-minded individuals. We would meet up on the night of a full moon, and a different person would host each month. We would choose a topic to base the evening around as a point of conversation, such as divination or crystal healing, but we would mostly just enjoy meeting up with old friends or new strangers. Everyone had an open mind and would accept you for having beliefs completely different from your own. We discussed things, practiced our talents, ate snacks and if you were lucky enough not to be driving, drank prosecco. The group would be a mix of Shamans, witches, psychics, crystal healers, tarot readers, life coaches, aromatherapists, reiki healers, spiritualists, hippies and your average person that wanted to hang out and see what it was all about.
Why do you think witchcraft and less mainstream forms of spirituality are becoming increasingly popular, especially among the younger generations?
The standard way of doing things doesn’t serve them. They aren’t happy to just follow the status quo just because they are told to and because everyone else does. We are all generally asking more questions and are unhappy that we are not getting any clear answers. There is also a sense of belonging when you read up about the ways before organised religion and all that we used to value. The younger generations now have access to so much more information than we did and can find out about a wealth of history that isn’t spoon fed to them at school.
A lot of spiritual people believe that you don’t have to give your power away or beg to a power greater than you for what you want or for a better, safer, more secure life. You accept that there is power greater than you, but you are part of it. You are powerful and play an essential role in how your life plays out. That is very appealing.
Is Halloween something you celebrate? Is it important to you?
I love Halloween! It is my favourite time of year. This Halloween will be on the night of the full moon which is quite rare. Originally, I would take my children trick or treating and then meet up with my spiritual friends for our full moon gathering but we are now in the middle of a 6 person limit because of the covid restrictions. We are gutted that we can’t celebrate it how we planned. Most of my friends were going to go big this year! Now I plan to do a lot of reflection as Samhain is a good time to assessing the year that has passed and plan for the next as we move towards winter. I will probably dig out last years plans and intentions to see how far I got and then start my resolutions for the next year. I also like to write letters to loved ones that have passed away to thank them for the love, time and guidance they have given. Oh and eat loads of snacks, drink hot chocolate and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas back to back with my little girls.
What short piece of advice would you give to someone considering delving into tarot?
If it feels right doing it your way, you’re not doing it wrong.
Our second guest is Cat Cabral (@moonagemagic), who is a modern witch, writer, and tarot reader from the USA.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m a modern witch, writer, and author of The Spells Deck (Chronicle Books). I’ve been interested in the history, practices and intersection of religion, spirituality and witchcraft since childhood. For over a decade, I managed Enchantments, New York’s oldest occult shop and continue to host circles, workshops and read tarot for a variety of clients. I also work in the world of arts education aiming to bring a different aspect of magic into the world through theatre and film.
How would you describe what you practice?
In general I refer to myself as a modern witch mainly because today’s version of witchcraft is both an evolution and reclamation of older, Pre-Christian, pagan practices and folklore. By honoring the seasons and cycles of nature, ancestors and Divine Spirit (this can be God, Goddess, spirits or a variety of all) my practice provides a magical framework for life.
What led you to it?
I’ve always found solace, answers and magic looking up at the moon. This was a practice I developed naturally at a young age which coincided with my Catholic upbringing. As a teenager, I babysat for a family whose mother practiced witchcraft. She really took me under her wing, allowing me to browse her thorough bookshelf containing a wide variety of books on topics from the Tarot, Hinduism, Wicca, and herbalism. There was also a fantastic new age/witchy shop in my hometown on Long Island which provided further exposure to alternative ways of having a spiritual practice.
Do you have daily rituals of any kind? What is your process?
Every morning I light a candle on my altar, along with an incense that feels appropriate for the day. I shuffle a tarot deck, picking a card, then do a meditation and upon opening my eyes, say whatever words or affirmation come to me. In the evening, I look out my window up at the sky and take a moment to reflect and meditate on the day, giving thanks to what I call Divine Spirit.
Do you have a favourite ritual/practice?
There are so many fun rituals but dancing around a bonfire for Midsummer (the Summer Solstice) and making wishes, throwing herbs or a petition into the flames may be my favorite!
What does your usual day look like?
Aside from the practices I highlighted earlier, there are times when I work magic, focusing on specific intentions. I work these into my day depending on moon phases, astrological transits, the season and energy. You may have the most opportune magical time but if you’re feeling fatigued, there’s no point in trying to manifest something other than taking care of yourself! I’m also a new mom, so much of my day is wrapped up in taking care of my baby, however I do a morning daily tarot video that I share on Instagram for the collective. I also see tarot clients, write and work in my other field.
Do you engage in any communities related to witchcraft?
I host open magic circles that are public celebrating the Wheel of the Year, the 8 holidays celebrated by many witches and pagans. I also am part of private covens and we gather for a variety of occasions. I teach workshops on various topics such as spellcasting, magical herbalism, tarot, and the history of witchcraft. I enjoy gathering with dear old friends and meeting new people; there is something wonderful about a group of strangers coming together for the sole purpose of engaging in magic, it can be very potent.
Why is witchcraft important to you?
For me, witchcraft is a calling, a daily practice and a life-long exploration. It is a deepening process of awareness and growth, like many other religious or spiritual traditions. I can’t imagine my life without it.
Why do you think witchcraft and less mainstream forms of spirituality are becoming increasingly popular, especially among the younger generations?
There is much freedom and in general less judgement in witchcraft, paganism than other pillars of religion. With the advent of our hyper-technological age, the call and allure of nature is louder and more needed than ever. Many are hearing this call and are yearning to listen to the magic and inherent wisdom found in nature based traditions. Also, generally speaking, there is a much more inclusive and non-judgemental appeal in witchcraft that welcomes all. In much of witchcraft, the emphasis of reclaiming, discovering and harnessing one’s own power is paramount, along with honoring what is sacred or divine. In other faiths, divine energy only comes from above and is out of reach, whereas witches can access this power.
What short piece of advice would you give to someone considering delving into witchcraft/types of spirituality?
Create an altar, which is basically a personal, dedicated and sacred space for you. Use it to lay out your intentions and as a place to meditate daily, with a candle on magic and life. Read many books and see what practice speaks to you. Find something small you can do daily, whether it be moongazing, writing in the morning, taking deep breaths, pulling a tarot card, anything that puts you in a meditative and magical space. Witchcraft is a magical practice and for many a lifelong spiritual tradition, not a quick action that will result in attaining your goals. Know that you are always in a process of learning and discovery and that witches gather in circles, reflecting the cyclical nature of life.
If you ever thought of delving into witchcraft or exploring spirituality, it’s never too late to start! One of the easiest ways to start is to follow some modern practitioners on social media, such as the ladies in this article, to get an idea of what it may involve.
Unlike mainstream religions where you have to adjust yourself to their rules, witchcraft adjusts to your needs. Witchcraft can be the source of control and peace within – the two things that are often hard to come by in our modern times. So, if you’re looking for something new to try while stuck inside this Halloween, I say it’s time to get witchy.
Many thanks to Kelly and Cat for agreeing to the interview! You can find both of them online at:
This month we wanted to put a spotlight on Rehabilitate – a sustainable living blog run by sisters Bella and Millie Bryant. On their blog, they share thoughts and tips on how to live sustainably.
“We hope through Rehabilitate we can investigate and reimagine a future that is not only kinder to both people and the planet, but simply better.“
What motivated you to launch Rehabilitate?
We launched Rehabilitate in 2018 because we felt there was growing awareness of the climate emergency but the style of environmentalism available at the time was very limited- mostly scary stats that we couldn’t directly relate to our lives. We wanted to create a version of environmentalism that we, and people like us, could connect with and enjoy engaging with in our daily lives.
When did you first engage in sustainable living? How did you do it?
Our dad is an environmentalist, so we were always encouraged to be aware of how our lifestyle choices impacted the planet. But outside of that, we started living sustainably in a more comprehensive and conscious way around the time we started the blog. One of the best things about writing the blog is that it makes us actively look for sustainable lifestyle solutions- and the more you look, the more you find!
What has been your biggest challenge so far? (Both in terms of building your blog, and leading a sustainable lifestyle).
At the moment sustainable living means questioning your assumptions and reimagining the way we live, which is both an exciting intellectual challenge but also an overwhelmingly large task. We live in an age where information is so readily available but can have a paralysing effect- especially when it’s about impending mass extinction! Developing boundaries with social media and knowing that perfection is simply unachievable has been really important in relation to both living sustainably and to the blog. Rehabilitate is an overflow of our own interests, so any content we produce is a reflection of this. Remembering that helps to keep things in perspective.
In your opinion, why don’t more people live sustainably?
Knowing where to begin can be very daunting. With the amount of conflicting information available at the moment, combined with the fact that changing habits is really hard for most of us, trying to live sustainably can feel like fighting a loosing battle. That’s why we’ve found it very helpful to create an online community of people who are also trying to live sustainably. Following sustainable lifestyle accounts on Instagram is a great way to find new ideas and staying motivated to live sustainably.
As consumers, what change would you like to see happen when it comes to the fashion industry?
We’d love to see a more diverse and responsible fashion industry. Fashion draws some of the most creative ideas and innovation, it’s a shame that so many are currently excluded from it and that the fashion currently available to the majority is fairly homogenous and poor quality. A fashion industry populated by many small independent designers rather than a few big chains is a way that fashion can become a more diverse, democratic industry. It’s also a way of improving the quality of the fashion available as small independent designers are more likely to carve their niche.
‘Sustainable living’ sometimes gets a bad reputation for being an expensive lifestyle, and a choice that’s only available to the financially privileged. Has this issue ever affected your ability to make sustainable choices?
Living sustainably has definitely challenged our view of what things cost, for example buying a new t-shirt that costs £3 is never going to be a respectful price to the people who made it or to the planet. However, a t-shirt that costs £250+ is also not necessarily any better for the environment or community- cost doesn’t necessarily equal impact. Because of this we’ve definitely noticed that our spending habits have changed- quality over quantity is generally the guiding principle now. It’s a misconception that you have to spend a lot to be sustainable, the bottom line is that the best thing you can do is to consume less.
Do you have any advice for people who would like to switch to a more sustainable life on a budget?
Making lifestyle changes that will be right for you and making it enjoyable is the most important thing. If you don’t know where to start, using the instagram algorithms to your advantage can be great for finding sustainable lifestyle inspiration- if you start following a few sustainable lifestyle bloggers, you’ll quickly find lots more suggested which you can use to curate your own community to help you discover new ideas. As we mentioned before, living sustainably doesn’t have to be expensive. Switching to buying second-hand is a great way to be sustainable and keep costs low. Also remembering that change doesn’t happen overnight, the goal is longterm change so pacing yourself is a good idea.
Can you share a few of your favourite ethical/sustainable brands (fashion and anything else you would like to recommend)?
Our go-to second hand outlets for fashion are Vinted, Depop and eBay. Using these might take a bit of trial and error at first, but once you know how to find what you’re looking for you can get some good finds. Googling where your local tailor is and having finds altered to fit you can also be a great way to use second-hand outlets. We also really like Organic Basics for essential items, and have recently launched a collection of limited edition organic cotton t-shirt prints which you can find at www.stig-uk.com.
All images used in this article belong to Rehabilitate.
Social: Latin, socialis “of companionship, of allies; united, living with others”
I recently rediscovered the ‘My Activity’ tab on Instagram and immediately remembered why I’d conveniently forgotten about it. For anyone living in ignorant bliss, ‘My Activity’ tracks the amount of time you spend on Instagram per day. Every minute spent scrolling is tracked and recorded on a neat little weekly-spread, bar chart, hidden in a tab near your settings. If Donna Haraway needed evidence of humanity’s cyborg-ism, ‘My Activity’ is surely it.
Unsurprisingly, I’d underestimated my scrolling habits. As a notoriously bad replier, known for my thorough digital-detoxes amongst friends, I was alarmed to discover I spend around the same time it takes for coffee-and-a-catch-up with a friend, on Instagram, everyday. That’s some commitment. However on reflection what’s actually more surprising is how I time and again underestimate the influence of social media on my life. And I suspect I’m not alone in my delusion.
My feeling is that it has something to do with the general framing of social media as a trivial, fun activity that is ultimately a waste of time. It seems social media doesn’t really want us to know its influence- hence why I was able to conveniently forget about the ‘My Activity’ feature. It wants to sneak in under the radar, like that horrifying Goebbels quote, “propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will.” And before you know it, you’ve spent the past four years of your life having coffee with Instagram every day and you didn’t even notice.
What then, are we to do? Removing all social media from life forever is unrealistic and in my opinion, undesirable. Zadie Smith writes in Generation Why? “the software shaping [our] generation is unworthy of [us]. [We] are more interesting than it is. [We] deserve better.” And I agree, we do deserve better. But generally better doesn’t magically arrive unless you invite it.
The recent BLM instagram movement revealed how users can influence social media and make it a tool for change when used effectively. Regardless of your opinion on the black squares, no Instagram-user could have accessed their feed on Tuesday 2nd June without being made aware of the movement. More importantly, the movement called users’ own online actions into question and made them deliberate about their actions. It created collective action.
Any share, post or story on Tuesday 2nd June was inevitably viewed in light of BLM because of the collective effort of users to spotlight the issue. Black Out Tuesday and the subsequent BLM social media campaigning driven by users has illustrated how powerful social media can be when we acknowledge that it is powerful and we act collectively, as a community.
In Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth calls for us to “unleash” the creative potential of the commons [mutually owned resources, accessible to all]. The social media common is a world-spanning space that has huge creative potential. Creativity cannot thrive in homogeneity. Being deliberate about counter-acting the homogenising algorithm is one small act towards a more diverse and inclusive social media. So have coffee with social media everyday, but make sure your company is worth spending time with.
Featured image by Charlota Blunarova.
Welcome to the very first issue of Inksight! My name is Aleksandra, and I would like to tell you a little bit about what this magazine and issue are about.
The idea to launch my own magazine came to me out of the desire to improve my writing and editing, and out of the lockdown frustration that felt like an endless limbo of aimlessness. I needed to focus all of my energy (and anxiety) on something productive and creative, so I decided it was time for Inksight to come into existence. Originally, I wanted to go for the print format but I thought it might be wiser to leave that for a more viable time. Instead, I decided to spice things up and meet print and digital halfway. The result – each monthly ‘issue’ will have its own special theme, and all of the articles will be published in bulk to imitate the print magazine feel. Of course, that might change as we progress and find out what works and what doesn’t.
In general, Inksight will primarily explore art and culture but you can also expect to see other topics such as creative writing, history, and plenty of book reviews and recommendations. There is also a miscellaneous category for the times when I won’t be able to stop myself from sharing something exciting or important that doesn’t fit the theme.
ISSUE 1: COMMUNITY
At first, I thought it would be interesting to look at ‘Community in Isolation’ as a theme, but I was so fed up with hearing about the pandemic and lockdown all the time, that I decided the topic needed to be broader. I decided ‘Community’ on its own was a good theme to explore art and culture through, and still relevant to the world’s current affairs.
To be clear, this issue is not about communities struggling with the pandemic. Sure, there will be mentions of it, but the theme is about community’s broader definition – about groups of people with something or some place in common. This month’s issue seeks to bring you an inksight (pun absolutely intended) into some of today’s most pressing matters, brilliant art, and exciting ideas and books.
Eventually, I hope for this magazine to be a collaborative project. A place for creative, passionate individuals to write about things they find interesting or beautiful, and about things that don’t get enough attention in the media. So, I hope you enjoy the fruit of my lockdown experience, and that you feel encouraged to get involved.
Head over to the submissions page to read about how you can get involved. We would love to hear from you!
Featured image: Catherine Cordasco for United Nations COVID-19 Response, via Unsplash.