How crying at Glastonbury cured me

Last week I stuffed some stuff in a Twitch holdall, slung some wellies in a car boot and made my way down to Glastonbury Festival.

The last time I visited the world’s largest music festival, it was 2010. I was 21 and about to move to Newcastle to do my first full-time job as a radio producer and presenter.

KThat year it was unbearably hot and I didn’t really get how to “do” Glastonbury yet. I packed my least fabulous clothes, didn’t stay out late and actually slept. Although I went with friends and had a reasonable time, it’s safe to say I was a little lost, despite my excitement as we initially approached the massive site.

Roll forward to 2019 and things were the opposite. Stressed and – dare I say it – a tad burnt out from everything I’ve been up to this year (I hadn’t quite recovered from the depressive dip I slipped into during my few days off in Dallas earlier in June), I was very apprehensive about whether I would enjoy things. Having time off and a pretty open calendar after July was playing on my mind.

Luckily, I had bar work and the group cameraderie of my boyfriend and our friends, who were decked out in a variety of different medieval costumes, to distract my dizzy brain. We set to work in the Avalon Inn on Wednesday, the bar newcomers such as myself trying to remember how to do basic mental maths as we served our first customers.

Thursday was tough – with no acts and a shift from 10pm – 3am, the unusual environment led to inner self-loathing and restlessness. My hayfever went crazy – I took three tablets but the itching and sneezing was relentless. I queued for the pharmacy to discover they didn’t take cards, and I’d already run out of cash. The pharmacist kindly put an order of the last nasal spray on site and a bottle of eyedrops to one side. I waited in the queue hoping my boyfriend could bring me some, letting more and more people go in front of me as it dawned on me I could be late for my shift. (Being late for work is somewhat of a phobia for me.) After ten minutes, a girl in the queue behind me noticed my distress and to my surprise offered to buy the eye drops for me as she could see how worried I was. “I hope someone would do the same thing for me,” she said kindly.

I can’t just put the turnaround of the event down to this person, but it was absolutely a factor. Glastonbury, with its focus on charity, the environment and celebrating life, can absolutely bring out the best in people. Perhaps I had judged it on the people who camp out all day at the Pyramid stage with large chairs or legs spread on the ground, tripping up people trying to find their friends in the anxiety-inducing crowd, but when I explored it more this year I discovered that, away from the larger attractions, there’s the magic of human spirit and kindness to be found.

On Friday, I managed to take in Grace Petrie‘s set on the Acoustic Stage before I headed to my late afternoon bar shift. Grace is following in the footsteps of fellow protest folk singer Billy Bragg, calling politicians to rights with her powerful voice and emotional lyrics, matter-of-factly pointing out that people are dying in our oceans trying to find peace or beg for enough to eat at food banks, while individuals born into priviledge sleep soundly at night in palaces.

The last time I saw Petrie was at Latitude in 2015 (she was kind enough to give me and my then-boyfriend a lift to the station post event), and since then she’s been finding a loyal following with her humourous appearances on the Guilty Feminist podcast and has released a stellar album, Queer As Folk. I pretty much cried during her entire set, and was absolutely relieved when my friend Igraine turned to me after set highlight Black Tie to say “oh, I’m glad you’re crying too!”.

As well the music giving me the feels, I’m particularly susceptible artists’ reactions as they witness the crowds who have turned out for them. Petrie, of course, was one of them – seeing the results of her hard work and steely determinedness to call our lawmakers and bigots to account paying off. Imagining how they could take her to even bigger stages in future makes me well up thinking about it, as does the utterly empowering beacon of fabulousness that is Lizzo – who occasionally paused her superstar, breathless Saturday set to laugh in disbelief at once of the largest audiences West Holts has most likely ever seen.

Put both of these women on the Pyramid Stage next time, Glastonbury – you won’t regret it.

Full disclosure; Lizzo was so utterly phenomenal that I quickly moved on from the fact that I’d got someone else’s… deposit(!) on my hand using a dreaded long drop loo prior to her set. (No one told me off when I skipped the sink queue to wash my hands, fully freaked out – thanks guys.)

Post-shift I’d expected to be too knackered to go out, but I knew I needed to make amends for my 21-year-old self. So off I went, in an Austrian dirndl dress (yeah I know, kind of cheating the medieval bar theme) to dance around Arcadia.

The very large resident of the Arcadia field at Glastonbury

For those not familar with Arcadia, it’s a dance music destination (ie, a field) which used to be home to an “anatomically-incorrect” spider. This year, the aracnid had been replaced by a new longterm resident; a massive crane that used to be put to work at Bristol Docks, but now puffs out the ocasional smoke ring and snows little blobs of foam, as a DJ performs within its open belly.

Saturday presented a Sophie’s Choice of headline acts – did we go for Hot Chip or Chemical Brothers? The latter, headlining the Other Stage for the fifth time, won out. Squeezing into the crowd, past a woman who had seemingly brought her weekly big shop into the thick of the throng and couldn’t comprehend why this might be a bad idea, we positioned ourselves far enough away to avoid the neck ache of looking up at the stage’s massive LED screens, but without much view of where the performers would be. Not that we realised at the time how solid a play this was.

Suddenly the screens burned brightly into life and Tom and Ed – the Chemical Brothers kicked things off with Go. And there began the best live show I have ever seen, ending with me rendered unable to speak like Bishop Brennan after he’d be kicked up the arse.

(If You’re UK-based, watch it on iPlayer before it’s gone, I beg of you.)

Still in awe, a few of my friends and I stumbled across towards Shangri-La with a cup of white wine and discovered the camp-as-Christmas Sensations stage, compered in that moment by Miss Frisky, known to many as the big voice of comedy cabaret double act Frisky and Mannish. Between belting pop mash-ups, Frisky invited different acts onstage, who did an inifinite number of jawdropping things with their bodies, from rolling around and freewheeling in a giant hoop, to setting nipple pasties on fire and whipping flames across the stage, and all while we danced along in appreciation.

Sunday brought on the waterworks again as I finally got to witness Self Esteem playing live tracks from her brilliant, horrendously underrated album Compliments Please. It’s an enigmatic album full of alternative pop bangers like The Best and (Girl) Crush, with lines such as “what I might have achieved, if I wasn’t trying to please you” that strike directly to the core of many Millienial women like me. (In my work as an esports host and reporter, I’m essentially trying to please a male dominated audience as I talk about video games, so I’m tempted to get the lyric “remember you don’t owe them anything” tattooed somewhere I can see it before I go live…)

Rebecca Taylor, who initially found success as one half of indie duo Slow Club, has soundtracked my life for the past ten years. Back in 2009, Slow Club’s debut LP featured a secret track called Boys On Their Birthdays, which ended with Taylor confessing that she’d “always wanted to be a rapper”, and although this record doesn’t feature rapping, it’s accompanied in person with fiercely powerful dance routines performed by Taylor and her backing vocalists that give the sense that she’s finally making her destiny happen. There’s a confidence from the artist that doesn’t just control the room, but compells it to go forth and conquer.

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Rebecca Taylor, aka Self Esteem, in action

(Also, fuck yes to that outfit.)

Knowing the BBC would be covering the larger stages, I felt safe in forgoing the crowds of Kylie and Miley Cyrus to watch This is the Kit perform on the West Holts and soothe souls, before my final bar shift.

Being a Sunday night, the Avalon Inn’s bar nearly ran dry, so we decided to entertain the punters in a new way;I got to live my dream of performing at Glastonbury, via the medium of a Spotify playlist and a little crowd of have-a-go perfomers who each took their turn on the stage. Hopefully we can make it a proper thing in 2020…

Usually I’m happy to head home after sweating in a field for a week, but this time I felt a tinge of melancholy as our car crawled its way out of Somerset and back to London; I didn’t want the magic to end. I’m someone who used to go to four or so live gigs a week (sometimes playing my own) during my short stint at Amazing Radio, and rarely get to gigs anymore, and Glastonbury had reminded me never to take it for granted again.

But on sorrow’s flipside, I was happy to be taking a new found optimism back to the capital with me. Glastonbury might have a destination called the Healing Fields, but it’s possible to find restoration in any one of its varied pastures.

Did you head to Glastonbury, or watch the BBC’s coverage? Let me know who your favourite acts were – I’d love to hear your memories too!

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“When am I not competitive? When I don’t think I can win”

I am ten, eleven years old in my final year of primary school. Michelle (year five) and I have been bestowed the honour of being a “whole player”. The other girls on the playground only count as “half a boy”. I know I will never be passed the ball and so, determined to get a touch, am constantly prepared to run full-stream at a “whole player” and take it from him.

On Tuesdays, myself and a dozen or so girls pay two quid to a man who runs a venture called Club Brazil Girls Football. I pay for football because Thursday football club, free and run by the local vicar, clashes with netball practice. I was admitted into the netball A team, alongside a girl called Natalie, a year before our peers. I know I won’t make the football B team (Michelle is more than good enough but never gets to play for them either). Even though I love football, and own a full England ’97 kit I am fast growing too big for, plus Umbro boots from Woolworths, I stick to the sport I know I’ll get picked for.

My first pair of blades are given to me for my 15th, and I adapt them to make them fit for street skating. Visiting an indoor park without them, I borrow my friend’s caveronous size 9 soft boots and try dropping in multiple times, landing in quick succession on my right elbow. The result is a haematoma (“swellbo”) that I call my “third boob”. The doctor mentions that this could have been more serious had it been elsewhere – people die from haematomas. Fear stops me from trying things out, but I keep skating with my friend Maz and a group of boys from the town. It’s something to do and I know I’ll never be good at it – I’m “just a girl” – so I don’t try.

Going into my final year of GCSE I enter a relationship with someone I meet at the skate park. He slaps me on my arms when I say sorry, tells me he should swap me for Maz, who is dating another friend, and tells me he will never love me. We go to an extreme sports festival, and I go out skating on my own and make friends with some Welsh skaters. I escape for the evening, become my own person again, and return to accusations that I’m a whore on my return. I go from being happy and confident, to someone who cries and who can’t stop saying sorry. When I’m dumped for another girl after a few months, I buy a DVD of Clueless with my Sports Direct earnings and celebrate. Skating eventually stops too. Isolated in the countryside, I spend two weeks in bed after my exams playing Final Fantasy X on my Playstation 2.

When I enter Sixth Form – where boys are admitted to our otherwise girls’ grammar school in Maidstone – I finally get to play football again. Age 17, I am called “GIRL” by the boys in the year above. I haven’t played football for years, but when I’m not working on Music Tech coursework, choir, or other clubs I’ve committed to my entire time in secondary education, I’m out there, beetroot red, curly hair flying, knowing the ball won’t come to me unless I take it for myself. Over a year I fall in love with the boy who plays in goal, who shares Broken Social Scene and Bright Eyes with me. (He is different to our friend, my year 12 boyfriend, who would shout “ELEPHANT” across a dinner table at me if my top was deemed too low, and decided Counter-Strike wasn’t for me.) We play music together. It’s magic. I am the only girl studying A2 Music Tech. On recordings, I sing in a way I think the other boys will want, rather than how I truly sound. When I leave for university my boyfriend will end up with the girl whose stairs I once threw up on at a party. I call it karma.

I discover my love of radio at University. Aged 19, I am given the choice between managing a community radio station and then our student version. I pick the latter, after I doubt my ability to make decisions for the much older male faces around the community station table.

Less than two years later, I record my first national radio show in my Selly Oak bedroom and send it off to be played on the other side of my 21st birthday. I will move far from home to work there and be told frequently that I am only there for the way I look, and that I am annoying and arrogant because I cite case studies from past work experience at the BBC and Channel 4 in the ideas I suggest. My show will be taken away from me, only for them to give it back to me thanks to one of the producers questioning why I need replacing. I will be pitched against the other female producer, and I will be removed from conversations concerning the show I produce.

My contract is terminated, but the presenter doesn’t last much longer than the four weeks of shows (20 episodes) I have pre-produced. I return to London and slowly rebuild my life. In a BBC management training course I am asked why I’m looking at an exercise pinned the wall when I know what I’m talking about. I about turn and present to the room. In that moment I realise I’ve been burying that voice for a long time.

But not everyone is a fan of a woman with confidence. When I speak up and tell a room of colleagues “I know it’s not the decision of anyone here but only one woman in a line-up on 14 comedians isn’t enough” when we’re evaluating a project, I am taken to one side and told I am too aggressive and that I shouldn’t question something that would have already been considered. In a different job I am advised by a man that I “speak too much” in meetings, even though they are meetings about the elements of a project I am leading. At one point I will have a boss who tells me he is not comfortable calling his direct reports “women” and will therefore call us “girls” instead.

In the Twitch office when I arrive in 2016, there are five high-spec gaming PCs. My friend Iain suggests trying out Overwatch, which he is ridiculously good at; I decide to take the plunge and spend thirty quid on the game. My initial games are catastrophic; I have to learn the ability keys and get used to directional controls with my left hand (AWSD, rather than the arrow keys). At one point, I get so desperate I resort to picking up a controller and plugging it in. Iain announces – with good reason – that he will abandon me if I use it.

So I practice; I play in lunch breaks, and after work. I team up with our office manager Nell and HR manager Roisin – themselves seasoned players – and a competitive team, later called “Overlunch” forms. I move from DPS (Tracer) to support (Ana and Mercy). I build a PC so I can start playing and streaming Overwatch at home. I get Twitch Partnered and become part of the community. I am outed as a gamer to friends and my boyfriend. Sometimes I experience aggression over voice chat or someone tells me to mute my voice, but I don’t care; I’m good at this now and I know people I can play with.

When I first appear on a stage, Twitch chat turns into a stream of “GRILLS” and deleted messages. I can make worse jokes about myself than they ever could. I am stage hosting a UK Hearthstone tournament when I am noticed by PC Gamer. When my job is cut by Twitch, I write to tournament organisers and end up in Stockholm, Katowice, Austin and Los Angeles in quick succession. I script edit and collaborate with the team on my pieces to camera for the PC Gaming Show at E3 2018. One joke leads to a bump in my Instagram following. But there are still faceless voices who will object to my presence at the events I move between for the rest of the year.

In Katowice for the CS:GO Major, I see daily forum posts pulled through to the front page of HLTV that discuss my looks and what they would do to me. They compare me to my female peers and call for me to be replaced. As I attend more Counter-Strike events, the dissatisfaction wanes, but the sexual comments continue. My boyfriend Googles me to show a friend’s father what I do for a living and finds a forum post describing me as a “MILF”. We laugh about it.

I have tried playing CSGO but have been previously kicked off a public match and the experienced has stuck with me, so I have resorted to playing solo and Wingman modes.

Someone sends me a link to Pop Flash – suddenly I can get round my inability to set up a lobby and I am able to play with my community. The first 5v5 stream is fun, but in the second it appears we’re playing with at least one stream sniper, who decides to repeatedly attempt to zap me with a Zeus. I sometimes look at my keyboard because I have not played enough hours of CS for all the actions and key binds to be instinctive yet. Most of chat is supportive, but today comments declaring that “I don’t play many video games” and jokes at my glances downward strike a nerve. Usually I respond to comments with a joke, or ignore them. Today I more or less tell them to fuck off. I am impatient and I am angry; the night before I witnessed the negative reactions to a women’s tournament being organised by DreamHack and my head is ablaze.

I stay frustrated for the evening. My friend messages to see if I am ok, having heard what happened on my stream. I watch catch-up TV, but the rage stays with me and I regress into my past.

I am angry I didn’t try this sooner – that I was a solo player almost my entire life, even when supposedly in a team. That I wasn’t invited to the LAN parties. That I wasn’t encouraged to try. I am upset that I am only starting this now, but feel like I will be forever judged by it. I am outraged by seeing women dehumanised on the internet with constant debates about “females” being scientifically proven to be lesser at video games, even though there have been no specific studies detailing the differences between men and women playing the same game.

Daily, I see “males” tell women they are terrible, but then refuse to play with them, kicking them off servers or abusing them over voice comms until they can prove themselves – or calling the women that do, cheaters. I see women set up their own spaces so they can find people they can trust to play with, only for men to question why this is necessary. I see segregation as the longterm result of when the dominant part of the community has abandoned the other. I want women to be taken seriously.

But I can’t go back to solo queuing because I need people to play with who won’t kick me and I want to stream, so I resolve to keep streaming. I’ve only just started, and I’ve discovered I’m extremely good at head-shotting my own team with a Scout, and at least hitting something is promising. I remember that I stumbled upon the esports world in 2015, and now I get to be part of it. That I only started FPS a few years ago, and I ended up reporting on coach strategy at the 2018 Overwatch World Cup – a dream come true as a devoted player. I get paid to play and talk about video games. The voices that post graphic opinions of my body, or that tell women they aren’t entitled to play for a $100,000 prize pool – what do they get paid for? It’s not that, and they certainly don’t get paid to do what I do.

Together, we can level the playing field – all of us. We need to remember that the women who are playing CSGO and other shooters haven’t necessarily been playing it as long as men. That, particularly in the past, girls weren’t always invited to play with boys. That women need to be scrimming against male rosters in order to have opportunities in the same tournaments, and when scrims occur, both sides take it seriously and don’t pick up the Zeus. We need to bear in mind that for women to learn CS in the first place, they need to not be kicked from servers upon hitting the push-to-talk button. We need to let women know that if they want to play, they are welcome, and that they can succeed.

As star female players break through, we should see them considered by more orgs with the money to support their growth. When female-only tournaments happen, we need to remember that sponsors actually want to support the growth of talent and its their money, and then can spend their budgets where they decide – it’s not taking money away from established male players. In fact, it’s putting money into an area of the scene that’s been under-resourced and needs to grow.

We are often told that women don’t have a competitive streak, that we don’t want to put ourselves out there and go for titles. “It’s not in our nature”. But when am I not competitive? When I don’t think I can win; women like me are told their entire lives that they cannot win. We are led to believe that any competitive quality is undesirable and our confidence is chipped away from being told we are not good enough.

To the ladies reading this – you are good enough, despite all of those personal experiences throughout your life that told you otherwise. You deserve to be confident and do what is best for you without judgement. So if you think that an all-female scrim server is for you, ignore the dissent and join one. If you want to work in esports but worry you’ll be rejected for being a woman, join the Women of Esports Discord group, and trust me when I tell you that there is more than enough room for you here. And if you’re looking for people to start playing CS with, come play with me. I promise that if I shoot you in the head, it’ll be totally accidental.

Selling eyeliners is one thing… but surgery? How Transform’s latest ad fails to see below the surface

I’ve been tardy with the ol’ blog recently. I’ll be the first to admit it. I was thinking of writing about my work on the recent Trainspotting Live, or the fact that I’ve just left the BBC after more than four years to start at Twitch tomorrow.

And yet, this is what has compelled me to delay my latest attempt to complete Final Fantasy XIII and only half pay attention to the latest love of my life (Gilmore Girls on Netflix). An advert printed in the back pages of Glamour magazine.

In it, 22-year-old London-based fashion blogger That Pommie Girl describes how her recent “boob job” (and yes, because it is aimed at her readers – women of her age or younger, it actually uses that phrase), has made her “love her body”, something bloggers are known for. They’ll post paid for ads for products with names like “Boo Tea” on Instagram promoting speedier metabolisms and “detoxification”, or 24 products at once for a “natural look” on YouTube. And while I’m not saying this is 100% harmless (the thought of me – with my mountain of loose leaves piled up in the corner of my kitchen – purchasing a tea for anything other than the fact it tastes good makes me shiver), it’s nothing compared to surgery.

This woman has been given a free major uncessary  surgical operation – and in my book, that’s something that’s both invasive and requiring the patient to undergo general aesthetic – and most likely been paid a lot of money to do so; she’s been paid to be cut open, stuffed, and to promote this to her young followers. Lest we forget, there’s a reason why bloggers and social media stars are called influencers. She’s someone people aspire to be. Her lifestyle is what her followers yearn to have. And her lifestyle now involves major surgery so she can like herself.

Let’s face it; a lot of young people aren’t comfortable in their own bodies yet. I have a strong body which I’ve worked hard on (I’m not ripped or anything like that, but I can hold my own in a boxing class) and, at the age of 27, I still check how much my stomach sticks out in the mirror when I wake up. I’m not That Pommie Girl’s target audience, and yet I still bought the aforementioned copy of Glamour because it came with a free Benefit eyebrow gel. (And I already own a similar one from L’Oreal that works perfectly fine.)

I decided to do a Google to find out a bit more and discovered the Advertising Standards Authority have actually banned the TV version of the advert, although you can still view videos of Sarah Ashcroft (the blogger in question), on Transform’s website.

There’s a few disturbing things about the advert, which you can view by accessing the last hyperlink. Firstly, Ashcroft explains that she never experienced anything she’d describe as “pain” (aside from back pain). Not immediately post operation or during the aftercare period.

“In terms of recovery I still couldn’t really believe it. I had geared myself up for a lot of pain when there wasn’t really any at all. I remember feeling incredibly drowsy, but aside from that the healing process was pretty straightforward, with the major inconvenience being a support bra due to the neck and back pain from my new posture.”

Surgery is going to be different for everyone, but this advertorial really does go out of its way to emphasise “no pain, all gain”.

And probably the part I find the most shocking of all, Ashcroft implies that her career has been progressed by the operation:

“It really has changed my life and cliched as it sounds, I feel like a new person with a newfound confidence and love for my body. Now, I can be as experimental as I want to be with my style; something I always wanted and I feel like my blogging has come on leaps and bounds too.”

Breasts “enhanced”, she can now wear different clothes and write better! Us women had better all sign up for surgery so we can have enough confidence to ask for a big enough pay rise to start paying back our surgery loans and wear the contractually obliged high heels, skirt and at least five items of noticeable make up to the office..

This advert probably concerns me most of all because it suggests that we still associate the idea of physical perfection – or a marketer’s idea of it – as a key to success. Why be comfortable with what you have, when the path to success is the physical embodiment of some ideal dreamed up by someone else who managed to make it catch on years ago? Already successful enough to attract Transform in the first place (and no doubt, other businesses wanting to work with her), why would Ashcroft (and a bunch of others profiled on the website) take such a drastic step?

And why – in heaven’s name why – would Glamour run this irresponsible advert? For financial gain? Don’t they have some semblance of a duty of care for their younger readers? It’s enough to make me ignore next latest lucrative freebie issue and pay full price (for a cheaper copycat version of the same product).

Monikh Dale, another featured blogger who Transform have given a “lip enhancement” explains on the site that “I wanted to be the best version of me I could be” – the same slogan that the Army are currently using in their latest recruitment campaign. But don’t get me started on that one, or I’ll never find out if Rory and Jess get together. (Gilmore Girls. Seriously – you need to watch it!)

A tale from the night bus

Last Saturday I headed out and equipped myself with a weapon; a laser shooting gun that fired grenades, smart bombs and ‘standard’ red laser-y bullets. Oh yes, I celebrated my belated birthday with a round of laser quest, followed by a more adult trip to my favourite wine bar, the genius self-service Vagabond. Inspired by my boyfriend Luke, and after a 1am pitstop for coffee and cheesecake at Bar Italia in Soho, we rounded things off with two hours of karaoke; Alanis Morrisette, Little Shop of Horrors sound track, Barenaked Ladies – the works!

All in all, a pretty full night. And I’m clearly telling you all this because the last time I headed home at 4am was Halloween, and that was a party down the road where I’d consumed a small bottle’s worth of beer throughout the entire evening. I’m proud. But laser quest and karaoke and wine AND cheesecake? Of course I was asking for trouble…

I’d been drinking throughout the evening, but at a very slow pace, so by the time we got the N1 back to Luke’s flat in Greenwich, I was fairly sober – and entirely coherent. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell I’d been drinking, party outfit and time of day aside.

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We headed straight up to the top floor of the deserted double decker bus and sat in the scenic bit; on the left at the very front of the bus. We took a celebratory photo. I sat by the window and watched the snow fall. A few stops in, more people joined us; a group of drunk students who spread themselves out across the seats in the middle of the bus and a pair of men, who sat directly behind us.

I just happened to be looking out of the window to my left when I noticed a hand – quick as a flash – reach through the gap next to the wall of the bus and wriggle itself next to my waist. I’ve gone over this moment many times in my head since; was he trying to tickle me? Steal from me? Reach further?

I turned around; “Why did you just touch me? You just touched me!” I exclaimed loudly, projecting my voice down the aisle. The man looked despondent for a moment. “I want you to move.” I said.

By now the man had worked out how to respond; by twisting a finger to his head as if to say I was crazy and miming a drink, to say I was too drunk to know better. “I have girlfriend, why would I do this?” he said in broken
English, his friend silent and passive next to him.

“You did touch me and I want you to move right now,” I exclaimed. I was not going to be fobbed off my a man accusing me of being crazy. He began to protest more. “I want you to move to another seat. I’m not having you sit behind me.”

By now the students were saying nothing. Although I spoke loudly, I had a strong sense of control and did not mind that they were watching. If I moved, I’d admit defeat and show weakness to these men. If I moved I’d look like I was lying. But I was going to sit this one out.

Less than a minute after I’d called the man out, he moved to the empty seat behind his. His friend remained in place, until a couple of minutes later when he too moved. Now all we had to do was remain on the bus for 15 more excruciating minutes and we’d be rid of them. And we did.

It was a small moment in an epic evening – and it’ll never be able to overshadow the night. But I won’t forget it in a hurry. I will never understand his motives either – was it a joke at my expense? Was it a kink? Was it an attempt to take my Oyster card? And the worst – does he do it often to other women?

The love list

Right now I’m loving…

Taylor Swift

When I first heard Love Story, the breakthrough song that made Taylor Swift an international star back in 2008, I never thought; ‘in six years time, I shall be running up and down Oxford Street desperately seeking a copy of Taylor Swift’s ridiculously popular fifth album.’ And yet, yesterday, there I was in HMV, feeling slightly sheepish as the cashier expressed her surprise at how insanely popular the album, titled 1989, has been.

Considering how hard Taylor (it feels odd referring to her as Swift, given her personable image) has been working to promote her record, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s such a quick hit – or that for the first time in a while, CDs are flying off the shelves at such a rate that they’re selling out (the polaroid images featured in a neat packet inside along with infamous liner notes complete with coded messages about Taylor’s private life are definitely an incentive), but also her sudden credibility – see her Radio 1 Live Lounge reversioning of the aforementioned Love Story.

Clever marketing and changes of sound aside, it really helps that the album is wickedly, infectiously good (and makes focusing on reading on the tube really hard with it playing on the iPod). My current addictive track is Blank Space, but I’d be lying if I said that I won’t be switching my allegiance to another track sometime soon. It might not be for everyone, but I imagine I’m not on my own with my new found enthusiasm for her!

Putting my face in ‘those things you put your face in’ on the wrong side

Firstly, I have no idea what these are called – I’m just going by comic James Acaster’s description in his brilliant 2014 show Recognise – but for some reason, since accidentally putting my face through the wrong side during the summer at Latitude, I have a compulsion to keep doing it…

Face in the wrong place

Sephora jumbo liners

I ‘popped’ over to Paris via a ten hour coach to see my boyfriend Luke at the weekend. He’s abandoned me to go to a French clown school for a month and therefore was a charmingly good sport when I dragged him round Sephora – I bought one of these crayons on a whim (in green) and have totally fallen in love with it – it’s really easy to get thin lines, despite its chubby size, and looks like a liquid liner. It also totally stays put – far more so than a recent liquid liner I bought. It works smudged as a shadow too. Basically I’m in love and want one in every colour. (Please Santa?)

Lena Dunham and ‘Team Legend’

I confess, I’m probably a terribly embarrassing manager – I refer to us as Team Legend for goodness sake, but I’m very lucky to work with two lovely researchers, Shabana and Katie, who stood in the mind numbing long queue to get Lena Dunham to sign a copy of her new book, Not That Kind of Girl, for me on Wednesday.

The book itself is great so far – funny, frank and everything you’d want from Dunham, who has been popping up all over London this week and for some reason hasn’t visited W12. What. A. Shame. Still, I have a signed copy of the book to comfort myself with in these hard times. Thanks Team Legend!

A response to Angela Epstein

Congratulations Daily Mail, I have finally succumbed to your baiting.

Before I tear the barb from my lip and get on with my life, I’ll address a few points from your post by Angela Epstein.

In the article she writes about her appearance on Newsnight with Mary Beard (LEGEND) and Natasha McElhone.

Here’s her response to host Emily Maitlis’s enquiry as to whether she would call herself a feminist:

“I hoped my blow-dried hair and figure-hugging dress would give her some clue as to the answer.

“Feeling a little mischievous, I was tempted to ask her whether I looked like one of those grumpy women in bad clothes who spend their days in a state of agitation about whether it’s right to let girls play with dolls.”

So, as a feminist, here’s my response:

  • I don’t blow dry my hair because it doesn’t work. Even hairdressers haven’t cracked it. A visit to the hairdressers is akin to others’ fear of the dentist. There is nothing anti-feminist about having your hair cut.
  • I’m not a thong fan, therefore figure-hugging isn’t really my style
  • I’d like to see a picture of one of these  ‘grumpy women’ please – this is pure speculation
  • The ‘pink stinks’ campaign, and others like it, is not about removing dolls from the arms of little girls, it’s about removing gender bias from children’s toys. So in other words, boys can play with dolls and girls can be free to dress up as doctors

Then Emily takes affront with the simple, but effective, Everyday Sexist Project, which allows users to submit their experiences of sexism directly on the site or via social media

“Rather than campaigning to help women, feminists today are more likely to be picking fights on Twitter, or dressing up petty grievances as proof of rampant ‘sexism’.”

If  you don’t tell someone that calling women sexist names, groping the body parts of women in clubs entirely uninvited, kerb crawling after school girls and making comments is wrong, then who will? Emily’s issue with Everyday Sexism is the fact that it does as it says ‘on the tin’; it reports ‘everyday’ sexism. If women (and men) don’t reject the tiresome, patronising comments or don’t resist behaviour, it becomes (and remains) acceptable, as it has. Hence the rise of ‘LAD culture’. I used to be scared to walk home in the dark as a school girl. As an adult, occasionally that feeling returns.

On Friday night I went to St Moritz in Soho, celebrating the last performance of Bouncers and Shakers, two plays performed at the BBC (as part of a BBC Club society). Now, I have problems with Bouncers as a play – the behaviour it depicts is so laden with misogyny, you feel playwright John Godber but be against it, but then so much of it comes at you in the hour-long duration of the play that it’s possible to feel offended rather than inspired to do anything; that you as a woman are a solitary object – the butt of a joke – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Issues with Bouncers aside, I was following my friend to the club’s cloakroom when a young man said to his friend rather loudly; “I’d like to set them on fire”.

Just like that, tripping off his tongue like it was something everyone was thinking.

I turned around and said “excuse me?” and joined the man at his table. I questioned why he felt so strongly in his reaction to me walking across the room (calling out “Are you in there?” to my friend). I stated that my loud voice may have been irritating but was surprised that it would evoke such a response. We had a calm, humorous conversation about the ‘fiery phrase’ (ahem, sorry!) Ten minutes later, he’d taken what he’d said back, apologised, called me ‘very cool’ and we parted with a handshake.

The problem is of course, that I don’t get to have these conversations with everyone, but I think it’s important that we have them whenever we can. That’s one of the reasons I’m not commenting directly on the Daily Mail article. Because here I can respond in a controlled, collected way. In a comments section, it’s hard to have a face-to-face style discussion. There’s very little chance for a structured debate and the increase of frustration is commonplace.

Back to the article; feeling incensed (or perhaps proud, given that she is being paid to write her article), Epstein takes a potshot at the Twitter users who have commented on her Newsnight appearance;

“Firebrand feminists who pit sister against sister… those who claim to champion women want to bully me for saying I don’t believe in a cause they have bastardised

Now, I’m surprised at this. Firstly, I never feel like I have been attacked by another feminist – on Twitter or otherwise. Also, disagreeing with someone’s opinions on social media is not bullying. Trolling someone – saying that they should die, are ugly, too old, etc… – is what happened to Mary Beard, not Epstein during her Newsnight appearance. By writing this article, Epstein is pitting herself against an entire community. As an educated woman (as she’s keen to point out in the article), she will be aware of this.

“Indeed, what the sour Lefty Twitterati won’t admit is that all the great battles on which feminism was founded have been won – including political representation, and equality in education, the workplace and other areas of public life.”

(My first reaction to this was “well this is a pile of…”) I’m going to try and be constructive here. They haven’t been won. There still aren’t enough women in Parliament – in fact in general, the government does not represent a cross-section of British society. Sexual discrimination is still rife (did I ever tell you the story of how the all-male staff of Sports Direct in Maidstone had a competition to see who could touch my chest when I wasn’t looking? Boxing Day 2007. I never went back.) Women in comedy are still in the minority – the boring ‘are women funny?’ debate proving popular with ‘but they aren’t’ commenters and let’s not get started on women in radio and sports, the fascination with women’s post-pregnancy weight in the media and pretty much all of the Daily Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’. Oh and Robin Thicke. (Needless to say, the ‘ass float’ in his most recent video wasn’t the biggest ass on screen…)

“An emancipated, financially independent woman couldn’t care less whether Jane Austen is emblazoned on a tenner. I don’t: I just care that I’m being paid enough of them”

I’m an emancipated, financially independent woman, took my eleven plus exam to go to a girls’ grammar school and went to University – just like Epstein. I carved out a career for myself. I don’t have the husband or kids yet. I don’t reject the idea, nor to I reject it – so therefore, there are potential parallels in our lives. However, I care that a major female figure was set to be replaced on a bank note by another ‘white male’ (as campaign organiser The Woman’s Room describes it) – currency is part of a national identity after all.

“One survey found that women who own businesses earn nearly 17 per cent more than men in the same position. That’s my definition of feminism – not some spurious insistence on female quotas and women-only shortlists.”

Two things to comment on here:

  • This is a survey about women who ‘own businesses’, it doesn’t represent women who work for someone else. Business is such a wide area, it’s fairly impossible to take such a statistic seriously – what kind of businesses are we talking here? Banking? Bakeries? A venues group?
  • Feminism isn’t defined by ‘quotas’. It’s not defined by women owning their own businesses either. The option for this to happen is obviously part of it, but I doubt you’ll find ‘quotas’ in the dictionary under ‘feminism’.

This quote really does sum up Epstein’s unsteady line of fire quite well:

“If I ever was a feminist, I can’t be now – not according to those who loathe the fact I see marriage as more than a piece of paper, that I believe women have no place in a combat zone, and that I know my daughter won’t be stereotyped for playing with dolls.”

Here, Epstein brings up three unsubstainsiated thoughts:

  • Feminism doesn’t disagree with marriage – however the old fashioned vows that saw a woman declared a ‘man’s wife honouring and obeying’ are agreed by many to be outdated, even by some religious organisations.
  • Where did a debate about women in a combat zone come in? Surely that’s another complex issue she should devote a whole article to rather than bringing it up at the last moment? Should women not be bringing their strategy and medical skills to the battlefield as well as on the front line itself? Or should women be banned from the armed forces altogether? Be clearer, Epstein!
  • Girls aren’t stereotyped for playing with dolls – the issue people have is that the dolls themselves are usually stereotypes.

“So ashamed and depressed am I by a once-laudable movement which has corrupted its heritage and condemns me for saying so.

“For that, I think any sensible woman will join me in feeling saddened by how irrelevant and niche modern feminism has become.”

I don’t feminism isn’t corrupted, I believe it is fighting corruption before it itself becomes heritage. If the suffragettes were around today, of course they would be talking on social media. It’s a totally modern, intuitive way of linking up voices around the world. How amazing is that? If there wasn’t a reason for people to agree, that voice would have died out a long time ago.

Instead, those who don’t agree with feminism decide to try and drown this global voice instead, but it’s not working. Those who oppose it are more than welcome to sit down with me in Soho to talk it out. And that includes you, Epstein.