I complain about the signs of the times more often than not. Thus the basis of this blog, I suppose. But when I’m trying to pick myself back up again, I often casually offer to myself the reminder that I’m lucky to live somewhere that at least women are treated (mostly) as equals to men. I’m so glad that I have the right to vote, work all the same jobs as a man and could even run for parliament if I wanted to. Hell, we even have a female Prime Minister! Only, there’s one tiny, little thing that’s blown all of that out of the water: hormonal birth control.

Let’s backtrack a minute to catch you up with where I’m at now, shall we? I’ve recently stuck the middle finger up to the hormonal birth control pill. It’s been in the pipeline for a while. I knew something was wrong when I was noticing the same pattern. Month after month I’d have my seven-day break between packets and suddenly feel alive again; see things in colour, if you will. But come Monday morning, I’d be on a new packet and then within a few days back to feeling like cotton wool was shoved between my ears. I’d start the day with rage and end it with hopeless despair. I pointed the finger at every single aspect of my life, other than the pill. That is, until I had nowhere else to go but 6 feet under.

And we all do it. All of us! If our doctors are giving us medication, we believe that we can trust it. And with time, we grow loyal to it, even. Surely it can’t be our hormonal birth control that’s the root of all our problems? Only, when you realise that it’s the only medication dished out to healthy people to make them ill, you’ve got to stop and ask yourself: how did it get to this?

Women’s bodies, from puberty through to menopause, function cyclically. Every month our body does a delicate dance with a handful of different hormones, ebbing and flowing as an egg is released and – if unfertilised – causes a monthly bleed. With these changes in hormones comes changes in mood and energy levels. Like the turn of the tide, we have a rhythm that we live by. Although some studies indicate men too experience their own type of cycle each month, generally speaking they are linear – at least when it comes to their fertility. No matter the day of the month, a normal, healthy male produces sperm that are able to fertilise an egg.

These two ways of existing – of doing life – are vastly different. The linear route hints at reliability. Unless illness gets in the way or some other anomaly, every day you can assume that a man will wake up and be just as he was the day before. With women, it’s different. Women have changing needs and strengths as the different stages of their cycle roll into one another and they simply can’t be expected to be the same every day. That is, unless you take hormonal birth control. My arguement is that it’s the greatest oppressor we have in our society against females. If we are given the pill, implant, injection, IUD or any other form of hormonal birth control, we are essentially telling ourselves, our sisters, our daughters and wives that a female in her natural state is ill, isn’t good enough, isn’t capable of survival in what is essentially a man’s world.

Yes, hormonal birth control is used as a contraceptive, sure, but it’s also given to girls as young as 13 to ‘treat’ heavy periods and acne. Let’s look at these in some more detail.

Consider the cycle that I mentioned earlier and – without going into too much detail – you might know that this includes an ovulatory phase amongst other things. This is the phase where an egg is released from an ovary, makes its way down the fallopian tube and arrives in the uterus. It hangs around for about 24 hours before disintegrating if no sperm appear. A little while later, the uterus lining shreds and is expelled in the form of a period.

So, that being said, what I’d like to know is how it’s fair that although women are only fertile for a short part of each monthly cycle, we are somehow expected – en masse – to take sole responsibility for birth control? Not the man who is fertile all month long, but the woman. Make sense to you?

And then onto the second reason that I mentioned earlier – the pill given to young girls who have recently started their cycles. Hormonal birth control is not a cure. It is not a solution. It is a mask. By bringing your menstrual cycle to a halt and stopping ovulation, along with pumping your body full of synthetic hormones, you are suppressing any problems that might be there. This may seem all good and well, only the day that that woman decides to come off the pill for whatever reason, all of those symptoms will come right back again. The pill is not a cure like diet and lifestyle are. It is a virtual reality.

Hormonal birth control is doing a mixture of different things. It’s suppressing our menstrual cycles, causing side effects like increasing our risk of breast cancer, giving us depression and anxiety, killing our sex drive and rendering us infertile in many cases when we finally come off it after decades of regular use. And it’s dished out like candy by medical professionals that we are told we can trust. Our entire society is built upon the notion.

What’s most shocking of all…what’s shaken my world and got my lying awake at night reading every publication I can get my feisty claws on, what’s got me shouting this information across my office, down the phone and across the dinner table is that what we’ve been doing this whole time is telling women that in order to be successful in this society, we need to exist like men. We need to be as close to men as we possibly can. After all, without a menstrual cycle can you really call yourself a woman? This is what I wonder.

If society and in particular our emphasis on long work weeks continues as it is, we are operating in a linear fashion where there’s no room for cyclical people (aka normal, healthy females). We’ve been misleading our women into thinking that they’re being free of the burden of their menstrual cycles by adopting hormonal birth control. To the point where many defend their choice saying that it allows them to not have to experience the ‘inconvenience’ of a period 12 or 13 times a year. But what we’re missing is that a truly equal society where women are liberated is one that moulds itself into a model that plays to womens cyclical strengths; not one that tells them that what they are in their natural form is not good enough.

You might be saying, “But Kennedy, I’m not depressed. I don’t have any negative symptoms from my pill.” Sure, you might not have any of the negative mental health symptoms that unfortunately so many of us are plagued with and believe me, I am extremely happy for you (genuinely!), but did you know that taking the pill before the age of 20 doubles your risk of getting breast cancer? Pill use also reduces your uptake of vitamins and minerals thus by default renders you malnourished unless extreme care and planning goes into your diet. It also thins your bones and disrupts every organ in your body in one way or another. You might not have any obvious symptoms, but a closer look would say otherwise.

When will we wake up and realise that the pill is no longer applicable to today’s modern woman?

 

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What does it take for radical changes to be made in our society? How much environmental damage? How many traumatised sexual assault victims? How many children fighting for survival in broken homes? How many young people burdened with crippling stress as a result of overwork and underpay? How much sickness?

It’s pretty mind-boggling to me because I consider myself to be a (relatively) normal person of a (somewhat) normal background, but I’ve experienced all of the above. All of them. And I struggle with my mental health a lot of the time. So how are those worse off than me coping? Thinking about this truly saddens and baffles me, to be honest.

This isn’t a cry for sympathy. I write about this kind of stuff to bring it to light, to encourage those suffering in silence to speak up and get help and also to turn up the volume on our desperation – as the young voices of society – for change.

I’m sick of spending 70% of my time wondering how to live well while avoiding plastic, avoiding consuming animal products and still maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet so that I can be healthy and happy. Society is not built to support this and so it’s incredibly difficult. The framework is not there. The framework exists in the form of corporations and advertising backing fast food and destructive consumption habits. The result is sick person after sick person, overweight and yet malnourished (in the developed world, that is), polluting the beautiful world around us.

I’m sick of having to fight off the seething anger I feel when some asshole catcalls at me when I pass by in the street. Do you know that I now rarely wear anything that reveals a body that I’m actually really proud of because it’s just too exhausting to deal with the attention? I’ve tried every tactic in the book when it comes to rude men invading my personal space and disrespecting me. I’ve ignored them, I’ve raised the middle finger, I’ve told them to fuck off and no matter the response I choose to embrace, I still leave the scene angry and deflated. To any men that have ever catcalled a woman or worse, please know that we think of you as akin to the dirt on our shoe. We do not find this attractive. It does not make us attracted to you. It does not make us feel good. We see you as dumb, chauvinistic predators who feel that the worth of a woman is limited to her appearance rather than her brain. We don’t feel you would produce good offspring. We don’t want to have your babies.

I’m sick of seeing bad parenting happening over and over again. We’ve got lazy parents who can’t be bothered to interact with their children, so instead shove a smartphone or tablet in front of them hoping it’ll keep them occupied. You grew this little human! Do yourself and society a favour and raise it well! We’ve got parents neglecting their children and withholding love because they don’t understand their needs. And it’s probably because they never took the time to heal themselves of their own traumatic childhoods before entering the world of parenting. They then find said children acting out and don’t understand why. They try to discipline them which only causes further upset and frustration until eventually the gap in understanding between parent and child becomes so large that bridging it is rendered impossible. That child enters adulthood struggling to do life, not really understanding why and feels a bitter resentment to their parent(s) which society still labels as unacceptable (“It’s family! You can’t turn your back on family!” *shakes head*). The vicious cycle then continues if they go on to reproduce.

I’m sick of overtime becoming the norm for so many people of working age. Overworked people are good for very little. All that results is both physical and mental sickness. Weak staff are unhappy staff and unhappy staff aren’t very productive. Every job – no matter how ‘technical’ – has an element of creativity to it. If workers are essentially shoved into survival mode because they are too stressed to function properly, the last priority is creativity. Simply doing basic life becomes a struggle and so you’re essentially paying staff to do what a robot could do far better. You’re not getting out of them what humans are so good for in the first place: creative self-expression.

Finally, I’m sick of the weight-watching-obsessed, calorie-counting, disease-ridden people taking up resources and placing a strain on our healthcare system because they simply weren’t taught about food while growing up. I don’t blame any person struggling with his/her weight and addicted to processed food. It is likely that he/she grew up with parents who put fast food on the table every night or who’s idea of vegatables was boiling everything until it turned the same shade of snot-green, subsequently putting him/her off for life. If you grow up thinking that broccoli is meant to be a pile of green mush, of course you’d rather opt for fries. We need to start teaching kids about food in a way that encourages a healthy relationship to flourish. We need to teach them how food grown, how it’s meant to be consumed, what nutrients we need to be healthy and the environmental impacts of the food we choose to eat.

So my question to you is, what does it take? WIth all these different flaws we have, what will it take to see real change?

Photo via Unsplash

 

Define corporation: “a large company or group of companies authorised to act as a single entity”

We all know the corporate feel. Suits, white walls, stuffy meeting rooms, boards of the expressionless, and not much in the way of light-hearted humanity. It can be a soul-crushing worklife, but one that many of us must engage in for at least a short while until things work out for us. So let’s say that at the moment where you’re at in life means you can’t afford to be picky. You’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed. I get it. This job isn’t inspiring or active in the way that you’d like it to be, but it’s what has to be done, for the moment at least. How can you make it through without feeling like your head is either going to explode or shut down at any moment? There are ways! I’m telling you, there are ways.

First we’ve got to look at how desk-based corporate work affects our health. It’s not rocket science: the answer is badly.

More and more of the jobs available to us in developed nations are sedentary. They are jobs involving sitting at a computer. If we add in using a car to get to and from these jobs, we’re talking about the majority of our waking hours spent on our asses without actually using our bodies. That’s a pretty morbid (literally) thought, isn’t it? How do you go about killing yourself slowly but surely? You engage in a lifetime pursuit of slouching in the same position every day, likely also consuming some heavily-processed food at your desk. You wonder why you’re putting on weight. You wonder why you’re so miserable. Your skin doesn’t have a glow to it anymore. You look dull, tired and damn right down.

Part of the human evolutionary process is to make things easier for ourselves. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. But this backfires immensely when it comes to the corporate agenda. You see, no matter how hard we (I say “we” meaning the powers that be) try to monopolize this world with dull, pointless corporations, we have to realise that humans will never be able to act like robots and be consistently happy. No matter how much they want it, we’re meant for so much more. We need movement and creativity and freedom in our lives to maintain true happiness and success.

So, with that being said, here are 4 ways to engage in the corporate world short-term without losing all of your mind, body and soul:

  1. Commute in the most active way possible. You may well live a ridiculous distance away from your place of work and need a car. If so, unless you fancy moving closer then there’s not much you can do for this one. But to those driving when you could instead be walking or cycling, now is the time to make the switch. An active commute does so much for your health – both physically and mentally. A study found that those who cycled to work were 40% less stressed than drivers. The opportunity to commute in this way gives you time to relax and work any stress off prior to beginning your day. Likewise, at the end of a busy day. It can also be a great time to listen to podcasts and enrich that brain of yours. (Hello, Hello Internet)
  2. Make a conscious decision to take a lunch break. I know what it’s like. As soon as one of your colleagues takes a working lunch at his or her desk, suddenly the standards are upped. Everyone feels that in order to prove themselves, they too must work through their lunch. Newsflash, though: you aren’t being paid for that break! Therefore, do yourself a favour and take it. Change the scenery and get some fresh air. Take a short walk if you can manage it. This is a great way to hit refresh and be mentally prepared to kick ass during the second part of the day.
  3. Keep inspirational material visible. Whether this is a calendar with all the exciting things coming up or a photo of where you’ve saving to go on vacation, remind yourself of why you work to live – not live to work. This will save you during your mid-afternoon slump.
  4. Be nice to your co-workers, because you might need them one day. Depending on where you work, there might be a bit of a competitive streak that runs through the company. But there’s no ‘i’ in team, after all, and all that ‘my way or the highway‘ attitude gets you is loathing and isolation. Plus, in the distant future when you’re doing your own thing, you might just need to call on one of your colleagues from the past. Remember that karma isn’t afraid to come round and bite you in the ass. Therefore, be nice and it will go a long way in your success.

Have you managed to kick ass at corporate thing? What got you through?

Photo via Unsplash

 

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Simple question: do you take responsibility for your life and all the things that you do and consume and participate in within it?

Responsibility

Is the instinct to say ‘yes’? Is that instinct there because when we’re young, we’re taught that taking responsibility is a good thing and therefore you want to instinctively answer ‘yes’ so that you don’t get in trouble? God forbid you feel bad about yourself, right? We don’t want to be judged by our peers, right?

We’ve got a whole melting pot of problems on the planet at the moment. All, essentially, stem from bad parenting. (We know how I feel about parenting *shakes head*.) So we divide into power-hungry humans, masking quivering insecure children on the inside. And people who turn a blind eye to helping one another because in our time of need as youths, no one helped us. We fight about all the wrong things and we misalign our priorities. We jeopardise our chances of happiness because we’re too damn involved within our own heads. We laugh, we cry, and ultimately devestate our earth one generation after the next all because we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

That phrase, ‘taking responsibility’ stretches further than simply saying we’ll be there to pick our kids up from school, or turning up for that meeting on time. Taking responsibility for ourselves and the role we play in society first means owning up to who we are, what our values are and facing all those inner demons. We don’t like to look at what’s wrong with us. We’re completely blind to it, as Allain de Botton so famously preaches in his work on love and why we find ourselves in unhappy relationships more often than not. And unless we open our eyes and face the bad stuff, how can we possibly take responsibility for our actions?

We act in really strange ways that seem illogical, all because of wounds that score the inside of our head and heart. Sometimes the nature of these strange acts is small and harmless, but get a collective of ‘small and harmless’ and you’ve got ‘large and harmful’.

Detachment

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that we do this. The first is that we are lazy and detached in our food consumption. We expect to have everything available 24/7 on a supermarket shelf. We consume meat we haven’t hunted, fish we haven’t caught and vegetables we haven’t grown. I get it. In this corporate world we find ourselves in where few are in touch with the environment these days, we can’t all be hunters and farmers. But there’s a fundamental problem with only ever seeing your meat (if you consume it) sold in small plastic-packaged portions on a cold, metal, sterile shelf. It detaches you from what is real. What’s real is that that is one of many parts of an animal that had a life and was kept captive and killed for you. You are not taking responsibility for your actions if you consume meat and aren’t OK with killing that animal yourself. You are not taking responsibility for your consumption if you don’t know how it was killed and what the living conditions were like for it while it was alive.

Then there are the fish. Take a look at the state of the world’s oceans today and you’ll see that they’re not doing all that great. Overfishing, invasive species, ocean acidification and plastic pollution are just some of the problems we face that are causing extinction on an enormous scale. If you consume wild-caught fish without having any awareness of the state of the sea from where it was caught, you are not taking responsibility. If you support farmed fish but haven’t looked into the effects of eutrophication in the area where they were farmed, you are not taking responsibility.

Then there’s all the packaging, the plastic and the processed food. You sit in your house and each week the garbage is collected from kerb-side and transported somewhere that’s our of your sight. You are lucky that your neighbourhood aesthetic isn’t tainted. But someone, somewhere has to look at your waste. Is that being a responsible person? Consuming mindlessly certainly is not. That sealed bag of salad that you bought from a supermarket is likely packaged in non-recyclable plastic. That piece of plastic will be sat on our soil for many hundreds of years longer than you will find yourself alive. It will degrade into smaller pieces and distribute itself across our soil and seas, working its way up the food chain until one of your offspring many generations from now will consume it. You may feel no remorse for what you did to that person. After all, you’ll never meet them; never love them. But does that make it OK? No, it doesn’t. You wouldn’t like it if you found yourself on this earth unable to find any unpolluted food to eat or water to drink, would you? You wouldn’t want to live in a wasteland because all the ecosystems had collapsed due to what your parents and grandparents and generations prior had done.

Think about the things you enjoy. Chances are, something outside, in nature, is one of them. After all, that’s why you bought that camera, isn’t it? You want to capture scenes of that beautiful waterfall you plan on visiting next year. And when you’re on those golden sands at the beach, you want to remember how clear the water looked and how vivid all the colours of those tropical fish were, right? Newsflash! Those things are disintegrating. Unlike the Midas touch, everything we touch these days turns to plastic. We are wrecking and ruining and depleting and consuming and soon there will be nothing left.

Everything you do creates a ripple effect across this globe. We influence each other and your actions are those that will change the world for better or worse. The decision is yours.

Photo via Unsplash

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Yesterday, along with thousands of other exhausted campers, I left Glastonbury Festival. For those of you who don’t know, Glastonbury is the world’s greatest 5-day party. It’s a place to forget the outside world and all your woes. You can let yourself go. It’s a place to be free and explore who you are and what you enjoy. But after 5 days of utopia, the outside world hits you like a bus.

The first thing that struck me as we came across regular folk in the surrounding areas was their faces. What I mean is, there was no perma-grin like there was on every festival-goers face. People looked tired, bored or worried. Not all of them, but many. They were just going about their days, but I saw something deeper. I saw a collective unhappiness. I saw a society that didn’t spark joy in its people. This was a dramatic contrast to a festival where attendees are made to feel as if anything is not only possible, but accepted without shame.

En route home we decided to stop by a supermarket to pick up some essentials before facing our sad, bare fridge. I didn’t think to change out of what I was wearing to do so. It never even crossed my mind. (It was a crop top and shorts; nothing offensive or overly revealing.) But once I got inside, I was met with disgusted looks. Granted, that might have been primarily due to a lingering stench from having not showered for a week, but something tells me it was the fact that I wasn’t conforming. I had mud on my feet and grass in my hair. See, at Glastonbury the wackier the better. You can even get your boobs out and cover them with glitter and there’s no need to feel like you’re being preyed upon or looked down on. Self-expression is encouraged. Fun is warmly embraced.

Reality didn’t feel like that. Reality made me feel ashamed of looking a little rough around the edges. Reality told me it didn’t want me. And I’m here to shout back and say that that isn’t OK. Why should I have to plan my footwear based on how quickly I can run in it if I’ll be alone on a night out? Why should I shy away from shorts because it’s just easier to try to walk through life trying to be invisible and not attracting any attention to myself? It’s interesting, because at the festival, most of the women were wearing the most revealing of outfits. But there was nothing sexual about it. It was beautiful. So I’m asking what makes it different within the festival grounds? It really comes down to the sheer number of women dressing that way. It becomes the norm at Glastonbury. No single female stands out because we all go there. We all embrace the extravagant. But we come back to reality and back to our regular wardrobes. We fear the extravagant once more because it attracts attention. It stands out.

How do we redefine ‘the norm’? How is it that we can spread the freedom of creative self-expression from Worthy Farm into all of our cities and towns? And it’s not just the clothes we wear and the way we decorate out faces, but the empathy and the sense of community. Political talk was bold and brash this festival, with many artists criticising the powers that be. They preached love and understanding, with Corbyn himself even making an appearance on the Pyramind Stage to urge us to reunite as a people, rather than support the divide. He spoke of music and poetry and creativity at the core of a happy society. He praised the Eavis family for allowing all of the festival attendees the space to express and enjoy themselves. There is something exquisitely magical that comes from that much togetherness and the hope is that it can come with each of us into our everyday lives now that the festival is over.

Yes this is a rant at wanting everyday life to be just as magical, but it’s also an opportunity for discussion. What are your thoughts on this topic? How do we redefine the norm and create a more loving society where all people are treated equally and allowed to express themselves without fear? Lord knows we’re desperate for it.

 

 

 

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