Redheads, assemble!

 

My love of red-headed folk is long-standing. There are ginger genes in my family. My nan had auburn hair and my mum is a bright, coppery beacon. As a child I even had a shrine of images on my wall that burst with oranges and reds and translucent skin. I was in awe of red-heads even then; I called them my ‘happy people’. Seeing an abundance of coppery hair has always drawn me and made me smile.  I guess you could call me a rutiluphile but for me it’s much more than sexual attraction. It’s a feeling of affinity and of kinship. It’s a feeling of both longing and belonging.

Whilst I’m only a token ginger by virtue of my mum’s carrot hair hues and Lush’s rouge henna, I heartily identify as a redheaded woman. Lucky me, then, that there are some awe-inspiring, powerful, bold, flawed, ginger heroines throughout history to take a cue from. From Boudicca to Ygritte the Wildling, via Lucille Ball and Elizabeth I, redheaded women are known for their fieriness, passion and explosive tempers. I mean, you wouldn’t mess with Black Widow or Jean Gray, would you?

 

The past is bursting with examples of red-headed women inspiring art. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other Pre-Raphelite painters loved the lusciousness that red-headed women brought to their work. Alphonse Mucha created flowing art-deco images blazing with red-heads. Part of the appeal to artists is how striking red hair is. It is visually arresting and creates a powerful contrast or emphasis that makes for compelling art. Just as red-headed men have become associated with being untrustworthy due, in part, to the depiction of Judas as a redhead, women with red hair have become synonymous with sensuality, licentiousness and deception. The image of the wily temptress is often portrayed simply by the addition of ginger hair.

 

 

Throughout history, red-headed women have been known not only for their stunning beauty, but for their ferocity and cunning. Being already well-aware of the physical allure of red hair, I’ve recently been reading more about the characters of these well-known red-headed women. I love historical fiction; it’s meaty, character driven, informative (when taken with a pinch of salt) and full of amazing personal stories. What intrigues me most is the intimacy of the readers’ relationship with the central characters, whether they’re maids, jesters or monarchs. Little wonder then that I adore Tudor fiction with the powerful and poisonous Queen Elizabeth I. I’ve read pretty much every novel based on her life, and those of her mother and father. (Henry VIII was, after all, a red-head).

In terms of non-fiction, Tracy Borman’s Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen shows us a female-centric world in which the cult of the personality, as in most monarchies, prevailed. Elizabeth used her red-headedness to her advantage throughout her reign, and not just as a means of seduction. It was a blatant defiance of any doubt cast on her parentage. Her hair was Tudor red and she played on this as proof that she was her father’s daughter and that she was capable of leading as Henry had before her. Naturally, red hair became fashionable during the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth relied on this as a symbol of self. In her later life she wore wigs, which she had made in different hues of red and copper. It certainly had the desired effect, creating an instantly recognisable figure to us today.

Reaching even further back into society’s cult of the redhead is the legendary figure of Boudicca. When I discovered the Dreaming the Eagle series based on the warrior queen, I think I made a sound that only dogs and Professor Xavier could hear. Boudicca has is all as far as I’m concerned – she’s a warrior, she’s a leader, she’s Scottish, she’s anti-establishment and she is so ginger it hurts (see my post Me, Myself and Merida for more on this killer combination). The mixture of the mythology surrounding her and historical fiction format, this series is proving to be an immediate favourite. In these books, we meet the warrior queen Boudicca before she even exists – when she is a child named Breaca. We meet the men and women in her community and see how central the spirituality of her nation is to her every choice and action. It is laden with small details that together build an immersive world, every bit as real as our own. Boudica is depicted as a woman, destined for greatness, but by no means ready and willing. It is a tough slog with hard decisions, personal loss and bad choices.

My most recent red-head reading has been Red: A Natural History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey. It’s essential reading for red-heads, aspiring red-heads and social historians. It charts the mythological and social perception of red-heads, their anatomical differences, the gendered assumptions about redheads and more. The gene may be recessive, but the cultural obsession is growing!

As for me, I’m ready for the red-head-revolution:

 

miss lilith

red-head and proud

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Pin Up Girl Problems: A.K.A. Why is Pin Up Culture Problematic?

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One of the many things I love about modern pin-up culture is that it is diversifying. There are so many gorgeous models who are ‘plus-size’, of colour, alternative (i.e. heavily tattooed/ pierced). I think these are all stunning and magnificent things that traditional, mainstream pin-up images were lacking. Increasingly, the online presence of these pin-ups is body-positive, supportive and inclusive. It seems to be a community-spirited affair that encourages women to build each other up, rather than compete in damaging and pointless ways.

Discouragingly, some media targeted at vintage lovers is very unhealthy. For example, many ‘Pin-up’ memes glorify alcohol abuse, materialism, bitchiness and even violence. I think it unwise to understate what damage these messages can do. They are, perhaps, intended to be bold exclamations of “empowerment”, but for who? Personally, the empowerment that I’m looking for doesn’t come from undermining or criticising others. Nor does it depend on toxic sarcasm or alcohol abuse. These memes promote inebriation, rather than liberation. They also suggest that female empowerment is incomplete without misandry.

Perhaps these modern interpretations  intend to reject reducing women into mere sexual objects, as per the war-time origins of pin-up culture. However, the repetitive portrayal of pin-up women as man-hating bitches with stunted or repressed emotional capacity is only feeding already harmful female archetypes.

Pin-up is for anyone and everyone that wants it. Lots of good work towards this has already been done but the media representation, and even that of retro and vintage-reproduction companies,  is making a laughing stock of pin-up. Social media’s output regarding pin-up culture is shallow and judgemental – the opposite of the sentiments which attracted me. There is so much emphasis in the community on sharing pursuits outside the fashion and beauty elements. Likewise, there is a huge focus on self-care and spreading positivity that are entirely missed in harmful memes and images.

For me, pin-up culture is far from superficial. It’s about feeling good in yourself and helping others to do the same. It’s not about drinking to oblivion, slagging off other people’s appearances or cutting away human emotional depth and genuineness.

I’m a pin-up girl and I’m proud of what that means. We can write our own definitions, especially when they have been mistaken by others.

The Eagle Huntress: A Raving Review

aisholpan

Photo Credit: Asher Svidensky

 

I have a new heroine. She’s called Aisholpan. She’s 13 years old. She is The Eagle Huntress.

This is a raving review, not only of a beautiful piece of film-making (an amazing undertaking by novice Otto Bell), but of a girl showing bravery, resilience and passion despite the not inconsiderable obstacles of tradition and terrain. Set in the stunning mountains of Mongolia, The Eagle Huntress is a documentary that looks at the nomadic way of life, tradition and progress on an intimate level. As viewers, we are privileged to experience the coming-of-age of an extraordinary girl. Aisholpan is a trailblazer, but all the more for how unremarkable she is in other ways. She goes to school, looks after her siblings, paints her nails, has dreams of becoming a doctor. She lives in a world that is changing – straddling the nomadic tradition and the increasingly modern world.

Aisholpan’s forebears are Eagle Hunters: revered members of the nomadic tribes, bringers of food and fur, masters of the majestic Golden Eagle and, always, men. It is a male inheritance, a male ancestry. This is a celebration of non-conformity. This is a story not only about a young woman, but about the men around her that have the strength to correct a long-lived falsehood – that women are not strong enough, resilient enough, patient enough. Instead they are proud to say, ‘Women are more than enough’.

Aged 13, Aisholpan proves herself to be a robust and talented individual, regardless of those factors which others have proclaimed must exclude her. Even the proof of their own eyes will not persuade the tribe elders of their misjudgement.  Aisholpan’s victory in the festival is received with discomfort and disregard. ‘It’s proof of a sort’, concedes one of the elders. The objection remains that Aisholpan has yet to prove herself beyond the arena, that she must succeed in the wilderness, too – only then will she be worthy. The catch-22 is that the objective is one of which they do not think her capable.

All too often this is true for those who are female, non-binary, of colour. Going beyond the achievement of the male (or oppressor of any kind) does not guarantee triumph, it does not even guarantee equality. Yet, it has been said that the best revenge is success. Fitting, then, that the film ends with Aisholpan catching her first fox, having weathered the brutal conditions of the mountains. There is abundant proof of her capability and even more of her contentedness.

The role of the Eagle Hunter or Huntress is vital for survival; it serves both a practical and a spiritual purpose. The meat and fur provided by the day’s hunt will keep the families alive. The connection between the eagle and the hunter is sacred. It is a partnership built on mutual dependence; it is a significant connection with the natural world.

Particularly moving was Aisholpan’s attitude and outlook throughout the film. From scaling a mountain face to capture her eaglet to competing in the world-renowned festival (as the first female and youngest competitor), she approaches everything with a stoic calm and assuredness. Perhaps this can be attributed to her youth, but it is an attitude of which many young women are stripped early on. She turns an entire tradition on it’s head without missing a step. She is never disrespectful to her heritage, though; she is simply growing into who she is and has every right to be. Becoming an Eagle Huntress is not a child’s whim, it is an act of dedication and a sweeping aside of barriers that ought not to be there.

If in doubt, ask yourself, what would Aisholpan do?

 

Dating Manifesto

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Sweet peach!

TW: Over-generalisations left, right and centre. Boys are rubbish. Not really.

Here it is – the good, the bad and the ugly. A new and (vastly) improved dating manifesto. Disclaimer: by, to and for myself.

I solemnly swear that I will studiously avoid pursuing, fantasising about, dating or committing to the following:

  • Shitheads: non-specific, but covers the wider categories of fuckwits, dickheads, arseholes and ignoramuses.
  • Psychopaths: turn around and run. Leave no forwarding address.
  • Work colleagues: don’t shag where you eat, so to speak.
  • Spongers: Always 50/50 in relationships…
  • Narcissists: self-obsession tends to get in the way of a partnership.
  • Alcoholics: substance dependence is a sure-fire romance killer.
  • Emotional robots: Cold-fish need not apply.
  • Religious fanatics: Three’s a crowd.
  • The intellectual: Who must always be right but have nothing to say when they’re not.
  • The Meninist: Apparently some people are more equal than others…
  • Right-wingman/ Brexiteers: Or anyone, basically, who doesn’t live in the real world. May be identified by wild patriotism or Gap Yah rhetoric.

… and anyone that believes in steak and blow-job day…

So there are the no-goers. And yes, its totally fine to be decisive about what you don’t want in a potential friend/ partner/ lover/ spouse. Your emotional and physical space is sacred and shouldn’t be lightly given up. Being open to people is great but you should follow your instincts. Being closed to people who set your alarm bells ringing is no bad thing, as long as it doesn’t turn into straight up prejudice.

If you’re worried that you or a friend might be in an abusive relationship, have a look at these warning signs:

  • Big changes in habits or behaviour i.e. eating less, being late when usually punctual etc.
  • Submissiveness or seeming to lack own volition to do things – seeking approval for everything.
  • Withdrawal from socialising – being quieter, drinking more, not going out at all, being uncontactable.
  • Change in taste/ preferences to mirror new partner/ lover etc. This could indicate certain elements of brainwashing or manipulation i.e. change in clothes/ make-up/ hair
  • Mood swings – being unable to regulate mood may be due to a general sense of anxiety/ uneasiness/ sense of isolation. May also be due to the abuser poisoning the victim against family or friends.
  • Social media posts can be out of character/ extreme/ use unusual language etc. Also may be more sensitive about photos etc. going on social media.

 

But it can’t all be doom and gloom. This is a manifesto – it should be a statement of intent. So, the game plan is to work on my singles game before even attempting a double act. Two is tricky. Check out my posts on self-care if you’re struggling to be good to number one. It’s harder than it seems, especially if you’re going through a bad patch. If you want/ are ready to meet a sweet peach or several juicy nectarines, make sure you know where your limits lie – not just want you want, but what you need and cannot compromise on. Go slower even than you think you should – if they are worth their salt, they’ll be patient and give you the breathing space you need.

Maybe this manifesto should be a celebration of all the beautiful qualities that make a beautiful person. So, here’s to honesty and openness. Here’s to good communication. Here’s to making each other laugh. Here’s to generosity, kindness and considerateness. Here’s to patience. Here’s to creativity and being energised. My manifesto is an elegy to growth and mutual support.Here’s to nourishment. Good people breed good love. Here’s to all kinds of health – mental, physical, emotional. That’s a manifesto worth believing in.

Me, Myself and Merida.

Merida-disney-princess-35418399-1920-802

Merida is, by far, my favourite Disney princess of all time, ever. In real life, I’m probably more like Anna from Frozen, but I like to dream that one day I’ll be as bad-ass as Merida. And as ginger.

Princess Merida is a feminist icon. There, I said it. Not only does she rebel against the restrictions of female fashion and arranged marriage, but she proves why these things are unnecessary. She rejects her parents’ selection of suitors in the most spectacular and poignant way – by proving that she is her own mistress. She is the only one worthy of her own ‘hand in marriage’ and she makes no mistake in demonstrating to the world her worth. She is her own best suitor (see Tracy McMillan’s TED Talk on marrying yourself). Quite right, too.

Best of all, she is imperfect, as are her relationships. The crux of the film’s plot is the no-woman’s-land between mother and daughter. Of course, this all resolves itself in the typical fairytale way with a family group hug, but Merida is savvy enough to admit her mistakes and to allow her female role model to be equally imperfect and to love her anyway. I love Merida’s strength, but also how she develops tolerance over the course of the film.

Another thing that makes my heart sing about Brave is that the protagonist is a teenager. Adolescence is a difficult and turbulent time, but it is also a vibrant stage of awakening and self-creation which ought to be celebrated more in the media. Part of the appeal of films such as The Virgin Suicides, The Breakfast Club etc is that the characters are teens asserting their new selves in all their messy glory. Merida is no exception (apart from the fact that she is royalty). Being a teenager is a total ball-ache, catch-22 scenario (you’re not a child anymore, but don’t ever think you are mature enough to know your own mind) and it shouldn’t be. We should learn to listen to our young people and help them to shape their future. Merida’s initial rejection of her mother is understandable; she is denied the autonomy to decide on her future’s course. It is a painful reminder that she is at the in-between stage of life. We need to stop telling our teenagers that their opinions are invalid and that mother always knows best.

Merida is funny, athletic, generous, adventurous and a talented archer. These are all qualities that, in an older person, would gain her a great deal of respect and renown (although she is female, so, maybe not). She has an honest heart and is deeply loyal to her family. But my favourite thing about her is her loyalty to herself. She doesn’t compromise on her own aspirations, she rejects convention and still manages to be diplomatic when dealing with delicate masculine pride. I’d say she’s quite the catch.

MERIDA FOR PRESIDENT!

 

Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.

I’m a Feminist!

Ooh, you just cringed, didn’t you? Or was it more of a flinch? Maybe it was a knowing smile – a “middle-class, white, university-educated, 20-something girl thinks she’s got all the answers” kind of smile? Then, my dear, you don’t know me at all. But, frankly, my many neuroses aren’t the focus of this piece – it’s something much bigger than that. Call it what you want – gender equality, equal opportunities, anti-discrimination, sanity… it all boils down to the same thing. But we need to address the label, and I need to tell you why I’m proud of having it.

Names are powerful things. Example: Having someone spell your name wrong on an important document is irritating. Further example:  Calling a transgender person by the wrong pronoun is negating their true identity – it is an act of control and oppression. Likewise, telling someone that they cannot be a Feminist because they are a man or a model or a housewife or a Christian or because they wear make-up or are in a relationship or they like to be submissive in the bedroom or they are a man, is an act of control and oppression. If you believe in equality for everyone, regardless of gender, then you are a Feminist. Do not be shamed by your love of equality and tolerance.

If Feminism wasn’t a threat to what passes for ‘normal’, it wouldn’t sound scary, or be made to sound scary. Of course, there are people that go to extreme lengths with this belief system and, like any minority of extremists, their hatred comes to overshadow the essence of something which is based on love, tolerance and equality. One of the aims of Feminists is to remedy ingrained, fear-mongering ideas of women as having a multitude of negative characteristics. For example, the classic ‘hysterical’ woman is an argument long used by governments, husbands and employers in discrimination against women. It is easy to dismiss the anger or frustration of women, by citing ‘hormones’ or ‘hysteria’. For more on this, try this TED Talk by Robyn Stein DeLuca on for size. (PS: The 2011 film ‘Hysteria’ is just one of many reasons to love Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Likewise, the ‘angry Feminist’ trope is getting boring. Of course we are angry! Women are still not paid the same amount as men in equivalent jobs and still deal with sexual harassment as a normal part of their day. Don’t just take my word for it – read the @everydaysexism twitter feed or take a look at #everydaysexism or #wheniwas to see how our culture continues to undermine women’s freedoms and rights, starting when we are children. The most painful part of gender inequality is seeing people’s resignation to it; it is seen as a sad but hopelessly normalised ‘way things are done’. It’s time to kick that to the curb.

If we shy away from equality, we get in our own way. We should say what we mean and not trip over semantics. Don’t worry, shouting ‘I am a feminist’ won’t make a gang of death-eaters or snatchers come and drag you to the Voldemort. Besides, I find the prospect of Voldemort a lot more terrifying than people that want an end to inequality. We need to remove the fear from Feminist. Like Dumbledore and all-time-heroine Hermione say, ‘Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself’. And whilst Voldemort and his lack of hugging skills are deeply disturbing, he gets his comeuppance. If anything, the thing that should strike fear into us is socially ingrained sexism, but that is culturally gendered to be a ‘women’s problem’ so, why bother? Maybe it is because the word Feminist is also gendered female that people find it a threat. It’s an assertion of being ‘pro’ something – for women – which is misconstrued for being anti-men. And there it becomes a ‘man’s problem’.

Let us be straight – Feminism is the belief that those of all or no gender definition are and should be treated equally. It is a statement of human rights. It is a fight for an overhaul of a society which still teaches boys not to cry and girls not to be ambitious. It is the knowledge that physiologically we may differ, but that our rights and freedoms should not be impinged on because of these differences. It is the desire to put right centuries of oppression and dismissal based on something which is out of our control. It is everyone’s problem.

And trust me, Feminists do it better!

Scrapbook yourself

Get down and lovely with yourself. Make your commitment to yourself via a big, juicy scrapbook of yourself.

 

Make yourself a portfolio of collages, pictures, words, memories. Get your hands dirty with it. Peel the glue off your fingers and stain  your clothes with newspaper ink in your act of creation. Photocopy pages from books that inspire you. Steal your mother’s scent to spray a page dedicated to her. Write love-letters to yourself and affix a lipstick stamp. Print selfie after selfie. Be silly. Be serious. Be sad and be hopeful. Let every page shout out your best you. Maybe when you are making it you are hurt and you feel like your worst you. Your best you is always there. Cover a page with your signature, your lip-print, your hand-print. Put in a four-leaf clover or two. Write your own manifesto. Write your future. Remember, reminisce, retreat and rejoin the world. Wrap it up in colours. Label it with your intentions. Write about your heroes and heroines. Find out treasures. Tape in recipes that make you nostalgic for your grandma. Photocopy pages from magazines/ newspapers and make found poetry out of them. Write out lyrics that are significant to where you’re at – and where you’d like to be. Make mood-boards. Press flowers and sprigs of rosemary – make it sensual in every way. Spritz it with your own most luxurious scent. Dedicate a page to your achievements – you are all your own work! Claim your proudest moments. Take stills from iconic films and annotate with the characters’ qualities you’d like to emulate. Write at length how you will achieve them. Write your own 101 Goals in 1001 Days list, make it beautiful and then do it. Get postcards or prints of your favourite artworks and incorporate them into your own collage. Write reams and reams of things you need from your lover – be detailed. Write lists of the things you deserve. Make it a statement of intent, of everything about you – past, present and future. Be honestly optimistic. It’s all about you, babe!

 

How to choose your Pin-Up name

pinupbabeAs an admirer of several pin-up models, I’m interested in their “stage” names and where they come from. A name is a powerful thing and something we can all have control over, should we wish to. Yes, we are born to a name, and sometimes that suits us just fine, but not always. Maybe, then, you are feeling disillusioned with your name and the shit-tonne of baggage that comes with it. Maybe you have simply become ‘mum’ or ‘babe’. I’ve always wanted to be called ‘Kitty’ but have never made it a thing. Maybe I should…

If you want a professional’s opinion, check out Miss Victory Violet’s post on Choosing Your Pinup Name. But for giggles, have a gander below:

 

To choose your title, see your eye colour:
Blue: Miss
Green: Vixen
Brown: Siren
Grey: Atomic
Hazel: Lady
Then take the first letter of your first name:
A: Alice
B: Honey
C: Ginger
D: Rosalie
E: Candy
F: Lucille
G: Lily
H: Marilyn
I: Liberty
J: Cherie
K: Kitty
L: Elsie
M: Jessie
N: Trixie
O: Mona
P: Pearl
Q: Queenie
R: Bunny
S: Scarlett
T: Lola
U: Rose
V: Peaches
W: Bella
X: Casandra
Y: Ysabel
Z: Delilah
For your last name, see your birth month:
January: Love
February: Victory
March: May
April: Lou
May: Belle
June: Tart
July: Divine
August: Darling
September: Angel
October: Blossom
November: Noire
December: Dollface

 

Other ways to get inspired for your pin-up name could include:

  • Your grandma’s name or a combination of their middle names
  • A diminutive version of your name, like Kitty or Lou.
  • A colour that inspires you, maybe  mixed with a flower, for example: ‘Bluebelle’
  • Flowers, flowers and more flowers
  • Think alliteration – Lily Lou or Siren Scarlett…
  • Think of your particular style of beauty – if you are a luscious lady of colour, speak up proudly, if you are a blooming English rose, make it known! If you are tall, you rock! If you are short, bang on! Gorgeous girls, everywhere! Your name should only say, ‘I am me!’

 

Have fun!

Adoringly yours,

Miss Kitty May!

 

How to sweeten the deal: A Valentine’s special

If you are of the opinion that Valentine’s is only good for chocolate and shades of pink then good. Me, too.

Here are some sugar-tastic ways to celebrate! Give Mama some sugar…

  • BeyHive: Obviously you start with her Majesty and listen to Suga Mama and doing that pole routine whether you have a pole or not.

 

  • Scrub that: Make a lipscrub with brown sugar and olive oil… Or buy a fancy one from Lush.

 

  • Go on a date: Try something sweet and sticky and delicious! On a recent sojourn to Edinburgh I tried Date syrup with porridge. It was a glorious hangover cure.

 

  • All in a name: Look at all the names of your lipsticks, or maybe make up a few… this and paint names are brilliant. My favourite is ‘In Love With Ginger’ by Rimmel.

 

  • Candy: Candyman on repeat. Yes, please. Beautiful outfits, women and men. And that brass section.

 

  • Fiery mistress: Crystallise or chocolate coat some root ginger… Yowza!

 

  • Hello, ladies…: Make Galentine’s cupcakes for your gals!

 

  • Holy Cupcake!: Channel your inner cupcake and dress in a sickening array of pastels. Makes me feel sweet as hell.

 

Or, see my post on Masturdating – the science, the art and ride solo.

galleta

Translation: Get your biscuit wet in my milk!

Vintage Vloggers

I like to catch snippets of ideas whilst I’m doing other things, like styling my hair, or doing my make-up. If I’m not watching a TED talk, I’ll be fan-girling over a vintage vlogger or two.

Here are my favourites and the reasons why:

  • Cherry Dollface: An all-round nice broad. Funny and genuine, she does a lot of life-hacks, day in the life, OOTD and make-up tutorials. Also has excellent hair.

 

  • PinupDollAshleyMarie: Voluptuous, immaculate and stylish. Excellent at wardrobe envy. I love her haul/ styling videos and cute bloopers.

 

  • A Vintage Vanity: Adorable geekery to be had! Jennifer is a crafty lady, handy with a sewing machine as well as a curling tong. Retro ramblings and tea-time are not to be missed.

 

  • Vintagious: Lots of great hair tutorials and a ‘What Would Marilyn Do?’ beauty section with helpful quick tips.

 

 

Get inspired!