International Women’s Day – What are We Celebrating?

It seems apt that today on International Women’s Day, I break my spell of writer’s block and write my first piece in 2016.

It was Twitter that brought my attention to the occasion that is being commemorated today. It was also Twitter that drew my attention to yet another social media storm surrounding, arguably one of the most famous women on the planet; Kim Kardashian. It seemed to me a twisted irony that Kim K’s name was trending on two separate topics at the same time as #InternationalWomensDay.

In 2016 it feels as though there is not much to celebrate about being woman. The job that I do means that I constantly come into contact with women who are victims of domestic abuse. Some figures show that globally, 1 in 3 women will experience violence at the hands of a male partner but I have a strong suspicion that if all cases were actually reported, the figures would be far higher. Other uplifting statistics show that there continues to be an increase in sexual crime against women.

It is becoming apparent that the women that are celebrated the most are the women who consistently appear in public without clothes. I may have burying my head in the sand, but I am at a loss to explain how this has happened.  Could Western Feminism be to blame? The type of feminism that I describe as “Western” defends the right of women to do whatever they want with their bodies, including exhibiting its naked form whenever and however they choose. It was out of Western Feminism the ridiculously absurd “Free the Nipple” campaign was birthed. I can think of no finer example of what can happen in a society to rich with privilege and comfort that a woman’s chief concern is about cultivating the right to be indecently exposed.

One of the problems with this new wave of “we have the right to wear what we want or wear nothing at all” type feminism is that it ignores the question; “why?” After all, such behaviour goes against our natural instinct to preserve our modesty. To illustrate my point, if you were out in public somewhere and experienced a wardrobe malfunction that meant you behind was exposed, would you just carry on as normal, or try and find something to cover yourself until you got home? To those that do not appear to have this instinct, we should be addressing the question, “why do want your naked body to be seen by everybody?” Do you just want attention? Are you insecure?

But that’s the trouble with Western Feminism; it asks no questions, and it ignores all consequences. Is it a coincidence that in a day an age where images of the naked female body are displayed at every opportunity and saturate  media and advertising to an inescapable degree, there is an increase in sexual violence towards women? I was horrified to read a piece by Lucy Managan in the Stylist, describing how a man on the tube was staring at her creepily and then staring at his phone, only for her to discover that he was watching pornography on his phone, openly on the tube. This is the world we now live in.

There may have been a time when feminism was all about ensuring that women were treated fairly, and afforded the same rights and opportunities as men, but now I can’t help but think Western Feminism is only adding to the problems that women face today. That’s why I believe we must stop the practice of accusing people of “slut shaming” simply for pointing  out that the absence of clothes on prominent females does nothing to raise the esteem of women who are made to feel their own bodies are inadequate. It does nothing to highlight important inner qualities and capabilities of women or recongise their achievements. And it certainly does nothing to bring an end to the objectification and subjugation of women all around the world.

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Book Review: A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta

I read about this book in a Newspaper and the way in which it was described drew me in. I recall, it was said to be a book about exploring the differences in culture between the Nigerian protagonist and those she comes into contact with within her Western environment. I bought the book with an expectation of something Americanh-ish. I think part of my problem is that I have been spoilt by Chimananda, and now expect all African writers to sound like her.

Well, Atta does not sound anything like Adichie, and that in and of itself is not a criticism of Atta. I’ll start with some positives.  I like that the main character’s name is not introduced until she is addressed by another character and we learn her name is Deola. Up until that point she is only referred to as “she”.

Deola is in her late 30s, single. This information is provided to the reader, but other aspects of her character, who she really is, remained somewhat of a mystery. She works for an international charity in London, but visits “home” which is Lagos for her late father’s memorial. Some of her thoughts and dilemmas seem more typically associated with an adolescent. I can understand this is some way, because in some West African culture, a woman has not truly become a woman until she is married with children. Yet I found it hard to connect her thoughts and feeling to that of a woman of her age and stage in life. Deola clearly has dissatisfaction with her life in London, but the reason for this is not made entirely clear.

What is clear is Deola’s love hate relationship with religion, and Christianity in particular. Now this touched a nerve with me because of the sweeping generalisations made about the Faith. Again though, I have understanding as to why “African Christianity” is criticised because I know from experience how distorted it is from the Christianity of the bible. Religion is certainly a theme in this novel, but I was not expecting it to be tackled in a way that could be seen scornful and disrespectful.

In terms of some of the other themes explored, I found myself asking at one point, is this a book about HIV and Aids? A bit like the MTV series “Shuga” based in Nigeria, (where almost every character either had HIV, or was about to catch it), was the thinking that, seeing as this is going to have a mostly African audience, I’d better do my best to educate them about the importance of being tested for HIV, seeing as most Africans are dying of Aids?

Perhaps not the biggest let down, another thing I found disappointing was that I could in no way relate to Deola and her privileged background. I had waited to find a novel that was based between Nigeria and London, and having finally found it, I couldn’t connect with Deola as I shared very few of her experiences. I did not go to an expensive fee paying boarding school and I do not have any friends who were educated at Harrow, for a start.

Fatally, the book included too many scenes that did not move the story forward, and an ending that leaves the reader hanging. Not hanging from a cliff as such, as that would suggest an exciting ending. More like hanging from a set of monkey bars.  I kept returning to the blurb to remind myself of what the story was supposed to be about. A love story? Deola’s love interest, hotel owner Wale, does not feature enough for it to be described as a love story.

With no lucid understanding of where the story is going, what is driving the main character, and what message the writer is trying to give, a Bit of Difference, was a bit of a flop for me.

Music of another decade

This sort of applies to me too, but with different music

write meg!

I don’t know when I stopped listening to music.

It’s not that I don’t catch a random tune on the radio or keep up with modern hits — peripherally, at least. I mean, I know “Blank Space” and such. I’m not hopelessly out of touch.

Just mostly.

When I was commuting to college, the two-hour drive daily on the Beltway was a medley of Hanson, John Mayer, Maroon 5, The Killers, Coldplay. Circa 2006, coed Meg was pretty hip. My first iPod came as a Christmas present in 2004, and that little pink Mini accompanied me everywhere. I can still remember the long walks across campus with Death Cab for Cutie for company. It was a little lonely back then, I’ll admit — but peaceful, too.

Pink iPod

After graduation, my two-hour commute became a 10-minute back-and-forth to the office. I’ve been fortunate to live and work close to home for the…

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Flop of the Month: Busaba Eatai Store Street

Busaba Eatai seemed like an excellent choice for my meet up with my university friends for an overdue catch up recently. I remember going to the branch near Selfridges some years ago, and enjoying the red curry dish with whatever meat it came with. I recalled that the food comes out relatively quickly, and the place tends to have a buzzing atmosphere… Surely one can’t go wrong. Wrong.

Despite it being a Friday evening, there was no queue to get inside the Store Street Branch. That perhaps should have been clue. At The branch near Selfridges, I remembered having to wait about half an hour for a table. A number of factors could bear responsibility for that to be fair. But the experience that followed makes me think blaming the restaurant, is being entirely fair.

Once seated, the four of us (who had miraculously arrived all within half an hour of each other) were approached by the manager.

“Can we order please?”

“No!” He barked. Awkward pause. Then he burst out laughing. Oh it was supposed to be a JOKE. Funny.

Then turning to my friend who was the first to arrive he said “You can order as you were here first, but not the rest if you”.

Another awkward silence. Then more crazy laughter from him, and wearied expressions from us. Once the jokes were over we got to ordering some drinks. Within a minute a confused looking waiter brought a tray of glasses of water. That was quick, I thought. Before realising that we hadn’t actually ordered any tap water. Well still not bad, perhaps he was anticipating our needs; it was very hot inside and we were already parched. We then waited a while for the drinks we did actually order, during which time every other minute, the same confused waiter approached our table with a different drink that we had not ordered.

“You order this?”

 

The poor guy clearly could not speak very good English at all. He looked so terrified it was hard to not to feel for him. But then it did start to become a little comical when he would appear with another tray, the same question mark written all over of his face, and we would stop mid conversation to tell him the drinks do not belong to us.

When it came to ordering the food, one of my friends and I opted to share a plate of chicken stir fry. When a small plate of what looked like fried chicken wings with a tablespoon sized heap of plain vermicilli noodles was set in front of us, we were a little confused. This wasn’t the chicken stir fry we had ordered. Wrong again, yes it was, we were told by the manager. I was just hungry by this point and generously offered to eat the whole thing. Perhaps I should I tasted it first. It tasted like it had been drenched in vinegar, it was so sour. Nevertheless, hunger will make you do strange things (such as eat it all anyway).

From what I could see from the other orders, the portions were fairly small, and did not look very appetising. It is highly unusual for me to not be enticed by what is on someone else’s plate when eating out, but I must say, this was a first.

Halfway through our evening we were asked to move. Okay fair enough, a bigger group needed the table, and we were being moved to a quieter more private section. No complaints made there. We were then served by a different waitress who also had very poor English. We asked for a jug of tap water. She brought a glass. We repeated our request for a jug, but were met with a confusing message along the lines of her needing to ask the manager. We never saw her again. How I wished we had cherished more the water we didn’t actually order, brought to us earlier by the confused waiter.

Despite the challenges of the evening, we had an enjoyable catch up, but when it came time to pay the bill, it did not feel right, after all that has described above, to pay service charge. We explained this to yet another waitress who did not speak English well, and after the 5th attempt of trying to explain, the manager was summoned by the waitress.

Although we had not wished to pay service charge, by each paying a little more than was on the bill, it turned out we had effectively paid most of the service charge already. That meant that there was actually only £2 outstanding. It seemed trivial now, but we had to stick to our guns out of principle. Still I had my wallet ready in a very English, wanting to avoid further confrontation manner. Then the manager arrived.

 

“You don’t want to pay service charge?” he asked indignant.

 

“No” (a bit sheepishly)

 

“Fine! It’s only £2 anyway!” he snapped, snatching up the bill and trouncing off.

*That moment when you’re glad that you stuck to your guns*

 

And that was that. Busaba Eatai Store Street congratulations for making me utter the words that I rarely utter: “I am never coming here again”.

2014: The Year Of…?

As 2013 drew to a close it was time to reflect and look to the year ahead. 2013 was like a flash in the pan. I can’t believe it’s nearly over! As is the case every year, I have much to be thankful for.

 

When the year started out I did not know what would be in store. I did not know that I would start writing a blog for instance. I had wanted to start one for a very long time, but then I just decided to stop stalling, and just do it. The response has been interesting and at times surprising. For example, my most popular post by far has been my post giving tips on transitioning to natural hair. I have written about political issues (a little more than I expected to!), as well as diet and nutrition, but it seems that most people are particularly concerned about… hair. Well I am adamant that I will not turn into a natural hair blogger, but if it’s helping people, then hey I may as well add some more posts about hair this year.

 

2013 also turned out to be the year I learned how to ride a bike. Yes aged 26, with the help of my partner, I learned how to ride a bike. I can’t explain the mixed feelings I had when the bike finally stopped wobbling, and I was able make some distance. I felt happy to have conquered, but sad that I had missed out on such an exhilarating activity for so many years of my life. This year, I hope to become more confident on a bike, and I may even try to learn how to swim too while I’m at it!

 

I turned 27, and it truly feels like old age beckons. I have quite a granny personality as it is, but now that I’m getting older, it seems that my energy levels are dipping, and just want to curl up in bed half the time. As a result, my body is just not what it was back in 2012. However, this presents another challenge that I am ready to take up this year; getting my body back in shape!

 

All in all, 2013 produced some good memories. Before I moved to the reformed church I now attend, the charismatic Nigerian dominated churches of my past would be coming up with themes for the New Year at this time. “2014 the year of Jubilation”, or “2014 the year of Fruitfulness” for example. I don’t know what 2014 is going to turn out to be, but there is no way I am going to stand still. I hope it’s going to be a year of moving forward. A year where I don’t make the same mistakes I made the year before, and progress in my Christian faith. A year of new things, new adventures, and new accomplishments.

 

Here’s to 2014! The year of the unknown! I hope I have fun discovering it.

How I plan to LOSE weight this Christmas

It’s December! I can finally allow myself to feel all Christmassy! Usually at this time of year, I’m looking forward to feasting on festive food, but this year is different. I haven’t even touched a mince pie yet. That’s because I’m trying to continue my healthy(ish) eating right through the Christmas season.

First of all, let me update you on my almost-vegan-anti-inflammatory-diet (for my post on this topic, see here https://adressrehearsal.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/why-im-one-step-away-from-becoming-a-vegan/). Well, I did well for two weeks straight, not eating white rice, white pasta, and any refined sugar. But then it got too hard, so I started to allow myself a little bit of this and that, which turned into a lot of this and that. Now, I’m just trying to eat everything in moderation, with my intake of cow’s milk to a minimum, and a careful record being kept of how much desert and sweet treats I’m ingesting each week. I hope that I will gradually get back into even better habits, such as sticking to brown rice or quinoa, and keeping refined sugar to an absolute minimal.

After a while, sweet potato and raw carrot became...tedious

After a while, sweet potato and raw carrot became…tedious

The big test will be whether I keep this up over the next month. I have tried to eat moderately over the holiday period before, and not done so well. It doesn’t help that at this time of year, it gets dark at 4pm, which makes me want to do nothing but sleep, and the cold outside puts me off going running. It’s also not great that my local gym is closed for refurbishment until the New Year. Whilst this all sounds like a recipe for disaster, I’m determined to not give in to gluttony this time around.

Here is my 5 point plan of action:

  1. Work out indoors. Seeing as my gym is closed, and it’s freezing outside, it’s time for me to make use of fitness DVDs. Even Youtube has a vast range of exercise videos for free! The Fitness Blender channel has some great routines, and I really like that there’s no distracting silly pop music playing in the background.
  2. Eat homemade soups. Winter vegetables are great for turning into soup. I need to make soup in bulk (simply because I have either the time or energy to make fresh soup everyday) and store in the freezer. This can be heated and put in a flask and taken to work, or I can heat some up in the evening for a healthy and light dinner. I love my butternut squash soup with fresh chilly (let me know if you want some recipes!). But this soup will have to be eaten on its own because I need to…
  3. Avoid bread. Bread is my absolute weakness. I could go without eating MEAT before I could completely give up bread. But it’s possible to cut down. I’ll be eating soup without bread, and choosing salads instead of sandwiches when I’m buying lunch.
  4. Drink more herbal tea. When it’s cold outside, I tend to visit the coffee shop more often and allow myself to be soothed by sipping a nice hot cup of gingerbread soya latte, or soya hot chocolate. But these drinks at the very least contain over 100 calories, and at worst up to 900 calories. Herbal tea is a better option because it’s still warming, but there are hardly any calories involved.
  5. Exercise self-control. This is the most important point, and will be needed most on Christmas day itself. Given what is usually on offer, my plan is to allow myself one mouthful of each desert, if it really looks tasty, and to just stop eating once I’m full. When it comes to mince pies, I have to be realistic. I’m not going to be able to have none, but I will limit myself to a total of 4 over the entire festive season. I know I’ve probably just exposed how greedy I am, by making it sound like 4 is very small number, but for me, it will be a challenge!

I really hope I stick to the plan, and if I do, I’ll let you know the results!

 

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