A Skinny Girl, About Skinny Girls

As a girl who can fit into a UK size 6 (US 2, EU 34) pair of skinny jeans without too much of a problem, I have had to put up with a lot of hating myself.

No no, don’t just click away now. Yes, it’s possible for someone with the body that so many women apparently crave to not really like it.
I have had to read countless articles and see and hear endless comments from people, even my own friends, about how “skinny girls aren’t real women”.
In a society where ‘skinny’ has been the main goal for such a long time, you would expect that someone like me would be perfectly happy with their body because well, they’re skinny.
The thing is, I’m not happy with my body, and I can almost guarantee that there are plenty of other skinny girls out there who feel the same.

Of course, the aim is skinny and tall, I am merely 5 ft 1 but that doesn’t stop my friends from telling me to stop complaining about myself when we’re out shopping because ‘you’re so skinny! What do you have to complain about?’.
Well, while we may have model-thin legs and protruding collar bones, we don’t tend to have the curves that are oh so important. Being skinny is not the be all and end all, and of course, being curvy isn’t either.
It appears that to be a ‘real woman’ you have to be thin, have curves and be muscular enough to fill the ‘too-thin’ parts out a little. This is our idea of perfection. It simply doesn’t exist.
I am not allowed to be openly self conscious because “I have legs that other girls would kill for” or because “I have a perfect figure”. I assure you, I do not, but that is besides the point.

I’m not entirely sure what the aim of this is, maybe I was angry when I started writing it, maybe I wrote it to enlighten some of you or maybe it’s a plea – for all the girls who can’t help being skinny to finally be allowed to complain about themselves the same way everyone else does without being ridiculed for having what others don’t.
Perhaps we all should stop complaining. As a skinny girl, I can tell you, skinny wont make you happy – especially now that skinny means you’re not worthy of the word ‘woman’.

I would like to reiterate that I’m not bashing women who are not skinny here, I’m bashing this ridiculous idea that weight and body shape is a trend that should be followed.
Approval and self worth should not come from your weight or how you look in a tight shirt or whether or not you look like you’re wearing a blanket instead of a jumper. It seems that meritocracy is dead, and that people are only worth their physical measurements.

Your curves or my collar bones do not make one of us superior.
I am a skinny girl. I am a real woman.

PS: Sorry for not posting for so long, education took a priority

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Migrant Children in the UK – Are We Doing Enough?

I spoke to my sister, Fatos, who was a migrant child when she moved to London in 1996, about her experiences with moving to the UK’s capital and whether or not she feels that the education system did enough to help with her future.

Fatos moved to England with her mother and step-father (my father) when she was only twelve years old but she considers this to be quite a late age to move to another country as a child. She tells us that she came to the UK ‘not knowing a word of English’ and that it took her nine years to be able to speak English fluently. Although this may be down to the lack of support she received from her North London school when she first started in year seven, she blames herself, claiming that she is a ‘slow learner’.

Didn’t you know any English at all when you moved to the UK?

“No, I only knew how to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ ” she giggles, “it was really tough and scary for me, I had no idea what was going on half the time.”

Was there a huge culture shock when you moved? London is a lot more dangerous than Cyprus and a lot busier too.

“Yes, definitely.” she laughs “My mum was really worried about me as well. Just when I had gotten used to it, I was doing my modern apprenticeship after college, I got mugged right in front of my home. I was only upset because all my stuff was gone though, by then I considered myself to be a British citizen just like everyone else.”

Was it difficult to get used to the lack of freedom you have in London as opposed to the freedom you have in Cyprus?

“Yes. You wouldn’t think that that would be true, everyone says the UK and America, western countries in general are the places where people have the most freedom but that’s only legally. Socially, it’s completely different. London is so dangerous” Fatos shakes her head “You can’t walk down the street without being scared that you were going to get hurt, and of course if you were like me and you couldn’t speak English very well and couldn’t make friends then it was worse.”

So do you think the language barriers stopped you from maturing as a person because you couldn’t go through the same experiences as your peers?

“Absolutely; I was always waiting for people to come and talk to me.” She sighs regretfully, “It never occurred to me to make the effort to talk to someone. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in me, or if we would have anything in common. Everyone seemed like they came from another world. At least now I can say that I’m a lot more open and independent, I socialize a lot more than I used to, I’m not stuck as the little girl that I was.”

Do you think it would have been easier for you if you had moved to the UK at an earlier age?

“It probably would have been much easier. I would have had more time to learn the language before I started my GCSEs which I’m still unhappy about because my grades were terrible.” She admits, “I always say that the teenage years are the pain of growing up. They’re the worst and with my situation, I hated every day of them.”

Do you think that moving here so late affected your social life and your ability to make friends?

“Yes. It did, I was already shy and bad at making new friends, moving here made it three times worse, especially because teenagers always think they know everything, so like all teenagers I had problems with my parents, too.” She explains,  “My mum and I had a huge communication problem for a few years, we would barely speak because we would always end up arguing but at the end of the day she was the only one I had who I could trust and go to for help.”

Did moving here bring you and your mum closer?

“In a certain way, yes, it did. We had problems along the way, during the ‘settling period’ but in the end we found comfort in each other and now we tell each other everything and we’re a lot more open with each other.”

So you’ve become more confident in your relationship.

“Definitely, I used to be a bit scared of her and what her reaction would be to things that I’d done wrong but I can face her now.” She laughs, “And because of that I think I’ve become stronger as an individual and that I can face any problems I have.”

How did your lack of English skills affect you in school?

“Well when I started school, just after October half term of year seven, my teachers had put me in a class with six other girls who came from Turkey, they didn’t like me because I was Cypriot but they were the only ones who knew what I was saying. I was getting bullied by them quite a bit, they were telling me to do things and I didn’t know they were wrong because I didn’t know the rules so they would get me into trouble. They would make me cry every day.”

That must have been horrible, especially with you being at such an awkward age.

“Yes” she nods, “You’re going through so many changes already and to have to deal with getting used to a completely new culture and language on top of being pushed around was really difficult.”

Wasn’t there any way that you could explain what these girls were doing to you?

“Unfortunately there were no teachers in the school who spoke Turkish and my English was very limited. I was also a very shy child and I’ve always found it difficult to make friends. I had to stick with those girls because I didn’t know my way around and I couldn’t read the signs to make sure I wouldn’t get lost.”

While you were in school did you receive any support with your studies?

“Not my studies, no, but they did try to help me learn English. They gave me all these books that would make you translate things like ‘What is chicken in Turkish?’ and ‘what is [Turkish word for cup] in English?’ and so on.”

And did those actually help?

“To a certain extent, yes it helped. It only lasted from year seven to about year nine; I wish they’d continued with it throughout my education because I didn’t know what the questions in my GCSE papers actually said.”

Do you think that children who are currently in your past situation receive any support from their schools?

“I don’t know if they are, but they should be. I think the government needs to offer a course to migrant children because it’s not their fault that they have had to move here and I should know, it is very difficult to try and learn a new language and complete your education in that language. The government seems to leave migrant children to their own devices and expects them to learn the language with almost no help.”

So you think that the government needs to start taking responsibility for these children.

“Not just the government. They obviously can’t fix a problem which they don’t know exists; I think it’s up to the parents to push for improvement too. If you tell someone that your child is struggling then I am sure that they will help.”

Marriage – A thing of the past?

2013, the year in which the world finally realises it’s in the 21st century and almost everything and everyone takes on a more modern approach to everyday life.
Technology is booming, people are becoming more accepting of ‘different’, but one thing which is both changing drastically and not changing at all is marriage.

Almost 40% of marriages in the UK end in divorce, but does this mean that we should simply stop getting married in order to save ourselves the hassle of going through solicitors, signing papers, possible custody battles and all the rest? Would it not be easier to simply ‘break up’?

According to the Telegraph, fewer people are getting married now anyway, in 2011 the number of married people had fallen to 20.4 million, which seems like a lot, right? Compared to a decade ago, that is almost 200,000 less people saying ‘I do’.

It seems that Britain has fallen out of love with marriage. More and more couples are simply living together, having children and growing old together whilst avoiding paying for a wedding (which is understandable, weddings are expensive, but marriage pays for itself in the long run – more on that later.)
However, I can’t help but feel that we are beginning to take marriage for granted. They say that ‘every little girl dreams of their wedding day’. I never did, but I do want to get married someday, and evidently so do thousands of people on the LGBT spectrum, of which the majority don’t have the opportunity to do so. How can we disregard something which so many people wish they could have?

Marriage has a lot of benefits, especially financially. (I won’t go in to the whole ‘respectability’ side of it. I don’t think a relationship should be held at a higher standard than anyone else’s simply because it’s a marriage.) Inheritance can cause a lot of problems for couples who cohabit but are not married – Couples living together who own property and other assets with a combined value of more than £650,000 face an inheritance tax (IHT) charge if one of them dies.  It turns out unmarried partners can only pass assets up to the nil-rate band of £325,000 free of death duties. Sums above that attract an IHT of 40%, presenting families with a few problems in the event of death.
Anything left to a spouse or civil partner, on the other hand, is exempt from IHT. The partner is allowed to “inherit” the full £650,000 which can be passed to, for example, children on the death of the surviving partner.
Also, if the deceased partner did not write a will prior to their death, the other cannot inherit anything from them, no matter how long they lived together or if they had children together – so those of you unmarried folk may want to get writing.
Getting married also means paying less tax! We are all taxed individually, but married couples are given a bit of leeway in arranging finances to reduce the family tax bill. This means that married couples can reduce the income tax paid on savings, investments, or rental property if one spouse pays less tax than the other.

If this is the case, then assets can be switched so they are owned by the lower-earning spouse. So, if one spouse is a 40% taxpayer and the other does not earn, and if savings are held by the non-earner, they can’t be taxed on the interest.

But it’s not all about money – marriage in its current form has a little bit of tradition and a little bit of modern value mixed into it. Marriage as it stands now was only really invented 12 years ago, and these days the more common method of marriage is through a civil ceremony rather than through religion. While some may believe that a marriage is not ‘official’ unless it is performed before God, others may say that marriage has nothing to do with religion, but more to do with two individuals loving each other unconditionally, respectfully, and wanting to spend the rest of their lives together.

Once again, I return to the state of marriage equality rights. Modern marriage does not involve religion, and so same-sex marriages should not be banned in any modern country, thankfully, the legalisation of same-sex marriages is on the rise. If marriage is so outdated, why would hundreds of thousands of people be fighting for the ability to get married at all?
Some may say that marriage is nothing but a ‘piece of paper’ and that it doesn’t prove anything, especially with the current divorce rate, but to me, personally, marriage shows commitment and determination to pull through difficulties – no marriage is perfect, but not all need to end badly, or at all.

Japanese Pop Culture – Just for nerds?

Until very recently, if you enjoyed anything to do with Asian pop culture, you would be considered a ‘nerd’, even in London, the home of diversity and cultural differences.

Now, you may think it’s only lonely teenage boys who sit in front of a computer watching anime all day, but anime, manga and Japanese ‘Lolita’ fashion have become huge in the Western world, yet it’s still receiving a mixed response.
I’ve set out to find out what is so appealing about Japanese pop culture and whether or not it’s seen as something reserved for the ‘nerd community’.

First I’ll break down the terminology:

  • Anime is Japanese cartoons, not necessarily for children; in fact a lot of them are filled with adult themes and gore. Some famous ones include ‘Pokémon’, ‘Naruto’ and ‘Death Note’.
  • Manga is the Japanese term for comic books, a lot of anime is based on manga, the same way that a lot of Western movies are based off novels and comic books like Harry Potter and a lot of superhero movies.
  • ‘Kawaii’ translates to mean ‘cute’ as cuteness is not necessarily associated with infantilism in Japan. The’ Kawaii’ or ‘Lolita’ look is based on Victorian fashion and involves a lot of bows, ribbon and lace. This look is extremely popular in Japan and is expected of both males and females.

I asked some questions to people with varying opinions on Japanese pop culture, from those who are fanatical, to those who didn’t even know it exists.
A common ground between all these people is that they all watched anime (whether or not they knew it) as children, particularly Pokémon, and some played the games associated with the series too.
Pokémon is in fact still a huge source of nostalgia and entertainment for those who grew up with it, and with the new Pokémon X/Y games being released this weekend, teenagers and young adults all over the UK are planning on revisiting their childhoods and thousands pre-ordered the game so the could get back to past that much quicker.

It seems that anyone who enjoys any aspect of Japanese pop culture was introduced to it by friends, and the main appeal is that it’s so different from Western culture. Every fan I spoke to mentioned that the artwork in anime and manga is visually pleasing and often fun to replicate in their own artwork.
Another advantage for the fans is that the Japanese are not afraid to push limits. With violence, gore, sex and profanities not being an issue in the world of anime and manga, more and more people are becoming a part of the community where censorship almost does not exist.
Unfortunately, despite the prominent adult themes in anime and manga, it seems that the overall reaction towards those who enjoy the scene is that they are immature for enjoying what are thought to be ‘children’s stories’. I don’t know any children who’d be allowed to watch shows such as ‘Elfen Lied’.

An example of Kawaii fashion in Japan
An example of Kawaii fashion in Japan

However, despite the huge fanbase surrounding anime and manga, the Lolita fashion scene seems to take a back seat in the advent of Japanese pop culture. The one person I spoke to who does see the appeal of Lolita fashion said that despite that people may think she’s weird, she is too in love with the unique style to ‘give in to Western capitalism’.

Similarly, those who do not enjoy Japanese pop culture claim that they did like how ‘cute’ everything was when they were younger and that they simply grew out of it, instilling the idea that Japanese pop culture is only for children.

But is Japanese pop culture only for the nerd community?
Interestingly, those who are not fans sway towards the idea that Japanese pop culture can be enjoyed by anybody and everybody given that there is such a wide range of topics within the culture. It was agreed that fans tend to be particularly articulate, varied in taste and creative.
It’s hard to answer the question, but most fans claim themselves to be nerds and those who aren’t fans remain indifferent. The London MCM Expo is coming up at the end of October at the London Excel Centre; it’ll be interesting to see just how many people who go are only there for the Japanese pop culture aspects of it and who is there to enjoy all sides.