My Vulva Has Betrayed Me By Lucy Chapman

By Lucy Chapman

I love my vulva. I even like to say ‘vulva’. But my vulva doesn’t like me.

It is because of my vulva that I bore children. Wonderful, full-of-joy children. It is because of my vulva that after doing so I dropped down from being a full time secondary teacher to working three days a week.

We had a choice, it could have been my husband who stayed at home two days; I earned more than he did at the time, so it would have made sense financially, but it was my breasts which fed the babies, so it was me who went part time.

Damned breasts.

Being part time, there aren’t many positions of responsibility in a school; if you’re a Head of Department, your staff could need guidance and you’d be at Baby Song Time or as a Head of Year a child protection issue could arise when you’re at soft play / ball pool hell. It just couldn’t work.

So, as I stagnated in the workplace, I watched with pride as my husband (who worked at the same school as me) progress, get opportunities and promotions that were just not available to me. His pay was now already more than mine, simply as a result of me going part time and still the gulf was getting bigger.

As a direct result of this common phenomenon, my husband is swiftly paying off his student debt whilst I chip away £14 one month £21 the next. His pension contributions are also substantially higher than mine are now.

So, does any of this matter if we plan to grow old together and pool our income forever?

Well yes actually, it does. 

What if I was to become a single mum (imagine he had an affair or I discover he’s gambled away our life savings)?

Firstly, I would probably have to move my boys out of their school to get a more affordable home, I’d also become reliant on benefits and as a result I’d probably be labelled a ‘scrounger’ and television programmes would be made about my ‘sort’ of person.

I’d be villainised and people would wonder why I didn’t think about this before having children. I’d still be part time, so we’d struggle a little.

I’d still have a tonne of student debt left to pay and in my old age I’d be trying to manage on my meagre pension, whilst my now ex-husband joins the fancy golf club and books a cruise on his.

Women currently make up two-thirds of Britain’s poorest pensioners and changes being made to pensions (both public and state) will disproportionately affect women further still. 

It’s 2017 and in response to me querying why I’d not be getting my expected pay increase when returning from maternity leave, my boss, I kid you not, replied “it’s not as if you’re getting a pay cut”.

It’s 2017 and if my husband was beating me I’d honestly have to decide if I could financially afford to separate.

It’s 2017 and there are hundreds of thousands of mothers working part time and passing up on opportunities whilst fathers continue to breeze their way up the management ladder with the people they work with not knowing nor caring that they have children at all; it’s just not an issue. Nor should it be.

Girls have been doing better than boys in school for years yet we still have more men in management and leadership positions and there are much more male higher earners.

Only a mere 7 bosses of the 100, FTSE 100 companies are women.

It’s shameful. 

Women have been hit far more drastically than men by welfare cuts due to harsh austerity measures, a whopping 74% of welfare cuts are coming out of the pockets of women.

Women’s refuges are closing up and down the country despite 2 women being killed every week at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.

Women are considerably more likely than men to be in part time work and part time workers earn less per hour on average than their full-time peers.

65% of public sector workers are women so have been disproportionately affected by public sector pay freezes and job cuts.

I sound bitter.

I sound jealous.

I sound dried up; it’s not sexy to be overtly feminist, but is it that unladylike to want to be self-sufficient (even if from within a marriage)?

Am I that much of a bore to want a fair shot?

Is it so very unappealing to ask not to live completely dependent on another person?

It’s 2017 and my wonderful, sensual, sexy vulva has betrayed me. 

The Fight for Equality is Everyone’s Fight By Nathen Amin

By Nathan Amin

We appear to be living in a peculiar period here in the UK where a bitter divide has opened between opposing sections of the populace over a topic that should, in truth, be a unifying force – equality.

What one person proclaims should be a natural right for all is often vociferously condemned by another as a threat to their culture’s established way of life. It is a bizarre time indeed, and this is one ideological conflict I am not quite sure I understand. Surely, the battle for equality is a battle ALL of us should be fighting, regardless of our genealogical background, which we have no control over incidentally, or political outlook.

I can’t be the only person exasperated by witnessing protests by those seeking to establish equal rights for minority sections of the British public; reduced to nothing more than violent clashes between the right and left. Both sides often degraded by the other with unhelpful monikers such as fascist and Anti-FA, Nazi and snowflake, and so on.

How the hell a term like ‘liberal’, incidentally, became an insult, I’ll never know, and truth be told, I’ll never comprehend how anyone can protest against equality in the first place.

Let me expand a little bit. Whether we appreciate the fact or not, and it appears that many in modern-day Britain are wilfully preferring to remain ignorant, we are all affected by issues surrounding gender, health, sexuality, race, religion or creed. The fight for equality for those who are dreadfully affected by prejudice on a daily basis is a fight we should all be partaking in, as a united society, and not one that divides us into separate battalions headed for an inevitable clash every time our divergent paths cross, literally and figuratively. And yet, here we are.

Now, admittedly, I may be in an unusual place where I am affected by the fight for equality on several fronts, courtesy of my immediate family unit. I am affected on racial and religious grounds because of my own mixed-race ethnicity, my non-white father being a Muslim. I am affected on grounds of disability and mental health because of conditions which affect my sister and wife, whilst I also strive for equality based on sexual orientation because another sibling is LGBT. Naturally, some of these relations are women in the workplace, which opens up another front on which I want to see them receive parity they wholeheartedly deserve. It is absolutely in my interest that those people get every inch of support needed to, at the very least, ensure they are receiving equality in and out of the workplace.

If support is lacking in their life, if the women aren’t being paid fairly for a job a man does, or if a gay woman is discriminated against on account of her sexuality, or whether another family member gets overlooked for a role based on their colour, then you best believe that affects my own life. So I am a supporter of gay marriage, rights for migrants, support for mental health services, and yes, I am a male advocate of feminism.

Not everyone is in my situation, however, so I want to speak directly to those who openly criticise folk for espousing the desire to see equality given in all areas of life. I’m speaking to those who post bitter, obscenity-laden, diatribes online decrying another ‘lefty’ attempt to destroy our ‘native’ culture by pushing for gay marriage, defending immigration, giving too much credence to mental health issues, or even supposedly pandering to other faiths such as Judaism and Islam to the detriment of ‘our Christian way of life’. How dare those women call for equal pay in work!

Well, have you guys ever considered the fact that any fight for equality might just be a fight you will someday appreciate, and even be grateful for?

Allow me to be a bit blunt, hereon in. The majority of those who loudly decry ‘pandering’ to minorities, whether based on racial grounds, on sexual orientation, or any other basis, are largely drawn from a straight, white British-born male demographic. Not all, of course, as some within that background are as left and inclusive as the next person, but it’s not incorrect to suggest that the make-up of most EDL, Britain First or other Far-Right or conservative movements tend to be from those drawn from such a background. It is these counter-activists who claim to stand up for their endangered culture, to be the defenders of perverse notions such as embracing multi-culturalism or freedom of sexuality. And you can, on one hand, understand why. After all, those men, you know the types, often snarling with indignation whether in person or on the internet, don’t care about being foreign, gay or a woman, and who often implore those with mental health issues to simply ‘suck it up’. They’re white, British, straight, male. This, it seems, is not their fight, and they don’t see why concessions should be made.

And yet, I can’t help but wonder. In time, these men will have wives, they will have daughters and sons, and they will perhaps even have a brood of grandchildren.

Have they never considered the fact that equality in the workplace between men and womencould mean the difference between their wives being paid the same amount of money to do a job another man does? 

Or the fact that one of their children, or grandchildren, may be homosexual and want to marry, or perhaps are even straight but have wed into a family of an immigrant background with different faith. Perhaps they will have a child who suffers from mental illness that prohibits them from leading a full and active lifestyle. Maybe even THEY will suffer from a depressive episode in their life. Having a ‘stiff upper lip’ won’t fend off the ravages of depression, regardless of their boasts of ‘manning up’. The very ideas these, I hesitate to call them men, persons stand against are the very things that could, one day, be imperative in protecting their own families. And that’s, after all, what it means to be a man, surely – to protect your loved ones, and ensure they have every opportunity to become the very best versions of themselves?

Would these people be satisfied to learn their child didn’t get that job because they were a lesbian, or their wife couldn’t get that promotion because she was a woman?

No-one in their right mind in today’s British society should sincerely consider equality to be a negative thing. 

Freeing everyone of any shackles, mentally, physically, legally, will only benefit everyone. I want the best for my family and friends, be they white, brown, male, female, straight, gay, disabled or otherwise. I want everyone to be free to reach whatever goal they have set for themselves, and not to be barred by their race, gender, sexuality or health. That’s not a bad thing to stand for.

Equality affects us all. Let me repeat that, Equality affects us ALL.

**

Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and is the author of non-fiction books Tudor Wales (2014), York Pubs (2016) and House of Beaufort (2017), an Amazon #1 Bestseller for Wars of the Roses. He is currently working on his fourth book, Pretenders to the Tudor Crown, for release in 2019. He has also featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer.