Sometimes it's Hard to be a Woman

Strap yourselves in readers, today's going to be a rambling one again! In the recent light of the Doctor Who announcement that the 13th Time Lord will be female and the backlash the whole thing received (guys, I don't even watch Doctor Who yet I felt it was feverishly important to voice my opinions), I felt it was time to have a little discussion and/or rant about how hard it is to be a woman. Now, before you all think I'm going soft on y'all, I want to make it clear that this isn't some sort of pity post. I'm not trying to highlight all the difficulties most women go through in order to gain some sympathy - I simply want to vent frustrations, express things I've learned, and hopefully, be a comfort for some who might feel alone or angry/upset with any number of situations women may find themselves in during this rollercoaster called life.

So, the pity party is not welcome. The feminist party? Those of you who support that women don't just deserve (deserve suggests its a reward) but are entitled to every right a man has in equal measure? Then you guys get a plus one for the party so you can bring some like-minded friends. There's a lot of pressure on girls and women in all corners of life and whilst of course I'm having to talk about these pressures from a very white and western viewpoint, my voice and opinion is as valid as the next girls and as a working class, petite sized, academically gifted woman, I feel I have some shit to say. Women are constantly faced with suggestions and sometimes sheer forced views of how they should act, what they should wear, how they should conduct themselves in public, in the bedroom - even how it seems unladylike to fart or need to take a shit. We're constantly ridiculed for putting on weight, for being too thin, for being happy with our appearances, for "looking for attention", for being sluts because we like having sex, for being "prudish" if we don't, for being too opinionated, for being "crazy" because we're on our periods, for having "no shame" for breastfeeding in public, for being "prettier" if we don't alter our bodies in any which way... The list goes on and on.

External and Internal Misogyny
Something that seems to be the root of many unachievable and narrow expectations of women is misogyny. Now, before anyone calls the meninist police, I am not a man hating feminist, but there is no denying that misogynistic opinions and aspects of life can certainly been seen as an influence for some of the daily difficulties women face and I'm categorically *not* singling out men as the reason for this. Quite the opposite in fact (so let me explain). Misogyny is defined as a "dislike of or ingrained prejudice of women" and is something that is ever present in society and is unfortunately, something that is mirrored onto young girls when they're children so it's no wonder it is still abundantly prevalent in their older years. When we're little girls, we're given the kitchen sets, the beauty desks, the hoovers and cleaning toys whilst the boys are given the toolboxes, the fire engines, the police uniforms and toy guns... You have to think is it any wonder when girls try to do jobs such as becoming mechanics, constructionists, or soldiers they're often met with disbelief and tickled humour that a female mind would even have the audacity to think they could *do* such a job?! Thankfully, more and more parents are giving their children the opportunity to explore across "gendered" toys and are more open minded, but it's still an ever-present issue. We're told "he just likes you" when boys pull our hair or hit us in the playground and are told to retaliate this "affection" with a kiss and cuddle so our parents can take a cute picture.

The misogyny and sexism we receive from men is one thing, but something that is equally as damaging is the misogyny we receive internally from our own female circle. It's the phrases such as "I'm not like other girls" or "I get on with guys better because girls have drama/girls are bitchy" that are throwing women under the bus. Often, things like this are said unintentionally and people don't mean to say them with misogynistic attachment, but it is still categorising women and doing it in a negative way. I'm in no way innocent here and have caught myself saying those two exact phrases in the past, but I can see how damaging they are now and there is no positive point that can be taken from them so they're better left unsaid. It's the sly comments about a girl's hair, her makeup, her sex life, her personal style... It's those comments that are letting the sexism filter into or inner circle that should actually help build other women up. I'm not saying every girl or woman will want to and should support every other girl and woman because of course not everyone likes everyone, but we need to stop partaking in the misogyny because we've got enough to deal with on the daily without creating more amongst ourselves.

Beauty Standards
We are exposed to media and societal definitions of perfection and what is expected of us when we become women on TV, in magazines - we're told that a "bikini line" is a thing and that it should be tamed. We're told that if we use *this* product, we will have carved out cheekbones but nope, don't do it *that way* because that's not good enough and looks silly. We're told that you shouldn't eat that but you should eat this if you want you cum to taste a certain way - it is relentless, it's about so many parts of our lives that it's almost impossible to avoid or escape, and worse still, it's not just visible for us but for everyone.

We put pressure on ourselves to try and meet this level of perfection that society has created but no one has ever managed to achieve and retain because it's not real and then the boys we try to impress in high school, the bitchy friendship group we find ourselves in at that age, they all also point out that you're not reaching that level of perfection. Whilst outside influences such as other people or the media have a lot to answer for here, we need to look at ourselves too because we're our own biggest critics. The internalised misogyny I mentioned earlier can lead us to body shame ourselves and has even been proven to be a catalyst for individual cases of eating disorders. We're all incredibly guilty of comparing ourselves to others and instead of celebrating our unique qualities and talents, we ask "why has that person got success and not me?" "why does *that person* have this many blog readers but I don't?" "why are they so pretty and I have a nose like this?". We all do it - myself included- and we've been almost conditioned to do it but it's a habit that needs breaking and when I've found a successful way to stop it, I'll let y'all know.

Education Expectations
Women are still paid less in certain roles in comparison to their male counterparts and women's successes are often overshadowed by their heterosexual partner's and they're just labelled "wife" instead of "critically acclaimed, multi award winning badass". We need to constantly fight for our relevance and accountability in society and unfortunately in our education and careers especially. Gweni from G Beauty Blog made an excellent point last week that we use the term Girl Boss but why? Why do we need to put the "girl" in front of "boss" as if "boss" is an unattainable career or title for a woman? Are we segregating ourselves once again and feeding into the misogyny unintentionally? My heart always drops a little when women don't own their achievements and big themselves up. When I see "so I wrote a thing" or "I don't know if this is any good by I tried to draw this" I want to scream about how much more credit they need to give themselves. I'm guilty of doing this myself before but I've started asking myself who I'm so worried about offending or upsetting with my positivity and self appreciation? And honestly even if a hundred names come to mind, I now think "tough shit" because I should be proud of everything I do and own. it.

I remember what it was like doing my undergraduate degree and the assumptions made about women in the archaeological field. I remember the comments made on my 4 week excavation of a medieval leprosy hospital about how it would be better to give me the jobs such as sketching the finds or dusting away the finer sediment to make areas clearer to photograph because of course my 5 ft 2 self couldn't possibly do the digging. Of course I couldn't shovel away the sediment and carry it in the wheel barrow to the pile heap. Of course because I wore a full face of makeup due to a mix of insecurity and expectations of others that that meant I couldn't possibly do any of the required jobs that the boys were never questioned about. Whilst that attitude was met with sheer determination from me to prove both fellow students and even my lecturers wrong by showing I can be surprisingly really strong for my size and build and that I could pull my weight and hold my own in that physically demanding job, I shouldn't have needed to. That attitude should have never have been present in the first place. We've come on leaps and bounds in contemporary education and workplaces when it comes to women getting a fair and equal education/job role, but we still have some prejudices to erase. Answers on a postcard if you've got any quick-fix ideas because I am stumped!

"That's Not Very Ladylike"
The last thing I want to touch on a little here is stigma surrounding interests that are not deemed "girly" or "for girls" full stop. Growing up, I didn't know there was such a thing as girls football teams or rugby teams because there were no role models. Even now football is very much a mans sport and women's football isn't on the major TV channels and reported with as much scrutiny or intrigue. This lack of equality makes it difficult for some girls growing up to make sense of what they like and what they're interested in. As a very young child, I loved everything deemed boyish and therefore was called a "tomboy" by family rather than just accepting that I was a girl who like cars, playing with toy garages and tanks, and power rangers. When I turned around 7, I had a complete 18O flip and wanted everything Barbie and pink. I became a "girly girl".

This confusion over girls liking things that "aren't for girls" seems to be ever present in my adult life as I've witnessed it and been part of it myself. I think my favourite one is men assuming women are lying about liking video games is they find said women remotely attractive because obviously your appearance dictates your level of interest in that particular thing. I've had men quiz me because I've said I enjoy playing video games because I can't possibly like those and doing my makeup?! I've been victim to former colleagues recoiling in surprise because I have listed some of my favourite comic books or graphic novels because "I don't seem like the sort of person who would like those" but I'm still waiting to be told what mould "the sort of person" who does like them is like so I can understand how I don't fit. Funny that, isn't it? I know sometimes we can take a step back from things like that and think "come on Amyleigh, you're just being nit-picky" but I'm still trying to understand how I'm supposed to demonstrate my interests, my appearance, and personality on a whole if apparently my jigsaw pieces don't neatly fit together enough for some people and I still haven't worked it all out.

Apologies if this was a bit of a Negative Nelly of a post, but it's something I feel a lot of us observe and naturally have opinions on. This post can certainly be taken in a very self-indulgent "me me me" way, but I just needed to get these things off my chest and where better to do it than on NB? Even trying to think of a fitting title for this post was a struggle - don't worry the irony of the rest of the lyrics to the banger of a tune I've used for inspiration haven't been lost on me - because as I said earlier, it's not a post seeking sympathy or pity, it's just a chance to vent and hopefully find familiar minds out there. I want to continue to learn how to support women and learn from mistakes I made that might have been sexist or belittling to fellow females who need anything but more angst, setback, or knockdowns. So ladies, please look after one and other - no one is asking us all to be friends and run around fields of flowers, singing and holding hands, but support our rights collectively to be heard, valid, relevant, and positively necessary in society.

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Pilgrim 55: Natural & CF Skincare

As I get older, I am becoming more and more conscious of what products I'm using on my skin and increasingly concerned with said products ingredients. As a teen, I can honestly say I never once looked at the ingredients section of any shower gel, moisturiser, foundation etc. etc., but now it is something I like to pay close attention to as it's becoming more prevalent that some products and certain brands will often use harmful chemicals that are either not actually great for our skin or that are detrimental to the environment. So with that said, and especially since switching to cruelty free beauty, I love to see brands who proudly use lots of natural, environmentally friendly ingredients and who make a real effort to keep their brand and products that way. I particularly like to find smaller brands that are doing the right thing and not selling out to get their name out there so that's why today I need to talk to you all about Pilgrim 55.

Pilgrim 55 are a new, independent brand from my most beloved hometown of Newcastle and are part of Tyne Cosmetics LTD company. They believe in natural and organic skincare and are dedicated to delivering such products to consumers in a sustainable, ethically, and environmentally friendly way. As soon as the brand first contacted me and sent me a little bit of information about themselves, I new I had to give their products a try. All of their skincare is between 70-90% organic as they never include any sulphates, parabens, or isopropyl alcohol just to name but a few less than desirable ingredients that are unsettlingly common in many skincare and haircare items. Not only are their products ingredients focused on, the brand and wider company in general encourage customers to return their packaging from their purchases in order to recycle it and they aim to be carbon negative in the future - meaning they will commit to producing zero carbon dioxide (ultimately becoming active participants in trying to reverse global warming). They sound like a pretty fab brand right? So when Pilgrim 55 asked if I wanted to try out some products and review them for you guys, I knew I needed to see what their stuff was like because they sounded like a fantastic brand to support. I chose three products that were relevant to my skin type and current skincare needs so I could give a completely honest review and although I was sent these products to review, all opinions expressed in this post are my own and have not been influenced - so let's get into it shall we?

Organic Black Charcoal and Liquorice Scrub Mask* | £9.99-£12.99, 6Oml-12Oml
This detox mask was the first thing I knew I needed to try. As an oily skinned girl, any sort of charcoal mask or face wash is always something I want to try out as charcoal is a great ingredient for fighting excess oil production but can also work wonders on clearing up the skin if you are someone who suffers from acne like I do. This mask retails for £9.99-£12.99 depending on which size product you purchase and I think that is very reasonably priced for a face mask with good active ingredients in it. The mask is quite a thick but easy to spread formula which is great as it doesn't tug or pull on the skin. It has a very faint "typically skincare" smell so it is not overpowering and it is one of the most gentle masks I've ever used. Whilst it is described as a scrub and it does leave the skin feeling soft, it is not abrasive in any way and doesn't leave the skin feeling striped or tight after use.

My one tiny gripe with this product is that I find it really difficult to get a good even layer on my skin. For some reason, I always get a patch or two that doesn't seem to cover quite as well, but this is only minor as the mask never completely dries down so this small issue doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. It is recommended to leave this on for around 1O-15 minutes, but I like to leave it on for a tiny bit longer (particularly if I've used a very thick layer), and it removes so incredibly easy - no scrubbing required!

Organic Cucumber Cleanser* | £11.99, 12Oml
Possibly my most favourite product I've used in a long time, Pilgrim 55's Cucumber Cleanser is the best thing I've ever used for cleansing sensitive skin. My skin usually fluctuates in its sensitivity, but if I've recently had a bad breakout, my face can become inflamed, irritated, and sore to the touch. This cleanser is obviously designed for sensitive skin and has a slight cucumber scent but again, nothing overpowering. Cucumber is a great ingredient for calming and soothing sensitive skin, but extracts of it are also packed with various essential vitamins which can help tackle puffiness, wrinkles, and give the skin a boost of hydration. I love using this cleanser in the evening as my "proper" full cleanse after removing my makeup. It is very thick and has the consistency of a creamy, heavy duty moisturiser. Therefore I like to scoop up a cherry-sized amount of cleanser and apply it directly to a dry face. I spend time massaging it into the skin before pulling some of it down onto my neck area and before adding water. As this is another easy and fuss free product to remove, you can either wash it off wish just water or use a muslin cloth to remove it (I tend to only do the latter if I feel like I really need to give the skin a bit of extra exfoliation TLC at the time). This cleanser doesn't irritate my extremely sensitive eyes at all which is wonderful and the best thing? I honestly can see a difference after extended use of this. When I use this every evening for a few consecutive days, my skin looks really healthy every morning and oddly enough, my spots appear reduced or not as noticeable which is a great benefit from a product that doesn't necessarily target that particular skin issue. I will be repurchasing this product myself as soon as I run out for sure.

Organic Hand & Nail Cream* | £9.99-£14.99, 6Oml-12Oml
Despite wanting to try more of the face masks and some of the eye creams, I opted to try out the hand and nail cream from Pilgrim 55 as my last product to review as my hands have been incredibly dry lately. My hands are a feature I actually quite like and I try my best to look after them and keep them looking presentable because as a teacher, they are always in everyone's face when I'm pointing at things, handing out work etc. So when I saw this cream and saw that it promised to be a non-greasy formula, I just had to give it a go because although I like to care for my hands, I cannot stand the way hand cream lingers and feels on the hands. This stuff is for all skin types and is jam-packed with natural plant extracts and oils (such as blackcurrant extract, almond oil, and coconut oil just to name a few) and therefore should leave the hands feeling soft and silky. The antioxidants present in the cream should also support healthy and strong nails and as a nailbiter all through my childhood and teen years, my nails still seem to be paying the price as they're often fragile and flaky underneath my nail polish.

This cream again has a very subtle "skincare" scent that I'm now starting to think is pretty signature of all of Pilgrim 55's products which is a nice change from my very fragrant The Body Shop hand creams I usually use. Because this stuff comes in such a hefty tub, I only use it when I'm at home but it's the best last step to have in my evening routine. It does have a thick consistency, so for me personally a little goes a long way, and I do find that it can take a while to sink into the skin but it doesn't leave a greasy residue behind and you get instant results. I've also been using this as a daily moisturiser on my feet too and it's keeping them soft and conditioned as well. If you're a hand cream aficionado, I think this one is definitely worth checking out as it performs and feels more like a high-end brand despite it's more than affordable price mark.

So it's probably pretty easy to see that I'm a huge fan of Pilgrim 55 and will definitely be purchasing from these guys again in the future once I've used up my current skincare products. I think their packaging is simple but slick and I like that the tubs are uniform across the range and that they're glass rather than plastic. They have a great weight to them and they look and feel more luxury than their prices dictate. One thing I forgot to mention about the brand that I also love is the fact that they explicitly display that they never test on animals on all their packaging and clearly list their ingredients so that there is no nasty surprises. If you want to support a very honest, considerate, and environmentally/animal friendly brand, I don't think I could think of a better small business to buy from.

As the products and service from Pilgrim 55 have been so fantastic, they've kindly given me a discount code for anyone who wants to purchase from them in the future. By using the code: NB0247 you will receive 15% off your order (valid for three uses per person!) and will be supporting a brand who are trying to keep skincare ethically sound and sustainable. Please note that I am making no profit from this post or discount code, but I want you guys to have the opportunity to buy into a brand who are just doing good things. I myself will certainly be buying from the brand again in future (I'm looking at you Aloe Retinol Facial Serum and Green Tea Anti-ageing Clay Mask) and will be recommending Pilgrim 55 to friends and family - especially though with dry skin or those who want to delve into anti-ageing products as these two areas seem to be a great focus for this brand. You can find out more information about what Pilgrim 55 are up to on the daily, over on their blog and Twitter.

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Red Temple Prayer

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all have a great week ahead of you planned and if not, I hope it still works out as a mighty fine good one. This week for me is a bit of an "all systems go" one at work as it's a week without my students which is a nice breather, but it's also a super busy "we need to get shit organised for the next academic year" week too. I have a big meeting tomorrow to throw around ideas and discuss what is and isn't working within our department and also some exams to complete with some current students. It's insane to think I've been in this job now for almost 5 months but I feel like it's been so much longer and not in a bad way!

Other than this busy working week, I don't really have much planned other than getting back on board with doing yoga every evening as I've been a little lazy these last few days, and crossing my fingers that the weather stops being so rainy and cold so I can get back to doing my evening walks too. When it was stiflingly hot, I decided to start making sure I had walked around 1O,Ooo steps a day just to keep active. I walk quite a lot as part of my daily commute anyway, but if I was shy of a couple of thousand steps, I was using a walk in the evening after dinner as a way to clock those missing steps. As it was so hot on the evenings, taking a walk around the countryside at the end of my street was a great way to get a bit of breeze too. I haven't really mentioned it properly on NB yet, but I'm hoping to move house soon and whilst that's equal parts exciting and terrifying, it's also made me realise that this beautiful area that I've pretty much taken for granted at the end of my street needs a bit of my attention before it's not just *there* for me anymore once I move to a different town. Getting out in nature - even if it's just for 1O or 15 minutes - is so good for the soul and just works wonders on my general mood.

Before I sign off from this post, I guess I should probably talk about this outfit quickly! This is a very typical *me* outfit when I'm feeling a little stumped with what to wear and my wardrobe is feeling lacklustre. This skirt has featured on many posts here on NB and is still the best £3 I ever spent because I wear it to death. As for that gorgeous bucket bag, it is a statement piece that I love to wear that is bang on trend but still suits my style whether I'm going for a boho look or a more alternative one and it's statement in a subtle way so I don't feel uncomfortable wearing it. My favourite thing about this outfit has to be my raglan from Red Temple Prayer who are a great independent brand selling everything from clothes to pins to homeware. I own a couple of shirts from them and a few pins and the quality of their products is pretty damn great. They have some great jumpers and tees in their current collection that I just need to get my hands on for autumn time.

Red Temple Prayer Raglan | Primark Button Down Skirt (similar) | Asos Western Belt) |
Vintage Bandana (similar) | Matalan Bucket Bag (similar) |
Romwe Miu Miu style Pumps (similar & similar)

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