I welcome Ditch the Label’s Gender Report 2016. The attitude of young people around gender, and gender stereotyping, matters to us all. According to the Gender Report only 4% of respondents in the survey believe that women are better at legal and political jobs than men, versus 42% believing that men are better.

Gender stereotypes, in addition to being restrictive, have the potential to allow us to accept the unacceptable. I was shocked by an NSPCC study which revealed that almost half of teenage girls believe that it is acceptable for a boyfriend to be aggressive towards a female partner, while 1 in 2 boys, and 1 in 3 girls, believe that there are some circumstances in which it’s OK to hit a woman or force her to have sex.

Changing unhealthy attitudes towards our relationships and future prospects isn’t easy. However, information that helps us to understand more about gender stereotyping, and the impact it can have, is another step in the right direction when challenging the unacceptable. The Gender Report does just that.

Looking at Parliament, I know full well that there are some really great, talented women there, yet with women making up only around 29% of all MPs, they are not fairly represented, and it’s difficult for Westminster to drag itself away from the dated, old boys’ club that we see. The myth that men make better politicians is not something I accept. Women are in a noticeable minority in every committee, in every debate. And of course, in environments such as the chamber during Prime Minister’s Questions. Sexism is alive and kicking, with male MPs surrounding you who still think it’s amusing to make audible comments about the way women look.

Hopefully a more gender equal politics would mean high profile women no longer being subjected to endless commentary, and judgement, on the way we look and the clothes we are wearing. The whole thing needs a massive overhaul. That, in turn, will have an effect on women having a voice in the boardroom, in the media, in science laboratories, in our courts, in the digital sector. In all those places women are currently sidelined.

People being given due credit based on their ability to do the job, rather than it being determined by their gender.

Even when women excel and find success in their chosen careers, tabloid headlines focus less on their achievements and work, and more on the fabric they choose to wear. So it’s hardly surprising that the Ditch the Label Gender Report found 35% of teenage girls believe that their gender will have a negative impact on their future career prospects, versus 4% of teenage boys.

The media also all too frequently misrepresents transgender people. That’s why I’ve used my role as MP to table a motion in Parliament calling on the Press Complaints Commission to ensure editors abide by the letter and spirit of the editors code when reporting transgender stories. It’s unacceptable that such misrepresentation persists.

Being a good politician, lawyer, person, is nothing to do with gender, age, race or sexuality.

– Caroline Lucas MP

Caroline wrote this blog in response to The Gender Report 2016, which uncovers the true extent of gender roles and stereotyping. You can follow Caroline on Twitter at @CarolineLucas.

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    why did my therapist sydney say its ok for me to not be myself in therapy lately sense my ex boyfriend left me this year on january 16th 2021.

This is an open letter to everyone that I’ve hurt in the past to say that I’m sorry and to help you better understand why I bullied you

I have chosen to stay anonymous because I’m scared of the potential repercussions of posting this under my real name.

I guess we always had a lot in common, perhaps more than we could have guessed at the time. I’ve never really felt like I fitted in with anybody, yet I was always popular at school. I was popular because I made people laugh. Other people found me funny and liked me and it felt good. I first started to bully people because others thought it was funny and would then want to spend time with me. I didn’t really care about how other people felt back then because I didn’t know what it felt like to be on the receiving end of such abuse. I said so many bad words to you and I hurt you, along with so many other people.

No matter what I’m going to say, I don’t feel like it will ever justify what I did to you back in school. When I was 4, my parents got divorced and I moved to a different country with my dad. From the age of 4, I was only allowed to see my brother and mum a few times a year, which I found really hard. I don’t feel like I ever grew up properly without my mum. My dad was a bit of a soft touch and would just tell me not do do things again. He would never shout or get angry. I grew up wanting and needning my mum but knowing I couldn’t have her around me. It was hard because I felt rejected and didn’t know how to channel my feelings.

I hurt you in so many different ways and today I finally see how rude and hurtful my words were. See, now that I’m older – I feel how you must have felt. I don’t have any friends in this city. I often sit home alone playing video games because I don’t know how to socialise properly. My friends from school don’t want to know me anymore and you still probably hate me because I was so nasty.

I guess the purpose of this letter is to apologise, but also to tell you that you didn’t deserve the abuse I gave to you. I was so terrified of being alone and not having friends, so I would do whatever I could to try and prevent that. I wish I’d have gotten the help and support I so obviously needed – maybe none of this would have happened.

I’m sorry.

 

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  • i have a question.
    why did my therapist sydney say its ok for me to not be myself in therapy lately sense my ex boyfriend left me this year on january 16th 2021.

I was 14. You were both a year older. Every time you saw me for a year you told me I was ugly. Those were the only words you ever said to me – “You’re so ugly”. You could not have known my dad told me I was fat almost as frequently. I doubt you’d have cared.

The first few times I shrugged it off, wondered what I might have done to upset you, even though I didn’t know you and we had never spoken. But the more you said it, the more it started to affect me, yet I never made the connection that what you were saying was what was changing how I felt. I had never given much thought to my face up until then. But suddenly I found myself getting ready to go out with my friends then looking in the mirror and crying because I believed I was really ugly. I didn’t want anyone to look at me. I felt ashamed of my face. I started comparing my features to those of my friends; it was almost an obsession. It was very painful.

Because of you I lost what little confidence I had to begin with. I would hear “you’re so ugly” running through my head all day. When I told someone about it, which was humiliating by the way, they just said that I was pretty and you must be jealous. But I could not find a reason you would be jealous. All I could think was I must be the ugliest girl in the school if you felt the need to point it out so often. I stopped going out with my friends because I didn’t want anyone to look at my face, I just hid away in my bedroom. Soon my friends didn’t want to be my friend anymore because I wasn’t fun now; I just stayed in and cried.

I refused to open my bedroom curtains because I preferred to be in darker rooms. This caused many fights with my mum as I would scream and burst into tears every time she came in to open them. In the end she gave up. I still prefer dark rooms.

I grew to hate myself. In my 20’s I found myself calling in sick to work and missing parties because what I saw in the mirror went beyond ugly. I thought I was offensive. I didn’t understand why I felt so ugly until I was 16 and read ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ but by then it didn’t matter where the belief came from, the seed you had planted had become so deeply rooted inside me.

I felt ugly on my wedding day just so you know. There have been days at a time when I don’t let my husband look at me because I’m so convinced of my ugliness I am sure he will leave me if he just looks at me one more time. It goes beyond vanity, you made me feel like I can never be good enough. People tell me I’m pretty and it makes me uncomfortable. It would take a thousand you’re pretty’s to undo just one you’re ugly. I was so angry at myself for being ugly that I cut my face with a knife. Thank god for make up.

It’s now been 18 years since you told me that I’m ‘so ugly’ and it still affects my life. I struggle enormously with my self-esteem. I find it very hard to look in the mirror. Some days I just don’t. It’s been extremely difficult for me to talk about until recently.  I’ve told very few people up until now what you did to me, because I don’t want to point out to them that I am ugly. People have said things like “Oh it was just kids; everyone gets bullied, you need to get over it” but I’m not sure if I ever will because at a time when I was young and appearance was everything, you made me believe that I am very ugly. And not just ugly but bad. Your words never go away even though it has been many years since you said them.

I have come to learn that words are the most powerful thing we possess. They can be inspiring or they can be destructive. Perhaps it was funny to you and I doubt you even remember now, but those words have destroyed many years of my life. Maybe I seem vain for that, but that is the power of words. It is never ok to say unkind words to anybody.

I’ve been so angry with you both when I think of all the things I’ve missed because of you. But I want to thank you. Thank you for being my greatest teachers about the power of words. Because of your words I choose mine carefully. Thank you for teaching me, though it has taken me years to learn, that just because someone says something about me does not make it true. And thank you for teaching me that real beauty, I mean REAL beauty, is on the inside. I may never believe I’m beautiful outside, but I know I am beautiful inside and I would choose that every time.

– Clare

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cover 

Life was never going to be easy for someone like me. Born with Vitiligo, a skin condition where white skin cells stop forming or begin attacking each other, causing white patches on the skin, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out I had little chance of escaping taunts, stares and inquisitive questions.

Being mixed race my patches were albino like and very distinctive. Vitiligo is a condition that can spread at an alarming rate. Those affected may end up with a few small patches, whilst for some it can spread across their entire body. For me, it started as a tiny spot on my hand which eventually spread covering 80% of my body. I had it all over my arms, legs and worst of all my face.

Being so young, I was none the wiser about being different. For all I knew, everyone was born with Vitiligo. My parents kept things normal and chose not to cover my skin. They would dress me in girly dresses, shorts and t-shirts, allowing everyone to see my skin and for me to feel like I was the same as everyone else. The time when I realised I was different was when the name calling started. In the school playground I’d get called penguin, zebra or anything that had black and white skin. Kids made their own assumptions. Some thought I was contagious and were cautious about touching me, others thought I’d been burnt in a fire.

When I turned 5, I started going to Great Ormond Street Hospital for treatment. Back then (1980’s) there wasn’t a known cure and so it was hard to slow down the development of more patches. Dermatologists were frequently developing new treatments which my parents actively put me forward for. I was prescribed with steroid creams, tablets, homeopathy – but nothing seemed to work. I could be trying a new treatment for six months without it making the slightest bit of difference. The steroid cream which was incredibly strong, scarred my skin however cleared the patches on my face much to my relief. Nonetheless, after several failed attempts at being treated, we decided to abandon treatment and let nature take its cause.

I was overtly shy and very introverted during my primary school years. I had a small group of close friends with whom I did everything with. Because of this, the kids who had more confidence saw me as an easy target. I recall a girl in my class calling me spiteful names as she eyed me up and down in disgust. She would deliberately sit next to me in class and then within seconds would jump up and shout “I can’t sit next to Natalie, in case I catch the disease she has”. It would upset me, especially as I was too shy to say anything back. I would just look up in embarrassment and then carry on with what I was doing.

Things got worse when I entered my teenage years. I despised who I was and passed a lot of the blame onto my Mum, which put her under a lot of pressure. I was convinced she had done something detrimental whilst carrying me, especially as my sister was born without any imperfections. It was bad enough having to deal with exam pressures, boys and puberty, so to have to contend with a skin condition that only I had, left me in a depressive state.

Having Vitiligo stopped me from expressing myself. I loved fashion, but couldn’t dress freely. I daren’t wear skirts or t-shirts and became obsessed with covering up. I hated summer and wished it was December all year round so I didn’t feel so out of place. I’d wear anything that covered my skin as I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone catching a glimpse of my Vitiligo and only wore dark colours, making my outward appearance very bland.

My skin got worse in my early twenties. Stress is a contributing factor in making Vitiligo worse. I don’t recall going through a stressful period, but I recall watching as my skin went whiter and spottier over the course of six months. It shattered my confidence further and made it difficult for me to even contemplate being in a relationship with anyone.

Being the only person in my school and in my family with Vitiligo, often meant I felt very alone as no one could relate to how I was feeling. I’d heard of the Vitiligo Society through going to hospital and decided to join as I wanted to meet people suffering with the same condition as me. It was a massive relief to be around people I had something in common with. I felt inspired and humbled listening to other peoples stories in particular how they coped day to day. I started to feel more positive and felt a sense of comfort knowing there were people going through exactly what I was experiencing.

In 2014, I decided to have one last shot at treatment and got approval from the hospital to have Phototherapy, a type of treatment that uses UVB light to stimulate pigment cells in order to produce melanocytes. After 14 months of treatment the results were miraculous. I am now only 25% covered in white patches and have gained a level of confidence and self-esteem I didn’t know existed within.

Recently, Chantelle Winnie, who has a very prominent form of Vitiligo, made it onto America’s Next Top Model. I was overwhelmed at seeing someone with Vitiligo being praised for her natural beauty. Aside from building awareness internationally, Chantelle became an inspiration to people like me and proved that those who are different are just as beautiful.

Everyone takes a journey in life and whilst times were hard, I wouldn’t change what I went through. I finally feel like I’ve reached the stage of acceptance and am more comfortable with who I am. If I were to speak to my ‘younger self’ now, I would say accept who you are and embrace what you were born with. See what you have as a blessing, there is a reason why you are unique and sometimes that makes for a slightly more interesting life! Don’t spend time worrying about those that try to make you feel inferior. People will stare and will ask questions, but don’t feel as though you have something to hide. Show others that it doesn’t bother you, hence why you decided to wear that short sleeved t-shirt in your favourite colour or shorts in 30 degree heat. It’s not about people accepting you, it’s about you accepting yourself first and once you do, you’ll walk with an air of confidence that tells the world ‘you just don’t care’.

Natalie Ambersley

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    why did my therapist sydney say its ok for me to not be myself in therapy lately sense my ex boyfriend left me this year on january 16th 2021.

When talking about size discrimination and bullying many people think that it’s not really a thing. People might think that sharing a meme of a fat person is just funny and tweeting and laughing along about how ‘huge’ Gemma Collins is every time she is on your TV screens is just banter. Well here’s the thing: it’s not funny and belittling someone because of how they look is a form of bullying. To put things into context I am a lifestyle and fashion blogger based in London and I write about a number of things including travel, cooking, style and fashion and I also happen to be fat. I posted on my blog recently about my experience of being labelled a bad role in a number of press outlets after featuring in a channel four documentary called ‘Plus Size Wars’.
 Since the documentary aired I have also experienced a lot of nasty comments about my health, size and appearance on my various social media outlets as well as berated about my size live on the radio. I wanted to share my personal story with the readers of Ditch the Label in the hopes that I can help comfort anyone who has or is experiencing bullying or size discrimination for them to know they are not alone and do not deserve any of the ill treatment they have received due to their size.

Ask most overweight women and they will tell you that they have spent most of their lives on diets, I certainly did. Growing up I was a small sized child, but then at around 8 or 9 years old I developed severe asthma, I was put on steroids and I slowly but surely got bigger and it became obvious to me even though my Nana (the next best thing to a mum to me) told me I just had puppy fat and that I was beautiful and perfect. By the time I hit my teens I was developed in all the right places and had to start wearing a bra earlier than most of my friends in high school, I was most certainly fatter than all my friends but they never made me feel different even though I knew I was. I had the occasional nasty comment about my size, some more hurtful than others, but I was lucky to grow up mostly with nice people that I hope saw me for more than just my weight. However I still hated myself, I couldn’t wear the clothes that all my friends did, they shopped in Tammy Girl and I shopped in Etam and I would cry to my Nan that I felt fat and she would again hold me and tell me that I was beautiful, she was like this best friend that loved me just as I was and for a second she would make me forget. Then one Monday before I was about to head off to school my Nana had a heart attack, she was a smoker and couldn’t stop, that following Sunday she died and I never really got to say goodbye. I was 13 and for days I didn’t get out of bed, My Nan was the matriarch of our family and when she died everyone fell apart, I felt alone and I turned to food as a comfort to fill a hole and my weight increased.

Over the years I built an obsession with wanting to lose weight, I tried lots of things, including starving myself, then binge eating and hiding the packets at the side of the sofa, I tried to make myself sick but that didn’t work out because I hated the feeling of being sick. I went on the cabbage soup diet, the no bread diet, I took slimming pills and became obsessed with the gym. I lost a significant amount of weight for my cousins wedding and when people saw my weight loss they praised me and it felt oddly good, like for once I had achieved the end goal, until it went straight back on. In reality, when I look back I wasn’t even as fat as I thought I was.

Callie Thorpe

Fast forward a few years to University and I was looking forward to starting afresh, yet I still took those troublesome thoughts with me and my weight issues only grew. Drinking made me put on more weight and I was back again being the fat friend of my new group. Boys had no interest in me (that had always been the way) and I always felt used when someone did actually pay me attention. The reality was I was never girlfriend material for them – I was too fat.

Then in 2008 whilst working at my part time job a guy came up to me and asked me out, he was really nice and kind, he asked me on a date and nearly 7 years later, we are still together. Dan taught me that I could be who I was and still be loved, that it didn’t matter what size I was or how much I weighed because he just loved me for who I was, but even that couldn’t stop my weight obsession. Over the years I joined slimming clubs and then started drinking laxative teas. We stopped eating out to save calories and my obsession with food value made me cry whenever I indulged. I made a diet diary blog to share with everyone and to help shame myself into losing weight, it worked for a while until one day, the scales showed a gain and I broke down. Dan sat me down and told me he was worried and I realised the extent to my obsession. That day I got rid of the blog and made a new one I called it From the Corners of the Curve, I started reading other blogs like Gabi Fresh and Arched Eyebrow’s and my eyes were opened to this world where girls of my size were living their lives enjoying fashion and being happy. I decided I wanted a piece of happiness and started documenting my life, my holidays and my new found love for fashion and soon it got noticed . Before I knew it I was being asked to model in a campaign for Evans for a plus size line. It was picked up in press by media outlets I ended up in Vogue Italia with the other girls involved and my blog grew and grew. 



Slowly but surely my mindset changed and other girls began to look to me for outfit inspiration; my following grew and more brands approached me for collaborations. My mental health improved and with letting go of obsessions I let this whole new life come in. Dan and I moved into our own flat, we travelled for 5 weeks this Christmas across Thailand and Cambodia and on the 19th of December he got down on one knee at sunset on a beach in Thailand and asked me to marry him.

You are most likely wondering why I feel the need to share this with you and why it matters. It matters because health isn’t always physical, mental health is just as important and the years of dieting and punishment on myself caused more damage than good. Yo yo dieting has caused a number of issues for me and ultimately made me bigger than I ever really was. Articles are constantly being written about fat people as though we are setting a bad example by promoting obesity when we aren’t. I have never said HEY I’M FAT COME BE FAT WITH ME, all I have said is love yourself no matter what.

Everyone deserves to live a happy and fulfilled life no matter what their size, and believe me, fat people are not ignorant to health risks because that is something which is shoved in our faces daily by our family, friends and strangers. People lack basic empathy and that’s because they don’t understand there are more reasons to weight gain and obesity than simple greed, some people are ill, some people are taking medicines which cause weight gain and some people have mental issues behind their eating habits. It’s not as black and white as people may think. People also shouldn’t be treated any less if they choose not to be healthy, health is not a moral obligation.

 Size discrimination also isn’t just exclusive to fat people, every week you see a magazine which uses images of women without makeup or close ups of their cellulite to belittle and mock them. God forbid a woman having a stretch mark or not looking like they are professionally airbrushed. There are ridiculous standards put on women and men every day and it’s ludicrous.

So instead of today judging someone on how they look, try and look at them as a person and not an obesity statistic like the likes of Jamelia who thinks people under and over the ‘normal average’ don’t deserve access to nice clothes. Bullying of any kind is wrong and words especially on the internet can hurt. Be mindful of what you say and don’t support people who engage in making nasty comments or ‘joke’ and mock people on the internet. Until we all unite this issue will always be around, so stand up and be proud of who you are whether you’re thin, fat, tall short, whatever you may look like – you deserve happiness.

Callie Thorpe / @CallieThorpe

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