Category Archives: Equality

Should all speech be free?

Dear Reader,

When I Googled ‘freedom of speech’ recently it brought up many things that I hadn’t considered. I simply though it meant you were allowed to say whatever you wanted without fear of recrimination – something I thought that could ever fully be achieved. I mean it’s damn near impossible for every single person on this planet to have the same opinion. And boy how boring would the world be if we were indeed all identical? So why the need for free speech to be defined?

The Internet, well Wikipedia to be precise (not the most reliable of tools I know) state it’s so you can speak freely without risk of government retaliation or censorship. Freedom of expression is another term.

And why am I writing to you about this? Well, it is because of Stephen Fry and his discussion earlier on the week about freedom of speech, which unfortunately took a nasty turn and ended up with him being all over the media for portraying victims of sexual abuse as ‘self pitying’.

Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but not everyone has a platform that enables them to be heard by the masses. And with that platform surely there needs to be a sense of responsibility about what you are saying and an awareness of who you could hurt? Especially if you are representing a mental health charity, which of course Stephen Fry does.

And I get that it can be frustrating for him given that he feels so strongly about being able to speak freely, but I do not understand the thought processes that led him to believe that his words were acceptable. I’ve watched the interview several times and tried to see if anything reported has since been taken out of context or if he’d been misquoted, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Only he can understand what he meant. He is so used to being regarded as a sensible and powerful voice with regards to mental health that maybe he simply got carried away.

But my point is that when you know millions of people listen to every word of your free speech you do, whether you like it or not, need to reign in your words and opinions if they are going to be damaging to people who have suffered serious trauma in their lives. No one needs to be told they are self pitying. No one needs to be made to feel any worse when they have without doubt suffered enough.

Some things really do need to be left unsaid.

From, me x

Dear World of Pop

Last week it was the Brit Awards and, even though I am approaching forty, I still quite like to watch the awards. Having a teenage daughter also means it pays for me to be ‘down with the kids’ and know what’s going on in music. And upon watching the show it became apparent that nothing much is going on in the world of pop except the over sexualisation of women.

Not long after the programme had started, and somewhat before the watershed, a partially clad model draped herself over one of the presenters with nothing but stars covering her nipples and little else covering her lady parts. Continue reading Dear World of Pop

Dear David Cameron…

Your recent, and if I may say so, ridiculous decision to not make sex education compulsory has somehow not driven the headlines recently, as it should have.

In fact, anyone who doesn’t regularly delve into the world of the media and its sensationalist portrayal of the news and daily scaremongering might have missed it altogether. Which is a shame. It should’ve caused uproar, not least because it is not a wise decision, but because the women in parliament who suggested it – Nicky Morgan Secretary of State for Education being one of them – and gave such a good argument as to why sex education should indeed be compulsory, were not exactly taken seriously. Continue reading Dear David Cameron…

On the pink tax

Dear Reader,

Ever heard of the so-called ‘pink tax’ especially for ladies? Aren’t we, as a gender, so lucky that they’ve thought of a tax just for us? And in what is, of course, every woman’s favourite colour, right?

Um, let me think about this….no!

In case you don’t know what I am talking about, the pink tax refers to the extra costs we, as women, are subjected to. And subjected to, some would say, from the day we are born. Girls clothes often cost more than boys clothes. As do our haircuts. And beauty products. And dry cleaning. Continue reading On the pink tax

Dear 2016

by Jen Faulkner

Dear 2016,

I have always been a firm believer in everything happening for a reason. In my life, and that of the people I love, it’s often proved to be true. Even if the unthinkable has to happen, which at the time makes no sense. Like my dad dying of bowel cancer so I would have screening at a young age, which, as it turns out, has saved my life. Or my eldest son needing a middle and lower lobectomy, which enabled the diagnosis of a rare genetic condition for both him and my youngest child, preventing his lung ever needing to be removed. Hindsight has always shown me that these hideous things have happened because of something and haven’t been in vain, even though I’ve only recently begun to understand why.

But when I look at the news, and at what is happening in the world, my theory of reason makes no sense anymore. Events this year have shattered lives, broken families, and destroyed houses and countries. People have lost hope. Lost faith. And lost their homes and loved ones. Terrorist attacks, flooding, and austerity measures to name a few, have all taken their toll. Continue reading Dear 2016

‘New Beginnings’ writing competition


Beauty Magazines Never Taught me how to be a Wolf

When I forget I’m worth more
than the rumples of my belly,
I strip off my clothes,
let others draw me.
Here, my thighs – the trunks of trees,
The fur of my pits,
the fur of other places…
My hips: expansive brackets.
My mouth: a red-hot
pocket for my fangs.

Roberta Verdant is a Bristol-based freelance writer. She blogs for the Huffiington Post. She loves wild swimming and dancing barefoot. Read more about her and what she offers at:

Dear Opinion

by Jen Faulkner

Recently many aspects of my life have given me cause to think about how people come to have certain opinions. It fascinates me how, often without any experience or factual knowledge to back their opinions up, people still hold the opinion that they are entitled to their opinion, and are determined to convince others of the same. I’m also interested as to how opinions are formed and how they can be dangerous when taken from propaganda, hearsay, or an unreliable source.

And so with the Paris attacks this week, where the opinions of the suicide bombers were clear, and the opinions of others in the aftermath were voiced, I thought I would write a letter to an opinion itself.

Dear Opinion,

Recently many things have happened in the world, which make me doubt you contain any good at all. And that’s a great shame because your power has the ability to resolve conflicts and create a united world. If only people knew how to handle you.

You work best on the ignorant, on those that feel they are entitled to you because of your content, and that it can be adapted to prove the point they so strongly feel needs to be heard. Do you feel empowered by this? Or when someone turns you in to a belief so strong that it makes them end friendships, disown family members, or even kill?  Continue reading Dear Opinion

When Did Women Start Being Funny?!

Words by Honor Tuttiett

We always were is the answer of course, but why has it been such a battle to prove that we are? I grew up watching the likes of Prunella Scales in Fawlty Towers being the quiet but nonetheless hilarious counterpart to John Cleese. The effortless and lasting humour in Absolutely Fabulous with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, and Dawn French in The Vicar of Dibley. All of these women were my focus as a child, it didn’t occur to me that we weren’t considered funny until I grew up and started watching films where the girls were nearly all excluded from witty banter.

Where did this idea come from? I have heard my own boyfriend parroting the line ‘women aren’t funny’ but see him falling about with laughter from my own witty retorts. It is like a mental stigma for some men, but thank god we do seem to be breaking through of late. With the likes of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler having storming success hosting the Golden Globes for the past three years, there is hope that the question of female humour will become erogenous to everyone in the very near future.

After reading Jennifer Saunders’ autobiography, Bonkers, I saw how hard it was for women to push through and be allowed into comedy. Lines like, ‘there can’t be two female acts in a row’ were a staple in comedy clubs in the 70’s and are still said today. Luckily in 2012 What The Frock comedy group was founded to combat this imbalance in the comedy realm and make more unbiased space for women. They regularly host successful female only comedy nights around the UK and began the project in order to prove the point that ‘there were some funny women out there, and that people are willing to pay to see them’. They did so well that it has carried on to this day, but considering that this idea begun in 2012 it shows how long it has been a struggle for females to prove their humour could actually entertain a crowd.   

Female led comedy is actually becoming a very lucrative industry for film and television now that people have realised we can make humour quite well. Bridesmaids (2011) was a breakthrough film grossing just under two hundred million pounds in it’s lifetime. This film was made in the current style of many male humoured films like The Hangover or This Is The End, which are great films don’t get me wrong, but it was amazing to see women do the same style just as well. Orange Is The New Black is also a game changing programme with a nearly all female cast. It shows how we are with each other (when we are at our most humorous), because of it being set in a female prison. It is such a refreshing programme when you think about it, not to mention extremely successful. Female led casts have now broken the film and television mainstream and aren’t going to relinquish their place any time soon.

We are casting off the shackles of being considered unfunny, we always knew it and it seems the world is waking up to the idea now too, although it’s a little late world.

To the woman who thinks she should have it all

by Jen Faulkner

With the recent news that big companies will now have to report on their gender pay gap, including bonuses and stock options, this letter was an easy one to choose for this week’s column. Women earning less than men for the same role, or not having the same opportunities for promotion offered to them, is not something we should keep our opinions to ourselves about. The 1970 Act states that it is illegal to pay people differently, but it is still not doing what it set out to do, and the gap remains, with women on average earning 19% less than their male counterparts.

To the woman who thinks she should have it all,

Women, they’re never satisfied are they? They want it all and they want it now and have shouted loud and clear for years and slowly things have changed. Everyone knows full well these days that woman can do more than cook or clean and be a devil in the bedroom.

But now women expect to be able to have babies and retain positions of authority at work. Women think they have a right to take a year or more off to look after their offspring and then return to the influential position they previously held. And why shouldn’t they disappear for days at a time when their children are sick and still expect to be offered promotions as often as men are?

Are they simply being demanding or unreasonable? NO! I’ve yet to meet a women who doesn’t work as hard as the next best man for the job. And no, I’m not a man-hating feminist, I’m merely suggesting that perhaps women should have a choice and not be penalised for choosing a path that temporarily halts their career.  Continue reading To the woman who thinks she should have it all

Letter from intrusive thoughts

This wePhotoek’s letter is very different from what I had envisaged people writing about in this column, but it focuses on something very personal to me and is very powerful, and so had to be published.

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted and dangerous, and this week’s letter is written from a voice in one reader’s head. Thankfully its writer did beat this voice, and is now well again.

If you are at all vulnerable then please read carefully as this may be a trigger for some.

Dear Me,

Seeing as you are not listening to me I have no choice but to scream a little louder.

I am always here you know. I am a part of you and am inside your head and controlling your thoughts. But you know that already and you can challenge me all you want, but I won’t ever go away.

And the thing is, you know I’m right, don’t you? I make perfect sense. In fact, nothing has ever been clearer than my voice right now. I love sucking you in before going quiet for a couple of days and making you think you’ve won. But you’ll never win. Want to know why? It’s because you are pathetic and weak. Not strong enough to even control your own mind.

Continue reading Letter from intrusive thoughts