We can do it

Sometimes we think how will I be remembered and what for? Will my mistakes not my triumphs be what they sing, or will it be my looks not the kind heart I had that is seen forever? Actress Marilyn Monroe is often thought to be a dumb blonde, but in reality was far from it. This is due to the characters she played on film cementing a false image of her as a person. In modern times we live in a world where celebrities are often defined as something to aspire to be. Like actress Angelina Jolie’s humanitarian work, for which has seen her involved in high level political talks on human rights. Furthermore, as today is International Women’s Day she is one that many admire due to this. Equally, those that love animals may cite the work of Jane Goodall as their heroine, or if like me are also into environmental issues Rachel Carson’s name is one we may add.

Yet what about those people we have forgotten or like Marilyn see them for one aspect of their lives and even that is not the whole story. An example is Hedy Lamarr, who like Marilyn was an actress and seen as a beauty queen, but that does the achievements of this Austrian actress a diservice. She helped to develop a ‘secret communication system’ to combat the Nazis, which included a ‘spread spectrum’ that ultimately would galvanise the digital communication boom and forms the the technical backbone that makes mobile phones, fax machines, and other wireless operations of today possible! She also read and observed fish and birds, leading to the design of airplane wings we see today as realise the design from nature was more effective. Alas like many female inventors little of her work was recognised at the time, but has in recent times thankfully.

What this serves to tell us is that no matter what we achieve in our lifetime it may not be seen as groundbreaking, against the odds we can achieve things but may only be seen or read by a small group of people. Equally, there should be no limits to what we can achieve, dream the impossible dream. There will always be others that hate us as believe we have what they desire, or our lives are easier, which is false and those that know us truly know this too. Some crave fame, as seen as the ultimate achievement, but unprepared for the smoke and mirrors that hide beind this poisonous golden chalice. Being a woman is still an obstacle in many parts of the world as seen as weak or feeble, only suitable for bearing and rearing children (making my inability to have them seem like I’m worth less than a flower). But we should be ourselves, do our best, and believe in ourselves.

Fi S. J. Brown

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A Woman of Planet Earth

Around 49.6% of the world’s population identifies as female, giving a total population of around 3.52 billion, and 101 man for every 100 woman. Despite this near even split there are still places in the world and people that see being female as a second class citizen, and even third class below the oxen that pull the cart. To mark International Women’s Day here are a few thoughts on being a woman on Earth.

One of the greatest skills so many of us take for granted as we read and write posts on Facebook to texts and emails on our phones is the ability to do both read and write. We learn the fundamentals at such an early age that unless we have struggled with either, perhaps due to dyslexia, we think nothing of being able to do so. So why is it that in many parts of the world this is still taboo? To anyone that laughs or scoffs at these people for being backward or stuck in the dark ages take a minute to realise how lucky you are to read, write, vote, drive, own your own home and post freely your thoughts on social media.

I went to an all girls school, which in some areas of the world it is unthinkable such a thing could exist. The grades I achieved gave me a foundation to be very fortunate with my academic studies to achieve a doctorate along with two masters degrees and an undergraduate degree, despite many thinking I would never achieve anything like that in life. I have friends throughout the world that continue to fight to be heard because they were born female and to ensure the next generation have it better than theirs. Fighting against traditions such as child marriage to widow abuse or FGM and breast ironing as can see these are not a way forward, in some countries it is holding them back from achieving improvements in developing as nations.

Women are our friends, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and grandmothers, we matter as much as any human or living creature on this planet. We need to work together not apart to create change be it locally to globally but grassroots is where that change begins…I have seen it with my own eyes through the work of friends in Africa and Asia. We can be the change and light in the world for others.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The song of war

On this the 11th day of the 11th month I think of those that have given their lives physically and mentally in the name of war. Generations old and young lost in rivers of blood that flowed through Flanders Field and continue to this day. It is not only the fallen to think of but those that returned and replay the events in their minds unable to comprehend how and why.

The picture shows many crosses: I wrote one for Mr Glasgow, a childhood neighbour and prisoner in Japan that could not tell me of the horror he saw and heard; I also wrote one for my great uncle George that documented Africa through the lens of his camera with images of sadness and happiness; and finally I wrote one for the innocent bystanders that are nameless but not forgotten that war’s name has taken from their families.

A dreamer and ponderer I may be but I do not want to hear war’s red song, singing it as though it was glorious feels quite wrong. However, I thank those men, women, children and animals the song has called their name, those that returned only to be haunted by it, and those right now live in fear of his song. I hope one day you and I may sing the white song of peace.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Perfect happiness

Does and in what ways appearance and body image – being perfect – is it connected to happiness? A current prevalent assumption is that those who are more perfect will be happier. Many women (and men) judge themselves and others on how much they ‘fit’ the dominant ideal, on how perfect they are, and their sense of self often follows from this. That being perfect connects to being happy is often assumed: ‘if I’m thinner, prettier, sexier s/he’ll love me more’ or ‘if I was ten pounds lighter, I’d be happier with myself and my life would go better’.

The images we are presented with these days from movies, television, magazines and newspapers are real but not real, the people represented in them maybe real but the images are not as have been subject to edits that in some circumstances show someone to be something they are not. Yet even if we know these are not real these are still presented as representations of how a modern woman or man should be. If anyone is not fitting with this view, many often laugh at them in the way some with disabilities were regarded as freaks for a circus in Victorian times, but who are we to act as judge and jury to another we know or don’t for gaining weight but celebrating another losing, when we ourselves are not perfect. This idealisation of being a specific body mass index as in some way it’s a number to show we are within ideals, but it is only a number, like our weight or height, that says nothing about a person’s personality…it really is comparable with shoe size in that respect! By chasing perfection we’re trying to catch a fish with a hole in the net, it is flawed and unrealistic. Looking at a meadow of flowers in spring to the leaves falling from the trees in autumn, all are different shapes and sizes as even within nature nothing is perfect, should that not be telling us something?

We look in a mirror ,sometimes conjuring up images of someone we want to be if only this outer shell was different…if I lost weight, had bigger breasts/muscles, or was a bit taller, I’d be happier…but happier how? Have we actually stopped to think that this shell is just that as it is within that the beauty really is? Some try to say it is “only ugly people say that”, which I think is bollocks, it is only ugly people that say it is about looks only as cannot see beyond the image they see. A person’s beauty shines from within to the outside, but narrow-mindedness and prejudice eats away at this so twists their view of how either gender should look. Happiness is not something we can buy, yet many think by creating a new version of themselves via a surgeon’s knife or buying certain things like “diet” drinks or pills we will be. We’re being brainwashed into believing this image of beauty is the norm and achieving it will bring us happiness, which many wonder why they are failing to find this happiness. Some spend money on “beauty” products but is like adding glitter and stars to a tortoise’s shell, it adds nothing but a bit of colour or a mask to hide the real us from the world.

For the last five years I have been on a journey of not just self-discovery but self love, appreciation, respect and understanding. I thought I truly was ugly compared with my peers and the world around me, being laughed at and mocked. I had thought since I was 18 I was the love child of Frankenstein and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I never resorted to surgery or pills to change it as I could not look in the mirror and I realised I was “stuck” like this for the rest of my life. However, between 2008-2009 I had lost weight to the extent I looked ill, I had people at my work place concerned for my well being, and I knew deep down the key to happiness was not my weight, it certainly had not helped my self confidence in feeling sexier or prettier. With the advent of selfies becoming more and more the norm, I turned the camera on to myself, and asked “is that really what I look like!?” I realise now I am not ugly or unloveable, I am just me, which may not grace the covers of magazines or newspapers, be a famous musician or movie star, but who really wants to be with people constantly judging your every bad hair day and weight gain.

When we make the image of ourselves in our heads it is not what to outside world sees, in fact as I learnt many are just hoping that nobody is laughing at them. Anyone who imposes how another should look be they are magazine or partner deserves a slap on the face, only we truly know what our shells of a body can and cannot do and these are not representations of the people we see about our streets. Furthermore, if someone is slimmer or larger than normal we should not be jealous of the slim one who maybe trying to gain weight just as the larger one maybe trying to lose it. We should not change who we are to fit among the “cool” gang by altering our personality, this also applies to our outer shell. By chasing these ideals we’re trying to throw off our shell like it was a layer of an onion and reveal a new one but humans the layers are inside not outside.. Equally, we’re not robots that are programmed to be one thing, we’re filled with emotions that different things trigger different ones, we’re pieces of art that our behaviour and actions paint the person we are beyond the initial image of our shell. Finally, we are part of the natural world, we are beautiful because of our imperfections not despite them, think of a four leaf clover that is said to be lucky but the majority have only three, its beauty is in its difference and imperfectness.

© Fi S. J. Brown