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imageWhen I was born, I was a little unexpected. For a start, I was a “mistake”. My parents were expecting a boy when suddenly out popped this little girl that looked a bit like Mowgli from The Jungle Book and couldn’t sit still. From the start I was a very independent child, unlike my sister who had to be sat on my mother’s hip at all times, I was running around and causing havoc from the very beginning. I was going to be called Jack until this creature who was very obviously a “Lucy” arrived. It makes me wonder, if I had been born a boy what would have been different – would I still have become a journalist and quit my job to travel the world? Would I still have an unhealthy love for cheese and wine? Or would I be a completely different person? I feel like my entrance into the world helped set the tone for the rest of my life, which so far has taken some pretty unexpected turns. I remember when I first announced to friends that I was coming travelling, some were shocked I was giving everything up and going it alone. Others, who knew me well, were unsurprised. More than one of them actually said they kind of expected something like this from me, that I’d always been a bit of a free spirit even when I was working full time and in a long-term relationship. I guess not much has changed about me since then, I just cast off all the shackles that were keeping me tied to one place so that I could experience total freedom for a while.

Growing up, I was always more of a boy’s-girl than a girl’s-girl, I always had my gang of close girlfriends but would always find myself spending more time with the guys. Back then I struggled with the bitching and “girl talk” that came with one particular gang and it kind of put me off female friendships a bit. I’ve never had any interest in people who want to talk about others negatively – I love the kind of people who want to build each other up and celebrate each other. But then some amazing women came crashing into my life that changed all that – I’m a very lucky girl to have a pretty special group of female friends both at home and on the road and they have completely changed my opinion. My friends at home are these amazing, creative, independent and exciting women who have an opinion on everything and will stand by you until the end. They’re the kind of women who will never make you feel bad about yourself, won’t make you judge other people and won’t make you feel insecure. Instead they bring light into your life, and colour, lots of it. A night with them is well spent whether you’re debating over a glass of wine, setting the world to rights over dinner, or dancing like fools in the club. They’re wild women, they’re passionate and have dreams. They don’t sit around waiting for a guy – they go out and work hard to earn their own money and they make their own dreams come true. They’re fearless and bold, they’re brave and they inspire me.imageWhile nothing will ever replace those incredible creatures that keep cheering for me and supporting me even when I’m the other side of the world, I’ve met some pretty amazing souls since travelling as well. The kind of women who make you feel like you can take on the world and do anything you set your mind to, the ones who will be your cheerleaders, who will be your shoulder to cry on, your tough love when you need it and the kind of women you will be friends with for life. I feel like when you meet people travelling it is so different to making new friends at home, it’s like you see their soul laid bare from the very beginning and people aren’t afraid to dive in the deep end. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve met these beautiful characters who have laid their cards on the table from the first day and by the end of it we’ve been declaring our love for each other. People aren’t afraid to be exposed, if anything they’re more willing to be themselves no matter what. I love that, I love when people are unapologetically themselves. It’s refreshing to meet people who are fearless in expressing their ideas and opinions, who don’t try to fit in with any crowd or way of thinking. They’re free spirits and wild women and they’re everywhere. I saw a quote the other day and it really summed up what I’m trying to say in this post:

There is no competition between wild women. Their spirits are too free to be caught in a tiny space of envy. Instead they dance together and allow the good to flow abundantly amongst each other.

I love this. This is something to be celebrated. Not just among women, but I wanted to use this excuse to focus on the incredible women I have met in my life. We should always make it our business to be as wild and free as the world will allow – to follow our hearts and to dream big. And, even more importantly, we shouldn’t allow envy or jealousy to make us judge the achievements of others. At the end of the day, life is tricky sometimes and we all need a bit of help and support along the way, we should do our best to give this to all the women in our lives because we never know when we’ll need it returned to us. To all those who live their lives meekly and afraid of what others will say – stop. Live loudly and proudly, be excited and passionate and chase what you want out of life. Be one of those women that inspires you, be one of those women that inspires others. Whether your free spirit travels the world, creates something amazing or loves with great abandon – go full throttle on life and you’ll never look back with regret. I’ve spent the last three months living in the outback and it’s made me more grateful than ever before for my tribe: the girls here in town who have got me through, the girls across Australia who have kept cheering me on, and the gang at home who have been a ear when I needed to vent. Every single one of you have kept me inspired, supported and excited about life even after the toughest day at work. Thanks to you, I made it through. So I’ll end on this note, make it your business today to think about the women in your life, the ones who are wild and free and inspire you at every step. Let them know what a big part they play in your life.

Have you got an amazing gang of girlfriends? How have your girls inspired you? 

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To say I didn’t have the greatest time in Cambodia would be an understatement, it was one of the worst countries I have ever travelled to and much of my time there was spent feeling unsafe and really vulnerable. Now I know there are a lot of people out there who will really disagree with this post, and I totally agree that many will have a different experience of Cambodia to mine, but I have to be realistic and honest about my experiences. Despite this, I want you all to know that I would definitely return there in future and that I haven’t completely written off the country. I know that I had a particularly bad run of luck when I was there and everything seemed to go wrong, and I would always advise any traveller to go to a country and make their own mind up. So this post is not about putting you off Cambodia, it is merely about warning of all the horrible things that happened to me and what I would do differently next time to avoid these situations. Now you have to remember that by this point I had travelled throughout Thailand, Laos and Vietnam solo by this point and was pretty experienced and confident about handling things on my own. I was also extremely excited about going to Cambodia and had expected to like it more than any of the other countries I had been to. So how did it all go wrong?

I had read a lot about Cambodia, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the country. Despite travelling across Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, the level of poverty in Cambodia was far more shocking than any other country I have ever travelled to. Even knowing about the history, I hadn’t fully realised how third world it would seem in comparison to other parts of Asia – I expected it to be on a par with Laos but was quite shocked to see the conditions in which many were living there. The level of poverty has a direct impact on the level of crime and it is clear that a lot of Cambodians do see tourists as a way of making money quickly by robbing them. Not all, but there are a large number who see us as a way of making their life easier – but not in the way we are used to in countries like Thailand where tourism is a real industry. The fact that the police are far more corrupt than the average man on the street means it is an even more dangerous place for a tourist because the police also see us as a way of making money and will often target us. I know countless people who have been robbed in Cambodia, and even worse, I know so many people who have been messed around by police who are often in on the robbery and are making money off it. Motorbikes are a big one for this, I’ve heard of several cases where bikes were stolen after tourists hired them, then police refused to help and the bikes mysteriously turned up back at the original owners’.imageArriving in low season (May), just after Songkran meant the country was empty of tourists and this played a huge part in why my experience was less than I’d hoped. There’s safety in numbers and numbers were seriously lacking anywhere I went – this also made it difficult to find travel buddies as most were travelling from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh instead of the other way around. It meant that as a woman travelling alone, I was much more of a target and I certainly felt a lot more conspicuous when walking the streets. There were several times when I would walk a down the street and have to fend off the uncomfortable approaches of grubby tuk tuk drivers and strange, often drugged up, men who would try to follow me down the street. Some were aggressive with no provocation and others just didn’t seem to understand the word no. Their way of trying to encourage you to use their services was to hassle you non-stop, and not in the friendly way of the Thai’s or Vietnamese, it was intimidating. Areas like Sihounoukville and Phnom Penh were particularly bad, but in Siem Reap it was completely different and I actually felt safe for the first time in weeks. I think if I had started my time in Cambodia up in Siem Reap, I would have felt very differently, but starting at the other end really coloured my view of the country.

So what actually happened to me in Cambodia? Why am I making such a point of writing a post like this? Well it all started when I was robbed. I’d just arrived in Sihounoukville and the first person I met was my taxi driver who managed to steal $50 off me – trust me, I’m never careless with my bags and he managed to still get into them without me noticing until he had the money. I caught him at it and shouted at him, so he decided to get aggressive with me. Big mistake as I punched him to the ground and ran off – probably not the wisest move but it was instinct and it got me away from a bad situation fast. Luckily it was only $50 – it could have been a lot worse as my passport and iPad were with my money. So I arrived on a bad note, then a friend of mine was nearly raped in the back of a tuk tuk and had to jump out while it was moving to get away from some creep who jumped in the back as it drove down the road near Otres Beach. Then there was the awful bus crash I nearly died in after a lorry ran my minibus off the road and we crashed into a ditch – I would have gone through the windscreen if it weren’t for the driver grabbing me as I was thrown forward. The crash was horrible and the lorry didn’t even stop, but it was dealing with the police, ambulance and bus company after that was the worst part. The police had no idea what to do and were more concerned about me being British than the Cambodian girl with a broken hip. The ambulance staff were embarrassingly uneducated on how to treat the injured, it was scary how little they knew of basic first aid and hygiene – to the point I refused to go to hospital. The bus company knew nothing of the crash and told me I couldn’t go any further than Phnom Penh without my ticket – which was in the ditch next to the crashed bus – until I really kicked up a fuss. These are just some of the worst examples, but it was enough to make me pretty miserable during my time in the country. imageNow it may not have been the best experience of my life, but I always try to take something good away from every experience and I learnt a lot from my time in Cambodia. So what are my top tips for travelling Cambodia?

  1. Think very seriously about travelling there solo as a woman – whatever the websites and guide books say, it is a very different experience to travelling solo as a woman in Thailand or Vietnam or even Laos. I personally would never travel there alone again, and the vast majority of people I know who have loved Cambodia have either traveled in groups or solo as a man.
  2. Plan ahead with your personal safety – don’t travel if you will be arriving late at night because you will be a victim of tuk tuk drivers and those loitering in the streets. Think about learning some basic self-defence moves in case anything happens because I was really glad I felt able to defend myself when that taxi driver started at me.
  3. Realise when planning your movements that Cambodian tourist travel is pretty unreliable and slow compared to other parts of Asia. Also realise that whether you go for the most expensive and comfortable or the least, you are equally at risk of accidents. They drive like crazy out here and seem to have no real concept of death or injury – if I were to return I would probably skip the buses and just fly from one end to another.
  4. Remember that you are a woman. It’s sad to say that this should even be an issue in today’s world, but when visiting other countries it is important to remember that your gender does play a part in how you are viewed. I’m not saying it is right, but you are at greater risk of harm in some places because men will see you as easy pray for rape or robbery because you are less likely, in their minds, to be able to defend yourself.
  5. Play the numbers game. Do your research and plan your trip carefully. Realise that events like Songkran could affect the numbers elsewhere in Asia as everyone flocks to Thailand and Laos. I knew that there would be less people, but never expected Cambodia to be as empty as it was but I think it had a huge impact on my time there. If I returned it would be in the middle of high season.imageNow throughout all of this I want you to remember that although I had a bit of a rubbish time in Cambodia, it doesn’t mean that you will. It is such an important country to visit in so many ways – the history is heartbreaking and horrifying but it is something we all need to know about. The people can be incredibly kind and welcoming – but sadly I only saw this in my final days there. Don’t be put off by my experiences, just learn from them and don’t let the same happen to you. There is so much to be gained from seeing this country, and you will be helping the people to rebuild their country by creating a tourist industry and giving them a future. I will have several other happier posts coming up on the parts of Cambodia I did like and the better memories I hold of the country.

Tell me about your experiences of Cambodia – did you love it or hate it? Why? What advice would you give to travellers passing through? 

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image Okay so you remember that time I wrote about smear tests? This is going to be a little bit like that… Probably one for the girls and a bit much for the boys to cope with – just warning you now. So Dad, if you’re reading this, you can give this post a miss. Periods. Pretty bloody inconvenient aren’t they? It was never something me really thought about before coming away, but I certainly wish I had now so I could have been more prepared. This is something no one warned me about and something I had never read about, but I know I’m not the only female traveller to be caught out unexpectedly. I’ve met several women on the road who have been only too quick to tell me about the horrors they have faced using Thai toilets when they just want a nice clean toilet with loo roll on hand. When you’re packing to come away, it’s just not something that really crosses your mind because as Westerners, we are so used to having sanitary products on sale in every shop with clean dashing toilets everywhere, and those super hygienic disposal buns for anything that won’t flush. But what happens when it’s not all so convenient?

Surfing the crimson wave, or riding the cotton pony, never seems to come at a good time and it’s far more annoying when you’re going on holiday and you just want to be looking fabulous in a bikini instead of bloated and like a beached whale with spots the size of maltesers. Painting a beautiful picture here aren’t I? To be honest, I’ve never been one of those girls who has been that bothered by periods, they’re an inconvenience but I just get on with it. If I know I’m going away on holiday or something, I will use my contraceptive pill to control when I have a period, so I can time it for a week later or even a month later. Good old microgynon! But what happens when you’re going travelling for a year? Well it’s one thing to run two packs of pills together, but a years worth isn’t quite so good for you I’d imagine, so how do you cope with having a period in Thailand and what do you need to know?

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  1. First of all, it is important for you to realise the toilet situation is pretty different in Thailand. After travelling through the south I have only been exposed to the best toilets so far, but have heard some of those in the north are a lot less desirable. Down south, most of them have flushes, but I have seen a few that require a couple of buckets of water instead.

  2. Toilet tissue has to go in the bin (in most places) and so do all tampons and sanitary products – that means when you change your tampon, it is left wrapped in a bit of tissue in the bin. Seems pretty gross to a westerner, but it’s either that or the whole bathroom with be flooded with whatever else is down there!

  3. Go prepared. Much of Thailand doesn’t sell a fantastic selection of sanitary products, so don’t walk into a 7/11 and expect to find all your favourite brands. You will want to make sure you have a good supply of tampons in particular as I haven’t actually seen them on sale anywhere yet – Thai women apparently use sanitary towels instead as tampons are considered unclean. Pack as many as you can! I met some girls who were having them posted out to them from mum.

  4. The sanitary towels are nothing compared to the slim fit ones at home – while slim, they often seem to come with huge wings. Not quite as discreet and comfortable as the ones from back home, but they do the job when you’re desperate and run out of supplies. Just be sure to stock up when you see them on sale as you often won’t find them in shops in some more remote places. I think some of the Thai women must be shoving a rolled up newspaper up there instead!

  5. Things like wet wipes and anti bacterial gel are really helpful when you want to make sure you have clean hands and a clean body in slightly less clean places. As a backpacker, you quickly lower your standards of cleanliness to fit with the place around you, and when you add in limited clothes and underwear in your bag, sometimes you just want to feel fresh – these can make all the difference.

  6. If you have quite heavy periods, it might be worth seeing your doctor before you go and seeing if they can put you on a contraceptive pill that will help to lighten them and to make you more comfortable when travelling – but this is totally a matter of personal choice. I’ve met girls who have the injection, the implant, the coil and a range of other methods for dealing with periods while on the road.

  7. Don’t let it scare or stop you! Having a period in Thailand is really not that bad and it is certainly no excuse to lock yourself in a dark room and cry. It doesn’t have to stop you from doing anything, I still hiked, swam, sunbathed and explored plenty of places and it didn’t stop me enjoying myself. Just make sure you don’t push yourself too hard, if you have bad period pains then give yourself some painkillers and take care of yourself. It’s okay to have a lazy day when you’re feeling rubbish, or to head to the city when you’re too bloated to feel comfortable in a bikini. That’s the beauty of backpacking, it’s so flexible and will fit around how you feel.

Okay that’s all my period advice for today – girls I hope it helped you. Guys, well done if you made it to the end of this post.

If anyone has any questions, I’m always at the end of a comment, so leave one below and I’ll always get back to you. Or why not share your period horror stories from your travels? 

Ab Lucy sign off

10151806_10151984321267617_7647881145046258044_nBy now you guys will all know how much I love my girls, whether they’re the ones that live on my doorstep, halfway across the country, or even thousands of miles across the world. They mean the world to me and I love the fact that I have managed to find so many amazing women who all share the same attitude as me to life. Even more so, I love that they have been with me through the very worst and the very best of times, have seen me in a complete state and at the top of my game, and love me no matter what. Men may mock girl friendships – and yes, some are a complete sham – but I reckon we girls have one up on you guys when we do things right.

You will, of course, get those friendship groups who chat shit about each other behind each other’s backs, steal each other’s boyfriends and generally make each other feel bad about themselves. Just like you do in some male friendship groups… But when we women club together, we have something you guys don’t – and that is a closeness that can’t compare to guy friendships I have seen. These girls are more than “just friends”, they are my sisters and my family – the ones I have chosen to share my deepest, darkest secrets with and the ones who will pick me up in the middle of the night when it all comes crashing down. As they say, your friends are the family you choose – and my friends are firmly an extension of my family.10155561_10152012406232617_3339493121334675269_nA few particularly good girl dates recently have inspired this post because they really got me thinking about what makes my friendships special – then I realised, they aren’t special at all to anyone other than me. Women up and down the country share equally incredible friendships with their girls – and while mine are completely unique and special to me, the general principals are exactly the same. For most of my life I have been more of a boy’s girl, but amazingly I have found myself at this point of my life with more girlfriends than ever before, and I have to say, my tastes have definitely changed. I love being surrounded by girl power, loud voices, fierce personalities and loving support. It makes me feel stronger as an individual, and forever grateful that every single day I know I have a tribe of equally strong women fighting my corner and cheering me on.

What do I love about my girls?

  1. They always involve wine, food, cocktails and a lot of chat – and any time can be wine o’clock.
  2. Half an hour and a bottle of wine is all we need to set the world to rights and solve everyone’s problems – okay we’re starting to sound like we have a drinking problem.
  3. We can happily go from having a quiet night in with a takeaway and X Factor, to having a candlelit dinner by the river, to raving until dawn at a festival. We’re just so versatile.
  4. Talking about EVERYTHING. With your girls, no conversation is off limits and it is important to girls to talk about every detail – you just don’t get that with guys. Plus boy problems always seem so much simpler when talked about with a girlfriend – but most guys I know don’t really talk about girl problems with their mates.
  5. We are loud. Boys think they can out-do us, or out-loud us, but get a group of girls together and tell them to have a catch-up and things get really LOUD. But my girls never judge me for being loud.
  6. Opinions are in full force and you can really have a heated debate about something you are really passionate about, then five minutes later we are talking about cake or lipstick.
  7. There is always someone on make-up or hair watch for you, guys don’t notice when your lipstick is smeared or you have fluff in your hair but a girl will always pick up on these things.
  8. On nights out, guys kind of dance awkwardly or barrel around drunk – girls will stand round in a group and dance their little hearts out. No matter how stupid the moves – in fact the sillier the better – you will dance in high heels until you can’t any more.
  9. A friend can always solve your problem for you by putting things in perspective, or just telling you a funny story. They always know someone who has been through the same thing.
  10. Snuggles with your girls are the best, whether its spooning each other at a sleepover or just a hug when you’ve had a tough day. Your girls always know when you need a hug and things are a bit much – guys just don’t seem to get that same comfort.

1555534_10153670109485084_46650904_nDon’t worry, I’m not shooting down guy friendships as I have plenty of my own. I’m just saying that girl friendships can sometimes get a bad rap thanks to those who don’t understand the concept of true friendship. But the point is that actually we really have something going for us and girl friendships, in my experience, seem to reach a level that guys should be jealous of and that we should be proud of as women. If you ask me, some women need to realise that supporting each other and cheering each other on is far more admirable than tearing each other down and casting judgement.

What do you love about your girls?

Ab Lucy sign off

PS. Don’t forget to vote for me in the UK Blog Awards travel and lifestyle categories!! Click here and here to cast your votes xx

jphugs_blueI stumbled across something wonderful last week and it made me feel so happy to read about that I just had to share it with you guys. The Jubilee Project is a team of volunteers who work together to create short films and documentaries in their spare time to increase awareness and inspire action. Their vision is to produce entertaining content that will empower, enable, and inspire others to do good as well. Three guys started the project following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, when they started busking with hopes of raising $100 for the relief efforts. They fell short so made a video about it, they ended up raising over $700. Now they continue to create meaningful videos that will affect audiences and make them think about wider issues, with the mantra #DoingGoodIsContagious. So their latest video – which you’ll find below – is what I wanted to share with you.

It shows the incredible difference between adults and children – culture and society. With 50 adults and children asked the same question – If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be? And without a moment’s hesitation, all of the adults launch straight into things they don’t like and parts they wanted to change. The children? They seem stumped at first, unable to think of anything to change. But then they launch into superhuman additions they would like to have – mermaid tails (yes please!) and cheetah’s legs – because they don’t think there is anything wrong with the body they were given. So innocent and pure, they minds are yet unchanged by society and the horrible body shaming and expectations that are thrust upon us over time. Is this not yet more proof that no-one is born hating their body – we are the ones teaching them to?

I know I’ve written before about body confidence (here and here), but I haven’t yet focused on the problem of body shaming in society. The fact that you can be as confident as you like, but advertising and media and even just people on the street are often waiting to tear you back down again. It’s so sad to see how the views of these youngsters will change over time as they become more affected by the views of those around them, which in turn have been placed on them by advertising campaigns like the Victoria’s Secret one, or even music like the Meghan Trainor song. You can take either of these are you want – and to be honest, the song doesn’t really bother me a huge amount as I think it’s garbage anyway, but the underwear campaign is a different story. I don’t really understand why anyone would have let that campaign be released in the first place when it gives such a clear message that anything other than a Victoria’s Secret model is not perfect. What planet are these people on? Do they really think that 99.99999999% of the world’s population are the exception instead of the rule?bodyHearing all of the adults listing several things they would change and clearly feeling very uncomfortable about parts of their bodies was really sad. To think you have these amazing individuals who have had lives, friendships, have loved and had children – and yet they are still unhappy with the way that they look. It really warmed my heart to hear one of the young girls saying she actually really liked her body and wouldn’t want to change a thing – I wanted to scream at the screen and say DON’T CHANGE! Don’t listen to the media, ignore those billboards and stay happy as you are. She was one of the slightly older ones and you can tell it won’t be long until she too is affected by both and becomes insecure about her appearance. The clock is ticking. But then that final clip of the video makes all the difference – the oldest lady in the video says that she is happy with her body, her grey hair and her wrinkles because without those she wouldn’t be her. That woman is an inspiration and someone we should all take note of – I know I would much rather be like her than any of the other adults in the video.

It makes me feel quite sad that the majority of people will go through their lives without feeling truly happy with their appearance, despite it making up such a tiny amount of who they are. Why do we have to spend the majority of our lives – from being a child to entering our golden years feeling insecure? We’ve all got bits and piece that work, legs that get us from A to B, noses that can smell and tongues that can taste… So why, when we have all this on our side, do we have to go full circle before feeling confident again? Well as far as I’m concerned – we don’t. We all make our own decision to be happy or to be sad. We choose whether to let the haters bother us, whether to listen to those around us. Whether to feel fat on the beach in a bikini. So it’s time we all stopped listening to everything around us and start listening to that voice inside that says “You’re fabulous”. It’s easy to miss because it often gets squashed down by the one that says “You look gross” or “You’re fat” – but is far more important to pay attention to. I’m not saying it’s the easiest thing in the world, but changing your mindset is the first step to feeling content. The best way to change your mindset? Stop jumping straight to telling yourself about those ugly, fat or wobbly bits when you look in the mirror, make it your business to compliment the bits you like first. Three nice things for every one complaint and you’ll soon start thinking and feeling differently.girls1

What part of your body do you love the most and why? How do you feel after watching this video?

Ab Lucy sign off

rulesoffeminismI was too busy to write this post last week, but it’s been playing on my mind ever since and I’ve now actually delayed another post to share this with you guys today. Those of you who don’t follow many blogs might not be aware of the scathing column written by Independent journalist, Chloe Hamilton, about the nation’s number one blogger and vlogger, Zoella. This attack came completely out of the blue, and interestingly at a time when Zoe Sugg is at the top of her game, winning awards, becoming a charity patron, launching a beauty range and more. Perhaps more to do with attracting attention than actually making a valid comment? Zoe has the amazing success most bloggers dream of and aspire to. She is a beautiful young girl, both inside and out, who vlogs to share her experiences and struggles with anxiety with others, creating a support network for teen girls across the world. Pretty amazing for a 24-year-old! With over six million subscribers on her YouTube channel, she must be doing something right and is nothing short of an inspiration to a lot of us.

I’m sure you can already tell I disagree with the column, but my concern is not so much the viewpoint of the writer, but the fact that she felt the need to be so nasty while making her point. Chloe is welcome to feel that Zoella reinforces certain stereotypes and perhaps doesn’t represent the “typical” view of feminism – but where is the need to describe her as “the latest creation spat out by the YouTube machine” or slate her “brand of sickly sweet girl power”? And what is the “typical” view of feminism anyway? There are so many stereotyped ideas of a “typical feminist” that I wonder how anyone could say what a feminist looks, speaks and acts like. This column is pure nastiness and really just embarrasses both the Independent and the “journalist” behind it, who quite frankly both appear to have published the piece to stir up reaction and page views. Well I’m sure it has worked, considering the reaction from countless bloggers and vloggers across Facebook and Twitter, and I hate to give the article the time of day because I know it just gives the writer what she wants. But I’m more concerned with the greater cost to “feminism”.feminismToo many already consider feminism a joke – a way to justify beating down men at every opportunity, to not conform to society expectations, to just kick up a fuss at every given opportunity – I’ve seen and heard these views given several times over the years. They don’t understand that in its purest form feminism means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. The reason they don’t understand this? Well, because feminism has become a bit of a fashion statement, I’m not saying everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but all too often I am seeing women using feminism as an excuse for their behaviour, when actually there is no excuse. I’m not talking about those who are campaigning, who stand up for those who are mistreated because of their gender – those who are underpaid, treated with no respect, or even abused simply because they are women. These are the good feminists, the true feminists who are paving the way for women. They are the inspiration to us all to follow their lead and do the same, to stand up and say something when we see real-life sexism and inequality.

I’m talking about those who are using “feminism” as an excuse to slate successful women and who use their own medium, whether blogging, writing, vlogging, “journalism”, social media or something else, in an attempt to bring them down or leech off their fame. I’ve seen a few examples of this recently, a couple over Twitter that were indirectly attacking a woman seemingly out of jealousy because she was successful and yet they felt the need to attack her looks and the way she dressed, and the way she wrote. How sad. No matter how indirectly you dress it up, we all know who you’re talking about, and honey, it doesn’t make them look bad – that’s all on you.pat-robertsons-quotes-4This latest attack by Chloe Hamilton is far worse because it targets not only Zoe’s success – which has caused her to become an inspiration for millions of teen girls. But it also launches an assault on how she has made her living – I just struggle to understand how a young woman who has found a hobby that she loves and turned it into a huge career through hard work can be seen as anything less than inspirational. Although many may not realise it, blogging is hard work – it takes up a huge portion of your life and is a massive commitment. You spend hours each week writing posts, videoing them, shooting pictures, brainstorming ideas. We do it because we love it, but as a professional journalist, an editor and a blogger, I can say I spend a lot of time perfecting my posts and I know others are the same. So the fact that Zoe has dedicated so much of her time to creating a brand, to promoting it, to working with her viewers and communicating with them is no mean feat. And the fact that for a long time she wouldn’t have been getting paid for any of it – just shows what a hard worker she is.

My next question is why does Chloe Hamilton hate Zoe so much for enjoying make-up, for trying out hairstyles and for liking getting dressed up? Since when has any of this stuff meant you are any less of a feminist? I love make-up, fashion, getting my hair done and styling it, not because it makes me pretty for men to look at, but because I enjoy the process of treating myself. But I also love equality, I love that my gender does not prevent me from getting an education, that it doesn’t have to hold me back from certain career paths and I hate that there are women out there who are preyed on because of their gender, who are raped and attacked and persecuted. Isn’t that the essence of feminism? Not what lipstick I’ve put on today. Or the fact that we choose to wear lipstick at all.

femChloe needs to try watching Zoella’s videos about her anxiety and feeling confident in your own skin, she represents and covers all these important issues alongside beauty and hair – that doesn’t mean she is going back on what she has said. Instead she gives us the boost we need and represents the girl-next-door, showing that everyone struggles with confidence and fears, but that it’s okay and that we don’t have to worry. She then gives girls the techniques and the tips so they can do make-up and hair well if they need it to boost their confidence or make them feel better individually, not for men.

Perhaps Chloe needs to spend a day in a high school to understand that the majority of teen girls want to learn about make-up and hair, they want to feel pretty and confident. I was a real bookworm at school and loved spending time with my friends, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to get dressed up as well. Zoella isn’t playing on insecurities of youths, she is talking about her passions and her loves and they are obviously shared by girls across the world or she wouldn’t have such an enormous following.sisterTaking a quick look at the bigger picture here, something that Chloe seems to have missed. When Zoe is encouraging teen girls to enjoy innocent hair and make-up tutorials, or videos about anxiety and coping with it – shouldn’t we be grateful that all these millions are tuning into her videos? All that time they spend watching them is another few minutes they are not watching and idolising “celebrities” like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and the rest of the women who feel the need to take their clothes off or dance provocatively while aiming their music at teen audiences. Zoe Sugg is making a credible difference to young audiences already because she respects herself, she is a successful woman who has forged a career in an industry that is only just beginning and she is a real girl, who doesn’t have a team of make-up artists and retouching equipment that makes her seem perfect. She isn’t afraid of her imperfections, she just finds ways to live with them and be happy with them.

Sorry this has ended up being such a long post, but I think it is something that really needs to be said. Women need to stop attacking each other and instead look at the real problems. Green is a terrible colour on some people and jealousy is a nasty emotion. Isn’t it time we all started building each other up and being proud of our success stories? I’m happy and lucky to have a fantastic group of women as my friends, all strong feminists with big personalities who support and encourage each other to the bitter end. And the blogging community has been such a warm and welcoming place full of words of encouragement, congratulations at every small success and generally a huge amount of support at every stage of the game. We all believe in equality and women’s rights, otherwise we wouldn’t be voicing our opinions on the internet, creating these little spaces for our voices to be heard. THAT belief, THAT support and THAT passion is what we are proud of and what we love about blogging. That is what we should focus on and that is the future.

What did you think of the Independent column? What do you think about the Mean Girls who are calling themselves feminists?

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