All hail the capitalist feminist narrative

Lily Guenault 

We all have our own problematic interests, and for many Brits the Royal Family is one of them. Their influence on popular culture is undeniable – hit shows like ‘The Crown’ demonstrate our fascination with one of the most powerful families in the world. In the media, eyes are almost always on the women of this family – Elizabeth, Diana, Kate and, most recently, Meghan have all been hailed as role models for the modern woman and credited with revolutionising the inherently patriarchal institution that is the monarchy. And yet you can’t help but wonder whether the Royal Family, and in fact any system where power or wealth is inherited rather than earned, can ever not be sexist. Can we ever regard these women as feminist icons?

As the longest ever reigning English monarch, Elizabeth II has taken big steps towards gender equality in the structure of the monarchy. She pushed through the 2013 Succession to the Crown Act, which changed the rules of succession to absolute primogeniture – in other words, the eldest child, regardless of gender, is the heir. And she’s not short of the odd funny feminist anecdote, having taken the King of Saudi Arabia for a spin in her Range Rover. Unsurprisingly he was reportedly terrified by the idea of a female driver and the Queen succeeded in making a pointed statement about his country’s misogynistic driving laws.

Meghan Markle, the latest addition to the family, has also made headlines as the first woman of colour to be a member of the Royal Family, and is herself a self-proclaimed feminist. She has broken royal etiquette by expressing her political views on Trump openly and has worked with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women for years, long before any affiliation to blue blood.

But despite all of this, there is no hiding the true nature of the monarchy. Should we really be celebrating or trying to justify the existence of an elitist institution that merely highlights the gaping problem Britain has with wealth inequality? Can we really ignore the way in which the women of the Royal Family are still constantly policed on their clothing and behaviour? Whilst on an individual level these are two remarkably accomplished women, their actions do nothing to dismantle greater issues of institutionalised sexism, racism or classism – they uphold it, and in fact the media uses their identities as women and people of colour to gloss over the greater injustices that lie at the heart of the Crown.

Moving away from Europe, where monarchies are generally male-dominated, there are many societies in other continents whose monarchies or dynasties are based on matrilineal succession, meaning that titles and assets are inherited by the women of the family, often the youngest daughter. One such society is the Khasi people, a tribe indigenous to Meghalaya in north-eastern India. Here, the mother and youngest daughter are predominantly responsible for the livelihood of the family, collecting, preparing and selling produce harvested from the perimeters of the forest areas they live next to. But strangely, the village council in a Khasi village is made up entirely of men – women may have ownership of property, but they have barely any control over it. Any female power comes from an identity as a mother, not an individual and a woman is inescapably tied to the domestic sphere. It seems that even in matriarchal societies, women are not deemed capable of dealing with power outside the realms of motherhood.

When discussing powerful families, it’s important not to ignore those which have amassed extreme wealth over not only the last century or so, but in some cases over the last few decades. We now live in a modern society where inherited wealth is not just found in monarchies, but in the corporate world: the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, and more recently the Kardashians, dominate the major sectors of business, technology and beauty. Can these ‘self-made’ family empires provide feminist role models with their entrepreneurial businesswomen?

The Kardashian-Jenners are one of the most successful family empires brands in the world. They are also headed by a notorious matriarch, Kris Jenner, and those of them in the media spotlight are all women. According to Forbes, Kylie Jenner is the 27th richest self-made woman in the United States and is estimated to be worth around $1 billion thanks to her brand Kylie Cosmetics. Their embracing of their sexuality on social media and their message of empowerment for women with curves have also earned them a reputation as ‘feminist role models’.

However, they have also experienced their fair share of controversy over the years: most recently, Kim Kardashian has been slated for advertising appetite suppressants on social media, and her $2.99 set of International Women’s Day emojis on her app ‘Kimoji’ was criticised as a mere exploitation of feminism for profit – ironic, as she doesn’t call herself a feminist.

Personally, I think the Kardashians are not entirely deserving of the title ‘self-made’: the Kardashian and Jenner sisters were all born into a wealth which they have simply used as a springboard. Kendall Jenner has even admitted herself inadvertently that she didn’t have to work anywhere near as hard as other runway models to become as successful. Kim’s exploitation of her fanbase by perpetuating diet culture through her appetite suppressants and leeching off the hard work of feminist activists by monetising her “feminist” sentiments, makes her a harmful role model for all women, especially young girls. Whilst the Kardashian family claims to represent the ‘modern woman’, they in fact uphold society’s unrealistic standards of beauty for women and perpetuate a consumerist, hierarchical society that profits off the oppression of others.

As individuals, a lot of these women in positions of inherited power and wealth do a lot to assert their independence and to try to affect change that will benefit women. However, this can never take away from the fact that the systems they are a part of, systems which colonised and enslaved millions of people of colour, systems which take from the most vulnerable in society, systems which profit off other women’s insecurities, are only strengthened by their own complicit endorsement of them.

Featured image – Andy Warhol’s “The Reigning Queens”, source:

In conversation with Helen Pankhurst

Bea Carpenter 

Pankhurst is a name many of us associate with the incredible fight for women’s right to vote. 2018 marked the centenary of some women gaining that right.

You are already likely to know the names of Emmeline and her daughters Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst, yet another family member whom we must add to our list is Helen, the grand daughter of Sylvia. An author, she has worked as a human rights activist for many charities, including CARE international where she has led their #March4women for many years, and was awarded a CBE in the 2018 New Years honours list.

Towards the end of 2018 I was lucky enough to chat to Helen about her upbringing and entrance into activism, the fight for suffrage today and the advice she has for the future. We also discussed her new book Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights – Then and Nowthat I can not recommend enough. My conversation left me in awe of the incredible work she has done over the years and I am very grateful to be able to share her wisdom with followers of Girl Talk.

Helen’s childhood was spent in Ethiopia living with her father and his mother Sylvia. When we discussed why she was first moved to enter the world of activism she credited it partly to the exposure to poverty and the clear need for development she saw as a young girl. She particularly noticed the double standards in the attitude towards women, with the contrast between the stereotype of supposed weakness and their active roles such as carrying jugs of water and fuel wood on their backs.

Helen then moved permanently to the UK to study Economics, something she considered to be a middle ground between two of her passions, languages and the sciences. Here she began to develop an interest in working in international development particularly at a grass roots level, which felt more tangible to her rather than distant policy level. To her the disparity in economic and political issues between men and women was apparent as was a lack of campaigning from NGOs, something she wished to further develop. Interestingly, Helen said she didn’t feel her opinion was isolated and despite it being a male dominated sector she was able to find others who understood the need for change. Her work at Womankind was completely focused on women’s issues but her move to WaterAid presented a greater challenge due to the much higher proportion of men working there as a result of the “technical” nature of water. Here she was one of just three women national representatives out of 14 and had to push a little harder to get women’s issues into the forum and to ensure their voices were heard.

It is easy to assume that someone with Helen’s ancestry would have had a ready made path carved for her into the world of activism, but she describes the journey as one that was much more self-motivated. The conversation that filled her childhood home revolved around the work of her father who continued in his mother Sylvia’s footsteps and was passionate about Ethiopian culture. Helen says her mother came from a background that was “not particularly feminist at all” and felt as the first woman being directly related to Sylvia she felt she had to “find her own route” into feminism.

We then got on to the topic of intersectionality, a word I only encountered when I first arrived at Cambridge. Helen put it into a different context for me when she described Sylvia as being “well ahead of the game” and what we would “now call an intersectional feminist”. Her demands were not limited to just votes for privileged, educated women of society, but for all women and for a universal vote. Schisms within the movement developed between those who were willing to compromise and those who were not.

Helen also explained that the Pankhursts became divided over the issue of violence. We tend to look back only on the Suffragettes, the women who were prepared to use violent means to get their way, but many women didn’t agree with these methods. Sylvia, a pacifist with a particular passion for Art, objected to the violent acts particularly the destruction of artwork. Christabel and Emmeline were more relaxed, reasoning their approach by referencing how men used violence in the war to fight for what they believed in and refusing to let there be any double standards.

Helen’s latest book “Deeds not Words” is a reflection of the valiant work of the suffragettes and the impact they had as well as the cultural interest we have in them. It delves into different sectors of women’s lives, comparing the progress that has been made in each of those areas, each chapter ending with a score from 0-5, reflecting this progress. Her reason for this was to force the reader to be “more reflective” as well as providing continuous prompts for reflection and comparison throughout the book. During the tour of her book Helen has asked members of the audience to rate sectors in a similar manner and revealed the differences she has seen between various groups of people. One obvious divide she noticed was between men and women but she also saw disparity across different age groups and professions, this highlights how there is not one “single line of improvement” that suits everyone. The issue Helen considers most important to tackle is violence due to the lack of progress across the board. She believes that women’s experience of violence “affects every other aspect of… [their]…lives” whether it be the workplace or in their own homes. In November 2018 the BBC published shocking statistics that simply prove this point further, new UN data now indicates that on average 137 women are killed by a partner or family member every day, highlighting the disproportionate effect domestic violence has on women.

To end things on a more cheerful note, I wanted to share Helen’s key pieces of advice for the future and how to move forward as a feminist:

The first is “the more you engage with the world the more it engages with you”, emphasizing how important it is to be aware of what’s going on around you.

The second is aimed more towards our generation: “ignore the future at your peril”. It is often so easy to adopt a position of ignorance, blind assurance that ‘everything will be ok in the end’. Frequently this comes from a point of privilege where we are safe enough or perhaps financially secure enough to chose to ignore the awful fates of many women.

Her final piece of advice is to go out and do everything with “fun and purpose”, to find a balance and be aware of past sacrifices, but also to embrace the community feminism establishes and the comfort that comes from collaborating with like-minded people.

My interview with Helen reminded me how important it is as a modern day feminist not to become blindsided by the personal issues you face and to continue to engage and educate yourself in the wider world.

Helen also wanted to stress how crucial it is that feminism does not turn in to a gender battle and how feminism is simply believing in equality for all. We must recognize how far we have come and continue on the long road we have ahead to achieve it.

If you would like to hear more from Helen, she will be speaking at Churchill College as part of their history lecture series on the title “From the Suffragettes to the ‘Snowflakes’ “on 14th January, follow the link below for more details.

Be sure to grab a copy of her book, available at all good bookshops and from amazon, also linked below.

Churchill College Lecture:

Helen’s Book:

Featured image – Helen ( middle) with organisers of recent Women’s festival ‘ Deeds and Words’ that took place in October last year. Source: writer’s own 



Chloe Newbold

Hi, I am Chloe and I am a sucker for apologising.

I am unsure when my tendency to apologise a little too much became an addiction. It is difficult to explain how the word “sorry” moved from a linguistic term to a central component of my identity. Somehow in nineteen years I had come to equate my own existence and the space I occupied as something that needed to be excused or qualified.

As 2018 ended, I decided that it had to mark a turning point in my relationship with apologising. It took until this Michaelmas to realise how it had come to infiltrate my everyday interactions, with most of my time being spent attaching my apologies for causing any “inconveniences” to emails and hedging supervision contributions with the qualification that my participation represented a distraction. I even started to apologise to people who should have been apologising to me; the friend who forgot to pay me back, the boys who made unwarranted sexual comments, to the person who had taken away my right to consent. It snowballed into a compulsive habit; a method of protection against failure, an excuse for existence, an explanation for the incomprehensible.

To clear my head whilst writing this, I pulled out a dictionary from the shelf, which provided me with a simple definition of an apology. It is “a regretful acknowledgement of an offence or failure.” These two last words, offence and failure, both possess a similar characteristic – they are external to the individual to which they refer. I realised that to ‘fail’ or to ‘offend’, I break or fall short of achieving a goal, law, expectation or convention which is utterly separate to me. This includes self-imposed standards too, ones which I internalised from the values and criticisms I can see around me in society- there is nothing more alienating than imposing those upon your own body and abilities.

When I became aware of the interactive element which is tied to the act of apologising, it became a lot easier to realise the consequences that this had for both my relationships with others and myself. Saying “sorry” refers to more than a direct discourse, but represented a deeper communication to myself, those around me and with society itself.

Where does society come into all of this? By apologising for my failure to match up to ideals and expectations set by my wider social environment, I give them greater legitimacy. It can be in the small unconscious apologies for my appearance; showing up to group engagements in sports gear, for forgetting to shave my legs, for the simple fact that my hair was too frizzy in a picture. Each of these scenarios gives weight to an external standard of behaviour to which I conformed each time I apologised for failing to fall in line. Attempting to excuse my appearance is just one way in which I had become an active participant in legitimising expectations that a woman should dress and behave in a certain way. Ironically, I had always considered myself to be in active rebellion against the ideal of the “nice girl” in embracing an individual dress sense and voicing my political opinions. Ironically, by apologising for these acts of rebellion I was endorsing the status quo, making a girl willing to voice her opinions as something that needed to be explained and a divergence from formal expectations.

One of the common consequences of an addiction is its impact on personal relationships. We never really stop to consider the subconscious assumptions underpinning the word “sorry”. Every time that we apologise directly to another individual, we unknowingly and often unfairly attach a series of attitudes and opinions to them. It was hard to discover that over the past year I had been doing this exact thing to some of the people closest to me. During a series of panic attacks this term I felt it necessary to constantly apologise to a close friend both during and after the event merely for seeking her help. What I failed to understand was that, through my incessant repetitions of “sorry” and “are you sure it’s okay”, I was projecting a series of unfair assumptions. Returning to the definition of an apology, it runs deeper than a mere acknowledgement of an objective offence but assumes that the one we apologise to feels “offended”. Every time I asked for her forgiveness, I was subconsciously assuming that a good friend would feel inconvenienced or be unwilling to be there for someone they care about. My addiction had blinded me to the genuine affection and agency involved in providing love and support to a friend in time of need.

The most inaudible message communicated in an apology is ironically the loudest of all. Greater than a mere acknowledgement of offence or failure, this mode of communication tells someone that they are an offence, that they are a failure. Whether it be for speaking during a supervision, my appearance or even reaching out for help, I was consistently devaluing myself. The form of self-criticism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you don’t believe in your opinions and abilities than how are they supposed to succeed? Like many women around me, I find the obstacle of self-doubt an everyday struggle in fully acting on the potential opportunities and experiences that life has to offer.

We are now in the very early days of 2019 and I wish to propose a collection of resolutions, which diverge from the typical variety one sees on their various social media feeds. Rather than striving towards an instantaneous transformation, this list represents a messy experience of learning and reflection as I struggle against my addiction to apologising. In response to the three levels at which this addiction manifests itself (society, relationships and the self), I propose three goals which will start now:

  • Resist all expectations, without explaining myself.
  • Substitute “sorry” for “thank you” in order to acknowledge love and support.
  • To myself: be kind, not critical.


(Featured image source: Tumblr)

New Year, Same Me

Why I’m changing the way I do New Year’s resolutions.

Ciara Dossett

It’s that time of year again. That odd no man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s. A time of lazy reflection on the year gone by. But, being the often self-critical human beings we are, this rarely goes anything like ‘hey, congrats on a fab year, let’s reflect on the things that went really well’. Instead our internal monologue more often resembles ‘we talked about this last year, you promised to be better and we all know you’re not. This year: pull it together’. And from this toxic internal chatter emerges the trusty New Year’s Resolution, or as my younger sister used to call them, New Year’s Revolutions (arguably equally as apt).

I consider myself to be a relatively determined person and yet I have never managed to successfully implement a New Year’s Resolution. Not one single time. Why not? Firstly a year is really quite a long space of time, a whole 365 days if you didn’t know, and sometimes the prospect of keeping something up or going without something for this long seems so daunting a prospect that I don’t even really bother to start. I’m not alone in this: roughly 80% of people apparently give up on their resolution by February. This seems unsurprising as January can be a pretty miserable month and how anyone manages to get through this while going to the gym everyday or without eating chocolate is frankly baffling.

My New Year’s Resolutions have often been too vague. Peaking nervously at the list I made this time last year I wonder how I ever thought I’d achieve any of them at all: exercise more regularly, go on social media less, eat more healthily. The problem with these type of resolutions is that it would be almost impossible to know if you’d achieved them at all and if, like me, you’re quite self-critical you’re more likely to decide that you didn’t reach these lofty heights of self-improvement. If you really want to achieve these things experts (of which, you may have gathered, I am certainly not one) say it’s better to set clear, short term goals so you can measure and celebrate your success.

Mostly, however, I think I never successfully implemented any of these changes because, deep down, I never really wanted to do them at all. Rarely did I choose meaningful resolutions which I really cared about or felt motivated and excited to fulfil. Instead, I often felt guilt-tripped, both by myself and by my surroundings. Instagram is flooded with #newyearnewme type inspo pictures, gym membership adverts appear to pop up like vermin and virtually every publication appears to feature a piece entitled ‘What Resolutions You Should Make in 2019’ (translation: what things you should beat yourself up about not doing this year).

This time of year seems to come packed with pressure to be a better version of yourself, often resulting in an unsustainable approach to change. A lot of resolutions come from the wrong place: a short-term desire to lose weight to look a certain way, a need to appear a certain way in front of certain people or a wish to be someone you know you’re really not. Rather than being a celebration of something or an exciting challenge, resolutions can end up being a form of self-punishment and something we later feel a little guilty about not seeing out.

So this year I have decided to embark on a revolution in resolutions. I started by considering all the things that had gone well in 2018 so my resolutions came from a place of positivity rather than self-flagellation: I may still not be able to speak fluent French but I did fly 3000 miles away from home by myself! I then began thinking about what I actually want to change, rather than what I was being told I needed to change. I have decided to set resolutions which excite me and which I actually want to carry out. These will be verifiable, so I can clearly judge whether or not I succeed. I will set attainable changes which I am more likely to implement.

And here comes the really revolutionary bit: to make it less daunting and more interesting, these resolutions will be for one month only. I will make a new resolution each month, as, like dogs, resolutions are not just for Christmas. Hopefully, these will become habits which last even longer. I will not beat myself up if I don’t always succeed but simply pledge to try my best. So here is my first (hopefully attainable!) resolution for January 2019: I will run at least twice a week, not in pursuit of looking a certain way but as an exciting physical and mental challenge. Let the revolution begin!

(Featured image source:

A time to reflect, part 2

Cambridge Girl Talk committee 

Following on from A time to reflect, this post continues with reflections by the other three committee members.

Alicia, co-events coordinator

This year has been big and busy, full of transitions and lessons and new experiences. Finally throwing myself into extracurriculars has been a major highlight of my year. Finding communities like Girl Talk has made university feel a lot more like home in the last few months of the year than it did in the first. Learning how to build a support network from scratch, and how to work hard without going crazy are two of the biggest lessons I have learnt this year, both of which came from looking outside of the library window and getting involved.

New experiences and new friendships have made this year one of growth and of going outside my comfort zone. Things have shifted and altered many times this last year, as they are bound to do. I’ve never been very good with change, but as I settle into the routine of university life and enter 2019 with a year’s worth of experience behind me I’m beginning to look forward to whatever changes the next year throws at me too.

Blanca, co-director and blog editor

This year was one filled with so much love and new adventures. Love flourished, new friendships solidified, I visited new countries and cultures, and I grew to know and be truer to myself even more after the confusing transition of school – gap year – freshers.

Leaping outside of a comfort zone has always been difficult for me, particularly since acknowledging my anxious tendency. In the past I would be brave in conventional senses, but I would often recline when more rare experiences presented themselves. This is something I still struggle with, and I look at the planning of any moment or period, such as my year abroad, with apprehension, whereupon I beat myself up for this lack of positivity and ingratitude for my privilege. Yet I am trying more than ever to see things with happiness, rather than dread, in their context rather than as an overwhelming collection.

I am trying to apply this to every moment, really wanting to make sure I think ahead less unless it is with excitement. The last term was interesting and amazing, but also difficult with many personal situations that did not let me fully breathe. In the holidays it has been hard to transition away to a state where I could relax completely, allowing myself time without guilt.

As our artist in residence, Anna, said in her reflection – every moment has its own context and should be rooted in it. I want to observe and acknowledge this, whether by creating, recording or simply slowing down and living!

Julia, blog sub-editor

I like to track time with music. I create playlists for all the months and weeks which pass, adding in the songs and pieces of music which I associate with them. Music can become a deeply sentimental thing, when one attaches enough memories and associations to it- when I press play on a particular playlist or song, I can close my eyes and imagine a younger version of myself listening to it, in whichever season or mood I once did.

Spotify only indulges this nostalgia, particularly their 2018 Wrapped playlists. DakhaBrakha’s Baby was on there and I remembered with particular vividness the white blanket of snow which muffled up the world, and how I walked through the rugby fields behind college when the light was fading into blueness and thistles were framed against the darkening sky. H.E.R’s Focus was next and immediately I thought of the transition between winter and summer, and the masses of white flowers all mixed up with one another, growing beside each road and melting into a rush of colour when I cycled past.

Then I found the songs which I would listen to walking down from the Barbican towards the river in the evening, the ones which made me think of the aches in the back of my neck and the UL’s dusty bookcases, the ones which I would listen to whilst looking at the Granta’s lights reflected in the water below, bubbles and currents crumpling up the little glitters of light.

The last one to come on was Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace. That was summer for me, the very hot evenings which I spent on my grandmother’s roof. Below me, there would have been walnut trees pressing their leaves into one another in the heavy atmosphere and I would have been looking out at the glowing horizon, counting the glimmers of trains, listening to their thunder as they crossed from one end of the horizon to another. My 2018 wasn’t governed, of course, by the music I decided to listen to, but to hear the songs which I matched up with my circumstances replayed helped me pick up all of these feelings and images, and pack them up in a box, to replay again once more, when the time was right.

If you would like to be involved in writing, creating, reflecting for Cambridge Girl Talk, please do get in touch with us.

(Featured image designed by Soli Rachwal, source: femmagazine)

Top books of 2018 written by women

Lucy Bell

This is a list of my favourite books written by women from 2018 – those I’ve read this year, rather than those published this year, although most fit into both categories. With starting to study English at Cambridge, my reading for pleasure has probably declined a bit – however this is something I’m now consciously trying to rectify, especially by keeping up with some new releases.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Vox imagines a world in which women have been limited to only 100 words a day – say any more, and they are electrocuted by a counter fitted to their wrists. Reminiscent of both Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and, more recently, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Vox is both brilliant and terrifying. The world it creates feels so incredibly real and a lot of the events and characters hit uncomfortably close to home.

Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill

This collection of poetry, short stories and what could perhaps be described as musings, reimagines classic fairy tales with a feminist retelling. A personal favourite is “Why Tinkerbell Quit Anger Management”. The subtitle of this collection is “and other stories to stir your soul”, and this rings true. At times sad, funny, angry and heart-breaking, Fierce Fairytales keeps the essence of the tales whilst twisting them into something new and exciting.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The perfect cosy winter read as you’re filling that space between Christmas and New Year, or the gap before returning to Cambridge. The characters of this novel (recently adapted into a film starring Lily James) make it what it is, as you are unable to not love them. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set after the end of the Second World War and is made up of a collection of letters between the author Juliet and her publisher and friends as she discovers the fate of Guernsey during its German Occupation. Despite the, at times, upsetting subject matter, this story is heart-warming at its core.

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas

This Young Adult series, which begins with Throne of Glass, remains a guilty pleasure of mine- particularly considering the rushed essay I handed in because I’d spent half my week devouring this final instalment. Maas’ heroine and her supporting cast show a journey throughout the series and it is brilliantly rounded off here.

If We Were Villains by M.L Rio

Perfect for fans of dark academia novels such as The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, If We Were Villains tells of a group of students at an elite college where their drama course revolves around the plays of Shakespeare. In this, their third and final year, they are finally being allowed to tackle tragedy. When their real life becomes startlingly close to the plays they are performing, friendships start to unravel. I loved the dark nature of this narrative, and the many Shakespeare references added to the theme beautifully.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

“”Magic doesn’t require beauty,” she said. “Easy magic is pretty. Great magic asks that you trouble the waters. It requires a disruption, something new.””

This is another collection of fairy tales, this time, set in the universe of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows duology. This collection draws out both the magic and the darkness which make a traditional fairy tale and create something entirely new.


(Featured image by Ada Thilén, source: Biblioklept)

A time to reflect

Cambridge Girl Talk committee

With the new year around the corner and all of its traditional self-renewal expectations, we thought we would sit down individually and jot down a few thoughts on what we have learnt or been thinking about in our personal lives or selves these last few months of 2018. These reflections are not really meant as strict resolutions or agendas, but ideas which could help to clear our pathways.

Here are the first few by three of our committee members.

Anna, artist in residence

There is something I can’t get used to about the rhythm of a year punctuated by sporadic Cambridge terms. The dramatic change in tempo, the moving in and out, the need to create a home in two completely different types of environments. The post-Cambridge term hangover is something I still can’t figure out how to solve. Every time I return home after term I spend a few weeks in a strange state of high anxiety, completely unable to get used to the lack of structure, stimulus and need for self discipline which is so characteristic of Cambridge life.

I think part of the uneasiness of returning to life at home comes from an inability to feel like I can build a coherent picture of what my life in Cambridge actually is. I am completely unable to come up with a summary of my term. I remember general manic busyness, a few highs and lows here and there but the moment I leave Cambridge the whole place and experience feels like its own self-contained and make-belief world. A lack of time to reflect and record during term (I’m terrible at even taking photos) reinforces this disconcerting impression that my life is split into two distinct halves.

My aim for next term is to place the Cambridge world firmly within the context of real life. Cambridge should not feel like its own planet where it is expected that one moulds one’s values and ideas about what constitutes a good life in order to fit with the institution’s. I hope that by spending a little bit more time recording and reflecting during my next term will help to put the Cambridge bubble into the proper perspective of a wider world and therefore reduce the jarring unease of leaving for holidays next term.

Phoebe, co-events coordinator

For all that Christmas and the end of the year is ‘the most magical time of the year’, I’ve always found it a bit melancholy. It’s a time to reflect on memories of the year: the successes, friendships, trips and things gained, but also the things that was lost. To me, this year feels like the fastest a year has ever passed, but last Christmas also feels worlds away.

As I think about the person I was, I am grateful for the wonderful people that I still have in my life – now close in ways I could not have imagined. I am proud, and lucky, to have recovered from things that were dragging me down. My actual degree doesn’t feel like torture any more (most of the time). I’m more confident, more focussed, more self-reliant.

I am also possibly less soft than I was, with less time to spend really caring for the friends whom I love. I am probably a bit more of a pessimist than an optimist, now aware of the limits of what Cambridge is and who I can be within it. I also remember the friendships I’ve lost; some naturally, some due to a lack of effort, some disrupted by various events.

It’s both the good and the bad that form a year, and in a sense it’s healthy to remember a mixture of both. Let’s hope I can be as profound as this in 2019.

Bea, co-director

To reflect on this year I thought I’d share some moments I’m proud of, some rather trivial ones and some moments I wish I could correct. I also want to acknowledge the fantastic people in my life who have made my year enjoyable and the tough bits bearable.

Firstly a couple of glory moments, the obvious one for me being passing First Year Natsci, a horror story in itself. I’m also proud of myself for being braver and taking the time to start conversations with strangers and engaging with them. I’ve tried harder this year to carve out more time for my friends too and to try and be more thoughtful to others.

A few mistakes – one being cycling to 3 miles outside of Cambridge just to buy myself a more exciting potted plant for my Uni room (her name is Titania and she is almost worth it).

I wish I had taken more time to relax, to wind down fully and be present for a few hours simply watching a play or Netflix.

There have of course been a few more substantial mistakes, most of which could have been avoided if I’d taken a few minutes to breathe before speaking, (especially to my family to prevent arguments) something I’m still working on.

The thing I’m most proud of, really, is getting involved in Girl Talk. I’ve already learnt a lot – especially those “soft skills” people always talk about – and its been overall incredibly fun to collaborate with some truly inspirational women and make other women’s voices sound a little bit louder.

Christmas is traditionally a time spent with family and I’m so grateful for mine. They are some of the funniest and most loving people I’ve met and without them I would probably be a mess.

Reflection has reaffirmed my adoration for my friends; home, uni, lifelong and new, they have all filled my year with laughter and I am so grateful for them.

Most of all reflecting on this year has made me excited for the next and everything it has in store.

If you would like to be involved in writing, creating, reflecting for Cambridge Girl Talk, please do get in touch with us.

(Featured image designed by Soli Rachwal, source: femmagazine)