The Girl Talk Christmas Playlist

By Kitty Grady

Hark! Christmastime is here, and Girl Talk’s yuletide celebrations are fully underway with our feminist holiday playlist. From Marika Hackman and Kate Bush to Dusty Springfield and Destiny’s Child, this is festive femininity at its shimmering best. A gift-wrapped present for your ears as you trudge through your final deadlines of the term, with old favourites and new gems to discover, you won’t even notice Michael Bublé’s missing.

The Girl Talk Christmas Mingle will take place from 7.30-11pm on Wednesday 29th November at Novi. Join us for mulled wine, festive cocktails, non-alcoholic alternatives, free mince pies as well as music and singing by the Gonville Girls. See our Facebook event page for more details.

Who’s that girl? In conversation with Tamara Hill-Norton, founder of Sweaty Betty

Tamara Hill-Norton is the founder of the women’s sports brand, Sweaty BettyIt’s the ultimate active-wear brand, battling against Nike, Adidas and Puma. But Sweaty Betty is different: founded in 1998, the focus has always been on women’s activewear, rather than it being a twenty-first century after-thought. Since its launch it has gone from strength to strength, winning countless awards (one for healthiest employees!) and opening shops on both sides of the Atlantic. Here Tamara talks about the empowering effect of exercise, the endorphin-filled day-to-day of a CEO, and why she went for the name Sweaty Betty.

Interview by Xanthe Fuller 

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. First things first: how are you?

I’m really well, thank you!

To start a business is always a courageous move, but a brand exclusively for women’s activewear, that’s bold. What’s the story and how did you get there? 

I started Sweaty Betty in 1998 after spotting a gap in the women’s activewear market. At the time I was working as a buyer for Knickerbox. We started to do a little bit of sportswear, and I discovered some amazing female sportswear brands, which you couldn’t find anything like on the high street. Activewear for women was very bleak and dark at the time, there were just big, male-oriented sportswear stores. So, then, I thought, ‘Right, this is a proper gap in the market.’ After being made redundant. I took the opportunity to evolve the concept to create beautiful clothes for women who live active lifestyles.

How important is it for you that it’s a brand for women? And why? 

Incredibly important, we aim to empower women through fitness and beyond and achieving this is definitely the most rewarding aspect of my job. I love that we help women find their confidence and that we support them in their journey to becoming fitter and stronger.

Continue reading Who’s that girl? In conversation with Tamara Hill-Norton, founder of Sweaty Betty

Swimming Lessons

“He seemed to see, with a cartographer’s eye, that string of swimming pools, that quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the country.” John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer.

Words and Images by Abigail Smith

I love swimming. I love propelling myself to the bottom of a pool, flipping onto my back, and staring up at the world through a glistening lens, the light streaming down through rippling water and reflecting off my too-tight goggles. There is something surreal about being underwater, where everything is quiet except the bubbles.

I can pretty much map out my life through swimming. As a child, I would spend summer holidays leaping into the pool, trying out my most daring dives and splashing unsuspecting holiday-makers. Any holiday we went on was defined by how much I liked the swimming pool. I couldn’t wait for school swimming lessons, and grew even more excited when a friend had a birthday party at a pool, which meant friction burns from plastic slides, and lukewarm chips to be eaten afterwards. In my mind, there was nothing better.

Then, as I entered my teens, I began swimming competitively. I trained 6 times a week, blearily waking up to get to a 6am training session, and trying to think of convincing lies to miss out a particularly tricky set (yes, my goggles are leaking again, why would you doubt me?) Sundays were spent in the hot, damp confines of leisure centres, waiting hours to race just a few lengths (a special shout-out here goes to my Mum for never missing a single race). I would leave either tired and happy with a new personal best, or disappointed and resentful at a bad swim. Either way, swimming still had that same emotional hold over me.

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Jubilee Pool in Cornwall

Continue reading Swimming Lessons

The Subversive Power of Female Silence

By Kitty Grady

From calling out and speaking up to mansplaining and ‘calm down dear’, the dynamics of contemporary sexual politics are increasingly being defined through a schema of silence, speech and being heard.

Whilst historically the voices of women have been silenced or overpowered, with the recent spate of allegations against sexual harassment, today they appear to have reached a deafening crescendo. The #MeToo hashtag has been used tens of millions of times on Facebook and Twitter, harmonising with their counterparts #balancetonporc in French, #YoTambien in Spanish, وأنا_كمان# in Arabic and #quellavoltache in Italian.

With this proliferation of womens’ voices, leaps and bounds have been made against the structural oppression and institutional silencing of women in Hollywood, Westminster and the European Parliament. The literal and metaphorical noise made by so many courageous women jars with the guilty silence of sexual predators such as Weinstein, and the failure of response hashtag movements #IHave or #ItWasMe to properly get going.

In this clatter we are starting to hear every micro-instance of misogyny being called out. Hosting an episode of Have I Got News for You, Jo Brand silences the schoolboy giggles of her male panellists who scoff at women’s accusations against unwanted sexual behaviour: ‘these are hardly high-level crimes’, chortles Ian Hislop. Killing their ‘joke’, an unimpressed Brand calls them out, highlighting the in fact pernicious and grinding effect of such unsolicited treatment.

And long may this continue. Yet within this noise, it is also important to analyse the immense and insidious power women can gain through a pronounced, dignified and unadhering silence. Especially when speaking out doesn’t necessarily mean you are being heard.

Continue reading The Subversive Power of Female Silence

At the End of Week Five: On fireworks and perspective

By Eleanor Pitcher

On bonfire night, as so many others did, I attended the annual fireworks display on Midsummer Common with my friends. It was an excuse to escape the library for a couple of hours, and enjoy one of the first events of winter. I’ve always loved fireworks – completely ignorant to the science behind them, I find them enticing and beautiful. Exploding in countless colours before an entirely black backdrop, they silence the rest of the world for a few minutes. It seems like nothing else really matters, nothing but the enthralling eruption of light and colour before our eyes.

That night, a friend’s comment resonated with me- as vibrant and, often, scary as fireworks might be, they are temporary, and in a few short minutes, the sky will return to a state of clear blackness with no record of their ever being there. It was week five, and I thought this analogy applied ever-too aptly to life at Cambridge.

Since arriving here, the ‘it’s not the be-all and end-all’ philosophy has kept me (mostly) sane and (hopefully) grounded when it comes to work and deadlines. I attempt to keep a level head (attempt being the operative word) and not slave away over pieces of work I don’t enjoy. However, when too many deadlines, duties and dramas all come to a head at once, it can feel like nothing else exists outside of our little stress- and panic-fuelled bubble. Especially mid-term, everything seems to erupt in one go. We know too well that this feeling of helpless dread and worry will fizzle out come week eight, but for now, nothing else matters. Just like fireworks, I suppose.

Continue reading At the End of Week Five: On fireworks and perspective

In conversation with Caitlyn Jenner: ‘I like being on this team’

Interview by Kitty Grady and Alina Khakoo

Awaiting our interview with the world’s most famous trans woman, Olympian, reality TV star and outspoken Republican, we concur that Caitlyn Jenner is a contradictory and divisive figure. When we first catch sight of her at the Cambridge Union Society, wrapped in a Tom Ford bodycon dress and strategically lit by a photographer’s floor lamp, she fuels our cynicism. Perhaps sensing our apprehension, she ushers us into armchairs, pulling our voice recorder towards her before sharing her experience of transitioning. She makes us feel at ease, inspiring an unexpected sense of camaraderie as we collectively nod and high-five. In her own words, Jenner is happy to be ‘on this team’, and on this matter we find it easy to agree.

We’ve read that you consider yourself to be a spokesperson for women’s and LGBT+ rights. How did living sixty-five years under the name of Bruce inform this?

I have lived a very interesting life. Not many people can say they’re a men’s Olympic decathlon champion and Glamour’s Woman of the Year. I’ve seen the world from both sides.

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Jenner winning the gold medal for men’s decathlon at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Photo credit: Instagram @caitlynjenner, http://bit.ly/2hRxaSo.

You have a very unique perspective.

I think women are generally brought up differently to men. They are brought up as the so-called ‘weaker sex’, physically and emotionally, told to be in the background rather than out in front, and I think that’s engrained in them at a very young age. It’s very difficult for them to get away from that. My journey into womanhood was very different, so I see the world very differently. I don’t think women realise the amount of power they should have in all areas of society. I want to encourage them to stand up for themselves.

Continue reading In conversation with Caitlyn Jenner: ‘I like being on this team’

Hidden Gems: Apple Day

Wonderful photography by Juliette Simon and Words by Mini Smith and Xanthe Fuller

Apple day is a mystical day of celebration. Celebration of what, you ask? Not entirely sure, everything about it is a bit enigmatic. However, we have discerned (via the facebook page, and having attended the event), that it’s all about apples (talk about tree of knowledge!) Every October, Murray Edwards hosts this event, and it is such a key date in the Medwards calendar that a friend once even returned from her year abroad to attend. And what does Apple Day mean, you ask? Well it’s a wholesome day, in the most literal sense, filled with copious crumble and custard, and all round good times. It felt like Medwards had just got Pinterest and been inspired to do everything remotely crafty. There were s’mores, there were sparklers, there were crafts, you name it, it was there. All of this apple-y joy with a backdrop of groovy tunes and smiling faces. You may have missed the magical day this year, but don’t fret, you can get your fructose hit next year. But in the meantime, here’s a little taste of what happened this year:

(Shoutout to the Medwards catering staff and gardeners – they have an adorable Instagram @gratefulgardener!)

 

‘Mother Tongues’: A Review

By Mishal Bandukda

In honour of Black History Month, FLY* hosts poet and filmmaker Victoria Adukwei Bulley for a screening of ‘Mother Tongues’; a series of films capturing mother-daughter interactions as poets from the African diaspora have their words translated from English into their native languages by the women who raised them. It features Victoria herself, alongside Theresa Lola, Belinda Zhawi, Tania Nwachukwu – and their mothers. Their words are translated from English into Ga, Yoruba, Igbo and Shona, respectively.

Before showing the films, Victoria explains why the versions of the poems in the mother tongues appear first, before the English recitations, by drawing on her own experiences of language:

“The project was born out of a need to connect with my own language, Ga, spoken by people historically based around Accra, in Ghana. I’ve heard it spoken around me since birth, yet don’t understand it. My parents wanted us to be fluent in English as a priority, to make it easier for us to – well, the nicer term is ‘integrate’, but I think a more realistic term would be – assimilate.”

Victoria expresses her sadness at not understanding Ga and her longing to reconnect with a language which is at once so intimately connected and foreign to her. In each of the short films, the mother’s translation of the poem is presented before the daughter reads her work in English. We experience that same sense that Victoria has described to us, as we hear the now rising, now falling, intonations of a foreign tongue, experiencing language for its sounds rather than its meanings. As the mothers recite, the camera-focus moves from gesturing hands, to smiling lips, pausing over a dangling earring. It’s beautiful to experience.

Continue reading ‘Mother Tongues’: A Review

‘Treat yo self’: on self-care and female/non-binary spaces

By Emma Turner 

I am not sure when I first heard the term ‘self-care’.

Most probably it came from the depths of the internet in my early teens, in mental health positive circles I feel lucky to have stumbled upon now in hindsight, and it was probably with relation to things like doing fun, healthy things to help you feel good in times of stress.

My definition of self-care has since come to be something much broader. In Parks and Recreation, something I merrily binge-watched in Lent Term last year for its quirky, feminist explosion in the form of Leslie Knope, her co-workers Donna and Tom have an annual ‘treat yo self’ day. They save up and then go on a shopping spree once a year (the 11th of October, if you’re interested). This is maybe the most commercialised, capitalist sense of what self-care is: one-off occasions involving extravagant (expensive) activities to make up for any stresses in your life. I’ll admit that being extra kind to yourself is certainly a good practice, but self-care should also encompass the small things, the everyday, necessary tasks which are about looking after yourself on the most basic level. It can be celebrating the wins which are often taken as ‘boring’ yet which can be momentous chores for anyone suffering with mental illness(es), or can even just be improving an overall sense of wellbeing and productivity. It is not just for those who are struggling – it is for everyone, in good times and bad, and its definition varies depending on the situation.

I accept that eating a good breakfast, drinking more water and doing my laundry when I really don’t feel like it isn’t going to make the enormous essay deadline staring at me from the pages of my planner go away, or my cold symptoms magically clear up. Actually, I’m often tempted to think that skipping simple things to give myself more time to write an essay is the best idea, and I can have time for self-care later, another day, when I’m less busy. I’ll do all of that boring stuff tomorrow. I’ll start that hobby I’ve been dreaming of next term. I’ll catch up on sleep some other night…

Continue reading ‘Treat yo self’: on self-care and female/non-binary spaces

Girl Talk Presents: ‘The Man Presents: More Women’

By Leila Sackur and Juliette Simon

Inclusivity is at the heart of the ethos behind the genius The Man Presents: More Women, which has enjoyed a stellar run as the ADC Late Show this week. With a rotating cast of 16 performing on alternate nights, The Man Presents features a divine selection of women in comedy, all delivering character monologues which are stunning in their breadth and detail.

Continue reading Girl Talk Presents: ‘The Man Presents: More Women’

Who’s that girl? In conversation with Stephanie Childress

In an interview with Alina Khakoo, co-founder of Girl Talk, Stephanie Childress talks about her abandoned ice-skating career, being at one with her (bloody old) violin and working out her next move. Stephanie is a third-year music student at John’s and President of the St John’s Music Society. She plays the violin and has a passion for conducting. Having participated in countless concerts and competitions, including BBC’s Young Musician, she plays an active part in the Cambridge music scene. On Friday 27th October, she is conducting Beethoven 9 in St John’s College Chapel.

How old are you?

18.

Are people funny about your age?

Yeah definitely, I think when they first speak to me they don’t really notice. When I first came here I thought no one was going to know, but then somehow people did, and it affects them in different ways. It comes up in conversation a lot, but I don’t have any issues with it. I jumped a class in primary school and then I dropped out of school when I was 15 to do my A-Levels in a year, so that meant that I’ve just ended up being a bit younger than everybody else. I was in a French system, and it’s quite normal to have people jump classes or redo a year there, certainly more common than in England. But ending up here after dropping out was probably what surprised people most.

Continue reading Who’s that girl? In conversation with Stephanie Childress

#MeToo, and the Importance of Highlighting the Victim’s Story

In the first article for this fortnight’s theme Outspoken, Stephanie Moumtzis examines the recent ‘Me Too’ movement. She discusses the need for both a change regarding representations of victimhood and for this virtual conversation to go beyond the confines of the internet.

Over the last week, my newsfeeds have been flooded with the hashtag #MeToo, where primarily (but not exclusively) women have shared their experiences of assault and harassment. Close friends, family, random acquaintances, people with blue ticks on twitter… Some simply sharing those two words, others detailing their experiences. From being groped on public transport to stories of sexual violence, victims were appearing everywhere I looked. Now at least, they were being heard.

Continue reading #MeToo, and the Importance of Highlighting the Victim’s Story

Homecoming

By Jane O’Connor

My journey back over to Cambridge felt like a perfect summary of my process of returning here as a whole. In the first instance, Ryanair seemed to have lost my suitcase, and so I spent an hour in tears, hanging around Stansted Airport, until it mysteriously showed up on a completely different luggage belt, a wee bit scuffed but otherwise none the worse for wear.

From there, I thought – this is okay. This is normal. And so, I proceeded to Stansted train station only to be treated to the announcement that all trains to Cambridge were cancelled for the weekend. Brilliant. With some difficulty, I found the bay for the replacement coach – which wasn’t due for another hour and a half. When I did catch this coach, it took nearly a further hour to arrive in Cambridge – all in all, my journey was delayed by over three hours. It felt like a symbolic final hurdle.

Continue reading Homecoming

Grad Talk: Becca Naylor on a different kind of law

While many interpret working in anything remotely corporate as ‘selling your soul’, Law graduate Becca Naylor shows that there’s more to a traditional Law firm than meets the eye. Having always been passionate about human rights, Becca managed to make it the subject of her everyday professional life as a full-time Pro Bono associate and Reed Smith’s Pro Bono Manager across Europe, The Middle East and Asia. Snatching a moment in an international tour (of the Reed Smith offices), Becca speaks to Cambridge Girl Talk about serendipitous school talks, hockey, and her anything but ordinary professional life.

Interview by Xanthe Fuller

So, what do you do now?

I’m a pro bono lawyer at Reed Smith, I’m responsible for managing our pro bono work across Europe the Middle East and Asia. Pro bono is the free legal advice we provide to charities, non-profits and low income individuals. We work alongside amazing charities to support refugees, prisoners, victims of domestic violence and work on projects to combat human trafficking and female genital mutilation.

Becca Naylor

 

How did you get there?

Nick Yarris came to speak at my school when I was 16, he inspired me to study law. Nick was on death row for over 20 years before he was exonerated. I was shocked by this and other injustices. I started to follow the work of Clive Stafford Smith and Reprieve.

I went on to study law at university, applied for vacation schemes and training contracts and did the LPC in London. In the gap before starting my training contract I  volunteered at Reprieve in their abuses in counter terrorism team, assisting with their work on Guantanamo Bay, drone strikes, and torture and rendition cases. I then started my training contract at Reed Smith and at the first opportunity went on our pro bono secondment to Liberty where I worked in their advice and information team. During my training contract the pro bono role became available and I applied for the job, I then did my training contract and the pro bono role for a year and when I qualified I became a full time pro bono lawyer.

Continue reading Grad Talk: Becca Naylor on a different kind of law

#summerstories: Stress And The City

This summer I made the fatal mistake (yet one I make every year) of thinking the next twelve weeks were going to be some kind of mind-and-body boot camp, thanks to the rose-gold glow of Instagram and its hoard of inflatable flamingo-straddling models, all of whom I forget are paid to bleach their teeth and drink shitty tea. Like every summer to date, I started this one with ambitions of returning for my third year well-read, well-dressed, and with 1% body fat. I would be living in London for two internships, and couldn’t imagine a more glamorous and grown-up setting in which I could finally emerge from my self-constructed cocoon of cake and anti-depressants.

Joking aside, I had also convinced myself that being busy at work, finally taking up some form of exercise, and catching up with old friends would surely subdue the depression which has been largely controlling my life for the past year or two, and which few of my friends know about. My second year at Cambridge was a definite and prolonged rock-bottom; I spent the morning of my 21st birthday crying in bed over last night’s cold noodles, because I hadn’t expected to make it that far. Moving to London was meant to be a fresh start, but even outside of Cambridge I was completely overwhelmed with self-expectation, and having returned to the murmur of Bristolian accents I am much happier away from it all.

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(City Light Employee, City Light Photographic Negatives (Record Series 1204-01), Seattle Municipal Archives)

Continue reading #summerstories: Stress And The City

Grad Talk: To infinity and beyond the bubble with astronaut Jenni Sidey

When it came to deciding on a career, Jenni Sidey took blue-sky thinking to a whole new level. Having completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering at McGill University and later a PhD and Fellowship position at Cambridge University, in July, Sidey was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the latest astronaut to enter the Canadian Space Program after a gruelling, year-long selection process. Here she talks determination, diversity in STEM and a training schedule that includes ethics, exercise and Russian conversation.

Interview by Kitty Grady

So, what do you do now?

I’ve just started a new role as Astronaut in the Canadian Space Agency. Prior to that, I was a lecturer in the Cambridge University Engineering Department and a fellow at St. Catharine’s College. For the next two years, I’ll be learning about the systems of the International Space Station, the Russian language, how to do a space walk, and much more as I prepare to eventually fly in space.

….and how did you get there?

I got here by learning as much as I possibly could in my previous roles, working very hard, and by being fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pursue my passion.

Continue reading Grad Talk: To infinity and beyond the bubble with astronaut Jenni Sidey

Winter Hack: How the Chronically Cold can win at winter

By Aditi Arora

Hey guys,

So let me introduce myself:

1) My name is Aditi
2) I study an MPhil (Masters in Philosophy) in Education, Globalisation and International Development
3) I am often the coldest person in the room

As the Michaelmas term progresses, I’m finding the days get shorter, darker and significantly, colder. It definitely feels like survival of the fittest – dodging sneezing classmates in hope to avoid getting ill, popping (always legal) pills when I am inevitably ill etc.

So in this article I thought I would share my wise wisdom, accumulated from years of trial and error on a chronic quest to unravel the secret ingredients of ‘what keeps one warm?’ during sub 20 degrees temperature?

Here are five of my top tips ‘n’ tricks:

1) LAYERING –
Although this may be the most logical piece of advice it is one that I often overlook. Sometimes I find that I’m so keen to be warm as soon as possible that I end up throwing on the thickest and/or fluffiest jumper I can find. However I soon discovered that this is ineffective, given that I’d heat up walking to lectures, or be sitting in a hot sweaty lecture hall and find myself unable to take my jumper off because I’m not wearing anything underneath #freethenipple. So I’d recommend starting with a vest and/or t-shirt as a base layer before progressing onto a long-sleeved t-shirt before a thin jumper (turtlenecks are the best I find) and potentially then the super fluffy jumper!

N.B. This is the most basic layering model – any stages can be multiplied for additional warmth. Continue reading Winter Hack: How the Chronically Cold can win at winter

#summerstories: On Taking a Hiatus from Purpose

By Mishal Bandukda

This is my summer truth: I’ve been bored, broke and alone for two months. The summer vacation crept up on me and before I knew it, I was about to spend ten weeks at my parent’s new home, in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, with practically no money to speak of. Now, as September approaches and I prepare to move into an attic room in Cambridge and softly weep into a copy of The Canterbury Tales, I feel happier and more like myself than I can ever remember being.

The anticipation of seeing my home friends morphed into disappointment when one by one they told me they had fully-booked summers. There was nothing to distract me from the inevitable spam of people pretending not to hate their lives which Instagram relentlessly seems to regurgitate at this time of year. The initial weeks of my boredom were not only frustrating, but painful, as I was suddenly confronted with the strained family dynamic I had been avoiding all year. Living at home for three months with your parents when your views on every topic known to man are at odds with each other means that the safest mode of conversation is small talk. It killed me to sit through dinner-table discussions about groceries, the weather and the never-ending saga of my extended family. I became so under stimulated that I started reading for my dissertation as a means of diversion – and that is perhaps the most worrying indication of my mental state.

Continue reading #summerstories: On Taking a Hiatus from Purpose