Catalan is a wealthy region in North East Spain. It recently had a ‘referendum’ so that people could vote on whether they want to continue to be part of Spain or set up their own nation set apart from Spanish control. They have a very strong culture including their own language.
The Spanish government called this referendum illegal and ‘a mockery of democracy’ (BBC), because they had not agreed to it and do not want Catalan to separate.
Following this, police were brought in to try and stop the referendum happening, which led to 900 people being injured. Police reportedly used unnecessary force.
Protesters think this is a gross violation of freedom of speech. Whether it was legal, the people only wanted to file a piece of paper… so the police response has shocked the world.
Currently, thousands of people are protesting in Barcelona and throughout Catalonia, against both the refusal of Spanish government to legalize their referendum, but more importantly to condemn the response of the police.
Why did it happen?
Part of the reason people want independence comes down to history. Spain had a dictator called Franco who oppressed and murdered many people. He strongly believed in centralism (one big state) so people now wanting to separate from Spain could be a part of a reaction to this, particularly older people who remember having family members killed.
The issue of independence is highly political in Spain and is very decisive. Barcelona and Real Madrid football matches have become more and more political, with people associating the games directly with the struggle between Catalonia and the Spanish State.
How is the British media responding?
In terms of social media, it hasn’t been too hot on UK trends. This could be partly due to other horrific acts of violence happening at the same time. Such as the mass shooting in Las Vegas where 59 people were killed and hundreds injured by a lone shooter. Of course, if he was brown there would be an uproar from Trump and his men, but he was white so it was a ‘tragedy’ and not an act of ‘terrorism’ from an American news perspective.
The BBC provides more detailed information about the reasons behind the protests, highlighting the 900 people injured by police, including women being dragged out of polling stations by their hair and rubber bullets being used to prevent people voting.
How is the Spanish media responding?
The Spanish news is less prepared to mention the reasons behind the protests, or to engage about the issue of police brutality.
People are reported by RTVE to be shouting ‘este edificio será una biblioteca’ (this building will be a library) outside government buildings in the area, highlighting the passion and intensity of the protesters, and the fact they consider government intervention ‘Spanish interference,’ and see themselves (Catalonia) as a different place.
Highlighting this chant could lead readers to empathize more with the police, as the passion and intensity behind these words suggests that the protesters were a bit of a mob, rather than normal people expressing their desires through an unapproved vote.
As of yet, an apology for the violence being carried out by the police has not been issued by the Spanish government. According to RTVE , the huge protests now being experienced in Barcelona are linked to ‘the way the police acted’ but the mainstream news company does not highlight the number of people injured, or condemn police or government actions in any way.
90% of people who voted in Catalonia wanted independence, but turn out was only 40% because so many polling stations were shut down and roads were closed by the police so it’s hard to say how much this reflects the will of the people.
Protesters continue to occupy the streets in thousands but the Spanish president comes across as uncompromising – blaming the Catalonia decision to hold a ‘false referendum’ rather than police response as the reason for violence.
It’s about time someone told you the REALITY about sti tests! People keep telling you that you should be getting regular checks? Well I’m here to reveal the TRUTH.
The truth is, they are painless.
They are free. They take no more than 20 minutes. Sometimes, you don’t even have to go into a clinic, you can pee is a pot and put it in the post. Nobody shames you or tuts their tongue, nobody is going to stick something huge and painful up your bum, and YES, they are totally worthwhile.
1 in 4 university students will have a sexually transmitted disease before graduating! (Nursing Journal) You don’t need to scream and panic, it will almost always be treatable and leave no lasting damage, but don’t take that risk! The most common sexual infection in young people is chlamydia. Often, it has no symptoms in men, so it can take a long while before people realize they have it. For women too, you could have absolutely no idea you have it for years, but if left untreated it can lead to infertility… WHY TAKE THE RISK?!
You can get STIs even if you use condoms in sex, for example they can be passed through oral sex. I would recommend you getting a check after every new sexual partner. It doesn’t mean you think they’re dirty, it doesn’t mean you’ve been shagging around, it means that the two of you are respectful enough to put each other’s health and wellbeing before 20 slightly embarrassing minutes in a free clinic.
If you sleep with one person, you are essentially sleeping with all of their past sexual partners in terms of infections. And all of the partners of the partners. And all the partners of those… you get it. By sleeping with one person (even with ‘little’ sexual experience) you are putting yourself into a potential ‘infection web’ that could include hundreds or even thousands of people.
Don’t panic, and for goodness sake don’t swear yourself off of sex, I wouldn’t dream of suggesting it. I’m just saying, use a condom for casual one off partners, because they can help protect you from potential infections.
No lying involved, they could be completely unaware that they have a life-changing infection like HIV (in the very worst of cases). Then, you could both get a quick check before deciding to stop using condoms if you would prefer not to use them.
To be honest, your sexual partner will probably be impressed that you’re mature and matter of fact about sex. If not, are they really mature enough to be going anywhere near your genitals?
I have had various problems finding the right contraception.
Condoms are the only type which can protect you from STIs, so you should be using them anyway if you aren’t in a regular sexual relationship with someone.
It really amazes me how some of my friends (particularly male friends) say that they don’t use condoms on a one-night stand.
‘erm WHAT?!’ I said, bewildered as my mate Tom said he had never once used a condom.
‘Well, I don’t sleep with the kind of girls who would have anything’
‘Come again?’ I wrinkled my nose in disbelief.
‘You know, I just wouldn’t sleep with a girl if she didn’t seem clean.’
Holy Christ, he wasn’t joking. He actually had the audacity to believe (and say outload) that he was somehow protected from sexually transmitted infections because he had some kind of internal chlamydia radar. It’s a view that a lot of young people share. We probably don’t really believe it, but we want to have sex with the interruption of a condom so a lot of people comfort themselves by thinking that STIs are for a ‘dirty’ part of society that they don’t belong to.
Well, tell that to the 13% of men and 12% of women under 25 that have chlamydia.( BBC )
Look around in a lecture and about 10 people (or more) have probably got an STI and have absolutely no idea. Please think about that next time you go back home with someone.
I personally have regular STI tests, before I ever have a new sexual partner without using a condom, and it means you can protect both yourself and your partner from potentially life changing complications. Chlamydia is common and symptomless, and can leave women unable to have children. For the sake of 15 mins in a clinic for a free test, there really isn’t an excuse.
Now I’ve got that rant out of my sweet little lungs let’s move on to the main event: the vaginal ring.
What is it?
Well, it’s a small piece of silicon that you place into your vagina once a month. After 3 weeks, you can take it out yourself and chuck it in a bin. You leave one week without it so that you have your period (just like a pill break) and then on day one you pop another one in.
It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t interrupt sex. It’s good for people who have trouble remembering to take the pill and for people who find the pill/implant can affect their emotions.
I became up and down when I had the implant and this is because it releases hormones into your whole blood stream to prevent you becoming pregnant. With the ring, because you place it in the vagina it only releases a tiny amount and the hormones stay in that area, and don’t circulate your whole body. Because of that it has less physiological effects.
The Marina Coil works in the same way but the difference with the ring is you feel absolutely 0 pain and unlike having it administered for 5 years, you change it every month in a jiffy.
I LOVE the ring, but I only heard of it when I did my year abroad in Spain. Here it is the most widely used and women rave about it. It is extremely effective. So why haven’t any of my English friends even heard of it?
Weird no? I don’t know why but I highly recommend you get to your GP and request it because contraception is free for all women in the UK through the NHS.
Any down sides?
Nothing serious but if somebody is touching you in bed (I think that’s the most delicate way to express what I’m trying to say) they can feel the ring with their fingers. However, it doesn’t hurt them they can just tell it’s there. During sex it is barely noticeable, and isn’t in anyway unpleasant.
The second point is that because you can’t feel it at all I forget that it’s there. That’s fine normally but it’s important to make a note of when you need to take it out and put it back in.
Also, make sure you store it in the fridge because it reacts to your body heat and starts releasing hormones when it’s warm. Therefore, you want to keep it cool until you’re ready to put it in.
Freshers is an vital initiation to uni life that will leave you with blurred memories, an empty wallet and a cracker of a hangover.
Mixing with new people, drinking more than ever and eating greasy takeaways will leave your immune system battered and with the classic ‘freshers flu’ that is bloody miserable, especially when you don’t have your family to make a fuss of you.
You’ll hear the phrase ‘watch out for freshers’ 13’ thrown around a lot because over the first few months of uni most freshers gain about 13 pounds (almost a stone). It’s so much more important to get involved and enjoy than obsess about your weight but sudden weight gain can effect your self esteem, energy levels and mental health so it’s worth being aware of.
Here I have put together a few bits of realistic and down to earth advice to help you survive freshers in one, relatively healthy piece:
Might sound obvious, but its so important that you drink plenty of water, especially as alcohol dehydrates you (and so do the hungover cups of tea). Buy a water bottle and keep it with you all the time, in your bag or on your bedside table. I find that way I’m way more likely to drink the 2 litres you should be having a day.
Water helps with concentration, energy, alertness and prevent headaches as well as being helping your body get rid of toxins from alcohol. It makes your skin clearer and softer, and your hair and nails shinier. Really, water is key and it’s FREE.
Before going to bed after a night out try and drink a pint of water. Might seem boring but you will thank me in the morning when you practically don’t have a hangover! Also, if you are feeling a little too sloshed in the club ask for a glass of water and wait 30 mins before your next drink. It is so worth it instead of having to bail out early and miss the rest of the night out when you vomit on the dance floor.
You will probably be drunk for most of freshers. It’s part of uni, and I am certainly not one to judge after my first year! Some tips: for pre-drinks, when you are playing drinking games don’t make your drinks too strong. If you are drinking spirits and you play with a shot of alcohol and the rest mixer, you will still be drunk by the time you go out and enjoy. But trust me, me and many of my friends have got dressed up for pre-drinks, started playing games and then ended up tucked in to bed at 11 with a sick bucket. Take it easy and you will last the night.
Don’t mix!!! Lying on my bedroom floor in second year with only my house mates hamster for company I felt so sick that I genuinely cried (and missed the whole house party). I got so excited it was my birthday that I started with prosecco, had a couple g and ts, accepted some shots from well meaning friends, had a cheeky can of beer in the garden. If you mix alcohol I promise you will feel rubbish. It makes you nauseous and will hurt your tummy, so you can’t actually enjoy yourself. So, choose a drink and stick to it. (Maybe don’t start with prosecco cos you’ll be skint by the end of the night)
Takeaways are expensive and absolutely packed with grease, additives and chemicals that will make you feel bloated, tired and cranky. I promise it’s worth cooking a simple meal in 30 minutes, as you have to wait for just that long for it to arrive. You will save money and you will feel 10 times better.
To save time you can get boil in the bag rice. Boil it for a few minutes then chuck it into a frying pan with frozen peas and sweetcorn, maybe an egg (just crack it in a mix) and you’ve got egg fried rice (a splash of soy sauce will finish it off). Frozen vege won’t go off and you can keep it in the freezer for emergencies, cooking in a few minutes and a life saver for your tum.
I also think smoothies are a god send. You can get a smoothie maker for 20 quid. Then for breaky shove some almond milk (much healthier than cow milk as doesn’t have hormones and contains more nutrients) into the blender with 2 fruits of your choice and some spinach (you cant taste it and it gives you a huge health boost.) If you like you can add a tablespoon of coconut oil and chia seeds or flax seeds. You have breakfast in 5 minutes and you’ve already had 3 of your 5 a day. You can even cut up fruit ready for the smoothie and freeze in portions so it doesn’t go off and it’ll give you an extra refreshing cold drink. My fav fruits for smoothies are berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries).
NB: when you digest white pasta it essentially has the same chemical properties as white sugar. It really doesn’t do anything for you. So, have it a couple times a week if you like but pasta and pesto every day (the classic student diet) will leave you feeling drained and won’t provide any nutrients to help you avoid freshers flu.
I’m not going to tell you not to take drugs. That is your decision. But I just want to give you a couple of words of advice if you are set on taking them.
Firstly, never ever accept drugs from people on a night out that you don’t know, whether you are paying or they offer for free. In the lighter case they are selling you a paracetamol for 10 quid, don’t be a mug. More seriously, that lovely guy or gal could be offering you something more horrible and you could be robbed or worse.
If you are sure you want to take drugs ask a trusted friend if they know of a reliable source. Let a friend know that you are taking drugs that night so they can keep an eye on you and don’t go straight in taking a lot. If you really want to, take a very small amount to see how it affects you before proceeding.
Case study: my house mates in first year made hash brownies. They ate one. Didn’t really feel anything, so that had another. Still nothing! So, one chap ate a third.
When he finally felt the effects he was on the bus and started sweating profusely absolutely certain that there was a terrorist on the bus that wanted to blow them up, and he had to get escorted home and put into bed as he wailed, certain he was under attack. This is an unusual example and weed is usually a chill out drug that actually has various health benefits (it’s not perfect but I would say it’s less harmful than smoking a cigarette) But seriously, take it slow.
If you haven’t done much exercise before I know it can seem intimidating. But if you can push yourself to do a little exercise it is fantastic for your mental health, reducing anxiety and depression (really important if you are going through your first time away from friends and family).
It is also a really good way to meet new people and can be really fun. When I went to uni I wasn’t sporty at ALL. I joined the uni boxing society and ended up training various times a week. I had been so nervous to try it out, sure people would laugh at me but some of my closest friends ended up being boxers, we’d socialise together and I felt my body become stronger that I thought possible! Amazing for self-esteem.
Check out the different sports available with your uni. If not you could join a gym and work out a few times a week. If that’s really not your thing even choosing to walk 30 mins to uni instead of getting the bus could genuinely improve your quality of life so much (and you can save some money on the fare!)
I hope you found this article helpful, good luck with everything!
If you are interested you can check out my article that gives you advice if you are feeling unhappy when you start uni, and what you can do to change things. Check it out here.
‘When You’re Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression’
I first heard that quote a couple of weeks ago and it really spoke to me. You see, I am a person who thinks a lot about women’s rights and I am occasionally met with quite hostile responses by some men.
I write about why we need feminism, the structural nature of violence against women, and I ask why only 12% of women think they are attractive (irish times)(and why we are made to believe our ‘beauty’ should even matter!)
I recently read Solnit’s ‘Men explain things to me’ in which she spoke about the concept (that she coined herself) – mansplaining.
Solnit was telling a gentleman about a book she had recently written and he smirked at her smugly ‘did you know a very important book was written on that exact same subject recently’
Yes. It had. It was her bloody book you patronising moron.
You know what hurts the most? That Solnit hesitated. An educated, experienced woman who had spent years researching for a book and she didn’t immediately realise this trollop would be talking about her book. She thought ‘oh god how did I miss that a similar book has just come out.’
You see us women are very good at doubting ourselves. In Jess Phillips’ fantastic book called ‘One women’s truth about speaking the truth’ she explained that a woman wouldn’t feel qualified enough to apply for a job even if she met more than 90% of the requirements. Men on the other hand characteristically apply for jobs where they don’t even meet 50% of the criteria.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Confidence is key and there’s no shame in being bold. But there is a reason why women are less likely to put themselves forward, and it comes from the structural ‘shushing’ and underestimation that we receive from a minority of our male peers, which hammers in the ideas that we are ‘frauds’ in the work place and don’t feel we have a right to ask for more, or even want it.
‘Mansplaining’ is a big part of this. Lily Rothman of The Atlantic defines it as “explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman”
Mansplaining isn’t the same as being patronising or rude. It is called ‘mansplaining’ because it is specifically gender-related, ‘rooted in a sexist assumption that a man will normally be more knowledgeable than a woman.’
The patronizing manner of mansplaining crushes any further dialogue.
This phenomenon is something that millions upon millions of women can identify with. It is something that women experience daily. We are constantly faced with the decision of biting our tongues to avoid conflict, or to speak up against the routine silencing of women’s knowledge, which is literally going on all the time.
It doesn’t matter about our age, wealth, career, experiences: women get mansplained to all the time. It is about gender and we have experienced it for thousands of years.
Recently, someone commented on one of my blogs, complaining I was tarring all men with an unfair brush and said he experienced ‘womensplaining’ all the time at work. I’m sorry someone has been rude to him, and it really could be linked to gender, but I would argue that the term ‘womensplaining’ is laughable, and insulting to the millions of women going through mansplaining.
A woman can explain things and she can do it patronisingly. A women can be annoying and rude. A woman can be a pain in the arse.
You know what else? A man can be kind. He can be supportive, uplifting and inspirational. The vast majority of men are wonderful people. But the difference is that the small minority of men who do mansplain and underestimate women, are having a huge impact on so many people through their behaviour.
How many women have avoided using their voice because they knew they’d be laughed at and silenced? It chills me to think.
I believe that ‘womansplaining’ is an inappropriate term that goes to console men who don’t like hearing criticism and shoot back a counter word as a protective shield. Ironically, the men who are less able to accept the idea that women are disadvantaged in society, are the exact people that need to understand the reality.
Us women naturally question ourselves and doubt ourselves more than men, because society has taught us to do exactly that. A little boy will be told he’s showing leadership qualities when a little girl acting the same way will be called bossy.
A woman demanding justice in government is more likely to be called hysterical where a man would be called passionate. There is a systematic ‘shushing’ of women’s voices that needs to be addressed. It’s not just about a person being a bit rude, it’s about illegitimating women’s knowledge and structural disempowerment.
According to the Independent, ‘mansplaining’ can lead to men earning more than women and getting more promotions, and that’s something that all reasonable people want to avoid. (Independent)
The gender pay gap continues to thrive and that isn’t ok. This is largely because society has taught men to ‘overestimate their intelligence to a much greater extent than women” (American Psychological Organization)
I’m not blaming modern men, society has developed to silence women over thousands of years and many men are up to fight this just as much as women and LGBT+ people.
I am saying it’s not ok.
High status politicians and business people continue to be majority men, women continue to take on the majority of caring roles at the expense of their career and free time. We need to acknowledge that there is so much progress still to make, and that mansplaining is one of many means used to disempower and undermine women.