Scenario’s The Wait Episode

Just a quick post to announce that Scenario’s The Wait episode is now live.

Scenario is a photography podcast bringing you hidden stories from behind the camera. Told as a narrative, Scenario follows photographers as they make their work and their projects come to life. You can find it wherever you get your podcasts!

Scenario’s brand new episode THE WAIT follows Jocelyn Allen, who has been making self-portraits for over 10 years, as she documents her pregnancy and becoming a mother for the first time during a global pandemic.

I spoke with Jess at the start of England’s first lockdown (March 2020) and then a few months ago (April 2021). We talked photography projects, hypnobirthing, birthing, dancing, hashtags and more, which has been packed into a ~30 minute episode.

Click here for links to Spotify, iTunes and Acast (or listen below on Spotify).

Thanks for reading! If you’re enjoying my blog (and/or the work I make) please consider supporting me by ‘buying me a coffee’ on Ko-fi – thanks!


Musings On Recent Events

The kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard has started a lot of conversations since the news broke of a police officer’s arrest.

These conversations have been triggering for a lot of women I know, and myself too. I’ve been replaying different events in my life over and over again; two nights ago I barely slept thinking about it all.

I keep starting and stopping this, but I feel like I need to comment on a few of the things that I’ve been thinking about.

(This post discusses awkward situations, sexual harassment, and general musings about what I’ve thought about lately.)

I’ve been thinking about high school when all the girls would be asked what underwear we were wearing by our male peers. When they were going round asking everyone I usually just tried to dodge the question as I didn’t want to reveal my ‘granny pants’ nor did I want to lie, as I was just not nor have I ever been interested in g-strings.

Also in high school, so many guys would just comment on the state of my chest. Some guys were my age and some were older. It was exhausting and I’ve been making work that has been helping me to rebuild my confidence since 2010ish.

Went to the cross and a man implied ___ was fat and that I was ugly. He said I should have my hair cut + down, wear a dress + make up.
He said I must be the moose of the skule + that I'm posh + that I play the violin.
A 2003 diary entry that I rewrote for my 2013 project Your Mind & Body Is All That You’ve Got II.

This ‘man’ was definitely a lot older than us. In my mind I remember him being 40+. I was 15.

I hope high school is different for people now (I guess it’s been a bit different with Covid). I never really felt worried about my personal safety then, but being a teenage girl felt really tough. Boys boasted of sleeping with 100+ girls and they were high fived. A girl would have sex once and be labelled a ‘slag’.

(I did once make up a horrible rhyme about a girl who was ‘sleeping around’, which I am not proud of. I wish I had realised and scrutinised the double standards that existed earlier on.)

In 2018 I took a photo and wrote text called ‘Jocelyn, Can You Grow More? (1st January 2018)‘, which talks more about school and some of the experiences I mentioned. It’s from my Don’t Take Me Out Of My Melons project:

Jocelyn, Can You Grow More? (1st January 2018)

From that talk at school where the girls were called into one room and the boys were sent to another, I knew I didn’t want to become a woman.
I also knew that I didn’t want to be the last one either.
When the first sign of blood appeared I called a friend, excited that it had finally arrived after a year or so after the birth of hairs on the mons pubis of a fellow woman-to-be.  
Our teachers yelled at us for hiding in our towels in the changing room showers as we tried to grow accustomed to our changing bodies.
A few bared their flesh, whilst I flashed my parts to the wall for a quick splash.
I shaved my blonde leg hairs off before anyone could mock me for them. A mistake that my now dark hairs remind me of frequently.
In high school I wore a training bra for a chest that didn’t yet need to be trained.
The boys would ask us what pants we were wearing, whilst they talked in maths class about how many fingers they stuck up her last night. I kept my love of big pants to myself.
‘You’re like two paracetamols on an ironing board.’
It seemed like there was a weekly announcement on the growth status of the lumps that I was incubating.
The conclusion was that I was flat-chested.
After another public message I ranted at a friend. ‘Boobs are only for babies! Why do they care so much about my boobs?!’
I listened to stories of back pain by those with cumbersome assets. I told myself that I was okay with my mosquito bites.
I quit sports. I put on weight. I stopped eating properly.
I weighed myself x times a day. Before going to the toilet and after going to the toilet.
I’m glad that being sick grossed me out.
Someone mentioned my thigh gap once. Yes, apparently it was a thing in 2004.
I’m called a fridge for my unwillingness to get close to boys.
I get a boyfriend. People gossip about us. I’m too scared to kiss him. In case he runs away like the last guy.
We break up.
My self-hatred spirals.
People gossip about me. True, they gossip about everyone.
We verbally abuse a girl for sleeping with a few guys, meanwhile the guy who claims he has slept with over 100 girls at the age of 16 can do no wrong.
Times goes by.
I look at old pictures of myself and feel sad that I hated myself so much. I didn’t look that bad.
I read articles by women about how they learn to love themselves in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s. I don’t want to wait that long.
I go to a dance class and rediscover muscles that I haven’t felt in years. I vow to respect myself more.
Some self-acceptance is learned.
I don’t like dressing up. It makes me feel uncomfortable when I do. I don’t like showing off my body that much.  
It’s not that I think I’m worthy of attention, I just know that being human is enough for some people.
More time goes by.
A guy tells me he usually dates girls with bigger boobs. I say okay.
It doesn’t really register with me what he says until years later.
If I had said something along the same lines about your male anatomy, would you have just said okay?
More time goes by.
I spend the summer of 2017 too scared to show my armpits. I choose the tops that make me sweat as it’s better to sweat and smell than let a stranger on the tube notice the hair emerging from my underarms.
Sweat patches are more socially accepted than body hair right?
If you’re a man you’re allowed to have both.

This isn’t a sob story. (I had to write that as I maintain a fear of being judged).

I was living in Brixton in 2015 when there were a lot of attacks on women in the area. I remember being scared and more cautious than normal, but I lived on a main road which made me feel not so worried. Talking about things the other night my husband, Tiago, said he used to worry about me walking home.

(It felt really good to talk about things, so if you’re feeling triggered and feel able to talk to someone then you should. Feel free to drop me a message if you don’t know who to talk to.)

I used to run a lot and I would often run at night (sometimes I’d run to Clapham Common and use the outdoor gym equipment). Yes I’d be worried that something might happen to me, but it felt like a choice between either run in the day and get heckled, or run in the dark and feel less self-conscious, get heckled less, but feel more scared for my personal safety. I felt a bit relieved when my knees started to hurt, and I had an excuse to switch my exercise to indoor activities like yoga.

Once I was running with a friend and a guy shouted something at us about wanting to marry us. As I was with her I felt able to shout ‘f*** off’, which was also an f off for all the times I had felt unable to. He was with a friend who looked very sheepish. I know some guys will say things when they are alone, but I often thought about whether he would have said it if he was by himself. Probably not.

I’ve often walked home late at night, even when I was 15 I would walk home for 40 minutes in the dark after coming back from music gigs. I knew I was being dumb, but the buses had stopped running and I refused to pay £6 for a taxi when I could walk for free. I was also scared of taxis and didn’t like buses either.

(Yesterday I was thinking about the gender pay gap and then women feeling the need to spend money on taxis for their personal safety.)

I once walked 7 miles to a friend’s house after a gig as I had been hoping to get a lift home, but felt too sheepish to ask when no one offered. I was terrified and basically just tried to make myself look like a guy, though someone later told me that guys were more likely to get randomly beaten up. I was more impressed with myself that I managed to follow the road signs back to town, as phones were very simple back then.

Luckily nothing bad ever happened to me on those walks home, but I would walk with my keys between my fingers if I felt particularly worried or run when I had an uncomfortable feeling. In London I usually lived on main roads or just off them, and there were always people about so it never seemed as bad as when I was in places where barely anyone walks at night.

I love music. I remember some teenagers on the bus when I lived in London playing the most awful misogynistic music I have ever heard out loud. I was sat at the front of the bus, while they sat at the back and laughed their heads off playing it intimidatingly loud. I have no idea what the song was, but I do know that a male rapper who is known for his misogyny has had 8 number one albums in the UK. When he achieved his 8th number one, his President had become President even though the whole world knew he had said things like he grabs women ‘by the pussy’. Yeah, he was not our President but the USA is highly influential. What kind of message did that send to everyone?

It took me many years to process things that happened to me. I studied for a BA between 2007 and 2010 in Newport, and I experienced a lot of things for the first time – like going out to clubs. I didn’t drink when I first started uni and I was really shocked that people would just pinch your bum/touch you. I remember being in one club and a guy kept touching my bum. I would shout at him and I guess he thought it was a game. My friends were drunk and it was a ‘normal’ thing so nobody seemed bothered. I didn’t want to cause a fuss by going to a bouncer, so I just did nothing apart from feel annoyed about it.

At a club in London for a friend’s birthday 8+ years ago I ended up just standing against a wall as I was annoyed by people walking past and touching my bum. I don’t think I’m anything special so they must have been doing it to everyone, but I was the only one who seemed bothered by it. Perhaps it was because I was sober and more aware of what was going on, or maybe they felt like how I used to – that if you were going to a club that being touched by people was just part of the package.

I’d like to think that things have changed since then. Clubs have been closed for a while here, and I don’t go on planning to one anytime soon anyways.

In 2017 I felt compelled to share my experience of sexual assault during my BA.

I No Longer Blame Myself (5th May 2017)

It was 2008 or 2009 and I was walking to meet my friends at a pub in Newport, where I was in the second year of my BA. I was feeling self-conscious as I think it was the first time that I had worn this top, but it was definitely the first time I had worn it with a pencil skirt that was quite fitted and I possibly only worn the skirt on one other occasion (a costume party). I was about 2 minutes from the pub and was walking right by the shop windows when a young guy rode up beside me on his bike and started to feel my bum. He asked me if I would give him a blowjob whilst he kept touching my bum. I was in shock (because of what was happening and because he looked so young) and my voice seemed to disappear so I couldn’t shout out to the people who were walking nearby and I couldn’t run as he was trapping me between the shop windows and his bike. I managed to let out a ‘no’ and ‘leave me alone’, whilst he continued to say ‘come on baby give me a blowjob’ whilst touching my bum. After a few rounds of ‘come on’ and ‘no’ he got bored and cycled off, leaving me to walk to the pub to meet my friends. I blamed myself for wearing what I wore as this hadn’t happened to me on the street before. I donated the skirt to charity a long time ago as I never felt comfortable in it again, but the top has survived many charity giveaways even though I haven’t worn it since because I feel self-conscious in it, but liked the idea of one day wearing it out again. I noticed it this morning. After wearing it for this picture to illustrate this story I’m torn between giving it away and wearing it again. It doesn’t fit me as well as it did when I was 19/20, but now I feel like wearing it one more time to not let him win. I no longer blame myself…

Taking the photo and writing the text felt like some closure and I donated it to charity not longer afterwards. It is also part of my Don’t Take Me Out Of My Melons project.

When I posted this to my Instagram account I received messages from other women sharing their stories, and I also received messages from men telling me that they didn’t realise that these incidents happened to women that they knew.

Another piece of work that fits well with the theme of this blog is my ‘Smile Love‘ gif.

Smile Love (2019)

#WellIProbablyAmMissingSomeButImBoredNow #WellNotBoredButIJustWantToMoveOnFromThat
#ThatOrSmilingHurtsMyFace #LikeWhenIWorkedInRetail #IdGetHomeAndMyFaceHurtFromFakeSmiling

‘Smile Love – you know that classic line that someone delivers to you when you’re daydreaming, waiting for a bus or you’ve posted a dance video and you’re not smiling enough for someone’s liking?’

Contrary to what people might think of me with the work I make, I like to be somewhat invisible when I go out (if going out exists at the moment in our weird Covid world). I do not take great care of my appearance (some makeup I bought last year has gone untouched) and that is partially due to not wanting to attract attention. It is not that I think I am worthy of attention based on my appearance, but (I am finding this hard to explain in a way that I feel will not cause negative comments) I guess I hope people won’t look at me twice.

This blog post has been a bit of a ramble, but I felt like I needed to write more than a tweet. I could write more, but I have a 9 month old daughter who needs my attention, and I do not really want to go into other things that are darker than what I have shared here.

Things seem to be changing, and I hope by the time that my daughter is old enough to be ‘bothered’ by people that things will have changed even more. I want her to feel like there is not one set of rules for boys and one set of rules for girls. I don’t want her to be asked about her underwear and have her body commented on all the time. Girls should not be told it was their fault for walking home at night, for what they were wearing, for being drunk. A woman could be walking down a street naked and drunk, but it does not mean that anyone has the right to touch her.

Everyone should be taught about consent and how to respect each other.

(I wish I had a better ending than that, but I think that says it all.)

Rest in peace Sarah, and condolences to her family and friends.

Thanks for reading! If you’re enjoying my blog (and/or the work I make) please consider supporting me by ‘buying me a coffee’ on Ko-fi – thanks!