//Is Thatcher a good role model for young girls?//

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This weekend I have been studying Thatcher’s 11 years in power in considerable detail, as I came to the realisation that my teacher hadn’t actually taught us the whole of the Thatcher unit in our course book and so set about teaching it to myself. For those of you who don’t know Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative party member who became the first female Prime Minister of Britain in 1979. As a woman myself and a strong believer in the importance of politics in the empowerment of young people, women, and other misrepresented and minority groups, I was keen to investigate Thatcher’s impact as a role model for young women like me and why perhaps she is still viewed negatively by British society nowadays. Was she really as bad as people make out?

So I started with learning about what Thatcherism actually meant, as despite studying politics last year and learning about Thatcherism as an ideology, I feel like I never fully understood it.  Thatcherism is basically the key political ideas that Thatcher stood by and from what I can tell, they were given their own ideological term as at the time, they were considered to be radical compared to the traditional Conservative ideas of preserving individual wealth and private ownership. To give you a bit of background, what Thatcher stood for was the rights and interests of individuals over that of the nation as a whole, promoting individual enterprise, rewarding hard work through low taxes, the importance of law and order to maintain a democratic society, that law, freedom and justice was provided for all by British democracy and she was a conviction politician, believing that as prime minister, she should stick to her own principles rather than trying to reach a consensus which always required compromise. Although I pretty much have the opposite political standpoint on most of her key ideas, I could see the logic behind Thatcherism, so at this point had a fairly positive view of Thatcher, although I was a little skeptical as to how she could have transformed her political beliefs into policy that would have benefited the political and social environment at the time.

Then I went on to learn about Thatcher’s economic policy, which I won’t go into detail with as it is quite complex and long-winded, but overall her attempts to lead Britain out of recession – although they broke the trend of past governments – and her way of economic thinking interested me, despite their limited success. Generally though I am quite sympathetic towards economic policy as it must be so difficult to manage such a vast, fluid concept as a countries economy and it’s impossible to benefit everyone at once, so her economic failures in my opinion were no worse than past governments.

After going on to reading about her intentions to “roll back” (reduce) state intervention in the economy and increase the size of the private sector, I started reading into how Thatcher’s policies caused political and social division within Britain. This aspect of analysing her time in office really interested me, because instead of reading all the complex detail of which policies she introduced to do what, I was actually learning about the impact of her policies and how they affected real people living at the time. What stood out to me most, was a statement saying that Thatcher felt “threatened” by diversity within society. This is what got me thinking about if Thatcher really is a role model and an inspiration to young girls like me because even though she managed to fight her way to the top level of politics – something that would have been unheard of 50, 20 or even 10 years before she became Prime Minister – I certainly don’t agree with some of the things she did whilst she was in that position of power.

Firstly, Thatcher’s viewpoint of homosexuality was that it was a symbol of ‘moral decline’ and that heterosexual families and relationships were the norm which should be promoted to young children of the time as the ‘right’ way to live. As a member of the LGBT+ community myself, I was saddened by this. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t ignorant to the fact that discrimination and attitudes towards the LGBT+ community in not-so-distant decades were on a different scale to they are now, but it still upsets me to read about the fact that the government who sets the law and code which the public should abide had a role in stigmatising homosexuality as late as the 1980s. As a result of Thatcher’s beliefs about homosexuality, she introduced a law called the Local Government Act 1988 and in Section 28 of this law, it was stated that discussion and promotion of homosexuality within schools was to be banned. This is something I really disagreed with, because even during my school education I haven’t learnt about homosexuality, in fact i can’t even think of one instance throughout my primary and secondary school education where homosexuality was even mentioned, other than Christian views on homosexuality that we had to study at GCSE, but even then we only briefly touched on it. As a result of this, I didn’t even know that there were other sexualities until about two years ago and only discovered my own sexual identity thanks to the help of my internet and my wonderful blogger friends, so I definitely think education about LGBT+ issues and people is vital in helping the LGBT+ community, especially young people, feel accepted by society and to help others to learn about us and the issues we face. So going back to Thatcher, I an’t imagine what it must have been like for LGBT+ young people back then to live in a society where your sexual identity is repressed in every aspect of society.

Furthermore, as Thatcher was in favour of advancing individual rights over collective rights, she was also against feminist movements of the time. Feminism is also something I am passionate about as a young women, because I believe that nothing: race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity etc should stop anyone from being treated with equal respect and having equal opportunities in life, so naturally feminism is a cause that I am in support of. It sort of shocked me a bit to hear that Thatcher was against feminism, to the extent that she stated that a group of women campaigning against the positioning of American cruise missiles on British territory should be ‘eradicated’, because as  the first female Prime Minister, she was in a position to empower young women and make a step forward for the rights and attitudes towards women within British society at the time. Those women that she said needed to be ‘eradicated’ had every right to campaign and what sort of message would Thatcher’s attitude towards them have sent to young girls at the time? That they should remain passive and that their opinions aren’t worthy of expressing?

Honestly, although I could accept some of Thatcher’s early beliefs and policies, I struggle to accept her attitudes towards homosexuality and women. I know I must take into consideration the context of the time in which she was Prime Minister when attitudes towards same-sex relationships and the roles of women were still very traditional, but form the viewpoint of a young 21st century LGBT+ girl, I can’t really see Thatcher as an ideal role model for people like me to look up to. I mean yes, it is inspiring that a woman managed to achieve such power in a time where women were very much expected to be wives and home-makers instead of pursuing careers for themselves, but I think there is so much more that Thatcher could have done as Prime Minister to inspire more young girls to take up careers in politics. Of course, I still think it is important for young girls and women to learn about Thatcher but I hope that one day the stereotype of female politicians and Prime Ministers as being ‘just another Thatcher’ will disappear and the new generation of female politicians will forge their own identities and success stories that will act as a better inspiration for young women of the future.

//GCSE French: promoting equality in fashion//

Today I sat my GCSE French reading and listening exams and I have to say I am very impressed with the topics covered by the exams. Although there were the usual questions on relationships and jobs, there were also a few more interesting, current topics such as a UN summit on global warming, selfies, e-cigarettes, the mysterious ‘orange badge’ (which I think may be the French version of the blue disabled sticker for cars in the UK) and Skirt Day – journée de la jupe.

Although I love French, I have to say the course content does seem a bit random and I do feel like I haven’t really developed my conversational French much since I started the course three years ago. However, the relevancy and up-to-dateness (is this a word? Well if not it is now) of the topics included in todays exams really surprised me and made me feel like I am actually applying my French in a useful way and learning more about the world around me – which is why I chose to learn a language in the first place.

The thing that impressed me most about the exam though was the part on equality and fashion where we listened to a girl talking about ‘la journée de la jupe’ (national skirt day). I don’t know if Skirt Day is an ACTUAL thing – I’ve done a bit of research but only came across a French film called ‘La Journée de la Jupe’ in which a French teacher discovers a gun in one of her students bags, accidentally shoots one of the students in the leg then holds the class hostage and one of the terms for letting the students go is having a Skirt Day to allow her to wear a skirt without being criticised by people with conservative attitudes about how women should dress. Apparently one part of the film actually came true – it was requested that La Journée de la Jupe become a nationally accepted day but this was sanctioned by the French Ministry of Education. However, in 2014 27 colleges did take part in a Skirt Day and boys and girls wore skirts to fight against sexism as part of the #JourneeDeLaJupe campaign.

Although the French exam itself didn’t explain this to me, I kind of got the general idea that Skirt Day was about allowing girls and women to wear what they want without being sexualised and criticised. The girl speaking about Skirt Day in the exam herself said things along the lines of: ‘Skirt Day had happened last year and had been a great success’, ‘the idea is for girls to be able to wear what they want’, ‘the headteacher didn’t like the idea of it at first as he thought students would insult each other but changed his mind after seeing that it was a great success’, ‘boys were allowed to wear skirts in support too’ and ‘her boyfriend wore makeup to show his support’.

The whole idea of Skirt Day seems really good to me. Although I don’t exactly live in a very multicultural area so have never experienced a clash of cultures where I may be criticised for wearing ‘revealing’ clothes such as skirts, I have certainly experienced being sexualised because of what I choose to wear and have seen many other girls experiencing the same treatment.

Ultimately, I think Skirt Day represents the fact that everyone should be allowed to wear what they want and what they deem is appropriate without fear of being judged and criticised. Not only does this sort of tension arise between different cultures and religions, it occurs between different sexes too and the stereotypical ways men and women should dress. The fact the this girl who was speaking in the French exam said that some of the boys even wore skirts and makeup to support and that many boys did do just this back in 2014, really interested me because all around us we are exposed to the media which portrays – or dictates – the way we should dress and behave, yet boys were still willing to defy this to support Skirt Day (yes I know the French exam was all fiction, but I have a point, trust me). Perhaps it is because something such as Skirt Day would represent something much more than just allowing women and girls to wear skirts without having to face criticism from people with conservative attitudes. Perhaps it would represent equality in the fashion world – or the need for equality.

It’s not just about women being able to wear skirts, it’s about everyone being able to wear whatever they want without judgement. The fact that the item of clothing in question is a skirt is irrelevant – skirts are just one example of clothing which causes tension within society and Skirt Day would, in my opinion, be a step towards reducing this tension, uniting society and providing greater equality in the fashion world.

Whether you are a female who has faced criticism and sexualisation for wearing skirts and other such clothing or just someone who doesn’t want to conform to the ‘expectations’ of the fashion world and just wants to be able to wear whatever clothes you want – whether they are deemed to be ‘male’ clothes or ‘female’ clothes – freely, Skirt Day would be beneficial to you.

I think Skirt Day should definitely become an accepted day in order to help fight sexism and tension between cultures and religions withing our society. And why not make it International Skirt Day?

I’m really interested to find about more about the #JourneeDeLaJupe campaign now, so merci to the AQA exam board for making my French exams so interesting and inspiring!

//Because I’m totally asking for sexual attention…//

As I am growing up, the issue of girls wearing ‘appropriate’ clothing as been brought more and more to my attention and has become more relevant to me. When it comes to summer, I like to wear dresses and shorts as much as the next female, but lately I have been under constant criticism from my family.

Over the past few years, conflict has arisen between those who believe that women (specifically teen girls in my case) should expect to receive sexual attention if they wear ‘short’ clothing and those who believe that women should be able to wear whatever they like without being viewed as a sexual object.

I stand firmly with the latter, and I’m sure many of you will too. A girl shouldn’t have to worry about receiving remarks and accusations that they are ‘purposely attracting sexual attention’ due to what she is wearing. Wearing a dress, skirt or pair of hot pants shouldn’t be seen as girls presenting themselves as sexual objects. How is it fair that men can walk around with no shirt on but as soon as a women shows any leg above her knee she is accused of ‘wanting’ sexual attention and dressing ‘inappropriately’? Two words: it’s not.   

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Ooh look at me being a rebel and showing my legs on holiday with my friends last year (pls don’t tell my mum, haha).

I, personally, do not let the fear of attracting unwanted attention and being accused of being a ‘slut’ put me off of wearing skirts and dresses. However, it appears that my mother (and entire family for that matter) stand with the first category of people I mentioned earlier; they believe that girls who wear short clothing (which is anything above knee length according to my mother) are just asking for attention and to be viewed as inviting sex.

(^^the times I have been forced to wear leggings with dresses and shorts)

Hence, whenever I pick out a dress that I like in a shop or online, I am faced with a barrage of criticisms along the lines of ‘oh it’s a shame it’s so short’, ‘that’s far too short to be a dress’ or ‘oh that’s nice, you can wear it over a pair of jeans or leggings’ (who even wears a dress over jeans anyway??) One word: NO.

I am not going to give in and ‘cover up’ just so men can control their sexual temptations. I want to live in a society where every girl can walk around feeling comfortable and confident in what she is wearing  – whether it be a pair of skinny jeans or a dress – but how can we achieve this when many females – like my mum for example – have resigned themselves to the fact that they are going to become sexual objects whenever they wear dresses or skirts or shorts? Lots of women say they want this idea of wearing dresses and skirts attracting unwanted sexual attention to stop yet they aren’t prepared to fight against it and instead simply avoid wearing such clothes. This is not the way to stop this.

If you want to wear a dress, go and put a dress on! If you want to wear hot pants – wear them! Don’t let the fear of receiving sexual attention put you off because the more we show we are not afraid to show our legs in public, the more of a norm this will become and the more unacceptable it will become to criticise women who wear short clothing.

Women didn’t get the vote by standing back and waiting for men to decide it was a good idea and we are not going to stop receiving unwanted sexual attention by waiting for men to decide that maybe it isn’t acceptable to see women as sex objects whenever we show our skin. We need to stand up against this. Are you with me?

Side note: I am not attacking men and I’m sorry if I gave you this impression, I am simply stating that this is an issue within our society that involves the way women are viewed inappropriately and that this issue generally lies within the male population.

//Scouting for girls, scouting for all//

Today I read an article summarising the 2016 UK Scouting census which was full of statistics – some which made me very proud to be a member of such an inclusive youth movement, and others which made me realise there is still a long way to go before Scouting around the world is fully inclusive.

This year marks the 25 anniversary of girls being accepted and welcomed in to all sections of Scouting, for all age groups. 25 years is a relatively short amount of time compared to the 109 years that Scouting has been running in total. For just under a quarter of the Scouting movement’s lifetime, girls like me have been allowed to explore the outdoors, enjoy thrilling adventures and most importantly have fun with other youngsters whilst boys have been able to do so for 109 years.

Although 25 years of girls in Scouting is a very important and exciting milestone to have reached, it does disappoint me a little that it wasn’t until 84 years after Lord Baden-Powell hosted the first ever Scout camp on Brownsea Island and therefore created the Scouting movement, that girls were given the same amazing opportunities that Scouting has to offer as boys had nation-wide.

Despite this, I do feel very lucky and honored to be a representative 25% of the Scouting movement in the UK on this blog. Although I do wish the percentage of females in Scouting was higher, I’m sure, over the years, this figure will continue to grow and I want to be a part of that.

Over my 8 years in Scouting, I have seen the number of girls in my group steadily grow. When I first started in Cubs in 2007 – which was, coincidentally, the 100th year of Scouting – I was one of two girls in a Cub pack of around 30. A few years later when I moved up to Scouts, there were probably around 5 girls at any one time. Now I am an Explorer scout and am proud to say that my Explorer unit has a healthy, almost equal, balance of girls and boys.

Scouting has been such a life-changing experience for me –  I have grown in confidence, for a start, but I have also experienced so many extraordinary things that outside of Scouting I could never have dreamed of participating in and achieving .

For example: I have been white water rafting in the rapids of an Austria river, I have zip-lined over a ravine despite my fear of heights, I have led a group on a 10 mile hike in the middle of the night, map reading as well as completing various challenges along the way, I have learnt valuable skills such as first aid and fire safety, I have attended a national camp with over 7,000 participants from around the UK, I have visited the birthplace of Scouting – Brownsea Island, I have been on more muddy, wet, cold Scout camps than I can count on my fingers yet all these memories make me beam with happiness at as I remember them. I have done so much in Scouting that I never thought I could ever and would ever do, however there is still so much more I could do to ensure other girls and young people get to have opportunities like these and memories to last a lifetime.

That is why I’m blogging about Scouting, to get the word out that ‘Scouting is for girls and Scouting is for all’. That’s also why I have been a Young Leader at a Cub pack for 2 years now, to show the next generation of young people what Scouting is all about and to inspire more youngsters to join the adventure. As my Explorer leader said to me a few weeks ago – ‘people like you are the future of Scouting’. In the next 5, 10, 15 years it is going to be young people like me who already help to run and organise Scouting on a small scale, volunteering our free time despite having to study for exams and complete vast amounts of school work, to help youngsters get everything out of Scouting that I did when I was their age. It is going to be us that are going to be the face of Scouting in the years to come, adding to the already 115,000 strong network of adult volunteers in the UK. It’s my way of giving back to Scouting, for saying ‘thank you’ for everything it has helped me achieve and for making me the person I am today.

However, despite the fact that UK now has 573,000 members in the UK alone, it has been estimated that as much as 50% or more of the British population do not know that girls are welcomed into Scouting, and we need to change this.We need to spread the message that Scouting is for all.

Although in the UK I am able to be a Scout, in other countries around the world girls don’t have the same opportunity as I have to take part in Scouting and it’s not just girls either – in some other countries, youngsters are prevented from joining Scouting because of not just their gender but their sexuality, their race, their religion…the list goes on. Although I would love to see the day when the proportion of female Scouts in the UK equals or even beats that of males, even more so would I love to see the day that all youngsters around the world have the chance to be involved in such a wonderful movement.

Yes, Scouting in the UK is inclusive, and we are very lucky to have that, but Scouting around the world at the moment isn’t entirely inclusive. Not only do we need to spread the message within the UK that Scouting is for girls too, we need to do so in every country around the world. Scouting isn’t and shouldn’t be a gender specific youth movement in any country and in order to move towards a more equal society, we need to spread this message. Even if you are not or have not been involved in Scouting yourself, even if you don’t know anything about Scouting whatsoever, I hope that you will take away from this post that Scouting is for all and understand why it is so important to me and many others that this message is spread across the world so that Scouting isn’t known as ‘a youth movement for adventurous boys’ but ‘a youth movement for adventurous young people’.

//I am female too//

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Just because I love the outdoors,
With it’s hilltops and coastlines and woodlands and moors,
And I love the fresh air and the blue sunny skies,
Especially the clouds that silently drift on by,
Doesn’t mean I not female.

Just because I love being a scout,
With our campfires and hiking and laughing about,
And I always go camping in rain, snow or sun,
Because I love being outdoors and having lots of fun,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I’d rather stay at home watching Doctor Who,
Than go out shopping or partying with strangers like you,
And because I love Harry Potter with all of my heart,
And from these beloved fandoms I never want to part,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I spend my time reading historical fiction,
And painting model airplanes to fit accurate descriptions,
And I love learning about battles and wars,
Despite all of the murder, violence and gore,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I’d rather be playing tennis or cricket,
And would die to have a twenty one pilots concert ticket,
And I spend my summer holidays supporting my local sports teams,
Becuase I’ll only ever be able to join them in my dreams,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I hardly ever wear skirts or dresses,
And live in jeans, hoodies and converses,
And because I’m not afraid of what others think I look like,
When I wear sporty clothes when I go cycling on my bike,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I don’t bother applying loads of make up,
On to my face as soon as I wake up,
And I don’t bother straightening my wavy, messy hair,
Because I like it the way it is and I really don’t care,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I’m not your typical teenage girl,
And I like to be different to the rest of the world,
And I don’t fit these stereotypes which will never go away,
Because from these restrictions I dared to stray,
And stand out from the crowd and be unique,
Because I don’t want to be part of this type of clique,
Doesn’t mean I am not female.

Em. 🙂

//Body shaming is never ok//

 

So I wrote this post a while ago, before I made my other blog private. I wanted to share it on here again with a but if editing because I still feel very passionate about this issue and want to make others aware of how body shaming effects many – too many – people in a daily basis. I understand that this could be considered to be a controversial topic and I am sorry if my opinions offend anyone. Just remember these are my opinions though, I’m just sharing them, not trying to enforce them on to you.


 

The media plays a huge part in body shaming and creating the idea of what a ‘perfect’ body looks like. They portray models as being extremely skinny and claim that this is the type of body that is considered attractive and what everyone should aim to look like. I personally think this is extremely wrong and messed up.

There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ body – everyone of all shapes and sizes are attractive and shouldn’t feel pressured to change the way they look to suit societies deluded interpretations of beauty.

In recent years the media has come under attack for presenting the ideal image of people – particularly women – in such a way that suggests only women who are thin can be attractive. Obviously this is not right and many people have spoken out against this. You don’t have to be thin to be attractive. As I said earlier, no matter what shape or size you are, you are unique and beautiful the way you are.

Although I agree with this opinion that models should be a range of sizes and that beauty has no set guidelines or criteria, there are lots of things I disagree with too.

Take a look at these pictures:

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All of these pictures are designed to make people who have experienced discrimination for being ‘too large’ feel more comfortable about themselves. They fight back at the media’s image of what a ‘perfect’ women should look like.

But to me, they don’t say this at all. They don’t say that it’s alright to be whatever size. They don’t say that discriminating against anyone because of their size is wrong, no matter what size they are. They simply put down and discriminate against skinnier people to make others feel better about themselves. It is disgusting.
When people think of body shaming, they generally think of people being labelled as ‘obese’ and ‘overweight’ and ‘ugly’ because of the way they look. The majority of people would agree that this is wrong, that it is perfectly fine to be a different size to that portrayed by the media as an ‘ideal skinny woman’ and that if I posted some pictures that discriminate against larger people, they would be disgusted.

However, some people would look at the pictures I posted above and say that they are ok. That it is fine to call skinny women ’12 year olds’, ‘ugly’ and ‘only attractive to dogs’. Some people would say that being skinny is healthy and fine and that thin people have nothing to worry about. They would say that it doesn’t matter if they are discriminated against  because they already possess the ‘ideal’ body image. Some people can’t see that this is just as bad as discriminating against larger people and any other form of discrimination.

It is sickening that people discriminate against others to make themselves feel better, it really is and it needs to stop.

Here is another photo that I would like you to think about:

How do you think this makes thin people feel? To be told they are not ‘real women’ and to be told to ‘get over’ their insecurities and be called all manner of names just to make other women feel better about themselves.

Also, how do you think the photo’s I posted before make ‘skinny’ people feel?

I myself am considered ‘skinny’ and have been called anorexic countless times. I have been told to ‘just eat more’ and asked ‘do you actually eat anything’ and told ‘you have twig arms’.

And yeah, I may be so used to these comments that I’ve learnt to just laugh it off and accept people’s ignorance, but that doesn’t mean those comments don’t hurt me. They do. They really do.

But people don’t see that this is wrong. To be called anorexic makes me feel so upset and so bad about myself because of all of the negative connotations of the word. I know I am underweight. I know I am flat-chested and have no curves whatsoever but I don’t need to be told this every single day.

It seems whenever I confide in anyone, including my closest friends, about how I have been bullied for my weight and told I am ‘too ugly’ to ever have a relationship, they just tell me that being called all these things is not the same as being called ‘fat’ and that I shouldn’t worry about my body because I am already thin and meet societies standards. They tell me to ‘just eat more’ and that it is much easier to put on weight than to loose weight. It makes me sad because I thought my friends understood, I thought they were different but unfortunately it is evident in the way they look at me when I wear size 8 skinny jeans that are still too big for me or when they say ‘I’d rather me fat and happy than skinny and sad’ on a regular basis as if my presence is offending them in some way and they think I am ‘fat shaming’ them just by being skinny, that they are not different.

In reality, most women that are considered thin have fast metabolisms, like me, and we cannot simply ‘eat more’ to put on weight. It doesn’t work like that. People often tell me they are jealous of me because I can eat ‘whatever I want’ and not put on weight, that whenever they even look at a cake or chocolate or anything for that matter, they put on weight. This simply not true. I can’t eat whatever I want. I still need to eat a balanced diet like everyone else and it is no good telling me to eat more because I already eat lots of food and can’t seem to put on any weight. I don’t want to be skinny but people can’t see that I am trying to put on weight and that it really upsets me when people call me anorexic and say I should stop starving myself because it is not true.

I found these pictures which sort of sum up some of the things that have been said to me regarding my weight and how I look. The sad truth is there will be many other men and women around the world who have had these things said to them too.

Finally I would like to say that any form of body shaming is wrong and that even though this post as been mainly based around skinny shaming, it does not mean I don’t think any other type of body shaming is wrong. Skinny shaming is something I have had personal experience with so that is what I wanted to talk about but please don’t think I am trying to say any other type of body shaming and discrimination isn’t as harmful and wrong as skinny shaming because that is not what I believe at all.

This is what I believe:
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Although I know no amount of raising awareness of body shaming is going to completely eradicate it’s presence in our society, I can’t just sit back and watch it happen to others as it has to me in the past and still does now. It’s just one of many problems in the world – along with sexism, racism and ageism to name but a few forms of discrimination – that in an ideal world can be tackled by uniting as people. But this isn’t an ‘ideal world’ so for now all we can do is spread the message and share our stories.


 

Em.

@em_is_lost99