Can you be Pro-life and a Feminist?

Here is an article I recently wrote on the problem of the University of Bristol’s Pro-life Feminist society in calling themselves a ‘feminist’ group.

Ellie Pendry discusses Bristol University’s ‘Pro-Life Feminist’ society and the problem with their use of the word feminism. Content warning: abortion, rape

There has been a lot of recent controversy surrounding the emergence of the University of Exeter  society ‘Students for Life’ who ‘promote and encourage a culture of life’ and are anti-abortion. 

Many took to Instagram, berating Students for Life for disregarding women’s reproductive rights. What I certainly did not realise, though, is that the University of Bristol (amongst nearly all other Russell Group universities) has its own pro-life society, the ‘Pro-Life Feminist’ society. Their ethos is ‘to protect the dignity of all human life from conception until natural death’ so they are also, by nature, anti-abortion. 

Pro-choice, on the other hand, does not mean the enforcing of abortions for every pregnant woman. Pro-choice simply means, as a pregnant woman, you are given the choice of whether to abort the pregnancy or not. 

Pregnancy and the right to an abortion is an issue for those who are able to get pregnant/were born biological women (or intersex). The right to have an abortion aligns with an equal-rights or feminist stance because it levels the playing field, helping women to be more equal to biological men.

Abortion is therefore a human right; it is troubling to know that fundamental human rights are ever up for debate.

Artwork by Millie Elson

To better understand the issue, we need to evaluate the evidence for why the pro-life movement claims to be pro-women. They would argue that: 

The language used here – that there are alternatives to abortion that are better, or that women turn to abortion frustrated at likely consequences for education and career if they don’t – engenders a sense that abortion is negatively stigmatised. It is portrayed as an evil or shameful secret – a sin or murder. 

What the pro-life argument fails to realise is that they themselves create a hostile culture by being dogmatic over women’s fertility choices. A society which is hostile to women’s fertility choices includes being hostile to women choosing to have an abortion. 

Conflating pro-life with feminism is problematic because through a dogmatic discourse of firmly pro-life, you are only really open to supporting one group of women: those who choose to keep their child. It is true that pro-lifers often offer support for expectant mothers (and those who have been through abortions) and this is great. However, looking after people does not mean that you are supportive of the decisions they make.

What’s more, banning abortions will not stop abortions from happening. It will only stop SAFE abortions from happening. Check out this post from Bristol’s Pro-Life Feminist Society… slightly ironic? 

The dangers of DIY abortions are vast, I’m sure, but if anything pro-life promotes a hostile culture whereby DIY abortions would be the only option. What is worrying about pro-life and banning abortion is the danger so many women will be in if abortion is banned. How far can the pro-life argument go? Whose deaths are we responsible for preventing as a society? Is being on birth-control technically considered murder because it is preventing new life from forming? 

When tackling pro-life and feminism together, the two seem to act as a juxtaposition; it can be difficult to see how pro-life aligns with feminism when the by-product of a pro-life view is the elimination of women’s reproductive rights. 

‘Feminism’ is equally an easy word to hide behind. It is not enough to say you care for women when this means removing their fundamental rights; masquerading under the ‘right for life’ moniker, pro-lifers insinuate that women don’t know what’s best for them. 

Consider if a woman were to fall pregnant through rape, for example. This woman has not only been sexually-assaulted but is now also carrying the child of her rapist. Those who are pro-life would say that despite this woman going through a traumatic experience, for her to terminate the pregnancy would be as heinous a crime as that of the man who raped her.  

In this instance, the pro-life stance puts the needs of the unborn child before those of the woman – a living human being. The BBC’s ethics section summarised this problem well: ‘we should regard the woman as a person and not just a container for the foetus’Pro-life appears to reduce the woman to a mere reproductive vessel.

The difference is, whilst pro-choice advocates favour bodily autonomy in their definition of feminism, pro-life favour the right to life in theirs. Surely, though, a word’s definition shouldn’t be up for debate – having a definition of feminism (a movement that impacts literally everyone on the planet) that is up for interpretation or perceived as subjective, interchangeable, or malleable is incredibly harmful.

At the end of the day, pro-life and pro-choice are fundamentally different. It is hard to think they could ever see eye-to-eye when they both are rooted in totally opposing ideologies, even if they are allegedly working towards a common goal – supporting women and pertaining to feminism. 

Although abortion might not always be an easy choice to make, it is one that developments in society have enabled women to have, should they decide if it’s right for them. It is a fundamental right for women to make an informed choice about their future. 

If you’re against abortion… don’t have one! But don’t impose your views upon those who have or will choose to. It undermines the reproductive rights that women have fought so hard for, and it propagates a society in which women feel unsafe and unsupported. 

Podcast: What is the public value of the humanities?

On completion of my own liberal arts degree, I made a podcast about the public value of the arts and humanities. They are important to society as they help to cultivate a social-consciousness.

Includes excerpts from an interview with the head of humanities at Bristol University.

Repurposing clothes to fit & The Bangladesh Accord

After watching this years’ series of The Great British Sewing Bee (which had some incredibly inspired and technically difficult garments), I decided to repurpose some clothes from my wardrobe to give them a new lease of life.

For my birthday, I received this great book ‘The Great British Sewing Bee: The Techniques’

As an amateur sewer, this book acts as bible for all sewing needs. Whether creating or altering garments, this book has everything-you-need-to-know.

An episode from this season of The Great British Sewing Bee was called ‘reduce reuse recycle week’, where the sewers repurposed clothes that were otherwise destined for the bin. It promoted sustainable clothes-making, and is a great example of working with clothes/fabric you already have instead of investing in more.

The 3 tops I re-worked were charity-shop gems which I picked up across the past year. Even though I knew they were all slightly too big, I also knew I could alter them to work for me… they were too gorgeous to let go!

I took this top in at the sides to fit more snugly, and moved the drawstring band to fit at the new remade bottom of the top.

Slightly easier: this top was baggy around my bust so I took it in both at the sides and around the keyhole area.

I took this top in at the sides again to make the fit more flattering.

The consumerist lifestyle of our society goes from what we eat, to what we wear. Although it is essential for us to try our best to reduce our consumption, it is true that 71% of all greenhouse emissions are produced by just 100 companies. This can make it difficult to feel like you are making a difference.

Extinction Rebellion protests outside London Fashion Week in February
Photograph from Ollie Millington/Getty images

It is essential that we hold these companies (that do not follow sustainable or ethical protocol) accountable. Brands such as H&M, Zara and Tommy Hilfiger are yet to re-sign the Bangladesh Accord, which ensures workplace safety and protects workers’ rights.

Use this link to tell brands to keep workers safe – a little bit more about the Bangladesh Accord and its importance

Bunting for Jules

I made this bunting as a birthday present for my friend, Jules. I used offcuts of fabric I had left over from other things I already made – reusing fabrics does not have to be ugly! (scroll to bottom of page to see a clear vid of the bunting)

Before investing in new fabrics, it is always a good idea to try and repurpose fabrics you already have. If you don’t like the fabric scraps you have leftover, you can always use them as stuffing for pillows.

The UK is the fourth largest producer of textile waste in Europe, with each member of the population throwing away 3.1kg of textiles per year on average. Less than a third of this 3.1kg is reused or recycled. This makes a total of 206.456 tonnes of textiles wasted every year in the UK!

Reducing textile waste is easy. Always think about purchasing new clothes before committing – will you wear it; will it last; is it a fad; do you have anything else that is similar; can you repurpose something else already in your wardrobe?

If you have clothes that you are looking to get rid of and have no other use for you, reselling is a good option and if not, donating them to charity. For more info on this topic, here is an article I wrote on second-hand clothing:

a little vid of the bunting

Piers Morgan and the Discourse on Free Speech

Here is an article I recently wrote for That’s What She Said magazine about Piers Morgan and the far-right’s co-opting of free speech and political correctness:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah has been a spectacle for the masses in these past weeks. Piers Morgan departed from Good Morning Britain in the wake of his provocative comments that he felt Meghan’s brave confession about having contemplated suicide lacked credibility. The ensuing media debate has centred around his justification that he was merely exercising free speech. Opposers express the view that Meghan is incredibly brave for voicing the trauma she has gone through, and that Piers’ comments are not constructive but simply hateful. The divisive media response is reflective of the polarised society that we live in; this is clearly an emotive topic for both sides of the house.

Post-tantrum, Piers has remarked that the reason for his outburst and condemning of Meghan Markle is down to his belief in ‘free speech’ – a term that the far-right have reappropriated, using it as an exemption for speech that directly targets minorities in society. There is a rhetoric campaigning for free speech as if it is under attack, and yet online trolls are able to spout hatred with virtually no consequences. Free speech is coddled and people’s genuine responses to it are ridiculed without consequence – “it’s political correctness gone mad!!”.

Political correctness is an idea created to work as a ‘phantom enemy’ to the far-right; it has never been specifically defined, but evokes a sense of censorship or denial of the truth. In this way, political correctness has been subverted and is now used as a weapon to brutalise and silence anyone whose opinion contradicts their own. Freedom of speech is now used as an exemption from consequence, and the political correctness rhetoric is used as a defence mechanism batting away any differing opinion. The two used in unison are a toxic combination.

Looking at Twitter after the Oprah interview, I came across this Tweet which exemplifies the narrative surrounding the latest Meghan Markle controversy:

It’s mad how much this world cannot handle the simple act of a woman saying,

“This is what happened to me.”

Why is it so hard for society to believe what Meghan Markle is telling us? Perhaps it is not too simple to suggest that patriarchal structures in place mean we are conditioned to believe a man’s experience of a woman’s. Statistics speak for themselves: less than 2% of rape cases in the UK are ever prosecuted. Society believes men, not women! Piers’ privilege as a white man means that he thinks he is entitled to speak for those who are more oppressed than him, silencing them.

He shows a disregard for Meghan Markle’s feelings and yet a sincere concern for the monarchy’s reputation – ITV has an ongoing mental health campaign AND YET continued to give Piers Morgan a platform from which to voice insensitive and indignant opinions.

Piers has always thrived on inciting intense reactions to a range of public issues, whether it is gender identity, belittling mental health, or speaking over black interviewees who are talking on the black lived experience and of Black Lives Matter. Always painted as the champion of “telling it like it is”, on closer scrutiny, there are inconsistencies in his polemic.

For example, he praises Marcus Rashford whilst simultaneously berating the Conservative government one week, and denies trans people their right to identify the next. Piers is inconsistent both in the content of his opinions, supporting oppressor or oppressed, AND whether he always stays true to his principles about a person’s right to free speech. He says we have to be able to say what we like but then throws his toys out of the pram when there’s backlash towards him for doing exactly that. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from objection!

The point of free speech is, of course, to be able to say, freely, what you like about anything. But where do we draw the line? When do we say this is no longer free speech, but has instead morphed into bigoted hate speech?

Denying Meghan Markle’s experience of contemplating suicide is incredibly harmful to people who might be feeling similarly. We are living through a mental health pandemic. Just at a time where those with mental health issues need to be heard most, Piers is channelling his right to free speech to reinforce an environment in which already fragile individuals will be even less likely to voice their concerns for fear of not being believed.

Despite this, freedom of speech is essential to having societal debates so that change can be instigated. Arguably, without the discourse on subject matter such as homosexuality and racism these changes may not have been recognised.

The problem is when this incites hatred and affects people’s lived experience. Piers Morgan has a big platform from which to espouse (mostly) negative and damaging views that a lot of people hear and then believe at the tender time of 7am. Similarly, hate crime is on the rise (almost doubling in the past five years) and there is a likely correlation between this (ironic) protection of ‘free speech’ and subsequent rise in hate crime.

Piers’ hateful rhetoric is a catalyst for heightening far-right views and polarising the general masses. Debates must happen, but does the outcome always have to be so divisive?

Freedom of speech should not necessarily be censored if it is based on evidence and facts, but spewing hate speech which is rooted in myth and personal attacks is damaging and should be. Piers Morgan’s attacks on Meghan Markle have never been objective – he was offended because she cut him off. He makes it personal! Piers uses his platform on GMB to condemn Meghan for personal reasons which then creates a negative rhetoric surrounding the issue for reasons that are not grounded in fact, but merely off of a personal dislike. If this is how free speech worked for everyone then we would have a society grounded in fallacies and gossip. Arguably, we are already on the way there.

But freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequence; Piers can continue to speak freely but his platform on GMB has been removed. People are entitled to voice their opinions and it is important to have debates over pertinent issues in society. But in an increasingly polarised and hostile society which has a nasty habit of trivialising issues of race, gender and prejudice, the likes of ‘free-speech’ advocates such as Piers Morgan exacerbate this already toxic discourse.

Denim face mask with Beads

Face masks have become the norm in the UK since the pandemic began over a year ago now. I have seen lots of colourful and interesting masks, so I thought I would try making my own.

I repurposed an old denim skirt that I no longer wear and used some beads that were laying around to decorate the straps. The material is quite thick so does a good job at protecting myself and others from spreading disease, but if you wanted extra protection then you could insert some medical gauze behind the mask.

Air-drying Clay Plant Pot

I had never worked with clay as a medium before, so the prospect of moulding and creating something completely new really excited me.

This plant pot was made with air-drying clay which my friend bought online for around £4; each block of clay can be shared by about 4 people. I chose to make a plant pot out of mine as I have many plants in my room and think they look prettier when they are all in lovely pots.

The process was complicated! Trying to create a shape that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing was difficult, but I think the end result is quite impressive. After leaving the clay to dry I painted on some bright colours and patterns to finish it off and voila.

Despite the slight frustration that came with moulding the pot, the tactile act of pottery making / working with clay was very therapeutic for me. I think it is the process of your mind and physical body ‘synergising’ with the clay as it begins to take shape which evokes this feeling.

In Elisabet Kvarnstrom’s article she explains why pottery can be beneficial for those suffering from depression. She explains that the long process involved with pottery making means that you don’t receive instant gratification from it as you would from Tweeting something, for example. This is known as the ‘effort-driven reward circuit’ which releases a multitude of positive neural effects such as: dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin.

This effort-driven reward circuit is beneficial for the brain as the rise of technology has meant that we as humans seek this instant gratification which feels great for a moment but is only fleeting. Pottery making can help to prolong this happy feeling.

DIY Unif tie-dye top

This tee on Unif and was retailing for £45 which seemed quite expensive, so I looked into doing it myself. Tie-dying is an easy and cheap way to give once dull or plain clothes a new lease of life.

You just need a plain white shirt and some tie-dye which you can find online. There are loads of YouTube how-to videos which show you different methods of tie-dying that can create different patterns, from hearts, to circles, to swirls.

Instead of buying brand new clothes all the time, it’s good to try and re-purpose old things you have first. Obviously it is better for the environment and saves money too!

No two tie-dye creations are the same too which is cool – the possibilities are endless.

Since COVID-19 and lockdown in the UK, there is a huge importance in having hobbies that are creative and mean that we aren’t all consistently glued to screens. Research has shown that taking this creative time away from technology helps to reduce anxiety and stress.

I documented the process of the tie-dying method here:


Made this unif top for cheap my dudes #fyp #diy #unif #swag

♬ Face Like a Model – Tre Coast
This is a good video showing how to tie-dye a heart shape

Making a Ushanka Style Hat

Here is a Ushanka style winter hat that I sewed as a Christmas present. It wasn’t too hard to make and I found the tutorial for it on YouTube.

For this hat, I used a light blue fluff for the lining and a grey tweed for the exterior. It is versatile in that you can wear it with the ear flaps up or down.

Making presents for loved-ones often means a lot more to the recipient than buying something generic. What you make is going to be more unique and can be made personalised to the person you are making it for; through crafting a gift for someone you can often learn something new yourself in the process.

The tutorial I used!

Charity Shops, Depop and the Gentrification of Second-hand Clothing

Here is a recent article I wrote for That’s What She Said magazine about the appropriation of second-hand clothing!

Charity-shopping has become increasingly popular in the past decade, especially amongst young people. This might initially seem like a good thing for the community at large: the charities involved are receiving more money, and the second-hand clothing industry is growing, reducing fashion’s carbon footprint. However, do we need to take a step back to analyse the deeper implications of this rise in popularity? In fact, this trend has led to the gentrification of charity-shops – once places of sanctuary for those in need of affordable clothing, now filled with middle-class students looking for designer bargains. The difference is that the wealthier urbanite community does not rely on charity-shops like working class people do – for the latter it can be a necessity.

The impact of charity shops on the local community is, of course, largely positive; not only do they reduce the impacts of fast fashion and raise money for good causes, but they should also act as a centre for those in need. However, the rise in prices of charity-shop clothing has forced less well-off individuals into sourcing cheaper alternatives: fast fashion.
In a strange twist of events, and through gentrification, the original purpose of charity-shopping has been subverted; middle-class individuals now do their shopping here, whilst the working-classes have essentially been forced to buy from fast fashion retailers offering more affordable prices. Wealthier students have adopted the trend of dressing ‘working-class’, exploiting charity-shops and capitalising from fashion outlets that were once a major, viable sartorial choice of working-class people. An example of this gentrification of fashion (i.e. dressing ‘working-class’) includes the gentrification of brands such as Dr. Martens and Dickies which were originally meant for workers, but are now fashion brands. This same transition is happening with charity-shop clothing.

The surge in this trend has created a booming market surrounding this type of fashion, charity shops have seen this and increased prices knowing well-heeled students will pay them and there is therefore less availability of cheaper clothing for those who have less money. Despite this, the surge in people buying from charity shops means that more money is going into these shops and therefore, more money is going into charities which is inherently positive!

Gentrification is divisive, and leads to a classist rhetoric whereby something once ‘owned’ by working-class individuals is taken over by the wealthy and more privileged once it becomes desirable or more trendy. It would therefore be hypocritical to criticise those relying on fast-fashion whilst still actively participating in over-thrifting or up-selling on online platforms such as Depop. The difference is having the privilege (money and time) to shop in charity-shops without really having to consider the implications of this.

Most students are familiar with the popular clothes-re-selling app Depop, and whilst there is no doubt that Depop has a largely positive influence on the fashion industry, it has likely exacerbated the gentrification of charity-shops. In the midst of the first COVID-19 restrictions, Depop’s sales went up by 54% – is this a step in the right direction for displacing the fast fashion industry? Perhaps not, as some Depop sellers buy in bulk from charity shops and then resell these items for extortionate prices, labelling these clothes as ‘y2k’ or ‘vintage’. Additionally, some sellers buy clothes sourced from fast-fashion companies on Ebay, posting on Depop: Rare y2k gem!! Insane! Won’t find anywhere else!… and then up-selling for three times the price. Not only does this buy into the fast-fashion industry, but supports capitalist ideals and is exploitative.

The classist rhetoric caused by gentrification has led to wealthier people imposing their elitist views upon marginalised people, condemning them for shopping in places such as Primark. This was evident on Twitter when shops reopened post-lockdown; the public were not shy to comment on the large queues outside Primark, criticising people for shopping there. Whilst thrifting in itself is not directly gentrifying fashion, wealthy people taking a moral high-ground over fashion and sustainability because they have the privilege of doing so is. However, it would be unfair to place the blame onto conscious buyers who do not partake in this slander.

Whilst Depop claims that it is ‘transforming fashion’ it is in fact (probably unintentionally) eliciting an ‘elitist culture’, as some sellers do not follow these rules. The irony is that many people use Depop as a means to reduce their carbon footprint, or to find one-off pieces when in reality it is fuelling others to shop unsustainably. Gentrification means that Depop’s claim that it’s a sustainable clothing app is storing up issues for the future.

Do not fear, however! There are many Depop sellers who source their clothes from their own closets or from wholesalers, which is sustainable practice and does not impact charity shops in this way. Positively, Depop has definitely made people rethink how they should be shopping and provides a platform for designers and sellers who would otherwise find it difficult to make themselves known. The majority of Depop sellers price their items fairly, but there are some exploitative sellers who view reselling items as a lucrative business venture. Greed is never in fashion – in essence, do your research and think twice before you buy!

The inspiration for this article actually came from a TikTok posted by Naomi El, who explains the gentrification of Depop here: