The Feminist Starter Pack

A few weeks ago, I wandered into a bookshop as I am apt to do (something about the siren call of untouched books) and was thoroughly shocked to see the number of books available centered around feminism. Don’t get me wrong – I loved it. But I was surprised. I remember days when trying to get an unabridged copy of Simone de Beauvoir’s Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) was an adventure in itself. Today, you can find it abridged, unabridged, in every language, with pictures, with ribbons, with cake.

In a way, I am pleased that feminist literature has become so mainstream. It is reassuring to think that the feminist plight is gaining traction – after all, publishers wouldn’t publish such books if they didn’t think people weren’t going to read them.

But there seems to be such an influx on feminist books today and I worry that navigating through and finding true gems can become difficult in an increasingly saturated genre. So in honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share ten of my favourite books. It’s by no means an exhaustive list of the great literature out there, but they’re ten books that I enjoy and often return to. It’s a good starting point if you’re new to the party – it’s the Feminist Starter Pack! I get a lot of questions about the books I’m reading and why, so I hope some of these titles will pique your interest and help you decide where you stand on the topic.

Continue reading “The Feminist Starter Pack”

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Move Your Frame

It’s 6:00. AM. That’s in the morning. My glutes are on fire and as I waddle my way to the bathroom, I’m wondering why I’m awake. Every muscle in my body aches. I can barely lift my toothbrush to my mouth, but a few minutes later, I’m out the door to get to Frame for a 7:45 Box-Fit class.

I used to have a habit of wandering around Shoreditch in search of really snobby coffee. And by “I used to…” I mean, “I still do.” But about a year ago, I stumbled across a hidden cave of wonders on my quest for the perfect flat white. What probably attracted me was the colourful painted wall. Painted on it were the words, “BE BAD UNTIL YOU’RE GOOD.”

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Photo from Instagram, artist @lakwena
Intrigued, I scurried in to the warehouse space under an Overground overpass following a group of young women decked out in the brightest coloured Sweaty Betty, LuluLemon, and Nike. Noticing the coffee machine, I cautiously approached the bubbly lady at the front desk and asked, “Are you guys a cafe?”

She laughed and said, “Kind of, you can grab a smoothie or coffee or any juices there. We’re a health and fitness centre.”

“So you’re a gym?”

“Erm… not really,” she replied. She continued to explain what Move Your Frame is and now that I’ve been attending classes for close to a year, I will vehemently defend Frame against anyone that calls it a gym, because it’s not. Frame is really a health and fitness centre offering mostly group exercises classes. Frame has everything from Pilates and every kind of yoga flow, to barre and boxing, to TRX and HIIT PT, to dance cardio and music video, to my favourite Body and Total Body by Frame.

The best thing about Frame is that even if you only take a 30 minute class, you’ll feel it the next day. It burns, but it burns so good. It reminds me of that line from Legally Blonde when Elle Woods chipperly quips, “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make people happy, (happy people just don’t kill their husbands).” But it’s true, ever since I started regularly attending Frame, I have felt such a lift in my overall mood. I’m happier and am less prone to anxiety. When I’m feeling stressed or angry, I immediately sign up for a Box-Fit class with Andrew to punch it out. When I’m feeling pensive, I opt for a more low-key (but still effective) barre class with Lisanne or Gede.

Frame is about embracing the burn and more importantly, embracing your body. Frame teaches you to work for that better version of yourself while respecting the limits of your body. Every class begins with a brilliant instructor asking if there are any injuries he or she should be aware of. The instructors are fantastic by the way, and if you’re heading in to the Shoreditch studio, I recommend taking a class with Gede, Lisanne, Andrew, Keith, Ianthe, or Nathalie. Legends.

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Gede and Ianthe, Photo from Instagram @moveyourfame
While I initially joined in that deluded let-me-drop-20lbs-in-a-week frenzy we all know too well, I’ve stuck around not because I’ve lost any weight (I actually don’t know if I have, I can’t remember the last time the battery in my scale actually worked!). What keeps me coming back is how I feel. I am physically stronger, my energy levels are higher, my body is firmer with muscle. Pillsbury Dough Boy I am no more! There are times when I sniffle at the price, especially as a full time student with zero income. But I assure you, it is worth it and obviously my fellow Framers who I see week after week agree.

I am not a fitness guru. I do not know how to grow that booty, nor do I intend to enroll in the next CrossFit Games. That’s just not my thing (books are my thing – unfortunately a rather sedentary thing). But I’m happier and full of Framer protein smoothies, so my non-existent husband is safe… for now.

 

Frame Studios can be found in Shoreditch, King’s Cross, Victoria, and Queen’s Park. Their timetable can be found here. You can find them on Instagram @moveyourframe. Move Your Frame is located in London, but who knows maybe they’ll be coming tor wherever you are someday soon!

The Morning After

Today, my heart aches. There’s a tightness in my chest and my stomach is in knots. I feel nauseated, confused, concerned, gob smacked, and terrified. I think many Americans feel this way, or at least that’s what the popular vote would indicate. Today has been surreal and I keep expecting myself to wake up… but I’m already awake.

 

Last night, I went to sleep in Vienna, Austria quite confident that I’d be waking up to news of the first female president of the United States. At 6:24am, I woke with a start. I had a dream that my friends were crying. In my dream, Hillary turned to me and squeezed my shoulder, took a deep breath, and climbed on stage to deliver her concession speech. Yes, her concession speech. It was like the drop in Inception tumbling off a bridge trapped in a car into icy water, and I shot upright and grabbed my phone. Trump 238. Hillary 215. I thought it was a dream within a dream.

 

It wasn’t. I grabbed my laptop, loaded up the CNN broadcast and my heart sunk. It was over. I just knew it. As I watched the political commentary unfold, I couldn’t help it. I felt tears streaming down my face—it was really over. Everything she had worked for, everything we had dreamed together… over.

 

I finally pulled myself together enough to get ready for work. As I sat on the tram winding through Vienna, I watched Donald Trump’s victory speech. I was shaking my head furiously when the woman sat next to me poked me. I took my earbuds out and she said, “I’m so sorry.” I stared at her for a moment and couldn’t formulate words. She continued on saying, “I’m so sorry, I just never thought this would happen. How could this happen? I work in environmental issues… and now, it’s all over.” I started to respond but couldn’t, because out of nowhere, the spring deep inside me welled up and I burst like the levees during Katrina. I was sobbing and I just couldn’t stop. People stared, some looked on sympathetically. She patted my arm as I stood to get off the tram and said, “It’ll be okay…. Maybe.”

 

I’ve been sitting at my desk now with minimal productivity, trying to make sense of what has happened. In my daze, I’ve been outraged receiving work e-mails, spam even. How dare the world go on. How dare it continue turning when I feel as my own is falling apart. There are two things that I feel I must express.

 

The first is that I know that I set myself up for this heartbreak. I surrounded myself with a bubble that I felt comfortable within. Trump supporters on Facebook were met with a swift “Unfriend.” Anything even mildly supportive of Trump was ignored and quickly forgotten. That was my own mistake. I surrounded myself with what I wanted to hear. I wanted to believe that everyone I knew and therefore by extension everyone in the world was as passionate about electing a credible president, of continuing President Obama’s legacy. I was wrong.

 

I also failed to realize that my own country was so deeply divided even before Trump came along. I assumed that rationality would see the light of day. What I did not realize was that to many Trump supporters, they made a rational vote. Rarely do people go and make irrational choices at the polls. What I failed to account for was that our realities were so starkly different.

 

I’m a dark-skinned daughter of two immigrants who grew up in the Silicon Valley. I attended UC Davis and graduated with honors. I speak three languages and I’m learning my fourth. I have lived in Paris, London, and now Vienna. I am fortunate and wildly blessed, spoiled even. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard too, but I’m also very privileged. I believe in a woman’s potential to do whatever she chooses to do. I believe in same sex marriage, the right to start a new life and seek the American Dream. I like people, and I believe in people. Apparently, I am not the norm. I made the mistake of assuming that every American is just like me, that my friends who are like me are representative of the wider population.

 

I was living in London when the Brexit results came in. Londoners could not believe it. The world couldn’t believe it. But it really made sense, didn’t it? People were disenfranchised, tired of being ignored, frustrated with what they believe is a corrupt and unfair system. We in London just couldn’t see beyond our bastion of liberalism. The same exact thing happened here.

 

Sure, it was about race and gun control and women’s reproductive health and immigration and religion. But at the end of the day, what really screwed us was our conflicting realities… which brings me to my second point.

 

Anyone who follows me on social media saw my immediate reaction. It was rage and confusion with a shot of betrayal mixed into a poisonous cocktail. I wielded my words like a sword and lashed out on all social media platforms. I think many of us did. I vowed to my friends and loved ones, to my own parents, that I would never return as long as Donald Trump sat in the Oval Office. I was upset and dramatic.

 

But now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I believe that the only way forward is not to run away in denial. It wouldn’t be right to demand a recount as much as we’d like it. While Donald Trump is #NotMyPresident and never will be, I’ve reached a certain depressed acceptance. I respect our system of democracy and the voice of some American people. So we’ve hit rock bottom? Then the only way is up.

 

Our only option as Americans is to be better. Those of us who have been walking around dazed and confused all day must take on the heavy onus of educating our fellow Americans. Ignorance is not an excuse. Disillusionment should never be a contributing factor to an election. Education and understanding, compassion and empathy will be our way forward.

 

America is already great, but America is not the greatest country in the world, as Aaron Sorkin solidified on the show Newsroom. The world watched with baited breath last night, curious to see how we would take on this challenge. But now the world knows that the United States is a country battling its own demons. Who knows? This election could bring chaos and xenophobism, misogyny and more, but it could also bring about a complete reconstruction of the U.S. Political system. It might even give governing bodies like the European Union a chance to step up to the plate and prove their own greatness.

 

I’ve always been turned off by people who complain endlessly without taking action. So enough complaining. Those of us who are furious and shocked should be galvanized to contribute to society– to educate, to include, to go into politics! I’m giving myself the rest of the day to mourn, but like so many have already stated, tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow we fight. We live to see another day.

 

The Lisbon List

I wrote this up a few months ago because several work colleagues were headed to the gorgeous city of Lisbon. But since we all have the attention span of mice these days, I thought I’d keep this one short and sweet. Enjoy!

 

Because on holiday, diets don’t exist….

For Pastéis de Nata (egg tarts):

  • Manteigaria fabrica: You’re telling yourself that you’re only going to eat one. You’re a big fat liar. You’re going to have five. Shut up.

 

  • Pasteis de Belém: Really close to the Monastero dos Jeronimos. They’re supposed to be the best in Portugal. I say liar liar pants on fire. They’re really hyped here, but I’m fairly sure anything with that much butter in it will taste delicious (see: croissants), but they’re no better than the ones at Manteigaria fabrica.

 

Lunch while you’re at the Monastery (Monastero dos Jeronimos):

  • Pão Pão Queijo Queijo: There will always be a huge queue because it’s also really popular with the locals. Wraps are great, kebabs are also great—if you’re feeling adventurous and ‘yolo’ go for the sardine sandwich (cue breath mint afterwards). The lady who takes your order is singularly terrifying but like a troll under a bridge, you’ll get over it… not that I’m calling her a troll.

 

The monastery itself is worth a visit. Gorgeous architecture and if you’re a history nerd + culture vulture like me, you’ll dig it.

 

Dinner:

  • Il decadente: Awesome food. Owned by the same people who own Il Independente. Don’t fill up on bread like I did—rookie mistake. Get the vino verde (think white wine with a pleasing sparkle) and literally everything on the menu will make you foodgasm.
  • Mercado de Campo de Ourique: Indoor market with different food stalls. Kind of out of the way of the central parts of Lisbon, but nice to sit down with a meat board and sangria. There’s also a nice park nearby for romantic walks with… each other.
  • Clube das Jornalistas: Best dinner I’ve ever had ever ever ever… or close. Kind of hard to get to though, so I’d recommend a taxi or Uber and definitely recommend making a reservation. It’s a bit expensive (for Portuguese standards) but absolutely worth the money. Prosecco when you walk in, fantastic service, really enthusiastic maître d’. I recommend the octopus and the dessert platter. It’ll change your life.
  • Fumeiro de Santa Catarina: Awesome food for cheap. Really small place though and can be difficult to find so of course, I always recommend a taxi.

 

Because we drink like fish….

  • Il Independente: Head to the rooftop bar. I think that says it all? There are also a boatload of rooftop bars in Lisbon, so if you miss it don’t sweat it.
  • Pink Street: The street is actually painted pink… The actual street name is Rua Nova do Carvalho. Pretty much anywhere you go on this street (look for Pensão Amor), you will see bars and people being happy and drinking. Join them. Stay there until 2am (I kid you not) and then head to…
  • Urban Beach, Lux, or Main: All clubs. 2:30am entrance is standard. Besides that… it’s a club….? So do what you do in a club and get down wit your bad self.

 

Because you’re tourists:

  • LX Factory: Lots of cool shops, huge library with wall to wall books, bars, etc.
  • São Jorge Castle: Beware of the peacocks running around, they are evil. Again, history nerd’s delight.
  • Belem Tower: Chess piece in the river, cool views from the top. Wasn’t too fussed but hey, that’s me. Great view of the bridge (don’t kid yourself, it’s not the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate is so much better and prettier. I’m not biased or from California).
  • Miraduoro da Graça: BEST. SUNSET. VIEWING. GO. I BEG YOU. GO. Très romantique, grab a few beers or some wine from the vendors and settle in for a gorgeous view of the aforementioned 25 de Abril Bridge
  • Praça do Comércio: Like Trafalgar Square… only not. Beautiful open space that opens out onto the beach, nice place just to kick back and relax and chat with friends.

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Have fun. Portuguese men all have beards… so there’s that. Rush hour for work is around 10:00/10:30am… and people wonder why Portugal’s economy needs help. JOKING… kind of, please don’t be offended Portuguese readers! Trams are unpredictable so take a taxi or Uber. Don’t forget sunscreen, this isn’t England.

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