Trigger Warning: I Don’t Want to Die

We all know that feeling. Ask any woman. We know the rules, the multitude of calculations that go through our head the second we step out the door. We part ways with our friends and say, “Text me when you get home, please?” Or “Let me know when you’re home safe!” We say it cheerfully, as if merely an upbeat sign off, but we always say it.

Today, I’m not okay. Today, I’m broken. Last night I fell asleep crying to the cadence of “I don’t want to die” running through my mind. I am tired, I am exhausted. I thought of all times to not have to worry about being harassed, followed, catcalled, assaulted, raped, kidnapped, or murdered it would be now. But no, apparently even during a global pandemic, women are not safe to walk home alone at night.

And I know as well as any other woman the dread of not hearing back from a friend, probably because they’ve passed out with their make up still on after a night out. I know I have been guilty of raiding the fridge and then falling asleep without texting my friends to let them know I’m safe. So today my heart hurts in a very real, very physical way.

Any of us could have been Sarah Everard. We are all Sarah Everard. We are all living in a game trying to live our lives to the fullest (yay, girl power, amirite?) whilst simultaneously haunted by the constant fear of living in a world in which we are the prey (oh, but not too much girl power that you get yourself killed!).

I am heartbroken about the disappearance (and likely murder) of Sarah Everard. But my heart shatters to know there are women everywhere with stories like hers that aren’t told because they are not beautiful white women. I could’ve been Sarah. Would people have posted on social media and been so outraged for a brown woman gone missing? Would we care for my friends who are black women? For those who are trans?

This Monday was International Women’s Day and I saw a lot of posts from men and women with the call to action, Choose to Challenge. I chuckled darkly to myself. Challenge what? Challenge a world mired in patriarchy that will not protect me, but instead criticize my decisions if I do die? No, thank you.

I see so much advice to women all the time. My friends, my mother, my cousins have always cautioned me: don’t walk by yourself after dark, hold your keys between your knuckles, wear comfortable shoes in case you need to run, don’t listen to music – you need to be alert, if he comes on to you don’t reject him outright – it’ll make him mad. The list is never ending and it is tiresome. Why do we teach our girls and women to make themselves smaller, to arm and train themselves for this world? To take on the burden and responsibility of men’s disgusting behavior? Why don’t we instead look at who is perpetuating this violence?

If we must choose to challenge, my challenge is this: Let’s raise our boys and men to respect girls and women. Let’s abolish rape culture, which blames victims for the harms that others inflict upon them if a woman is believed in the first place. Let’s call out our friends and family and our social groups who uphold this idea of feminine fragility. Let us create a world in which every woman does not have to live in fear every waking moment of the day. Because as I write this all I can think is, I don’t want to die.

The Opposition

2021 took one look at 2020 and said, “Hold my beer.”

In the first five weeks of the year, we’ve already witnessed three monumental events on the world stage. So monumental, in fact, that it beggars belief that all three things could happen consecutively with a global pandemic still raging on. We’re all tired.

The three events I’m talking about are:

  • The insurrection on Capitol Hill on January 6 viewed through the experience of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her IGTV Live in which she shared her fears that she expected to die that day
  • The return of Aleksei Navalny to Russia, his detainment upon landing, mass protests in hundreds of cities across Russia, and his subsequent arrest
  • The military coup which ousted Myanmar’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her subsequent arrest for “illegal imports of walkie-talkies”

With these three events unfolding in rapid succession, I’ve felt increasingly wary, worried in that way that plagues your mind and causes you to clench your jaw as you doomscroll Twitter. And the reason I feel wary is because all three events are clear attacks on democracy.

I’ve spent the last week thinking a lot about what it must be like to be in the position of being the “Opposition.” Aleksei Navalny of the three aforementioned leaders has emerged in recent years as a clear opponent to not just Putin, but also corruption within the Kremlin more generally. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi lived most of her life in exile and despite holding a near-goddess reverence as the Bringer of Democracy was still overthrown by the more-powerful military. And finally, AOC, is portrayed as the enemy of not just conservatives, but also capitalism, “tradition”, “American values,” FOX News, that coffee you spilled on your laptop, whatever you want to blame her for.

My thoughts on this are still loose, but from where I sit there are two interesting themes that jump out. First, there is a moral clarity required to consistently and steadfastly defend democracy. It means living exiled for decades, sacrificing being with loved ones, living in constant fear for your life (whether that is poison by nerve agent or having your colleagues [in the US Congress] or the media suggest that you deserve to be assassinated). There is no glamour in being the champion of democracy when those in power are determined to subvert that which you aim to protect and preserve. It means choosing and committing to one’s moral compass every day.

Second, it is fascinating to see the way that those who try to stymy or quash their opposition often inadvertently give their opposition greater voice and power. Forgive my clumsy metaphor, but it feels a lot like Voldemort imbibing Harry with special powers. By trying to censor, jail, kill, threaten, etc. their Opposition, those in positions of power amplify the Opposition’s message. One need only look at the response from supporters: protests popped up in hundreds of Russian cities from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea across all 11 Russian timezones; supporters of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, while fearful, participated in civil disobedience in coordinated activities as small as merely honking their car horns; and finally AOC’s IGTV on her experience at the Capitol has been viewed over 4 million times and many more congresspeople have shared their stories.

It makes you wonder, perhaps having a moral compass is frightening to those without – perhaps moral clarity is a super power.

Post-clicking publish, the wonderful Sharon Kimathi sent me a link to Aleksei Navalny’s Wikipedia page which details his links to neo-Nazi groups. This was new information to me, and of course I should have read up a bit more on him. I was previously aware of his homophobic stances, but not about his links to neo-Nazi groups and the Stop Feeding the Caucuses group. I should also note that I do not condone and in fact condemn Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence and complicity in the genocide of Uighur Muslims in Myanmar. As Sharon put it, “I just hope these [countries] can get freedom without these so called “leaders” who have their own bizarre ideologies.” Agreed.

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!