If you follow this link on Sunday 9th July, you'll join in with my twelve-hour live stream to raise money for Standard Issue.
Each one of us, we all must stand united. A sisterhood in a flailing world of testosterone and hipster beards and Y-fronts and Y chromosomes and Y, Y, Y...
Why? Are we not equal to that other, more masculine sex? Did our sisters, or ancestors (ansisters?) not risk their very life and limb for our right for political equality, and in turn a platform for our voice? We are all alike. We all share the same history, the same troubles, the same movements that led us to the freedom we have today.
And each of us, all of us, must be celebrated: artist women, writer women, director women, actor women, lawyer women, doctor women, princesses, countesses, and queens.
That's right. I'll be spending daylight discussing woman, women, and womankind, feminism, antifeminism; there'll be a celebration of the female brain and gratitude for the breast. Above all, it will be praise of female freedom, and a discussion on those whose sex remains oppressed.
Well, this is twofold. One: women rarely get enough praise. Our monarch is a woman. Our prime minister is a woman (but for how much longer is anyone's guess). And yet we still live in a male-dominated society where masculine achievements consistently overshadow those of the suppressed not-actually-the-lesser feminine sex.
More specifically: I love Standard Issue. The Sarah Millican-founded magazine began life as an online magazine "for all women." Alongside those witty, honest, inspiring articles came a series of 'In Conversation' events, held mostly, but not exclusively, at the Leicester Square Theatre in London.
I'll be honest. If it wasn't for the fact that I'd stumbled upon an In Conversation event while seeking out Victoria Coren Mitchell events (she was one of the guests at the March event, alongside such wonders as Jessica Hynes and Diane Morgan; I've rarely been so happy), I wouldn't have heard of Standard Issue. But that day, when I discovered that there was a whole pack (think feisty, mighty she-wolves) of strong, intelligent, feminist women out there...well, I was so excited I almost weed a little.
Since that discovery, I've not only poured over the SIM articles, but also attended several of the events (can you say 'front row for Mel Giedroyc' would squealing? I can't.). And then - oh yes, and then! - after I happened to very casually drop a hint that Olivia Colman would make a great guest, but absolute coincidence, I'm sure, she was announced as a guest for the upcoming September event.
Well, I'll tell you this for nothing. Me. Front row. Olivia Colman. There will be tears. And probably a little more excitement wee.
Everything was going well. My eyes never remained dry after leaving any of those podcast-recorded events. During those hours I actually felt real. I felt normal. I was convinced then that it was okay to be the real me, not the me society expects.
Whether or not I conformed to the norms of society, I was and could be me. And I never believed that was okay until I discovered Standard Issue.
Sounds dramatic, doesn't it? But that's the problem. If one does not adhere to the standards of 'femininity' as set by society, there it's so easy to succumb to that crippling sense of inadequacy, of worthlessness that so many of us know too well. But with Standard Issue, I was me, and that was okay.
And then they ran out of money. And they announced the magazine would become dormant. And my heart shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.
You see, Standard Issue relied purely on donations. Everybody was welcome in the SIM club; nobody had to pay to read the articles, to interact with fellow SIM fans and feminists alike. Nobody had to pay to feel like they belonged.
I had meant to conduct this livestream much earlier in the year, having been planning it not long after I witnessed the delights of Sandi Toksvig and Claudia Winkleman and Miranda Hart, all such wonderful and inspiring women, all of whom were able to share that inspiration through the medium of Standard Issue.
The events are still happening. Olivia Colman is still in attendance (let us not change that, please and thank you). And Standard Issue now record a weekly podcast (or podzine). Isn't that exciting?
Yes, yes it is exciting! But how I fear that that too will be ripped right out from ears, and from the ears of everybody else who depends so greatly on the comfort of Standard Issue. So here I am. Long overdue but better late than never, this is my attempt not only to raise awareness for the brilliance that is Standard Issue, but also to hopefully raise a few extra pennies to submit to their donations (here) while praying that they will never leave us in total abandonment.
Before Standard Issue, I was lost in a sea of surreal expectations and unattainable standards. Now I am close to riding a wave of self acceptance. (What? I love an overused metaphor!) If they were to disappear...well, instead of contemplating such a horror, let's enjoy a twelve-hour celebration of all things woman.
I look forward to speaking with you then, when I hope that you will join me in raising your glass (or mug, or china cup, or plastic tumbler - whatever suits you, because we are empowered women with our wings spread wide by empowering women!) for the life saver that is STANDARD ISSUE.
p.s. Standard Issue has no idea I'm doing this, and therefore cannot be held accountable for anything peculiar that may be said during the livestream. Donations can be sent here - every penny helps and I know will be greatly appreciated.