Remembering modern medicine as a colonial production: do we still need to be reminded that health is political?

During my undergrad in biomedical sciences, I was let down by the lack of societal context on our courses. More than lack – at times it seemed like a deliberate absence that was incomprehensible given what I was learning outside of lectures. Things became particularly interesting and disappointing when we came to the module on global health and infectious disease, where lecturers and students alike were given free rein to voice their unqualified opinions about the health of developing countries – needless to say, both groups were mostly white and from the global North…

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Ata /ˈpɛpə/

Ata /ˈpɛpə/

For years I thought my blackness needed to be hidden
thinking that the music my dad put on at home was forbidden
I’d ask my dad to turn down his tape in the car as
we reached the school bars
because no one else’s Dad looked like mine and
No one else’s children looked like his.

I remember turning up my nose at the
patterns my Aunties and Uncles sent,
refusing to wear them, not knowing that they meant
So much,
whether they were black and gold
or green and white
my face showed disappointment instead of delight,
embarrassed instead of embraced,
meaning shoved so far into the back of
my wardrobe it left no trace
meaning so ignored and unwanted
almost hated, that it was sent to me
No more

For years I put my hair through torture
thinking that the straighter it fell the prettier I’d get,
that if it went through hell it might forget
how to bounce and to curl and hold its weight
for years I didn’t let it get wet or out of place.
The hours I’d spend burning away
what I got from my Dad
and ignoring the comments he made
about him being so sad
at the damage I was doing to myself and my heritage
I did this day after day, not caring
about my red scalp and scarred hands
because I thought that was what beauty demands

For years I tortured my mind and my body,
Being ashamed of my thighs
because my friends’ were so thin,
Being ashamed of my wide hips
Because my friends’ were so much more slim,
Being ashamed of my arse
thinking it was why I’d always been
out of place.
For so long I thought no boy could love me because
my nipples were too big and too dark and
my pussy wasn’t fully pink
I can’t believe I used to think
that my curves needed to whittled and reduced
like fruits needing to be juiced
the straighter my hair fell and the thinner I became
the less me I was, and I lost my flame

but as I got a bit older, boys
started to change their minds
instead of feeling strange I was
now used and fetishised,
I was good enough to be desired
but not to be adored
I was good enough to be fucked
but not anything more
I was good enough to be raped
and then be called a whore,
For years I thought that this
was all I’d get and all I deserved.
White men and white boys
touched and used and abused
my skin and my body and at
the same time told it me it was wrong
and for so long I thought that this
was the closest to love that my
thick thighs and dark nipples would allow.

but now I love a boy so much and he loves me
but I’m feeling like a traitor as I’m lying next to him,
For 2 years I’ve had the worry in my head
that in 10, I’ll be filled with nothing but regret
if I stay with the one I love
because my boy is white.
It’s alright boy,
I’m still your’s boy,
I know that you’re more boy
it just feels wrong,
That my lips have never kissed a black boy’s
and my fingers might never trail a chest
covered in dark skin, so rich in melanin,
Skin that will understand the way my
soul reacts to the sound of layers and layers
of hurt and culture in a harmony so smooth
that it tastes like honey,
Skin that will understand the way food
can heal a soul,
the way pepper soup and plantain
can heal all my pain –
even on the wrong day
Skin that would meet mine and then combine
to create a child that would look like my own
a child with my power and struggles and curls
a child with the right to reclaim our slurs

but my white boy is so real and so is his skin
I know that what should matter is the
Everything he has within,
he’s so much more than a skin or a colour
he might not get honey but it’s not too different from sugar
he’s the best friend,
and to think otherwise would make me no better than them
who made me think black was anything but mighty
and made me want to be plain instead of spicy
those who wanted my body but not my skin,
my white boy wants all of me and everything inside
he loves my skin, my heart, my scars and my thighs

And while my hair recovers, I’m
starting to discover the life I missed,
the culture I hid and the meaning I buried
and the food I’ve eaten so many times before
but have only just tasted.
I regret all the years spent wasted on a
life of conforming and performing,
I’ve learned to love my hair, my spice and my mind
I’ve left my shame, self-hate and timidity behind
And the next time my dad turns down
layers of honey and drums and beats
of life and soul and family and black,
I’ll tell him no, run that shit back

Cristina Samuel

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Isobel Gowdie

Isobel Gowdie

What is a dream of the devil
in a world where he is real?

Semantic fingers are lacing a cage
to keep your eyes in.
So, you call the lighting 
of a match a work of science, 
can you explain to me the trick? 
What is the meaning of the flame?

For there was alchemy and chemistry between us. 
Electrickery – electricity – I know what I believe. 
I want to burn it all to feel some warmth for once.
There was a broom in bed at home
and no one noticing.

What then is fire, 
in a world where hell is real?

Iona Lee

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Times Two: Short Story

The air is heavy with weed and sweat, mingled with the stench of Absolut Raspberry and some other cheap vodka you bought from the corner shop. Music is blasting from the TV as the four of you sit on the floor. Your back’s leaning against the sofa, your knee just lightly brushing his thigh…

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‘Women have been set back decades’: pandemics and personal independence

It’s been two months now since Scotland moved into Phase 3 of lockdown restrictions, and pubs, shops and workplaces are beginning to reopen. I recently started a new job, and received a long policy email about how to fight COVID-19 in the workplace as part of my starter pack. Unfortunately, not every woman has been given this privilege: experts have found that women in the workplace have been set back ‘decades’ by the effects of lockdown…

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The Brown Girl Guide to Moving Out

Recently, a friend of mine moved out from home. For context, she’s British Bangladeshi, from a somewhat traditional and religious household, wherein women are made to live under the tyrant…

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A gift to myself

too long i have spent
days in sadness,
denying myself the joys
which fill my heart.

my mind told me
my body was the problem,
and that i deserve to be
punished for its size.

it didn’t occur to me
that i only know and love
that which i know and love
because my body allows it.

i will no longer deny myself
the privilege,
the right,
that mother nature gave to me.

i will spend countless hours
drifting out to sea,
i will see my own contours
in each wave.

the space between each set
is space created for me.
my expanses don’t even touch the sides
and the ocean will always carry me.

its power is no match for me.
now i see that there was no battle.
its power is no match for me.
it is a source begging to be harnessed.

it will find its way into my pores.
each drop quenches
the parts of myself
i had starved.

it is a bottomless well,
and at the bottom she stands
and offers me
a drink.

a gift to myself.

Sophie Nankivell, Poetry Editor

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Dear past me, you’ll learn to love yourself amidst the chaos

Dear past me, you were something like a miracle child, a God-given blessing to parents who waited and prayed and longed for your birth for eighteen years. They’re older now, weaker, and fragile and it will be a heavy weight on your chest, a mountain or a volcano or a pile of rocks and stones only getting heavier with every passing moment. The crushing guilt of wanting a life of your own choosing, paving a way into a world that seems set against you, will bury you alive, suffocating you with its hands, screaming in your face about responsibilities and love and expectations, blaming you for the inevitable heartbreak they will feel…

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The Beauty Industry and Sustainability

When you think of the beauty industry, things like cosmetics, skincare and beauty treatments, what images come to mind? Do you feel good when you think about the beauty industry? If the answer is no, you’re not alone…

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‘Stealthing’ is a Problem – and a Crime

Hello! Welcome to the first of my monthly ‘Learning with Lucy’ columns, I’m very pleased to see you. To ease into the swing of the columns, I was going to use the first month to discuss a topic I was already passionate and knowledgeable about. Then I started researching the sexual offence known as ‘stealthing’, and thought to really get into the spirit of the column, I’d start by sharing some things I’ve been learning myself this month. So – fair warning – this won’t be a particularly upbeat piece, but I hope it’ll be informative and worth a read regardless…

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Growing Pains

“Oh, you’ve got a little cluster of greys back here!” my hairdresser exclaims. “Really?” I reply, attempting to sound nonchalant as I mentally make a note of exactly where she’s snipping. As soon as I get home, instead of my usual routine of debating whether getting my fringe cut back in was a mistake, I rapidly locate my hand mirror and a pair of tweezers, and plonk myself in front of the bathroom mirror…

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Beauty and the Virtual Beast

Social media and the fascination with image is more prevalent than ever in today’s society, because of how much access we have to it and how much information is online for us to consume. We have access to the camera phone, proven to be “a revolution in visual culture that has turned us into a population of image addicts. We now take more photographs every minute than we made in the entire 19th Century and spend the average of six hours a day gazing into screens” – Age of the Image (2020), BBC4…

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If They’re Selling You Something, It’s Not Feminism

It’s starting to become a familiar refrain when I watch television in the evening: first the music, sounding enough like that one Beyoncé song to suggest power, followed by various shots of women with truly flawless skin staring unashamedly down the camera, or doing something cool like skateboarding. A voiceover with buzzwords…

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