Estrons’ Tali Källström shares powerful essay on femininity and body image for World Mental Health Day

'We've been conditioned to live a life to please and impress other people - this needs to change'

To mark World Mental Health Day, Estrons‘ frontwoman Tali Källström has penned a powerful essay about changing attitudes of femininity, gender and body image for NME.

The Cardiff punk trio’s debut album ‘You Say I’m Too Much I Say You’re Not Enough’ is a battlecry for empowerment – questioning gender roles and celebrating sexuality and self-worth.

In that same spirit, Källström tells us of the struggle of rejecting generations of expectation, and how a trip to a nude spa in Berlin made her feel “more free than ever before…”

“Since the dawn of civilisation, the archetype of what it means to be feminine has been dictated to the masses through many forms of media. Prototypes such as Venus in the ‘Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli would be painted with even complexions, long flowing hair, and little to no body hair based on toned and sanitised bodies; which is interesting because it’s only until recent history that items such as razors were invented for daily use. This means that women, for millennia prior to us, would have in real life, possessed quite a lot of body hair – it simply wasn’t being portrayed.

“Nothing has changed of course. We are still sold photoshopped ideals in advertising and in entertainment, and we are still being sold the ideal of femininity which is to spray ourselves with the smell of flowers, stay small and look like innocent little girls with no hair. Unthreatening and unpowerful. These are the two most common traits which is sold to the masses when it comes to femininity.

Estrons

“A while ago, I stopped wearing bras. Not because I wanted to make a point, it was more due to the fact that I’d been single for a while so didn’t feel the need for any lingerie and didn’t really think my breasts were large enough that they needed to be held up and strapped down. I didn’t feel like they were small enough that I needed to push them up and out to enhance their appearance to the outside world. Basically, I stopped giving a shit.

“I had no idea if bras were healthy or unhealthy, but I did know that they were expensive and mostly uncomfortable. As time went on though, I realised that bras were massive symbols of femininity. We were expected to wear bras to either ‘show off’ our breasts or to cover them up, because somewhere down the line of social history it had been decided that women’s nipples (because they were based on top of a small mound of flesh unlike men’s) had become explicit nudity. I am fully aware that this is because they are seen as objects of fertility, and are therefore arousing, but because of this women’s bodies have been largely sexualised and seen as having this one main purpose: to bear children.

“Because of this, we are taught from our teens to care about our appearances, and to strive for this feminine ideal. The other aspects of what’s important about us is largely suppressed. Because of this, many women end up it a rut of depression, because either they achieve the ideal and still feel unfulfilled, or they don’t and they feel unfulfilled – whether consciously or subconsciously. We live a life to please and impress other people and how they expect to perceive us.”

“You’re a tomboy…”

“You’re intimidating…”

“If you don’t want to care about how you look then go work in telecommunications…”

“I preferred you with red hair you were more relatable then…”

“Go blonde, it’s sexier…”

“Make sure you look hot for the show…”

“These are only a handful of things I’ve had thrown at me, and these are the milder ones. I have spent too much time in a cycle of caring and not caring, and we all know these things come in cycles, and that is absolutely okay. I think what women need to understand is that we are subjected to thousands of years of societal influences from many different sources that were formed by what has been so far a world run by the patriarchy, and it’s only really in the last couple of decades that we’ve really started to unravel those preconceptions of gender.

“It’s going to take a lot more work – and that goes with whatever gender you identify with.

“I want to finish off with a small anecdote that really helped change things for me. Last year I went to a sauna in Berlin. For those of you that don’t know this, spas in Germany are usually always nude. It is compulsory that you do not wear clothes. The day out was bought as a gift so in I went. I spent the first hour jumping from pillar to pillar and covering my nipples and crossing my legs, until I realised that everyone in there was actually just giving me weirder looks for doing that. This wasn’t a sexy spa. It was a type of mindfulness spa, and everyone in there was there to meditate or achieve some sense of sensual elation (no, I still don’t mean shagging).”

Estrons’ Tali Källström. Credit: Zoe McConnell/NME

“I saw all types of bodies, and all types of women’s bodies. I saw a round woman with no hair, a thin woman with a lot of hair, a woman undergoing chemotherapy, and woman with one arm and one leg bathing herself in a pool. I saw a woman doing some crazy buttocks yoga that showed off her entire absolutely everything you could show down there…and guess what? No one gave a shit.

“After two hours in there I felt more empowered and more free than I’d ever felt in my weird suppressed and prudish life. I’m not saying that I still don’t have my moments of doubt: Am I beautiful enough? Should I talk less? Should I get my hair done? Should I wear make up more often? Should I wax it all off and eat less? But I always take myself back to that spa and how I felt there.

“I realised ultimately that I didn’t care about anyone that didn’t accept me as I was, and I invite you all to step into that space yourself as often as you can, because let’s face it: life is much deeper, more meaningful and way too short to spend it worrying about that. I’m going to eat pasta now.”

FOR HELP AND ADVICE ON MENTAL HEALTH:

Estrons’ tour dates and tickets

The band’s upcoming tour dates are below, and tickets are available here.

Sunday October 14, 2018 – LLANELLI Llanelli Library
Thursday November 1, 2018 – LEEDS Belgrave Music Hall
Friday November 2, 2018 – GLASGOW King Tuts Wah Wah Hut
Saturday November 3, 2018 – NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Think Tank?
Wednesday November 7, 2018 – MANCHESTER Soup Kitchen
Thursday November 8, 2018 – BRISTOL Louisiana
Friday November 9, 2018 – NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social
Wednesday November 14, 2018 – EXETER Cavern
Thursday November 15, 2018 – BIRMINGHAM Castle & Falcon
Friday November 16, 2018 – BRIGHTON Green Door Store
Saturday November 17, 2018 – CAERNARFON Galeri
Friday November 23, 2018 – CARMARTHEN Parrot
Thursday December 6, 2018 – CARDIFF Globe
Thursday February 7, 2019 – LONDON Scala