Rage Against the Machine

Feminist/Humanist rants!

After years of shame and guilt, Northern Ireland’s women must be freed once and for all

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Abortion law in Britain is fraught with issues, but since 1967 women in England, Scotland and Wales have had access to safe and legal abortions.

Yet in the United Kingdom there remains an oft-forgotten area that still refuses to conform to this liberty, decades after it was granted.

Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion would shock you. Women can face life imprisonment for obtaining an illegal abortion in Northern Ireland.

Every day, women face the prospect of carrying a child they do not want due to their country’s restrictions on their bodies. Every day, women are bound by outdated and medieval laws and restrictions that mean they have no voice and no choice over their bodies and their future.

Understanding why these constraints still exist is a minefield. However, put simply: Northern Ireland’s Assembly in Stormont has been inactive after its collapse in 2017, following the catastrophic RHI scandal. Since then, the Democratic Unionist Party, one of the leading parties in Northern Ireland, joined Theresa May’s Conservative Party in a effort to keep the Tories with a majority in Westminster. May’s allegiance to the resolutely anti-abortion DUP has halted any further efforts to overturn abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.

The frustrating thing about this, of course, is that over 70 per cent of Northern Ireland agrees that abortion should be made legal, according to a recent poll. Not only do the DUP not represent Northern Ireland when it comes to Brexit (of which most voted Remain), but they are also misrepresented on the subject of abortion. While the DUP, a party mostly made up of white men, continues to obstruct women’s freedom, the rest of the country has moved on.

Now that Theresa May has left her post as Prime Minister, it is up to whoever takes her place to stand up to the DUP and finally make a change that will impact the lives of vulnerable women in Northern Ireland who are forced to travel in circumstances that are already undesirable in order to receive an abortion. Attention must be paid to Brexit, yes- but the incumbent successor to May must pay attention to suffering that’s been going on far longer than the European Union.

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It’s a frightening fact that in 2019, Northern Irish women who have become pregnant from rape will face more time in prison than their rapist.

In 2019, too much attention has been paid to the unending uncertainty of Brexit and too little attention paid to the intolerable legislation on women’s reproductive rights.

As of May this year, women in Alabama, USA, have had their reproductive rights ripped from their hands. This kind of walk backwards into the past is terrifying and on so many levels, is wrong.

But Northern Irish women have never had the rights to be taken away in the first place. Every day, women have had to make excruciating choices over their future. The law is merciless. Where once we thought being part of the UK would make our laws more modern than the Republic and allow us to be free from religion restraining our rights, we see now that the British government will not look out for our interests – at least as long as one of our parties holds the noose around the Conservative Party’s neck.

I have always tolerated the other opinions in this debate. I have listened as those with a more conservative mindset have lamented the sacred nature of life; as many logical arguments are brought to the argument against abortion – or at least against abortion after a certain number of weeks. I have disagreed, but remained respectful of these opinions and even entertained their own validity, questioning my own stance on a few occasions.

However, I have always returned to the belief that the more we put constraints and stipulations and what-ifs on this choice, the less it becomes a choice and the more it becomes a barbed-wire fence. It injects fear into an already fraught issue.

It’s been said before, more eloquently and more concisely – but if you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t have one.

The right to abortion is and has always been about the personal choice of the individual – one that I believe is tantamount to women’s equality in this society. If we can allow men to walk free from a child, we must allow women to do the same. Human rights are nothing to do with what we think about the case and the situation – it’s about liberty and justice for the individual, no matter what.

#NowforNI

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In Defense of Clutter

Under my bed, I have three massive plastic boxes of crap I don’t need.

Each box groans with unnecessary, useless paraphernalia, amassed over my two and a half decades of consciousness.

I would not describe myself as a hoarder. But I wish there was a more glamourous term for a person who just likes to keep things.

One of the many items includes a key that I found when I was approximately eight years old, around the time I first got my own room, when I moved out of the bottom bunkbed of the bedroom that my brother and I had shared and into the room that had been transformed from a disorganised barrister’s home office to a decorative dedication to the colour purple (the shade, not the book) whose walls would soon be adorned with posters ripped out of Mizz magazine and Blu-tacked above my bed.

I have swathes of scarves that I never wear that have been stuffed in a  large hat box, of all things. Nice enough scarves that I haven’t worn in a decade and also cannot bear to see given away to the charity shop. One scarf is adorned with peace signs, a relic of my heavy bohemian phase in my early teens. One is a black-and-white bandana with a skull print, which I remember wearing with black skinny jeans, black trainers and a purple Topshop t-shirt. So, an important accessory to an important look. Looking back, I probably looked like a mid-2000s male hairdresser who may have once appeared in an episode of Ally McBeal, with my side fringe and dark eyeliner and surly pout. I wasn’t an emo – that would have meant “fitting in” to a crowd at school, which was so not my brand. I was a social wanderer. But I fancied myself a real punk – because I wore a studded bracelet that I had bought in America and I had two Good Charlotte albums. I wore the palest shade of Rimmel foundation there was, despite my actual skin being a completely different shade. In short, I was about as punk as a bakewell tart.

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I like keeping this stuff. I like keeping mementos. I rarely look at them-i rarely want to. But I dislike the feeling of not having those things somewhere in the house. Having them somewhere in the attic, under the wardrobe, brings a sense of safety and calm.

Inevitably, this causes clutter.

It has become a joke of the family that I am a clutter magnet. I leave a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of hair pins everywhere I go, and I like to leave an earring or a pot of nail varnish as a calling card of my presence. Then, once one piece of clutter appears, more clutter accumulates around it, like neighbourhood coffee shops. It’s like putting down seeds in the soil of my home, watching them grow and turn into beautiful flowers taking up too much space.

Of course, much like my Good Charlotte albums, clutter is not so cool these days. Now that Marie Kondo has turned from a person into a movement and then a verb, people are bagging up things that “no longer bring them joy” and dumping them at the door of the nearest Oxfam. It was reported in January that charity shops were receiving so many donations that they had to start turning people’s bags of clutter away. Such is the “magic art of tidying up” effect.

But I’d put a tenner on that most people regretted giving away at least one of the items they bagged up for the charity shop. I’d bet that there was at least a second of hesitation before they handed it over to the lady at the till. We are sentimental, deep down inside ourselves – and I don’t think that’s something we should be fighting.

By all means clear out things that you think could be used better by someone else (although a piece of advice: the idea that someone else will find true joy out of your mustard yellow Bonmarché cardigan from 2007 is wildly optimistic). But don’t give away pieces of your childhood, pieces of your life, of yourself. Keep the cardigan. Keep the useless key you found. Keep them close to your heart, because they are what you reach for when you start to feel like you’ve lost yourself.

To this day I don’t know what door that my useless key opens. I’ve tried it on all doors in the house and it doesn’t fit in any of them. But every time I look at its rusty exterior and feel the surprisingly heavy weight in my hand, I’m transported to the life of the eight-year-old girl who cut her own fringe in a mad flourish of “artistic flair”. Who read Jacqueline Wilson books in a day. Who carried around a beanie baby everywhere she went. That girl’s still with me. I’d never want to throw her away.

 

Reclaiming Space and how to deal with the Creepy Old Man at the bar

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If only it were always this easy. Credit: Matt Groaning, or something

They say that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. Ho ho ho, he he he, what a lark. The saying clearly came about before women won the right to give their opinion, because for the second sex there is of course a third certainty: creepy old men.

The creepy old man’s origins are little-known, like Ska music or lenseless glasses (both are now presumed to have risen from the embers of hell). The first image of the creepy old man was etched on tablets in Egypt at around 3100 BC. Indeed, before Anthony swept Cleopatra out of her milk bath into his arms, the creepy old man sidled up to her in a dingy pub and asked her where she got her earrings, because they really accentuated her rack.

Most women have at least one horror story about unwanted, unwarranted male attention in the form of a creep. The word “creepy” is imperative to describing this archetype. This is not an intriguing, mysterious quiet don across the bar you’re trying to telepathically compel to offer to buy you a drink. This is quite a different animal altogether. He (and make no mistake, when you’re a woman, it is always a man who creeps up) manifests himself in numerous ways. Many experiences are different. But in my own experience, the progression of creepiness is thus:

  1. The Sidle: For there is not a move so slimy, so sweaty, so slick with ill intent and cheap aftershave than the sidle of the Creepy Old Man. Call it survival instinct; a woman senses his approach with a chill down her spine, then a hand on the small of her back. “What’re ye drinkin’?” The entire movement is scored by Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King.
  2. Best Friend Charade: The Creepy Old Man is not stupid: he knows that you know what he’s doing. So he wraps his performance in a thin veneer of faux-friendship, puts his arm around you and makes out like you’re just two pals, having a laugh. His hand is too low; his breath is unbearable; you cannot understand a word he says so you just smile wanly, wishing you were anywhere else. The Creepy Old Man also puts this charade on for onlookers, possible saviours – But for some reason you have to stay – waiting for a friend, watching live music, wanting to enjoy your night. But you soon find that was a fruitless endeavour.
  3. Showman: He feels your patience waning, you keep telling him to leave you alone and he needs to impress. So logically, he becomes the joke of the room, pulling “hilarious” dance moves while you and everyone else pretends not to notice and looks anywhere other than his figure, desperately gyrating out of time to the music as an attempt to stir something in you.
  4. Sad Drunk: The end of the night, the end of your patience. You’re leaving? So soon? he slurs, as you pay your tab and grip your mobile in your pocket. He stretches out his arms, presumably for an embrace, but you’re not a colossal idiot, so you swerve past him in a series of impressive serpentine motions, towards the door, which at the moment looks like the pearly gates of heaven, that beautiful green exit sign, a path to freedom, to a beautiful emancipation.

Oftentimes, recounting the tale will result in reactions of hilarity – people will respond to the story like it’s a madcap rollercoaster tale straight out of a Carry On. Sometimes it is – sometimes the encounter makes no impression other than a two-minute interlude to your night.

But more often than not there are dark, sinister undertones to the Creepy Old Man. There is a reason why he is called the Creepy Old Man, not the Endearing Auld Scamp or the Mischievous Chancer. Sometimes he isn’t even that old; sometimes he’s the same age, but make no mistake: still just as creepy.

It’s been said before, but women have historically been raised to be polite, most especially in the face of unwanted male attention. We have been taught to react with manners, even when the man in question clearly has none. We have been told to feel flattered; as if the idea that a man should be attracted to us is some kind of great unexpected honour that we must be appropriately grateful for, no matter how inappropriate the advances are. We must treat him like a lost dog – be kind, be understanding, be careful.

There are grave issues with this idea: not only the fact that politely declining advances almost never works in swatting away this particular insect, but that it contributes to skewing a woman’s perception of her own autonomy. It suggests that women should not feel entitled to their own space. That we owe it to the Creepy Old Man to be mannerly, to be grateful. That we do not deserve to have a conversation with a friend uninterrupted. That we should deal with the situation as if it’s a compliment.

Thankfully, modern feminism has championed the power of the middle finger. Nineties feminism had its problems, but post-punk feminist bands such as Bikini Kill and Le Tigre were loud and proud about women reclaiming their space. Bikini Kill’s infamous “Girls to the Front” line pointed out the unfair treatment of women in public spaces, especially live music venues. Nowadays, women have spoken out about their experiences of sexual harassment – or even just unwanted attention – on social media, in part thanks to Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism. It’s being discussed openly in a public forum. But it still persists in public places today, most likely at your local pub.

It can feel like it’s been a long battle with a hard punch still to be swung. But for now, we can swing the fist of feminism in our own life, the next time we get that chill down our spine, the next time we notice the first signs of the Creepy Old Man rearing their ugly head. In my experience, there’s only one method that’s proven 100% successful. Look him square in the eye. You’re the black panther, he’s the witless warthog. Then say it, clear-cut and unflinching, right there and then:

“Fuck off.”

 

Useful links:

http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/creating-safe-public-spaces

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/discrimination/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination/sexual-harassment/

https://twitter.com/EverydaySexism?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

 

 

Grooming In Public

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Lately I’ve been musing that one of the less rewarding parts of “growing up” (look at me all grown-up, with my inverted commas) is learning social grace. Learning to assimilate oneself with the common people.

Oftentimes this means learning to conceal or eradicate one’s personal quirks. How sad that we have to un-learn things that we did while we were at our most carefree. For example, when I was younger, in my more innocent days, I would wear the weirdest, most out-there outfits I could put together just so that I was standing out from the crowd. People stared and whispered, but I cared not a jot. My theory was that people’s opinions shouldn’t affect how we behave.The idea that it should, made no sense to me. On some level, it still makes no sense to me. Why should we let petty judgement affect how we act?

In terms of social behaviour, what makes sense is never usually the point. We seem to adhere to a set of rules that go unquestioned. They are rarely mused upon because they seem insignificant, but consider the fact that these rules impact our everyday lives and yet they are followed without criticism?

One aspect of this is public grooming.

(I hope I didn’t make any typos there.)

Today I found myself with an empty can of deodorant. So while running various other errands, I picked up a can of deodorant at Boots. But a question: where to spray? I wanted to do it right then and there in the middle of Prince’s Street; I could smell myself after I rode my bike into the city centre and the scent wasnot an attractive one. So I would have preferred to fix the problem as soon as possible. What was stopping me? Social grace. I eventually cycled across the town and did it in the uni bathrooms. But what would have been so wrong about doing it then and there? Does it make others uncomfortable to see others in a state of…indignity? Is it undignified to deodorise oneself? Does it spoil my mysterious allure? Applying lipstick, brushing your hair, plucking your eyebrows – these all reside on a scale of what is and isn’t considered acceptable to do in a public space.

Is it a sort-of sexist thing too? Calm down, guys, just exploring a thought. Women generally have more gender-specific grooming options than men. Would we think twice about a man stopping in the street to use some anti-persiprant? Perhaps society would like to think women wake up in the morning with neat hair, neat eyebrows and all the while smelling good, despite running for the 8:30 bus, only for the driver to drive on despite you rapping you sweaty palms on the door?

The feminine mystique is a myth. Whether you groom every detail of your form or just stick to spraying on a bit of Sure when you wake up, few of us get up without considering ourselves. So why can’t we let anyone else in on the secret? The guy beside you on the 8:45 bus (I was 15 minutes late, thanks for asking) probably did something like you did this morning, whether it was plucking a stray chin hair or running a hand through his highlights, it was something. So stop being so bashful, blow away the smoke and whip out the mirrors to check your blush – and let it be from Benefit’s Dallas powder, not embarrassment.

Calling All Health Food Gurus: Please leave my party – and take your avocado brownies with you

Why the “wellness” craze is just as bad as the next fad diet – and probably that thing you smell.

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Recently, when Googling “brownie recipe”, one of the first recipes I was met with was one for “gluten-free avocado brownies.” A frown, step back and sigh. What fresh hell?

It’s not that I hate avocado. I actually quite like spreading some on a slice of Brennan’s brown with a squeeze of lemon and a perfectly poached egg. It appeals to my inner koala bear. The point it becomes an issue is when it tries to worm its way into my brownies.

Look: if I wanted green brownies, I’d ask my friend’s pothead boyfriend to make some for me. But avocado brownies don’t send me to heaven with a smile, they make me feel like I’ve made one of those terrible snack combinations you make when you’re just in from a massive bender and raiding the fridge for literally anything edible that you can smush in between two slices of wheaten.

When it comes to “bad food”, I’m a serious purist. I won’t tolerate alternatives to my food-related mischief. But today’s wellness brigade is telling me different. It’s an inescapable movement hellbent on making you spiralise courgettes like a madman, detract gluten from muffins and use almond milk (which is actually almond water), instead of regular milk in your bowl of Golden Nuggets, as if that’s going to make any difference. I’m eating Golden Nuggets, for God’s sake. I’m a lost cause.

These impossibly lively-looking, peppy, flicky-haired health gurus remind me of the Hare Krishnas that parade around the city centre once in a while, wearing dresses and deranged smiles, dancing around you and insisting that you will lead a better life just by reading their leaflet, listening to their CD and allowing God to come into your life. But whereas most of secular society know that having God in your life is more cumbersome than not having him in it, like a distant cousin crashing on your sofa for a month as they try to “catch a break”, modern society has grasped onto the Wellness Brigade’s parables like the second coming, with Deliciously Ella standing on the pedestal in her Free People off-white peasant dress and wicker sandals, telling of greener pastures and greener smoothies, healing the sick with gluten-free banana bread and putting the sinners on the better path with blueberry-quinoa puddings. It’s as if the entire Western world have turned into rabid wellness zombies, bingeing on kale chips like it’s going to turn them into Gwyneth bloody Paltrow, when in fact the kale probably lost all nutritional value through the cooking process and has been glazed with enough oil to make the chips taste semi-normal, so that they are probably just as fattening as a packet of good old fashioned cheese ‘n’ onion Kettle Chips. God, I’d love a Kettle Chip right about now.

You can’t enter the cookery section of a bookshop these days without a thousand titles screaming at you to just slice up some beetroot, glaze with Albanian linseed oil, season with rosemary plucked from the garden of a rich Mongolian widow, cook in an antique clay oven resurrected from the Roman Empire for forty days and forty nights, sprinkle with green Slovakian sea salt and it will be a hit for brunch with friends. Every single smiling maniac is telling you that you can eat pasta every day and still fit into those size eights, as long as you eat the pasta uncooked with no sauce, just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Purple pepper, only available from Thai monks. Price upon request, so good luck contacting the monastery.

I tried spiralising once with a “Kitchenmate” and was left, predictably, hungry and dissatisfied. Food should not make you feel like that. We deserve better. Kitchenmates are not your real mates. Or they’re the kind of mates that take picture of you while you throw up a veggie kebab on the street, or tell you that you can’t pull off high-waisted shorts because your bum’s too big. Kitchenmates are jealous of your jelly, they ain’t ready for it. They wish to make you weak as a courgette, so they may spiralise you into an anaemic wreck of curly vegetable slices.

Alright look, I might be exaggerating slightly. I’m sure there are some “health gurus” who actually believe the jargon they peddle relentlessly and want others to benefit from their life of enlightenment and permanent meditative state. But it seems that the wellness wagon is creaking under the weight of so many tagalongs, so many tourists looking to hop on while the going’s good (and the profits are high). It’s become a carnival of herbivorian insanity. It’s infiltrated our cookbook section, our supermarkets, our lunch spots. Where once there was the option of sausage in a bap or veggie sausage in a bap, there is now halloumi and courgette on rye and chickpea and cousous salad, served with artisanal brown bread (okay, admittedly, artisanal bread is actually rather tasty, if overpriced). Your ice creams are now frozen yoghurt, because the movement dictates that it tastes the same with half the fat, which is as ludicrous as suggesting you get one bowl of side chips instead of two. It’s shaving the layer of fat off the top of your life, leaving you with a watery liquid resembling what Oliver Twist wanted another bowl of in the orphanage.

I like sugar. I like gluten. I like carbohydrates and refined flour and all the beautiful preservatives that preside in my chocolate. Additionally, I’m not one of those mad addicts you see late at night on ITV2. I don’t casually eat massive blocks of cheese on the bus at every hour of the day.  I’m under no apprehensions that eating these foods in excess is good for me. But I know that eating it in moderation won’t do much harm either. There’s nothing wrong with eating gluten unless you really are intolerant of it and as long as you keep it within reason, which everyone was probably doing anyway, before they even knew what it was. Common sense dictates that you shouldn’t eat bad stuff all the time. Not the whole bottle of wine every day. Not the whole box of chocolates. Choke down a couple of salads now and again. Fruits and vegetables are good for you and your body. Cigarettes and cocaine, unfortunately, are not. But one or two full-fat, high-sugar brownies on the weekend won’t kill you.

Furthermore, adding avocado instead of eggs doesn’t mean you can eat more of them. It’s just that eating the avocado brownie won’t be as much fat, but will also taste worse. So my view is – if you’re going to be bad, be bad. Follow it through. Do it right. Life’s too short to mess around with one lovely sweet artificial-sugar-filled brownie, which is much more satisfying than three of Deliciously Ella’s no-gluten no-sugar high-fibre low-calorie avocado brownies. Doing an extra lap in the swimming pool is a small price to pay for having the thing that you like, the thing that puts a spring in your step during a hard day.

So I await in my chocolate palace for the inevitable backlash that usually follows trends like these. Once the wellness cookbooks disappear from the Bestsellers table, I anticipate the replacement to be titles such as Just Be Bad, Eat Sugar Be Happier, Fat’s okay in Moderation, Who Wants Abs Anyway?, et cetera. Look out for my own cookbook, out soon, called “Just Eat The Damn Brownie.”

Brexit Bores and Breakfast

So while I’m late to the game on covering the Brexit furore, I have some thoughts not on Brexit itself, but to those who voted (of which, by the way, I am one).

Whether you voted leave or remain, I think we all want to tell people who bring up Brexit at a party to leave – and to take their high horse with them before it takes a shite on the new carpet.

After the results, my Facebook newsfeed was like the ladies’ room at Hive – wet toilet roll on the floor, tears, sweat, hairspray and visceral arguments that make no sense whatsoever. But the stupidest voices are usually loudest, which became clear almost instantly.

Have your opinions. Express them vehemently if you feel it necessary. But those who express them at the Altar of Superiority and Intelligence are going to get their head chopped off someday. Is there anything more irksome than a student expressing their political views as if they’re the holy messiah and we are but their disciples, hanging on their every word in order to know which side to swing on?

I hate to generalise, but seeing as most of the people on my Facebook are students, they’re usually liberal lefties – the kind of lefties who post Buzzfeed articles about how crap Doanld Trump is and how they can’t believe that “nobody is talking about this!!!” eveen though they are and these people would know that if they spent time on any other news website. they share links upon links of opinion pieces which are handy ways of expressing their “opinions” without having to do anything as cumbersome as put it into their own words. They’re the people who post videos with headlines such as “This student had a problem with his teacher’s outfit. Their reaction is the best thing ever” (Sidenote: This video is never the best thing ever. It will illicit a chuckle or a nod of solidarity.  Gin and dogs will always be the best things ever).

You hear them before you see them at house parties. They simply cannot imagine why anyone could ever vote Leave. If they could, they conjure up an image of a grumpy old age pensioner waving a stick at young people, moaning about “the coloureds” with a swastika tattooed on their back. They can’t comprehend an opinion that doesn’t appeal to their notion of what a perfect ideology is. As they sob to the spirit of John Lennon that night in their bedrooms, they bemoan the decision of Leave, crying “How can people be so horrible and racist? I didn’t vote for this, so it’s not fair that we have to take it” Suddenly, they feel a cold hand on their shoulder. “It’s called democracy, you fucking hippie” John lennon’s ghost says in a calm voice. “it’s the very definition of fair.”

These are people throwing their toys out of the pram because they wanted a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunchbox for Christmas but Mummy and Daddy got them the wrong sort and it’s just so unfair.

The media has played into the Brexit Bore’s hysteria – according to sources such as the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, the public is to blame for opening Pandora’s Box and letting a swarm of flies with the face of Boris Johnson fly around the UK, spreading poison upon innocent bystanders. Thesesa May is driving the spaceship about to land on UK soil and kill off unsuspecting locals who just popped outside for a fag and a casual whistling session.

There will always be the Politics Bores who seem to be permanently balanced on a pedestal of their own construction, but Brexit seems to have given them an excuse to shout about it even more. Most of the time, people are too scared to knock them off it. But all it takes is challenging their view to find that their pedestal is made entirely of salted caramel ice cream and the process of knocking them off it is incredibly easy, not to mention absolutely delicious.

A note to all you Brexit bores out there. Bringing it up at a party is not “stirring the political pot” or engaging conversation. It’s taking a shit in the pot and making everyone feel awkward about it for the rest of the night. Also, the smell will never truly go away.

It’s not just the Academy, it’s the entire damn system

 

 

Racism in the media is nothing new. With the media acting as a mirror to mainstream society (and vice versa), we can always see the dirty marks in our reflection that remind us that while we like to pretend prejudices have died and we have become a far more developed society, it’s never quite as simple as that. In this age where the media is inescapable, our problems are always right behind us. These days, more marginalised groups now have as much a voice as the wider, mainstream media, and they’re using that platform to point out some stuff.

With the Oscars nominations being announced last week and the winners being announced fairly soon, the Academy was going to be in for some social media scrutiny. Last year the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was used frequently by social media users in order to highlight the lack of racial diversity in the awards nominations, and when the nominations were announced this year, there was an outcry as people were disappointed once again for the lack of minority film workers recognised in the nominations. Actress Jada Pinkett-Smith posted an emotional and strident video online to lament her dissatisfaction with the Academy and announce that she would not be attending in protest. many applauded the motion on Twitter, and she was not alone in her thoughts as Best Actress nominee Brie Larson and George Clooney echoed her sentiments.

But are we pointing our fingers in the right direction? Yes, it’s true that there was a severe lack of racial minorities in the nominations this year (and previous years haven’t been much better) but I can’t think of many films made by people of colour or any performances by people of colour that deserved those nominations. True, it’s not as if I’ve seen all the films that were released this year; but there wasn’t some great injustice to the nominations leaving out someone whose performance had been applauded greatly and not given its due recognition.

The reason for this is the racism within the film industry itself. It’s because people of colour are shown the door at the big-budget Oscar film auditions. It’s because directors are mostly white and mostly male, and there’s not much room in that club for anyone else. For so long, stories have been told by the white, the male and the privileged. This is the root of the problem- movies aren’t casting people of colour out of fear that it will alienate audiences, not considering how they are effectively alienating talented actors and actresses, alienating potential to change the scope of the movie world.

For so long, stories have been told by the white, the male and the privileged. This is the root of the problem

Thing’s are changing, yes, but slowly; for every Steve McQueen, there’s ten Clint Eastwoods, for every Lupita Nyong’o, there’s twenty Julia Roberts. Clint Eastwood and Julia Roberts are very talented people, yes, but this doesn’t explain why there isn’t an equal ratio being represented. The only film this year I can think of that merited applause that included a great deal of people of colour was Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A. biopic which many thought deserved more recognition. But that’s just one film.

So it strikes me as missing the point when people bemoan the lack of minorities represented in the Oscars. They can only do the best with what they have. When there’s a lack of films representing talented people of colour, that’s going to have a domino effect on the amount of awards recognising them.

So bemoan not the Oscars, but the people sitting in the red velvet seats, soaking up the glory of another box office and awards-season hit, the heads of film companies who seem disinterested in telling stories little-heard by the mainstream. There needs to be a conversation on why so many films are being white-washed by studios in order to…what? Make them more palatable to a racist audience? The shock casting of Rooney Mara in last year’s adaptation of Peter Pan as the Native American character Tiger Lily was just a drop in the ocean in comparison to the casting choices by Ridley Scott of Exodus: Gods and Kings, where characters of Egyptian ethnicity were played by mostly white actors. These are the problems that should have fallen out of fashion long ago.

It’s time for a conversation about racism in the film industry, yes, but make sure most of the vitriol is pointed in the right direction.

Stop Whinging about “Selfie Culture”, You Sound like a Prat

Another day, another stuffy left-wing columnist moaning about “the youth of today”. Every generation has one, but this generation’s joykiller seems to come in the form of an Australian social media star who has been announced as “revolutionary” for her comments on the downsides of visual social media and its impact on our society. Because obviously taking a couple of selfies is hindering social progress and is adding to the issue of global warming and child poverty in Central Africa and the Syrian conflict and basically the world will end when someone presses the fire emoji on their Blueberry or Raspberry or whatever.

In the 60s you had people moaning about hippies and children becoming satanists and reading too much J.D. Salinger (note: you can never read too much J.D. Salinger), in the 70s the hippies were still about, but now people were listening to FUNK MUSIC which would have obviously led to sexual intercourse outside marriage and other depravity. Then the 80s came about and suddenly there were kids wearing staples on their nipples and on their face and saying it was “punk” but was obviously a secret plot to take over the country and bring about an anarchist society. Then in the 90s everyone was smoking their granny’s life savings and making bongs out of 2-litre Coke bottles and wearing flannel and worshipping Che Guevara so basically becoming Stalinist rebels. The 2000s were silent because everyone was talking to their six lovers on their mobile flip-phone and wearing those trackies, daring to try to be comfortable. Now nobody talks on the phone anymore but instead tell their friend they hate their fringe over Whatsapp and then take pretty pictures of their city on the way to uni and when they think they look good they can get a mirror thing up on their phones and then take a picture of themselves looking into that mirror so THEY WILL KNOW WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE IN A PHOTO, so now you see, even though there were trends back then this trend thats happening right now is the worst of them all, because of the internet and such. Let’s ignore the fact that the internet has made expensive encyclopedias obsolete so now even poor people can go to a library and look up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for free. It’s now self-indulgent selfie culture is making our youth. Because it isn’t until now that young people have been so self-obsessed! Never before have young people been selfish and self-centered and superficial and obsessed with the aesthetic aspects of life. Let’s blame the downfall of civilisation on a phone app and call it all square. that seems like the right thing to do because Instagram is burning our children’s brains and-

Ach, feck off. Honestly. Don’t listen to any of these meaningless fusty-dusty diatribes on how taking a picture of yourself is destroying your brain cells. You know what destroys brain cells? Reading crap like that and believing it. Stupidity is a disease, and if you spend too much time around it, you’ll catch it too.
It’s your god-given right as a young person to be self-obsessed and like talking about makeup and trainers and forget to take the bins out and only floss your teeth when you have to Skype your parents and signing up for a blood donation and then sleeping in on the day because you had ten G&Ts and a curry chip last night so you’re knackered and you’re probably anaemic so your blood would be useless anyway. At this point in your life, if you can catch a lecture now and again, ring your mum on her birthday, know how to microwave baked beans and manage not to be too much of an arselick while doing it, then you’re doing a lot better than most people.

23 Things To Do Instead of “Getting Beach Body-Ready” This Summer

summer

Summer is approaching, which means it’s time to be bombarded with an onslaught of body-negative media disguised as health and fitness commercials, They will tell you that your current body is not “beach-ready”, that your bowels are slow and you’ve been eating too much. They will show you what you should be looking like. They will try and convince you that anything other than what this nameless model looks like is unacceptable, and it’s time for you to spend your hard-earned money on their product which will make you acceptable to the public.

Do not listen. They are the embodiment of that crappy ex-friend who tells you that you can’t “pull off” those shorts.

So sit back, relax. Eat the feckin’ digestive biscuit. You look fine. Do not buy into the body-shaming commercials. here are some far more productive things to do instead:

  1. Take a hike up a hill and watch the sun set after a sunny day. Nature is more satisfying than a “chocolate flavoured protein meal shake”.
  2. Take up flossing (YOUR TEETH. God).
  3. Make a “Getting Sh*t Done” motivational playlist to motivate you into getting sh*t done. Song suggestions: “Someday” by The Strokes, “Tighten Up” by The Black Keys and “Strict Machine” by Goldfrapp.
  4. Plan a festival weekend – Alt-J and The Libertines are playing at Reading, Paolo Nutini and First Aid Kit are playing at Isle of Wight and Charli XCX is doing Bestival. Rent or borrow a tent, buy some barbecue food and get gritty for a couple of days.
  5. Make a list of reasons why you’re awesome and deserve better from yourself. Do it seriously-sure you’ve got great hips and great hair, but you’re also a loyal friend and have a thoughtful mind. You just need a reminder.
  6. Take the dog for a walk and accidentally bump into another cute dog walker. Set up a date. Get freaky.
  7. Stop putting off the things you always meant to do or try.
  8. Take up a new sport.
  9. Do you really know your own city? Investigate events going on near you and get involved in some culture.
  10. Learn a recipe and make dinner for your parents one night. They raised you, dude.
  11. Go into a second-hand bookshop and ask the owner for a recommendation. Buy that book.
  12. Ring your best friend.
  13. It sounds really trite and overtly twee, but start a dream journal, Every morning, write down what you can remember from your dream. Look back at it a month later. What you find can actually be really interesting.
  14. Think about a public figure you admire and read their autobiography or a book about them.
  15. Find a free night and clean the bathroom from top to toe. Then run yourself a bath with all the candles, bath bombs and smelly soaps you can find and clean yourself from top to toe. Hair masks, face masks, body scrubs and massage oils aplenty.
  16. Stop Facebook-stalking him. You know exactly what I’m talking about, girl.
  17. Same goes for guys.
  18. When a friend starts putting themselves down, lift them back up and tell them to be kinder to themselves. Giving someone a compliment doesn’t mean you become any more or less powerful or beautiful. It makes you kinder.
  19. Start a blog. If you’re looking for inspiration, click here.
  20. Next time you go to a birthday party, bring a small gift. It could be anything. Just don’t come empty-handed.
  21. Buy a world map poster, put it up in your room, stick red pins in the places where you’ve been and yellow in the places you want to go
  22. When you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, close your eyes,and take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you’ve been in stressful situations before and have survived them. Nothing will ever be as bad as you think it will be, but even if it is, you can handle it.
  23. Listen to “A Little Respect” by Erasure. Trust me.