A Reaction to Grenfell Tower

I do not live in a tower block. I am a white, middle class girl, and I may never experience what the residents of Grenfell Tower have experience this past week. But even though I may never experience their experiences, this does not mean that I cannot care about them. 

Theresa May could care about them. But she chooses not to. The Tory government could have chosen ensure that Grenfell Tower was safe and hospitable for its tenants. They could have followed fire safety regulations. The Kensington council could have responded to the repeated attempts of the tenants to rectify an appalling lack of safety regulations and ignorance of fire safety hazards. They could have even, shock horror, used the £10 million they spent on upgrading the outside of the building on upgrading the inside of the building. At the very least, they could have spent the extra £5k it would have cost for fire retardant cladding. But they didn’t. They didn’t, and the reason why they didn’t, is because under a Tory government, we will never have a government that cares about the poor and the marginalised. 

There is, however, a leader who cares about the UK impoverished. There is a leader who would have invested in affordable housing, would have ensured the utmost care concerning safety regulations and hospitable housing. There is a leader who has been a leader all this time, and is only now having his chance. Jeremy Corbyn does care about the people. Under a labour government with Corbyn as our leader we can prevent events like this from ever happening again by ensuring that the tenants of high rise blocks like Grenfell Tower are listened to, and we can make sure that all high rise blocks are completely hospitable and are as safe as possible from a fire of that magnitude. 

We can have a government that cares about the people who need caring about. We can have a government who pays hospital staff and medical professionals the proportional amount for the incredible work they do. With the Tory cuts, the jewel that is the NHS only gets weaker and fast response times to emergency situations only get longer. We can proportionally pay the fire service, and the police force. We can fix what is broken, and now more than ever is the time where we can actually have this “fantasy” as our reality.

Theresa May and the Tories will never care about anyone but the rich. Any life experience that is different from theirs doesn’t matter. Support Corbyn, support the Labour Party, support equality and justice. 

DO NOT let the Tories cover up this heinous crime and DO NOT let them blame the deaths of the tenants of Grenfell Tower on anyone but themselves. 

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Why Black Lives Matter – This Shouldn’t Even Need to Be Explained

Dear White People – Reggie Almost Gets Shot

Black Lives Matter website

If you have ever considered, thought about, or even actually asked “Why do black lives matter?” you are a racist. I’m not sorry to say it, and yes, it is that simple. Here is why.

If you even have to consider why a black person’s, or any PoC’s life, matters, then you are a racist because you are automatically assuming that it is questionable that they matter all. I guarantee you have never thought to yourself – why do white lives matter? Why does any white person’s life matter at all? And you know why you’ve never thought of this? Because you have never, ever been taught that your life is insignificant. In fact, all you ever hear is that your lives are the only ones that matter. White people (and no, I do not exclude myself from the issues that I am writing about) believe so strongly that it is RIDICULOUS that any other races lives could matter as much as theirs that millions of them got behind #AllLivesMatter – the definitive proof that progress is non-existent.

How dare we perpetuate white superiority and eradicate black pain and black experience (in fact, all ethnic minority pain and experience) by ignoring the specific issue of the white race throwaway attitude to black existence? How dare we make light of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile and countless other black men and women, black queer and trans, black non-binary and homosexual and all types of black and non-white PoC by even suggesting that their deaths were their faults because they don’t matter?

#AllLivesMatter is a self-refuting detraction of PoC importance. Here’s why:

1)  If #AllLivesMatter to you, then why wouldn’t you support a movement that promotes the advocation of the meaningfulness of black people’s lives? Sure if you care about the life of all people, as you profess by using a hash tag that says #AllLivesMatter, you would support justice for those unfairly murdered by police who are meant to be protecting the lives of ALL people… not just white lives? #BlackLivesMatter was not and is not a hashtag that is trying to say that black lives are more important than any other life. That is categorically NOT what the hashtag is about. It is saying that black lives need to acknowledged at the same level as any other life, especially white lives. All lives should be seen as equal as we all have the fundamental human right to life, and black lives matter is a movement that is advocating the equality between us. Black lives matter as much as anyone else’s, and that is what they are trying to say. Here is a direct quote from the #BlackLivesMatter website itself:

“#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important–it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation.”

2) You are deliberately detracting from the focus of injustices about black people and making it about you. The concept of acknowledging that people have the fundamental human right to life, no matter what race or ethnic background, is not something to made into a white person’s privileged complaint. We, as white people, HAVE to stop making the injustices against black people about us. We are NOT systematically repressed. Why are we trying to make it look like white people are the ones being oppressed? I see countless white people on twitter literally trying so hard to relate oppression to the most insignificant events in their lives, which black people can literally be murdered for. This HAS to stop. Why are you trying to detract from the black experience and ignore the fact that as a white person, it is literally impossible for you to be systematically oppressed like black people and people of colour have been for thousands of years?

It has to stop.

We need to educate ourselves. We need to see that the continued systematic oppression and the white supremacy has NOT ended, and is not going to be over unless we use white privilege to combat racism.

I also, as part of the emphasis on Black Lives Matter, strongly recommend that everyone watch the new Netflix original show, Dear White People, which conveys in an accessible and contemporary fashion the EXACT issues that young PoC, and especially black people, are facing in the increasing racist world of 2017. I watched the Dear White People film and thought it was incredibly important, and personally the TV show is even better. It shows you the different experiences of several young black people at a university in America in the wake of a Blackface party by white students, demonstrating how no black experience is exactly the same as any other and how activism and awareness (or staying woke) of systematic oppression and its effects is essential. As a white person who will never experience what these people experience, watching this has been incredibly important for me. Liberation cannot be achieved unless we use our white privilege to say what black people cannot say or do for fear of losing their lives. White privilege is one of the most powerful tools in our society, and it’s about time we started using it the right way.

 

Cultural Appropriation

 

culturalappropriation

After not having written a post for a long time, I decided today I’d start writing again by diving head in to a really complicated issue. Before you read this article I’d like to stress that I am not expert, and by no means is my opinion the word of God on this particular subject.

Firstly, this article begs the question, what is cultural appropriation? In short, it’s when somebody of one culture adopts part of someone else’s culture as their own. Initially, there seems to be nothing wrong with this. What is the world, really, if not a place where others share cultures and allow us all to be culturally diverse? What is London, if not one of the most culturally and racially diverse places in the world?

The problem with cultural appropriation doesn’t derive from the desire to share and appreciate another culture that is not your own. The key word here, though, is appreciate and not appropriate. The main problem I have with cultural appropriation, (such as non-Hindu girls wearing bindis as a fashion statement, or white people having dreadlocks) is that many people have no respect for the cultural significance of what it is they’re wearing, or doing. Bindis are not a decorative fashion statement, they actually have a rich and complex history and cultural significance in India which can easily be researching by simple typing ‘Bindi’ into google. Here’s an example of what Bindis initially signified, (another word for bindi is also tilak):

1. The Brahmins, who were priests or academicians wore a tilak of white sandal wood signifying purity.

2. The Khatriyas (Kings and Warriors and Administrators) wore red tilak to signify valor.

3. The Vaishyas (Business men) wore a yellow tilak signifying prosperity.

4. The Sudra (service class) wore black tilak to signify service to the other classes.

As for white people having dreadlocks, this is a much debated and disputed issue. Personally, I don’t agree with it, as white people experience a privilege and freedom with hairstyles that is not extended to black people. I have read, and heard, stories from black people indicating that they have often been asked to change their hairstyles from dreadlocks and braids at work, because it was classified as making them look ‘unprofessional’ and therefore they would not be employed if they wore their hair in that style. I have not heard a single story concerning a white person being told to change their hair from styles such as dreadlocks, or box braids, because it looked unprofessional. White people are taking parts of black culture that they believe are fashionable, or appealing, and glorifying them not on the black people they stole the concept from, but on white people instead. We chop and choose which parts of a culture, a legacy, that we like, and decide which bits make us look more fashionable and edgy. Where people of colour have been dressing this way, or wearing their hair this way, for centuries, we white people act like we have just discovered it, and therefore through “OUR” discovery of this certain thing, it has suddenly become valuable.

This is the problem with cultural appropriation. White people taking things that people of colour have been doing, wearing, eating, saying, listening to for centuries and centuries and turning it into a trinket of fashion. E! Fashion Police presenter Giuliana Rancic said that Zendaya Coleman looked like she “smelt of patchouli or weed” because Zendaya wore her hair in dreadlocks for the Oscars, yet, when Kylie Jenner (who IS white, despite the controversy surrounding her ethnicity) posted Instragram pictures of her hair in dreadlocks for a photoshoot, nobody commented that Kylie Jenner looked like she smelt of weed or patchouli, but instead praised her for looking ‘so good.’

However, cultural appropriation does beg the question, where do we draw the line? What classifies as appropriation, and what classifies as appreciation? Is eating food from another culture appreciating the cuisine of that particular culture and part of the world, or is it appropriating if we do not only eat food from our own culture?

In my opinion, it is not cultural appropriation if you have an understanding and awareness of the cultural significance of the thing you are wearing/doing from another culture. As long as you understand, respect, and appreciate the significance of the thing, and also understand in situations where the cultural significance of this certain thing should actually prevent you from doing/wearing the thing in question because otherwise it would be disrespectful, you are not culturally appropriating and what you’re doing is not wrong. Amandla Stenberg produces an excellent video on this subject in question, which you can find here:

Amandla Stenberg explains the significance of cultural appropriation of black identity much better than I ever could, and being a black woman herself, she can better convey the significance of cultural appropriation and the damaging prejudices/stereotypes it encourages in ethnic minorities.

The Fundamental Feminist

Over the years, and even over the last few months of active feminism that I have been involved in, the question has been raised – what should a feminist really believe? What should a feminist do? How do you let the world know, or not know, that you’re a feminist?

Firstly, I must again return to my favourite topic… Why are we afraid of the word feminism? Over the past few months I have had numerous conversations with people who completely agree with everything that feminism stands for, yet refuse to call themselves feminists because feminism has such a bad name. These people are what I like to call closet feminists; much like how the term “in the closet” is used to describe homosexual people when they have not openly announced that they are homosexual (or bisexual, or any other type of minority sexual orientation) I use it as an umbrella term for people who do not identify as feminists for a number of specific reasons. The majority of people I use this term for are: 

  • Girls who believe that calling themselves feminist will turn boys off them and therefore don’t call themselves one even though they know they want equal rights 
  • People who completely agree with everything feminism stands for, but refuse to call themselves feminist because they think a ‘feminist’ is an angry lesbian who never shaves arguing with boys on Twitter (which is just ridiculous) 
  • People who think being a feminist is something bad, or undesirable, but would still consider themselves egalitarians 

Feminism, I repeat for the twentieth time, is the fight for social, political and economical equality of the sexes. You should never be afraid to call yourself something just because you feel unimportant people will judge you for your beliefs. You, ladies, should never be afraid to do something just because you worry it will impact your standing with a man. People who agree with the principles and values of feminism are feminists, and calling yourself something else (a humanist, an egalitarian) does not make that any less true. 

Back to my initial point, what should a feminist be? Should a feminist be someone who hates all men on the basis that they have oppressed women for eons, or someone who understands that not all men are misogynistic or have misogynistic tendencies and that, in fact, men suffer from the patriarchy just like women and are valuable allies and partners in the fight for equality? 

In reality, a feminist should just be someone who does whatever they can to help the fight for equality gain traction. Whether that means joining a local feminist group and helping out with whatever they do there (for those of you who know about StokEquality or want to know more about it, feel free to comment and ask or find me in person) or going on protests, demonstrations and marches, anything you do makes a difference. Not only does it shove feminism into people’s faces, forcing them to take notice of the movement and crucial feminist issues, it also helps us gain an understanding of how far we have come and how much further there is to go. 

Feminists should be intersectional. We should understand that it is not just being a woman, but it is being a white woman, a black woman, an Asian woman, a Hispanic woman. We must understand that ethnicity has a massive part to play in female oppression, and that actually even within oppression of women there is still a gradient of degrees of oppression which even more deeply highlights the socioracial discrimination that is so ingrained into our world society. We must understand that if we are white women, like I am, we have never been oppressed like women of colour have been over the centuries. We must understand that yes, we have been oppressed, but because we are white we have “white privilege” even in our oppression as women. 

Feminists should be aware of the effects of the patriarchy on men. Hypermasculinity, emotional stunting, demonisation of effeminacy are also crippling men and boys throughout the world because society is catering to the idea of men as invulnerable heroes; men who are more afraid of their emotions then a cold-blooded murderer. Feminism is not just about white women, or even women at all. It is about equality. 

So no, you don’t have to attend feminist lectures or make placards for protests, or even read this blog to be a feminist. You just have to be one, and stand by your beliefs because they are a fundamental part of who you are. 

Beware the Meninists

First of all, what is Meninism? Meninism is defined online as;

“Meninism is a mockery of feminism and proves we can’t request equality with white men making everything about themselves.” 

Finding an official definition for meninism proved nigh impossible, as it doesn’t really exist as an actual movement. So why are some men on the internet seemingly calling themselves meninists?

Meninism is a movement that was set-up to counteract the progress being made by feminists on social media who are trying to promote feminist ideals and values. The only core basis behind meninism was to mock the feminists; to imply that the feminist movement was set up by a load of angry man-hating lesbians in a basement somewhere, just like meninism was probably thought of by some 42 year old brony still living in his mother’s garage in Houston. Meninism exists only to help people hate feminism – it perpetuates the idea that feminists hate men, that women want to take over the world and become superior to men and that all women who are feminists must have something wrong with them. Meninism is not real, it fights for nothing and demonstrates nothing of constructive use in our fight for equality in all areas. People who call themselves meninists are people to be wary of. They believe that feminism is a joke, that women who want equality are stupid and that the entire systematic oppression of women is theirs to own and make stupid ‘kitchen’ jokes about. Meninists are yet another parasite being hosted in the body of society views of women.

If Meninism was fighting for real things, for things that men DO need, then I could take it seriously. If meninism was fighting the idea of hyper-masculinity being forced on boys and men from young ages, then I could take it seriously. If meninism was fighting for men of colour to be seen as equals to white men, then I could take it seriously. If it was fighting for male victims of rape, male victims of domestic abuse, LGBTQA+ men’s rights… if it was fighting for anything at all that needed to be changed for men, then we could start taking it seriously. But as of now, meninism is nothing more than a white boy’s favourite twitter hashtag and a $12 t-shirt sporting meninist in white letters surrounded by red available from a dodgy website on the internet.

Even joking around and saying you’re a meninist even if you’re not is still part of the problem. Joking about something that is damaging to so many people’s progress in the feminist movement is even more detrimental to the cause because it shows you’re not taking the hindrances seriously. This whole thing is a serious issue – it demonstrates how society has so closely squeezed the true meaning out of feminism that people set up vicious new movements to perpetuate the negative stereotypes even further.

Change the meaning and connotations of meninism to what I mentioned above. Be the ‘meninist’ who is fighting for male victims of rape and domestic abuse to be recognised as victims. Be the ‘meninist’ who is fighting for men of colour. Be the ‘meninist’ who wants to stop telling men that boys don’t cry, who wants to stop telling men to grow a pair, be a man, take it like a man. Be the ‘meninist’ who stops using the phrase “you throw like a girl,” as an insult. Be the ‘meninist’ who does want equality, not cheap laughs from strangers on the internet because you made a joke about how women can’t drive.

Changing The Word ‘Feminist’

I feel like a broken record, going on and on about this all the time. I also feel like I’ve made a blog post about this before, but it’s something that really really bothers me about modern attitudes towards feminism.

Many people believe that ‘feminism’ is some sort of an offensive word. They behave as if the word feminism is the most restricting aspect of the feminist movement – as if the only reason why feminism isn’t gaining more traction or making enough progress in the modern world is because feminists call themselves ‘feminist.’ Many people also propose the idea of changing the name of feminism to something else, less ‘offensive’ and more neutral – humanism. 

My first problem with this is that it detracts from the whole point of feminism. From my understanding, people who believe the movement should be changed to ‘humanism’ also believe that the movement should be adapted to combat all social injustices in one sweep. Those who call themselves humanist, or part of the humanist movement, would be fighting against racism, homophobia, female oppression, and all other forms of destructive prejudice. While there is nothing wrong with this idea in theory, (and I myself would probably call myself a humanist as I am trying to fight against all forms of social injustice) it completely overlooks the point of why there is a specific feminist movement. If we squeeze together all forms of social, political and economical injustice into one movement, we can’t effectively fight against all of them separately at the same time. By this, I mean, if you’re part of a movement trying to combat homophobia, transphobia, racism and female oppression all at the same time, you can’t fully focus on and make progress in just one of those things at a time. We lose the concentrated fighting power against one issue that we would have if we kept the movements separate. The point of the feminist movement is that it is a movement solely dedicated to making men and women equal in all aspects of life. If we changed the movement’s name and aim, we will lose the focus on that goal.

My second problem is, if we did change the name of feminism to something else, what difference would this make? Would everyone in the world suddenly accept feminism, or whatever we were calling it? Would everyone be more inclined to support feminism, even though it’s definition and purpose would not have changed? No, I don’t think so. Yes, the word feminism has negative connotations, and these negative connotations can be a big reason as to why people do not identify as feminists despite believing in everything feminism stands for, but the changing of the word itself would not mean that all feminism’s problems are solved. In my personal opinion, I find it quite ridiculous that someone could identify with all the things feminism stands for, yet not call themselves a feminist. However, I suppose in the grand scheme of things, the name of the movement is not what matters – the main point is what it stands for. On the other hand, I strongly believe that feminism does not need to be changed to suit people who are afraid to call themselves feminist because they don’t want to be judged for being one. 

My third problem with changing the name of feminism is it just shows how much people do not want women to have a movement focused on elevating their rights to the level of a man’s. Feminism is called feminism because although it is a movement focused on the political, economical and social equality of the sexes, it has a particular focus on women, as they are the oppressed minority in this situation. That is the whole point of feminism, and by changing the name we disregard everything feminism stands for and everything feminism tries to achieve.

Think about it. Is the real problem with feminism the name by which it is called, or the fact that modern society is still so unprepared to accept female equality it perpetuates the idea that feminism is such a flawed movement that it’s biggest hindrance is it’s name?

Sex Isn’t Currency (and Why Virginity Isn’t Real)

“Girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.” – Unknown (allegedly said by Sylvia Plath, but that isn’t true)

Well, actually, nobody is a machine that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out. Sex, far too often, is seen as something owed. Something that, in return for being treated how any person would want to be treated by another, equates to a form of payment or proof of a promise being fulfilled. However you think of sex, it shouldn’t be seen as something that you give to someone else, or have given to you. Sex is not a present, or an exciting gift, or the equivalent of a hundred dollar bill. Sex is a consensual physical activity, something both parties agree to do together. In this case, I guess, sexual encounters could be equated to a balance between giving and receiving, but the underlying point is that nobody is owed sex, or entitled to go about claiming “unfulfilled sexual promises” and persecuting the person who they feel owes them something.

You don’t owe anyone sex. Even if you tell them that you want to have it, then change your mind, you don’t owe them fulfillment of your ‘promise.’ Even if they believe that having sex with them is an appropriate thing to ‘give’ them in return for something they’ve done for you. This is conditioning people to believe that sex is a transaction, not of love or feeling or consent, but of material and monetary value. Sexual acts are not coins, and you won’t be paid in them. You won’t deal in sex, only deal with it. Sex is nothing something you trade, it something you enjoy with someone you want.

Although this following topic doesn’t really fit with the title of my blog post, it’s something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time. I feel that a lot of people never really engage with the ideas in this topic, and just accept it as a concrete universal fact since it has been reinforced in that way for hundreds of years throughout history.

Virginity is a social construct. 

Some people might be reading this and be thinking – hang on, but it is? Isn’t virginity so straight forward? They might be thinking, I know exactly what a virgin is. A virgin is someone who hasn’t experienced a sexual act where the penis penetrates the vagina. Pretty simple, right? Well, if that’s virginity, have lesbians and gay men who have only ever been with homosexual partners never really stopped being virgins, since they haven’t engaged in sexual acts where a penis penetrates the vagina? If that’s virginity, that must mean a large majority of people in the world must remain virgins their entire life, despite have performed all sorts of sexual activities? If virginity is about sex, then is there such thing as losing our oral-sex, or anal-sex virginity too?

If we define virginity as doing something of a sexual nature for the first time, they why is kissing for the first time not considered a loss of virginity in a way?

Virginity is made up as a way of controlled heterosexuality and perpetuating it as the ‘norm’ in society and culture. Virginity only applies to heterosexual sex, so therefore it’s insinuating that heterosexual sex is the only ‘real’ sex because it is the only one when ‘virginity’ is ‘definitively lost.’ (Sorry for all the speech marks, but you can see why they’re needed. The whole thing is ridiculous.) By perpetuating the idea that virginity is a tangible, definable thing, we perpetuate the idea that homosexual people don’t exist in the same sexual realm as heterosexual people do. We contribute to the assumption that in heterosexuality, you must pass these tests and rites of passage before being able to claim that you’ve even had sex at all.

How do we even decide who’s a virgin and who isn’t?

Some people may believe that checking if a woman’s hymen (membrane that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening) is still ‘in tact’ (i.e not torn by the penetration of a penis) is an indicator of whether or not she is still a virgin, and by checking this, we can distinguish the virgins from the non. Sorry to inform you all, but this doesn’t indicate if a woman is a virgin or  not. The hymen can be torn at any age, from a range of activities not even including sex, and (shocker!) some women are even born without a hymen at all. 

So what does this mean?

Virginity is a social concept, because society has created it to be another ritualistic right of passage. How many movies and books lead up to the big moment? Don’t they all teach us that everything about our lives revolves around this central point of our lives, and nothing is the same after and nothing was the same before? Virginity is the perpetuated idea of purity; of innocence, of goodness and of worth. Yet, virginity doesn’t mean anything because you can never really lose something you didn’t have in the first place. The first time you have sex, you don’t sign a legal form stating that you are no longer a virgin. We only think we’ve lost something because society has taught us for so long that part of us is different now. We haven’t lost anything at all – rather, gained some experience in a field we have to navigate for the rest of our lives, more or less literally blindfolded and feeling our way through like we know what we’re doing.

Virginity is a man’s method for controlling female sexuality. The concept of the ‘virgin’ being the eternally pure young maiden teaches women who aren’t virgins that something about them is now ‘dirty’ – as if they’ve been permanently ruined by this small infinitesimal act. By controlling who is and isn’t a virgin, and how these women are treated, men get to enjoy both virgins and non-virgins by firstly teaching them that they shouldn’t have sex because they can’t ever get that desirable ‘virgin’ status back, and yet encouraging them to have sex because they feel like we owe them it.

In the words of the blog The Belle Jar, who wrote a post entitled “Virginity Is a Social Construct” –

“[Virginity has] given men a way to control women, to make them ashamed of their bodies their sexuality. It’s led to a double standard where it’s fine – even encouraged – for boys to gain sexual experience, but women who are sexually active before marriage or have sex with too many people are considered to be slutty or damaged goods.” 

However, the most important question within this is – why do we even care? Think about it. People have sex all the time, every day, for the first time ever, yet we’re still sitting behind phone screens sweating about who’s had sex with who and making sure everyone knows that person’s virginity has well and truly fallen into the abyss.