The Problems With Trans Exclusionary Feminism

I can honestly say that I can’t comprehend trans exclusionary feminism, if you’re going to fight for the rights of women, that fight needs to encompass all women. In addition, feminism’s technical definition is a movement against gendered discrimination, which in the modern day (with people being slightly less ignorant of how gender actually works) includes far more gender identities than the binary male and female. Of course trans women have a different experience of womanhood to cisgender women, but excluding them from ‘women’s’ spaces is basically denying the entire existence of their identity. How can you properly exist without being acknowledged as a real person for who you actually are?

People have been raising concerns on this topic for a while now but I was recently approached with questions like ‘do you agree that trans women shouldn’t be included in feminist spaces because they haven’t grown up as women?’ to which I accidentally snorted with laughter before remembering I was required to explain the reasoning behind that snort. The fact is, if you’re going to follow the proper aims of feminism and by that I mean intersectionality (as much as many people love to claim this is not the right word), you need to be inclusive. A movement that aims to reduce exclusion, can’t narrow down its permitted participants without becoming entirely contradictory. Women of colour have different experiences of being a woman to white women, disabled women have different experiences to able-bodied women and gay or bisexual women have different experiences to straight women. If you deny trans women space within the feminist community based on the fact that their experience of womanhood is ‘different’ to yours, then by the same logic you should also exclude the list of women above. Once you reach this point you are left with a very small group of women who are not only the least marginalised women in our society but also all face the same issues. This becomes basically worthless and also pretty boring. The idea of excluding trans women from feminism is reflective of starting a world war, then refusing to collaborate with other nations who have the same enemies as you. Our enemies are prejudice, bullying based on identity and inequality in all its forms. In order to even begin to chip away at these elements the first thing we need to do is intersect our models of liberation. This immediately makes liberation groups a million times more powerful and creates a larger body of individuals that will make a larger impact.

Feminism needs to remain a movement for all self-defining women but also for all trans individuals, non-binary individuals and anyone else who may be marginalised on the basis of gender identity. Taking trans women as an example once again, their experiences are actually not only valid experiences of womanhood but also of facing extra prejudice and marginalisation on top of that. I don’t know whether radical, trans exclusionary feminists simply feel threatened by the fact that some people may be even more marginalised than women and particularly straight, white, middle class women, but I seriously struggle to see their logic. People ask whether feminism therefore needs a new name. I’ve had that suggestion posed to me many times, both during serious debates and on nights out when I’ve been drunk enough to just agree ‘sure… whatever’ so that someone will stop talking to me and let me enjoy my night (despite the fact that I’m a politically active person and they therefore see it as my duty to explain things to them). But personally I feel that a name change would eradicate the history of feminism and how much it has already achieved, renaming it stops the movement from existing. It’s not simply a club or a society; it’s a philosophical and ideological movement and a school of thought. Why are we worrying about the name of a theoretical argument when firstly you can’t simply decide to rename something of that category and secondly, it’s insignificant and overshadowed by the more important aim of redefining the movement. Renaming it proves nothing and tacking a new title onto something that has existed for centuries is also damn hard. We should be taking the valuable work done by feminism over the last hundred years and using the pre-existing platform and its strengths to remould it into a movement that is recognised for supporting people against gender based issues of any type.

In conclusion, of course trans women should be included in feminism, for the sake of power in unity and intersectional liberation, but more importantly because trans women are women just like any cis woman despite different experiences to the heternormative, cisnormative matrix of womanhood. You can’t simply turn around and deny someone’s entire existence because it isn’t the same as yours.

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A Tribute to David Bowie, the Legend.

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‘Turn and face the strange’ is in my opinion one of the most powerful lyrics ever written and really summarises the impact of an immense icon. In 1964, a seventeen-year-old Bowie announced during an interview that he intended to start the ‘society for the prevention of cruelty to long haired men’ and from then it became obvious that he wasn’t just an artist but a political activist fighting to help society embrace differences. Sure, this is a semi-comedic example, but David Bowie really did help people broaden their definitions of gender, music, sexuality and appearance. Social media this week has been full of statuses, articles and comments that provide evidence of this impact that he had on the lives of young people of multiple generations. Bowie openly admitted his flaws as well as his oddness and showed the public that there was no requirement to be super-human in order to be significant.

His newest album ‘Blackstar’ was released for his 69th birthday the same week that he passed away having suffered from cancer. The album has been described as a parting gift to his fans, something to remember him by as he was apparently aware he was not expected by doctors to survive another year. Songs from ‘Blackstar’ as well as chart toppers from as far back as the 1970s have taken over the online charts since his death, making Bowie as dominant in this week’s lists as Justin Bieber. I think the reason he stood out so much in the music industry and the reason his influence spanned such a long time period was due to the sentiment behind his music; one of acceptance, differences and the inspiration to believe in yourself no matter what life threw at you. Although they may be the most obvious and I’m willing to admit to being seriously mainstream, my top five Bowie tracks have to be ‘Heroes’, ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Ashes to Ashes’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Starman’. Despite being released way before my time, these are the songs that got me through my first few months of sixth form as an angsty teen with recently divorced parents and a whole new academic setting. Bowie’s music makes you feel capable of taking on anything and as if you can be whomsoever you wish and still have the potential for success.

He became a timeless mystical figure projecting confidence into people’s lives and even now his music never fails to uplift me no matter how bad my mental health is or what is going on at that moment in my life. His lyrics may sound like he’s totally high but they create a make believe place where the boundaries of social constraints are removed and where people can relax. David Bowie redefined what it meant to be a man, which, considering how much of an icon he was, assisted the blurring of gender boundaries and helped to break down society’s enforced roles of femininity and masculinity. Bowie didn’t care what the media thought of him or about the comments of his critics; he raised awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and openly referenced his own fluid sexuality and gender. People are quick to say that prejudice doesn’t exist anymore but it definitely does, so in the ‘70’s this was even more necessary and a very new concept that was crucial for the progression of humanity.

Since his death a lot of negative press on Bowie has emerged with questions being raised; sexual abuse scandals, appropriation of queer culture and paedophilia have been referenced all over the internet. Despite my respect for social justice, I found myself deciding to save these questions for another day. I need time to mourn the death of a great icon before I mourn the fact that I may have been ignorant of allegations he faced. Many people would quickly condemn this but as someone who very rarely gets emotional over celebrities I doubt I have the mental capacity to find out so much about a hero of mine in one week. A friend suggested we have to separate the art from the artist and I feel this is the perfect explanation. Perhaps as a person, someone could be condemned, but their legacy may still have had a great impact on a variety of people and that on its own is immensely valuable in a world that so often turns us against one another.

Feeling that my own views do not do Bowie’s work justice, I asked people to offer their comments:

‘His whole image projected that he didn’t give a fuck. He was so weird, and embraced it rather than apologising for it, and he was so beautiful. He somehow confused a very judgmental world into admitting that this glorious gender fucking, queer as hell man, was wonderful, and someone we all wanted to be like. And he acted like he loved and accepted all his fans, and created this little space to exist as a freak, knowing that even if no one else would, Bowie would accept you. – Elena

‘He was a magical figure, who seemed to exist outside of the tedious, unhappy world I had to inhabit, who welcomed me into something bigger, something spectacular, effervescent. Somebody who made me realise it was okay to be a walking question mark, that you didn’t need to know the answer to ‘What am I?’ in order to say, proudly, ‘I am.’’ – Quen

‘Bowie did wonderful things for queer and bisexual visibility. Even if only talking openly about his image and experiences, it gave his fans a rare LGBT icon in celebrity culture. Also he just gave no fucks what critics felt about him or wanted of him. He’d kill off personas/images and create new and equally brilliant ones just as critics thought he was only getting started with the last one.’ – Kate

‘The first time I heard him I was eight and our Head Teacher played Space Oddity at the start of assembly, although my first thought was “wow this guy’s poor wife she probably will need to pay the mortgage by herself now” (I was quite an advanced child) it awoke something in me. Some kind of warm fuzzy feeling (I have never been very advanced in the articulation of emotion) and I think a lot of people have that when they hear Bowie for the first time.’ – Ellie

‘Sometimes when I’m having doubts about my social skills he comes and strokes my beard and tells me everything is going to be just fine. Or I’m sure he would, if we ever met, and he hadn’t died. God I miss Bowie.’ – Max

Top 10 Indie Christmas Songs

Every year, from as early as mid-October, we hear the same standard list of Christmas classics; The Pogues, The Darkness, Elton John and Wham!. Christmas basically provides appreciation for artists that the general public happily forget for the rest of the year. A lot of the bands or musicians that people associate with their Christmas hits actually have a whole range of brilliant songs outside of December that tend to get forgotten about. People will look confused when I mention various names until I begrudgingly explain the seasonal number one that they are best known for. On top of this, by the time you reach the age of roughly eighteen, this adds up to eighteen plus solid months of hearing the same ten or twenty songs which really starts to grate.

So this yearly frustration has led me to become the ultimate hipster and put together a list of more obscure Christmas tracks. Some of them may be slightly better known and some might be utterly awful but for anyone looking for something alternative or simply to irritate people at your seasonal events by refusing to play the classic hits, this list may appeal to you.

Zombie Christmas: Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler (2011)

Emmy The Great is an artist I adore to begin with so that definitely gave this track a head start (hence putting it first). Finding out she has an entire Christmas album full of tracks such as ‘Jesus the Reindeer’ and ‘Sleigh Me’ just made me appreciate her even more. The whole album is pretty brilliant both in terms of sarcastic themes and quality music, but ‘Zombie Christmas’ had to be my top pick.

Christmas Wrapping: The Waitresses (1981)

This one is an older track suggested to me by a friend who heard I was looking for alternative Christmas songs and it’s seriously awesome especially for anyone who loves out-dated, punky female vocals!

Merry Christmas I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight: The Ramones (1989)

Another from the 80s – despite the fact that the 70s are more my era music wise any Christmas song by The Ramones had to be included. The Ramones are fantastic anyway; perhaps that’s why so many people wear their T-Shirts? (sarcastic optimism) and this track doesn’t let them down, of all the songs on my list, this is probably the one I’d listen to even if I wasn’t writing about it.

The Christmas Song: The Raveonettes (2004)

Flashing forward again to the twenty first century, this track almost provides a bridge between the low, indie rock tones of The Ramones and the slow ethereal pace of Emmy The Great. In my opinion this is a great combination and I find it reaches the point of relaxing but manages to avoid the point of tediousness which is always a good thing!

Christmas TV: Slow Club (2009)

The first time I listened to this one I did wonder at first whether it would hit the point of tediousness that I mentioned above, however I was pleasantly surprised. I will happily admit that while faster tracks and indie rock are usually my cup of tea, I can cope with slower, more gentle (or cheesy) tracks if they are alternative enough. That is not a conscious decision just an unfortunately hipster observation that I’ve had to learn to live with. This is definitely a Christmas song that brings out that element of my music taste and serves as a guilty pleasure, but I challenge anyone to seriously hate it. Definitely worth a listen and very Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros!

I Want An Alien For Christmas: Fountains of Wayne (2004)

‘He can live in the bathtub’ is perhaps the best line of this song and one you wouldn’t expect from a Christmas song. It might be no ‘Stacy’s Mom’ but it’s damn good, especially if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten track to brighten your December. Classic Fountains of Wayne: top quality lyrics and a beat that makes you tap your feet whether you like it or not.

Santa Claus: Belle & Sebastian (Date unknown)

This has to be the most obscure or at least the most difficult to get hold of on my list, it’s far easier to find covers by The Sonics or James Brown but if you can chase it down it’s definitely worth the hunt. Belle and Sebastian are always fantastic so if we can have a Christmas song by them, the winter months could be vastly improved.

Last Christmas: Jimmy Eat World (2001)

I’m cheating a little bit here by picking not only a cover of one of the Christmas hits but possibly the most hated of all of them! However Jimmy Eat World are one of my favourite bands and they seriously improve this track simply by speeding it up a little and subtly adding their own style.

Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Chistmas: Eels (2009)

Eels are fabulous and this track is fabulous, it’s definitely one of my top picks, made all the better by the line ‘baby Jesus – born to rock’ as if it needed improvement. Anyone looking for a little bit of rock or indie to inject into their Christmas playlist should start here, this band don’t need imaginative lyrics to bring something appealing and unique to this time of year.

Xmas Time Is Here Again: My Morning Jacket (2000)

Let’s finish in 2000 with something a tad depressing. I think this last track ties up my introductory promise that at least one of my chosen alternative Christmas songs will be vaguely awful. But if you’re looking to spend December hating Christmas whilst nursing a stiff drink this is the song for you!

Periods are Not a Luxury

The VAT on sanitary products that was maintained by popular government vote a few months back is an insult to over half of our population. However, it is even more of a problem for specific groups of people; those dependent on student loans, those with particularly low incomes or homeless people, for example. For those who experience periods, sourcing sanitary products can be immensely difficult or just plain expensive, despite the fact that they are so necessary. I would argue that tampons or sanitary towels are logistically even more of a necessity that toilet roll if you want to get into picky details, a relevant comparison considering how quick people are to point out that loo roll is also taxed. In addition, I would make the point that many feminists and other political activists have made before me – focussing on one issue does not imply that you aren’t aware of, or don’t care about others. The fact that toilet roll is taxed is just as ridiculous as the tax on sanitary products but firstly does not target a specific demographic, and secondly as previously mentioned, toilet paper is actually easier to go without (given the continuous nature of menstruation).

The government have now switched tactics and begun advertising intent to use the money raised by this tax to support survivors of domestic abuse. But obviously this has only raised more questions and is still problematic. Tying domestic abuse directly to sanitary products is utterly bizarre, if they want to help survivors why not tax cake or other food items, there is a vast range of luxury items that would raise far more money without posing such a problem. The list includes; exotic meat, edible icing flowers, Jaffa Cakes and alcoholic jellies – it would surely make more sense to tax these products that aren’t a basic necessity? It is also not the exclusive responsibility of people who menstruate to support people who have suffered abuse; this should not be singled out as a charitable cause and should be an issue amongst many that is a priority of the population as a whole. The other major problem with this suggestion is the gendered language surrounding it, the government are deeming menstruation a biological event experienced only by women, thus completely erasing the experiences of trans men, non binary people and women who don’t menstruate. This is being followed up by an association that implies that domestic abuse is also an experience and responsibility solely of women. The other point often raised is the difficulty of removing the tax from an item in regards to EU laws, however activists are not arguing that the removal of VAT is simple or straightforward. We are attempting to point out that it should be prioritised more.

These arguments only provide a brief summary of some of the reasons that the tax on sanitary products remains massively problematic. But hopefully it is enough to point out why people are staging such a variety of protests against the tax. Charlie Edge is a strong example of someone who has recently held a protest against the tax (free-bleeding outside the houses of parliament) and received massive media attention from radio stations, newspapers and magazines. Inspired by her and others, Royal Holloway students have spent the last week focussing on the issues surrounding sanitary products. Tegan Marlow (President of the Feminism Society) arranged a collection of tampons and pads for local homeless charities that went down immensely well with two enormous boxes being filled. The society went on to hold a discussion last week on why the tax is a problem as well as how to break the stigma and squeamishness surrounding menstruation in general. This week with the help of Tegan and the Feminism Society, I organised a protest/campaign stall on Royal Holloway’s campus. We made various signs containing slogans against the tax and asked people to offer their comments and take part in photos with the signs or whiteboards on which they could offer their own response. We received a surprising amount of enthusiastic participation and managed to collect a huge number of photographs with the help of The Orbital’s photographer Yasmeen. A massive range of students got involved, not limited purely to women which was great to see and we will be sharing these photos and responses online and through media outlets over the next fortnight.

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An Interview with Charlie Edge

(For Parallel Magazine)

A few weeks back, members of the UK Parliament (including many women), voted to maintain VAT on sanitary products. Sanitary towels and tampons are still on the list of taxed ‘non-essential, luxury items’ that does not include edible icing flowers, jaffa cakes, alcoholic jellies and exotic meats like kangaroo or crocodile. Given the utterly bizarre situation of deeming products used to stem unavoidable blood flow a luxury, but crocodile meat an obvious essential, people have been reacting online and in public with complete outrage. Many protest groups and events have been formed all over the UK but Charlie Edge’s demonstration has received particular media attention, being covered by Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, The Independent and The Metro to name but a few. She has even been invited to speak on radio shows following this fantastic coverage because her protest was particularly poignant, having realised that regular demonstrations were not going to cut it and the government need to be shown just how ‘luxurious’ menstruation really is.

On Friday 6th November Charlie, along with two friends including Ruth Howarth, spent her day protesting outside of the Houses of Parliament whilst free-bleeding. They chose white trousers to make sure people would take notice and posted the following status on Facebook to inform people about their demonstration:

‘Today i am forgoing tampons and pads outside the houses of parliament to show how ‘luxury’ tampons really are.
We are also raising money to buy tampons for homeless shelters, womens shelters and the refugee crisis.
We’re getting lots of dirty looks and someone just shouted at us to get a job.

But everyone keeps saying “haha omg how quickly would we get free tampons if everyone stopped wearing them?!”
So, I’m giving it a go.

Taxes are necessary, i get it.
So are tampons/ pads.

They’re not luxury items, anymore than jaffa cakes, edible cake decorations, exotic meats or any other number of things currently not taxed as luxury items.

Maternity pads are taxed, but incontinence pads arent.
We’ve had enough. Maybe bleeding on their doorstep will get the tories to do something about this?’

Following all the attention Charlie and Ruth have remained cool and collected, posting grateful responses to everyone supporting them via social media and articulate, polite responses to those that have been critical. They have also made sure to keep linking people to articles and information to further their campaign as well as making sure the public are aware that it is not just a women’s issue: not all women menstruate and menstruating does not mean you are a woman. I was lucky enough to get to chat with Charlie, who was very friendly and happy to contribute her message and aims. I asked her to explain what happened and fill me in on the details:

Can you describe your demonstration?

We went to Westminster, popped into a public toilet first to remove tampons an then stood opposite parliament for three hours, whilst posting online about what we were doing and why we were doing it.

What sort of reaction did you get from passers by?

Mostly positive! I was very surprised! One or two people told us “get a job” or “get your tits out” as they drove past but almost everyone who stopped to talk to us was kind and supportive.

What sort of reaction have you had on social media?

It’s been about 50/50. But I’ve already responded to most of the negative comments. All the information is out there and I’m getting bored of saying the same things again and again and linking people to my responses. It’s all out there for anyone interested enough to do the research. We’ve found that generally though, most people who hate us are going to hate us regardless of how polite we are and how calmly we try to explain our argument, so I’ve had to ask a couple of people to stop messaging me and had to block a few more. Some people just can’t help but have the last word. People are reeeeally trying to upset Ruth and me and honestly, they need to re-evaluate their moral compass much more than we need to re-evaluate our political methods.

Why is this such an important issue?

Because it’s a government, made up mostly of cis men, essentially taxing us £100 for the ‘luxury’ of bleeding once a month for fifty years. People keep saying that it’s so small an issue and “think of women in third world countries”. First of all, if you’re using women in the third world as a reason not to deal with sexism in the UK, you probably have white knight syndrome. It is possible for there to be more than one bad thing at a time. If our 5% tax went on free sanitary care for the third world then I’d shut up pronto but it doesn’t, it goes towards necessities like helicopters and crocodile meat. There are also plenty of women living in poverty in the UK. If our 5% tax went on free pads and tampons on the NHS similar to the C-card scheme, then I wouldn’t mind paying it! This is not just a women’s issue it’s a class issue.

If you could summarise in one sentence what you wish to say to the government what would it be?

Try harder!! And also, worry more about protecting people and worry less about protecting money.

Have you got any future plans for the campaign and how would you advise others to contribute?  

Ruth and I are currently raising money and getting donations of sanitary items to donate to shelters. We’re dealing with the response to this before we do anything else. A lot of people have asked me if I’ll do another protest and they’ll join me. We might do another! But you know what please don’t wait for us to take the lead! Start your own protests! All over the UK! Let’s show the government that it isn’t just “two girls outside parliament” but thousands of angry people!!

 

The Conversations We Should Be Having About Anti-Depressants

 

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I’ve been on Fluxotine for almost three months now and it has already helped me far more than I expected. It took me around six months to persuade myself to try anti-depressants for the second time, despite being at times very ill with anxiety and depression. Considering the intensity of what I was feeling, I somehow still found room in my head to add one more worry to the pre-existing ones. I was ashamed at the thought of requiring anti-depressants and terrified of people knowing I was on medication. I should point out that I’m aware many people on anti-depressants are very comfortable talking about it and I admire them enormously. But I am also aware that the popularity of movements like #smashthestigma or #medicatedandmighty stems from a need for encouragement and solidarity against the prejudice surrounding mental health and medication.

When you go to a health clinic for anti-depressants or similar medicine the doctor will explain in detail that they are very safe, side effects should be minimal and so on. But the real questions running through the minds of a lot of us are completely different to those addressed.

I struggled to see anti-depressants as a regular type of medication, imagining that they acted as a cheat for general life and panicking that I wasn’t actually unusually depressed but looking for a crutch to make my life easier than everyone else’s. I took up debates with myself on whether depression and anxiety were simply part of my personality and taking pills for it was a decision to medically alter my genetic make-up. I also wondered whether I’d be on them for the rest of my life and forget what I’m naturally like as a person or perhaps end up stuck in some sort of emotionally dead limbo, having heard people discuss how anti-depressants ‘eradicate any emotional responses’. But mostly I was convinced that being on medication for mental health reasons made me some sort of weak and pathetic human being incapable of coping with regular life.

To people who haven’t experienced these specific insecurities and to myself today, those thought processes seem completely illogical. I also really want to emphasise that I have never for a second looked at anyone else in such a critical way. The fact is it’s far too easy to bully and belittle yourself whilst still admiring the people around you. I saw my medicated friends as brave for coping so well with their mental health issues and taking that step but saw myself as a failure, becoming even more inwardly angry and critical by making comparisons. Once I approached the topic I found that many of my close friends have their own experiences with mental health and therefore could encourage me to view things differently and find the confidence to try things that could help. My mum asked me to consider whether I’ve noticed any of the results I’d conjured up in my head in other people, whilst my friends were very comfortable discussing and comparing their medication and its effects. People also encouraged me to think of it as denying myself a cast for a broken leg or an antibiotic for tonsillitis, which is a comparison that makes anti-depressants far easier to consider. By the time the #medicatedandmighty campaign circulated on Facebook and Twitter it made me immensely happy and proud to feel like part of such a supportive community. When I shared my selfie I did it in a rush of excitement then suddenly realised I had a lot of people on Facebook from work and high school that I definitely wouldn’t talk to about my mental health. However the response surprised me first through the number of likes from unexpected people, but secondly through the number of people who commented saying that they are also on anti-depressants – people I had no clue were using them.

This was the point when I realised how damaging the lack of conversation around mental health and medication is. People should feel comfortable and accepted for whatever illness they have (physical or mental). A large chunk of society still views mental illness as a taboo subject. People often take to social media to express their experiences and find support but that isn’t enough, the general perspective is harmful and putting people off seeking help. Being able to look at myself with more confidence has made me realise that no one deserves to feel inferior because they require medication. Being able to admit that you need anti-depressants and ask for the help, let alone openly talk about it, makes you a strong person in itself and mental health needs to start being taken as seriously as physical illness so people are encouraged to feel comfortable with it. I’m hoping that my attempt to cram my learning curve into this small word limit might contribute to developing that necessary discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Darker Side Of Freshers’ Week

High levels of socialising, alcohol consumption and teens living away from home for the first time, make university campuses the prime environments for the rise of lad culture. The freshers’ week influx of younger students high on the excitement of their newfound freedom creates even more space for the problem to exist. For most people, freshers’ week means awkward small talk with flatmates until you start drinking and immediately become best friends, joining as many clubs or societies as you can and grabbing whatever freebies are on offer in-between parties and club nights. It will probably be one of the best weeks of your life: the sense of independence combined with the friendly nature of a campus full of people looking for new social groups, plus the fact that it’s a week designed for nothing but partying, is amazing. But for a lot of people the experience is tainted with sexist comments or harassment on the dance floor.

‘Lad culture’ is a term that is becoming well known in reference to the fact that misogynistic behaviour in young men has become an ingrained part of society. Last year The Guardian published statistics showing that around 40% of female students experienced ‘unwanted groping or touching’ as well as ‘unwanted comments about their body’ compared to 12% of male students. Two thirds of female students claimed to have heard unwanted sexual comments being directed at fellow women and just under a third reported ‘gender-based verbal harassment’. The additional problem in freshers’ week is that new students get dragged into this sexist culture believing that it’s the right way to fit in and make friends or simply assuming that at university this behaviour is acceptable. This only increases bad experiences for women and people of other genders who feel intimidated or unsafe on their campus.

When I asked students to give quotations about their experiences of lad culture during freshers’ week I was horrified to receive even more responses than expected. Almost every girl I spoke to had something to say and it’s also not only women who have had these experiences.

“I was seen as bitchy and unfriendly because I didn’t laugh at sexist jokes and leering when I was meeting guys during freshers week.”

“During freshers’ I was consistently regarded to be a bit of a party pooper. The boys in my halls just thought I was a killjoy because I didn’t drink very much, I didn’t want to sleep with any of them and I didn’t laugh at their gross misogynistic jokes. It’s hard arriving at uni and wanting to make friends and be seen as a fun person but not wanting to compromise your principles.”

“Freshers and lad culture are definitely synonymous as people associate freshers’ week with sex. A lot of people are out there to pull, which means “lads” can get a bit out of control.”

“I would meet guys on a night out and have a really brilliant conversation with them but as soon as you go into the SU they try to get with you. It’s really frustrating because I honestly just want to make friends. My friends from home always say I’m really naive thinking that if a male talks to me on a night out that he’s interested in friendship.”

“Just the fact that around Freshers you’d hear the phrase ‘Fuck a Fresher’ floating around is bad enough!”

“ “c’mon, it’s Freshers’, you have to be after a hookup” I was more bothered about Intstagramming and the free T-shirts and pens to be honest!”

“In freshers’ week I was in the car with three guys and as we drove past the SU. There was a girl walking to the SU wearing a body-con dress and one of them said ‘look at that SLUT she’ll take anything she can get what a SLUT she’s just asking for the D in that dress’.”

The launch of projects like ‘Everyday Sexism’ and campaigns aiming to empower women like ‘This Girl Can’ have been received positively and seem to be having an impact on raising awareness of sexist behaviour. However, as the term ‘lad culture’ suggests, gender based harassment is such a major part of our culture that it’s an incredibly tough job to tackle it and the same goes for student based campaigns. Despite campaigns like the NUS ‘I Heart Consent’ initiative and universities training their SU security staff in exactly how to handle complaints of sexual harassment, the problems remain. These projects have definitely raised awareness of the fact that firstly, lad culture and rape culture exist, and secondly that they are an important issue and people deserve to feel safe when they go out. But as the experiences of this years’ freshers show, there is still a lot that needs to change.

(For the Huffington Post)

So What’s The Deal With Record Store Day?

Researching this piece was particularly interesting for me as I’d actually not heard of Record Store Day until it crept up on me and covered my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Held this year on April 18th, I was surprised to find it’s an annual occurrence and began in 2007, founded by a group of record storeowners. As someone who is massively into music (you may have guessed from the ‘Music Editor’ title), often gets teased for being ‘that hipster that owns a record player’ and still cries soft tears of despair when I remember my Ipod classic got stolen, I’m thrilled to hear that a day of promotion for record sales exists. The day includes live performance from various artists and exclusive releases of limited edition vinyl and CDs. Each record store that gets involves basically holds a party, celebrating the culture of music and bringing together likeminded people. Marc Fayd’Herbe, Sales Manager of Universal Music described Record Store Day as “the single best thing that has ever happened” for independent record shops.

The event is immensely popular, with the Facebook community page currently capturing 336000 followers and a huge number of major artists getting involved. James Bay tweeted ‘Finally getting round to listening to all my RecordStoreSay buys! New clear vinyl @Alabama_Shakes sounding sweet!’ and Rolling Stone were live tweeting the event including a mention of Foo Fighters ‘turning Ohio Strip Mall into an intimate stadium’. Foo Fighters fans weren’t the only ones to experience the thrill of a special intimate performance, with crowds outside Schoolkids Records in North Carolina waiting hours in advance for an exclusive All Time Low appearance. #RSD2015 actually became number one trending hashtag in the UK, as radio stations, music magazines and record companies got the word out alongside individuals and artists. The Telegraph even included Record Store Day in an article ‘9 Great Things To Do This Weekend’.

London’s biggest independent record store ‘Rough Trade East’ which I have a feeling I’ve been to before as an excitable fifteen year old, reported having people camp outside the night before, Noreen McShane, five hundred customers greeted the store’s manager as she went to open up! Some of the first collectables to sell out were Faster John Misty picture disc, Mumford and Son’s 7-inch and The 1975, with older artists like Bruce Springsteen also getting significant attention. Rae Morris even popped down to the store to pick up a Denai Moore vinyl. Exclusive releases for the event this year include; A red vinyl edition of Johnny Cash live in Prague, Bob Dylan – The Basement Tapes, Foo Fighters – Songs From The Laundry Room and The Doors – Strange Days. But top place on the Record Store Day sales chart went to Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes, closely followed by No Life Til Leather by Metallica.

Overall I am freakishly excited to find out about such a brilliant occasion albeit mourning the fact I missed out a bit this year, not only did one of my favourite new bands, Twenty One Pilots, release three live tracks for the event, but the ability of music to bring people together is really being celebrated. It’s great to know that the feeling behind music is being cultivated, with the organisers of the day reinforcing that they ‘encourage people to use Record Store Day as a way to say thank you to each other: customers to record store employees, record store folks to customers’. Not only is it definitely worth pencilling the third Saturday of April into every year’s calendar, but people should also make sure to check out the new ‘official vinyl chart’ which has been introduced on the back of the success of this year’s Record Store Day. This is massively good news for anyone, like me, who is keen to maintain the fantastic culture surrounding music, that predates the digital age.

http://www.recordstoreday.com/

http://www.officialcharts.com/charts/record-store-chart/

All a Woman Needs to Make a Difference is a National Insurance Number.

Christabel Pankhurst was four years older than me when she interrupted a Liberal Party meeting to shout about the voting rights of women. Yet at twenty years old, it’s taken until the last six months for me to develop a genuine interest in politics. I remember asking my Dad to explain things to me during the last general election, intent on sounding infinitely more sophisticated if I could reel off phrases like ‘hung-parliament’ or ‘welfare state’. Since then I’ve spent nearly three years at a university that helped foster the women’s suffrage movement, accidentally launched an international feminist campaign and experienced the politically-fuelled chaos of twitter warfare. Looking back, these were probably pretty strong ingredients to convert me from an ignorant young person who pays no attention to the political sphere. My recent education has not only come just in time but has also made me determined to see more young and particularly female voters at the polls this May.

As part of Women’s History Month (March), I’ve also been lucky enough to host Professor June Purvis and Kate Willoughby at Royal Holloway. The difference between the talks given to us by these two women, is what struck me as particularly powerful. June is a renowned historian specialising in research on women’s suffrage, having written a critically acclaimed biography of Emmeline Pankhurst. Speaking to a room of students at Royal Holloway of all places, she still managed to stun us with a fabulously articulate hour-long education on the suffragette movement. You can’t help but find your emotions stirred, especially as a privileged, white woman in modern day England, when hearing about individuals like Kitty Marion who was force fed 332 times until she begged for poison. Force-feeding was one of the most horrific things suffragettes experienced, being arrested even for peaceful protest and hunger striking in prison as an attempt to continue the fight. When I asked June to sum up why it’s important for young women to vote, she said this; ‘Young women should vote in the forthcoming general election since votes for women was hard won, particularly by the suffragettes who endured violence, even when engaging in peaceful political protest, and the torture of being forcibly fed when on hunger strike for their political rights.  To not vote is to say to all those women who campaigned so hard for the political rights we enjoy today that their efforts do not matter. They do matter. We women must make our democratic voice heard, through the ballot box.’

But as if June’s talk in itself wasn’t moving enough, about two weeks after our education on the hardships suffragettes experienced, we listened to Kate Willoughby, the founder of the immensely popular #Emilymatters campaign. The campaign has nearly two thousand followers on twitter, with support from the House of Commons and Charities like Women’s Aid; Kate works incredibly hard to encourage young people and particularly women to vote and the fact that her work is so necessary says everything. You’d really think, that considering the many turbulent years of campaigning for women’s suffrage, it wouldn’t be so hard to get female votes today. When asked the same question as I asked June, her response was this: “Don’t let anyone silence you or make you feel that your vote doesn’t matter. It does. Suffragette Emily Davison was once a student like you. She believed, as I do, that you have every right to be heard, to be equal. Our democracy is far from perfect, but if you decide not to vote, it won’t get any better, in fact it will only get worse. By registering online and then voting, not only will you be doing Emily proud, you’ll also send a message loud and clear to the next government that young women matter. And the more of you who vote, the more that government will have to listen. #Votingmatters”. It was enormously inspiring to see such passionate belief in the fact that the vote of today’s women is crucial, from a respected and well known historian and the founder of a very current campaign. It told me everything, to see that so much hard work went into securing the vote, but work is still necessary to sustain its power.

A personal example for me is my sister, who is within voting age but wasn’t even aware of how to register, in fact I’ve noticed that unless you are involved in a student environment it’s pretty hard to find the information you need. Universities including my own have launched #votebecause and other campaigns to encourage young people to vote, as only forty four percent of people aged eighteen to twenty-four vote compared to a massive seventy-six percent of people aged sixty-five and above. This is absolutely horrifying considering how important the younger voice is and how much it gets ignored, particularly with constant campaigning against education cuts and rising tuition fees. But what is even more astounding is the enormous gap that still exists between male and female voters with only thirty-nine percent of young women voting in the last general election compared to a solid fifty percent of young men. Women are massively underrepresented in parliament and very few female candidates stand, so it’s easy to see why the younger female generation are still put off, with the political world remaining male dominated and uninviting. The Telegraph published an article back in January, which even suggested the gender gap is widening when it comes to general elections, which is frankly terrifying as we near the one hundred year mark of having the vote. If you identify as a woman and are not yet sure whether to vote in the forthcoming elections, I’d recommend taking a moment to consider not only those who died and/or endured horrific torture to gain us the vote, but also the women of countries like Iraq who risk their lives by posting their ballots. What I’ve learnt in the last six months is how incredibly lucky I am to have the opportunity to vote and do so safely. The bottom line is, if women don’t vote, they can’t expect to be represented in politics or have a say in the future of our country. There are many issues specific to women, for example pay gaps, childcare, sexual harassment, FGM, domestic violence or frequency and mistreatment of rape cases, which will not be addressed unless women are politically active to push them as priorities. This is why the suffragettes valued the vote higher than their own dignity, because these problems must be acknowledged and because women are just as worthy of representation as men. It’s 2015 and almost a century since we secured the vote, it’s our job to make sure their work wasn’t in vain and to ensure that attention is paid to inequality.

So in light of what I’ve learnt this year here is a little more information;

As long as you know your national insurance number it takes five minutes maximum to register to vote here – https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote (You have until the 20th of April).

This is a BBC article on where parties stand on key issues based on manifestos: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29642613.

If you trust it, this is the political compass test that a lot of people have used to make themselves more aware of where they stand and who they align most with: https://www.politicalcompass.org/test.

UKFeminista also produced these wonderful info-graphics on women’s issues in politics: http://votefeminist.ukfeminista.org.uk/toolkit/.

And of course the page for #Emilymatters by Kate Willougby which is a really helpful campaign, Kate is also particularly helpful if you need anymore information:

Musical Time Capsules

I’ve always been affectionately teased for being stuck in a generation I never belonged to (music-wise), having never really been into poppy chart tracks growing up, my musical education began and ended with my parents’ tastes. Fortunately, there was plenty they disagreed on so this education was pretty rounded. Musically, my heart really belongs in around the Seventies and Eighties although I also adore everything from Twenties Jazz and Glen Miller to Elvis. Just before Summer, realising my intent to work toward a career in music journalism I decided it was necessary to broaden my horizons.

Slowly but surely I began my journey to enlightenment, but what struck me wasn’t so much that modern chart music isn’t half as bad as expected but more that not all new music is as far from my classic oldies as I realised. To discover that the concept of incorporating elements of older style and sound in new releases exists was both intriguing and ideal to me and I began to delve deeper.

Hudson Taylor are a great example of an emerging band whose sound is very retro, similarities can be drawn to Mumford and Sons, King Charles or even Amber Run. But for me Hudson Taylor have an older feel, perhaps I’d even reference The Beatles as some of their songs like ‘Battles’ or ‘Written in Water’ show links through lower keys, stronger rifts and even their stand out cynical tone in terms of lyrics.

On the other hand ‘Care’ sounds incredibly reminiscent of The Beach Boys, the high pitched, almost Barber-Shop harmonies and light guitar in this track are unmistakable in terms of influence. Noting that both The Beatles and The Beach Boys are Sixties boy bands despite their hugely different styles suggests this era is a major source of inspiration for Hudson Taylor. It’s clear that musical styles of even that far back are being carefully preserved if you only pick and choose the right artists.

Another band I have fallen in love with and who have recently been in the charts is Milky Chance. With a particularly folky tone, they are more in line with old Blues and Country sounds. However unlike Hudson Taylor’s pure, softer acoustic style, Milky Chance go a step further and mix this with electronic elements inspired by German DJs. In interviews they’ve referenced everyone from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Bob Marley, which clearly supports this assumption.

In contrast this idea can be applied in a wider sense to an entire genre, being introduced to ‘Electroswing’, (the name given to an emerging musical genre which combines orchestral, upbeat swing sounds of the twenties with very modern electronic elements) was an absolute revelation to me. Great Electroswing artists at the moment include Parov Stelar, ADSS and most importantly, my favourite, Jamie Berry. To my delight I found that Berry in particular expertly crafts tracks that in no way diminish the brilliance of classic swing sounds, incorporating recognisable tunes but also mixing his own but always maintaining that brilliant fun, party feeling behind Swing and Jazz.

It seems that in the music industry it’s becoming fashionable to incorporate backdated elements, almost in the same way that vintage clothing has become such a statement and so sought after. People almost seem bent on outdoing each other or competing, leading to commonly used terms like ‘hipster’ ‘indie’ and so on, as in most cases music seems to follow the same patterns and cycles as fashion. A perfect way to explain these competitive extremes is to point out how common it’s becoming to remix Beethoven and Mozart into club and house tracks, particularly prevalent in European clubs. To find that this common theme is only just emerging leads me to believe it will thrive and develop in the next decade which only makes me more excited and consequentially more keen to pay attention to it’s development and new releases.