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I’ve gone legit!

Hello everyone,

I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting you lately, but I promise I have good reasons. During the last month I’ve been applying to study an M.A, I’ve been to Croatia annnd I’ve created a legit blog with my very own domain! I got my domain from biz.nf which gives you your own WordPress domain for free!
web hosting
http://docs.biz.nf/set_aid.php?aid=MTkyMzI3MjMyNzI0MjI=

I’m still going to post on this blog, but if you have a moment it would be amazing if you could go and check out my new blog and maybe save it to your favorites. It is primarily a travel blog with better versions of my old entries, and it will soon be stuffed full of new content including details of my trips to Crete, France, Spain, Portugal, and Croatia. I’m also going to a few other places before uni starts so I’m planning on filling it full of interesting and exciting things :).

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Why America Should Legalise drugs (non-stoner reasons).

https://mcxv.com/real-reason-drugs-legalised-america-no-dont-just-want-get-high/ 

Happy belated 420 everyone.

I just wrote an article about why America should legalise drugs. Most of the reasons people tend to come up with is a person’s rights over their own body, the ridiculousness of criminalising something that only ‘harms’ yourself, and the relative safety regarding certain illegal substances (like marijuana) as opposed to legal substances (like alcohol).

These are all very true, but I thought I would try and get away from the personal reasons and focus on how legalising drugs could have huge positive ramifications on America’s messed up prison system, disproportionate representation of African Americans in American prisons, the fact that the punishment often does not fit the crime, how legalising drugs could help with overcrowding, how many Americans are actually in jail because of drug-related offences etc.

I am not from America. I should also admit that I have not been to America so a lot of my information comes from articles, statistics and Orange Is The New Black. If anyone is from the states and/or knows about the prison system and has any comments on my article or the issues relating to drugs, racism, prisons and crime please let me know!

Check out my article by clicking here or going to https://mcxv.com/real-reason-drugs-legalised-america-no-dont-just-want-get-high/ 

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#OscarsSoWhite and what else we can do about it

Read my article about #OscarsSoWhite here.

When people talk about #OscarsSoWhite I feel like they are missing a vital point. We need more diverse staff at all levels of the industry i.e in directing, writing, producing and casting as well as acting because without it we miss out on a lot of talent which we the audience could benefit from, but this isn’t the only way we can try and get more diverse actors in the short term. A lot of main and secondary characters are ‘racially neutral’ i.e their race hasn’t been specified and yet for some reason unless we are specifically told otherwise we assume that all these characters are white.

I remember the recent uproar when the part of Hermione Granger in ‘The Cursed Child’ was given to a black woman and a bunch of people  just couldn’t understand why this Hermione was black when the character was meant to be white. But was she meant to be white? Did J.K.Rowling specify her race? As far as I can recall from the books Hermione’s specific skin colour is not mentioned (although we know she has bushy hair) and so we didn’t actually know whether she was meant to be white or not. We just assumed.

The recent talk (however real it actually was) of having a black James Bond is another important point because there really isn’t any reason Bond couldn’t be black. The people who talk about the ‘historical accuracy’ of Bond’s race seem to forget that in the 1950s we didn’t have smart phones, lap tops or tablets. We didn’t have many of the fancy tech gadgets they use for the films now, hell we still haven’t invented some of the things they show in those films. So although it’s perfectly true that a historically accurate James Bond probably couldn’t be black, since when was historical accuracy an issue for the Bond series? James Bond is a timeless character who adapts to the time, fears and current threats the world has. He has no set time, and he needn’t have a set race either.

I believe that true equality in mainstream film won’t just come from hiring more diverse writers and hoping they write about more non-white characters (although that is a big part of it). Real equality can only come when we stop assuming everyone is white unless stated otherwise, when we stop limiting talented actors to specific roles. Real equality can only happen when we stop seeing people as representatives or spokes people for their race, gender, sexuality etc and start seeing them as individuals who can play individual parts. Only when we all have the freedom to play a superhero, a villain and a romantic lead without people focusing on “what our character says about our specific group and what kind of role model we are” will we have full equality.

To read my article on Diversity at the Oscars click here now.

http://uk.blastingnews.com/entertainment/2016/10/we-need-more-diversity-at-the-oscars-but-are-we-thinking-about-it-the-right-way-001174171.html

 

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Amber Rudd’s’Name and shame’ proposal leaves a lot of unanswered questions and a rather irksome feeling.

Despite all claims to the contrary I’ve always tried to avoid the simplistic view that BREXIT was primarily about race and xenophobia. Whilst no one is denying that the ‘breaking point’ campaign and indeed a lot of the leave campaigns rhetoric was focused on immigration (despite EU immigration being limited to Europe these campaigns tried to focus on refugees, which is kind of ironic considering we still have a duty to them with or without our EU membership) there were other factors that would encourage someone to vote leave.

My article on Public Opinion and the Young People Who Voted Leave discusses several of these alternative reasons and shows that many people were influenced by the perceived anti-democratic way the EU was run, they wanted to leave what they saw as a global superpower that was trying to control 28 countries from a remote headquarters, and/or they wanted Britain to have more control over their destiny and economy. It would be very naive to assume that no one voted leave due to racist and/or xenophobic reasons, but the idea that these were the only reasons highlights the remain campaign’s failure to appeal to people in the first place.

Recent events have made me a little disturbed, however.This ‘name and shame’ policy that attempts to look at how many non-British born people work for a particular company does sound quite sinister because the aim appears to be quite clear. This policy seems to have been discontinued due to the backlash it recieved, but the fact that this was an option, the fact that this is what our government wanted to focus on is a little scary and perhaps shows what is to come. According to The Guardian Amber Rudd’s aims were as follows:

“Under her proposals, firms could be forced to disclose what percentage of their workforce is non-British as a way to encourage them to hire more locals. Ms Rudd said she wanted to “flush out” companies abusing existing rules and “nudge them into better behaviour”.

Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37561035

Whether they publish their findings or not the goal seems to be to check how many migrants compared to how many British born people work for a particular company and if they are not satisfied that British people are getting first pick at the jobs they may take measures to encourage the company in question to focus on British applicants and give them first choice for employment. I am not sure if these policies will focus on people who weren’t born in the U.K themselves or people whose ancestors were immigrants, nor do I know whether it will focus on a particular group (i.e European immigrants or non-EU immigrants).

I also don’t know if ‘British born’ is going to be based on race or residential status and how that’s going to be qualified (will Amber Rudd count you as a British citizen if you weren’t born in Britain but have British citizenship? Will a recent immigrant with a better application be turned away in favour of someone who has no relevent experience but is a Britis citizen?) but either way this seems very contradictory to our apparent commitment to inclusion and the need to encourage a more representative, diverse workforce not only so our workforce reflects the country we actually live in but so we don’t end up with stale ideas and we don’t miss out on talent.

We already know that we have a problem with diversity in British industries, and even though we have schemes and quota systems in place to encourage a more diverse workforce they don’t always seem that effective. We know, for example, that around 8% of the Creative sector (i.e media, film and art-based jobs) are nonwhite, and when we consider that a lot of these jobs are based in London where the demographic is roughly around 40-60% this is quite shocking. (source here: http://www.gold.ac.uk/news/the-creative-industries-and-meritocracy/)

From a quick Google search on the subject I found the following statistics:

  • Black workers with degrees earn 23.1% less on average than white employees with the qualifications
  • Ethnic minority people were more likely to live in poverty than white people
  • Ethnic minorities are still “hugely under-represented” in positions of power – such as judges and police chiefs (info found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37114418)When they are talking about hiring more locals, what jobs do they mean? Do they mean the NHS where a significant portion of the workforce is made up of Non-British born staff? Do they mean the jobs many British people simply don’t want to do or don’t have the skills for? Do they mean the more competitive industries where diversity is still a real issue? And what do they mean by foreigners? Is this based on your race, where you were born, or is it simply how soon it was that you moved to the UK? If you were brought up here and lived most of your life here but you happened to be born in another country how do you fit in? How do you qualify a British person and how do you qualify a non-British person?

    It is hard to get a job in the U.K and a lot of this is because there is too much competition for certain jobs, not enough jobs to go around and a real preference for free labour under the guise of ‘internships’. How we could sort that out is a whole other issue, but the solution isn’t to close off all opportunities to people who ‘aren’t British enough’ if they have the skills that the particular job needs. Surely if companies are encouraged to hire as many ‘British’ workers as possible it will exasperate inequalities. Surely changing hiring policies so ‘the British come first’ would increase racial profiling? Surely ‘British Jobs for British workers’ is quite an open statement which doesn’t really mean anything,  because who is British and who isn’t? What are you basing that on?

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Interviewing artists: Bryony May Mind Strays

Brighton

Brighton, for those of you who don’t know, is a fabulous seaside city about an hour out of London which is famous for its excellent vegan food (it has more than one vegan pub!), its acceptance of weed, vape shops and harem pants, and its status as one of the most (if not the most) LGBTQ friendly cities in the U.K.

A few weeks ago, I went to Brighton for a beach party in celebration of Trans Pride Day. I met loads of vibrant and colorful characters that day, and one such character was the delectable Bryony May, a Brighton based freelance artist who kindly agreed to be the first interviewee for my new blog series ‘Interviewing Artists’.

Interviewing Artists

This is a new blog series I am starting which will focus on local artists and their work. I’ve always loved art, and  I’ve always known and appreciated people who are artists and who want to make art a full-time career.

It is very hard to live off your art (in the same way it’s very hard to be a full-time actor or writer), and building a reputation and constantly marketing your work can be a full-time job in itself. I want to introduce lesser-known but no less talented artists to a wider audience, and I want to help promote them in any way I can.

Interviewing artists will start with a brief description of the artist and their work, followed by an interview with the artist which explores their inspiration and themes, and finally the artist will explain the thought, themes and inspiration behind some of their work.

Artist profile: Bryony May

young dude
Image: Young Dude by Bryony May

Bryony May is a full-time freelance artist who uses their art to explore the themes of relationships, abuse, and mental illness.  You can find Bryony on Facebook and Etsy as Bryony May Mind Strays.

Bryony is a self-employed full-time artist. They run every aspect of their art business themselves, from the marketing to postage and packaging. Every piece of art they make is unique and one-of-a-kind. If you want to buy any of the art featured in this post, please go to Bryony’s Etsy account to find out more.

Bryony is agender and prefers gender neutral pronouns, hence why I am referring to them as ‘they’, ‘them’ or ‘their’.

Interview 

You say on your Facebook page that your art is influenced by mental illness, relationships, and abuse. If possible could you expand on that and on what you are hoping to achieve with your art?

fAs someone who is affected by mental illness (currently depression and anxiety, in my past, borderline personality disorder) and someone who has lived through multiple abusive relationships and who is always exploring how to create new healthier connections with people, I feel these are the subjects I can portray most knowledgably that I am passionate about in my own life. I hope to provide an insight into how it feels to be affected by these issues,and to show solidarity with those who’ve been affected similarly, to help those feeling isolated by their emotions to feel understood and respected.

How do you think art can be used in the fight for equality?

Soon I will be producing more work alongside my current collection addressing mental illness and abuse, that addresses sexism, homophobia,and transphobia, as these are also issues I feel confident commenting on as I am an agender pansexual, and sexism affects everyone. I want my work to be worn on walls as a badge of honour for a person proud to be surviving in this world as a member of an oppressed group, or as a badge of empathy for a person or company who wishes to show solidarity with oppressed groups.

Are you having much success working as an independent artist? What kind of advice would you give to fellow artists in regards to making money and promoting yourself?

It’s hard work, I look forward to the day I make enough to live off, I am currently living off a finite supply of savings, some months I’ll sell 4 or 5 works, some I won’t sell any. I keep with it because I’m passionate about it, its what I’m good at, its what I enjoy and Its really important to me.
 
painMy advice is if your aim is to make money, do something else, if you feel how I do, and you are passionate about your work, get to it! make and make and make and once you have a body of work you feel says what you want it to get an Etsy account, if you’re lucky enough to have or know someone who has web development skills get your own website made and advertise the heck outa it! I have no budget for advertisement so most people find out about my work through me shouting about it on social media, I run so many accounts its hard to keep track of them all myself, I have Facebook as my main one where I share everything then I post my art with links on Instagram and tumblr and pinterest and I might be setting up a twitter account soon, its a lot, but its important to have a big web presence when you can’t afford a physical venue or advertisement.

And make sure you take care of yourself, its not going to pick up straight away, it takes time, it took me well over a year of trying this to sell my first piece and that was to a friend, don’t be disheartened and keep going, and remember to take time off, when you’re in charge of when you work it can be really hard to remember you deserve and need a break from time to time, so don’t forget to let yourself relax now and then, if you’re stressed out your work will suffer anyway so if not for yourself do it for that.

What do you hope to have achieved in 10 years time?

il_570xN.1024502466_k1ayI’d really like to be living off my art by then, I’d like my work to be better known, but I’d also not want to be famous myself ever, I’m not the important bit of what I do.
I’d like to collaborate with artists who are familiar with other important subjects that I feel need addressing but that don’t directly affect me, such as racism, and mental illnesses and disorders I’ve never had.
I have an idea for a performance piece I’d like to create, but it involves a venue and a lot of paint, these things cost money I don’t have, but perhaps sometime in the next 10 years I will, fingers crossed.

Analysis

I tore

I Tore Myself Open to Smile for You

All my work is open to the interpretation of the viewer, the meaning I intended to illustrate when I created it is not necessarily the “right” way to view it, I’ll provide it here for context but I encourage you to make up your own mind before reading what I think about it. one of my favourite parts of being an artist is hearing how all the differing perspectives people have effect what they see in my work, I love how it can mean so many different things to so many different people and I never want to tell anyone how it “should” be viewed, so here I simply offer just another perspective.

To create this piece I first drew a rough outline of what the face should look like in pencil then with fine liner I picked out details like the teeth nose and eyes, then I used Ink pencils to add a light skin tone to the face and colour to the eyes, then to illustrate the effect of it being tear stained I dripped water onto the light skin tone areas of ink pencil to cause it to bleed and pool. Then with candle wax I traced the rough outline of the face with a manic sort of line to express the instability of the figure, then letting the wax resist the black ink I filled in the background, using an old toothbrush to scratch more depth into the face with the same ink. Then I dripped red ink around the mouth cavity to emphasise the ripping open of the figure and dripped diluted blue ink from the left eye subtly dripping down through the whole image all the way to the bottom signifying further the pain the figure is in. then finally, I literally tore at the figure splitting the face in half and tearing into the pained creases of the eyes.

Then with candle wax I traced the rough outline of the face with a manic sort of line to express the instability of the figure, then letting the wax resist the black ink I filled in the background, using an old toothbrush to scratch more depth into the face with the same ink. Then I dripped red ink around the mouth cavity to emphasise the ripping open of the figure and dripped diluted blue ink from the left eye subtly dripping down through the whole image all the way to the bottom signifying further the pain the figure is in. then finally, I literally tore at the figure splitting the face in half and tearing into the pained creases of the eyes.

This piece aims to illustrate the pain in concealing my true emotions in previous relationships where I was afraid they would leave me or be over burdened should I express my troubles to them so I would force a fake smile and pretend everything was ok for their benefit resulting only in my own pain growing and a feeling of irrational bitterness towards them as if they had forced me to act this way to appease them when the whole time it was my choice, we would have both benefited from me being more open, but I was still recoiling from having offered up too much of myself in the past, still trying to find the mid ground where I could be open without handing over responsibility, and over shooting.

falling

Falling

This piece was created by hand drawing the figures in pencil, colouring the bottom figure in with black ink and cutting them out together and placing them on a tea stained ground.

This piece was created with the intention of illustrating how I’ve experienced the feeling of falling in love when suffering from depression and a feeling of dependence, an uneasy almost literal falling into the other person, letting them engulf me and using them as a distraction from and protection against the incoming ground, placing myself and all my insecurities in their arms to protect, leaving my responsibility to take care of myself with them, without the headspace to consider how that might effect them as they eventually, inevitably, impact with the ground and disperse from my life, my self worth with them, until I learn to love myself again.

what

What Do I Do With This

This piece was created by painting the paper with a blood red ink ground then painting over that with layers of white wall paint, drawing the hands in black fine liner once the right shade of pink is accomplished and then painting further layers of the white wall paint around the hands, then I carved through the layers with a scalpel to create the heart, and painted further blood red ink on the back to let it bleed through the now weakened area where I carved the heart.

I intended this work to Illustrate how I felt when I was in a relationship where my partner was dependant on me and had carved themselves into my life, they cut away at me, carved their heart into me, attached themselves, I couldn’t escape for fear they would commit suicide if they found themselves without me, I felt trapped by this overwhelming responsibility over this other person who I did care deeply about but could not help, it was like their heart bled through me, they were very unwell and I put them before myself very often as I felt my struggles were lesser than theirs and as such I felt they should have my priority, they kept handing me more and more of their struggles and I just, didn’t know what to do with them, it hurt to hold them, it hurt not to be able to help as they thought I could, and it cut into me, so much so that this person become the only partner I’ve ever dumped, it still hurts that I had to do that, but it was apparent that at best I wasn’t helping and at worst, no matter how they thought otherwise, I was hurting them, and myself, by staying.

If you want to learn more about Bryony or you would like to buy any of the pieces featured in this article, please go to Bryony’s Etsy account or their Facebok page.

Check back soon for more art, recipes, news and general musings about life. Also remember to take a look at my book review website and the cover reveal for the next book on my reading list, Leah by Dana Haffar.

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An update on my life, and a rant about Jeremy Corbyn

Read my article on Jeremy Corbyn as the underdog of British politics.

Me

I’ve been neglecting my poor blog.

Things have been quite busy. I’m trying to work as a freelance writer, which basically involves sending pitches and searching the internet for writing opportunities for hours and perhaps actually getting something once or twice a week. It started slow, but I’m feeling optimistic about it. I’m working as a ghostwriter, which isn’t great as you get no credit for your work, but on the other

I’m working as a ghostwriter, which isn’t great as you get no credit for your work, but on the other hand I’m getting paid to write. It’s ghostwriting for a tech company, so I have to rewrite and research these tech topics like virtual assistants for android phones and then write a load of words on them. It’s quite fun, I’m learning a lot of trivia and I’ve discovered some really addictive phone games.

I’ve also found a few other jobs along the way, including a job which literally paid me $100 me to record myself saying phrases. I think they were testing for a Google app, as I had to repeat the word “Google” so many times it stopped sounding real. It did get a bit repetitive, but realistically making $100 dollars by lying in bed and talking is pretty much the best thing ever.

Getting paid for journalism, opinions and analysis is pretty hard, especially for newbies, and as that’s what I really want to do it kind of sucks. I’ve written a fair few articles which, whilst they weren’t paid for, did manage to end up on a legit website and reach a reasonably large number of people, so that was pretty cool. I have written an article for this website, and please forgive me for being a shameless promoter but please click and read it.

Jeremy Corbyn

The article is my attempt to levy the playing field for Jeremy Corbyn by writing something nice about him. I should probably clarify, as he goes against a lot of what I write about, that I don’t actually want him to run the country, and I don’t agree with a lot of his policies.

But I am fascinated by him. For a man like him, a genuine, scruffy do-gooder of a man who would rather hang out with local people and go to his constituents citizenship ceremonies then pander to the press and attend all the official occassions … he really is something different. Whether you agree with him or not, don’t you get tired of politicians saying the same things, politicians who don’t seem to have anything to do with you?
So many people are disillusioned with politics and can’t be bothered to vote in elections because they don’t agree with the leading parties. Because they don’t feel that they represent their views. Sure some people are just lazy, or uninformed or simply don’t care, but there are a lot of people who don’t want to give their support to a candidate they don’t trust. This is at least partly why so many young people don’t tend to engage in politics, because politics has made them apathetic.

Why I like Jeremy Corbyn

And I’m personally interested in seeing Jeremy remain in parliament, not because I think he’s right, but because I think he represents the people who don’t normally get representation, and the leading party should have some decent kind of opposition even if he is a bit mad. Some say that he is incompetent, that he has crazy ideas and he abandoned England to Brexit whilst he went on a sunny holiday, and at least some of these are things are probably true. But it does appear that people really can never be satisfied.

So many people complained that the Remain campaign was pushing itself down people’s throats, that David Cameron spent tax payers money on leaflets. Some people got so sick of the constant warnings and threats that some of them voted to leave just out of spite. So how is it that the one person who didn’t do that, who didn’t make wild claims and belittled the people by giving them threats rather than actual facts, how is he suddenly the evil villain of the story?

A few newspapers have discussed this and shown that  more Labour members actually voted to remain than the Conservative party, and those that voted to leave did so because of reasons that had nothing at all to do with Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, he could have done a better job, and yes he didn’t seem that into it. Realistically, he probably wasn’t. You can’t really have his opinions and be totally in favour of the E.U. Perhaps he was hoping we’d leave. Perhaps as a man who has such strict principles, he couldn’t properly campaign for something he didn’t really support. Perhaps his main fault is that he finds it hard to lie.

Perhaps he was hoping we’d leave. Perhaps as a man who has such strict principles, he couldn’t properly campaign for something he didn’t really support. Perhaps his main fault is that he finds it hard to lie.

But he did campaign to remain, just not enough. People saw him giving talks on workers rights within the E.U and why we should have stayed in to reform it. He didn’t do it as well as he should have done, but he did so it and  we can’t know how much he actually did do because no one reported it.

I want him to remain, at least for a while longer, because I think it’s interesting to see a real difference of opinion in parliament and displayed across social media, even if it’s an opinion I don’t agree with. I want to see the parties represent different things, so people actually do have a choice. And perhaps Jeremy’s old labour socialism thing just isn’t popular enough with the majority of people, perhaps Labour itself no longer works because the world has changed and it no longer has a place in it.

The Labour Party

Perhaps if old labour can’t work anymore it’s a sign, because we don’t need a party which bases half its support on the fact it seems a bit ‘nicer’ than the Tories. I am sure there are people who really love the Labour party and believe in what it stands for today, but I don’t come across these people very often. ‘New Labour’ doesn’t seem to have the same appeal it used to, and if Labour goes back to it’s ‘Tory-lite’ image it could be years before they are re-elected.

I just feel the Labour party spends so much time saying “look, we’re not the Torie’s and you hate the Tories so you must like us”, without giving us enough of a reason to like them. I don’t feel the majority of them, including Jeremy’s contester, know what they stand for, just that it’s not the same things as Jeremy Corbyn. We need them to say what they are, not what they are not, and if they don’t know they had better start thinking. There are some things they have to agree with, because there is no way to change them. Perhaps there isn’t a good enough alternative to the tories because they actually have it all right and there is no other way, but I’m not convinced.

Maybe it’s time for a new party or several new parties. Maybe we’ll see the rise of a (real) liberal party, perhaps the greens will take over, who really knows. We would (and should)  change the electoral system, which that would involve a lot of headache and paperwork, but there are other options beyond out current brand of politics. It’s not crazy to suggest we may need to think about them at some point.

I don’t know what will happen, but I have an inkling that something has to change. Maybe Jeremy isn’t the right kind of change, but he shows that it is possible for non-Etonian champaign socialists/strict Tories to get into positions of power and at the very least, we can hope he will inspire other people to try and do the same.

 

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Reaction to Brexit

We’ve left the EU.

It still doesn’t feel entirely real, to be honest. It was assumed that the British people don’t really like change, that they’d stick with what they knew, that referendums don’t normally deliver results like this.

But it did. And now we’re out. Now we are a small little island bobbing around on it’s own with no real idea what’s going to happen or who it’s friends are. We’ve rejected our neighbours, we’ve turned our backs on our allies and we’ve upset a lot of people. The pounds low, the stock markets breaking and at the moment it looks like all those warnings were in fact correct and in a day we’ve screwed up our country beyond repair. This is a historical moment, something that may well have a massive effect on British history for the foreseeable future. The historian in me is excited, the traveller in me is upset and the regular human me is confused.

Neither campaign was particularly good. The Leave campaign has been accused, and rightly so, of using racism to create fear and in doing so gain support. As Nigel Farrage was such a big part of the Leave campaign it always had that dodgy UKIP feel that a lot of people can’t abide and their incredibly dubious ‘breaking point’ poster really did not help matters. All of this really dominated the campaign when in reality there were a lot more points to consider.

I know people who thoroughly researched the EU before the referendum and after much soul searching voted to leave, and I know they didn’t do it because of immigration. Immigration may be the reason some people voted, but there is this idea floating around that it must be the only reason and it really, really wasn’t. There were many concerns about the EU being a huge, confusing and undemocratic entity that was trying to take over the entire region and ensure the individual countries had less and less power for their own affairs. This may or may not be true, but it is a valid concern, and one that doesn’t stink of racism and xenophobia. There is also this deep seated British need to separate ourselves that perhaps played a bigger part then the younger more Europe friendly voters realised.

The media’s attempts to paint leave voters as exclusively working class small town un-university educated Daily Mail readers also backfired and may have actually lost the remain campaign the support they needed. The Remain campaign didn’t really seem interested in stating why we should remain in the EU; they seemed more focused on the dangers of leaving, and this simply failed to impress people.

If you focus on why the other party is wrong instead of on why you are right, it makes it look like your own argument isn’t that strong. I’m sure there were a lot of good reasons they were talking about, reasons they should have made the focus of their campaign, but instead all I could hear was fear mongering and a growing resistance towards it. Perhaps they didn’t trust the British people enough to give them real arguments out of fear it would go over our heads, or perhaps they trusted us too much to make such a big decision on something a lot of people simply didn’t know enough about.

It didn’t help that there is quite a massive lack of understanding about what the EU is and what it does in this country. The fact is it’s a massive, bureaucratic and multilayered organisation that is very hard to understand, and I do question if their lack of transparency is real as so much as people didn’t know where to look.

I’ve always known the EU existed, but until this referendum I’ll admit I never knew a great deal about it. I loved the fact I could live and work in another European country and I thought the idea of uniting countries in the same area via trade and belief was a good idea, but I never knew the logistics of it.

I voted remain because I love the open borders Europe has, I love the freedom of people moving and visiting as they please. I love the idea I could have just packed up and moved to Germany, or Holland or Italy or any of these 27 countries if I chose. And I loved cheap travel. Maybe these aren’t the calculated, well researched reasons that they should have been, but you always end up voting with what is most important to you at that given time.

There are a lot of questions, a lot of confusion and a lot of anger going on at the moment. The press is dominated by the immediate negative effects this decision has made, people are fighting amongst themselves, the young are accusing the old of destroying their futures, accusations of stupidity, racism and ignorance are flying around. The Leave voters are assumed to be racist, and the Remain voters apparently can’t deal with the realities of a democracy. These reactions are all to be expected, but none are particularly helpful.

Perhaps some of the older voters did vote because of an outdated idea of making Britain great again. But perhaps they voted because they, unlike us, have lived through a time when Britain was not part of the EU. Perhaps because of this it isn’t such a scary concept because they know we’ve done it before. And perhaps they also voted this way because they’ve lived through our membership of the EU, maybe they have a better insight of how it’s changed the UK then we do.

Some people did vote because of racism; perhaps  because they don’t like the EU telling us we should let in Syrian refugees. Maybe others don’t like the free flow of people, perhaps they want to build a wall around Britain and truly cut us off from the world. But others would have voted for any number of reasons; including the un-democratic and over imposing structure of the EU and fears that a closer union would end in one state, one army and one currency. Public opinion has never been and will never be unanimous, and it does not and never has fitted into neat categories.

Victor Klemperer, a Jewish academic and diarist who kept a record of the Nazi regime frequently found that you could never assume someone’s beliefs. He encountered children who spat at him in the street and Nazi officials who apologised to him, who told him they didn’t agree with the regime. He found different reactions and opinions everywhere he went, and he stressed throughout his book that the ‘vox populi’ is never unanimous. This is something I feel we could all learn from, something that would stop these broad accusations and let us focus instead on the actual arguments and the future.

Who knows what’s going to happen now? Maybe, miraculously, the leavers are right and this is the dawn of better trade deals and a rising economy. Or maybe we’ve just shot ourselves in our collective foot, will realise just how bad a mistake and will end up running back to the EU and beg to be let back in, which (if it did happen) would result in a much worse deal and the end of the pound. Hell maybe someone will invade us and the rest of Europe will turn a blind eye. Should we be optimistic? Should we be terrified? What do you think?

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Pride, Prejudice & Zombies and The Benefits of FanFiction

This is a thing I wrote for GUM about Pride, Prejudice & Zombies and how fabulous fan fiction is. Check it out 🙂

Last Saturday I went to see Pride Prejudice and Zombies, which is based on a book by the same name and parodies Jane Austin’s original. The story is pretty much the same; it still has the ove…

Source: Pride, Prejudice & Zombies and The Benefits of FanFiction

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Paris, Syria and scary current events

So, the past two weeks have been scary and intense. The Paris atrocities of November 13th, in which 130 innocent people were killed in seven terrorist attacks on the capital have understandably shaken Europe and the wider world, and you can still feel the aftermath here in the UK. There is no way to excuse these murders; the people killed were regular, innocent people, like you and me. The idea that you could be out with your friends on a Friday night, doing the things you have always done, and someone could just go and murder you because of some religious ideology that you have nothing to do with is beyond words.
Things have definitely changed in the UK in the last two weeks. There are police everywhere, personally every time I get a tube I feel like I am tempting fate and we may be only a week or two away from a full blown war. A lot of things are going on, and these are definitely scary times to live in.  I’m going to focus on the issue of bombing Syria, but this is only one part of a must larger issue and we still have no idea how it is all going to turn out.

The Paris atrocities were just that; they were atrocities. Because those that carried out these murders say they are Muslims, and indeed want to create an Islamic state based on their take on Islamic law, a worrying amount of people seem to have become concerned about Muslims in general. If you go to any comment section on a relevant news story, you will see a number of people suggesting that the Koran is evil, that that we shouldn’t trust Muslims, you will even get people suggesting that we should deport all Muslims to Syria.  I very much doubt we will get to the mass deporting of innocent people stage, but smaller levels of discrimination do appear to be on the rise, and both to keep the UK safe for all its citizens and to combat further radicalisation in our communities, this needs to be addressed. This is not just for political rhetoric and for the sake of being a good, tolerant person, but because terrorists want to invoke an ‘us and them’ mentality with the West as an all encompassing bad guy that must be destroyed. Attacking innocent people and treating them like the enemy isn’t going to help with that, and surely if we are going to try and stop radicalisation of people in this country we need to fight against this perception, not perpetuate it. Human history is full of people doing bad things to each other, and England’s history is a particularly bloody and often horrific one. That does not mean the majority of the population have personally done bloody and horrific things, or that they are responsible for these things, but we do need to acknowledge this countries past. In the same way you can’t blame all Muslims for ISIS, you cannot blame all Europeans for their colonial past or for the wars the leaders of these countries decided to drag us into.  This does not mean we shouldn’t fight Daesh or that we should apologise for them, but we need to acknowledge our part in the context of these events before we can plan what to do next. I’m sure the majority of people don’t believe all or most  Muslims are terrorist or Daesh sympathisers, but here are a few points for those that do.

Islam is not a uniquely violent religion.
That is not to say there are not very questionable passages in the Koran. It is true that there are parts that can be interpreted as promoting violence and even murder against non-believers and perceived sinners, and that people have carried out murders based on their take on the Muslim religion. Suicide bombers do follow a type of Islamic faith, although it is not the same beliefs as the majority.
However, it is not alone. The abrahamic religions have a lot of differences, but they also have a lot of similarities and it is simply untrue to suggest one is significantly more violent than the others.  The Old Testament has a lot of passages that sound pretty dodgy to me, including but not limited to: ” Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31:17-18)” and “If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12)”. In the New Testament Jesus is reported as saying: “”Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34“.
Do these passages mean that all Jews and Christians are inherently violent? Of course not. Have people used these religions to justify violence? Yes. Of course they have. Murder in the name of religion is hardly a new concept. Here are some nasty titbits for you: During the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in the 1200’s, large numbers of Cathars were massacred by Christians due to their duelist religion, despite the fact they were mostly peaceful and pious people. Back in the day the Crusades were very real and lengthy religious war in which both Christians and Muslims murdered and enslaved each other in the name of their respective religions. During Tudor times in the UK, people were burnt alive for being the wrong kind of Christian. In numerous countries all over Europe those accused of witchcraft were tortured and murdered.  In more resent times, the Ku Klux Klan of whom many considered themselves Christian, murdered and terrorized black people for decades. Human history is full of people doing bad things to each other and justifying it in one way or the other. People have done many bad things in the name of Islam, but you can’t say that because some groups of people start trying to force everyone to share their outlook and commit horrific acts in the name of their Gods, it means everyone who subscribes to a version of that religion wants to do the same. Because that would mean all religious people would be murderers as people have done that in the name of pretty much every religion at one time or another. I’m not saying religion is bad. I’m saying some people use religion to justify a whole array of things, and in that respect Islam is not unique.

 The majority of Refugees do not pose a threat to our security

I guess I can kind of understand why some people have come to the conclusion that allowing refugees from the war torn countries of Syria and Iraq is a threat to our safety. Syria is an ISIS stronghold, the people who have committed atrocities have most probably been in touch with people in Syria and may well have gone there, and so therefore people coming here from Syria are all a potential threat. But that doesn’t really seem to be the case. As far as I am aware, whilst some of the terrorists managed to get through borders into France they were born and raised in Europe. As far as I am aware, none of those involved in the murders were refugees.  Why someone would choose to commit these atrocities in their own home country is something I cannot begin to understand, but that appears to be what is happening. No, this does not mean we should start deporting people on the chance that they may be a terrorist, but it is true that we seem to face a bigger threat from people already in Europe than those trying to enter.  It is true that out of all the refugees trying to enter the EU, a very small number may be be from Daesh and prepared to harm the European country they enter. But a far, far larger number are fleeing these same terrorists because they are in danger, and because they live in a war zone that has been in conflict for years, that is being bombed constantly, that is basically being destroyed. Most of them are genuinely desperate people who are trying to come here to protect themselves and their families, because they are likely to die where they are. A lot of them are leaving because they cannot stand what Daesh is doing in that region, because they know better than any of us here how they are treating people and what life is like in Raqqa.  It is not a pleasant and easy route. Many men, women and children die on that trip.  We should not turn our backs on desperate people out of paranoia. There was something in the Metro this morning about how the Conservative government have not met their immigration targets and net immigration is on the rise. Of course it’s on the blood rise! We are facing the worst refugee crisis since the second world war. Should we close our doors to fulfil a few targets? Is that going to sound good to future generations who are going to analyse our handling of this situation and judge us for it? Security does need to be tightened, and our countries need to work together to try and find known terrorists. Border security does need to be increased. But this does not mean we should close the borders and send these people back to the hell like war zone they were so desperate to escape. We need to be safe, but we need to be human as well, and I maintain all the things I said in my previous article.

We should not rush into Syria

I’m not normally a fan of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics (although I’m warming to the man himself), but I agree with his response on Syria. Paris was a terrible atrocity, but rushing into a war without a clear plan or sense of direction mainly out of revenge and the need to show our allies we are ‘doing something’ is not a good move, especially if the only action the government is willing to take is mostly symbolic. Dropping a few more bombs on a already heavily bombed area doesn’t seem like it is going to change much, especially as as far as I am aware there hasn’t been much success from the bombing already being carried out. You will probably kill a few terrorists, and maybe even some prominent ones. But there are others who can take their place, and in the mean time who knows how many civilians will be killed in the process especially as there is evidence that suggests members of Daesh will enter populated areas and use the civilians in that area as a sort of ‘human shield’, which means that even our apparently superior bombs are going to have a hard time distinguishing between terrorist and civilian. The fact is that you will kill innocent people. No matter how sophisticated the bombs that will be used, you are going to hit innocent people. That is a fact of war and sometimes it is unavoidable, but the benefits have to outweigh the costs for it to be worth it and I am not convinced that they do in this case.
Yes, we are already bombing Iraq. Is there evidence that that is helping? In the Metro today it detailed how ISIS is using tunnels in Iraq to avoid the bombs. Regular civilians are unlikely to have this luxury. I would suggest people read the testimonies of refugees from Raqqa and their opinion on the bombing, because they are the ones who are going to be most affected. And whilst they want Daesh to be stopped, most of them seem to think that bombing alone is not going to change much more than kill even more people than are already dying in that region. Incidentally, they are also questioning why all the decisions regarding Syria are being made without consulting the people who have fled this region and therefore are likely to know the most about it which is a fair point and something the prime minister should thing about. There is another point as well; The Syrian civil war wasn’t started because of Daesh, rather Daesh emerged out of an already existing conflict in that region. Assad murdered the Syrian people before the Islamic state did. And Britain was well aware of that, in fact we voted against fighting Assad in 2013. And the Islamic State has been around for a while now, and all the time they have been killing and controlling people. We’ve found the mass graves, we’ve heard the testimonies, we know this is happening. So it may well seem to the majority of people in Syria that we will turn a  blind eye to the slaughter of local people in that region, and are now only joining in to seek revenge for Paris. And whilst no one can deny the events of November 13th were horrific, if we now say that we want to eradicate Daesh and in the process potentially keep Assad stay in power as the ‘lesser of two evils’, I can only see that turning more people in that region against the West, especially if they see they start to see us as the reason for the destruction of their city and the death of their families. I imagine free press, whilst it does exist, is hard to find and risky to access in this region and you would have to be very careful about what you say, therefore if people are desperate and they see destruction all around, a group that offers you a way out even if it is through your own death may start to seem attractive.
Yes, something does need to be done. But not just about Daesh. They are not the only terrorists in that region. If war is going to happen, there needs to be a guarantee that the West isn’t simply going to hand power back to Assad in the end and turn things back to how they started. Because that is not going to end the conflict, that is going to make it worse, and sooner or later we may find ourselves right back in the position we are in now. There are obviously no easy answers, and there is a conflict of not wanting to interfere in other peoples countries but also wanting to help make them better for the people who live there that isn’t easy to resolve, but this is why I think we shouldn’t rush into broadening this conflict without thinking about the end plan and the future.
None of us want to send ground troops to the Middle East, and at this time I don’t want to advocate it either, but without sending ground troops  and solely relying on air strikes, it doesn’t sound like our respective governments are willing to properly commit to this war. Without committing properly and taking action that can be seen as not enough or even just symbolic, I don’t feel that it is worth it at this stage. They say there are 70,000 ground troops in Syria who can fight on the ground whilst the allies fight in the skies, but is that true? Who are these troops, and what do they want? The situation in Syria is very complicated, and many of these ground troops are jihadists themselves or fighting their own war against or for President Assad, which means that if we were to back those fighting Assad we may end up at war with Russia which would basically mean World War III. The PKK and some rebel groups do appear to be doing good things in that region, but they are also opposed by a lot of people in Syria. There are many mini wars going on within that context, and we can’t really rely on all of them to forget their differences and fight together. Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that it has to be a political settlement may not be enough and may seem naive, but at least he is thinking about how to end the conflict and create some sort of stability in that country. And his other point about cutting them off at the source, by stopping their money supply and stopping people buying their oil and selling them weapons is a good one, and it is something no one seems to be thinking enough about, perhaps because if we did it would incriminate some of the US and the UK’s very questionable allies. I don’t think he is just sticking to his ideologies without thinking about the situation. He seems to be the only one who really is thinking about the situation in the long term, and for what he believes to be the benefit of everyone, not just the people in Europe. Say what you want about him, but he has clearly thought about and maintained his position because he believes it is the correct one, and I think he may be right.
The UK is in danger. An attack is quite likely. I do believe that bombing Syria is going to make that attack even more likely, not necessarily from people in Syria but from those already in the UK, perhaps people who have never even been to Syria themselves. I question the idea that bombing Syria is going to make your average person in the UK safer, because the people who are going to attack them aren’t going to be in Syria. They are going to be here. And that is why we should try to combat radicalisation not just by fighting it, but also by disproving it. Our country has a long history of self interested blood shed, please let’s think about this carefully before we do any more.

Articles

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/6120373/Top-10-worst-Bible-passages.html

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/30/syria-airstrikes-legal-david-cameron-civil-war-flawed

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/raqqa-exiles-bashar-al-assad-isis-bombing?CMP=fb_gu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_violence

http://www.rationalchristianity.net/genocide.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34940728

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34927939

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34939109

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34931421

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34940427

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34941658

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/26/shadow-cabinet-seriously-split-over-syria-with-corbyn-in-minority

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34944499

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We need ‘average’ size models

As long as I can remember there has been controversy over the fashion industries traditional use of super skinny female models, and now and then there are allegation that the media and fashion industry are promoting an unhealthy body image and encouraging young girls to develop eating disorders to fit into the medias image of the ideal (thin) female body. There also seems to have been a rise in plus size models in recent years, whilst still nowhere near as prevalent as thin models in conventional magazines and fashion lines, most places now feature at least one plus size model who, in the UK, is normally assumed to be a size 16+.

I don’t think either is a bad thing. There are very slim people in the world, and there are also larger ‘plus size’ people, and both deserve to be represented in the media and  see how clothes would look on their body type, as well as having clothing ranges designed specifically for said body type. Whilst it is true that some girls may be influenced by thinner models and develop body issues, eating disorders can develop because of a variety of reasons and not all have to do with the desire to lose weight or are influenced by the media (friends, relatives and your own standards play a very significant role, as will various other life events and personal, individual reasons).  It is also very wrong to assume that all thin people are anorexic or unhealthy, which some people seem to believe. Some people are naturally thin just as some have a naturally larger body, and without evidence of health and/or eating problems there is no reason to body shame thin girls or suggest they shouldn’t be models.

However, neither skinny models nor plus size models represent those of us in between, who wear a size 10-14 dress size. Girls who are not ‘thin’, but cannot be considered plus size.  Girls that are neither thin nor fat, who have curves and a bit of a stomach and a cracking ass.  I can see all over the fashion world that it is those of us of ‘average’ size that are least represented in magazines and fashion lines, even though just from looking at women in the streets/shops this is a very common body type and has an equal right to be represented in the media and clothes shops/fashion lines.

It does not need and should not be represented as plus size. Suggesting a size ten is plus size is completely un-true, and marketing it in this way suggests that people go straight from being uber thing to plus size without acknowledging those of us in between. It may also encourage companies to use a size 10-14 model and pass her off as plus size, thus undermining the need for larger models to represent larger women and keeping plus size women out of the media. This almost binary way of seeing women  does not allow for slimmer hour glass shaped girls, athletic girls, pear shaped girls and many of the most common female body shapes. There needs to be a visible third option, and there needs to be acknowledgment for the ‘average’ girl.
As a side note (if any of you have read my earlier posts you will know I am quite passionate about equality for boobs, especially for larger breasted women) I also want to see some non lingerie models with bigger boobs, as it really makes a difference to how clothes fit on your body and it would show the world that yes, some women do have naturally large boobs without the rest of their body being larger.

I would also like to see shorter models, as it really makes a difference to how  the clothes look. A model may wear a size ten, but as she is normally at least 5’8 she is going to look very different in a dress than I, also a size ten-twelve, would in the same dress at 5’3. I’m not sure what the average height is for women (I assume it’s around 5’6) but there are many, many girls who are shorter than this. Short girls with asses and boobs deserve to be represented in the media, and deserve to see clothes that are marketed for them and shown on models who share a similar body type, so that everyone can see  how the clothes would work on their  individual body, and to encourage designers to take other body types into account (I would love to see a range for petite curvaceous girls).
I appreciate that modelling is more about the clothes than the models themselves, but surely the point of having fashion models is to make consumers want to buy the clothes, and I personally am more likely to buy something if I know it’ll work on my body. Especially for online shopping (places like Boohoo.com, Select fashion etc) this would be very helpful, as all the models are tall and you end up thinking something is going to look great as it really worked on the 5’8 model, and then finding it drapes to your ankles and makes you look like an old sack.

Modelling has a long way to go to represent ‘average’ women and their bodies, but with the simple step of introducing in between models who fit the gap between the super thin and plus size we can start to show a larger and more representative range of women in the media. There is nothing wrong with skinny or plus size models, but there is a large gap in between that often doesn’t seem like its being filled. I want to see short size 12 models, I want models with boobs and asses, and I want to see women who share my body type being celebrated and promoted alongside other body sizes.