Two Girls Sentenced to be Raped — September 4, 2015

Two Girls Sentenced to be Raped

Before I even explain any further, the title itself should be enough to encourage you to add your signature to this petition. No crime is bad enough to justify a punishment so abhorrent. The girls are to be gang-raped, have their faces blackened and paraded naked through the village in India. One of them is 23, the other only 15. To make the sentence even more shocking, they are being punished for something their brother has done: he ran away with a woman from a higher caste. This so-called ‘crime’ is not even theirs!

I don’t believe in the ‘eye for an eye’ style of punishment. Capital punishment is the obvious example of this: I don’t believe that we should kill people to demonstrate how wrong it is to kill people. Additionally, justice systems are never fool-proof. We have certainly killed innocent people. But that isn’t the point, even if the girls had committed a crime of similar cruelty as the sentence they would never deserve this. The fact that they have done nothing wrong only highlights that there isn’t a single shred of justice in this.

I once again urge you to sign the petition .

Apologies and Update —

Apologies and Update

I’m sorry I haven’t posted for so long. I’ve been having a break over the summer and have been doing a residential hospital programme for the last few weeks. It was a pain management and rehabilitation course to help me with the long term medical condition I have. It was very intense with lots of physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy, psychotherapy…so much therapy! I met some amazing people who were also on the programme and I think it will be very valuable. I hope to return to study soon, perhaps after Christmas and am currently continuing with all my medical appointments and volunteering, plus a new voluntary position with Teenage Cancer Trust.

As I’m back to normal (sort of) I will attempt to get back into a routine with posting blogs.

My Horror Film Education (contains spoilers) — May 19, 2015

My Horror Film Education (contains spoilers)

For the vast majority of my life I have been a self-proclaimed wimp. I always had vivid nightmares as a child, I walked out of the Phantom of the Opera film at age 12, I moved English lit A Level class so I wouldn’t have to study Woman in Black and see it at theatre and hid behind my boyfriend for most of Hot Fuzz. Not only was I easily scared but I couldn’t see the fun in being scared. Currently, however, I’m on 9 different medications for my pain condition and depression. Generally the side effects of these drugs don’t tend to be pleasant: my pain medication makes my mood worse, has made me vomit, made my hands shake, made me so tired I once confused a pot of moisturiser for my alarm clock and ate some thinking that would turn it off. My antidepressants and anxiety medication have made my concentration non-existent and my memory terrible. The upside of all these drugs, however, is that I am so chilled-out that I can now not only watch horror films but actually enjoy them.

I have, therefore, set myself a mission to explore the genre while I’m still on the drugs. I assume my tolerance will also build so I may be able to enjoy them when I’m off the meds but just in case I’ll make the most of this opportunity.

I still don’t get the attraction of gory, torture horror like the Saw franchise or the Hostel series. I find the idea of that being fun to watch truly disturbing. For me the film must have a substantial plot rather than a series of opportunities to show increasingly depraved torture acts. Suspense is hugely important in creating true fear for me. My friend and I recently watched The House of the Devil and we were both hiding behind cushions up until the heroine is actually caught by the satanic cult. The fear of there being someone else in the house is very real to me and I have always hated being chased so watching the heroine run from what you know, as the audience of a horror film, to be inevitable capture gives me that adrenaline rush. This is the style of horror established by films such as Halloween: the focus is on the anticipation of violence rather than the actual violence itself.

I also recently watched two fairly similar films in that they both involve people hiking, cut off from civilisation and help. One is called Preservation and the other A Perfect Getaway. One of the major problems with the former is that it kills of two of the major characters far too quickly. The film takes a while to get going, which is usually a good way to give the audience a chance to get to know and become invested in at least one of the characters. Unfortunately none of them are particularly likeable so it just feels boring. Then once the scary stuff truly gets going two of the characters are killed off almost straight away and the motives of the masked killers are never truly explained so you can’t even be interested in that aspect of the film. It’s like the writers copped out of finding a strong reason for the violence except weakly implying that the teenagers are influenced by the violent video games they play (yawn). A Perfect Getaway, however, takes far longer for any true violence to start but a very effective sense of unease is established early on. Plus you become far more invested in the characters and there is a brilliant twist.

A film I loved that breaks this ‘anticipation’ rule of mine is You’re Next as the masked killers attack fairly early in the film. I think this works, however, as there are many characters being attacked and the heroine is awesome. She’s incredibly brave, resourceful and feisty. At one point my (usually sweet and lovely) friend was yelling ‘yeah blend his head, stab his neck!!!‘ as she defends herself and others. In fact this friend and I are compiling a badass girl group including her, Emma Stone’s character from Zombieland (mostly for her fearless fighting skills but also for her ability to pull of a fierce smokey eye while battling zombies). I’d like to add Buffy to the list but I don’t think my friend agrees, I guess preternatural strength gives her a bit of an unfair advantage, plus she’s not technically from the horror genre.

I have a huge soft spot for tongue-in-cheek parodies of the genre, from classics like Scream to the surprisingly hilarious Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Shawn of the Dead and The Cabin in the Woods. I love anything that’s self-aware and combines humour with true scares.

On the other hand, I have watched some truly diabolical films. House of 1000 Corpses manages to be simultaneously confusing, depraved and straight up weird. It would honestly make just as much sense without any dialogue, if not more. It is, however, memorable which is something. Films such as Patrick, Vacancy, Demons Never Die, Case 39 and any remakes/sequels in general, I’m looking at you Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Scream ) are pretty forgettable as well as being let down by weak plots and cheesy scripts.

Both The Sacrament and Misery are worth a quick mention as The Sacrament manages the unusual feat of being scary in daylight and Misery is based on the book of the same name by Stephen King and anything written by him is ok by me!

My education is far from over, next up The Shining , Friday the 13th and The Ring!

Can wolf-whistling be made illegal? — April 28, 2015

Can wolf-whistling be made illegal?

I saw in The Telegraph that wolf-whistling might become illegal. To me it seems like an empty gesture: ‘yes you shouldn’t have to be harassed every time you leave the house but this law won’t stop anyone doing it’. People who do it either don’t believe the subject doesn’t like it or doesn’t care. For the purposes of this post I’m going to mostly talk in terms of women being the subject of the wolf-whistles and men being the wolf-whistlers, not because I don’t realise that all genders can be harassed and harass buy because this is my experience of the action.

Often what makes a comment inappropriate is not what is said but the intonation and body language. A nice gentleman stopped me today to tell me he liked my boots, I didn’t feel threatened or sexualised, he was just being friendly. On other, similar occasions however I have felt uncomfortable and have wanted to leave the situation as quickly as possible. My worry, therefore is that almost any complaint would not be taken seriously, would be analysed and only succeed in making the victim uncomfortable. As with sexual assault or harassment victims are made to feel that their description of the event is trivialised, that they are the ones being examined and people automatically think they are lying or at least embellishing.

This brings me on to the question as to how on earth this would be enforced. I doubt many people who are harassed on the street are fortunate enough to be in close proximity to a police officer and even fewer would stop their harasser to find out his/her details. The nature of the event is that it is a stranger making personal comments and here lies what (at least partly) makes the encounter so uncomfortable. When someone whistles, beeps their horn or makes lewd comments at me I don’t want to hang around and find out their name and details, or even study them so I could make a description. I want to move out of the situation so that it doesn’t escalate and because I believe these people just want attention so the best course of action is to deprive them of it.

This unfortunately comes close to victim blaming, or at least placing the responsibility on the victim to repost the encounter. Unless police officers or other citizens are around and prepared to step in, this is the reality of the situation. I hate the argument that a girl who has been raped should not have worn a short skirt or heels. I do also find, however, that how I dress does greatly affect the amount and type of attention I get from strangers. I know that if I go out in jeans and a jumper I am usually able to go about my business without much bother but when I’m wearing a skirt or dress it’s as though people think I’ve dressed you impress them. I don’t consider myself to be particularly attractive but I don’t think attractiveness has much to do with the behaviour. Being wolf-whistled or hearing a comment as I walk past a group of men doesn’t make me feel attractive and I certainly don’t think they ever expect me to turn around and say ‘hey I heard you make personal comments about my body and I wanted to give you my number. Call me!’

Contrary to many assumptions, I haven’t noticed a particular demographic of behaviour. It seems it can happen anywhere, from anyone, to anyone. Instead of people being told they technically can’t do something (but can on the most part continue to do so anyway) isn’t terribly helpful. Instead we need to work on changing people’s mindsets so they understand why it is wrong to make these comments and noises. This all comes down to education. If school is place where people learn to respect each other as well as jump through exam hoops I believe fewer and fewer people would engage in this behaviour. It is through education that it is now widely accepted in the UK that women don’t just ‘belong in the kitchen’ as used to be believed. Some women choose to be housewives and stay away home mums and that is fine because it is their choice. A similar progression could be made where people come to realise that women’s bodies aren’t there for your approval. We would also need shift in media attitudes as women are still unnecessarily sexualised in adverts, films and music. That is, however, the subject for a whole other blog post!

How To Use The Internet: a step by step guide! — April 17, 2015

How To Use The Internet: a step by step guide!

Step 1: Facebook and instagram should not be accurate reflections of you or your life. No one wants to hear about the casual day you spent at home unless you baked something impressive: don’t worry about how it tastes, just remember to ice it like a pro! If you don’t instagram your manicure did you even get one? Remember that all photos and check-ins should remind your friends and family that you are happier, richer and better looking than them.

Step 2: Remember to use twitter to show how politically aware you are and how concerned you are about current affairs: you don’t need to read a whole article in order to retweet it, just make sure the topic is trending and you’ll be fine!

Step 3: Grammar and spelling are either opt in or opt out. You’re sentences  msut either be ful of mistake’s or you must reply to everyone’s comments correcting their grammar and spelling – they will be most grateful for your help!

Step 4: When reading or contributing to any comments on Youtube or other social media sites remember to leave logic at the door. Logic has no place in an internet argument, in fact the less you know about a subject the stronger your views should be.

Step 5: Never listen to anyone’s opinion or allow their arguments to sway your conviction in yourself. No one could have anything of value to say so it’s best to avoid listening.

Step 6: If you find yourself having repeated your argument five times using five different phrases then the best thing to do at this point is to call people names, the more creative and offensive the better. They don’t know you and you don’t need to know anything about them to know they deserve these expletives so hide behind the safety of your computer screen and get imaginative!

Step 7: All photos of celebrities and youtuber videos are there for your gratification. It is not only socially acceptable but expected that you comment in detail about how you find the subject to be hot/ugly. These people don’t have feelings and it doesn’t matter what they are talking about, it’s their appearance that matters.

Step 8: Feminism is to blame for everything that’s wrong in the world. The sooner you accept this, the sooner everything will make sense.

A response to Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids — April 13, 2015

A response to Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids

Louis Theroux is back! My boyfriend and I love his documentaries. He is the master giving a in depth picture of whoever or whatever he is investigating without seeming invasive. The interviewees seem to universally like him despite his probing questions and that is a skill not to be underestimated.

When we think or talk about transgender people, or people who identify as both or neither genders we tend to discuss adults or teenagers. It is often presented as something that people come to terms with as they grow up, either during or after puberty. I firmly believe that people can be born with the wrong genitalia, after all gender has little to do with biological sex, and we certainly need a gender neutral third person pronoun in order to help trans and genderqueer people express their true identity. Some people who identify as different to the biological body they were born with choose to undergo hormone treatments and/or surgery and others do not. It truly depends on the individual.

It becomes more difficult, however, when it is a young child who feels at odd with their body and wants treatment to feel like their real self. Hopefully, as understanding grows, more and more parents are supportive if their biologically male child wants to wear dresses or if their biologically female child wishes to play with dinosaur or other typically ‘boy’ toys. Medical intervention, however, is much more intrusive. It is possible to take medication to indefinitely delay your period and the growth of breasts, or to take hormones to stimulate the growth of breasts.  Even if a child is very firm that they, despite being anatomically male, are a girl, how do you know as a parent that the best thing for them is to undergo the effects of medication, routine medical appointments and a huge change in their lives.

It takes most people a long time to figure out who they really are, for example many people may think they are straight and then realise they are bi. I have a friend, for example who lived for years using female pronouns, realised that that wasn’t quite right so tried male pronouns for a while, but that wasn’t right either.  Now they use neither, feeling that our society’s gender binary does not fit their identity.

A child might persistently express that they do not feel comfortable in their body and gender but it does not necessarily mean that they will feel more comfortable with another. As with most of life, there is a grey area and I believe that this is where most parents with transgender or genderqueer kids would find themselves.

At what age can we be reasonably sure that our child understands the implications of medications, or the questions they’ll receive from their classmates if they undergo such a change, or how it could affect future sexual relationships when they haven’t even reached puberty? As someone who is privileged to never have had such confusing feelings towards my body or gender I can understand the worries of the parents about making decisions for a child who is expressing discomfort with their biological sex. How do you balance being supportive of your child and their expression of their identity while wanting to ensure the child has had enough time and information to really think about what they want and who they are.

In the documentary the children see a variety of medical professionals, including psychotherapists and I think this is essential in trying to help children reach their happiest potential in life. As a parent of a transgender kid you are unlikely to know the difference between a child who is, to use the typical term, a ‘tomboy’ and (perhaps temporarily) wants to be a boy and a child who feels that they ARE a boy, have always been a boy and always will be a boy, despite their female anatomy. This is an interesting distinction made in the documentary. Professionals who have seen many such children and know the signs to look for are, in my opinion, integral to helping parents navigate such a difficult question as gender identity.

In conclusion, I hope and intend to be supportive of my children: if they want to wear a princess costume to a party I will let them, regardless of biological sex. I do think, however, that I would feel a responsibility to explain to my child that if their friends and classmates are used to seeing them dressed as a ‘boy’, they will get a lot of questions and may be made fun of. The last thing I would want to do is perpetuate such thinking or stop my child from expressing themself but I could not send my child out to potentially be bullied without preparing them.If my prepubescent child expressed a wish to undergo hormone therapy, for example, I think I would take them seriously and research it with them before making a decision advised by my child, their doctors and my instincts. I just hope those instincts would be right

Watch the episode here

Coachella t-shirt: “Eat Sleep Rape Repeat” —

Coachella t-shirt: “Eat Sleep Rape Repeat”

I was horrified this morning to see a photo of a man wearing a t-shirt reading “Eat Sleep Rape Repeat”, a horrible version of the popular “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat” lyrics by Fatboy Slim. Some people are questioning whether or not it has been photoshopped or is a typo but for the purpose of this post I’ll assume it’s legit. I know people can be lambasted on social media in such a short space of time so I am not going to say too much about the man wearing the shirt except that I hope he is ashamed and takes some time to think about the meaning behind it, even if he’s wearing it in an ‘ironic’ or ‘tongue in cheek’ way.

What really upsets me is that this shirt was manufactured in the first place.  Did no one on the design team or production line think ‘hey this isn’t funny/cool’? Rape isn’t a pun or a slogan. Sadly this is just another example of a horrifying crime being belittled. As someone suffering from depression I have been in group therapy sessions with victims of sexual assault and they are certainly not laughing. They are haunted by what happened to them. Similarly someone wrongly accused of rape can have their whole life destroyed.

Photo from Jezebel: http://jezebel.com/man-wears-eat-sleep-rape-repeat-t-shirt-at-coachella-1697390862

People need to stop and think about what they are making light of or what they find funny. Or even if they don’t find it funny how it can be construed by or offend others. We all have a social responsibility to treat rape victims with empathy and solemnity, not turn their experience into a marketing tool.