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Companion Texts, or, How Good Books Saved My Life Thanks

14 Jul

Hey! I know it’s been a while, like literally years! Hi! I don’t know if you read this anymore but! I feel smarter now! Qualified to write! I am nineteen and off to university to do medicine and to pay a lot of money to stop thinking as much for myself and maybe also learn something about bones, but I feel prepared for it. Like my life is on track. Like I know who I am.

And why might that be?

It is my accumulated hoard of books, books.

(Also, like, life experience and better mental health. There are many things.)

They are my children (and somehow also my parents?). My paper sorority. My boxing gloves. My teachers. And, as Sara Ahmed puts it, my “companion texts”.

Companion texts guide you, wait to be referred to in times of trouble when none of your friends, maybe, know, but the living paper holds the answer.

They do not have to be feminist in an academic sense, a weighty sense, but when I think of these I think of writing that inspires me to be strong. Stronger. Enjoyable to read, a breeze, does not mean that it isn’t educational. Some of the best lessons are through humour.

Reading is so good for me because it feels like an active process. When I went through a phase of writing out endless lists of Pros and Cons about myself to Truly Understand Who I Am, No For Real This Time, I would always write “reader” on the good side. I take it in and churn it and the knowledge hardens like a fist.

I must thank my older sister for a large proportion of this list. Thanks! However, I can also thank myself for wanting to learn and making it my hobby to stretch out my mind and love myself when I could easily not. Thanks, me!

So – I recently had this conversation with a friend on a train. A male writer who is famous.  She loves him. I have tried three of his novels and am Uninspired. She is trying to convince me and I am talking out why I don’t want to be convinced.

I realised that – and this almost certainly makes me a Nasty Feminist™ (how dare I let my politics interfere with my appreciation of art?) – beyond any artistic concerns  what really Ground My Gears was the blandness and predictable perspective of the inevitably male protagonist. He dreams after women, projects his everything onto them, hopes that they will sort out his life and its beigeness without contributing anything himself.

I said, hey, maybe this is why I don’t really read books written by men any more!

It clicked into place.

Once I thought this, other thoughts followed as they are wont to do.

  • Is this why I haven’t been enjoying the Classics™ like I used to?
  • Is this why all the books I’ve read recently have been by women?

And then the meta of:

  • Is this why I am saying sorry less?
  • Is this why I am getting into more fights?
  • Is this why I am less craving of approval?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have moved towards and am gravitating towards women and PoC and queer writing to help understand the world. The new views split apart what we know. What I know. As a white woman there are lots of worlds that I don’t know, and literature helps me to understand them and grow accordingly.

My list as follows consists of what I have read that I think falls into this category – of strength giving, teaching, world opening. If you have any others I would like to know. And I hope this lists keeps extending through my life, amen.

  • Living a feminist life, Sara Ahmed.

Because this book basically inspired me to start this list I have to put it first. So. So good. It made me get into my first argument with my dad about him speaking over the female members of my family. So make of that what you will. But! I resurfaced incandescent from reading it!

  • Anything by Octavia Butler. Especially Dawn and

As well as being compulsive reads, the science fiction is remarkable for its 1) brown woman characters 2) really smart explorations of the world we are falling into. Exactly what sci fi should be!!

  • The Earthsea Quartet, Ursula Le Guin.

Especially the last one! Amazing amazing fantasy but the last in the series just puts a Big Ol’ Dollop of all the women we needed in it, and IMO the best.

  • Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™, Donna J. Haraway.

It’s technical and you might need to read it with a glass of water and a dictionary, but for me as a prospective doctor being introduced to the idea that science is not infallible (!!) and that it is constructed, like anything else, by history and culture, was really important to think about!

  • Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde.

I started reading this again after receiving it for Christmas and devouring it in one (1) sitting. Yes. Yes, yes.

  • A little life, Hanya Yanagihara.

TW: graphic descriptions of sexual abuse and child abuse. Fucking heartbreaking. I cried in work reading this, but delightfully my manager had read it too and understood the struggle.

  • Fun Home, Alison Bechdel.

A Classic. Subtle family and art and everything and

  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi.

One of the first books I read that changed how I thought about reading. So fun! Like a friend telling a good story and you gasp and cry! So good to read as a 12 year old and now as a 19 year old and hopefully again and again until I’m 80!

  • The mushroom at the end of the world, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing.

About mushrooms (matsutake to be precise) but also about everything that connects humans with nature and commodities and culture.

  • Are Prisons Obselete?, Angela Y. Davis.

Small but groundbreaking. Filled with restrained and measured anger at a system we cope with because we haven’t the bravery for anything else.

  • Staying with the trouble, Donna J. Haraway.

We cannot give up. We have to stay with it, and work with it, and hope. Whether it’s the environment or capitalism, the ways that we have destroyed the world can be not reversed but acknowledged, and to survive means finding radically new ways of doing it.

  • Beloved, Toni Morrison

Like a piece of poetry. Like a spell. Thank you. Can’t believe its my first Toni Morrison book but ya gotta start somewhere I guess.

 

Gallery

A few thoughts about london pride 2016

25 Jun

Fuck mainstream pride
Fuck the straight homophobes (ie most london pride attendees)
Fuck the police
Fuck the god damn military
Fuck the colonialist racism
Fuck the violent misogyny
Fuck the islamaphobia and antisemitism
And fuck the people that tolerate it.

Sick of my social media right now. Full of straight people at the Starbucks no filter photobooth and a viral picture of a police man proposing.

London pride doesn’t make me proud.

Pride is a Protest! Pride is radical love, for yourself and fellow queers. Pride is anti-fascist, decolonial and feminist. Pride is ACAB!

I don’t have a problem with mainstream pride being a party, I have a problem with it being so exclusive it is impossible to show real solidarity to fellow queers.

Where do my undocumented queers go?
Where do my queers observing shabbat or fasting for Ramadan go?
Where do my queers suffering ptsd from state violence go?
My transfeminine queers, my poor queers, my disabled queers?

London Pride doesn’t make me proud, it makes me scared and angry.

Gallery

Why I tell gross boys at parties that I’m a lesbian (not true).

21 Jan

Here is something I don’t like: saying no. Rejecting people. Resisting the urge to start nodding before the question is even asked. (I just want people to like me??? Is that a crime???)

Here’s something I do like: parties. I like Absolut and dancing and treading on the fun side of “too glittery”. (Who makes the rulez anyway? Fight me. I have more glitter than you will ever understand.)

Here’s an experience that connected these two things and revealed something small and unimpressive about myself:

I was standing at the edge of a party, panting and getting ready to rejoin the fray, and I saw a Boy approaching. A boy that had already approached my friends but had been put off by their defensive group formation. But I was alone, and recovering from a surprise piggy-back, and there was nothing I could do apart from wait.

He swooped and slotted next to my bum with his delighted grin already prepared, showing his slick teeth. There was nothing less I wanted in that moment than to speak to him. Nothing.

He said words which I could not hear over the bass but it really didn’t matter because we can probably all guess. I definitely caught the word “beautiful”, which is always a bad sign when from someone you don’t know.

I grimaced at my friends who gave me cheerful thumbs ups and laughed. Cruel friends!

This boy got closer and closer and my feeling of please don’t touch me got closer and closer to overcoming my politeness until he said something like “so, are you here alone,” and I was like. No.

The time honoured excuse of

“I’m sorry, I’m a lesbian.”

burst out.

This is not true. In the plastic language of describing sexuality to teenage straight boys, however, it is partially true.

I am into boys. I was not into this boy. At this point, I was really into spinning in circles with my excellent friend until light smears and we collapse laughing, and at the back of my mind was a fierce desire to obliterate anything that got in the way of that.

The boy says “What??”

And then “You’re too cute to be a lesbian. I never would have guessed.”

And then “Are you sure?”

And then, blessedly, he detached in search of some goddamn straight girls.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I was less drunk, I thought about this incident and what it shows about how I perform being queer and a lady – alternate hidings and dramatic reveals when it suits me.

The way I just described this, it sounds like I was against it from the beginning. Although I was never going to do anything with him and it was too noisy to flirt properly anyway, the vibe he got from me at first was probably “Lol, whatever, at least this boy appreciates this dress because none of my friends gave me enough credit and I look like the one hundred emoji tonight.” I was not flirting with him, but I was also not giving him the No as soon as he walked up, probably because I was too out of breath to move fast. He took this as a yes – lol @ entitlement – but this is kind of his problem. However, I didn’t say no. Is that my fault?

So why didn’t I? Why did I semi-lie to get him to go away? Why is the word no trapped somewhere deep in my throat when it comes to situations like these?

I turned him down with amusement, with the word sorry of all things because no way in hell could I just say no. I was so unable to say no that I couldn’t just say I’m queer and therefore interested in all genders (true), I had to shut him out completely, provide an excuse for not being interested in him and not appreciating his unwanted attention.

Being a lesbian, in the snap judgement I made at the time, more acceptable to this random guy’s ego than a straight (( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)) rejection in a situation I was uncomfortable in.

I mean, it worked! He went away! But this entire experience – and it’s not just a one-off – makes me realise that I should work on rejections, because my sexuality is not, technically, a reason, but my lack of attraction is.

Another thing: I am femme AF. Make-up, shiny everything, heels, whatever. This is why this dim boy thought I was ””””too cute”””” to be gay.

People think I’m straight, all the time (itself a form of erasure)*, which can make life easier for me in specific situations. It can hide me, and I am often hidden. If I am flirting with a boy, sometimes I purposefully don’t tell him I’m queer for fear of putting him off (I’m fully aware I have bad taste in boys and don’t know how to flirt.) I’m also white, cis, acceptably-bodied, etc. (see below for me breaking this down further). I also don’t want to deal with the endless nonsense of explaining what queer means and having  people say, actually from a straight person’s perspective I don’t understand and think you’re wrong. (Good).

 

IN SUM TOTAL: FUCK MALE ATTENTION AND APPROVAL 2K16 BUT ALSO STAY SAFE GALS, DON’T FEEL FORCED TO COME OUT UR NOT LYING TO ANYONE FUK DA SEXUALITY POLICE. KEEP ON TRICKIN THOSE FUCKBOYS @ PARTIES AND LAUGHING WITH YA GALS, WHO GIVES A SHIT.

*two interesting articles about femme privilege and whether it exists or not. It’s all about intersection of identities, guys! The main point is – the shit I get is shit that all women get, and the good stuff is probably due to white privilege. WoC, trans women etc. are likely to have a very different experience as being femme from my middle class white one. Still interesting points though. And also, is people wilfully ignoring the possibility of queerness a plus? Are small favours rooted in misogyny (free bus rides, free drinks etc.) really evidence that I’m lucky? idk

http://femmedreamboat.tumblr.com/post/39734380982/femme-privilege-does-not-exist

http://www.autostraddle.com/femme-privilege-does-exist-a-little-153400/

As I turn 18

2 Jan

I feel like I am totally alone in this fear but like so many things I am afraid to talk about, many others probably share it.

As I turn 18, my mind is full of worry, hopes, dreams and fears for the future. Most are what you would expect, scared of becoming more independent from my family, worrying about school and so on but there is another fear in the back of my mind. This niggling voice saying “now you’re fair game, there’s nothing to protect you”.

You have probably seen in the media many a disgusting countdown to some child celebrity turning “legal” at 16 or 18, old enough that the old men leering over them are accepted readily by both the law and society.

You may have seen the kerfuffle around the “women who eat on tubes” facebook group a while back, a group where non-consensual pictures of women innocently sustaining life are mocked and shamed.

How are these related? you might say. Well these are both voyeuristic, misogynistic situations where women and girls are viewed as sexual objects without their consent and sometimes even knowledge. They violate a woman’s privacy, they encourage violence against women by disregarding the fact she is a human being with rights and feelings.

These are both situations where I, as a child, would have some degree of legal protection, or at least the illusion, but would not as a woman.

One day I was waiting at a bus stop in Hampstead Heath, leg hair flying in the wind and enjoying the last bit of summer warmth. A balding man of about 35-45 years old struck up a conversation with me about the weather, “thats nice” I thought “you never get strangers talking to each other in London”. Oh how innocent you were Lilipop.

Conversation quickly turned to my leg hair and got very very creepy. I felt desperately awkward as his eye contact shifted from my eyes to my boobs and he questioned me on my reason for growing leg hair (because no woman can do anything without it being to sexually please a man) and if I was hairy “all over”. He offered to buy me a drink from the Starbucks opposite and I said no. That no was totally disregarded of course and this man kept asking.

“I’m 15” I said quickly, then turned and ran away.

He didn’t follow but some have. This situation has played out in 100 different places, with different people and different outcomes. What if it happened again? Where is my “top trump”, my “get out of jail free” card? What can I say or do that will get rid of these weird men because saying no doesn’t work.

As a child, I do not legally have the capacity or say yes or no. It is Paedophilia, it is Statutory Rape. Headlines in the Daily Mail and 5 years in jail. Men can respect this but not me.

As a woman, I can legally say yes or no but it doesn’t make a difference. I said no but I smiled at him when he said hello so really I mean yes, right? He wants a yes so he will get it by any means necessary. Now I am no longer a child I don’t even feel like I have the right to say no at all. I feel unresonable for being a person.

As I turn 18, I am scared for a future where attack feels imminent.

There is nowhere to hide anymore.

WE JUST CARE SOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH

13 Oct

This is Lilipop and today I wanted to talk a bit about tokenising of women and women based campaigns because I think it a thing that happens a lot without us even realising it. I thought it would be particularly relevant because this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there has been a lot of prominent tokenising recently, not just of breast cancer, and I think we need to recognise it. Breast cancer and Malala Yousafzai are two perfect examples of how our patriarchal, capitalist society tokenises, particularly, women and women’s campaigns. Both get incredible amounts of media coverage and public sympathy, the news and internet has been full of breast cancer awareness campaigns like “Save the Tata’s” and people talking about just how amaaaaaaazing and inspirational Malala Yousafzai is but what are we actually doing about either of these?

Although breast cancer is of course a very serious disease and I send all of my best wishes to anyone suffering with it, how is “raising awareness” of an extremely well known and publicised disease actually helping people who suffer breast cancer? And may I just say, “Save the Tata’s”?? I THINK WE SHOULD BE MORE WORRIED ABOUT THE PEOPLE NOT THE BOOBS and what kind of word is tata anyway. This reminds me a lot of when Angelina Jolie very bravely got a double mastectomy because of her very high risk of breast cancer, which is a thing many women have to go through and it was great to see a celebrity talking about it publicly however then the vulture misogynist descended. People were mourning the lose of her boobs and saying how they think she is selfish for “taking her boobs away from them” – I’m sorry what? I was under the impression that women are actually people and we should be worried about saving them rather than the lumps of fat on their chests? Also for fucks sake, those are Angelina’s boobs to do whatever the fuck she wants with them, it is none of your fucking business what she does with them, they are not yours to admire so shut up. We make such a song and a dance about raising awareness for breast cancer but wearing pink for a day or not wearing a bra for a day does not actually do anything for people with breast cancer. We tokenise breast cancer as this women’s disease and all the campaigns and ads and (capitalist, profitmaking) charity to make ourselves feel better like “look at what we are doing for all these poor poor women folk who need our help, aren’t we great” but actually the survival rate for breast cancer is actually 90% which is exceptionally high but the next most common cancer in women, lung cancer, is almost completely ignored. Lung cancer has a 16% survival rate which means that an estimated 95 people a day die from lung cancer a day compared to the 32 from breast cancer. It is awful that anyone is dying from these disease but tokenising them with pointless campaigns and universal media coverage to make ourselves feel better that we are doing something to help them, is not actually helping anyone.

Something similar can be said about Malala Yousafzai’s campaign for education for girls in Pakistan. Malala is an amazing girl and the work that she and hundreds of other girls around the region is invaluable. The work Malala has done is freaking amazing but the way we in the west are treating her and marketing her to a western audience is sickening. We are making her into this symbol, celebrity almost. As a she is a Girl of Colour, our society is used to hyper-objectifying her. We listen to her speeches, read about what she is doing, our politians and media outlets hold her up as a hero but, again, what are we actually doing to help? Nothing. In fact we are doing something much much worse than nothing, we are sending drones, bombs and violence over there that not only actively stops girls going to school because it is dangerous but it kills them as well. We are holding Malala and her work up on a pedestal, patting our selves on the back for saving the poor little girl from her terrible terrible life. We ignore all of the other girls that are just as radical and brilliant as Malala who are also campaigning for education, as well as a myriad of other things like child marriage, childbirth mortality rate, crippling poverty and corruption. We already have our trophy girl, Malala, to CARE SOOOOOOOO FUCKING MUCH about and make us feel fab about ourselves so why should we give a shit about the other stuff? I can just see the Malala merchandise now.

I would like to stress that I think Malala is amazing and breast cancer is definitely a worthy cause to support but I just hate the way that they are tokenised and held up by our media and politicians to make us feel good about ourselves. The way that our society markets both of these makes me feel sick and especially the way people are capitalise on causes such as these. The point I’m trying to get across is that these things should not be taken in isolation, and that to fully help people with breast cancer, or people who are suffering from the war in Pakistan, we must not ignore the wider issues and take these ‘trendy’ people as tokens for the much wider struggle. People are getting shit even when it’s not fashionable, shock horror!

A good link: cancer is not sexy

THE POWER OF LOOOVVVEEEE

23 Sep

Heavily inspired by this post.

Love is our only treasure. Women are told to find ‘the one’, and are groomed to be an easier choice for a heterosexual man. For us being in love means total, perfect, happiness. If you listen to popular culture (and sadly, people often do) for men, it often means a depleted wallet and nagging phone calls when you are having fun. Heterosexual love in our society, like anything else with a gendered aspect, is completely skewed so that women are passive, submissive, dependent on a man. Love, in its truest form, in the Greek ballads and I-would-die-for-you-in-a-heartbeat form, seems to have the power to change governments and to start revolutions and to be radical and exciting and incredibly powerful. But to be in love, to be a woman in love (especially with a man), changes that force into something with a tinge of contempt. A woman in love with a man means you give up power – and a man in love with a woman gains it. I know that most heterosexual relationships are not like this, but the very idea that they might be needs to be changed so that love as a – I hate to say it, as it is the title of most 80’s songs, and therefore imbues the very text of my article with a sort of desperate cheesiness – power becomes recognized.

To be in love, says the dictionary, is to ‘have a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude towards a person’. My sister describes it as simply ‘an intensity’. We all know it is strong. But a woman in love has no power at all. Observe: a girl must wait for her lover. A man must search. A woman in love is giggly, silly, faintly ridiculous and pitiable. A teenage girl in love is fickle and will soon move on to the next ‘perfect man’. (She must, when she realizes that men are not all that everyone built them up to be). A woman in love must fight hard to keep her man that way too. She must not pursue him, for that would be ‘trying too hard’ but instead, perhaps, pursue one of the thousands of internet ads. A woman must change herself, squeeze herself into what someone else thinks they should be, to laugh and toss her hair and to pretend that she doesn’t care too much, to have perfect sex (and hair and smile and a perfect forever after) in order to be what everyone thinks a woman in love should be. And finally? A woman in love must put up with shit with her lover (because that comes with being in love, of course, a woman must always compromise) and roll her eyes and say he is lovable because what else can she do?

I am in no way shaming heterosexual relationships, you must understand. God, I know a million (billion?) heterosexual relationships are what they should be, rather than what someone else thinks they should be. I am merely analyzing the way even something as supposedly innocent as love is laden with expectations that the ‘fairer sex’ must live up to.

And a man in love has expectations but they are not the same, of course not. He saves her, he chases her, he brings her flowers when he does something wrong, he complains about her nagging to his friends, his life remains the same and hers does not. And yet a man in love is an amazing thing compared to a woman in love; positively mundane compared to things a man would do for his woman, the ways a man could love his woman.

To be in love as a female with a man appears, on the surface to be pure. You have found happiness, what you were born here to do. Digging a little deeper produces a melee of contradictory and uncomfortable truths about the way a woman has to love, and seems to be very unradical. But, despite my cynicism (and my assumptions) love is powerful because what else can be better than wholly trusting someone with everything you have? Being in love means changing your identity to fit them in, to partly unravel yourself so another human soul can be beside yours. If nothing else, something has to be said for the most written about subject in history. 

I leave you with the following important messages: Make radical love! Destroy things! Kiss! (if you like that!) Make sure that all your relationships include a large amount of healthy communication and reciprocal compromises! Never feel forced into anything you want to do! Much love is anti-establishment, so please continue! I don’t know why you’re reading a 700-odd word essay about heterosexual love written by a probably-never-been-in-love not heterosexual 15 year old girl, but thanks anyway! I wrote this largely after midnight, so don’t judge!

thank

Capitalism, can you not.

11 Sep

A bit of a rant about capitalism from Lilipop. I didn’t even spell check so sorry for mistake and I would just like to emphasise this is not meant to make any sense!

I don’t even think I can fucking live in a capitalist society any more. My entire worth, the only thing that is valuable about a person is their earning potential. FUCKING PRIVITISATION. Our system is being Americanised faster than anyone realises but WHY. Its not like the American system is working in America, more children are living on or below the poverty line each year, politians think that’s its fine and dandy to leave people starving on the streets (“They have the choice of paying for their own houses food and medical care” go fuck yourself) social mobility is a fucking joke. We have this idea in the UK of the US as a shining golden meritocracy lolz no. Privatisation just means more and more and more and more money stagnating at the top 0.01% of the super rich elite. Productivity is soaring, record highs, however wages are plummeting in real terms! I don’t even know if I believe in wage labour and to be honest I don’t really know that much about all the socialist communist anarchist stuff but I know that when it is even a debatable topic for people to not have basic food and housing THERE IS A FUCKING PROBLEM. I just don’t understand, I really really don’t. HOW WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY do people think that it is acceptable for people in as developed countries as the UK and US to not have medical care? Oh and another thing. People, they are privatising our legal system. This means we are just going to have some kind of factory justice system. People wont get to choose who represents them in court and as legal aid is being slashed to a REDICULOUS degree a lot of the time people wont have any legal aid. And again, people are living without medical care and it is somehow a debatable topic???

This is in no way comprehensible and I am not an expert on any of this but I don’t think I can deal for another minute without crying so this.

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