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Books in 100 words: Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel

Alison is a medium who picks up Colette, a cold, endlessly pragmatic professional, as her new PA. For a while they bring each other to life, shielding each other from their demons, but their relationship becomes disturbing – like the ghostly men that follow Alison, haunting her and the reader alike.

I gobbled half of it up over a couple of days. It was easy to read; the pace was fast, the characters dynamic. But the plot stagnated – it was supposed to – in an abhorrent new-build property and in ‘fiends’ from Alison’s childhood… It became a book I could put down.

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Books in 100 words: The Mill on the Floss

I was introduced to using an annotated bibliography during my university course, and I thought writing a concise piece after every book I read would be a good habit to get into. It doesn’t need to be a work new to the world, just new to me. I especially like that it gives me opportunities to create posts which don’t need to be lengthy. So, without further ado:

The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot

A familiar nineteenth-century tale of increasingly hopeless circumstances and vicious social rituals forcing characters into despair and deprivation. Finances and feuds ravage the lives of Maggie and Tom Tulliver and their parents, sweeping away the family’s possesions – almost their home – and become a near insurmountable obstacle between Maggie, her books and her passionate yet platonic attachment to childhood playfellow Philip Wakem. Maggie’s life is a painful quest for love and approval from her brother’s unyielding heart which sees her relinquish the pleasures of her life for Tom’s vague attentions. Yet nature’s threat, the River Floss, far outmatches that of society.

Mental health and hostility towards safe spaces

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Being very open about my mental health is a coping mechanism, I suppose. If I can speak in an articulate way about why I am how I am then I can rationalise it; if I can rationalise it, I am in control. Talking to my parents, my friends or sometimes strangers about the nuances of my anxiety and how I can spot and (sometimes, still a work in progress) successfully extinguish panic attacks or rages reinforces not only how my anxiety is a part of me (which is good and fine), but how it is a part of me I can control and sometimes even use to my advantage.

I have a very good and dear university friend and we frequently talk about our mental health. Talking through things with her assists in the development of control (and I hope she feels the same) because when I’m talking with her, I know that the physical and metaphysical space I’m in is one that is free of judgement or trivialisation and I feel safe. When an intense conversation isn’t something we need, we are both lucky to have a bunch of other close friends we can approach or we have the option of using a dedicated online space if we feel it is appropriate – the university of Nottingham’s feminist campaign group’s page.

Although I don’t really use this anymore ’cause not a student (oh, the harsh reality) the page is essentially an online safe space, defined by Everyday Feminism as a controlled environment – either online of off – where bigotry and oppressive views are not tolerated and where people can discuss certain issues and support one another (see the full definition here).

My wonderful friend is an absolute pro in discussions about safe space and articulates her thoughts on them so beautifully. She has helped me see them as something radical and wonderful against the backdrop of an often unforgiving, negative and unsympathetic world. I feel student communities are often at the forefront of this growing movement, but are also often the ones who are the most hostile towards it too.

Nope, it’s not just the people who went to uni ten or more years ago and perhaps want us to have exactly the same experience as they did (preferably a worse or an easier one though). Safe spaces are at best criticised for mollycoddling those who use them because real life is cruel and we’re supposed to just deal with it, or at worst they violate our entitlement to free speech. A recent harmless thread on menu wording in UoN Fems lead to negative and abrasive reactions which violated the safe space policy and ultimately a Tab news article being written about UoN Fems’ outrage, where quotes where actually stolen from the group and published, though the article has since been deleted. I genuinely don’t understand why the article was written, but it certainly felt reactionary and inspired by ill-feeling. It’s certainly indicative of a preoccupation keenly felt with safe space.

However, I am grateful to my friend and others in the UoN Fems group for helping me cultivate a real faith in safe spaces. I am completely in love with the idea of normalising a culture where we support and listen to each other, where we learn and modulate our conduct in line with what people tell us rather than undermine and dismiss others’ experiences ’cause our privileged asses don’t feel the same oppression others do. Safe spaces make me see the world in a more sympathetic way and, I really think, make their users feel so much less isolated. I just can’t understand why people would scoff in the face of such nurturing sentiments.

As for the notion that online safe spaces violate your freedom of speech – online safe spaces are isolated corners of the Internet for specific people who experience specific things. We have the whole entire Internet and countless online platforms to talk about literally anything we want to, however we want to. If you’re upset because you’re kicked out of a group for undermining someone’s legitimate concerns about wording on a menu then don’t worry! The group maybe wasn’t for you in the first place.

For some more discussion of safe space follow these links:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/08/we-need-safe-spaces/

http://time.com/4471806/trigger-warnings-safe-spaces/

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/aeman-ansari/ethnic-safe-spaces_b_6897176.html

Kim K is only important to you now she’s a parent, or, when bad things happen to rich women

Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint in the early hours of this morning. She was in her Paris hotel room, perhaps alone, perhaps asleep, when intruders forced their way in, tied her up, threatened her, and stole unimaginably valuable possessions. She didn’t die, she can most likely afford to replace her jewellery, but her prominence and fortune doesn’t erase the magnitude of the trauma she would have felt, nor the danger she was in.

Not all the tweets were disparaging and/or derogatory. But a recurring theme peppered through tweeters’ sympathies was the respect Kim demanded as a wife and mother, and how very close her children came to being motherless.

 

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Just gonna quickly flog this dead ole horse again (although, is the horse actually dead? It only feels like a really really old piece of misogyny we should have purged ourselves of by now because it literally gets called out and corrected ALL THE DAMN TIME. So yeah, the horse is in fact very much alive): it actually doesn’t matter what a woman’s relationship to another person (particularly a man) is, because she is a living, breathing human in her own right and doesn’t need to be important to other people to validate that fact.

But I reckon the really interesting fact is that people feel the need to qualify their support or defence of Kardashian West with statements like the above, or, alternatively, and perhaps the most favourite of self-righteous internet users, “I don’t like Kim Kardashian, but…”. Or, “I don’t condone anything Kim Kardashian does, but…”. Or, “I REALLY HATE KIM KARDASHIAN SHE’S THE WORST but I guess it’s kind of sad for her husband and kids that this happened to her.”

Now I might be wrong (lol I’m not xo), but this sure sounds misogynist to me. This is mostly because people choose to fervently dislike her for completely for the wrong reasons – reasons like the fact much of her money is made through a strategically created reality show of her family lifeposting a naked selfie on Twitter during her pregnancy, and who can forget the sex tape published against her will leading to a further rise to ‘infamy’ as some have deemed it, and her subsequently not letting it hinder an existing career.

If you hate Kardashian West for any of the above, then your hatred definitely misogystic, and stems from the societal prejudice against women who choose to make money from their lives, bodies – themselves, basically. This is all related to the horror that is felt when women have and freely express agency over their own lives, bodies and sexualities, which is especially palpable in discussions on sex work.

There are a bunch of real reasons to feel uncomfortable about Kim Kardashian West and this story, like her racist ‘break the Internet’ cover for Paper Magazine and the fact that this story has been breaking, front-page news for hours and hours when… there’s people that are dying.

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Let’s not take gross pride in hating wealthy and famous women because they enjoy their bodies, or successfully market their lifestyles to make money (because it turns out actual hundreds of thousands of people lap that sh*t up). Let’s hate that new stories concerning the ridiculously wealthy are given priority coverage while the world ignores Syria. Let’s hate that white celebrities are praised for appropriating culture  and that their prominence protects them being called out. Let’s address the fact that we ignore famouses’ racism just like we ignore the murder of PoC by law enforcers.

And please.

Let’s start seeing women as people all on their own.

 

P.S.

Here’s a few links I’ve found discussing sex work:

http://www.refinery29.uk/2016/09/123777/should-prostitution-be-legal-sex-work-feminism#slide

http://www.forharriet.com/2015/10/black-sex-workers-lives-matter.html#axzz4M3C4DkpN

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/you-can-be-a-feminist-and-a-sex-worker-8744176.html

https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/myths-people-sex-industry/