Sunday, 27 May 2012

Eurovision, more than a song contest?

I like to think I'm funky, hip or at the very least, a little fresh. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that I hate Eurovision, all that it stands for and definitely do not watch it every year with subtitles so I can really understand what each country is trying to tell me.

But oh God, it is so good! Think about it, where would we be without ABBA? Or what cheesy party playlist is complete without Bucks Fizz 'Making your mind up' or musical birthday card without Cliff's 'Congratulations'. Furthermore, whilst politically explicit lyrics are actually banned from the contest, its history can almost be read as a politics history of Europe and international relations. Eurovision played a key role in the cultural battles of the Cold War as the western countries showed the Eastern Bloc how much better their music was, those who lived near the wall risked their jobs to watch the song contest in secret despite the poor quality of reception (as Russia attempted to block signal from Western television channels). If you're prepared to risk so much for something, surely it's justified by its importance? Arguably, Eurovision is important, it brings the whole of Europe together, it made everyone think about the children being killed in the Bosnia in 1993 and when it was held in Ireland in 1994 Riverdance was invented (seriously, who doesn't wish they could move their feet like that?).

This year it seemed like everyone was talking about the Russia's Grannys even more than they lusted over Germanys Lenas legs in 2010. Naturally England tried their best but didn't quite make the grade (here's looking at you Engelbert Humperdinck) and it was back to the Grannys. But there was something far more important going on behind the scenes of Eurovision 2012 that was easily forgotten masked by sequins and smoke machines.

Azerbaijan, it turns out, still thinks that 'prisoners of conscience' is an actual thing that can be justified and arrest people who protest against a government whose authorities intimidate, blackmail and attack journalists who reported the evictions whole neigbourhoods in order for the Eurovision stadium to be built at all.  Its press is classed as 'not free' and even it's internet access is only 'partially free' and it is yet to hold an election which can be described as wholly free and fair.

State-authorized violence, illegal evictions and political prisoners have, in my opinion, no place in the modern Europe. Morally, I felt like I was obliged to boycott the Eurovision song contest this year and for the first time, we did not all sit as a family and dance to Europop. It was an incredibly sad day I can assure you and I hope to never go without Eurovision again, but I think it's on a par with the sporting boycott of South Africa during the apartheid. Surely, by accepting Azerbaijan and letting it partake in such events and even letting it host them, but ignoring their human rights record, we're saying it's OK?

I don't think it's OK at all, do you?

If you agree with me and think we should stand up for what is right you can make your voice heard here.

Friday, 25 May 2012


Lately, as I'm sure you've all noticed, the weather has been glorious! Now I love a bit of sunshine, even if it has only arrived right in the middle of my exams (when the park is beckoning it makes it so much harder to learn key words, gah!) and, of course, a blue sky is the best excuse to crack out the shorts.

Unfortunately, shorts often equal one of my pet peeves: women and girls being judged on what they look like. Even more unfortunate is the fact that a lot of women are blamed for what they wear in the event of sexual assault; we live in a society where women are taught not to get raped as opposed to the perpetrator being told not to rape. This makes me sad not just because I am a super sassy feminist , but generally as a woman. I want to be able to wear whatever I want, and only worry about whether it looks decent on me, not that I might become a rape victim on my way home.

This is why I am such a fan of Slutwalk, an alternative form of protest march where women dress in their most revealing outfits, a reaction to the advice given to women by Constable Micheal Sanguinetti in Toronto that they should 'avoid dressing like sluts' in order to avoid assault. Since then there have been marches by women of all backgrounds across the world who want to reinforce the message that no means no. There was a Slutwalk march last year in Bristol that unfortunately I was unable to attend, but one of my favorite bloggers Mel Reeve (most commonly known as the the lovey lady with miles of sass who runs lobandwidth) did and she let me quiz her so we could all find out a little more about Slutwalk and what it means to be a feminist in the 21st Century.

Mel (left) at Slutwalk, 

How did you first hear about Slutwalk and what made you want to get involved?

I think it was on tumblr. Most of the blogs I follow are either feminist ones, or run by feminists, so when the whole thing in America began I saw a lot of photographs of the American Slutwalks and some really interesting posts. I wanted to get involved because I think it’s really important that rape and sexual assault victims are not treated as though it’s their fault, the statistics around convictions for these crimes are appalling, and the general legal attitude seems to be just as awful. We have a huge problem with rape culture in our society, it’s perfectly acceptable to be told not to wear something for your own safety and that makes me mostly so angry I can hardly speak, but also very sad because often it comes from ignorance. I also feel the Slutwalks challenge the way sexually active women are perceived, which is often very negatively. The Slutwalks have also done a lot about how consent is not discussed enough; it’s very important to make people realise that when someone says no, or indicates that they do not want this, it means no, regardless of the situation. 

What do you think Slutwalk represents?

The belief that how you dress should not be used against you, and the importance of consent.
You participated in the Slutwalk march in Bristol last year, what did you make of the experience?It was a really amazing and affirming day. To be in the company of likeminded people who are confident and proud of their beliefs is a great feeling, and whilst there were slightly less people than I had expected (partly due to the weather I think), it still felt great to express a belief so publicly. If I ever feel a bit down about how feminism is perceived etc, it’s great to remember that I walked down a main road in Bristol shouting “yes means yes and no means no” with friends and total strangers, who all felt the same way.

Slutwalk is an American concept, but do you think its message is something that's appropriate for girls and women across the globe?

Absolutely, I think the problems the UK and America has had with rape convictions are widespread, and the great thing about living in a world where the Internet is so widely available, is that almost anyone could see a photo from a Slutwalk, or read about it. I like to think that any young woman would find that inspiring and it might help them to feel more in control of themselves. I know that finding the Slutwalks (and feminism in general) helped me with a lot of issues that I think most young women are likely to go through.

You write about feminism in your blog Really Cool Women and women who are inspirational not just for looking conventionally pretty. How important would you say feminism is for young women today, do you think what it means to be a feminist has changed, would you even use that term to describe your views?

Firstly, I would say that yes, I am absolutely, 100% a feminist. People seem to be scared of that term and that saddens me. It means that you want equality, simple as that, and whilst there’s a whole load of other things important to being a feminist, that is at the root of them all. I guess feminism has changed, I’m no expert on its history by any means, but as the more obvious fights have been mostly successful, we have to approach things differently. The issues feminism is needed for now are subtler, and I know that many people think there isn’t even a need for it, which is clearly not true if you look at things even purely from a statistical point of view, and it becomes even more obvious if you speak to women about their experiences. Feminism is exactly what young women need, what young men need, and what people of any gender identification need - even though it can be hard to realise the reality of the world we live in. Also I should emphasise that reallycoolwomen aims to redress the balance of an industry that seems to place far too much weight on things like appearance, but that’s not to say that women should feel ashamed of, or unable to be, attractive and successful. I think that’s something that often happens when people try to behave fairly, they go to the other end of the scale and I feel that no one should be professionally criticised for their appearance, positively or negatively.

And finally, who would you say is the woman who most inspires you and why?

That’s a tough one, I’m going to cheat and choose a few. I think Caitlin Moran is hugely inspiring, her book ‘How To Be A Woman’ has made feminism accessible, fun and something that more people are interested in. I think she’s helped create a whole new generation and ‘type’ of feminist and I really admire her. But I’ve also got to mention Louise Brealey (she summed things up pretty neatly when she said: “I think Page 3, Nuts and Zoo are bullshit. I don’t wax my pubic hair off. I don’t think working in a titty bar getting fivers shoved up your bum is empowering. And I’m bored of pictures of women in their smalls on buses with fuck-me mouths.”), and I also find Tavi Gevinson really inspiring, she’s probably the coolest person ever.

Thank-you very much Mel! xoxox

For more information about Slutwalk I would definitely recommend you check out their UK website
I would highly recommend you all track Mel using the internet on her TwitterTumblr and Blogspot and of course Really Cool Women.
Mel also has a wonderful radio show every Thursday from 8-9 p.m. which is well worth a listen!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Chippenham's 5 minutes of flame.

Often, whenever something vaguely exciting happens in England, it is in London. As a small-town girl I don't really mind watching things happen in the city whose streets are paved with gold, but with the amount that happens there it sometimes feels like I'm watching something happen in another country. In fact, the last semi notable thing that happened where I live was the Queen's Golden Jubilee Tour where she, get this, got off the train at Chippenham train station and drove through. It was, without a doubt, probably the most exciting thing that has ever happened here; we all got the morning off school having made flags the day before and the streets were packed as people desperately tried to get a glimpse of the Queen. As she drove by in a car. And waved a little bit.

Put simply: when it comes to exciting things in England which aren't in London, not a lot really happens.

But 2012 is the exception as London hosts the Olympics. I'm not really a sporting person myself, to be brutally honest I have no interest in the Olympics (although I do quite like the winter games) but even I waved a flag this morning as I hoisted myself out of bed in order to see the torch parade down my street. I don't really understand a lot of things about the Olympics, for instance, why is McDonalds a sponsor? Hardly endorsing a healthy lifestyle really is it...? I don't even understand the rules of most of the events although I tend to gloss over that, which makes you wonder what could possibly prompt me bounding into my parents room, fully dressed at ten past seven (don't even muster this much energy on a normal school day!) to make sure they didn't miss any of the action.

It could have been the glorious sunshine, but I think it may have more to do with the sense of community I got today as I stood with townspeople of all ages watching some extra ordinary people run with the torch. It was a celebration of achievement on both a local and national level by all kinds of people cheering and whooping at once that, in an age where people talk more on Facebook chat and BBM than face-to-face, was actually quite nice.

If you're in England, are you going to see the torch or interested in the Olympics? What about those who aren't England based, does London 2012 mean anything to you?

Also, I know generally I don't have photos up here, but I think my patriotism today is expressed clearly in that photo (although I only have one chin usually).