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This is important.

Here we are again, with all my cards on the proverbial table. You see, I’ve written this post about a hundred times since the events chronicled herein occurred and I’m still not sure I’ve said all I want to.

So, humour me and imagine you find a jigsaw piece. You recognise what’s on it and by itself, it looks harmless enough. As you would, you add it to the puzzle and step back to take a look. The picture you’re met with is hateful – it’s offensive to basically everyone. My question is this: Do you leave the jigsaw piece there – because on its own it seems innocuous – or do you remove it because you want to dismantle the whole?

I’m pretty certain that you’d take the whole damn jigsaw apart, right?

Last week, a friend of mine found exactly this kind of jigsaw piece while she was doing her shopping – not a literal, squiggly bit of wood, but something that is seemingly innocent and actually awful.

Some of you will have seen the original post – expressing outrage at a sweater in Asda with the words, “Boys will be Boys,” stencilled across the front. Some of you will have seen the subsequent “articles” on the topic in publications such as The Sun, The Daily Mail and LADBible. Most of you won’t have seen the stream of abuse my friend suffered as a result of her post.

Since said friend made the post, I’ve spent hours trying to explain why the phrase is so incredibly problematic, and I will cover that below, but first, I’d like to ask those of you who have jumped to Asda’s defence:Why do you need the phrase, “Boys Will be Boys”? Is it really that profound? Or, if you really think it is as innocuous, as banal as you say it is, then why fight so vehemently to defend it? 

At its most basic level, it’s a platitude – one may as well say, “Tables will be tables,” or “Glass will be glass.” If we take it literally, it doesn’t actually say anything.

The problem with language, though, is that so few things are taken at face value – “Boys will be boys,” is no exception.

So what is it that we’re reading into these words if, at their core, they don’t actually mean anything? As so many people on the original post pointed out, the phrase is as old as the hills – “People have been saying it for years.” Well, according to the Cambridge dictionary, we use the phrase to, “emphasise that people should not be surprised when boys or men act in a rough or noisy way because this is part of the male character.”

In that definition, I see many problems:

  • The phrase is not limited to children – the definition states clearly, “boys or men.” That the phrase could be used to excuse Friday night drunken brawling (“rough or noisy” behaviour) removes it from the realms of innocent fun.
  • “Rough or noisy” behaviour is not unknown in women. The very traits this phrase gives gender to are not exclusively male. This alone removes any truth from the statement – how can you claim that this “part of the male character” when it’s simply part of human nature?
  • That the phrase only covers “rough or noisy” behaviour as male is insulting – men are wonderful fathers, husbands and carers. They are creative, funny, kind and giving. Diminishing the men in our lives to a series of traits – which society generally views as unfavourable – is inaccurate at best.
  • The phrase implies that these negatively-perceived traits are “part of the male character”. This is the most dangerous aspect of the whole thing. By saying that this is simply ‘how men are’ it absolves them of the responsibility to be better.  It does not hold them accountable for the “rough and noisy” behaviour.

The last point is the one that most of the discussion on my friend’s post centred around – namely, the phrase’s place in the ugly jigsaw that is rape culture (see – I did full-circle analogy things there… and it wasn’t a bit cheesy, was it?)

By saying that men can’t help themselves – that unfavourable behaviour is simply part of “male character” – it shifts the blame in a situation onto the victim. If men are absolved of their responsibility to act in a decent manner, then when atrocities like assault and rape occur then logically, it must be the fault of the other party. Victim blaming is never OK.

No one is saying that every little boy who wears a shirt with the words, “Boys will be boys” on will become a rapist. No one is saying that every little boy who hears their behaviour excused with this phrase will go on to hospitalise another person in a drunken assault. We’re saying that this phrase and the outdated, tired rhetoric behind it will make it easier for those who do go on to do these things.

A seed can’t grow to a plant without soil or water. A man capable of rape, or assault, can’t get away with these things if the environment is not right. By removing phrases such as “Boys will be boys” from our vocabulary, we make the climate less hospitable for these crimes. Yes, they’ll tragically still happen, but hopefully there’ll be fewer cases and the consequences will reflect the severity of the crimes.

Up until this point, I have discussed male perpetrators and male perpetrators only. As people on the original post pointed out, women rape too. But phrases like ‘boys will be boys’, in combination with the fact that male rape is so seldom discussed – and consequently is near invisible – help to perpetuate these crimes too. So-called ‘lad culture’, which celebrates the sort of behaviour that ‘boys will be boys’ describes, leads people to believe that all men are only ‘out for a good time’, that ‘they don’t care who they shag’, that ‘no sex is bad sex’. Jokes about ‘double bagging’ ugly women reinforces the idea that men are base animals and only care about conquests – imagine trying to admit to having been raped by a woman in this environment. Aside from the usual sexist slurs like ‘throw like a girl‘ or ‘whining like a girl’ which portray women as being lesser than men, and so incapable of dominating them, male victims of rape have to combat an environment in which they’re expected to welcome any sort of sexual advance without question.

So whilst on its own, ‘Boys will be boys’ seems like a nothing phrase, it’s loaded with harmful undertones. It’s part of that ugly, ugly jigsaw which benefits neither woman not man.

Let me ask you again: Why do you need the phrase, “Boys Will be Boys”? Is it really that profound? Or, if you really think it is as innocuous, as banal as you say it is, then why fight so vehemently to defend it? 

 

Writing to your MP?

I said in my last post that I was a huge advocate of writing to your candidates for the coming elections. I promised a template letter, so here it is:
________

To XX

I am writing to you in regards to the upcoming local/general election (write to your candidates for both if you, but otherwise choose those who deal with the issues you would like to raise: The NHS is the general election, your village green is the local election).

At present, I am undecided about which way to vote. I was hoping that you could please clarify the following issues for me.

I believe that (the NHS needs more funding/local parks need better provision/Brexit needs to stop/Brexit needs to be more extreme and we should be leaving Earth, not just Europe… whatever you’re passionate about, this is the time to wax lyrical).

In order for this to become a reality I feel that (action to make your above thing happen) is a priority (i.e. funds should be redirected from MP salary to public services). Would you please inform me about what you are doing to achieve this, or of any other way in which you feel the above could be accomplished?

If you are unwilling to do the above, I would like to know your reasons – (issue) is a priority for me, but if our stances are otherwise compatible and your reasons for not prioritising (X) still align with my values, I would still be willing to cast my vote in your favour.

I look forward to your response and thank you for your time in helping me decide where to cast my vote.

Sincerely,

You

________

Firstly, if you haven’t already done so, PLEASE REGISTER TO VOTE. Then, complete the bits in bold.
At this point, you can either post your letter to your candidates, or email them. WRITE TO THEM is a wonderful website which allows you to do just that.

Otherwise, you can Tweet many candidates or reach them via facebook.

Once you’re satisfied and have found the candidate you feel will most represent your interests in the coming years, all that’s left to do is to cast your vote.

For those of you with the single purpose of stopping the Tories, this website gives you information about how to best cast your vote tactically.

To be counted.

It seems that we are likely to have a General Election. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. BEFORE THE GENERAL ELECTION, THERE WILL BE A LOCAL ELECTION.
    The local election will be held in May. EU CITIZENS ARE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE IN THIS ELECTION. Annoyingly, the local election is just as important as the larger, bonus-election that will be happening in June, but is likely to be overshadowed by the vote to decide the nation’s next leader. The local election will determine who is in charge of running your municipality.
  2. TO VOTE IN BOTH/EITHER ELECTION, YOU MUST REGISTER.
    British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens are eligible to vote in the general election. British citizens living abroad but who have been registered to vote in the last 15 years are also eligible.
  3. FOR PARTICULARS ON IF YOU’RE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE, PLEASE VISIT THE SITE BELOW:
    https://www.gov.uk/elections-in-the-uk/general-election

When registering, this is the site you’ll need: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Obviously, I can’t tell you how to vote, but unless you do, nothing is going to change, and I know that most of the people I know – if not all – are unhappy with some aspect of our current government. Or maybe you’re not, and you want things to go on as they are… regardless of your views, you need to express them at the ballots.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing template letters that I will publish here so that if you feel so inclined, you can send them to those standing for office. I plan to outline what would sway me to vote in their favour and ask each politician what they intend to do to make that a reality. Campaign literature will only tell you what the politician thinks you would like to know and it is designed to be read and understood at a glance. Issues like NHS funding are so much more complex. Aside from anything else, direct letters are so much harder to ignore.

I hope you’ll all take the time to engage in this. Decades of voter apathy has left so many people feeling powerless, but in reality, if enough of us care and hold those we elect to account, we really can change things.

If you would like some inspiring reading, I’d recommend Emmaline Pankhurt’s autobiography. It’s available for free on Kindle.

The Shame

There are two things in my life that I am ashamed of. The first is a hideous, gut-eating, shin-bone-grating, teeth-popping sort of thing. The second is the sort of thing which leaves a lump of foolishness, sitting like a rock in your stomach.

When I was around eleven years old, I decided that I was going to write a musical. The charitable reader might allow that it was creative. It was not. The pivotal point of this operatic train-wreck was a concept so toe-curlingly ludicrous that I would rather procrastinate by paying my various bills than write the next sentence. Aside from the entire thing being sung to the tune of Don Mclean’s American Pie – by a girl who was asked by her junior-choir master to, “please mime lest the judges hear you!” – my musical addressed that age old question: What would happen if the USS Enterprise crashed into the Millennium Falcon.

I’m not even kidding. I had Kirk’s bastard alien offspring avenging his father’s death. I drew stage plans and made a lightsaber out of kitchen-roll tubes, sellotaped together.

I bent my friend’s ear off talking about it. Needless to say she saw it for the steaming pile of turd it was and went snickering behind my back to some of the other kids in my class… you can imagine where it went from there. It only took until that same afternoon for my rounding a corner to merit the thirty other children in my class, humming The Imperial March, or speaking Kirk’s Captain’s log, or any one of a thousand other very easy taunts.

But then we went to The Big School and all was forgotten.

Time passed and we grew up. And unique to our generation, the internet grew up with us. When I started my secondary education, the internet involved a blocked phone line and half hour loading times on simple html pages. Internet Explorer was still A Thing and multiple tab browsing hadn’t been invented. I had my first kiss to the news report that Napster had been shut down. By the time I started university, YouTube existed.

Which was a wonderful, terrible thing.

My friend and I both studied in Europe for a year. When we returned, we fell to talking about some of the things we’d done while we were away, and we fell upon the topic of German nightclubs. Had we been sober, my talented, musical friend would have pointed out that from what we saw on the continent, it appeared that our European fellows danced to the off-beat, rather than the beat (as we’d observed those in Norwich nightclubs doing). We were, however, far from sober.

To describe this cultural phenomenon, we kind of waved our arms about, “They dance like this!” I remember yelling, doing a little boogie. A housemate entered the room and asked what we were up to. We sat him down and told him that he should shut up, because we were going to teach him to dance like a German.

I cringe typing those words. But there’s no bills left for me to pay by way of avoidance, and besides, this needs saying: we made a video of our ‘tutorial’. We posted it to YouTube.
I took the video down the next morning but the damage had been done. Now that our video is on the internet, it can never truly be off the internet. If someone wanted to, they could search the archives and I’m sure that on some server or another, they’d find our hideous attempt at humour.

When I apply for jobs now, I fear that it’ll pop up on a search engine if someone types in my name. I worry that potential friends will somehow stumble upon it and mistake me for a close-minded fool. I worry that I will one day have to explain it to my children.

Thank goodness the internet wasn’t around when I wrote my musical. It’s one thing to explain away drunken shenanigans, but another entirely to have to justify the butchery of Don Maclean’s classic in the name of a sci-fi cross-over.

The thing is, the internet is around now. And more than ever, our children have access to the necessary technology for recording themselves doing all manner of stupid things in the name of entertainment. How will the boy who sung his own Minecraft-themed version of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ fare when he’s applying for university? How will he cope at University, when faced with a huge group of peers that has seen his Star Wars/Trek musical? Because my days of being haunted by Darth Vader’s theme tune ended when I moved to The Big School. I left my tormentors behind. Thing is… you can never outrun the internet.

With Love.

According to a distant cousin that I met once at an even more distant uncle’s funeral, I am related to Jack Crawford.

For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Jack Crawford was apparently a sailor whose story is the origin of the phrase, ‘to nail one’s colours to the mast’. Folk legend has it that Crawford was ordered to surrender during the battle of Camperdown and refused to do so – instead, he allegedly climbed into the ship’s rigging and hammered the Union Flag (thereafter called the Union Jack) to the mast. This act ended up winning the battle for the United Kingdom. Crawford was hailed as a hero, and presented to the king from whom he received a generous pension.

There’s a great deal of debate surrounding his story, and in all likelihood, his is not the Jack attached to our national symbol. That said, the rest holds true, as does his rise to minor celebrity and his subsequent fall to the bottom of a bottle.

I’d like to think that the centuries between he and I have done away with the inclination to alcoholism and strengthened that stubborn refusal to fail.

Because this is me, nailing my colours to the mast. They’re blue, and yellow, and unlike the Union Jack, are not marred by war. The flag of the EU is associated the world over with bringing peace to Europe, and it’s an ideal I plan to uphold.

Article 50 was triggered today, but it wasn’t done so in my name.

From where I stand, fighting something like this on an international stage sometimes seems insurmountable, especially when those in government keep ploughing onwards with little regard for the incredible amount of dissent amongst the population. But we can fight it. And we should fight it.

This isn’t maths. Two negatives will never make a positive – hate only breeds more hate. It’s hard to look forward and be hopeful right now when there is nothing but doom from both sides of the argument, but that’s the only way we’re going to fight this thing; with love.

Small acts of defiance can be as simple as giving a European food to the food bank, having some friends round for a European themed supper or singing Nena’s 99 Luftballon’s in the original German. Download Duolingo and learn a second or third language, or watch a weird Danish movie – I’d recommend Adam’s Æbler, or Blinkende Lygter. There are countless thousands of ways in which you can nail your colours to the mast – today and every day – and show that no matter what our government decides to do, that culture, love and hope with transcend petty borders. Like it did in the Enlightenment, like it did in the Renaissance, and as it still does now.

 

Conversations with Randoms

When discussing the UK citizenship requirements on two separate occasions:

On saying that I only passed 3 of the 7 ‘Life in the UK’ practise tests I took (to show how arbitrarily irrelevant to life in the UK they actually are):
Random: But I guess it puts off people who don’t take the application seriously.
Me: Hmmm… (followed by dumbfounded silence).
What I wish I’d said: The people seeking the security of UK citizenship right now aren’t likely to waste silly amounts of money to book a test, travel to a test centre and use valuable days of holiday to not take the – frankly ludicrous – ‘Life in the UK’ test seriously. These people are worried enough about losing their families, jobs and lives to take the action of applying for citizenship in the first place – do you honestly believe that they’re not going to take the commitment they’ve made seriously?

On saying that the English test, necessary to prove fluency was an enormous waste of time:
Random: Surely the English test is a good thing? My (distant, tenuous relative) met a Sweden girl who came over here and couldn’t speak a single word of English.
Me: You’re sure they were from Scandinavia? Because I’ve met a lot of Scandinavians who span a lot of generations and even my husband’s 12 yr old Danish cousin could interpret for me at dinner.
What I wish I’d said: Do you have any idea how much courage that must have taken (if it’s even true)? I’m going to go out on a limb and presume you’re one of the majority of Brits who don’t speak a second language fluently and ask you to imagine that you’re on holiday and your car breaks down – you ask for help, but no one has a clue what you’re saying, and as a result start speaking with increasing volume and decreasing speed. Then they get mad at you and leave you to your own mess. Because that’s what every single simple every day task is like when you live abroad and don’t speak the same language as everyone else. Even after four years of university level Danish, two summer schools and in a country with a high level of English, I found it so terrifyingly difficult to move abroad and function. Things like opening a bank account, getting the equivalent of a national insurance number and renting a flat were mind-boggling affairs. In the beginning, there wasn’t a day I didn’t cry. And I’m not the sort of person who gets homesick.
And all that aside – do you have any idea how people even learn languages? I’m guessing not. Total immersion is the only real way to gain any degree of fluency. That’s why schools offer exchange trips, why language degrees insist on a year abroad… unless your brain has the chance to work with language in context, you’re never going to learn it well enough to live with it. People coming over here without a level of English you’re happy with is the only way they’re going to learn a level of English which meets your unrealistic standards.
And you – you want to punish people brave enough to do this for a minimum wage job?

 

(un)Happy families

“You’re posting a lot about politics, these days,” said a friend, concerned, “I’d been enjoying the family pictures. You guys always look like you’re having lots of silly fun.”

But here’s the thing. Right now we’re not a happy family – because of politics -and I don’t see why I should lie about it.

Today, this happened:

brexshit

My husband’s rights to live here, in the house that he’s bought, with the money that he’s earned (from clients on the continent btw – he ‘stole’ no job when we moved here and has claimed no benefits) are under threat.

In two years time, if he has to leave, how do I explain that to our children?

“I’m sorry, babies. Daddy had to go because people wanted different shaped bananas.”

So, yes. I’m posting a lot about politics right now. And no, the pictures of the kids aren’t going to increase, because unless this gigantic mess gets sorted, it’s not a given that we’re going to be able to live as a family and have those fun times.

You want to change that? Stand up, and fight with me.

https://euromove.org.uk/join-the-european-movement/get-involved/

Check out the suggestions on the site above.

Write to MPs and Lords. Often. Tell them how you feel about Brexit, about Trump’s visit, about the dog-poop left out where you walk your pram. These people are paid to be your voice. Make them earn your money, in this and all things.

Join a political party – find one which reflects your values and join in. You want to stay in Europe? Find out who’s pro-EU and sign up. Give these guys your support – not just on the ballot but in things you say and do. You might inspire someone else to vote your way and spread the word.

And MARCH. http://www.uniteforeurope.org/ March 25th in London and Edinburgh. Will this change anyone’s mind in the next five minutes and make everything better? Probably not. Will it show public opinion and influence future policy? Possibly. Is it better than sitting on your butt doing nothing? Absolutely.

 

 

 

Take it back.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I’d ask of a genie if I had a magic lamp.

That sounds bonkers, I know, but given that the world is absolutely mad right now I thought I might as well join in with this batty fantasy and start getting my wishes ready – just in case.

At first I got my rage on and thought about the obvious things.

I thought about wishing Trump would choke on fumes from his own fake tan, or some equally unlikely and unheroic death. I thought about wishing that Farage gets strangled by a Polish immigrant with an EU flag, and that the nation realises what a twat he was then declares the day a national holiday, so that we may better reflect on the beauty of our Eastern European brothers.

I thought about wishing for an unlimited supply of gin to see me though this train wreck of a society with my humour intact, if somewhat inebriated.

Then I realised I had no gin and started thinking properly; what would solve all this?

And honestly? I think we should just burn The Sun. Not just each individual copy, but every office, every computer, every printing press from which this bastard thing springs forth.

Because last week, the NHS – and therefor the people of Britain – did something amazing, but The Sun took it, and twisted it and turned it against everyone.

In short, the NHS saved two babies of a quadruplet, and The Sun sold it as health tourism, when actually it was just a case of someone passing through at a difficult time.

Right now, when the nation needs something to be proud of – because let’s be right, is anyone proud of our prime minister, holding the tiny hand of a fascist tangerine? – that bastard paper is robbing us of it. The NHS – something we’ve all paid for and so all share ownership of – saved the lives of two tiny people who wouldn’t have otherwise made it. We did that. Us. Please, World, see our national beauty as well as our warts.

It’s time we take back control – that’s what those nationalistic pricks say, right?  But this time it’s true. I want my country back. I want to be proud of saying that I’m British again, rather than mumbling something about how, actually, I can speak Danish too. I want to be able to say, “You know what? I’m from that awesome place that helped that woman save her babies without asking for money, just because it was the right thing to do.” And I hope… no. I believe, that the majority of my fellow countrymen do too.

So yeah, take note any genies in lamps. My wishes are as follows:

  1. Destroy The Sun. Stop Funding Hate is a good place to start, if you want to make it look natural and not like magic did it.
  2. Reverse this whole Brexit thing. Because really, Britain. What the actual fuck? Again, if you want to make it look natural have Theresa May and David Cameron hold a press conference. Make Cameron say, “You know what?  I was just trying to appease some cunts I had to work with.” And have May say, “I was doing it for the Lols. Figured I’d call your bluff. Sorry about that – no hard-feelings, yeh?”
  3. Have Trump choke on the fumes of his own fake tan.  Because actually that’s a pretty good wish.

Come on, friends. Take back control. Find the good in our tiny island rock – the NHS, my right to call the prime minister a cunting-fuck-face-cockmupper-donkey-wank-sack-shit-bag if I so choose, and tea – and share the fuck out of it. Applaud the times that kindness has won. Challenge hate. And BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER.

Take it back.

Take it back. ❤

Dear John Lewis

Hello,

I’m sure you’ve been inundated with lots of other people, emailing on behalf of the StopFundingHate campaign. I’m another one of them.

I’m a UK national who moved back to Britain in 2007 after a brief stay in Denmark. My husband and I chose to live here because people were tolerant, and that was an enormous change compared to the bigotry I faced in Denmark. But slowly, the UK has grown increasingly worse, and in the last few months, has surpassed anything my Scandinavian home ever managed.

I don’t want to go back to how things were here – -I know that there is no going back. I want us to move forwards as a nation until we are truly tolerant, rather than merely hiding our prejudices in the shadows whilst waiting for the chance to spew our malice. But for us to move forward, large, trusted retailers like John Lewis need to take their social responsibilities seriously and stop funding the hate-filled rhetoric of the tabloid press.

Please, if Lego – a product of a nation whose inhabitants repeatedly told me to ‘Go home’ – can lead the way in this, then John Lewis can absolutely follow.

Many thanks,
Fran Moldaschl

We are not the 48%

“Suck it up – you lost. That’s democracy.”

But it’s not. Democracy is when everyone effected by an issue has a say in how things proceed. The Brexit referendum was a fiasco which so far has achieved nothing but damage to our economy and a deep chasm of divide between the people of Britain.

Time and time again, the numbers 52 and 48 are quoted to me, but these are false. Leaving aside the fact that in amongst the 52% are people who regret believing the lies about NHS, those who voted leave to spite Cameron and those who didn’t think their vote would make a difference, the referendum turnout was only 72%.

52% of the population did not vote to leave the EU. 52% of the 72% of the population that was eligible to vote opted to leave the EU. 37.5% of the population voted to leave.

You could argue at this point that even fewer people wished to remain in the EU. And if you’re talking about the people eligable to vote in the referendum then you’d be right. But the referendum didn’t take into account the opinions of a whole bunch of folk who matter just as much – if not more – than those who got a ballot paper.

So sure, go ahead and say that only 48% of voters – or 35.5% of the electorate – wanted to remain. But stop telling me that only 48% of the population wanted to stay. Because that 48% doesn’t account for the EU citizens living in this country. It doesn’t count the 16 & 17 year olds who voted in the Scottish referendum  and showed their maturity and passion. It doesn’t account for the children of families with parents of more than one nationality.

So stop telling me I lost, and that it’s democracy. True democracy would have meant a vote for EU citizens living in the UK too – the place of your birth should not give you less of a right to have a say in your future.

When the MPs vote on whether or not to pass Article 50, I pray they’ll consider all of their constitutes, not just those lucky enough to have held a ballot paper.

We haven’t lost just yet, and we are more than 48%.