2017 Taught Me Some Things

I’m writing this home alone on New Year’s Eve, post-bath with gin, because I’m fucking hungover (happy birthday Kate!) but also because I liked the idea of some quiet brain time.

This year has been good to me. I had a lot of fun with some heart-warmingly brilliant people, and spent the summer skating around/ putting in serious grind with a bunch of reprobates I’m stoked to call friends.

The pace of this year has been erratic as hell. Some things rushed at me out of nowhere and turned out to be the best things that could have happened. Others hovered uncomfortably in the background and continue to linger, waiting for me to make my peace with them.

This was the year I FINALLY graduated, and there were times I wondered if I would, with a first-class degree, and my university awarded me a prize for best dissertation on an African topic. Incredulity is an understatement but I’m begrudgingly allowing myself a little pride in this (amid convulsions of irreconcilable self-deprecation).

This year it hit home that places will always be there (despite what certain delusional tangerine-hued demagogues might think #BearsEars), but people won’t. I fought my impulse to wander and delayed travel plans, because my family needed an extra pair of hands at home and because Canada isn’t going anywhere.

[SPOILER I’m moving to Canada this year.]

This year I learned the value of time well spent, and the crime of time wasted. I tried to use my time as well as I could and I’ll try to do better with it from here on out.

I opened up about some things and buried others deeper where quite frankly they can stay for now.

I met new people, made some plans, and broke my arm on my skateboard because you know what you just can’t win ‘em all.

This year I’ll try to remember what the last one taught me, and do better for as many people as I can. And, learn to drive/ write more often/ shake my culinary prowess into a semblance of respectability/ try not to do this thing where I immerse myself in anxiety-inducing head-sinkingly negative thoughts because WHO needs that.

 

Happy 2018 home slices, may your intentions be good and your time not wasted.

Lo x

#MeToo

 

Having stumbled across it quite by chance myself, I’m unsure how many people would have tuned in to Channel 5’s Raped: My Story on Wednesday. When I settled in to flick through what the banality of weeknight TV had to offer I had envisioned settling on something entertaining and not at all serious. Or catching up on Louis Theroux.

Instead I found myself glued to my seat and entirely struck by the strength and pain of the women looking back at me, into the camera, sharing their stories about what it cost them to speak out about being raped.

‘Rape’ is a word a lot of us find difficult to use in popular discourse. In private or in public, for men and women, it is a universally unsettling and stigmatised term in everything from journalism and social media to politics and the judicial system.

Watching these women recount their harrowing and intensely personal violations caught me completely off-guard. I wasn’t ready.

I wasn’t ready for the loss, for the lack of justice, for the transformations these women were forced to undergo as they developed a skin thick enough to deflect the misconceptions, doubt and counter-accusations being heaped upon them at every turn.

These women suffered rape or some other [NOT LESSER] form of heinous sexual abuse; were violated; had the courage to come forward and attempt to press charges; and were serially let down by an interminable string of individuals and governing bodies, from the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to the juries that served on the fraction of cases that made it to court.

These women were barred from seeking justice, denied closure, and advised not to pursue their cases by people in positions of power. Their ordeals were characterised as nothing out of the ordinary: ‘sometimes these things happen.’ Best to let it lie. Don’t make a scene, whatever you do, don’t make a scene. How unbecoming. You’re alright now, aren’t you? No harm done.

The statistics quoted in the documentary speak to the appalling way that sexual assault cases are dealt with in legal and political terms.

There isn’t enough [FORENSIC] evidence [HER TESTIMONY IS EVIDENCE]. Had you been drinking. What on earth were you wearing? But you had sex with them the week before. Did you actually say ‘no’? Why didn’t you run? Why are you only coming forward NOW?

Such are the myriad prejudices and assumptions that discredit and place blame on survivors. On Channel 5’s debate program Petronella Wyatt let us all in on a secret: the length of your skirt predicates your desire for unsolicited sexual advances. Her blithe sweeping statements cited alcohol consumption and wardrobe choices as reason enough to expect sexual advances and/ or violence. Miniskirts in parliament are open season. ‘What do you expect?’

We do not expect someone else’s hands in our back pockets. On our waists. In our hair. Between our legs. Around our wrists.

Our skirts are not inadvertently soliciting sexual comments or advances on our behalf.

The debate scrutinised the power of the #MeToo hashtag in the court of public opinion, and the ‘mob’ mentality apparently surrounding Tweets about sexual harassment and violence.

There is a reason survivors feel more confident Tweeting than walking into a police station. Why the Twitter mob is addressed in lieu of a jury.

It has taken a hashtag to give victims and survivors the confidence to speak out – and they are, finally, in droves. Is this cause to celebrate the unifying power of the digital age in which we live? Can we finally address the failings of our judicial systems that systematically prevent victims from accessing a more concrete justice in the legal sense?

To the Harvey Weinsteins and Michael Fallons who continue exist outside of the scrutiny of public opinion: your behaviour has never been acceptable. It has merely been accepted.

No longer.

Our answer to the rape question needs to change. The mantra needs to be

DON’T RAPE. Not DON’T GET RAPED.

 

___

Rape and sexual violence are complex and upsetting topics. Channel 5 compiled a very helpful list of some places you can go and people you can call for guidance and support. It’s here.

Some Things That Make Me A Person

Following on from my previous post in the vein of introductions/ hello this is me I’m here *waves*:

In-keeping with the age of chronic over-sharing in which we appear to be living, I thought it due and fair to shed light on some of the quirks and convictions that sum me up as a writer and human, as these will largely inform the writing that here appears. And so rather as they fell from the jumble of my brain, a list of some things which make up the person behind these thoughts can be found below:

I am an aspiring (failing) early-riser, seasoned gin-drinker, and communications specialist/ freelance writer maintaining a loose hold on most of my marbles.

I am a literature graduate who chose to study Chimimanda Adichie instead of Great Expectations.

I write, I read, I collect pins bearing obscure pop culture references and/ or passive aggressive statements, I travel a lot. (The pins in the above photo I obtained mostly via the wonderfully kooky Kate Gabrielle.)

Names commonly associated with myself include Lauren, Lo, Pop, Lolobrain, and Mancane (spoken: man-kaa-ne with a Zulu click. Informal translation: ‘small one’).

My addiction to change consistently uproots me, and my constant uprootings help to ground me. I am aware of how contradictory this logic first appears.

When I was five I microwaved my Barbies into a seething molten grave.

I fiercely advocate for justice and equality in all things, and use my voice and abilities to make constructive noise on these issues where possible and/ or necessary. Do this if you can. IT’S IMPORTANT.

I am a northern girl through and through – Manchester is my home. Other places I have called home include South Africa, Canada, the Netherlands and too many tents and temporary structures to count.

I love digging into offbeat topics I know nothing about and will enter into discussion with anyone about pretty much anything.

I naturally gravitate towards mountains and books, and take great comfort in the sense of overwhelming individual insignificance I feel when immersed in either or both of these things.

In case you hadn’t already picked up on it: publishing my writing on the internet scares the hell out of me.

I sometimes enjoy indulging in overly complex and complicated sentences. The wordy webs woven in the stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald fascinate me, and whilst never assuming to compare myself to this troubled and talented literary enigma, sometimes there are just too many brilliant words that cannot be sacrificed, points that cannot go unmade, sentiments that cannot go unexpressed – and so to hell with simple sentences.

I am a feminist, and I am tired of the raised eyebrows and sidelong glances that all-too-often follow this identification. I hope these knee-jerk reactions will soon become less frequent. The political, social and economic equality of the sexes is not something any rational person should fear. IT’S IMPORTANT.

I am forcibly learning to overcome my vitriolic hatred for unobscured photographs of my face.

I value compassion and independence above most things, and actively seek out people(s) that do likewise.

Other loves include understated affection, chronically oversized jumpers and mozzarella pizza.

As a person so far incapable of doing so, the concept of settling, in both geographic and emotional terms, fascinates me.

I have decided not to limit myself and write ad-hoc about any and all of the above (jumpers and all – riveting), and hope to indulge in a host of other disconnected subjects for good measure.

With this profusion of quirks and confessions I welcome you to this, my small small corner of The Internet.

I hope to write often and learn a lot. I would love you to read along from time to time and laugh/ agree or disagree/ inwardly tut/ generally react, and freely share your thoughts/ comments/ questions/ qualms/ queries/ cries of anguish with me when you do.

Lo x

Take #1: Welcome to Lo on The Internet.

If you’re reading this it means I have taken the plunge and/ or taken temporary leave of my senses and put some words on The Internet.

I have been making excuses and generally skirting around the ‘Publish’ button on this blog for almost a month now. Identifying myself as a writer online seemed such an impossible and fake thing to do, and thinking about other people reading my words still makes me vaguely nauseous. But in the name of writing for myself and to give myself a break, here they are. My words, that is.

I thought I should use my first post or two as curator of Grassroots Propaganda to contextualise this online endeavour of mine, and give some kind of introduction before happily fading into the anonymous haze of online writing.

I have always loved writing and cautiously aim, with Grassroots Propaganda, to make a concrete(ish) habit of it. I hope to share lovingly articulated tales of my travels both past and present; some thoughts on books and music, both that I like and that I don’t; and musings on the evolving spectacle of current affairs and popular culture with which I am vaguely enthralled. (Read: frequently scrolls Trump’s Twitter feed in varying degrees of trepidation and incredulity – sentiments you’d think would have numbed this far into his presidency, and yet POTUS’ woefully inaccurate punctuation usage and nonsensical accusations continue to simultaneously alarm and amuse.)

More than anything I am writing for me, in an attempt to stave off my brain’s ever-imminent deterioration into Netflix-scrolling #unwoke zombie mush. A blog of thoughts and words and maybe a photo or two, curated by me, at the mercy of the internet. This is what I like to imagine Grassroots Propaganda will be.

You are warmly invited to accompany me in this endeavour and peruse my musings at your leisure, and in spite of myself and my reservations, I hope you will. Or, you know, don’t. That’s also fine. (But I get nervous and company is nice, so do stay.)

Lo x