Crazy Rich Asians: Representation for the Little Red Dot (Guest blog)

I am yet to see Crazy Rich Asians, a movie that has been hailed by celebrities such as Chrissy Teigan for FINALLY shining the limelight on a more diverse pool of talent. Ever since I heard about it, however, I was (and still am!) hugely excited to see the Little Red Dot that I called home for so many years be glittering on the big screen for people all over the world to see. Speaking to Greg Sim, my long time great pal and born and bred Singaporean, however, I realised my thoughts are somewhat redundant on the matter- I have never struggled to see myself physically reflected in characters on the big screen due to my ethnicity. That brings us to something slightly different on this blog- what follows are Greg’s thoughts about the movie and what it meant for his desires for Singapore and Singaporean talent. As an Asian actor himself, Greg’s dreams of finding success in the industry hinge as much on the diversification of the arts as his own drive and talent. Enjoy!

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Two weeks after the highly-buzzed about premiere of Crazy Rich Asians at the U.S. Box Office, which opened to spectacular reviews and astounding results, I found myself standing in line at the local movie theatre’s ticket booth behind an older Caucasian lady. Looking to buy tickets, but clearly having forgotten the name of the movie, this lady simply asked to see “the one with the Asians in it”. Even if it weren’t for the hype surrounding this majorly ground-breaking film for modern Hollywood, I am certain that the lady behind the counter would still have been instantly able to figure out what her customer meant. After all, how many commercial Hollywood films do we see today that feature Asian cast members in principle roles and dominating the ensemble? Partly what makes Crazy Rich Asians so ground-breaking is that it, in many ways, is the first film of its kind.

In fact, the last major Hollywood studio film featuring an all-Asian cast was released almost 25 years ago. In terms of my life, I was born in 1994, and celebrated my birthday about a month before CRA hit the theatre screen. So, the first time I have ever felt represented in a commercial film was only after my 24th birthday. Prior to that, I had never seen someone who looks like me on a big screen in a major Hollywood movie, something most white people will never be able to relate to. Let that sink in…

Having said all of this, I was incredibly fortunate to have been born and raised in Singapore, where obviously us Asians are the majority, and so I never truly focused on not feeling represented in mainstream media- I was represented in almost every face I saw in my everyday life, so didn’t have much cause to worry. The struggle with representation rings more true for many Asian-Americans and Asians who grew up in other parts of the world outside of Asia. Since I moved to America just over a year ago to pursue bigger dreams of being a performer, the conversation of diversity and representation in the arts has taken a much bigger role in my life. Every Asian face I see on screen or on stage, I take notice. I Google their names to find out about their careers, social media stalk them, and memorise their names and faces. Every audition I go to, I worry I won’t get cast because of the colour of my skin- but we won’t dwell on my personal psychological insecurities…let’s move on.

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The haters will negate this movement for more representation, pointing to Hollywood films that feature prominent characters played by actors of Asian descent – Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour films, Lucy Liu in Charlie’s Angels, Maggie Q in Nikita, Ken Jeong in the Hangover films- we have plenty of Asian icons to look up to, right? This may be true, but I would argue that Asians in Hollywood have never been represented as three-dimensional human beings with stories that every audience member sitting in a movie theatre can relate to, and we have instead seen the rise of token Asian characters, primarily defined by their Asian-ness and nothing else.

So, did Crazy Rich Asians do it for me in terms of interesting, three dimensional portrayal of Asian characters? Crazy Rich Asians dives into the lives of the super-rich, the top 1% that hide in their mansions hidden by lush greenery, hang out at exclusive invite-only clubs, and never get on a public transport system – living their lives very much separate from us peasants. Sure, that is far from the everyday human experience. The experiences shared on screen, however, are extremely relatable human experiences. Finally, we see 3D Asian characters with fleshed out backs stories and character traits that do NOT involve fighting bad guys off with their dazzling martial arts skills, dealing politely and submissively towards rude customers from behind an IT-help desk, or trying hard to communicate with other people in broken English and a heavy foreign accent.

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I personally don’t think the film itself is first-rate. I loved the book and rarely find film adaptions of books I’ve read to be on par, but if you want to see beautiful Asians on a big screen in stellar cinematography, go see this movie! Crazy Rich Asians is definitely a step in the right direction for representation in Hollywood. Not only has it surpassed the $100M mark and is continuing to climb, but it has proved to be most successful studio rom-com in nine years, proving the need and want for all types of stories to be told. Surely, in the wake of its success, many have expressed their thoughts about the underrepresentation of all types of Asians. Let’s be real, Asia is a huge ass continent with billions of people who fall into many different categories of nationalities, races, and cultures – and one movie cannot have the burden of representing the biggest continent on our planet. Let’s just hope that this will open the door to all types of stories to be told on the commercial stage, because every one of those stories when told in an empathic and representative manner, will help every one of us understand each other better – especially in the world we live in today.

Written by: Greg Sim

 https://wanderforcolour.wordpress.com/

Greg is a Singaporean national in the USA pursuing the bright lights of Broadway! Follow his blog on the link above to read all about his (truly crazy and sometimes unbelievable) adventures.

Celebrating women, celebrating difference: Tess Holliday’s cover of Cosmo

Cosmopolitan magazine has made headlines other than its own recently, due to its remarkable cover of Tess Holliday, a plus sized model and social media influencer- famous for, among other things, being a front runner in the body positivity movement. As usual, it has taken me while to gather my own thoughts, and when I finally did I couldn’t seem to fit it all into a tweet. My confusion came from the fact that while I do agree that unhealthy lifestyle’s should not be promoted, something about the criticism of Tess’s cover didn’t sit quite right with me- so here we are.

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Farrah Storr, current editor of Cosmo UK, appeared on Good Morning Britain to defend her choice to put Holliday on the cover. Although the fact that she had to defend herself is ridiculous in itself, she assured that she was not celebrating obesity, she was celebrating Tess, a woman who’s story is about so much more than her weight. The response to the cover has illuminated people’s inability to see women as people underneath what they look like. When did we start being unable to separate women and their achievements from their outward appearance? Is the boundary somewhere within numbers on a scale? Why are people comfortable talking about the success of beautiful, skinny women, but so offended by the celebration of a beautiful, fat one? It is a shame that the cover is still considered remarkable. If we were able to celebrate people for who they were rather than what they looked like, there would be much more covers like this one.

Storr also noted the fact that we are not just suffering from the obesity crisis internet trolls seem so worried about, but a mental health one of maddening proportions. To tell larger women they do not deserve the same celebration and celebrity as skinny girls is part of a larger rhetoric that big women are somehow not worth the same, spreading the frightening message that they are of less value. Fashion executives, Hollywood producers and advertising companies consistently prove they are capable of ignoring overweight women (and men!), and it’s nothing but harmful. To suggest that young girls might look at this cover and aspire to be overweight is utterly ridiculous. It Is far more realistic to believe that they might look at it and be reminded that their body is beautiful too, even if it isn’t the one lauded in mainstream media.

It speaks to my point that although the internet is awash with debate over her right to even appear on the cover, no one seems to be paying attention to the story inside. Tess talks about her own crippling mental health issues resulting from cruel attention from keyboard warriors on her social media platforms and real life bullies alike, and a recovery borne out of acceptance for herself, as well as her mission to help others struggling with similar body issues. It’s a wonderfully empowering story encapsulated by her admittance that if she had seen a woman who looked like her on a magazine cover when she was a young teenager, it literally would have changed her life.

Tess Holliday knows she is overweight. She will know if she is unhealthy and she will probably not have gained anything from internet trolls who have become perfect superior models of health overnight. For anyone else to pass judgement is redundant and cruel. We achieve nothing by marginalizing certain body types and shaming them. We achieve nothing by pretending they don’t exist by excluding them from our mainstream media or denying them representation. In fact, all we do is teach them that they are not a valued part of our society and this, despite what anyone says, is much more damaging to a person’s wellbeing than seeing a big woman on a magazine cover.

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We are all human, at different points on different journeys, and this is all the Cosmo cover triumphantly tells us. I am grateful to Cosmo, as a woman- as a daughter of one, a sister of one, a friend of many- for reminding us, where most other mainstream outlets have failed to do, that we are all different shapes and sizes and that is OK! It is amazing for girls to be shown that they do not need to look a certain way to be celebrated and to be loved. It is wonderful that Cosmo have decided to commend Tess Holliday for her achievements, and it is a beautiful thing that she is killing it on a cover of a world famous magazine and feeling great about herself and the body she is in. I hope she inspires other people to feel the same.

 

The Room Where It Happens

With a set that towers in equal amounts of splendour and simplicity, dancers that double as smooth moving stagehands and a cast that would rival the Tony winners that originally graced the Richard Rogers stage years ago, Hamilton was everything I expected it to be and more. I wish I could have come away with some insightful criticism (it might have made for a slightly more interesting post than just me bowing down in excitement and disbelief), but, truthfully, it was absolutely as magical as was promised. There was a lot riding on the West End to make Hamilton every bit as successful on English turf as it was on US soil. With a story that, on the surface, is so intrinsically American in every way, it might have been understandable if Brits were less interested in the founding fathers than Broadway-goers, but it seems as though Hamilton is going to be absolutely fine over here. It looks right at home next to every classic that has graced the West End Stage, raking in reviews from critics who seem to only speak in overwhelming superlatives.

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Choreographed with a slickness everyone else can only dream of, the ensemble are entirely bewitching, hypnotising the audience with dreamlike movement of upside down furniture and seventeenth century weaponry. For “an American musical” that is supposed to be both for and told by the people, this fits perfectly. The ensemble is a necessary vehicle for the plot, literally moving the stage and the actors to and from battlefields and wedding nights in moments, with scarcely any physical set changes taking place. Of course, they are aided by the sensationally simplistic set design- with a double rotating stage element, involving two concentric circles that spin and halt independently of each other, and stairs that swing across the stage for maximum imposition from George Washington.

The Broadway recording of Hamilton has completely infiltrated me from my brain to my veins, after however many years of listening to it over and over, so I was naturally unsure of how the new London cast would compare. What was special was that the music was exactly what I wanted it to be, but infused with the refreshing individual personalities of the London cast. There had clearly no fear of or shying away from individuality, while still staying fiercely true to the score. Processed with VSCO with a5 presetAngelica was slightly softer than I had been used to, which brought a new dimension, as a new actor should, to the role. Eliza was heartbreaking and the reams toilet paper I hastily stuffed in my pockets prior to the performance were just as useful (and necessary) as I knew they’d be. Giles Terrera’s Burr had a slightly slimier element to him than Leslie Odom Jr.’s, his shorter frame next to Hamilton’s towering figure giving their relationship more of a man swatting fly vibe.

Seeing the show with a theatre layman also gave new light to the whole show. I was slightly nervous telling him that, yes, there are not really any “talking bits”, and because I wanted him to share my feelings so badly I did feel a bit anxious as Act 1 neared the 90-minute mark without an interval (and still no talking bits). A week later and more than once I’ve caught him mumbling around the kitchen, almost in tune, that he wants to be in the room where it happens. Despite almost making him faint by spending 30 quid on a t-shirt, he is living proof of how Hamilton can and will touch anyone and everyone- it’s impossible not to love! The beating, tumbling, elastic music and lyrics are at the bursting core of the show, the hip hop genre perfectly suitable for the revolutionary story you see unfolding, and just as catchy as it is genius.

To see Hamilton honestly is to see the future of the West End. Lin Manuel-Miranda has surely revolutionized musical theatre with this showI challenge anyone to sit in the Victoria Palace and witness the ups and downs on the stage before them and not feel as though they are witnessing something entirely new and amazing. The show itself is as explosive as the story it tells and Lin Manuel-Miranda has got to be one of the greatest writers our generation has seen. He is our Andrew Lloyd Webber, a household name to come if he is not one already, and his complete rejection of musical tradition has given him an instant and everlasting classic.

 

 

Saying goodbye to the Little Red Dot…

When we moved to Singapore in 2005, I must have cried every day for what feels like months. We moved into a house that my dads predecessor had lived in with his kids, and I remember my parents reassuring me that those kids had felt the exact same sadness when they moved to Singapore, but ended up crying even more when they had to leave. At 7 years old, this seemed beyond ridiculous to me- I hated Singapore. I wanted my old friends and my grandparents and I most definitely was not on board with the obscene amount of mosquitos. Obviously, it didn’t take me long to realise that they were of course, exactly right, and now at the age of 20 I can’t believe it’s finally time for me to say goodbye (for now). After threatening to do so for the last 14 years, my family have decided that it’s time we move back to our original family home in the UK.

*Full disclosure, this will be cringey and nostalgic*

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I might not have ticked off everything on my Singapore bucket list (I never did get to visit Rabbit HQ and see the largest bunny in Singapore), but there are so many amazing things I got to do whilst I was there that were totally irreplaceable. The friends I met during my time there I know will be my friends forever- we survived 30 days in hostels and on trains together, we can survive anything! Together, we fumbled over teenage relationships, drank tequila for the first time and held each others hands through our first eyebrow threadings and I can’t wait to watch some of the incompetent freaks I call my best friends do amazing things with their lives.

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Singapore is also where, after years of trying to shoe-horn my physically incompetent body into every sport under the sun, my dad finally found a fit for me in TouchIMG_0941 Rugby. I still haven’t really learned to run like a normal human yet, but touch was where I met one of my absolute forever best friends (who now plays for England- I know, I feel inept next to her too). Singapore was where I learned to love running around on a sweaty pitch (not least because it was a guaranteed way of securing some nice, long lasting colour, albeit with some slightly odd tanlines) Touch also gave me the opportunity to travel to places like Malaysia, Thailand and Australia to play against other schools and teams, and I just don’t see me ever being able to have done this had I not lived out there. IMG_0939

I might have spent over a decade in Asia without learning to like rice, but I will miss the food more than anything. The Sunday night tradition of a meal at the Colbar, Singapore’s famed no-nonsense colonial Kampong cafe- or Lau Pa Sat hawker will have to be replaced with Fish and Chips takeaways or Deliveroo, or somewhere new to love. And oh my GOD I will miss Din Tai Fung- never will I ever take xiaolongbao of dou miao for granted again.

All in all, I count my blessings every day that I have had this opportunity, and can’t thank my parents enough for being brave enough to uproot our lives and start fresh out there. If we hadn’t moved out there, I never would have met my best friends, I never would have camped on the Ganges, I never would have learnt have the things I know now.(I also never would have been able to use “I live in Singapore” as my ‘fun fact’ in every single new seminar at Uni).It is a lot more than an interesting conversation starter though, it’s a big fat part of me that will be there forever. There might not be any New Years Eve yacht celebrations for a while but I think I’ll be ok.

Saying goodbye to our house, our home for the last decade and a half, is one of the saddest parts. This is the house where a friend in junior school climbed onto our attap roof in the middle of hide and seek, the house where my dad sliced his foot open at his birthday barbecue, where my puppy was born, where my sister learnt to swim, where I turned 18, where I cried when I got into university (just!)- where I did 14 years of growing up.

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Having said all this, and although I will miss Singapore beyond words, I now can’t wait to return to the home where I first met my little sister, where I said goodbye to my Grandad, where I took my first steps and said my first word, where I lost my first tooth, where I slammed my fingers in the back door and where I finally stopped sucking my thumb. New beginnings, here we go!

New Year, Same Me (Again)

Processed with VSCO with a5 presetA female Doctor, a crazed President, pregnant Kardashians, engaged royals and a partridge in a pear tree- 2017 has been, I’m pleased to say, absolutely mad. 9 Greys Anatomy episodes, 5 solo One Direction albums, and one trip to a pig farm later I am pretty content with how this year has rounded off. This year I finished my first year of Uni, moved into a house with my best friends, performed in some of the shows I am most proud of, and had plenty of time to party. 2017 might have been a bit of a dodgy year for mankind in general, but on a personal level (back at it again with some classic millennial narcissism) it’s been pretty brilliant.

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Moving into a new house hasn’t been without it’s quarrels.  I’ve learnt more about football than I ever wanted to (ask me what the offside rule is, we’ll have a chat), I’ve cleaned up more beard trimmings than would be ideal and oh. my. goodness. you would not believe the amount of wee that ends up on the floor. Mostly though, living off campus has been a dream. The 6:3 boy to girl ratio is sometimes a struggle (note the aforementioned wee on the floor), but I still cried at Christmas dinner when I tried to say how much I loved them all. 36 Second Av- you’ve absolutely made 2017 for me. My resolution house-wise is to nag less about the washing up (although I’m hoping my housemates might resolve to actually do their washing up) and to spend as much time as is humanly possible, as much time as they’ll let me, with the boys before we make the split into gals and guys houses next year.

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It’s also been another year of complete and utter airheadedness from me, and while I continue to endeavour to change, I think it’s a part of me that I’m just going to have to accept. 2017 might have begun with a shiny iPhone 7, but it wasn’t long (the first night out of Spring Term- pitiful, I know) before that ended up face down in the James College loos- not even 3 days in rice could bring salvation. iPhone #2 almost met it’s peril during a trip to the good old West Country, where it was stolen from a train station and allegedly sold for 100 quid over a pint before being reluctantly returned by a family (honestly, the whole family) of travellers. It was a pretty wild ride, as you can imagine. A final feat of idiocy came when I left my purse in the back of an Uber, complete with 200 pounds in cash, my debit card and all forms of ID to my name. True to form, an existential crisis ensued as I cancelled my card and reported it to the police. In an utterly miraculous turn of events, a girl visiting family in York got in contact with me on Facebook (the 102nd Megan Williams she’d contacted, or something) and returned the purse just as I left it- people have a funny way of surprising you in the most amazing ways!

IMG_3735.JPG2018 started last night on a beautiful white yacht (could I *be* any more of an expat brat), with some of my best IMG_3733friends. We watched fireworks through the rain, started the year with McNuggets and fell asleep watching New Years Eve. I hope the year that follows is exactly like that- a little bit of extra and a lot of comfort. I will not be giving up avocado’s to save for a house and I probably won’t manage to cut out Coke (a-Cola, thank you), but I do want to keep up the positive vibes, keep loving myself and my friends and GET. STUFF. DONE. When I check back next New Year, it’ll ideally be after a snazzy summer internship (pray for me), a suitable Second Year grade and loads more fun with my beautiful friends and beautiful family. IMG_3732I’m grateful for where I am and excited about where I’m going. Happy New Year everyone!

 

Review: All The Way Up for ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

With fugitive billionaires, six figure cash rewards and high school romances, the story begins an earnest mystery, with the sixteen year old protagonists OCD as an important subplot. Terrified that her identity is inseparable from her invasive, obsessive thoughts, Aza’s beautifully implemented inner turmoil is a lesson to every reader in mental illness and the unique struggles it presents to each individual. Her and her best friend Daisy set off on a charming and comical journey to finding said fugitive billionaire, and love and chaos ensues. As the story progresses, however, the plot itself seems to be almost subsidiary to the real story of Aza’s internal behaviour, functioning as an accessory to the characterisation of the narrator, rather than the other way around. Instead of promoting the popular rhetoric around mental health that reconciles illnesses as battles to be won, John Green paints a picture that instead suggests mental illness can be present and yet still the person in question can find ways to lead a fulfilling life.

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His band of characters, as is delightfully typical of Green’s work, are unabashedly quirky and at times precociously intellectual, their conversations seamlessly morphing from Star Wars fan fiction to Darwinian theory to constellations (stars are a motif that come up again and again in Green’s work, and they work no less poetically here). Aza’s friends provide more lighthearted interludes to the story and her life, but also illustrate how alienating Aza’s intrusive thoughts can be, as she finds herself disconnected from her friends as well as her own self.  Each of Green’s characters are as charming and convincing as the next.

tumblr_ovxqywLLNT1twdaswo1_r1_500Popular media has become increasingly interested in the portrayal of mental health issues, but three dimensional OCD characters, however, seem harder to find. Instead, the portrayal of obsessive compulsive roles is reduced to cheap tropes of germaphobes who can’t stop washing their hands, like Glee’s Emma Pilsbury. Green, an OCD sufferer himself, presents the disorder as much more nuanced and real, giving time to all the ins and outs and ups and downs of Aza’s “thought spirals”. Aza’s true anguish lies within these spirals- the spiral tightens infinitely in on itself as she struggles to control the invasive thoughts that swarm her mind. You don’t have to be an OCD sufferer yourself to be moved to tears by her relentless struggle against herself.

And what would a John Green novel be without profound existential questioning and realisations about love, “It’s a weird phrase in English, in love, like it’s a sea you drown in or a town you live in. You don’t get to be in anything else—in friendship or in anger or in hope. All you can be in is love.”, life, “life is a series of choices between wonders.” and self,I is the hardest word to define.” On top of being beautifully quotable, Green brings to life the mental health discourse in a way that is rarely seen. Aza and her therapist speak about the problem with approaching pain, that it is often something beyond normal language- we verbalise pain with metaphor and poetry, instead of concrete terms. John Green spoke about how he wanted to find some way around this, and he does so wonderfully. He does not alienate the reader who knows very little about OCD, creating such a vivid picture of the debilitating affliction that when Aza tries to offer an explanation to her best friend, the reader feels equally as frustrated when she cannot come up with the right words. We align ourselves with Aza whether or not we have any first hand experience of her illness.

4768Your now is not your forever“, is the comforting message that comes through all of the chaos. It is in these words that we feel the authorial presence most deeply. The book is narrated by a sixteen year old high-schooler learning to cope with a destructive mental illness, and John Green was once a sixteen year old high-schooler doing the exact same thing. Refreshingly, Green doesn’t buy into  happy endings (as his narrator put it, “The problem with happy endings is that they’re either not really happy, or not really endings, you know? In real life, some things get better and some things get worse. And then eventually you die.“), and instead brings us something much more moving- a realistic conclusion that promises possibility.

I am completely obsessed with the way John Green writes and would pay to read his shopping list (as a previous character of his also wished to do for their favourite author), but this works too. I cannot recommend Turtles All the Way Down highly enough.

Guilty feminists and Love Island: In defence of Kady McDermott

The angry feminist in me has once again been stirred, this time by a Good Morning Britain clip from a couple of days ago, in which former Love Island contestant Kady McDermott is absolutely ripped to shreds for her decision to have sex during her time on the island. Having been asked to participate in the Christmas light switch on in her home town of Welwyn Garden City, Kady was affronted with a petition that resulted in her being axed from the event, and replaced by, deliciously ironically, a man. Take that as you will.

The segment of the show can only be described as utterly humiliating – Kady looks close to tears as she references the names she’s been called and threats she’s been sent for accepting the lights gig. She is sat next to the women who started the petition, who ridiculously insists that she loved Love Island, but simply could not accept Kady’s participation in the light switch because it would be like “inviting Magic Mike to a scout’s jamboree”. I know. She’s clearly comfortable with enjoying the show and thus benefitting from the behaviour of the contestants, but vocally uncomfortable (deplored, even) by the contestants themselves – the logic is airtight. Her suggested compromise was that a ‘post 10pm lighting’ be organised, so that Kady would not be seen by the children attending and “guys could go and drink beer” and “admire” her. It’s a sad and unfair that because of the choices she has made, Kady is deemed to be worth admiring by a male audience, but too inappropriate to be seen by children.

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9pm on ITV2 certainly made for cringe-worthy watching, especially if your parents were in the room. I’m not sure my dad was overjoyed with ME (an almost 20 year old ADULT, thank you) let alone my 14 year old little sister. I am not completely unable to empathise with viewers who disagree with the activities undertaken beneath the bedsheets by contestants. If you’ve not been in a similar situation yourself – and, let’s be honest, it is a pretty ridiculous situation- it’s quite easy to pass judgement. But if we’re going to talk about feminism, I don’t see any way you can legitimately condemn Kady or the rest of the girls.

Perhaps the line between size 4 girls parading around on television in bikinis and heels for the gaze of men and women having fun and making choices for themselves is hard to define. Admittedly, there are moments on Love Island where the boundary is pushed slightly, and the idea of having to be ‘good enough’ to be picked by someone is an uncomfortable thing to aspire to. In terms of sex specifically though, it ultimately seems as though when the women of the show were able explore the same sexual liberties as men and weren’t judged in the way that many ‘promiscuous’ women have become accustomed to in every day life. There was a subtext that women could do just what the men could do and, rightly, that was ok.

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This year, there was also a great deal of emphasis on the absence of pressure in the relationships- the girls were vocal about their feelings on having sex in the villa and no one was coerced into doing anything they didn’t want to do. Surely, as a feminist, you’d expect to champion this- good on the girls for exercising their rights to say both no and yes, and good on the men for respecting that. Especially this  year, the boys did get called out when they made derogatory remarks or didn’t support the girls equality. We all remember the Johnny and Camilla debacle- it was refreshing to see girls standing up for themselves on TV and that’s exactly what Kady is doing now. She spoke fairly about how, for her, sex was a normal part of a relationship, and living in such intense circumstances, it was normal for feelings to escalate for a partner- she felt loved her boyfriend and didn’t want to wait 6 weeks to ‘do the deed’, if you will. Fair enough, surely. You don’t have to agree with it, but it doesn’t give you the right to pass judgement on it.

To reduce a woman to one incident on a TV show is just ridiculous. Now an ambassador for charities as well other things, Kady is, unsurprisingly, a fully formed, complex human being who cannot fairly be defined by a singular action. But this isn’t about analysing her character, it’s about denying her a pretty simple job in her home town on the basis that she made a choice some people might not like. Even Piers spoke up in her defence at particular moments, and if he’s defending her you know it must be bad. It might seem like a small issue in terms of bigger questions about women, like the wage gap and abortion and rape and abuse and all these huge controversies that daily hurt people, but it’s just so boring and frustrating to still be seeing women shamed for their personal decisions. When will we just get used to empowering women to make their own choices and live and let live already.

To finish, an eloquent expression from my housemate that sums it all up – “it’s 2017, women are allowed to have sex.”

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Finding a ‘thing’ at University

At university, most people you meet will have a ‘thing’- from juggling to hockey to rowing to Quidditch, everyone is doing something, and for good reasons.

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CHMS Committee at the UoY Freshers Fair

After spending most of first term back pedalling out of auditions and reinvesting in my netball career (unsuccessfully), I finally found a place in Central Hall Musical Society when I was cast in their Spring Show after my audition in December. Objectively, CHMS is probably the best society in York,  but that aside, finding a ‘thing’ that I loved outside of my course completely transformed my life at Uni.

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The CHMS Committee!

Getting involved in things outside of your degree is absolutely integral to a fulfilling (and fun) university experience. For one thing, I would go absolutely bonkers if all I had to do outside of my contact hours was dive in and out of medieval literature and historical court dissents. Going out is obviously a big part of the culture at Uni, but I don’t think that it’s really enough to constitute  a ‘thing’. If your only extra-curricular activity is strawpedo-ing VK’s you probably aren’t getting everything you can out of being at university.

IMG_4936 Being in shows with CHMS has, I believe, massively reduced the potential for bad days. If I’m even feeling the whisper of a bad day, a 5 hour rehearsal immediately sets me straight. You’d be surprised how cathartic belting out soprano harmonies that aren’t quite comfortably in your range can be. Singing the feel-good, soul filled soundtrack of Sister Act, our upcoming production, at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning might be some people’s idea of a worst nightmare, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything better. There are very few things in this world that can get me out of bed before 11, and Alan Menken’s score is definitely one of them! Aside from the music itself, being surrounded by people who you love, and who love the same things as you, can lift even the moodiest of moods.

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On another level, finding a ‘thing’ means that, by default, you widen your friendship circle. I was lucky enough to find some of my best friends in my halls, but I know plenty of people who weren’t as fortunate. Your halls are a complete lottery- you don’t get to pick who you live with and if you do have anything in common it’s a nice surprise. The fact that I can’t participate in a conversation with my housemates about football transfers or pipe up about Wenger doesn’t make me love them any less- they can’t offer any input either when I want to chat about the amount of times Andrew Rannells licks his lips in his Tony performance of “I Believe”. The things we care about are just different. For me, joining CHMS meant that I was suddenly spending time with people who had similar interests- who understood when I wanted to talk about Cynthia Erivo for half an hour and who might not know the offside rule either. I’ve met some of my absolute favourite people at Uni through CHMS, and the level of talent I get to be around means that I’m constantly inspired and pushing myself to be better.

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Singin’ In The Rain

At the end of the day, I love my course and I do want the best academic result I can possibly get. Right now, I’m confident in my ability to balance the two, but I know (rightly or wrongly) that if it came down to it I would sacrifice the top grades for a chance to be on the stage any day. Finding a ‘thing’ that you care about and that makes your life at Uni more than just a combination of the library and jagerbombs is as rewarding as it can be exhausting, and something that everyone starting University should endeavor to do. CHMS has been one of my favourite things to be a part of in my LIFE (I know, slow down) and I can’t imagine my experience at Uni without it, or the people I have met through it.

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The cast of Sister Act at our launch party

 

 

 

 

Me Too, Mayim Bialik

Apparently this week my blog is going to stay angry. So, it has taken one man, Harvey Weinstein, to bring the essential conversation regarding the sexual degradation and harassment of women to the surface again. Of course, it’s a conversation that exists constantly at least in the background, but making an example of this one man and his deplorable actions has brought it to the forefront once again. A good thing. Since my blog earlier this week, more and more women have come out to share their experiences, not just with Weinstein, but Hollywood culture in general. It has been totally inspiring to see the anger of the masses, and feel the overwhelming assertion that people want to stop this from happening. However, one women’s response has left many, including me, slightly puzzled.

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The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik released an opinion piece for the New York times, with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein in mind, entitled “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s world“. The title gives you high hopes, right? Unfortunately, what followed was a disappointing, exclusionary article elevating Bialik’s version of feminism above what I would call ‘true’ feminism (for one thing, a celebration of women being able to make their own choices and still be treated with respect and as equals), and ultimately implicating women themselves in incidences of sexual harassment and abuse.

“As a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer, I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meetings in their hotel rooms.”

Bialik, 2017

But the women of social media have proven one inexcusable flaw in her op-ed with the ‘Me Too’ campaign, started by Alyssa Milano on Sunday evening when she asked women who had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted to simply write ‘me too’, on social media. By Monday morning, over 200,000 people on twitter had spoken up using those words, and the number on Facebook surpassed 80,000. It goes without saying that the ‘Me Too’ campaign is nothing but the tip of the iceberg, excluding the millions without social media accounts, or computers.

‘Me too’- those two, tiny, simple words that expose sexual harassment against women for what it is; a phenomenon with seemingly unlimited scope and completely unparalleled effects. I urge Mayim Bialik to read through those comments, to assess every ‘Me Too’ and see how many women who, like her, do not “represent an impossible standard of beauty”, but who, unlike her, have not had the “luxury of being overlooked…by men in power”. I urge her to talk to the women who she calls “perfect ten’s”, and tell them to their faces that it’s their fault they have suffered at the hands of men like Harvey Weinstein; that them being beautiful means they have to go to a “hotel room or a casting couch” to find someone who finds them “stunning, irresistible and worthy of attention, respect and love.”. Overall, there is a disturbing subtext going on, implying that beautiful women are somehow lesser, and are somehow more deserving of this unwanted attention. To suggest that women ought to hide their natural beauty, to be “conservative” or in anyway compromise their physical self to avoid being harassed plays into a dangerous narrative that offers no solution to the problem at hand.

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It is wonderful that Bialik feels so confident in her conservative self. It is amazing that she doesn’t feel the need to overly sexualise herself in public, and if it empowers her to keep her sexuality private then I am glad she is sharing her story with others who might relate- unconventional standards of femininity and beauty deserve to be celebrated. This is not where the problem lies. The issue is that she suggests this is the ‘right’ way to do feminism, she takes away the idea that women should be able to choose how they behave and still be treated as equals by both their male and female counterparts. Is a women less worthy, or more deserving of sexual harassment because she chooses to diet? Surely not. Is she less of a feminist because she hires a personal trainer? Honestly, how these suggestions can be taken seriously by anyone is beyond me. By alienating a huge part of the population, Bialik fails to do anything to advance the feminist cause and condemn people like Harvey Weinstein.