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.

 

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!

 

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.

Look What You Made ME Do

Ever since the release of Taylor Swift’s new single Look What You Made Me Do and it’s accompanying video, she has been EVERYWHERE. To call the reviews mixed would be something of an understatement, but overall it seems to have added fuel to the ‘we hate Taylor Swift’ fire and it’s a bit unfair really. The internet has been awash with people branding her petty and crazy and accusing her of, as they have over and over again, ‘playing the victim’. “Calm down, Taylor” seems to be the overwhelming sentiment- a particular tweet that stood out suggested that Taylor should try meditating- but aren’t we past telling women to calm down? Songwriting is a form of catharsis for most artists- Beyonce wrote about her husband’s infidelities and Jay Z recently addressed them in his own work and no one was calling them petty for airing their dirty laundry.

Whatever you want to say about Taylor, she is the undisputed queen of reclaiming the narrative and twisting it to suit her. She did it with Blank Space, assuming the role that the media had written for her of a deranged, obsessive, vengeful serial dater, one that she denounced as sexist and unfair, and she has done it again here. The final scene shows all the ‘old Taylors’ lined up, dressed in exact recreations of outfits and hairstyles Taylor had worn at iconic moments in her career. They snipe at each other with jabs taken right out of the tabloids “stop playing the victim” and “you’re so fake”. The Taylor that was interrupted by Kanye holds her Moonperson and asks to be “excluded from this narrative”, directly quoting a statement Taylor made last year about the Kimye feud, before all the other Taylors tell her to shut up. It’s all very meta and all very clever, once again playing right into the fictionalised persona the media have created for her. Maybe Look What You Made Me Do pushes the line between genius and petty but the satire is undeniably addictive.

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Even if we put the song aside for a second, which to be honest I straight up think is a tune, Taylor’s return to the spotlight has earned her a storm of criticism I find hard to swallow. Just weeks ago she was being sued for $3 million in damages by a radio DJ who groped her during a meet and greet, and the support was frankly lackluster.

She won the case, and acknowledged her privileged position, recognising that she was immensely lucky to be able to shoulder the cost of court expenses, asking only $1 from her accuser and pledging to donate to organisations that help survivors of sexual assault to defend themselves. Her counter-suit clearly wasn’t for money, rather a statement that girls can and should stand up for themselves in any situation. Whatever Taylor’s reputation might be, however much anyone might accuse her of selling an exclusive, white brand of feminism, how can the rest of us call ourselves feminists if we left her out to dry? Whatever Taylor’s faults, she has promoted one basic feminist principle above all else- the importance of girls supporting girls. Celebrities who who are happy to embrace the word ‘feminist’ as part of their image (admittedly something Taylor can also be guilty of) were all too quiet during Taylor’s case. You don’t get to criticise Taylor for not marching in the Women’s March or not explicitly opposing Donald Trump and then stay silent yourself.

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Taylor Swift spoke so bravely and gracefully about the actions of her accuser, standing in solidarity with every other girl who has been made to feel small by an unwanted and uncomfortable advance, no matter how extreme. Of course, it’s barely been 3 weeks and people are once again armed with their pitchforks and torches to go as far as branding her a white-nationalist and a Trump supporter. What??????????????

understand it is easier for Taylor Swift, as a white,  heterosexual, beautiful woman, than it might be for the likes of Kanye West. Perhaps him interrupting her speech all those many moons (pun intended) ago was a well-meaning protest against the unjust tradition of black artists being overlooked at such awards shows. It is, by all means, vital for someone to do this- to stand up against systemic racism in any industry- but that doesn’t mean Taylor Swift should bear the brunt of the blame. Just because we wish Taylor Swift would engage more deeply with politics and be a stronger advocate for feminism it does not mean we drag her down.

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So, like everyone else, Taylor Swift has flaws. The tides of opinion seem to swing in and out of her favour every few months, with the internet hopping on whichever bandwagon seems to be in fashion. It has become something of a trend to either hate or love Taylor Swift at any given time and it’s distinctly unfair and anti-feminist. In any case, Look What You Made Me Do has shattered records, brought Taylor a storm of media attention, dominated twitter threads and celebrity news outlets and completely stole the show at the VMAs yesterday. I don’t think she’s all that worried.

 

A Year at York

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Summer Ball 2017

As our little flat starts to empty, becoming quieter and less messy one person at a time, it’s finally starting to feel like first year is coming to an end. You can’t possibly appreciate how fast it goes until you’re in the position yourself and it’s nearly time to graduate from the year that ‘doesn’t count’, and start actually doing some serious work. First year has been one of the weirdest and best years of my life so far, with everything from geese attacks to summer balls to singing and dancing to the occasional TC.

Living so far away from my family, nearly 7,000 miles as it happens, had it’s ups and downs. My organisation abilities tend to come and go, and being in a different hemisphere to those who usually pick up the slack was a bit of a test. Sometimes my room honestly feels like a black hole- things get sucked into the mess and literally never return and there’s no mum around to magically locate them, or to spoon feed me in trying to fix any trouble. And obviously there are times when you get homesick. Mix the super fun hormones that come with being a teenage girl with a nice bit of uni drama and those 7,000 miles between you and your family seem like a lot more. Having said that, I’ve definitely cried a lot more over Grey’s Anatomy this year than I have over anything else, and luckily my mums serial FaceTiming has left little room to feel properly far away.

England itself, York especially, has been the most amazing setting for uni life, even if the weather is slightly more hit and miss than it is at home. If I thought Autumn Term was cold, the first few weeks of January were something else. I wore tights underneath my jeans and gloves to play touch. I truly forgot what it was like to be able to use my phone outside, and made full use of my radiator to heat up all my clothes before I put anything on. And although I complained like the classic third culture kid who’d not experienced a January colder than 30 degrees in 11 years, I absolutely loved it. Yes, I forgot what my

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own legs looked like, but the 8am walk around campus on ONE day that it ‘properly’ snowed pretty much made up for it. All the bundling up in layer upon layer was, of course, made worth it for the whisper of spring towards the end of last term. I can’t possibly talk about spring without slipping deep into cliche (sorry)- daffodils sprung up on hillsides apparently over night and shocks of white snowbells suddenly lined my walk to the lecture hall. You can only imagine the excitement.

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Another well spent 3 quid in the Kuda photobooth

A LOT of alcohol happened this year. I’ve learnt that I should stay away from K Cider (thankfully not from personal experience but something I think is a general rule for human beings as a race), that I shouldn’t drink beer after vodka (unfortunately, vodka me apparently LOVES a Corona), that clubbing sober is not that fun but pretty do-able, and that I can’t balance Lowther trebles on my head (..yet). Obviously, going out doesn’t have to be a part of your uni experience but I mean, if you haven’t unclogged your flatmates sick from the kitchen sink or helped a friend button up her leotard after she’s had too many jaeger-bombs to find the clips, give it a go! In my experience, said jaeger-bombs also lead the way to usually pretty funny inter-flat gossip that provides the entertainment around any actual academia that takes place. (That’s right- we did come to Uni to study!)

Being in a flat with so many boys (apparently there are 14 of them but it usually feels like a lot more) has been an experience. I mean, they pee on the seat and use your tweezers to pick out their athletes foot but they really are the best. If nothing else, I feel like I literally could survive living with ANYONE now, after a year of coming back to a bedroom covered in cups of water (and grosser things), coffee blocked sinks and hidden cans of Innocent drinks in my pillows and clothes. Even if you don’t live with 60 billion boys, if you’re about to start uni I would definitely lower your expectations for cleanliness in general. Our kitchen is absolutely diabolical and I’ve not seen much higher standards elsewhere. I think N Block (my humble abode this year) sinks pretty far below average though, especially considering the two fat rats that made a home outside our block last term.

Somehow between the rats and the vodka I also managed to get a bit of a sing-song in, because it wouldn’t be my life otherwise. Joining Central Hall Musical Society has been one of the best things I’ve done at Uni, and the three shows I’ve done with them have been completely hilarious, challenging and amazing amazing amazing experiences. We open our summer show next week and the buzz is starting to come to a crescendo. With that in mind, come and see Singin’ In The Rain next week, Thursday to Saturday and see me get spun upside down a few times (something I never thought I’d be able to do when we started).

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AND WE ONLY WENT AND STARTED A TOUCH TEAM! While sports (playing them, at least) have never really been my thing, a fact mostly owed to my complete hand-eye coordination deficiency, I always loved playing touch rugby in Singapore. While my flatmates needed some pretty incessant convincing that it is, in fact, a real sport, I managed to entice (with the promise of chocolate) enough girls to make up the numbers for a team. A day after our formation, we entered into the qualifying tournament for the Varsity against Durham, with only myself having played before. 5 weeks later, after a lot of dropped balls and freezing cold rainy training sessions, we made it up to Durham to compete in the Varsity, where a 5-0 loss felt like the biggest and most impressive achievement we could have come away with. The girls were and are absolute heroes and I hope we get to watch the sport grow over the next few years. Big shoutouts to the equally heroic boys who gracefully fulfilled their roles as managers and waterboys.

All in all, this year has been completely beyond what I expected it to be. I got stupidly lucky with my flatmates and managed to find some amazing friends elsewhere as well. The saga continues next year with my house of 9 people- which promises even more fun and crazy stories that probably won’t get retold around the family dinner table. Lot’s of love York x

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New Year, Same Me

A lot of the talk surrounding the New Year seems to centre around resolution and hopes for the future, but, when I think about going into 2017, I am drawn inevitably back to how last year began for me- waking up in between my parents, in my dress from the night before, covered in mud and dry tears (real classy). 2016 and I got off to a rocky start- both metaphorically and literally, as it turns out, seeing that I spent it in the mountains (ha ha), but somehow it set the tone for an unbelievable year.

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Jan 1st, 2016

The last night of 2015, for me, began with a glass of champagne in my left hand while my right linked with my mum’s for us to shoot tequila. We were skiing in France with some of the most fun family friends we know, and our big party seemed intent on drinking Club Med dry of red wine and vodka cokes, and being the worst and loudest dancers within the whole of Europe- properly ringing in the New Year is serious business and not for the faint of heart. Perhaps inevitably, everyone was having a fantastic evening- so fantastic that I was only mildly embarrassed when my dad started teaching everyone the beyond cringey moves he and his friends used to “get girls” at Uni. Having not long been 18 (and being a lifetime member of the swot club that prevented me from going near a club until I was actually of age), excited doesn’t begin to cover how I felt leaving the hotel after the 2016 fireworks to head to a club.

So, when a French man in a, far too tight, Ralph polo waved a smashed iPhone in my face, it didn’t for a second cross my mind that it might have belonged to me. Of course, it did belong to me. I shouldn’t have been surprised, seeing that I am both a serial phone-smasher and general klutz, but still I felt my heart drop like a stone at the thought of having to tell my parents (on the dawn of a New Year, no less) that I’d once again done one of those “but Dad, I didn’t mean to!” things that constituted a reputation in my family I have never quite been able to shake. Strike 1, 2016. However, I was excited enough about the New Year and the cringey but brilliant music in the French club to not care too much about my smithereen-ed screen. Until, that is, when 2016 threw me another curveball after I’d said goodnight to my friends back at the hotel.

I am my mothers daughter, which means I CRY. At happy movies, at sad books, at particularly emotional songs and, as it would happen, when I am locked out of my room, still feeling the effects of the aforementioned tequila, at 4am in Val D’Isere. The inherent hopelessness I seem to possess stretches from breaking phones to picking up the wrong keys, apparently. Standing outside my door, fumbling with a key that was not even close to fitting in the lock, I realised quite quickly that I’d managed to take a key to my parents room (who had retired from the celebrations hours before) rather than to my own. Strike 2, 2016. And so came the waterworks. I really can only imagine how pathetic I looked, sat in that (sort of grimy) corridor with my red dress and muddy converse, mulling over my doom. I was sure I’d be in new depths of trouble should I use my parents key and wake them from their prosecco induced dreams, but as it would seem, I had little choice in the matter if I didn’t want to spend the night curled up on the, questionably maroon, Club Med carpets.

Strike 3 was the simultaneous high and low point of the evening, which was when I kicked off my converse (effectively leaving them for dead at this point, the mud and snow had claimed them as an innocent victim) and climbed into bed in between my stirring parents. If you looked past my, probably too short, red dress and mascara I may as well have been 5 years old again as they sleepily wiped away my tears and offered some mumbly words of comfort. In any case, that is how I ended up waking up for my New Years Day ski school with glitter stains across my cheeks, a smashed phone in my hand, very muddy legs (which remain unexplained) and some pretty confused parents.

True to it’s humble beginnings, 2016 followed in a year of my hopelessness (we won’t bring up the amount of missed trains, it’s still hard for my Dad to hear about), some serious cold weather (the snowy, sunny cold of the French Alps doesn’t quite compare to the drizzly chill of York though) and definitely a fair few tears. Without a doubt though, I would say that 2016 has been one of the best years of my life, despite even the fact that One Direction broke up (still hanging on for a reunion). From the moment I graduated, it has been a whirlwind of the most consecutive great times I have ever experienced, and I can only hope that will continue into 2017, although I intend to drink slightly less Coke and watch slightly less TV.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that 2017 is a great year for you all. Thank you for reading.

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Pre-disaster, NYE 2015