Saturday, 29 December 2012

Embarrassing sexism out of existence

It's time for another feminism post. It seems that since my last stab at solving equality, basically NO ONE LISTENED, so I'm going in for another pop. Fingers crossed this time, I'm getting kind of tired of having to keep bringing this up.

Sexism exists. I know, I know. I'd literally rather sick up a chip than have to repeat that sentence, but there we have it. It's like a really pungent fart on a train. No one wants to point out that they're suffocating from it, we're much too polite for that, and the fella that's done it can't even smell it- and even if he could, he'd be more outraged that you dared to call it out than accept any fault.

So, maybe it's because I've been reading lots of Caitlin Moran lately, or maybe it's because my best friend was told to "ask your dad" when questioning a cowboy plumber's work, or perhaps it's because there's so much in the news right now on gang rape, rape apologists and victim blaming. Whatever the bubbling inspiration for this is, I've decided I want women to start calling out sexism. Routinely. Every time it happens. If you can't beat them, beat it out of them (not literally, please.)

Calling out sexism is actually quite good fun. You feel a rush of self-respect, and are kind of satisfied that you've managed to embarrass someone for being a douche. Par example:

A few nights ago, I joined some friends on a night out. Wearing thick black tights and a leather skirt was apparently enough of a come on for a complete stranger, who decided he'd have a quick feel of my arse as I tried to get past him.

I genuinely cannot understand why people do that. Are you checking it if it's ripe, or something? We're not in the fruit aisle of Tesco, bro, you don't get to have a feel a la Try Before You Buy. Anyway. Whatever his motivations were, I'm not particularly game for a good round of casual sexual assault in a nightclub, so I politely asked him if there was anything in particular he thought he stood to gain by groping a passing woman.

He was mortified. He wouldn't make eye contact with me, his friend looked awkward and turned away, and he certainly didn't give me a satisfactory answer. Hmm? Was there something you wanted to say, treacle? You've got my undivided attention. I don't know if he'll do it again, but I'm willing to bet if he was confronted that way every time he copped a feel, he'd get the message.

There's an amazing ongoing campaign called the Everyday Sexism Project. (Their website & their twitter are well worth a read). In practice, it's this huge database of women's experiences of sexism. If every single one of those instances, some of them casual, some of them harrowing, and most of them relatable, were called out, then we might be half way to putting sexism to bed.

I'm not in anyway suggesting sexism is in any way women's responsibility, or that men are naturally, stupidly sexist and we need to carefully train them out of it. It'd just be brilliant if we could sit around, having cocktails or sleepovers or whatever girls do, and laugh about the time we called out sexism, rather than sharing embarrassing and often uncomfortable anecdotes of it.

So, next time you see sexism happening, or are at the brunt of it, tell that person to piss off. Next time someone asks how you think you'll bring up children and have a career, or when they suggest you'll be too busy buying shoes to care about important stuff, or when they grope you in a club, call them out. We can embarrass it so much that the ground really does open up and swallow it whole.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Home for Christmas (& happy 1st birthday, ESS!)

It's not secret that I adore being at home. Deep and meaningful chats with my mum as we wander around the supermarket, squabbling over the correct way to pronounce "pear" and getting to watch the cogs turn in my sister's brain as she makes the tough decision between watching Made in Chelsea reruns or Big Bang Theory reruns. Who wouldn't love it?

As we've downsized houses this year, I don't technically have a bedroom anymore. Instead, Bethany has graciously lent me some floor space for my things and I tuck myself in at night on a mattress in an alcove in her room. It's not ideal, as being a twenty year old woman who has to cut her Bill Bryson reading short each night because her little sister has turned off the light at ten pm is a tad frustrating to say the least, but it's worth it. Full and unprecedented access to her wardrobe/make-up bag (as long as you're subtle and she doesn't notice), hell yeah.

When I've not been engaging in chase scenes with the dog, or discussing kidney removals with my stepdad, I've been catching up with my woefully neglected friends. Several bottles of wine and a hurtfully embarrassing game of bowling later, with plans for more hangovers in the immediate future already brewing, I've managed to squeeze in a little work too.

I've applied for a grad scheme, because that's what responsible student apparently do. I've also made several decorative but not necessarily useful revision posters. I've been back to York for some final pre-Christmas shifts, complete with extra stress to ensure the biggest relief on returning to Huddersfield. In short, it's been a busy, happy and welcomed week.

Walking Ralph, having a dance in Huddersfield with Liv, quality Nandos time with Beth

Happy birthday, EverySecondSong!
It's been a year to the day since Every Second Song was born. My little corner of the internet is a whole year old.

I never actually expected anyone other than my mum to ever read my blog, so it's pretty cool that I've had so many hits and won a real life internet award. It's so weird that I can bump into people in the shop or people I haven't seen in months, and they already know everything I've done because they read my blog. I've been introduced to people as "Every Second Song" before. I'm always subconsciously drafting my next post. It amazes me that people actually care that I'm liveblogging tidying my room, or my reviews of club nights or my opinions and attempts at humour. I'm looking forward to Year Two of Every Second Song already :)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Could you donate an organ?

It's been an important few weeks for us Yellies. Steve, my stepdad, has just undergone an operation removing his kidney. He's not ill, thank goodness, he's just decided to donate it. To a stranger.

Donating an organ to a stranger is a lengthy, costly and exhausting procedure. Steve has undergone around a year of medical tests to make sure his kidney is up to scratch, and that he's in a physical (and psychological) state strong enough to wave goodbye to an organ. He lost weight, took countless blood tests, fasted and cycled across west Yorkshire to get to hospital appointments.

The operation was a success, and he's now recovering in his onesie and a beanie hat at home for the next few weeks. He can't do anything too strenuous, his meds can make him ill, his appetite is off, and he can't drive or take the dog for a walk. Instead of feeling lighter, due to the absence of a hunk of meat inside of him, he is bloated from the things that have been pumped inside of him. He feels like a 'rearranged suitcase'.

It all seems a lot. Especially when you consider he has never met, and most likely never will meet the person who's receiving the spare organ. But he hasn't complained- even where he's had to cut out his beloved slice of bread before tea, or after an unpleasant stay in the hospital. He's saving someone's life, and that's enough for him.

I couldn't be prouder. He has no reason to voluntarily offer up his kidney, other than wanting to improve a life of a complete stranger. If you ever doubted altruism existed, then this would put you straight. Wanting no recognition or praise for his undoubtedly noble act, he's quite content shuffling around the house making Coke Floats, happy in the knowledge that somewhere, a person can continue to live because of him.

Could you donate an organ? I'm sure we'd all like to think we're dutifully to chop off limbs and spare bits to save a loved one in a desperate and unfortunate situation- but could you do it for a stranger?

It's quite easy to donate blood- safe in the knowledge that our hearts will be powering to replete our levels. Once you offer up something your body can't simply restock, it's a different story.

Steve is one of the first hundred people in the UK to donate to a stranger. The name for a living donor of organs is an "altruistic giver", and is spot on. Steve, and my family members, went to some lengths to ensure this donation would run smoothly. It's not always been a walk in the park, and there are considerable improvements to be made to the entire donation procedure. But somewhere in London, a young woman has been given a new lease of life. And that's the important thing.

Here is my virtual hat off, round of applause and tear of pride in my eye to Steve Yates.

If you fancy following in Steve's footsteps and handing over your spare kidney to someone who could really do with it, or if you're just interested in the process and people's motivations for altruistic giving, check out this amazing but small campaign: One's Enough. There's also a fascinating article on the rise of altruistic givers in The Guardian here.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Things to do while Facebook is down


Calm down, I have a plan.

  1. Go to sleep. It is twenty to twelve on a Monday, after all.
  2. Read something. Something that isn't your mum's mate complaining about the local council, and especially something that isn't that girl you barely know having a status update argument with someone you aren't friends with anyway. Like a book!
  3. You definitely have an essay due in, or something. You must have. 
  4. Comfort eat. Immediately raid the fridge. Doesn't matter if that massive block of chocolate is your flatmates, THIS IS A CRISIS.
  5. Blog about it. QUICK, BEFORE IT'S NOT RELEVANT.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

I say goodbye to my dread(ful)locks...

Once a year, my hair gets so long that I regularly chew it while trying to speak. At this point, most normal people would get it cut, but I'm usually too broke/indifferent to do this, so I tend to continue ignoring the increasingly knotted mass on top of my head until my face is almost wholly obscured.

Eventually, I accept defeat and book myself a hair appointment. Well, my mum usually tells me it's time for an overhaul and orders me to go and get it cut, for god's sake, and I find a hairdresser that doesn't look too intimidating/has a student discount and begrudgingly take a seat.

So, this Friday, horribly hungover from the Linguistic's Christmas meal wine (and cocktails, and Willow tequila), I headed into town to 3D Hair Design on the Shambles. It's been twelve long months since I got it done last (I'm the opposite of your stereotypical girly girl), and I really wasn't looking forward to this.

Because I never attend to my hair, going to a hairdressers makes me nervous. I don't feel particularly feminine enough, I get embarrassed because I don't understand the lingo (what does feathering even mean?)  and I have to admit that I don't use any hair care- of any kind, by any stretch of the imagination.

You could practically smell the shock registering when my hairdresser untied my locks out of the bun I'd stuck it in. "Wow, there really is a lot of it". Unsure of how to react to this, I just giggled nervously, then quietly apologised.

(My hair now, three "before" shots and the hairdresser's floor)

After some moments of recovery, she'd convinced me that the only way to make my hair healthy again is to reduce it from it's half-way-down-my-back length to just over my shoulders. Over an hour later, after a few more stunned comments about my hairs uncanny ability to knot when you weren't looking, and lopping off over half of my hair, we were done.

It's still a surprise to me that I can now carry a shoulder bag without trapping my hair painfully underneath the straps, or sleep in a bed without leaving an array of split ends behind. The shock of having such shorter hair (I know it doesn't look that dramatic, but it certainly feels it to me!) hasn't worn off just yet, but I actually quite like it. I might even go so far as to say I'm going to actually look after it from now on, though don't quote me on that.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Review: Rats' Tales (The Yorker Archives)

Ever feel like your childhood wasn’t traumatising enough? That’s because you didn’t get to see Rats' Tales at the age of seven. Ah- don’t be put off. This peculiar take of fairytales on stage is probably the best piece of theatre you will see this winter.

Carol Ann Duffy-of poet laureate and GCSE English Literature Syllabus fame- has dramatized The Pied Piper and other less famous children’s stories into a beautifully sinister and charming show. Using a cast of incredibly talented actors, two impressive musicians and a whole host of local school children dressed as rats, these traditional tales are brought to life in a way you weren’t quite expecting.

Each of the eight rats' tales retells a fairytale astonishingly. Including truly beautiful photography and excellent use of live music and floating televisions, the script is wonderfully lyrical at points- really charming and enchanting the audience.

Using stunning physical theatre, and utilising every aspect of their space (including the audience to hold up props); the in-the-round stage is the perfect setting, as rats and children appear from all corners, and the audience is delighted from all angles.

Perhaps too dark for younger children, the overarching theme of stolen childhood can be all too realistic at points. The blood on the hands of the parents clawing at mountain walls that their children have just disappeared into, courtesy of the Pied Piper’s little strop, for instance, might be a little much for the faint hearted.

Equally haunting as is it is delightful, writers and cast have balanced out the sinister nature and deeply emotional scenes with some light-hearted humour- use of song and the child troll being personal highlights- and some witty social commentary for good measure- another highlight being the politician’s use of "we’re a Big Society" to refuse payment to the Pied Piper.

One criticism I have of the show is the sometimes tenuous links between the separate stories. Each, in their own right, was equally spectacular and well performed, yet the general motif of rats weren’t as present as one might expect in a show called Rats' Tales. Saying that, the final story ties them all together, only feeling a touch last minute and perfectly performed.

The talent of the tiny cast cannot be overstated. As each actor played several different roles through the course of the show, we were really treated to a full set of the cast’s skills; from playing a sycophantic politician to a little lost boy or from playing a doll who turned into an oversized woman to a tap-dancing mule. This is one of the most creative and exciting pieces of theatre out there now.

Rats' Tales is at the Manchester Royal Exchange until 12th January 2013.

Originally published here

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Phone Fear

You know that weird little fear our generation seems to have about using the phone? Where you'd much rather deal with other humans via email than by using your voice, becoming a huge misanthrope every time you can hear the phone ringing, or getting a butterfly sensation right before you start dialling someone's number? Yeah, that.

Well, I reckon this little bit of nervousness is entirely justified. We're a generation who are so used to seeing the typed word rather than dealing with anonymous voices over a phone line. It's more natural for us to deal with strangers online. We've been doing it all our lives.

Don't believe this phenomena actually exists? Case in point: Dominos pizza have developed an app for iPhones. That's right folks, a company who functions on the basis of people phoning in to order pizza has produced an application to use- on a device originally intended for calling people- that bypasses actual human contact, so people can order pizza. Our phones are no longer being used to phone people. In fact, they're being explicitly used to not phone people.

So, we can all just accept the only reason people spend hundreds of pounds on smartphones is to play Angry Birds and never vocally speak to each other again- right? No, because the world is designed to intentionally spite us, and the art of phone calls is one that we pretty much have to master.

At my York Press work placement last week, I spent a lot of time on the phone. To primary school teachers, scientists, press offices. I had to get quotes from them for news items, find interesting points to dry stories, and in the case of the scientist, get her to explain her research in a way that even I, with my baffled expression and lost GCSE science certificate, could understand.

Luckily for me, I have a year of working at a restaurant under my belt. There's the guy who wants to book at table of thirty for a Saturday night and won't take "We're fully booked" for an answer, and the little old lady who forgot to turn on her hearing aid before she rang. I've fine tuned my phone voice out of pure necessity. You need to be bloody efficient when taking deposits for Christmas parties while you have two burning plates in your hands.

So you'd think with this splash of experience I'd be a bit less of a complete idiot when it came to phone interviews. Well, guess again, because for all my bravado and flourish when taking booking via phonecalls, my phone interview skills aren't quite up to scratch just yet.

On task to get a quote from two primary schools that were participating in Movemeber (the staff, obviously. Not some crazily developed year threes.), I genuinely asked a school receptionist whether she "liked moustaches". Her response was brutal. "I couldn't really care less about them love, do you need anything else?" Cue awkward silence and a mental note to prepare for phone interviews in the future.

Review: Stewart Francis

You might expect your 99th show would be a rushed affair, lacklustre with dreams of clocking off from the tour. Not for Stewart Francis, who excelled in his final show of his Outstanding In His Field tour.

His torrent of puns and one-liners saw laughter continuously rippling from the audience. With such an act, it can take varying lengths of time for audience members to catch the punchline, creating a lovely atmosphere of chuckles erupting from different seats as people piece together the joke.

Francis’s pace is brilliant – there’s just enough time in between his jokes for you to register what he’s said before the next punchline. If you don’t like one joke, another comes along straightaway.

His routine is full of clever witticisms – “People say fame has changed me, I used to be a self conscious waitress from Swindon” – and flows well. Even when he was heckled in the middle of an ironic listing of all the American presidents in order (no mean feat), he turned the heckle into a punchline.

He left the majority of audience participation to his warm-up act, the spritely Matt Rudge.

Naturally, there were lulls when Stewart’s jokes weren’t as well received as they could have been.His encore almost entirely relied on a comparison between rock stars and comedians that didn’t quite hit the mark, but Francis was extremely adept in snapping back the audience by pulling out some shocking jokes or groan-inducing puns.

The show was punchy, a just-right mix of snappy one-liners, terrible puns and clever irony that provided the audience with some great laughs and a few jokes to tell their mates when they got home.

Originally published in The York Press, 05/12/12.