Sunday, 12 June 2011

slutwalk and other issues

For London's slutwalk yesterday I donned mondrian-inspired tights, boots and a skirt that was above the knee but probably wouldn't worry the elderly.

To make it clear to the woefully uninformed: Slutwalk is an international campaign to end 'slut-shaming' - the idea that women should be judged morally for the way that they dress, particularly in rape cases where the girl's dress or alcohol consumption continues to be a factor in the investigation.

In the festering depths of online "comment" boxes, I keep finding morons who conflate rape with sex, or imply abusive relationships don't exist, or argue that women should cover themselves up to avoid being targeted. This last view is quite insulting to rapists, I feel, by implying that rapists are passive objects with no ability to think or make decisions for themselves.

[*Deep breath*] The internet can be a hunting-ground for trolls, amplifying their views at the expense of sane people.

All this said, I like to think that most rape fears are irrational and I really can go out without worrying. 'Just a bit of liberation-affirming fun!' I thought, 'the objectification of women can't be that huge a problem in this day and age.'

So I left the house, and it was sod's law that before my skirt and I had reached the railway bridge a tall, middle-aged man got out of a van in front of me. The street was quiet.

'You came this way before.' he informed me, his face set. 'I'd recognise those tights anywhere.'

Wurgh. Look at the ground, walk faster.

Thank you, stranger, for shattering my happy illusions…

The march itself was a bit like a carnival. There were thousands of us, including a pleasing number of men. "Yes means yes and no means no" was the rallying-cry widely quoted in the press, but I was happiest shouting "Hey (hey!) / mister (mister!) / get your hands / off my sister!" like a loveable street urchin.

There were rousing speeches, rather too many in fact, some of which I recorded and might attempt to put online. The high point of my day was finding out about this organisation:

London Sex Workers Open University

It's simply comforting that it exists.

In other news…

I've been revisiting the subject of veterans in prison today, so phoned a contact who has been trying to support carers to those suffering from depression, PTSD and the like.

She estimates she's counseled 260 people in the past month, who are finding her by word of mouth as a (completely unpaid) line of support.

Her own son, when he got into the army, had learning difficulties - which made him much younger than his age, she said, but that wasn't fully acknowledged. He was sent to the front line, developed erratic behaviour and an alcohol problem. He still drinks a lot and is in and out of prison when he does.

"He changed completely. People try to comfort me by saying he's at the less serious end of offending. I would rather he wasn't offending at all," she says. "The things my son has to deal with from the police. Being tasered if he refuses to strip naked. Being put on suicide watch."

Ultimately she wants to launch a charity for soldiers with complex problems. "Alongside the red poppies I also want blue poppies, for the abandoned ones," she said. "Blue for depression."

A sombre note to end on, but some are.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Poppy; Perlin; print journalism

Hello there, it's been more than a month hasn't it…

First things first

Did you know the Poppy Project, which gives shelter to trafficked women, is under threat because its funding has been cut? This is almost as worrying to me as Mark Townsend's piece about the lack of protection for trafficked children.

As it happens, I know a woman who was trafficked. I didn't remotely suspect it, but one day she admitted to me that she couldn't read English - she looked upset. I offered her reading lessons and in the course of an evening she told me her history.

She'd been packed around the world from Thailand, confined for nine years with other domestics. It was bad in New Zealand, she said, but it was much worse in Britain.

Because once they were in England, they weren't allowed to do their own shopping - they were hidden in a house, forbidden from going out. Sometimes they were only given floor cleaning products to wash themselves with. The men in charge were cruel. They had her passport and her papers; they used these things to control her.

She escaped, eventually, when a woman befriended her from the outside, but she still feels trapped sometimes and she still knows when snake-head gangs are nearby - she can feel it.

She gave me two huge servings of roast chicken, a hug and showed me how to write words in Thai.

Save Poppy.

And as to me…

I'm up to my elbows in job applications, helping out Eat Me food and culture magazine and blogging for Totally Money dot com, a handy little part-timer. Here's one entry I'm particularly pleased with:

Tips on surviving unpaid internships.

I've picked up a copy of Jilted Generation and am looking forward to reading it… I've also become a fan of Ross Perlin having seen him speak at Hackney Pages on Tuesday.  Intern Nation's the obvious thing to check out by him, but I also rate this piece he did last year for Lapham's quarterly, Riding the Godless Express:
For the atheist pilgrim there are no shrines, no temples, and no holy relics. He might glimpse a godless Genesis in the suburbs of Geneva, where particles race and clash in the tunnels of the Hadron Collider. The Great Rift Valley might feel like coming home, if he knew where to look. Perhaps he could visit the shores of Libya, where Theodorus the Atheist first challenged Zeus—or the German town of Naumburg, where Nietzsche took the pulse of God and found it stopped…
Quite poetic, isn't it.

Time for a random picture:
(Mmm, chocolate)

Besides writing about internships, and how to have cheap fun in London, I've mostly been writing about food. :) See Issue 5 of Eat Me food and culture magazine. It's very good. You should buy it online or in WHSmith for £4:


I particularly enjoyed the cover interview with Ainsley Harriott, a man as warm as he is tall.

I would also like to thank these people for stellar work:

Photographers
Alexander Missen, Reynaldo Ortiz, Lauren Mclean and Oscar May

Writers
Timothy Franklin, Sam Kinchin-Smith, Sam Bompas, Florence Hillier, Dominique Hopgood

Artists
Juliana Wang, Lydia Crook


On a final note

It's a strange, unsettling world. China's prisons are being used for MMO gold farming.

Here's something my dad spotted last month when he went out shopping: