Let’s talk about the appropriation of the working classes.

First of all, I want to define what appropriation is. Normally it’s used in a racial context, and this article here sums up why people need to be so aware of oppression in our culture:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/09/cultural-exchange-and-cultural-appropriation/

For the sake of this argument, I would adopt that description, with the view that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are also socially, politically, and economically oppressed.

Next, I want to look at what’s happened politically in the UK recently. People were disillusioned with Labour; then they became disillusioned with the Lib Dems and then the Conservatives, so now there is a surge in people voting for UKIP and the Greens. And I largely think that’s good; anything that motivates people to care about issues is good. This has also motivated politicians to respond, not least because a large chunk of the new UKIP supporters are either far right former BNP voters (normally working class), or Labour voters who are fed up with a seemingly ineffective government and want someone who seems to put their priorities first (also a working class demographic). As this has lit a rocket under the backsides of the existing parties in this direction, there is suddenly a mad surge to try to rally the troops and get the working class vote back – from all parties.

Now traditionally the image is of Labour being the party for this demographic. They have always responded to the needs of the working class, and despite Ed Miliband’s move away from the trade union links their policies generally try to cater towards this group. A summary of why they’re having a nightmare doing so in general is found here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11255932/Labours-problems-with-the-working-class-go-beyond-Ed-Miliband-and-Emily-Thornberry.html

but also it’s worth noting that because they already catered to the working classes and were losing their vote, they’re now trying to copy what successful groups are doing – i.e. UKIP – i.e. scapegoating immigrants.

The Lib Dems were counting on the student vote before the last election, which they spectacularly managed to lose with the tuition fee situation. I’m amazed anyone can even take them seriously as a party so I’m not going to say any more there really.

The Conservatives however have really outdone themselves this time.

After the Emily Thornberry situation (Labour politician who mocked a house with a white van and St George’s flag), Boris Johnson put something on social media about how Labour are out of touch with the working classes. Like a Tory politician from Eton (any of them, take your pick) really understands me and what I think. Note: having a pint and some chips does not mean you understand a socio-economic segment.

What offends me about this whole scenario, is not that everyone is spouting misguided policies and damaging lies, I’ve come to expect that from UK politics. It’s that everyone has suddenly realised the working classes CARE, and are having a say, and it’s really scaring them, so they’re going for pints in pubs and scapegoating immigrants and praising white van drivers in such a patronising way then wondering why they aren’t getting thousands of new supporters.

The working class is suddenly the place to be, like when Pulp sang “you want to do whatever common people do, because you thing that poor is cool”. Regardless of any issues around gentrification which I’m not even touching on, the fact is that taking a whole group of people and pretending to care about their issues is absolutely appalling if, as I would assume of many of these parties, you aren’t going to then actually cater to their best interests when it comes to it.

I’m not claiming that just because someone went to a state school and works full time they can’t make an informed decision on who to vote for, or else well how would I ever manage to vote. I’m claiming that that is what these politicians seem to think, and they’re adopting superfluous symbols of this culture, symbols that denote survival, or community, or tradition, or just something a group of people likes that another traditionally doesn’t, and they’re trying their hardest to identify with it but without ever straying from being a white, male, Eton-educated Cambridge graduate.

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Why the anti-feminist movement can be viewed as a positive thing

There has been a lot of tension recently around the word “feminism”, ranging from celebrities disagreeing on whether to identify as one in public to various whiteboard campaigns with students outlining why they are or are absolutely not a feminist. The word has become divisive, and if you exclude anyone with particularly unpleasant views, the divide is between the line of “equality” and “feminism”. I’m not going to argue that viewpoint at all here by the way; I just want to look at this divide.

Disclaimer: I am 100% a feminist. I believe firmly in equality for people of all genders and none, it just so happens I believe feminism is the way to do that. As long as you want the same thing, I can probably be your friend, and if you don’t want that and that’s why you’re anti-feminist, well this post isn’t really for you at all, go away.
What this post is for is for feminists who are becoming downhearted by how many powerful, independent women are loudly proclaiming that they aren’t a feminist.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am under no delusions. Every time someone says they don’t need feminism, not only are they hurting themselves but they’re hurting the whole feminist movement, as the only way we can move towards equality is by working together.
However, rather than sighing and feeling a little bit more crushed every time someone declares this, I try to remember a few things:

  1.  You need a lot of people to support a movement to have something so public against it.
    5 years ago, there would have been nothing like this, no one would have taken a photo with a caption saying why they aren’t a feminist, because very few people were saying that they were. The explosion of third wave feminism over the last few years (possibly thanks to the power of social media, but that’s another discussion) is only exemplified by this push back.
  2. The fact that so many girls firmly believe there is nothing stopping them from getting to the top is fantastic. There are girls who refuse to identify as feminists, because they think there are bigger issues for people of any gender identity and they don’t feel particularly oppressed compared to others. While my personal view is that too many people are socially conditioned to just not see how they are oppressed, I still think this is a massive step forward. 50 years ago women wouldn’t have imagined reaching their full potential; even the belief now that they can, regardless of whether there are invisible barriers that I believe they aren’t able to see, is something to be celebrated.
  3. Every time someone posts about not being a feminist, there is immediately a barrage of responses from people outlining why they are. The feminist movement pushes back for empowered women with more and more strength every time this happens, which leads onto my final point:
  4. Anything that opens a discussion about feminism and equality is only a good thing. Yes it’s frustrating when someone says they aren’t a feminist because they believe in something that is a fundamentally feminist viewpoint, but every time they put their unique, valuable voice out there it creates a dialogue, a space for people to reply with why they are a feminist, or for people to read it and disagree, or in the case of anti-equality posts, to become enraged enough to do something about it. Anything that generates more conversation around feminism and equality can only be a good thing, provided it doesn’t generate hate.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if women and allies all around the world could get up and unite behind one cause. But I’d love it if any oppressed community and allies could do the same. I’d love it if there was absolutely no need to. I’d love it if we could all just get along and bake a cake out of rainbows, or whatever the quote is.
What I’ve got, however, is a world where not everyone identifies as a feminist, and for the time being, that’s what we’re stuck with. Hopefully remembering things like this can help you keep going and help anyone who wants any kind of equality to keep working towards something positive.

7 things about moving to a new country that Buzzfeed doesn’t tell you

September-October is always a fairly hectic time of year for anyone still in school, and a lot of people in the world of work as well, depending on your industry. Whether you’re starting university or college, starting at a new school, or just starting a new year (and have obviously redefined your whole wardrobe and ergo persona), it’s exciting and a little bit scary each time it rolls around.

It’s also the start of the academic year around most of the world, so anyone starting any kind of study abroad or year abroad scheme will leave either over the summer or at the latest, September.
There are a million pages online, showing gifs of Emma Stone drinking wine and girls taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, telling you how you’ll get the travel bug and you’ll miss food from home and living in a country improves your grasp of the language so much. Everyone will tell you before you leave how you’re going to have the best experience of your life, and everyone coming back from their year abroad will lecture you on how everyone should have to do it and you should make the most of every minute.

And they’re right! I’m not going to bemoan what is an incredible experience, and which, thanks to educational links and funding and people wanting native English speaking interns, is more and more accessible to young people.
I am however going to be a little bit more open about it, and how it can feel at first. That way, I hope that if you’re starting a year abroad and aren’t having the absolute best most amazing time of your life just yet…you know that that’s OK for now 🙂

  1. You will miss the most bizarre things.
    This one shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Some people miss certain types of food; some people will cry out that they miss their cat more than their parents. You might miss the weather, even if you move from Seattle to Spain, it’s amazing how homely rain can be. I missed the architecture. I love the architecture of where I am, it’s really interesting and beautiful, but I still think about buildings at home and how totally different they are, and it makes me a bit homesick sometimes.
  2. Learning a language is not something that instantly happens when you move.
    I always assumed that immersing myself in a country that spoke the language I was learning would be a guaranteed way to become fluent. Surely if you’re surrounded by it for a year, you’d have to walk around with your ears switched off not to become fluent?!
Not necessarily. You still have to focus and pay attention just as much as you did in class, though you learn about a million times quicker, which helps. I also found the best thing to do was to ask native speakers to correct me if I made mistakes. I feel embarrassed and a bit gutted when they do correct me, but I know that it’s helping in the long run!
  3. The language you learnt in school is almost no use.
    Obviously this isn’t too much of a surprise, because textbook languages aren’t what is generally spoken. You don’t study slang or incorrect grammar or intonation, but even worse is the vocab and topics. I learnt how to talk about the environment and nuclear energy and drug addiction – then came abroad and had to work out how to open a bank account and pay the gas bill. It’s a totally different style of language, and this is the only way to learn it, but you will be totally in the deep end!
  4. Culture shock is a very real thing.
    I kind of assumed that as I wasn’t going anywhere outrageously different, the people and the culture would be the same. I don’t know what I thought of as “culture”, but you will be faced every day with so many tiny things that stand out as different. Whether it’s how people act on the bus, the basic foodstuffs that are (or aren’t!) in the supermarket, or the hours people keep – e.g. shops closing early or not being open on the weekend, or people starting their nights out a lot later. It takes a long time to get used to them, and just when you think you’re settled, you get thrown all over again.
  5. People aren’t always overwhelmingly grateful that you’re learning their language.
    
This is a bit pessimistic. I was always told to at least make an effort, and not be the stereotypical English speaker who hasn’t learnt anything. And it’s true – people do like that I’m not that, and that I am trying. Especially in shops and bars. But I also have been repeatedly asked why have I learnt another language? Everyone speaks English, I could be spending my time gaining another skill, why would I bother?! It can be a bit demotivating to be told you’re wasting your time, especially when everyone around you just wants to practice their English to you but speak in their own language to their friends. This leads onto the next point
  6. Not understanding what’s going on is tough.
    Depending on where you are, people probably speak their own language pretty damn quickly. It can take a long time to even be able to understand everything that’s going on, and no matter how much people will make an effort to include you and speak slowly and repeat things in English, when they go back to passing comments or bits of conversation with friends in their own language, you might be totally lost again. And that’s really difficult, to feel like you can’t quite get in there with a group of people because you can’t fully join in with their conversation.
  7. At first, it will be incredibly, incredibly lonely.
    This is the part where I think saying a year abroad is for everyone isn’t necessarily true. I moved to another country alone, where I didn’t know anyone. I had an internship lined up and had to find somewhere to live and then I spent my first weekend sat in on my own because I knew no one around. It’s not like when you move to university or college and everyone is in the same boat and going out together; it’s not like starting at a new school where people know how to react to you and you can find the people you’re like. In a new country with a new culture, it really does take a lot of time to find your place. I can say now I have a few really great groups of friends, but at first I had no one, and it always takes a while to build up those relationships, and that period was a time when I really had to push myself and not get too down.

As I’ve said, all of these things are totally normal and most of them will pass. Especially the loneliness, and to an extent, eventually, the language barrier. But it’s worth remembering, when you’re feeling exhausted at the end of the week and you’re struggling to understand the conversation in the bar and you don’t even know why you’re trying to learn this language, that I promise you, it is totally worth it, you will look back on it as one of the best years of your life.