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We can’t keep denying Hurricane Harvey’s link to climate change

Author:
harvey

By Issy McConville

In a moment that could have been plucked directly from a TV satire, US President Donald Trump complimented the large ‘turnout’ of a crowd of Texans recently devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Insensitive as he may be, Trump was pointing to a certain truth about the scale of Hurricane Harvey’s impact. With over 40,000 people displaced and a rising death toll, the cost of damages is predicted to be higher even than Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which had a cost of over $100 billion.

Only 12 years ago, after the Gulf Coast was rocked by Hurricane Katrina, George Bush promised hope anew for Louisiana, and vowed, ‘This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. We’re going to review every action and make necessary changes so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature or act of evil men that could threaten our people.’ But what lessons have we really learned?

Hurricane Harvey, like Katrina, was an unpredictable natural disaster, but it would be foolish to ignore the human impact that exacerbated their impacts. Rising global temperatures, in large part due to greenhouse gas emissions, have contributed to rising sea levels and creates more intense storms. In the Gulf Coast region, the government and the oil industry have put a strain on the unique environment, helping to strip the land of its natural ability to withstand such storms. The course of the Mississippi river has for years been directed by man-made levees, and a series of canals have been dug in for the purpose of extracting gas and oil, both actions which mean the river no longer deposits sediment like it used to, which forms the basis of much of the land cities like New Orleans and Houston are built on.

Back in 2005, politicians denied climate change, and they continue to do so today. In Texas, which must now completely rebuild many communities, and repair billions of dollars worth of infrastructure, four of its leading politicians, including Republican Senator Ted Cruz, have expressed doubt that climate change is happening at all. From muted skepticism to almost incredulous denial – see right-wing pundit Ann Coulter who suggested on Twitter God’s revenge for the election of a lesbian politician was a more rational explanation for Hurricane Harvey than climate change – the balance of power belongs to those who deny climate change. In his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump has signalled a complete disregard for environmental policy, such as signing an Executive Order to undo Obama’s Clean Air Act which would limit greenhouse gas emissions, and withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement. Ironically, only 2 weeks before Hurricane Harvey, Trump did away with another Obama-era policy, which required federally-funded projects to utilise climate science and assess the flood risk of potential construction.

Alongside the tragedy, we have seen outpourings of support and humanity, from fellow Texans rescuing their neighbours to thousands of charitable donations. But this is not enough. We cannot afford to simply react to crises, we must try to prevent them from happening again – and this means accepting the reality of climate change. Hurricane Harvey may have been an act of nature, but it was our hands that tipped the balance. This time, let’s really learn, and push our governments towards climate policies that will protect our future.

Loving every inch

Author:
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By Issy McConville

We all know the feeling. It’s that sigh when catching a glimpse of our reflection in a passing window; it’s the hasty jerk between towel and T-shirt in the communal changing area; it’s the quiet relief that the one-piece has returned to fashion, with it’s forgiving lycra compression. Our stomachs are the centre of our bodies, but so often, they are so hard to love.

We are so quick to punish ourselves for failing to be visually perfect. How many of us have looked down at ourselves and felt disappointed, or have been filled with dread at the prospect of fumbling around in a hot changing room and trying on a series of unflattering bikinis? Recently, our fixation on the flat when it comes to our stomachs is not only an aesthetic pursuit, but has been infused with a sense of morality. ‘Wellness eating’ has seen a staggering rise, with sugar and processed carbohydrates dethroning calories as the ultimate sins. Instead we are encouraged to nourish our bodies with healthy alternatives – threading vegetables into noodles, or mashing avocado into cake. Everything we know about food turns out to be wrong – comfort food is out, white pasta is criminal, and gluten is a food source forged in the fiery furnaces of hell. But who are we listening to when we refuse the dessert menu, or sidestep the potato aisle at the supermarket? Is it our own body? Or are we behaving as we think we ‘should’?

I, for one, am tired of punishing myself for the inches. I will no longer look at my belly as a symbol of weakness, of a lack of a self control – but as an expression of my joy in life. It is the pastries I ate fresh from the bakery in France; the beers I drank in a sunny beer garden with friends; it’s when my boyfriend drove all around the city to find the best place for me to try my first cinnamon roll. He and I often joke that all we ever do on holiday is eat – but this is our discovery – our experience of life through all of our senses. One of my happiest memories is when we were in Berlin, and it was so cold and we were so tired, but we took a walk from our hostel and came across a tiny Italian restaurant where they served giant bowls of pasta on checkered tablecloths. It’s a special human trait that we eat for pleasure, not just for survival. Food is at the heart of family, of culture, of friendship. And too often we deny ourselves the simple pleasure of eating what we want when we want it. Sometimes, it really is best to just sit down with a giant plate of carbs with someone you love, and eat.

In the final rays of summer, let’s see the inches of our stomach not as an end goal, but as an expression of our life. Put on a bikini and show your belly with pride. Let every bit of your skin feel the Vitamin D. Say, today I am here on the earth and I am going to savour it – every inch.

This is what understanding consent looks like

Author:
knob

By Issy McConville

Trigger warning: sexual assault/rape

“This is not what a rapist looks like” . So claims the writer of a controversial Tab article, proudly displaying this sign at his chest; proudly claiming that consent classes are a waste of time, a muscle-flexing exercise of the feminist PC brigade, who cannot understand that not all men have rapist tendencies lurking beneath the surface. So then, what does a rapist look like? Is the image that of a shadowy figure lurking down an alleyway, an image that makes so many women walk home at night with keys between their fingers? Is the image that of the sleazy older man grooming younger girls on the internet? Or is it something even worse?

In the UK, almost 90% of rape victims know the perpetrator prior to the offence (statistics from Rape Crisis). Martial rape was only criminalised in the UK in 1991, and in many countries it retains legal immunity. More often that not, sexual abuse comes from someone the victim loves, someone they trust. And this is why consent classes are so important. We need to challenge the myths surrounding abuse that paint it as a violent aberration from a twisted stranger, and recognise that it often occurs much closer to home.

It is easy to understand the basic premise of consent – ‘Yes means yes and no means no’, but this question needs to be asked every single time we have sex – whether that be for the first time or the hundredth time. “Guaranteed sex” is an often trotted out reason for relationships, especially among teenagers, but there is no such thing as entitlement to sex. Establishing consent, and ensuring that it is enthusiastic consent, is just an important inside a relationship as outside one. And if you are saying yes to sex just because you don’t want to cause an argument, because you feel like you ‘should’, then something is wrong. If someone you love is fixated on your sexual behaviour, telling you that should not go to that party; that you cannot wear that skirt in front of other men; that you are a slut, and yet asking you for sex, then there is so much more behind a simple ‘yes’.

And no wonder the notion of consent within a relationship gets so blurry – women are constantly bombarded with different opinions about their sexual behaviour – you are a slut if you’re having sex outside of a relationship, and frigid if you aren’t. Glossy women’s magazines help pedal the idea that a woman should be a complete freak between the sheets, but then we are told that you should only be sexy for your boyfriend. Any hint of previous sexual partners is something to be ashamed of, something that makes a woman somehow less ‘girlfriend material’. How is it possible to fulfil the expectation to be both innocently virginal and full of wild sexual abandon at the same time?

These attitudes towards female sexuality are encouraging cycles of abuse. We need to change how we understand consent, because it means so more than we think. It is not just about one night stands, it is about love and about relationships – and we could all benefit from taking a class.

Innocent until proven guilty? The case of Kesha

Author:
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By Issy McConville

TW Over the last couple of days, the #FreedomForKesha hashtag has seen an outpouring of support for the singer, who is currently embroiled in a legal battle against her producer, Dr. Luke, on the grounds of sexual assault. However, it has been almost a full year since Kesha first brought the charges; a year which has seen her disappear from the public eye, whilst Dr. Luke continues to produce records, finding success with artists such as Usher and Nicki Minaj in the past year. Kesha also named Sony in the case, claiming the label knew of her abuse, but turned a blind eye for almost 10 years.

Sadly, at this point, it is likely that Kesha’s career will never recover, simply because she decided to speak out against her abuser, and about the industry which was implicit. The silencing of Kesha’s voice, and the destruction of her career, is a telling reflection of the inherent misogyny of the music industry, and of society as a whole.

Comment pieces about the case have continued to appear on my Facebook timeline. Scrolling through the comments section – I should perhaps have learned by now that this will be nothing but trouble – I happen upon comments such as ‘there is no detail of the supposed rape, just a load of feminist garbage’ and continued calls for Dr Luke to be, ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Yes, of course, innocent until proven guilty, this is a fundamental human right – but tends to be a luxury that is only afforded to the accused.

While Kesha’s career has ground to a halt, Dr. Luke is continuing to work. While Kesha’s claims are being cross examined by the public, and being blamed for crying wolf with a false accusation, Dr. Luke continues to dominate in the music industry with no retribution. And this is a pattern which is being replayed all over the world. According to statistics from RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network, recorded here – https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates) only around 2% of rape claims are proven to be false, and in fact, only a little more than 30% of rapes are ever reported to authorities. Dispute the accuracy of these figures all you want – there is a clear discrepancy between actual false rape claims and the amount that are derided as being such.

However, the ideology of victim blaming continues. We live in a world which shames a woman for daring to speak out against an abuser but makes excuses for the man until the very last minute. Just look at problematic photographer Terry Richardson. Countless models have made claims of sexual abuse and an abuse of his power, and yet he continues to work with the biggest celebrities and be popular in the public eye. We just aren’t interested in hearing about his misdemeanours, much like those of Dr. Luke. In this case, perhaps Dr. Luke is innocent. But, as he was also named as possibly being the abuser of Lady Gaga, perhaps not. Irregardless, Kesha’s experience is just one of countless similar stories that reveal the narrative of victim blaming that exists. Kesha may have sacrificed her career to name her abuser. And until we stop believing that every rape claim is false, we play into the hands of the abusers, and allow that 70% of rapes to still go unreported.

Some thoughts on safe spaces

Author:
reform

By Issy McConville

You know that scene in ‘About A Boy’, where Hugh Grant turns up to the ‘Single Mothers Alone Together’ meeting in order to meet women, despite not being a woman himself, or even a parent at all? The audience is like  – Hugh! What are you doing there! That is so bad! If you recognise that it is wrong for Hugh Grant’s character to sneak into a women’s support group with underhand motives, then you are understanding the basic concept of a ‘safe space’. A safe space is (more…)

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