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Pip Williams

Why Snape’s character makes me unsurprised about JK Rowling’s defence of Johnny Depp

Author:
johnny

By Pip Williams

Content note: Reference to domestic and sexual violence

Like much of my generation, the Harry Potter books were an intrinsic part of my childhood. The later films mapped alongside my own teenage years, with the final installment coming out the summer I began sixth form. I watched it in the cinema in Tasmania, and distinctly remember the guy in front of me gasping “no f***ing way!” when it was revealed that Harry was the final Horcrux.

It wasn’t until after the franchise reached its natural end (or so I then naïvely believed) that I began to see the gaping holes in my idyllic childhood favourites. Be it the lack of minority representation, or Rowling’s dodgy ret-cons attempting to correct them, there was plenty to raise an eyebrow at.

The one thing I could never get my head around was how Snape was meant to be a hero. How was I meant to buy into that redemption arc, when–despite eventually dying for the cause, Snape was an abusive bully? Snape treated Harry how he did purely because Harry bore a resemblance to his own father, who happened to bully Snape in school. As if being bullied in school is an excuse for becoming such a vile, vindictive adult human being. I don’t know about you, but “wanting to bone my mum so much that he kept on the straight and narrow” isn’t really a substitute for a moral compass.

The fact that Rowling’s story hinges around the dubious redemption of an abuser should perhaps have been a red flag when it came to her personal politics. Self-satisfied centrism notwithstanding. I’m talking about her miserable response to the tidal wave of fans calling for some accountability over the casting of a known abuser in her upcoming film.

Johnny Depp was cast in current Harry Potter universe franchise, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, before ex-wife Amber Heard accused him of domestic abuse, filming a brief cameo for the first film’s climax. Since Heard came forward, the calls for Depp’s role to be recast have been insistent and unwavering. The appeals to Rowling, a producer and screenwriter of the franchise, to explain how on earth his continued presence can be justified, have finally been answered, but not in the way most of us had hoped. Instead, Rowling issued a statement defending Depp’s role in the series.

Rowling’s statement is a sickening indictment of how deeply abuse apologism runs through the fabric of our society. We see one of the world’s most famous authors declaring that she is “genuinely happy” to retain a known abuser in her franchise, and that she believes she is doing “the right thing”. Like director David Yates, who claims Depp is “full of decency and kindness,” and states that allegations against him “[don’t] tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with,” Rowling seems to have mistaken a lack of abusive behaviour in her presence for proof of his innocence. Much like Snape’s questionable character arc, they hold up unrelated qualities as insistence that he was a good guy all along.

We’re not buying it.

The #MeToo movement is toppling the careers of sexually abusive men at every turn. We need to remember that this isn’t the only kind of abuser out there, and hold domestic abusers to the same level of account. Rowling might believe that “conscience isn’t governable by committee,” so it’s up to us to speak a language she and her team might consider worthy – cold hard cash.

I will not be paying to see the next instalment of Fantastic Beasts, and neither should you. It seems incredible that we have to teach the author of a series about love overcoming evil the basics here, but hopefully, if enough disappointed ex-fans boycott the movie, our message will get through.

There’s a reason I don’t have 100k for a housing deposit, and it’s not an £832 lottery ticket habit

Author:
fourrowhouses

By Pip Williams

I’m a Millennial, and your out of touch saving plans don’t reflect my lifestyle

Millennials – defined as the generation born between about 1980 and 2000 – are pretty much all adults now. When this September rolls around, the cohort of students hitting British universities will include students born in this millennium. Why is it, then, that adults from the generations before us still feel the need to patronise us with instructions on how to live our lives.

Earlier this week, London newspaper Evening Standard ran a video summarising how an estate agent named Strutt and Parker thinks millennials should change their lifestyle in order to save for a housing deposit. The “luxuries” we should all apparently be eschewing include:

  • A night out once a week, valued at £6000 per annum
  • Takeaways, valued at £2640 per annum
  • Phone upgrades, valued at £154 per annum
  • Lottery tickets, valued at £832 per annum
  • Ready-made salads and sandwiches, valued at £2576 per annum
  • Foreign city breaks, valued at £700 per annum

Vice did a pretty good breakdown of how ridiculous these costs are, but as a 23-year-old student living just outside London, I’d like to give you a rundown of how they compare to my life.

I’m a middle class student who does receive regular financial help from my parents alongside my maintenance loan, so in theory I should be one of the most comfortably off in my bracket. Let me tell you, my life doesn’t come anywhere close to Strutt and Parker’s figures. (For clarity, I’m excluding rent and regular utility payments from my budget calculations.)

Let’s start with that night once a week, apparently valued at £115.38 each time. First up, that alone costs more than my weekly budget. Secondly, I’ll add that I probably go on big nights out in London once a term, because of the cost of drinks. Thirdly, I’ll add that a big night out probably comes in at around a third of that cost for me – say £10 on travel and £30 maximum on club entries and drinks. If I got home and found myself over £100 out of pocket, I’d be furious and distraught. Anyone imagining that I’m doing that once a month, let alone once a week, must be sorely mistaken!

Now onto those pesky takeaways. £50.77 a week, is it? Coming in at over half my weekly budget, this figure feels similarly out of touch. My local takeaway’s minimum delivery is £16, and I usually struggle to make it up to that even ordering for myself and a housemate. Assuming that we split that cost between two of us, that’s £8 each. How often do we do that? Maybe once a month. We’re spending in a year what Strutt and Parker reckons we spend in 2 weeks.

I don’t have much to say about phone upgrades. I upgrade every 2 years and I’m on a fixed tariff contract so the price doesn’t change. Cutting out the upgrades would make my contract a little cheaper, sure, but it would also mean my phone would be pretty obsolete within a couple of years. Considering I’m in a long-distance relationship and don’t live near many of my friends, I’m labeling that one a necessary expense (for myself, at any rate).

To me, the estimated lottery ticket spending is the most absurd figure. I’m apparently meant to be spending 2 months-worth of my yearly budget on lottery tickets!? I don’t know anyone under the age of 60 who buys lottery tickets, let alone spends SIXTEEN BRITISH POUNDS A WEEK ON THEM.

Hang in there, we’re almost done. Just two more ridiculous claims to debunk. Apparently millenials are spending £49.36 a WEEK on ready-made sandwiches and salads. In my uni café, sandwiches cost about £2.50. Assuming I was buying lunch there every weekday, I’d be spending £12.50 a week. Even if I decided to splash out and go elsewhere for a bougie lil Pret flatbread every day, that would still only cost about £25 a week. As Joel Golby points out in the Vice piece, “the ingredients for sandwiches are not, despite your calculations, free, and once you’ve actually spent money on, say, bread and ham and cheese, you’re not actually vastly up on money you would have spent on just buying one at a shop anyway.

He makes a fair point. I usually do make my sandwiches at home, and I spend about £5 a week on the ingredients I need to do so. Subtract that cost from the £12.50 I could be spending on sandwiches in uni, and I’m saving a princely £7.50 a week. That does add up, I suppose, to £390 a year, but it’s still a far cry from Strutt and Parker’s calculation of £2576.

Onto the final point: foreign city breaks. This is something I do do when I have the time and money (so once a year, if I’m lucky). In the past two years, I have been to Budapest for four days and Berlin for six days. All expenses included – flights, accommodation, food, and spending money – Budapest cost me under £200. Berlin was more expensive, and I had a lot of financially-associated regrets as a result, but it was still under £400 in total. In two years, I still spent less than half of what Strutt and Parker would have expected me to. Holidays may be a luxury, but they’re something we all need from time to time, and cutting them out can have an extremely detrimental effect on our mental health. As Golby says, “I might have a house by the end of it, but I’ll also have a death wish.”

So, there we go. In overview, Strutt and Parker reckon their tips will save you £12902 a year. To put that in context, that’s almost double the disposable cash I have in that period. This is cash I need to feed myself, to buy clothes, to travel to see my girlfriend and my family, to buy cat litter.

The people telling millennials how to save are so devastatingly out of touch with the realities of our lives that their tips are utterly obsolete. There’s a reason we don’t have £100k for a housing deposit, and let me tell you, it’s not an £832 lottery ticket habit.

Five YouTube feminists to check out after unsubscribing from Laci Green

Author:
riley

By Pip Williams

Laci Green taught me a lot about my own body and sexuality when I had no one I could turn to in life. As a teenager at an all-girls boarding school, coming to terms with my bisexuality was difficult. The school servers blocked all content flagged as having explicit keywords, meaning I couldn’t access the most basic written resources about LGBT+ topics. In this instance, I turned to YouTube, where I found Green’s welcoming, inclusive Sex Plus series. Learning from her was a hell of a lot less embarrassing than trying to find answers from friends, parents, or the school library.

Green has messed up a few times in the past. Until recently, the self-appointed sex educator has been pretty good at kissing and making up with the online feminist community. 2017, however, is a whole different kettle of fish. Whilst still insistent that she’s a feminist, Green’s trajectory has taken her down a pretty concerning wormhole of “red-pilling” and transphobia.

As someone whose queer identity was shaped by Green’s cheerful sex positivity, seeing her parrot transphobic rhetoric on Twitter is hurtful at worst and embarrassing at best. I can only imagine how trans former fans are feeling.

To try and ease some of Green’s newfound grossness, here are some of my favourite YouTubers who cover sex, sexuality, and feminism. Hopefully some of them will be able to educate you in lieu of how Green educated me.

Riley J Dennis

Riley is the first person on this list for a variety of reasons. She’s an incredible trans YouTuber and feminist, but she’s also been the victim of a sustained online hate campaign. As a result, the amazing video linked below has a depressing thumbs down ratio. Ignore it. Riley breaks down the myth of “biological sex” in seven minutes, in an incredibly accurate and educational manner that takes into account the discrepancies in the usual chromosomes/genitals approach. Like, subscribe, and support this amazing creator and educator.

Marina Watanabe

Marina Watanabe’s “Feminist Friday” series tackles a massive bunch of topics, from cultural appropriation to racism, but on top of these videos Marina has in fact made a couple about Laci Green. These serve to outline the issues with Green’s recent changes of heart, and to provide constructive criticism in some of the areas she sees Green’s arguments falling down. They may be directed at one person, but there’s plenty in here the rest of us could do with paying attention to as well.

Stef Sanjati

Stef is the cool older sister everyone needs in their life. Talking candidly about her transition, her channel is a window into the daily life of a trans girl. She makes videos about all sorts of things, from makeup to dating to sex toys. In the video below, Stef chats with Chase Ross about their personal experiences as trans people having sex.

Ash Hardell

Niche questions about sex are often some of the hardest to find answers to elsewhere on the internet. Despite admitting to being uncomfortable talking about sex, Ash Hardell makes some great videos about it. This one, where Ash answers a bunch of questions about their own sexual experiences, touches on a lot of stuff I needed to hear, to know that my own experiences are totally normal – if different to those of the people around me. Ash’s channel has plenty more great stuff to offer along these, and many other lines – expect plenty of LGBT+ topics alongside personal vlogs.

Siv Greyson

Hailing from South Africa, Siv Greyson is a non-binary vlogger who makes videos covering all sorts of topics, plenty of which are approached from the viewpoint of an activist. Their video about sex addresses sexual safety and education in a culture where sex is considered taboo. It’s important to consider that the majority of resources shared and circulated regarding sex and sexuality come from US- or UK-centric viewpoints, and to uplift the voices of creators and educators from elsewhere in the world.

Ellen Jones

Recently recognised as Stonewall’s Young Campaigner of the year, Ellen Jones is a UK-based activist who makes videos about LGBT+ issues. If you want videos that feel like having a chat with a super well-informed friend, Ellen is your girl. She regularly hosts guests on her channel (with her Dad being a recurring star!), particularly in her LGBT+-centric “Queeries” series.

Bureaucracy and Bi-exclusion in the LGBT+ Community

Author:
The_bisexual_pride_flag_(3673713584)

By Pip Williams

Content note: biphobia, mentions of rape, stalking, and intimate partner violence

A tweet by bisexual women’s magazine Biscuit came to my attention earlier today, sharing parts of an email exchange between editor Libby, and organiser Patrick of London LGBT Pride.

Libby’s email politely points out Pride’s glaring omission; a bisexual marching group, and goes on to ask for the opportunity to register for this opportunity to be reopened. The part of Patrick’s response essentially dismisses Libby’s “demands”, suggesting that they will “tire [the] long-suffering Parade volunteers.”

Following my discovery of this tweet, I, and in turn many of my LGBT+ friends, engaged with London LGBT Pride’s Twitter account over the course of several hours.

Our exchange was, for the most part, unproductive. London LGBT Pride insisted that the responsibility for this oversight lies with the bisexual groups who failed to register before the event’s deadline, and refused to acknowledge that an exception ought to be made to allow at least one bisexual group to register, maintaining that this would constitute “special treatment”.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but first I’d like to address London LGBT Pride’s reliance on the excuse of bureaucracy to excuse their bi-exclusion. When the system is put in place by you, there’s no excuse for not modifying it when it’s shown to be ineffective or exclusionary.

It’s not unreasonable for LGBT Pride attendees to expect to see all groups mentioned in the acronym represented. An event that markets itself as LGBT pride is falsely advertising if it fails to deliver on this representation – L, G, B, and T. Something tells me that were only bisexual groups to have registered, the first-come-first-served policy might have been modified somewhat.

In a situation like this, where there is a complete absence of applications from a specific group, organisers would do well to consider the circumstances in which this has occurred. Applications to march at pride are not happening in a vacuum, and there are plenty of reasons why bisexuals might feel less than welcome.

Bisexual people, and particularly those in relationships read as heterosexual, are often regarded with suspicion on entry to explicitly queer spaces. This suspicion – which can often progress to outright hostility – is a major barrier to bisexual inclusion in community events. The validity of bisexual queerness is determined in relationship to a bisexual’s current partner. If they are in a relationship that does not appear visibly queer, they are immediately excluded.

http://moosopp.tumblr.com/post/119651915767/a-little-bi-furious-warglepuff-m4ge

If entering into a “heterosexual” partnership truly absolved bisexual people of all the disadvantages and marginalisation of a queer identity, the vitriol might be easier to understand. Alas, this is not the case. A 2010 study revealed that 61.1% of bisexual women, for example, have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. 89.5% of this violence was conducted by male partners. This means that 54.7% of bisexual women in the study had experienced violence at the hands of a male partner, compared to 35.0% of straight women.

It’s true that the marginalisation bisexual people face differs from that experienced by other members of the LGBT+ community, but that doesn’t make it any less real or important. The experiences of gay men and lesbians are not the benchmark by which the validity of LGBT+ experiences should be measured, and should not determine whether or not we are welcome within the community. After all, there’s a B in the acronym for a reason.

This lack of inclusion on a community level is probably a major factor in why no bisexual groups applied to march at London LGBT Pride. Conveniently, it also means that London LGBT Pride are unlikely to be held accountable for failing to rectify this, when what they ought to be doing is working to counter it. Outreach projects and a commitment to education of lesbian and gay groups to prevent bisexual exclusion would be a great place to start. Trying to pin the blame on the bisexual community is not an appropriate response. If bisexual people don’t feel welcome at your LGBT event, that’s a sign that something has gone very wrong indeed.

Neopronouns and clickbait

Author:
clickbait

By Pip Williams

Content note: transphobia

An article from notoriously poorly-edited and sensationalist student news outlet The Tab somehow wormed its way onto my Facebook timeline yesterday. The article was titled “Oxford University students allegedly told to use ‘ze’, not ‘he or she’ to stop transgender discrimination”, and, unsurprisingly, the comments were a transphobic mess.

In recent weeks, The Tab has taken to sharing content centring around non-binary trans identities. A video by non-binary activist and Newcastle University Student Union Marginalised Genders Officer Saffron Kershaw-Mee garnered comparisons to cancer and paedophilia, prompting them to pen a follow-up article to a similarly unsympathetic response.

The Tab isn’t the only news outlet to capitalise on transgender identities for outrage-inducing clickbait. In July, national newspaper The Telegraph published an article titled “Boarding school teachers told to address transgender pupils as ‘zie’ in guidance on gender neutral terminology”. Whilst I was unable to source the official guidance from the Boarding Schools Association, LGBT+ news outlet PinkNews spoke with Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the BSA, to ascertain that the guidance had been provided at the request of teachers.

In conversation with PinkNews, Thompson explains how teachers felt “in the dark” when addressing pupils with gender identities unfamiliar to them. Far from instructing staff to use ‘zie’, the guidance provided the pronouns as an example of a neopronoun likely to be unfamiliar to staff. Neopronouns such as ‘zie’ are modern personal pronouns used in place of gendered pronouns such as ‘she’ or the widely used gender-neutral ‘they’. Many have been developed through discussion in online trans and genderqueer communities. Lists of neopronouns (such as this one) are one of the most widely available resources explaining their use. As such, it’s unlikely that the average cisgender schoolteacher would be aware of their existence. The aim of including ‘zie’ in the BSA guidance was, therefore, to demonstrate its use, ensuring staff would feel comfortable employing it if requested by a student – certainly not to say that everyone should be addressed with neopronouns, ‘zie’ or otherwise!

As with the Oxford University case reported by The Tab, The Telegraph chose to insinuate forced usage of neopronouns for all students. In the age of the internet, we all know how clickbait works. These false insinuations were intended to generate outrage, clicks, and advertising revenue – at the expense of trans people’s dignity and respect, and as we can see, this is an all-too-common theme.

I believe that The Tab’s article has been either amended, or deleted and republished without comment, since the release of Oxford University SU’s statement on the use of gender neutral pronouns proved several points incorrect. The statement outlines how “There is [a] possibility that our work and remit has been confused with the work of the wider University, whose Trans Policy and guidance does include a mention of neopronouns (pronoun sets like ‘ze/hir’, ‘ey/em/eirs’).” Again we see guidance on the usage of neopronouns in the context of trans equality exaggerated to the point of compulsory blanket usage.

The Tab article states – in a convoluted fashion – that “Claims were allegedly made in a leaflet given out by the SU says [sic] that deliberately using the wrong pronoun for a transgender person is an offence under the university’s code of behaviour”. Whilst we have established that the leaflets in question probably did not exist – at least not in any association with the Oxford University SU – this is a pretty standard anti-harassment guideline to promote trans equality in the student body. Sensationalising it in the news doesn’t change that most universities do (and should!) enshrine protection for trans students in their code of conduct.

I would also like to briefly touch on how the Telegraph’s headline stated that staff were “told to address transgender pupils as ‘zie’”. Whilst neither the BSA nor Oxford University SU were demanding the blanket use of neopronouns, it’s worth noting why this is a harmful concept in itself, particularly in the case of transgender students. For binary transgender individuals (i.e. trans men or women), using a neopronoun such as ‘zie’ in place of the gendered pronouns (e.g. she or he) they have requested is as much misgendering them as using the incorrect gendered pronoun. Whilst I would encourage people to use neutral pronouns on initially meeting someone (‘they’ is most common), it is important to be open to correction and respect people’s correct pronouns.

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