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Happy Playland webseries review

Author:
happy playland

By Anna Hill

Do you like musicals? And stories that centre women loving women? Then oh boy is this the webseries for you!! Made by the incredible Candle Wasters who have also made great and queer inclusive adaptations of the Shakespeare plays A Midsummer Nights Dream, as BRIGHT SUMMER NIGHT, Much Ado About Nothing as Nothing Much To Do and Love’s Labour Lost as Lovely Little Losers. Their latest creation is the brightest and most charming of them all!

Happy Playland is the story of 3 people (Billie, Cris & Zara) who work at a children’s play gym – one of those ones you might have played in as a child; with a ball pit and obstacle courses and climbing nets. The story is told in multiple ways – from social networks outside of youtube (namely Cris’ Instagram) as well as within the episodes themselves. Sometimes we glimpse Billie’s internal monologue, or her dream. In another episode Cris is on skype but she’s present within the shot and it works really well – Cris even has a whole song in another episode where she orchestrates some romantic entanglements and narrates them, dancing the whole time. The webseries also shows a really sensitive and accurate representation of what anxiety looks like for some people, which was a bittersweet surprise!

For someone who is interested in arts I found a lot that reflected my experience in terms of chasing my own dreams. I am currently part of an art collective, so when Billie says her parents said that “anything with the word collective in it wasn’t a real job” it hit pretty close to home! How do you “follow your dreams” without losing people you love? And the discussion of success and anxiety was really pertinent too – the idea that you have to “be successful to make it worth it” has made me consider how I approach my own artistic success (whatever that means!).

The characters are so enjoyable to watch and the dialogue is funny and relatable. Zara and Billie are a lot more fleshed out than Cris but in some ways that’s refreshing because Cris is the token straight character in the series. She’s helpful in furthering the development of the two queer women together and is also some comedic relief – mimicking the way that queer characters are often used (and dehumanised!) in mainstream plots.

The aesthetics of the show are super fun! A riot of colours! With each character loosely wearing one of the primary colours (so Billie is yellow, Zara is red and Cris is blue), the clothing and colours make the whole show even more alive and vibrant (plus I have fringe envy over Billie’s cool punk pink/black hair).

The music in the show is melodic and varied and there are some really intense moments that show how talented everyone involved is! The harmonies are really great and the lyrics are generally painfully relatable and/or funny. You can listen to the music here. My favourite songs I think are I’ll Be Here and For Once and also maybe Stop and Think!! (this is hard, they are all so good and fun)

One of my favourite lines comes from Zara: “she talks in all lowercase letters, do you know how sexy that is? that’s like the modern day equivalent of Marilyn Monroe breathing too much when she talks”. This show was probably made for me – a lowercase writer, a queer femme musical lover; its so incredibly awkward and enjoyable (I think lots of us will have felt like the “stakes are too high forgotten how to flirt”). The bittersweetness of the way it represents relationships is what has brought me back to it to watch over and over again.

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.

Fractured Families: A Review of The Green Road

Author:
the green road

By Anna Hill

Content note – brief mention of: death, bi erasure, aids, white saviourism, physical abuse and childhood neglect and abuse

If The Green Road by Anne Enright had not been shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction I wouldn’t have picked it up. The novel is set in the west of Ireland and follows Rosaleen Madigan and her grown and growing up children. The four children: Emmett, Dan, Hanna and Constance start the narrative in various places and states of growing up (Hanna is 8 in the first chapter) – from Dan in New York during the aids crisis to Constance in a hospital in Limerick in 1997.

The Green Road is also about the way families work; the way that we misunderstand and create images of our relatives in our heads. It’s about the gaps between people, between recognition, the space between cliffs and words and darkness of waiting – for say a play to start, or for people to die or be cured. There is so much expecting that everyone is disappointed. The novel is also about what being a mother means; what having children does to you and your life and how that might negatively and positively affect your perspective. Enright offers us some different versions of motherhood, from Rosaleen who is dramatic and difficult to Constance who finds her children comforting and safe, to Hanna who is erratic and messy.

As an opening Hanna’s chapter is beautifully crafted and unlike the messy whirlwind that she epitomizes, or the “dirty protest” of her behavior and life – it is intricate and detailed. The observations Hanna makes as an eight year old girl learning about death and growth are captivating. The rest of the family tease Hanna sometimes cruelly, saying that her “bladder is very close to [her] eyes” and, as every crybaby will have heard (me included) “here come the waterworks”! Hanna’s connection with fluids is interesting because she is associated with them throughout the novel – not just tears, but also blood and alcohol which lends her to a very traditionally emotional feminine body vocabulary and voice.

Dan’s introductory chapter was the most heartbreaking – it follows the melancholic sweetness of queer men loving each other and dying. Unfortunately though Dan experiences biphobia from both the characters and Enright’s vision for him – Dan expresses how he loves his partner, isabelle and also says “I’m not actually gay you know”. I’m sure to some extent that Dan’s reluctance could be pegged to internalized homophobia, but it might also be because he’s not gay – because he really does love Isabelle, but he also loves and is sexually attracted to men. Bisexual men will have lost their partners to aids, they will have had aids too and simply because they are not gay doesn’t make them straight, doesn’t mean they aren’t intrinsically linked to the pain in the 1990s. I think you can read Dan’s love for Isabelle as proof of his bisexuality and this chapter contributes to the rampant Bi erasure in queer history.

Other than the lack of awareness of polysexual identities, I think the way the chapter approaches queer issues was sensitive and appropriate. One of the moments that has stayed with me the most is when a character’s mother finally comes to visit him in his last days; after staring into the eyes of her lovely son, Enright writes “he became human again. He became pure.”.

Out of all four siblings, I enjoyed Constance’s perspective best. Never prioritizing herself, Constance devotedly looks after her children and her well meaning but inept husband Dessie who “goes peculiar” when she is sick. Constance and her body are one and the same so when her body has stopped working in the way it should it’s a blip in her life – she thinks she can’t get sick because she has too much to do! Whilst waiting for the test results though there are some delicious sensory descriptions; the beauty of the mammogram with “the map of light that was her left breast” and this wonderful visceral passage on giving birth: “she remembered the undoing of her own bones as the children were born. Her pelvis opening – there was a pleasure in it, like the top of a yawn – as the baby twisted out of her. It was all so simply done. And the baby was such a force, each time.”

Even after she has given birth Constance still sees her body as a “fabulous object” for the enjoyment “for all the family”. And Dessie, clueless, once asks “How is all that?” mystified by women’s bodies.

The one character I really couldn’t stand was Emmett – I found his voice violent and misogynistic and his positioning racist and insensitive. He is living as an aid worker in Segou, Mali, but the whole chapter positions him as the white savior to Africa, which he often refers to as a monolithic, singular entity rather than the nuanced varied continent it is. His misogyny comes out in his approach to his girlfriend Alice, who he undermines and sometimes thinks about hurting physically. He treats her pain in a way that dehumanizes her seeing it as something that makes her “sweet and wild” even suggesting that her abusive and neglectful childhood was worth it because she “turned it all to good”!

The representation of childhood and the long standing affects our pasts have on us is a key thread. And that all comes to head in the childhood home the Madigan’s shared, which, unlike their family relations, is never complicated or harmful, but rather exists soaking up their lives. Here is one of my favourite passages about the house: “It was a question of texture, Dan thought, a whiff of your former self in a twist of fabric, a loose board. It was the reassuring madness of patterned wallpaper under the daily shift of light…. The house made sense in a way that nothing else did.”

Overall I think The Green Road is a delicate and dynamic novel but its structure is where it falls down. The sections can be jarring and in some cases leave too many gaps – for example we meet Hanna as a child and only again at age 37, so her life is not explored in the same way as the other siblings. Family focused novels can offer engaging ideas about growing up and relationships and I definitely think Enright succeeded here – I wouldn’t say I was blown away, but I enjoyed the fragility of the words and the subtlety of the settings.

Queer Grrrl Lit

Author:
ReadMeLikea Book

by Sophia Simon-Bashall

I have been an avid reader of Young Adult fiction since I was 12 and read Sophie McKenzie’s Girl, Missing, for the first time. From that point onward, I devoured these stories. I lived inside them. I befriended the characters, went on adventures, got angry with them, fell in love. I liked that these stories were about people my age, and that they didn’t look down on me or talk down to me – they recognised that I, as a young woman, was an intelligent and thoughtful person. That was invaluable.

However, there was a disconnect. I was queer, and the characters that I was meeting were not, except for the occasional boy. I didn’t see myself reflected anywhere. There was no proof that I existed outside of myself, that my feelings about girls were anything other than hideously wrong, an anomaly.

It wasn’t until I was 17 that I began to realise that I, as a queer girl, was not wrong. That I, in that identity, was real and valid and okay. Much of that was about growth, and about the people I surrounded myself with. But it was also about the books I read. I did my digging, and I found that there were books about girls who, like me, were Not Straight. It felt like nothing short of a miracle.

I have found so much value in reading YA about queer girls. I have found so much comfort and validation and joy. Representation matters, without a doubt. I thought I would share, in case you are looking:

(FAVOURITE) Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCourEverything Leads
I have been enchanted by few YA novels as much as this one. LaCour has a beautiful writing style, the imagery is so vivid and emotive, the characters feel so familiar and honest, the story feels both magical and real. Reading this makes you feel the way you feel when you meet the eyes of a cute girl in a bookshop, when you talk to her and grab a hot chocolate together and you are crushing so hard. Reading this gives you butterflies. Guaranteed.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
beautyQueensThis is such a kick-ass, grrrl power book! It is the epitome of awesome! It shows teenage girls as intelligent, resourceful, complex human beings! What a revelation! AND THE REPRESENTATION!!! Amongst the girls are African-Americans, girls of Indian heritage, bisexuals, lesbians, girls who are transgender … it’s like Libba Bray actually looked at society rather than painted the normative picture – can you believe it?

Lunaside by J.L. DouglasLunaside
I very recently read this book, because I am a sucker for cute summer camp stories and I needed to escape into that world. I was pleasantly surprised by how mature it felt, and by how the story turned out – I worried that there was a manic pixie dream girl element, but all was resolved. I think the best part for me was that one of the secondary characters was asexual. AN ASEXUAL CHARACTER!!! WHOSE ASEXUALITY IS ACKNOWLEDGED!!! BUT IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL!!! IT’S NOT THE FOCUS!!! IT’S JUST A PART OF HER!!! Amazing.

Read Me Like a Book by Liz KesslerReadMeLikea Book
My friend, Anna and I went to the book launch for this last year, and it was wonderful. Rainbow cake and adult queer women, women who were comfortable in who they were and not brought down by the homophobia that they have fought and fought against. It was a very affirming and assuring atmosphere for both of us to be in. The novel is very much about coming to terms with being Not Straight, an invaluable read for those in such a situation. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, as I am perhaps a little bored of ‘coming out’ –esque stories; however, I didn’t feel at all bored reading this. I didn’t feel like I’d heard it all before, and I didn’t feel beyond it. It was written with honesty, and I think that goes a long with way with such stories.

I Love This Part by Tillie Walden
I Love This Part - Preview-page-001This is a graphic novel and it is so beautiful. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s so beautiful and fills you with so many feelings. SO. MANY. FEELINGS. It’s simultaneously immensely satisfying and deeply unsatisfying – you will want more, but you also know that it closes where it should, the way it should. To be able to do that to your readers is quite a skill.

The following are books I have not yet read, but are on my list. I have heard so many great things about them that I could not leave them out:

  • Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash – a graphic memoir
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe – bisexual representation!
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
  • If You Could Be Mine + Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

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.

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