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Where Supergirl went wrong

Author:
Supergirl-CW-Logo

By Stephanie Wang

CN: mention of slavery

From being an unprecedented TV show focused on a female superhero and with a diverse cast, tackling issues such as xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia, season 2 of Supergirl, particularly the latter half, has morphed beyond recognition.

The cast’s behaviour at the San Diego Comic Con this past weekend mocking an LGBT ship and fans’ interpretations of the show, as well as glamorising a planet known for its slavery, has cemented the problem facing the CW’s Supergirl right now. From replacing a kind, African American love-interest (James Olsen) with a disrespectful and abusive former slave owner (Mon-El), cutting out and reducing the roles of its POC cast members, and featuring clearly unhealthy relationships, Supergirl has lost its roots as a show celebrating diversity and girl power. Now, what first attracted fans to Supergirl is the very thing that is pushing them away from the show.

If the message of Supergirl was to show us exactly what an unhealthy relationship looked like—refusing to listen to what your partner wants, guilt-tripping someone into returning your feelings, and demeaning your partner constantly—then it has succeeded. Despite several signs of a manipulative relationship, cast members, showrunners, and even the media have touted this relationship between Kara Danvers (alter ego Supergirl) and Mon-El as healthy, normal, and cute. Chris Woods, the actor that plays Mon-El, has even said that what he loves so much about his character’s relationship with Supergirl is that he gives her such a hard time. Even worse, showrunners have said that the only reason why they split up James and Kara was because they’re both “so noble and heroic.” Apparently, putting her with a “flawed” character like a misogynistic slave-owner that would give her a lot of “trouble” would be more “dramatically rich.”

It shouldn’t be Kara’s responsibility to make Mon-El a better man and certainly a show as “feminist” as Supergirl should get that. For a show which originally had themes of independence and girl power, Kara saying that having Mon-El is “enough” and completes her, as well as focusing so heavily on Mon-El in to the point that it seemed like the show was centered around him, just seems contradictory.

Interestingly enough, what showrunners laud as heroic and forgettable seems to differ by gender. Despite Mon-El’s past slave-owning roots, he’s viewed as a hero even though he does practically nothing unless it benefits his own selfish interests. Contrarily, Lena Luthor, who hails from an anti-alien family but has always saved the day and done good, is constantly treated with suspicion and hatred and never given the credit she deserves. Supergirl’s intention seems to be to provide an example of women not getting what they deserve and men being recognised for virtually nothing.

But perhaps the final nail in the coffin is the fact that Supergirl’s cast has no qualms in demeaning and making fun of its fanbase. Supergirl, naturally, has a pretty large LGBT fanbase with the coming out of Kara’s sister, Alex Danvers, and her relationship with a Latina cop, Maggie Sawyer. And with LGBT youth commonly feeling their sexuality isn’t valid and searching for representation absent in mainstream media, for the cast to make a joke at their sake is rather despicable. It seems pretty obvious that it’s generally not a good idea to alienate the fanbase that is providing your paycheck, but maybe not to the cast of Supergirl.

While season 2 wasn’t all bad—the introduction of Lena Luthor, Cat Grant’s return in the season finale, and the epic fight scene between Supergirl and Superman—there were just too many missteps and hopefully Supergirl’s show runners learn from them in time for season 3.

13 reactions to 13 Reasons Why

Author:
13reasons

By Christiana Paradis

Content note: mental health, suicide, sexual violence

I, like the rest of the world, just finished binge watching 13 Reasons Why, a new series on Netflix. I must preface that I was hesitant to watch this show. I had read the book two years prior and upon finishing felt woefully uncomfortable. I felt that it glamorized suicide and gave students who were struggling the perspective that it was the ultimate way out and to get revenge at the same time. As more information about the show swirled I decided I needed to give it a chance before writing it off completely. Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by the Netflix adaptation. Though there were a few things that still drew some concerns for me, predominately I felt the series adaptation got several things right.

13 reactions to 13 Reasons Why:

13) Glamorization of suicide. Similar to the book there were several times that I felt the book and series adaptation justified Hannah’s decision to commit suicide. Ultimately someone’s decision to end their life is their decision and it is a very complicated decision that is often affected by a person’s mental health, lived experiences, coping skills and support system. The one thing I do not want anyone taking away is that suicide is an appropriate way to solve problems or feel vindicated for things that have happened to them. There are many different options and help is always available.

12) Know yourself. If this topic is difficult for you to discuss or watch, then don’t do it. The show has quickly become current pop culture phenomena, that being said if the content is triggering you have the right to stop watching it or avoid watching it altogether and you have the right to talk to someone about it.

11) Bystander effect. The bystander effect continues to be a huge problem in our society. Earlier this week I was discussing bullying at a local high school. Every student could articulate examples and ways in which they could get involved to stop it; however, that’s where the buck stops. People’s knowledge about what to do and why, but never any actual action when it becomes necessary. When I asked students if you know what you’re supposed to do and you know it will make the situation better -why don’t you? The answers were telling “I might become a target,” “you can’t snitch,” “it’s my friend.” The peer effect and the threat of being considered an “outsider” for standing up against ill treatment keeps many students from standing up and speaking out, despite knowing that it is the right thing to do and ultimately could get them in trouble if they don’t. 13 Reasons Why articulated the strength of peer culture, the bystander effect, and the fear of being ridiculed for doing what you know is right.

10) Family; family members can play a crucial role in providing support to someone who is struggling. Several times Hannah alluded to wishing she could talk to her parents; however, it’s never entirely clear why she felt she couldn’t talk to her parents. Though it was evident money was tight and this pre-occupied her parents, it was also evident how much they loved their daughter. I like that the Netflix series incorporated a larger story line into the series adaptation. I think it was a powerful step in helping viewers realize the damage that suicide can have on the close friends and family members left behind. Hannah’s parents’ grief is difficult to watch at times, but added a unique element that wasn’t as prevalent in the book. There is damage to those left behind.

9) Support; we all have varying levels of support and at times we do not realize it. I call on everyone to think of one person that you have in your life that you can rely on and talk to. It doesn’t have to be a teacher, counselor, or parent, but there should be someone. It could be a friend, an older brother or sister, a friend that is close or far away. Know who your support system is and know how best to reach them when needed.

8) Sexual Assault is more prevalent than we imagine. I’ve worked in the field of domestic and sexual violence for five years and despite doing thousands of education programs in that time, people tend to challenge how often sexual assault happens in our society. Sexual assault is an underlying theme throughout the series and we see several depictions of it, initiated by different people at different times. Hannah herself is a victim of sexual violence several times over within the series. If there is one thing this series got right above all else it was the frequency in which sexual assault occurs in our society and the ways in which victims are treated in the aftermath. The counselor’s response to Hannah is not an uncommon response that victims hear and see everyday, typically not by counselors but by people of varying occupations and it has to stop. #NoMore

7) Lack of responsibility on the part of the perpetrator(s). Similar to most SA situations, it was clear that the sexual assault assailants throughout the film very rarely felt remorse for their behaviors when they happened. It was only after Hannah’s tapes are released that they start to question their decisions and actions and for some they still cannot rise to the place of taking responsibility. Lack of recognition and accountability are areas that largely allow for sexual assault to persist and the biggest hurdle to overcoming complacent behavior.

6) Techonology has changed everything. At several points throughout the series it became apparent the ways in which technology have added new components to bullying and sexual harassment. A photo of Hannah goes viral throughout school and is ultimately used to shame and bully her. This commonplace in the average high school. Students can articulate how bullying occurs via technology but also the ways in which sexual harassment and technology have become integrated. Technology is drastically changing the ways we function with one another and this series cast a light on the many influences that technology has on students and their relationships.

5) We can do better by speaking up. It’s not easy. We know the peer effect is strong, that being said we also know that nothing will stop if we don’t stand up and speak out for our peers and for ourselves. If we stand up and speak out just for one person it can make all the difference in the world.

4) We can do better by listening to those who matter most. Stop being afraid to listen to those who love and care about you. Hannah articulates several times in the series that several people affected her decision to commit suicide. She ultimately felt like no one cared; that being said Clay cared and ultimately blamed himself for Hannah’s death because he didn’t articulate his feelings enough. We need to listen to those who care most and know how to reach out to them when needed.

3) We can do better by listening. More important that talking is listening. We need to listen to the stories of our friends, classmates, parents, and teachers. We need to let others know that what their saying matters. We should actively listen and engage with their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. 

2) We can do better by integrating our services. Local domestic and sexual violence services are working to establish memorandum of understandings with local high schools to provide in person, scheduled, counseling for students who have indicated that they have been affected by domestic and sexual violence. Often we get dismissed or told it is not a necessary service. Services are needed and they need to be provided by experienced counselors. The most prepared individuals to discuss sexual and domestic violence are sexual and domestic violence advocates. School districts need to stop shutting out non-profit agency’s in their areas of expertise providing victim-based services. If there had been such a program at Hannah’s school the ending may have been drastically different.

1) We can do better by having conversations. The biggest reason I ultimately decided to watch 13R is because of the conversations it is starting. For the first time, I can go into a classroom of high school students and they want to talk about mental health, suicide, and sexual assault. They know what it looks like, they know it’s wrong, and they want to talk about it. They want to know their options, they want to talk about their own diagnoses and how that has affected their lives. Though there are several things that this series may not have gotten perfect, the one thing that it has done is sparked serious conversation among students about topics that have long been stigimitized and silenced. Students will no longer be silent because deep down in all of us, we resonate with feelings Hannah had, we resonate with her frustration of being ignored, harassed and bullied, we resonate with the many reasons we’ve experience that have made us question our mortality. We need to talk to friends, family, to each other, we need to know we’re not alone. There are millions of Hannah Bakers in the world. We all can do better. We all can do more. We all have the power to end up being someone’s I13R why they stayed.

10 Reasons to love One Day At A Time

Author:
oneday

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I am not someone who watches a lot of TV programmes.

I’ve watched and enjoyed a couple of shows in the past year or so, but I am still more of a movie fan. Nothing, except Orange Is The New Black, has really excited me. Until very, very recently.

At the beginning of 2017, Netflix premiered a new show called One Day At a Time. It’s a remake of a 1975 American sitcom. It could’ve fallen into the trap of nostalgia. It could’ve tried to replicate the original. But it didn’t. It is entirely its own show – merely paying homage to the former incarnation – and it is absolutely brilliant.

You should watch it. Here are ten reasons why:

1. One Day At a Time is centered around one Cuban-American family, all of whom are proud of their heritage. Too often, Latinx representation on screen is marginal, caricatured, and negative. That is not the case here. Where stereotypes are used, they are acknowledged – and either celebrated or gently mocked. In this show the Latinx characters are allowed complexities and contradictions – they are multi-dimensional. They are flawed human beings who are ultimately good and moral. This kind of representation is so important, but especially in the current state of the world.

2. At its core, the show is light-hearted and fun. It is a wonderful relief, and it is impossible not to laugh from your belly whilst watching it.

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3. But it is also unafraid to tackle important issues, and is not neutral in its viewpoint. Across the first series, One Day At a Time talks about refugees and has a key storyline focused on deportation. It touches on these topics with sensitivity and compassion, refusing to perpetuate the dehumanisation and demonisation of migrants and asylum seekers.

4. The teenage girl in the family, Elena, takes ‘social justice warrior’ as a compliment, and is unapologetic about her beliefs.

5. And *SPOILER ALERT*
her coming out is so well done. Coming out is usually depicted as a single moment in time, and it typically has one of two outcomes: either everybody is fine with it (YAY!) or the reaction is extremely negative. This is rarely a reflection of reality. For most of us, coming out is a more continuous process, and that is exactly what One Day At a Time Elena comes out to different people in her life at different points, and each of them have different reactions. She faces several difficulties – most significantly when she tries to come out to her father – but it is ultimately a positive experience. This is encouraging for closeted LGBTQ+ people – far more so than the overwhelmingly positive depictions of coming out, which only cisgender heterosexual folk believe in. What Elena’s journey shows is the truth:
coming out isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but it isn’t always tragic and traumatic either.

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6. Penelope – the mom – is a veteran who served in Afghanistan, and defies the notion that women cannot be strong and brave and badass. This comes out in so many instances throughout the series, and it is a delight to watch.

7. But she is also allowed to be vulnerable, too. She struggles with PTSD as a result of her time in action, and we witness some of her difficulties with this. What’s heartening is that we also get to see her find a place to help her heal, in a therapy group for female veterans.

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8.Lydia – the abuelita (grandma) – is fabulous. Played by the legendary Latina Rita Moreno, she is hilarious and fun and impossible not to love. Lydia is the heart of One Day At a Time, for sure.

9. Women and the relationships between them are at the forefront. There’s the young teenage boy, Alex, and the neighbour/extended family-member Schneider, but men are otherwise at the periphery. The relationship between Elena and her best friend Carmen is given attention and is shown to be important. The relationships between the three generations of women in the family are shown to be important. The friendship Penelope finds in her fellow female veterans are key to her moving forward in her life. Relationships between women are made to matter, and this matters.

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10. Having a man in the house isn’t portrayed as necessary. When Elena and Sam’s dad walks back into family life, his presence isn’t revealed as the missing piece to the puzzle. Penelope – despite left-over feelings – does not run straight into his arms. In fact, she realises that she is better off without him. The family is strong enough as they are – it may not always be easy but they make it work, one day at a time.

Alopecia, TV & Me

Author:
woman

By Gemma Garner

I remember the day I found my first bald patch. I was around 14, in the middle of getting my hair cut. I was getting a trim, nothing more, nothing less. My mum always insisted that I should get a bob, or a pixie cut, but losing THAT much hair seemed too drastic for me. What if I looked ‘like a man?’ What if I wasn’t pretty?

I was always so excited to go to the hairdressers. It seemed like something that would change my entire appearance. Style gurus in television programmes like ‘10 years younger’ taught me that hair is such a crucial part of my appearance. All of my favourite kids TV programmes that I grew up on had at some point used the ‘oh-no-she-got-gum-in-her-hair-and-now-she-has-to-rip-out-a-chunk-of-it-how-embarrassing’ trope that caused the otherwise powerful leading ladies to become centrepieces of ridicule. This taught me how important my hair truly was. Don’t fuck it up, TV said. You’ll be ugly, TV said.

My hairdresser was separating my hair to cut it, when my mum, who at the time had recently been diagnosed with alopecia, stopped her. ‘What’s that?’ she asked, gently. My hairdresser, a friend of my mum’s who knew of her alopecia, became silent. ‘What? What is it?’ I asked. I felt the tension grow in the room. My mum let me know about the small bald patch on the middle of the back of my head. My stomach dropped, my heart shattered, my world stopped. From that moment on, my life was different. My future was different. I went home after that haircut and cried. I cried and cried, and cried. Not just for days, but for weeks and even months. Who’s going to love me? I thought. Who will I tell? How much more will fall out? I began to feel everything spin out of control. My beautiful, curly auburn locks were no longer something that I felt proud of. I no longer looked forward to getting my hair cut. I no longer felt loveable.

Before me, my mother had already been diagnosed with alopecia, after an accident caused her to temporarily lose the ability to walk. She lost most of her hair, and developed an underactive thyroid that caused her to gain a lot of weight. This lead to a deep depression. It was the first time I ever saw my mum weak, hopeless and lost. Now, she is stronger because of it, and tells every woman she meets about how empowering it was to be fat, bald, and disabled; three things that our society deems the ugliest.

Now, I realize that some may be thinking it’s rather dramatic to talk about alopecia as if it were a terminal, life threatening disease. I would agree with those people. However, statistics prove that when people, especially women, suffer from hair loss, they would give up everything just to have hair again.

Eventually that little patch would grow, and make me lose one third of my hair on the back of my head. This led me to believe that it would eventually all go, and I would lose my entire head. Luckily, it stopped there. I was able to conceal it with hairgrips, and hats. I avoided sitting in the front of class, thinking everyone would laugh if they saw I was bald underneath. I told no-one, in fear that they would find it too disgusting. In hindsight, this was ridiculous. But at the age of 14, with my mental state slowly deteriorating and my sense of self confidence essentially gone, there wasn’t a rational bone in my body.

This was one of the worst times in my life. I had never felt uglier, more worthless, and more unlovable. The alopecia caused me to isolate myself, giving me more time to feed my ever growing habit of self-pity and self-loathing. Though forums full of young women who felt the same made me feel a little less alone, it was still dark, scary and lonely. Eventually my mum got better, stronger, and became her bracing, wondrous self again. She still had alopecia, but she was OK with it. She got me counselling, and my family and friends, as I opened up to them, were incredibly supportive. Although my alopecia was still going strong (and was also being very inconvenient with where it chose to show up) (how the fuck do you hide a bald patch on your natural cow’s lick?), It never showed up like it did when I first got it. I got steroid injections in my head on a regular basis which caused the patches to get smaller and easier to handle.

Now, here I am today. Stronger, happier, with a high self-esteem and a level of openness to the point that most people have to ask me NOT to share too much. I rarely get bald patches and if I do, it doesn’t particularly bother me.

It’s important to note that I’ve been incredibly lucky with my alopecia. It thankfully didn’t develop too much. For some people, however, it does. To prove how traumatic it can really feel, I decided to reach out to some women on twitter who also suffer from alopecia, and ask them for their experience.

‘My alopecia started when I was 11. I was devastated. I felt like I wasn’t a proper girl anymore. It was just heart-breaking for me. I was so jealous of other girls with lovely long hair. I felt so alone. I had no one to talk to about it. My alopecia gets worse when I am stressed. I was bullied quite badly throughout secondary school and this made my stress levels worse and my hair fell out more. It was a never ending cycle. I’m 28 now and I’ve worn wigs for the past 7 years as I was no longer able to hide the bald spots. I recently went 3 months with no wig but my hair fell out again and I felt the same way I did when I was a wee girl. Just devastated. It’s something I’ve just had to accept. I’ll never have lovely hair and I’ll always feel like I lost some of my femininity.’ –Amy Tucker, 28

‘Getting diagnosed with Alopecia was absolutely soul destroying – you’re losing something that essentially forms so much of your identity, so it changes the way you see yourself, and rattles and shakes up the way you saw yourself in the future. Plus, there are also so many unknowns – when will it stop? How will people treat you? What’s next?’ –Katie Hale, 23

‘Losing my hair was a frightening experience. Women without hair weren’t classed as pretty, apart from seven of nine in Star Trek and I certainly didn’t have her figure. I dealt with it as I was a strong women in her thirties with a loving family. After a while I shaved my remaining hair off, I didn’t want to carry on having it fall out bit by bit. So I took control of it. When my teenage daughter also got Alopecia that was much harder to take. Peer pressure at that age is so hard. As she went on her own personal journey of acceptance I was so proud of her and her inner strength. She started to own it and take back control of her life. Alopecia taught me that I am more than my appearance.’–Samantha Garner, 47 (a.k.a. My mum)

I’m sorry, dear readers, to ramble on so passionately about something you may not even understand. I don’t blame you, either. I had no understanding of alopecia when I discovered my bald patch. There are three types of alopecia; Areata, Totalis, and Universalis. Areata is where your hair falls out in patches, Totalis is when you lose all of the hair on your head, and Universalis is when you lose all of the hair on your body and head. Each are caused by different things. Areata and totalis are autoimmune disorders in which your own immune system begins to attack your hair follicles as if they were intruders. Universalis, however, is the rarest form of alopecia. It is caused by a genetic mutation that is present from birth, but may not show up until much later in someone’s life. The hardest thing about alopecia is that most of the time, all kinds of alopecia start out looking like alopecia areata. The first patch is certainly the one that causes the most anxiety. Where will it go? What more will fall out? Is this the start, or the end? There is no cure, only things that MAY help. You do them anyway. You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

For most people my age, growing up, TV was the best time of the day. As soon as I got through the door from school, I would lounge on the sofa watching my favourite shows on CBBC, Nickelodeon, and Disney Channel. It’s impossible to argue that the shows I watched regularly at this age didn’t have some kind of influence on me; it’s all I consumed at that time. Television programmes have always been a deep reflection of society at the time that they’re shown. By looking at the societal and cultural themes that run through a programme, we can gain quite a large understanding of how people felt about life at that time. This is even true with seemingly innocent children’s television programmes. An example of this is in an episode of the sassy, progressive and incredibly popular Disney Channel show That’s So Raven that aired on February the 4th 2005, named ‘True Colours’.

In this episode Raven and her friend Chelsea apply for a job at the same upscale clothing store. Though Chelsea’s resume is far less impressive that Raven’s, she ends up getting the job. Why? Raven is black, and Chelsea is white. Raven, hurt and angered, continues to try and ‘out’ the store and make their blatant racism a public matter by getting the store owner to admit to it on camera, ultimately ruining their reputation. When I watched this show as a kid, I didn’t really think about it that much. But when I think about it now, this episode was incredibly controversial and the fact that it even aired at all says a lot about society as it was at the time. To this day, that episode is still incredibly relevant, as racism is still a huge issue, especially in the supposed ‘Post-Racial’ America.

So, if Television is really a reflection of what’s happening and what is and isn’t acceptable in society, then where do we stand with hair? This is a question I struggled to answer when I began to write this article. It’s almost impossible to create a substantial debate when there’s hardly anything to reference. Most women on television have gorgeous, long hair. No questions asked. The only female television personality who’s bald in real life is Gayle Porter, who before alopecia was a sex symbol, a fun ladette for men to view in their lad mags. Now post alopecia, she is only depicted as mentally ill, broken and rarely looked up to as a feminine figure. It’s just the way that it is.

But then I began to think; is that just the way that it is? I began to look at the things I saw around me. I think about the countless amount of times I’ve seen a beautiful young woman write ‘Should I cut my hair short?’ on Facebook. This woman, more often than not, knows that she wants to cut her hair, but needs approval first. She needs that validation. And let me tell you, she’ll never get it. My heart sinks when I begin to read the comments of these incredibly common statuses. With almost no positive responses in sight, all I see is ‘Don’t do it! You have beautiful gorgeous long hair!’, and ‘Your hair is amazing as it is. No.’. This makes it clear to me; hair is very, very important as a status symbol for women.

Why is it that we ask for permission to cut our hair? Why is it such a daunting thing to do? Why do people seem to think that short hair cannot be equally as gorgeous as long hair? And don’t even try to tell me it’s because long hair takes ages to grow. When we see men with long hair – unless they look like Brad Pitt, or Jake Gyllenhaal – we consider them gross, lazy and dirty. So it’s obviously not the hair itself. It’s what that hair does to the woman attached.

Ultimately, there are very few representations of baldness on television. Because of this, I’m going to look at both bald women, and women with short, ‘boyish’ hair. Both equally demonstrate how important hair is to us in society today. My first case study is a character from Friends. One of Phoebe’s friends, Bonnie, goes on a date with Ross. Phoebe describes her as bald before they go on their date. However, when they meet, Bonnie has a full head of hair, and they end up dating. Eventually Rachel persuades her to shave it all off again, and in response to her baldness, Ross is creeped out, disgusted, and doesn’t know what to do with this woman he once found beautiful. Although this plot line is done for humour, his disgust genuinely reflects a truth in society today. Another example of this is in Americas Next Top Model season 6, when all of the girls have to wear bald caps for a photoshoot. This is shown to be a statement, something that is difficult to pull off. This representation makes me wonder, when my mother’s hair fell out, and she decided to go bald, did she pull it off? Did she make a fashion statement? She sure as hell wasn’t trying.

Now I’m going to look at women with short hair in television. There are various examples of this and ultimately, they all are also making a statement about their character. Short hair on a woman in television represents masculinity, toughness, aggression and a lack of vanity. An example of this is when we look at Arya from Game of Thrones. She’s a strong, masculine character that hates most feminine traits. She notoriously slags off other women when asked why she isn’t a typical girl. Another example of this is in Supernatural, where Meg, a demon, after possessing a vessel, cuts her long hair. This is used to show how horrible it is when humans are possessed by demons, making a statement.

It’s important to note that long hair, however, is used to portray sexuality, innocence, beauty and even normality. Ultimately, it is the pinnacle of femininity, and it is mostly all that we see.

All of these examples show us something about society that explains why those with alopecia suffer like they do; hair is considered the be all and end all of a woman’s appearance. Because of how hair is shown in television, film and other mediums, from a very young age, we understand that hair changes how other people see us. It’s because I was bombarded with images of women with long, luscious locks growing up, that I eventually saw it as the norm, meaning that when there was a possibility my hair could all fall out, it was the end of the world for me.

Hair is one of the most important things in determining society’s rigid and limited gender roles. When I was losing my hair, I didn’t want to make a statement. I didn’t want to be aggressive, tough, and masculine. I wanted to be feminine. Although I am more than happy to have short hair and baldness be portrayed by some badass women, I want there to be variety. I want it to be a norm. I want all hair/lack thereof to be seen as beautiful AND badass. I want to see more bald and short haired women on screen. Maybe then, beautiful bald ladies will feel better off screen. At the end of the day, it’s just hair. Why can’t we treat it that way?

[i] http://www.popsugar.com/celebrity/photo-gallery/33327231/image/33327276/Jake-long-hair-slicked-back-Qamp

[ii] http://weheartit.com/entry/group/17062843

2015: The Highlights

Author:
halsey

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I have a tendency to see the negative in anything and everything. I could tell you so many things that have been bad about this year, on a personal and political level – the latter of which, I don’t need to list for people to know exactly what I mean, on the whole.

Viewing the world through grey-tinted glasses is draining. Always pre-empting that things will be bad, ignoring what has been good in the past – it impinges on everything. It makes you anxious and pessimistic and it stops you from trying to make anything better.

This isn’t a healthy way to be, nor is it productive. So I’m trying to reflect on the positives more. This isn’t me looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses; I’m still more than aware of the problems, of everything else going on. I’m not ignoring that. I’m just choosing not to focus all my energy on it, all the time. So yes, this year has been painful, but there’s been brilliance too, and it’s not fair to disregard that – let’s celebrate 2015…

MUSIC

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The rise (and rise…and rise) of Halsey: Halsey exists and Badlands exists and the world is far better than before as a result. Halsey is everything that pop music has needed for a long time, everything that the world has been in need of. We can connect with her, we see ourselves reflected in her and her music – our pain, confusion, anger, our love. But Halsey is also about power, and in listening to her music, we can find our own power.

The emergence of PVRIS as rock’s (and radio’s!) next big thing: If you’ve been to any big rock music event this year, chances are that either Pvris were playing, or half the crowd were complaining that they weren’t and should’ve been. The Boston band, fronted by the magnificent Lynn Gunn, will soon be unavoidable everywhere – not that anyone would want to avoid them – because there is something about this frontwoman which is truly magnetic. The band call their fanbase the ‘cvlt’, a fitting name, as they certainly attract something cult-like – songs like My House call for a cathartic, collective scream from crowds; plus, the aesthetic and atmosphere created by the band provides a place for the kids with darker minds to have fun, to live. Bands like Pvris prove that rock is not meant to be a boy’s club – girls have noise to make too, and it’s your loss if you don’t listen.

Florence + The Machine. In general: First of all, there’s that phenomenal new album. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is stunning, a masterpiece with wonderful witchy vibes. It gives us all shivers.
Also…THAT Glastonbury headline set. A historical moment. When original headliners of the festival, Foo Fighters, were cancelled and replaced by Florence, there was outrage – mostly, white boys’ outrage. It was questioned whether THIS WOMAN and her band could fill the stage, could gather and maintain a crowd. THIS WOMAN couldn’t possibly match Foo Fighters, why is she the replacement? ANYONE other than THIS WOMAN could take the slot, PLEASE, not THIS WOMAN. Well. Florence + The Machine’s enchanting and glorious set blew all doubts out of the water, and most likely left all the mopey white boys gaping. Watching that set (via my laptop…sigh), I was alight. The magic was so intense and powerful that it transferred through to me. I’m pretty sure a little bit of it got into everyone that night, too.

The return of Tonight Alive: I feel like I’ve been waiting to hear from Tonight Alive for years. In reality, it’s been two years since the last album, and just over a year since the Live On The Other Side shows finished, but the year without their presence has felt odd. Thankfully, they finally returned, and it is a triumphant return. The lead song, Human Interaction (I am aware that Jenna’s hair in this video is an issue…she no longer has her hair this way), from their upcoming album Limitless feels like a personal message, sent directly to me. It came out at a time when I was isolating myself at university, at a time when everything was bad. Hearing this song was like having someone take me by the shoulders and try to shake me into clarity, except this song actually helped lift the fog somewhat – enough to reach out, begin making changes, to take control of what I could. It is the band’s specialty, to haunt yet to simultaneously uplift – a combination of Jenna McDougall’s unique vocals and the band’s positive ethos makes for life-affirming songs like this one. I know that it’s going to be incredible live, to be able to scream “I WILL BE BETTER” with the people that helped me to be better, and other people who feel what I feel.

Demi Lovato is cool for the queer grrrls: This year, Demi Lovato brought out the album that I’ve wanted from her for years. This album, Confident, feels true to who Demi is, and it’s always nice to notice that in the music of an artist you care about, particularly when you are aware of how said artist has struggled with themselves. Demi is empowered, and to hear that feels empowering. The lead single, Cool For The Summer, is especially important as a queer grrrl (particularly one who is TOTALLY HEART EYES for Demi) – the Sapphic vibes are real. “I’m a little curious” is the classic ‘I think I like girls’ line, but if you need something more obvious…”Got a taste for the cherry / I just need to take a bite” is about as clear as you can get. It’s also one of very few pop songs around these days which does not use specific pronouns…it’s the openness to interpretation that’s really refreshing – in a world of compulsory heterosexuality, most artists are sure to make genders clear, afraid of the mere possibility of having their straightness questioned. Thank you Demi, for proving that you really, really don’t care.

FILM, TV & POPULAR CULTURE

Amandla Sternberg being Amandla Sternberg (by Anna): It has been the year of Amandla; her wisdom and her acting ability were already apparent, but now we know that she is a talented musician – check out her great band Honeywater. Most of all, her astuteness amazes us – her video, Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows, covers the important issue of cultural appropriation and how often black culture is loved by white people but black people aren’t.

Melissa McCarthy’s Spy breaking all the boundaries: Films of the spy/action genre are grossly misogynistic – women are objects, woman are stupid and incapable, women are not real human beings. In THIS film, McCarthy takes all the tropes and destroys them. She is a badass, she works everything out for herself, and she puts the male spies to shame. What I especially loved about the movie was that she did not simply adopt ‘masculine’ forms in order to break free of the sexist limitations she is surrounded by – she doesn’t become an indestructible, infallible, iron man on a mission. She remains funny, likeable and relatable – she is distracted and weakened at moments by love, she is indignant at disrespect, she makes it up as she goes along. She is not glamorous, she is not slick – but she still comes out on top. And she chooses her best girl friend over the guy she lusts over. McCarthy’s spy is the first spy character I have considered a true hero.

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Kristen Stewart as our new queer grrrl hero (by Yas): Who would have thought a few years ago that Kristen Stewart would become a queer shero of the 21st century? She’s gone from star of the most un-feminist movie to be aimed at teenagers in recent years to gay girl icon on the front cover of DIVA magazine. In her DIVA interview, she says “I love acting more than ever now that I’m doing the kind of work I want to be doing” – well, we love her more than ever now…she’s totally got us swooning!

The Great British Bake-Off and representation: If you’re British, you love GBBO. Fact. This year was a particularly good year, I think. Specifically, two contestants made it, Tamal and Nadiya. A show that boasts Britishness – even if it is somewhat mocking – is not one on which you might expect diversity. Despite the fact that we are a diverse population, British still connotes white. In this series of GBBO, this was not the case, and blimey, was that refreshing.

Everyone’s favourite new superhero, Jessica Jones (by Anna): A female superhero? Yes please. A female superhero with ptsd and a drinking problem and a hell of a lot of strength? YES. PLEASE. Jessica Jones fights against the embodiment of gaslighting and violence against women. Jessica Jones is a badass superhero, even though she is broken – but she is also healing, fighting. The show is very violent and can be triggering for those with PTSD, and for victims of sexual violence – but as someone who is in both categories, it is also an incredibly satisfying show. It’s worth giving a watch, if it feels safe for you to do so.

BOOKS

Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places: When I was first asked about my thoughts on this book after I’d finished it, I genuinely couldn’t form words on it. I just looked at my friend, and my expression said it all. This is a truly heart-breaking novel, and potentially triggering (content warning for suicide). But it is also everything. It is uplifting and inspiring and beautiful and feels so real – the characters are so warm and alive, I truly feel that I know them. I read the book 9 months ago, but I still can’t stop thinking about it, I still can’t shake the intensity with which I connect with Violet and Finch, and with their story. It’s important because I honestly think it has the potential to change lives, even save them.

Liz Kessler’s Read Me Like a Book: Anna and I were lucky enough to attend the launch for this book earlier this year, ft. rainbow cake! It was a celebration of being a queer girl/woman, a celebration of making it through the confusion and the fear of coming out, of living and surviving as a queer woman in a world where non-straight and non-male humans are still oppressed. But it was also a celebration of how much things have come along – Kessler tried to get this story published many years ago, but it was rejected…the subject of gay women was just too taboo, nobody wanted to know. When she told us this, I started to worry – I thought it would mean that the book would feel really dated. But it didn’t. It felt honest and familiar and whilst I am somewhat tired of coming out narratives, this didn’t feel like the typical storyline that I have heard over and over again. It’s a refreshing read, and has a firm place on my shelves.

Non Pratt’s Remix: Remix is such a pleasure to read. It is an affirmation of the power and beauty and importance of girl/girl friendship. It is a celebration of being a teenage girl and all that encompasses – it does not trivialise nor dismiss teenage girls and it does not depict them as petty or hysterical. It is not a deep, ‘serious’ book, but it is nevertheless important, and it will fill your heart with joy and make you feel light and free and invincible.

Kate Scelsa’s Fans of the Impossible Life: If you liked Perks of Being a Wallflower, you’ll love this book. In my opinion, it’s better. The protagonist is a girl called Mira, and she feels close to me in a way that few characters do. I identify strongly with her, as well as admire her in the ways she differs from me. I also adore her friends – each character brings so much to the story, and they are all well developed, multidimensional characters. There is so much to love about Fans of the Impossible Life – honest, unglamorous but non-shaming presentation of depression, a person of colour as the protagonist (casually – her story is not centered around her race…representation matters!), a comfortably out lesbian, bisexual representation…it’s wonderful. It’s a hopeful book, while still realistic, and I like that, because I can take something from the hopefulness, rather than view it as naïve and idealistic.

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Robin Talley’s What We Left Behind: I was so excited for this book for so long and it did not disappoint. It follows a queer couple’s struggle with distance, and with the uncertainty of one’s gender identity. It is a touching and helpful depiction of gender dysphoria, and of the confusion that can come with shifting gender identity in relation to sexuality. It is also a sweet queer love story, a funny and painful and beautiful and relatable account of being a teenage grrrl in love, and of trying to establish your own sense of self. It’s a lovable book, certainly, and educational without being preachy – a balance which can often be hard to find with the subjects that Robin Talley touches on here. Bravo.

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