Monday, 14 January 2013

Further talk of a transphobic nature.

Since the last post became so long, I decided to make another tonight, rather than merely editing the previous night's post with further links.

Firstly is a link to an article in The Observer, which details how Julie Burchill's previous article has been removed due to its disgusting and hateful nature. You can read that here if you want, but suffice to say it is short, to the point, and yet not as apologetic as I would personally have liked.

On a poll on The Independent's website, 90% of voters thought her article was in bad taste. That number isn't high enough for my liking, but it seems to have done the job as people are now taking notice at the very least.

Obviously there has also been cries for Julie Burchill to have her freelance duties towards The Observer removed. I have yet to see any evidence to suggest that this could actually happen, but I have to admit it wouldn't be a sad day if it were to come to pass.

Amongst the good and victorious is sadly another link, to a less pleasant article. This particular number is from The Independent, and was written by Terence Blacker. The article is entitled "The world has gone mad if Julie Burchill can’t stir things up and cause offence", and you can find it online here.

The article itself is better written than Burchill's attempt, but as you can probably guess from the title, isn't exactly in favour of the anger she's received. In short, the article tries to approach the subject from the mindset of a man telling a woman to stop crying because she's only making herself into a nuisance by doing so. The words 'sensitivity police' are used, and that's never a good sign.

I do suggest you read the article, it is still worth noting it could be triggering for transphobic reasons, but on the whole it is less vomit-worthy than what Burchill had to say. A particular quote which I would like to comment upon I shall leave here; I think it pretty much sums up what the entire article has to say on the matter.

'Burchill used her usual knockabout, head-butting prose to make a fair argument: that the transgendered should not demand special privileges over those who were born as women  – the “cisgendered” as they are described in the increasingly complex vocabulary of the gender studies phrase book.'
Here is what I would like to say to you, Blacker.

1. An argument which is not well constructed, well written, and balanced is not a 'fair argument'. Burchill's argument was less such and more a ill-advised and defensive rant.

2. No transgendered person demands a special privilege. In fact, all the trans* community want, I'm sure, is to be treated as equal to each of your cisgendered members of society who have had the luck to be born into a sex you feel suits your mind.

3. Let's get rid of your quotation marks around the word cisgendered, eh? It's not a pretend word we've made up to mock you all, and it isn't merely a word from some kind of gender phrase book you seem to think exists. It is a word which has a purpose and definition, just like any other.

I think I'll stop there.

Take care. xo

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Julie Burchill? Oh please god, no.


(An interesting, helpful and well-written piece of writing here gives anyone falling behind on terminology a quick update.)

I haven't posted in altogether too long a time, it is true. But in all honesty, I haven't ever told myself that I had to post on here with alarming regularity; merely if things became of an interest to me, or if I found subjects which I felt passionately about. Sadly, though this post does come from a place of passion, it is an angry passion and not one of happiness. But I digress.

To just quickly get you up to date if you haven't heard of Julie Burchill, she is a writer for The Observer/The Guardian, and she has written about a lot of various topics. A lot of them ridiculously homophobic and anti-feminist. Here is a link to an actual article she wrote back in 2001. The article is called 'Gender bending', and I warn you now for trigger warnings of a transphobic nature within the article; this particular gem made me feel physically ill that she was allowed to have this trash published.

Julie Burchill also penned the novel Sugar Rush, which you might have heard of. Set in Brighton, it tells the story of a young girl struggling with her sexuality, before realising her own lesbianism. Cue a lot of drama and sex. It was a huge hit at the time, in England at least. Think of a crappier skins, with one ginger lesbian as the focal point.

As most of you will already no doubt be aware of, earlier today an article was published on The Guardian's website. The article in question was not published through The Guardian, but rather through its sister paper, The Observer. The article is by Burchill, entitled, "Transsexuals should cut it out". Trust me, the pun isn't lost on me, I'm merely not fucking laughing.

The original article, if you wish to read it, is right here.

If you don't want to read it, and to be honest I can't possibly blame you for saving yourself that particular delight, then here is a quick breakdown of a few points touched upon within the article which truly riled me. Now, this post is in no way a full breakdown of the article. I am not a professional, merely a 21 year old queer individual with a soapbox to stand on and a free evening with a desire to distract myself from other things.

Julie Burchill's article perhaps began in honest and loyal motivations; she was clearly frustrated and angry that her friend (Suzanne Moore) had become a spitting post for something which she said in an essay. The essay itself was published in Waterstones' new anthology collection, Red, which is a worrying fact I will contemplate another day. However Suzanne Moore took her indignation and upset too far, and then Julie Burchill took that indignation and fucking ran to Canada with it.

The result is a disgusting piece of trash writing, which is an unsubtle piece of hate speech towards the trans* community as a whole, but particularly focused upon those women who have struggled to become the people they were meant to be born as.

When speaking of her friend's apparent persecution, Julie Burchill refers to her friend as 'a woman of such style and substance', and laments that Suzanne Moore 'should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chicks' clothing'.

Now, I did warn you for triggers, and I apologise if you read on regardless and now feel ill. I know that I did when I first read that. This statement, sadly, is merely the tip of a disgusting iceberg. 

It seems that Julie doesn't seem to register that those in the trans* community who happen to be mtf (male-to-female transitioning), or anything else on the spectrum of what is out there which makes people comfortable and happy, are people too.

'(I know that's a wrong word, but having recently discovered that their lot describe born women as 'Cis' – sounds like syph, cyst, cistern; all nasty stuff – they're lucky I'm not calling them shemales. Or shims.)' 

This blatant disregard for the use of proper, polite terminology is what baffles me perhaps the most. Julie Burchill is aware of what she is doing; she even points out that she is aware she is using impolite and unpleasant words to describe human beings. And yet she seems not to care. Why? Because she is deemed to be 'cis', something she has decided is a dirty word.

Now Julie, I hate to point this out to you, but if you'd simply googled the damn word, you'd have discovered that 'cis' is an abbreviation of cis-gender. To be cisgender is where an individual's self-perception of their gender matches their sex. And yes, Julie, you are cisgender. You are in the lucky position of having been born into the right body that matches your mind. Your sexuality has nothing to do with your sex, remember, so no one is telling you that you're straight. But you are a woman, both in your mind and in your body, and you are such without any outside help.

Cisgender is not a dirty word. I will repeat this fact until it sinks in. I have a great many friends who are proud to label themselves as cis, just as a great number identify as trans* or otherwise. 

C'mon Julie, do your fucking research, make this a little bit more difficult for me.

The final quote I'm going to put here, lest Julie Burchill ever delete the offending article and pretend it never happened, is perhaps the worst of the bunch. It speaks for itself, but I will still get on my soapbox, as I am one to do.

'To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women – above natural-born women, who don't know the meaning of suffering, apparently – is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan.'

There are many things wrong with this quote, from the use of the words 'special privileges', to the lamentable connection between 'chutzpah' and the trans* community. But what I am mostly hurting over right now is the term 'natural-born women'. 

There is a rule, among human beings, and it is that we try our hardest not to create 'them' and 'us' situations. Those situations only lead to problems, to segregation and upset. And yet Julie seems determined to segregate women into two categories. 

It needs to be drilled into Julie Burchill's skull now, and quickly, that the fact that she was lucky enough to be born cisgendered does not give her superpowers. It also does not mean that someone in the trans* community has privileges either (unless those by 'privileges' Burchill actually means being discriminated against for the rest of their lives).

Nobody is above anybody else. No woman is superior, no matter her personal background, and certainly not simply because she had the luck to be born cisgender.

There is much more I could say, but it has been a long day as it is and this post has taken me too long to write.  If you would like to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, as I have already done, you can do so here. If you would like to complain to the editor directly, you can find his professional contact information right here.

Other than that, I thank you for reading.

It is interesting to note that the Observer readers' editor has already taken the article into inquiry. The issue is apparently is hand, and we will be hearing a response in due course. I have still emailed him, and still launched a complaint with the PCC. We shall see.

Take care, everyone. xo

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Thoughts on Education

How do we decide what is worth studying?

No, please do tell me, because I would like to know and understand the answer to this question if it is at all possible to do so.

Some subjects, it can be argued, are more worthwhile than others when it comes to studying them. Some are not as interesting, but are more valuable; others far superior when it comes to stimulating our brains but perhaps not viewed to be as relevant or important.

Obviously I'm talking about society's widespread views, here. But who decides what society thinks, and on a more personal level what does it mean if what you want to study is viewed to be redundant?

I have recently finished a degree in English Literature, as I have previously spoken about. I loved my degree; it stimulated my brain and made my love of literature grow. Through my degree I have learnt about history, society, and (most importantly, I feel) I have learnt about people. I feel like a better person for having studied what I did, because I feel able to analyse poetry and literature and plays. But is it a relevant skill to have in today's society? It would appear not.

Currently I am working, earning money for an MA place. I have already been offered a place in Sussex University, on a course entitled Sexual Dissidence in Literature and Culture. The contents of the course promises to teach me broadly about society's views of sexuality and gender throughout history, working these concts in alongside literature of the time. This course, for me, is like getting accepted at Slade or the RCA to study art. All I have wanted to focus on for years now is gender and sexuality in literature, so that I can further the research I need to do in order to gain funding for phD study.

What I ask now, is whether this course is relevant to our society today, or whether it is merely another waste of money which could be better used elsewhere.

Personally, I feel this course offers an opportunity to widen many people's minds on the concepts of sexuality and gender, which in turn can give those people the skills to widen many other minds through lecturing and publicised works of research. But I am aware that other people do not share my view, and see me as another job dodging student, seeking to study whatever I can in order to keep myself out of full-time employment for a little longer (an opinion I resent, considering I have been in employment since I was 17, and have never spent longer than 3 months without a job of some kind).

Am I right? Or are these faceless people? And, perhaps more importantly, does it even matter who is right? In today's world, where we can study anything from Event Management to Creative Writing, does it really invalidate one course any more than the other?

Perhaps the way we must view this, is that everything is worth studying if you have an interest in it. For after all, we have no idea where each step in our lives will take us. And thus, no course is more helpful to our futures than another. As long as we are all striving for knowledge in some form or another, striving to understand and educate and feel educated in turn.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

What music has done for me, and what we are expected to do in return.

I apologise in advance if this entry feels a little more disjointed than usual, but this is a subject which has been turning over in my mind for some time now, and as a result of that this entry has been in process for much longer than really should be possible. 

What I suppose I wish to begin by pointing out is that I do not believe my generation is the first generation to find solace in music, nor do I believe that we will be the last. What I speak about in this entry relates entirely to subjective moments in my life which have affected me, and in turn led me to see the effect music has had on my friends etc. I understand that this cause and effect has been happen since before my birth, and will continue to occur long after I cease to exist, and I have made my peace with this fact.

I am proud of the effect which music haves upon me. As an English person, we are taught from a young age to fear pride, in case we are torn down by it or in case it ruins us. But music gives me such strength of feeling that it is impossible to hide how proud I am of its effect upon me. Over the years, music has shaped the clothes which I have worn, the friends I have chosen to stick about with, and also the way in which I have viewed life.

But is it healthy to be so emotionally attached to pieces of music, and, inevitably, the people who create them?

Being but 21, I am part of the My Chemical Romance generation. I was there dissauding my parents that they were a 'death cult', and I was there at The Black Parade concerts, dressed as such. I enjoyed the macabre to a depth I had not enjoyed much else up to that point. I even dressed up for the more recent Killjoys concept, a notion I am no less proud to admit, despite it being at the age of 19 and not at 15. Being a part of this band's evolution has given me both friendships and relationships over the years, and has provided me with a confidence that other things failed to give.

But, looking at how invested I was then, I can not help but wonder whether it was healthy. For with the rise inevitably comes the fall, and perhaps that is just how life is.

And so, I am proud, but I also question my obsessions, my desires.

What effect does it have on us as teenagers?

I remember obsessively writing lyrics over my worksheets in High School. Music 'saved' me; it gave me new friends and it gave me a best friend which blossomed into my first long-term relationship. I will never regret how obsessively I poured over music and gave my time to it; I would go to shows three or four times a month, just to get that release of emotions that surged through me at shows. 

More recently I have been part of another revolutionary part of music history, namely the birth of Kickstarter. 

Kickstarter is an online haven for anyone gifted and poor. You set a goal, show what you want to do, and people hopefully 'back' you by gifting you money in exchange for tokens of appreciation.

Amanda Palmer has become part of this Kickstarter generation, making music industry history with her most recent album. She set out to raise enough to record, produce and release her record. She wanted to be able to afford to tour with her new band, make some beautiful music videos, and mostly she wanted to be able to give something beautiful back to her dedicated fan base. 

Her album was released recently, after her Kickstarter project raised over $1,000,000 and ensured that she would be able to do everything she wanted to do with her new album, and more. I recently wrote a review of the album, named Theatre is Evil, and posted it on this selfsame blog.

So what does this mean for the future of music? Does it change what fans expect from musicians? More often than not now, there is a pre-order bundle available. Is this set to get bigger and bigger with time? 

For the simple backing price of $25 (only the cost of a new CD, in all honestly), the backers of AFP have received beautiful quality products, which are limited edition and feel personal and special.

So what does it bode for other artists? Can musicians get away these days with only releasing music? Or do we, as fans, expect more?

Another example is Max Bemis, of Say Anything, who runs a song shop. For a set price, Max Bemis will write you a song. Imagine, your very own handwritten and recorded song, that you know was written out of your own pocket. For a fan, this is a priceless gift. For other, it is a waste of money.

Consumerism is rife even amongst the creative types. We all need to eat, after all.

Perhaps it isn't an expectation though. Perhaps we just like to feel part of something again. The music industry have kept fans at arms length from music for too long, and now perhaps it is time for those barriers to be broken. 

Music has give me a lot over the years. It has provided me with one of my first outlets for creativity, it gave me friends, and it also allowed me a space where I felt free and uninhibited. At shows I was able to forget the fact that I was depressed, or struggling with my coursework, or had argued with my best friend that day. Music has helped me forge friendships so strong that oceans can not stop their continuation. 

In return I have given music my devotion. I have spent money on shows, on merchandise. I have given music my heart and, at times, my entire focus. And I am excited to welcome a new era to music, the Kickstarter generation, where I am able to give more than £15 for a CD, or for a t-shirt. I am able to give something to help creation. That's pretty fucking special. 

And so I remain proud. I may have been obsessed, devout, determined. But I have always been excited to be a part of music, of a moment in time that will remain alive for a few, and now I am even more excited to spread this moment out wide, to see it given a platform in the form of Kickstarter. It seems I will always be young at heart for music.

Again, I apologise for the scattered way this entry has fall upon the page. I have edited it back and forth, and in all honesty; I don't have the fucking answers to the questions I am asking, and therefore can only ask and wonder. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Theatre Is Evil - Review

I never intended for this blog to become a space for reviews, but times call for a change.

Amanda Palmer recently released her newest full-length studio album, and as a kickstarter backer I received my download code in the email a few hours after the album dropped in the UK. I've not had my full package through in the post, but I couldn't wait any longer to hear the full album. I've been awaiting it rather anxiously, and after catching a section from a song in a local HMV, I was pretty desperate to get a listen.

With the digital download comes a whole heap of other lovely things, including a stencil .pdf, a lyrics booklet which is full of all of the lovely artwork, not to mention tos of photos from during the recording of the album. With the download you also recieve a whole shed load of B-sides and older tracks that I've previously have had the pleasure to listen to. I won't focus on particular songs, or B-sides, but here are my immediate thoughts on the album as a whole.

A lot of the album feels like a huge stage production fighting to take place, grabbing your attention at every corner. I want to do big dance kicks to songs, and beat my chest with my fists whilst crying in the rain. Some of songs of this album bring me to tears, for example The Killing Type, and others are complete joys to listen to, like Do It a With a Rockstar.

Hauntingly beautiful, The Killing Type has that nostalgic pain in it that comes with memories. There isn't much else to say, bar that this song has such a quiet desperation in it that almost makes it difficult to listen to. The honesty in AFP's lyrics kills me every time. The vocals are what bring me to my knees, but make sure to watch the video as well for a very beautiful, very hurting video.

From the grand opening echoes of Do It With a Rockstar, you feel transported. This is a fighting song, a siren song. It feels like a fist fight with a friend when you're drunk and handsy. I genuinely love this track; it has spark and punch and it kicks you in the balls and then gets down on its knees to kiss the bruise better afterwards.

This album, with its crying and shouting and screaming, feels like an extension of the community which AFP has created for herself and the artists she surrounds herself. Perhaps it is merely due to the notion of its creation, with the roots of this album based in Kickstarter territory, but AFP has a way of making the listener feel like more than that. I am never passive when listening to this album; I am constantly enjoying, singing, dancing, crying. It is fun and very, very AFP and I can't wait to dance to all of it at her show in October. 

Overall, the album is a beauty. I'm perhaps used to more vocals and more piano, but there are certainly enough haunting ballads on here to satisfy those cravings. AFP's album does something a good album should do, which is grow from what was started in the previous album. Where her previous full-length felt very much a solo session, this album feels like a full-blown polyamorous love affair of music and lyrics. I'm sure as time passes I will grow to adore the dark with the light, the hurt with the humour. But for now I'm content to let it settle over me like moss and take root. 

If you like the sound of it, or have been wondering whether to try listening to it or not, then I have to urge you to try it out. Amanda Palmer does this amazing thing where she allows you to pay whatever you want for her music; whatever you can afford or think it is worth. I urge you all to download this album, give her a shot, and give her what money you can in order to show her your thanks for creating such a wonderful, vibrant album.

Amanda Palmer says that we are all the media, and from the way this album has been born, grown and released into the wild, I truly feel invigorated towards music once more. In a time where music is growing stale, and fans are being guilted into paying large sums for what they are told is the 'privilege' of listening to new music, AFP is (unsurprisingly) doing something completely different, and she is finally getting the recognition she has long deserved.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

I did a degree in reading

You heard me, I did a degree in reading. Well, English Literature. But that's what people assume a degree in English Literature boils down to, and I suppose in part that they're right. There is a lot of reading involved in what I have done for the past three years, but that isn't all there is to it.

A degree in English Literature gives you no particular career outcome; when you do a graduate search for jobs in humanities and arts subjects there isn't much there. Most of us are hopeful writers, wannabe journalists, publishing interns. I am the former sadly, a wanabee writer who aches to have people clamouring to read what she has to say. I don't just mean on this blog either, oh no! I want to write books. Oh yes, that grand old tale. Not only am I a wannabe writer, I am a wannabe author.

I remember once reading a statistic which defiantly told me that less than 1% of manuscripts which reach a publisher's desk actually manage to get published, and I am not ashamed to say that it is this notion which has haunted me ever since. The feeling of failure has dogged me ever since, in spite of the fact being that I have not yet sent any manuscripts away to even try for publishing. I am a foggy writer, still caught up in myself and my words, playing with the way they look across the page and watching the word count rollercoaster its way no closer to a finish.

The truth is that my degree has little to do with my hopes of being a writer; I did not study creative writing after all, which at least would have prompted me to step outside of my comfort zone creatively. Rather I studied the works of others, in the hopes of learning how to do it myself. I inspired myself plenty in the process, I have to admit, but I also dissauded myself as well. So few writers are successful, so few admired. And for every shred of admiration they receive, they receive three times that in criticisms.

Studying English Literature therefore, does not teach you how to be a writer yourself, nor is it as simple as merely reading a book and writing a little about it. No, over the past three years I have studied not only literature, but aspects of language, history, and psychology. Due to my studies in literature I know more now about cultural dimensions than I did three years ago, and I have contextual evidence for my opinions.

But yes, I just read books.

So how does it feel to have received a degree in something which gives me no definite career prospects, and makes most people look at me like I have done an extended A Level course for the past three years ('but you just... read?') I hear you ask?

More than a little pissed off.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A warning, perhaps

Perhaps it is time to introduce myself. The beginning is usually the place for such things, and this is most definitely a beginning of sorts for me.

My name is Jess. Call me Jess unless you know me already by a different name, which some do. I'm 21, Northern by birth and by labour of love. I've recently finished a Ba(Hons) (does the Honours part really matter, though?) degree in English Literature. Yeah, that's right, you read that correctly. I did a degree in reading. More on that another time.

After finishing my degree, I promptly moved back home (temporarily so, I hasten to add) and found myself with a grand amount of free time and very little to do with it. I went down the usual routes at first; I scoured 4OD, bought some new XBox games, and devoted a lot of time to talking to our house pets. It was a few days ago that I had the idea of perhaps doing something somewhat useful and starting a blog.

And now, here we are. A blog. I do not wish to be popular, or highly linked to. To be read at all would be lovely, of course, but for now I am comfortable to write to the void, if only because it fills my time. I wrote a brief, if not somewhat idealistic sounding, post about love, posted it online, and voila! I have joined the masses of online public blogging.

Read me if you choose, but never feel obliged. I promise to speak my mind on here, and not everyone may like what I have to say. But, as a friend as of mine pointed out recently on her own blog (check her out, she is incredibly thoughtful and intelligent- 'missing apostrophes'), no matter what I say, it is that I have the FREEDOM to do so that is most important.

This is my little corner of freedom, and I hope you enjoy what I have to say. I may not always be correct, I may not always speak as eloquently as possible, but I promise to always be honest. And that's enough for now.