Some thoughts on the #nomakeupselfie campaign

Another day, another reason for the internet to get on its high horse about some shit or other. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE getting on my high horse. It’s probably my favourite place to be, waxing lyrical about the injustices and stupidities of the world. (If you’d like a full testimonial please refer to my boyfriend or housemate).

So when I saw increasing numbers of no make up selfies being prefaced with ‘I know this campaign is somewhat problematic but…’ or ‘not sure I agree with everything this campaign is doing but’ I got excited. Are the teenage girls suggesting we take naked vag pics, too? Or are we captioning these photos with ‘bitchez against breast cancer’? But, to the great disappointment of my controversy loving side, I found absolutely nothing harmful, wrong, or disagreeable when looking into this campaign. Lemme break it down for y’all:

Criticism: Taking a photo without make up on your face is not comparable to the horrors of cancer.

No fucking shit, right? Not much is. But just because many of us, luckily, haven’t been there, surely that doesn’t mean we can’t do our bit to support it? Everyone knows you can’t sell something without a hook. For charities, its even harder, because what their selling is the health and happiness of others and as a hideously selfish species that’s pretty hard for them to make us excited about.

So, most charity campaigns add a little jazz, a little fun, to encourage raising money. Running 5k isn’t as bad as cancer. But for many, (including myself),it is very hard. It is a commitment, a small sacrifice, for which you hope those around you will donate to a cause that is close to your heart. A sponsored silence is, similarly; hardly as challenging as life threatening illness. But I don’t see anyone running around primary schools, ripping pads of paper that say ‘Jenny’s being quiet for a good cause’ from 8 year olds’ hands, screaming THAT’S NOT AS BAD AS CANCER!! In their faces. No.

So of course, taking a photo without make up on isn’t as bad as cancer. But its not particularly easy for others, which leads me onto my next point.

Criticism: It’s not healthy for girls to think that its brave to not wear make up.

Once again, in an ideal world, of course not. But lets face the facts: most women wear make up. Interviewees get told to wear it to increase employability. Tweenage girls spend their pocket money on it. Every female (and male) celebrity that ever existed, ever, (probably) wears it. So make up is relevant to every girl’s life, regardless of whether she wears none, a little, or a shit ton. And yes, i’ts not healthy to make going bare faced ‘other’ nor is it good to make girls that don’t wear make up feel different.

But, for the first time ever, I’ve seen a high percentage of girls on my newsfeed without make up. Some look the same, some look different, and some look absolutely bloody marvellous. But if this has normalised, in a tiny, tiny way, the idea of girls not wearing make up, then that’s something. If one teenage boy, who has never come closer to being with a girl than hes bi weekly visit to and the girls who sit on the otherside of his classroom, with a full face of slap on, sees a newsfeed full of girls without foundation, fake eyelashes, red lipstick, then maybe he’ll be one step closer to understanding that girls don’t always look bloody fantastic. And if the underconfident girl who can’t work out how the ‘cool’ girls look so good everyday, sees them unmasked, maybe she’ll feel like she’s not so different afterall. Small victories, of course. But victories none the less.

And what if that’s not what it does? What if girls are pretending that they’re natural when actually they’ve got half an inch of primer on? Well so bloody what? Girls are going to take selfies day in, day out ( every second, 4.5 million people take a selfie, or some shit). Girls will plaster pictures of them looking ‘crap’ or ‘natural’ on Facebook 24/7. So why can’t that force of vanity, force of self love, be turned into something selfless, too? Can the two not happen simultaneously?

Criticism: People have missed the point of the campaign and have made it about themselves, taking selfies but not even bothering to donate.

Right, okay. Not ideal, I suppose, but not exactly detrimental. Its not like the campaign has been hijacked and warped into ‘take a selfie with a fag’ campaign or ‘take a selfie then lobby the government to privatise health care’. Like I say, if a girl wants to take a selfie, she’s going to do so regardless. Even if she doesn’t donate to charity, the essence of the campaign may still survive. Even if it is picked up by someone incensed by her omission of charity, who then posts a righteous status accompanied by a screen shot of a donation, then that selfish-selfie girl has still managed to pass on the campaign.

As hard as that righteous person may find it to believe, they’ve taken their cue from the selfish-selfie girl, and so in essence, been nominated by her. Regardless of how ‘legit’ you are in your support of Cancer Research, and how well you justify why you’re supporting the campaign/why you’re not supporting the campaign but donating anyway/posting a picture of something other than your naked face/you vow to donate to a different charity that hasn’t got as much coverage – you’ve still done something good as a result of this campaign. I see no negative repercussions of someone missing the point.

Criticism: (The most flimsy of all, IMO) This is just a craze that will blow over as quickly as all the other nominations, and the charities will still need money.

Yes, well, charities always need money. This campaign will most probably not last very long, as is the nature of the internet viral. But for a campaign that Cancer Research didn’t even start, its been a pretty good success. Maybe they can revive it annually? If not, they’re 2 million pounds up, and that’s pretty impressive alone, I’d say. Especially as this campaign has managed to reach a demographic that is not in a position, or state of mind to donate to charity. These are the people that street fundraisers can’t even approach (they usually require you to be 18+) or can’t capture the imaginations or wallets of. If charity has been able to manipulate social media, jump on the back of peer pressure, capitalise off sheep following the crowd, then, marvelous. But the beauty of it is that this isn’t a forced, desperate marketing campaign. This was completely organic – a complete stroke of luck that combined our obsession with selfies, social media nomination and small acts of goodness.

My personal favourite thing regarding this campaign is that it appears that charity has gained some street cred. If we’re being really honest with ourselves, never before has donating been as ‘cool’. We might donate to our friends’ just giving pages; buy the odd raffle ticket, ring in for comic relief. But this is the first time that charity has really come to the fore of social media without grudging £5 quid donations for a skydive out of guilt. If this becomes the norm, especially in a time where we’re all strapped for cash – if people can donate the odd £3 here and there – well then, then I’d say this campaign has been a pretty good success. I suppose it doesn’t matter whether you’re put out by this campaign or not, because the more you talk about it, the more chance it has to grow. But for the sake of charity, lets be nice, yeah?

Fuck sex education – sensationalism sells.

Somebody at Channel 4 has clearly decided that as we descend into the dull, depressing winter months there is nothing better to jazz up our televisual experience than the recurring theme of sex. Whilst one programme, hiding behind the façade of relationship nurturing/a social science experiment/liberalisation of our Tory oppressed country, will literally see couples shag in a box that resembles the offspring of a static caravan and a Big Brother out building, the sex tirade began last night with the programme ‘Porn on the Brain’.

Unfortunately I was devoid of surprises or revelation whilst watching the programme as I’d previously read a Daily Mail article written by the narrator of the show which literally summed up the entire programme and its findings in one arsey piece of dismal journalism. However, this gave me time to reaffirm my initial thoughts on Martin Daubney’s sad attempt at investigative journalism – it is a ill thought out hash of unconnected facts, the only similarity between them all simply being that you’d probably mention the word porn in a sentence summarising them, and most definitely in different contexts.

Daubney is the former editor of Loaded, a naughties lad’s mag that he utilises during the programme by flicking through it frivolously in his conservatory with some unidentified lad mates whilst they revel in the nostalgia of putting 100 headless boob pics in one edition because ‘that’s what people wanted’. Martin also prefaces his ‘macabre’ internet porno findings with his own personal experiences of porn, which includes an awkward conversation with his Dad about dirty mags, and how his first wank was over a biology book. In between inexplicable shots of teenage Martin playing the drums and posing topless it becomes clear that he doesn’t have a problem with porn, or at least ‘the golden age’ of porn, which his own teenagedom apparently was lucky enough to take place in. The smug cunt.

His issue, apparently, (or at least initially), is that porn these days is too accessible, too extreme and in abundance. He types porn into google and apparently finds granny porn within the first 10 hits, and is then further disgusted with his findings, but doesn’t seem to have a problem describing to the viewer in detail the videos he is watching. To support the idea that young people are exposed to extreme porn he goes into a Yorkshire school and asks the kids to write down all the words they know about sex. Shocked at their understanding of nugget porn, he fails to take from their extensive knowledge of hardcore porn that this doesn’t necessarily denote an extensive watching of it – a group of kids asked to list drugs probably aren’t cooking up crystal meth at lunchtime.

It is at this moment the programme attempts to seamlessly and naturally follow up the finding that young people know about extreme porn with a research study into the idea of porn as addictive with, luckily for Martin, somewhat conclusive results. It suggests that people can be, in a certain sense, addicted to porn. Whilst Martin’s sombre delivery of this information is clearly meant to be the main draw of the show, it doesn’t quite sit right with the prior focus of the show. This is because these findings are not specific to the hard core porn that Martin has been googling for our benefit. Thus the study suggests that the porn that Martin was jacking off to in the 80s is just as addictive. But of course poor, confused Martin ignores this fact and moves on to an assertion so ridiculous it could quite possibly be the joke that unveils this entire programme as a spoof: ‘How can we protect our kids??? It’s the same as leaving heroin lying around the house!!!’

Whilst I’m sure I do not need to explain the stupidity of this statement, I will have a go. If you show an average group of kids granny porn, their immediate response is not going to be to sign up for a year’s subscription to They may cover their eyes, laugh, be disgusted or watch on in morbid fascination. But they are probably not aroused. Whilst some people do get off to violent porn, it is probably not because they’ve seen violent porn and they have decided to be violent porn addicts. They, for some unfortunate reason, are sexually aroused by violence. Or animals. Or whatever. But the chances of a young innocent 13 year old boy watching horrifically disturbing porn and developing a liking for it? It seems unlikely.

There are, of course, issues with young children being exposed to porn, but these are (predictably) only briefly touched upon in the programme. The problem with young boys watching porn online before their first sexual encounters places certain expectations in their minds – and pressures on the girls whom they have relationships with. A 16 year old boy, whose only education of sexual relationships comes from PornHub will probably expect his first girlfriend to be completely shaven, enjoy being bound and gagged and will beg him to do her up the arse. Whilst the awkwardness and fumbling of the majority of people’s first sexual experiences probably comes as a surprise, for young boys to be horrified by pubic hair or to expect sex to be a cold, loveless act that ends with coming all over your girlfriend’s face is a dangerous preconception for the majority of a generation to have, which not all may be able to get over easily as they embark in their sexual relationships.

The programme interviews two council workers who set up a website for young people to ask, openly, questions about sex. The women have the brilliant, and common sense approach to sex education that suggests that children need to understand sex and sexual relationships from a young age so that they can critically approach the pornographic material that they inevitably will come across in their curious teenage years. However, our good friend Martin appears to glaze over for most of this explanation, finishing off the interview by asking, like the 14 year old boy he apparently wishes he still was, if they are suggesting that he should say the word ‘penis’ to his 4 year old son, which is apparently a ‘shocking’ idea, before wrapping up by interjecting that he himself will only say the word ‘willy’. Bemusing.

What is most disappointing about the programme is that it almost says what needs to be said about porn: It isn’t going anywhere, so let’s make sure kids know what it is they’re going to be watching. Let’s dispel all the myths that will damage the next generation’s sexual relationships and expectations and give them a sense of humour about porn, not the anxiety and false promise that it must currently give teenagers expectant of their first sexual experience.

Instead the programme sensationalises porn addiction with little support for the notion that the modern day exposure to hard core porn has any greater effect on the human brain than a back catalogue of 1970’s Playboy magazines would. The only conclusion it seems that Martin Douchebag appears to come to is that as long as you’re wanking over your Dad’s porn collection, it’s probably fine, and his contribution to sex ed will be to try and tell his child the correct name for his genitalia. Top notch journalism.

Coming of (old) age

I always thought the moment I’d  feel as though I had truly become an adult would be an enlightened affair.  I assumed I’d slip into an alternate dimension where I no longer belonged to the realm of the teenage and I was a proper grown up, with new urges like wanting to buy clothes from Next, open an ISA instead of spending my spare cash on crème eggs, listen to Take That and watch property shows. Okay, so I’m super into property shows but It wasn’t part of my growing up experience. This happened this week, and rather than voluntariliy closing the door on the old world of the child and calmly entering the realm of the grown up, instead I have been ousted. Ousted by the most honest and irrefutable source possible: teenagers.

This week I worked at a residential with year 10s. I remember year 10. Not quite like it was yesterday, but I remember it pretty well. From what I remember, I drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney and felt pretty much like I’d reached the height of sophistication. I’m not sure exactly how I viewed people who were in their 20s, and I probably didn’t exactly feel like I related to them, but I certainly felt like I was joining the adult realm. So I expected to be able to get on with these kids, have a laugh, chat about things that people ‘our’ age liked. How wrong could I have been.

The first sign that it wasn’t going to pan out that way was when I did some basic math. Some of these kids were SEVEN years younger than me. Seven years is a lot of time. A hell of a lot of time. These kids were born BASICALLY AT THE MILLENNIUM. When I was bopping about in my white gilet and waving around glow sticks they were still BABES IN ARMS. These kids don’t remember the ‘90s. That’s going to probably make us pretty different. Make us, dare I say it, of different generations.

Through the course of the residential this became staggeringly clear. At the quiz, my group argued for around 15 minutes about what Bella from Twilight’s special power is. Something to do with a shield, apparently, but the specifics of it are apparently up for debate. Meanwhile, one girl genuinely asked if any of the others ‘liked Harry Potter’. As IF. As IF that is a question that should even have to be asked. Apparently it is no longer normal to expect everyone likes, and knows, Harry Potter, whilst everyone knows the disgustingly pathetic story line of Stephanie Meyer’s creation.

The next thing that baffled me is their OBSESSION with One Direction. Whilst I too at that age had inexplicable,borderline worrying obssessions with musicians, I maintain that they were somewhat more credible. I KNOW that Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco are pretty lame, but at least they played instruments.  And Kerrang and NME were all over them. Pop music was a PRIMARY school thing. But no, at the age of 15 apparently its okay to wear those wristbands that say Harry<3Niall<3Zayn<3Louis<3Liam. COME ON GUYS. LISTEN TO SOME MUSIC THAT IS A BIT DEPRESSING AND CAN FUEL YOUR CRAZY, CRAZY HORMONAL EMOTIONAL STATES. At least Pete Wentz came up with ‘Let’s play this game called when you catch fire, I wouldn’t piss to put you out’. That’s the kind of shit teenagers need. Not meaningless tripe such as ‘live while we’re young’ that definitely has exceptionally questionable morals (don’t let the pictures leave your phone? really? REALLY?)

But THE single most upsetting thing that I uncovered was that they didn’t know what a marble run was. A MARBLE run. What are these kids doing in infant school? Playing Wii Tennis? Setting up a Twitter account? I think that my outrage simply adds to my aging. I might as well say ‘ back in my day’. Urgh. I disgust myself.

Anyway, for all of my judgement and discovery, these facts themselves were not the cause of my exile from the teenage world. The teenagers were. Remember that thing you used to do with your friends to a poor, unsuspecting teacher/parent/old person where you say a phrase which has a secret meaning? The only example I can think of right now is rather less than secret, but you know how it’d go. ‘Do you like fish sticks, miss? Do you actually? Miss likes fish sticks! Miss, how much do you like fish sticks?’ I remember distinctly saying this with a straight face to poor, unsuspecting adults whilst my friends collapsed around in fits of hysterics. Well, that happened to me. That was the moment. That was the moment my teenage soul floated away to another realm and my adult one entered my body with a depressing, and slightly embarrassed, thud. I was being made fun of. Because I didn’t understand. Because I no longer was part of the teenage crowd.

This was supplemented by something arguably worse. Throughout the residential, my caring, lovely students were helpful enough to define the words that the ‘kidz ‘ were ‘down with’. They helpfully explained what a ‘selfie’ was. What ‘swaggy’ meant. If I hadn’t known what these words meant, I would have conceded that I am old, out of touch, and graciously left the next generation to it. What is 100 million times worse is that they THOUGHT I wouldn’t know what those words meant. They THOUGHT I was old, firmly separate from them and their interests and secret world. As much as I wanted to stamp my feet and shout ‘I KNOW! I KNOW WHAT A SELFIE IS! I DO THEM ALL THE TIME! I AM YOUNG LIKE YOU!!!!!!!’ I had to refrain, and leave them to being the ridiculous, boisterous and cruel creatures that teenagers are. I should probably give up, accept the fact that i’m accelerating towards my thirties and get on with ordering cashmere cardigans from Marks and Spencer…

Game of Thrones: quite possibly the best thing that will ever happen to you

I’ve been on edge for a couple of weeks now. My stomach is constantly churning and I sort of want to burst into song and break down and sob simultaneously about four times a day. Why?! I hear you cry. Why indeed. It’s only that Game of Thrones season 3 premieres in exactly TEN of your English days. I have never been more excited for anything, except for the time that I found out Blink 182 were headlining Reading. And then I got punched in the face in the crowd, so this level of excitement is LITERALLY dangerous for my health.

So, why am I writing this, you wonder. I am writing to convert all of you haters, all of you ‘on-the fence’-ers and all of you who got half way through season one and you gave up because PutLocker started being unreliable. I know where you’re coming from, honestly, I do. The first time I came across game of thrones my dad was watching a particularly gruesome bit of an episode, and I scoffed, and relocated my bowl of chocolate cereal and doodle jump marathon to another room in the house.

I assumed that the sex/fighting/blood/death would be akin to that of the TV series Spartacus. For those of you who don’t know, Spartacus involves the first woman from BBC’s Hustle and a selection of other nearing-middle-aged people shagging, stabbing, and fingering for forty minutes, with literally NO story line. Nothing. Even when they’re having vaguely plot related conversations they’re doing it whilst casually having sex with a bemused slave. It’s really quite a spectacle.

So when I first watched GoT, I did so with the highest levels of scepticism and cynicism possible. I scoffed my way through the opening credits, and approximately 20 seconds of the opening sequence before I realised that it quite honestly is THE BEST THING ON TELEVISION. Forget Pingu. Forget Relocation, Relocation, Relocation. Even forget THE SIMPSONS. This is it, guys. So now I’m going to give you 10 reasons (with NO spoilers, I PROMISE) to watch the most magnificently fantastic television show that has ever happened. Ever ever ever. Ever.

1. Every character is attractive.

I would be willing to bet that it would be possible to watch this programme on mute because simply looking at all of the characters is a sensory experience in itself. In fact, you could probably just line them all up in a studio and they could read out take away menus from Reading and surrounding areas and it would be riveting. Because they are all entirely, exceptionally and wonderfully beautiful. Even the characters that are absolutely vile/pathetic/irritating/ridiculous are pretty. Except Alfie Allen. Good god, he’s an ugly mug.

 2. The sex scenes aren’t that awkward.

If tits aren’t your thing, then this programme probably isn’t for you. There is a lot of unnecessary nakedness but I think I’d go as far to say that it’s kind of, a little bit, classy. Even in the brothels. There’s nothing massively grim or any horrible close up genital shots or anything. But still, don’t watch it with your parents, and don’t have the volume on too loud if you’re watching it alone in bed at 2am (The brothel scenes are rather vocally, if not visibly, gratuitous).

 3. It desensitises you to violence/prostitution.

The thing is with GoT, that although it is set in this mental fantasy world where basically everyone is trying to kill or fuck each other, it’s pretty human. The characters have a hard time in a pretty normal way from marriage issues, not fitting in and social climbing. So, logic dictates, that if Robb and Jon and Arya and Daenerys and Sansa can work through their more 21st century issues, then I think as viewers we learn how we’d get through being kidnapped/held at knife point/put to battle. For example, keep an eye out for Ros. Yes, she may be hideously oppressed in the fact that she is a prostitute, but that girl is making the best of a bad situation. She’s doing what she can. And I LOVE that prostitutes, who in 99% of TV shows of this type are 2D pieces of meat for beardy, beery old men to stick their dicks in, have got personalities, too. And that’s nice. And on that note..

 4. The women are INDEPENDENT LADIES.

In a genre that could so easily demote women to the status of dull, personality-less wenches and fair maidens, GoT opts instead for a healthy number of women who know exactly what they want and have no qualms about stopping at nothing to get it. In fact, whilst a considerable number of the male characters are the epitome of weak, selfish, and pathetic, none of the women are afraid of the battlefield, revenge, conflict and manipulation. It’s FANTASTIC!

 5. The opening credits.

I assure you, nothing can fill your heart with as much joy as the lengthy, intricate, graphically astounding and musically moving  GoT opening credits. Remember to pay attention and don’t even THINK about skipping over them. They give you invaluable geographical information about the vast and confusing land of Westeros which is integral to your understanding of the plot. And it’s REALLY fun. In fact, watch it right now.

And when you’ve watched the show, and have fully absorbed the majesty and wonder that the opening credits hold, please also watch this cat’s rendition.

The opening will never be the same again, but it’s sort of worth it. There’s something hauntingly beautiful about it.

 6. Daenerys Targaryen.

I promised no spoilers, so I shall simply leave you with her photo. But it’s not just because she’s quite possibly the most beautiful creature that ever has existed or ever will exist. She’s also a FANTASTIC character with one of the most FANTASTIC storylines in the whole show. Watch it and you’ll understand.


 7. Everyone is a dick.

Okay, Okay. This isn’t strictly true. But there are a handful of characters that are so exquisitely, disgustingly evil that it truly is a pleasure to hate them. And then you can spend most of your real life bitching and hypothesising and shouting about how much you hate said fictional characters, which comes in handy especially if you have nothing interesting happening in your actual life.

 8. Shit happens all of the time.

Right, bear with me. Remember Lost? When you’d spend hours and hours after an episode trying to work out what the numbers meant or if the baby was really the devil or why that guy from LOTR locked himself in the sinking sub? And then you wanted to gouge your eyes out when it turned out it meant fucking nothing and Jack was just an alcoholic having a really fucked up dream? Well, that doesn’t happen in my beloved GoT. Every episode is a whirlwind adventure that leaves your heart full and empty all at the same time, and an uncontrollable desire to watch every episode right there right now even though you probably ought to go to sleep/do some work/change out of the clothes you’ve been wearing since you got under the duvet to start watching at 2pm yesterday.

 9. Characters from Skins crop up.

Trival, but pleasing. Chris makes a particularly enjoyable appearance, and there’s not an unwanted erection or fish on speed in sight. On the subject of ‘people who have been in other stuff’ Sean Bean is a brilliant Borimir-esque character, and his northern accent is finally, perfectly suited to his character as Lord of Winterfell. Which brings me on to…

 10. Northern people are sexy.

I don’t normally find northern accents sexually attractive. I really hope that’s not snobby. I don’t find moustaches, sports foot wear in casual situations, or gaming attractive either. But GoT provides not one, not two, but a whole RANGE of sexy, sultry northern men that range from the ‘holy crap I think I’m going to die if I don’t put my mouth on your mouth soon’ Jon Snow, to Robert Baratheon who somehow manages to charm with his Yorkshire twangs. But that might just be me.

So, I hope I have successfully a) not ruined anything for you and b) convinced you to drop whatever (comparably insignificant) task you are completing right now and have gone on amazon to order both box sets, along with the official Iron Throne paperweight. Or just have started streaming the first episode illegally. Either or, really.

The accidental modification of my ethical belief system. Or, how I stopped liking bacon

So if any of you who are reading this know me (heaven only knows why you’d bother with this tosh if you didn’t) you’ll know I was blessed with the wonderfully incompatible traits of being both exceptionally stubborn and foolishly obsessive. Problems that arise from these personality defects are manifold, not least because when I say NO SERIOUSLY GUYS, THIS IS MY FAVOURITE SONG. EVER. THIS IS IT. MY EARS WILL NEVER BE FULLY SATED AGAIN BECAUSE THIS IS IT about Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend’, my pride means that I have to stick by this notion until people sort of start forgetting that I ever thought that the whispered ‘swag, swag’ gave me butterflies. Seriously though, at a bad time in my life, that shit moved me.

I digress. My obsessive personality means that I get bored of stuff really, really easily. One of my darling friends pointed out to me earlier this week that I get bored of food half way through a meal. My father will affirm this point; I spent the greater part of my childhood eating cold fishcakes because I wasn’t allowed to leave the table unless my plate was empty. It wasn’t like I was trying to rebel, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. I probably fancied some cous cous.

It’s a serious issue, not least because it means that I don’t really ever stick at anything, (see previous blog for long term consequences of this) and struggle to work out things like whether Chipsticks really ARE my favourite crisps, or if I’m just going through a phase. You know, real important stuff.

This brings me to the point of what has so far been a meander through the more ridiculous parts of my brain. Vegetarianism. Before university, I thought being veggie meant you were either a) a hippy b) being irritating and trying to get attention or c) living a lifestyle that was only inconveniencing yourself, for no real reason.

I think my justification to myself that it was okay to eat animals was ‘well, GEE, they’re already cut up right there on the shelf, so why SHOULDN’T I eat it? If I stop eating it, its not like its going to make a difference’. In fact, I think I’d go so far as to say that I made vague attempts to desensitise myself to animals, to be more in line with my carnivorous status. As in, if people were all ‘aaww a cute little lamb, how can we possibly be eating that later?!’ rather than responding by saying you should not judge what you eat by how cute it is, you thick fucks, I just thought to myself ‘It’s not even THAT cute. Its face is a bit squashed.’

And then came along one of my most marvelous friends who is absolutely the most vegetarian vegetarian I have ever known. She cooked me all of the most wonderful  dishes, taught me how to cook without meat and told me all of the ethical, economical and health benefits of being veggie. But, I must hasten to add, I have not once had the ‘why the F do you eat meat’ speech. Because she’s wonderful. But, living with people, you kind of get what their angle is. On life, and stuff. And after two years of living with said friend, I GET it.

Eating animals is, well, wrong. Give a SHIT that its what we’ve always done, its ‘the main component’ on your plate or the animal doesn’t even know that its dying. Why on earth should we decide that ‘as long as it’s had a good life’ it’s okay to slaughter it and serve it with mashed potato?

After thinking this for a while, and having a brief flirtation with vegetarianism for a month last year (a long story of a bet that involved a hangover, olives and Vodka Revs) I have been teetering on the edge, not sure whether I really, truly want to commit to the veggie lifestyle, or if my affinity with the animals will be as short lived as my obsession with Temple Run. As we don’t eat meat in my house, I very rarely eat the stuff, but when on the odd occasion that I can treat myself to food cooked in an industrial kitchen, I often still order my old, meaty favourites. And I HATE it. I feel bloody guilty. Not because I’m imagining a cute little lamb baa-ing pathetically before it is fed into a giant food processor. Because I don’t think I have the right to eat something that once had consciousness. And because theres a million, trillion things to eat out there that are absolutely DELICIOUS and not one living thing had to die for it. Even if 98% of restaurants think that stuffed peppers are the only thing vegetarians can eat, ever.

I’m still on the edge of self-definition, though. Because you know, I’m shit at sticking at stuff. I pretty much have to reverse psychology myself on a day to day basis just to complete simple tasks. Even though I haven’t eaten meat in over a week, it’s only by accident. I’m worried that If I tell myself I’m vegetarian starting now I’ll have shoved a Gregg’s steak slice down my gullet by lunchtime tomorrow. I thought it didn’t matter, but i’m starting to think it does. At least it’ll be another ‘ism’ to add to my long list of ‘shit I care about’.

Cider drinking and soul searching

Somehow, without either my knowledge or consent, I am nearing the end of my university career. In my mind, the voices of teachers, relatives and strangers I served on bars who seemed to know me intimately ring in my mind; ‘make the most of it! It goes faster than you think!’

My general reaction to this over sentimental bollocks was one of pure physics/mathematics; ‘Puh, three years is AGES. I can’t even imagine how many days are in three years. It certainly doesn’t matter that I don’t have a game plan for after university, because I don’t need to decide for THREE YEARS!’ If only I could talk to 18 year old me now, as I edged away from one of the various middle aged men leering at me over their pint of bitter telling me that York was a good university.

‘Hannah’ I’d say. ‘Sort yourself out. What do you WANT? What do you BELIEVE IN? What is going to make you HAPPY?’. 18 year old me would have replied in the same manner as I would reply now if someone told me I had 3 years to doss around reading literature. ‘I want to get drunk. I want to have fun and stuff.  But I mainly want to get drunk’.

And that’s what I’ve done. For three whole years. Of course I’ve learned some fascinating stuff, and made some incredible friends, but the main things I’m going to take from university is that cider is sometimes a mixer, tequila is a sure-fire way to secure a 36 hour hangover, and I don’t like Desperados. Sure, these things are going to help me in life. I will NEVER make the mistake of looking at a beer with a lime wedged in the neck and think ‘ooh, fancy, I’ll have one of them’, anyway.

But was there supposed to be something more? Wasn’t I supposed to have emerged a wonderful intellectual butterfly who wants to pursue ‘higher truth’ or some sort of ‘pure knowledge’? I don’t. I mean, I’ve read some really fantastic, eye opening things and some things that seriously made me question my existence (not in an intellectual ‘existential crisis’ kind of way, more in a ‘the boredom and deflation I feel right now will never, ever completely leave me so is there any point in going on’ kind of way) but nothing’s made me stop in my tracks and changed my life. All I’ve really taken from this that I can pass on to those around me is that Anglo Saxon is a dead language for a reason  and that you should never, ever read Robinson Crusoe.

What I HAVE learned about myself is that you have to stand up for what you believe in and defining yourself and your beliefs is a step towards realising who you are and what you want. Maybe that’s enough. But discovering that feminism and atheism and animal rights mean a LOT to me hasn’t really helped me decide what I want to do with my life. Sure, one day I could be a professional atheist. I mean, that’s the dream. But even Hitchens wasn’t TECHNICALLY a professional atheist. No one was throwing money at him for being really right about everything. He had to work hard. He had to work REALLY hard.

But where do I start? I can’t really go to the careers service and tell them that I really want a job in eradicating the ills of religion. Maybe I can, but the last time I went to the careers service the woman laughed at my CV formatting, asked me if I knew how to get the information she was giving me off the website (Sorry that I enjoy face to face interaction, jeez) and literally ceased to acknowledge my existence as soon as my 15 minutes were up. I’m not sure she’d be into looking into forging a career path that is yet to exist for me.

So here I am, a seasoned alcoholic with enough knowledge of English literature through the ages to be able to bullshit my way through a book club without reading the text. But I haven’t quite got to the bottom of the small matter of what I’m doing with my life. Three years have passed and I feel like I’m only just beginning to be a real life person. Maybe that’s because I’ve been drunk for most of the time, but some part of me wishes that I could have another year to put myself together properly so that I can pop it on a CV that says ‘BAM! I’M HANNAH ALLIES, AND THIS IS WHO THE FUCK I AM’.

I couldn’t quite find myself in the swampy lakes of the University of York (I know, I dived in for a closer look) so I’m hoping I’m out there in the big wide world. Preferably somewhere warm. Until then, pass the tequila.

Homeland’s glaring Islamophobia

As I’ve given up drinking/smoking/having any fun whatsoever, I’ve had to resort to a substitute, and this has come in the form of obsessively watching Homeland. In a fortnight I have watched all 20 episodes (sometimes up to five in one evening) and as a result have lived in a weird, insomnia ridden world, occasionally forgetting that I’m not Carrie Mathison and I’m not constantly attempting to shut down a nationwide terrorist attack.

It’s a great programme, produced by ShowTime who also do Dexter, which I love , so there’s a lot of aesthetic similarities and fantastic tension building and plot diversions. Unfortunately, I can’t get past the presentation of the sensitive issue of Islam.

Obviously, there is, and has been for many years, huge tension between Christianity and Islam in the United States. It is something that can be, and ought to be, addressed, explored and talked about in art form.

Equally, it is totally understandable – and realistic – to have Islamophobic characters in the show. But Carrie, who we know has an understanding – and respect –for Middle Eastern culture doesn’t seem to challenge, or even address the blatent racism that happens around her. How difficult would it have been to write this into a character who is supposed to have such understanding, and whose main drive (initially, anyway) is that need for truth and justice?

When two innocent Muslims are killed in the mosque in the first season, she demands some sort of culpability from the FBI. Why? Because she has a hunch the Imam is connected to, or knows something about, the terrorists they’re chasing, and he won’t talk to her without justice for the two people who have been killed. Not once in all of her negotiations does the glaringly obvious fact that justice for innocent death is necessary, regardless of what it can do for her investigation. The racism present here is clear, as the entire point of the show is the homeland dept. getting justice for the American lives lost to terrorists. The Imam’s plea for investigation shows the programme’s insistence on a ‘them and us’ mentality- the Americans want justice for American death, and the Muslims (no matter where they live, or their nationality) want their own justice, which doesn’t seem to be compatible with American interests.

Another issue is Brody’s conversion to Islam. Here the programme had the opportunity for a really nuanced approach to the situation. When he tells Carrie that he has converted because there was no bible around to give him hope, there seemed to be the fleeting promise that the show would demonstrate that religion is a universal comforter, regardless of the book you follow, or God you pray to. But because the audience are so unsure about Brody’s loyalties, when he tells Carrie that he converted it seems like another ploy, another way in which he is part of a terrorist’s cover up. We even get a flashback of him walking in on prayer and appearing to be put in a hypnotic type state when one of the worshippers looks at him. Less ‘it genuinely helped me through a hard time’ and more ‘they brainwashed me into it!’

His wife’s explosive reaction to the conversion is understandable in part. For your husband to keep something so important from you is a big deal, especially something as sensitive as a religion of an enemy country. But when she screams at him ‘these are the people who tortured you’ whilst waving a Qur’an around, I don’t feel like the viewer is being told that these are the misguided beliefs of an uninformed woman. It feels like the person who has written that line thinks that it is okay to casually blur the line between Al Queda and the Islamic faith. What’s worse is her truly offensive ‘did you actually just say that’ when Brody asks her not to throw his holy book on the floor. Islam is treated like a disease of the mind, not a religion that is actually very similar to Christianity, and deserves to be respected as such.

The show is riddled with offensive, generalising and unnecessary portrayals of the faith, and I don’t think this is a technique to show a commentary on an Islamophobic attitude to terrorism – it simply is an Islamophobic attitude towards it. The show had a unique opportunity in creating Brody, a character so confused and torn between the two vastly different ways of life he has experienced, to highlight the human similarities between them; the love of a child, faith and warfare. But all it manages to do is reinforce the widely accepted American opinion that the Muslims are bastards, and not to be trusted. It’s not constructive, it’s not entertaining, and it’s not right.