TOMBOY BOOKCLUB!!!- ‘Me Too: Poetry Anthology’

Hello and welcome to Tomboy Bookclub! Todays’ book is not for the faint-hearted, but it will always be important, even if all the media attention surrounding its topic does disintegrate soon… it is ‘#MeToo: A Woman’s Poetry Anthology rallying against sexual assault.’

You would have to be living under a rock not to know by now what ‘#MeToo’ means, but for those who want a little clarification: #MeToo is a hashtag originally created by Tanara Burke (not the famous Hollywood advocates of the movement, important though their contributions raising awareness have been) for people who have suffered from sexual assault and harassment to share their experiences without shame or indignation, to rightfully expose those who have done wrong. Speaking out and reclaiming respect for the downtrodden to remedy a problem that for pretty much the whole of history has been swept under a rug, something that has been made to feel like a part of life ‘you have to get on with’.

This book collects poetry from a whole host of women poets, encapsulating myriad experiences and traumas in a united aim to confront horrific power imbalances, creating hope for a world less riddled with pain. Although focusing on the experiences of women and girls mainly (of course the reality is not clean-cut, woman= victim man= abuser, but to save agro can we all just accept that the majority of women will suffer harassment in ways that the majority of men will just never experience in the same scale or intensity), this anthology is not exclusionary. From childhood to adulthood, amongst the sheer number of different stories coping with pain through art- there is going to be a poem that tugs at your heart strings, whether you’ve ever had to say ‘me too’ or not.

Each section speaks to a different aspect of assault, whether in abuse’s preludes or aftermaths to try to give full scope to the long-lasting and immediate effects that sexual assault can have on a person. Children slowly learning not to trust strangers, girls harassed on their journeys home in school uniform, grown women shirking from husbands and cars that drive too close- it is harrowing how ubiquitously, how insidiously assault rears its head repeatedly over the course of so many lives.

Poetry speaks of before, when the world was trusted, and evil was a mere blot you were told existed but had never seen or felt with your own body. And poetry speaks of during- the helplessness, the pain, fear and worry- ‘why didn’t I fight?’ ‘Does this mean I wanted it?’ ‘It can’t be so bad if it left no bruise or cut?’ Then aftermath: the constricting and contradictory longings of love and to be alone, trying to heal and forget but being unable to let go. How fear stays in the body- no man slowing down the car to ask for directions will ever be an innocent encounter again.

The scope of this book is not limited to the most abhorrent of crimes either (though too many a poem forces it to the front just how wide the scale of child and domestic abuse actually is). Some poems speak of silent evil, made so familiar and ingrained deeply into what we are taught to expect, so that when the blow falls no hurt comes after. This book makes you realise that many people supress the past, hide it away so they no longer classify what happened as what it is- abuse. There are women reflecting back on their pasts and realising with a shiver that it is them too, after all these years batting hurt away like a fly at the dinner table.

I don’t want to list the number and severity of the stories the poetry tells- that makes these poets no longer in charge of how their stories are told, it degrades the thought that went into making these poems. So I will just reiterate again: these poems will make you harden up inside, cry, break down and want to howl.

But, it doesn’t end with an acceptance of cruelty and gendered violence as being forever. The book ends with hope, and that is what makes it most important as a tool for healing and learning. It celebrates the resilience and beauty of all those who can now hold their heads high in survival. All those different people, with different voices and stories and emotions, all helping each other to live a life unburdened by the self-hating insomnia cruelty causes.

And, the ‘#MeToo Anthology’ actually does help make a difference to the lives of survivors like those whose poetry is in the book. All proceeds from the book go towards helping Women’s Aid, a UK charity helping women suffering under domestic and sexual abuse.

I hope I have written clearly enough to communicate how necessary I feel this book is to educate and inspire action towards helping people. ‘MeToo’ demonstrates how it could be anyone, anyone you know, who could suffer next from this epidemic; and which will show no signs of dying out unless we continue to hear, acknowledge and believe the people who need our help.

All the poems in this anthology are so gut-wrenchingly honest and beautiful for it, despite the pain they came from that I wish I could post them here. But, as I can’t I have chosen one that really stood out to glitter in the blurry tears that kept falling when reading. Please do try to get a hold of a copy, and please always try to remember this anthology’s lesson: Don’t let the evil of this world keep you quiet, when somebody else needs your voice to help birth their own xoxox

Exile

Love as a yes to the world
is difficult when I am
besieged by fingers and thighs
and strong strangling arms.

I am bedraggled by the touch
of desire without invite
and I can choose to stay here
in full body armour,

Hard-eyed, light guttering,
here where pleasures are
but at a price, or I can
unpack my boots and go,

With a map and a plan
and a bag of good books
to where hills and sky and
sea collide unseen,

Go to where the snow falls
untouched but for where
my feet tread.
And yet, to stand alone

Under endless steely sky-
what use inner light then
if there is no one,
no one for miles, to see?

– Rachel Buchanan

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- SUCK LESS- where there’s a Willam there’s a way!

Hello!!!!! I haven’t written on here for a while, and I’ve been feeling rather sad recently like a pebble thrown in a lake, and I’m the pebble trying to find out where the fuck I’m sinking when it turns out I’ve been the lake AND the pebble all a long. This image made more sense in my head, but I hope you get what I’m saying: LIFE IS FUCKING HARD.

I tried to get drunk on WooWoo yesterday to cure my woes, but it took me 2 hours to drink one glass and then I puked LOL. My body was ravaged (idk why- i am going to the doctors but THIS IS A BOOK REVIEW NOT A LIST OF CORPOREAL AILMEMENTS) and I just wanted a brick to fall on my head and die quickly. But I’m trying to not be such a diva in my depressions, and instead of fucking myself up I decided to have a long bath and read before bed, which brings me to todays book review… SUCK LESS.

Suck Less is a guide to life from one of my favourite drag queens everrr *drum roll please*… WILLAM!!!! Willam is an American drag queen superstar in the USA who came to my attention when watching my first series of RuPaul’s drag race (Season 4). Willam is the perfect blend of couture and crusty, serving diamonds and glamour alongside cursing and general grossness. She (Willam is not transgender, just a drag queen but imma talk like the queens and call her ‘she’ so whatever) isn’t just a pretty face with a dirty mind though, she was so smart at highschool she completed her studies top of the class in only three years! Alongside Willam’s grossness and intelligence, my other favourite quality of hers is her bad-assery. She got kicked off her Rupaul season for breaking the rules and fucking her boyfriend during filming when nobody on the show was allowed to contact their loved ones. The fact she got kicked of the show for breaking the rules by fucking IS LIFE GOALS TO ME! PASSIONATE LOVE AND IRREVERENCE OF AUTHORITY ALL AT ONCE!!! It doesn’t even matter that much that she’s banned from the show- Willam has a youtube channel now where she posts regulary and it’s SHADEY AS FUCK AND HILARIOUS. She also loves dogs which automatically makes her my kind of gyal.

Here is Willam in her classic glam blue smokey eye LOVES IT!!!! 🙌[[[[[[[[[[[[
The book isn’t a normal fiction book, it is full of colourful pictures and instead of chapters, there is a list of all the aspects of life the book helps you to ‘suck less’ at (the book title is both cheeky and relavent aha), such as: zits, munchies, controlled substances, hair, getting high, anal, insulting someone and having a nice home. She covers a lottt of topics, and whilst you shouldn’t read this book if your’e seriously looking for advice, it is really fun and hilarious. It gives a fuck about not not giving a fuck, and that is very important. It’s a good one for when you wanna read, but not get too deep into a novel that you cannae be bothered to decipher late at night. It is lighthearted, but when you’re feeling all serious and stumped that is better to counteract demons than getting all deep and mystical.

My favourite section is her advice on how to deal with munchies. Anyone who knows me knows this- I LOVE GETTING HIGH AND I LOVE FOOD. So, learning one of my fave drag queens knows the struggle of munch made my red devil-dick high eyes cry with joy. I keep saying that the book is a joke (I mean that as a compliment aha) but honestly the advice she gives on this topic is ace. Munchies can be a MAJOR problem, especially at university where my homemaking skills did not improve as quickly as my ability to read and read and READ; where the kitchen was oftentimes empty save for dirty pans/ stale, moudly bread and McDonalds chips someone put in the fridge next to their half drunken smoothie. You either sit there piping it up, stoned as fuck and hungry, having erotic daydreams of being fed chocolate and fruits by sexy angels when actually your stomach is bubbling like a marsh with hunger (guilty lol); OR *accidentally* forget that you ordered pizza with money you don’t have, and act suprised when it arrives, eat the whole thing then pass out instantaneously from a food coma.

MUNCHIESSSSS!!!!!!!!

Willam’s advice is to not ‘play Hungry Hippo’ in your head and grub out like a black hole inhaling calories, but to try to prepare your own meals- that way it costs less, is slightllyyy better for you, and it’s more satisfying to create and be inspired when you’re high than just be a potato. She makes recepie suggestions with a little key of how to determine what you’ll be capable of achieving at your level of littiness: BUZZED, STONED OR CFYF (can’t find your feet) It makes me laugh that she mentions protein bars- that you shouldn’t stuff your baked face with them under the pretence of being healthy- because me and my friend ALWAYS used to eat protein bars with chocolate, and we’d be like ‘Ohhhh it’s all protein, those calories don’t count‘. BITCH!!! MY BODY CAN COUNT AND THE NUMBERS ADD UP ON MY STOMACH AND BOOTY. PROTEIN BARS DO COUNT.

Despite the Munchies section being my fave, the book as a whole is just really well made and professional, without it loosing Willam’s dragessence (i made up that word, I think it works). She includes SNATCHED photographs, more casual pictures, playlists of songs to suit the problem/activity she is helping with ANDDDDD, for all you folks not completley immersed in the wonders of cross dressing and queer glamour, she even includes a dictionary of drag vocabulary to help make the book easier to read and more approachable.

Willam is truly a queen in every sense, and whilst there’s other queens too who I also wish would write books (AHEM TRIXIE MATTEL, KATYA ZAMOLODCHIKOVA, THE VIXEN SASHA VELOUR, SHARON NEEDLES AND MOREEEEE) this is a great place to start introducing yourself to the drag scene. In all the glitter and jokes and club partying, drag queens really do help me cope with life. When life is happy, I shashay and shante flaunting my wares allll day singing with Rupaul. But, when I feel overwhelmed/ sad/ angry, I can watch people who know a lot more of life’s pains than I do (they often open up about lgbtq+ struggles, homophobia, eating disorders etc- these queens smile through shit storms) throw on a pair of heels and try their hardest even though in so many spaces they’re not royalty, but treated like dirt. If a person kicked out of their family home for being gay can tape his dick between his legs and constantly wear heavy wigs, make people happy from dusk till dawn even if they feel crap, AND still spill the T whilst avoiding all shade- then we can try and not cry, and try to be stonger in beauty and happiness.

WOW the ending got cheesy, so Imma quit whilst I’m ahead. If you can’t get this book, please do try to at least give watching drag race a try! Or listening to queens’ music on youtube, follow them on instagram! BE AN ALLY AND SUPPORT YOUR CROSS DRESSING QUEENS! SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN IN THE WORLD HAVE GIGANTIC PENISES AND, AFTER ALL, “GENDER IS A CONSTRUCT SO TEAR IT APART” (quote from C.L.A.T by Sasha Velour and co.) !!!!!!!!! As always, here is a lil’ quote from the book to tanstalise you… xoxoxoxox

“So how does a typical person find their sparkle? Self reflection in a Zen garden? Sure. That’ll work fine, I bet. Although smart money says that if you’re looking for some sparkle, it may just be easier to find a fucking drag queen. Drag queens, generally, make life better all around. Think of it this way: If you were bored at home and had my number in your phone, wouldn’t you call it? Odds are, your night would be more entertaining. I do all the things you may think twice about before even thinking once. It’s probably better that you don’t do some of those things, but you could always learn from my mistakes or at least borrow my stuff while I’m in jail…”

BRAIN ENGAGES, LET THE PARTY BEGIN!

Anxiety is a fickle mistress. One moment she can’t give a toss and is out trying to bed every Tom, Dick and Harry in Christendom; the next moment, there she is slap-bang on my doorstep with a bunch of cheap gas station roses and chocolates I don’t like. I could tell her to get lost… but then again, that would be like smashing a mirror, or deleting my own phone number. Useless. I am still here. She is still here.

If you didn’t guess by now- she is still here because she is me.

I keep forgetting that anxiety doesn’t really ‘get better‘- despite the cliched metaphor, I must say it. Anxiety changes like the weather. It is a slow rumbling of a realization to reach the point where you know there is actually a name for the hot-sticky fear gumming up your brain, and unfortunately, at least for me- I see no quick fix miracle for a fully-anxiety free future.

You may have a clue of what will trigger you to start worrying, but without good coping mechanisms and support- that trigger can turn into a full blown shoot-out. Personally, I’ve noticed three things that make me wanna smoke all my fingers like zoots: the prospect of evening/sleep, large crowds and THE FUTURE!!!!

aha I know the last one is quite dramatic, but it is sincere. Yet, I don’t want to unpick and examine all the affecting psychological complexities that perpetuate my anxiety and resulting bad behaviors; but to try to outline how I know when I’m thinking/worrying too much (verging on a panic attack), and just some lil’ tips of how to soothe that troubled lost-child soul, whoever you are.

STAGE ONE- BRAIN ENGAGES, LET THE PARTY BEGIN!: “OH HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING WHAT THE FUCK ARE THOSE STRANGERS THINKING WHAT THE FUCK AM I THINKING THE FUCK AM I DOING I DON’T DESERVE TO BE HERE WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE THINKING WHAT IS THIS WORLD WHERE IS THE NEXT CRUELTY WHY WHY WHY…”

When I say, BRAIN ENGAGES, I am relating a semi-accurate recording of my neurons when they start to get boiled. But all jokes aside, having a panic attack really isn’t fun, and for all those who don’t take them seriously or whatever- SUCK MY TITTIES! 

Normally I feel my body get hotter, it will be harder to concentrate and (especially in crowded places that I don’t know so well) become more disorientating to try and find your way round- which really doesn’t help the incessant throes of inadequacy tossing around in the noggin’s mental soup. But,when I’m at home and feel anxiety coming, I annoy everyone in the vicinity by pacing round and round, wringing my hands and finding it impossible to not tap my feet.

It gets more serious when my breathing gets shallow, the tears flow uncontrollably and my hands cramp up real bad like pins and needles. It starts in the hands, but can travel. Sometimes it gets so intense I won’t be able to walk or move properly at all, I’ll just be a tightening ball of tears and rasping. It is humiliating (especially on public transport).  It is painful- both physically, but more mentally. I feel ashamed and embarrassed of what everyone else must think: “What a wimp”.

But anxiety and I (and yourselves, oh my beloveds) need to stay in my/our lane: you will never know what another person is thinking. It isn’t their heart or emotions or brain or life, so try to be kinder and as my grandma would say: “do attempt to restore some order”.

If your hands are cramping, do all you can to ease them- try pulling the fingers apart or sit on them to stop them seizing up again. Take deep, slow, measured breaths, close your eyes and think of the person/ animal/place that makes you feel the most at ease and sure of yourself. I would recommend trying to call a loved one if it’s possible; if not, and you’re shy and don’t want to ask strangers for help (I try to be trusting, but sometimes you need your own zone) try to find a secluded area that is safe but quite peopleless, and let those waterworks be free from observation whilst you try to get it together.

Keep reassuring yourself if you’re alone that it will all be alright. The truth shifts and changes, reality isn’t forever. You are trying and you are loved. You are not evil and you can love. Be your own cheerleader- but more gentle, sans the irritating valley girl accent and sickening pompoms all rustling like binbags.

 

I am only talking from personal experience, and I’m sure there must be attacks way worse than what I have had to cope with. So if my tips aren’t useful, I am sorry- But if your’e comfortable, please feel free to share your own tips/experiences feelings. (I want to make friends!)

Critical thinking, sky-musing and bad-ass rhetoric are my jam. But if this mental problem-solving is causing you occasional strife, it perhaps doesn’t make you a wimp or uncaring to not see all the atrocities of the world as soon as you awaken, which could possibly put you on edge from the time you finish your coco-pops to when University Challenge comes on (and the team you wanted to win, lose- obviously.) At the end of the day, worrying is just caring too much. There is nothing wrong with caring (goddammit, the world needs more caring people), but if you want to live a life of love and really make a difference to all the people and problems you want to help, you gotta love yourself first. I feel like such a hypocrite typing that as I still routinely hate myself on a daily basis. But I am trying. And that is what matters.

So, to return to you: you gotta do what makes you happy because when you are happy is when you’re truly alive. Shindig to Presley in your knickers. Kiss a snail (maybe not, are they germy?) Call your grandma and talk about what singer she fancied when she was 15. Write out your feelings in haiku or acrostic form and then perform it for your dogs (to clarify- I’ve never read my own poems to my dogs) Hell- watch fucking Dick and Dom in the Bungalow with a zoot and some ovaltine. YOU DO YOU BABES!!!! and your’e not being selfish or lazy or stupid. You are being happy and not self-destructive. This is good. Repeat and repeat (whilst not neglecting ‘adult’ duties or defining fun as exclusively additive substances – haha)

Sending all my love to those who struggle with anxiety, any difficulty or disability that makes life a bit more of a slog. We will be alright. 

xoxosxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxo