VALENTINES DAY- Where is the Love?

Hello everyone!!!!!

Today’s post isn’t in honour of a particular book or poem, but a feeling, an emotion we all (like to think we) know … L-O-V-E!!!! Valentines Day is upon us and that means, according to popular imagination, that you will either be up the Eiffel Tower with a bouquet of roses serenaded by a violinist on one knee, OR a sobbing mess sequestered beneath layers of duvet, shovelling ice cream and discounted chocolates down your gob. One of the main reasons I began writing, and specifically poetry, was to try and find the truth of love. It sounds horrendously cheesy like a fucking Richard Curtis rom-com, but it is a fact. I have always been beguiled as to what this emotion that everybody needs and wants, but can never define or explain really is.

And although Valentines Day is meant to be a celebration of that divine mystery, I think just as with most other sincere emotions/traditions, capitalist patriarchy has sucked out the life blood and made of love a travesty. For starters, Valentines never originated as an innocuous trading of fluffy pink things and shitty lingerie. IT STARTED AS A REBELLION MOTHER FUCKERSS!!!!! Yes, St Valentine got his head chopped off by the bastards in charge for the audacity of believing that people should have a right to dedicate themselves to one another if they were thus inclined. I’m not about to start halooing and yaying for the indoctrination of heterosexual Christian monogamy (ew.) into us all, but it is still important. Valentine’s Day did not start as a chance to brag about how rich and beloved and pretty you are. It started as a statement of intent: I can love without permission.

But today en masse it feels like this burning desire has been replaced with obligation and FOMO. Real love is powerful, and The Man doesn’t want us to believe it. LGBTQ+ people are being called sinful and aberrant for their love, whilst pornography constantly fetishizes their desires into a mockery for the mainstream. People are clinging to stay in or start toxic relationships just so that they can say they have a bae, pretending that forcing someone else to (pretend to) love them is a gratifying substitute for the real thing. Black girls are feeling like they don’t measure up to billboards of whiteness selling us pants and weekend breaks, force-feeding us the Imperial lie that only pale skin is worthy of attention and ‘protection’. Boys are made to feel like they can’t ask for love at all, locked up in macho cages. And little girls are made to feel like failures because they didn’t get the most cards in their class, being taught by stick insect Disney princesses or Love Island drones that the most defining sign of success for a woman is ‘love’.

To be loved, for beauty and selflessness. But the patriarchy has weaponized love, and it no longer actually means what it says on the tin. To be loved = men want to fuck you and for you to be grateful for everything they steal and exploit for themselves. And of course, womynx (womyxn= term including cis women, Trans women, queer people, feminine people, non-binary people e.t.c) are taught to give love like a handout, an infinite resource of patience and tenderness arising from no effort whatsoever. Love is infinite, but it does not come without effort. The emotional labour of which is, SHOCK HORROR, pushed on womyxn. To love= give all you have whilst simultaneously being a placid doormat, one of the bros.

I used to think ‘love’ was the only thing that I ever wanted, but as I age and see the haranguing cruelty of the patriarchy crush all things sincere and delicate; I have to admit that the version of love I thought I needed (old-school hand holding in the park, sharing sweets on the bus with a lover who will cherish me forever in sentimentalized photo albums and diaries- don’t judge me.) VS the ‘reality’ of what is inside each individual, is never going to calibrate with this hypocritical cess pit of ‘society’. So many ‘concepts’ I cannot wrap my head around.

Monogamy, and partnering in general is a myth of patriarchy to keep womyxn feeling like they aren’t enough if they aren’t ‘chosen’. Like womyxn need to complete themselves with a man who will ‘take care of them’, which really just means less women working and being bosses for themselves. NEWS FLASH: WOMYNX DON’T NEED MEN. WE NEVER HAVE. STOP RIDICULING SINGLE WOMYNX. STOP DEMONIZING PEOPLE WHO ARE HAPPIER ALONE. WOMYNX WANT LOVE. WE WANT HAPPINESS. WE WANT TO FUCK. WE DO NOT NEED MEN FOR THESE THINGS. WE TOLERATE MALE BULLSHIT TO TRY AND FIND DIAMONDS IN A SHIT STACK. I am glad I got that off my chest, because that is one of my main despairs at modern depictions and thoughts about love: that we need someone else. It is such bullshit, because as soon as you feel you need love, and that you’ve got to force and be desperate and do anything you can to be completed, then it isn’t love but fear.

What I’m saying isn’t anything new, feminist movements since the suffragettes and before have been saying that womynx need to stop relying on men, and I think it’s especially important when it comes to love. We do not need permission to feel beautiful, we do not have to feel ugly just because a man said it so. Men (lol NOT ALL MEN) are pretty stupid, we should not be following the same rules they have been trying to enforce. Their rules are leading to the 6th mass extinction of earth. We can do better than that, we can choose ourselves and start thinking of important things other than what men want their dates to dress like, or how to lose weight fast.

I know it may seem hypocritical, considering I myself have a boyfriend. But, actually he is one of the reasons why I am trying to be more astute in recognising the difference between needing and wanting love. He always tells me that I should never let a man break my heart, and that’s him included. Knowing that you can survive alone, and that anyone else is just a glorious bonus of extra colour to an already mystifying and divine existence, is a much more beneficial foundation for happiness than feeling that you will be nothing unless you force another creature to be tethered to you always. People like Chidera Eggerue ( AKA- The Slumflower), Audre Lorde (MY QUEER QUEEN) and Virginia Woolf (the way she cherishes the world and writes so exquisitely could not have been done had she been chasing a man incessantly) are much more eloquent on the importance of self-love before anything else much more than me. But I hope that this little snippet of thought has given a different perspective on one of the most tired and money-fuelled exploitations of love this western world has created.

If anything, I hope you all have a lovely day by yourself. I hope you romance yourself, take yourself on a date so that when you are encountered with amazing humans you can fully appreciate them without the clouded perspective of desperately searching for validation. Fuck the patriarchy, smoke a blunt and bask in the miniscule yet cosmic significance you hold on this fleeting planet, ignoring how pretty you may or may not be. Love without permission, from the state, or God, or family, or popular culture, or even yourself.

XOXOXXOXOXO

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- ‘ZAMI: A NEW SPELLING OF MY NAME’

HELLO EVERYONE! LONG TIME NO SPEAK!!!! I am truly very sorry that I have been so neglectful tending my little nook of internet, but this year I am trying to be happier, badder, and in control of my self-made destiny (whatever the fuck that means) – hence, I have been a busy bee. Every weekend since the New Year has consisted of me cramming as much littiness and love into 48 hours as is humanly possible. I’ve been to the pub from 6 until 1 am with my cousin, been clubbing in Leeds, rolled many a zoot in Guildford and even managed to fly out and gallivant around the Netherlands. So you can see I haven’t been quiet for nothing, but now it’s time to get this show back on the road! I am starting 2019 (and today is Chinese New Year’s, so it does count!!!! YEAR OF THE PIG, OINK OINK BITCHES) with a bang, and will talk about one of the most beautiful, tender and courageous books I have read in a while. I am happy that I have started this new year with such an inspirational tome to guide me onwards: Zami: A New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lorde will be the jewel in the crown of today.

For anyone who hasn’t been blessed by her presence yet, Audre Lorde is the fat, black, queer poet/lover/essayist/activist/teacher of your dreams. Audre ended up being the poet laureate of New York before her tragic and too early death of Cancer at the young age of 58; in her reign upon earth, she befriended James Baldwin, was admired by Adrienne Rich and anthologized by Langston Hughes. Audre is a big fucking deal, to be frank. But this book is the story before her canonization into modern literature. This book follows her growing up as a young girl, an outsider determined with visions of poetry and survival through love, making her way in a cruel world that at best doesn’t give a fuck, and at worst actively hates her for being a fat, half-blind black girl who loves girls.

Although this book isn’t a feminist theory study guide, it is a fascinating look into the experience of what it is like to live in clashing intersections of identity, and what feminism must do to include these people. The way Audre frames her personal narrative enables her to talk honestly about the loneliness she felt in self-professed, so-called ‘progressive’ circles- and the need, if feminism truly wants to uplift all people, for feminists to encourage more discussion of difference and clashing perspectives. For instance, Audre being a lesbian in hetero-centric black spaces made her feel alienated, but simultaneously her being black in predominantly white queer spaces also made her feel aberrant. Audre lived a life of difference, embracing and cultivating all the separate influences which made up who she became, regardless of whether people approved or not. Audre knew she couldn’t please everybody, and so performed for nobody; Zami is a reckoning of different histories and mythologies- personal and private, uniquely combining to build up one life – of all the people and stories that clashed, merged, and catalysed to create the mystical being that is Audre.

Moving on from the feminist aspect, the way Audre writes her environments gripped me like a kid going to the cinema for the first time. She infuses the streets and markets with sounds and light like you’re a tiny bug flying through the air next to her, drinking in a new way of seeing. Her gentle power manifests in the sustained attention to detail throughout, turning a stoic eye on the most fleeting of moments to craft a world of mundane beauty and vibrancy. One of the most evocative moments for me is when Audre is a child and first gets new glasses (and I don’t just like this part because I too am a four eyed poet child). The world transforms with a new pair of glasses, from a smudged blur of thick shapes and shades, occasionally startled with the glamour of warbling white lights, into an unforeseen language. “Enthralled, I started up at the sudden revelation of each single and particular leaf of green, precisely shaped and laced about with unmixed light.” For Lorde, poetry is a way of seeing, of reorganizing worldly objects into alignment with unworldly emotions and ideas, shaping ‘reality’ into a coherent meaning and art. Just how her glasses helped Lorde to make sense of her place in the world, enabling her to study and appreciate the delicacies of her surroundings, poetry is also a guide towards creating new worlds. Audre didn’t just write poetry, she lived in it too.

I know I am writing a lot, but please bear with! I just AM OBSESSED with this book a lot!!!

Another reason I cherish this book as a bible for survival, is for how precious and important love is. Love, and specifically love for women, whether it be friendship, romance or familial, is a serious and driving force behind Lorde’s activism.  Let me quote: “Any world which did not have a place for me loving women was not a world in which I wanted to live, nor one which I could fight for”. It gave me Goosebumps to read her lines of intimacy, when Audre bares her soul in poetry remembering the love she made real. With different women, in different ways, sometimes believing she could never love again, but always surviving with a heart softer and stronger after suffering.

It starts with Ginger, the effervescent chubby girl Audre works at a factory with; coarse, direct and giggling in daily life, but who becomes “precious beyond compare” in Audre’s embrace. Lorde’s respect, admiration and devotion to the pleasure of the female body is serious big pussy energy which I and the world needs more of. Specifically, it warmed my soul throughout to read fat and chubby women being written as elegant, as desirable, and unquestionably loveable. The adoring way she describes Ginger as having “skin the colour of well-buttered caramel… (and) gorgeously fat, with an open knowledge about her body’s movement that was delicate and precise”. Today, fat bodies are pathologized into caricatures of negativity and shame- but Audre will have none of it. To read the pride and beauty of fat black lesbians having sex is a life affirming moment, a big fuck you to the powers that be that want us all to ignore or berate each other. This book’s revolution is in the bed sheets- tender and delicate- resonating an energy of love and togetherness that remains when we go out into the streets. I think this is a good quote to show the scope and strength that Audre believed love, WOMEN LOVE, AUTHENTIC SINCERE INCLUSIVE LOVE, could provide us to survive this cruel society: “We had come together like elements erupting into an electric storm. Exchanging energy, sharing charge, brief and drenching. Then we parted, passed, reformed, reshaping ourselves the better for the exchange…”

One of the most enduring loves in all her escapades through our hostile society is Audre’s love for her first best friend, Gennie. Gennie was “the first person (she) was conscious of loving”– reading the deep, sincere and unspeakable amounts of devotion in these words made my heart flush a hundred shades of wow. Gennie and Audre would toast marshmallows on pencils lounging on Gennie’s mother’s sofa, smoke cigarettes and craft various outfits for exploring the city, transforming each other into different characters. “Bandits, Gypsies, Foreigners of all degree, Witches, Whores and Mexican princesses”. The freedom and fun the girls relish in, exploring New York’s avenues and side-streets with candour still engrossed in their own private fantasies made me want to sing with happiness. But, it is this enchanting warmth that makes the pairs’ ending even more brutal and devastating than it already is. Without giving too much away, Gennie is lost to Audre, and it is enough to make the grim reaper weep. I couldn’t believe what I was reading when their lives started to unravel on the page, and I haven’t cried at a book like I did reading about Gennie in a long time. But, it isn’t the sadness that shines out the most. It is what Gennie taught Audre in their togetherness. That love doesn’t have to be obedience, or fear or a tradition. Love makes you feel like you can do anything, that you deserve everything, too. When love is built and then stolen, it is possibly the most devastating thing that can happen to a person. But the fact that this doesn’t necessarily have to destroy us, that we can learn from what we have lost to create new versions of the same emotion, is the hallelujah and amen of life Audre is trying to get us to sing… “how hard it was to explain to anyone who didn’t already know it that soft and tough had to be one and the same for either to work at all”.

I wish I could summarize how much this book means to me and all it can teach in a neat little explanation, but that is futile. Instead, I will leave you (at last) with a quote as per usual. But, if you think I have missed anything important in talking about this book and Audre, if there are any other Audre stans out there please join me!!!! I hope this post hasn’t been too long, but it is good to be back xoxoxo

“In a paradoxical sense, once I accepted my position as different from the larger society as well as from any sub-society- black or gay- I felt I didn’t have to try so hard. To be accepted. To look femme. To be straight. To look straight. To be proper. To look ‘nice’. To be liked. To be approved. What I didn’t realize was how much harder I had to try merely to stay alive, or rather, to stay human. How much stronger a person I became in that trying.”

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB!!! ‘Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?’

Hello everyone!!!! Today’s book is one that I’ve had my eye on for a year or so, and finally I found it again at a feminist book fair I went to a few weeks ago and said to myself I CANNOT LEAVE WITHOUT THIS BOOK!!!! It is a collection of short stories, not a genre I usually dabble in but this was glorious; so, without further ado, I introduce to you ‘Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?’ by Kathleen Collins.

If you live for political activism and Love stories (all the best people do), these stories will fill you with a nostalgic delight so that you’ll wish you had a time machine to go back to the early 60’s, pick up a placard and march along (and fall in love with) the people who trail blazed the world’s progressing social justices we are still working on today. Collins hearkens back to the time when integration, interracial communities and ‘the melting pot’ were young American ideals still unsullied from failure. When young white people and black people still believed that simply living together would solve all the problems created by white ancestors. Of course, we know this idealism failed and that the benefits of multiculturalism often turn out in reality to contribute to the erasures and misunderstandings that it is trying to solve. But Collins is both nostalgic and critical- revealing a tense undercurrent of dissatisfaction with this periods’ short-comings whilst also celebrating it as a time of energy, of enthusiasm and hope- even if free love didn’t have such strong foundations as the political arguments that would come after. Collins shows the bad and the good of the time when people didn’t want their love to be confined by race, and these are stories of love- in all its complexities of heart-break, young love, marriage and friendship. Love and race, how the two interact with each other in the lives of young, vivacious black women.

That is one of my favourite things about this collection: all of the stories centre around black experience, and most specifically, the vast majority are focused on the narratives of black women. IDK about you, but I can hardly think of any main-stream romantic heroine/ hero of screen or fiction who is black, and not made into some mistress, sexualized beast or just generally chastised because of it (I am always open to being wrong, so if I am mistaken please let me know which rom-coms to watch which don’t make me feel like I am observing a Nazis dream of marital eugenics). Most romantic stories, in trying to please white male publishers and producers, have constructed stories of love that fulfil their notions of what it is that will complete them. Unsurprisingly, most men (whatever race) don’t want their meek beloved- who they will supposedly save from the cruelty of spinsterhood (yawn) – to outshine them; hence why so many female romantic protagonists turn out the same: white, ‘beautiful’ (read: able-bodied and skinny), alone and needing dick to rescue them from whatever it is women can’t possibly have enough brain to solve themselves- everyone KNOWS that dick is the answer to all life’s problems!!!!

But in these stories shine black women, from many different class back grounds, but specifically focusing on middle-class/ boujie black girls which I found refreshing opposed to the stereotype of all black people always being poor. Black Women (Collins often chooses to focus on lighter skinned black girls) who are exploring love on their own terms and are not afraid to break out of stereotypes white people and even their own well-intentioned family’s force upon them. There’s the girl who cuts her hair and lets it grow natural and falls in love on a summer French course (with her professor- I didn’t wanna give spoilers but that story was so sweet I couldn’t stop smiling); there’s the sophisticated, cultured and elegant black girl who doesn’t need white validation, or to demean other black girls to prove her worth; there’s painters, mothers, freedom fighters, violinists, and daughters. They may not always be ‘empowered’ as such, as in many stories the girls are wrangling with men emotionally distant, abusive and just generally immature- not leaving relationships as quickly as we may like with our more modern ways of thinking. But each woman is an agent of her desire, and all the stories speak of some awakening, whether it be realising what love is, or figuring out how your skin colour affects what love is available to you- these stories are beautiful in how they show emotion so fleetingly and yet so powerfully, without the breadth or scope a whole novel would have to use.

Collins also worked with film, and this influence can be seen in some of the stories. Because they’re so short, many of the stories don’t get their emotional depth from the coming together of plot, but from the overlapping of time periods and omissions of narrative that allow you to fill in the gaps yourself. One short story, ‘Interiors’, is a set of two monologues from a husband and wife; its 9 pages, but the way Collins’ fits so much story into such ‘little’ prose, so much heart into sentences that don’t reveal everything- it does as much work that a story triple its length may not achieve.

I will stop blabbering now, but honestly these stories do not take ages to read and anyone interested in race, relationships, civil rights, art or LUV would adore these stories! Collins has long been forgotten as a black woman playwright, director and author and reading these stories it is wonderful she has been rediscovered from the mire of history to enlighten us again!!!!!!!

“… The night I danced for you. Why am I recalling such a simple time? We were taking a walk and suddenly I started dancing. I don’t know why; it wasn’t like me at all. I just wanted to jump outside my coloured looks and make you laugh… Why am I recalling such a simple time? We said good bye. We never saw each other again. Once my father mentioned that you’d moved to Washington, become a doctor, married. But all that seemed beside the point. It took so well between us…

TOMBOY BOOK CLUB- HOME FIRE!!!!!

Hello everyone!!!! I have just finished reading Kamila Shamsie’s 2017 Women’s Fiction Prize Winning novel, Home Fire, and fucking hell IT IS SO AMAZING!!! A story of love VS betrayal, of state VS family, and of East Vs West in the ‘melting-pot’ of modern Britain. It is loneliness- what to do with the unbearableness of it: sink into the comfort of hostility and proclaim that there must be revenge, or to reach out through the pain, be honest with it and fight for what you need to survive?

Based off the ancient Greek myth of Antigone reworked for the modern day climate of Islamophobia- how it causes terrorism, and then even more Islamophobia, like a grim merry-go round of hate- this devastating novel has love and betrayal at its core; how we cope with each emotion, and which one should prevail overall if we are to hold on to one another. I had to keep stopping reading so that I could process all the conflicting passions without losing myself, and it is a book that will tear your heart not into two pieces, but a scattering of a million shards.

Shamsie’s novel is told through narrating the experiences of 5 main characters, all British- Pakistani citizens, all woven to put together a larger narrative that will draw them together whilst tearing them apart. This plot of tragedy and love is condensed into a seemingly anonymous Wembley household; the unseeming characters progressively more and more embroiled into a conclusion that reaches far beyond what they ever could imagine.

It starts with Isma, an intelligent but world-worn woman and elder sister/ mother to her two twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz. I think Isma is one of my favourite characters, she is very good at balancing acts, of gently toeing the line between obeying the law to avoid further pain, and standing up for what she really believes in. Love of her family is Isma’s motive for pretty much all she does. Aneeka also is fuelled by love of her family, but without the forgivingness or subtlety of her sister- Aneeka’s love is pretty much all for her brother, not the mothering and hence oppressive Isma. Aneeka and Parvaiz’ twinhood is evoked so beautifully it makes the forces tearing them apart so cruel and callous I could hardly bear it; but whereas Isma’s love aims to bring everyone back together, Aneeka’s love is driven for one purpose only: to bring Parvaiz home from the terrorists he has been groomed into joining.

However, Aneekas love at first solely meant for Parvaiz actually multiplies in another direction. Aneeka falls in love with a man- Eamonn- her sister first met and sent her way- but this is not a tale of sisters fighting over a man ( it does still make me really sad that Isma is so alone in the book, it would have been nice for her to have at least one solace for herself). Eamonn is the son of the Home Secretary, and Aneeka, at first using him as a vessel for escape to bring Parvaiz home, ends up finding another escape for herself, away from the extremes of loyalty demanded by religion and state. Eamonn’s family are rich, integrated and push the piety of Islam to the back of their minds. Aneeka’s family are poor, derided by the general public for their devotion to their home land and religion. The contrasts are striking, which makes their falling in love only more bitter-sweet with the subtext of Parvaiz between them.

Shamsie evokes the character of Parvaiz before and after his defection to ‘the enemy state’ (the book’s main debate is essentially of loyalty to a state: which comes first, the state of law or love?) with a cleverness that doesn’t exempt him from criticism, but goes into detailed explanations of why what has happened has happened. Yes, he switched himself off and is complicit in the horrors of the Caliphate world in which he finds himself- but if that was the only way to survive, wouldn’t you dance for the devil, too? His choice to abandon his sisters, despite one of them literally being his other half, seems selfish and awful to the extremes. But, again, if you constantly felt alienated as the lone boy without a father in a world ran by women, at an age where you want to talk but don’t feel like anyone wants you… what I’m trying to say is that sadness makes people desperate, and desperation makes people do un-explainable things.

I don’t want to say what happens in the last scene, but it is a conclusion at once satisfying in its inevitability of plot tragedy, yet still discordant, gut-wrenchingly sad for all parties involved. It is reconciliation through grief, a reckoning that will make you want to simultaneously punch every bigot in the face (and by bigot, I don’t just mean Tommy Robinson clones, also the unflinchingly wicked men in suits at Westminster, too) and weep, clinging onto whoever love is to you.

I recommend this book very highly. It makes your brain think hard about the climate of xenophobia, islamophobia and prejudice that seems to govern politics today, and gives your heart a work out- that is never a bad thing!

“The language of violence, spoken by the powerful of all nations, erased distinctions beneath the surface. Two girls walked past, laughing, uninhibited. The sound- continuing on, burrowing down from the girls’ throats to their bellies- was more remarkable than bracelets or wrists. Perhaps surface was all there was to fight for. He remembered how it felt to float on a surface of freedom and safety, to feel himself buoyed up by it, and longing tugged at his heart…”

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- ‘Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere’!!!!!

Hello and welcome to today’s Tomboy Book club!!!! I am going to be giving my humble opinions about Jeanette Winterson’s new feminist manifesto: ‘Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere’ (if you recognize the title- good. It means you are keeping up with your British feminist history).

At only 72 pages this compact but shining gem won’t take you long to read, but it will give you plenty of idea-seeds to plant in your brain for later reflection to keep your brain sap flowing towards gender revolution. Not only is this powerhouse concise, but Winterson has also kept it accessible in the vocabulary she chooses to use. Although it could be more informative in helping introduce people to language used in discussions of trans issues or intersectional feminism addressing race, I think for the size and scope of the book trying to be inspirational and punchy rather than in-depth and educational Winterson has done her best to keep the tone serious yet manageable for people just getting into the feminist spirit. I can’t lie though, I am a little surprised Winterson did not address more the future of transgender rights and gender deviancy away from the binary, considering how huge a topic these issues are ATM and how they will remain important into the near future. I was expecting some acknowledgement of transgender and queer rights, just because Winterson is so known for loving Woolf and the fluidity of gender created in Orlando. Not that loving Orlando makes you an expert on queerness, and Winterson can’t be an expert on everything, it was just a bit of a shame…

BUT- Winterson really does cover many other areas of feminism, and whilst focusing on British history with her celebration of the Suffragettes and Suffragists, her arguments are global in their concern and shouldn’t be limited to the problems faced by one country alone. Politics, domestic violence, social media and business glass-ceilings are all touched upon by Winterson, but her discussions of women in the future of technology, and thus the future of the world as it continues to develop technologically is the most interesting part to me. It made me shiver a bit when she talks of how there are barely any women in charge of making technology, and yet simultaneously many technological advances in the form of AI existing which seek to mimic- or even replace- women. Winterson confronts the issues of sexbots; their male creators’ world views which they program for posterity into non-humans (pretty much the status human women have been given for all of history anyways lol) for their own enjoyment and affirmation of fucked-up gender constructs. Winterson warns how without female input into these technological advances (arguable if sexbots are an advance-but that is another kettle of fish entirely), women will be excluded from the future again before it’s even fully begun. I wish she could go more in depth and quote more studies and people who have thought a lot about this issue of feminism in technology, but again- this isn’t supposed to be a textbook for all the answers, it is supposed to be emotive and punchy to make you wanna get of your arse and do something for humanity.

The only criticism I have is that of criticism, by which I mean Winterson hasn’t really criticised or taken issue with any of the problems internal to mainstream British feminism which it still faces. TBF, Winterson does talk about the problem of difference, criticising the investment many (mostly white) women have with existing governments; in that many feminists want to acquire and yield the same power that the patriarchy uses now to fuel its terrorism- which obviously isn’t gonna do shit. And that women must create new, differing and previously unknown modes of thinking in order to truly defeat the ills of white supremacist heteronormative patriarchy (white men sure have created a world where it is easy to subconsciously hate many people- how wonderful!!!!). However a problem I really do think she should have addressed is that of racism in British feminism, because as much as I adore my foremothers’ fighting and bravery, there can be no mistake who they were fighting for: themselves, not the black and brown women of other occupied colonies who supported white British women in their struggle. For modern feminism to progress, we must not only look for the successes of the past to replicate, but also the failures so we know what weakens us and what to avoid in the future. It really pisses me off that the racism of the suffragettes goes so unnoticed most of the time, because it really should be addressed in order for white women to realise that it’s not a real victory if your victory only serves to continue to hold others down- by ignorance, or wilful cruelty (for the record, ignoring the problems of other people is still cruel). Heck- Sylvia Pankhurst had to eventually abandon the Suffragettes because her mother, the sainted Emmeline (whose speech, ‘Freedom or Death’ is included after Jeanette’s work- pretty sick), said she could never support black people having the vote!!! That is not the sentiment a real revolutionary would have!!! People can revere and celebrate the Suffragettes as much as they want, but no sincere progress will be made until that racism is shown for what it really is: vulgar, with no place in the future of feminism. Especially considering all the racism Britain has been forced to confront recently with Grenfell, Windrush and the ongoing refugee crisis- a manifesto of feminism that doesn’t even mention racism really can’t be said to be that helpful at all.

Overall, this is a great book to fuel a fire for change already burning within, but won’t be the best place to start learning the real facts of ammunition to fight. It is emotive more than informative, and that is great if you’re needing some inspiration to keep fighting this fucked up world. In order to get the best out of it, interrogate each line, each idea, and make the 72 pages grow and grow in potential using your mind! I will stop blabbering on now, but I send my love to all Winterson and feminist enthusiasts out there!!!!! LET HER COURAGE BE YOUR OWN!!!!!

“Graffiti on a loo wall in Camden Town: Behind every great woman is a man who tried to stop her.

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB!!!! Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire!

Hello everyone! With the recent descent of Trump and his white supremacist cronies in the US mid-terms ( may they sink ever lower) and the higgeldy-piggeldy MESS that is Brexit, Windrush and Grenfell swamping the UK with arguments over who is or is not allowed protection under ‘great’ Britannia’, it seems appropriate to talk about this book now. Today’s post is all about Akala’s first novel Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire’- I know he has also released graphic novels- i REALLY wanna read them- but I mean in terms of non-fiction hardbacks.

Natives is clever, to say the least. It boasts pages and pages of educational anti-colonial, anti-racist facts and footnotes, and you can tell that it has been a passion long in the making, articulately put together to tackle some great issues of race and class for not only Great Britain, but the entire history of the world: Apartheid and segregation, education and prison systems, white supremacy and imperial history are amongst some of the topics Akala touches upon. His aim with this book is to analyse the way race and class both intersect and feed off each other in conflict with the white state and upper classes, and how these historically institutionalised concepts affect a singular life in the making.

Akala uses the story of his own life to examine the workings of history and politics around him, and how these forces have shaped who he has become. Some people may feel he is boasting by constantly asserting his own past and achievements into the narrative of global history, but I disagree. All the auto-biography included is relevant to the intellectual arguments he makes, his own experiences generating courses of study to analyse the fates of so many working class black boys in the country. Life shown in contrast against the statistical hardship of so many others (not that Akala himself has never known these struggles himself) only makes his achievements more commendable, and indirectly highlights the need to implement what Akala’s book is trying to equip us with and inspire: the knowledge and urgency to ensure that more such rigorous insights can be written by more people who know first hand the effects of state racism and violence onto a child’s future.

It reminded me of another book about race I read earlier this year, ‘Brit(ish)‘ by Afua Hirsch, in which she also recounts the difficulties of forming an identity as a mixed race child in the UK whilst unearthing and lambasting historical racism. However, I will say that though using the same method of analysis of auto-biography these two authors’ early lives could not be any more different. With Hirsch growing up confused, but ultimately sheltered in her posh Wimbledon neighbourhood, whereas Akala’s past is definitely not privileged in any sense of the word as we would expect in the UK; yet he has a surer sense of his identity with close ties to others from the Caribbean and to young boys in similar shoes as his own. Hirsch’s book is also amazing!!!!! It shows a different environment to Akala’s, which actually enforces the point which Akala is trying to make: it doesn’t matter how high up the ladder of capitalist achievement a black person can go or is born into, they will still be ‘Othered’, still be stereotyped somehow.

This definitely isn’t a book you can rush through, it’s one you have to think over before going to the next page; maybe that’s just me, but there’s so many facts and ideas about so many topics that it would seem negligent to simply graze over them without properly trying to understand the point at hand. This is a perfect book to start learning about key concepts and issues underpinning race in Great Britain- but Akala also uses his mixed Jamaican heritage and travels across the globe to give nuanced opinions about how race and class operate differently and arbitrarily for each country depending on it’s history and geography. I think his most powerful writing comes from critiques of the UK education and Prison systems, where argument is always founded on fact and long-meditated analysis fed by numerous theorists (who he references in the back- great for people looking for further reading once they’ve finished this book!).

The lens isn’t just focused on the effect of racism and classism on black and brown people though, Akala also turns arguments back on whiteness itself. Deconstructing what is the ‘default’ identity for governments and culture to build around, and showing its true nature: not ‘default’ at all, but a highly constructed, conceptualised and insidious weapon of Capitalism to pit man against man (or woman)  despite their similar material circumstances. This is a scathing attack, and a brilliant one. As the title may suggest, it isn’t the thugs or hooligans who we should be most worried about (still, fuck the bigoted scum bags) but the ‘powers that be’,  that create the ideas and conditions in which racism can grow unchecked. From teachers defending the KKK as America’s crime fighting vigilantes (the part where he talks about his teacher arguing that the KKK stopped crime by killing black people is horrendous, but when out against the backdrop drawn from history sadly not that surprising), Nelson Mandela as an upholder rather than complete destroyer of apartheid in South Africa, to the police who end up asking him for advice on how to tackle ‘black crime’ (his critique of ‘the idea of ‘black-on’black’ crime is unquestionably good) after trying to arrest him- no authority figure is safe from Akala’s most effective weapon: his brain.

To conclude, I am going to quote a section of the book where Akala is highlighting the double edged sword that is white supremacy; at once giving it’s wielders a sense of superiority, yet completely negating any sense of individual strength of mind they could have by centring superiority on the assumed, and false, inferiority of others.

If you care about ending inequality, this book is for you xoxoxoxoxoxox

“…The long and short of it is that the master makes himself a slave to his slave by needing that domination to define him… We talk about white privilege but we rarely talk about the white burden, the burden of being tethered to a false identity, a parasitic self-definition that can only define itself in relation to blacks’ or others’ inferiority…”

TOMBOY BOOK-CLUB!!!- ‘Please Mind the Gap’

At work recently, I have taken up a lunchtime habit. To walk outside towards St Paul’s Cathedral, plonk myself down on a bench either by the roses still hanging onto their plump colours or next to pidgins scratting around thinning grasses for crumbs or seeds, and I read. Also, I like to treat myself to some MacDonalds (but only on Fridays, so I don’t become enslaved to their global corporation of capitalist exploitation of animals, and also so I don’t become an actual potato) whilst I peruse the pages of my book of choice, exploring a whole other world contained, yet beyond the concrete noise of London. This week has been a delight, words mingling their power with the delights of tomato ketchup. I have been reading Sophie Sparham’s ‘Please Mind The Gap’.

I have actually met Sophie irl, and she is lovely. A bespectacled punk with red lips surrounding a smile, unmistakable with dreadlocks the colour of chilli peppers that hang down past her waist. She performed in Peterborough for a FreakSpeak poetry night in honour of Pride, and her poetry made me laugh and wipe away tears in equal measures that night. My slightly drunken appreciation fixed on her as she commanded the stage with a down-to-earth confidence that was not shy exactly, but was not too boisterous or forced. I spoke to her in the bathroom after she had read, we were both washing our hands. I told her how wonderful I thought her poetry was, and she thanked me with laughter and smiles, wished me luck when I said I also wrote then we went on our ways to watch the rest of the night’s wordsmiths.  Sophie is from up north in Derby, and her thick accent wasn’t difficult to listen though, it made the poems even more heartfelt and unique, evoking the places and people with whom her mind wrangled with to write these AMAZING poems.

Sophie’s poetry is the best ‘fuck you’ for days when you feel shit upon by the universe. Her work focuses on political and social issues- especially women’s issues, depression and LGBTQ+ rights. Her poems are about the mental impacts material suffering perpetuates on the mind. How anti-gay sentiments seep into the pavements of her childhood, how the rush and crush of ceaseless production wilts the heart to a hollow calculator of survival, unless we try to let the beauty in. I love her work, because the topics she talks about are serious and difficult to grasp, yet the way she phrases her work is so fluid and delightful to read I almost feel guilty sometimes for paying more attention to the control she has over rhyme and rhythm than on the crippling suffering she is trying to address and heal. It’s not only me who thinks her poetry is bomb either, in the edition I have, Benjamin Zephaniah, a poetry great, has written a foreword where he states: “I was very impressed with this fearless, compelling performer, who is unafraid to seek out the truth and comment on issues that others might shy away from“.

Her work flies above the country, and sets its visions to lands even further out to sea when imagining the unity fighting oppression demands. Her work spans the universal disappointments and difficulties of trying to be honest and happy in a world that cares more for profit and shallow popularity. But alongside these searing commentaries that I am sure Ginsberg would approve of, she also talks about her own life and memories with an intimacy that allows her point to be sharp without becoming too concerned with the details of life that she could include that would make the poems less lyrical, but more rich in specific moments. I’m not saying here that her poetry lacks imagery, it most certainly does not- but her talent and power truly does rest in the structures she can build out of rhyme and rhythm, the true gift of a poet whose work is most alive when read aloud. And, considering she tours her poetry with punk bands and at festivals, I hope many more people will be able to hear her songs, her battle cries for the release of old pain to help make concrete changes.

After first seeing Sophie perform, I expected reading her works would be the same visceral concoction of song and sadness and soul. I was not disappointed. This book is for anyone who cares, and who wants a book to pull out in fleeting moments stolen from the machine, as well as to curl up with for longer in reflection. Its style flows easily, but the issues Sparham writes about will make you want to slow down and think before rushing onto the next delicious rhyme. Her poetry will bring you eye to eye with the most confounding and saddening of injustice- social and personal- before bringing you back up to hope again and be strong against what potentially lurks behind each stranger; a smile or scorn. Her work makes clear the inevitability of our suffering, how unwittingly and silently it is committed by and against each other. But on the flip-side and more importantly, how we are all able to help each other overcome these problems we’ve made for ourselves. The words affirm that strength is not to be measured by the mainstream standards of clout or wealth or popularity: “Success means the paths we chose chose to explore/ not how high we climb”.

So, in this blog-post I want to include the first poem I heard Sophie read aloud, and the first in ‘Please Mind The Gap’. It is beautiful, and I will be damned if it doesn’t make you feel even one degree warmer inside after maybe wiping away a tear or two. Thank you for being such a wonderful and kind person Sophie, and I hope more and more people get the life-enhancing pleasure of reading and hearing your poetry!!!!

Introductory Gathering

Oh come all ye faithless, joyless and defeated
Come all ye washed out, ye chewed up and ye beaten
I want every loser,
As far as these eyes can see
To climb out of your corners and sit next to me.

Oh come all ye rejects, ye homeless, break out from your margins
Come all ye lost, troubled and drive no hard bargains
You’ll soon find that there’s no leader in this hoard
Worship yourselves
Christ, you fucking lords!

We are gathered here today to witness revolution
The coming together of our demons
As we learn the meaning of evolution
Our song birds will scream from the branches of burning trees
Not be left in their cages to sing peacefully

But they will create lawful reasons why we cannot rise together
They’ll tear us and they’ll beat us amidst this stormy weather
However, there are no exit signs here so I urge you, please don’t run
You’ll never leave this bus stop, if you’re waiting for the sun

And I don’t have faith in a god,
But I know everyone needs something to believe in
And you can build your own angels if you feel you really need them
But I would rather bow to your monsters
Put them on the committee intake
Our problems shouldn’t rule us
But it’s important to learn from our mistakes

And have you ever felt lost?
Are you lonely?
Are you the talk of the town for not buying the butchers baloney?
And are you hurt?
And are you hated?
Are you tired and wired, feeling wrong and exasperated?

Well, I’ll be your comfort in this darkened shade of blue
I don’t have faith in a god,
But I believe in you and you and you

And have you been wronged?
Are you conflicted?
By this bullshit we’re living in as long as we don’t get evicted?
And are you as tired of this everyday slog?
Did they use you and abuse you until there were no parts left to
flog?

Well bring what’s left to this table
And lets put together what we’ve got
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not able
Your’e capable of a lot
Because blessed are the wicked, the weird and the truly despised
For allowing us to see the world through other people’s eyes