Sunetra Senior – Perspectives section writer
Sunetra graduated from Warwick University with a MA in English Literature. After spending some time putting together a thesis that felt like she was submitting to the UN, she acquired a taste/developed an addiction to extensive coverage in general, that resulted in her diverse experimentation as a freelancer. In-between bursts of intensive writing, she enjoys frolicking around London to exercise spatial awareness and remind herself of her carbon-based components: fresh air, good quality food and culture at large are all factors that help in this de-robot (icisation) process. She is also partial to film noir and coffee, and all that is unabashedly subversive.
A news-based long read of the darkening climate under Boris Johnson, and consequent examination of the solutions.
NB: this piece was written before the announcement of the suspension of parliament. The call to progressive action is of the utmost urgency.
Shock, horror!! Boris Johnson is Prime Minister, we are on the verge of a catastrophic No-Deal Brexit, and Trump’s ego is bigger than ever before. Prior to this, the Scandinavian Peninsula, or the magical lands of social democracy and hygge, saw the rise of a nationalist group in Finland. There were also the New Zealand shootings in a show of Islamophobia, so horrific, that the country’s PM moved to ban militarised weapons practically overnight. So, amidst this caustic circus, where is the progressive clout? Given the gradual upheaval of the moral development of society, it’s apt to return to a timeless saying: ‘The personal is the political.’
(04.06.19) – Kill the Princess, by Bait Theatre
A tall hill of turquoise, gendered cooing and guffawing, chainmail crop tops, and dance-fights with mops, performed to the sound of nineties nostalgia: Lizzy Shakespeare and Michelle Madsen, together known as Bait Theatre, effectively wield experimental drama to tear through the fanciful tropes of traditional fairy-tale femininity.
‘Are we in the right place?’ was a semi-serious question posed by a friend of mine at the 2018 Women’s March, which took place in London on 4th March to commemorate worldwide Women’s Day. Having been to many demonstrations between us, including the historic 2017 Women’s March, which took place the day after President Trump’s inauguration, we had sound reference points between us too. Usually, there’s a friendly, lively atmosphere. You might even enjoy some canned ciders as you watch an animated speaker deliver one motivational speech after the next.
In 2018, however, the big women’s march was sedate, controlled, and most alarmingly of all: conformist. I even got elbowed in the face by a male police officer who told me to ‘stay within the demonstration line’. This was immediately after I’d passed a giant stone pedestal, encircled by a murder of male reporters, gathered creepily at that higher vantage point like gigantic crows. Hitchcockian voyeurism aside, women also seemed to be adopting the strange, disciplinary mood. One female speaker said to keep fighting ‘even if it took another 100 years’. But where was the urgency? Where ‘was the anger’? as feminist performer Sophie Cameron tweeted out.
With 100,000 people having marched on 23rd June, converging from different corners of the country, in the passionate call for another referendum, and David Davis and Boris Johnson walking away from May’s cabinet shortly afterward, the public’s stance on Brexit and party politics became fortuitously aligned. The Tories are breaking apart just as national apprehension for Brexit reaches its peak and support for the Labour Party increases. As murmurs of another general election hover over the governmental rift, Labour could significantly strengthen its standing by explicitly promising to hold a second referendum as part of a game-changing manifesto.
CW: self-harm, abuse
As a homage to mental health awareness week (14th- 20th May), I have decided to write on an often misunderstood and underrepresented psychological health condition close to my heart, or more accurately my spirit. Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD is characterised as a ‘behavioural disorder’, which is intrinsic to one’s selfhood, and because of its often abuse-induced origins, has been notoriously difficult to treat. It is not the expected actions or the very true fact that the condition is deeply ingrained that I take issue with, but the medical paradigm of dysfunction and negativity implied by the alliterative last acronym.
This pervasive perceptual context, reflective of the attitude towards many mental health issues, permits an entire trail of prejudice, extending to the defining symptoms of BPD. Common misconceptions are “attention-seeking, manipulative and over-emotional”. This comes from the high numbers of those with BPD who self-harm, especially during their already tumultuous teenage years, their expressing the need for special care or extra-vigilance and seeming not to be able to cope with the interpersonal and social challenges that everyone else can.
It is time to not only put the record straight, but to add some fucking colour.
(26.02.18) – Platonic Polyamory: A Valentine’s 2018 Conclusion
This Valentine’s Day was distinctive. In addition to the usual encouragement of self-love, and sending of gushing gifs amongst female friends, more people were sending greetings to family members and stressing the importance of acts of love within the community. Ash Sarkar, Senior Editor of Novara Media, said emphatically in a video message: ‘when you stop a charter flight from taking off and deporting asylum seekers, that’s love’. Perhaps an effect of delayed liberal mobilisation, after such angry right-wing resurgence, the concept of growing close to one another is being gradually – literally – redefined to be more liberal.
(21.01.18) – Subjective Time: How to Master the Years
Around this time of year, you’ll have witnessed a flood of articles that aggressively motivate you to increase your dwindling productivity and ‘get yourself back on’ the proverbial ‘track’. If you’re the Daily Mail, you might be delightedly telling people how average UK life expectancy has ground disastrously ‘to a halt.’ However, this obsession with life span and these generally flat, statistical measures of personal power are the real issue, and what I would argue even obscure the long-term, self-preservative solution.
After ten years of a Tory government, austerity measures and feeding big business, the average person will feel an intense economic squeeze. What is more, because economy is a civilised way of survival – i.e. you do not have to shed blood to achieve dominance or direction – you feel a subjective effect; in this case constriction. You are made to feel more self-conscious, scared, selfish and despondent. If the public sector is being deprived of money and capital is being syphoned into business instead, society will naturally feel more divided and competitive within itself.
In the spirit of championing an individualistic, leftist paradigm, I’m redefining the idea of ‘taking the red pill’ – a phrase currently used by anti-feminists on the right – to instead more aptly explore the incredible, remedial impact Corbynite politics could have on our current economic model, and by extension the strained social consciousness with which it is inextricably linked.
Man-on-woman abusive relationships are often pictured as shows of overt violence and brutalism. You imagine a fragile feminine frame being thrown against a wall by a heaving, snarling man, as if a piece of precious china. But this is only a surface image, and what I would even go so far as to call a political smoke-screen. Though physical intimidation does despicably feature in many cases of male-on-female violence, the less acknowledged – and thus yet more prevalent– characteristic of abuse of women is deeply emotional, and moreover, disturbingly banal.
A few days after Trump’s Presidential win, an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz – entitled Under President Trump Radical Hope is Our Best Weapon published in The New Yorker – went viral. In it, the Dominican writer called out Trump as a ‘misogynist’ and ‘racial demagogue’, and principally defended multiculturalism stating that in order to recuperate: ‘we need to bear witness to what we have lost: our safety, our sense of belonging, our vision of our country’. He further argued that the best way to do this was to employ a concept called ‘Radical Hope’.
This, according to the creator of the philosophy Jonathan Lear, is a determined sort of hope that tackles mass trauma by being “directed toward a future goodness which transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Here, I would like to highlight the British Labour Party’s recent parliamentary progress as not only encapsulating this, but also expanding Díaz’ original proposed vision. Corbyn and his recently more socially democratic party so successfully delivered Radical Hope that it not only revived the liberal spirit, but the possibility of a truly equitable world.
(09.05.17) – The Urgency and State of Sisterhood in 2017
It’s becoming a popular thought in public consciousness that women ought to focus on their own autonomy and watch out for co-dependence on their closest female friends. It’s a third/fourth wave feminist philosophy that gained momentum through the hopeful nineties years, evidenced in such films as teenage clique critique ‘The Craft (1996). And surely, the thinker will say, a continued focus on personal freedom for women can only good? To these people I say: please remember we’re living in an unhinged, manipulative age.
With the infamous/illicit (?) inauguration on 20th January, we’ve just had Trumpeted to us social regression by at least 20 or so years so if the good fight for feminism is to keep up we must adapt the strategy accordingly. This means once again pushing for a support-group, grass-roots sort of approach – not unlike the Suffragettes who fought for the women’s right to vote in the early 19th century – whereupon more women not only campaign together, but sincerely support each other in their private relationships.
(23.01.17) – The Troll Vote: What Tipped Trump to Victory?
In a socio-political climate where rape jokes and racism are very much in the mainstream, let’s not be afraid to call a troll a troll. The left is falling into the tendency to self-chastise after election defeats, even as a sinister phenomenon rises outside of our camp, and now more than ever requires our passionate standing. Over the past couple of months, the “Alt-Right” movement – a storm of right-wing publications primarily driven by Neo-fascist groups that use the web to circulate hate gossip and headlines to forward the far right’s agenda – has been confirmed to be a significant factor in the dissented zeitgeist of the US elections. The Guardian’ s Jason Wilson said of the self-professed ‘platform for the Alt-right’– Breitbart News – that ‘the ideal Breitbart headline is provocative and designed to offend progressive sensibilities’, and that ‘they went with the stuff that got them the most hits and the most attention using the most extreme clickbait they could come up with’. For me, a further examination of this extremist social runaway train signals an alarming topple over an ideological precipice: the end to free-thinking and western democracy as we know it.
(07.11.16) – Reclaiming the Self-Narrative
When we think of having a ‘self-narrative’, we might find that connotations of egotism and/or triviality occur to us – and that some of us will draw a complete blank. It isn’t mentioned very often, and when it is, there’s a fashion of deconstructing it. This deconstruction paints the idea of having your own conscious story as being strangely self-indulgent, or, at best, intriguing – but either take on it concludes that having a conscious story is basically useless. But ours is a world that is increasingly trying to tell us who we are, a world where nationalism is on the rise, a world where even in the most seemingly free-thinking of countries conformity is king. In the face of all this, having a healthy self-narrative – the perception of how our life experiences have come to define and shape us – is not only valid and beautiful but, I would argue, key to rejuvenating our social freedom.
(30.08.16) – Pretension is a Scourge
On Friday June 23rd 2016, millions of us woke up to the rattling reality of a momentous decision: the pound had plummeted to a 31-year low, our young people had lost the right to live and work nearby abroad, and oh yes – the UK as we knew it was now officially in a state of civil conflict. But this isn’t going to be another article about how we should respect the people who voted Leave – though of course we should – nor one that commiserates upon how we’ve tragically lost touch with the ‘underprivileged and disadvantaged’ of us, for the simple fact that it is the sole circulation – and indulgence of – such statements that is fanning the right-wing heat blowing an insidious hole through our country.
The story of Noamh Baumbach’s 2012 film ‘Frances Ha’ focuses on the drifting friendship between two women in their late twenties. There is a particularly poignant scene where Frances (Greta Gerwig) awakes to find that her best friend, Sophie, (Mickey Sumner) has left without saying goodbye after spending the night sleeping over when they haven’t seen each other in a long time. As Sophie’s car pulls away, Frances runs after her screaming her name. This boldly illustrates the highly sentimental nature of many women’s friendships and the pain that inevitably results because, we as a society, do not respect it. Indeed, through all the big life changes Frances explicitly undergoes — moving between different apartments, facing financial troubles, and trying to launch a tentative dancing career —what remains as palpably constant are the unrequited affections for her ever elusive friend.
Unfortunately, this is very much reflective of what happens in ordinary life.
The seed for this article was planted when I was watching Aziz Ansari’s ‘Master of None’: a clever, New York-based sitcom about a young, Indian actor trying to make it. Here was Ansari, a talented Asian comedian – who just by being himself – was getting the respect he deserved. Very few actors in Hollywood have been able to build their careers up to a point where they can claim producer/writer status; let alone those facing institutional racism. This guy had joined the ranks of Happy Days’ Ron Howard, creator of hit, indie show Arrested Development, and Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler, who went on to write the warm, bureaucratic satire Parks and Recreation. So why, despite all this, was I still feeling uneasy?
(14.03.16) – Normalising CBT; Making Visible Mental Health
If your friend says ‘I’ve started going to the gym’ it is considered undisputedly positive; if they tell you ‘I’m getting CBT’, suddenly the atmosphere becomes tense. They seem to feel awkward as they tell you, and you don’t quite know how to react. They might as well have told you they’ve contracted an STD. But Cognitive Behavioural Therapy — ‘a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave’ — is only good for you. It is evidence of a sensible choice. And yet, sweating, starving and interfacing with an inanimate, rectangular scale every morning, is more attractive to people than sitting in a comfortable chair and talking leisurely with someone you trust.
(06.02.16) – Botched Bodies
Trigger Warnings: Eating disorders, self-harm
The main appeal of Leslye Headland’s underrated 2012 film ‘Bachelorette’ was how it treated commonly stigmatised women’s disorders such as bulimia, self-harm and nymphomania. Rather than treading delicately, the comedy-drama shows the three main characters, close friends Regan, Katie and Gena (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fischer and Lizzy Caplan) – each with their respective ailment- in an unapologetic, borderline celebratory way.
(12.12.15) – Beauty is in the Hands of the Affluent
‘This article is inspired by the bizarre reaction I have encountered as a reasonably dressed British-Asian travelling through the less diverse, major cities in Western Europe.’
(23.11.15) – Equalimania
‘For my first article, I thought it would be fitting to explore the relationship between two neglected areas of society that I feel passionately about: the representation of women and mental health issues. Deep down, the thought of a connection existing between emotionality and the female sex might evoke those uncomfortable, backward cultural connotations – women as fragile, women as prone to hysteria, and on the softer side of it, women as the ‘gentler’ sex.’