POLITICS AND POWERSLAMS – REACTIONARY NARRATIVES IN PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING

by Chris Jarvis

CW: sexual assault, racism, ableism, violence, sexism, suicide, murder, mental health

Professional wrestling is big business, and there’s none bigger than the monolithic World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). In 2015, its revenue totalled over $650 million dollars, whereas the second largest promotion in the world – New Japan Pro Wrestling – saw a comparatively paltry $30 million. WWE is a cultural and economic behemoth, with profound power and influence wrapped into its carefully crafted and tightly managed brand. Its most successful exports go on to become major cultural icons – film stars, stand up comedians, talk show favourites. WWE alumnus Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the world’s second highest paid actor with a barrage of accolades to boot. Dave Bautista has followed in the footsteps of the ‘People’s Champion’, with a major role in the third highest grossing film in 2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy. In 1999, Mick Foley published the first instalment of his autobiography – Have a Nice Day – which shot to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Given the sheer scale of WWE’s operation and the wide reaching influence of its product and performers, it comes as little surprise that the company has built an extensive corporate social responsibility marketing operation. John Cena has granted more ‘wishes’ for the Make a Wish Foundation than anyone else. In 2015, WWE heirs apparent Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque and Stephanie McMahon founded Connor’s Cure, a charity dedicated to researching pediatric cancer, after 8 year old WWE fan Connor ‘The Crusher’ Michalek tragically passed away in 2014. Most recently, programming of Raw and Smackdown were interspersed with fundraising vignettes for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Given the sheer scale of WWE’s operation and the wide reaching influence of its product and performers, it comes as little surprise that the company has built an extensive corporate social responsibility marketing operation.

Beneath the shimmering veneer WWE have created, though, lies a murky and unpleasant history. Continue Reading

IT’S A GIRL!

by Paige Selby-Green

“They’ll never do it,” I said, with total certainty. “I mean I’d love it – if it wasn’t Stephen Moffat writing it, at least – but they’ll never do it.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be so wrong.

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COMBAT CAPITALISM – THE SHAME OF MAYWEATHER VS MCGREGOR

by Toby Gill

Content warning – sexism, domestic abuse, racism, two very rich men being awful.

Last night, combat sports enthusiasts of the world gathered around their television sets. At the end of a long day’s work, they sunk into their sofas – remote in one hand, perhaps a Bud in the other. Of course, as they have been saying to their less knowledgeable friends for months, this whole fight is simply a farce. Of course, just like everyone else, they are obviously going to watch it. This week has been the world tour: a series of hugely anticipated pre-fight press conferences. Fans now watch eagerly – just to see if there could be some substance to this fight after all.

What they have been greeted with is a steaming, grotesque, shameless turd-like insult to everything they hold dear.

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THE QUESTION CONCERNING TWITTER – IS HARASSMENT LESS REAL ONLINE?

By Eve Lacroix

Content warning : Article mentions rape threats, harassment, racism

In The Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger argues that technology is a means to an end, and that technology is a human activity. The two are not mutually exclusive. Technology is a means to facilitate our lives, eliminating manual or tedious or repetitive tasks. We use technology for our human need of community, connecting to friends and family through social media, searching for partners on dating apps.

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“A VERY DIFFERENT TYPE OF POLITICS” – RESPONSE TO NUS CONFERENCE DAY 1

by Cherry Somersby

Content warning: Article mentions suicide.

The political transition we have seen in NUS over the last 12 months would have been unthinkable this time last year. The student movement has risen to the growing need for radical action this year, building groundbreaking, vital campaigns, presenting a powerful response to the many crises modern students face.

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FEARLESS LITTLE GIRLS AND GREAT BRASS BULLOCKS

by Richard Worth

If you’re reading this you are doubtlessly already aware of Kristen Visbal’s sculpture Fearless Girl, that has taken up residence on Wall Street opposite Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull. Sculpted by Visbal and funded by State Street Global Advisors Fearless Girl appeared on March 7th, 2017 (the eve of the Women’s March) and went viral. Its intention is to address the lack of women at the top of huge corporations.

Most people would have to agree this is a worthwhile cause; unfortunately, Di Modica isn’t exactly happy about Fearless Girl’s placement and is currently campaigning for its removal. Before we decry this as sexism or fear of the power of women, in any fair society he should be allowed to state his claim, so let’s hear it.
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SOUTH LONDON PUNK COLLECTIVE: INTERVIEW WITH MINDFRAME

by Tim-F

Sometimes you just stumble upon good things. Last year I went down to Stockwell to see Perma War and as per usual got there very early but on this occasion that was good. I got chatting to Ollie – one of the gig organisers, and the guitarist for Mindframe who were due to play that night.

Due to train times I had to leave early and missed their set but not before an interview was agreed. In the following months I listened to their music on Bandcamp and caught a couple of videos: intelligent, well crafted, danceable old school punk. Check out ‘Slumped and Dumped’ from the EP of the same name and try to keep your head still.Continue Reading

HOW THE LEFT CREATED DONALD TRUMP

by Matilda Carter

There’s something darkly comical about Michael Sheen’s intention to abandon acting in favour of defeating the far right. An esteemed actor, deeply immersed in the world of theatre and art, jetting off to Port Talbot to tell working class Welsh people, caught up in a wave of revolt against the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’, what to do. It couldn’t be any more counter-productive if the embodiment of this elitism, Tony Blair himself, had made the journey — although I suppose someone who has played him is good enough.Continue Reading

THE RADICAL NOTION THAT WE ARE PEOPLE: 5 REASONS TO HAVE HOPE FOR 2017

by Candice Nembhard

From terror attacks to constitutional changes, there is no doubt that 2016 will go on record for being an insanely dismal year. To paraphrase Ginsberg’s Howl, ‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by bigotry, fear and greed’ (or something like that).

However, despite certain adversities and geopolitical setbacks, much was gained by the likes of small yet vocal communities campaigning for drastic change. With the help of social media and public platforms, we have seen a burgeoning of new safe spaces for women of colour, nonbinary folk and creatives alike. It goes without saying that their good and honest work should not go unnoticed, nor should it be underrepresented.

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REVIEW: THE GIRL IN THE DOG-TOOTH COAT, BY ZELDA CHAPPEL

by Carmina Masoliver

A book filled with moths, whiskey and full moons; reading Zelda Chappel’s debut collection The Girl in the Dog-Tooth Coat, published with Bare Fiction (2015), forces you to be in the moment with each and every piece. With each turn of the page comes a fresh clarity and precision, yet still connected like water – at times a stream, and at others, a rushing waterfall. It explores grief, and through its dark and sombre tones, there is a glimmer of hope: that this is a tale of survival.

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WELL, WHAT NOW?

by Zoe Harding

Content warning: As you’d expect, this article contains Donald Trump and all the associated bullshit that comes with him. It gets better at the end, but it’s still pretty grim. For a TL:DR, try Warren Ellis’ excellent Transmetropolitan comics, or this. Also contains strong language.

It’s not been a great year for fans of basic human decency towards people who aren’t white, straight, cis men. I’d list the crappy things that have happened on that front alone but I’ve got 800ish words and 2016 is going to get history books all of its own. Now, the self-proclaimed Land of the Free has elected a President who dog-whistled his way into power on a wave of fear, hate, intolerance and general bastardry. Well, great. All we need is a major natural disaster in December and then we’re on track for a nuclear war in January. Shitty things are already happening.  Here’s a running list. (Note: The election is still recent. I hope these turn out to be sensationalist clickbait. I really hope.)Continue Reading

ARTS IN ASIA: A REFLECTION

by Carmina Masoliver

I spent four months in South East Asia; two and a half were spent working in Vietnam, but I also got to go to Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Although it has been the longest time I’ve been away from the UK, it would be impossible and presumptuous for me to generalise the arts in the whole of South East Asia, or even just one country. Instead, this will be a reflection on the things I experienced whilst travelling.Continue Reading

A WOMAN ON HER KNEES – REVIEW OF LOUISE ORWIN’S A GIRL AND A GUN

by Hannah Rose

He is driving, she is hanging on his arm. Behind them a vista depicting a wide road disappears into desert upon a large screen. The cherry red of her lipstick matches her low-slung red dress, punctuated by a pair of cowgirl boots. Her dreamy expression says she’s completely at ease, hanging off her man; pleased as punch, because he is in control. But he has never seen the script before; he will be reading off an autocue. She is the one driving the show.

Performer-playwright, Louise Orwin, is touring the UK with her new theatre piece, A Girl and A Gun which was performed at Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Jean-Luc Godard’s adage “All you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl,” is the springboard from which Orwin’s performance dives headfirst into a chilling reality which is anything but surface deep.

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REVIEW: AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES, BY JOHN GREEN

by Carmina Masoliver

I picked this book up on my travels from a Silent Meditation Retreat in Ubud, Bali. Reading a good book is like meditation for those of us whose minds won’t shut up. It’s something I know I should do more, especially as an English Literature graduate and as a writer. But in the age of social media, I find myself clicking on different articles deep into the night instead. That said, a good writer will keep you hooked enough to pull you away from such distractions.

I had read John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, which rightfully brought him to critical acclaim (as well as a film deal). An Abundance of Katherines was first published ten years ago, but is seeing a revival now that Green is a bestselling author. I felt excited to start reading it, and I enjoyed it so much that I made sure I had a copy waiting for me when I returned home, in between jetting off to Spain, where I’m now living.Continue Reading

RACIAL PLURALISM IN THE OLYMPICS

by Julian Canlas

The 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil, has resulted in a lot of firsts. Nine countries are celebrating their first ever gold medal, including first-time entrant Kosovo, whose sovereignty the Olympics committee recognised only two years ago. The Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) was also formed to ‘bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis’. Despite not having won any medals, their significance lies in their representation. The ROT acts as a symbol of hope to those who have been forcefully displaced from their home country that the dreams of these displaced athletes will happen despite all the unfair hardships, injustices and atrocities they have experienced.

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INTERPRETATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN ISLAM

by Faizal Nor Izham

Trigger warnings: Female Genital Mutilation, Islamophobia, Homophobia, Torture

How does Islam actually fare in terms of human rights, and is it really any different from any other religion? The “religion of peace” has been getting a poor reputation in Western media over the issue for decades, with human rights abuses in Muslim countries often stretching from the major to the mundane.

Female genital mutilation, the stoning of homosexuals to death, the subjugation of women – the list goes on and on. Apostasy is frequently met with the death sentence in conservative states such as Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, individual liberties in these countries, such as speaking up against the state, are frequently curtailed on the pretext of actually insulting the religion itself. Just ask Raif Badawi, the Saudi activist and blogger who dared to criticize the Saudi regime and was sentenced up to 1,000 lashes from the theocratic state for his troubles.

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AN UNUSUAL LOVE STORY: APPRECIATING THE DEPTH OF FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS

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by Sunetra Senior

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.Continue Reading

BLACK STUDENTS IN WHITE EDUCATION

by Candice Nembhard

In May 2016, Birmingham City University announced it will be accepting applications for its new degree in ‘Black Studies’— the first of its kind in Europe. The course is said to be an interdisciplinary area of study that will look into migration of the African diaspora, black scholars, and the effects of economics within black communities. Estimated to parallel the popular and esteemed African-American study programmes present at the likes of Yale, Harvard, and Howard University, this programme is finally addressing an underlying problem within British education. More specifically, why black voices have long been ignored or overridden in academic spheres. As a Birmingham native, I have never been more proud to witness this advancement, but we cannot stand by the belief that its implementation is enough.Continue Reading

UN PEACEKEEPING’S SEXUAL ABUSE PROBLEM, PART 2

by Zoe Harding

TW: Sexual assault, rape, genocide.

Last week, we looked at the UN’s recent history of sexual assault and corruption on peacekeeping operations around the world. Despite the best efforts of two secretary-generals and nearly 20 years of reported crimes, the UN has yet to eliminate the persistent problems of ‘transactional sex’ and straight-up assault from among its peacekeeper forces. The crimes are committed both by members of various national militaries contributed to UN forces and by civilian employees, all of whom are currently essentially immune to prosecution. But what is the United Nations doing about it? What other action could be taken?

The United Nations isn’t ignoring this problem, and after the forced resignation of Babacar Gaye,  (commander of the particularly abusive MINUSCA mission in the Central African Republic) in August 2015 the organisation has actively begun implementing new measures to prevent this kind of peacekeeper abuse. Unfortunately, the action that’s been taken so far hasn’t been particularly heartening.Continue Reading

“I’M NOT JUST SOME TOKEN BUNNY”: ZOOTROPOLIS RAISES THE BAR

by Paige Selby-Green

Disney’s 55th animated feature has been five years in the making, with a social commentary as relevant today as it was when the writers first put pen to paper. The film is an anthropomorphic crime caper following rabbit police officer Judy Hopps and con-man fox Nick Wilde. It’s full of laughs, but the lingering importance is in its more serious side.

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THE EMBARRASSING GRANDDADDY OF THEM ALL – 5 MATCHES, 5 WAYS WWE NEED TO CLEAN UP THEIR ACT

By Jack Brindelli

Falling viewing figures, shoddy box-office returns, and major scandals including a number of Hall of Famers ranging from racism to murder have hit the company hard since WrestleMania 31, last year. As we prepare for what could be a make or break ‘Mania in Texas, let’s take a look at the key bouts at the world’s biggest Sports Entertainment event, to see how they reflect the internal fissures in the WWE universe – as well as society at large.

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DETENTION CENTRES AND THE STUDENT MOVEMENT

by Sahaya James

Harmondsworth detention centre, near Heathrow, is set in an anonymous business park. You can only tell it’s a detention centre because of the barbed wire.

Campsfield detention centre, near Oxford, is accessible by a nondescript turning on a nondescript a-road. The whole site is ringed by a line of trees.

Yarl’s Wood, however, is even more hidden than the rest. It sits hundreds of meters back from the road, behind a double layer of fencing, miles and miles out into the Bedfordshire countryside.

It is, essentially, a prison. Like every detention centre, it doesn’t contain people accused and convicted of crimes — it contains people without UK passports. Specifically, Yarlswood contains women and children.Continue Reading

REVIEW: WOW FESTIVAL 2016, PART 2

by Carmina Masoliver

The first part of this review, covering some of the events taking place on the Saturday, can be found here.

On Sunday, I attended the Trans Identities panel, featuring, Jane Fae, Munroe Bergdorf and Kate O’Donnell. I often feel that it is difficult to fully understand the trans experience without having lived it, yet put simply, the audience was asked to raise their hands whether they knew their gender at the age of five, alluding to those who transition as desiring the opposite to what they are referred to by others. As the panel highlighted, I’m of the view that to be a Feminist, you need to fight for all women, and that includes trans women. As Crenshaw argued, that is the crux of intersectionality. It’s not really the same if it’s only certain women for whose rights you fight. So, all I can do is listen and search to find out more about what it means to be trans, or gender fluid, or any other non-binary gender identity.  It’s a complex topic, and I think most people in the audience could have stayed at least an hour longer. To explore more, you can catch Rebecca Root and O’Donnell in BBC drama Boy Meets Girl, which for some reason, BBC iPlayer don’t have to view.Continue Reading

REVIEW: WOW FESTIVAL 2016, PART 1

by Carmina Masoliver

I have been going to Women Of the World festival at Southbank’s Royal festival Hall for years on my own. I sometimes feel tentative about talking about women’s rights with friends and family unless I know for sure someone will be on board. This has worked well it seems, as gradually, and through being vocal online instead, more and more friends have become interested in finding out more. This was the first year that I brought a friend along one day, and a family member (Feminist Gran).

I believe I could also do something different to get more friends on board, especially those who have been curious in the past, but remained relatively untouched by my ranting. In this piece, split into two parts to accommodate the weekend events, I will review and discuss some of my personal highlights of the festival, with the intention of raising more awareness and showing what WOW is about.Continue Reading

CLASS, EMPIRE, AND CRICKET: CAN IT EVER BE RADICAL?

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by Josh Wilson

I know what you are thinking, cricket is the least radical sport apart from maybe professional bowls. The only way it can truly be radical is if the unprotected fielding masses rose up to take out the heavily padded bourgeois batsman and aim for the heads of the aristocratic umpires. But the game today is the preserve of the middle and upper classes in the UK and has a very apparent colonial legacy across the globe. It is a game that often puts people to sleep but has been used very specifically as a cultural export of an empire that once covered a quarter of the globe and is responsible for some of the worst atrocities in human history. Empire is a part of British history that should never be glorified and that we should be collectively ashamed and horrified by. But a poll was released about a month ago that showed 43% of people are actually proud of our colonial past.

I am going to be honest — I am a big cricket fan. It was the sport that I grew up with alongside football. But the history of the sport is something that I have become uneasy with. So I thought I would go on a research mission and look at whether my love affair with cricket should come to an end or if it is just another part of our culture that we can enjoy whilst understanding the historical significance of it.Continue Reading

LET’S TALK ABOUT REPRESENTATION

by Matilda Carter

This week Bernie Sanders made his full transformation from democratic figleaf for Hillary Clinton’s inevitable candidacy to serious contender, if still the underdog. In a mirroring of Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the Labour leadership, Sanders has swept away the idea of socialism as a dirty word amongst the party faithful and has exposed the lack of ideas and vision from the compromising, centrist party leadership. Much like Corbyn’s rise to power, however, it is notable that millenials have voted in their droves for an old white man to be their saviour.

So far Clinton has refrained from playing the gender card, though many of her supporters have failed to, but this defeat in New Hampshire will open the floodgates. Clinton was always supposed to be the first female President in the minds of the Democratic leadership and they are going to do all they can to remind Bernie’s supporters of the opportunity they will lose over the coming months.Continue Reading

POETRY HITS THE HEADLINES, BUT IS IT FOR THE RIGHT REASONS?

by Carmina Masoliver

For those who are partial to a bit of poetry, you’ll probably have heard by now that Sarah Howe has been awarded this year’s T.S. Eliot prize by judges Pascale Petit (chair), Kei Miller, and Ahren Warner. You may also have seen this article, which questioned the negative tinge of the criticism of which Howe has received. Katy Evans-Bush argued that these criticisms were more to do with Howe’s age, gender and ethnicity (Howe is of dual Chinese-British heritage). Some seemed baffled both that it was possible to win on a first collection, yet also that it took her ten years to write. Surely the fact that she spent so long producing the poetry might suggest how it became possible to win? I mean, that, or witchcraft.Continue Reading

DISNEY PRINCESSES REDESIGNED AS…. PATRONISING AND DISCRIMINATORY

by Jess Howard

The majority of us will have seen articles featuring ‘Disney princesses redesigned as’. They’ve been tattooed, hungover and turned into pin ups. This time, however, writer and illustrator combo Danielle Sepulveres  and Maritza Lugo have teamed up to produce a cartoon featuring Disney princesses visiting the gynaecologist, to promote sexual health awareness and cervical cancer. I have previously discussed why I disagree with cartoons being used to highlight sensitive issues, and this example is no exception.Continue Reading

EQUALIMANIA

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by Sunetra Senior

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.

However, bringing Freud into the discussion in general might not be so wrong because the real problem, the ongoing obstacle for both those with depression, bipolar, borderline personality disorder and the whole host of legitimate clinical disorders that I couldn’t possibly all list here, and the limitations that women still face day-to-day, is the wider, ideological practice of repression: namely society’s refusal to acknowledge the significance of psychology itself. Continue Reading

THE TAMPON TAX SHOULD BE REMOVED: LOOKING AT EU LEGISLATION

By Eve Lacroix

The average uterus-owning person bleeds about five days a month from the age of 12 to 50. Considering this, sanitary products are undeniably essential health items. Pads, tampons and menstrual cups are taxed 5% in the UK, thus classifying them as non-essential, luxury items. According to that classification, some ridiculous examples of “essential” items are Jaffa Cakes and crocodile meat, exempt from VAT.

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I DID MY BEST TO LEARN THE RULES

by Robyn Banks

I did my best to learn the rules.
The world was a nice place,
children shared, we waited our turn,
we helped those in need and said thankyou and please.

The board was black and the chalk was white,
together we learned to read and write,
I tried to learn the rules.
There used to be racism,
there used to be war,
there used to be poverty and workhouses and suffering
but Martin Luther King had a dream and women won the vote
and everyone shared now, and waited their turn
and Tony Blair painted rainbow children on my primary school walls.Continue Reading

I’M PROUD TO BE A FEMINIST ‘BULLY’

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by Robyn Banks

Last week Nobel Prize winning scientist, Sir Tim Hunt, addressed an audience of senior female scientists at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls”, he said, “Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.” This was reportedly met with stony silence, which is hardly a surprise. He later clarified that, although the comments were intended as a “joke”, he meant what he said and was just trying to be “honest, actually”. Women present at the conference took to twitter to voice their discomfort, sparking a twitter storm of derision, humour and critique. The story made the national press and less than 48 hours later, Sir Tim Hunt had resigned from his faculty position at University College London.

This week, the Daily Mail published a story by Sarah Vine titled ‘March of the feminist bullies!’. In it she referred to the complaining women as humourless “feminazis”, as “stupid, pampered, spoilt” and lamented the fact that “men like [Tim Hunt] can’t be allowed to go around the place making giant scientific breakthroughs of the kind that may one day lead to, oh I don’t know, a cure for cancer, unless and until they have fully submitted to the will of the mob”. And, in true sisterly fashion, wrote that she despaired of her sex.Continue Reading

FREEZE PEACH

by Robyn Sands

The narrative of free speech has become increasingly complicated. It would be easy to assume that only teenagers and the most reactionary bigots would be likely to claim their right to free speech had been violated after having their views disagreed with, protested against, or denied a prestigious platform. But as this misunderstanding was repeated time and time again — cries of censorship followed UEA union shops decision to stop buying a newspaper it couldn’t even sell, legitimate protest was written off as silencing and oppression — it seems to have seeped in to the public consciousness.

Today, even the most critical thinkers seem to forget that the right to free speech doesn’t grant them the right to say whatever they like, wherever they like, and to be granted whichever platform they consider themselves worthy of. I have no right to walk in to my local KFC and preach vegetarianism on their property, just as I have no right to claim I am being silenced because The Guardian refused to publish this article.Continue Reading