Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Bad at blogging.


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On a changing world

When I walked into my office on Wednesday 9th November, 2016, I looked at my fellow writer, Alex, and I had nothing to say.

He looked at me. A pause.

“Our job is more important now, Amy,” he said.

*

When I had woken up that morning and rolled over and looked at my phone, I saw the same thing that shocked millions of people all around the world: despite all the evidence against him, despite every despicable thing he had said and done, despite multiple accusations of assault, Donald Trump had been elected President of America.

I didn’t feel the crushing horror that I felt at that same moment in June, when I realised Brexit was happening. A part of me knew that we would leave the EU then, and I was devastated to learn that I was right.

But in a million years, I never thought America would elect Trump. I was so sure. I kept telling people: it won’t happen. I’m sure it won’t happen. Looking at the news that day, I just felt numb.

I did the things I always do in the morning. I switched on Radio 4. I made myself a cup of tea. I ate breakfast. As I put on my makeup, I listened to Trump say that he would be a president “for all Americans” and I shuddered. I put down my lipstick. What’s the point? I picked it up again. (Lipstick makes me feel strong, and now more than ever, I needed to be strong.)

*

I stopped feeling numb, eventually. I felt desperately sad. Then I felt determined to do something. Then I felt scared. Then I felt hopeless. Then I felt tired.

I still feel tired.

But in the months since that day, my thoughts have become clearer. And there are three things that I’ve decided to believe in, in this new, angry, divisive world. They are obvious, and idealistic, and a bit schmaltzy. But all the same, I’m writing them here as a record, a reminder, and a plan.

1) Love. I keep thinking about this interview with Antoine Leiris, and his absolute refusal to have any room for hate in his life. There were tweets that Wednesday mournfully declaring that hate won, sexism won, racism won, homophobia won. It didn’t. I refuse to have any room for them. We’re all still here, our beliefs haven’t changed, and we have to keep looking after each other.

2) Truth. There’s been a lot of talk about “post-truth” politics in the last year. I do not agree with it. The truth still exists. Things still happen. Facts are still facts. And around the world, activists and journalists are working constantly and fearlessly to shine a light on them. Sometimes people don’t believe them, but that doesn’t change what is true. Sometimes they are horrible, but that should not mean that we look away. Alex’s words to me on that bleak Wednesday morning have stayed with me. We write, every day, for a news website that is read by thousands of teenagers. And our job is more important now. We have a responsibility to tell them the truth, as fairly as we can, without losing hope. And then they can make up their own minds.

3) Action. There’s a lot of work to do over the next few years. Things will need protesting, and things will need protecting. But we can all do small things, whether that’s donating money to causes that need it, making our voices heard at protests, contacting our local politicians, supporting the most vulnerable people, or being there for our friends when they need us.

I wish I had more concrete answers. But most change is incremental. It’s lots of small things building up over time to create something huge. That will be true of Trump’s time in power. It’s also true of how to stop him.

Be safe. Be well. Look after yourself.


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Last Friday

Two things happened on Friday last week. One of them, you probably already know about.

It feels somehow inappropriate to be blogging about the attacks on Paris. I feel a deep sense of sorrow and sympathy for the city, one that it’s impossible to really express. It’s awful whenever anywhere is attacked, but the symbolism resonates. This is a city of enlightenment, love, fashion, wine. But I wasn’t there, I’m not an expert – I’m not even French.

Yet I have written so much about Paris during my working day, listened to radio reports from the Place de la République as I applied my make up each morning, turned it over in my mind as I stirred pasta at dinnertime. It’s in my head. It’s in my heart.

I won’t feel done until I write about it for myself.

So. The other thing that happened on Friday, hours before the attacks began, is that I sat and read Carry On, the new teenage wizarding school fantasy novel with an LGBT twist by Rainbow Rowell.

(“Is this a trivial addition to a serious topic?” you might ask. I would argue not. But my postulations about the importance of teenage pop culture probably are, so I’ll leave them for another time.)

On the surface, Carry On is a self-aware, but still slightly awkward, re-hash of all the magical ‘chosen one’ stories ever written. But once you get past the opening chapters (“Oh, this must be the Hermione character… Look, now we’re at Hogwarts sort of”) there is a compelling love story, and an interesting take on corruption, power, us vs. them mentalities, and how to beat a shifting, terrifying enemy which is intent on destroying the very soul of your society.

Right at the end, a song is mentioned by name: Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’.

I opened YouTube on my phone, and played it as I finished off the final few pages.

And although I’d heard it before, it had never gotten under my skin the way it did then. The deep, mournful vocals wrapped themselves around me, while the light piano promised some kind of hope.

I’ve been playing it almost on repeat ever since – whenever I get a moment alone, through headphones if I’m at work, at least twice as I go to bed.

I’m not religious. I haven’t been for a long time. But playing this song feels closer a prayer than anything I’ve felt in years.

Be safe, it says. Be loved. There is a path.

I’m not saying, obviously, that Nick Cave or Rainbow Rowell have the answer to Islamic State. But time and again at work this week, we’ve returned to the same questions as we cover the attacks:

Is there a way to win this that doesn’t involve hate?

If the enemy is calling you to come and fight them, if it craves a violent response above all else – do you have a duty to refuse to give it to them?

I don’t know.

But I believe in love.

And I’m not going to stop asking.


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Crochet flower bunting for Spring

Crochet flower spring bunting 1

I love the spring. Winter always feels so long and gloomy, but when the sun finally arrives, everything starts to look better. I love daffodils, I love that it’s still light when you leave the office, I love being outside and sitting on grass.

So I’ve been making this bunting for months, crocheting the flowers whenever I didn’t feel like doing my main knitting projects. But it feels fitting that I finished it in the spring, and that it was the perfect length for the big, sunny windows of our new flat (annoyingly, not sunny when I took these photos).

Crochet spring flower bunting 2

This isn’t an original pattern, but more of a hybrid that I improvised and put together from lots of different places. It was mostly inspired by the beautiful fruity colours of Peter Pan DK (933, 934, 937 & 938). I’m usually a bit snobby about acrylic yarns, but this one has a lovely soft feel – and if there’s one thing acrylic does well, it’s colour.

So to make the daisies I used this gorgeous pattern from the Diva Stitches Crochet Blog. She has lots of really cute free flower patterns and you should definitely check them out. I used one colour for Round 1, and changed for Rounds 2 & 3 to create that pretty daisy effect.

And for the single-coloured flowers, I used this great video tutorial from Yarn Obsession. Again – neither flower pattern was my design, I just picked them out and threw them together. If you want to learn to crochet, I always find videos so much more helpful, and the Yarn Obsession channel is really good.

Once I’d made enough flowers (I made two daisies in each colour combination and three single-colour flowers each) I then crocheted them all together in white. My white stash is James C. Brett Shimmer DK and it has that extra thread effect which gives it a little texture, but a smooth white DK yarn would look just as good.

If you’re interested, I decided to try my hand at a photo tutorial for stringing the flowers together, which you can find below. It’s not really a pattern, because I wasn’t that precise – I wanted the flowers to be placed randomly with varying lengths so I didn’t count every time – but it’ll give you an idea. What I love about crochet is that you don’t always have to be as exact as you do in knitting – it’s great for projects like this which are a little more freeform.

If you’re not interested in the tutorial, just enjoy the pretty.

Crochet spring flower bunting 3

Step 1: Make a slip knot.

Bunting 1

Step 2: Chain 10.

Bunting 2

Step 3: Insert hook into first chain.

Bunting 3

Step 4: Slip stitch to create loop.

Bunting 4

Step 5: Chain 45 – this forms beginning of bunting string. Thread waste yarn for marker.

Bunting 5

Step 6: Chain until you reach the desired length for your first flower string – I didn’t count as I wanted to create a random look. (I also changed from a white to red hook for some reason but they’re both 3.75mm.)

Bunting 6

Step 7: Insert hook into top of flower from the back.

Bunting 7

Step 8: Wrap yarn over hook and pull through. Two loops on hook.

Bunting 8

Step 9: Yarn over hook, pull through loops. Your flower is now securely attached and facing the front (although they tended to twist around anyway.

Bunting 9

Step 10: Double crochet in each chain until you reach marker.

Bunting 10

Step 11: Chain 15. This will create the bridge to the next flower string.

Bunting 11

Step 12: Thread waste yarn for marker and start again from Step 6. Vary lengths and colour sequences until your flowers have all been placed.

Bunting 12

Step 13: Chain 45 to match beginning of bunting, then chain 10 more for loop.

Bunting 13

Step 14: Insert hook into 10th chain from hook and slip stitch to create loop.

Bunting 14

Step 15: Double crochet in each chain along top of bunting.

Bunting 15

And you’re done!


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Introducing Solidarity (the knitting pattern)

Solidarity hat Katie

The beautiful, smart and funny journalist Katie Davies, rocking the hat over Christmas.

I’m so excited to announce that my very first *official* feminist knitting pattern is now on sale at LoveKnitting.com – and that I will be donating half the profits to Women’s Aid. Check it out here!

The Solidarity hat was inspired by two things. Firstly, as with so many designs, it was all in the yarn. Mirasol Miski a beautiful 100% baby llama in a soft green which I instantly knew I wanted to pair with a snowy cream (the two together remind me a little of my grandmother’s wallpaper from the 1970s).

Secondly, it was the 2014 Feminism in London conference, in which there was a lot of talk about how feminism is not just individual to each person, but a movement of togetherness – of women joining together to make change, much like the craftivists who attended and spoke at the event.

It was this idea which inspired the interlinked Venus symbols which make up the body of the hat’s Fair Isle pattern. They don’t just represent craftivists or even just feminists, but all women – the women in my own family and friendship circles, who are constantly inspiring me; the women of the past who were saved from poverty by their ability to make a living from their knitting; the millions of women around the world who feel like they are fighting a losing battle against oppression. If we don’t stand together and support each other, how can we possibly hope for change?

One of my oldest and most wonderful friends Phanida, who is months away from becoming an actual medical doctor. Bow down.

One of my oldest and most wonderful friends, Phanida Fung, who is months away from becoming an actual medical doctor. Also she looks super cute here.

And with all that in mind, I am so happy to be donating half the profits from the Solidarity hat to Women’s Aid, to help end domestic violence against women in children (unfortunately the other half is still needed for the “helping Amy pay her rent” fund – one day we may all live in a post-capitalist society in which I can afford to give away my patterns for free, but sadly today is not that day).

With thanks to Katie Davies and Phanida Fung, my two brilliant models and friends; the wonderful designer Jane Burns for her excellent advice, friendship and pattern-checking skills; and Loveknitting.com for helping independent designers to navigate the murky waters of VATMOSS.

Detailed shot of the Fair Isle pattern.

Detailed shot of the Fair Isle pattern.


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What is a feminist knitting designer?

Yarn and business cards

When I decided to go freelance last year, the first thing I got excited about was the business cards. I instantly knew what I wanted my tagline to be:

writer – editor – feminist knitting designer

“Are you sure?” asked my father, looking at the design. “Don’t you want it to be a bit more… professional?”

“It’s memorable,” was my reply. “People will see it and they’ll just have to ask me about it. And then when they actually need a writer or an editor, they’ll remember me!”

So… what does it mean to be a feminist knitting designer?

Well, it’s simple, really. It means that I’m a feminist and I’m a knitting designer, and that I sometimes try to combine the two.

Outside of the crafts world, there can sometimes be a bit of a tendency to look down on knitters and stitchers and cupcake bakers as being un-feminist. Germaine Greer famously said that “women have frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand.” After all, didn’t we leave that kind of thing behind in the 1950s? Aren’t we just perpetuating unhelpful stereotypes of essential femininity? And so on.

Well… no. For me, there’s something very feminist about making things with your own hands and reconnecting with your creativity and your past. It doesn’t have to be expensive – you can pick up balls of yarn for little more than a quid – and it’s a skill that has been passed down through mothers and daughters for generations. My own mother taught me to knit when I was about 13, and my great-grandmother was a professional knitter; I still use her old needles from time to time. When my family traced back our family tree a few years ago, we also found at least one male ancestor who was a framework knitter in Leicester, my hometown.

And while that personal connection is not always the case for many people nowadays, all it takes is a quick google search to find hundreds of workshops, blogs and YouTube videos – predominantly by women – which are passing on that knowledge too.*

Knitting is not a closely guarded secret. It’s a thing that makes people happy, that they love to share with others. There’s no snobbery or nastiness – your first wobbly scarf will be celebrated with as much enthusiasm as your second bit of proper Fair Isle, or your twelfth patchwork blanket.

For me, feminism has always been about celebrating women’s achievements as well as fighting gender inequality – because part of that inequality is that women are conditioned not to celebrate their own achievements. We’re not supposed to boast when we’re good at something or agree when we’re complimented – just to sit quietly, humbly waving away any praise bestowed on us.

Not so in the world of knitting. When I’ve gone to craft shows I have found them full of women and men praising each other’s work without jealousy or bitterness, excited to show off their latest designs and ideas, encouraging each other to try something new. There’s a release and a satisfaction in an environment which is about supporting each other. It’s peaceful. It’s often environmentally friendly. It’s the kind of safe, warm, creative world that, as a feminist, I would love to become more universal.

And, on the flip side, knitting and other crafts can be thrillingly subversive when they’re used politically. Let’s not forget the many feminist crafters who are doing incredible, important work around the world: the brilliant Wool Against Weapons activists protested Trident last year by knitting a seven-mile long scarf to stretch between two atomic weapons sites in Berkshire, then repurposed the scarf into blankets for people in need; charities like Knit for Peace distribute handknitted items to those who need them most; Stitch n Bitch groups are bringing women together; projects like Significant Seams support vulnerable people in the community. And you know the suffragettes LOVED a hand-stitched banner back in the day.

It was these women, and more, of whom I was thinking when I designed my first official feminist knitting pattern. Stay tuned, guys, it won’t be long now.

*Before you start, of course there is room for men too, and of course eradicating the gender stereotypes around knitting is a thing that would benefit everyone. But at the same time, I get fuzzy feelings about an industry that is full of women working together in relative harmony. What can I say? It’s a paradox that I’m willing to live with for now.


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The best songs of 2014

The year is coming to a close, and when looking back on it, there are a few significant themes. The launch of abstractmag.com with friends from university is something that I am very proud of – it gave me space to be inspired again, to meet new writers and help them find a voice, and to practise writing the sort of pieces that I enjoy most (“Will One Direction survive in a socialist utopia?” is my personal favourite headline of the year).

2014 was also a great year for women in pop music. Not only are more and more celebrities embracing feminism but their music is reflecting that too. From Beyonce’s foot phone to Taylor Swift standing on a horse, women finally seemed to get bored of spending their music videos looking suggestively (or sleepily) into the camera. Instead, they just started doing whatever the hell they want.

So it’s no surprise that when I came to write a “top 10 songs of the year” list for Abstract, the top five were all by women. You can read the countdown (and my musings on what counts as “good” music) here.

Happy new year!


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Why I’m changing my name for SEO

Open up the January issue of Diva magazine when it hits shops tomorrow (Dec 18th), and you’ll find a huge picture of me on page 53, sitting in Gaudi’s Parc Güell in Barcelona and talking on the subject of bold changes in the new year.

Six weeks ago, I told my boss that I was quitting my job. I work at a knitting magazine in Essex, and I’ve learnt a lot there – not least how to make Fair Isle jumpers, cabled cushions and top-down baby cardigans – but moving on has been a long time coming. I’ve dreamed of living in London since I was about 13, since I was old enough to know that very little really happens in Leicester, and I stood in Trafalgar Square outside the National Gallery, looked at Big Ben, and felt like I was finally in the centre of something.

I decided that if I was moving to London, I wanted to try freelancing. I wanted to write and proofread for different clients every week, to have flexible hours so that I could work at my most productive times instead of forcing myself awake, and for the money I earned to line my pockets, not a company director I never saw.

But one thing that freelancing kind of depends on is people being able to contact you pretty easily. And since I share the name of Oscar-nominated actress, I’m not particularly easy to find on the internet. So, at least as far as my online presence is concerned, I decided to choose a new one.

Inventing a new name is hard. I always planned to keep it if I got married, and I could never really imagine being called anything else. I knew I wanted to keep Amy, but I liked the emphasis of a single-syllable surname, so I roped in my family and friends, and started brainstorming:

Amy Stark, Amy Fox, Amy Sky, Amy Green, Amy Fox, Amy May, Amy Bird, Amy Fox, Amy Brown, Amy Wood, Amy Fox.

There was a clear winner. Don’t ask me to explain “Amy Fox” any more than the fact that I like the way it sounds. I would have loved to have chosen a name with a more meaningful story, but sometimes these things are disappointingly shallow. And yes, I have noticed that it rhymes with Jamie Foxx. I like it anyway.

So that’s where I am – about to embark on a freelance career, planning to move house for the sixth time in about as many years, and creating a professional pseudonym. For SEO.

Wish me luck? And recommend me to your friends?


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#twittersilence: it’s not for everyone. Here’s what it is for me.

I – like many, many others – have spent the last week thinking a lot about feminism and online abuse. And as I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to participate in #trolliday, a few things have started to occur to me.

Of the women on twitter whom I have been following, the argument has been split between two main camps. The problem is, I kind of agree with both.

Someone like Caitlin Moran will be missed today. If I still had it in me to care about Doctor Who, I would be sad not to have her running commentary of the weird talk-show-slash-possible-fight-to-the-death that will reveal the twelfth Doctor tonight. The argument that twitter would be a much worse place without outspoken women will be felt by her simple 24-hour absence. More importantly, the act of leaving twitter for a day will fuel a wider conversation about abuse. Helen Lewis explains that position pretty well.

But many, many other women are continuing to tweet their anger about sexism, because silence concerning abuse has not, historically, gone well for the abused.

Each approach works for the people who chose it. So what should my response be?

The thing is, my silence on twitter wouldn’t necessarily be missed anyway. I don’t tweet an awful lot as it is, and I very rarely tweet about feminism. For one thing, I am usually talking about something else. For another, there are many people I know who talk about it far more eloquently than myself. But there is a part of me – and it’s not a part I’m particularly proud of – that sees the abuse other women get, and thinks “I don’t know if that’s something I want to open myself up to”.

So in a way, I’ve already been silenced for far too long. As someone who is perfectly happy to identify myself as a feminist, and talk about feminism in my life away from the internet, that doesn’t really make any sense.

So instead of being silent today, I’m going to speak out instead.

And the message is simple – it is completely ridiculous that women are so often met with death threats and rape threats just for saying that they want to be treated equally to men. How twitter should respond to a fault of society is a different argument completely. However, the way that people treat each other in public spaces is everybody’s business, and they should never treat each other like that. Ignoring the problem is not a helpful response for those on the receiving end of daily insults and threats. If it came from someone they knew personally, no one would be telling them that to respond would only make things worse, so that should just sit down and take it.

I am a feminist, and I object to a world that treats men and women differently. I am adding my voice to the critical mass of objections.

Sexism does still exist. Women and girls are killed and abused all around the world simply for being women and girls. It cannot be denied that they are held to a different standard than men – to see that, you only need to turn on your TV and compare the number of visible mature men to the number of visible mature women.

Of course, both women and men are also abused for their race, sexuality, class, religion, nationality, mental health, weight, disability, appearance, clothes … gender is just one of the many targets of discrimination, but that doesn’t make it – or them – any less important.

There are many kinds of sexism. Almost every woman I know has faced some form of street harassment. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for speaking out for a woman’s right to an education in Pakistan. Marte Deborah Dalelv was arrested for having sex outside of marriage after reporting a rape – the fact that she was pardoned after international outcry does not make it okay. Within the last couple of months, a medical student I know was told by a surgeon at her hospital that she wouldn’t get ahead in orthopaedics because one day she will want to have a baby; another told her that she will find it easy because she can simply use her boobs. Neither mentioned her medical ability.

Sexism still exists. Some people’s silence today will speak louder than their presence. Some people will continue to shout about it today, and tomorrow, and the next day.

I am protesting in my own way. I am saying, as thousands of other women are saying, that sexism has to stop. The world will be a far, far better place without it.

In a debate on Channel 4 news the other day, Jon Snow asked whether the issue was bigger than twitter, and was in fact a social problem.

“Yes it is, Jon,” writer and activist Laurie Penny replied.

“Then why aren’t we dealing with that?”

Exactly, Jon Snow. Exactly.


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LGBTQ and the media: why Hollyoaks is the best show on television

A couple of weeks ago, same-sex marriage became legal in the UK. You may have heard about it. Of course, the law is not without it’s faults – let’s not forget that trans people are being significantly discriminated against, that heterosexual couples still can’t enter into civil unions, and that there is a quadruple lock on opposed religious groups performing such marriages, so that LGBTQ members of the Church of England couldn’t be married in their faith, even if they wanted to.

I am not forgetting those things. However, it has to be acknowledged that the change in law is still a huge step forward for human rights in this country, and emblematic of positively shifting attitudes.

However, just as in the law surrounding it, society’s attitude towards LGBTQ people still has its issues. They are still bullied, mocked and degraded for being themselves, and as long as this site still exists, you’re never a google search away from a nice little reminder of how far left society has to come.

Today, however, I am going to talk about one specific problem, because it’s one that’s been bugging me lately – and that is the way in which we understand LGBTQ characters on TV. It was a topic often discussed in my Queer Theory class at UEA last year, and one which continually comes up in the TV I watch now.

The thing is, the growing number of LGBTQ characters is something of a red herring. Of course more representation is a good thing, and the fact that openly gay characters are appearing is a step forward in itself. But why are they so often presented as minor side characters, there to throw out a good one liner, but never actually take on any strong storylines themselves? Why do they still play up to stereotypes which don’t actually help anyone? And why do the lesbiansalwaysALWAYSdie? [warning: violence, illness, spoilers]

It’s a commonly recurring theme that tvtropes.org refers to as “bury your gays link”.

Of course there are always exceptions. But no matter how great it is to have LGBTQ characters on TV, there are still only two messages being sent about queer relationships. Either they must fit perfectly into the roles society has dictated for them in order to be legitimate (one flamboyantly camp man and his long-suffering partner/two hot babes), or they must ultimately end up doomed and their partners left grieving forever.

 

A Case Study

Let’s compare Channel 4’s Dates. It was well-promoted, billed as an edgy contemporary drama/comedy, and the link with Skins creator Bryan Elsley was continually pushed.

Overall, the series was pretty good; the “straight” episodes portrayed interesting, layered characters who were struggling with various emotional issues as they attempted to navigate the awkward seas of dating in a complex contemporary world.

But then we got to the “lesbian” episode – and presumably even having lesbians was presumed to be edgy enough without actually bothering to push any more boundaries. Instead, when one admits to having previously been with men, we get the line “I’m so sick of women who go this way and that on a whim; it’s not complicated, it’s annoying and not honest … Maybe you’re just straight and bored?” In response: “you seem like an angry lesbian with a dick complex.”

Neither of these stereotypes is anything the viewers haven’t heard before, and repeating them isn’t edgy; it’s lazy. To top it all off, the two women later do sexy dancing and sleep together anyway, despite the fact that neither seems to particularly like the other, making it a lesbians-on-TV hattrick.

Gay stories can’t just rely on their own gayness to keep them interesting. They need as many twists, turns and surprises as straight stories. How else will they ever seem like legitimate stories to tell?

And that is just the gay, bisexual and lesbian characters who are, finally, beginning to exist on our screens; for those who are trans, genderqueer, pansexual, asexual, or one of the many other non-heteronormative identities, there is still the battle to get their stories represented on television at all.

The only reference I found to trans issues in Dates was this passing comment from a man in a later episode, on the number of dates he has had in his life: “two including this one, and the other ‘so-called’ girl turned out to be … never mind”. A face is pulled, the subject changed, and the subject never mentioned again. To make matters worse, this is from a man who claimed to have an academic interest in sexuality, and who even went so far as to explain a rough version of the Kinsey scale. Admittedly, the character is portrayed as racist and sexist throughout. But even in the one area in which their character appears to be somewhat enlightened, trans jokes are still too easy a shot for the writers to take.

So what can we do? What possible direction is left to take?

 

That’s where Hollyoaks comes in

Moving to a new town is hard. You don’t know where things are; you don’t have any friends yet; there are millions of roundabouts everywhere for no discernible reason (although maybe that’s just in Colchester).

Luckily, I am privileged enough to be housesharing with an extremely friendly and generous couple (and their puppy).

Unluckily, their favourite TV show is Hollyoaks.

Now, I’m not judging those who enjoy trashy soaps – not at all. But Hollyoaks though? That’s the worst one!

So what do you do? Do you watch bad TV with wooden acting, farcical storylines, and awkward sets? Or do you hide in your bedroom, carry on learning to knit, and not bond with the people you’re sharing your living spaces with for the foreseeable future?

Honestly, it was a tough call to make. But I’m pretty bad at being on my own, so in the end, against all the odds, Hollyoaks won.

At first, I was just vaguely fascinated by how terrible the plots were, and how hilariously bad the acting was.

Then, I started to notice something odd.

First, two men in a relationship kissed without any particular fuss – the same everyday peck that we see between straight couples on TV all the time. Oh, I thought. How nice! I didn’t even realise they were together until the end of the scene, because they were talking about something completely different!

Then, I began to realise that there was also a love triangle between a third man. Brilliant! These two aren’t just together because they’re the only gay men on the show – the drama of the relationship doesn’t come from their sexuality alone, it comes from jealousy and affairs – just like all the other couples! Best of all, from my limited viewpoint, it didn’t seem like any of the LGBTQ characters were being portrayed with the usual stereotypes.

Later in the week, the same thing happened again – but this time with two teenage girls! As we have established by now: usually if female LGBTQ characters exist at all, they are almost always presented through the lens of a wider male fantasy, and are highly unrealistic as a result. But here they were, at 6.30pm on weeknight, right in front of my eyes! And once again, their storyline included mental health issues, fears for a relationship that is moving too fast, and parents catching them in compromising positions. All slightly hammy versions of the sort of issues teenagers face every day; but the girls’ sexuality itself wasn’t commented upon once!

It may seems like a relatively small complaint in a world where LGBTQ people people face physical threats and violence on a daily basis. But it’s all part of the same problem. The way certain identities are presented in the media is always going to significantly affect how we think about those identities. If we are only ever shown two or three varieties of gay relationships and characters, they will never be truly accepted by everyone. And the same goes for all oppressed minorities – the more variety we are able to see, the less they will be considered minorities at all.

For years I have been complaining that we need LGBTQ characters on our TVs whose sexuality is not their primary characteristic; and for years I’ve been continually disappointed. We are often drawn to anything that is new in the hope that, this time, it will have all the answers. But perhaps we are looking in all the wrong places – and something like Hollyoaks, which is so often dismissed for its low-budget, quotidian nature, has been giving us those answers for years.


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Quick post: weekend in Wales

Well I wasn’t kidding about keeping up the blog, and I had a fantastic response to the last post, so thank you! Thank you especially To Adam Tinworth, who actually wrote a post about me writing a post about him. Blogception.

However, the next one I’m working on is proving slightly more time-consuming and complicated than I expected – and I am also graduating this week, so there my be an unexpected delay.

So here, instead, are some pretty pictures of Southerndown in South Wales, where I spent my weekend. It was pretty beautiful.

Southerndown

Southerndown

 

Sea

Sea

 

Barbecuing at sunset

Barbecuing at sunset

As a Midlands girl, I still get extremely excited about being on a beach, or near the sea at all. There’s something pretty breathtaking about reaching the very edge.

And, best of all, this particular beach is also the set of this heartbreaking scene (and, I am reliably informed, many others):

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and cry for the days when Doctor Who was still good. Cry like a sad, sad baby.