Written By: Luisa Haa
Photograph: Rachel Shnapp
I am not the only German who was upset by the results of this year’s election, but no one was taken by surprise.
Written By: Luisa Haa
Photograph: Rachel Shnapp
I am not the only German who was upset by the results of this year’s election, but no one was taken by surprise.
Written by: Amy Shimmin – @amylfc
Back for its third year, Scottish Queer International Film Festival is renowned for its diverse programming. From following pregnancy while trans to a queer anarchist punk musical, to workshops on LGBT working class cinema wrapped up with late-night parties, the Festival promises a scream of a line-up every autumn. SQIFF Shorts: Defiant Dykes presents a collection of six short films, focusing mainly on lesbian identity, in the UK and overseas.
Written By: Gabriel Rutherford
The world shines in a loud bright grey
The glory of humility
Getting louder every new old day
Who decided you have any say?
Man muss ihre Hertz jetzt finden
Neu Welt, auf Unter den Linden
Written by: Ruarí MacManus & Alkmini Nikopoulou
1/10/2017- 31/10/2017 – Free Entry – (see more information in link below)
Once again, the annual The Mackintosh Festival invites you to celebrate the life of Charles Rennie Mackintosh through a series of exhibitions, events, workshops, talks & tours in venues throughout Glasgow and further afield. We’ve attached a link down below for the full list of events!
More info: http://www.glasgowmackintosh.com/festival
Reviewed by Aike Jansen
From 27th of September until October 1st, Glaswegians can again delight in the best of queer film during SQIFF. For the third year in a row, Scottish Queer International Film Festival is promoting LGBTIQ+ cinema – getting people to watch and talk about films they would otherwise not have the chance to see, whilst creating informative events alongside it. Perhaps symbolic for the neglect of bisexual experiences within LGBTQ+ politics, activism and communities, representation of bisexuality in film was completely lacking in the first two years of SQIFF. To make up for this “fuck-up”, there is now a bi-specific programme, kicking off with a ride through cinematic representations of bisexuality presented by Jacob Engelberg, the programmer of Brighton-based queer film strand Eyes Wide Open Cinema.
Written By: Leora Mansoor
The rose that blooms before its time,
in winter when the trees are stark,
is no more beautiful than a rose garden.
Written By: Jennifer Bowey
Photograph: Léa Cyrielle
Being insecure is, unfortunately, increasingly prevalent in our social media obsessed society. Young people in particular are often dissatisfied with their own appearance and, on top of that, preoccupied with what their peers’ opinions on the matter might be. Poor self-image is, then, one of the most common problems facing individuals today. In its most extreme cases, however, it could be attributable to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) – an anxiety disorder that causes people to have a warped perception of their own physical appearance resulting in extreme distress. This condition, according to NHS statistics, may affect as many as 1 in 100 of us, yet is given minimal consideration.
By: Sam Bingham
Hello and welcome! I am Sam from the Glasgow University Magazine; could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hey Sam, it’s great to get a bit of chat on the go. In Victoria McNulty, a poet and spoken word performer from Glasgow.
2/10/2017 – 19:30 to 22:00 – Free Entry
The Internet’s Own Boy tells the story of a programming prodigy, information activist, and Reddit founder Aaron Swartz. The filim generates questions about academic freedom, corporate power, and the impact one person can have on society – a personal story about what we lose when we are tone-deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.
SSE Hydro, 27th September
Nick Cave’s legendary status precedes him. With 16 studio albums under his belt, and a global reputation for his dark, unsettling and existential songwriting, expectations are high for the 60-year-old Aussie and his band of eccentrics, The Bad Seeds, to deliver an affecting and memorable performance. And deliver they certainly do.
Up until now, you’ve probably bought your beauty products – be it a hairbrush or foundation – from the Superdrug down the road or online. But as you might have already heard, technology has and is revolutionising everything from the workplace to how we interact with each other and that goes for the beauty industry too. There’s now magical mirrors, apps like dermatologists and more customization than ever before.
As a fourth year student, set to graduate in June, I am thrilled that my life will no longer be plagued by essays, exams or perhaps worst of all, The Dissertation. However, despite the jubilant sense of freedom my friends and I experienced upon completing our exams and throwing off the shackles of never-ending study, there remains an overriding sense of anxiety bubbling away under the surface.
As I prepare for four months away to the land of Italians, where the men are famously known for their romantic tendencies, golden skin, flowing dark hair – and where the relationship between the Greek and the Roman Gods becomes a little fuzzy – I can’t help but feel excited to escape Glasgow. I have never left the city for longer than one month at a time – I, like everyone from here, have the infamous ‘fomo’ condition. Nights out in Glasgow can alter according to the choice of club, but we all have our favourite bars, our wee hotspots where we just know we’re bound to bump into people. For first and second years at university this inevitably becomes the Glasgow University Union, where we all happily charge down the sticky tiled floor and bump into a handful of our ‘closest’ pals. Now, older and ‘wiser’, we appreciate the smaller things in life – maybe not the small and overpriced cocktails from the Finnieston strip, but our tastes have certainly become defined over the last few years.
The recent council and mayoral elections held across the UK on the 4th May have made one thing very clear; party politics is in a complete muddle. Most parties suffered losses at the ballot box, no one more so than Labour which lost 320 seats across the country. Indeed, Professor John Curtice concluded that the local elections demonstrated a 7% swing from Labour to the Conservatives, who were the only triumphant party of the night, gaining a crushing 558 seats across the country.
When I was a teenager, I was taught that the outfits created by a small coterie of fashion designers set the trends for the upcoming season. The prevailing theory at the time was that the styles displayed on the catwalks of Paris and London, New York and Milan would dictate Britain’s fashion for the next few months; that these outlandish (and expensive!) creations would trickle down to the high street stores in a more palatable, affordable and practical form. There are obvious flaws in this programmatic view of fashion – just think of influential subcultures, historic movements like the Swinging Sixties, even the potential for popular culture to sway fashion. But, more or less, it proved truthful for many years. The road from exclusivity to mass market was pretty straightforward. High fashion dominated. Street style did not.
There are women out there who own beautiful collections of jewellery; women who have house-sized wardrobe of designer brands; some even own more than a thousand bags. But the absolute ‘trouser girl’ is Sarah Harris.
Applications for the GUM team 2017/18 are now open! There are many exciting roles to apply for. Applications will close at midnight on the 22nd May; don’t miss out on the chance to be part of one of the best media teams at Glasgow University!
Why should you join GUM?
If you are considering work in the media industry in the future, it is vital that you start to build up experience at an early stage. GUM is a wonderful platform for you to show your talent and commitment, get your work seen, and it is an incredible experience to put on your CV. Our website this year has grown in popularity, with over 4000 views each month, our Facebook page has over 2000 followers, our Twitter, 1,497 followers and our Instagram has 375 followers. On top of that, each issue of GUM is read by thousands across the city. We pride ourselves on being the oldest student magazine in Scotland (beginning in 1889!) and we are a recognised name with employers throughout the UK. This year GUM was shortlisted for ‘Best Design’ at the UK wide Student Media Awards and has previously been awarded ‘Best Magazine’ twice by the Herald Student Media Awards. A role in GUM will prepare you for jobs within journalism, media production, editorial work, publishing, events management, graphic design, photography, the fashion world or social media management.
Gregory Alan Isakov writes stories, seamlessly interwoven into raw melodies, creating hypnotising and beautifully poetic songs. Hailing from Philadelphia, Isakov’s music is quickly gaining popularity over here, with the success of singles such as ‘Black Car’ and ‘The Stable Song’. However to appreciate the full scope of his repertoire, and talent, you must experience the energy of his live performances. Accompanied by an outstanding group of musicians- a violin, banjo, double bass, drums and an equally talented support act- an uplifting and intimate gig awaited me at King Tut’s.
While the university exam season has begun and our blood pressure rises astronomically at the sight of exam rooms, we all have one thing in common: the strive to make ourselves have that little edge that says “we’ve got this” to our tutors. This led me to wonder, why is it others succeed to get noticed more than others – not just at university but in everyday life? We each fight with the disco ball for a little stardom and spotlight during a Saturday night boogie. A statement designer top which one couldn’t simply purchase from Urban Outfitters can prove to catch the eyes of a few, and while some use clothing, others use vibrant hair dyes, statement piercings, or twist-and-shout dance moves.
Stylist: Niamh Carey
Photographer: Léa Cyrielle
Model: Lara Delmage
Designer: Morag Taylor
BTS Photographer: Silvia Sani
Right now you might be thinking another article on cultural appropriation? Haven’t there been enough already? Short answer: no.
It’s 2017. I am still serving drinks to “Native Americans” on Halloween at work despite the current ongoing Standing Rock protests. I am still seeing authentic designs of various indigenous ethnicities being crudely rehashed “ethnic” and “tribal” for financial gain. I am still seeing black friends being reprimanded for their “dirty looking” hair whilst designers such as Marc Jacobs are kitting out white models with a near-identical hairstyle and profiting from it.
Isabelle Hunt-Deol shared with us some empathy-themed pictures she took wandering in Glasgow.
“seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” ― Alfred Adler
“You might want to pad that box with tea towels or something, to soften the blows if it gets knocked about a lot in the van.”
“I know that, do I look like I’m five? I was just about to get to it.”
“Fuck, Emma, sorry, I was just trying to help. I know you can get a bit absentminded. And that’s the box with your grandparents’ wedding china, right?”
“Yeah, I know, I know. Shit. Sorry. This is…”
“Yeah. Super weird.”
I stood in the car port waiting for your hand on the handle. Through the blur of glass, I could see your chair-lift slowly descend knowing your legs couldn’t reciprocate their desire to run and see me. You greeted me with the warmest smile and a loud hello in your Irish accent making all the cold bones that structure me feel heat. I slowly pushed myself up the stairs ensuring you didn’t feel left behind whilst we exchange our recent news. Your home was warm, pleasantly cosy and comfortable. It wasn’t because your love of the heating being on for 12 months of the year but it was because you filled me with heat. Everywhere smelt faintly of your home-cooked meals and as you brushed past me your Lancôme perfume comforted me. As we walk into the living room, the green carpet was lit by your four gold art-deco lamps that were spotted around the room on the mahogany cabinet and desks. I then walked into the kitchen from the living room and made us tea while you ambled your way to your chair. To all the family it resembled a throne, it stood alone and didn’t match any of the rest of your aqua blue settee suite.
Almost every year the same topic hits the headlines – the serious and pressing issue of air pollution in cities across the UK. Since 2010, the UK has exceeded the EU nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution limit every year, often or not within the first few weeks. In London, this troubling pattern continued into 2017, this time breaching the limit in just 5 days.
Despite the extent to which it has become intertwined with our twenty-first century lives, the Internet is often regarded with caution. The recent election of Donald Trump and the notable rise of the alt right across Europe has only brought criticism against online culture into sharper relief. It is undeniable that the Internet can be a breeding ground for hate. Online chat forums lead angry young men to believe that white masculinity is under threat from those who don’t agree with them – feminists, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. – and a space such as the Internet naturally provides an echo chamber in which hateful subcultures fester and churn out trolls. On an individual level people worry that excessive use of social media can have an adverse effect on mental health, that genuine empathy is being replaced by the angry-face react button. Millenials, the world’s first ever Internet generation, are seen as ‘self-obsessed’ and unable to have decent conversations IRL.
When was the first time you really put yourselves in someone else’s shoes? I mean, really thought about and felt what someone else was feeling? Empathy and sympathy are key skills we tend to learn growing up, and one of the first times we are asked to actually consider a different person’s viewpoint or situation is through the media we consume. Culture does a great job providing a ‘window on the world’; giving us access to places and the lives of people we may have never had the chance to witness before – from nature documentaries showcasing penguins in Antarctica to novels detailing the life of an astronaut. Culture can also show us ideas and life experiences far beyond our comfort zone, forcing us to confront our own preconceptions and build empathy for someone we may never have met, or someone who might not even exist.
Our editors reveal the albums they have connected with personally. Look out for more album reviews in our upcoming issue!
Mylo Xyloto (2011)
I was tempted to listen to Mylo Xyloto after seeing the beautiful album cover; colourful watercolour designs with graffiti inserts looked rather unique and promising. When I researched the album before listening to it, I knew it was going to be different from what I had heard before, but what I didn’t know was how it would make me feel. This might sound ridiculous but Mylo Xyloto is like a friend to me when I need company in an unpleasant state. The vast majority of songs are relatable, therefore, listening to them makes you feel as though you’re not alone. If someone manages to write songs about the feeling I am experiencing that means that they had to feel the same at some point and they managed to make it into a work of art. Also, the album has a positive vibe while speaking about heart-breaking experiences. For all these reasons, this album helped make me feel understood.
As the sun appears to have emerged for the start of the Easter holidays, everyone is shining up like a new penny. Our white 60s shades can be worn, our wax appointments are booked and it seems we are feeling a little more prone to putting ourselves out there in the search for a mate. Just like this week’s hot topic – the one-pound coin was given a revamp due to its apparently dated appearance – we are also casting off our old shells.
When we come across people at University, one of the frequently asked questions that crop up in conversation is “what are you studying? “. When I answer “History of Art” I’ve often received responses like “oh… right” or “must be an easy ride for you” – words which indicate that such a degree has little, if any, relevance.
In an increasingly turbulent political climate – Trump, Brexit, and rising right-wing populism across Europe – that seems to be turning away from caring for our fellow human beings, it can be hard to know where to go next. How best should we respond to these upheavals? How do we voice our dissatisfaction when we don’t like where things are going? And what can we do to protect the most vulnerable members of our society? we sat down with Chandler and Frida, members of the green party, to talk about student activism, the future of the left, a more empathetic kind of politics.
Which demographic in society do you think is shown the least amount of empathy?
Frida – I definitely think migrants and asylum seekers, a lot of people tend to target them because it’s easy to target people who are unfamiliar to you.
The working class is a target group as well, especially with the Conservative government. It’s easy to target them as well. They cut down on benefits and taxes, and then demonise that group so it’s easier to justify those things.
This year for the Glasgow Film Festival 2017 I was both coordinating the press coverage for GUM and volunteering on the festival myself. However, with so many interesting films on, there were no signs of fatigue. Here’s a quick round up of films I’ve managed to see (no fully formed reviews here, just scattered thoughts).
Admittedly, my expectations for the Glasgow University Charity Fashion show weren’t high, due to it being the first student-run charity event I had attended. I confess, however, that I was wrong: the effort and production that transferred the harsh brick and steel interior of SWG3 into the 2017 show was flawless.
In the last decade, there has been an exponential growth in the amount of participatory theatre being produced. What started as a new theatrical experience has now often become a tokenistic trait. Nowadays, participatory performances rarely provide the audience with actual agency and autonomy, but rather an illusion of such. We are Slumber Club, a group of third year Theatre Studies students at the University of Glasgow. From Friday the 17th until Wednesday the 22nd of March we are putting on a project titled Trilogy. We want to return ownership of a theatre performance to you. We intend to move audience interaction from the performance to the process, so the spectator’s active involvement is to contribute items and ideas during the show’s development. When we then perform the final show, created by the spectators, we hope to question these ideas of participation and democracy.
By Audrey Summers
As the days grow longer and the sun has awoken after a long winter, we all are expected to crawl out of our slump and begin our days early and with a determination to complete our assignments. Our focus is on – or should be – on our work, but a getting away from everyone and everything is necessary during this stressful time. While travelling around I got to reunite with some of my best friends, people who I used to be inseparable with before work and the world around us got in the way, before I focused my attention on succeeding and being the ‘best version’ I could be. Not only the best version I saw for myself, but also the one attractive in the world and its eyes and wishes from me.
“Maybe I’m not good enough.” It’s this constantly underlying anxiety that gnaws at Mia and Sebastian (Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling) as they chase their respective aspirations in acting and jazz music, compelled by the allure of Hollywood’s star-spangled promises of success and validation. It is not, however, a fear that director Damien Chazelle need pay any attention to, considering La La Land’s dazzlingly impressive, record-tying achievement of 14 Oscar nominations including Best Director – making him, at only 32 years-old, the youngest nominee to date. This kind of recognition (totally deserved, I might add) is something our protagonists may only dream of, and dream they most certainly do.
This documentary about a group of maverick Dutch journalists investigating the possibility of ethically produced chocolate manages to be educational, depressing, and very funny all at the same time. The beginning half depicts the efforts of the core member of the group, Teun van de Keuken, to get himself imprisoned for the crime of consciously eating chocolate while knowing that its production has involved child slavery. Towards the end, the film shifts its focus to Teun’s (‘Tony’s’, as his name is commonly wrangled by anglophones) quest to create their own, 100% slave-free brand of chocolate, called Tony Chocolonely. As it turns out, there are massive obstacles on the way to achieving that goal.
My legs were shaking, palms sweltering, head banging and I knew what was coming. Stood there, in the middle of the shopping centre, I was having an anxiety attack. Again. Quick, run to the bathroom and nobody will even notice you…but I couldn’t; my legs didn’t want to move. Sweat dripped down my forehead and people began to stare. ‘What’s wrong with that man, mum?’, ‘Stay away from him’, ‘what a weirdo’, ‘haha loser!’
Eventually, I made it back to my flat. I locked my door and it was over. I didn’t need to think, talk or scrutinise it. Just forget it, I said.
How many people go through this every day? 15 million.
How many of those receive frequent treatment? 5 million.
It seems something isn’t quite right.
Nobody ever perfected the feminine as ethereal quite like Kate Bush. An influence on innumerable modern pop stars and style icons – Florence + the Machine, Bat for Lashes, Bjork and St Vincent, to name but a few, Bush is an icon of music, style, and feminism all at once. Incorporating costume wholeheartedly into her music videos and performances, she used her attire as an equal arm of her unbounded creativity as any other artistic medium. Her iconic, enormous wavy brown hair and angelic Wuthering Heights white dress cemented her place in pop culture iconography, and informed my relationship to femininity and performance more than any other artist.
How can we get out of the New Years Slump?
To break free from the post-New Years slump, we must first realise what causes it in the first place.
The festive period can be a wonderful time, however it leaves us vulnerable to becoming deeply embedded in our comfort zones. First comes Advent- we indulge in streets illuminated by fairy lights; christmas markets made of woodhuts; winter wonderland themed window displays; concerts; christmas soundtracks (even the trashier tunes have an aesthetic tone to them) and films which work up a feeling of nostalgia within us, that traces back through many an encounter with the month of December – we already feel we’ve escaped reality.
wind blowing my skirt up
walking past where we all sat
now dogs shit there
wind’s brushing the leaves
brushing a new season
finished with the past.
It’s you, it’s over now.
By: Charlotte Dean
Last year, I succeeded in sticking to my first ever New Year’s Resolution. Until 2016, I was of the opinion that New Year’s Resolutions served no greater purpose than creating an easy topic for small talk in the first week or so of the year, to prevent everyone from having to think too hard whilst still bloated and lethargic from the previous weeks of festivities. Most New Year’s Resolutions, I think, fail because they are based on what people think they should be, rather than what they want to spend their time doing. Continue reading “Positive New Years Resolutions”
Me and my friend Sine Harris recently set up Figurehead Theatre together and our first production ‘Mr. Earhart’ goes up at the Flying Duck this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. We had worked together before on a small scale student theatre project but felt that it would be good practice to find out some more things for ourselves while also having the freedom to make the kind of theatre we wanted.
If like I was you are slightly daunted by the prospect of setting up and running your own theatre company, you might find this handy list of tips a good place to start. I definitely haven’t covered everything but this very brief four step plan should hopefully answer some basic questions, help you set up some timescales and give some very amateur business knowledge.
Our editors take us on a journey into the albums that transport them to a special place. Read more in Issue 2: Space and Place!
Bulletproof Picasso (2014)
I have been a fan of the band Train for years yet I have never been so attached to any of their albums. You rarely see any album names that directly refer to art, therefore, ‘Bulletproof Picasso’ really caught my eye. The album is supposed to be pop rock genre, although it’s more pop than rock, which I personally have no problems with. None of the songs are ‘go crazy’, ‘dance in your room like no one is watching’ worthy which is what I normally listen to, yet even I love every song in this album to bits: this is because it makes me feel different. Songs like ‘Angel in Blue Jeans’ and ‘Bulletproof Picasso’ relax me, make me lie down with my legs up on the wall, close my eyes and listen. While listening I drift away into the world where every emotion is valid, where you can think and feel anything you want. As funny as it sounds, it inspires me to live a fulfilling, versatile life. To be honest, I could blab random things about this album that probably do not make sense to anybody but you really have to listen to understand and even develop your own thoughts and feelings about this album.
In 1945, Jimmie G. was nineteen years old. He had his whole life ahead of him – the Second World War had just ended and Jimmie had his choice of what to do now. He could stay in the navy, where he had been thriving since he was conscripted at seventeen and keep working as a radio operator, or go to college. Years of peace stretched out ahead of him and Jimmie felt optimistic. He was young, bright, charming, totally in control of his future and flushed with the thrill of being part of a historic victory at such a young age. For now, though, he was talking to a doctor, although he wasn’t quite sure about what. But when the doctor held up a mirror, Jimmie’s easy confidence and light-hearted manner dissipated – what he saw was not a teenager, but the face of a man in his late forties, still handsome, but most definitely old, distinctly old. Jimmie was not dreaming, not in a nightmare. He was, in fact, forty-nine years old and it was 1975, and he was in the office of neurologist Oliver Sacks. Jimmie G. had severe amnesia. He remembered the events up to the year 1945 with exceptional clarity, but the rest of his life was a total blank, dissolved in the deep recesses of his mind. He was almost completely incapable of forming new memories, although occasionally he could recall recent events in a hazy way. Unable to remember his experiences of the present, Jimmie’s mind had latched on to what it could remember – his past – and created its image around him, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Jimmie was living in a world of his mind’s creation – something that, though it sounds extraordinary, is not at all unusual.
Sometimes I think my favourite part of travelling is the spaces in between; the downtime, the long, sleepy train rides watching a place completely new to you crawl by your window, or absentmindedly taking photos through the window of the bus. The parts that are less often recorded in the travel diaries and gloss pictures, the time in between the iconic sights and photo-ops, the liminal spaces of the bus station or the airport can in some ways be the most memorable, the most quietly affecting. Over the last few years, whenever I’ve had the chance to travel, I’ve come back with countless photos, that have taken me hours to sort through, and often my favourites aren’t of the landmarks or of the breath-taking landscapes, as exciting as they are, but of the little details; the kind that just caught my eye for a second, or that I forgot the first time around. Here, I have collected a few of the pictures that really take me back to the places I’ve been.
The 1920s had the flapper; post-WWII saw the rise of Christian Dior’s New Look, but when it comes to novelty, it seems that the 1960s win the ‘otherworldly’ prize with the emerge of Space Age fashion. With the Cold War in full swing, the beginning of the 60s carried with it a strong futuristic spirit; people wanted to reach for the stars, and for the first time in history this was not just a possibility, but a certainty. Though space travel was hardly an innovative idea (one look at George Méliès’s 1902 film A Trip to the Moon will tell you differently), all at once it seemed accessible, and as politics reached new heights, the arts scene was quick to follow.
The Bird Catcher
out of withered broke feathers
He’ll jump Mr death
one more day,
sizing up the ripe horizon
where are those shiny pretty things?
The new year has arrived, and some of our old leaves are back to where they were before as our New Year’s resolutions have fluttered away – much like our hearts with the anticipation or dread of Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re in a relationship, single, or seeing multiple people, you will all be aware of the many obligations that Valentine’s Day brings. Even the couples who say “we don’t do anything special, we just treat it as a normal day” are very much aware of the retail frenzy the day brings. If you somehow forget the date you’ll inevitably hear about it via friends, or through the Sky Movie selection. Or you can just look outside and see it on the streets, plastered on walls of shops, countless red hearts brushing against one another on banners. Basically, there is no escape.
As we shuffle through the months, leaving behind the bleakness of January, February arrives as a pleasing reprieve, somewhere between the icy beauty of winter and the greening optimism of spring. And yet, with all this potential for hope, with some resolutions still withstanding, in the middle of the month we come to a crossroads, that splits heads, hearts, and directions. Yes, that ol’ 14th February junction, with St. Valentine as the guardian of the crossroads, clad every hue of pink and red you ever thought possible. Valentine’s Day causes much division, many debating origin, practices, worth, and value. In the end, it partly comes down to this: partnered, or single. While those partnered whine over prices, last minute gifts, and forgetting to make dinner reservations, we, the loveless, the nuns and the monks, the maiden aunts and bachelor uncles, are faced with two options, two pathways, not strewn with rose petals to choose from. For us single people, Valentine’s Day has two possibilities: self-love or self-pity.
Year after year records have been broken for global average temperatures: without a doubt, climate change is well underway. The scientific consensus is clear – 97% of climate scientists agree that contemporary global warming is caused by humans. If only this clarity could be said about the politics of climate change.
By Audrey Summers
During my hectic week in freshers, my flatmates and I were invited down a cobbled path into a small festival where we painted rocks, created bags out of old shirts and had the delight of tasting Beetroot Humous made from ‘surplus food’. We got chatting to the girls who told us all about the Food-sharing organisation. They are a volunteer-run branch who aim to eradicate food waste by redistributing surplus food. As we devoured the vegan apple flap jacks made by the girls, they explained how they collect waste food from small shops and businesses and redistribute to people in need of food, this can range from hungered students to homeless people.
What makes a safe place?
Just what can we define as a safe space? Is it our physical environment? or perhaps our emotional welbeing? Our mindset?
Usually, the place that makes us feel safe is the environment that is familiar to us. Having been a student for over three years now, a prime example for me is the University Library. It’s obviously not the most exciting or lively of places – however, there is something about it which encourages us to feel safe. Firstly, it offers peace and quiet, which is a “must have” when it comes to getting work done, especially during the build up to exams and deadlines when we are vulnerable to becoming consumed by stress.
Déjà vu, right? Just two years after Scotland voted to remain in the UK, here we sit with the prospect of another referendum. Recently the SNP released a draft bill showing the possibility for a second referendum for Scottish Independence – because this is exactly what we need, just a little bit more madness in a country seeming to implode each day. Of course, though, this was to be expected. The SNP made their point very clear throughout the campaign for the EU referendum; that if it did go the way no one expected, Scotland would revert to its independence mayhem. Continue reading “IndyRef 2: Might We Really Be Better Together?”
The author of So Sad today definitely seems to think so- through her poetry, published initially online, she charters her experience of twitter and the web, as a place where sharing about struggles with mental health was more easily facilitated than every day.
In some ways it should be basic, when posting to Twitter or Instagram you are accessing the potential for an international group therapy session, you don’t have 1-10 people who could identify and relate to you, you have 1 – 313 million. The physical silence of online provides equal possibilities to share vulnerable-making, or at least vulnerable feeling information, which many mental health related things can be. However, silence can as easily be interpreted as a rejection as any explicit message, and if a trolling hate reply is received (of which there are many) it could silence the speaker for good.
If you type the German actress Diane Kruger into Google, the search suggestion immediately pops up with ‘style’. There you will be met with a plethora of exquisite red-carpet gowns; shots of her posing in understated, chic outfits; tabloid snaps of gloriously casual daywear. Continue reading “Style Icon: Diane Kruger”
GUM fashion photoshoot for the first issue (December 2016), the Nostalgia edition.
Style Editor: Niamh Carey
Photographer: Louise Connor
Models: Tracy Duah & Kate Madsen
Video: Silvia Sani
Song: Family Fodder, Savoir Faire
We are living on the threshold of so many transformations: witnessing the beginning of the Anthropocene, anticipating the loss of most of our wild animals by 2020, going through a cycle of technology-induced mass unemployment not witnessed since the Industrial Revolution. Yet in this whirlwind of changes, there are still people sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending none of this is happening. Continue reading “A divination from coffee grounds”
Trigger warning: disordered eating and sexual assault Continue reading “Provocation for provocation’s sake?: A look into fashion advertisement”
Rogue folk singer, story teller and cult legend Beans on Toast returned to Stereo last week. After releasing albums almost yearly for the last 8 years, Jay McAlliste AKA ‘Beans on toast’ is on tour again in anticipation of his forthcoming album ‘Spanner in the Works’ that is out on December first.
Beans’s set starts with a rather sombre reminder of the terrible year 2016 has been, as he carefully lists the rise of Fascism, Brexit, terrorism, TTiP, fracking and the loss of all our heroes from Bowie to Mohamed Ali, in one of his new songs. Fear not, though, for while what Beans sings about is depressingly true, and he knows just wishing it all away won’t help, he calls on us all to be the best we can be and change what we can to make 2017 a whole lot better. This is the draw to Beans’ charm, for despite much of the serious, politically charged issues discussed in his music, he always tries to find the humour or silver lining that will make life better, if not for the world, for yourself. Beans tells the crowd early on that all he can do amidst this doom and gloom is to try and have a laugh about it and spread a more positive message, and this is what he does. He also assures me privately that he is not secretly pleased about Trump’s victory despite the song writing potential it offers him.
Tis’ the season of giving and we must selflessly put the desires of others before our own. Naturally, we have to acknowledge that our own pleasures will have to wait another month. But does this act of giving not come with slight pressure? I cannot help but wonder if the only real hope for anything to ignite at University is the classic or not so classic one-night stand. We are all entitled to use and abuse our bodies in whatever way we see fit but do we forget that what we have is a gift? The need for a little token of appreciation or the general itch from essay writing frustration, can make us forget that our bodies and who we give them to, can be, significant. Truthfully then, any act of giving, inevitably brings about a degree of pressure.
During this time of advent, it’s no wonder everyone appreciates a gift or two. We were all impatiently waiting for essays and exams to finish, desperate to crack open the bottle of red- preferably Buckfast and mulled- to stay out until the sun decides to wake up. During this period of time between freedom and Christmas, we are all in advent of the birthday of Jesus, who gave us our life and our chance to have choice. Coupled with the desire to spend money on our loved ones, this period is also a time of reflection for many of us and amongst the numerous questions that Christmas time brings, one can think of another: when is the right time to give ourselves? We are all sexual human beings and in order to create an all round healthy relationship, you must give as much as you take. However, when you’ve given yourself to someone only to be disappointed by certain areas that might have been lacking or having overly high expectations of the opposite sex, it can make thick ice appear between you and your new flame. It really is a question of whether you are willing to get that bit closer and release yourself from your own past storms to open yourself up to a new setting.
Dear December. Your chilly nights are suddenly upon us and the festive spirit is contagious. Christmas trees have been popping up everywhere since mid November and stacks of sparkly cards are on the shelves, enticing us to take pen to paper and write to our family and friends. Whilst for many, Christmas card writing may be an annual tradition it is also true that, particularly for our social media driven generation, the practice of sending paper messages to our friends and families is disappearing. Many charitable card companies, such as Oxfam, have noted that in the past five year sales have decreased rapidly. One provider said that that in ten years time card sales will be consigned to history as people “simply move on”.
A decrease in Christmas card sales may seem trivial, and affected by the ever rising price of stamps but it reflects a larger, more worrying trend; the dying art of letter writing. We are a generation accustomed to the immediate; from the vast array of information available to us at the click of a search engine button, to the message we can send within seconds to anyone in the world. It is now even possible for us to know when others have viewed our messages and are replying. There is no longer any intrigue to our communications at all, and I do not think it reflects natural human connection. I cannot undermine the wonders of technology and, like everyone I know, I use it everyday: the internet allows us to maintain relationships across great distances, and opens up vast arrays of opportunities to share opinions with others around the globe. However, it also brings about, perhaps subconsciously, an anxiety in our relationships. We can easily become overly analytical about the text message we have just sent in a click, that we can later read over repeatedly or think nothing of delivering a flippant one liner, even to those we love the most. Our increasingly busy lives propelled by the pace of technology and the impatience coupled with it has led to a culture in which slow, long and thoughtful messages are becoming rare. Yes, I know I might seem like an old soul but I’m nostalgic for handwritten letters.
Fashion, like all art, evolves. New ideas come into play each day, and designs which were once the height of fashion are now considered dated, unoriginal, and antiquated. Though, among the array of fleeting fashion trends, there are some looks which always remain the same. Most iconic of all, perhaps, is the Little Black Dress.
This classic silhouette has forever been a necessity to the fashionista. Simple, understated, and cool, it is the epitome of simplicity in design. Having been introduced in a time of overstated, elaborate fashion, the Little Black Dress came as a breath of fresh air in 1926 when Coco Chanel swept it onto the scene. After years of decadent styles, where designs utilised every material under the sun, the lack of adornments allowed this piece to become timeless. Though this was not, of course, the first black dress, it was Chanel’s minimalist modernity that made the dress ubiquitous. Through the years there has been a steady evolution of the style, each ‘era’ of dress fitting in with the current trends whilst also remaining bare enough to not cement it to a particular period.
So much for Brexit means Brexit. The high court has made its decision, and said that Parliament alone have the power to trigger Brexit. This decision came as a shock, as Theresa May had previously insisted that government would decide when to trigger the process. The defining reason given by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, was the fundamental factor of the UK constitution that the parliament is sovereign and unable to be bound. Despite this, almost immediately an uproar followed. Politicians from both side of the debate have chimed in, with Nigel Farage being one of the first to voice his dismay over the decision. Others, including the leaders for both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, have reacted more positively; both leaders cited that now was the time for negotiations to be made, and that transparency was required with all matters affecting Brexit.
What is your best memory?
I managed a kids zone at a festival this summer and it was really really sunny one day and there were loads of circus people running round, and then there was kids running round and bubbles everywhere and stuff like that and it was just really damn beautiful and it was a really good day, that was cool.
Ahead of the launch of the first issue of the year, some of our editors went around campus interviewing the students of Glasgow University about what nostalgia means to them.
In our epoch of eclecticism, how do creative directors in fashion balance between the old and the new? Erika Koljonen investigates.
The fast-paced realm of fashion, like the rest of the world, has recently witnessed a period of notable turbulence. Fashion houses now change their creative directors more frequently than I have minor breakdowns over my impending graduation with an English Literature degree. Interestingly, it is the French houses that have seen the most upheaval – the French being rather notorious in their habit of being sticklers to traditional design and keeping to the roots of the houses. Raf Simons’ departure from Dior after a short period of at its head shocked many, as did Alber Elbaz’s from Lanvin. And it’s not just the French: Balenciaga, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan … the list goes on.
All photography is, in some ways, a form of nostalgia: an image captured is a moment passed, not lost but forever retained in a visual form. And maybe it is this almost supernatural ability to capture a fleeting moment that has caused the international obsession with photography, spawning online sites such as Instagram and Tumblr. However, many have come to question the merit of modern day photography; can a picture taken with an iPhone really be considered a form of art? This, in addition to the ability to delete and modify these images until they are unrecognisable from the original ‘moment’ of capture, could be considered as detracting from photography’s romanticism. This romanticism being the ability to freeze time, to develop, print, and frame a fleeting instant on your wall. Continue reading “Flash Forward”
Some days, I think uni isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The visions I had when I was submitting UCAS forms of echoing, beautifully dusty libraries, constant new journeys of self-discovery and romantic dates in cosy coffee shops don’t exactly feel like they’ve come to pass when I’m on level 11 rushing to finish an assignment before the library closes, pretending to have done the reading for the second week in a row, or trying to forget a disappointing winch the morning after a night in Hive. Sometimes, in the blind panic of impending deadlines, it can be easy to long for a time before all this pressure, before the intrusion of thoughts of post-uni career prospects into daily life.
Fairies at the bottom of the garden. Sticks as swords to slay dragons. Bedtime stories to help you sleep. If it hasn’t already been sold on eBay, chances are your imagination has taken a back seat. As we age, our ideas of fantasy – where our mind wanders, the scenes we’d like to see – change, or are even left behind completely. It’s hard to daydream about being a superhero when your mind is occupied with deciding how you’re going to approach your passive-aggressive flat mate. But our imagination, the fuel of our childhoods, is surely the crux of all nostalgia. We look back to those days of dens made from blankets and cardboard boxes becoming pirate ships, and we are remembering not just our childhood, but our imagination. I can remember hours of entertainment with a simple stick: a wand, a sword, a lightsaber. I walk in the park and see children doing the same; it makes me wonder when I stopped imagining, and started only seeing. Perhaps, with the stresses of reality, as students staring into the abyss of impending adulthood, it’s time to use our imaginations again?
As the Autumn leaves fall and abandon the trees, stripped bare of their colour and decoration, we wrap up in the skin of animals or cling onto the skin of someone else, to protect ourselves from the chill that the crisp Glasgow air inevitably brings each winter. Whether we have been residing in the library’s box shapes or the reading room’s hollow shell, the past few months of University have been tough on us all as we adjust to the lack of sunlight. Here we are, students caved into the studying world after a summer of adventurous travels: country hopping for some, bed hopping for others.
It is certainly a much sought-after talent for a musician to calm a roomful of people after a couple of drinks, and it is a testament to Leo Stannard’s musicianship that he manages to achieve this feat. His voice is undoubtedly unassuming when contrasted with his appearance: a Charlie Puth look and vibe is thrown off by a deep and slightly hoarse voice similar to that of Ben Howard, whom Stannard seems to draw inspiration from. Couple this with his Jon Gomm-esque percussive and pinch harmonic littered guitar style, and Leo Stannard is clearly placed above the rest of his acoustic pop peers.
Billie Marten started writing songs around the age of nine, and when she was twelve, her parents started downloading clips of her singing online for her grandparents to see. Discovered by a record company, she released her first EP at the age of fifteen and has subsequently released an album, gone on tour, played at both festivals and the BBC. She is one of those people you’d put in the ‘annoyingly good at life’ category. The ones you are jealous of and who make you think to yourself ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind being a bit like them’. Annoyingly talented, that’s what she is. You are in equal measures annoyed and in awe, though.
Kaisa Saarinen interviews Glasgow Unity Centre in order to clear up some important misconceptions – and finds out what we can all do to help.
Good news doesn’t sell. This simple truth explains why the media is, and always has been, so eager to make the worst of everything. Most major media outlets have been happy to contribute to the ongoing mass hysteria about immigration in order to boost their sales. Several studies have been conducted on the topic of media portrayal of immigration, and they consistently show that the coverage in the UK is amongst the most negative in Europe, and that the continuous flow of fear-mongering headlines and images has a very real impact on its readers. We have all seen examples of this: people described as ‘illegal’, their movement as ‘invading’ or ‘flooding’.
The brand new polymer five-pound note has now entered circulation, claiming to be safer, cleaner and more durable than its predecessor. While its benefits have been proven to be measurably true, questions have arisen concerning the appointment of the note’s new figurehead- the face of former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. According to the Bank of England, their choice to commemorate Churchill is due in part to his role as an inspirational statesman, orator, leader, and Nobel Prize winner who led Britain to victory in the Second World War. Most of his achievements would undoubtedly cement his title as one of Britain’s greatest individuals; however, there are those who are less enamored by Churchill’s actions. Critics have insisted on laying bare his unsavoury and overlooked opinions on race, justice and imperial atrocities, imploring the nation to reevaluate the values we revere, and to take a more dispassionate view on our British heroes.
Artwork featuring kissing couples is almost endless – whether in fan art or Renaissance frescos, manifesta-tions of love are present. Art history is filled with this subject matter and often the background stories of the paintings can be even more enticing than the scenes they display.
William Dyce, Francesca da Rimini, 1837
The painting depicts lovers Francesca and Paolo from Dante’s epic poem, The Inferno, sharing an innocently tender moment in the moonlight. In the poem, Francesca is to be married off to the old and deformed Gianciotto, but she falls in love with his younger brother, Paolo. The picture includes some ominous elements to suggest the tragic fate of the lovers – for example, Gianciotto’s disembodied hand is still included in the edge of the canvas, although the figure himself has been trimmed off due to damage to the canvas. The kiss, in all its gentleness, cannot fend off the sinister atmosphere of the painting, which reflects the doomed love of the unfortunate couple.
Francesco Hayez, The Kiss, 1859
The medieval setting and the passionate embrace of the figures in Francesco Hayez’s painting evoke the feeling of that epic, grand love familiar to us from fairytales. There are certain things in the painting that sug-gest the scene to be a farewell – like the man wearing his hat; a foot already on the stair; and his lover gripping onto his shoulder, unwilling to let go. These elements add to the picture a slightly wistful atmosphere – yet at the same time they also enhance the depiction of a great, tragic love.
Jean-Leon Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea, 1890
This painting draws its inspiration from the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. According to the story, Pygmalion, the king of Cyprus, sculpted in his studio the perfect female figure and fell in love with her. His lovesickness for the sculpted woman was pitied by Aphrodite, who turned the ideal figure, Galatea, into a living being and presided over their marriage. The kiss is a representation of the desire to attain what seems to be bitter-sweetly beyond reach, and it can also be seen to convey the message of the irrationality and uncontrollable nature of love.
Marc Chagall, The Birthday, 1915
In this painting, the artist pictures himself giving a kiss to his wife on her birthday. The figures are free from the constraints of gravity, and the way Chagall turns to his wife to kiss her, his body twisted to the other direction and floating mid-air, conveys a feeling of surprise and spontaneity. The modernist streak in the style serves to emphasize the sentiment further and the experimental visual language translates to the playfulness of the portrayed scene.
Rene Magritte, The Lovers, 1928
One of Rene Magritte’s most iconic works, this picture portrays two lovers kissing, with their faces covered. The shrouded faces have been interpreted in a multitude of ways in art history — the cloth can be seen as a barrier forever separating the lovers and rendering their intimacy to isolation, or it can be read as a symbolic description of the distance that always exists between people. The shrouding of the figures’ faces certainly has an effect on the mood of the image. It is a mysterious, slightly sad and even a little terrifying depiction of what is usually thought to be the ultimate act of romance.
By Emmi Joensuu
Source: Lonely Label Lookbooks
We all know the fashion industry is big business. A huge yet skinny white arm of that is lingerie. It is worth over $110 billion dollars globally; people love frilly knickers. While we can’t get enough of matching sets, the industry as a whole has been pretty selective in what it wants. The both tall and sculpted-skinny babe with flowing locks enticing you into her bedroom has dominated campaigns.
The female form is beautiful. I’m a straight girl and I can understand the sex appeal of boobs and bums. So, surely embracing all kinds of bodies is even sexier? The modelling industry is founded upon beauty; I’m sorry but that’s just the reality of lifestyle advertising and branding. However, what is seriously an issue when it comes to lingerie is what that ‘beauty’ has been defined by: Heidi Klum, Elle Macpherson and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Don’t get me wrong; Rosie’s lingerie brand for M&S is one of the best on the market for the price range (I’m wearing a set right now) but what do these three women have in common? They are all tall, skinny, blonde models with legs for days and the shiniest hair known to Instagram.
I don’t want to undermine these women. They are powerhouses of the lingerie industry and I salute them for their business-savvy in creating lingerie empires. Nevertheless they shouldn’t be our sole definition of what is beautiful in a thong. While they are undoubtedly stunning, so are many other women.
New Zealand brand Lonely Label is fighting these stereotyped images within the world of lingerie. Their advertising campaigns feature armpit hair, a range of shapes and sizes and gasp black women. Fashion as a whole has been notoriously awful at representing people of colour but lingerie is by far one of the worst offenders of the fashion faux pas. The concept of ‘nude’ underwear in the West has always focussed on pinky-beige tones with the occasional murky pop at a darker tone. Nubian Skin is offering what they call a ‘different kind of nude’ to cater to the often-ignored women of colour: they make a variety of shades for lingerie and hosiery and are available from House of Fraser.
Source: Nubian Skin
Many lingerie brands are also now offering an entirely sexual experience for their audience. The sultry and luxurious Coco de Mer has everything from the French knicker to straps on and leather ball gags. They do a gag in a lovely ‘wine red’. Some of their dildos are actually artwork including the delightful Fornicouture Fuji Glass dildo and whip at a slight £900. There is also a dildo in a floral ceramic but that just conjures up too many memories of my Gran’s tea set. Coco de Mer UK’s Instagram currently has over 34,000 followers, people are embracing the fapp-worthy revolution of women’s lingerie.
Source: Coco de Mer
The industry has also come on in leaps and bounds in how it includes size. While I’m against the condescending phrase ‘body type’ – hello, you can’t just Dewey System our figures – long gone are the days where we were all measured as a 34B, no matter what. No longer are we all forcing our poor boobies into the wrong cups and backs. Better training and an encouragement to get your boobs regularly checked for size has meant that the industry has had to cater to our new demands.
Recently, co-founder of luxury British lingerie company Agent Provocateur and son to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, Joe Corré said that he would burn £5 million worth of his memorabilia in the protest of the mainstream’s adoption of punk culture. Agent Provocateur was founded on this punk attitude in 1994 in the hope of bringing sexual and fun lingerie to the masses. Although I’m not entirely sure what’s ‘punk rock’ about charging £195 for a thong, the sentiment was nice. Brands like these are bringing erotic lingerie to the masses with no shame attached. Want to wear nothing but your nipple pasties? Go for it gal, you’re liberated, no matter your booby or body size.
Let’s not demonise the gazelles of Victoria Secret and their media extravaganza every year. They are beautiful women and they make great lingerie models. They are athletic, lean and voluptuous all at the same time. However, the homogenisation of this industry has been damaging and is slowly being addressed.
It’s 2016 and we are (I hope) at a watershed in sexy lingerie in both the campaigning and what is on offer to us, the lowly non-Angels. Just because you’re not a size 6, white, blonde female, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the wonders of modern lingerie. Get your suspenders on or your M&S cotton briefs, the lingerie industry has grown up and so have you.
By Anne Devlin
What does it take to be chosen by the Scottish Women Football Association to be their main anthem’s songwriter?
How does it feel to compose, write and sing a song that represents women’s empowerment and struggle?
Most importantly, what is it like to be a woman nowadays, who plays football and the guitar just as well?
Sharon Martin talks power, talent and gender equality honestly, truly and openly – like only she can.
How did you get into music initially?
I always loved music but got into performing at the age of 16. I used to hang around with a bunch of grunge kids who would go to Riverside studios in Busby every Saturday to rehearse with their band. We’d all squeeze in the room and watch them perform. Got me thinking it was something that I wanted to do – so I did! I started my own Grunge band called ‘Corset’ – I was the singer and we’d do very bad covers of Nirvana, Hole and Placebo. Was a hoot! We fibbed about our age to get gigs in pubs in Glasgow. Very naughty…
Indeed, but it worked! You’ve been chosen to write the SFA’s anthem. Where is the intercept between music and football? And what does it mean for fans and players according to you?
Music plays a role in everything – it adds the emotive element. It’s a rush for fans to chant songs in the stands, encouraging and supporting their players. For players, it’s a rush to hear your fans supporting you through song.
I have played football most of my life- I am a former Glasgow City player. It has given me so much in terms of health, focus, friendship and confidence. I’ve met some of the most amazing, funny and inspiring people through football- so writing the Scottish Women’s Anthem for them seemed like the least I could do to give back.
What meaning does the song hold for you?
For me, the meaning is in the message. I believe that every human being is gifted – but so often these gifts aren’t used because a person’s potential isn’t encouraged and cultivated by their environment. I wanted to remind the girls and women of Scotland that greatness is in every one of them and self-belief is the key to releasing this. This isn’t an elitist song that is only for those with ambition to be world leaders, it applies to everyone – the woman in the Women’s Aid shelter with her kids, the kid getting bullied at school. It’s a reminder to hold tight because things will get better. It’s also of course a celebration of Scottish Women and a big shout out for gender equality – something that is very applicable to sport in this country.
You told me there would be a video too. Can you give us a bit of info about it?
The song is being used as part of an SFA campaign to encourage participation in Girls Football in this country. A video has been shot with the National Team players – this campaign kicks off in May. SWF (Scottish Women’s Football) have also shot a video with Purple TV to promote their support of the song’s message and to promote the Scottish Women’s League.
Amazing! How important is for girls, who enjoy football, to feel supported and encouraged?
It’s vital to support our female footballers. Scotland is such a progressive nation yet people don’t necessarily realize that there is such a disparity in support and opportunity between the men and women’s game. The media needs to get behind this cause- with public support comes the potential for commercial investment and thus, make the game more professional. They do it in other countries, why not here? Most of the girls and women work full-time jobs then train like athletes every evening – it is no doubt exhausting.
But it’s not just about supporting football for the sake of football. If we support our female athletes in the media, we create positive role models for our younger generation. Girls are bombarded with images of size zero models in beauty magazines; they should also see fit, healthy, strong women who are working hard and achieving. It gives them something better to aspire to, and to know that a females self esteem should not be derived from her sexual objectification. It also in turn, cultivates more positive gender attitudes amongst boys.
Couldn’t agree more! How important is gender equality not just in sports but overall?
It’s imperative for the future of our world. Equal rights and opportunity will create a more stable society. It is statistically proven that when women are empowered economically, more money goes to their children’s health and wellbeing. There is less debt and more investment in health, education and housing. The more women appointed in Government, the more democratic the country is. Women possess a great capacity for humility and compassion – wouldn’t this make them more inclined to seek peaceful resolve as opposed to starting and participating in wars? To me it’s a no brainer – we need each other, and we need to be on an equal footing. What man wouldn’t want a better future for his daughter and the women in his life?
What’s the future holding for the women in SFA? And for you, personally?
My hope is that women take up key positions within the SFA and are strongly involved in the decision-making processes. Decisions that impact the future of both the men’s and women’s game. I hope that the women’s game flourishes in this country and the girls are giving the credit they deserve for their athleticism, achievements and positive influence on the nation.
For me personally, I’ll just keep writing songs and getting behind the causes that I believe in. Many thanks for this interview.
Sharon Martin’s song, the SWF and SFA anthem Girl (Daugher of Scotland) is now available on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/girl-daughter-scotland-single/id1104656614
By Joanna Velikov
Dilyana Popova – Bulgarian Model/Actress
In Bulgaria, and other post-communist countries, depictions of sex did not exist for several decades. It was nowhere to be found – not in books, magazines, on TV, and not even in school. So where did sex disappear?
In the period 1944-1990, Bulgaria was under a socialist (or communist) regime, following the footsteps of ‘sister’ countries such as Russia and Ukraine. This is not in itself unusual, many countries throughout history have been under such regimes. Privately owned land was shared nationally, entrepreneurship was banned, blue jeans were labelled ‘devil’s attire’ and Rolling Stones became the symbol of hellish Western capitalism – a communist’s worst nightmare.
Still, things were kind of normal – I guess – and people were living their lives. But something was missing. Sex. Sex was non-existent. Sex was shameful. No one talked about it – ever. It was like babies magically grew on trees, were brought in by a massive stork or produced by the party. This suggestions seem ludicrous and yet no one asked any questions. Or did they?
I grew up in post-communist Bulgaria in the 2000s and sex was everywhere. My parents and their parents saw a different story though. Or should I say: they saw nothing of it. In my family, sex was never a taboo, and I’m glad I was brought up to be comfortable with my body and sexuality. I thought the most appropriate people to ask about the utter lack of sex in communist times were my parents. Skype-ing over a bottle of wine, they opened up to me and told me exactly how it felt to live a life without sex.
Was sex really absent from everywhere?
Both replied ‘yep’. It definitely was absent. No books, no movies, no pictures in magazines. The only time my dad saw something sexual was when his friend showed him some (very naughty) naked pictures he stole from his house. My mom said she’d never seen anything sexual until she was intimate with a boy herself – the only exception being when her best friend took a copy of The Thorn Birds so that they could read the part where Meghann and Father Ralph got it on…
Ridiculous! So how did this affect you as you were growing up? Did you seek sexual expression? Could you speak to your parents?
‘No way,’ says my Mom. ‘I have never had a sexual conversation with anyone, not even my friends. We were extremely curious but too shy to ever mention it. During the political regime, combined with the Bulgarian patriarch tradition, we were brought up to believe sex was a shameful and disgraceful act. This made me very insecure about my body and some of my girlfriends had children quite young – only because they had no idea what to do. I didn’t have a clue either. I felt my female sexuality was suppressed, or non-existent at all. I wished my mother or cousin would talk to be about sex. I’d probably be more comfortable with myself as an adult.’
Dad agrees, but adds: ‘I was quite sexual as a child and when I got into adolescence, me and my friends were always talking about sex. We mostly lied about having kissed a girl or grabbed someone’s butt. We were stupid boys! We’d always look to see a girl spreading her legs or touching her hip. And then we would feel extremely ashamed. Once I tried to talk to my mother about having a sexual dream, it was super awkward, she said “Just talk to your dad!”. It took him two days to come and talk to me and the whole talk consisted of “It’s fine, son” and a friendly slap on the neck. Sweet.’
To sum things up, sex was bad, nasty, immoral and definitely not in line with the party’s ideology.
‘We were told that touching yourself is extremely unhealthy and bad for you. The government was issuing these booklets with propaganda against masturbation, filled with “expert” advice telling you that masturbating leads to mental disorders and homosexuality. This is hard to believe now, but imagine what a 14-year-old thinks when they read this’ my Dad said. ’We were made to believe that our bodies and sexual desires are filthy and wrong. The doctors would tell us – if you have a hard on, get down and do 20 push-ups until it goes away! Good luck with that….’’
And yet, the people up the Communist party hierarchy were having lots of sex with the best women.
‘Everyone knew that the party leaders and people in the government had many mistresses’ my Mom explained. ’They weren’t even hiding it! But they insisted on telling us that having sex, even talking about sex, is bad. This was shocking, extremely disgusting and it just shows everything that communism stands for – double morale and lies, lies, lies.’
Communism put sex in a box and put it away from everyone. But it was secretly opening up this box when no one was watching. This resulted in generations of people, ashamed to be sexually satisfied, left thinking that their intimate desires and thoughts are wrong. Worst of all, they were forced to believe that suppressing your sexuality is a good thing and appreciating it will make you mentally unstable or sick. Many girls had children without wanting to; many boys became sexually aggressive; many men had to stay in loveless marriages, scared to admit their homosexuality. All of this happened while the minister was shagging his mistress in his villa on the beach.
By Yoana Velikova
Eyes blur. Tension is unbearable. Breath is out of control. Pain, pleasure, agony, and release.
No, I am not having sex. I am trying to accomplish the camel pose of bikram yoga.
Health is the obsession of our time: the next diet and exercise trend always claiming to be better than the last. In the eighties spandex-clad individuals crowded in front of their TVs and clenched their buttocks in unison to the sounds of synth-pop (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deKHYCsjseg). A decade ago, there was the cardio craze, which had thousands of middle-aged men take to cycling, swimming and long distance running – all intent on completing a new triathlon each weekend. Lately, there have popped up a number of refurbished industrial buildings where people stand in stripped-down rooms, lift enormous tractor tires and wield sledgehammers in order to buff up.
Female weightlifters and skinny men in lycra are breaking gender norms, but body dimorphic disorder (BDD) has never been more prevalent as it is today. According to a 2015 report by Beat (https://www.b-eat.co.uk/assets/000/000/302/The_costs_of_eating_disorders_Final_original.pdf?1424694814) there are 725 000 people suffering from eating disorders in the UK, which is a 7% yearly increase since 2009. This is not just a physical and psychological burden for the patient, but it also takes an immense emotional toll on the carers and has a severe financial impact on the NHS and UK’s economy. Not to mention that it is the one mental health issue today most common to end in fatality.
That is why I wish to address a different change in the health community: the turn towards mindfulness. Recent studies in cognitive behavioural therapy have shown that mindfulness can be effective when treating anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, as well as depression, stress and anxiety. Bikram yoga is just one example of how to exercise mindfulness. The 90-minute class consists of 26 different poses and two breathing exercises, which take place in a room heated to 40 degrees. The aim is to work every single part of the human body to achieve optimum health and function.
Don’t get me wrong. I was definitely a sceptic too. Standing in a hot room, dripping of sweat and attempting to breathe slowly did not seem like my type of exercise. In fact, it did not seem like exercise at all. I was used to running far and fast, lifting heavy weights and swinging kettle bells in quick succession. I wanted to burn fat, build muscle and tone my body to perfection. I did not see the value of relaxation and meditation.
Time devoted for relaxation has become another stress factor for students today. It is not enough to achieve straight-As. You need to have a part-time job to pay the bills. You need to do an unpaid internship to forward your career. You need to apply for postgraduate study with the aching knowledge that you are slowly losing control of your future. Simultaneously, you need to prove that you have a social life (don’t even get me started on Tinder…) and party with your friends, while maintaining a healthy diet and visiting the gym regularly to feel good about your exterior.
Bikram yoga is certainly not exempt from the stress and the weight-losing obsession that stalks gyms today. Like in any female locker room, you will find women in yoga studios that pinch their love handles, stare at the mirror and sigh at their static kilos of pudginess – ‘Who’s the (fattest) of them all?’. There seems to be an awkward silence in the yoga community about people with body dysmorphia. The yoga ideal that adorns magazine covers, Instagram accounts and Youtube videos holds the promise of a skinny but anorexic body. Healthy eating that accompany yoga narratives, such as juice cleanses, gluten-free vegan diets and fruity smoothies, all propagate a certain life style that may disguise a person’s eating disorders. In their May 2015 issue, Yoga Magazine even featured an ancient yoga technique called Vyaghra kriyā (vomiting in order to cleanse your body), which becomes another way of rationalising bulimic practice.
Bikram yoga might not be for everyone. And the first five classes were not exactly my cup of tea. With sweat running in every crease of your being, the fat bulging in awkward places and constantly falling down during balance poses, it is difficult to accept and celebrate your body. I came out feeling depressed about my ‘extra kilos’ and exhausted from the heat. I began to despise the loud and happy chatter of the thin, flexible women proudly sporting their tight bras and mini shorts. Everything just seemed too perfect.
The yoga community needs to start admitting their responsibility in inspiring unhealthy food habits and obsessive exercise. Yet not all hope is lost. My yoga centre features flyers from Glasgow Centre for Eating Disorder, which encourages yogis in need to seek help (http://www.glasgow-eating-disorders.co.uk/). The classes focus on clearing the mind from stress. Newcomers are warmly applauded for just staying in the room throughout the class. On the Internet, there are new and encouraging narratives from yogis of all sizes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448 and https://www.instagram.com/biggalyoga/?hl=en).
So perhaps it is not your body that needs to change, but the way you think about your body. From a young age, girls are complimented for being pretty and boys are complimented for being cool. It is no wonder that girls learn to measure their self-worth from their looks and not from their smarts. Next time, instead of telling your friends they look skinny and beautiful, tell them they look happy and confident. Instead of staring at the number on the scale, think about how well you accomplished a certain yoga pose. Congratulate yourself on the progress you make, not on losing kilos or sculpting your body, but on mastering a certain pose or controlling your breath.
As the feeling of yoga mastery slowly came to me, I started to notice new things in my class. Surrounding me were people of all ages, all sizes, both genders and different origins. Some were beginners, some were experts, but everyone was struggling with their own personal issues. The instructors were smiling and positive, not because they seek perfection, but because they enjoy the feeling of community: the feeling of everyone working together. I began to accept that I would turn into a human waterfall. I started to enjoy having 90 uninterrupted makeup-free minutes for myself. Afterwards, when the sweating subsides, I can rest in the afterglow of knowing when to let go.
By Sofia Lindén
Photo from Read: Tidal online
Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, knows she can take Glasgow’s 02 ABC by storm. The 27 year old from Vancouver is upbeat and confident from the get-go, as she plunges the audience into her unique and addictive brand of powerful and ethereal electropop.
One thing that characterises Grimes is that her gigs aren’t just about her – the show is a team effort, and it abounds with personality as a result. She is joined onstage by support act Hana, whose own distinctive voice and style allow her to slot seamlessly into that badass “Girl Gang” vibe that Grimes likes to project. The two backing dancers are every bit as central to the performance as Grimes herself, and they skilfully work the spotlight for much of the show. The sheer uncontained force and energy of their movement is captivating and infectious. Grimes herself really knows how to command the stage, purely by virtue of being so impossibly energetic. Her onstage chat is also delightful – too hyperactive to beat about the bush when it comes to introducing songs, she cheerfully propels the set from one song to the next without letting the energy drop for an instant.
The newer material gels well with the old; defying claims that Grimes’ newest release, the distinctly pop-ier ‘Art Angels’, was too far a departure from the more experimental, electronic sound of ‘Visions. In fact, Grimes is a musical master at the height of her powers, and the seamless, carefully considered composition of the live experience is proof of her artistic, ahem, vision. She gives the impression of someone who knows exactly what they’re doing and where they’re going as an artist.
Crowd-pleasers such as the hugely popular ‘Flesh Without Blood’ and ‘Genesis’ are complimented by some pleasant surprises. ‘Go’, originally a collaboration with Blood Diamonds, has an almost euphoric resonance in the packed venue, while less celebrated tracks off the new album like ‘World Princess Part II’ really come into their own. Grimes’ remarkable versatility as a performer is also striking – in the absence of Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes, she declares that she, Grimes, will be performing the verses of ‘SCREAM’ in Russian. And she absolutely kills it.
As the set draws to a close, Grimes has a confession to make. She doesn’t actually like encores, because the etiquette is awkward and stressful. So she’s just going to launch straight into what would ordinarily be the encore song, ‘Kill V. Maim.’ And who could blame this adorable human? Everyone has been won over, everyone has already had the time of their lives, and everyone wishes they could be up onstage dancing with Grimes and her friends. For such a huge and hectic gig, the atmosphere is overwhelmingly warm, light-hearted and welcoming, and this is undoubtedly what sets it apart as one of those gigs that you remember for months, perhaps even years, to come.
By Cat Acheson
For our second launch party of the year we teamed up with our friends at Dukebox to celebrate The Future Issue. Here are the photos from what was a great night with our performers: Robbie Orr, Calum O’Connor, Jared Celosse, Eddie Stewart and Shanghai Ocarina!
I’m not a Kardashian fan. I think they are a sad representation of what the modern mass values today: excessive wealth, materialism and the vacuous. However the way the media (along with the keyboard warriors of the world) shames this group of women is archaic and highlights our worrying surveillance of how a woman should act.
Just this week, Kim Kardashian – muse of mastermind Kanye and mother to child fashionista North – posted a naked picture to her Instagram account which has a mere 63.1million followers as of this minute. Following Instagram’s female anatomy hating guidelines, her vagina and nipples are completely blacked out. Just by having access to the Internet, I have seen Kim Kardashian’s naked body many times in my life so this time was no different; I thought she looked great and then instantly forgot about the image.
It was only later on during another social media binge that day that I started seeing the outrage that so many had for this specific image. I’m not talking about outrage from the usual women-boycotting suspects like the British tabloids but rather the many people I would consider to be your standard student liberal shaming this woman for daring to bare her flesh. I saw comments ranging from disgust to the condemnation of her ability to be a mother.
If you believe women like Kim Kardashian should stay covered up, try telling that to the women of this world who don’t have that same kind of freedom of expression. Just this week, the Saudi Arabian UN delegation blasted a report claiming that the country is in extreme violation of human rights. Women in Saudi Arabia are not even permitted to go swimming for the prohibition of showing skin. In Syria, women are forced to cover up due to the threatening presence of Daesh. Airing this week, BBC’s documentary Sex in Strange Places: Turkey features a young Syrian woman who tells her story of how Daesh’s control of Syria meant she was forced to start covering her entire body. Despite this, one day she accidentally made eye contact with a Daesh fighter and was forced to be his sex slave.
The West consistently demonises the perceived to be Islamic extremist notion of covering the female body yet regularly shames western women for showing theirs. At the root, can you really separate these systems of surveillance? Both concepts are based on an inherent need to control the sight of the female figure. We just celebrated International Women’s Day while we still regulate and shame women like Kim Kardashian.
Despite popular opinion, the Kardashians aren’t all that is wrong with the world. The waves of greed and oppression that have swept through history resulting in the destruction of liberties are what are wrong. These people who are wound up about Kim K’s booty need to remember that.
At the end of the day, nobody has to worry about Kim K. She is raking it in; she made $80 million on her app alone in one year. How about worrying about your own desperate need to validate your antiquated views of how women should behave and view their body. It could be that people are bitter that a family of women dominate media, filling their armies of designer purses to the brim in the process. So they can’t sing or dance but they do have one of the best business strategies of the 21st century.
While it is undoubtedly worrying how desperate many girls are to emulate the Kardashians’ honed and sculpted figures, essentially it comes down to the fact that a woman can choose to look a certain way. This is something we have to protect and even value.
Also, can I just be pedantic for a second. The picture Kim uploaded has all the NAUGHTY bits censored. She actually had to censor herself just so that the picture would be acceptable for Instagram. You see cleavage, stomach and some leg. Maybe I’m a pervert, or just a normal adult, but I have seen way more explicit imagery in my lifetime. Therein lies the issue; she isn’t doing anything illegal, pornographic, explicit or dangerous. She simply shared an image of her figure and many are absolutely outraged, suggesting she is inherently a bad person, mother and role model. Culture has coded the female image so excessively as sexual that we can’t shake it off.
The reality is that many of us get self-gratification from our own image. As long as this isn’t our sole basis for self-worth, I think it’s ok to find some happiness in how you look.
So, just get a grip. If Kim Kardashian’s body offends you, then I don’t know, throw your phone and laptop into a river and bleach your eyes out or go join Jeremy Clarkson in a man cave somewhere and do manly things like men do. Since you know, the female body is so offensive.
By Anne Devlin
I know, I know. It’s probably the last thing you’d like to hear (or read) about after weeks of controversy, speculation, #WorstDressed and #AskHerMore. The Oscars. Or as the actress Bette Midler put it, ’the awards show where Leonardo DiCaprio is ”overdue” but black people can ”wait till next year.”’
But bare with me. I’m not going to write about white privilege, institutional racism or how we’re all relieved that Leo finally won (even though we all know he really peaked in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), as important as these topics are. What I want to linger on for just a little more is the film that, to the surprise of many and disappointment of some, won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards: Spotlight.
It was a surprise (even Morgan Freeman, who presented the award, seemed unable to conceal his astonishment) because Spotlight was outshone in the ceremony by an epic one man’s battle-against-the-odds revenge journey with Tom Hardy and an epic sort-of-feminist action-thriller-extravaganza with Tom Hardy. But, at least to me, it was a really nice surprise for a change.
Spotlight itself is an unexpected treat: a clean, crisp and, according to reporters such as The Guardian’s Alicia Shepard, an authentic portrayal of investigative journalism. Although the basic narrative it offers—based on a true story about a group of journalists who in the early 2000s exposed the systemic sex abuse of children by Catholic priests in Boston—reeks of Oscars-worthy heroism, the way in which it is told largely avoids the pitfalls of excessive sentimentality that we’ve come to expect from Hollywood biographies. In this respect it also fares much better than the other Hollywood film about journalism that was released last year, James Vanderbilt’s Truth, which was part of the Glasgow Film Festival programme a couple weeks back. Starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford as the 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes and legendary anchor Dan Rather, respectively, the film tells the story of the Killian documents controversy that led to Mapes’ firing from CBS and the end of Rather’s career.
Although Spotlight is much more subtle and sophisticated than Truth, which cannot help but indulge in moments of heroic pathos (watch out for overpowering score and slow motion footage of Redford intercut with shots of people clapping), both films do something important. They illustrate what journalism, essentially, is about—what it can be at its finest (Spotlight), what is at stake when mistakes are made (Truth), and, perhaps most importantly, the amount of work that goes into—or should go into—telling a story that is not only true but accepted as such (both). The amount of hours spent on digging up documents in archives and courthouses, making phone calls, checking facts from multiple sources and—what seems to be Truth screenwriters’ favourite phrase—asking questions, is staggering. I hesitate to claim that these films are ‘authentic’ or ‘truthful’ descriptions of what it is like being a journalist—of course they’re not, they’re dramatizations, and of a special kind of journalism at that, the investigative kind. Nor do I want to be naïve and insist that all journalists are motivated by some higher cause. But, for me at least, they succeed in conveying a sense of appreciation for the hard work done by the people in that profession, so often met up by insults and harsh criticism rather than applauds and Oscar statues.
And what a topical subject for us as students of Glasgow University. Last week, the editors of Glasgow Guardian reported on the SRC elections to much controversy (see here https://glasgowguardian.co.uk/2016/03/01/src-ran-movember-at-a-loss/ and here https://glasgowguardian.co.uk/2016/03/03/a-response-to-the-tab/) and, as the new SRC president Ameer Ibrahim and VPs start their term, the fate of student media on campus needs to be addressed. As far removed as the world of Boston Globe and CBS seems to be from our little hill, Spotlight and Truth can still say something about the importance of sustaining student-led organisations and societies that speak to and for students, such as Subcity, Glasgow Guardian, GUM, GUST, Qmunicate and others. Apart from the overall significance of journalism, these films also illustrate the importance of good management and adequate support—my message to Ameer Ibrahim and others at the SRC.
On a more personal note: if you’re in the same situation as I am—about to graduate, suddenly waking up to the realisation that you have no idea what you want to do with your life—watching a film like Spotlight could make a difference. Someone older and wiser would perhaps advise you never to base your career plans on the information you get from a Hollywood film, but I say that a little dreaming never hurt anybody. And, if after your movie night you feel like journalism or ‘something to do with media’ (that’s me) might be for you, get in touch with GUM or one of the above and get involved with student media. You might not be applauded on an Oscar stage, but, I guarantee you, you will get to ask questions.
Truth and Spotlight in cinemas now. For other entertaining and intelligent portrayals of journalism see the Danish TV drama Borgen and HBO’s Newsroom.
Watch this space: GUM editorial positions open for applications soon.
By Hanna Markkanen
People love the spectacle of a miserable fat person. The ‘unhappy fatty’ is pervasive: from tell-all interviews where a size 14 reality TV star bemoans her cellulite, to hordes of obese people on The Biggest Loser being publicly berated for their weight, to the sneaky beach pics of celebrities with jiggling bellies and touching thighs which a few months later lead to a book deal and insipid exercise DVD. Happiness is for the thin.
But what’s so wrong with being fat?
The answer many people would give is that it’s ‘unhealthy’, but often, that isn’t what they mean, at least when commenting on an individual’s weight rather than the problem of obesity. Of course many people are rightfully concerned about the health of the general population, but when it comes to individuals, what really bothers people about fat – whether or not they admit it to themselves – isn’t that it’s unhealthy. It’s that it’s unsightly. Unappealing. Unattractive. On the whole, we tend not to care much about that guy on the TV’s health unless it negatively affects our viewing pleasure.
Being overweight can be damaging to health; that’s a fact. Another fact is less commonly acknowledged: that it is perfectly possible to be healthy while also being overweight. This, when brought up by the body positivity movement, seems to provoke nothing short of derangement in otherwise sane, rational, open-minded people. ‘What do you mean, fat people can be healthy? Every single fat person without exception is going to rot in an early grave, buried under the rubble of OUR MURDERED NHS.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen the statistics – excess fat can lead to heart disease, diabetes, etc, etc. But people aren’t statistics, and it makes no sense to treat every single fat person as a representative of the whole.
And isn’t that what people are doing, when they see a plus sized model or a confident fat person showing their body on Instagram and immediately jump on them as ‘promoting an unhealthy body image’ or ‘not taking care of themselves’? There are a vast number of ways that a person could be taking care of themselves that aren’t immediately visible. Maybe they workout more than most but are naturally bigger, or prefer their body with a few ‘extra’ pounds. Maybe they don’t care about how their body looks because they’re busy trying to become a neurosurgeon or write a novel or look after three kids and an ageing parent. Why does it matter? Why do people care so much?
And we can’t deny that people do care, so much. As a culture, we are obsessed with bodies, particularly women’s bodies – although the point I’m making is relevant to all genders, the issue is magnified for women due to the excessive value assigned to their appearance – and particularly with thinness/fatness and the personal worth we assign to people based on their position on that reductive and somewhat arbitrary spectrum.
I say arbitrary, because beauty is subjective. To a larger extent than most of us realise, what we find attractive is learned, not innate. It’s true that in the homogenised culture of the West, we can all roughly agree which people are good looking and which aren’t, but these definitions aren’t consistent across cultures and eras. In the 17th century plump Rubenesque beauty was highly prized (and no one made snarky ‘get on the treadmill’ comments about his muses). In the Elizabethan era, big foreheads were a thing, and women often plucked their hairline back by about an inch to create the illusion of a fivehead (why?). In Arabian society in the Middle Ages, female beauty lay in having a round face; in Japan in the 17th and 18th centuries, female beauty lay in having a long, narrow face.
Two hundred years ago in Britain a tan was about as desirable as a third leg – poor people were tanned because they had to work outdoors, and so paleness signified wealth and nobility. With the rise of the middle class and the invention of air travel, the significance changed: suddenly a tan meant you could afford to go on holiday. Similarly, in poorer countries extra weight equates to extra wealth and is thus seen as a desirable social symbol. Beauty is not only commodified by capitalism, it is defined by it.
And the changes aren’t always separated by centuries or continents. In the 90s, beauty was over-plucked eyebrows and ‘heroin chic’ skeletal thinness. Now, in our post-Delevigne, post-Kardashian world, big butts and heavy eyebrows are the look to emulate, and the sorry teenagers of the 00s are desperately trying to HD Brows their 3 remaining eyebrow hairs.
Now, beauty being a social construct and not some solid, hyper-real thing doesn’t mean it’s easy to disregard. It’s cultural, and that shit is buried deep. Take movies and TV shows as an example. Fat girls are almost never the protagonists; fat girls are almost never the romantic leads. No one pines over fat girls. No one writes songs for fat girls. And average-sized or chubby girls, girls who aren’t Hollywood thin but aren’t overweight either, don’t exist at all.
This last point is illustrated best by the anecdote which accompanies this picture.
The actress explains: ‘I had a meeting with a casting director from LA. Without a glance at my headshot or resume, and not even a decent introduction, this stranger looks at me, all 5 feet and 2 inches, 125 pounds of me and says, “You need to lose twenty or gain thirty because where you are right now, I can’t do anything with you.” A bit thrown, but not wanting to be rude, I ask, “Can you elaborate on that?” To which she replied, “Your face says ingénue but it wouldn’t quite work, and I can’t put you as fat best friend because you’re not exactly fat.”’
In our shared cultural imagination, fat girls and ‘not exactly fat’ girls are not ingénues. They do not have – cannot possibly have – the Interesting and Exciting and Quite Possibly Dangerously Thrilling lives that we all lusted after as teenagers. And for teenagers, young people who are just beginning to define themselves and their futures, being able to imagine yourself as the exciting ingénue or the badass lead character is incredibly important.
When I was twelve, I remember inspecting my figure in the mirror critically for the first time and asking my gramma when my stomach would get flatter. When I was thirteen, I bought a padded bra and delighted in the fact that it made the rest of me look thinner by comparison. When my problems with my body really began, I was fourteen years old and perfectly average: 5’7” and a size ten. And I thought that I was fat.
Let me clarify. I knew I wasn’t fat: intellectually I could look at my body and know I wasn’t overweight, and that I was in fact thinner than a lot of people. I was, as that casting director so carefully put it, not exactly fat. But I wasn’t exactly thin thin either. I didn’t look like the girls in the magazines or the movies. I didn’t have a perfectly flat stomach. And so I when I was fifteen, I started a thinspo blog.
Thinspo, to the blessedly uninitiated, is thinspiration: pictures of thin people designed to motivate you to lose weight. I spent hours every day on Tumblr – literally hours – poring over pictures of waifish girls with concave stomachs, protruding hips, knife-sharp collarbones, and thigh gaps wider than their actual thighs. As someone with wide hips and big boobs, I was never going to look like those girls no matter how much I dieted.
But oh, how I longed to. Really. I pined. I looked at these girls with the yearning desire of a long distance lover. These girls were a wish and a promise: that I too could be as beautiful, as beguiling, as effortlessly chic as them if only I had the willpower to become Thin Me. The temporally distant but oh-so-alluring Thin Me was not only physically improved, oh no: she was bestowed with all the confidence, charm and grace that her suave new look must surely foster – as though confidence, charm and grace could only manifest inside skin stretched tautly over bone.
I took action too: I eagerly collected diets I had no way of following while living with family; I counted calories occasionally; I avoided food all day only to binge on biscuits later; I calculated with mathematical precision exactly what weight I’d be on a specific date if I ate x amount of calories per day; I spent a feverish month going running every night in sub zero temperatures; I bought diet pills on the internet; I toyed with making myself throw up. But mostly, I looked at these skinny girls for hours and then I looked at myself, and that was the worst thing of all.
Ironically, it was on Tumblr that someone finally articulated what my thinspo Tumblr did to me, what happens when you subject your body to such intense scrutiny:
My body wasn’t bad, but it felt all wrong: I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, uncomfortable in my clothes, and incredibly self-conscious almost all the time. I yearned to ‘be able’ to wear whatever I wanted, as though I was physically incapable of donning a crop top – as though the world would implode if I dared to wear a bodycon dress without first starving off my podgy belly.
I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, and I don’t particularly consider myself to have had one. My behaviours around and attitude towards food were pretty fucked up at times, but many of my friends went through similar stages falling under the broad headings of ‘being weird about food’ and ‘quietly hating yourself’. When, at eighteen, I confessed my secret thinspo blog to my best friend, she excitedly admitted that she had one too. I recognised her blog name. Hell is a teenage girl.
Self-hatred is the logical conclusion in a world saturated with photoshopped perfection. Consciously unlearning our self-hatred is a damn sight harder than subliminally learning it, but it can be done. I gave my thinspo blog up a long time ago, but held on to some tenuous link with the idealised Thin Me of the Future by following fitspo instead, rationalising it as healthier, motivating, good for the soul; in the end – for me at least – it was just more of the same.
Now, the only bodies I admire on the internet are those of the women of the body positivity movement, who come in all shapes and sizes and often a range of exciting hair colours, like the Barbies we were never taught to dream of but so desperately need. My Instagram feed is full of women showing off their podgy stomachs and big thighs proudly – all the things I was so incredibly ashamed of having – and that has helped me see myself, finally, as I actually am: totally fine.
So when people say that that the inclusion of ‘plus-sized’ models and actors on the catwalk and in films and magazines is harming us, that the body positivity movement is ‘promoting an unhealthy body image’, I want to scream. The body positivity movement didn’t create my unhealthy relationship with food and my own body. The body positivity movement doesn’t fuel the eating disorders which have the highest mortality rates of any mental illness. And we didn’t reach a point where more than half the population of the UK is overweight due to fat people being accurately represented in the media.
I agree that if increased representation of chubby and fat bodies on our screens resulted in humanity flocking en masse to their nearest McDonalds to stuff their faces in the hopes of being the next Tess Holliday, that would be a bad thing. But that’s not what putting ‘plus-sized’ people in magazines and films and on runways is going to do, even if they are as big as size-22 Tess. All it will do is create a comparatively tiny push back against the hulking giant of the entire Western culture and media that tells us that women over a size 8 aren’t worthy of our attention. Hopefully, it will help the next generation of teenagers (and current adults!) to escape the self-hatred which is, unequivocally, the unhealthiest thing of all.
Eating disorders affect around 7% of people in the UK, a quarter of whom are male – but these figures don’t reflect the real impact of our obsession with our bodies, because being ‘weird about food and quietly hating yourself’ isn’t necessarily qualified as an eating disorder. Much more telling are the statistics that state ‘50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control methods such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives’. 80% of ten year old girls in America have been on a diet. More than 50% of women see a distorted image of themselves in the mirror. Yes, sometimes, fat is unhealthy. But it’s a damn sight healthier than our cultural obsession with thinness.
Mental health is health too.
Ten years after I first asked my gramma when my stomach would be flat, I do not have a flat stomach. As I write this, I’m sitting in my bra looking down at the little roll of pudge poking over the top of my jeans. This pudge used to mean that I was a failure, destined for an unremarkable, mediocre life. I would never be the cool girl, or the hot girl, or the girl someone falls in love with.
My pudge doesn’t mean that any more. My pudge exists because of all the times I ate pizza in bed with my boyfriend, or ate a bunch of snacks while marathoning Lord of the Rings, and I fucking love those times. And I can be hot and cool and loved. It was never the pudge that was stopping me – only my anxious teenage brain and what our body-obsessed culture did to it.
That’s why the body positivity movement is not only important, but essential: it teaches us that in a world where flaws are unforgivable, we don’t have to forgive ourselves. There was never anything to forgive.
by Lauren Jack
Not to be dramatic, but the Hummingbirds’ gig at the Hug and Pint last week is one of the best that Glasgow has seen in recent months.
The evening kicks off with support from Laurence Made Me Cry – a beautiful singer with a beautiful voice who writes her own music. She hands the audience members a pack of seeds after her set with a download code on them (‘I ran out of CDs’). She’s launching her EP on the tenth of April and you should get yourself along and check her out, she’s amazing.
It’s safe to say that the Hummingbirds do not disappoint in any respect. After all, who could be anything less than content with a nice pint and five Liverpudlians serenading them. Looking around the audience in the intimate venue, each person loves what they hear and most are dancing along. During their set their passion and enjoyment of the music is clear to see and we are told afterwards that most of their music is written to play to each other’s likes and strengths, which is probably why their music sounds so natural and works so well.
They’ve been playing together for about five years, starting out as a couple of lads messing around with guitars and then building on the music they were making by adding new members and slowly creating their own sound. Of course, we are hesitant to ask five boys from Liverpool about their artistic influences, but before we have even finished the question they are laughing and confirm that the Beatles are pretty important to them. They seem flattered when we say that their image and sound was similar to the Fab Four. Indeed they are very humble and pleased with these compliments – ‘Imagine someone saying you sound like the Beatles!’ Jay exclaims.
The Hummingbirds’ album ‘Pieces of You’ is being released at the end of March, check them out on social media (fantastic Instagram) and at their website: wearethehummingbirds.com
By Alice Tully
Stalls are packed tonight as The Royal Scottish National Orchestra prepare to perform the music of John Williams. Williams provided the music screen hits such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Hook, E.T and Jurassic Park, as well as many other countless film titles.
The whole performance is spectacular – the instruments played by a number of talented musicians serve as paint brushes, depicting imagery witnessed on the screen many times. For whether it is a battle scene between Luke Sky Walker and Darth Vader or the first encounter of a candlelit Hogwarts by Harry, Ron and Hermione, the music evokes feelings of nostalgia, excitement, awe, intensity and melancholy – all in the space of two hours.
It is hard to forget the music played in “Star Wars” as the musicians visit it many times throughout the whole performance and play so beautifully and powerfully. The theme tune in particular comes out of nowhere and takes everyone by surprise. It is a very cinematic experience.
Another notable part of the performance is the composition from “Far and Away”. The film tells the tale of an Irish Family who migrated to the U.S in the 1890s and then make their quest to Oklahoma – the Free Land. Though this film is perhaps one of his lesser known films, Williams does a good job of depicting an image of the family’s journey through a beautiful blend of classical music with playful traditional folk music. In addition to the music, this piece sparks thought about a current issue. By reminding us of the migration rates between Europe and America in the nineteenth century – when many Scots and Irish were forced to flee their homes – we are reminded that many individuals today are being forced out of their homelands and turning to the UK to seek safety.
Also grasping the attention of the audience this evening is conductor Richard Kaufman who gives praise to John Williams, describing him as “memorable creative voice”. His music gave these films a character which really drew audiences, and made classical music much more accessible to the general public.
To add, in his speech Kaufman gives notable praise to music in general: “Life can be tough and it can be difficult to deal with at times. This can sometimes be dealt with by seeking peace, beauty and refinement”. This comes in the form of nicely composed, classical pieces performed by a talented orchestra, who are always in residence at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
By Greg Marlborough
Two years ago, I landed in a lovely sisterhood of a flat where we would sit round the kitchen table and quiz each other via the ‘The Dating Persona’ Okcupid test. It promised to analyze sex drive, predictability, intelligence and inherent goodness. It was an absurd hangover breakfast diversion, but I enjoyed the zany matches to other types and dead-eyed pastel illustrations.
I happened to be single that summer, and watching How To Be Single this week impressed uncanny similarities between my old self and the lead lady Alice. The most obvious aspect I saw of myself was that I had to go the long haul to realize I wasn’t doing things on my own: to enjoy my own company. I would cycle the extra mile for a baked good cause I deserved to be in love with myself. I would text many guys because I was lonely – but I thought I was owning it – and was probably quite shitty to my friends in figuring all this out. Also, the phrase ‘getting caught in dick sand’ sounds like something me and my friends would actually say.
How To Be Single was by no means a perfect film – the plot lost the way a little in the middle – but it was endlessly refreshing as it showed a more realistic attitude to young women today. It surfs the polar standards set by Hollywood of people that are either happily in love or desolate and single. The film presents a grey area, a middle slog that sometimes takes months, perhaps years to traverse. This is the tumultuous ocean of self-love. Also, it was great to have Rebel Wilson provide some comic effect. Likewise, the men in the film were not all after the poon. Mr. Bartender was weird, but I think him ending the film alone with his dis-serviced mini fridge proved a point. Mr. Professional Building-Developer was shitty to Alice, but then apologized and vacated the screen focusing on the core relationship in his life; that with his daughter. ‘Hey there’s that adorable man who warmed the butter in his hands from Obvious Child!’ at first hand seemed too eagerly pursuing his chosen gal, but it was revealed he just wanted a nice family all along and dressed-up as a stay at home dad at an 8th grade costume party. Basically, a male with his eyes set on the prize – all day watching Chef’s Table re-runs on Netflix and making pureed carrot. He was a… LATTE PAPA. It is fantastic that movies finally recognize this breed of human.
When films give two minutes to consider equal cinematic representation of the sexes, it’s like watching a toddler still stumbling towards their first steps, as you get to see it grow and reflect on the triumphs and near misses. Superhero film Deadpool was like an overly performative ten-year-old throwing shit into your eyes. Watching Deadpool, I was reminded instantly of one of the darker questions of the Okcupid quiz: ‘Suppose your boyfriend/girlfriend is horribly burned in a car accident that was totally your fault. They are badly mutilated and *pissed off*. Is it time to say goodbye?’. We were all horrified at this question and, not being a sociopath, answered no. Ryan Reynold’s character simply says: ‘Are you deformed from trying to access an up-and-coming cancer treatment? Gross. Never even walk on the same street as your partner again, as they will not accept you’. He also draws the line at having cancer period. Just walk right out on your fiancée in the middle of the night, cause it’s time to say goodbye.
Another thing Deadpool does is pay for a sex-worker to go on a date with him, in some sort of hostage situation, where he withholds sex until the clock is running (cause he sweetly wanted to take her to an arcade first). But when the magic does happen, she is utterly eroticized by his peen and, unclearly, she is now his girlfriend.
Their whole relationship is a montage of different ways they’ve had sex. This might have been refreshing in another film, but since her character was a sex-worker two minutes ago earlier, they should have clarified if she was still on a contract with him.
After twenty-four hours, I can now laugh at it, but in all honestly Deadpool made the world feel a bit smaller with its smack-down of sexism. A female character, who exhibited to a traditional lad-mentality audience an unapproachable appearance (piercings, shaved hair and comfortable clothing) was met with the aside ‘Good luck to the guy who tries to force her into after prom sex’. Ah Deadpool, how wink wink nudge nudge you slipped a rape joke in! I honestly was sick in my mouth multiple times during this film. I also got a neck injury from peeking over at the majority male audience in Dbox seats – cause real men sit in the hardcore area – to see how they were receiving it. They found the whole thing utterly hilarious of course.
So one film made the world a little bigger with its exploration of newer shades of movie character, the other made me afraid to strike up a conversation with any man that isn’t my boyfriend. In case you’re wondering, one film received 83% and the other 49%. I’ll let you puzzle that one out for yourself. However, as both films present themselves as cinematic junk food I was pleasantly surprised to get a little more from How to Be Single.
By Heather O’Donnell
With one week left until GUM #2 The Future Edition is released, the editor reflects on the future of media.
Not many things get people excited anymore. The greatest turn-ons of the year seem to be the Superbowl Half-Time Show, People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive and the Academy Awards Ceremony. (Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish to diminish celebrity achievements. I have like everyone else been haunted by wet dreams of Leonardo DiCaprio grabbing a phallic golden statuette and I am also massively impressed by Beyoncé’s twerking skills.)
But the more I flick through online newsfeeds and social media channels, the more I realise that the media is a circus. And the readers are the clowns that perform in it. I wish we could be as graceful as the elephants. But we remain clowns with masks that obscure how we perceive the world – pale and white, ghoulishly laughing, with black tear stains.
Events and news that matter remain somewhat concealed to us. Those moments are rare that silence the buzz of sensationalism. Those moments that cut like a razor through everything and make the world crystal clear. Those moments where we are confronted with The Real.
One such moment happened in 2013 when Internet activist Aaron Swartz died. During his entire life, Swartz propagated for the freedom of information to all, maintaining that access to the Internet is a human right. When he studied at MIT, he downloaded millions of academic articles from JSTOR to make the point that these journals should be available to everyone – that knowledge should not be exclusive to a rich élite. Swartz was subsequently charged with intent to commit a felony and an overzealous list of prosecutorial charges dragged on for the next two years. The sad event of Swartz’ suicide was mourned across the globe and awoke the world to the importance of freedom of information.
Another heart-stopping moment occurred when whistle-blower Edward Snowden left his post at the NSA in Hawaii and fled to Hong Kong with thousands of classified documents. These documents exposed illegal telecommunications and online surveillance, not just of American citizens, but also of people worldwide. With roguish charm, Snowden managed to fool the US government and an entire press core when he booked several airline tickets and escaped to Moscow. Since then, Snowden has expertly eluded all his persecutors and has had reporters chase their tails for an interview. Now he has become an icon for something larger than himself: everyone’s fundamental right to privacy.
A third moment took place in 2015, when hacktivist group Anonymous interrupted Fox News. For a minute and a half, the Guy Fawkes-mask invaded the TV screens of American homes with the message: ‘We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us!’. Soon the reel was shown across the world. It proved that the Internet collective of jokesters and trolls had become a serious political movement in its own right with powers to influence and effect change. The Internet has thus become an arena for people to express their opinions on equal grounds. Anonymous has facilitated the public demonstrations of these opinions, united by a common goal: the freedom of expression.
These are the moments that matter, that break through all the noise and reveal something resembling the truth. Some say that print media is dying, but it does not mean that the media is less important. On the contrary, the media and our continual engagement with it are more important than ever. It does not mean we should stop enjoying celebrity news. It means that the freedom of information, the right to privacy and the freedom of expression should not be taken for granted. The way we exercise these rights will define our generation.
Personally, I believe it is high time to wash off our clown faces; step into the ring of the circus and claim ownership of what is ours.
By Sofia Linden
For more information on moments the earth skipped a beat… Watch the following excellent documentaries:
The Internet’s Own Boy (2014), directed by Brian Knappenberger
Citizenfour (2014), directed by Laura Poitras
We Are Legion (2012), directed by Brian Knappenberger
Albert Einstein has become an icon in the physics and astronomy communities, and one of his greatest contributions has been that most elusive and complex theory – ‘The Theory of Relativity’, which has predicted the presence of many things in the still ‘less-understood’ Universe. The most bizarre of these predictions is the existence of Gravitational Waves – which were recently discovered. Einstein stands correct once again!
In order to understand what Gravitational Waves actually are, lets perform a small thought experiment. Imagine a very flexible rubber sheet that you can spread tight and taut. If you place a bowling ball over this sheet, it will create a dent in the surface. Now, if you place a tennis ball in nearby vicinity, it will create a comparatively smaller dent, and will begin to revolve around the bowling ball (try it at home, but be careful: bowling balls can be really heavy sometimes). Well, something similar to this scenario applies to our model of the Universe. Objects of heavy mass create higher levels of ‘distortion’ (a larger dent) in the fabric of space-time than lighter masses. These masses are in constant motion and when they accelerate, ripples of waves are formed in the space-time fabric and these are nothing but – The Gravitational Waves!
Over the last few years, enormous efforts have been made to detect these very weak waves in order to ‘see’ the universe from a gravitational perspective, as electromagnetic radiation offers a different view on the universe. This is because gravitational waves are thought to pass through all matter unhindered, which means that observing them will offer a new glance at the super massive objects or events happening in the Universe, or even the Universe’s very origin – The Big Bang.
Currently, LIGO, the earth based detector, has been in the news ever since it confirmed that they have finally detected these gravitational waves. It has been hailed as the discovery of the century (I might be going out of the limb here, but it is huge!). The main problem faced by the land based gravitational wave detectors like LIGO is the background noise from Earth, caused by the likes of waves, human interference, mining and construction, and even seismic activity. These interferences limit the sensitivity of the detectors on earth and so, in order to conduct a more effective search for gravitational waves, the concept of space-based detectors was born, which ultimately led to creation of Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (eLISA). It is the first space-bound gravitational wave detector set to be launched by 2034 by the European Space Agency (ESA). It is supposed to detect thousands of sources by using gravitational waves and, since it’s in space, the detector can have gigantically long arms so as to increase the sensitivity further.
It has been designed to form an equilateral triangle made up of three separate space-crafts, with one of them functioning as a “mother” craft and two others as “daughters”. They are supposed to have an arm length of one million kilometers. The entire detector will take up an orbit around the Sun, following Earth by twenty degrees. This first massive detector will basically measure these waves by checking the distortion in the space-time contained within the arms of the detectors (millions of kilometers). The measurement of the distortions in space-time would be carried out using interferometer methods – the use of lasers at every arm of the triangle.
Special algorithms have been developed by NASA and ESA over the decades to identify and classify tens of thousands of different sources detected by eLISA over time. Results have shown that sources can be successfully classified every time and this is being currently tested in the LISA pathfinder, a space-craft which was launched in December 2015 to test the techniques developed for eLISA.
By 2030, knowledge of Universe will have greatly changed and the addition of a new detector would assist this process enormously. Currently electromagnetic radiation detectors can help us see the Universe, but the window they give us is somewhat limited. However, with the advent of gravitational wave detectors, our ability to ‘hear’ the Universe will increase manifold and give us a valuable insight to the origins of… well, everything. Astronomical science would change drastically, and we’d even come to understand more about the mysterious ‘dark’ Universe, all due to the gravitational waves. Finding them was just the first step!
By Prarthana Desai
As I walk down Byres Road, I ask myself the same questions that Bilbo asked himself when dwarfs overtook his home. Where did they come from? What do they want? And for how long do they plan to stay? Ten years ago nobody had heard of a “hipster”, much less seen them or knew what they were. One day, they began to appear and, suddenly, they were everywhere. There was never a first hipster, a father of hipsters nor the Adam and Eve of hipsters. Nonetheless, similar to an alpine avalanche, hipsters have become unstoppable and they are multiplying exponentially for each passing day.
I don’t think anyone has ever met a self-professed hipster (if you have, please leave a comment, I would surely love to meet them). No one has ever introduced him or herself to me and openly declared “Hi! My name is _____ and I am a hipster”.
It seems we cannot be sure hipsters exist at all. Even though, everyone knows what signs to look for: retro clothing, broad-rimmed glasses, tote bags and an unread copy of Kafka or Camus under their arm. There is no way to prove that someone identifies as a hipster unless they say so themselves.
As I continue my walk down the road, I watch them closely. They roll their skinny cigarettes or carefully apply wax to their moustaches. I feel the urge to grab them and shake them and shout: “Who are you? Why are you doing this? Take me to your leader!”. But that would be crazy. They do not have an ideology. They are not a movement or a subculture as such. There is no charismatic leader and they do not geographically belong. There seems to be no point to their conceptual existence at all.
I begin to wonder where my hipsterphobia (my innate fear of hipsters) comes from. It’s a burning question for any reader who made it this far. I am a young vegetarian woman with a straight fringe, who studies English Literature, loves to go on angry feminist rants and only buys clothes from charity shops. I seem to check all the right boxes. Yet, I have never identified as a hipster, and I know I have not always been this way. I wasn’t born riding an old stripped-down bike with the urge to go to Berlin and visit underground nightclubs.
So, how did it happen? Perhaps, I woke up one day and felt the inexplicable urge to play vinyl records and wear Doc Martens boots. Or maybe, it happened by slow degrees through careful societal manipulation and social pressure to be different from the mainstream. I must have bought into the trend for some reason. But I still don’t want people to call me that word. Hipster. It fills me with dread.
I tear my hair because I can’t figure out why the word feels so shameful. The concept contains an inherent contradiction. As everyone attempts to be different, mainstream becomes difference and the essence of difference continually slips away and stays slightly out of reach. It becomes a competition and a race: who has the artsiest tote bag, who went to the most underground party and who read the most obscure book…
I’ve made a decision. It is time to let go of the shame and step out of the closet. This is who I am. I accept. I cannot hide it anymore. My desire for woolly sweaters and delicious cups of tea is too great to be contained. So I step forward and in a loud voice I declare: I am hipster, hear me roar!
By Sofia Linden
Photograph: Brand New Images/Getty Images
You’ve probably heard the term ‘lad culture’ thrown around at university or in the newspapers. Headlines such as The Telegraph’s ‘Can universities ever get rid of boozy, sexist lad culture?’ and the Guardian’s ‘It’s not lad culture – it’s misogyny’ conjures up images of alcoholic rapists running rampant on the street while mid way through an honours degree.
I don’t mean to be insensitive when addressing this issue; certain consequences of pre-conceived ideas of lad culture result in sexual harassment and alcohol abuse and this is unacceptable. And while it is thought that ‘lad culture’ is a black and white issue, insomuch as, it’s a sub culture of predominately men who endorse sexist, racist, homophobic behaviour – this is only sometimes the case. Those who consider themselves affiliated with lad culture can come from a variety of backgrounds and have diverse range of interest and opinions. So how do we define lad culture when it’s such a subjective term?
The NUS (National Union of Students) describes lad culture as ‘a group or ‘pack’ mentality residing in activities such as sport, heavy alcohol consumption and ‘banter’ which was often sexist, misogynistic, racist or homophobic’. This is a common understanding of lad culture, particularly amoung young women. Gemma Clark, a multi-media journalist student at Glasgow Caledonian University believes lad culture is ‘groups of guys that act hyper-masculine. I see lad culture as drinking, being derogatory towards women, being loud, anti social behaviour and travelling in packs’. Similarly, UWS (University of the West of Scotland) student Heather Armstrong says ‘I’d say lad culture is a negative part of the socialisation of young people, especially young men’. However, people can associate themselves with ‘lad culture’, or deem themselves a ‘lad’, without being guilty of endorsing sexist or antisocial behaviour, yet this isn’t something that is openly discussed. ‘Lad culture’ is portrayed to have ridged pre-requisites, when actually it’s a versatile culture that encompasses different aspects of what is considered ‘popular culture’.
As the term itself originated in the 90s, it has evolved and changed over the years. In the 90s it was associated with bands such as Oasis and was understood as a brotherhood of sorts, a support network of male friends who enjoyed the same activities. The understanding of the term in 2015 is wholly different, with an emphasis on sexually aggressive and bigoted ideals. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that those aspects didn’t exist in the 90s, it was hardly a decade innocent of sexual exploitation, but lad culture sprouted mainly into the cultural fields of Britpop and did so with a ferocity equivalent to the Spice Girls infamous ‘girl power’. In the 90s, both ‘lad culture’ and ‘girl power’ were gendered consumer cultures that, on the outside, pretended to empower each gender but, underneath, simply reinforced stereotypes in a largely benign way.
Nowadays, ‘lad culture’ can be associated with anything from car enthusiasts and sports fans, to Playboy readers and homophobes. But whatever the association, it’s now a dominant sub culture that surrounds us daily, compared to previous years when it merely acted as a social escapism for young people. Chris of feminist zine TYCI says, ‘Personally I love football and I used to like Oasis (a long time back). At the same time I am certainly not homophobic, I don’t drink much and I co-founded a feminist fanzine so for me any real definition (of lad culture) immediately breaks down.’ Thus, we are faced with the problem – if lad culture covers such a broad range of attitudes and interests then how can we pinpoint where the destructive elements of this culture stem from?
I think it’s important to address the damaging aspects of lad culture within the wider context of society and its inherent traditional views of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’. It is not justifiable to blame all young men for the negative aspects associated with this culture, we must take into account the shades of grey within such a dominant issue. Generalisations are rarely ethically sound, but having said that, whether you consider yourself part of lad culture or not, it’s beneficial for everyone to recognise unacceptable behaviours and pave the way for a societal shift in consciousness that is reflective of its actions and attitudes.
It can be argued that ‘lad culture’ feeds into the wider ‘popular culture’ and both of these terms merely act as umbrellas to more specific complex issues. These issues exist within a nebulous universe of fixed ideas and inadvertent principals concerning femininity, race, sexuality and class.
‘Lad culture’ therefore, is a complex term that spans many regions of thought in the western hemisphere. It can’t be boxed in or pigeonholed. However, there are certain negative and archaic attitudes that exist within lad culture that should be challenged. Tackling the root of these attitudes will allow us to move forward as a progressive, compassionate society.
By Mina Green
Every night, between the hours of 8am and 8pm, a church in Glasgow’s West End becomes home to up to twenty destitute male asylum seekers and a handful of volunteers. The volunteers then depart to their warm homes and, somewhat tiredly, go about their daily activities. The asylum seekers however must occupy themselves, feed themselves and stay warm for twelve hours, with no work – unless they have managed to find something illegal.
As somebody who leaves the shelter and heads back to another day at University, I am left each shift with guilt about what the guys are going to do to pass the time. As a man told me: ‘the nights go fast. Before you know it, it’s morning.’ They are in limbo: waiting on their claim to work its way through the long maze that is the Home Office asylum process. If someone is at risk of being persecuted in their own country, they may go abroad and ask for asylum in another country. Granting ‘asylum’ means giving someone permission to remain in another country because of that risk of persecution. The right to claim asylum is international law, and governments are obliged to provide protection for people who meet the criteria for asylum. Although they may have entered the UK illegally, once they have applied for asylum they are no longer ‘illegal’ and are entitled to stay in the UK whilst awaiting a decision. Someone who has received a positive decision on his or her asylum claim is given refugee status and allowed to remain. However, the decision making process is very tough, lengthy and many people’s claims are rejected. Meanwhile, they are prevented from working and are provided with only £36.95 a week to live on. Some of the men at the shelter will spend hours in the library; at least there they can get some warmth and use facilities for free. But for how long can you sit reading books and using a computer, day after day? Boredom is one of the main difficulties for these guys, for it is not only the lack of material resources that makes life difficult, but also the struggle of having no job and no money.
I spoke to a man from Algeria who was a fireman back home. When he arrived in the UK he was told he was too old to be a fire officer because he’d have to begin training again, his experience in Algeria counted for nothing. He then worked in a hotel in London for six years, starting as a porter and working his way up to becoming a chef. However, when he got divorced the Home Office removed his right to work and he had to begin his asylum claim again. He is now homeless and jobless in Glasgow. Another guy has been showing me some maths puzzles, and taught me how to do one – really well considering the language barrier. I found out he used to be a maths teacher. I struggle to deal with the idea of a man being degraded from a maths teaching position to teaching the occasional willing volunteer how to complete a puzzle. But with a smile on his face and a lot of patience, he sits and talks me through in broken English and plenty of laughter.
The optimism and resilience of the men I talk to is incredible. It would be incredibly easy to lose hope. They are just a few of the thousands of asylum seekers who have slipped through the gaps of our supposedly supportive government. With no access to jobs and less state support than the minimum provided for UK nationals, it is very easy for asylum seekers to become destitute, and they are not offered the usual homeless services for nationals, relying on charities like the Night Shelter for food and shelter. Most of the men I talk to want to work, and if they could work they would put money back into the economy. The only other option is to work illegally, which means no protection, no minimum wage, and can undercut workers from the UK. Although the government says it provides a place to live for all people going through the asylum process, the reality is that many cannot access accommodation in a country with a lack of sufficient public housing. Asylum seekers do not jump the queue for council housing and they cannot choose where they live. The local council does not pay for the accommodation allocated to them.
As another volunteer said to me, coming to the Night Shelter provides some perspective on a life outside of the student bubble. We can all get tied down with our studies, societies, and social lives, but it is important to sometimes reflect on the troubles of others in the city around us. As a Sociology student, I have studied the effects of migration, but from my studies alone I have no sense of what life is really like for an unwelcome migrant. We take for granted small things in life like being able to make a cup of tea or having a shower. We don’t have to worry daily about being taken away to a detention centre and potentially ejected from the place we live to a place we could be persecuted. This is a reality that many face every day of their lives in the UK. Yet the number is far less than the media makes out: in 2014 just 24,914 applied for asylum, less than Germany, Sweden, Italy and France. And most have the intention to return to their home country when it is safe to do so.
Whatever the backgrounds of these men, they have come from homes where they have friends and family, a good job and a language and culture they are proud of. Many did not want to move. Imagine uprooting your entire life and leaving for somewhere where you have no connections, no work and must start from the very beginning. Most of us would not choose to do this. Imagine if, after you went through the struggle and pain of leaving a life behind, you were denied the right to work and the right to housing and state benefits in the country you had arrived in. With recent media attention at the situation in Calais it is clear something has to change. People are dying whilst fleeing their countries. We are now bombing Syria. We therefore have a duty to accept the refugees of conflicts we are perpetuating. But we cannot simply allow people into the country; they must be treated as equals, with the same human rights to food and shelter that the rest of us take for granted.
To find out more about the Night Shelter and if you are interested in volunteering visit:
For more information about asylum seekers and refugees in the UK visit:
By Annie Tothill
Here at GUM we have always had a spark for all things fashion, especially when it’s from our very own Glasgow. From GSA graduates to established brands, we have featured a string of inspiring designers in our editorial spreads. Back in 2013, Obscure Couture graced our pages. An award winning brand, Obscure Couture also found themselves in the pages of Vogue and on the backs of numerous celebrity fans. Unfortunately, after 5 vibrant and sparkly years, the brand is shutting its doors.
The adored Scottish label announced their closure after years at the top of its quirky game, offering stage-ready couture and ready to wear lines. The bold and contemporary look was worn by the likes of Arianna Grande and Marina and The Diamonds. The brand had a cult following due to its unique mix of a fairy tale fantasy with a hard edge.
Not to be shut down quietly, Obscure Couture will be partying until the end. Taking over BLOW Finnieston for the most fun wake ever, the salon will be playing host to a farewell party on January 30th from 7pm.
Not to be forgotten, samples and stock will be available to buy on the night while an online auction is underway. The event Death By Glitter is the perfect chance to celebrate the creativity of Glasgow as well as bagging a piece of fashion history. If you’re a fan of great hair and all that sparkles, this is the event for you.
The end may be nigh for Obscure Couture but your wardrobe doesn’t have to suffer. Help them blow out with a bang at Blow Finnieston this weekend.
By Anne Devlin
I was born in Chișinău, the capital of Europe’s poorest country, Moldova. Some of my favourite childhood memories are of exploring golden sunflower fields with my little sister during the hot summers, helping grandma cook plăcintă (the local cheese and dill-filled pastry) and eating everyone’s summer-fruit harvests on the rural farms of my mother’s side of the family. I grew up in England as my father is British and I was fortunate enough to have a happy and safe childhood with both my parents there. Unfortunately this is not the case for 1 in 5 of Moldova’s children who are affected by labour migration or the 7,000 children who live in state-run institutions today. The prison-like institutions are only a short-term solution to a much larger problem relating to an out-dated social reliance on state care. I believe that it is every child’s right to have a happy and safe childhood or at least the hope of a better future. Being raised in these two contrasting cultures has provided me with a unique perspective and instilled a strong belief that these challenges can be significantly improved through interdisciplinary and international partnership. This is where The Moldova Project (TMP) comes in.
TMP works with some of the most vulnerable children and low-income families in Moldova. In a country that is inherently corrupt with an average monthly salary of 4,200 Lei (£140), access to food, childhood education and healthcare is a luxury. The fight for affordable life-saving medicine is a global issue but for the majority of rural families in Moldova it is a matter of survival. The program offers children an escape from very difficult lives and offers parents sustainable solutions including family planning and employment guidance. Sponsorship money pays for medical aid and allows parents to receive the training they require to return to work, preventing their children from joining the lost generation who are left behind as people are forced to seek work in Russia and the EU. After I read about how the program also facilitates UK-based sponsorship to Moldovan children who require but can’t afford HIV medication, my research was done. I booked my flights to Moldova.
Each day, we entertained a classroom full of children with Christmas activities, face-painting, cinema trips and Moş Crăciun (Santa Claus) who delivered Christmas presents to a total of 303 children over the course of the project. The children, who are carefully selected from rural villages, orphanages and institutions have histories ranging from alcohol and drug-related abuse to abandonment at birth due to disability. It was heart-breaking to learn how children with minor limb abnormalities are denied access to national schooling and how more severe neurological disabilities occur as a result of preventable diseases such as syphilis or anaemia – endemic to Moldova affecting 1 in 3 pregnant women.
Towards the end of the trip we visited one of Chișinău’s baby orphanages, a stop which Becca, one of the regular volunteers who had been with the charity for several years, had been looking forward to the whole week. She was best friends with one of the little girls but was accepting of the fact that she had probably been forgotten. The kids know the Christmas visits are reliable but they are only a day long and it had been a year. As we walked into the rooms lined with endless rows of cots, the little girl looked up and a smile spread across her face as she said “Becca!” in polite amazement. For children who have only a handful of happy memories, this tear-jerking moment alone illustrated the importance and long-lasting impact of our Christmas visits.
According to UNICEF-OHCHR, de-institutionalisation targets are being met, new pre-school facilities are being opened and the Law on the Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities was passed in 2012. These changes in the national legal framework are some of the essential steps required to remove the stigma surrounding disability, encourage further reforms in childcare and generate positive public dialogue on the reintegration of the disabled into society. Health sector improvements, such as sexual health campaigns in rural areas, are the greater challenges required to ensure child abandonment in Moldova is confined to the pages of history.
The program left me with a greater understanding of poverty and social change in developing countries, an insight into global public health issues and life-changing memories in a beautiful country that is desperately trying to expunge its darker ties to its former-USSR heritage. I can’t thank the managers, Emma, Lucy and Victoria of The Moldova Project enough for these memories and for the opportunity to work with some of the most kind and dedicated people I’ve ever met. The program organises summer building projects, winter Christmas projects and fundraising events all year round so there is something for everyone. University of Glasgow for Essential Medicines (UGEM) is looking forward to hosting TMP at Glasgow’s refreshers fair this Friday and fundraising ideas are already forming as we look forward to what 2016 will bring. What have you got planned for this summer?
The Moldova Project will be at the Refresher’s Fair next to the UGEM stall at Qudos in the QMU from 10 – 4pm this Friday.
By Joanna Ashby
Although I have written a lot about social mix, cities still remain divided, or perceived as divided. The four directions of a compass are often used to make a distinction of some sort. Who hasn’t heard of the so-called Iron Curtain that divided the socialist East from the capitalist West? And nowadays, when geographers are referring to the global North or the global South, the North is the new framing of the First World, or the developed countries and comprises ironically also most of the ‘western’ countries. The South on the other hand, is the new concept for the Third World or developing countries. But also on much smaller geographical scales, the north and the south are used to distinguish one from the other, better from worse, richer from poorer.
The southern banks of the river Clyde for example, have a rather infamous reputation according to inhabitants of their northern counterparts. When you don’t have any purpose of going across the river, you simply don’t. Although I have lived in Glasgow for almost four months now, I indeed have never found myself in the position or need to take the Squinty Bridge to the other side. How residents think of the south side, became very clear when I asked a local to tell me how he felt about the area. He said that friends would ask him if he ‘got his shots’ before going to the south, and he would rather invite friends who lived there over to the north, because the south would be just somewhere you would not like to go and have a drink. On the other hand, because the south is a – presumably partly because of its reputation – relatively cheap area, some also said that it is becoming a more attractive area.
Not surprisingly, the natural boundary of water and more specifically rivers seems to divide cities everywhere, also in Amsterdam. Here the role of North and South is reversed, with the South looking down on the North. The city of Amsterdam is split by the IJ, an important water way for trade shipping from and to the North Sea. Therefore, the construction of bridges is nearly impossible due to the fact that they would have to open almost all the time, or have to be sky high. The result is a ferry service, which runs indeed very frequent and is free for everybody, but nevertheless makes the threshold to go to the North (Noord) higher, although the geographical distance is relatively short. Moreover, by southern citizens Noord is seen as a residential area for the rough working class. But again, this is changing and processes of gentrification are also taking place here, because almost every other neighbourhood is becoming too expensive for the average citizen to live in.
Difference is also made based on other natural features. In the Netherlands for example, The Hague has a part that has been built on sand, and a part that is built on moor. The richer inhabitants live on the sandy part, the poorer on the moor part. Moor was perceived as bad soil for building and the source for many health issues, what resulted in the working class mainly residing in these areas. The wealthy were of course able to go to better areas. And whereas in the Netherlands distinction based on height differences is hardly possible, in Glasgow you can find traces of these kinds of divisions. According to some of the people I spoke to, Park Circus is only reserved for the wealthy that can literally look down upon the surrounding neighbourhoods and have a magnificent view on the city.
It is interesting to be aware of how a geographical situation may lead to certain images about the areas and its population. Moreover it is remarkable to see how the physical environment shapes the social environment. The people of ancient Greece already noticed this and argued that climate would have an influence on people’s behaviour. But that boundaries, both natural and artificial, do have a lot of implications for people that are exposed to them, is one thing that we can be sure of.
By Rosa de Jong