Solidarity Opinions

Grenfell: Lest We Forget

By Henry Needham

The fire at Grenfell tower in June 2017 is one of the most publicised examples of incompetence at the highest level in modern British history. The 72 people who tragically lost their lives in the fire serve as a reminder that there is a long way to go in bridging the socio-economic, and racial, divide in our society. The main lesson to be learned from this is not that the building companies and contractors who put the cladding in place are in the wrong, rather, the issue at the core is that the regulations regarding fire safety in blocks of flats such as Grenfell made it legal for them to do so. The wave of outrage that rightly ensued across Britain in the aftermath has gradually begun to lose its force. But the failures run deep, and will need far more attention than a brief inquisition could ever attest for.

‘You think we just forgot about Grenfell?’ were the words delivered by Stormzy during his performance at the 2018 BRIT Awards. These words ring true now more than ever as the efforts to fight for justice for the lives lost in this disaster have somewhat lost momentum. This is not to say efforts have gone completely dry – as the ‘Justice4Grenfell’ movement headed up by Judy Bolton and Yvette Williams MBE still fights hard to bring this issue back into the ever-shifting spotlight of mass media. However, as is too often the case in modern times, the mainstream British media attention given to this injustice has continuously waned in the last 4 years. What needs to be focused on in the aftermath was the governmental inquiry that took place. A vital piece of information that has seemingly been lost in its coverage, in this inquiry it was revealed that emails, documents, design drawings and calculations relating to the tower had been accidentally lost or purposefully destroyed after being wiped from a laptop.[1] The company stated that the files were not backed up on any other device or email account[2], which bodes suspiciously for a massive contractor, and in this era of technology. Even if we are to assume an accident, it screams of organisational incompetence, as the inquiry did not attempt to acquire the files straight after the incident, for the laptop was reported wiped in 2020, three years after the fire.

Further incompetence is evident in the lack of attention given to resident’s reports, who knew the building was not safe if there was to be a fire. A resident of Grenfell Tower warned its landlords in 2010 that an “inferno” could engulf the building and “trap the residents … with no escape”.[3] Given the consequent reality, this report is harrowing. More had to be done to ensure the safety of the residents, and to make sure authorities did everything in their power to abide by safe and legal building guide. The racial dimension of this atrocity are not to go amiss in the tragic loss of 72 lives. Of the 72 people who died, more than half had immigrated to Britain after 1990 and only 8 victims were White British.[4] The irony of the timing of this article is that on the 31st March 2021, the British government published a report stating that Britain’s system is no longer ‘deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities’.[5] Given what happened at Grenfell, the government’s report doesn’t hold up against the intentional neglect of the health, safety and lives of those disproportionately non-white and immigrant families who were assigned this council estate. 300 towers in the UK today still have the cladding that was the catalyst for the disaster at Grenfell, with roughly 24,000 people living in these buildings whose lives are still at stake.

As the inquiry is not fully complete, there will certainly be more to discuss, challenge and understand about what happened at Grenfell. However, as citizens of this country who could have family or friends living in the buildings that are still at risk, it is our collective duty to fight for the justice of the Grenfell 72. The socio-economic issues here are at the fore, for the Government’s reports supposed findings about the UK not being a system ‘rigged’ against ethnic minorities seems questionable when 1 in 6 ethnic minority families live in houses with a category 1 hazard in the housing, health and safety rating system.[6] Reports from the last 20 years suggest Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic families are more likely to be offered poorer quality homes, flats rather than houses, and housing officers were also seen to be more likely to steer them away from white neighbourhoods based on preconceived judgments about class.[7] The blatant gap in housing equality is a topic that requires and deserves increased attention, but with lives and livelihoods on the line, Grenfell must be remembered and serve as a catalyst for long-lasting, structural change.

This article is dedicated to all those who lost their lives and loved ones in this disaster, if you want to make a change see:


Fathia Ali Ahmed Alsanousi

Esra Ibrahim

Fethia Hassan

Hania Hassan

Mohamed Amied Neda

Raymond Bernard

Rania Ibrahim

Hesham Rahman

Gloria Trevisan

Marco Gottardi

Anthony Disson

Mariem Elgwahry

Yaqub Hashim

Hashim Kedir

Nura Jamal

Eslah Elgwahry

Sirria Choucair

Yahya Hashim

Nadia Choucair

Bassem Choukair

Fatima Choucair

Mierna Choucair

Zainab Choucair

Firdaws Hashim

Mehdi El Wahabi 25

Yasin El Wahabi

Logan Gomes

Faouzia El Wahabi

Abdulaziz El Wahabi

Ligaya Moore

Nur Huda El Wahabi

Leena Belkadi

Jessica Urbano Ramirez

Farah Hamdan

Omar Belkadi

Alexandra Atala

Mary Mendy

Malak Belkadi

Victoria King

Khadija Saye

Amal Ahmedin

Maria del Pilar Burton

Amaya Tuccu-Ahmedin

Sakineh Afrasiabi

Vincent Chiejina

Isaac Paulos

Hamid Kani

Berkti Haftom

Biruk Haftom

Komru Miah

Mohammed Hamid

Rabia Begum

Husna Begum

Mohammed Hanif

Khadija Khalloufi

Deborah Lamprell

Marjorie Vital

Ernie Vital


Joseph Daniels

Steven Power

Denis Murphy

Zainab Deen

Mohammed al-Haj Ali

Jeremiah Dee

Abdeslam Sebbar

Ali Yawar Jafari

Gary Maunders

Abufras Ibrahim

Mohamednur “Mo” Tuccu

Fatemeh Afrasiabi

Amna Mahmud Idris








Author: Harry Needham

Harry is completing an MA in Contemporary History at the University of Birmingham and holds a Bachelors in Ancient History with History at Swansea University. Predominantly, his research looks at understanding the relationship between Race, Racism and Power whilst also focusing on the impact of popular culture. His undergraduate thesis analysed the relationship between folk music and youth activism in the 1960s and this relationship in the wider context is a vein of study he is continuing to follow.

Solidarity Opinions

Reclaiming a movement: Tarana Burke’s ‘Me Too’

‘Me Too’. The movement aimed at exposing sexual violence. A movement that has been described as a ‘watershed’ moment for sexual assault survivors and their perpetrators, covered by Time in their ‘Time’s Up’ issue that has had a lasting global impact. A movement that went viral in 2017 when Alyssa Milano tweeted her followers to use the hashtag if they had ever been a victim of sexual assault. A movement that was actually founded by African-American activist Tarana Burke a whole decade before, in 2006.

The fact that, up until I attended a talk called ‘From Slavery to Me Too: Women’s Voices’ in 2018 and despite completing my BA dissertation on Black women in James Bond, I didn’t know that a Black woman founded the ‘Me Too’ movement a decade ago stumped me. I felt ashamed, and was also deeply concerned by the fact that nowhere in Milano’s tweet was there any accreditation to Burke. Taking to the internet and reading article after article, watching TED talks and going down Black feminist rabbit holes, what I found had greater racial implications than a mere lack of ‘credit’ could suggest.

Tarana Burke initially started the movement in 2006 after her own experience of sexual violence, incensed by the commonality of everyday sexual violence against women in the African-American community. In her words, Burke “launched the ‘Me Too’ movement because I wanted to find ways to bring healing into the lives of black women and girls” (TED talk, 2019), 60% of whom will be experiencing sexual violence before they turn 18. Burke reiterates that this movement was about those communities under the highest risk, who amongst Black women include

– The indigenous women who are 3 and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other group

– people with disabilities who are 7 times more likely to be sexually abused

– the 84% of transwomen who will be sexually assaulted this year.

Sexual violence faced by Black women reveals a disappointing and damaging truth about the society we live in. There are staggering amounts of racial stereotypes and destructive representations of Black women that create an environment where violence against them is naturalised and overlooked, something that civil rights activist and Black feminist critic Kimberle Crenshaw Williams has extensively talked about in her work with the legal system. Having been on the legal team for Anita Hill’s 1991 case against Clarence Thomas, Crenshaw has pointedly written on Burke’s work and inadvertently on ‘Me Too’ when writing of the “unique vulnerability” of Black women that continues to be ignored, and the struggle many Black women face in being

trapped between an antiracist movement that foregrounded black men, and a feminism that could not fully address how race shaped society’s perception of black victims”.

The #MeToo movement that exploded on Twitter however, featuring as part of everyday conversation on sexual assault within the media, doesn’t seem to encompass any of this. The ‘Me Too’ movement was founded by a Black woman boldly stating ‘I’ve experienced sexual violence too’; a response to decades of Black sexual assault survivors being structurally ignored and silenced, despite Black women being targeted at disproportionately higher rates. Yet the names most popularly associated with Me Too in recent media have been those of Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Taylor Swift, Megyn Kelly, and of course Alyssa Milano. White women have come to dictate the discourse surrounding the movement, with the very founder Tarana Burke being relocated to the inner pages of the ‘Silence Breakers’ issue – for apparently the front page was taken up by too much star power to leave room for the founding (Black) mother. The article that accompanied this cover, ironically highlighted the entirety of the problem that it inceptively perpetuated, stating that

“When a movie star says #MeToo, it becomes easier to believe the cook who’s been quietly enduring for years.”

Is this claim stating that highlighting white actresses’ stories and their stories alone is going to change the reality for the sexually abused cook? Or the maid? Or the single mother? All of these women who, by implicating their social rank, are therefore most likely politically, economically and socially disadvantaged women of colour? Unless the white movie stars are platforming women of colour voices, experiences and injustices, I struggle to see how they are making it easier for women from lower socio-economic backgrounds to receive protection or justice.

The movement itself arguably failed to consider even Black movie stars, for Lupita Nyong’o’s self-written testimony published in the New York Times (yet failed to be vehemently picked up by other news outlets?) was almost all but ignored, with Salma Hayek stating that Weinstein publicly rebutted their allegations because “[Women of Colour] are the easiest to get discredited”. Even more damagingly, when Aurora Perrineau’s rape allegations against Girls writer Murray Miller surfaced (in the form of her leaked police report), self-proclaimed feminist Lena Dunham publicly lied in a counter- statement aimed to discount Perrineau’s testimony. Dunham later came clean in a public apology. Using her industry name and privilege, the Me Too movement saw a white female actress lie to discredit the rape testimony of a lesser-known actress of colour; a situation so far removed from Tarana Burke’s original intentions for ‘Me Too’ that the ‘movement’ is almost unrecognisable, calling into question whether the two can or should remain synonymous at all.

Whereas Burke and other Black feminist activists’ intentions are to dismantle the structures of white privilege that benefit from the subjugation of women of colour, the co-opted ‘Me Too’ movement and the press surrounding it has done nothing but re-package those structures under the catch-all title of ‘exposing’ sexual misconduct. But against who?

Since the start of the transatlantic slave trade, Black women have been systematically abused and assaulted by men of all races – with these perpetrators going largely and historically unpunished. The law has long been racially prejudiced against Black women, and this can be seen as soon as one starts looking into their rape cases (a sad truth that one must go looking, for consumerist news media have decided they are not headline-worthy). One case recently unearthed by Black historians, activists and writers is that of Recy Taylor. In 1944 Alabama, 24 year-old Recy Taylor was walking home from Church when she was abducted and gang-raped at gunpoint by six white men. Following the horrific incident, she took her case to court, where it was tried by an all-white, all-male jury, who dismissed the charges after all but five minutes of deliberation. The physical evidence and multiple witnesses were not enough to permeate through the multiply sexist, racist walls of the jury box; a sad truth that continues to shape the climate of silencing around Black women’s experiences today.

Russel Simmons, with 18 accusations of rape, sexual assault and sexual misconduct from mostly Black women, has not been held accountable by either the legal system or the media. And only now, after 25 years of sexual abuse and paedophilia charges against him, after the release of documentary series Surviving R. Kelly was there an, albeit too brief, moment of media outcry against the R. Kelly, that at present seems to have died down just as quickly as it started. As of March 2021, Kelly is in jail still awaiting trial.

With these cases in mind, as well as the thousands of non-celebrity crimes of sexual abuse against Black women, it is clear that the #MeToo movement has been propagated by white feminism, and by the neoliberal emphasis on individual voices rather than collective communities, and so continues to fail Black women. Journalist, poet and activist Asha Bandele summed up anxieties that have been building by Black civil rights activists, saying

Afropunk: “I have my concerns about the ownership of that movement publicly being in the hands of white women. I don’t know that white women have ever led a movement that secured people outside of their own.”

Bandele is referencing some of the feminist movements of the early 70s and 80s in the US, which saw a predominantly white brand of feminism supposedly calling for the liberation of all ‘women’, but not advocating for the rights of Black women at a pivotal time in US history when Black women were at the intersection of two movements (the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist movement) but saw the intersecting gender and racial oppressions unique to them largely ignored by both. Unless more pressure is placed on media outlets and white activists to do justice to the most marginalised groups, the groups whose voices have been historically stifled, then a ‘movement’ such as Me Too, rather than highlighting real structural problems and pushing for change, will stagnate into a ‘moment’, passing and not progressing, and inevitably leading to the repetition of the same cycle of violent silencing for generations to come.

Solidarity Opinions

Why you are probably biphobic.

I have known that I am bisexual since I was 13. The first time I admitted it I was on MSN (yes, I am that old) when a friend from summer camp messaged me. He asked what my sexual orientation was, and when I said ‘Bi’ he replied: “me too!!”. Ever since then I have negotiated the visibility of my sexuality in different moments and spaces. As too queer for heterosexuals, and too straight for queers, I have come to occupy a space of frequent silence and invisibility.

Biphobia is expressed in society in multiple ways. Structurally, the idea of bisexuality interrupts binary gender dichotomies by finding attraction to two or more genders. Here, bisexuals become a societal liability as society cannot rely on us accepting compulsory heterosexuality or institutions such as the nuclear family. But it can also not dismiss us completely as we might exist in a male-female monogamous partnership at some point. The liability of bisexual temporal navigation of straight and queer spaces is threatening to the foundations of society because we are ‘unreliable’. This unreliability is why the need for us to ‘pick a gender’ is instrumental to methods of biphobia.

When existing in straight spaces, bisexuality is hypersexualised and delegitimised. The hypersexualisation of bisexuals is evident from assumptions of promiscuity and non-monogamy being essential to the bisexual identity. For example, I am frequently asked to have threesomes by straight couples on dating apps, exes have said it’s ‘hot’ that I am bisexual, and when I joined an LGBTQ group at my university, a friend said “Is your boyfriend okay with that? I would be uncomfortable if my girlfriend joined that kind of group – She would have so many options”. All three of these examples point to assumptions of my binary-free sexuality being an indicator of a high libido and a lack of boundaries. The sexualisation of bisexuality is also closely connected to its delegitimisation. Take for instance straight girls kissing for fun on nights out. Here, not only are bisexual actions erased under a label of ‘fun’, but, intentionally or not, girls kissing on a night out often becomes a spectacle of deviance to get off from. Straight people get to appropriate my Bi identity by labelling it ‘fun’ or ‘experimenting’, without recognising it as queer.

Interestingly, despite being a queer identity, bisexuals aren’t free from biphobia in queer spaces either. When a bisexual person has a relationship which is ‘straight-passing’, we are said to receive certain privileges that other sexualities do not, which assumes that the gender of partnerships is an indicator of sexuality. Subsequently, whilst we can experience less scrutiny from heterosexism because we appear straight, we are still denied our real identities as Bi and thus aren’t free from the oppression of heterosexism. Additionally, because of the sexualisation and appropriation of bisexuality in straight spaces, many queers choose not to date bisexuals because they think we might be ‘experimenting’, that we are more likely to cheat because we “have more options”, or that long-term, we will prefer ‘straight-passing’ relationships and thus, aren’t really that queer. Finally, as if the aforementioned wasn’t enough, bisexuals are repeatedly represented as either saying we are bisexual as a stepping stone to admit that we are lesbian/gay, or as straight people wanting to be ‘special’.

This lack of belonging in both straight and queer spaces leaves bisexuals alienated and in occupation of a queered queer position. For me, one moment comes to mind when I think about how I am situated in this position. I was sat at a pub with my closest friends and we were discussing my dating life – I had just started ‘talking’ to a guy. When I mentioned this, a friend said “I just really want you to be with a girl!”. In this moment, not only did I feel like ‘talking’ to a guy had made me less queer, but my lack of experience with women was used to point out that I have not engaged with queerness enough. I was reminded that I am queer, not straight, and simultaneously told to be more queer just because I was ‘talking’ to a man.

Whilst there is a growing number of Bi-allies, there is often little to no support for bisexuals. Did you know that compared to heterosexual women, bisexual women are 5 times more likely to experience abuse by a partner? That 61% of bisexual women and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical assault or stalking? Or that 48% of bisexual women who have been raped were raped between the ages of 11-17?. I could go on. Despite the violence against Bi folk, we have few places to turn to find help.

I cannot give you a perfect solution to how to stop the violence against Bi folk, but if you want to help you can stop taking our space and stop denying us space. Consider what I have said and really contemplate how you have been and are currently contributing to the violence against bisexuals. In order to change the society in which we live, we have to reflect on how we are contributing to harm, and we must recognise that we do not live outside a sphere of violence. In particular, the queer community must reconsider their treatment of their bisexual members and remember that none of us are safe until we ALL are, and straight folk need to contemplate the occurance and existence of real queerness in straight spaces.

Solidarity Opinions

Who constitutes ‘women’? The whitewashing of Gender Equality

‘I was the only woman in the room, now that’s changed’ – reads the title of a recent BBC article, a direct quote from Kelly Becker, President at Schneider Electric (UK & Ireland). Whilst the improvement over the past 5 – 10 years in gender representation in board rooms has certainly been a welcome and timely change, I refrain from using the term ‘women’. Why? Because this is not an improvement that has been seen or enjoyed by all women. As the rather tone deaf (or perhaps blind, in this case) graphic used by the BBC, and provided by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, quite ironically shows – there has been an increase in the representation and promotion of *white* women in the workforce, with women of colour being left at the wayside of ‘D&I’ efforts. For most women of colour in corporate spaces and Senior leadership positions, the BBC headline would have read ‘I am the only women of colour in the room’, full stop.

No alt text provided for this image

Source 1 – When this is the graphic that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy provide to show how the representation of women has ‘visibly improved’ we must take the graphic literally, and question how it managed to pass so many different eyes within the government and not be flagged for its racial homogenization.

There are many problems here, but one of the first is the BBC article’s generous use of the word ‘women’ without even considering what kind of women they are speaking about, and who they erase in the process. When a person of colour appears in the media, their ethnicity or the colour of their skin is always foregrounded. In D&I rhetoric, the number of ‘BAME’ people in an organization is always foregrounded, rather than the disproportionate number of white employees. Yet when we speak about white people, or women in this case, their ethnicity is an unmarked, unspoken norm. The BBC writes “this reflects a broader shift, with women now making up more than a third of top jobs at the UK’s 350 largest firms”, but their failure to cite that it is only white women making up that 30% speaks to the larger erasure of race/ethnicity from equality efforts.

This is not a new phenomenon. During the suffrage movement in the US, Sojourner Truth was one of many Black women abolitionists fighting for the rights of enslaved Black women. Whilst white women fought for equal rights, what they really meant was rights that make white women equal to white men. Truth famously stated,

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”

– 1851 speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio

Fast forward more than 80 years, as second-wave feminists demanded equal opportunity and equal pay between the 1960s and 1980s, Black women still did not have access to equal and fair civil rights. African Americans were still facing segregation, violence, and were still unable to fully exercise their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1870. Groups like The Combahee River Collective, for example, and pockets of the Civil Rights movement, were established by Black women to fight for their rights and civil liberties as they were excluded from the wider ‘women’s’ movement for equality. What we are seeing now is the same form of exclusion re-packaged – but in 2021, in our hyper-digitalised world that gives us access to this kind of information on-demand, shouldn’t we be doing better?

No matter how many people claim we live in a post-racist society, racism and segregation still exist – as is seen through the exclusive culture of the vanilla boy’s club. But these problems also permeate HR departments and corporate leadership. We have heard a lot of dialogue about affinity bias, which often falls into unconscious bias in the plethora of available ‘training’ programs currently circulating like wildfire. Yet what happens when the white men displaying affinity bias are told they need to be more inclusive? Often, they hire white women. And what happens when those white men in recruiting and leadership positions are replaced with white women? Often, those white women will also exercise affinity bias and hire alike – and the cycle continues.

Soon, the Vanilla boys club will become a Vanilla people’s club, and ‘D&I’ efforts will, rightly, be scrutinised for their lack of comprehensive understanding of inequalities. Unless an intersectional approach to gender, race/ethnicity, ability, sexuality, and socio-economic status is adopted, the BBC and other corporations will continue celebrating ‘diversity’ and ‘gender parity’ without truly understanding what it means. That is, until we have another audit in 5 years, or when another act of violence is recorded, and people decide to care again.  

By Tzeitel Degiovanni

Tzeitel is a co-founder of The Solidarity Collective and an LSE Gender Alumni. Originally from Malta, she specialises in the way cultural stereotypes manifest themselves within organisations, the media and politics. Tzeitel currently works in diversity and inclusion advocacy for the UK workforce.

Solidarity Opinions

Who are ‘we’? The perils of the pronoun in diversity and inclusion rhetoric

By Molly Hugh, D&I Specialist

Over the last decade, diversity and inclusion have emerged as hot talking points within the public, private and third sectors. Reassured by the profit-oriented ‘business case’ for diversity with its promises of social capital and public admiration, many companies have set about staging an elaborate pantomime of hiring high profile diversity leads to cosmetically transform their images. CEOs take to the public floor with company-wide pledges of inclusion: ‘We are an inclusive organisation’; ‘We have an inclusive culture here at [insert company]’. But who are ‘we’? Who does ‘we’ set out to speak for? Would these individuals agree with statements made in their name?

‘We’ cannot possibly account for everyone’s experiences.

Ordinary pronouns such as ‘we’, which punctuate diversity and inclusion rhetoric with ready abandon, have long been viewed as counterproductive. Feminist, poet and scholar Adrienne Rich cautioned of the political contradictions they perpetuate in her seminal 1984 essay, Notes toward a politics of location. Rich explains that every individual is subject to a unique tangle of oppressions and privileges which determine where they do, and do not, feel welcome. ‘We’ cannot possibly account for everyone’s experiences.

Generalising statements which hinge on this pronoun contribute to company optics which conceal the lack of cultural change beneath. While diversity can be achieved through a rejigging of headcounts, the feeling of inclusion can’t be recruited. In the insightful words of Vernā Myers, ‘Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance’. Perhaps belonging is not needing to be asked.

Many of these hastily recruited individuals find themselves stepping back in time on entering the office. Toxicity, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia continue to thrive unchecked behind the closed doors of many diversity-championing businesses.

Adrienne Rich’s criticism of the use of ‘we’ was triggered by the universal claims of many late twentieth century feminist movements. Within the UK and the US, this second wave of feminism had brought with it pernicious debris. The demands of mainstream movements fought for a version of womanhood which in reality only represented a handful of white, middle-class, straight, cis and Christian women [1]. Had this been specified, perhaps the collateral damage could have been contained. Instead, this privileged intersection of the gender was portrayed as a universal experience, shrouding those already at the margins with an even heavier cloak of invisibility.

Privilege, as an unearned advantage, can make those that possess it blind to the situations of those less fortunate.

Reacting to such allusions, Rich wills her white readers to acknowledge the blinkers symptomatic of growing up in a white body. Privilege, as an unearned advantage, can make those that possess it blind to the situations of those less fortunate. Only through continuous reading, listening and thinking can this self-advantageous veil begin to lift. Claims to a shared experience are fantastical and misleading, yet convincing when articulated by a voice loud enough to drown out all others.

Statements beginning with ‘We’ made by those at the top of the privilege chain blur the presence of the individual in favour of a homogenous mass which is represented as living and breathing as one. Although masquerading as inclusive, they leave behind many of those to whom they refer and channel the perspectives of the few, not the many.

Moving forwards, carrying out a comparison of the desired company culture versus how employees actually feel can begin the process of transforming inclusion from a PR statement into a reality. If companies want to be able to shout their inclusivity from the rooftops, they should first cultivate this sentiment on a daily basis within the office. Employees should be given continuous opportunities to comment on workplace culture and to suggest ways of improving it. If some voices are less heard, managers should tactfully seek out confidential and trusting relationships which lead to honest conversations.

Only when a CEO’s declaration of ‘We are an inclusive organisation’ is a quotation of what they have heard from their employees could they ethically occupy the role of inclusivity spokesperson. Rather than putting words into employees’ mouths, these individuals should be encouraged to speak for themselves. 

Molly is a Diversity, Inclusion, Culture and Ethics consultant at Green Park Ltd. She holds an MSc in Gender Studies from LSE and a BA in Language & Culture from UCL, where she was awarded a place on the Dean’s List for her dissertation on violence against women in Latin America. Originally from Leeds, Molly grew up in southern Spain and has since lived in Argentina, Chile and Barcelona.

[1] For further detail on this point see: María C. Lugones and Elizabeth V. Spelman, ‘Have We Got a Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for ‘the Woman’s Voice’, Women’s Studies Int. Forum, 6.6, pp. 573-581 

Solidarity Opinions

SWIPING LEFT ON SEXISM: Misogyny in Online Dating

After three and half years of being in a relationship, online dating was something I was anxious to venture into, and something I had avoided for 7 weeks post-break-up. Apart from watching my friends swiping left and right, and the few months I had tinder as a 19-year-old, it was an element of being a single Gen Z woman that I knew little about. However, when the national lockdown struck in early January and boredom crept in, I decided to take the plunge and make a Tinder account. After all, having had all the standard post-break-up experiences taken away from me, it might be a bit of fun. My expectations were very low, so surely I couldn’t be disappointed, and if all else failed I could just delete the app and pretend it never happened.

Firstly, it’s important to mention that throughout this period of online dating, I have spoken to a lot of men, an unknown and large number of complete strangers. The majority have been pleasant, funny, entertaining or at least harmless – if not slightly boring. Meaningless conversations filled with crappy small talk and awful chat up lines aim to rid boredom and kill time. So, when I started talking to two men in more depth I was grateful to speak about something of substance. However, when the subject turned to discussing women, I was shocked by their opinions.

The first conversation arose when discussing ‘types’, a tricky subject which can cause awkwardness at the best of times, let alone online.  When asked what my ‘type’ is I went down the route of personality traits –‘funny, open-minded, ambitious’. I then asked him in return and he said ‘feminine’, ‘ladylike’ and that a woman he would want to date should be ‘clean and tidy’. This language made me feel uncomfortable and screamed undertones of a bygone era, or at least one that I thought was bygone. Despite this I gave him the benefit of the doubt as I wanted to know what he meant by this gendered language. He explained ‘I don’t like women who swear or wear trainers or dress like a man’ and when I questioned whether being ‘clean and tidy’ was a matter of liking general hygiene, he said ‘no it’s not girly to be untidy’. This, and his own donning of white beat-up trainers in his profile picture confirmed to me that this was not a matter of not liking a shoe or a swear word, but rather not expecting those behaviours from women. It reminded me of traditional gender tropes that ‘women should be seen and not heard’ and ‘women should know their place’, reinforcing an outdated and ridiculous expectation that women should be submissive rather than expressive, in appearance and language. To me, expletives are some of the most expressive words in the English language?

Perhaps this is unsurprising though, as it was only a few months ago that Cardi B’s song ‘WAP’ sparked uproar and controversy on social media due to its sexually explicit language. The song, which celebrates female sexual pleasure, was branded as, ‘vulgar’, ‘disgusting and vile’, a product of what happens ‘when children are raised without God’ and something that was ‘unfortunate and disappointing on a personal and moral level’.[1] Shockingly, people even questioned Cardi B’s abilities as a mother. When I compare this to the lack of debate that has ensued as a result of male rappers using similar language for decades, it makes little sense…I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about a male rappers parenting capabilities as a result of their lyrics? Nor have I heard of anyone labelling a man as ‘vulgar’ or ‘disappointing on a personal and moral level’ for rapping about sex? It seems so normalised? Possibly, this is because there are strong expectations within society, of what a mother should be and how she should behave. She has a responsibility to maintain actions and behaviours that are grounded in femininity and modesty, whereas fatherhood does not seem to dictate a person’s entire identity in the same way.

Needless to say, I felt particularly unsettled when I found myself staring at the messages I had received from this boy on tinder, who I hardly knew. He wrote about his ideal woman with such audacity and glaring double standards, it was actually laughable. This was a 25 year old, not a 75 year old, comfortably sharing his outdated sexist expectations of how women should act and dress with a woman who he has not only never met, but is also trying to impress. Least to say I was not impressed.

In another conversation with a man I had been speaking to for a couple of weeks, we had turned to the infamous topic of exes and why previous relationships had ended. He explained that he and his ex had broken up due to arguments caused by her being a ‘hardcore feminist’. Once again alarm bells rang, but I wanted to know more. I enquired into what exactly he meant by this term, but he continued on a rant about how she wasn’t good at agreeing to disagree, and that she needed to make more effort to accept opinions that differed from hers. Still not answering the question, I asked him directly, “are you a feminist?”. He said “no not at all haha after almost 3 years with her it put me off the entire thing”. The laughter and relaxed tone of his message would make you believe I had asked if he liked pizza or football, not equality.

Feminism has provided me with every opportunity I have in my life, be it: education, work, a political voice, etc. For someone to dismiss it and reduce the movement to a ‘thing’, not only trivialises it but also massively reeks of male privilege. Interestingly, in a 2014 study, it was found that 25% of men would label themselves a ‘feminist’ despite 74% of men claiming to support equality – the very definition of feminism.[2] It may be the stigma and misconceptions around the meaning of the word feminism, or the perception of feminists as miserable killjoys, who always want to talk about ‘boring’ things that ‘only affect women’, that prevents men from using it to identify their beliefs. Regardless we should not place all the onus on women to educate and fight for their own equality, with men feeling like it is something they have to be enticed into. What’s more, our culture has made men feel confident enough to express outdated and misogynistic views so openly with us, without fear of backlash. When they’re saying this to my face (or at least, to my screen), it makes me wonder what they’re saying or thinking when we’re not there to defend ourselves, and each other.

The irony of using the most modern method of dating to spout opinions straight out of the 1960s almost made me laugh. With little energy to argue like I had done previously, which had resulted in me being told that I was ‘manly’ and ‘clearly not much fun’, I gave up trying. One thing is for certain though – I would love to meet his ex, as I’m sure we’d have a lot to say on the subject.

Maybe this is reflective of the opinions young men today have of women, or maybe it is just reflective of a small subgroup clinging onto a fictional and misogynistic idea of gender. Regardless, next time I’m bored, I’m going to read a book.


[1] The Guardian, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP should be celebrated, not scolded (2021) <> [accessed 13/02/2021].

[2] Onepoll, Why are people reluctant to identify as a feminist? (2021) [accessed 27/01/21]

Author: Lucy Baines

Lucy holds a BA in Education, Culture and Childhood studies from the University of Sheffield and is going to study an MSc in Speech and Language therapy later this year. She currently works at a tennis club and has been on furlough for the majority of the last year and her experiences of online dating during the pandemic have inspired her to write. Her other hobbies include art and making clothes.

Solidarity Opinions

Ban Drill? Why the problem is deeper than rap

By Harry Needham

Debate has raged amongst those in positions of power in Britain about whether or not we should limit the release of drill music as it incites and ‘glamourises’ gang violence. [1] The London Metropolitan Police Service argued that there has been a surge in violence that can be attributed to this music and that this music is the root of the issue. In reality, this is far from the truth. As examples of crime statistics in London, specifically knife crime, show us -there is little to no correlation in the rise of drill music and gang violence in London. When you break down the specific instances that have had connections drawn between violence and music, as you always should, the cause of the problems become obvious. The truth is that the roots of the violence go far beyond drill music, and it’s time we start unpacking that.

             In terms of recent statistics on crime, across the UK, there were 44,771 offences involving knives or sharp instruments between September 2018 and September 2019 a rise of 7% from the year previous.[2] In 2019 there was also 90 fatal stabbings in London, 23 of which were teenagers between the ages of 13-19.[3] Although this denotes that knife crime is on the rise in the UK as a whole the issues run deeper than the dismissive ‘violence-inciting’ drill music argument could ever account for. As shown by Appendix 1, Inner London has the highest percentage of individuals in low-income households in all of Great Britain.[4] We can assume that poverty and poor standards of living is a more likely cause of why so many young people in the capital are turning to illegal activity to get money that they otherwise do not have access to. Crime and gang politics that emanate as a result of economic inequality and marginalisation is what leads to violence and, consequently, the rise in knife crime. However, certain talented young people from London and other areas are finding a way to legitimately monetise this lifestyle, these politics and the lives they live.

Drill music is a fairly new development, but the concept and the debate are far from modern. In the mid 2000s there was a similar dispute emerging about the violence in Grime music and how it also was at fault for the issues in London. Drill has evolved in a similar way, from similar parts of the UK. Sonically, however, Drill is very different to Grime music and this is where the key distinguishing features lie between these two genres. Drill and Grime are just terms used to describe the instrumentals these artists rap on, yet the media and politicians have built and attached connotations of violence to these words. In reality, an artist could choose to say whatever they like over a drill beat and it would still be a drill song. However, given the locational roots of the sound and the genre, the content was always going to be heavily built around and inspired by lived experiences, just like Grime music. Just because these politicians don’t like the experiences that the artists recount it does not mean these experiences don’t occur or did not occur before drill music. There is also an argument to be explored that by scapegoating urban inner-city music it allows politicians to distract from failures of their government.  

What people in positions of influence are disregarding about drill music is the positive impact that it has had. For a majority of the people that are growing up in these urbanised areas, where austerity politics and a racialised socio-economic system has left them socially and economically marginalised, this music offers a release. But more than that, it actually serves as a way out. As the clout of the genre develops and stabilises, the artists are offered a way to make money legitimately. Given that the tracks in which these artists rap about violence and gang culture are the most popular, how can anyone fault them for merely exploiting and monetising it for other people’s sonic enjoyment? [5] This music is a vessel for these artists to claim back the power and forge a way out of a system that is not designed to suit them. The war waged on drill also seems to be naïve to the wider audience of drill music. Blame for inner city problems, predominantly violence, is placed on drill but what about the white urban areas where this music is also incredibly popular? An assumption that drill is the cause of inner-city violence conveniently ignores that there is no correlation between the popularity of drill music in middle class areas and subsequent violence. Thus, those in positions of power need to start looking into and understanding the benefits that urban music can have for the urban population and how this music is doing far more for these people than years of prejudice and austerity.




[3] & Appendix 2

[4] See Appendix 1



Appendix 1:

Appendix 2:

About Harry Needham
Harry is completing an MA in Contemporary History at the University of Birmingham and holds a Bachelors in Ancient History with History at Swansea University. Predominantly, his research looks at understanding the relationship between Race, Racism and Power whilst also focusing on the impact of popular culture. His undergraduate thesis analysed the relationship between folk music and youth activism in the 1960s and this relationship in the wider context is a vein of study he is continuing to follow.
Solidarity Opinions

LOST IN TRANS-LATION: Harmful (Mis)Representations and Perceptions of the Trans* Community due to ‘Transface’

‘It’s an interesting question, a kind of thought experiment, to go back and think what I would feel today as an out trans* person, if I had never seen any representation of myself in the media. On the one hand, I might not have ever internalised that sense of being monstrous, of having fears around disclosure, of seeing myself as something abhorrent and as a punchline and as a joke. I might be able to go on a date with a man without having the image of men vomiting. On the flip side, would I even know I’m trans*? If I had never seen any kind’ve depiction of transness and gender variance on screen.’

Jen Richards

I was speaking to a friend today, about our first experiences with transness (as cis-women). She told me that when she was at school, her Physics teacher had transitioned from male to female, and although my friend was never taught anything about the trans* community or trans* history at this school, all students were advised that it might take them some time to adjust to said Physics teacher after her transition. Apparently, they were even offered counselling in case people were confused or upset by it. Upon hearing this, I was the one who felt confused, and disgusted, and it got me thinking…

Imagine how it would feel, if teachers were to warn students that they might need counselling as a result of your existence? How would I feel, for example, if someone else labelled my cisgendered body as so abnormal in comparison to everyone else, that it might trigger a psychologically damaging reaction? I quickly realised, however, that I could never imagine this, because it would never happen. My cis-women’s body is entirely normalised within society and is not perceived as something which poses a threat to anyone. I also thought about how I would react if I was a child at this school, and if it had been my teacher that had transitioned and preferred to identify as female now rather than male. I thought, although it might have felt a little awkward and might have taken a little getting used to, referring to my teacher as ‘her’ now, instead of ‘him’, wouldn’t have affected me at all…and it certainly would not have caused me to need counselling. This idea was placed there by someone else, this person stigmatised by other adults, and these kids taught in that moment that transness was strange. Did anyone stop and think – what does it do to trans* individuals to tell them that their very existence warrants counselling for cis-people?

‘Privilege is not in and of itself bad; what matters is what we do with privilege’.

Bell Hooks

When I think about my first experience with transness, it was the news that Bruce Jenner had transitioned to become Caitlyn in 2015 (when I was 18 years old). Even then, I don’t think I really knew what this meant. I had never learnt about gender non-conformity or trans* studies at school and I hadn’t met anyone who identified as anything other than cis-gender. I didn’t recognise it at the time, but I resided in a position of extreme privilege. I occupied a space where I had never been exposed to transness…it didn’t affect me, so I didn’t know about it.

These examples of initial trans* exposure speak to the harmful representations of transness as abnormal, shameful and taboo. They also exemplify how little trans* existence is actually acknowledged until it is experienced in everyday life. It seems that trans* identity is only spoken about when it needs to be, when cis-people are forced to be confronted with it. But we need to ask – why? Why isn’t it spoken about or deemed as something worth knowing/learning, and what does it mean when people in positions of extreme privilege and power get to choose whose bodies satisfy normality and whose cause confusion?

‘Being trans is seen as a stigma — you should be ashamed of being trans, you should be ashamed of being queer, you should be ashamed of loving a person of the same gender. You should be ashamed of contracting HIV/AIDS and living with that. We’re told constantly to just be quiet, to go live in the dark, to be secretive about who we are. And if we step forward, we’ll only be punished.’

Janet Mock

One of the reasons why cis people seem so sceptical about transness and generally misunderstand trans* existence is due to the problematic ways it has been continuously represented, and often misrepresented, on screen. A major issue within trans* representation is ‘transface’ – when cis-actors are cast to play trans* characters in films and TV shows. You’re probably familiar with Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of ‘Lili Elbe’ in The Danish Girl, for example, or Jared Leto as ‘Rayon’ in Dallas Buyers Club. ‘Transface’ has been a prevalent practice within Hollywood and the media for decades now, and seems, only recently, to be actually acknowledged as problematic.

‘Transface’ is extremely damaging to the trans* community for a number of reasons. Firstly, it strips trans* actors of the opportunities to portray trans* life and to be the authors of their own stories. The consistent use of ‘transface’ has meant that there has been an absence of trans* actors in the media, which has led to the lack of trans* visibility in the media and the erasure of transness altogether. As well as this, when trans* individuals are not at the centre of trans* storytelling, it leads to inaccurate and messy representations, which, more often than not, lack nuance and complexity and often creates offensive stereotypes. Unlike cis actors, trans* actors have the ability to depict transness in a way that is authentic to their lived experiences, and struggles, and – believe it or not – triumphs. It takes a trans* actor to be able to implement this in their portrayal in a way that does them justice. As Jen Richards claims, ‘if I am playing a trans* character, I don’t have to play the transness of it’. And if cis people take on trans* roles as a way to challenge themselves as actors, then why is this opportunity not given to trans* people? Why have trans* people historically been excluded from any consideration of playing cis roles?

‘It lends itself to this idea that we are just comedy, we are just some kind of freaks, that we are just playing dress-up in order to make other people laugh.’

       Tiq Milan

The trans* community are disproportionately abused, violated and murdered every year, with more than one in four trans people having faced a bias-driven assault[1]. When cis-men play trans* women and when cis-women play trans* men in roles, it perpetuates the idea that trans* people are just men and women in dress-up, and you can take the clothes and the costume off at any time and the game is up. But trans* people can’t take their transness off, because it isn’t a costume or play. It is real life, and they are the ones who face the real-life consequences when, at the end of the day, they come face-to-face with hatred in the street, at a bar, or at a bus stop.

In the US, the ‘Trans-Panic Defense’ is a space in the law which allows people to be ‘partially or completely excused from crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction’. When allowances for hatred, abuse, violence and murder are literally written into the law against trans* individuals simply because they are trans*, then surely it seems vital that we get the representation of transness right? When people watch TV shows and films where cis-actors are playing trans* roles and there is a clumsy representation, it reinforces the idea that a trans* woman is just a man in dress-up. This makes it more likely that when people or violent men are confronted with a trans* woman in real-life, the reaction will be a mocking, abusive one… rather than one of neutrality and understanding.

Jen Richards, a trans* actress and activist, suggests that ‘part of the reason that [cisgender] men end up killing trans* women…is [because] their friends, the men whose judgement they are fearing, only know trans* women from media, and the people who are playing trans* women are the [cis] men that they know’. She maintains that, ‘this doesn’t happen when trans* women play trans* women…because it deflates this idea that [trans* women] are somehow men in disguise’.

Nick Adams, the director of transgender media and representation for GLAAD, suggests, ‘for decades Hollywood has taught audiences how to react to trans* people, and sometimes they are being taught to react to us in fear, [and] that we are dangerous, that we are psychopaths, that we are serial killers, that we must be deviants or perverse, why else would you wear a dress if you’re a man?’. Laverne Cox has also said that ‘for a very long time, the ways in which trans* people have been presented to us on screen has suggested that we are not real, have suggested that we are mentally ill, that we don’t exist…yet here I am, yet here we are, and we’ve always been here’. According to a survey carried out by GLAAD, ‘80% of Americans do not actually personally know someone who is transgender, so most of the information that Americans get about who transgender people are, what [trans*] lives are about, comes from the media’. I believe that this fundamentally proves that there is a strong correlation between the representations of trans* people that we are shown through the media, and the subsequent treatment of trans* people on the ground.

‘Seeing trans people loved, uplifted and well regarded in film and television can endear you to step in when you see a trans* person being harassed on the street, and to make sure the trans people in your life are supported in ways that affirm their humanity. But when all you see reinforced is violence, we are put further in harms way.’

Laverne Cox

We must identify the media, now perhaps more than ever before, as a vital tool of communication with a monumental amount of influence, and the ability to educate people on transness and the intricacies of trans* life. When the media talks about transgender issues – it is imperative they get it right. A positive change in the ways trans* people are represented across all forms of media would directly impact the treatment of trans* people and their bodies on the ground. It is vital if we are ever to relieve the plight of trans* individuals living in a society that has been constructed to exclude and punish them. In order to be good allies to the trans* community, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and invest our support by watching films and TV shows like Pose, where trans* actors are at the forefront of telling their own stories, and question cis actors who take on trans* roles. If we all think back to our initial experiences with transness, to those often flawed points of reference we hold, and challenge them – we are taking little steps to reduce stigma. Those little steps eventually amount to a lot, and hopefully will build greater allyship for a community bursting with life, love, and stories to tell.

‘How many years has it taken people to realize that we are all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take people to see that? We’re all in this rat race together!’

Marsha P. Johnson


  • Disclosure
  • Paris is Burning
  • Pose
  • The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson


  • Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, dir. by Sam Feder.
  • ‘When a heterosexual man is charged with murdering a transgender woman with whom he has been sexually intimate, one defense strategy is to assert what has been called the trans panic defense. The defendant claiming this defense will say that the discovery that the victim was biologically male provoked him into a heat of passion causing him to lose self-control. If the jury finds that the defendant was actually and reasonably provoked, it can acquit him of murder and find him guilty of the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter. The trans panic defense strategy is troubling because it appeals to stereotypes about transgender individuals as sexually deviant and abnormal’. Referenced in, Cynthia Lee and Peter Kwan, ‘The Trans Panic Defense: Masculinity, Heteronormativity, and the Murder of Transgender Women’, Hastings Law Journal, 66.77, (2014), 77-132 (p. 77).

[1] National Centre for Transgender Equality, Anti-Violence (2020) <; [accessed 6 August 2020].

Solidarity Opinions

Feminism & Hating Men.

“Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex”

Valerie Solanas in SCUM Manifesto (1967:37)

I believe nearly all feminists, no matter what kind, have been called man-haters at some point. The depiction of feminism and feminists as anti-man is familiar, old, and of course completely inaccurate. I can remember how, as a girl, I was terrified of the label ‘feminism’ because of this depiction of feminists. No matter how much I believed that I was just as good as the boys (if not better), I could never say that I was a feminist. Because if I said I was a feminist I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I would be seen as irrational and emotional, which is laughable as women are assumed to be just that regardless of their political labels.

You can find this idea of feminism as ‘anti-man’ throughout history, but recently feminist popular culture has ‘reclaimed’ the stereotype in a satirical way. Mugs with ‘Male Tears’ slogans, T-shirts with ‘Boy Bye’, or #KillAllMen hashtags. The list goes on. I spent months researching this feminist claim to hating men this summer, and I have to admit that I do not blame anyone for expressing themselves this way. Not only is it a funny outlet sometimes, but it also points out how ridiculous it is to paint feminism as man-hating when it advocates for equality, not revenge. In fact, I think it often perfectly highlights the injustice that is misogyny.

The idea that hating men would in any way be similar to hating women is ridiculous, and those who use the feminist man-hating joke as a serious statement have either missed the point we are making entirely or are consciously using it against us. For example, the fancy word for man-hating: ‘misandry’, was first found online in the ‘manosphere’, i.e. the Men’s Rights Movement and similar groups’ online spaces. It was used to create a counterpart to misogyny and legitimise the concerns of the Men’s Rights Movement and subsequently, plant ideas of structural misandry often aiming to undermine the claims of feminist movements.

I believe that it is well known that misogyny is far greater and far more deadly than man-hating. For instance, this is particularly obvious with examples such as the countering of #KillAllMen with #RapeAllWomen. The counter-hashtag clearly shows that the anti-feminists know that something like rape is so widespread and so harmful that the threat of rape can silence feminists. It indicates that one element of misogyny is believed to be able to stop feminists. It indicates that they are aware that misogyny kills whilst man-hating does not. 

However, this is the point where I come to explain the problems with us using man-hating by considering the idea of intersectionality i.e. how different forms of oppression can intersect and create a particular experience of oppression. For example, Black lesbians have a different experience of misogyny than that of white women because of the intersectional experience of oppression through stratifications such as sexism, heterosexism, and racism. Even though feminism has a history of working against generalisations and appreciating the diversity of experience, when we say that we hate men, even as a joke, who are we including in ‘men’? Are we including men who experience racism, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, or classism? If we are, we ought to ask ourselves if ignoring structures of oppression that aren’t gender will help achieve equality at all. If we aren’t, perhaps we recognise that just like how we experience complex oppression, men do too. So the question is whether if we showing recognition of complex oppression affecting men? If we are, I think we ought to consider if we want to add to the violence they experience daily by buying into man-hating.

One tangible example of how satirical man-hating can be problematised through intersectional analysis is this TikTok clip. In the clip, a woman is showing how she has decorated her living room. Before entering the room the viewer can see a crunched over white man in a cage. Following this visual, the clip changes to a white English speaking man saying: “Finally the time is upon us. Men in cages. I thought it wouldn’t be in my lifetime. 2021! I tell ya”, whilst wiping away tears of joy. Now, I am sure the intention behind this clip is provocative humour, but the development of the joke, as well as the narrative by the man, highlights the privilege required to make man-hating jokes. Imagine for a moment that the man in the cage was Black. If this were the case, surely we would react with instant distaste due to the history of enslavement of Black bodies. If this were the case, placing a Black man in a cage would reproduce violence and contribute to narratives of Black bodies as less than human. If this were the case, we wouldn’t be wiping away tears of joy.

Overall, the question of privilege and man-hating is a complex one as identity and experience work together in infinite and intricate ways. Sometimes man-hating is satirical and a means of resisting a gendered society who favours men and masculinity. In no way do I intend to police how people navigate resistance within the capitalist, sexist, heterosexist, racist, ableist, xenophobic, nationalist, ageist, and imperialist society we find ourselves in. However, as with the case with the man in the cage, by considering intersectional implications of our resistance we can limit our contributions to the violence we are often blind to. By considering the man in the cage, I want to emphasise that intersectionality ought to be at the forefront of feminism, and we must include men in feminist analysis.

Here, I am not saying that those of us who say that we hate men intend to contribute to hatred, and I am not saying that you aren’t entitled to be angry with men (I know I am frequently). However, I want us to pay attention to the harm we may be causing. Because no matter how many times I explain myself, saying “I hate men” risks contributing to the same hatred which depicts Black men as animals or working-class men as uncivilised. Understanding how oppression works intersectionally, I don’t want to do work which harms those who understand the pains of oppression. Simultaneously, recognising my privileges as a white European middle-class woman, I do not want to tell feminists how to be good feminists.

Reflecting on the history of the representation of feminism as man-hating, I think that history is best understood as part of the present as it has shaped our reality and made it what it is now. We must understand and recognise that we are not separate from the past, but are rather in conversation with it. Therefore, considering the future, I want to believe that as feminists, we take steps towards equality with intersectionality our ethics at the forefront of our minds. Ignoring the harms of misogyny has created, and ignoring how our man-hating satire is used against us and allies will only hinder us from growing. By learning from our history, our present, and our values, we can create a future where we stand above the methods of harm. A future where we refuse to operate within the same parameters as misogynists. A future which is considerate and thoughtful and not in need of anti-man satire. 

Let’s move beyond satirical man-hating and towards unapologetic but thoughtful feminism as we can only win the fight for equality by doing better than those we are fighting.

Solidarity Opinions

Dating the Boy who bullied me: Growing up with body hair

When I was 12, my childhood crush was, in my opinion, the 12-year-old version of Zac Efron, albeit with a little (lot) more baby fat. I fancied myself quite the Gabriella, and for two years I watched him like all the other blonde girls in the class, waiting till he’d look at me. In Year 8, my teacher finally put us next to each other in History, much to my elation. I made funny jokes, helped him with things he didn’t know and soon a little bond formed. Yet this joy was not unadulterated, for whenever those weeks came where my school jumper wasn’t washed, or was creased, or was IN THE WASH, I panicked. Usually, whenever I pointed over to something in his textbook, I would pull my jumper sleeve as far down as it would go over my arms and hands, which naturally have dark black hairs on them. The weeks after I waxed weren’t a problem, getting out my smooth, hairless arms wherever I could. But the weeks where the timing didn’t match up… when my jumper wasn’t there, when my hairs had grown back. Those where the weeks I dreaded. I would sit in that hour-long History slot sweating, hoping and praying he wouldn’t see the thing that, in his eyes, would make me gross, unattractive… that would literally de-gender me. One week where I couldn’t fathom him catching a glimpse of my arm hair, I took my epilator, sat on my bedroom floor, clenched my teeth and turned the machine towards my arms, ripping out the long, fine hairs follicle by follicle, and feeling like I was going to pass out in the process.

The boy ended up liking me back, and we ‘dated’ for three BBM heart-filled months. When things ended, however, he became my bully. Him and his friends set their sights on the easiest insecurity and attacked. Chants like ‘cold and hairy’ to the tune of ‘Black and Yellow’ became custom, launched at me whenever I entered and left the classroom. ‘You’re so hairy’, ‘why are you so hairy?’, ‘you look like a gorilla’… it went on for a long time. ‘Boys will be boys’ I was told, and the comments received from the white head of year when I reported the bullying is a story in itself about the perils of growing up as a girl of colour in a school run by white people.

Fast forward to 18, and suddenly I became ‘exotic’, ‘beautiful’, ‘spicy’. I was dark and different, but in a palatable way. In the way that becomes sexualised and exoticized when it comes with a pair of breasts. My eyebrows were threaded, my hair was straightened, and though I told myself I’d stopped caring so much what people thought of my body hair, I still wouldn’t wear a skirt on those ‘bad’ days. My Year 8 crush, who had since been shipped off to boarding school, as well as some of those friends, ironically started to like me themselves. Despite the torment and the verbal abuse, I still liked him. Which speaks to the root of this piece. Why? I still wanted him to want me. When we started dating again at 18, when he told me he loved me and lost his virginity to me, I was caught in this awful space -between a sadistic validation and a resentment that I still needed it.

What does it do to a woman when she engages in relationships with those who have racially rejected her? With those who have othered her body, only to go on to colonise it? And what is at stake when talking about empowerment politics and body positivity when for your entire life those you are attracted to have been telling you that your body is gross and unfeminine, and yet when it is bleached and waxed, it is unreservedly desirable? At 23, I ask myself why just living in my natural body, without plucking and pruning and bleeding, is such an act of protest? Is seen as so radical and a gesture of great defiance and one I must explain and justify – rather than a happy acceptance of my body, just the way it is.

One day when we were packing up his things for university, I found his old leavers shirt. Funnily enough, amongst the bullying and name-calling, I hadn’t signed it. But whilst looking for my non-existent message, I found another one. It read “remember the hairy jokes”. A dull ache. He immediately cut it out of the shirt, but as I stood watching him snipping away with shame in his eyes, I wondered whether I should remember them too?

10 years later, I still do. They remind me that whether I like it or not, my body is a politic and my body hair is a battleground for so much more than I gave it credit for. And I am actually really proud of that.