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Palatable Feminism Doesn’t Owe You Accountability

At the start of December 2020, social media influencer, writer and artist Florence Given came under fire for seeming to have replicated the work and message of Chidera Eggerue (whose online moniker is The Slumflower). The initial accusation came from Eggerue herself, who posted a series of Instagram stories talking through what she perceived to be similarities in their books (Given’s Women Don’t Owe You Pretty and Eggerue’s What a Time to Be Alone and How to Get Over a Boy). These included the cover style, some of the snappy phrases Given utilises (most notably “Dump Him”), and the self-illustrated, ‘coffee-table’ vibe of the book. Eggerue called for accountability from Given, and some redistribution of profits both to her and the other Black women Given credited in the afterword of her book, stating “Black women’s ideas generate wealth for white people. But that wealth doesn’t go to our community.” Radio silence followed from Given’s usually very active Instagram, until a few days later when she posted a statement via her Instagram, attempting to explain her side of the story. She pointed out that Eggerue had “ethusiastically” endorsed Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, and that it would have been impossible for her to read How to Get Over a Boy before handing in her manuscript for her own book. She cited her own previous work and drawing style, as well as her long-term interest in feminist thinking and the ways in which it has inspired her art. She also said she had donated a chunk of her advance to Black Minds Matter, a UK charity aiming to provide Black people with free care from Black therapists. Black Minds Matter has refused an offer of a further donation. Continue reading Palatable Feminism Doesn’t Owe You Accountability

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Reading Corner: Daddy by Emma Cline

I’ve found that there is a curse amongst English students. We have chosen to study an activity one usually conducts for pleasure and as a result, too often the joy of reading is drained from us. Just as I am falling into a novel which has sat patiently on my to read pile, I spot The Odyssey or Othello glaring at me, and the guilt of neglecting the reading list for my module pulls the book from my grasp. Continue reading Reading Corner: Daddy by Emma Cline

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Harry Potter and the Author Who Won’t Stop Tweeting

During lockdown, a time already fraught with fear, anxiety, and literal and emotional isolation (particularly for members of the LGBTQ+ community who may have found themselves locked down with families who don’t accept their identity), J.K. Rowling wrote an essay about her notorious anti-trans views. In the article, published on her own blog (but summed up much better on other sites, so you do not have to give her page clicks that she presumably profits from), Rowling explains her defence of tax specialist Maya Forstater, a woman who’d claimed that a distinguished non-binary CEO was “a white man who likes to dress in women’s clothes”, and later lost a tribunal debating whether the philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected by the law. She then went on to similarly defend her support of Scottish activist Magdalen Burns, who had compared being transgender to being in blackface. In the rest of the essay she uses tired, offensive arguments to defend what Andrew J. Carter called her ‘half-truths and transphobic dogwhistles’. These statements included pointing out the risk trans activists apparently pose to children who may be questioning their identity (‘I have deep concerns about the effect the trans rights movement is having on education and safeguarding’), the risk trans women apparently pose to cisgender women, (‘When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman, then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside’), and the erasure of free speech that apparently occurs when laws are enshrined to protect trans people. Continue reading Harry Potter and the Author Who Won’t Stop Tweeting

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Boobs and Books: How Women Often get Told They Can Only Have One or the Other

When Emily Ratajkowski’s interview with French Marie Claire in 2018 went viral this year, I don’t expect many women were all that surprised by its contents. The writer Thomas Chatterton Williams was shocked to learn that the now 29-year-old model and actress was writing a series of essays about the modelling industry and commodification, because apparently you can’t have boobs AND brains in the twenty-first century. Ratajkowski is sadly not the only victim of the sexist trope, that conventionally attractive women are not intelligent, and any signs of intelligence are merely a ploy to seem even more attractive to men. Time and time again, famously beautiful women are mocked for having an interest in politics, literature or anything other than material items. But this issue doesn’t end with just the famous ladies out there, it trickles down even more potently to all levels of society. Continue reading Boobs and Books: How Women Often get Told They Can Only Have One or the Other

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Review: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down may be one of his less well-known novels, but for me it is his best. It combines all of the essential qualities of Hornby’s work: the dark comedy of About A Boy, the subtle humour of How To Be Good, and the characteristic literary style seen in his first novel, High Fidelity. I was left thinking about this book a long time after I had finished the last page, so much so that it even inspired one of my undergraduate creative writing pieces (but maybe don’t tell that to my tutors). Continue reading Review: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

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Reading Corner: Winter Recommendations

With autumn coming to a close and the winter holidays in the not-so-distant future, we all need some good reads to occupy our time with.   From cosy classics to horror novels, here are some of the books that will be keeping me entertained this season.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens  A classic which fully embodies the essence of Christmas – introspective and heart-warming, this book is a must-read for the holidays. I highly suggest lighting some candles, making yourself a hot beverage, … Continue reading Reading Corner: Winter Recommendations

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Review: A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins

A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins is undoubtedly one of the most topical, funny and damning works of non-fiction that you will ever read. The book narrates, in diary form, the time that Atkins, Oxbridge graduate and award- winning filmmaker, spent in Wandsworth prison, after being convicted of tax fraud in 2016. Continue reading Review: A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins

Culture Comforts: Jeff Wayne’s Musical Adaptation of War of the Worlds

“No-one would’ve believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space” – so begins Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds. Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds is a progressive rock concept album, telling the story of The War of the Worlds (late Victorian novel by H.G. Wells, the first ever … Continue reading Culture Comforts: Jeff Wayne’s Musical Adaptation of War of the Worlds

Adapting Queer Romance: Maurice

Maurice is one of my all-time favourite novels. E. M. Forster’s tale of emotional and sexual awakening was written in 1913-1914 but published posthumously in 1971. In Edwardian England, an explicitly queer narrative with a happy ending was out of the question. To please mainstream audiences, queer (or queer-coded) relationships in 20th century literature and film were conventionally doomed from the start, often with one … Continue reading Adapting Queer Romance: Maurice

How to Capture an Individual in Words: The Benefits and Limitations of Life-Writing

Life-writing, that is biographies and autobiographies, are not a recent phenomenon. However, now more than ever these works of literature dominate the bestsellers list with the writing of Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and more selling millions of copies. But what makes these books so appealing to a modern audience? Is it the mere explosion of ‘celebrity’ admiration or is there something more complex than this at hand? Continue reading How to Capture an Individual in Words: The Benefits and Limitations of Life-Writing