representation

‘The L Word’ is coming back!

The show that gave me hours of joy and the confidence to come out has announced its return and I couldn’t be happier.

It was an ordinary day in October of 2016 when I walked into the living room and told two of my flatmates – I had come to the realisation, and finally had the confidence to say that I was bisexual. Even writing these words I feel myself breathing out. It feels as though I’ve been wearing the wrong size jeans all my life causing me to pull and tug trying to make them fit, but now I’ve added an extra button and everything has fallen into place.

As the weeks went on, I slowly came out to my family and close friends. The more I said the words, the more the jeans started to fit. Of course I had done a lot of thinking and tracing back through my life. I realised that this had always been a part of my me, but I had never been able to admit it to myself. I hadn’t had the words to describe my feelings, I couldn’t put two and two together. As I talked to friends and they asked all their questions, I kept coming back to early 2014.

s1Lquiz480I was living in Bethnal Green with my sister and friends, all of whom had just graduated from University themselves, as I was still completing an access course in order to get there. I was drowning in essays and projects, and my room became my study. The only way to get through it was to escape into TV & Film after a long day of work. I had also just discovered the joys of Netflix and the copious amount of entertainment it had to offer. One night I was trying to choose something to watch when I came across an American TV series called The L Word. The series followed the lives and loves of a group of women; all of whom were gay or bisexual in LA. I should have known that night, having chosen out of hundreds of options to watch such a specific show. A few episodes in I knew something had changed, or to be more precise, something had been found. I couldn’t stop watching this funny, warm, honest and human show.

These women weren’t stereotypes, they were people. As is my want, I started to investigate and discovered just how groundbreaking this show had been when it first aired in 2004 (and continued to be in its six series run). So rarely on American television does a project centred around women, with an entirely female main cast, creatives, and crew get commissioned. The L Word storylines echoed my own, at exactly the right time, and when I needed it the most. I was investigating and asking questions and the women of the L Word gave me the answers.

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As with all ensemble shows, you pick a favourite character, and as is true for many The L Word viewers, mine was Shane played by the wonderful Katherine Moennig. At the start of the first series, Shane is introduced as the Lothario of the group; a woman who other women are drawn to, if only for one night. As the series goes on she becomes so much more, and evolves into a three dimensional beloved character. I related to her because she was the youngest cast member, like me in her early twenties, and unlike the other women, had no intentions to settle down.

She is a character who is comfortable in her own skin, never compromises herself for others, and a woman who always goes by the beat of her own drum. If truth be told, it was love at first sight and a love which grew with every series. From one night stands to almost saying ‘I do’, Shane’s storylines were never boring but funny, moving and at times heart-breaking. I was overjoyed when she appeared on the screen and missed her when she wasn’t.

As the series went on I felt as if the women of The L Word had become friends whom I was checking in on with every episode. I came to love them all in their own way, but Shane would always be different. Here was a woman who I fell for as soon as she came on screen, the first woman I had been attracted to, and someone I could imagine myself with. Of course I know that falling for a character and a real human being are two very things, and that we project so much onto actors who portray much-loved characters, but this had never stopped me falling for male actors.

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In July it was announced that The L Word would be coming back, which caused both celebration and outrage in the LGBTQ+ community. Commentators have been looking back at the series and wondering what this new series will bring, how it will speak to a new generation of lesbian and bisexual women, and most importantly how it will fit into the cultural and political landscape of 2017. For all the good that The L Word did, like all cultural phenomenas, it had it’s problems. I hope in it’s new incarnation we see more WOC within the main cast, rather than one a series (with the exception of Kit), and I hope they give the trans community a character who doesn’t just struggle but thrives.

I for one am beyond excited by the idea of more The L Word coming my way. When I heard the news on a Tuesday morning, having only just recovered from London pride, I was in the middle of my own The L Word re-watch and was preparing myself for the end. Logging onto Twitter I saw the excitement from fans and cast alike, and couldn’t believe I would once again be ‘loving, living, laughing’ with Shane, Bette and Alice and a whole new host of women I could fall in love with. I immediately messaged my old flatmate who shared in my newfound excitement in finding The L Word in 2014, just as she had in previous years. We were both excited to have Shane back in our lives and even talked of having a The L Word screening party when the release day arrives.

 

Words by Lara Scott
Images by Showtime                            

 

 

                                            

 

 

 

 

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The Absence of LGBTQ+ Sex Education

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At the start of 2017, our government blocked compulsory LGBTQ+ sex and relationship education. On reading about this decision, and being asked to write on sex education for Anthem, I realised how lacking my own sex education was in the mid-noughties. It is a crying shame that my friends and I were so ill informed back then, let alone as teenagers are now in 2017.

We were taught about biology, not pleasure, and definitely not consent. It was very male centric, with the attitude that ‘boys will be boys’. Girls were taught to allow boys to experience these new feelings and to be kind to them if they get an unwelcome erection in your presence. Female masturbation, however, was an afterthought; described to us using a video of a woman on an exercise bike (which made exercise bikes very confusing for a time). 

Being taught sex education in a Catholic school meant that the word ‘contraception’ was mentioned once in reference to the use of a condom, but no instructions on how to use one. Again sex was seen as a means to an end, that end being babies. We were not taught about consent, what it is to be in a healthy relationship, porn, sexting, mental and physical abuse, and I never once heard the word clitoris.  

I was taught that sex was all about the sperm fertilising the egg, and a woman’s main role was as a mother. This left no room for discovery or intimacy, certainly not if you identified as anything other than heterosexual. We were taught sex education with the same attitude that my great grandmother had about LGBTQ people. When my grandma informed her that there were lesbians in the WRENS (Women of the Royal Naval Service), her mother replied: ‘”Don’t be silly, women don’t do that”. She didn’t even think it was possible. When I had my sex education, sex seemed a far off thing as the boys at my school either annoyed me or scared me. At this point, an attraction to women didn’t seem to be an option. It was not until I was twenty, and watching The L Word that this part of life would make sense to me. Coming out as bisexual in 2016 put a lot of things into perspective, especially how society views sex, and how culture comments on it. I was looking for representations of myself and found them to be few and far between.

When I had my sex education, sex seemed a far off thing as the boys at my school either annoyed me or scared me. At this point, an attraction to women didn’t seem to be an option. It was not until I was twenty, and watching The L Word that this part of life would make sense to me. Coming out as bisexual in 2016 put a lot of things into perspective, especially how society views sex, and how culture comments on it. I was looking for representations of myself and found them to be few and far between.

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On researching the reasons behind this absence in sex education, the common train of thought behind not teaching LGBTQ inclusive sex ed was the worry behind promoting the lifestyle. This thought process is wrong on many levels, the worst being that like all prejudices, it puts one person’s life above another; it teaches that heterosexuality is the norm. I mean, when was the last time someone came out as straight? I have read many articles and watched many videos on heteronormativity, and can see that this is where the absence stems from. From the government right down to schools and parents, people assume people’s sexual orientation, therefore assuming LGBTQ+ are in the minority. This leads to exclusion, and people feeling devalued. I have never understood why when teaching teenagers about sex and education, you wouldn’t teach them about every colour of the rainbow, no pun intended; it is of invaluable importance to their education. If I was an MP, a teacher, or a parent I would want thought-out, informative, joyful lessons on the subject that required more than just an hour before lunch. I would want young adults to learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships, pleasurable sex, safe sex, attraction, affirmation of the LGBTQ+ community, dating, online dating, and the myth of virginity.

I have never understood why when teaching teenagers about sex and education, you wouldn’t teach them about every colour of the rainbow, no pun intended; it is of invaluable importance to their education. If I was an MP, a teacher, or a parent I would want thought-out, informative, joyful lessons on the subject that required more than just an hour before lunch. I would want young adults to learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships, pleasurable sex, safe sex, attraction, affirmation of the LGBTQ+ community, dating, online dating, and the myth of virginity.

As a graduate of English and drama, I would also discuss how our culture views sex; the difference between a sex scene and sex, the difference between pornography and sex. I would teach people where to find LGBTQ+ representation, where to find feminist representation, and what it means to be a feminist, especially when it comes to sex. When it comes to sex we don’t give teenagers (especially teenage girls) the credit they deserve. Your teenage years can be the hardest as a period of constant pressure, questions and uncertainties about all that life can offer. The least adults can do is give them some certainty, and show them that they understand. School is meant to be a place where we learn about the world, about ourselves, and what we can become. I came out at the age of 24 – a whole decade after I learnt about how a sperm fertilises an egg. I had ten years to read all the sexy books and watch all the sexy films, and I had The L Word to confirm my bisexuality. I still think of the joy I missed out on, the stupid things I could have avoided, the days spent questioning and not acting. I think of that anxious lonely girl or boy who doesn’t have the strength to wait ten years. What if one person telling them their feelings are valid, or hearing that ‘love is love’ gives them the permission to start finding joy?

School is meant to be a place where we learn about the world, about ourselves, and what we can become. I came out at the age of 24 – a whole decade after I learnt about how a sperm fertilises an egg. I had ten years to read all the sexy books and watch all the sexy films, and I had The L Word to confirm my bisexuality. I still think of the joy I missed out on, the stupid things I could have avoided, the days spent questioning and not acting. I think of that anxious lonely girl or boy who doesn’t have the strength to wait ten years. What if one person telling them their feelings are valid, or hearing that ‘love is love’ gives them the permission to start finding joy?

 

Words by Lara Scott
Image courtesy of Showtime
Part of the September Sex Education Week, 2017.

Wonder Woman: The Marketing, The Film & The Future

Wonder Woman came out in the UK on the 1st June, and although it’s still showing a few cinemas nationwide (if you missed out, don’t forget to check out independent cinemas who show films later), it’s generally on it’s way out until we see it next on DVD. Thankfully, a lot of people saw it making it a whopping £173m in its opening weekend, meaning Patty Jenkins now holds the record for the biggest US opening by a female director. 

I have a lot I’ve wanted to say about multiple aspects of the film, including a review itself, as well as how much I struggled with some of the marketing, and ultimately what it all means for the future. So make haste, there’s so much to discuss.

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I should also mention that this article is one part bad news, two parts good, and I’m going to start with the bad things. The way this film was pushed toward a female audience in its partnerships and targeted posts absolutely reeks of a room mostly full of men, all trying to work out how to market superheroes to women. YES I GET IT, SHE IS A WOMAN. You do not need to market her as a woman to me, a woman. You also do not need to market this superhero film any differently to how you market superhero films with men in. Women already watch superhero films, and go to the cinema just as much as men. Just get on with marketing a Wonder Woman film that we have all been waiting for, and show loads of kick-ass scenes and cool scenic shots from her homeland and we’re good to go.

Before I go off on a fully fledged rant, here’s a bit of an idea about the kind of marketing they did for this film. Take it in, and think about it. 

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Wonder Woman is one of the most bad-ass female characters ever, but gals let’s get together and have a girly night and go on a spa day!!! Let’s go see that mega babe, what a stunner that Diana. Please, stop trying to market her to women like we are an alien species.

Superhero films are all marketed pretty much the same way every time, unless they’re female superheroes. I love Wonder Woman as a character, and I always have. I also love pink, and am a bit girly, and being a human being I am capable of being and liking both. The point isn’t that you can’t be both, it’s that in the marketing campaigns for this film (including a free lipstick with your lady’s razor!), it was suggested that despite Diana being a superhero trying to save the planet, we still somehow see women as one thing. It’s very generic, and that’s a tad insulting, really.

Wonder Woman is Amazonian, and I’m pretty sure they don’t shave their legs or plan spa trips to Santorini (because they’re too busy shooting arrows at Nazis while they fly through the air).

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The two good parts begin now, and they will try their hardest to be brief.

The film was excellent. The Amazonian women were so damn cool, and so was Diana. I recently read an article praising the fact that when Diana jumps and runs and lands, her thighs jiggle. It’s very simple things that women have wanted in film for ever, and we’re finally getting them, and it’s finally happening, and I can’t help but think after all this time, was it really so hard?

Wonder Woman is a great film that genuinely has a superhero lead; it isn’t just a soppy romance, or an action-less female superhero flick. I felt so great watching it, I honestly was so happy at all the female characters whooping ass, at one point I nearly cried. 

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Most importantly with anything of this nature, is its consequences, or rather what it means for the future. The female director of a female-led superhero film holds a box office record, and fought off some major summer blockbusters like The Mummy simultaneously. This, plus the thigh-jiggling suggests more positive things in the future for women in films, and improvement in genres like action, horror and so on.

The only negative thing looking forward (the only big negative thing) is still the way we believe that women don’t watch superhero films, or scifi, or horror (despite the fact that sci-fi was invented by a woman), and as a result, the marketing and advertising done on films like this are still really crap. The next time they release a female-led action film or superhero film, I hope we can see similar publicity to male-led films in the same genres. 

Swings and roundabouts, am I right?

What did you think of Wonder Woman? Let us know, and feel free to tell Briony to stop ranting on here (I’m so sorry), and make sure you catch up with other great female led films coming out this year such as Raw, The Beguiled and Atomic Blonde.

 

Words by Briony Brake
Images by Warner Bros Pictures and Odeon Cinemas

Stop WINE-ing About Women Drinking

 I am fully and wholly aware that alcohol is bad for you. It’s bad for your physical and mental health. It is a drug.

But my god it’s fun, isn’t it? When you’ve had a few, and you dance your way back from the pub, eating some chips that taste like the best chips ever… and it is my god damn right to do that.

In the wake of New Years and Christmas festivities there have been a spate of ‘oh no binge drinking women how awful’ articles in the typically awful right-wing press. The narratives of these stories are often about how terrible it is for us young girls to go out in short skirts, or heels, and to get merry. They depict us as ‘messes’, as out of control, or loose.

If you’re decrying young women going out and acting disgracefully on nights out, you should probably stop putting photos of it in national newspapers.

I am sure that some of this notion of women going and getting drunk being a terrible thing stems from the fact that many of these women probably end up having one night stands, and that many people still have a problem with women being in charge of their own sexuality and sexual freedoms.

I wonder if there’s a rise in young women drinking because the pressure on us to be everything is so intense that we need something after a long day of the patriarchy to take the edge off.

Or if it’s because we are made to feel so constantly self-conscious and aware of our looks -as that is taught to be the only thing that defines us – that having a drink is sometimes the quickest way to feel good about ourselves.

In her article ‘Pictures Of Today’s Young Women That Make Me Weep’ (I’m not going to link you to it or even suggest that you look it up because any more hits on their website is exactly what The Mail wants, and I’m loathed to ever give them what they want, the absolute fucks), Sarah Vine writes “[e]ven more depressing, however, is the fact that these are not the usual suspects – thuggish male louts or football hooligans – we see brawling and barfing their way to destruction; but young women”.

OKAY. LET’S DELVE IN. Vine seems to be suggesting here that if it were ‘the usual suspsects’ that would somehow be okay, and that the fact that it’s not makes it worse. She even calls it ‘depressing’.  

I wonder why, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove, young women would feel the need to go out and get rat-arsed these days. No idea? Me neither, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove.

I’m not okaying binge drinking. It’s silly, and foolish, and is a strain on public services. People put themselves in dangerous positions and many die or are hurt. I’m just saying that being a woman doing it is not any worse than being a man doing it.

Also, being drunk is a right laugh. There is something intensely powerful about a group of girls on a night out. It is one of my favourite places to be. When you give up with glasses and swig from the bottle, and do each other’s eyeliner and cackle. When you hold back your mate’s hair as they’re sick in a bin. My two best friends from school and me would take it in turns to be the most drunk on a night out so no one was always the one doing the looking after. That’s not being a ‘mess’ that’s being considerate. Rae Earl put it best on Twitter when she said this:

Vine’s article also says this: “These girls have grown up in a post-feminist society that tells them anything a man can do, they can do better. And that includes getting monumentally, catastrophically bladdered.”

You know what?

Yeah. It does. Today’s young women can do whatever they bloody like. Have a drink mate. Mine’s a pint.

Words by Sian Brett (@sian_brett)
Tweet by Rae Earl (@RaeEarl)