What the Prince Andrew debacle teaches us about how powerful men view sexual abuse

What the Prince Andrew debacle teaches us about how powerful men view sexual abuse


As Prince Andrew retires from royal duties ‘for the foreseeable future’, Olivia Foster asks why did it take him so long to acknowledge Jeffrey Epstein’s victims?

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It’s a story that’s gripped the nation and reportedly forced the Queen to ‘sack’ her own son. First the catastrophic Newsnight interview in which Prince Andrew discussed his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and the accusations that he had once engaged in forced sex with a then 17-year-old Virginia Roberts – something which he denies.  While some had predicted it wouldn’t go well – Andrew’s own PR advisor quit just two weeks prior to taping – no one could have expected the car crash that followed.

Amid a storm of criticism, the Prince was forced to announce that he was stepping down from his royal duties indefinitely. In a statement released by Buckingham Palace he revealed his decision had come with the blessing of his mother, the Queen. This followed a week in which the stories regarding his conduct have not stopped rolling. We saw his claims that he never indulges in PDA torn apart by the release of pictures of him all over various women and we’ve seen major companies keen to distance themselves from him, with KPMG, Cisco and Standard Chartered all revealing that they will no longer be working with his Pitch@Palace initiative.

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Elsewhere on social media we saw joke-upon-joke about Prince Andrew’s claims that he can’t sweat and that he couldn’t have been with Virginia Roberts at Tramp nightclub on the night she alleged because he was actually at home after going to Pizza Express in Woking. But, as the memes begin to die down, we have to focus on one question. Why, after an hour-long interview, in which the Prince was given ample opportunity, did he only to choose to address Epstein’s victims four days later? And what does it say about the way powerful men view the severity of what the victims of sexual abuse experience?

Speaking with Marie Claire, Lizzy Dening, founder of Survivor Stories, a platform aimed at sharing stories from sexual abuse survivors in their own words, explained, ‘From a legal standpoint we can’t say how far involved he is in all of it but I think what was clear from the interview is that he is not a man who seems to put women first.’ Dening continues, ‘[The interview] was evidence of what happens when you have complete power and privilege from a young age which is that the whole world becomes about him and how events had affected him and his family and his career. It was shocking and yet at the same time not surprising, because we’ve seen this, it’s a common theme with the men who are quite rightly getting pulled up for Me Too. He had plenty of opportunities, it was a very long interview, it was prime time television, he could have used that platform to do some good for someone other than himself.’

Indeed, if we cast our eye back over the Me Too movement then it’s easy to reflect that the main people spearheading the conversation are women. The ones who have come forward and the ones who have supported them, we think of Tarana Burke, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow – it was meant to be a wake-up call for men but their voices of support have been distinctly lacking. But while Prince Andrew is a nuanced example – most men do not have his power or privilege – how CAN men support the movement in a positive manner? Lizzy explains that in the realms of every day discourse, those people whose mother’s aren’t the Queen, it’s about men learning to listen and women being open about how we feel they can help.

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‘The main thing we can do is in small ways, it’s a thousand small ways, it’s pulling up stereotypes around victim blaming, it is questioning in an open way when your friend says something inadvertently victim blamey – and we all do it – it is engrained in society and it’s just having a little bit of self-awareness goes a long way.’ She adds, ‘A lot of it is listening to people and questioning one’s own beliefs; is that right? Should I be saying that? Is there a trickle-down effect that language like that can have on someone who is in a vulnerable position?’

As for Prince Andrew whether this week will fundamentally change the way he operates is yet to be seen. Earlier this week Jane Doe 15 came forward to claim that Jeffrey Epstein had committed a, ‘vicious prolonged sexual assault on her,’ and called for Prince Andrew to voluntarily meet with the FBI. In his statement last night the Prince said he was, ‘willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations.’ Whether he will come good on this claim, only time will tell. Let’s hope so, for his sake and Epstein’s victims.

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The Royal Family’s five biggest PR disasters

The Royal Family’s five biggest PR disasters


Unfortunately Prince Andrew’s shockingly ill-judged interview isn’t the first time a royal has got it so very wrong…

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Words Michelle Davies 

Prince Andrew’s shockingly ill-judged interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis about his friendship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein isn’t the first time a member of the Royal family has misjudged the public mood and expected support and deference only to receive the opposite. Here are five other times they got it woefully wrong.

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Meghan and Harry’s South Africa confessional

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It’s impossible to downplay the enormous pressure the Duchess of Sussex has been under since marrying into the Royal family – the vitriol aimed at her from some quarters of the media has been horrendous, prompting her to take legal action. Yet PR experts were left scratching their heads when she and Harry chose the end of their well-received and much-praised tour of southern Africa last month to complain to ITV News At Ten’s Tom Bradby about how unhappy they both were. The ensuing headlines meant, sadly, their excellent work on the continent was forgotten and now they’re said to be exiling themselves in America for six weeks over Christmas to escape the backlash. 

The Queen’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death

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Few people, least of all The Queen, could’ve predicted how the nation would respond to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. It became a show of grief on an unprecedented level, with millions pouring into London every day after Diana’s fatal accident on 31 August 1997 to line the streets with flowers as a mark of respect. However, when Her Majesty declined to return to the capital from Balmoral, where she was holidaying with family members that included Princes Charles and his grieving sons William and Harry, a backlash quickly ensued, with newspaper headlines asking, ‘Has the House of Windsor Got a Heart?’ Eventually The Queen did return to address the nation (she said her priority had been the emotional wellbeing of her grandsons) and she did lower the flag at Buckingham Palace to mark Diana’s passing, which she’d also been criticised for not ordering, but the feeling remained that she was so out of step with her subjects she’d failed them.

 Diana and Charles’ He Said/She Said interviews

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As Prince Andrew is learning to his detriment, sitting down with an interviewer to ‘tell your side of the story’ rarely goes well for the Royals. That’s why The Queen has long adopted the ‘never complain, never explain’ mantra. But in 1994, Prince Charles decided to ignore Royal protocol to tell Jonathan Dimblebyin a TV chat that he had indeed been unfaithful during his marriage to Diana. If that didn’t cause enough of a furore, in November 1995 she retaliated by doing her own sit-down confessional with Martin Bashir on BBC One’s Panoramaabout the ins and outs of their miserable marriage, blaming his ongoing affair with his now wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, for it ‘being crowded’. One month later The Queen wrote to them both telling them to hurry up and divorce for everyone’s sake.

 It’s A Royal Knockout

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Poor Prince Edward. As the youngest Royal sibling he really did struggle to find his place in the world and after an ill-fated spell in the Marines got a job working as a production assistant at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful theatre company. In 1987 he decided to combine his career and his home life by staging a Royal version of It’s A Knockout with him, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson competing in teams that included the likes of Gary Lineker, John Travolta and Rodney from Only Fools and Horses. It did raise £1 million for charity but no one wanted to see our HRHs dressed up in medieval costumes alongside celebs dressed as vegetables and it was roundly criticised for being the most undignified Royal display ever seen.

The Royal Family documentary

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Amid growing accusations that the Monarchy was out of touch with post-war Britain during the Swinging Sixties, in 1968 The Queen agreed to allow cameras to film the family for a documentary to tie in with Prince Charles’s investiture. However, scenes of Prince Philip barbecuing at Balmoral and The Queen buying ice creams for their children (dispelling the myth she never carries money) fell flat with viewers, who didn’t like to see Royals ‘being normal’. Historians pinpoint the documentary’s airing in 1969 as the moment a lack of deference towards the Monarchy began to filter through society.

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It’s a crazy world out there – which may explain why we’re all astrology mad

It’s a crazy world out there – which may explain why we’re all astrology mad


Stargazing across the UK is booming so what’s really behind our need to finding a new relevance in the zodiac – even if many of us don’t reallly believe in it

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Words by Marisa Bate

Last summer, I was sipping fizz at a friend’s hen do. The evening played out much as you might expect: drinking games with willy straws and dancing in bare feet, heels discarded. But there was another part of the festivities that was less predictable: a palm reader. With a crown of flowers perched on her head, she sat at the end of the garden and studied our manicured hands, telling us in hushed tones if we’d have babies, live abroad, be successful or find love. Even the most cynical lined up.

Hiring a palm reader for a hen do firmly dated us in 2018 because it was at this time that the astrology and fortune telling revival had fully arrived. The year before, in 2017, trend forecasting agency WGSN, had declared “new spirituality is the new norm.” In the UK, 60,000 people identified as pagan and the Cut reported a 150% jump in the readership of horoscopes over the last two years.

Closer to home, and suddenly, as if receiving a joint memo I’d be left off, friends of mine started to see an Angel Card reader – a middle-aged woman who worked out of a hotel bar in London Bridge for £40 an hour. Along with her cards, she prescribed mantras, positive thinking and self-belief. ‘She made me feel like I had more control,’ says one friend. ‘I was feeling so overwhelmed at being single, I wasn’t really happy in my job. And she was helping me see a different way forward.’ Did you believe her? ‘Most of the time, yes. There were plenty of things she said that I still have no idea how she knew, like the types of relationships I had with ex-partners.’

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Its popularity was elsewhere too: a former colleague read the cards between her and her friends, and it was even used as an interview format at the online magazine we were working at. Some women I knew started going to moon parties. I never quite understood what actually went down but it was something to do with the moon, menstrual cycles and a space to tell the universe what you wanted. That summer, it felt like we’d all discovered a (2000 year old) magic potion that would make everything turn out okay. 

I’d grown up with Mystic Meg and when astrology returned, it wasn’t just back, it was cool. Adopted by the Insta-crowd, hipster witches, modern covens, astrology, fortune telling and an ambiguous spirituality had reappeared as a startling hip millennial, wearing Celine, talking about divine feminie energy, and offering comfort in a chaotic world. Subsequently, its rise, reported in everything from The New Yorker and the Atlantic, Man Repeller and The Guardian, has been put down to a soothing balm for the post-2008 generation who have been left with debt, fewer job options and a world ravaged by highly-flammable political turmoil. Furthermore, in our truth-rejecting, don’t-believe-what-you-read era, maybe we’re open to ‘alternative facts’, (a phrase, you might recall, used by Kellyanne Conway to defend Trump).  

After all, the perceived wisdom of yesterday has been proved wrong. We *can’t* work hard, save up and buy a house. That doesn’t work anymore, so what, exactly, will our future hold? This isn’t a new reaction. According to the New Yorker, the first newspaper astrology column was published in the Sunday Express in August 1930 after the Great Crash. Called ‘What the stars foretell for the New Princess’, referring to Princess Margaret, it was so popular that the paper made it a regular feature.

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Kim, who is 36 and lives in Kent, swears by astrology. Like her mum, she’s a capricorn, and when she was growing up she read all her mum’s books about capricorns and their behaviour traits. She’s carried this into adulthood: ‘I use this to be more aware of my own flaws and how to deal with them,’ she says. ‘It also helps me understand the behaviors of others.’ Arguably, astrology is the natural extension of our self-help, self-care, Goop-ified landscape. It’s another way to focus ourselves as the centre of the narrative, as the protaganist, in ever-more forensic detail, trying to understand ourselves and what works best for us. In our strange age of both individualism, but also the feeling of non-descript facelessness that comes with the never ending scrolling of dating apps, the fact the our story might be written in the stars or that we each have a unique pattern of behaviour aligning with the planets, puts us firmly in the centre of the universe, quite literally. 

It is also a big business: there’s apps, podcasts and now famous instagram accounts that attract hundreds of thousands of people like Astrotwins and Astro Poets. Soho House has their own astrologer. Head to the high street and find your star sign on rings, necklaces and T-shirts. There’s countless events online and offline. It’s cast a thousand memes, and increasingly, I see people on social media sharing conversations around mercury in retrograde or a bad message from popular astrology app, Pattern, like it’s the weather or a train timetable – a normal, relatable part of everyday life.

Maybe now it has gone beyond a fashion facing badge of honour to be shared on social media but a crutch for young people, a generation who are, not incidentally, experiencing unprecedented levels of mental health issues and anxiety. If they can’t figure out why they are feeling this way, maybe the stars can.

Once mocked, astrology has been adopted by younger (mostly) women, according to most recent UK poll, and viewed with a certain amount of respect, reliability, purpose and cool. Understanding your star sign, and what astrology has in store for you, is now not much different than appreciating the benefits of seasonal eating or mindfulness – an extra filter to understand the world through, no longer a fad, but like a Fitbit, part of your everyday, helping you navigate the world and be better. And to be honest, as long as the unsettling times remain, frankly we need all the comfort we can get.

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Stu Heritage: 'What I learned about being a man from my wife'

Stu Heritage: 'What I learned about being a man from my wife'


On International Men’s Day, author and Guardian columnist Stuart Heritage reflects on the lessons that marriage has taught him about what it truly means to be a man

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‘In truth, I’ve only just started to feel like a man. This is shameful given that I’m 35. When my dad was my age, he’d been married for 14 years, fathered three children and built my bedroom brick by brick himself. He was a real man, not like me with my soft hands and stupid job in journalism.

But things have changed. I have a wife and two kids now, and that sort of thing forces a boy to grow up. A lot of newfound manliness is embarrassingly rooted in gender stereotypes – there’s still lawn mowing and furniture assembly and a constant crushing sense of financial responsibility that keeps me awake at night – but, thankfully, much of it isn’t. Being a man means dealing with problems, and there’s no doubt my wife has helped me with that. I’ve always reacted to stuff in an annoyingly male way, by bottling it up and waiting for the inevitable stress-related aortic aneurysm to take me out. But by witnessing how my wife deals with similar issues – by confronting them head-on and talking them through – and seeing how much better off she is for doing it, I’ve started to copy her. And it works. It helps to be emotionally open. Who knew?

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A post shared by Stuart Heritage (@stuheritage) on Dec 31, 2018 at 11:41pm PST

I’ve become less selfish thanks to her, too. The old me – the dumb boy version – wanted to do everything by himself, refusing all help, even if it drove him into the ground. But you can’t do that in a marriage. There’s nowhere to hide, and there’s always a teetering pile of big priorities that can’t be ignored. The only way you can get through it is by sharing everything – the highs as well as the lows. You split the work and share the burden, and the knowledge that someone has your back helps you through it all. My wife makes me feel like part of a team. As someone who works at home alone all day, this is a new sensation. An okay one, too.

We live together. We run a household together. We do the same job, so we’re each other’s closest sounding boards. Hand on heart, in every aspect of my life, I can honestly call my wife my partner. And you know who else calls people partner? That’s right: cowboys. My wife has turned me into a cowboy. What could possibly be more manly than that?’

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Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Charly Cox on fighting for her mental health to be taken seriously

Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Charly Cox on fighting for her mental health to be taken seriously


Poet Charly Cox was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17. Here she reveals the impact of having her problems ignored for years and how poetry helped her find solace

Charly Cox

‘I struggled with anxiety and depression as a teenager and fought for so long to be taken seriously by doctors. At first I was dismissed as “hormonal”, and shrugged off with questions such as, ‘has your boyfriend broken up with you?’ After suffering debilitating panic attacks for years, I left school at the age of 16 and started working full-time as a digital producer.

I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 17. Like so many teenage girls who struggle with body image, I loathed mine and felt unworthy of taking up any space, so knowing there was something clinically wrong with me came as a relief but was also just awful. I already felt imperfect and now I felt as though my brain was broken too.

To help me get through that time I kept a diary. I went from writing about boys I fancied, to untangling all the mess in my head when I felt anxious or low. I didn’t feel creatively satisfied in my job, so in 2017 I decided to try and become a published poet. I started posting my poems on Instagram and connected with people who felt the same, eventually building up a following of 42.8k and being offered a book deal.

I wanted to give something to my younger and present self, as my first image of people with a mental illness was of those portrayed in the media as nuts or crazy. Women can still be flawed and desirable, and you can still live an interesting, intricate life whilst dealing with very real sadness. I deliberately haven’t re-written anything in my first book, She Must Be Mad, it would be a disservice to go back and say, ‘this line could’ve been a bit cleverer.’ That is how I felt, and it’s really important that others get to read it too. I guess through my poetry I’m sharing my experience of mental health from a place of strength.

It is bizarre that so many people know truly intimate parts of my life through reading my poetry. But I don’t find it scary or feel brave being so open – I just think it’s really important. We’re all good at saying we need to talk about mental health, but that isn’t the same as actually having the conversation.’

Charly’s latest book, Validate Me: A Life of Code-Dependency, is out now *

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Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Seyi Akiwowo on ending online abuse and being good digital citizens

Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Seyi Akiwowo on ending online abuse and being good digital citizens


The founder and executive director of Glitch, a not-for-profit organisation designed to stop online harassment, shares her own traumatic experiences of trolling and how we can make social media safer for all

Seyi Akiwowo

‘I write this as a campaigner for a safer internet for all and a survivor of horrendous online abuse in 2017, although as most survivors will tell you it never stops. If you’re a black woman or any beautiful embodiment ofintersecting forms of identities living your best life with enormous pride and expression – then you’re the perfect prey for racist, sexist trolls. What most survivors will also tell you is that they couldn’t have made it through their experience of online abuse – whether it was trolling, hacking, defamation, misogynoir,  gender-based slurs, ‘revenge porn’ or deadnaming – without the small kindness of strangers and their loved ones. When I went through my horrific experience it was online bystanders that encouraged me to fight back and to start Glitch. Reporting the abuse on the platform, sending encouraging messages and gifts, distracting me away from my phone, those small online bystander interventions were antibodies to the toxic abuse.

‘The Change Starts With Us’ is the theme for this 2019’s Anti-Bullying Week. With 66% of the UK population on social media and with four in ten people revealing they experienced online abuse last year it’s both an important and timely reminder, especially online. The internet, Instagram, Twitter and new players such as TikTok have become extensions of our offline public spaces; adopting all the beauty of human interactions, creativity and expression as well as all the ugly. However, unlike our offline space where we have the rule of law, social norms and where we know how to respond to emergencies, such as a woman being harassed on the tube, we have yet to go through this process properly online. With technological innovations encouraging more anonymity, harvesting data and content disappearing within 24 hours we’re in real danger of not understanding our responsibility with our digital footprint and actions.

Seyi Akiwowo

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 Online hate speech should be treated the same as if it was verbalised outside a shopping centre. We should treat others online the way we would like to be treated, when someone is in life-threatening danger, our instant reaction is usually to call 999, but we can’t do that in our online spaces. Facebook for example, has 2.38 billion monthly active users, yet it has no democratically elected governance structure and no emergency services.  And with so few under-resourced support services for victims of online abuse around the world, it is even more important for us to be that support for each other online.

 I am certainly by no means abdicating governments or billion-dollar private social media companies from their responsibilities to us. Alongside their interventions, I encourage everyone to demonstrate digital citizenship on their own platforms. Digital citizenship is all about our digital rights as well as our digital responsibilities – more so if you’ve cultivated a large platform. Just like offline, we cannot sit back and watch online bullying and trolling escalate on our timeline or in our very own comment section, all because of engagement, entertainment or falling for the myth that ‘it’s not real’.  First, there is no ‘real world’ versus the ‘online world’. The online world is very much real with consequences, from earning significant amount of money and sponsorship deals right through to censoring and increase death by suicide rates linked to social media. Amnesty International’s survey highlighted the psychological trauma of online abuse: 61% of those who said they’d experienced online abuse or harassment said they’d experienced lower self-esteem or loss of self-confidence as a result and 55% said they had experienced stress, anxiety or panic attacks after experiencing online abuse or harassment.

It is time to start a conversation on how we can be online active bystanders and be digital citizens we want to see more of. This includes, not using our platforms to sell dangerous myths or products to young girls, being critical thinkers and fact checking content before sharing, particularly during this year’s very intense general election, and reporting abuse to the social media platforms. The online space can only be a positive social good if we reflect on our own behaviours as digital citizens and set a zero tolerance to online abuse.’

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The Clemmie Hooper scandal – an insider tells all: ‘It’s easy to get addicted to trolling just like I was’

The Clemmie Hooper scandal – an insider tells all: ‘It’s easy to get addicted to trolling just like I was’


After witnessing the Mother of Daughters drama unfold, a mumfluencer reveals the murky underworld of mummy blogging and the toll it took on her mental health

Clemmie Hooper
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Words by Olivia Foster

When one of Instagram’s most powerful mumfluencers, Clemmie Hooper, aka @mother_of_daughters (with a still loyal fanbase of 661k), midwife, author and mother of four young girls – outed herself as having made a fake account on the forum Tattle.Life it soon became all anyone was talking about.

Hooper admitted she joined the site under the pseudonym Alice In Wanderlust to try and change people’s opinions after hearing about ‘thousands,’ of comments criticising her and her family and becoming, ‘extremely paranoid’. She claims it was only when users started to question her identity that she began criticising other influencers to prove she was ‘real.’ Hooper even targeted her husband Simon Hooper, aka @fathers_of_daughter, who boasts a following of a million.

One anonymous mumfluencer revealed to Marie Claire how she too had created fake social media accounts after receiving harsh criticism. ‘I can understand why Clemmie did it,’ she said. ‘Truthfully the only reason you do it is because you’re hurting and you feel it’s your only outlet. In my case I was angry at the world and it was an opportunity to vent. It gave me a misguided sense of still being in control.’ She also admits to being ‘addicted’ to the buzz she felt when people posted about her. ‘It’s like a drug. I was hooked and addicted to the gossip. The drama. The arguments. It’s a very easy rabbit hole to fall down.’

Eventually, this mumfluencer realised it was doing her more harm than good and deleted her fake accounts. ‘I had to dig deep to work on my mental health. Once I accepted that I didn’t need validation from followers and other mums I found my worth from within and from my true friends and family.’ She also realised that the time she’d spent fighting her trolls was fruitless. ‘These people don’t want their minds changed about you. After wasting hundreds of hours arguing I know that for a fact. If they say the sky is purple no matter how many days you spend proving them wrong, they won’t change their mind.’

Clemmie Hooper

Clemmie Hooper (Getty Images)

It’s undoubtedly a murky world to navigate with thousands of anonymous people weighing in on influencers’ lives and personalities. And this isn’t the first time Tattle.Life has hit the headlines, in September 2019 beauty expert and writer Sali Hughes posted an emotional video about the traumatic trolling she had endured on the site. A petition was launched to boycott Tattle. Life, which has since amassed over 25,000 signatures. But while many argue because influencers share their lives they should expect a certain level of public scrutiny on a forum such as Tattle.Life, when does this scrutiny stop being fair game and start becoming something more sinister? And what does it say about the state of social media and the paranoia trolling creates that Hooper felt so under threat that she became a troll.

Counselling psychologist Natalie Cawley explains that it’s not uncommon that those who are being trolled go on to become abusers themselves, ‘Abuse literature shows that many victims go on to be perpetrators – with figures showing that around 45-50% go on to abuse. [In this case] the victimisation felt at the hands of trolling may have created an externalising of rage which lead to the abuse of others.’

No one can know Hooper’s full thought process behind her actions, but Cawley says that mumfluencers can be highly vulnerable to trolling because their seemingly ‘perfect’ lives aggravate people’s insecurities. ‘Social media portrays an ideal image of a mother giving advice from organic meal preparation for children, to how to tone a pelvic floor to showcasing their spotless and desirable homes’ says Cawley. ‘This is highly pressurising and can create anxiety and frustration [for those viewing their posts], leading to people feeling angry at them.’

What happens now to Mother of Daughers and her lucrative mumfluencer career is yet to be seen. At the time of writing she’s not posted since November 3rd, and while there are calls for her to be let go from her part-time role as a midwife after it was revealed that some of her posts on Tattle.Life were racially aggravated, no official statement has been made. Apart form her apology on her Stories platform. It is, perhaps, a watershed moment for the mumfluencer community – revealing the undertones of pressure and privilege which fuel influencers to do what they do. But with sites like Tattle.Life still going strong – and a new thread about the scandal now some 260,000 messages long – the fallout from this drama looks likely to run and run.

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Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Charly Cox on fighting for her mental health to be taken seriously

Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Charly Cox on fighting for her mental health to be taken seriously


Poet Charly Cox, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17, says her problems were belittled and ignored for years and how poetry eventually saved her

‘I struggled with anxiety and depression as a teenager and fought for so long to be taken seriously by doctors. At first I was dismissed as “hormonal”, and shrugged off with questions such as, ‘has your boyfriend broken up with you?’ After suffering debilitating panic attacks for years, I made a half-hearted attempt to kill myself. While I was recovering at home, word got out at school and I was flooded with messages on an anonymous forum asking, ‘Why didn’t you die’ and ‘You should have tried harder’.  The ways in which people feel they can speak to you because they’re hidden behind a screen is frightening. I left school after that, at the age of 16 and started working full-time as a digital producer.

I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 17. Like so many teenage girls who struggle with body image, I loathed mine and felt unworthy of taking up any space, so knowing there was something clinically wrong with me was a relief but also devastating. I already felt imperfect and now I felt like my brain was broken too.

To help me get through that time I kept a diary. I went from writing about boys I fancied, to untangling all the mess in my head when I felt anxious or low. I didn’t feel creatively satisfied in my job, so in 2017 I decided to try and become a published poet. I started posting my poems on Instagram and connected with people who felt the same, eventually building up a following of 42.8k and being offered a book deal.

I wanted to give something to my younger and present self, as my first image of people with a mental illness was of those portrayed in the media as nuts or crazy. Women can still be flawed and desirable, and you can still live an interesting, intricate life whilst dealing with very real sadness. I deliberately haven’t re-written anything in my first book, She Must Be Mad, it would be a travesty to go back and say, ‘this line could’ve been a bit cleverer.’ That is how I felt, and it’s really important that others get to read it too. I guess through my poetry I’m sharing my experience of mental health from a place of strength.

It is bizarre that so many people know truly intimate parts of my life through reading my poetry. But I don’t find it scary or feel brave being so open – I just think it’s really important. We’re all good at saying we need to talk about mental health, but that isn’t the same as actually having the conversation.’

* Charly’s latest book, Validate Me: A Life of Code-Dependency, is out now *

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Why a Friends reunion won’t work without one crucial ingredient

Why a Friends reunion won’t work without one crucial ingredient


The news that a Friends reunion is definitely happening has got everyone in a tizz. Could we be any more excited? Actually, no, says Michelle Davies, who once appeared on the show (series 9, episode 21) and spent time on set during its heyday

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Credit: NBC / Contributor / Getty

After weeks of teasing from Jennifer Aniston – first when she broke the internet with her Instagram debut snap of the six cast members hanging out, and then with her ‘we’re in talks’ comment on The Ellen DeGeneres Show– it appears a Friends reunion is no longer just a pipe dream for the show’s millions of multi-generational fans.

According to breaking reports, Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow are close to agreeing a deal that will see them reunite for HBO Max, the new streaming service that has snaffled the coveted rights to all 236 episodes of the show from Netflix.

Except it won’t be The One Where Friends Reunite episode people are hoping for. Rather than a reboot, the reunion show looks set to be a one-off stroll down memory lane with the cast discussing their Friends experience with its creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane. But while the internet now sags under the weight of collective disappointment, I for one am not surprised or even disappointed they’ve stepped back from producing Friends 2.0. Because it will take more than just getting the six principle stars back together to make it a success – it would need the entire, original backstage crew reassembled as well to make it work.

Friends reunion

Michelle in Central Perk with Gunther (James Michael Tyler)

I say this as someone who was incredibly lucky to have spent time on the Friends set. My first visit was in 2002 when, along with a group of writers that included Cold Feet creator Mike Bullen, I spent a week behind the scenes watching how the show was put together for the magazine I worked on at the time. The following year I was invited to return, this time to experience what it was like being an extra (‘my’ episode is The One With The Fertility Test in series nine and, yes, I still squeal very loudly every time I watch it.)

The one thing I took away from both my visits – other than the fact Matthew Perry smelled divinely of soap and musk, like a scrubbed meadow, which I discovered when I accidentally ploughed into him at the end of my scene – was what a collaborative effort it was and I don’t mean just between the six leads. Every person working on the show was a vital cog in its success, from writers down to runners. Between takes there would be frequent hugging and back-slaps as the cast and crew shared private jokes, real games would be played on Joey and Chandler’s foosball table and Aniston and co – who bear in mind were the biggest TV stars in the world at the time, earning $1million each per episode – all joined in. ‘Everyone here works as family,’ prop master Marjorie Coster told me. (She and Lisa Kudrow gave birth to their sons on the same day in the same LA hospital and both boys were running amok in the studio while I was there). ‘That’s what makes the show so good.

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I suspect it’s that crucial ingredient which is stopping Crane and Kauffman going full throttle on writing new Friends material. If they can’t rehire everyone who originally worked on the show to recreate that happy studio ambience, there’s a real danger the onscreen sparkle won’t materialise either second time around. Indeed, when discussing a possible reunion during a Tribeca TV Festival panel to mark the show’s 25th anniversary in September, Kauffman remarked that one reason for not doing it was ‘it’s not going to beat what we did’.

There’s also the issue of what to do about the Friends set that once occupied Stage 24 on the Warner Bros lot. Yes, it could easily be recreated elsewhere, but let’s not forget that Monica and Chandler gave up her apartment when they moved to the suburbs with their newborn twins and Joey gave up his when he moved to LA (for the eponymous spin-off series that was so bad let’s not talk about it). If the show did return, it really wouldn’t be the same if the two apartments across the hall weren’t part of it.

I’m not alone in thinking a reunion would be a bad idea either. James Michael Tyler, who starred as Central Perk’s Gunther across all ten seasons and who tutored me in how to be a good extra, revealing that when extras appear to be talking in the back of a scene what they’re actually doing is silently mouthing the phrase ‘apples and pears’ over and over, also doesn’t want Friends to return, despite having the most to gain career-wise. ‘I don’t know if a reboot would have the same weight or quality,’ he said in a recent interview. ‘Why mess with perfection?’

My sentiments exactly.

The post Why a Friends reunion won’t work without one crucial ingredient appeared first on Marie Claire.

Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Stella Creasy on being targeted by an abusive campaign

Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Stella Creasy on being targeted by an abusive campaign


While the Labour MP was eight-months pregnant she was publicly harassed by anti-abortion organisation, as a result of her role in the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. Now on maternity leave, she’s still fighting to change hate crime legislation to offer women greater protection

stella creasy

‘Back in September, CBR-UK (Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform) were encouraging people to target me, saying that I needed to be stopped. I received messages telling me I was a baby killer. CBR-UK even put up billboards in my local Walthamstow town centre, one of which was a 20ft-high picture of my head next to a dead baby. I was eight-months pregnant at the time and it was the same age as my unborn baby. It would be bizarre if I wasn’t affected by that.

The group also focused on my previous miscarriages and called me a hypocrite for being pregnant, suggesting I should have had an abortion to be consistent. I found it a very lonely experience dealing with miscarriage, so I spoke out to be able to tell other women they weren’t alone. The CBR used that to further its own aims.

I refused to accept their campaign as a legitimate protest, because it was not. Nobody has a right on any issue to try and intimidate, shut down and harass somebody into silence. If this had been about my skin colour or sexuality, people would have called it a hate crime, but because it was about women’s right to choose what happens to their own body, there’s a blind spot and it was viewed as a free speech issue.

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Today in the House of Commons chamber I set out my refusal to let Walthamstow be bullied by those who seek to intimidate and claim this is free speech – I also set out the concerns regarding who is funding this harassment and whether breaches UK tax, charity and electoral law. Pleased to hear HMRC will investigate and hoping so too will the charity commission and the electoral commission. This is not about debate and treating them as such by engaging with them legitimises them. This is about how we stop this form of abuse being imported into our politics and becoming normalised- If you want to help please let the police know your concerns and back the call for these organisations to be investigated to see if they meet our uk campaign requirements!

A post shared by Stella Creasy (@stellacreasy) on Oct 2, 2019 at 8:06am PDT

But when you incite people to be abusive, where do people think it leads. We’ve seen what these groups have caused in other countries, such as the shootings and violence around Planned Parenthood clinics. If we allow this kind of harassment to become normalized in British politics, then it’s a very dangerous road to go down. Even the PM Boris Johnson dismissed a female MP who was crying about how frightened she was regarding the impact of hate speech.

The people who are affected most when free speech is abused are those whose voices aren’t heard as often – women and ethnic minorities. I see young campaigners from those communities and think, ‘You’re going to change the world’, but then these activists look at what’s happening to people like me and decide entering politics is not for them. Our public life and decision-making will be all the poorer for it – this culture is really toxic.

Last year I was told by two Home Secretaries that we didn’t need national hate crime legislation because powers are in place to deal with these groups – my experience shows that this is clearly not the case, so that’s why we need to change the law. Right now, women are protected in the workplace from discrimination and harassment, but as soon as we step out onto the street, we’re not protected. We need the Law Commission to review hate crime, and I’m working with a range of organisations to close the gap that we currently have in hate crime legislation.’

The post Anti-Bullying Week 2019: Stella Creasy on being targeted by an abusive campaign appeared first on Marie Claire.