The blatant violation, involving filming up someone’s clothing without their permission, will now be punishable by up to two years in prison. But my God, has it taken a long time.
The criminalisation of the offence is a done deal – having finally been approved in the House of Lords and now just awaiting the formality of Royal Assent. The issue is that the campaign was started in 2017.
My question – why has it taken so long to be made illegal?
Surely something as intrusive as filming up someone’s clothing in a public space without their permission deserves to be made a crime, right? Not to some it seems, and if it wasn’t for the determination of Gina Martin, it would have fallen at the first hurdle.
Gina introduced us to the term, Upskirting, after starting a viral online campaign to get it criminalised. She had discovered that it wasn’t a specific offence in UK law after being victim to it herself at a festival and being unable to progress her claims, with police telling her there was nothing they could do. She later petitioned to reopen her claim, and then went ever further, lobbying to change the law.
Gina’s aim? To have upskirting recognised in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and to thereby make it punishable by law.
Gina Martin. Credit: REX
But while it garnered a lot of celebrity support and was brought to parliament by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, its progress was halted by Conservative MP Christopher Chope in June 2018 who did his very best to disrupt the policy’s development – the proposal’s sole objector.
This week however the House of Lords chose to back the bill, and when the criminalisation was confirmed, Gina exclaimed that she was ‘over the moon’.
‘After becoming a victim and recognising a gap in the law, I partnered with Ryan Whelan of Gibson Dunn and began 18 months of exhaustive, emotional and life-changing work,’ she announced. ‘Now? We have changed the law! I always thought politics was impenetrable but with the right help and willpower you can do it. We did it. We made upskirting a sexual offence! I am exhausted and so so happy!’
So now England and Wales are joining the many countries that already have laws on upskirting, with serious offenders even to be named on the sex offenders register.
This is huge progress, but I’m still angry.
Upskirting being made illegal is obviously an incredible thing. I just think it’s a shame that it has taken so long to criminalise something that is so obviously not OK.
Scotland has had laws against upskirting for almost a decade, so why were we behind the curb?
Let’s make sure the next unspecified offence doesn’t take as long to criminalise. We need to do better, and if we we see something that isn’t right, we need to be a Gina Martin and make change.
Men’s grooming brand Gillette released a video today, in minutes becoming the most divisive razor advert of all time.
Tuning in on my commute this morning, I braced myself for the usual visuals – slow motion shots of stubble followed by sexualised size 0 women dancing around clean-shaven male customers. To their credit, Gillette proved me wrong.
The short video didn’t even mention razors, or grooming for that matter. Instead, it focused its attention on toxic masculinity, asking men to do and be better, and changing its famous slogan from ‘the best a man can get’ to ‘the best men can be’.
Yes, this is not a drill. The world’s leading men’s grooming brand has gone woke and is trying to redefine what it means to be a man, dispelling outdated stereotypes and prompting us all to have important conversations on harassment and bullying – conversations that we should have had a long time ago.
‘Is this the best a man can get?,’ the advert begins, a play on their own outdated advertising. ‘Is it?
‘We can’t hide from it, it’s been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses,’ a voiceover reads alongside news footage of the #MeToo movement and scenes of harassment. ‘But something finally changed and there will be no going back.
‘Because we believe in the best in men to say the right thing, to act the right way. Some already are, in ways big and small. But some is not enough, because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.’
I sat back from this advert in awe, before hitting replay. A male-based brand calling on its customers to challenge societal pressures, and most importantly, challenge other men on everyday behaviours of toxic masculinity. Thank the lord.
Then I saw the responses. ‘Man hating’, ‘radicalised feminism‘ and ‘repulsive’ were just some of the terms used, with Piers Morgan even accusing Gillette of encouraging men to ‘cut off their testicles with their razors’.
Well if we wanted an example of toxic masculinity, there it is – bullying people and subordinating women, suggesting that by standing up for them you are castrating yourself.
It is not acceptable to defend toxic behaviour with this ’Boys will be boys’ mentality. Being a man shouldn’t mean abusing your power and men should be stepping up and standing up to everyone from their colleagues and family members to strangers on the street when behaviour is unacceptable.
It is of course unsurprising that there has been backlash. Progress is rarely made without people fighting against it, and a lot of viewers have sworn off Gillette razors ‘for life’ for their supposed ‘man-hating message.’
To these people I say, you’re not listening to what the advert is telling you.
This advert is not hating on men. It is hating on the deeply engrained societal pressures of what it is to be a man. This advert is rooting for men. It is saying that as a society we need to change and it is challenging men to change their behaviours and challenge those around them.
If we want to achieve gender equality, this is how. We have to challenge everyday behaviours in order to overturn the whole system.
Toxic masculinity is a thing. That’s a fact. I know this because I experience it every day, as does every woman around me. So to the people arguing that toxic masculinity is nothing but a millennial buzz word invented by radical feminists, you have already lost your credibility.
Of course the Piers Morgans of the world have taken offence. It is because of toxic masculinity that those same people came to power in the first place.
Watch the video again. Look for the message.
We need to stop using our gender to excuse behaviours. We need to stop the abuse of power. If you see harassment, challenge it. But most importantly we all need to work together to make this change.
It’s funny (and by that I don’t mean the laugh-out-loud kind), isn’t it? That your own body is never really your own. When you’re getting married, you’re asked if you’re going to get into shape for the big day – no one ever asks the husband that one, mind – and virtually as soon as you walk down the aisle, you’re asked when you’re going to start a family.
And let me tell you, it gets even worse the moment you tell people you’re TTC – that’s trying to conceive by the way, your vocabulary opens to a whole new world of abbreviations when you’re TTC with your OH.
To be fair, it was my own fault for telling anyone, but in my defence, I believed it would get people off my back a little if I told them we were at least trying. Except, it only worked for a few months before the advice (mostly unsolicited) started pouring in again.
The thing that surprised me the most is how opinionated everyone is, and although it is never meant in a mean way, it’s f*****g grating is what it is. To give you a few examples…
‘Well you should probably put on a bit of weight’ – you would never tell someone to put on/lose weight in normal circumstances, would you? Also the only person who I trust to tell me about my weight here is my doctor, and she says it’s fine
‘No wonder it’s not happening, you’re hardly ever in the same country’ – myself and my husband do travel a lot for work, but trust me, we know how to make a baby, thanks captain obvious
‘You should stress less, because you know stress doesn’t help’ – you know what’s definitely not stressful? Someone asking for updates all the time. Or telling you not to stress.
‘So, is has anything happened? *wink wink*’ – Yeah we’re just keeping it secret for the lolz
‘Honestly, having a baby is so much more work than you think, I’m not trying to put you off, but…’ – you’re right, i’ve changed my mind, let’s cancel the baby making
‘Well your mum took a while to conceive, so you might have the same issues’ – again helpful
‘Oh, well I wouldn’t worry about it, some people takes aaaages to get pregnant, you’ve got lots of time’ – nope, not worried about it, thanks though
‘Well you’d better hurry, I don’t want to die before I’ve met my first great-grandchild’ – no pressure. At all.
The thing is, whether we are worried about it or not, it’s just not ok to comment on such personal matters, because you never know what people are going through. In the meantime, the next time someone offers up some words of wisdom, I’ll ask them exactly which sex position they think is best.
An open letter by Lindsey Holland on how to combat the ‘heads down’ anxiety problem and care for the elderly at Christmas (and all year round)…
Words by Lindsey Holland
As we grow closer to Christmas, it’s important to think more about ways that we can support those who won’t have anyone to celebrate with, those who long for some company and those who will feel very much alone around this time of year in particular. I’m talking about our amazing elderly population.
My grandparents have always played a major role in my life, and still do. They taught me a hell of a lot. My nana’s soft attitude towards my stress levels surrounding friendships, or later on, boys, were exactly what I needed. She used to say “never mind little rose” and then stick the kettle on and shower me with fancy biscuits. I wear a ring engraved with that exact message. Sid, that’s granddad, was a tall man with the kindest, most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen, taught me about how to listen well. He asked lots of questions, and I loved that about him. I’d go as far as to say he was my best pal.
I worked as a physiotherapist in NHS hospitals across the country for years. There are many areas across a physiotherapy career, but I settled in an area I excelled in, and felt completed me a bit, and that was elderly care. What a rollercoaster working with the elderly is! I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Or maybe except the time that Doris drop kicked me in the chest for making her a brew- dementia is really tough. Or the time that Horace’s catheter exploded on my leg and I had to wear surgical scrubs for the rest of the day.
My love for the elderly, and for the NHS and the incredible teams I was a part of over the years aside, it got to be a lot. I was at breaking point. The lack of staff, the overload of patients in the winter months, the bed crisis. I was not fully willing to give up my job or my blog, which ran alongside my physio career as a hobby. As my role as a physiotherapist became more stress and less love, my blog became more demanding, and began to open up doors I never imagined. I was pushed to make a decision in favour of my mental and physical health, and in June 2017 I left my role as a physiotherapist.
As you can imagine, leaving my role in caring for the elderly left a gaping hole in my life and it wasn’t long before I started to search for something to fill said hole. I had a work meeting with a really inspiring woman, and it transpired that she was volunteering via Age UK as part of their befriending scheme and I left the meeting and got in touch with Age UK the very same afternoon. The befriending scheme is built to try and put a stop to loneliness amongst the elderly population by pairing volunteers (you!) up with a lonely elderly person in your area. GPs, social workers and families can refer the elderly person into the scheme. All that’s required of you, is a one hour training course to make you feel comfortable within your new role, and a visit to your new pal at least once per week for a couple of hours. They actually also offer telephone befriending services- so you can pick up the phone and catch up that way if the person would prefer it. It’s really quite an amazing service.
I recently began a new online series on my blog called ‘Ageless Ties’. I want to identify why, as a generation we have moved so far away from the crux of what makes us happy, and the things that makes us feel connected to one another. We’re living in a ‘head down’ generation filled with technology designed to help us to operate at our best, except that all it does is ensue anxiety and disconnection. Working in elderly care taught me about how beautiful and important a connection between generations really is. Not just for them, but for us, too. The way they see the world, our problems Vs. their problems and how they manage situations. It’s all about perspective, and they’ve got a tonne of it.
From the community I’ve built around the Ageless Ties platform, I’ve learnt that we have so much to offer each other and that a friend from an older generation and the perspective that they bring to you will be one of the most refreshing things you’ll ever experience. Through sitting with and interviewing countless women and men who have formed the most incredible relationships beyond any conventional ideas of age and background, I’ve been lucky enough to gain an insight into the deep and undying importance of bridging the gaps between ‘age ranges’.
I’m four months into my Age UK befriending scheme friendship with my elderly pal (click here to read more about the end loneliness scheme), and honestly, she’s a diamond. She has had the most incredible life, gives wonderful advice and is a joy to be around. We laugh a lot together and I leave feeling full and inspired, and I would like to think that the way she natters on to me, makes her feel similar.
More information about the ways you can get involved in helping to end loneliness can be found in the links above.
Here’s why Junior News Editor Jenny Proudfoot thinks it’s a good thing…
Today it was announced that Twitter was getting ready to remove its ‘like’ button – one of only three ways people can respond to posts (like, retweet and reply).
Why? To get the platform’s priorities straight, with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announcing that his plans were to improve debate on Twitter.
‘As we’ve been saying for a while, we are rethinking everything about the service to ensure we are incentivising healthy conversation, that includes the like button,’ the Twitter communications team confirmed. ‘We are in the early stages of the work and have no plans to share right now.’
Unsurprisingly, the announcement has been divisive, with a lot of Twitter users arguing that the removal is unnecessary, and even more suggesting that the platform’s time could have been better spent.
Why remove the ‘like’ button when you could spend that time removing hate speech and the abusive accounts out there?
While the statement rings true, I am actually behind Twitter’s removal of the ‘like’ button. In fact, in my opinion – the sooner the better.
Why? Because social media has become a popularity contest and we all need to stop looking for validation.
I am a London-based millennial journalist with a growing social media presence – in other words, all I think about is likes.
Every tweet, every Instagram post, every Insta story involves a long thought process – What time will be the most popular for posting? Which filter will people prefer? And what opinion should I raise to get me all the likes?
Our society is built on validation, and while social media used to be a place to inform and discuss, it has since become a ‘like for like’ marketplace to make us all feel powerful.
But power is knowledge, and if a lot of us are honest, we’ve lost ourselves, what we think, and what we believe, changing and shaping our opinions to get the most likes and be the most influential online.
So yes, removing the ‘like’ button might be problematic for some budding influencers hoping to make their money on avocado toast photographs, but it will mean that the people who are posting are not just posting for likes, and are tweeting with an actual purpose.
We can still post whatever we want to, it will just be for us rather than for the likes.
There’s no word yet as to when the change will be made, but if it starts better debates and improves the quality of what we’re talking about, I say ‘bring it on’.
Let us know your thoughts on Twitter at @MarieclaireUK
In her new book You Have The Right To Remain Fat, author and activist Virgie Tovar tackles the ‘minority stress’ caused by fat discrimination and the damaging effects of dieting
Here’s a fact: despite all the promises of the diet industry, paradoxically, dieting leads to weight gain over time. Let me say that again: over time, dieting leads to weight gain. I say there’s nothing wrong with weight gain, but the culture says differently. So, if the stated goal of thinness is not actually being achieved, then what are we really doing when we are dieting?
Dieting doesn’t do the thing it’s allegedly designed to do, but dieting does lead to a number of other results: low self-esteem and decreased self-advocacy during sexual negotiation (there is some evidence that suggests that fat women negotiate for condoms less frequently than their thin counterparts1).
Fat people experience more anxiety in our daily lives. We experience the effects of something called “minority stress”—the negative physiological outcomes of discrimination, cruelty, and social ostracization over a lifetime.
That stress can result in suppressed immunity, shortened life span, and decreased heart health—not coincidentally, some of the very things often attributed to high body weight in the medical industry. Further, if we all miraculously became our doctor-recommended BMI overnight, we would awake the following day to find that the goal post had been moved because control is the ultimate purpose of diet culture and fatphobia.
What is the alternative? To stop. Stop being terrified of fatness. Stop marginalizing fat people. To recognize that no body is superior or inferior to another. My core belief is both painfully obvious and wholly subversive: every person, regardless of weight or health status, deserves to live a life completely free from bigotry and discrimination.
That might sound really simple, but imagine for one second what this really means: big or small you are, whether you were able to run a mile in eight minutes or you hadn’t run a day in your life. No caveats, no fine print— just you and your life, without any barriers you perceive to be in your way due to weight or body shape.
This means you wouldn’t feel the need to change your body size in order to be taken seriously as a romantic partner. You wouldn’t internalize your body’s limits as a personal failure because you would have no framework for your body as a source of failure.
This means that you would not be socially punished if you gained forty pounds and you would not be socially rewarded if you lost forty pounds. (I believe there would likely be significantly less weight fluctuation without diet culture and fatphobia.)
This means that when you went to the doctor you wouldn’t be treated differently or be refused proper treatment if you were fat.
This means that food would be stripped of moral meaning, which would make eating less terrifying. You wouldn’t feel morally inferior if you ate tacos rather than a salad since food shame wouldn’t be a thing.
This means that when you had important moments in your life you wouldn’t be expected to lose a bunch of weight. So you could focus on the joy of those important moments rather than being distracted by anxiety.
Extracted from You Have The Right To Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar, published by Melville Books
Do you remember how you used to feel on a Friday night as teenager? You’d maybe have bought a brand new top to go with your jeans, spent approximately 90 minutes on your mascara and after having the best time pre-partying with your besties, you’d be buoyed with the confidence of the pack, excited to hit your school disco—or more likely use your fake ID to get into a pub or club.
For me, these moments are some of my favourite fashion memories, partly of course because I was young and excitable, partly because getting ready with the soundtrack of Pure Garage II in the background brings me right back to a rose-tinted version of my youth, but also… partly because there were no phones, no pictures and no social media to capture any of it.
Today’s teenagers get ready in a very different environment. If you can remember the days before the 24/7, 360-degree era of social media, you like me, will now be in your 30s. If you’re younger, you might not even be able to imagine what getting ready, going out, or just dressing up to leave the house at the weekend could be like without a visual record of it all. Because these days if you don’t capture an outfit for Instagram, is there even a point wearing it?
‘Who do you dress for?’ used to be a big conversation, with the right answer being, ‘myself!’ and the wrong answer being, ‘men.’ And while many of us truly are taking the male gaze out of the picture when it comes to the way we present ourselves to society, I’m not so sure it hasn’t been replaced with another, equally problematic set of imaginary eyeballs.
Dressing for social media, or for the validation of the community that follows you isn’t a niche issue in today’s digital, mediated world. Attempting to impress other women with your fashion choices is again nothing new – especially the ones we look up to or admire. But today, there’s a whole generation of women, not just ‘influencers’, dressing for other women they may never have met, let alone got to know well enough to esteem. And the currency of this new women vs. women judgement arena isn’t originality or a pretty dress here or there.
Instead it’s more like an endless conveyor belt of fresh off the shop floor, designer status pieces with eye watering price tags which are seemingly only worn once, photographed artfully then discarded for the churn to continue. That is what fashion has become for a lot of women.
As a style journalist in my 20s, I used to sit looking at other women on the fashion week circuit and my mind would boggle over how the hell they had so many expensive designer clothes. Like, did everyone else in the industry have a trust fund? Over time I realized that yes, some did. But the others?
They were simply borrowing clothes or wearing clothes that had been given to them. Receiving free clothes is something which has been part of my career for over a decade now, so it’s something I know at least something about. As an influencer I’m in a privileged position, but as the vast majority of the brands I’ve worked with personally are high street, I’ve definitely gone through phases of thinking that I needed to spend (much more) money to up my designer game.
It can feel very easy to feel that you’re the only one trying to make a Hobbs skirt and COS blouse look like Céline, while everyone else is wearing actual (old) Céline and I’ve definitely been there as I’ve looked through my peer’s feeds. Amongst influencers there’s almost an acceptance that you have to invest in buying expensive designer clothes to create an expensive looking wardrobe so high-end brands would want to work with you (i.e: spend money to make money, or in that case, expensive free clothes).
But I’ve just never earned that kind of cash, and even if I did, at the moment with a 7-month-old baby and a freelance career, the only place it would be going is into savings. I have gone through phases when I’ve panicked about what to wear to work and industry events and felt almost embarrassed that I didn’t have a gorgeous head to toe luxury look when it felt like everyone else did. From there it’s just a short step to starting to believe that something is wrong or lesser about your life because you can’t afford this stuff and everyone else is more ‘stylish’ than you because they have this stuff. It’s impossible not to compare and that can start to make you feel really insecure about your wardrobe and your own sense of style.
But I don’t really feel like that anymore. The first, most important thing is to remember that style and endless consumption of new, expensive stuff is not synonymous. Let’s not beat about the bush—buying something gorgeous and brand new and wearing it and feeling like a million dollars can be an incredibly empowering and exciting and I’ll be the first to say ‘never undermine the power of a truly great dress.’ BUT. That awesome outfit doesn’t have to send you to debtor’s jail. While I do like to support emerging designers, ultimately, I don’t care what the label at the back of my clothes reads.
If I see a great dress from a brand which some might not deem to be ‘cool’ —like Boden or M&S—I don’t give a t*** that some people will think it’s daggy to be wearing it. Because they are just being unbearable snobs. A great dress is a great dress is a great dress ad infinitum and we should never forget that. What isn’t chic is to spend money you don’t have, because financial irresponsibility and debt are not aspirations any woman who isn’t just waiting for a knight in shining armour to pay her credit card bill should have. And social media can make you think you need to do that and that is something that can be seriously dangerous.
When you look at women’s wardrobes on social media and feel envious of the never-ending designer names tagged on a single picture, you just have to remember that either a) they are richer than you and that is obviously envy-inducing, but unless you are planning on ditching your career and retraining as a stockbroker, it is what it is OR, b) they are influencers who probably live a much more modest life than the #gifted designer booty they feature on their social media accounts would lead you to believe OR c) they are bankrupting themselves spending money they don’t have on clothes trying to keep up with other people they don’t even know.
Owning 100 handbags that cost the same as your monthly mortgage is not ‘normal’. It’s bonkers! I’m not going to say it’s obscene, because every woman has the right to spend their money as they wish, but that crazy standard should have no power to dent your style confidence, or influence how you dress, because it has nothing to do with the skill of being able to express yourself creatively through what you wear.
My personal recipe for building a wardrobe is a mix of old pieces, timeless high street buys and a sprinkling of beautifully made designer pieces, generally bought at a fraction of their RRP from an outlet store or resale site (past season at Bicester Village, pre-loved at Vestiaire, then reconditioned at The Restory is how I roll).
It doesn’t always make me the most effective influencer and I know some of my followers get frustrated that they can’t buy something I’m wearing, but it’s important to me that I make the point that I wear old clothes, buy past season and I’m not dripping in designer swag 24/7.
Because when did that become our only definition of a successful wardrobe? And where’s the panache in that? Don’t get me wrong, I take my hat off to the fashion week street style celebrities who spend weeks planning and coordinating samples and putting together outfits to inspire us all—but that is just not realistic benchmark for anyone to try and achieve on a normal salary and we need to remember that whenever we’re scrolling though 947 Dior saddlebags. Dress for yourself, dress for your bank balance and always remember that a great dress is a great dress.
As London fashion week fast approaches the hysteria of many doing practically anything for a golden ticket is in full swing. Because let’s face it there is nothing quite like the feeling of a show. The excitement of seeing the looks for the first time, the lights, the FROW drama and the celebrity spotting is a must for anyone who loves fashion, networking or just wants to feel the vibes of live performance.
With NYFW wetting our whistle we are now into operation LFW and with it approaching faster than hate mail to president Dump, it’s time to get my wardrobe in order and make sure that I’m ready when I am walking around the London Streets.
The buzz of street style in Soho, Covent Garden or anywhere near the fashion show hubs is electric! Where photographers, bloggers and Vloggers flock to taste a slice of the fashion week creativity. People who can’t gain access or even those who can, line the pre show lines to catch all the latest trends laced with personal styling ready to go through those doors, elbows out ready for FROW action.
If you have never been, you’re a fashion virgin. Now that’s a word you didn’t think you’d hear again! The burning question usually is “How do I get in?” I am so not about restrictions, unless we’re talking bondage, but that’s another column!
Hierarchy can be ugly and those who have more money to buy their way in is so last season. So I am here to say you can all be part of a show that is fully inclusive and one where you are getting more than you may expect from a London based show.
LQFS. 21st September 2018 a show like no other will be launching at the V&M (Museum of childhood). A show where you can simply buy an affordable ticket with multiple designers and an evening of fashion, people and entertainment. The London Queer fashion show is a new way of showing fashion.
It’s a get in there quick policy for this one. I will be there! A fully stocked bar of Instagrammable cocktails and a hundred models swayed me! Whether it’s eye candy (yes, you can come alone) cocktail candy or a girls/boys night out make it all about you! You are all invited, included and you are encouraged to come as you are. Express yourself and enjoy fashion in your own way. You may well want to be in the VIP area, Frowin’ it up, or a tiered seat may suit you best, what ever you desire, if you love fashion, want to make new friends or take your existing ones and don’t give a fuck about not being able to get your toe in the door of LFW get yourself to LQFS and enjoy your shot of Fashion week. Because everyone deserves to have their fashion virginity taken in style.
I don’t expect you to answer this one and I think it’s pretty personal but I am at my wits end with my best friend.
Now I say my best friend but I am starting to wonder. We have been friends since primary school and although we went off to college in different directions we would still be in daily contact and meet up when ever I was back in town. We went into different areas of work but recently have started working for the same company. We were so excited. Being able to have lunch everyday and drinks after work. Not once did I think it would all be too much. But lately I feel like I can’t move. I feel guilty for saying that. But all my friends at work are now more her friends. I now have to include her in everything, in fact I feel like she competes with me for their attention. She has cut her hair exactly like mine. People around the office are calling us twins and she really seems to get getting off on it. The other day she brought up an embarrassing story about me in front of my colleagues. I was shocked and hurt. Why would she do that? I feel like she is changing or using me. Is it just me? She knows me better than anyone and it feels odd.
Darling you are not alone! We have all had that “friend” Now there are levels of imitation that is complete flattery and that feeling of admiration. Then there is the single white female moment when you feel scared to tell her where your driving too, or who you bloody fancy! Because you can’t be sure if she will turn up at a location, unannounced or invited but she will make a beeline for your sex/love interest and let’s face it, that’s not okay!
I think your work environment is a separate space to a social one and your bestie sharing personal stories is a step too far.
Haircuts and copying, well if you feel it’s all too weird tell her! She was a friend before a colleague. I think boundaries need to be set for both of you. You are not ten anymore and sharing crushes and candy is no longer fun. Step off bitch! My interests, my hair, my embarrassing story. She has no right to open up your personal life at work without your permission.
I can see where the lines have been blurred, she is now not only a bestie but legally someone at work. Can you tell her to back off or will she run to work and tell them all?
I think a coffee away from work (yes I know it means seeing her again on a Saturday) but I think for you being honest is the best policy on this one. You love your friend and you should give her the chance to know how her actions are affecting you. If she ignores you, then that would be the time to realise that besties in a playground and besties in adulthood are sometimes simply not the same. Nostalgia can get in the way. We all loved Jelly shoes and stirrup jodhpurs but it doesn’t mean we were right!
Good luck as losing a “friend” is never easy. But as I always say…. it’s better to know the truth than live with a fantasy that’s a lie.
Don’t forget, you too can ask Dolly a question.
Nothing is off limits so consider me your Dollylama (spiritual guru) here for all the real talk. Write in at email@example.com
As a Eurasian kid growing up in Hong Kong – unable to fluently speak Cantonese, unable to speak my mother’s language Tagalog – I spent a lot of my time looking west for my films, books and TV shows. I’ve only ever been able to speak English fluently, but the thing about English entertainment is that you don’t see a lot of people who look like me in it. The first time I came across Cho Chang in the Harry Potter books, it blew my mind that an Asian girl had made it all the way to Hogwarts. Lucy Liu’s scenes in Charlie’s Angels were enrapturing and her furious scenes in Kill Bill Vol. 1 definitely awakened something in me.
Now that I’m older and have the benefit of hindsight, these characters who I’d grown up with have lost their shine a bit. I love Harry Potter, but Cho Chang was a pretty poor Asian stereotype; a feeble but well-meaning attempt by J.K. Rowling to diversify the books a bit. Lucy Liu was shoved for many years into a box labelled ‘dragon lady’ by Hollywood producers (don’t even get me started on her role in my favourite problematic show Ally McBeal). But they resonated with me because they were all that I had. My expectations were so low, the bar was literally on the floor. I was happy with the two dimensional because it was such a wonder to be seen at all.
If you’d told me back then that we would ever get something even remotely close to Crazy Rich Asians, I would never have believed you. But we did and it is glorious.
Crazy Rich Asians / Warner Brothers
I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell you how it felt sitting in that cinema, sitting beside my childhood friend from Hong Kong and silently crying as Hollywood crossed the oceans towards our hometown. Sure, the Hong Konger in me will always be bitter that the film was mainly based in Singapore – our cities have a pretty strong rivalry going. But even knowing that a blockbuster film was in southeast Asia, let alone led by an entirely Asian cast, felt like a reckoning.
While the plot is pretty much a simple romantic comedy (based off the bestselling book series of the same name), it’s nuanced as hell. Even if you’re not Asian – you’re still going to be able to pick up on elements of it.
Michelle Yeoh is obviously an outsider to the Young family, symbolised by her choosing to speak Cantonese rather than Singapore’s more popular Mandarin, and that tension shows.
It’s easy to get what the slang word ‘banana’ means – ‘yellow on the outside, white on the inside’ as Awkwafina helpfully spells out – and understand the divide between Asian families at home versus the families that immigrated west.
And then of course, there’s that incredible mahjong scene which was so layered and beautifully choreographed.
Crazy Rich Asians / Warner Brothers
When my English friend asked me about the deeper meaning behind the mahjong scene, it was a total surprise. (I’m not going to go into it because I don’t actually play mahjong, but there’s a guy who broke it down in an essay that brought me to tears.) But it made me realise that aside from being a love letter to the Asian community, Crazy Rich Asians was also opening the door for other people to take a step into our world as equals. After so many years watching Asian people in Hollywood play token and mostly condescending roles in white blockbusters, there was something so gentle about the way the film let everybody in.
I’ve seen Asian actors mostly play two-dimensional doctors on television series, or doctors in TV shows, or two-dimensional exotic love interests for white men. For me, Crazy Rich Asians was like watching all those rough sketches lift off the page and fill with substance.
I don’t think any of that matters because no one film can represent everybody’s experience. And no film should because that’s a stupid amount of pressure to put on any project. You’d end up generalising so much to please everyone that you’d ironically fall back into the same trap Harry Potter and Kill Bill Vol. 1: trying to represent every Asian in the community without any real substance.
For years, the white American and English communities have had the privilege of watching millions of films with millions of stories and viewpoints. Thankfully, the black community is well on its way as well with groundbreaking films like Black Panther and Moonlight leading the charge. And now Crazy Rich Asians and other projects like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before are steps in that direction.
Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians isn’t the definitive story about us, it’s a story about us which is so much more important. It’s this declaration that our narratives – in their multiplicities and shades and locations – are worth telling. Not all of our stories are going to be crazy and rich, but that’s okay because this is just one of them.
Crazy Rich Asians officially became one of the top ten box office sellers in the United States over the weekend, earning an eye-watering $164.7 million worldwide. There’s already talk of a sequel. If that’s any indicator, then people want to listen.
Charlotte Philby was feeling strung out and exhausted when, on an impulse, she switched off all her social media accounts. Here’s what the experience taught her, and why she’s now back on it for good.
It was not so much a Eureka moment as a quiet but unshakable feeling that something wasn’t right.
Despite being utterly exhausted, I would regularly find myself waking at 2am and unable to fall back to sleep while my brain attempted to filter through the backlog of information that started to seep into my subconscious as I scrolled my various social media accounts, as well as rolling news.
Like everyone else these days, I am busy. With three young children, several jobs, and in the throes of writing a novel as well as a major home-build, sleep was precious, and already scarce. How could I justify losing precious kip and headspace over the online musings and lunch snaps of people I barely knew?
When it came to my social media usage, there was a sense of concern, too, at what I was modelling for my kids (now turning three, five and eight) who had taken to running after me waving my phone at me if I left a room without it for more than a few minutes, as if returning to me a vital organ.
Thankfully, what I lack in self-restraint I make up for in impulsivity and so on 26th June last year, after thinking it through for about 7 minutes, I decided to switch off social media for a year. Twenty minutes after that, having pulled over in a lay-by and furiously typed out my dramatic farewell, I had announced it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Because as I noted in that post, my life had started to feel like a physical manifestation of that philosophical quandary about if a tree falls in the woods but no-one was there to see it, whether it ever really fell at all.
Ultimately it was about stepping back in order to reassess; a much-needed pause in order to give myself the mental space to reassess how I felt about sharing the details of my life with around 15k people – largely strangers – across three platforms.
Because the fact was, I no longer had the ability to cut through the noise long enough to really assess how I felt. In the 10 years since I had joined social media so much had changed. Not just on a mass scale, but on a personal level, too. When I first joined Facebook in 2007 (initially with a gusto that involved me adding anyone with whom I had ever exchanged more than three words and then subjecting them to 3000 slightly blurry photos of a single night out), no-one could have predicted how pervasive social would become.
Besides, I was far too busy going out, building my career as a newspaper journalist, to have thought through the potential consequences of sharing the minutiae of my life with hundreds of relative strangers online. Over the following decade, whilst having kids, growing my social media following as editor of the online magazine Motherland, and seeing the fallout of people living out their lives online, I had become more circumspect, and confused.
When I looked at my life and what was wrong with it, what I could see quite clearly was that I was tired, and burnt out. Was social media to blame for my life fatigue? Certainly not entirely, but much as social media provided a much-needed escape from the work pressures and life pressures, it simultaneously exacerbated the anxiety.
When I looked at it, my life looked like a heaving mass of unbalanced parts and I needed to cut something out. I couldn’t leave my jobs, or my life, but I could cut out the white noise that social media was creating.
The immediate sensation was one of immense relief. Suddenly I felt free – free from a cage in which I had trapped myself. Free from the perceived scrutiny of others and the constant desire to dissect and objectify my own life. Finally I could live in the moment without constantly striving to recreate it through an inevitably distorting lens – a disconcerting process which has no doubt been the subject of many a media dissertation by now.
The six months that followed were infinitely more enjoyable, and productive, than those preceding them. In a bid to live a more analogue existence I took an upholstery course (the main learning was that I’m a terrible upholsterer) and tried to draw a bit (I’m an even worse artist). I spent almost a week writing by hand at a writer’s retreat in Devon with no internet and communicating with the outside world (ie my long-suffering husband and children) via a pay-phone once a day, which was undoubtedly the most resetting experience of my adult life.
Yes, people stopped mass-inviting me to group events because I was no longer so much on their wave-length, but some thought to get in touch to make more meaningful face-to-face dates, instead. As someone who suffers not from FOMO but rather from a fear of social inclusion, this was a desirable side effect.
By the time Christmas last year came, I had even broken the back of my novel. All in all, aside from the odd pang when I thought of the people I had lost contact with away from the easy (if often surface) connections of Instagram and Facebook, and the occasional desire to share pieces I had written or funny snapshots of my life, there was little reason to return.
But that is not to say that life was perfect. The problem with social media, after all, is that it is just a strand of a much more knotty problem of the frenetic pace of modern life. And that didn’t just vanish.
Then, on Boxing Day last year – six months to the day since I had switched off – I had a text to say an old (very young) and very dear friend had died. Because he had been travelling, and because of our diverging lives, we had taken to communicating on direct messenger. Without that line between us, we had not spoken for months and the sadness and regret I felt about that shook me to the core.
When you lose someone you love, everything else pales into insignificance, and the urge to hold onto those you care about becomes all-consuming. At its best, that is what social media does; it allows us to, even at a distance, maintain a thread of connection with more people than we should rightfully be able to.
The next day, I returned to social media, to read the tributes to my friend’s life and to share my own, but mainly to reinstate myself in what I had to accept was a key part of modern connectivity. Historically, people lost contact with friends over the years and yes, maybe there is something to be said for streamlining your life as you get older, rather than maintaining an overwhelming number of friendships, at a reduced rate; to this end, my grandma always told me ‘don’t have more friends than you can look after’. But in this moment, all I wanted was to be part of my people’s lives, regardless of what cost.
The return to social media started gently but has gathered pace so that nine months later, as Marie Claire launches their timely #ScreenBreak campaign, I am forced to once again reassess my usage.
The results, if I’m honest with myself, are pretty bleak. While I’ve massively reduced the amount of pictures I put up of my children (not least as my non-attention-seeking daughter, who is turning eight, knows what Instagram is and hates the concept of it; her words: “Why would you put up pictures of your life? That’s just showing off…”), in the months since creeping back onto Instagram, and later Facebook and Twitter, I found myself making up for lost time in terms of how much I was using it. The thrill of the interactions, of catching up with old friends, of, well, mindlessly passing the time, is addictive. We all know that, it is just how we choose to address our behaviour.
The truth is, I oscillate between various positions when I consider what social media means to me, and how I want to use it. Some days I think it only has as much power as I give it; if I want to upload pictures of my life, then what is the problem, so long as I’m not exposing my children in a way that could be harmful to them?
Other days I’m more circumspect, waking in the middle of the night to purge my feed of personal pics, and aggrieved by things I’ve read. Much as I hate the concept of the term ‘personal brand’ for all its connotations, one of the problems is for me and a growing number of my friends who use social media platforms both to talk to friends and to promote and discuss work, is that the distinction between the personal and public has become blurred. Like so many of us, my job largely depends on me having an online presence, so it would be a massive commitment to give up my accounts altogether.
In a way, total abstinence feels a cop out. Why can’t I just control my own behaviour? My husband, who doesn’t have an addictive personality (he was always one of those annoying social smokers who could take it or leave), has an account but goes weeks without posting and is much more restrained in his strolling habits. That is what I want for myself, to be a mindful scroller; or at least one who isn’t a slave to their screen.
And so, in the past weeks I have reduced both my screen-time and my general reason to go online. I listen to books on the commute rather than scrolling my feeds; I have put on an out of office on my Gmail explaining that I am not checking my emails as regularly; I don’t have my work emails on my phone so I only check them when I’m in the office; I have signed up for a magazine subscription and weekend paper delivery. I have stopped looking at Facebook altogether but save it for moments when I need to contact people, rather than endlessly mentally taking on-board other people’s lives in a way that creates that torrent of white noise in the early hours. I have also started to take a moment to pause and think before impulsively posting on Instagram. As for Twitter, I tend to lose a follower every time I tweet so that is an effective method of self-policing.
But I could be so much better. So, as of now, I pledge to sometimes leave my phone at home when I take the kids out, and have downloaded the app Moment which logs how much time you spend on your phone each day. I will hide my phone under the piles of rubble on my desk in the office so I’m not tempted to pick it up every time I look away from my computer screen (a sad state of affairs) and leave it at my desk on my lunch-break.
More importantly, I want to return to that space where I spend my ‘spare time’ immersing myself in things I love, like writing, rather than referring to my default setting of mindless browsing. After all, a recent study found that the average person wastes 23 days a year and 3.9 years of their life staring at their phone screen. I have already scrawled this horrifying fact onto a post-it note which I will stick to the front of my computer screen for when I start my book edits next month and will be, more than ever, searching for a distraction from the matter at hand.
It sounds basic but in my experience most of the good and meaningful things in life are. Sometimes we simply need to remember to ask ourselves what we are doing and why.