Women in Comics – Guestblogging at Verbal Remedy

In the run-up to the launch of Friday’s Feminist this Friday, I wrote a two-part series for Verbal Remedy, a social community project based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Both come with content warnings for sexual and physical violence.

The first post was titled: Women in Comics: Women in Refrigerator.

It explores how comic writers and creators use the rape, death, brutalisation or depowerment of its superheroines for the advancement of a male hero’s story arc. It uses the examples of two Batgirls: Barbara Gordon and Stephanie Brown.

Here is an excerpt:

A fundamental difference can be summed up with two examples from the same universe. Barbara Gordon, the most famous Batgirl, was shot by the Joker, paralysing her spine. She stayed this way until the New 52 reboot. Batman has his spine broken by Bane in Batman #497 (1993). By the events of Knightquest: The Search, Bruce’s back is healed and he is able to reassume his mantle.

The second post was title: Women in Comics: The Sexy Lamp Test.

It explores how comic artists and creators sexualise their female characters solely for the male gaze. Notable examples of this are Power Girl and Starfire from DC Comics.

Here’s an excerpt:

From another juggernaut in the comic world comes The Sexy Lamp Test, coined by Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. The guiding principle is that a female character that can be replaced with a lamp or any other inanimate object while still maintaining the integrity of the plot is not a suitably developed character. In DeConnick’s own words, “if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft”. The aim of the test is to highlight the problem of female characters who are used as a prize, possession or object for the sake of a plot, much in a similar style to a Damsel in Distress. Think Princess Daphne in Don Bluth’s 1983 game Dragon’s Lair, who could quite easily be exchanged for a lamp in gossamer lingerie.

Friday’s Feminist’s first post will explore how male victims of rape and sexual assault are portrayed in comics. I hope you’ll all read my posts over at VR, and maybe you’d like to check out my new blog too!

You can now like Friday’s Feminist on Facebook.

And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.

Let me ask you this: can you think of any examples of sexy comic heroines in impractical or impossible clothes/poses? Are there any heroines that have suffered unnecessarily? And what are some good examples of representation you can think of?

Let me know your thoughts.

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A Little Update

The lovely me!
Be sure to check out Jessica’s posts on teaching and education. She has a lot of great insights.

teaching aspirations

Hello

Just a quick update tonight. You may have noticed that ‘Teaching Aspirations’ has a lovely new banner at the top of the page (the banner is also on my Facebook and Twitter pages, along with an excellent logo). These images were created for me to use (and I asked permission again, to make sure I could use them) by the amazing and lovely Stephanie Gallon, blogger extraordinaire. Thank you, Stephanie! You can view her blog, here: https://stephanieanngallon.wordpress.com/.

I also want to say thank you to you, all of the people who have ever read my blog, are reading it now, or will read it in the future. I really appreciate it.

Jessica

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Finding Wonderland – Professor Robert Douglas-Fairhurst in Newcastle

On the 19th May, I had the pleasure of seeing Professor Robert Douglas-Fairhurst of Oxford University give a talk at Newcastle University. His subject was Finding Wonderland. There is a link to an archive recording of the talk here, but these were some of the highlights.

In 1990, The New York Times published an article about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Its title is an apt one: That Girl is Everywhere. Alice’s story has been translated internationally, and has left its mark almost everywhere: in the business world, in the gaming world, even in the food world:

The Richmond Tearoom, Manchester [Image from foodinliterature.com]

The Richmond Tearoom, Manchester [Image from foodinliterature.com]

Supposedly, the Alice stories are the most quoted English text after the Bible and the works of Shakespeare, and it’s easy to see why. Lewis Carrol is responsible not only for the birth of several new words—chortle, frabjous—but also phrases like curiouser and curiouser.

Alice is an enduring figure, and one whom changes and influences to her will. Alice is difficult to pinpoint, even for Alice herself. She is called monster, flower, snake and housemaid. She grows giant and then tiny. She physically and mentally changes, so much so that she is everything we want her to be, and therefore nothing at all.

The Alice books are books of doubling. The characters are doubles, the books are doubles, and even Alice is a double. The real Alice was named Alice Liddell, and she was photographed numerous times by Carroll. We know physically she looked nothing like the story character, but the story was written for her enjoyment. Even Carroll was a man of doubling. His moniker, Lewis Carroll, was a whimsical man who loved puzzles. But the real man, Reverend Charles Dodgson, was a dull mathematician, and someone whom many considered unremarkable.

I'm not all there myself

The irony of course is that the story is a remarkable one. You don’t have to have read it to remember it. Following that white rabbit and falling down the rabbit hole is an image that has been ingrained in our cultural memory. The entire scene is a magic trick, a pun of sorts; as she is falling, she is falling asleep, and she enters a dream world. Everything about the book is a magic trick: white rabbits, top hats, growing and shrinking etc.

That is not to say the books are wholly original. Carroll was very much a product of his time by sending Alice underground. It was something of a fashion to do, with the world around them providing inspiration. The streets of London were torn up to make way for sewers and transport. They were still discovering dinosaur bones at this time. Many popular fairy tales had a changeling motif.

Douglas-Fairhurst further mentioned a theory I find to be very interesting. Another famous underground idea, at least to those of a Christian culture, is Hell. The infamous Hatter’s tea party echoes a Dante-esque scene of comedy—characters stuck in a place where time has stopped, never moving on and never going anywhere. The story was even originally called Alice’s Adventures Underground. She never refers to it as Wonderland in the story. Wonderland is a concept from the Romantic era, depicting a land of imagination, much like Palgrave’s poem The Age of Innocence.

For all its bizarre rules, Wonderland is a place of constancy. The Queen of Hearts will always order heads off, but everyone will always survive. It will always be 6pm at the tea party. Alice Liddell may have grown up, but in Wonderland, she is always a seven-year old dream-child.

We love our Alice. She is virtuous, but with all the vices a child should have. She is threatening, she is stubborn, she is lost. We retell her story in countless ways because it is part of our cultural memory now. We love our Alice stories.

Douglas-Fairhurst also talked a great deal about Carroll’s personal life, and the myth surrounding the man. His talk is worth listening to if you’re interested. These were but a few fascinating tidbits.

And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.

Let me ask you this: what is your favourite Alice adaptation? Have you read it recently? And who is your favourite character?

Let me know your thoughts.

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Special Announcement: Friday’s Feminist

This is not a long post, I just have an announcement to make! I have a new project in the works that I hope you’re all going to like.

Starting 7th August, I will be operating on a new blog. It’s called Friday’s Feminist and you can find it here. I’d appreciate any feedback on layout etc.

I’ve prepared a small FAQ for your perusing.

What is this blog?

Its mission is a simple but noble one; to post a piece every Friday that somehow links to feminism. These pieces may be interviews with feminists and people of note; they may be reviews of current and nostalgic media. More than likely, they will be editorials dealing with recent news stories and opinion pieces on media representation and societal double standards.

What does this mean for Aspiration and Might?

In the short-term, probably nothing. In the long-term, it will lead to more content. I’m hoping a strict schedule will encourage me to blog more. While I will sometimes delve in to my feminist side, this blog will remain a hodgepodge of conflicting interests and boring life updates.

What do you want from us?

I want nothing. But if you did want to support this new project, you could subscribe to the new blog. I will try not to cross-post between here and there, so if you were interested in the project it would be worth subscribing via email or following the blog.

Likewise, if you have any advice or requests for posts, I would love to hear from you.

Is that all?

Not at all. Next week, I have two guest posts being posted over at Verbal Remedy. They’re discussing the treatment of women in comics. I’ll be providing links when they’re up, but I’m telling you now that Verbal Remedy always has interesting posts, and they’re worth checking out.

And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.

Let me ask you this: what would you like to see from this new blog? What would you like to see from this blog? And have you got any projects coming up that you’d like to share about?

Let me know your thoughts.

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Update from Wonderland: July Edition

I finally had surgery, and let me be the first to say I look like hell.

Before I tell you about the rest of my month, allow me to explain what my trip to hospital was like.

First of all, this surgery was meant to happen on the 7th. We got to the hospital at 11:30 and were sent home just after six, after almost seven hours of waiting. I had been dehydrated, anxious and terrified for nothing. The consultant I had been seeing was really sympathetic about it though, and had it rearranged for the 13th. Another reason to hate Mondays.

I was admitted at 7:30 and not seen until after noon. I was down for three and a half hours apparently.

Now I’m going to tell you about the surgery itself. From here until the line break, this could be too personal or too gross to some people. Feel free to skip past it.

What I had done was a right thyroid lobectomy. Basically they removed the right side of my thyroid and the suspicious nodule of undetermined status. Theoretically, my body can run fine on half a thyroid, but I should be looking out for any indication it’s not. If it’s not, I’ll be on pills forever. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the alternative.

So they surprise me after noon by taking me down to be anaesthetised. I thought I preserved my dignity well walking down the corridor and not being wheeled on the bed. Turns out it didn’t matter when I had to give them my bra and be wheeled from the waiting ward through.

The anaesthetists were nice. They knew I was scared, probably because I was trembling. They tried to put the cannula in my hand and take some bloods, but apparently my “delicate veins” made it difficult. So they had to try the other had and just attach the cannula.

Everyone told me it was a nice feeling to go under. I don’t think it was nice. That’s not to say it was as awful as I was expecting; it wasn’t painful or even that scary. I felt the cold go in my hand, spreading up my arm like an uncomfortable ache. My eyes were heavy, I couldn’t finish answering the questions…

I woke up in recovery. The nurses were nice. One got me a drink and arranged for me to be taken down to the ward ASAP. I wasn’t in that much pain, but she did give me some morphine. This will go on to explain why I apparently had conversations I cannot remember.

And yes, as a fun fact, high me left sober me a note for our dissertation. “All werewolves are feminine”. I have no idea what prompted this, but thanks, high me.

The night was all kinds of awful. I had my own room which was fortunate, because I could hardly sleep. I finally passed out at 12:30am, after getting five hours sleep the previous night, and just napped until 5:50. Then I woke up and played a hundred games of solitaire until I was discharged after 2pm.

That was it. My hospital experience. The staff was most lovely, but everything took hours when it shouldn’t have. Four hours to get me a discharge letter is a tad extreme.

I’m in a lot of pain today. My scar is scabbing so it looks worse than it will look. My voice is weak and sort of dying. I’ll receive results back in two to three weeks.

Hopefully when Natalie gets up, she’ll paint my nails and everything will be better for me.

decorative-lines-25_large

Hello and welcome back to everyone who skipped over the hospital section!

Here is a representation of how I feel now that it’s all out of the way:

Woo

So what else this month?

I promise to do some real posts soon. Now that my final assignment is due in a week, I’ll have summer to do my dissertation and some posting for fun. I have a dozen half-finished pieces that I’m desperate to upload.

This month, I’m also going to see Sister Act with my actual sister! The boyfriend bought us tickets for my birthday, and I am so excited to be going. It’s sort of the best rewards for finishing my MA and surviving surgery.

And some exciting news…

I got on to the PCET! I’ll be learning to teach come September, along with the best friend Fiona. And the great thing is Lee and Ali are doing their MA too. So it’s sort of like we’re all back together in a way.

I’ll update more on that when I have more updates.

Once more, I am sorry about the two months of silence here. I’ve just been swamped, and I hope you all understand.

And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.

Let me ask you this: how have your Julys been? Have you had any major changes? And what are you most looking forward to in the coming months?

Let me know your thoughts.

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Update from Wonderland: June Edition

This may be the most personal thing I’ve posted on my blog. I’m sorry for all the people who followed me because they like the comics and Glee talk. This is my update on life.

Next month I’m going in for an operation.

A few months back, my mam noticed a lump on my neck. I didn’t, mainly because it’s my neck and I don’t see it as much as everyone else does. Anyway, I went to the doctor’s. He didn’t know who it was. I was sent to a specialist consultant. He referred me to another hospital for a scan and more tests.

Actually, while I’m here, let me tell you about that fiasco. I walked in for four doctors, waiting to see what I was smuggling in my neck. It was the most uncomfortable experience of my life. They didn’t talk to me, and one used my breast as my desk. He bruised me. Asshole.

Anyway, yesterday I got the results.

I’m not a doctor, so I will explain it as it was explained to me. Maybe someone more medically minded can correct me or explain it better.

Lumps are graded on a scale of one to five. One is benign. Five is malignant. A four or five means I have cancer. I got a three, which means they can’t tell me one way or another.

This operation will tell me what’s happening. They’ll remove half my thyroid, see what they’re dealing with. If it is thyroid cancer, which it may well be and I am preparing myself for, I will have another operation later and have the rest of my thyroid removed. And since I’ll be sans thyroid, I’ll have to take pills for the rest of my life.

I will be scarred. And obviously all operations have their side effect and risks. I might lose my voice for a while, or maybe a few years.

All and all, yesterday was not a good day for me.

I’m trying to be flippant. Realistically, I’m just scared. I’m sharing it with you guys because I suck at being personal. Your regularly scheduled ranting will be back soon.

This month is also Spectral Visions! I’m super excited for that. A lot of work has went in to planning this year, and this time, I get to do a workshop! I’ll be talking about the Bloody Chamber. If it goes well, you can expect a post about it. If I don’t post about it, assume something went horribly wrong and I don’t want to talk about it.

11136673_10155377862145526_2486291403194657389_n

You’re welcome to secure a place though! We have Professor John Strachan and Dr Alison Younger delivering lectures, some amazing workshops and the always popular guided fantasy. Plus a book launch I’ll be talking about soon…

And finally, this month is my birthday! I’ll be 22. I don’t know if I’m doing anything, considering that the operation will be on in a week. I’m just excited for all the Taylor Swift jokes. I have no regrets over how much I love T Swift.

That’s it for me. Just assignments and blogging, really. I’m taking this month as a month of positives. Good things will happen. I hope good things happen to you too.

And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.

Let me ask you this: how is your June looking? Have you ever had an operation? And what’s the big event you’re looking forward to?

Let me know your thoughts.

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Update from Wonderland: May Edition

I’m only twenty day’s late with this update. That’s not too bad.

Apologies for my silence. Between work, research and classes, I have zero time for anything that’s not making me money or getting me through university. I’m in the home stretch though, so this is my reward.

As an apology, here is a bunny.

Give up

What have I been up to this month?

Making my title very apt, yesterday I went to a talk on Alice in Wonderland at Newcastle University with some friends. I don’t want to go too much in to it here, since I’m writing a post about it. I will say that I was obsessed with Alice for a while. From high school to the end of college, it was my favourite story. I never liked Alice, but the world and the characters fascinated me. I wrote poems, stories… it was a real problem. I never academicised it out of fear for ruining it for myself. As it turns out, it just made it better for me.

Most of this month has been me applying for a PCET. A PCET is a qualification for teaching in the Post-Compulsory Education sector. That’s everything from sixth form to adult learners. I haven’t missed the evil that is UCAS, and my personal statement is awkward to write. I don’t want to brag about myself, but then I write a sentence that is almost too bragging and I delete it. It’s hard to be humble and sell yourself. This is why I have lovely friends who tell me my opening sentence is awful and it needs to be deleted immediately (I promise it’s gone, Fi).

I was nervous about applying, but now I’m excited. I hope there’s still places left. I’ve left it pretty late. I’m excited to do placements. It’s made me think though. I’ve mentioned a few times how bad my anxiety was at the start of third year. I like to think I’ve flourished since then, but to stand in front of a class of students… it’s either going to be amazing or horrifying. I’ll update you on this when I know.

That’s really it from me. I doubt you care about my Poe essay. Realistically, I hardly care about it. I enjoy the research aspect, but I’m not enjoying writing it.

I would like to take this time to remind you I do take requests for posts. Check out my about tab for details about how to get in touch. I currently have a post in the works about disability in children’s media, and I’m flirting with the idea of doing a post on censorship and feminism in Sailor Moon. If you want to see my thoughts about a subject, send me an email!

And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.

Let me ask you this: what have you done this month? If you’re a student, what are your plans for next year? And what childhood book do you look fondly on still?

Let me know your thoughts.

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#ToTheGirls

#ToTheGirls is trending on Twitter today, and I’m in love with it. They’re 140 character letters to young girls, or past selves, telling them things you wish you knew at their age. Some tweets are funny. Some tweets are heart-breaking. Some are just eye-opening.

And being the trend follower that I am, I have a few letters I wish I could send to my past self, and girls like me. Here’s a selection.

Dear readers, this is To The Girls.

To The Girls,

Your voice matters. You are raised to believe that you should be seen and not heard. Girls are not afforded the same rights to indulge in opinions as boys are, but that is a mistake. What you have to say is just as important, and you should never apologise for using your voice.

To The Girls,

Feminist is not a bad word. I know I was in high school when I decided I was not a feminist. A boy had called me it, and said it like he had called me a bitch. I knew my cheeks were red and stained with shame to be tarred with that brush. The media told me it was bad to be a feminist. Now I’m older, I realise I always was. Never be ashamed for believing you are equal.

To The Girls,

Other Girls are not the enemy. Somewhere in my childhood, other girls became this separate species, and one I wanted nothing to do with. Other Girls conformed to gender and therefore were stupid. They brought the entire gender down with their pink and sparkles. Now that I’m older, I realise that they are not at fault for liking those things. Don’t tear Other Girls down for your own means.

To The Girls,

Your body is not Wikipedia. People are not allowed to come up to you and suggest changes. And while we’re at it, no one is allowed to touch you without your permission. If you’re uncomfortable, make someone know. Let everyone know. Tell someone you trust, or shame the creep if you’re in public. Your body is not up for public debate.

To The Girls,

You’re allowed to like comics, and games, and sports, and everything else that you’ve been told girls shouldn’t like. Don’t let people make you feel bad about it. You’re not sacrificing your femininity, and you don’t deserve to be harassed for it.

There are so many lessons young girls aren’t taught. It’s okay to enjoy or not to enjoy sex. It’s okay to have body image issues, and there are ways to deal with them. You are not flawed, and you don’t have to be ashamed to talk about your body.

When I was in middle school, I was given a cursory sex ed lesson. One hour to explain periods and pregnancy. What I took from it was I’d bleed once a month and women can’t have sex with each other. Obviously it’s more in-depth than that, and women very much can.

I don’t know why we don’t talk to young girls. We teach them not to ask questions, and then we’re very confused as to why they’re not talking to us about their worries. I was not a happy young girl.

But I’m happy now. And I think it’s time we start protecting young girls.

A short post tonight. I’m sorry. I was inspired.

And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.

Let me ask you this: what would you tell your younger self? Do you think young girls today suffer through a lot? And why do we have a culture that doesn’t protect our young girls?

Let me know your thoughts.

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Update from Wonderland: April Edition

It’s Easter! A time of rebirth and chocolate! And an excuse to watch Rise of the Guardians, a movie which deserves a lot more credit and attention than it got.

I don’t have many plans for the Easter break. It’s mostly just dissertation prep and research, as my summer break will be, and as many shifts as I can take at work.

I do, however, have something fun things planned. For example, next week I’m seeing Wicked! You may recall a few posts where I said it was a dream to see it. Well, it’s a dream come true! I’m going with Fiona and her daughter, so it’s going to be a fun day.

We have a Feminist Society book club meeting too. The first one went really well, and the discussion ended up being about Greek mythology. So we’ll be talking mythology. It’s one of my favourite things to write about.

Spectral Visions planning is also going well. We have the photoshoot this month and more meetings. I’ll be doing a proper post about this soon.

Apart from that though, I have nothing planned. I’m getting back in to writing creatively. It’s been a while since I’ve stuck to something. I may even consider submitting it to a magazine, or getting it published.

Speaking of writing and publishing, this month is the launch of Wearside Craic! I’m so excited. A lot of work has went in to it. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but if not, Wearside is a student magazine at the University of Sunderland, published under Spectral Visions Press.

So this is the launch month, and I have a couple of articles being published. It’s exciting to see my name in print! I’ll post a link when it’s up. I’ve seen some of the other pieces, and they’re really good. It’s going to be a good magazine.

A short post, but there’s little going on in my life. It’s a lot of Big Macs, werewolves and Twilight.

Oh, and make sure you check out my Guest Blogging Appearances page to see some of the posts you may have missed from other blogs!

And so dear reader, we reach the end of another post. I hope your Easter is filled with more to do that mine.

Let me ask you this: what are your Easter plans? Have you ever joined a book club? And are you working on any creative projects?

Let me know your thoughts.

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Zayn Leaves One Direction; What’s Wrong With Our Reactions

So One Direction is starting to split up, and I’m not that bothered. I like a few of their songs, but at the end of the day, One Direction is not for me. Ten years ago, they were exactly the kind of boy band fodder I’d have loved. The only concert I’ve ever been to was a Westlife one, which I think speaks volumes about my music taste.

Aged 12, my wardrobe was plastered with posters of McFly and the Jonas Brothers. Now it’s just Nick Jonas, but I’m an adult woman now and I don’t enjoy him with the same fervour my child-self did. There’s a lot more lust and critical awareness now.

What I’m saying is that I understand the One Direction phenomenon. The biggest bands have always had this kind of following of young girls and teens. For how refined people want you to think they are because they enjoy The Beatles, their popularity was boosted by the throngs of young girls and women who loved them. Beatle Mania was looked down upon, and like all good things in media, was pushed by young girls.

I was devastated when my favourite bands broke up, or members went solo. But we live in a different culture now, and society has changed.

Some things have come to light with the announcement that Zayn Malik has left One Direction. I’m going to speak out in his defence, and address some of the problematic and downright hateful things that have come to light since.

You can say what you want about it, but when Justin left *NSYNC, no one accused him of being a terrorist. A popular joke I’ve seen is that Zayn has left the band to join ISIS. This wouldn’t have happened if Harry had been the one to leave. Zayn was raised Muslim, his father is Pakistani-British, and he feels a strong connection to his Asian roots. He has been unapologetic in this, and damn right he should be. But he’s not White British, and that opens him up to jokes stemming from Islamophobia. Apparently what makes you beautiful is snow white skin and a pure British heritage.

There’s a very strong and racist edge to some of these comments made towards him, some from fans, others from people who just like controversy. And what really gets me is that Zayn has always spoken out in defence of his bandmates, getting in many arguments on Twitter over it. There is a definite silence from the others now. There’s an argument that Zayn owes them, and I disagree. They don’t respect him enough to speak out for him. He doesn’t owe the band anything. True friends would support him.

Speaking of Twitter, something started on Twitter which we should never condone. #CutForZayn started trending. Something similar happened years ago with #CutForJustin. It’s in essence pictures of people, mostly teenage girls, showing themselves or the consequences of them self-harming.

It’s a kind of emotional manipulation, and one I often warn people to look for in controlling relationships. It’s a “You made me do this” ploy. The people doing this hope that Zayn will feel guilty enough to stay with the band.

There are plenty of things wrong with this, but on a more basic point, we have the romanticisation of self-harm. Encouraging young girls to cut for a boy band is not healthy, but they don’t know any better. All I can see when I hear about this is the stranger on the metro last week. She was young enough to be wearing a primary school uniform, and she sat with her mother, surrounded by all these shopping bags. And this girl was so happy to be sitting there, kicking her legs and staring with utter adoration at a heart shaped One Direction key-ring. She didn’t know what would happen this week. She was just happy to have a plastic key-ring, enough to kiss each band member. It’s a toxic culture that encourages young girls to hurt themselves.

But it’s not the answer. Hurting yourself over something like this is never the answer. And dear reader, if you do harm yourself in anyway, please seek help. There are resources for you, and you deserve to know that you are cared about.

I am not going to shame these young girls for being upset. They are entitled to be upset, and no one should mock them for that.

I am going to shame the people who use Zayn’s race for a reason to hate and abuse him.

I am going to shame the people who encourage young girls to hurt themselves and then belittle them for it rather than trying to help them.

And finally, I am going to shame the adults who do shame these young girls.

And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post. This one was rushed and I apologise. I’m just becoming agitated with it all.

Let me ask you this: have you seen anything malicious in the media lately about this story? What do you feel about it? And in something lighter, what was your first band to break up?

Let me know your thoughts.

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