“I really love [insert touring band here], but nobody will come see them with me”
I’ve always been relatively independent; I was never the girl in school who rallied a group of pals around just to visit the bathroom. When I moved out and lived in student halls I spent a lot of time alone on account of having less in common with my flatmates than I’ve had with anyone else I’ve ever met. Now I have lived alone for almost six months, and since graduating I’ve been left making a living in a way that doesn’t involve much human interaction (this blog), and a group of friends who work full time. What I’m probably saying is that my doing stuff alone, going for a walk, taking my laptop to a café, reading in the park, hasn’t been so much of an active choice as a necessity. I like staying in in my pyjamas from time to time, but not that much.
BUT, however it has come about, it really isn’t that bad. Passers by don’t really give you funny looks, baristas don’t pause with a knowing look of pity when you order your coffee ‘to stay’, and I’d even go as far as to say it is enjoyable. There’s something extremely liberating about doing stuff alone, that is (for me) very different from being home alone, or even being out doing ‘chores’ like the grocery shop. The first time I went to a gig by myself was an enlightening experience in this respect. Ariel Pink was playing in the Royal Northern College of Music concert hall (like a proper sit down concert) and most of my friends couldn’t care less. Having enjoyed pom pom (even in spite of the terrible person that Ariel Pink evidently is, but that’s a discussion for another day) I decided to go down alone; I bought a ticket at the door, and spent roughly two hours watching live music by myself. And that was that.
Since then I’ve been to a few more shows alone. I saw Nils Frahm perform at the Albert Hall (an especially immersive experience which I almost feel was improved by being alone, and has been by far one of my favourite ‘concerts’ of the year), and in my most adventurous move yet I even travelled to Leeds (an hour’s train from Manchester) to see Purity Ring. Watching bands alone seems to have the most social stigma attached to it, but it is really no big deal.
This isn’t revolutionary, and to some people comes more naturally than anything. I can also appreciate that those who suffer badly with social anxiety may face a very different set of obstacles when it comes to going out and doing things without a friend. However, if doing stuff alone is something you’ve considered but each time opted to stay home instead, I hope my directionless rambling (I just felt like writing ok) can persuade you to (figuratively) join me in doing stuff by yourself.
Words by Hannah Farrington
Photo by Toni Power
Why do you want to wear a bindi? The majority of the time, people want to wear it as a fashion statement simply because they think it looks “cool”, thus appropriating a culture whilst remaining ignorant to the meaning it holds to others. They see no problem in this, and I can understand where that attitude comes from. I hear a lot of people say that they wouldn’t mind if an Asian adopted something from their culture, but this is exactly where the problem lies – this isn’t a cultural exchange. For a cultural exchange to happen, there needs to be understanding and respect, which if I’m honest, most people who wear the bindi as a fashion statement don’t have. For a cultural exchange to happen, there needs to be understanding and respect, which if I’m honest, most people who wear the bindi as a fashion statement don’t have. You can’t take whatever you like from another, marginalised culture for your own self expression just because you think it looks good, whilst remaining uneducated and ignorant towards its symbology.
I was raised often wearing traditional Asian clothing, and I’m sure other British Asians will agree that we are more than aware of the looks we often get for being “different” when dressed this way. We’ve all heard jokes about Indian women having red dots on their forehead, but when a white person does it it’s simply a cute alternative fashion accessory for their festival outfit. The people you have appropriated the bindi from do not have the same privilege as you.
Unless you have directly experienced this for yourself, you will probably not be aware of the privilege you have and what it feels like to be looked at as an outsider due to your traditional dress. This is a sensitive topic, and I hate to separate people into groups based on their race or culture but that is essentially what it comes down to – something that is socially acceptable for one group is not for another. I find people being complimented for wearing the same bindi that Asians would be penalised or mocked for quite annoying; it is a double standard. To some people out there, the woman who wears a bindi because it represents her culture is just some Indian lady with a weird red dot on her forehead, and you are not liberating or appreciating her culture in any way by simply going to some high street store and buying a pack of stick on bindis to wear on your forehead because you want to look edgy in your selfies on Instagram.
I know there are many differing opinions on this, and I am not saying that I am against people having an interest in things from other cultures. Appreciating other cultures is a great thing – it can break down stereotypes and promote education on other ethnicities and religions. What I am against is people doing this with a lack of knowledge and respect. To people saying they see no harm in it and that it’s okay, ask yourself – who are you to dictate what is and isn’t acceptable when it isn’t your culture that is being appropriated? The problem, for me personally, lies in the adaptation and acceptance of Asian culture without the acceptance of Asian people.
Why do you want to wear a bindi? If you want to wear one because you think it’s just some cute fashion accessory – please don’t.
Cultural appropriation is probably the most over-used phrase of 2015, but not without good reason. I think it has been pretty conducive in awakening many people to the possibility that some of their fashion choices are causing deep offence. Unfortunately, awareness is still not enough to stop the defiant few, *cough* Kylie Jenner *cough*.
I don’t think it is outlandish to say that cultural appropriation is a form of racism. That’s because it is a form of racism. But when people hear the word ‘racist’ their defence mechanisms go into over-drive, and instead of them actually attempting to rationally understand the racial implications of wearing braids, corn-rows, or other typically black hairstyles, they fiercely object to the possibility that anything they say or do, could ever be racist, because ‘they would never intend to cause harm’, or ‘they have a black friend’, or ‘a hairstyle can’t be racist’.
Whilst the first response fails to acknowledge the undeniable fact that many racist beliefs and behaviours are ingrained into a person due to us living in a white supremacist society, (irrespective of whether they intended it or not), and the second response really not worth addressing, I’d quite like to briefly discuss the third response, regarding the whole ‘a hairstyle can’t be racist’ drivel.
Lets be concise: you are taking the parts of black culture, that suit you – the parts that are currently trendy, or the parts that are currently profitable (braid bars, anyone?). You’re dipping into a culture, that we, blacks, don’t have the choice to dip out of. It would be ideal if there was an ‘opt-out’ option for institutionalised racism, police brutality, problematic stereotyping. It’d be ideal if we could be black, without being black, you know? It’d be ideal if we could keep the desirable traits such as profitable ‘urban’ hairstyles and ‘fuller’ lips, but forget the painful past, and just dodge the tasers, bullets, and mysterious prison deaths.
There is a huge ignorance to context, both past and present. Racism, without getting into the nuances of it, is based on the belief that one race is superior to another. White privilege, is a subconscious superiority complex, which many refuse to be aware of. CA is the result of privilege, and thus is the result of beliefs of racial superiority, and thus, is racist.
That is, if we’re being concise.
On the issue of cultural appropriation amongst fashion brands, bloggers and social influencers: it is of course rampant, but that is simply because it still exists in the fashion industry. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. Similarly, to expend energy and penalise brands for producing and selling trends that appropriate marginalised cultures, may not be most productive. However, what each blogger and influencer can individually do, is be more critical of the ideas that they are maintaining and promoting, through the products they choose to feature on their blog or social media. Wearing accessories that closely resemble Native American headdresses in the name of ‘festival fashion’ is maintaining CA as a social phenomena. It is saying racism, is a-OK.
Of course, every blogger has complete creative discretion over the projects that they work on, and has the complete right to produce content without judgement. I’m just asking that we be a little more critical of the messages that we may be promoting.
We need to be stop being scared of the word ‘racist’. Racism comes in different shapes and forms. Let’s stop avoiding it. Let’s get to know, and understand why it may apply to certain actions/beliefs we may have, instead of covering our ears and running a mile every time we hear it. Let’s try to educate ourselves a little!
I have finished my degree. I studied law at the University of Manchester for 3 years, and will be officially graduating with first class honours on July 17th. I couldn’t be more thrilled, but now as I enter the dreaded land of post-graduation and I wanted to write a bit of a frank and honest plan of action. So:
There’s some twisted irony in the fact that at the time of writing this post, my stress levels are at a record high and I have a negligible amount of time remaining to bash out the final few thousand words of my dissertation… HELP.
Anyway, I digress. One of the questions I’m most frequently asked when people find out that I am a full time student as well as a blogger, is ‘how do you manage your time?‘. I usually give a relatively vague answer about knowing when to prioritise one over the other, but as I’m at the very peak of my busiest ever time at university (specifically, the end of my final year) I thought it appropriate to give my time management techniques, both conscious and subconscious, a little more thought. In doing so I hope to both help myself in this final stretch, and help others who are perhaps struggling to manage blogging (or another hobby or flexible job) alongside university, college or school.
Tip #4 – don’t compare your blog to a full time blogger’s blog
Finally I think it’s important to avoid comparing yourself and your work to others generally, but sometimes it is helpful to gauge where you are at in comparison to your peers. This becomes less helpful, however, when you start comparing your blog to a full time blogger’s blog. Blogging is very time consuming, and naturally those who are fortunate enough to call it a career have a lot more time to put into it. Whenever I’m getting a bit stressed about the quality and frequency of my posts, I just remember that many of my friends and others who I admire simply have a lot more hours in the day to dedicate to blogging than I do.
In conclusion, balancing blogging and university is about just that: balance. Sometimes I give university work a little more weight, sometimes I prioritise blogging, and of course don’t forget to add having an actual social life into that mix too. I hope that these tips are helpful or at least in some way cathartic if you’re in the same position as me; don’t stress too much, it’s not that hard and you’re doing great!
Ok, one last ‘resolutions’ post then we can all get on with our lives for another 12 months. As we enter the second full week of 2015, 2014 seems practically prehistoric and I’m keen to collect my plans, ideas and motivations for hannahlouisef in one place.
I have never actually made a new year’s resolution in my life (aside from trying to con my way out of vegetables as a child – ‘no mum I can’t eat broccoli it’s my new year’s resolution’), but this year the change in the calendar seems to have coincided with a general feeling of personal evolution for me. 2015 is inevitably going to be a year of quite vast change; right now I’m half way through my final year of university meaning that, provided all goes to plan, I will be graduating this summer. I almost feel that writing this now, in January, is premature, because little will change for me in the next 5 or 6 months, but with the new year coming in one can’t help but get a bit swept up in resolutions and dramatic life change proposals and all those other rather silly things.
Anyway I digress, the main point is that 2015 will be the first year in my living memory that I won’t be in education, which is frankly terrifying. I will certainly be sad to leave university but I am looking forward to finishing my degree (I have considered post-graduate study, I think I’m going to at least have a year off first), however I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to (or even what I want to) do come the summer. This combined with being consciously aware that I am changing and evolving as a person at the moment is just the strangest feeling, and I think writing this post is a way for me to get my head around that, and to have some evidence of how I thought or hoped my year might go to look back on come the end of it. I also hope it might give some of you some ideas or inspiration, if you’re feeling a little stuck in limbo like I am! Here are my life resolutions for 2015: