Sarah Vine’s desire to be wolf-whistled really does show how women have learned to cope with street harassment

Sarah Vine wishes she’d taken the time to appreciate street harassment when she was younger because now she’s old and ignored, she misses men leaning out of vans and shouting “big titted bitch” at her.

First published by The Independent

Another day, another poorly-articulated column designed to appeal to the kind of people who love carping on about how sensitive the younger generation are, but get upset when they realise that you’re referring to them when you talk about suffering the “racist uncle” at Christmas dinner.

In this particularly delightful epistle, Sarah Vine tells us in her column how foolish she was as a young person, choosing the evils of socialism, feminism and cider over what I’m only assuming are now her current preferences for widening inequality, reinforcing the glass ceiling, and quaffing down champagne mixed with the tears of refugee children.

Sarah Vine wishes she’d taken the time to appreciate street harassment when she was younger because now she’s old and ignored, she misses men leaning out of vans and shouting “big titted bitch” at her.

Honestly, who can blame her? I think all women will agree that one of the greatest joys in life is waiting for a complimentary catcall, like “nice arse” or “sit on my d**k”. And if you fail to respond appropriately, the shouting switches seamlessly to “f**king whore” or “stuck-up slag”, because it was never really about giving you a compliment in the first place. I can see why she pines for those halcyon days.

As the founder of Everyday Sexism Laura Bates writes so accurately, “street harassment is no more about compliments than rape is about sex”. Street harassment is about power. It’s about how men who engage in jeering, cat calling and groping are taking ownership of the public space. They’re saying: this is ours and if you enter it, you and your body are fair game.

Everyone should be able to go about their daily business free from the fear and shame that often comes with being harassed. It’s hard to feel sufficiently “complimented” when you’ve gone back home to change after a charming stranger calls you a slut for wearing shorts in summer. Or you’re walking home at night with your keys between your fingers or pretending to make a phone call so the group of men walking behind you will leave you alone.

Women of all ages and from all walks of life have contributed to the Everyday Sexism project in their hundreds of thousands, to recount disturbingly quotidian instances of street harassment. Sadly, LGBT women and women of colour face more systematic abuse than their straight-presenting white counterparts due to the ugly mingling of sexism, racism and homophobia.

Nevertheless, Sarah Vine’s point that she doesn’t receive the same attention now as she did when she was younger is perhaps one worth addressing. Women are too often written off as they get older, seen as asexual and matronly. A very basic example of this is the sexism in Hollywood towards older female actors, receiving fewer choices of roles and fewer lines of dialogue in those roles. At 37, Maggie Gyllenhaal was already deemed “too old” to play the love interest of a man 18 years her senior. It’s also true that in film and TV, the stories of older women are not often seen as worth telling.

Vine is right to be dismayed that she has to practically “light a flare” in order to get served in a bar (although that might be because the bar staff are not long out of the education system that her husband Michael Gove systematically gutted). However, the invisibility of older women is precisely due to the sexism Vine feels she was silly enough to believe in as a university student. It’s only when we judge women solely on their physical attractiveness and their fertility that young women become more valuable and more worthy of notice.

The answer is not for young women to somehow appreciate being harassed during the bloom of their youth, it’s to challenge sexism and dismantle the culture in which your choice is between being groped and shouted at, and being ignored.

Street harassment is part of a culture of sexism where men believe they are entitled to the bodies of women, starting with intrusive personal comments and jeering, and ending with abuse, rape and, tragically, deadly violence enacted by intimate partners at the other end of the scale.

In Britain, 87 per cent of women have been forced to take a different route when travelling to avoid harassment, and 67 per cent have felt they needed to change their clothes as a result. Street harassment creates a hostile, unwelcome environment for women, where we feel scrutinised and uncomfortable just for stepping outside. It’s not a compliment, and it needs to stop.

Don’t condemn Donald Trump because ‘it could have been your wife or daughter’, or you’re a sexist too

In a leaked tape from 2005, Republican nominee Donald Trump can be heard bragging to TV host Billy Bush about how he is able to use his fame to sexually assault women.

First published by The Independent, 9th October 2016

In a leaked tape from 2005, Republican nominee Donald Trump can be heard bragging to TV host Billy Bush about how he is able to use his fame to sexually assault women. He describes his attempt to “fuck” a married woman and his penchant for kissing and groping women without waiting for them to give consent. He tells Bush that “you can do anything”, even “grab them by the pussy”, if you’re famous.

Several key Republican figures have been swift to condemn Trump, including Mitt Romney who tweeted: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.” Former 2016 Republican hopeful Ted Cruz, who has backed himself into an increasingly tight and embarrassing corner by his flip-flop endorsement for Trump, tweeted: “Every wife, mother, daughter – every person – deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

The key word here is “person”. Every woman deserves to be treated with dignity and respect because she is a person, not because she’s a wife, mother or daughter. This couching of women as appendages to their husbands, fathers and offspring suggests that men might not be able to see Trump’s comments as “bad” if they can’t imagine women as being intimately connected to them. They can’t – or won’t – empathise with women as fellow human beings; they will only go so far as to think of their wives.

Trump is currently polling at near-unseen levels of unpopularity among female voters. He has previously referred to women as “dogs”, “pigs” and “slobs”, accused Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly of being on her period because she asked him difficult questions in the first primary debate, and called a Venezuelan winner of the Miss Universe pageant “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”. When taken to task over the last incident, Trump falsely claimed that Alicia Machado had made a sex tape, as if that would in some way discredit her.

Trump was sued for sexual harassment in 1997, with the plaintiff Jill Harth describing him groping her, pushing her against a wall and trying to kiss her. Reportedly, she remembers vomiting to keep him away from her. She dropped the lawsuit a few weeks after it had been filed, but has restated her allegations this year. Trump’s former wife Ivanka used the word “rape” to describe an assault by Trump during a deposition in the 1990s.

After the tape of Trump’s blatantly misogynistic comments was released, former Miss Utah Temple Taggart has recounted an instance of Trump kissing her on the lips without consent when she was 21, and CNN anchor Erin Burnett has quoted a statement from a female friend describing the same behaviour, right down to the Tic Tacs.

He might have released an apology video, but Trump’s attempt to say sorry quickly devolved into an attack on the Clintons, accusing Bill Clinton of abusing women and Hillary Clinton of bullying her husband’s alleged victims. Trump has since retweeted a woman who claims to have been raped by Bill Clinton, as though he can make the latest blundering controversy go away by making the Clintons appear even more monstrous in the eyes of the public. This is a strange strategy for a man with a current federal lawsuit filed against him, brought by “Jane Doe”, a woman who claims to have been tied to a bed, hit in the face, and raped by Trump when she was 13 years old. Jane Doe has the support of a witness and describes her rape as occurring when she attended the party of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted paedophile. Trump has always denied the allegations.

Former model and Trump’s third wife  Melania has urged voters to forgive her husband in a statement issued by the Trump campaign. She said: “I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.” Unfortunately, Trump’s heinous comments are part of the “important issues facing our nation and the world”, because they are part of rape culture.

Rape culture describes a social environment where the bodily autonomy of women is not recognised, where rape and sexual assault are normalised, and where men are not held accountable for their actions. In the leaked tape, Trump’s remarks manage to neatly espouse all three of those attitudes. He was demonstrably proud of how his celebrity status allowed him to kiss and touch women without their consent. This is sexual assault. This is a violation of women. This tells women that their bodies are not their own: they are merely objects to be fondled by men who know they can get away with it.

Canadian writer Kelly Oxford appealed on Twitter for women to share their stories of “pussy-grabbing” after Trump’s memorable remarks from 2005 were leaked, and was met with an outpouring of grief, pain and heartbreaking resignation. Millions of women responded with their experiences of sexual assault and rape culture and replies flooded in at a rate of 50 per minute, for 14 hours. I added my own story to the cacophony of voices.

Trump is a dangerous, grotesque political parody, and should be removed from the presidential race. His misogyny is so unabashed and so obvious that he shouldn’t be entrusted with a community bake sale, much less the White House. If he hasn’t got the decency to drop out of the race, I can only hope that America’s women will use their votes on 8 November to send a clear message.

We are not pussies to be grabbed. We are people.

NEW NOISE: The Tuts

The Tuts are three women from West London who batter their instruments, crowdsurf, and write punk pop tunes that demand dancing.

First published by Wonderland Magazine, 31st August 2016

The Tuts are three women from West London who batter their instruments, crowdsurf, and write punk pop tunes that demand dancing. They’re a breath of fresh air in the male-dominated punk and garage scene, fusing brash guitar with joyous vocal harmonies. They can count the likes of Billy Bragg and Kate Nash as their fans, and have toured with Nash, The Selecter, and Sonic Boom Six.

The Tuts are the politically-engaged, angry, totally fan-funded girl band of the future, addressing everything from industry sexism and the Tory government to bad boyfriends and creepy ex-friends. They’re Nadia Javed, Harriet Doveton and Beverley Ishmael, and they’re releasing their debut album ‘Update Your Brain’ this month.

Your debut, ‘Update Your Brain’, is going to be released on 8th September. Are you excited? How long has the album been in the making?

 Nadia Javed: I am so excited that it’s almost tipping me over the edge and my mental health is actually a bit all over the place –  I’m so excited, anxious & worried about the whole thing. I feel like it’s an exam I’m revising for and I could do with another week of revision. When the album comes out it’s literally gonna be the pinnacle of careers.

We’ve funded the album via our Pledge campaign. It works as a crowd funder and we hit our target in 5 days. Currently, 709 people have pre-ordered the album, which is pretty good considering we’re a DIY band with no major label or anything. I’ve loved tracking our progress on pledge and looking at the graphs doing data analysis, I’m a geek like that.

Harriet Doveton: It’s been a long time in the making in terms of the songs. Some date back to when Nadia and Bev were teenagers, some are pretty new! We could’ve started working on recording the album ages ago…but I’m confident that NOW is the time and I’m so glad we didn’t do it any earlier. We’ve been prepping and working so hard day and night this year for Update Your Brain, so now I’m excited to just get it out there and let it also do it’s own thing as well as watch all our hard work pay off. I think people are gonna love it. 100% bangers, in my opinion!

 Describe your sound to us in five words.

Nadia Javed: cacophony of bubblegum pussy punk pop

Harriet Doveton: Yummy, sincere, melodic, girl gang EXPLOSION!

Beverley Ishmael: FUZZY BUBBLE GUM POP PUNK

The video for ‘Let Go of the Past’ is so cool and kitschy!  How did you come up with it?

Nadia Javed: The video idea came from the director Jennifer Doveton. She wanted it to look like Jackie magazine and we loved the idea cos it meant we could dress up all 60s/70s and go all out with the hair and makeup.  We love any opportunity to get dressed up. The video mocks some of the old fashioned views that were around of the 60s 70s. For example, there’s a scene where Bev’s at uni but back in the 70s there were hardly any black people at uni. Teen Vogue were supposed to premiere the video and literally the night before emailed us saying that there wasn’t enough of a ‘peg’ for them. We all got into a panic, had a cry cos it was our first release off the album and we wanted it to go out with as much hype as possible. We got over the let down quickly – at the end of the day, we started DIY and we’ll continue DIY.

Harriet Doveton: When we ask my sister Jen to make us a new music video all she has to do is listen to the song ONCE and she’s buzzing with all these detailed adventurous yet totally doable ideas. She’s a creative genius. And she pretty much goes with her first idea every time, like it’s meant to be. So as soon as she heard Let Go of the Past she knew she wanted it to be based around ‘Jackie’ the magazine from the 1970s. Which gave us SO much beautiful aesthetic and ideas to work with. But its also pretty tongue in cheek and pokes fun at how backwards magazines were in previous eras (and still can be now!) Of course it was hard work, just us, Jen and a few friends helping out. But all you need is a small team of reliable people to make something happen.

The Tuts have no manager or promoter. Talk to us about why you’ve decided on the DIY approach.

Nadia Javed: We’ve decided to go down the DIY route for a few reasons. These days you don’t get major labels signing you up unless your parents are famous or you are lucky and have some sort of connection. The smaller record labels can’t offer us enough, we can basically do what they can without having to give away a cut of our fees (they usually want 15-20%). And lastly, we haven’t found anyone who is good enough and can do a better job of it than us. We write our own songs, book our own gigs, do our own social media, have full control over our creative inputs, contribute ideas about our merch, pretty much taught ourselves how to play our instruments. Last year we signed a deal with this cowboy manager, he had no contacts, told us we were shit and crap and basically put us down. We are 100% DIY – at times though it can get too much and you wish you could focus on the songwriting instead of chasing up press or packaging your CDs up to send off to radio stations.

Harriet Doveton: We didn’t exactly decide on the DIY approach. It was natural for us at the beginning of course to just be doing everything ourselves because who else would do it for us? Now we’ve toyed with the idea of working with others but we are proper control freak business women, so its hard to hand over basically our LIFE and passion to someone else. We worked with a manager for a short period of time and it actually delayed a lot of our plans and everything was a mess. Wouldn’t rule it out all together- maybe we’ll find our soul mate manager one day, are you out there? Call me.

But in the mean time, we are breaking our backs as a busy full time DIY band, but reaping the rewards too. Also, a lot of industry types don’t instinctively want to work with a group of women, they won’t always see us as an investment, perhaps just a passing fad. Of course, this is misogynistic, but we’re gonna just ride that misogyny wave to success. Why let it drag you under?

‘Update Your Brain’ features several tracks that address sexism in the music industry. How prevalent do you think this is?

Nadia Javed: The music industry is still really sexist. Festival line-ups are really bad, although some festivals are great and have a good representation. Sexism is something we are facing but also undercover racism. As a girl band AND women of colour we’re fighting a double battle with our colour and gender. It annoys me when people think the reason for these skewed line-ups are that there aren’t enough female bands but there are! They just aren’t getting a platform. Women are more accepted in pop, RnB, and as mainstream solo singers (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Taylor Swift) etc. but not so much if they’re playing their own instruments and in guitar bands. If there’s a girl band on a line-up they’re seen as a token band and there’s only room for one on the bill, quota filled – no more room. The whole punk, rock and indie alternative scene is still male dominated, things need to change. We’re intersectional feminists with pop punk bangers…the world needs us more than ever. That’s why our new album is called ‘update your brain’ cos shit needs to UPDATE.

Harriet Doveton: It’s always been important to us to discuss corruption or inequality in any industry or even situation. Whether it be sexist, racist, homophobic or anything else equally horrible. Speaking out and keeping a critical mind just feels natural and is how we need to be particularly now in the state of this country, and to be able to channel our frustration into songs is even better!

Beverley Ishmael: Well there’s not a day that goes by where a woman isn’t being harassed or sexually assaulted. We feel its very important to sing about things like this. If you ain’t adding value to the music industry, I feel like you need to quit.

tutsbedroom

The next step for The Tuts is obviously your UK tour. Where are you most looking forward to playing?

Nadia Javed: I think the London show is gonna be the most epic. I think about it everyday. We’re also close to selling out. All our close friends, family, fans will be there. It’s gonna be a special night. Hopefully, I won’t be too high on adrenaline and will be able to control my energy. The last London show was too overwhelming for me to the point where I couldn’t enjoy the show. I think I need to meditate before I go up because I was so hyper it was dangerous.

Harriet Doveton: Yes the tour! Oh my god, everywhere. I love going up North. But its exciting to play some places we haven’t played that many times. Like Southampton and Cardiff. I’m looking forward to seeing all the familiar and new faces at the shows, and that a bunch of the support bands are my mates and their music deserves to be heard! We handpicked the support acts ourselves. Crywank, Personal Best, Joyce Delaney, Milk Crimes, Taco Hell, Happy Accidents! What a list. Some of the stars of the DIY punk scene.

Beverley Ishmael: I really love playing Brighton! I have good memories of playing shows there.

One of the lyrics on your album is ‘I will steal your girl fans’ – how have young women responded to The Tuts? Do you have a broad fanbase?

Nadia Javed: Young women are energised by us, they love it! We get messages from young girls telling us we’ve given them the confidence to stand up against bullies, to pick up instruments and basically empower them to full fill what they lacked confidence in doing. This means the world to us. It’s our duty to empower women and victimised groups. After we toured with Kate Nash we got a lot of young fans but we also have a middle aged man fan base from when we toured with The Selecter. We love our fans but I would love to reach out to a younger audience of bad assss feminists. I feel like the only way of getting to this type of audience is by supporting a young established artist.

Harriet Doveton: Yes, I want to steal ALL the boy bands girl fans!! They deserve to be ours! These girls need to see more women on stage. Imagine what it could do for them and their self esteem. Our fan base is broad, a lot of middle aged punk and ska fans, a collection of punks our age, indie poppers and teen girls!

Beverley Ishmael: Hahaha our fan base is dads and daughters.

Who would The Tuts most like to share a stage with?

Nadia Javed: Currently I would really like to share a stage with Charli XCX she’s half Indian like me, her attitude is great, she’s strong, fierce and has catchy pop anthems with zero fucks given attitude. I LOVE HER.

Harriet Doveton: Paramore or Charli XCX!

 Beverley Ishmael: I would love to share the stage with Beyoncé. I don’t know what we would do though. I’d just be on the stage while I watch her do her thing.

How do The Tuts plan on achieving world domination from here onwards?

Nadia Javed: We would like to tour with another major band or artist that has a younger audience with lots of girl fans. We’re gonna carry on doing what we’re doing so keep reaching out to various press etc. to get on as many platforms. But personally I want to develop as a songwriter and really get into working on songs for the second album. We’re gonna carry on being amazing, blowing up stages and steadily reach world domination on our own upward success.

Harriet Doveton: We have BIG plans that we can not yet reveal. But in the mean time, our album is going to lead us to where we need to be. Plus we want to get on loads more festivals next year, even just for the bantz! Tuts do festivals the way festivals should be done. Play an out of control show, get wild at the merch table, find men to take the piss out of, and run around hyped on sugar.

 Beverley Ishmael: Not get pregnant!

 

Update Your Brain is out on 8th September, on Doveton Records.

Budget 2016: Cuts, tax and education…and all you can tweet about is Theresa May’s cleavage?

It’s Budget Day and time to play political bingo, drinking every time the Chancellor mentions the ‘long term economic plan’, ‘hardworking families’ (as opposed to all those families who don’t really put a lot of effort in) and ‘tough decisions’ (read: economic measures to batter society’s poorest into submission).

First published by International Business Times, 16th March 2016

It’s Budget Day and time to play political bingo, drinking every time the Chancellor mentions the ‘long term economic plan’, ‘hardworking families’ (as opposed to all those families who don’t really put a lot of effort in) and ‘tough decisions’ (read: economic measures to batter society’s poorest into submission).

There’s plenty to discuss, including the highly contentious decision to force all schools to become academies by 2020, the cut in capital gains tax from 28% to 20%, and the ominous further spending cuts of £3.5bn to be realized in the next four years.
However, many on Twitter and the political blog Guido Fawkes, run by right-wing blogger Paul Staines, decided to remind us about the REAL Budget Day issue: Home Secretary Theresa May’s daring choice to wear a similar red suit to last year, and show a few inches of cleavage.
Twitter users were outraged, presumably because they hadn’t actually listened to any of the measures delivered in Osborne’s eighth Budget as chancellor, or perhaps because they were so distracted by the sight of a woman who isn’t 20-something displaying cleavage that their brains imploded and rendered them unable to absorb any pertinent information.

The Guido Fawkes blog post begins with the line: “last year’s Budget saw Theresa May’s eye-catching number cause more of a stir on Twitter than George Osborne”.

Why on earth is Guido Fawkes keeping tabs on what Theresa May wears on Budget Day? It’s meant to be a political blog, not Perez Hilton On Westminster. If Guido Fawkes is so interested in the sartorial choices of politicians, why isn’t the site running posts about whether or not Osborne wore the same yawn-inducing suit two Budgets in a row?

You can become an MP, a key cabinet minister, and one of the most powerful figures in Westminster, but you’re still just a female and you can be reduced to your clothing choices and mammary glands.

Of course, many Twitter users have been sharing their intellectually stimulating witticisms regarding Theresa May’s cleavage.

User @Rannochmuir attempted to galvanise SNP MPs into cleavage-patrolling the Commons, tweeting: “will somebody on @theSNP benches tell Theresa May to put those gugged leathery auld saddlebags away. #boak #Budget2016”.

@BriefcaseMike shared his profound insights with the comment “wish Theresa May would remember that Commons uses overhead cameras. I don’t want to see her cleavage when I’m having lunch. #Budget2016”.

And @Pils10 simply said: “For God sake Theresa May, put your cleavage away, you’re on live TV representing your government and people not Babestation.”

These tweets are so lazily sexist – they aren’t just childish internet nonsense. They serve to remind us women of our place. You can become an MP, a key cabinet minister, and one of the most powerful figures in Westminster, but you’re still just a female and you can be reduced to your clothing choices and mammary glands. ‘Eww look at her boobies’ is flung out as an insult by man-boys hiding behind Twitter, even when you’re the goddamn Home Secretary.

The shaming of Theresa May for showing cleavage also taps into the wider cultural issue of how women who are no longer in their 20s and 30s are all-but erased within pop culture and denied any sexuality. It’s all right to get your baps out when you’re young, but after a certain point you’re gross and embarrassing and please just sit quietly in the corner until death, thank you.

The shaming of Theresa May for showing cleavage also taps into the wider cultural issue of how women who are no longer in their 20s and 30s are all-but erased within pop culture and denied any sexuality

Piers Morgan’s comments about Susan Sarandon’s choice to show cleavage at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards in February are a perfect example of this, calling her attire “horribly inappropriate” and “tacky”. I’m absolutely positive that the Academy Award and Bafta-winning Sarandon cried into her pillow that night because some puffed up former News of the World editor (I hear they were an ethical publication…) and Britain’s Got Talent presenter gave his unsolicited opinion on her outfit choice.
Piers Morgan used the word ‘inappropriate’ precisely because older women have to be ‘appropriate’. The cannot be sexy. They should be covered up and matronly; sexless and quiet. Not seen and not heard.

Roles for older women in TV and films are few and far between, save for the pre-approved matriarch, scary mother-in-law, contented homemaker or bitchy boss characters. On the Andrew Marr Show, Dame Kristin Scott Thomas recently said “I won’t bore you with all the stories of older women not getting jobs in film because it’s so boring. But it’s true. It’s a disaster.” Julie Walters and Patricia Hodge have made similar statements.

Older women should not be consigned to the scrapheap in popular culture, politics or in public life. If you’re not a fan of May’s politics (and I certainly am not), there’s plenty to tweet about. I find the entire Tory cabinet morally repugnant as human beings, but Theresa May deserves to be criticized on the basis of her political decisions and allegiances, not belittled by strangers on Twitter who are offended by the tops of her breasts.

INTERVIEW! The Tuts talk sexism in music, their upcoming album, and their DIY aesthetic

The Tuts are the most exciting feminist all-girl band on the scene right now. They have no manager, no stylist, no publicist, no booking agent, and no label, but they continue to gain fans and play sell-out shows across the UK. F

First published by Louder Than War, Friday 11th March 2016

The Tuts are the most exciting feminist all-girl band on the scene right now. They have no manager, no stylist, no publicist, no booking agent, and no label, but they continue to gain fans and play sell-out shows across the UK. Formed ‘properly’ in 2013, The Tuts are all about super-catchy ‘fuck you’ punk pop anthems, and they sing about everything from street harassment, to relationships, to a disastrous dalliance with a manger who just wanted an ego massage. Nadia Javed, Harriet Doveton, and Beverly Ishmael are The Tuts. Two are women of colour, they’re all feminists, and they all rock harder than any of their male counterparts on the scene right now.

I first saw them at A Carefully Planned Festival in Manchester, where they packed out the venue and got crowds who had stood very still for two days of mostly-male indie bands to jump and dance. They invited me to interview them about the upcoming debut album, set to be released on their own label, Dovetown, and is already entirely funded through Pledge.

Harriet Williamson: So talk to me about Pledge, and the new album.

Harriet Doveson: We decided to use Pledge because we’re a completely DIY band – we’ve done everything off our own backs, and we’ve come quite far considering, so we thought that there wasn’t any point using a small label even though we have a lot of respect for independent labels, because we’re essential a label ourselves. We call it Dovetown – and we thought that we should either sign with a big label or we do it ourselves, so we decided to do it ourselves. We went on tour with Sonic Boom Six and Barney [Paul ‘Barney’ Barnes from Sonic Boom Six] works at Pledge and suggested it. We looked into it, had meetings, and decided that our fan base is full of the type of people who would want to get involved in this way.

Beverly Ishmael: Yeah, they’re really interactive.

HD: It means we can fund the album through pre-orders and then release it off our own label.

Nadia Javed: People are paying for something that doesn’t even exist yet. I mean, we have the songs, we have classic old Tuts songs that have never been recorded, but we’ve also got new ones we’ve written. We’re totally blown away by the response. We knew we had a loyal fan base but we didn’t know that that many people would be interested.

HD: We were overwhelmed.

NJ: To hit a 100% in less than a week, even the people who pledged are gobsmacked, and at the Pledge head office, they’re using our campaign as a prototype.

HW: And this campaign wouldn’t have been possible without social media.

BI: You have to use social media for all it’s worth!

HD: We came up with these bundle ideas, and we decided to take some of our grassroots DIY stuff and put it on the Pledge. We’re going to be hand-customizing Tuts jackets and screen-printing posters.

NJ: A bundle is when you get a number of items, so the Girl Gang bundle is for the teenagers and they get a t-shirt, the CD, scrapbook, stickers, badges, and a handwritten letter. We did a big feminist sign to go in some of the bundles. We’ve got bronze, silver and gold, and a platinum bundle. We only made 10 of the platinum for £100 each, and they had the CD, t-shirt, both vinyls, stickers, badges, guest list for one year, a handwritten letter, a lyric sheet, and a mystery gift. We sold out in a couple of hours, all ten gone!

HW: Can you tell me a little bit about the influences for the new album?

HD: It’s going to be old school Tuts songs and some new ones. We’re listening to so much pop music when we’re in the car on tour, so when me or Nadia bring a new song to practice, we say ‘this one’s a bit like McFly’!

NJ: Growing up I had a real obsession with Feeder, which turned into The Libertines, so the way I play guitar was learnt from how they play guitar. They’ve reformed now and they’re back in the mainstream, which is quite weird for me. We toured with Kate Nash, we’re really open minded about what influences us. People don’t think its cool to like pop or Spice Girls, but we grew up in the 90s.

HD: Catchy pop melodies are the core of our songs, as well as the distorted guitar, so citing pop influences is really us being true to ourselves

HW: Let’s talk about sexism in the music industry.

NJ: As soon as we started, there was sexism. At school, bands would use our gender against us, saying things like ‘the only reason why people like you is because you’re girls and it’s different’. Trying to make us out like a token band. When we started to get our first few shows, people would assume we were the girlfriends of the boys in bands.

HD: Or they’d assume we were on first. We don’t mind going on first, but it was the fact that their brains would jump there, like why?

NJ: Then the headliner would be this really shit boy band, and we’d look at their social media, just out of interest, to see what interactions they’d had, and there would be hardly anyone following them, no status updates, no passion – nothing.

And we go up there and give it 110% every times because we believe in what we do and it makes us happy and it’s natural – and then we get told…

HD: That they’re the real deal.

BI: That they’re legit.

HW: Because they have penises.

NJ: I’ve said that on stage before – ‘If I had a penis’!

HD: To be honest, a lot of it is everyday sexism now.

NJ: And labels will get one girl band and say they’ve reached their quota.

HW: It’s like TV shows where there’s one person of colour in the whole programme and that’s all the non-white characters the writers can put in.

[Agreement]

NJ: I know we have to raise a certain amount of money for the recordings, but we’re not blown away by the money. It’s about how many people have pledged. They really care, and I didn’t think we’d even hit 20%, I really didn’t. We’ve proved to people that you can do it DIY and yes, the industry’s fucked, and yes there’s lots of sexism, but on the flip side, we can just fight this shit. We can still be successful.

HD: Even though it’s a battle, you can still get there.

BI: You can still break through the barriers.

NJ: We have to work ten times harder. We’re always working on the band. Whether its emails, practicing, writing songs, coming up with ideas – we have so many different group chats for ideas.

HD: We just want other women to feel empowered. I remember when I was a teenager and I first started playing guitar, and there were loads of rival boy bands – we had one boy in our band when I was 16 and people said ‘err you have to have at least one boy in the band or else you’d be really shit’. To be honest, that’s always stuck with me. I was insecure on stage for years and then I finally thought ‘fuck it, I don’t give a shit anymore’, and now I’m brilliant.

[Everyone agrees]

BI: When me and Nadia were at school together, we saw male, white boy bands like The Libertines and The View, we were never really intimidated. We never thought ‘we can’t do that’. We just thought ‘if they’re doing, we’re doing it too’.

NJ: We’re more extroverted and lairy than any of them, so when we were growing up in Hayes and we’d have boys taking the piss out of us at school, we’d always have to cuss them back. We were getting this racist shit and people taking the piss out of how we looked, and we’d shout back. We’re feisty. We used to go to Skepta raves!

BI: And now we’ve realised that not every girl is like we were.

NJ: When we went on the Kate Nash tour, we got a lot of young girls becoming fans. They asked us ‘how do you go up there, give us some tips’.

HD: And they say stuff like, ‘I could never do that’.

NJ: Or ‘you’ve given me the inspiration to want to do that’ and then we realised that a lot of girls are really shy and insecure. So for us to give them confidence to then go out and do it, that’s an amazing feeling. We used to get a lot of letters from girls because we used to give out Harriet’s address, but someone published it on Twitter…

HD: … And we were like ‘nooooo not doing that anymore’.

NJ: Remember that gig we played where all those boys at the front were getting hard ons? And that time when there was a wet floor, that man wiped his finger on the floor and sucked it!

[Sounds of disgust]

HW: That’s so unhygienic for a start off…

NJ: Yeah and then I saw him at another gig when I had my hair tied up and he said ‘oh you look ugly with your hair up’.

HD: We used to get more, but now we have a more established fan base..

NJ: We’ve scared them away!

HD: They know not to be like that now. It happened more when we used to play random gigs.

BI: Yeah, battle of the bands kind of gigs.

HD: And random shows in London. Doesn’t mean they’re not still there, but they get filtered out a bit.

HW: Tell me about your on-stage style. I was worried that this was a sexist question, but you clearly put a lot of thought into how you dress.

HD: No, not sexist at all!

NJ: Yeah, we put thought into it. We like make-up, we like to look nice. We like coordinating, so the night before we’ll ask ‘what are you wearing’ on the group chat and try to match. It is important to us, because it makes us feel good.

BI: Like an armour, that’s how it felt when I first started wearing matching stuff.

HD: Doesn’t mean everyone has to do it of course, wear what you want on stage.

NJ: When I think I look ugly on stage, I act more timid, like I’m more scared.

HW: You guys look fierce on stage.

NJ: Yeah we look good for about 5 seconds then the beat drops and the hair’s all over the place! The fucking hairclips that you’ve crisscrossed over have been flung in the air…

HW: Hitting a misogynist in the eye?

[Laughter]

HW: Ok, best record of last year?

HD: I really like Laura Stevenson’s album ‘Cocksure’.

BI: I dunno, there are too many… this is a hard question.

HW: I never said it would be an easy interview!

NJ: Craig David’s ‘Slicker Than Your Average’. We’ve rediscovered Craig David. I’m gonna go for Big Eyes as well

HD: That one didn’t come out this year, but Nadia got into last year.

NJ: I’d say The Selecter too.

HW: Your shows are so energetic. How do you get the crowd going?

NJ: Cocaine. And champagne.

BI: We shout abuse at them and rile them up, they love it!
NJ: Yeah we just swear at them, they fucking love it. If you say ‘ooh you lovely bunch, just clap along and be happy’, they’re not going to go for it. I fell off the stage once and we sold the most merch ever.

HD: They love disasters! Falling over, breaking strings…

NJ: They love any sort of drama on the stage.

HW: Do you feel you have to go harder that male bands?

NJ: YES.

HD: we were saying, they roll out of bed.

BI: They roll out of bed, onto the front cover of NME.

NJ: They are so boring! At most you might get a bit of a knee tap and then some wanky guitar masturbation but we go crazy. It’s not forced either; we want to do it. And somehow our lip liner stays intact!

HW: So you’re a West London band?

NJ: Yeah. People hear West London and they think Kensington, Fulham, Chelsea, but we’re from Hayes where Heathrow Airport is.

HD: We were talking about how it’s been erased, that area of London. No one talks about it, even though Heathrow’s there and everyone uses the airport – people pretend Uxbridge and Hayes don’t exist.

NJ: It’s because Boris Johnson’s running it!

HD: It’s because it’s not trendy, there’s nothing going on there, it’s not exactly a very posh area either.

HW: When are you hoping to release the album?

HD: Start of summer, so we’d say June. It will probably be done before then, but you’ve got to build it up and get your tour ready. We’re playing Glastonwick, Bearded Theory festival, Rebellion, the Northern Modern Ska festival, Undercover, and Camden Rocks this summer.

NJ: There’s more we’re working on.

HD: Because we don’t have a booking agent for festivals. You have to hunt down the people or else they don’t give a shit.

NJ: I’m always on my bed, legs crossed, teapot, laptop, BANG new tab, BANG Instagram, BANG Twitter! Then I’m typing the guy’s name into linked in, finding his contact details, his website, then I watch some YouTube videos, do some research, and find something about this person or this festival, so we can customize the email.

HD: If we had a booking agent, they’d just be sending out blanket emails. We want to do it down to the details.

BL: Yeah if we had one, we’d be like ‘so what about that festival’ and they’d say ‘nah they never got back to you’.

HD: Booking agents help you but they also keep you in the dark a lot. You don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know who the contact is, and we like to be in control.

NJ: I found this guy on Facebook who was the booker for a festival, and I added him at like 3am, and he accepted, and I messaged him – you know like creepy men do? ‘Wow that was quick’ – so I was the creepy man! And I said ‘how do I know you’ and he said ‘we were caught shagging in the back of your mum’s Fiesta’ and I was like ‘oh shit’. I said ‘shut the fuck up, I’ll throw a pint at your head’ and he said ‘so do you want to play the festival’, and I said yeah.

HW: I don’t want this to end, but what message would you like to leave me with?

BI: We are 100%

NJ: DIY or die.

HD: Organic.

NJ: World domination.

 

 

The sex tape behind #OhNoBriana continues a long and sinister tradition that started long before One Direction

The hashtag #OhNoBriana has been trending in the last couple of days, in case you hadn’t noticed.

First published by The Independent, Friday 19th February 2016

The hashtag #OhNoBriana has been trending in the last couple of days, in case you hadn’t noticed. If you’re not au fait with the happenings in teeny-popland, the hashtag refers to a private video that has been leaked, depicting a girl who appears to resemble Briana Jungwirth – the girlfriend of One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson and mother of their son Freddie – having sex with two men.

The sex tape reportedly does not feature Jungwirth, and this is the second time false claims that she has been involved in a sex tape have appeared online. Some Directioners have been quick to slut-shame Jungwirth and express their disgust online. Many others have reacted with dismay that their fandom has so little respect for the partners of the One Direction men.

I’m very much uninterested in 1D, their music, and what they get up to in their spare time. However, it’s depressing to see people use Briana Jungwirth’s reportedly false sex tape as a tool with which to shame both her and Louis Tomlinson. It plays into a long tradition of discrediting male figures by implying that ‘their women’ are sexually promiscuous.

When Kanye West played Glastonbury in 2015, plenty of festival fans thought his inclusion on the line-up wasn’t in keeping with the aesthetic of the festival, even starting a petition to have him struck off as a headliner. One festival-goer attended his set with a flag emblazoned with a still from Kim Kardashian’s sex tape with Ray J. This was without doubt an attempt to shame West by using his wife’s very public sexual history against him. They didn’t want him at the festival, so their natural response was to slut-shame his wife.

Neither Tomlinson nor West are responsible for or in control of the sexuality of the women they’re involved with. Kim Kardashian and Briana Jungwirth’s sex lives are their business. Kim allegedly chose to release her sex tape to increase publicity for her now incredibly famous family. Using her sexuality in that way is her prerogative.

Jungwirth is not part of this week’s leaked sex tape, and that’s problematic not least because the actual woman featured has had her privacy grossly invaded. As Jennifer Lawrence rightly stated when her nude photographs were disseminated online, releasing someone’s private media is a sex crime.

The sexuality of women has historically been policed, silenced, stifled, and treated as public property, and this is a sad continuation of that trope. The outrage surrounding the not-Brianna-Jungwirth sex tape is positively puritanical, and would be better directed at whoever decided to violate the currently unnamed woman’s privacy in an attempt to discredit Louis Tomlinson.

Until we stop considering women’s sexuality and sexual choices OUR COLLECTIVE BUSINESS, women will continue to be shamed for their sexual agency. Brianna Jungwirth deserves to be able to live her life free from false claims. Importantly, even if she did make a sex tape, that’s absolutely her business. It wouldn’t denigrate her as a human being, it wouldn’t make her worth any less, and it wouldn’t belong to Directioners or the general public.

If she did not consent to the sharing of tape, the woman who appears in the leaked video has been wronged in a very ugly and public manner.

If the sex tape featuring the Jungwirth lookalike was shared without her permission, this is the real outrage, not whether or not the mother of Tomlinson’s baby is a ‘whore’. It’s time we realised that these playground politics have an incredibly sinister undertone.

A lesson for Kanye West: You are not a God and Taylor Swift doesn’t need your blessing

Walking God complex Kanye West has courted controversy once again with the release of his new album The Life Of Pablo, which was unveiled on 11 February.

First published by International Business Times, 12th February 2016

Walking God complex Kanye West has courted controversy once again with the release of his new album The Life Of Pablo, which was unveiled on 11 February. The track Famous includes the lyrics “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous”.

West is referring to Taylor Swift and the moment during the 2009 MTV VMAs, where he took to the stage and interrupted her acceptance speech to inform the audience that Beyoncé should have won the award for best music video. He was widely criticised for his actions, with US President Barack Obama weighing in to call him a “jackass”.

According to Swift’s spokesperson, West asked Taylor to share the song Famous on her Twitter account. She declined and although unaware of the line “I made that bitch famous”, “cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message”.

Is Famous misogynistic? West’s reference to Taylor Swift certainly is. His behaviour at the 2009 VMAs was rude and childish. Beyoncé didn’t need him to fight her corner and he had no business ruining Swift’s acceptance speech. The rapper publicly apologised to Swift during the 2015 VMAs but he couldn’t just leave it at that.

He has used the lyrics of Famous to try and put Taylor back in her place, suggesting the 2009 controversy “made” her career, a statement that’s both sexist and untrue. Swift didn’t need a man’s rude interruption to set her on the path to stardom. She was already a star, already collecting an MTV award for best music video.

West’s assertion that he “might still” have sex with Swift attempts to belittle her, needlessly turning her into another potential conquest and a sex object. Does Taylor Swift want to have sex with Yeezus? Did he ask? Does she owe him?

It’s obvious that West has some very serious unresolved issues when it comes to women. He oscillates between extreme idolisation and denigration of the women in his life, worshipping his late mother Donda and his wife Kim, while dragging ex-girlfriend Amber Rose through the proverbial mud at every possible opportunity.

West has publicly admitted that he blames himself for Donda’s death, which occurred following complications from plastic surgery procedure that her son had paid for. He appears to be unable to see women as whole people, rather than viewing them through the lens of the Madonna/whore dichotomy. Women must either be perfect and revered (Donda and Kim) or base and reviled (Rose).

In his recent Twitter battle with Wiz Khalifa, West insulted Rose with the barb “you let a stripper trap you” and in an interview with Power 105, he previously described needing to take “30 showers” after being with Rose, to be clean enough for his wife Kim.

Each time West insults Rose, the jibes refer to her past as a stripper and her apparent “whorishness” or uncleanliness. This public slut shaming is not only incredibly misogynistic but it’s also odd since his spouse made herself and her family famous initially from a sex tape with rapper Ray J.

This week, Kanye also managed to implicitly victim-blame the women who were allegedly abused by Bill Cosby, by tweeting that Cosby is innocent. Between the Taylor Swift reference in Famous, his treatment of Rose, and the Cosby tweet, Kanye seems to have lost a fan in Orange Is The New Black star Ruby Rose.

West is an incredibly talented musician and performer, that much is undeniable. However, the product of Yeezus includes his lyrics, ego and public persona. If he continues to behave like a spoilt brat who can’t bear to be wrong or challenged, stuffing his Twitter feed and song lyrics with retrograde, sexist references, I’m not buying.

As for Famous, it’s merely another example of his huge, quivering jelly of an ego and his need to put a woman “back in her place” after his actions towards her placed him squarely in the wrong. West’s reference to Swift in Famous is not unlike his Twitter slurs towards Rose. Both women were connected to him, one personally, the other professionally, and both have thrived and become increasingly successful without his patronage and despite his derision.

Kanye is a sensitive soul. He needs to be needed. And he really needs to sort out his problem with women.