It’s cool to be kind.

It’s cool to be kind.

You’ve got to be cruel to be kind, or so we’re told, right? ‘They’re being mean because they like you’ is – quite honestly- a messed-up role we accept as a must-be fact when we’re infants; A bright-eyed and bushy haired four year old believing that the boy who pushed us over on the playground and scraped open our bruise-riddled knee cap was picking on us because he liked us. Some folk build their whole personalities around their brutal ‘honesty’ and the fact that they’re #real, claiming the title of the bitch of the group as if it were a Pride of Britain award. “I just say it how it is babe”. What you’re saying- babe – is that you’re a prick.

For far too long we’ve brushed off rudeness as a character trait, something to laugh along at although we wouldnt dare say it ourselves. Excusing the behaviour of that friend who’s slut shaming others from the pub corner because ‘that’s just what they’re like’. Or letting your elderly relative get away with calling the woman on the table next to you ‘a bit of a porker’ because ‘he’s from that generation’. But what if this ‘harmless’ fun in which you giggle at under closed doors amongst your tightly-woven friendship group is breeding something more harmful than a sour-mouthed loveable rogue? One who can’t be scoffed at and told to pipe down over a pint of Heineken and a packet of bacon fries, or sighed at that ‘Grandpa you can’t say that anymore!’ through muffled laughs of secret impress. What if these small spikes of validation are slowly encouraging the rise of thy once woeful friend or relative to tread into ever more dangerous territory; Territory where they cannot be monitored, recognised or identified, Where they can hide under a false persona and push young girls to attempt suicide through their smug opinions and ghastly off-the-cuff comments. What if you’re giving birth to an internet troll?

Sounds crazy, right? But they’re arising from somewhere, and at lightning speed. As someone who has unfortunately been on the receiving end of online trolling and name-calling, I can *categorically* state that these individuals aren’t overweight, sweaty men who wear off-white vests and hang out in their mums garages giving their wrists a good work out –not all of them anyway. These people are really, really….normal? Your mum’s friend Carol (it’s always Carol isn’t it?) who lives a few doors down might send round some of her left over apple pie on a foggy Thursday evening, but what you fail to see is that she’s also pressing send on a Facebook comment calling a twenty-something girl she doesn’t know a slag on a local newspaper’s page. Your loveable elderly Uncle? He’s sending unsolicited dick pics and graphic sexual comments about what he wants to ‘do’ to women fifty years his junior straight into their inbox. Your brother? He’s belittling women on Twitter and telling them to get a real job. And your sister? Well, she might be tagging her friend in an Instagram post as they laugh at the way a girls belly roll sits. These people drop their kids off alongside us at the school gates and they bust out a sweat on the bike next to us at a spin-class. They could be sitting alongside you in the office or at the table on Christmas Day. Intenet trolls don’t have three-feet tall purple hair and hide under a bridge ready to steal your pet goat as it trots by, Internet trolls walk amongst us and it’s highly likely they’re being spurred on by someone – or something- which has led them to genuinely believe that they must share their opinion that you have fat ankles and are boring AF before they combust into a cloud of frogs because they haven’t been #real in at least ten minutes.

Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out – Jesy speaks candidly about her mental health struggles in the documentary (Photo: BBC)

Jesy Nelson’s gritty BBC Three Documentary ‘Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out‘ exposed the side of the internet we all try and dismiss, turning our heads to the outpour of hatred that spills out of the fingertips of thousands of individuals online. ‘Don’t Feed The Trolls’ we’re told. But when someone is attacking your character, manipulating your image, stealing your photo’s or lampooning the bits of your body you hate to see reflected back at you in the mirror, it’s difficult to shrug it off as just nothing; To not want to defend yourself, or not take their comment personally. If a kid called you a name in the school playground, you would’ve called them something back, or at the very least gone home and cried into your pillow about it afterwards. To suggest we can choose to totally ignore it is a difficult pill to swallow. In fact, it’s like trying to swallow a scotch egg whole. It’s just not going down. To see the affect these stranger’s comments have had on Jesy’s character was heart-shattering. A once confident and laughter-hungry young girl now riddled with insecurities she didn’t place on herself. We can say it time and time again- these trolls are sad, they’re bitter, they’re lonely. But how do we stop them? How do we re-train them, change their behaviour, convince them that they’re wrong? How can we stop these secret (and sometimes openly proud) hate-breathers in their tracks? They seem to have no shame, no empathy, no emotion. Somewhere along the way we’ve created a society where people feel completely comfortable being a knob. It’s really, really concerning.

It’s cool to be kind, it’s nice to be nice. But Mary Poppins isn’t real and life isn’t always as straight as a twelve-inch ruler (what did you think I was going to say?). We say mean things sometimes, we laugh at horrible things sometimes and we occasionally, un-intentionally encourage bad behaviour. We’re only human, after all. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a little more aware of eachother’s feelings? Even strangers and people behind Instagram posts and reality-tv shows have crappy days. When did we become so de-sensitised to that?

Let me serve you up some homework that will warm your cockles more than your Nan’s roast potatoes on a hungover Sunday. For seven days, comment something positive under someone’s Instagram/Facebook/Twitter picture. Seven People. Seven nice comments. Seven days. Trust me, it’ll leave you feeling a whole lot nicer and much more appreciated by the World than letting a Kardashian know what you really think of them under their most recent post will.

#777 Are you in?

Coachella: The Influencer Olympics or Just a Sign of the Times?

Coachella: The Influencer Olympics or Just a Sign of the Times?

I bounce down the dusty path with a rhythmic strut on, influenced by the poolside champagne mules and desert-dry sunshine. To the left of me is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. To the right of me? The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. In front of me? You guessed it, another female competing for the title of being the MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN I HAVE EVER SEEN. I have never seen so many good looking people in one place, and I’ve been in a lot of situations which involve good looking people. We que up by the gates waiting to slither through the electronic security scanners (UK Festivals take note… or don’t?). My see thru’ pale eyes are blinded by a sea of diamanté netted dresses with nothing but a black thong bikini underneath. Shell suits and bucket hats don’t quite cut it here when it comes to the epitome of festival fashion. “OH NO! WE’RE GOING THROUGH THE GA (general admission) ENTRANCE” a group of girls behind me gasp as it dawns on them they’re at the wrong gate and they’re at a high risk of catching cooties from the ghastly commoners who grace the general grounds, who paid just $500 for their ticket, instead of getting it for free from a brand.

Security cleared and the bag (entry) secured, I weave my way through the impressive art installations and even more impressive collections of individuals, all huddled around the infamous Ferris wheel trying to get that perfect Instagram shot. I want in on the fun. “Will you take one of me with the wheel?” I ask my agent (lol joke, my friend) rhetorically, not waiting for an answer as I thrust my camera into her hands. “Yeah can you like, get lower? Get the wheel in. Make my legs look skinny. How’s it looking?” In my head I look like all those other girls. You know the ones. With the perfect silhouette. The best background. The impeccable lighting. The face-wide smile. My friend hands back my phone and as we huddle around to look back at the ahem-magic- of which we’ve most certainly just created, we can’t help but burst out into infectious laughter. What the fuck is that. A Victoria’s Secret Model I ain’t. “It’s not quite the image I had in mind” I manage to mutter through the breaks for air in the childlike giggling. Not willing to take all the credit for the god awful creations, my friend isn’t a professionally trained photographer either, and what we thought would be the next hottest post on the gram’ turned out to be more “wham, bam, no thank you ma’am”. “It must all be in the editing” my friend comforted me, whilst lying through her teeth. But then again you see, it really kind of is in the editing. And the model of course. And the photographer. The lighting. The app. The location. The filters. The camera. What attending Coachella taught me is that the images you see on Instagram- well, they’re fake. There’s always a million people around you, whilst these influencers manage to be in a half empty field (or not at the festival at all). The lighting isn’t a bleached app hue and everyone doesn’t live under a permanent state of a sun-kissed warm tone. This doesn’t mean I enjoy the festival any less, in fact it’s allowed me to give less of a shit about comparing myself to the impossible professionally taken and edited Instagram posts I see online, and accept that the magic I can create with my face, a Judy and an iPhone 8s is a little bit different than what the girls being sponsored to be at the festival and being followed by agents, social media managers, content creators and professional photographers can produce- and that’s alright by me.

The not-so money shot.

We worm our way through the flower bed of influencers to collect our ID band- a tradition which has not been passed on to it’s British equivalents. This is my fourth time visiting Coachella (I know, I’m a lucky sod) but each year without fail the individual blessed with the importance of checking my pink plastic will still squint at me with a judgemental glare, and act as if they’re doing me a favour granting my 26 year old self exclusive access to the sweet fountain of alcohol that awaits. The alcohol system they have in place at the festival is one of the most obvious differences to me as a beer guzzling Brit. Whilst in a UK festival you’d be handed a warm can of Amstel for a fiver, here cold beer is on tap, which I guess is why you pay $11 a pint (this is the cheapest drink you’ll get btw, so you better get comfortable with it). If ever we decided to splash out and get the $18 *gulp* tequila shots in, then buy either State law or maybe just plain boring festival rules, they have to serve it with ice so you can’t just neck it- which kind of defeats the point. Then, in typical American fashion, there’s the awkward “How much do you want to tip?” Screen which flashes up and glares at you with it’s readily marked percentages. SOZ to say but not sorry to admit it, by pint 3 we’d reached British confidence level of selecting “no tip” and scurrying off before the server could give us the evil eyes. I know, I get it, we’re bad people. But you’ve literally handed me a readily poured pint whilst barely raising a smile, and quite frankly that’s just not enough to get a British person to part with their hard earned ca$$$h. Shuffling along with our tail between our legs and a pint in our hands, we find a spot to enjoy the liquid gold in our cups. Except we’re limited for seats. Because for some reason which I’m yet to fathom why, you’re not allowed to take alcohol out into the main area. Fenced in like cattle, you’re confined to the grounds within these white walls. Which might not be a problem for the average tee-total member of generation Z, but for two booze-guzzling Welsh women it certainly switches up your festival experience. There’s nothing better than the sun beaming down on your glittered and sunburnt scalp, a luke-warm pint of Carlsberg in hand, watching some indie-band playing songs you’ve never heard of whilst you’re being rained on by liquid which you hope is just beer, but in your heart know the likelihood is that it’s someone’s piss. But those sweet UK festival memories will not be made out in the desert; in fact it seems no one really gets steaming here at all. We succumb to defeat and find a spot in our pen to watch the main stage from, and that’s where we’ll set up camp for the next three days of the festival (you’ll notice on my Coachella vlog that all the clips of artists are filmed from the exact same angle – the bar!).

Where do all these people go in everyone else’s Insta posts?!

All around us people are posing for pictures. One girl is sprawled out on the floor, another is holding up a product, someone else is pretending to walk whilst going nowhere. Coachella is the only place in the World where you can look like an egotistical twat, and no one can judge you for it. But for all it’s fake-assery and pretentious-ness, there’s something about this festival which draws me back every damn time. The location is beautiful. The guaranteed sunshine changes your whole mood. There’s a laidback vibe to the place (this might have something to do with the stench of weed everywhere you turn). The art installations are incredible. The organisation is smooth. The acts are great. It’s just a bloody great place to have a bloody great time. I’ve seen influencers posting about how “it’s not what it seems” or “how it’s not fun anymore” and I understand everyone has a different experience, but your personal experience will be what you make it. Sure, everyone’s after that money shot for their gram’, but isn’t that just a sign of the times we’re in? People take pictures of the chicken nuggets and chips their mums made them for dinner, of course you’re going to want a picture next to a 100ft moving Astronaut. But it’s not all content creation and posing for photos. All around there are tens of thousands of people that are enjoying the music and making memories with their friends; soaking in the atmosphere and forgetting about how many likes their new post has got. If you’re being paid to be there, under the pressure of getting content to post for your sponsors and having to take separate outfits with you just to get a decent promo’ pic, then yeah, you’re probably going to have a shit time. But if you’ve been dreaming of visiting this magical place in the desert, to party with your friends and have a holiday of a lifetime, then go, and make it what you want it to be. Plus, imagine how good your Instagram feed will look afterwards. It’s a win, win if you ask me.

Catch my Coachella and LA Travel Vlog, going LIVE on YouTube Tuesday 30th of April!

Two beer’s in and Instagram content secured, you can rest in the knowledge that we were having a bloody great time.

FYI: Always take No as an answer.

FYI: Always take No as an answer.

Scrolling vigorously through Twitter for the eleventh time that hour I caught on to a theme in which had been imploded onto my timeline over the last 48 hours. For this week, Twitter has been alive with the sound of men having to be told that no means no. And I’m not talking the deep, dark, deadly bloody serious rape terms of ‘No’. I’m talking in terms of “Hi Can I get your number?” And the answer being ‘No’ category. For something that may seem rather innocent, and I’m sure for many it starts out as just that, these spur of the moment advances can take a deep turn into the “Is this guy gonna follow me home and murder all my cats” lane pretty quickly.

I’m not saying men have a problem with rejection. But men have a problem with rejection. If that churns a feeling of anger or irate in you, you may possibly be relating to that on some kind of level. And I’m not judging you, because it is engrained deep in in our past. In women being viewed as objects, as something to own, as a mans property. Something you are well within your right to claim ownership of. Except, you’re not. I know this sounds cave-man like, and we’re like, totally in the 21st Century you guuuuuys, but this is not an occurrence which only happens in the dregs of the dark ages. You see, worryingly I cannot recall a single time in my life where I have turned down a guy, whether that be for the offer of a drink, a dance, a date, or to give my number out, where I haven’t felt the need to give an excuse. I’m just going to repeat that for effect. FELT THE NEED TO GIVE AN EXCUSE. Because when it comes to respecting a woman’s simple ‘No’, this seems to be a concept of which is extremely difficult for some men to process. “WhY nOt? HaVe YoU GoT A bOyFrIeNd?” No. Can I just not fancy you? Can I just not want to give my personal number which holds the key to the backdoor of my fucking Narnia to a bloke who’s not wearing any socks and has strolled over here after approximately – eiiiight? We’ll guess eight– pints of lager? There’s an entitlement. They want an answer. They want a reason why, like they deserve it. Guys, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but you don’t deserve it. And no, I’m not trying to tease you (HONESTLY whoever decided to teach us all as little kids that we’re being mean because we like you has a lot to fucking answer for). I’m not going to change my mind if you keep following me around the club, cock-blocking me whilst pretending to be my boyfriend every time a guy steps within four foot of me like it’s cute and endearing- it’s not, it’s fucking crazy! Honestly, if a girl acted like that (and I’ll hear you out boys, I know they’re out there) you’d be marking her down as a psycho before she could mumble the words “Beeeeb, do ya wanna buy meh a drink?”

New age Feminist Icon (and slowly becoming my fave person ever) Jameela Jamil tweeted this week of her experience when a guy asked for her number and she said no, well, sort of. She explained (are you catching on to the trend here?) that she had a boyfriend. And then THANKED HIM for the offer. That’s right folks, we even thank you for the privilege now! Thank you for considering me kind sir, but this young maid already has an owner.

What comes as no surprise but is equally as terrifying is how quickly the ahem- kind gentleman- starts reeling off threats and insults. Ahhh, the insults. I know them all to well. “Don’t fancy you anyway you slag” “Didn’t wanna shag you anyway you minger” Awww, that’s the reason you came all the way over here just because you don’t want to get in my pants? Weird flex but ok hun. Jameela continued:

Jameela’ s confessions impacted me on a level in which I could relate. The “I’ve got a boyfriend” trick is the oldest in my little black book of excuses. As someone who’s stayed relatively single my whole adult life (honestly I’m FINE *insert Ross Geller voice) I’ve had to arm myself with a plethora of weapons, ready to unleash as soon as those five dreaded words drop out of a guys mouth. “Can I have your number?” is a phrase which lives on a level beyond the “What’s the WiFi code?” And just below the “Why don’t you have any kids yet?“. Because “Can I have your number” means “I want to see you again”. It means this has gone swell. All 30 seconds of it. It means you want me to invest my time, which you don’t know how little or much I have considering you met me one gin and tonic ago, into messaging you. It’s a commitment. And it’s not one I’m going to jump into lightly with some guy I just bumped into at the back room bar of Revolution. Of course, I’m not that much of a cynic. I’m not talking about the once in a lifetime attraction. The “we’ve just eye-fucked across the room for two hours and snogged on the dance floor and she’s told me about her Aunty Sue’s alcohol addition and we’re going to run away to Vegas and get married” attraction. If there’s a spark. Then go for it. But know when there isn’t. Like, erm, two minutes after you’ve met. Or when I serve you the drink that you’ve just paid for because it’s part of my job. (Are you keeping up?)

Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Jameela’s story wasn’t a one-off case. Many women replied with their own experiences of having turned down men and their reactions, and some are quite simply fucking terrifying.

There are literally hundreds of them. This is our life. Day in. Day out. It is exhausting. I used to work at a pub where drunk guys would ask my sober self for my number. I would politely decline, even laugh along (that’s another one of our tricks, we don’t think you’re funny, we just don’t want you to get angry at us), but they wouldn’t stop. When it was quiet, I would have to glass collect. They would follow me around “Why won’t you give me your number then?” “Is it cos’ you’ve got a boyfriend?” ‘Yeah” I’d lie. They need the validation. They need to know that if you didn’t have a boyfriend, of course you would pick them. And then they go. One simple lie about a made-up boyfriend and they’re off to the next pub with nothing but a “I hope he treats you nice” on their way out. You see the thing that I have sussed out with guys is that they respect my made up boyfriend, more than me, as a human, standing in front of them, saying no.

Then there’s the drink situation. You offer me a drink. I decline. You get arsey. You offer me a drink. I accept. You expect something from me. One small gesture from you, is a mind-fuck for me. If I politely accept, then you’ll glare at me every time another man dares to talk to me like you’ve bought ownership of me via a £5.95 glass of Sauvignon. If I decline, I’m the stuck up tart who you and your mates make comments about every time I go to the toilet. I swap my ring to my wedding finger. It keeps the guys away. My friend and I make a pact to be lesbian lovers. It draws guys in.

I’m not saying that all men are shit bags. I’m not even saying these men are shit bags. But what I am doing is pointing out how consent and respect aren’t limited to the worst case scenarios. Something as simple as offering a girl a drink can be lovely thing to do, when it’s done properly. When it’s done wrongly, I’m being escorted to my car at night after my shift or walking home with my keys entwined in my fingers because you might still be lurking around waiting for me to finish work. No means no, in all circumstances.

*Featured image by Robin Duister https://cargocollective.com/robinduister/filter/drawing/No-Means-No-1


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