Speaking: BBC's Victoria Derbyshire Live
I was interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire on her BBC Breakfast show about my experience as a former porn user, and the government’s legislation to ban porn for under 18s.
Meet The Couple Who Quit City Life For VanLife – Without The Instagram Filter
It’s always the same picture – someone’s bum is out, they’re lying on their bed, and the doors are open to the ocean.”
Becky Wixon, 25, and Simone Picknett, 27 giggle as they describe an average #vanlife image on Instagram – a picture-perfect lifestyle from which they couldn’t feel further removed. That despite the fact they’ve recently stepped off the urban conveyor belt themselves, ditching their jobs and home comforts to live on the road in a van called Snail.
The newly-engaged couple, both musicians, are keen to banish the glamorous stereotype of the vanlife movement on social media. It’s a lifestyle that’s far more attainable than glossy Instagram photos would have you think, they argue.
“You can just buy a van and put a mattress in it and you can be doing your own van life. It doesn’t need to be this luxurious thing,” explains Wixon. “I think a lot of people do it because they want to get Instagram-famous. We did it because we wanted our time together to be creating, all the time. We’re not interested in getting our bums out.”
The couple were earning £25,000 and £27,000 in advertising and musical equipment repairs when they decided to jack it all in. In just five short months, they had saved up £14,000 by freelancing and selling almost all of their possessions. Now everything the couple owns fits on Snail’s back.
The offload was physically and mentally liberating. “We had a car boot sale and earned almost a grand for all our old stuff,” says Picknett. “We realised that actually we don’t need these things and we don’t miss anything.”
When the couple first speak to HuffPost UK, they are in Amsterdam after a month and a half (and 3,500 miles) on the road, taking in Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. “That time would have flashed by in our old lives, we wouldn’t even think about it,” says Wixon. “Now, it feels like we’re learning about life in a way we were never taught at work or school.”
She describes her “constant state of childlike wonderment” and being more in the moment, while Picknett speaks of the patience their new lifestyle teaches them and the revelation of just how much more sustainable van living is.
The pair shower once every three to five days – Wixon is currently hiding her greasy hair under a beanie in the hope it will soon start self-washing – and they don’t buy new clothes, keeping their wardrobe piled up underneath a small hatch in the van (and their underwear in a waterproof bag in case of damp).
They’re also learning new skills to keep costs down, skills which the best of us could use to reduce our bills – like how to shower quickly. Wixon says she’s got washing and conditioning her hair down to less than two minutes.
Do they have a toilet? Yes, but “strictly for number ones,” says Picknett – they have to empty it everyday. “I used to be worried about going for a poo at work,” chips in Wixon. “Now I just shit in the woods.” One flush of a regular toilet uses the same amount of water they now get through in a week. They marvel at how much they previously wasted (and how unaware they were of doing so).
“I eat my crusts,” says Wixon with a laugh. “I never used to eat my crusts.”
Everyday pleasures the rest of us take for granted are a treat. The pair look knowingly at each other as they reminisce. “When we were in Ireland we were sharing a pint of Guinness. Little sips here and there. We appreciate and remember that little pint whereas all our weekends of nights out used to blur into one before.”
There will be many who see vanlife as out of reach, financially or otherwise, and Wixon does acknowledge “there is privilege in having freedom”. Growing up 25 miles west of London, she spent most of her youth playing in bands and throwing herself into music. She did well at school, but was persuaded that her good grades ‘would be wasted’ on music: “So I ended up going to business school at King’s College London.”
Picknett, meanwhile, arrived in the UK from the Caribbean with her mum at a young age and moved schools often, struggling socially and academically as a result. ”I got kicked out of my house when I was 17, so I had to take myself to a youth hostel, put myself through uni, then got a job in music, and struggled hard. I was jumping trains because I couldn’t afford to get to work.”
Now, the pair live rent-free and even parking isn’t an issue, thanks to the van-dwellers before them who set up Park4night, an app that finds free parking all over Europe, saving them an average of £20 per night at a campsite. The couple’s joint monthly budget of £500 is half the £1000 they paid to live in Shadwell, east London, with seven other housemates... and a lot of mice.
Cabin fever is common enough among co-habiting couples, but Wixon and Picknett, who have been together five years, say they actually argue less since moving into the van and rarely crave ‘me time’. The head space opened up by escaping the daily grind has given them a greater understanding of each other, bringing them together and enabling them to deal with stress in a healthier way.
For the moment, they are living off their hard-earned savings but they plan to sustain life on the road with their art and music – the van doubles up as a recording studio from which the former bandmates have started uploading their ‘van jams’ and, if it comes to it, they can busk on the streets.
But what prompted them to make such a transformative decision? The pair realised things needed to change after writing a list of what they wanted in life: being together, living in nature, making music full-time, and seeing the world. Ultimately, they didn’t want to wait until retirement to enjoy freedom of body and mind – and they encourage anyone who feels the same to take the leap.
With their £14,000 savings, the couple spent £5000 on their converted, 17-year-old van; £1000 on insurance, tax and breakdown cover; and £3000 on a new laptop and supplies. That left them with a budget of £5000 for their first eight months on the road. They now keep themselves on £10 each per day, which includes their petrol, electricity, food and water.
Wixon lovingly describes how the van, previously called Rusty due to its flaking exterior, got its new name. “We called her Snail because she’s slow and carrying our whole home on her back,” she says. “Also, I really like that she represents a slow way of life.”
Life in your twenties is very much about acceleration and progression, she says. “Getting that pay rise. Getting a name for yourself. We felt like we were in that bubble, balancing loads of plates: doing our jobs, our band, having our social life. It’s so stressful and there is so much going on all the time.” Now it’s not just the van moving slowly. “It takes 10 times longer to do something really simple like turn the tap on [because] we have to go and find water – we feel like time isn’t moving as fast anymore.”
Asked their biggest fear for the future, they say: returning to their former lives. “When we go to cities, as well as being, like, ‘do we smell?’, we’re like: ‘wow, look at these people rushing to their jobs and running for the train – that used to be us.’” says Picknett.
“I can’t believe I used to trade my time for money!” Wixon adds. ″You’re always thinking: ‘I’m comfortable, I’ve got my wage, I’ve got my job, I’ve got my comfortable house.’ Everything is very comfortable, everything is very safe. We had to become comfortable with the risk and ‘what ifs’.”
Certainly over Christmas, things became a little less comfortable: the pair found themselves stranded on a German lay-by following a minor crash in which Snail lost her “ear” (wing-mirror) and they were forced to spend Christmas in a rural French hotel waiting for a part to be delivered from the UK. Then the van broke down again. “Van life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows,” they email. ”But we’ve been rolling with the punches and despite our lack of control, we have a choice about how it makes us feel.”
Ultimately, Becky and Simone have exchanged socialising, status and spending for worries about where to find the next bin, how to deal with that elusive hornet nest in the van and the question of whether there are bears in Scotland. Oh, and not shitting too close to each other in the woods. Bums out after all.
Oh Polly put black and plus-size models in an Instagram ghetto & Taiwan legalised same sex marriage
It’s been a ghastly week of old white men throwing their weight around. In the UK, the worst BJ in the world, Boris Johnson, announced he was making his move to try and lead the Conservative party. The bumbling and devious tactician has been scheming his way to this role for decades, saying countless awful things along the way. Strangely, TV presenter (an Africa’s saviour) Stacey Dooley described him as trustworthy after describing slimy Nigel Farage as “transparent”.
Over in the USA, the nation reacted to the news that 25 crusty white men voted to ban all abortions that take place after six weeks pregnancy in Alabama. We stand in solidarity with them, and with people facing similar difficulties closer to home in Northern Ireland. If you’re mad, contact your MP to apply pressure, or donate to groups like Abortion Support Network.
Here’s what else went down in the past week.
Taiwanese reacts to landmark ruling on same-sex marriage.
On May 17, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage prompting huge celebration and hope for other countries to follow suit. The ruling has taken two years to come to fruition after a series of referendums which showed that the majority of voters in Taiwan rejected legalising same-sex marriage.
Tess Yu, a 42-year-old lesbian from Taiwan’s capital Taipei, who identifies as non-binary, told gal-dem they were “very happy” with the result. Despite the initial referendum results, they said they were not surprised that their country was the first in Asia to recognise same-sex marriages because “Taiwan is a place with a mix of many cultures”.
According to Tess, help for LGBTQ+ people in Taiwan was very limited 15 years ago, leaving them to seek education on homosexuality in a library. Now they are “relieved and confident because I know no matter who I love, our rights are protected.” Before this ruling, Tess heard many tragic stories of people being in love but when it comes to the legality, “they are like strangers”.
Now activists are working towards improving the well being of the LGBT population via an association of trained people taking calls almost six days a week to offer emotional support.
Oh Polly-gy accepted? for creating a separate Instagram ghetto for black and plus size models
This might not come as a shock to you, but words like diversity and inclusivity have been diluted so much in corporate circles that they are now devoid of meaning.
Case in point: Oh Polly, a fast fashion site that specialises in Insta thot wares, created another Instagram account called Oh Polly Inclusive. Unlike the main page, which is full of curvy bronzed white women, the “inclusive” page had women of varying shades and shapes.
Not to point out the obvious, but if the company would truly like to be inclusive, they would just start posting those photos onto their regular feed. By segregating them it looks like they’re trying to keep their sun-kissed slim thick (or PAWG) image in tact but tap into the woke online spaces elsewhere.
Speaking to gal-dem, a representative from Oh Polly said: “Oh Polly made a serious error of judgement for which we take full responsibility and sincerely apologise. We established a new page with the specific aim of allowing our customers to discuss a wider range of issues. We have a close relationship with our customers around the world and always value their feedback.”
It continued: “Improving diversity remains an absolute priority for us across all of our channels. We promise to continue listening to everyone in the Oh Polly community and, most importantly, learn from this mistake.”
Interestingly, the main page really hasn’t become that much more inclusive since this whole debacle blew up.
This wasn’t the only fashion faux pas of the week, Gucci still hasn’t lived down the blackface jumper, but came under fire for putting selling a controversial £600 Indy Full Turban for sale on Nordstrom. Some in the sikh community called them out for culturally appropriating an item of clothing that is often worn as a symbol of unity and equality. The luxury price tag of this iteration makes it a little less accessible than the traditional headwrap.
Queen Latifah and Will Smith are producing a Hip-Hop Romeo & Juliet adaptation for Netflix and we are so here for it.
Dutee Chand, India’s fastest female sprinter, is the country’s first sportsperson to speak openly about her same-sex relationship.
UK Black Pride’s Youth Engagement Officer, Tanya Compas, is offering free ASOS prom outfits for black and PoC students who identify as LGBTQ+, prioritising those who identify as trans and non-binary to make prom as accessible as possible. DM her on Twitter if you are interested.
AZ Magazine is championing an inclusive and accessible ticket-selling technique for its official UK Black Pride pre-party where people can buy ‘Pay It Forward’ tickets for a QTIBPoC that is unable to afford one.
An indigenous Amazonian tribe called the Waorani won a landmark court ruling that means half a million acres of forest land will be protected from being mined for oil drilling.
A charity named World Afro Day found that one in six children with afro-textured hair are having a bad or very bad experience at school, with school rules negatively affecting children with natural hair.
A children’s book featuring 50 inspiring South Asian women has been written by activist and lawyer Raj Kaur Khaira who wanted to “give girls a chance to write their own stories”, saying the mainstream depiction of South Asian women “is often limited and laced with harmful stereotypes.”
Bernie Sanders has announced a plan to fix the increasingly racially segregated American school systemwhere students of colour often end up in schools that have less money and experienced teachers.
The Guardian’s Afua Hirsch was put through another exhausting and soul-destroying panel ‘debate’ where she was forced to persuade a group of old white men, and one old white woman, of the prevalence of toxic racism, using the very discussion she was in as the perfect example of oppression. She tweeted saying “I’m not doing this again”.
Moment of the week
Tyler, the Creator’s surprise gig announcement shut down Peckham as crowds gathered at Bussey Building on Saturday. Eventually the mass hysteria led to the gig being cancelled for being “too rowdy”.
Print: Unearthing The Reno in gal-dem
Published in gal-dem: the secrets issue Oct 5, 2018.
Over a couple of months I interviewed a number of former Reno regulars in order to reignite the nightclub’s magical memories in the minds of the people of colour who found their place there in the 1970s.
DOC: Manchester’s Muslim Community Speaks Out After Terror Attack
In the wake of the harrowing Manchester attack, the fact that we have to even turn to the city’s Muslim community and ask for their response – as opposed to anyone else’s – highlights the misconception about terrorism and Islam.
When I sat down with six of Manchester’s local lads, some volunteers from Muslim Aid another the Vice President of the University of Manchester Islamic Society, never has the mainstream representation been so incorrect.
The boys, most of them in their teens, opened up about their anxieties regarding looming A-level exams, their wide-ranging career aspirations, and a love for Manchester United.
They are no different from any other Oldham guys you would meet in the street, but because they are Muslims, that label carries a heavy burden.
Especially after the heart-breaking and barbaric attack by an extremist in the name of Islam, the public lean towards alienating British Muslim’s out of fear that they are in some way associated with extremism.
Especially after the heart-breaking and barbaric attack by an extremist in the name of Islam, the public lean towards alienating British Muslim’s out of fear that they are in some way associated with extremism.
Amas, the Islamic society’s VP, quoted Tony Wilson, proudly exclaiming: “This is Manchester, we do things differently here.”
“Directly after the attack, we saw off duty taxi drivers coming out of their houses and going towards the scene, helping those who fleeing and helping them get home free of charge.
“We saw doctors working overtime throughout the night saving lives, we saw restaurants offering free food to emergency workers.
“The whole city united together at a pivotal moment in the city’s history and something to this scale had never happened before.
“Everyone came together and were unified and were able to get through it that evening.
“It struck a chord and shook a lot of us to the core, to happen in our home city of Manchester it is completely earth shattering.”
Manchester’s reaction has been an inspirational one, but there is clearly a need for more education and communication between all different communities.
The solution that consistently came up was education.
‘Hatred arises from fear’ was repeated by everyone I spoke to from the Muslim community.
Every week on Market Street in Manchester, Muslims Against Extremism set up a stand in order to educate the general public on the true teachings of their faith, making the point that radicals are not part of their religion.
18-year-old Beinhameen Hussain from Oldham said to UNILAD:
“From a Muslim point of view, you need to learn before you throw accusations. Come and speak to us, we’re an open community. Come to us, come to a mosque, a community centre, approach a Muslim in the street.
“If you have a single question, we’re happy to answer. With sharing and learning, people will stop hating.
“I feel like there is a block in communication, there is a ‘them and us’ culture, and non-Muslims think we’re closed off, but we’re not.”
After the Brexit referendum, over 14,000 hate crimes were recorded in the UK between July and September 2016.
There has been an overwhelmingly positive response since the Manchester attack, however a mosque in Oldham was set on fire, and Muslims were spat at during the vigil by members of the public.
Adnan, from Muslim Aid, was calling for all communities to come together:
“If the community is strong then this stuff wouldn’t happen because everyone would know what was going on.
“Now everyone has their singular life, they go to work, come home, no one communicates with anyone. Everyone is on social media, but no one talks in person.”
Nazmul Ahmed, who told me of his dreams to be a journalist, said:
“We may look different to people who are non-Muslim, we might talk a bit different, we might act a bit different, but we’re the same as everyone else.
“We’re citizens of Manchester, we’ve grown up here our whole lives and we’re people of this city. We love the city just as much as you do.
“If you don’t know about Islam, come and speak to us, do not fear. I feel like a lot of hatred comes from fear of the unknown. Often if you don’t know something, you hate it and you’re scared of it.
“We’re like you, we’re human, we’re not different because of religion. We feel happiness, sadness, anger as well.
“If we realise we can all connect as humans with the same emotions, then we can all get along.”
Amas was ‘utterly shocked’ at the racist response from public figures like Katie Hopkins, saying:
“Hatred arises from ignorance. Islam is not represented by this attacker. This attacker does not represent Islam in any way whatsoever.
“To take one person’s life is like taking the whole of mankind according to Islam. He doesn’t represent us. Those who were helping and giving afterward present true Islam.”
Take a second and think about what your preconceptions about Islam are. Where did they come from? What are they based on?
Those of us who feel we could understand better should do something about it – so let’s take action.
Attend Mosque open days, open up our communities so that the unknown becomes the known, speak to people who we don’t usually engage with.
The best way to fight extremist groups like IS is to come together. A unified, understanding and cohesive Britain is no good to them.
Why Bend It Like Beckham Meant So Much To Me Growing Up
When I was 9, I used to tell people I was Spanish.
As a little brown girl growing up in Bristol, aside from at family gatherings for Diwali and raksha bandhan, I was usually in the racial minority in most rooms I entered on a day-to-day, and so learned to navigate white spaces from a young age.
Of course, I didn’t realise I was navigating white spaces, I simply learned that my home culture was alien to most of those around me and picked up that the more I assimilated, the more people would play with me at school (hence the Spanish lie).
So in 2001 when Bend It Like Beckham graced our screens, and I saw my internal balancing act between home life – where my mum was trying to teach me gujarati, make round rotis, and respect elders without question – and my school life, where I desperately wanted to replicate white Britishness around me, thrust onto a screen for everyone to see, I felt a strong sense of relief, but also nakedness.
The director with a difference, Gurinder Chadha, has a way of making me feel included in the film industry, from her Punjabi Sikh and British character of Jesminder Bhamra in Bend It, to casting Manjeeven Grewal as Ellen in Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging, a character who wasn’t written as being South Asian in the book.
I was engrossed at the age of 9 to be watching a South Asian main character navigate her way through the difficulties of a traditional Sikh household while trying to follow her own football dreams and connect with the contrasting white household of her best friend Jules Paxton.
I cringed when Juliet’s mum told Jesminder about the ‘lovely curry’ she made and joked her mum was probably setting her up with a ‘nice handsome doctor’.
I empathised with the outrage Jess felt when her traditionally-minded Asian family made sweeping judgements based on little information or logic, like that Juliet was a boy because of her short hair, that playing football brought shame on her family, or many of the other moments of complete despair I related to with my own extended family.
This was all so important to me, because before Bend It Like Beckham, I thought I was on my own in this and that no one would ever understand the dilemma I felt with the very culture I was supposed to be proud of, but which was getting in my way of being English – or so I felt when I was a child. Now I have found ways to balance both, but the film showed me that there was a conversation to be had, and there were others I could have it with.
As well as raising issues of race and dual identities, the film tackles femininity and the perception of what that word means in different cultures. Jessminder’s sister Pinky, played by the iconic Archie Panjabi, represents a version of femininity her parents accepted as opposed to Jess’s more boyish style.
Despite Pinky having her flaws, it is the aesthetic external impression she gave to others which pleased Mrs Bhamra, and she made a point of asking Jess why she couldn’t just get with boys ‘behind mum and dad’s back like the rest of us’. As I grew older and further from traditional values, I related to this trope in the film more than ever. My Indian family makes a game of keeping up appearances and sweeping perceived shame under the carpet. I was 15 and I wanted to go and drink in a park with my white friends. Like Jesminder had to hide her football kit in the bush and pretend to be ill to avoid family gatherings, I also lied to my mum about going out so that I could take-part in the activities I thought she’d stop me doing. Even after I started being open about any antics I was involved in, there was very much an emphasis on appearing ‘acceptable’ to the family, particularly the elders, regardless of what you were actually doing.
Now, in my adult life, I am prouder than ever of my Indian and British culture, whilst also thinking critically about it and choosing the parts of it I want to keep, and the parts I’m happy to leave in the past. It is still difficult seeing more traditional members of my Indian family express damaging opinions of what being a modern British Indian woman should look like. Luckily we have a world of beautiful, strong, and powerful Asian women making their way into the media spotlight, with the help of Gurinder Chadha, that I can turn to for inspiration if I ever feel lost.
Academics argue that Bend It Like Beckham did little to challenge the structure of English society because it offers a version of multiculturalism based on assimilating to a utopian English norm.
There is definitely room for this argument. The film did after all require the Bhamras having to become more liberal and Western for a happy ending. However as a British Indian, seeing the struggles that I could barely articulate as a child being represented in mainstream film was indisputably a good thing.
Race Review: All The News You Might Have Missed This Week
As Theresa May’s government collapses in on itself like her knees during her bow-legged curtsy, and the world’s worst BJ (Boris) continues to snake his way to the top, the only thing holding our nation together seemed to be Gareth Southgate, like the buttons on his exceedingly well-fitted waistcoat. But then that fell to shit too.
When Donald Trump landed it sparked a huge protests in the UK and over in Australia the Channel 7 news incited a hashtag #NotMyAustralia after they showed three-year-old footage in order to create a moral panic in Melbourne about African gangs.
Over in the US, the teen who had his Make America Great Again hat taken by a Whataburger employee is over the moon to have had it returned, but it perhaps shouldn’t be such a celebration, as far as Pusha T is concerned, the symbolic red MAGA cap ‘is this generation’s Ku Klux hood’.
Oh, and you can now add wearing socks in a pool to the list of things white people call the police on black people for.
Here’s what went down in the last week.
Muslim Teenage Girl Brutally Stripped and Slashed By Racist Attackers In Belgium
In Belgium, a 19-year-old Muslim woman was stripped and slashed on her upper body because she was wearing a headscarf.
Two men have been taken into custody in connection with the racist attack which took places in Anderlue, near Brussels on Monday July 2.
The men ripped off her headscarf and tore apart her shirt exposing her upper body while she tried to escape.
The victim was knocked to the ground and called a ‘filthy Arab’ before the attackers used a sharp object to cut her torso, stomach, and legs in the shape of a cross.
Mayor of Anderlues, Philippe Tison posted on Facebook: “As Belgium lives moments of pride and joy thanks to the exploits of our national team, we must recall that we are a country of tolerance and openness. Are our best scorers and heroes of the last few days not of foreign origin? They are the soul of our country and of Anderlues!
“We cannot allow some of our fellow citizens to be victims of racist attacks.”
News of this horrific crime has been fairly absent in mainstream media. It is an example of the increase in Islamophobia seen in Europe following the rise of far-right political parties.
The Shockingly Racist Tweets Of Mrs. Bill Shine, Wife Of Trump’s New Deputy Chief Of Staff
Trump’s recruitment team continues its dubious decision-making with its new Deputy Chief of Staff, Bill Shine, whose wife Dana has been the focus of the news recently.
Dana Shine’s offensive and prejudiced Twitter feed was screenshotted before she deleted, and the world has been hanging their heads in despair at how such an ignorant mind is being allowed anywhere near the White House.
As well as her discrediting of sexual harassment accusers against Fox News executives (her husband was co-president of the channel), Dana regularly tweeted the most shocking racist comments.
Just a few of the tweets, which look like they were written for a satire page, include ‘You really are a terrible President Barack Obama allowing our police officers to be gunned down like this’, ‘If white chicks can’t perm their hair, black chicks can’t go blonde”, “1 out of 10 black boys has autism”.
Dana, who has clearly never stepped foot in Africa, also tweeted a meme showing a photo of ‘Rome 2000 years ago’ with a photo of the colosseum, and ‘Africa Now’ showing a mud hut. This is just a small example of the calibre The President is bringing into his team.
Facebook’s algorithms ruled that parts of the US Declaration of Independence are racist and removed excerpts of them posted on the platform. A reference to ‘merciless Indian savages’ was removed and Facebook apologised for allowing a Texas community paper to post the ‘hate speech’, BBC reports.
US correction officer Thomas Jordan Driver, who along with two colleagues and Ku Klux Klan members conspired to kill a black inmate, will lose his state retirement benefits.
The Met Police are going to give women and ethnic minorities a £1000 leg up to help fund their pre-training course in order to encourage a more diverse force, hoping to fill an extra 3000 posts by April.
Netflix has launched its first original Indian TV series called Sacred Games, which sees Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan and Radhika Apte as intelligence officers on the trail of a criminal kingpin. The eight-part series, filmed in Hindi, is the first of seven Indian series’ that Netflix has commissioned, and has received 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
MOMENT OF THE WEEK
A father cries watching the news that the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea is finally over after the two countries have been in a state of ‘no war, no peace’ since 2000 in which tens of thousands were killed.
The Dark Reason Porn Stars Keep Dying
Who is going to believe a porn star who says she was raped?
That question highlights the silence these women suffer from, which inevitably leads to a downfall in their mental health.
Four young porn performers have been found dead since November 2017, most recently 20-year-old Olivia Nova who was found dead in her Las Vegas home earlier this week, the cause of her death is still unconfirmed.
Nova had only begun her adult entertainment career in March 2017, but the young actress’ resume included films with Brazzers, Naughty America, FTV Girls, New Sensationsand Digital Sin.
Shyla Stylez, from Canada, died in November aged 35 when she died suddenly in her sleep.
23-year-old August Ames died on December 5. Ames, whose real name was Mercedes Grabowski, died from unknown causes, although a close friend told Hollywood Life that the star had taken her own life after a reported battle with depression.
Yuri Beltran died aged 31 less than two weeks after Ames, on December 14. She was found dead of an apparent drug overdose.
Mental health issues have always been a big problem in the porn world, but the recent spate of deaths of such young porn performers raises serious questions for how women are treated in the industry.
Steve McKeown, a psychoanalyst, founder of MindFixers and owner of The McKeown Clinic, told UNILAD:
“Nearly 90 per cent of women in the sex industry said they wanted to escape, but had no other means for survival and also experienced post traumatic stress disorder at rates of nearly 70 per cent equivalent to veterans of combat war.”
We spoke with Dr. Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, and Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality, about why this is happening, and how we can stop it.
Here is Gail’s TED Talk where she talks about growing up in a ‘pornified’ culture:
Simply put, the current #MeToo campaign, though proving positive for women in other industries, silences women in the sex industry more than ever.
Gail told UNILAD:
“Just imagine everyone is telling their stories of rape and assault and being listened to, and you know full well that if you come forward, they’ll just say ‘what did you expect, you whore’.
“We live in a world where a woman’s consent, to what is often sexual torture, is being preserved from the paper contract she signed when she was 18-years-old.
As in any industry, there are different sides to the coin. Independent porn stars in Europe such as Harriet Sugarcookie own their own porn businesses, controlling every aspect of their porn performing and career.
However, the majority of the mainstream porn that you see on sites like Pornhub or Brazzers is created in studios controlled by male directors, where women are often sought from all over the world by pornography ‘suitcase pimps’, and exploited.
Gail goes on to reveal a harrowing fact, gathered from her interviews with porn performers, that one of the first things directors do when a new woman come to the set is contravene one of the rules put in place on her contract, as a way of breaking her.
Dr Gail Dine, Founder and President of Culture Reframed, told UNILAD:
“What I do know, because I’ve been doing this work for many years and worked with many women who are in the porn industry and have exited it, is that given the violence that happens to their bodies, given the diseases they get, they come away with PTSD because they’re raped regularly on the porn set.
“Just because they’ve signed a contract doesn’t mean they’re consenting to what goes on at the porn set. A lot of them are not prepared for what’s going to happen to them. A lot of them are young, they think they’re going to be a ‘pornstar’ like Jenna Jameson was. They’re not prepared for the violence.
“August Ames, Shyla Stylez, Yuri Beltran, and Olivia Nova all incredibly young talent. We must be kinder and look out for one another in this industry. Our Truth and Standing by one another is our only power.”
Gail made the point that most of the adult actresses should not be called ‘porn stars’, but instead ‘porn performers’, due to the fact that most of them never make it to the level of being a ‘star’ and are simply forced to perform, before ‘ending up in poverty’ and ‘lucky to leave the industry with the clothes on their backs’.
The well-oiled PR machine of the pornography industry paints a picture that most of the women in it are ’empowered’ and enjoy shooting porn, and maybe some of them do, but Gail made the point that ‘all porn actresses will say that’ while still involved in it.
Gail, a professor emerita at Wheelock College, Boston, explained:
“To have three men, one with his penis in your mouth sideways, one in your vagina, one in your anus, your two hands are jerking off two other guys, so you’ve got five guys surrounding you, your being rammed with viagra-strength penises, and then they ejaculate all over your face. How would you even get up after that off the floor? Think what it takes.
“You get up, you’re covered in five men’s semen, every single orifice is sore and red raw, and the next day you have to get up and do the same thing again, and you have to pretend you like it, and you know that men are jerking off to that image. It’s an unbearable emotional experience.
“If you interview any woman who is now working in the porn industry, she will always say she loves it.”
She explained that you have to speak to women who are out of the industry, because while they’re inside they’ll never tell you, ‘first of all because they’ll get fired, and emotionally, how are they going to acknowledge what’s going on if they’ve got to get up tomorrow and go to a porn shoot?’,
“So many women I’ve spoken to have said to me ‘you know if you asked me two years ago, I would have given you the best story you’ve ever heard about how great it is and how empowered I felt’. It’s all bullsh*t. It’s a way to to protect yourself psychologically, from the violence that’s being done to you.”
Gail has been told by numerous porn performers that after they go to their first porn shoot ‘something changes in them’ – a response that she translated as meaning ‘they become a rape victim’.
These women are experiencing this constant emotional and physical trauma of sexual assault but are ‘forever silenced by virtue of some decision you made at 18 to go into the sex industry, not understanding the ramifications’.
Gail has created an informed consent form, highlighting the lack of transparency in the current contracts given to women starting out in the pornography industry.
They sign a contract that gives consent to the following:
Losing control of the most intimate part of your life for as long as you live and after (because the images will live on long after you die). Exposing your body to untold millions of porn consumers who will view you as a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore.’ You will never be able to regain control of these images and they will be owned and distributed by and across the porn industry. Should you decide that you no longer want the pornographic images circulating across multiple platforms, you will have limited to no legal recourse to prevent this, and most likely, you will make no money beyond the initial payment
The possibility of the following happening on the porn set: Anal/Vaginal/Throat rape, Vaginal or Anal Tears; Rectal Prolapse; Miscarriage if you are pregnant; Being forced to doing sex acts you clearly stated in your contract that you
would not do; Damage to surgically implanted breasts that could cause rupture and would need removing; Developing PTSD because of the ongoing abuse to body and soul.
Catching numerous STDs, many of which are antibiotic resistant.
Being attacked on social media by the pornographers if you sue to prevent further distribution of the images. There is a strong possibility that they will set their lawyers on you, dig into every part of your past and present life, smear you on social media as mentally unstable, a ‘slut’, a criminal, and so on.
If young women were given this sort of contract, do you think they would sign it?
Society struggles to digest the concept that though a woman is taking part in a pornography video, she is not consenting.
Gail challenges men to watch the video after you’ve ejaculated and when you’re not aroused. She challenges you took really watch it and look at the girl, and think if she actually wants to be there and what pain she is in.
The distinction made between women inside the sex industry and those outside is an issue that contributes to their isolation and silence.
“All women are potentially vulnerable to being pulled into the sex industry. We’re all one pimp away from the sex industry. As a society we like to think there’s a group of women who just happened to be different to the rest of us.
“They want to be fucked, anally, vaginally, orally, they want to be ejaculated on, gagged, eyes rolled back, they’re just a bunch of whores, sluts and cunts, they’re not like you. That is a complete lie.
“There was no woman ever born who should be separated off from the rest of us and be given all the creepiness and sexual violence that these men perpetrate.”
When you watch porn, you’re buying into an industry based on the mistreatment and sexual torture of a lot of women.
The current mainstream industry, as it exists now, is leading to a worrying decline in the mental health of women involved because they’re completely silenced.
We need a #MeToo campaign for women in the sex industry who currently have no one to bear witness to their pain.
DOC: Male Victims Of Child Sexual Abuse Tell Their Heartbreaking Stories
At least one in 20 children in the UK are sexually abused while being emotionally manipulated, groomed, and silenced by paedophiles, often within the family home.
Typically men take around 25 years to speak out about the abuse they suffered as children whereas women take an average of five years.
This is due to a host of societal pressures and expectations placed on men which cause them to feel ashamed after being sexually abused to such a degree they struggle to reveal their experience to anyone.
Reflecting On 'Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race'
Yesterday I was on a train talking to a white person about race and I whispered the word ‘white’. I thought, why am I fearful of describing a white person by their skin colour? What am I scared of? Why do I feel physically silenced in conversations about race in public? In that moment of noticing my cautious proclivity, I thought of Reni Eddo-Lodge and her bold, momentous statement of exasperation and despair for white people’s wilful ignorance, which she turned into a book a year ago today.
The 28-year-old Black British Journalist put up a boundary for herself when she decided to stop talking to white people about race because she could “no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience”. It was only once she actively withdrew from the conversation that people turned to listen. Many were quick to label her exclusionary or racist, though her cry for change through a public silence largely prompted self-examination from all readers. Since it’s release, the book has received exceptional recognition, winning the Jhalak Prize and topping various polls.
Naturally, she’s done nothing but talk to white people about race since then, but putting up that boundary was a stark reminder to people of colour that it’s something they have the prerogative to do, and it also shone a spotlight on the famously ‘invisible’ whiteness to white people. As she pointed out, “We tell ourselves that good people can’t be racist. We seem to think that true racism only exists in the hearts of evil people”, and it is a fiction at the root of the problem.
When Emma Watson, a white modern feminist icon, acknowledged her white privilege and past ignorance towards it, in direct response to reading Reni’s book and encouraged the followers of Our Shared Shelf to do the same, it was a powerful moment in intersectional feminism. Why I’m No Longer was voted the most influential book written by a woman, over the likes of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, allowing the colour line that so often alienates BAME women from traditional feminism to be smudged.
After receiving her number one spot by public vote, Reni said: “What an honour! My book, less than a year old, is a baby compared to the titans and bonafide classics on this shortlist. In fact I think we need a few more years to really determine if it's really changed the world. However, I will respect this public vote.”
After a year, though it is difficult to track tangible change from the book, Reni has clearly brought race further into global conversation, getting white people to see their privilege while resonating with people of colour. Since her book, conversations are being had, fully black-cast films like Black Panther are smashing box office records, boundaries in intersectionality are being addressed, increased social consciousness meant government faced a Windrush backlash it wasn’t prepared for, Starbucks had to carry out racial bias training, and a black Bishop preached a political message followed by a gospel choir at the Royal Wedding.
Reni’s book is proof that people can be heard from a position of marginalisation - the Sunken Place - and she’s given readers the support they need to tackle injustice. It is becoming more difficult to palm off race issues to the US where it is more blatant and tangible. The UK has an ugly, underplayed kind of racism, hidden behind the excessive politeness we’re so famous for, and grown from cultural amnesia. There is no need to state the obvious that the fight for justice continues, but Reni has made a great step on this journey.
Originally published on gal-dem on June 1
The Eminem And MGK Beef Is Exactly What Hip Hop Needed
It wouldn’t be ground-breaking, but in fact highly likely, if the exhilarating battle between Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) turned out to be a big PR stunt.
What better way to engage the masses than with an old-school bars brawl between a rap veteran and a newby. They are the modern-day gladiators in an international colosseum, with the audience thirsty for the next retaliation.
Rumoured to be ignited when MGK called Eminem’s then-16-year-old daughter Hailie ‘hot as f*ck’ in a tweet, the pair have had a fall out since 2012, but Eminem has only chosen to bring it to light now in his new album Kamikaze.
MGK took aim at Eminem’s age and facial hair, saying ‘Somebody help your mans up (help). Knees weak of old age, the real Slim Shady can’t stand up!’ in Rap Devil. Eminem then came back with ‘Younger me? No, you’re the whack me, it’s funny but so true. I’d rather be 80-year-old me than 20-year-old you.’
You can be pretentious about it, but I think the whole exchange has been pretty witty, with some great burns.
Just as when Pusha T released his beautifully blind-siding Drake diss track The Story of Adidon earlier this year, Eminem and MGK’s recent rap feud has reignited a fire in the hip-hop scene that has been dwindling in the past decade.
As new-age hip-hop flaunts its extravagant wealth, women, and wheels, we’re missing the grittier days when the lyrics used to tell the unforgiving and unapologetic tales of the streets and African-American experiences.
That’s not to say hip-hop is dead, Nas definitely made that decree too early as we’ve seen Kendrick, Chance, Childish Gambino, Drake, Kanye, Jme, Giggs, Stormzy and many others create some inspiring art in recent years.
The first published hip-hop battle which gained mainstream notoriety centres on the legendary Bridge Wars. During the mid-80s to the early 90s, there was a feud between rappers from South Bronx’s Boogie Down Productions, led by KRS-One, and Marley Marl and MC Shan’s Juice Crew, representing Queensbridge. The debate? It was over the true birthplace of hip-hop, Bronx vs Queens. This feud was only laid to rest in 2007 when KRS-One and Marley Marl released their collaborative album Hip Hop Lives.
The rivalries of the 80s and 90s were anything but a PR stunt. They were unforgivingly authentic, often ending in tragic deaths, most notably the irreplaceable Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls who found themselves in the middle of a pivotal rivalry between the East and West Coast hip hop scenes.
Though it all began on the East, West Coast rappers, many from California, were making waves, and when the iconic N.W.A began releasing groundbreaking music to make you think, their anger at police attacks and crack cocaine epidemic in the ghetto was launched into the mainstream.
By the mid 90s, the West Coast had made a name for itself, headed by the likes of Dr Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac, and Snoop Doggy Dogg. The East Coast renaissance fought back with Nas, the Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G, and Jay Z.
There was a constant back and forth between the two coasts that resulted in genuine gang violence, so when these old-school battles are recreated, it isn’t done lightly. Every modern rap battle stands on the shoulders of a dark but rich hip-hop history with real consequences.
An essence of hip-hop is being the best MC there is, and in-turn verbally assassinating your fellow rappers in any way you can. Marshall Mathers himself highlighted the consequential nature of rap’s violent undertones in Like Toy Soldiers, where he attempted to calm the aggression in the community, citing the feud between 50 Cent and Ja Rule as particularly far gone, as well as his own feud with noted hip-hop publication The Source.
The war between the two white and blonde rappers has indisputably got everyone talking, with Twitter being awakened by the debate on who brutalised who the most. The fact that it is Eminem crafting lyrics for battle sparks huge nostalgia and drags anyone listening straight back to the 90s. Other rappers like Halsey and 50 Cent have also picked sides, trying to get a piece of the pie.
Pop culture is forever chasing authenticity. Our obsession with vintage vinyls and clothing, independent coffee shops, original and ‘real’ travel experiences, and artisan crafts is relentless. Anything that makes us feel like less like a cog. Lyrical battles like Eminem and MGK’s is just what hip-hop needs to feel more authentic. Whether it isauthentic is a different matter.
Eminem and MGK are both signed with different sub-labels within Interscope. That as well as the fact MGK’s ‘spontaneous’ Rap Devil was published six months ago on SoundCloud points heavily to the fact this is planned. But most old-school hip-hop heads are just pleased to see Eminem dropping some vintage diss tracks, though disappointed in them being a little lazy and laced with homophobia.
It’s also entertaining to see someone with negligible musical legacy taking on a hip-hop legend like this. Let’s hope for more quick-fire tracks instead of Instagram responses.
Seeing Slim fight his way back into relevance is a match I want front-row seats for, I just hope he decides to drop the designer stubble and dated hate speech while he’s at it.
G4S youth jails: a story of revolving doors, dangerous restraints and death
The Conservative government proposed the setting up of privately run secure training centres in 1993. It was a controversial idea, and remains so today. Can private companies ever be trusted to look after and rehabilitate such vulnerable children when their priority is to turn a profit? Labour was against the establishment of STCs while in opposition.
In March 1993 the then shadow home secretary, Tony Blair, said: “It is far preferable to isolate young offenders from their own peer group and not put them in the company of 40 or 50 other persistent young offenders. What we need is schools of responsibility, not colleges of crime.”
But when Labour came to power in 1997 it carried through the setting up of STCs, arguing it would be too expensive to cancel the project.
Medway was the first to open, in April 1998. The cost was controversial: at £125,000 a year for each “trainee”, it was five times as much as sending a child to Eton. The centre would hold a maximum of 40 children, aged between 12 and 14. By January 1999, the centre was already in crisis – there had been a riot, and a report from the Social Services Inspectorate concluded that children were subject to “excessive use of force”, including neck and wrist restraints.
The blueprint for STCs had been drawn up by the senior civil servant Malcolm Stevens, who then agreed to join the security company Group 4 Rebound Ltd as operations director a year before Medway opened under its control. It was such a sensitive appointment that it had to be referred to the Cabinet Office for approval: Whitehall guidelines restrict senior civil servants jumping from the public to the private sector through the “revolving door”.
When his appointment was announced, the Guardian reported:
“The job offer has caused raised eyebrows,” a Home Office source said yesterday. “His entire job in the Prison Service was to advise the Home Office and Department of Health about who should be placed in secure units. It is one thing to get information as a civil servant. It is another to use it for commercial advantage.”
Stevens went on to become director of children’s services at G4S. On the business networking website LinkedIn, Stevens describes his “specialities” as “bid preparation, tenders, presentation, implementation, operational and contractual management of £500m+ PFI contracts”.
Today, Stevens says he doesn’t know what all the fuss about. “I have never understood whose eyebrows were raised! Most of my colleagues and ministers thought that my appointment was a good idea. This was because at the time there were so many revelations about malpractice in residential children’s homes run by local authorities, children’s charities and even by the government itself.
“I hold no regrets about joining Group 4. My intention was to ensure that Group 4’s STCs delivered the government’s 1993 commitment to parliament, namely, high standards of care, high standards of education, high standards of healthcare.”
Stevens is by no means the only one to have joined G4S after working for the government or vice versa. The politician John Reid became group consultant to G4S in 2008, a year after stepping down as home secretary. While the formerG4S head of care and justice David Banks now sits on the Youth Justice Board, which oversees the youth justice system in England and Wales.
Sir Martin Narey, the former director general of the prison service of England and Wales, went on to become an adviser for G4S. After last year’s damning report of Rainsbrook STC by the prisons inspectorate, which found children had been subjected to degrading treatment and racist comments from staff, he produced his own favourable “independent” report commissioned by G4S. He was also appointed appointed non-executive board member at the Ministry of Justice in August 2015.
Narey insists there has never been anything inappropriate in his work for G4S. “I retired from the Home Office in 2005,” he said. “Despite many offers, I declined to take up any part-time advisory role with any body dealing with penal issues for more than five years. But yes, I have offered occasional consultancy advice to G4S over the past few years. I terminated that relationship in 2014 but agreed, exceptionally, to visit Rainsbrook after the critical Ofsted report and report my findings to G4S, the YJB and to [the justice secretary] Michael Gove.
“As I make clear in the opening of that report, G4S paid me for my work but I reported frankly and honestly. I stand by my conclusion that children were treated overwhelmingly well. And the YJB monitor and the children’s advocate from Barnardo’s were both of that view.”
Lin Hinnigan, the chief executive of the Youth Justice Board, has dismissed concerns from critics that its relationship with G4S is too cosy. “The YJB does not have an unduly close relationship with G4S and has not favoured it over any other company. The YJB has held G4S to account on a number of occasions to address performance issues. ”
Stevens recruited Paul Cook to run Rainsbrook along with John Parker in 1999 from St John’s, a children’s home in Northamptonshire. In 2003, Cook was made director of children’s services for G4S and Parker was promoted to director of Rainsbrook. A year later STCs became front-page news when a boy died after being physically restrained. By then Stevens had left G4S.
Fifteen-year-old Gareth Myatt, 1.47m tall (4ft 10in) and 40kg (90lb), was restrained after complaining he had wrongly been locked in his room as a punishment for failing to clean a sandwich toaster he said other children had used. He died of positional asphyxia at Rainsbrook STC in April 2004.
Myatt repeatedly told the officers he could not breathe while they had him bent over in a “double-seated embrace” – a restraint that was subsequently banned by the YJB. One of the three guards who restrained him, David Beadnall, was more than 1.83m tall and weighed at least 225kg. He was later promoted to health and safety manager at G4S.
At the 2007 inquest, Parker said that he had not read the Physical Control in Care manual, and wasn’t aware of the risks involved. It was also revealed that two years before Myatt’s death, David Tuck, the YJB’s monitor – said to be the “eyes and ears of the Home Office” – had raised concerns about the restraint techniques used by guards at the STCs, and at Rainsbrook in particular. In a letter written to managers in June 2002, Tuck warned of the dangers of young people vomiting while being restrained. More than a year later he wrote again, saying children were complaining their heads were being pushed down into their groins, doubling them up and cutting off air supplies.
Although accidental death was recorded at Myatt’s inquest, the coroner, Judge Richard Pollard, wrote to then justice secretary, Jack Straw, to highlight the failure of G4S’s management to act on reports of abuses. “Inadequacy in the monitoring of the use of Physical Control in Care at Rainsbrook by Rebound management caused or contributed to Gareth’s death,” Pollard wrote.
The Guardian’s investigation, and the leaked letter by Prof John Pitts alleging staff and management abuses, suggests G4S could have learned vital, possibly life-saving lessons in 2003.
The experiences of Lela Xhemajli and Roni Moss in Medway suggest the secure training centre was still failing some children in 2010-11, and its behaviour was inadequately checked by the relevant monitoring bodies.
G4S has defended its record on restraints and reporting abusive staff. “In the period 2010-15, 166 allegations were referred from Medway STC to Medway children’s services – which would include, but is not limited to, allegations of unnecessary and inappropriate restraint,” a spokesman said. “These were all fully investigated and appropriate action taken. Disciplinary action was the result in 23 cases over the period. Inspection reports from the period also characterise a centre where relationships between staff and children are positive.”
The former Labour MP for Northamptonshire North Sally Keeble, who has campaigned against the closed culture and dangerous restraints in STCs for 12 years, told the Guardian she was appalled that the relevant authorities failed to engage adequately with Pitts’ allegations about Medway STC in 2003, but was not entirely surprised.
“This is all of a piece,” she said. “Everything points to a culture of violence that resulted in one young boy dead and many injured. And there were plenty of warnings – delivered in parliament, in print and in person. For over a decade there has been a complete failure at a political and administrative level to take action to stop the violence.
“This is a huge scandal that should have been dealt with and wasn’t. It’s absolutely at the door of the government, and a complete failure of management from top to bottom.”
Additional reporting Neelam Tailor and James Dawson
This article was amended on 29 February 2016. It originally stated that the Youth Justice Board decides which companies win the contracts to run STCs. In fact, it is the Ministry of Justice, which sponsors the YJB, that makes these decisions in accordance with government procurement regulations.
Man With Rare Condition Reveals How He Died For Six Minutes
Originally posted on UNILAD Oct 13, 2018. Including Skype interview with Tyler.
23-year-old Tyler has the energy, humour, and dreams of any able-bodied twenty-something, but he has the rare condition of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
Despite not being able to move around on his own or lift anything that weighs more than three ounces, the resilient guy from Omaha, Nebraska, is eager to not let the degenerative motor neurone disorder get in the way of his aspirations.
Tyler’s SMA means that his armpit touches his hip, and he describes his body as a ‘boomerang’ due to how his spine and ribs are bent.
SMA is a genetic rare neuromuscular disorder characterised by loss of motor neurons and progressive muscle wasting.
As well as suffering with this disease, Tyler had an incident where he died for six minutes.
Explaining the situation, Tyler said to UNILAD:
“It was a very odd situation, we went to hospital and they said ‘you’re very nauseous, there is a black liquid in your stomach, we’re going to have to pump that out’, and I said okay.
“As they were doing that, I blacked out, and I woke up four days later and the room was full of people.
“I was like ‘well, this isn’t good’, and yeah so the next day my aunt asked me if my chest hurt, and I said ‘yeah, how do you know?’ and she said ‘well, you had CPR’.
“I was like ‘what now?’ I said for ‘how long?’ and when she told me six minutes I was like ‘HUH?’.
“I wasn’t aware of it, but I was having some very odd visualisations and they made a little bit more sense as I was told that.”
Tyler has turned this traumatic situation into a really strong example of his resilience.
“The fact that a 65 pound 20-year-old endured CPR for six minutes and is still living.
“I think that is a testament to how stubborn people with disabilities can be. How resilient they are.”
As well as being physically resilient, Tyler’s mindset is inspiringly positive.
He explained that he feels he was blessed with a “‘If I can’t fix it, why be upset about it?’ kind of attitude” which has served him well.
After losing a bet with a friend, he actually ended up doing a stand-up comedy show and enjoyed every second.
Stand-up comedy is a terrifying thing, but Tyler explained:
“It was a dare at first, my friend said ‘you’ve got social anxiety haven’t you?’ and I said ‘yeah’, and they said ‘why don’t you do comedy?’.
“So I did it and honestly loved it. The fact that I can take something so negative and make people laugh about it.
“I think it’s a classic cry or laugh situation.”
He explained how comedy is his way of fight public misconceptions about disability:
“The public mostly has misconceptions about disability in general. They just kind of look at you and dismiss your cognitive abilities because of your physical ones.
“Now that I’m in comedy, it’s fantastic because I get to be all creative with them and point it out in various ways and make people embarrassed.
“In terms of a reaction to my comedy, I get everything from ‘Oh my god, why did you say that?’ to people laughing.
“People don’t know if they can laugh at my comedy show. It’s like ‘no why are you guys saying aww, I’m on a stage’.”
The main concern about Tyler’s health is that his lungs are okay, but his diaphragm is affected so what the doctors worry about is the muscle responsible for controlling his breathing will get worse.
Though the condition is degenerative, Tyler’s type two has the largest age range. He recalled knowing someone who passed away younger than him, but also someone who was 20 years his senior.
Looking to the future, he dreams of continuing comedy, but also starting a non-profit organisation to create a transportation device for disabled people that goes the extra mile.
He explained his idea:
“There’s a dream non-profit that I’m going to start, I just need to have the right ears and eyes on it, because once I start it, I want to make sure it’s effective.
“What I want to do is create a transportation for the disabled that doesn’t just restrict them to going to a doctor appointment or the grocery store, but independence beyond that.
“24/7 operation, because as is now in the States, you’re subjected to public transit times.
“It’s like being told ‘hey at 9pm you can no longer use your legs’. When you get to a certain age, your life becomes more than just school and doctor’s appointments.”
The heart-breaking fact about Tyler’s degenerative condition is that there is a treatment to halt muscle deterioration, but it costs well over a million dollars.
Tyler explained that for the first year of seven shots of Spinraza, a treatment that addresses the underlying cause of motor neurone loss, costs an outrageous $750,000.
Once again the unjust pharmaceutical companies are allowed to charge extortionate prices that most people simply can’t afford.
That is only for the first year, you then need three shots in the spine per year, costing a whopping $125,000 per shot.
Hopefully they make treatment more affordable for inspiring people like Tyler.
The aspiring NPO-owner also said he’d be looking for any business advice and guidance to help him.
The Real Reason Pornhub Has Banned ‘Deepfakes’
If your face was realistically photoshopped into in an adult film, would you find it an embarrassing and distressing violation?
The past couple of weeks has seen fake AI-generated ‘deepfakes’ increase in prominence, prompting Pornhub to ban them from its platform.
Deepfakes are a more realistic and technically advanced version of the celebrity fakes that have been around since the dial up era. It is the level of realism that has brought the morality of the editing into question.
It is non-consensual to put the face of someone who has not consented onto the body of someone else who has not consented to it. But the broad defence of the practice is that it’s not real. It’s fabricated from thousands of photos of each person’s face.
Corey Price, VP at Pornhub told UNILAD:
“Regarding deepfakes, users have started to flag content like this and we are taking it down as soon as we encounter the flags. We encourage anyone who encounters this issue to visit our content removal page so they can officially make a request.
“Content that is flagged on Pornhub that directly violates our Terms of Service is removed as soon as we are made aware of it; this includes non-consensual content.
“To further ensure the safety of all our fans, we officially took a hard stance against revenge porn, which we believe is a form of sexual assault, and introduced a submission form for the easy removal of non-consensual content.”
Above is a still from an unsettling deepfake video which superimposed Natalie Portman’s face onto footage of a porn performer stripping for a photographer.
A video like this is particularly disturbing because it gives a fake yet convincing window into a very private aspect of a celebrity’s life we would never get to see.
One deepfakes creator from Reddit explained to UNILAD why there is such a curiosity around celebrities:
“Celebrities have an unusual relationship with the audience, people go see their movies and listen to their music even though it’s only one sided a feeling of familiarity is born given them some sort of ‘girl next door’ status, given that they would probably not do porn ever we all have at least once had the question ‘how would Becky look like naked’ popped in our minds at least once, that’s when the technology comes in handy.”
A government factsheet defines revenge porn as: ‘the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.’
It is easy to understand why the creation and publishing of deepfakes is being compared to revenge porn. Though it is not technically real, the violation is alike because of the lack of consent over the use of identity.
A deepfakes creator told UNILAD about his ‘cognitive dissonance’ surrounding the morality of making them:
“I don’t know how other people are trying to justify it in their heads, but I know I have some major cognitive dissonance going on surrounding the whole thing.
“I could never do this to someone I knew in real life. It just feels like a gross violation of boundaries. I feel creepy even thinking about it. I don’t get that reaction from celebrities at all.
“I don’t know anything about these people other than which movies I’ve seen them in and that they’re super attractive. It feels completely detached somehow.”
It was interesting to hear him talk about how the idea of a celebrity ‘being distressed because of a video I threw together in a few hours while half paying attention’ was ‘ridiculous, even though I know there’s at least a small possibility that it could actually happen’.
Because of the detachment from the individuals involved empathy for the human whose identity they’ve used is seemingly absent.
The coding for creating the fake videos was released on the specific subreddit /r/deepfakes which grew by tens of thousands in recent weeks.
They are called ‘deepfakes’ after the Reddit user’s name who’s credited with the original creation of Gal Gadot’s video.
Due to the increased publicity and negativity surrounding deepfakes, Pornhub, Reddit, and Twitter have cracked down and banned them from their platforms.
After speaking to numerous deepfakes creators however, it has been claimed that the reasoning behind the ban is not as virtuous as the corporations claim.
Some of the porn creators were quick to point out that it was likely to be a stunt for PR purposes and to save themselves a legal headache in copyright issues.
One deepfakes creator who wishes to stay anonymous told UNILAD:
“It makes sense that they are doing it as most source porn videos have copyright protection, besides even though fakes had been around for ages media will probably blow it out of proportion (no offense), and it’s a smart move to try to stay out of the backlash … for now.
“I’m sure as they realise it is exactly the same as photoshop fakes they will turn a little soft on the matter, provided that they can monetise on it and resolve the copyright issues, which in my opinion is the main reason for the ban.”
Another anonymous creator explained:
“I think Pornhub banning it right off the bat was a good PR move on their part. The algorithm had been gaining a lot of negative attention in the media, and a lot of the content being produced was being hosted on their platform, and they didn’t want to appear to be implicitly supporting it.
“Regardless, I don’t think they really had a choice. If they kept the videos up, they’d be gaining advertiser money off the likenesses of celebrities which I’m sure would have been a legal headache for them.”
I spoke to another creator who said he was in it purely for the technological intrigue. The college student, who got to the top of the subreddit with his creation, expressed his difficulty in attracting attention to his AI work when he posted SFW (safe for work) content, pushing him towards fake pornography.
When asked if they would continue making the deepfakes, a creator told me ‘there is a disturbing lack of Chloe Grace Moretz, but when I finish that one I will probably lose interest’.
The same creator went on to tell me that ‘something that is not real can not be private’, and it is not the same as revenge due to the fake porn only making ‘them appear as victims’ so it’s ‘not actually revenge’.
If the technology allows these deepfakes to become increasingly realistic and high quality, the argument that they’re ethically sound because they’re not technically real becomes void.
If they look real and they sound real, the only person who knows they’re not real is the victim, meaning the images bring as much embarrassment and distress as if it were an authentic leak.
Regardless of whether Pornhub and other platforms have banned deepfakes for reasons based on morality, capitalism or legality, it has encouraged the valid debate on when AI face-swapping crosses a line into non-consensual identity use and misuse.
People Who Played The Sims Are Healthier And Happier, Claims Expert
The millennium gave birth to a beautiful and addictive baby when EA released The Sims18 years ago today.
Yep, the wonderful life simulation that allowed us to play God for hours on end is finally an adult.
You’d think that disappearing into an alternate yet true-to-life universe would be bad for us, but it turns out it can actually be pretty healthy.
Compared to hard drugs, alcoholism, gambling addiction and other common forms of escapism, life simulation games like The Sims are a productive way to disengage from your own life for a bit.
Steve McKeown, Psychoanalyst, founder of MindFixers and owner of The McKeown Clinic, told UNILAD:
“Life Simulation games such as The Sims may replace the reality that we know and live in, when internet speeds become fast enough.
“The suggestion that we may spend more time in a virtual world than the physical one has been developing speedily over the years and has fast become a way in which we can live an alternative life in exactly the way we want.
“The Sims can allow a person to escape social normality, its pressures and chronic stresses that are so prevalent in the real world, it allows the gamer to create a perfect reality in which they play the main character and have full control over the outcome.”
You can choose when to shower, eat, work, make love, make babies, and with the myriad of cheats available, you could even make the gut-wrenching decision to take your Sim’s life.
The choices are endless, but the real consequences negligible, making it a great way to exercise your creativity and imagination without boundaries.
“It is important to remember that immersing yourself in your imagination periodically is actually a very positive form of escapism and is considered important for our brain functions as it can expands our creativity. It allows the gamer to express a part of their personality that may not have known if they hadn’t played.
“Albert Einstein once said ‘creativity is intelligence having fun’.
“Our consciousness is very adaptable and allows us to create an opening to different paradigms of reality every time we focus on alternate versions of life through our thoughts. With the assistance of life simulation games such as Sims we can enhance our inner experience.
“Without escapism we would simply burn out. It’s the main reason why we dream at night when we sleep as it’s our minds way of disengaging from the state of conscious living.”
Technology companies are working hard to fulfil people’s desire for realistic and effective escapism.
Mark Zuckerberg has made a commitment to employing virtual reality and is making fascinating-bordering-on-creepy headway with his Oculus Rift collaboration.
Facebook Spaces has taken The Sims to the next level.
Using virtual reality headsets, it encourages us to actual immerse ourselves in the virtual world but also integrate it into our real life through our social media profile.
This trend, which looks like something from the dark mind of Charlie Brooker, is a worrying one.
Escaping reality to the extent that we rarely choose to experience only what is authentic and existent can be very negative for the increasingly atomised society we live in.
The technology aims to ‘connect’ people better, while actually separating them and normalising e-intimacy over a genuine connection.
“Those who tend overdo escapism are escaping real-life partly because reality doesn’t stand up to their expectations due to stresses and strains of 21st century living.
“Through history this has indeed been the case as you find many people have used substances like alcohol, drugs to escape but as a society we are progressing and technology is allowing us to escape in other ways and not necessarily for the greater good.
“The more we escape the real world and spend more time in a world of fantasy the less we engage in actual social interaction.
“Social interaction is a huge indicator to being able to live a happy long life. We are not talking about strong tied relationships (family, friends etc) that may be part of your FB space but those weaker tied relationships (the shop assistant, the barista, work colleagues etc) whereby you meet people on occasion, these indeed are what actually make us happier and indicator to a longer life!”
McKeown talked about how escapism ‘can create lack of productivity’ as ‘living in dream land removes focus on real life situations hence becoming less productive in work scenarios’ because you’re ‘distracted by fantasy situations and never living in the real world’.
Whether or not you think the desire for escapism is healthy, it’s important to question why we look for any opportunity to disconnect from our own real lives.
Is the desire to escape reality innate, and we were simply held back in terms of technology before now?
Are traditional forms of escapism like the UK weekly ritual of Thirsty Thursdays (and Fridays, and Saturdays) healthier than virtual life simulations because they’re still set within our own reality?
We’re probably all living in a simulation anyway.
The Shocking Effect Watching Porn Has On Your Health
Boys discover porn aged just 10, on average, yet most start puberty at 12 years old.
This means millions of guys across the globe are beginning their sexual journeys in an online world, so far from real-life intimacy, that by the time they become sexually active their brains have already been warped. And how would they know any better?
Since the advent of high speed, free streaming porn in 2006, men and boys have taken to online forums with unexplained erectile dysfunction and low libido.
Other key effects of porn overuse include delayed ejaculation, morphed sexual tastes, poor working memory, social anxiety, decreased motivation, and difficulty sleeping.
You may be quick to dismiss the idea that your porn use has any effect on your brain or body, but Gary Wilson, the author of Your Brain On Porn, has a great metaphor to explain how hard it is to step back from your own situation.
During his eye-opening TED talk, Gary explains that asking how guys thought porn affected them was like asking a fish what it thinks of water.
If you’re surrounded by something for so long, you’re unlikely to notice it, and might not remember what you were like before.
Speaking to UNILAD, Gary Wilson said:
“Eating junk food is normalised, just as smoking was once. It takes decades to fully understand the risks of these normalised phenomena. We are just seeing the front edge of the results of growing up streaming unlimited sexual novelty, and the potential to escalate to increasingly extreme material.
“No one fully knows the effects yet. Interestingly, there’s a large and growing international movement of (largely) non-religious young men eliminating porn because of the benefits their peers report.”
I spoke to former porn addict and YouTuber Gabe Deem who makes videos supporting others trying to ‘reboot’ their brains from porn overuse.
Gabe explained porn’s potential to rewire the brain’s arousal circuitry in terms of desire, causing it to become aroused by pixels on a screen as opposed to real people.
This can be compared to the famous experiment by Ivan Pavlov in which he conditioned his dog to salivate for food at the sound of a bell. Only here men become sexually conditioned to think their phones and computers mean sex, and eventually may not become as excited or aroused by the real thing.
In terms of Pavlov’s dog, in Gabe’s words, ‘the guy just ejaculates into a napkin with his pants around his ankles’.
Gabe told UNILAD:
“The physical symptoms that can arise from porn use are: erectile dysfunction, where your penis works with porn, but not with a real person; delayed ejaculation, where it takes a guy forever to cum, or it is impossible, and he has to finish himself off with his own hand, or may have to think about porn to climax. If you’re no longer pitching a tent in the morning that could be a red flag that you’re developing a problem.
“Mental effects include: morphing sexual tastes (escalating into new, more extreme genres to achieve the same neurochemical high), brain fog (poor working memory), difficulty concentrating, lethargy/low motivation, increased social anxiety, difficulty sleeping.”
The scientific phenomenon of the Coolidge effect is at play when it comes to male porn overuse: male animals exhibit renewed sexual interest when presented with a brand new sexual partner as opposed to his dwindling sexual excitement for sex multiple times with the same partner.
When you’re watching porn, there can be countless videos under countless tabs. A seemingly bottomless pit of erotic sensory overload ranging in their extremity.
How can one real-life person even come close that level of dopamine release?
In his TED Talk, Gary explains the chemical change that takes place in the brain when someone is addicted to anything, including porn.
First there are dopamine surges that come from excess consumption, followed by the accumulation of brain chemical Delta-FosB (important in the formation of addictions) which promotes a cycle of binging and craving.
If the binging continues, then the Delta FosB builds up and can lead to brain changes seen in all addicts including a numbed pleasure response, hyper-reactivity to porn (where everything else in life seems boring, but porn is extremely exciting), and will-power erosion.
Some sources suggest the Delta FosB build up declines around the sixth to eighth week of abstinence from porn which makes sense to why a lot of men see big improvements once they get to the eight week mark.
Porn overuse creates the same physical changes in the brain as food, heroin, or any other addiction.
It’s difficult to know how much is too much because excess consumption of porn is something that is dependent on an individual’s tolerance and brain chemistry.
The best way to find out if (and how) it is affecting you is to try cutting it out for a few months and observing any changes.
Recovery from the symptoms of porn overuse takes about five to seven months for young men, or as little as two months for older men. Men in their early twenties aren’t regaining their erectile health as quickly as older guys because they started watching high-speed porn when their brains were at peak dopamine production and neuroplasticity, while older men were exposed to it at a later stage of life.
Gary told UNILAD:
“Honestly, no chronic porn user knows how it’s affecting him until he gives it up for a substantial period of time. A 25-year old who has been masturbating every day to porn since age 12 may never know what he would have been like without it. Others may not be much affected at all.
“Don’t wait for experts to tell you the effects of internet porn use. As with smoking, it may be
decades before those effects are accurately known. If you think you may be affected, make your own experiment by eliminating porn use for a few months.
“If you’re not sure your sexual function has been affected because you aren’t having partnered sex, try masturbating with porn, and on another occasion try masturbating without porn, porn substitutes, or recalling porn. If your erection and arousal are not there on the second occasion, you may be developing a problem.”
For many guys, the effect of porn on their life only comes into question when a deteriorating personal relationship forces them to reflect.
While interviewing the experts, it became obvious that people are becoming too dependent on porn to be able to function sexually, taking away from real-life intimacy, and putting a big strain on relationships.
In addition to the physical effects on men, there are important social and mental consequences that come from modern porn.
How often have you seen heterosexual porn that is focused on female pleasure?
Internet addiction specialist and psychotherapist Todd L. Love explains:
“Beyond the argument of addiction, it seems undeniable that regular viewing of porn creates unrealistic expectations for their performance abilities, the other person’s role (assuming hetero, the female body), and what are ‘normal’ activities, as well as their own bodies (all guys have huge penises).
“Young guys may go into counselling feeling confused and guilty about having engaged in some of the more physically aggressive ‘techniques’ they regularly viewed in porn (choking, gagging, or otherwise being sexually aggressive with their girlfriends). But they did it because that’s what they grew up watching, not necessarily because they are inherently angry with females.
“Similarly, young women are going into counselling feeling confused about what they have done, or feel that they are required to do, in order to please their boyfriends. Many are intuitively aware that some of the actions are not ‘normal’ sex acts, but nobody has told them so, so they engaged at their own physical and emotional discomfort.”
A study from the University of Nebraska reads: ‘They found those who saw porn young were most likely to agree with statements that asserted male dominance, such as things tend to be better when men are in charge’.
There is a NoFap community of ‘Fapstronauts‘ and pages and pages of reboot stories. One 24-year-old who has been porn-free for six months explains that despite experiencing highs and lows, he has improved clarity of mind, freedom from guilt and shame, increased confidence, motivation, self worth, emotional wealth, creativity, and arousal.
Advice for those who want to quit porn is to exercise, socialise, meditate, and seek support from others who are attempting the same.
Further benefits of giving up porn, reported by those who have succeeded include: remission of sexual problems, increased energy, reduced social anxiety, improved mood, reduced depression, viewing women more positively, and a greater desire to be in a loving relationship.
Porn essentially takes the natural human desire and drive for sexual pleasure and intimacy away from people, and directs it at a screen.
For some, porn use won’t hugely affect your life, but if you’re going to spend hours of your life doing something, it’s worth educating yourself about it.
Race Review: Here’s all the things you need to care about this week
Immigration is a dirty word right now. The idea that people with a range of skill sets and abilities, from other lands and cultures might actually be OK for the UK, is often eschewed for the narrative that foreigners are a pest.
Across the pond, America celebrated Independence Day, but the symbolism of the holiday is not lost on campaigners from RISE AND RESIST. For many, the Statue of Liberty and the July 4th tablet she holds were the first things they saw as they arrived in the United States looking for the American Dream. But between the reinforcement of the deplorable Muslim Ban and a new move to seperate children from their parents at the south-west border, current immigration policies seem like they’ve been lifted out of a dystopian novel.
On the public holiday (Wednesday) a Congolese woman named Therese Okoumou scaled the statue causing tourists to be evacuated from the area. She reportedly told police she wouldn’t come down until “all the children are released”.
Recently, we saw the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the first members of the Windrush generation, marking the pivotal day when around 500 Caribbeans disembarked at Tilbury Docks in 1948. They helped prop up post-war Britain and shape social, cultural, and political life. The gal-dem team curated an exhibition at City Hall to celebrate the impact of Caribbean women on this country which saw artworks of Diane Abbott, Doreen Lawrence, and more. The timing of this milestone – just after the heartbreaking Home Office Windrush scandal – is something that can’t go unmentioned. Yet The Independent reported that the UK Home Office has been found putting similar practices in place to that of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At least 170 children have been separated from their families as part of its immigration detention regime – “in some cases forcing them into care in breach of government policy”.
Even in trashy pop culture news it was found that Ellie Jones from Love Island (Jack’s ex) supports EDL founder Tommy Robinson. Here’s what else you might have missed in the last week.
Sheffield’s mayor says “wasteman” Trump not welcome in his city
Sheffield's breath of fresh mayor, Magid Magid, has put his foot down, banning Donald Trump from the city whilst wearing a “Donald Trump is a wasteman” t-shirt and donning a Sombrero.
The South Yorkshire city’s British Somali Lord Mayor, as of May 2018, decreed on Twitter “I Magid Magid, Lord Mayor & first citizen of this city hereby declare that not only is Donald J Trump (@realDonaldTrump) a WASTEMAN, but he is also henceforth banned from the great city of Sheffield! I further declare July 13th to be Mexico Solidarity Day!”.
The 28-year-old’s reasons for banning the US President is for issuing the racist “Muslim ban”, “stupidly withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement”, “mindlessly moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem”, “enforcing imprisonment of children at borders”, and “defending violence and actions of white supremacist”.
He continued: “I am proud to be the Lord Mayor of a city where there is an amazingly culture of diversity. Where we don’t tolerate racism and xenophobia; where we not only celebrate all our differences but also unite on the things we have in common.”
Trump is set to step foot in the UK for his state visit on July 13 despite numerous petitions by the public to stop him coming.
‘Get Out’ actor Lakeith Stanfield posts homophobic rap on Instagram
What should you do if your alter ego is homophobic? Get Out and Atlanta fans are in despair after Lakeith Stanfield posted homophobic rap on Instagram.
The actor, who has had roles in socially prominent film and TV, can be seen referring to women as ‘bitches’ and using the word ‘fag’ in a recent video. To see him champion the experience of ethnic minorities while discriminating against another has angered fans,
He presented a larger issue of of people in marginalised communities who ‘throw other marginalised people under the bus’.
Stanfield posted the video captioned ‘Offensive freestyle (not for the easily offended)’, as if that pre-warning somehow justified the content. The video has since been taken down and he tweeted a video apologising, saying he was playing a character and was not homophobic.
Indian sex workers have lost the Sangini bank that allowed them to open an account with just a photo. The bank, in Mumbai’s red light district, had more than 5000 customers but has gone out of business because of a lack of funds. According to the BBC, it allowed the women to keep their money safe and save as they can not access mainstream banks due to lack of documentation.
Rapper Akon is building a futuristic Wakanda-inspired “Crypto city” in Senegal, which will trade exclusively in a digital currency called AKoin, on 2000 acres of land gifted to him by the President of Senegal, Page Six reports.
A California woman was caught on video shouting racist insults at a landscape gardener and his mother. The Guardian reports she was telling them to “go back to Mexico” and that they were all “rapists” and “drug dealers”.
Former Morrissey fans are planning an anti-racism party to coincide with his forthcoming gig in Manchester in protest of his support of far-right leader Tommy Robinson, according to The Guardian.
Kenyan priest, Father Ogalo, has been suspended by the Catholic church for rapping his sermons in an attempt to “bring youth closer to the church”, CNN reports.
Japanese princess Ayako has become the second Japanese princess to marry a commoner, which will remove her from royal status. Cosmopolitan reports she has announced she is engaged to marry a shipping employee she met and will be required to leave the family once she exchanges vows.
DOC: Teenage Quadruple Amputee Trampolinist Shows How To Bounce Back From Tragedy
If you’re lacking inspiration, then 14-year-old Izzy Weall is sure to put life into perspective for you with her tremendous mindset and positivity.
Izzy, from Derby, is a quadruple amputee and a trampolining champion, being crowned national champion last year.
At the age of just seven, Izzy caught meningitis and her parents were suddenly warned that she had just hours to live.
Race Review: All The News This Week That Wasn't About The Royals
The phrase “bread and circuses” has summed up how easy it is to distract people for around two millennia. In its essence, it describes how it takes nothing more than a satiated appetite, so “bread”, and entertainment – “circuses” – to distract the masses from their political responsibility or the negative actions of government.
In 2018, pop culture is both the circus and the sustenance we crave for. A fresh Kim Kardashian controversy around appetite-suppressing lollipops is a loaf, the contestants on Love Island are the dancing elephants. Last week, Donald Glover perfectly displayed the dichotomy between life’s dangers and distractions in his powerful visual for ‘This is America’. Fittingly, this week a white woman then tried to distract us from its racially charged message with a cheap and reductive parody entitled ‘women’s edit’, in which she rapped about breastfeeding and date rape.
Meanwhile, actors at Cannes are trying to use the world’s idle gaze to make bold statements about the dark political mood, but a new audio internet mystery has been trending instead. It’s both Laurel and Yanny by the way. And as Royal Wedding feverkicks in, the streets have been cleared of the homeless, and there’s probably a lot of news you haven’t seen.
PROTESTS HIT THE CANNES RED CARPET
On Monday we were all looking at the shiny outfits that graced Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet, or Ivanka Trump’s smile as she opened the new US embassy in Jerusalem. US and Israeli leaders hailed the embassy move as a sign of the enduring relationship between the two countries, while American officials said it could create an honest foundation for an eventual peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
However, as many as 60 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army while they protested the contentious American presence. More than 2700 people were injured after troops opened fire on demonstrators along the 40-mile border. Hollywood actor Benicio del Toro demonstrated at Palestinian pavillion, while Palestinian filmmaker, Annemarie Jacir, addressed a crowd saying: “Today, we stand here in solidarity with the people who have lost their lives and loved ones. I want everyone to hold hands and show that we have a human connection with each other and resist being dehumanised and silenced.”
This is just one of the powerful protests at the film festival so far. On Saturday, Cate Blanchett led 82 Hollywood stars, women directors, producers and scriptwriters to demand equal pay and status in the industry. Similarly, Wednesday saw 16 black and mixed race actresses take to the carpet to denounce everyday racism in the French industry, and the prejudice they have suffered from directors and casting agents.
NO JUSTICE FOR RACE RELATIONS OFFICER TASERED IN THE FACE BY ANOTHER OFFICER
There are no words. 64-year-old Judah Adunbi who worked as a race relations officer for Bristol police was tasered in the face by a police sergeant from the same force. Claire Boddie, 47, has been cleared of unlawfully tasering him after she claimed she mistook him for a suspect and acted in self defense.
During the encounter, Boddie told Adunbi he looked “familiar”. There was a scuffle and Mr Adunbi fell to the floor after the Taser bar hit him in the jaw. He was a member of the force’s independent advisory group which raises policing matters which could cause the public concern.
She said the suspect she had been looking for had a warning for violence and weapons, so was concerned Adunbi had keys in his hand. Adunbi has actually been mistaken for this man before and after the altercation.
US State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is being hailed the #MeToo “movement’s biggest betrayal” after Harvard-educated activist writer Tanya Selvaratnam, of Sri Lankan heritage, spoke out about how he used to call her his “brown slave” and slap her until she called him “master”. Schneiderman is New York State’s highest-ranking law-enforcement officer and has taken an active role in the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, suing Harvey Weinstein.
Guns N’ Roses have removed the song ‘One in a Million’ from a forthcoming reissue of their album Appetite for Destruction because of the racist and homophobic lyrics. It features the lyrics: “Police and niggers, that’s right / Get outta my way / Don’t need to buy none of your gold chains today.”
The Conservative party are under pressure to take action over councillor Rosemary Carroll’s racist Facebook post where she compared an Asian man to a dog
The effect of US police violence on people of colour is becoming evermore tangible after a new study estimates more than 100,000 years of life were lost in 2015 and 2016.
Black Customers Allegedly Refused Entry To Barcelona Nightclub In Shocking Video
In news worryingly reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid, a Barcelona club night has been accused of racist door policies.
A group of black British guys had booked tickets to an ANTS club night at Barcelona’s Plaza de Toros Monumental on June 16, but when they showed up they were stopped, along with many other black people, while their white counterparts walked in with no issue.
At first they didn’t think anything of it, but the colour line across the door to the venue became overwhelmingly obvious, and when they asked for an explanation, they were reportedly told, there were to be ‘no black Muslims or black Arabs’ allowed in.
Speaking to UNILAD, one of the guys who filmed the shocking situation, Josh Orie, said:
“On entry into the venue, either side of us were groups of two to four black lads, standing in frustration on the left and right hand side of the queue, but I didn’t think anything of it until we got closer to the front.
“On entry into the club there was four of us, three black lads and one white. My white friend was the first to walk past security, no problem.
“Then we followed right behind him until we got told to stand to the side for no reason, and someone would come and tell us the reason why we can’t enter – but my white friend had no problem.
“After standing around waiting for an explanation, we started to see a similar pattern of the type of people they weren’t letting in, and it was people of colour, mainly black people.”
When Josh and his friends asked security for reasons as to why they were refused entry, they were allegedly told there were to be ‘no black Muslims or black Arabs’.
They were also allegedly told: ‘you don’t fit our profile because you have tattoos’, this is despite hearing others being told: ‘you guys can enter because you don’t look black’.
Josh also remembered a security guard sniggering while searching a ‘big athletic black man’, saying, ‘I’m surprised no knife’, racially profiling him with prejudiced stereotypes.
Josh continued to UNILAD:
One security guard even said his boss doesn’t want us in the venue, and that none of us are deemed the right of entry except the white people.
You could tell the Spanish people were mocking us, with their language, their mannerisms and how they would approach us – which was aggressively.
I felt more shocked than surprised at how they did it so causally. It was like what they were doing was normal and not a problem.
After waiting for an hour, watching dozens of black people get turned away, Josh and his friends were offered a refund and left feeling extremely uncomfortable and mistreated.
Josh attempted to reach out to ANTS events, which describes itself as ‘an underground movement originating from Ibiza’, but is still waiting for answers.
In a statement given to UNILAD, ANTS events said:
“ANTS are aware of the alleged treatment of guests at a show at La Monumental on 16th June, where an externally promoted event was taking place.
“We take claims of this nature very seriously, and the welfare of customers is our number one priority.
“We are in contact with the promoter and their security and door staff to investigate this further, and have been made aware that the promoter allocated refunds to those that were affected, as well as a “hoja de reclamaciones” complaint form to those wanting to provide a statement about the situation.
“We do not condone any form of discrimination whatsoever, and always seek to unify partygoers without prejudice.”
Unofficial racist nightclub entry policies have been prevalent in the news recently.
London’s Park Lane Drama night club was recently accused of charging black girls double the entry price of their white counterparts.
Until 1965, it was legal to turn away black people from pubs or clubs simply because of their skin colour. For this to still be an issue in 2018 is concerning and extremely important to note.
Hopefully in this case, the people responsible are aware a refund is the very least they can do and in no way makes up for any alleged discrimination and prejudice.
All the news you need to read this week
The Lifetime six-part documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, details the harrowing personal accounts of the R&B legend’s alleged sex slaves. It’s upsetting. It’s disgusting. Yet, if there is one thing that is obvious from the documentary it’s that his manipulation and the molestation was so explicit, those around him must have seen something. So why did it take until now for investigators to reopen the case? It goes some way to making you think that the prejudice against young black women is what helped protect him for so long and that ultimately the police and his supporters believed that young black girls don’t need protecting.
The world seems ready to call a spade a spade: R. Kelly is toxic. And, newsflash, Donald Trump is a racist. New democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said there is “no question” about that in an interview with CBS News. The outspoken congresswoman has just been sworn in as the youngest ever, and she’s already established herself as a force to be reckoned with – in politics and dance. Seeing a politician express actual joy was refreshing and made me realise sometimes good things happen. Like Sandra Oh becoming the first Asian woman in over 40 years to receive a major TV award at the Golden Globes, or Cyntoia Brown, an alleged sex trafficking victim from Tennessee being granted clemency after being jailed for 15 years for the murder of her sexual abuser.
Here’s all the race-related news you might have missed this week.
Beijing furthers campaign to ‘sinicize’ ethnic Muslims with new law
China’s aggressive campaign against Uyghur Muslims in the country continues as a new law is passed dictating the way Islam can be practised. China’s most popular English newspaper, The Global Times, writes that the legal measure has been enacted “to guide Islam to be compatible with socialism and implement measures to Sinicize the religion”. To Sinicize means to make Chinese in character or form. The new report regarding the law does not detail how it will be implemented, but China’s government-backed Islamic Association is developing a five-year plan for the sinicization of Islam. The plan will focus on requiring mosques to uphold “core values of socialism, traditional culture, laws, and regulations”, the association’s president Yang Faming said.
There have been continued harrowing reports of the “re-education camps” where roughly a million Uyghurs are allegedly forced and tortured. It seems it is not only the Uyghur Muslims being targeted by the government as Hui Muslims, but China’s largest Muslim population are also now being attacked. Last month Chinese authorities in the province of Yunnan forcibly evicted Hui Muslims from three mosques. Beijing is allowing “cultural genocide” to take place, as described by U.S.-based Muslim student activist Sulaiman Gu, using the threat from Islamic extremism and separatism as its excuse. It looks as if the Chinese government is not going to stop at Islam either. Beijing demands control over all faiths practised in its country.
White drug dealers spared jail because of their perfect ‘spelling and grammar’
Blatant bias ruling rears its white middle-class head in UK courts this week as a pair of drug dealers avoid jail due to their impressive “spelling and grammar” in text messages arranging weed deals. Sounds about white. It’s very unlikely that this would happen if they were black. Yet, 19-year-old Luke Rance and 21-year-old Brandon Kerrison walk free out of court, and a compliment.
The Welsh drug dealers were found with several bags of weed and a small amount of cocaine, and police reportedly uncovered over £1,200 worth of weed from Rance’s bedroom. They both appeared at Swansea Crown Court this week where Judge David Hale examined texts between the dealers and customers, remarking that their “grammar and punctuation” was a higher standard than most drug dealers.
“Spelling and grammar” is a code-word for the privilege. They’ve had the right kind of education, they have talents outside of crime, so he decided they are undeserving of punishment.
As their freedom was being granted, it’s painful to think about the number of black and brown men of the same age and potential who are being sent to jail for the same crimes. They’re at least twice as likely as their white counterparts to be charged for possession of weed, as we know from LSE’s significant 2013 report. It really brings into question whether anyone should be prosecuted for dealing weed at all.”
Anti-racism campaigners held a vigil in Kent welcoming refugees to the UK in response to the hyperbolically-named “immigration crisis” we are experiencing.
Lil Pump removes racist lyrics from Butterfly Doors which read: “They call me Yao Ming, cause my eyes real low, ching chong.”
Parents of mixed race children in Bristol have created a community initiative to exchange hair-tips for those who don’t know how to manage mixed race hair.
Continuing issues of racism in football are clear as former Inter and Sampdoria striker Samuel Eto’o claimed black coaches are put off because they’re viewed as “second class citizens”. Before Christmas, Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly was recently subjected to monkey chants against Inter.
A black family-of-four who were racially profiled and mistreated by police in a Canadian suburb south of Montreal should be paid $86k in compensation, Quebec human rights commission says.
A Canadian barber shop that was vandalised with graffiti saying “Kill Muslims” and “Kill Lebs” along with a swastika is holding a community event to unite against racism. Owner Jesse Lipscombe said: “Barbershops, in general, are the place where you go and talk about everything from politics to family, the kids, the dogs and you want to keep that same feel.”
Girl Escapes Syrian Refugee Camp To Become Huge Hollywood Success
Vivian Nouri was born into a Syrian refugee camp after a bomb destroyed her home in Northern Iraq during the Kurdish uprising, and now she has burst into Hollywood as a singer for an upcoming Christmas film.
Now she is rubbing shoulders with the likes of Diplo and Chance the Rapper, but the talented 24-year-old hasn’t always lived in luxury as she is one of six siblings born to a heroic mother who made the perilous journey to Iran in 1991 along with about two million other Kurds fleeing the violence.
After making it by foot to Iran, Vivian’s two elder sisters and her mother were sent to a Syrian refugee camp where Vivian was born and lived for her first two years.
The family were granted refugee status in New Zealand in 1995, where they have called home ever since.
Vivian’s 27-year-old sister Jennifer told UNILAD:
“In 1991 after the gulf war and during the Kurdish uprising in Northern Iraq our house was destroyed by a bomb and so my mother fled with me and my eldest sister at the time.
“After the house was destroyed by a bomb and we fled, my mum said a lot of people died of hypothermia or starvation because it was a long trip to Iran. It was snowing in the mountains at the time, so we had to walk through the mountains. We did the whole journey by foot .I was seven months at the time so our mother carried us.
“About two million Kurds went towards Turkey and the other half went towards Iran and subsequently we were living in a refugee camp and that’s where Viv was born in 1993.
“She grew up in a Syrian refugee camp. What I remember about it is that we lived in a tent and my mum would walk a long way everyday to fetch water with one of us with her. That’s how much I remember of it. She’s our main inspiration. We’ve all gone on to do big things and it’s all thanks to her.
“We were there until 1995 when were granted refugee status in New Zealand because I needed medical attention, so it was on those grounds we were granted the status. We have been here ever since and call New Zealand our home now.”
Vivian has gone from the refugee camp where she famously used to graze on ants, to singing on the big screen.
From a very young age, Vivian sang and she recollected the standing ovation she received at the school talent show which confirmed her dreams of being a singer.
Speaking to UNILAD, Vivian said:
“At the beginning of the year I made the decision to drop everything in New Zealand quit my job in IT. I was studying IT as well at the time and only had a year left on that but I just needed to put it on hold so I could go to the States and see if I could do it. I only went knowing one person out there, Brian Kennedy. I sent my video of Close To You by Rihanna which is a song he produced and he really loved it.
“I quit my job, went over at the beginning of February this year and I was going to go for a month, but while I was there they wanted me to extend it because we had so much stuff to record. At the time it was Grammy season so Brian would take me to all these pre-Grammy parties and events where I would get to meet more people. Through that I met Jason, the Music Supervisor at Paramount Records.
“I couldn’t believe the people I was around. At the party, Diplo was there, Chance the Rapper was just walking around so casually. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Vivian told me how Fifth Harmony were her favourite celebrities to meet because when she met them at the studio she was the only girl around and ‘they were so welcoming and really friendly and they stayed with me the whole time’.
Having uploaded videos of her singing to Youtube and trying to gain contacts, Vivian sent her video to Brian… and it resulted in her getting a call from Paramount Studios asking her if she could try recording a song.
Instantly she agreed, learnt the song in an hour and sung it at the studio in LA.
Vivian spoke about how she got the opportunity to work for the film:
“This one morning Jason rang me and asked if I would be able to sing a song. He sent it to my email and before I even listened to it I just said yes and then learned it in an hour and then met him at the studio.
“The studio that we were at, the engineer showed me photos of where Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie had recorded albums. I just felt like it was crazy and it really got me in the mood.
“The Christmas song they gave me had an Amy Winehouse kind of vibe so I warmed up with an Amy song and then sang the song and they loved it. Then a week later I got an email saying the song was locked into the movie.
“My fingers couldn’t even type because I was so excited. It’s just crazy because I’m not signed under a label and don’t have any management or anything like that, so I’m completely independent. I’ve been told by so many people that for something like that to happen to someone with nobody behind them, it’s really rare.”
The singer’s big break is a Christmas song featuring on the a big Hollywood film soundtrack, which is set to be released in the US on November 10 this year.
The movie stars Hollywood heavyweights Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Cena, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson and now the vocal talents of Kiwi Vivian Nouri.
Vivian explained how her background is humbling:
“Being from my refugee background and coming to Hollywood is really humbling. Coming from where I come from, I don’t think you could ever not be humble. That’s what drives me to want it even more, you’ve got people who say bad things, but I really don’t give a shit. I’m in a good place and I know the right people, and I’m very humbled to be in this position.”
Vivian isn’t signed to any label and is her own manager. She is a completely independent artist and said that her refugee background is extremely humbling everyday.
All of her siblings have gone onto great things, crediting their incredible mother as their inspiration.