Endangered level: not that critical at all

Endangered level: not that critical at all

I had to laugh when I saw Tesco’s chairman, John Allan, stating that white men were becoming an “endangered species” on the board. Absolute nonsense.

While more companies are diversifying the range of ethnicities and genders on the board, I don’t think companies should be doing this because they need a non-white person as a director. That completely overshadows the objective of being on the board, which is to lead a particular area of the company. Next, it’ll be that ‘redhead directors’ are becoming endangered. That’s how ridiculous John Allan’s claim is.

If you are the CEO of a company and are choosing between a woman and a man to be the next CFO, the woman should not be picked for being a woman. If she were to get the job, it should be out of skill and ability. To deliberately choose a non-white, non-male director to be appointed is basically implying they are alike to a trophy wife, there for status and maybe a PR stunt that customers can trust this company is ‘open-minded’ and ’embracing change’. You can envisage the marketing techniques already.

Of course, for hundreds of years, white males have led the country, led companies, led wars, and have been the ‘heads of the household’. In the UK anyway, it is now a redundant concept that men are superior, especially that 26% of women hold board positions in some of the UK’s largest companies. My only hope is that if we ever reach 50% male and 50% female board representation, it has resulted from genuinely wanting these people for their skills. I also believe that women are only becoming less inferior to match men, not that women are becoming superior to them. That would undermine gender inequality to condemn men in the name of women.

As well, in 2011, 86% of the UK population were white. I can only imagine that this figure has dropped significantly, what with the settlement of refugees from various countries and general globalisation. But, to call white men “endangered” and having to “work twice as hard” is almost outrageous, coming from the chairman of a company with eight other white men and just three white women on the board.

I would like to see more ethnic minorities and women on company boards, but to choose them for purely not being white males is undiplomatic.

John Allan did later clarify what he meant, that his statement “was intended to be humorous, a bit hyperbolic”. Well John, your sense of humour is just as frivolous as the state of your company’s finances.



The stress of stress

The stress of stress

Being a university student isn’t just drinking to oblivion and recollecting none of the night’s events but a lanky scrap of doner meat between your fingers, hovering just not close enough to your mouth. University can be the best experience of your life where you make lifelong friends, understanding petty tasks like how to live off pasta for a month or encounter fundamental learning such as how to use your degree to progress into your dream career.

Yet, it can also be the worst. Not only can the assignments and exams be so stressful, but you aren’t necessarily going to make friends. Just because you’ve been randomly allocated into a flat of a few other people doesn’t mean you’ll keep in contact until death do you part. Although, many a time coincidence rebuts this. For me, my solid friend group are the ones back in my hometown. Not only this, but the maintenance loan offered by student finance doesn’t even cover rent costs a lot of the time. I could write a mini-dissertation about my dissatisfaction with the presumptive loan system and it not catering for all backgrounds. But maybe I’ll save that for another time. Even so, these stressors add up.

As a result, you might find yourself not sleeping at night, or oversleeping completely. Having no or little motivation to pick a pen up let alone walking to your seminar.

What I want to highlight is the vast number of students who experience mental health problems, which stands at around 25% along with the rest of the population. That might be fifty people in your lecture theatre. Two of your housemates. It might be you.

I forget how lucky I am sometimes that when I do feel at my lowest, I can just catch a two hour train home. Be immersed in the scent of my own house surrounded by family, comforting food that isn’t canned or frozen. See my friends, feel like the real me. I couldn’t even fathom being homesick for a home that is a twelve hour flight away.

I’m in my final year now, so I have undoubtedly calmed down my party habits to probably once or twice a month if that. Yet, as a fresher, it seemed that I would have FOMO every time I said no to a night out. That refusal soon enough turned into a ‘go on then’ at 11pm as I started applying my makeup while still in my pyjamas and swigging own-brand vodka and orange squash. It was more than the fear of missing out on a good time though. It was as though I was trying to prove myself and model myself into having a false persona that I was outgoing, fun, wild, likeable. A façade.

You could even say that I had an irrational fear that I no longer would be accepted and approved of by other students if I missed a night out. A night out where nothing new ever happens, where there’s vomit, another piece of clothing for the laundry pile, a bigger hole in the overdraft, and a fuzzy head disabling any motivation to do any intellectual or productive task the following day.

Right now, it’s a Friday night, and other than writing this post I’m listening to Alt-J with apple and cinnamon flavoured green tea in my dressing gown in my room. Would I have done this in first year? Absolutely no chance.

I was so, so, so naïve for thinking the way I did those few years ago. I had no concept of how to relax, wind down, or even enjoy my own company.

Whether you’re a student, whatever the year, or otherwise, never underestimate the importance of relaxing. If your career involves your persona to be constantly energetic, positive and on the ball, then relaxation is even more paramount. I may have reverted back to my usual introverted self, but I can still take the time to relax even after a day of being alone writing an essay or reading.

I am fully aware that when you land a new job, it seems obligatory to jump at every available task and be the first one in the office and the last one to leave. This is bullshit. If your employer is allowing you to do this, then you shouldn’t be working for them. A company who does not respect health and wellbeing is not the place for anybody. Of course, some people are workaholics, utilise work to distract themselves from other issues, or are just genuinely keen or want a promotion.

Even still, we should not be afraid to give a firm ‘no’ when our body and mind requires it.

At universities, student unions are particularly adept in offering mental health services, such as counselling. Though, feeling stressed or low is not necessarily an indicator of a wider problem most of the time. It is a mere part of being human. It doesn’t help that media and social networks may romanticise the ideal of being ‘broken’ and  mentally ‘vulnerable’, which I call bullsh*t on. While on one hand there’s nothing beautiful about depression, there is nothing ugly about it either. To stigmatise mental illness and make sufferers feel ashamed for feeling any fraction of it on a spectrum is what dehumanises them.

Time to Talk Day 2017 was just last week, but its object promotes conversations around mental health in order to establish better relationships with others and overcome what can be the worst part of suffering from a mental illness. University Mental Health Day also took place last week too. Yet, just like with my views on International Women Day, a designated day does not mean this is the only time of year to talk. If mental health can be a problem at any time of year, there can be a solution to it at any time of year too. Surely, we can create conversation 365 days a year.

For more information on mental health, visit the UK’s leading charity, Mind.




The sensitised snowflakes

The sensitised snowflakes

You may have come across the live feed of a giraffe in a very long period of labour. While humans are entitled to a right to privacy, we somewhat extend this right to animals. For instance, animals in captivity should have an area from the gaze of onlookers in a hidden away den or shelter area.

Does a live video of an animal giving birth encroach these rights at all? I don’t think so – for birth is a miraculous and beautiful act, whatever type of animal. If the owner of the zoo in New York had kept the giraffe displayed out in the open for hundreds of onlookers to watch, this would be cruel. The giraffe’s unawareness of technology is blissful ignorance in this case.

Many animal rights activists also complained that the live video was ‘sexually explicit’ and ‘contained nudity’. Before I become a keyboard warrior, I will just take a deep breath and list my annoyances:

  1. Animals don’t wear clothes, therefore they cannot be nude if their natural appearance is their norm.
  2. Even a human woman must expose her genitalia in order to give birth. We don’t think of this as erotic or distasteful when it is wholly to give life into the world. Nudity does not correlate with sex. Just like the naked body or a short skirt does not mean you are ‘asking’ to be raped.
  3. In conjunction to the above, there is nothing sexual about birth. Women have already been subject to the ridiculous perverted comments about the sexual connotations with breastfeeding, which is purely to feed a baby.
  4. As such, how can we sexualise an animal? It is the same with sexualising a 6 year old pageant queen singing to Ariana Grande on stage. If you perceive there to be a sexual association, that is due to the workings of your mind, not the actual subject matter.

We really are living in a snowflake generation, where the smallest of comments cause a mass population to be offended. I was reading an interview with Stephen Merchant yesterday, who even admitted that The Office wouldn’t have been so successful if it were released today. I completely agree. The outrage on social media would never stop, completely deflecting from the light-heartedly offensive comedy which the show intends to be.

When the time comes that I am welcoming life into the world, I would hate for my child to be submerged in a prolonged snowflake culture. Children need to be taught to toughen up, so to speak. As a child playing on my bike and accidentally winding myself from crashing into a tree, that did not stop me from riding a bike and it certainly did not cause me to slander cyclists and curse those who played outside.

Setbacks are opportunities, whether you’re a child or an adult. We cannot live in a society which becomes horrified at something we slightly disagree with or have been hurt by.

At one point, I was certain that we were becoming desensitised to the media – sex, violence, general crime. Maybe in fact we are actually becoming sensitised, or perhaps just afraid to accept controversy.

For a humorous take on the politically correct generation of millennials, see Bryony Gordon’s article on the Telegraph here.





More love and less hate

More love and less hate

Love actually is all around, which not only is a quote from a spectacular film but a truth that should not be overlooked. We can all somewhat agree that we are living in an age of disenchantment and disenfranchisement; wishing to be free from the corrupt systems we are shackled to. Such attitude can pave the way for even more loathing and despair, which makes us somewhat hypocritical to protest at the system itself.

The term ‘love trumps hate’ that has been coined recently, does not mean that we should be angry with those Brexiteers or Republicans, or MPs who voted against something you were really passionate about. Love does conquer all, and when we are surrounded by positivity, we are more prosperous and productive.

I have extremely mixed views about Trump’s presidency but I also have mixed views on liberals who shout ‘hope not hate’, in an attempt to frighten and intimidate Trump’s supporters as if they are an incarnation of evil. I clearly did not exist when Germany was governed by the Nazis, but such behaviour is no different to the hypnotic scaremongering that Hitler and his propaganda minister was known well for – being able to sway public opinion rather than allow citizens to make informed decisions from a range of sources.

But hey, Valentine’s Day is just days away, and I am treating it as a 24 hour period of bliss by not reading the news and turning the notifications off for my news apps. Yet, I will then have to deactivate every form of social media too in order to distance myself from global affairs. Maybe even barricade myself in my room all day to avoid any one-sided information being transmitted to me.

Maybe that’s too far to have a sound mind nowadays when global communications are so abundant. My only hope is for people to be open to love and care, rather than searching for a way to complain about anything and everything that is generated by the media, which is then spun subjectively to form these ‘alternative facts’ which become ‘fake news’ for those who do not surround themselves with objectivity.

2016 was a slimeball of a year, but then again so was several years in the 1300s when the Black Death took tens of millions of victims. 2017 has been personally very positive for me albeit the occasional setback, but from a global perspective, the last few weeks have just been like any other 21st century year with its own problems amounting. World peace may never happen, and nations have always and will continue to have internal and external clashes.

I guess we, as human beings, feel almost superhuman and untouchable that nothing bad could ever happen to us, what with the advancement of technology, medicine, and general wellbeing. When misfortune makes an appearance, we want to run for the hills believing that the apocalypse is near because how could this world be so scary and brutal.

We are too susceptible to setbacks which we perceive as mountains rather than the molehills which they really are. The media does not help in its exaggerations and sensationalism, making its viewers and readers jump to ridiculous conclusions which they then share on social media, causing a snowball in skewed opinions of world events. A very good recent example is the headline by The Independent: ‘Germany elects ‘anti-Trump’ candidate as president’. While Steinmeier has openly stated his distaste with Trump, why should this be a headline? The answer is most probably to make money.

I am not declaring that the refugee crisis, the Syrian civil war, the Iraqi war, or the insurgence of Boko Haram are simple events spun by the media to generate revenue. But when it comes to small affairs such as Trump pretending he can understand Japanese because he has too much pride to admit he does not have his earpiece on him, it’s seen as almost scandalous. If it had been Obama, I’m sure everyone would deem it utterly hilarious and YouTubers would have made a parody of it.

I hate to use this phrase, but we should all ‘stay woke’ by being objectively informed of what’s really going on around us. This also means respecting other views and actually being open to listening to very contrasting opinions. There’s nothing loving about being somebody who only surrounds themselves with subjective, dangerous opinions. I am left-wing, but I know that to only interact with those with a similar political agenda to my own would result in being hostile to those with different opinions.

My simple request is that on the 14th February, accept love and be open to it. Do not let hyped-up versions of real events from the biased media affect your emotional capacity.


What kind of people are we?

What kind of people are we?

Billy Bragg appeared on last night’s Question Time, highlighting our duty to take in refugees after only 350 child refugees were able to be taken in under the Dubs amendment. We individually have a humanitarian obligation to this earth, and respecting other human beings is part of that duty, wherever we come from.

The Dubs amendment was intended to relieve the humanitarian crisis that is the displacement of people, and this country’s reticence towards introducing them into our country. The amendment initially looked like a solution, but it’s of no surprise that its cracks began to surface. It could be said that having such an open door to child refugees may not only encourage them to risk their lives reaching Europe, but leave them vulnerable to traffickers. But then again, not helping these children at all is just as dangerous.

The government purportedly still wish to take in thousands more child refugees. This is clearly rather sensationalist after halting a great way to accept said refugees. 350 children seems a lot in terms of finding appropriate housing and education, but what about the other 2,650+ children who might have expected to be offered refuge? The government has sincerely let these children down by no longer following the amendment through. My favourite description of this ridiculous decision is from Christian Aid as “not only a broken promise to vulnerable children, but a rejection of our international responsibilities”.

I believe that the amendment was the right thing to implement by Lord Dubs in the circumstances, but it still remains valid. Why this particular amendment to the Act should have a time limit is base, and contrary to the government’s intention to adhere to the word and spirit of the amendment. As Yvette Cooper stated, “no one ever suggested we would only help children for a few months then turn our backs especially when the global refugee crisis shows no sign of abating”.

Cooper also questions whatever happened to the commitments of the government to ending modern slavery and human trafficking. As aforementioned with trafficking, children who are found between “a rock and a hard place” as rightfully described by Bragg are most likely to be subject to modern slavery now. We’ve seen enough human beings sacrifice their lives to simply travel from one country to another, so what’s to say that child refugees will not keep putting their life on the line for some degree of sanctuary, however doubtful?

While our MPs seem to be more concerned with the economic state of our country, we as citizens cannot lose sight of what is important. To dismiss the urgency of the refugee crisis and instead prioritise Brexit is abhorrent while such a crisis is ongoing, and I anticipate the results of the legality of the decision to overturn the Dubs amendment.

I know that this country is home to some of the most open-minded and empathetic individuals some of whom are not even British nationals. But how are we to exercise our compassion towards the vulnerable if our government is a barrier? Relying on men and women in suits to hazard an attempt at being empathetic for the welfare of others is laughable really.

Whatever your moral compass, we could all do with pondering the question posed by Bragg: what kind of people are we?


FGM isn’t just a non-Western crisis

FGM isn’t just a non-Western crisis

In light of International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation being today, I am so happy to see more and more citizens of the world recognise the issue and crisis that is FGM. While its victims are primarily from Africa, the Middle East, or Asia, there are still victims in the UK; girls and women who are too afraid to speak up in a seemingly open culture. Nobody should go through FGM, and equally, nobody should tolerate it either.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘tolerate’ is defined as ‘to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference’. To avoid interfering is not a matter of respecting cultural boundaries. Interfering acknowledges the protection of one’s autonomy to the ownership of their anatomy. No female, child or adult, should have to endure the excruciating pain that is coupled with her genitalia being mutilated. In some instances, such a practice results in death, notwithstanding infection, organ problems and problems when having intercourse or even giving birth.

Personally, I have never met somebody who has been subject to FGM. But that doesn’t mean these victims don’t exist. FGM has been a silent issue, just like HIV in the last century, except this is inflicted pain and torture, not an illness you can transmit. When we do not first-hand experience a problem, we become ignorant to it, wilfully aware that problem does not exist. Yet, this is the wrong attitude to have with such a sinister crime. Not to mention, it is a crime against gender equality, it discriminates women for being born in their bodies, and can result in mental illness.

The UK does have limited measures in place to safeguard vulnerable women, but such procedures have failed to bring a successful prosecution. Every victim of FGM should be acknowledged and given the appropriate care and treatment, but why are the 17,000 victims living in England and Wales not receiving justice? The scarier fact is that there are roughly 200 million FGM victims worldwide. That’s about four times the population of England alone.

Yet, the 6th February marks the aims of the United Nations in combatting FGM. By 2030, they anticipate that the practice of FGM will be eliminated, as well as other harmful practices such as forced marriage. The UN are not the only organisation who have made it a priority to target the handling of this crime, but the EU and the African Union too.

2030 is 13 years away; 13 years too many chances for FGM to be carried out. While sometimes we can feel hopeless in attempting to tackle a global dilemma, each one of us can still be vigilant to the warning signs and symptoms of FGM. We have to look out for our sisters, wherever they may come from. The NSPCC have offered helpful guidance on being mindful of these signs here.

Today may remind or even introduce the crime of FGM to you, but do not let its incriminating nature be forgotten or tolerated. It must be fought and eliminated. And that takes a world, not just those subject to it.



Standing up for all women, all races, humanity

Standing up for all women, all races, humanity

It’s difficult sometimes to get my word across as a 21 year old white woman, lucky enough to live in a nation currently untouched by war, famine or poverty. I have never personally experienced the loss of my family, or have had to seek refuge in a foreign land, or adjust to a new way of living in order to survive. Yet, I shouldn’t have had to experience war or disaster to understand the support that is necessary for its victims. So, I will make my voice heard amongst the other millions.

Having witnessed the anti-Trump protests and marches over the last few days, I have been completely astounded and overwhelmed at the tenacity and fearlessness of this generation, particularly the women. We, as womankind, do not let a somewhat unsolicited man make sexist, abhorrent executive orders such as the re-implementation of the ‘global gag rule’ and other so-called ‘administrative’ duties today or tomorrow. The sexism stops now.

Trump is a blunt blade attempting to scar feminist history, half-heartedly cutting their magnitude out of our minds. We will never back down.

President or stranger – nobody, no man or woman can force what you can do with your body, your womb, your ovaries, your vagina, your testicles, your penis, your gender, you.

Nobody, no man or woman can dictate how you should be treated because of your race, your nationality, your home country, your heritage, your history, your religion, your family, you.

Let’s keep fighting for our inalienable human rights, rights which we are all entitled to as human beings, no matter our gender, our sex, our race, our sexuality, our class.

I respect democracy, but a President who has freely denigrated individuals for having a ‘p*ssy’ to not being white is not acceptable and does not respect the values we should all hold in today’s society, particularly of an advanced, Western country.

Sexism and racism will not be enshrined in the orders of anybody with or without power. We must stand up to defeat these evils through our freedom to protest against fascist ideals. This is why it is important for the UK to cut ties with the US should Trump still be President. We have already lost the EU, and losing the US may cost us the rest of our deteriorating economy. But, morality should come first. For May to overlook a misogynistic leader is utterly shameful, despite his purported economic strength.

Yet, I am proud to be of one of the over 1m who have signed the petition to prevent Trump’s state visit to the UK. I do not want to live in a country which curtails hope and prosperity for all races and instead, allows discrimination and hate.