Category Archives: Opinion

Manchester’s Political Youth: An interview with Becky Fox on Sex, health and safety in the city…

This year, the University of Manchester broke the record for the highest turn out for a Student’s Union election in the UK ever. Inspired by how political the University community seems to have become, I sat down with a few of the candidates who were running in the election to ask them what they think about the state of student life and general Manchester politics.

The first candidate I have had the pleasure of sitting down with was Becky Fox, who ran for Wellbeing Officer and came second overall. I asked each of the politicians to describe themselves in a small paragraph and here is Fox’s:

‘I’m a third year pharmacology student from South Manchester with a passion for women’s issues and consent education. I’m a founding member of Manchester Sexual Representation Network  (MSRN)  who do all sorts of wonderful things, with a lot of our focus going on consent education at the moment. I’m currently running workshops at local schools to teach 16-18 year olds about consent and planned to use the platform of Wellbeing Officer to have these workshops for every student. I also love thistle tea, cats, being queer, sewing and singing’.

MSRN

It is clear from this that consent is an issue close to Fox’s heart, and so it should be for everyone. The overall conclusion we made from our time together was that everything, in any kind of relationship, is more fun and rewarding when you have consent. The importance of consent education was a driving force behind Fox running for Wellbeing candidate but she was also inspired by the twice-elected Women’s Officer, Jess Lishak. It is clear that women’s issues and issues with wellbeing are closely linked, especially with the horrendous rise in sexual assault and rape happening in student areas this academic year. When I asked Fox how she would define consent she explained that ‘it isn’t just having permission to have sex, it revolves around having sex, kissing or even holding hands when both people are comfortable’.

The importance of teaching consent was clear when I heard about Fox’s encounter with a 26 year old man, sexually active since 16, who did not know what consent was. That is ten years without knowing what it means to make sure your partner wants what you want. It is ten years too many and it is integral that this changes. Consent is finally being added into the sex education programme but, before this, it was up to society to teach people about consent. Unfortunately, evident from the attacks in Fallowfield this year that is not always going to happen. By not teaching consent we are creating a situation where people see having sex with someone as a right, not a privilege.

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This need for consent education is the main reason why we are so lucky to have MSRN in our city. They look to teach people about consent, being safe and having a mutual respect for people around you. For MSRN, if we can educate people on safe behaviour the problem will become easier to deal with – knowing about the need for consent and the risk you put someone at by not asking for it is undeniably a major factor in stopping attacks and horrendous, life-changing experiences. When I asked Fox what MSRN thought about Manchester’s safety, specifically their sexual safety, she said that it is not to do with the city, it’s the people in it. If someone decides to sexually assault, attack or harass someone you cannot pin it on the city. This was a refreshing perspective as this year has seen Manchester deemed a threat to females, and understandably so. The way to counter this, as Fox has said, is educating the people as there is nothing we can do to the city to stop this. The closest we could get is demanding more police patrols in Fallowfield. Although, considering some responses when the problem first arose () this may take longer than it should. It is the police’s responsibility to do everything they can to reduce the risk that Fallowfield residents are under. However, it seems that noise pollution (a genuine problem that should be solved) is more of a priority than the mental health and well being of innocent people. You can decide if you agree with the police’s decision, Fox and I do not.It is also important to note that whilst many people see rape as being dragged down an alley at night, 50% of rapes actually happen by someone the victim knows and 60% of women who were raped, were raped inside a building. A third of this figure were raped in their own home – rape is not just anonymous and we need to know how to limit the risk that rapists pose by educating EVERYONE.

Directly related to issues with consent, is the need for accurate, realistic and healthy depictions of sex in the media. Stirred poetry, a fantastic Manchester-based poetry group, and MSRN have taken stands against this, with Fox amongst them, by boycotting Fifty Shades of Grey and offering education on safe BDSM behaviour. It is important to acknowledge that those who enjoy BDSM  (bondage, domination and sadomasochism) safely hold consent and their partner’s wellbeing as their main concern. It is fun having someone’s consent! It isn’t fun making someone feel uncomfortable and trapped – this is why Fifty Shades of Grey is such a poisonous film in our society, Christian Grey does not see consent as a priority and this spreads a dangerous message. It is media like this that MSRN and Stirred Poetry are looking to tackle head on by making their concerns heard.

stirred poetry

                                                               https://www.facebook.com/stirred.poetry

Besides BDSM, sexual wellbeing also comes down to something as simple as contraception, STI testing and education around it. To go and have an STI test you need to know how to get it, why to get it and the risks of not getting one. In my years at school I was never taught about STI testing just the risks that STIs present. The education needed to go one step further and I would not have gone two years of being sexually active without being tested. I felt ridiculous when I found out how important it was and I am sure I am not alone.  Find your local clinic here: http://www.sexualhealthnetwork.co.uk/clinic/. If you need contraception, the Rusholme Children’s Centre on Great Western Street gives free condoms out, you just need to give the gender you identify with, your age and your race. Do not miss out on centres like this! There are also free safe-sex packs in every gay club in Manchester’s Gay Village so it is easy to get hold of, don’t put yourself at risk of contracting an STI as they can cause all kinds of damage. It is also important to let anyone you are sexually active with know your status and to be checked regularly to make sure this is as up to date as possible. I get tested every time I have a different sexual partner and every time I enter into an exclusive relationship with someone. The bottom line is that if you have an STI it is your moral duty to ensure that anyone you have sex with is aware of this to prevent the infections being spread further. There is no shame in having an STI, it happens to most people in their life time! It is just important to deal with them in the most responsible way possible.

On top of consent and sexual wellbeing, ensuring that mental health problems and emotional support are improved and easily available for students was a key policy Fox had. This was one of the main reasons I voted for her in the elections – she is aware of the stigma surrounding mental health, she has experienced it herself as I’m sure many of us have, and she wants to actively try and change how we perceive mental illness. It needs to be treated with respect not scepticism.

At the end of the interview I asked Fox to sum up what she is fighting for in a few words she said ‘better support, consent, happiness and well-being’. I think we can all agree that more of this is never a bad thing and I am hopeful that Becky Fox and the MSRN can help improve Manchester’s wellbeing. In their hands we can hope for a more secure and safe future in the city.

Alex Webb

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Manchester’s Fight for Free Education: Saturday 25 April

Alex chats to campaigner and Manchester University’s Education Officer Harriet about the Free Education MCR movement – what free education means, why it affects us all, and their debut event with Akala and others on Saturday 25 April

The phrase ‘Free Education’ has become solely associated with the campaign for government-subsidised university places since the introduction of fees in Higher Education. But it’s not just finances – there are other ways that our learning is restricted in all parts of the education system from schools to community projects. It is these, alongside the fight to scrap student fees, that Free Education MCR are looking to tackle.

What telltale signs can you think of that show us our education isn’t free? The introduction of fees, which transform education into a product that we buy and sell, rather than skills development that allows us to think critically, creatively and practically about how we want the world to be? Or the lesser-talked about colonized education system (for which the Black Minority & Ethnic [BME] students’ attainment gap, explained below, is just one piece of hard evidence)? How about the systematic neglect of arts and humanities education in favour of subjects deemed more “economically efficient”? I sat down with Harriet, one of the key members in Free Education MCR, to find out more about the organisation and their hopes for next week’s all-day community event, Free Education MCR ft. Akala.

“Making education cost has changed the shape of knowledge”

Harriet has spent her recent years as a campaigner and as Education Officer at the University of Manchester Students’ Union, fighting for free education because privatising university learning (asking people to pay fees as opposed to the government subsidising it) has changed both what education is and what it means. Today, education has become a commodity, a product we consume to get a job and fit into society’s plans for us – but this was not always the situation with our education system. Tuition fees were first introduced across all UK universities in 1998 and since then, steadily rising fees have gone hand-in-hand with the transformation of the purpose of education. “Making education cost has changed the shape of knowledge: it has gone from being a tool for collective liberation and reducing inequality to being something people feel they need to buy into in order to secure employment as a ‘valued’ white-collar worker, just because it’s what the perceived majority (white, middle classes) are doing.”

But many aspects of the Free Education MCR campaign are not exclusive to Higher Education, with privatisation affecting all parts of the education sector. Notably, youth and community projects who rely on government support are suffering as they cannot afford to continue without sourcing funding from other private sources. Without steady funding, youth projects all over Manchester are forced to refocus their efforts on securing funding rather than delivering quality youth work. The solution to this so far has been for youth centres to apply for funding from private companies, meaning that community identity is often compromised in order to meet the requirements for the much-needed support. The companies are motivated to fund these centres because of their needs to meet their Social Responsibility targets.

Whilst it is great that youth groups are able to exist at all, these larger organisations mean that long-founded youth centres with a strong community are being threatened because they cannot support themselves whilst offering a free service. These closures are especially harmful because initiatives like youth and community centres are so often set up to support those who are continually failed by the formal education system. Not only do youth and community projects provide alternative creative and practical approaches to learning that are better for certain people’s development, they also deliver the kinds of pastoral support that are not available in schools where students are taught to obey rather than question; taught who to be at the expense of who they are.

Akala, one of the big names speaking at Free Education MCR’s debut event, looks to address this with a discussion about the ban of words like ‘bare’ and ‘innit’ in schools, which he argues is both classist and racist. The idea that there is only one correct way to speak the English language is elitist and, as Harriet (quoting Akala) pointed out, actually counter-creative and -critical. To limit how the language should be spoken to one particular dialect misrepresents what it means to be English and crams it into the American stereotype of British people sipping tea and saying please and thank you after everything. As I am sure anyone who has lived in the UK could account for this is not the reality. The question that arises from this is how can it be justifiable for the education system to value one dialect over another? As Harriet explains this line of critical thinking can be applied to many more aspects of the education system and to the conclusion that the system functions to engender white middle-class, male-stream, able-bodied norms and values. The issue identified here is that those who do not comply to these norms and values are automatically devalued by the education system.

What many like Harriet involved in the Free Education MCR believe is that this devaluation contributes to issues such as the BME attainment gap. However, issues like the BME attainment gap do not have one singular cause. Instead such issues occur due to the existence of a number of inter relating factors. As Harriet went on to discuss currently BME students who achieve the same grades as their white counterparts at school-level are 11% less likely to get a first or 2:1 at the University of Manchester, and as much as 26% in the Faculty of Life Sciences. While devaluation is one factor to consider as research conducted by the NUS Black Students Campaign suggests the gap can also be attributed to the existence of a colonised education system, lacking especially black, but also women academics.

During our conversation Harriet evidenced the abysmal representation of Black people in academia. According to research recently conducted by HESA there are currently 18,000 academics in the UK and only 85 are black . To put it into context that is just over 0.5%. Women’s representation is also concerning. In the University of Manchester only 20% of professors are women and this is not at all a deviation of the norm. Due to the absence of legislation Higher Education institutions have the academic freedom to hire who they want. One of the unfortunate results of this is that the education system remains dominated by white middle class males.

“There needs to be pressure to employ a representative staff and take on a quota of people to ensure that a) we are given equal opportunities and b) all groups have the chance to influence what and how we learn, so that the formal education system reflects the needs of society and not just one group within it.”

Free Education MCR are campaigning for a representative curriculum and support efforts to make history more inclusive in schools. The community event will also feature speakers from Curriculum Enrichment for the Future and The Foundation for Science, Technology & Civilisation who, among other things, teach Indian and Persian histories to supplement Eurocentric schemes of learning. The thinking behind a representative history is that a liberated education is one where everyone can see, learn and live in the ways with which they identify. Your opportunity to hear these groups speak about the issues surrounding a colonised education and any issues discussed here is on Saturday 25th April at Manchester Academy for Free Education MCR’s launch event.

“What Free Education MCR are fighting for is a reinvention of education,” says Harriet. “This involves changing the economic, social and political aspects of education in order that it benefits all of society and enables us to tackle huge social problems like inequality.” Citizens will benefit from free education because it would involve broadening out education to represent and legitimize the learning styles and skills of all people. Free education is not about glorifying academic education and forcing everyone to go to university. It’s about funding a multitude of practical, technical, vocational, creative and critical projects, so that everyone can find something for them. This would also reduce the fear amongst small organisations like community centres that they will have to close, as well as providing thousands of education providers with a steady and secure livelihood.

On top of this, Harriet pointed out that with the reduction of government funds in the education system comes the loss of democratic power for citizens: if you don’t pay, you don’t get a say. This inevitably and disproportionately affects and disempowers poorer communities. “Living in a democracy, something as central to our society as education should be as democratic as possible and with the introduction of fees and privatisation, our ability to have a say that means something gets reduced. This means that those in power are getting more powerful and those who are meant to be catered for in education systems are actually getting less say in matters that directly relate to them.” This is not the way education should be and Free Education MCR are looking to change this for the better by reinstating the power over education to local communities. I am hopeful and excited to see what campaigns and events this group have to offer in the future. They are an important force in changing Manchester’s (and perhaps even the rest of the UK’s) education system for the better.

-Alex Webb and Harriet Pugh

To learn more about Free Education MCR check out their sites:
www.facebook.com/freeeducationmcr
www.twitter.com/freeedmcr

Check out the event and register for your free ticket:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1395395447444900/
(Tickets available at: www.freeeducationmcr.eventbrite.hk)

A BOTCH JOB ASSESSMENT AND THE CASE FOR FREE EDUCATION

Manchester University’s Education Officer explains why a free education system can – and must – work

Three years ago, I got my results for a multiple-choice test in Anthropology on a study-abroad semester in Amsterdam. Going through the answers, I was frustrated to find that I disagreed with the lecturer’s marking and vexed that my opinion could be so easily discredited. Broadly speaking, anthropology is about putting forward a perspective that considers many different and complex understandings of the world; not really about making a choice between A and B. I visited the lecturer a week later in his office and after a pretty fierce debate, he agreed there was a case to be made for many of my answers and increased my grade by 10%.

I always think back to this experience as one which motivated me to campaign for free education because – aside from the fact that I was able to informally argue my way up an entire degree classification, which speaks volumes about the feeble case for an ‘objective’ understanding of society – it is symbolic of many problems with our current education system.

1. If knowledge is for sale, then it is a product for consumption

One way of understanding how it ever became acceptable to assess anthropology by multiple choice – forcing us to learn a particular view of the world rather than encouraging us to create/understand our own – is to look at the way in which the privatisation of education has allowed a particular kind of economic value – individual, rather than social, investment – to determine how learning is managed and delivered. (Another, is to watch this wicked video about how age-old ideas from the industrial revolution still haunt the education system today.)

Since the government transferred the responsibility to pay for higher education from society onto individuals, universities have relied on the income generated by student fees to continue to function. As such, education is now bought and sold as a service by customers and universities compete with each other to sell that service and satisfy those customers; more students, more money.

In part, this leaves the quality and purpose of education as social good of secondary importance to its function as individual investment for those who can afford to pay to have their skills legitimised for employment into big business. Education becomes a customer service, a reserve of the privileged, with which students are more or less satisfied. In the case of my experience in Amsterdam, the need for students to pass exams and therefore demonstrate their eligibility to employers was more important than facilitating a discussion about how anthropology can transform society and empower people to do what they really want to do. To be who they really want to be.

This is problematic, of course, in a capitalist economy where the value of knowledge is determined by a person’s worth to the money machine, rather than as a critical, creative or practical resource for improving society. At this point, knowledge becomes a fixed object for consumption by individuals, rather than a collective tool for liberation.

2. Economic efficiency rather than social democracy: whose knowledge counts?

The decision to use multiple choice exams to assess anthropology was probably driven by the university’s need to cut costs since the withdrawal of government funding: multiple choice assessments require less time to mark. This decision reflects the motivation at the heart of our marketised education system: concentrate on achieving economic efficiency, rather than on encouraging creative and critical enquiry fit for positive social change.

The outcome?

Multiple choice assessment only allows for one narrative – your answer is either right or wrong. And this means that only a particular perspective is validated. But whose answer is right?

The fact that there is a huge dearth of women and black professors in Europe – at the University of Manchester only 22% of professors are women and 8% BME – should expose the ‘danger of a single story,’ (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). This lack of diversity in the workforce is all too often reflected in a university’s curriculum/course material, where non-middle-class/white/straight/male/able perspectives are frequently overlooked.

This may mean – as it did for me in Amsterdam – that the legitimacy of certain identities and the needs of alternative learning styles are systematically disregarded.

We need a more democratic education system, one that accurately reflects the diversity of the nation’s population, where persons from all backgrounds are proportionally represented in all areas of university life – from the student population to the professorship. To get to that point, universities need to take immediate action. Under-represented groups need time and space to disagree with dominant perspectives – as well as encouragement to do so. This may mean that different forms of assessment, with more fluid and democratic means of determining what constitutes a ‘right’ answer are needed; an approach which cannot be realised alongside the further withdrawal of government funding from education.

3. Free and liberated education

It was my experience in Amsterdam that lead me to realise just how much it matters who teaches what. Society and the structures of oppression on which it is founded are (re)produced through the formal education system, so who decides what constitutes legitimate knowledge is fundamental to social change. If we are to build a society where education is liberating and accessible, it must be (a) fully funded by society through taxation in order that it (b) can be democratically managed and (c) delivered by a number of alternative education projects that provide a diverse range of teaching and learning methods that reflect the needs of and legitimise the skills of all people.

Education shouldn’t be about learning to tick the right boxes, it should be about gaining the skills and confidence to draw your own.

Harriet is Education Officer at Manchester University and leads the Free Education Campaign. This blog post was originally printed at freeeducationmcr.wordpress.com. Join us 20th March at Fuel for a fundraiser for the campaign! Watch this space for more details…

Has Acceptance and Diversity Been Lost in the Gay Village?

Iain North speaks openly about his perspective on Manchester’s Gay Village and what bringing together different communities from across the city could do for it

I read an article not so long ago referencing Manchester’s Gay Village. The author, Andrew Collier, described a Village that had once been an almost idyllic setting of progression and safety; one which, through my own perception and tinted idealism, was inclusive and accepting; one where you’d expect to find an eclectic blend of subcultures unified, but not defined by, their sexuality.

This is pretty much the image I had in mind when I excitedly planned to move to Manchester 7 years ago to study at university. In fact it was, secretly, the main reason I picked Manchester over my other potentials. My knees were trembling as much from the nervousness of leaving the family home cocoon, as they were from the excitement of experiencing a freedom to express that part of me that had become so angrily repressed throughout my teens. To be gone were the days sitting awkwardly in the room watching one of those ever controversial gay scenes on T.V., or the awkward moments when my parents would grill my brothers about current and previous girlfriends without addressing the luminous pink elephant that was, by this point, so large it practically protruded from the windows of the room. I was to be free to hang around with another bunch of people who had also probably felt a similar awkward isolation, all in one neat little village community. What could be better?

And I was free – at least, I felt free for a little while. I enjoyed what was on the surface: the cheap drinks, the busy student nights, and the chance to mingle in a community that felt, at least at a glance, accepting and diverse. I could be “me”.

“It hurts being rejected for not normalising by a community that prides itself on accepting the queer”

However it became more and more apparent that what I was enjoying was actually an idea I’d created of the Gay Village – an illusion, or at least, an augmentation of what was actually there, and consequently I started to get bored as I began to realise it wasn’t quite the diverse, accepting haven I once thought. I hardly ever felt I could go there with my straight friends as they felt unwelcome and the music was not to their taste. I have been rejected from gay clubs with the old “members only” line, which essentially means “sorry you don’t conform to our idea of gay people” and I’ll tell you it hurts being rejected for not normalising by a community that prides itself on accepting the queer. I apologise if this all sounds a bit dramatic, but it really started to feel like there wasn’t anything unifying beyond the fact that there existed a more dense population of gay people. To make matters worse, “the Gay Village has the ignominious title of winner of the most reported thefts and assaults in the 67 divisions of North Manchester” as Collier points out which he suspects may be a knock-on effect of the economic crash back in 2007, with bars loosening door policies, as well as the Village becoming a prime destination for flocking hen parties.

Thankfully, there are venues in the village that offer something a little different. The Molly House is exactly the kind of venue that I feel there should be more of in the Village: great food and drinks, lovely staff and an eclectic playlist. It feels like a bar that happens to have gay people in it, not something marketed around some offensive, corporate stereotype. Then there’s Taurus, which not only offers top-notch food and drinks, but is also one of the leading venues for fringe performance and theatre in Manchester. The tagline on their website reads: “situated in the heart of the Gay Village on Canal Street, Manchester, where the canal meets the community” which perfectly fits with the M20 event I’m helping to happen on 15 November.

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With the help of Taurus, I can start to contribute something towards change rather than bitterly moan, which is very liberating. This idea I’ve had for some time has been to bring more alternative/live music and arts to the Village, and something both the M20 Collective and LGF community organiser Polly Steiner have been more than happy to help initiate. The event is intended to be as much about simply sharing music as instigating a local cultural change and as such, everyone is welcome.

With gay nights happening outside the Village such as Rock Hard at Retro and the nights that used to happen at Legends before it was sadly closed down, it’s clear that there is a demand for alternative events for gay people (who knew?). So: why not bring it to the Village and make the place stand for the acceptance and integration that it once did?

Iain North

 

Feminism: A Man’s Problem?

Recent tech developments have contributed to a third wave of feminism – noticeable this time for including the voices of young, switched on and pissed off women, who are carving new social space for themselves via the internet. But where are the men’s voices in the debate? And what does their relative absence tell us? Natalie Proctor looks at contemporary attitudes towards women and the confusing state of gender politics today…

I found myself drawn to the recent BBC documentary ‘Blurred Lines: The New Battle of the Sexes’, because it was set to address issues that plague modern society. I wanted to see what it made of the state of feminism and sexism today. The documentary discussed some very important questions, but gave very few answers. We are asked to consider whether sexism is in fact just as bad as it was some ninety years ago when women in the UK were still struggling for the right to vote, or whether we have developed into a more equal society. Perhaps what is more easily suggested, is that sexism towards women is in fact not better or worse, simply different.

The documentary looks at several areas that evoke ideas of the objectification of women on a daily basis – the internet being a primary culprit. Cases of women being harassed online, with the word ‘rape’ thrown around like it was no more than an emoticon, are sadly increasingly common. Equally, the use of derogatory images of women throughout the media enhances this idea of the woman as a body, and not a mind.

It is at this point however that I must make something clear. Women are used to sell things. Men are used to sell things. Women are presented as half naked to sexualise a product. Men are presented as half naked to sexualise a product. The point being that we cannot overlook the obvious fact that this form of advertising – whether in magazines or on billboards – is not selective when it comes to gender. A particular version of sexy really is what sells. Gender equality is a balancing act. Both women and men must learn to accept the fact that sex does not define who we are. Furthermore, this image presented by the media highlights an important issue for everyone, in that our society is fast becoming, if not already, one based on looks and not merit.

Posh and Becks: equally sexed up to sell pants, or perfume, not sure which
Posh and Becks: equally sexed up to sell pants, or perfume, not sure which

In the case of the documentary, this form of sexualisation is suggested to be only problematic for women. This is, as I have stated, not the case. However, it is clear that the female form is more present in the media than the male. At the same time, sexism towards women is also more common. I found myself infuriated by the suggestion that women need to “Man Up”, as the ever so sensitive editor of ‘Loaded’ magazine states in the documentary. Martin Daubney argued that the magazine celebrated women, and suggested that the images were far from sexist – no surprises there! Of course, who would think that a woman with her legs spread, pouting at the camera, wearing nothing but some see-through pants could ever be deemed overly-sexualised? This woman is on the cover for her “great personality” right?

The Loaded magazine 'Girls' section...
The Loaded magazine ‘Girls’ section…

Hypersexualised images of women are promoted by a laddish culture created by outlets like men’s mags that associate the ‘perfect’ man with the hairless, oily, breasty woman. We need to break down both our preconceptions of the ideal man and woman: they feed each other, and neither exist. Dangerously, whole industries are built on the foundations of these false principles.

There is an important point to be made here however about the women who take up jobs in these industries. Are they really slaves to a man’s world, or are they profiting from the inherent nature of base male desire? This was something brought into question by the Channel 4 documentary ‘Strippers’. The girls interviewed all seemed to project the idea that they were far from being exploited, but in fact exploiting the men who pay for their services. However, it was certainly apparent that some of the girls argued this more convincingly than others. On the other end of the spectrum, the men interviewed who frequented these clubs told the cameras they went for ‘company’ not for sexual pleasure. This was argued unconvincingly in all cases. The fact that even the men who pay for these services feel the need to dress them up as something else, proves lack of moral certainty. Obviously, as I have mentioned before, if women are freely choosing to take up such occupations, then I see no real issue. However, this is hard to guarantee. In the same way, as a woman, it is difficult for me to understand the attraction men have to paying for false affections. Don’t they know these women are only thinking about their wallets? But to each his own I suppose.

18 year old Charley, who drops dreams of being a police officer to strip full-time after getting kicked out of uni for missing lectures - because she was stripping all night for cash...
18 year old Charley, who drops dreams of being a police officer to strip full-time after getting kicked out of uni for missing lectures – because she was stripping all night for cash – which she needed to pay her way through uni…the cycle continues…

Is there gender equality in modern society? In many ways; yes, but it is not yet fully won. Aside from aspects of the media, everyday sexism occurs all the time. A woman knows that if she walks down the street next to a group of male builders, she will be shouted at. At a club, having your arse grabbed is old news. And let’s not forget the old chestnut of double standards when it comes to male and female promiscuity. Personally, I think that the only way we can move forward into a world where women are treated as women and not simply objects lies in two key steps. First, men should remember that women are their sisters, mothers, aunts and friends, not just pieces of meat. Second, women should continue to strive to break the stereotypes engrained in modern society. Human beings have come a long way in achieving status as a person beyond our gender, but we still have a way to go. Rather than a battle of sexes, we should be focusing on battling our own perceptions of what gender means. The problem is one for both men and women to address.

Ultimately then, equality relies on the strength of both men and women, to avoid stereotypes, victimisation, and discrimination. Currently, it looks as if women are generally further on this road of progress. Sadly, I think it will be some time before men are willing to let go of the macho image they have become so accustomed to. But, once they are ready to rid themselves of misogynistic tendencies, equality will truly be in sight. For now though, if men want to play video games with female characters that have breasts the size of space-hoppers then let them! Have faith in the fact that they will probably never experience the real thing.

 

–       Natalie Proctor

Gary Brown: Me & Manchester Music

You’ve probably seen Gary Brown snapping away on a night out – he’s one of the city’s biggest photographers and he’s everywhere! Here, he writes about his love for Manchester’s music and gives insider tips for breaking onto the music photography scene…

PARKLIFE2013_090613_GaryBrown_Example-14

I’ve been taking photos of the Manchester Music Scene for about 5 years now and I have a love for music deeper than anything else. Music transcends all other art in the world and touches us in a way nothing else can. I could probably rant for ages but I’ll try and keep things short and sweet!

My story started when D&B giant Metropolis advertised on their Facebook page for a new photographer. I didn’t have any experience in clubs, but as a huge D&B fan I couldn’t let such an opportunity slip. I got a trial at one of their Warehouse Project gigs and promptly borrowed some fairly expensive equipment from the camera shop I was working in (and where I self-taught all of my photography skills) – determined to take this chance.

Luckily I did well enough to get the job for Metropolis and I owe them a lot for taking a chance on me. Working for them has led to working for Hideout Festival, Parklife, Warehouse Project and other big clients.

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Despite all of that my love of music leads me down all avenues. As well as shooting for those promotion giants I am possibly even happier working in a dirty basement with some amazing underground music, and that’s where the true magic lies. The small nights in Manchester are the heart of the scene – it’s there where you will see the Warehouse Project 2016 headline acts playing to crowds of 200 people. I’ve learned to put my trust in Mancunian promoters and often venture to nights when I don’t even know the DJs playing, simply because I trust the Promoters do. Hit & Run, Selective Hearing, Hoya:Hoya, Project13, Now Wave, Pandemik and loads of others are responsible for a large part of my musical education and I hope I’ve paid that back with my documentation of such events.

I suppose I should pass on some photography advice so here’s something that happened to me early on: I met a photographer at a gig. I’d seen his stuff online and thought he was one of the bigger Manchester ‘togs (shooting big gigs for newspapers etc.)

“Do you do this because you love it?” he said. I answered “Yes.”

“Good” he responded, “because if you’re in it for the money, get out now because there isn’t any!”

Only do things you want to do – the second you take paid photography work that you don’t actually want to do, your work will suffer and so will your love of the art. In music photography that means photographing the music too, not schmoozing round backstage getting trashed with the other hangers-on in the hope you’ll become best friends with the DJs!

There are a few other things I think every photographer should take on board:

  • Know about light & never stop learning: If stuff goes wrong figure out why and how to deal with it in future. If you can learn how light behaves and how your camera interacts with it then you can create any image you want.
  • Don’t be a dick: More a general rule of life than anything. There are hundreds of decent photographers out there looking for work – if you go round acting like a knob or being difficult then your clients can quickly find someone new.
  • LEARN ABOUT LIGHT: This is so important it needs saying twice. If you can quickly assess the light in any given situation, you can be quicker at setting your camera up and getting those killer shots!

That’s about it for now. I’m writing a series of articles on my blog at http://gbmultimedia.co.uk with more tips and techniques so head there if you want to know more. Or feel free to get in touch on Facebook or Twitter etc. I’m not a dick so I’m always happy to answer some questions!

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Thanks Gary! All photos (c) Gary Brown

Has society ruined the human body?

Everyone’s human! Alex Rigg writes about mutual understanding, the dangers of judgementalism and the human body…

Social media has changed the effect of people’s opinions on the look of humans. But my question is: has society ruined the human body? Why is it now frowned upon to show the human body for its natural qualities? Shouldn’t we love who we are, and what we are?

It shouldn’t be wrong to show the skin of a person. People should be able to present their own bodies however they want to, without negative comments from people who gaze on them. This negativity leads to medical conditions; anorexia, depression, more. But why is it fair for people to judge the looks of other people, when they are just showing who they are? A human body should not be a sin in the eye of the beholder, as it is now coming across as – it should be something showing ambitions whatever they may be, and the skill of being unafraid. The human body is a beautiful and a wondrous design, and it is magnificent that we are all unique, even in the slightest of ways. There are so many differences that we should be grateful for, but I can’t discover why difference is disapproved of by many.

Comments should not be given, if the flesh of someone is shown. Comments should not be given if they do not look 100% perfect underneath your personal criteria list. Because nobody’s perfect. It is scary how many people dislike themselves or, in worst case scenario, hate themselves for how they look. Why should their appearance matter – surely what is important is who they actually are? Self harming (in any form) can be closely linked to an individual’s appearance and someone’s comments about it. It is a form of bullying, and it needs to end quickly. The human body is such a precious species, but they should be sticking together, not turning on each other in search of a way to become popular yourself. Attacks and sourness can lead to extreme consequences. Think before you say.