Tag Archives: violence

Even Amidst Fierce Flames… #TransLivesMatter

An ardent fan of FX’s POSE, watching Paris is Burning further cements the extent to which we are all indebted, culturally, to those who simultaneously thrive and struggle in subcultural realms. It is fair to say that the riches they magically produce from next to nothing to put on a Ball, for instance (admittedly, sometimes through criminal means), or to form a family House, both, in part, to provide structure and meaning for the younger generation but also to validate their own existence, succinctly demonstrates the wastefulness of our society, where the mainstream fails to recognise the true value of such activity – instead occupied with figuring out how best to plunder it for financial gain. At least that’s my cynical view of things.

In previous posts, on the subject of House music’s origins in Chicago, I discuss my own purposeful, carefully planned pilgrimage to The Warehouse, 206 S. Jefferson St., and the debt that I feel towards the pioneers of the genre – again, those bringing something new and vibrant into the world, and often with very little at their disposal. While there, in passing (queuing for coffee) I chat with kids busy with their preparations for Pride weekend, some of whom possibly too young and confident to have given much thought to those that came before them – although they were thoughtful enough to make me aware of the areas I shouldn’t wander into in Chicago. Kids dressed in tutus, boob tubes, and wild, colourful adornments and even wilder hairdos, far more concerned with the violence that I might experience than for their own safety, which is kind of a nice thing – that they don’t live in fear of what someone might do just because they are seen to be different by a minority of hateful people with skewed perspectives.

And so the point of this post is the deep sadness that I experienced as Paris is Burning draws to a close. Somewhat naïve, and occasionally hopeful, despite my cynicism, I wasn’t prepared for news of Venus Xtravaganza’s murder. I’d already ‘lived’ that when Candy dies in a similar manner in POSE. Sitting/laying on a bed talking about her hopes and dreams of a domesticated life with a husband out in the suburbs may sound a little bit cliché, but that was Venus’ dream, and for someone forced to move away (or to feel like they’re forced to move away to save a family the embarrassment of having to explain away the fact that Thomas Pellagatti doesn’t exist anymore – Venus Xtravaganza has taken over) in her early teens, to a life where someone ends up seeing you as literally so worthless that they’ll strangle you and leave your dead body under a bed, not to be found for around four days, is way more than sad. It is fair to say that in Venus we see (if we so choose) a Golden Lotus that endures.

Theaster Gates – Amalgam

On at Tate Liverpool as a special exhibition, Theaster Gates’ Amalgam ebbs and flows in the way it conveys the horrors that U.S.A. administration policy visited upon the people of Malaga, a small island off the coast of Maine in the early 1900s.

There are, however, some joyful elements to take from Gates’Amalgam, and it will be up to each individual to find these.

The smell of the Ash pillars is one such element. Get up close. Press nostrils to the wood. Inhale the uniquely vibrant stench of death.

The other element is contained in Gates’ multi-media film that runs on loop.

For a few brief moments two individuals stare (at one another). The look is (enough). The connection pure. This, for anyone who has ever felt it, is the moment a heart feels (like it’s to burst). As you catch another’s stare. Something fixes (the gaze). It is a back and forth. (It is). And you are lost, if only for a brief spell. Unable to look away. Almost unable (to breathe). All else fades (from view). And upon averting one’s gaze, for that has to happen at some point, that person seems to live within you. They are all (you see). The memory of features (imprinted). Recalled (at will). A vital presence. Carried (within). Felt )without(.


(For my friend).

Working Class Kids’ Perspectives (or, just shut up with this victim culture stuff (see very foot of post))

The need to be articulate, to be able to source facts from history that are often purposefully obscured, and then, after all that, to be confident enough to place thoughts and ideas springing from the former into the public sphere, by whatever means and no matter the abuse that comes from this, is a talent worth having. However, it is not easily taught, especially when your upbringing is a working/lower/and/or/under-class one. Akala’s recent appearances, on Frankie Boyle’s New World Order and on Robert Peston’s Peston on Sunday, respectively, capture the extent to which the working classes (and those lower forms of classes) continue to be used as cannon-fodder, though both metaphorically and literally these days.


On Peston on Sunday, Akala discussed technical qualifications such as Apprenticeships, amongst other things, stating that kids from Harrow and Eton aren’t the target market for this type of education, and that working class kids are being ushered into working class jobs. At which point Alistair Campbell piped up to mention the inequality that continues to be touted, shamelessly, through the private education system – if an education system exists that is meant to be so good that it equips youngsters to do the best jobs and to enjoy great earning potential as a result, then why is that that system is not the model used to educate all children who would benefit from it? That an education model exists that cannot be accessed unless a child has funds in excess of £20-30,000 per year is disgraceful, yet the practice continues with not even a hint of its proponents viewing it as so.


On New World Order, Akala brought the narrative round from “black gang violence in London” to violence that occurs across the country as a by-product stemming from a range of inequalities (access to education and funding, etc.) that serve to affect the working (and lower) classes disproportionately. A kid, no matter how bright, living in a tower block or on an estate where decades of neglect conspire to blight her/his surrounding environment with petty and serious crime, drug and other substance abuse, predominantly welfare-based “living” (or merely existing for the most part), and with access to only the most basic form of state education (which Gove and his cronies have recently tinkered with to make it all the more difficult for kids to achieve “good grades”), will struggle to leave such a cycle of neglect, and may not wish to because of the plight of those they will have to leave behind. Class struggle is as real now as it has ever been, it’s just that 42” TVs, a BMW/Mercedes on the drive, and semi/detached houses blind us to such facts.


Growing up in “cut paper row” terraced houses similar to those described by Sylvia Plath, where there seemed from a child’s perspective to be little in the way of dissent detectable in mainstream media, it is noticeable, now, that there are voices with platforms to challenge centuries’ old systems of repression. Akala is just one of those voices, and any hope that we have of “things” changing are likely to involve people such as Akala spreading messages that pierce the thinly veiled construct that serves to promote the message that we live in a society of democracy, justness, and aspiration for all. We don’t. As a working/lower/underclass citizen with access to an internet connection, thirty minutes to an hour of researching “family tree history” on a site with free access will reveal that you are just as much in the gutter as descendants from years gone by – it’s just that your gutter affords you occasional trips to buy stuff you don’t need on credit terms that will punish you if you don’t continue to tow the line.


And just because it is so good, here’s a link to Akala’s performance piece, The Ruins of Empires (but on this link it starts from around 6 minutes in).

And just because comment feeds descend into chaos the farther down them you go, here’s one from Peston’s Twitter page following the uploading of Akala’s comments on race and class. Look out for this delightful person (below):

Self pitying drivel

#criminalminds #meanwomen #violence – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Four)

I watched Criminal Minds for the first time last night, a favourite of my sister’s. She’s part way through whatever season and so I’m picking it up and being filled in as we go. The opening to the first episode (four episodes per DVD) begins with a woman screaming – the screen is blank, so there are no visual clues to start with: “No, oh God, no, please, no, oh God, no, please.” As it turns out these are the screams of a woman giving birth, producing life (wonderful, I hear you say). As soon as she has given birth the baby is taken away from her by a man we later find out has a thing for kidnapping, raping, and impregnating his victims before killing them most brutally (not so wonderful, I hear you say).

My thoughts on this arise from those screams at the show’s opening, where, by their very nature, we as viewers are programmed to expect male-to-female violence, the suggestion of which is then made more explicit as we see flashes of the woman’s face, twisted in fear and agony. This portrayal of ‘every woman’s worst nightmare’ is obviously such a standard trope in our society that the show’s makers can subvert it, albeit briefly with the joyous moment where the woman gives birth, and still we as viewers are conditioned to expect a scene of rape, mutilation, and degradation – standard male-to-female violence.

My question then is how do such examples influence thinking and behaviour in our society in general? A very simple answer, using just one example, is that of an ‘essay’ at the back of Time magazine, February 9, 2015. In it, Susanna Schrobsdorff writes about the fear of letting her daughter go off to college, where she imagines, and not without good cause, her daughter may be subjected to a higher likelihood of sexual assault and/or rape. I have never read, heard, or been made aware of an article where a parent invests the same amount of fear in thinking about their son’s impending college years. Does the fact that mediums of popular culture rely so heavily on examples of male-to-female violence (and usually sexualised forms of violence) actually make the situation worse by pre-empting fearful behaviour in women?

An interesting shift in such thought occurs around the notion, borne out of a study of this issue conducted amongst groups of students, that ‘showing videos depicting violence against women disempowers female students, even when those videos are shown in the interest of critique,’ and that worryingly, ‘male students ‘‘manage their behavior’’ according to these depictions.’ Furthermore, the ‘authors [of the study] have developed Mean Women, a collage of scenes from popular films in which women physically assault men for defense, revenge or fun,’ with the purpose being that instead of subjecting women to the standard tropes of fear as set out in the Criminal Minds example above, women are allowed to ‘imagine the female body as subject to change, as a potential agent of violence, and object of fear.’[1]

Do we then need more examples like Kill Bill (and give Tarantino his due, he doesn’t restrict himself to binary thought where violence is concerned) and Resident Evil (Alice being the supreme example of female agency in popular culture)? What would that world look like, and who would be the ones screaming, “No, oh God, no, please, no, oh God, no, please”?

kill-bill-vol-2  2949362-3304154748-RE5_0

[1] Taken from Kelley Anne Malinen’s ‘Thinking Woman-to-Woman Rape: A Critique
of Marcus’s ‘‘Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention’’,’ Sexuality & Culture (2013) 17:360–376



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