MALIA 2014: PARTY ISLAND CULTURE, AND HOW EVEN THE MOST DETERMINED FEMINISTS CAN GET SUCKED IN

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Malia, Magaluf, Ayia Napa. Different names, same deal: complete and utter carnage. They are renowned hotspots for the young crazy kids to go and forget their troubles (and their names). Nobody goes there to take in the culture, visit a museum or sample the local cuisine. They go to get accosted by PR staff, get bad food and get four drinks, four shots and a fishbowl for five euro.

This year me and a couple of friends went to Malia with a common goal: get tanned and get trashed. Two of us had been to Magaluf the year before, so one would think we’d be pros by now. That we’d know all the pitfalls and be the “brains of the group”. Sadly, not so. The truth was that the second time around was much more ferocious, speaking for my own liver.

While the club scene in Belfast typically kicks off at around ten, it really only gets going in Malia at one o’clock in the morning. Streets transform from the fairly clean paths for quad bikes and hungover twentysomethings to the filthiest yellow brick road Dorothy never ventured on. Nearly everywhere you look, prepare to feel very uncomfortable as airbrushed billboards of women in bikinis vaguely resembling those on covers of video games will be advertising quad bikes and alcohol. There are televisions in the clubs playing either football or pornographic videos of women. Almost all your favourite childhood cartoons have been sexualised and put on a t-shirt (see: “Hello Titty”). After every horrible night, during your afternoon hangover, someone will come up and ask you, quite loudly, usually selling something, if you’re “READY TO PARTAY”. Plenty of groups of boys wearing LADS HOLIDAY shirts will look at you inappropriately and make you feel even more uncomfortable. Old men will grab you from the street, their cigarette burning your neck, and try to pull you into their club. Let loose on the vast expanse of drinking and debauchery, things were bound to get out of hand. And get out of hand they did, at least every night. But the alcohol wasn’t the biggest issue.

Malia, Magaluf and Ayia Napa alike are all well-known for their massive events, and this year didn’t disappoint; a pre-drinking party complete with games, competitions and (of course) cheap drinks was on the cards, and we complied to the debauchery with minimal fuss. But nothing really prepared me for what happened.

A competition arose where three girls and three guys had to get up on a platform and the girls had to slap the guys as hard as they could, right across the face. Encouraged partly by my friends but mostly by my own sense of fun and curiosity for the thrill of slapping a UniLad across his sunburnt bake, I ventured forth to the platform, where I barely got any sufficient slaps in before an English girl won the competition, possibly for nearly knocking someone unconscious with a fantastic slap.

I didn’t think anyone would bother me after it ended, but as I was passing by the bar a guy pulled me by the arm and told me his friend was desperate for a kiss. Looking at his (hardly lucid) friend, my intuition told me to ignore them. But for some reason, I kissed him lightly on the mouth. Then his friend told me to kiss him again, and I did, pulling away once I felt the dreaded Sambuca Tongue try and worm its way in. I ran away from the lads, and from whoever it was that allowed herself to obey a man’s orders despite her own intuition.

Later on, in typical sophisticated Malia fashion, there was a pole-dancing game in which two girls (but of course) had to out-dance each other. I watched in horror as one girl from Stoke proceeded to take off all her clothes until she was literally completely naked, swinging around the pole to the cheers of the (mostly male) crowd. I nearly cried as I saw a sexist cliche come to life; girls pressured to perform for the benefit of the male gaze, while perpetuating the sexist party island culture, with the clubs laughing all the way to the bank. It didn’t look like sexual liberation; it looked like the literal definition of female submission to the patriarchy. Of couse she won the competition by a landslide – that didn’t surprise me. Afterwards everyone got up on the poles and had a good time, including myself. I then expressed to my friend my disgust at what the girl had done, but moreso the competition provoking and encouraging it. The girl was seeking validation in the cheers of the male spectators; it was the ultimate example of the brainwashing powers of the patriarchy. But my friend retorted that I was doing the same thing by getting up on the pole myself. I shook away the reply indignantly – I was doing that for myself and for my own fun. But it rang in my mind.

…Was I?

I’m the kind of feminist who believes sexual liberation should not be shut down or restrained. That dancing “provocatively” is not anti-feminist or performing for the patriarchy, as long as you’re doing it to please yourself. The idea that feminists should have to wear straight sharp suits and a poker face to be taken seriously seems sexist in itself, as if a naked woman deserves less respect than a fully-clothed, reserved woman.

It brings to mind the feminist perspectives on the profession of pole dancing and stripping. On one hand, women taking their clothes off for men for money seems to be the epitome of sexism in society – but in arguing this, are we not victimising these women and in speaking for them, are we taking away their voice and thus being anti-feminist ourselves? Many argue that strippers enjoy stripping – but why? Is it because they feel genuinely free, being sexually liberated on a pole, exposing their body unashamedly, going against the oft-conservative restrains society seems to place almost exclusively on women? Or are they feeling that way because the patriarchy tells them that the approving male gaze is the only one that matters; and their minds are not nearly as important as their bodies? On a wider scale, what message does it send? That women should not be ashamed of their naked form or being sexually confident, or that the only time a woman is important and centre-stage is when she is naked and sexual?

Burlesque and stripping are different for many reasons – one of them being that strippers seem to have a sadness and a desperation about them that burlesque dancers don’t. This is because strippers rarely have the privilege to choose to take their clothes off for money – without attempting to speak for this group, it would appear that it is a last resort. Burlesque dancers do it for fun, for theatre.

So who am I, exactly, to emulate this profession when I am by no means in a desperate economic condition? I’m lucky enough to live in a nice house, with a nice family and go to a nice university where I get a nice education. I don’t need to be dancing on a pole, nor should I be. Whether I intend to or not, I perpetuate the degradation of women in society with all the privilege of a woman who doesn’t need to. My mother works, nose to the grindstone, every day, in order to be taken seriously by a world of male misogynists who frequently treat her differently because of her sex. Stripping on a pole with my friends is hardly completely to blame for this, but it doesn’t help. You can say I’m taking it too seriously and that it’s only a bit of banter, but that’s just an excuse that men use to make women feel bad about not participating in these things.

We do it all under the guise and the false assurance that it it’s just a bit of banter.

The entire culture in Malia pressures girls to do the most, to kiss the boys they don’t want to kiss and take off the clothes they may not want to take off so they can win the competition; cleverly disguising it as “craic” or “fun”. Even as my instincts told me not to, I surrendered to it, to the false form of validation that it brought me, and it all left me thinking what kind of feminist is this? I kissed the boy, I grinded on the boy, all with a twist in my stomach telling me that this was not what I wanted. Instead of feeling empowered, I felt uncomfortable. Not because I was doing something sexual because I wanted to, but because I didn’t want to, but did it anyway, because that’s what the fun girls do. That’s what the cool girls do. The girls who don’t? They’re no fun.

Needless to say, it’ll be my last party holiday.

If there’s one thing I learnt from my holiday, should you not get run over by a scrawny teen boy on a quad bike, it’s to trust your own instincts, and not to measure yourself by anyone’s yardstick but your own. You need to take care of yourself before anyone else, because it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, a veritable black hole of depravity that will suck you in, chew you up and spit you back out. You want to kiss the boy? Great! You want to kiss the girl? Do it! But make sure you’re not doing it for anyone other than yourself.

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Ecstasy

[Due to obvious reasons, a number of sources that I have been in contact for this story wish to remain anonymous, so in some places pseudonyms are used.]

After the death of 17-year-old Regane MacColl after taking an ecstasy pill at the Arches nightclub in Glasgow, the club took the bold move to ban all under 21s from all nightclub events. Furthermore to this the nightclub is also subject to a review at Glasgow City Council over it’s license’s future. Although it is unlikely to lose its license for more than a few weeks, if at all, the point remains that there is a massive culture in this country of ‘pill-heads’, and believe it or not, it’s not new.

It’s pretty much opened a huge metaphorical can of worms (again) though – and that hurt me more than you can imagine to use that pun, but there’s hardly a better way to describe the sweaty writhing bodies inhibiting the clubs in Scotland’s towns and cities.

So, to get a better idea of what the situation is in this country in terms of the ecstasy issue I posted on Facebook appealing for people involved in that scene, from either side of the argument, to get in touch. An influx of information hit me; not only with people voicing their opinions on the fact that the Arches has increased its entry age to 21, but people came forward with stories from within the drug culture through years.

The most in depth interview I collected served to put the drug culture in our country into historical context.  Adam (pseudonym) is a self-confessed ex-user of drugs like hash, pills and acid. Not only does he have the experience of these substances from around 20 years ago he, now, has a son who will soon be of age to go clubbing and therefore be exposed to this culture. He claimed he wouldn’t want to be hypocritical with his son and for that reason would like to see a change in attitude from the government when it comes to club drugs. When asked whether he thought the drug scene is any bigger now than back in 80s and 90s, he said that the biggest issue really isn’t the size, it’s more that the media has taken it for a ride, so it’s more apparent. Further to this, however, he thinks that what young people are consuming in clubs these days is more dangerous than what he was exposed to. Adam said, “The quality of the pills was good, they were expensive, £20 for one E and it would last you an entire night”

For this reason, maybe the logical solution is to introduce a regulatory system in this country, whereby, even if the drugs are illegal, testing kits should be readily available because no matter what line the government and police forces do there is still going to be consumption of these substances. The introduction of a system such as this would take a lot of heat off of the bouncers at clubs as there would be less situations where someone takes something sinister. Systems such as these are already in use in some of the big party islands such as Ibiza, so why not here?

When asked about the fact their children may be of age to go to these clubs they also gave startlingly similar answer both leaning towards wanting to avoid being a hypocrite by saying to their children they should avoid these substances, however also stressing the fact that the consumption of these drugs offered them admission into a whole new interesting culture that they admit has crafted them into the people they are today – be it through people they met or [places they got to experience being part of this scene.

However he was also – and urged they would be with their children – quick to stress that there are clear downsides to the culture. He has had friends that have been encapsulated by the negative side of the culture, some being admitted to mental institutions others being unable to cope with life. As Adam put it, “I guess it’s like crossing a road, it’s inherently dangerous, you can say don’t cross the road but that’s not going to work so you try to mitigate the risk.”

In speaking to a former Arches door-man, Lewis (pseudonym), I discovered a huge critic of the drug culture in this country. Being on the scene when the last (before Regane MacColl) death happened in the Arches, he has first -and experience of the sour effects of club drugs.

“I was one of the first on the scene and was treating him for over an hour before the ambulance came.

“In total, I think about 6 of us were giving him CPR and putting ice in his head to cool him down.

“I would rather every night club was shut down to stop stupid people (any age) being in a culture that kills them off.”

Although Lewis’ view is extreme, it gives an insight into how tragic the effect of these drugs can be. In my opinion, if the government was really serious about minimizing risk they should introduce their own regulatory system, where certain substances are legal and safer. Although that is wishful thinking.

 

Search re-booted as third sighting revealed by officials.

Just as searches were losing momentum a third suspected sighting of the 239 passenger plane has been revealed. 

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As we see out the fifth day of searches for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 we can only find ourselves more in the dark at the days revelations. The plane which was headed towards Beijing had last certified contact at around 1.30am on Saturday morning, less than an hour after it set off from Malaysia, but a press conference earlier today divulged a possible sighting at 2.15am North of the coast of Thailand. This is the third point of contact which has been released and is causing a reverberation of questions to be felt across the globe – not least the families of those on board.

To further confusion, the second announced sighting was made by Malaysian air force chief, Rodzali Daud, who was said to have commented that MH370 had been detected at 2.40am close to Pulau Perak, an island in the strait of Malacca, geographically this doesn’t tie in with the other sightings. Daud has subsequently denied this claim which instantly raises alarm bells for those desperately grappling and trying to connect the dots.

Pressure put on officials is coming from all angles as China, home to more than half of those travelling the Boeing-777, urges Malaysia to send more aircrafts and ships to speed up the search. What had previously seemed to be a floundering search has in response to the days findings, more than doubled in size since Tuesday and now covers 27,000 square miles. This expansion comes with conflicting feeling however, as at this stage in a search and rescue with experts coming from so many angles – India today became the 12th country to join the search – we would expect to have a firm understanding of the route the plane had taken, instead of growing closer to an answer the possibilities are widening. 

Malaysian transportation minister Hishamuddin Bin Hussein has defended his government’s approach in response to criticism 

“We have been very consistent in the search,” he said.

Poignantly, the information that can be confirmed is the tranquility onboard suggested from the pilots reply to Malaysian air control just moments before it went missing, ”All right, roger that”.

For hundreds of families another sleepless night awaits.

Multimedia Reporting Experience

It’s been an interesting experience thus far in the Multimedia Reporting class, interlinked with Intro to Reporting 2 and Social Media, there have been a number of overlaps and similarities within the course.

The main trends that I’ve picked up from all the courses and in particular Multimedia reporting, because it emphasises all the aspects, is that to be a journalist in this climate it requires for you to be skilled as a writer. On top of that there has to be some sort of knowledge of all sorts of media outlets be it print, internet or broadcast (radio and TV).

On top of that it’s a case of being as pro-active as posible, this was drilled from day one with the introduction to Edinburgh’s wordpress site and an insistence that we write. Now. This has been a valuable expereience actually, because although I already had a blog at http://musingsbyseangordon.blogspot.co.uk/ it was an invitation to explore the blogosphere fro ma more professional point of view, and it was really emphasised that the use of blogs is in effect the creation of an online CV and a major selling point for ourselves. 

So with that from this course so far we have been left with a major tool, to sell ourselves, at our disposal for our own professional development in an industry where prostitution of our skills  are not only encouraged, but they are the life-blood.

The Ukraine Love Triangle

Ah, Love. The mysterious thing that just about every human being desires above all us. The elusive feeling we all dream about having. Every once and a while every one probably dreams about having two people in love with them, fighting for them. How romantic! Well, move that paradigm from romance to a political context and the picture is not so pretty anymore. That is what Ukraine is in the thick of right now.

Like most good love stories, this one has a unique and complicated history.When pro-Russian political candidate Viktor Yanukovch was elected to the presidency in 2004, protests were almost immediate. The people rose up and the revolution was a success; the election results were nulled and Yanukovych resigned as Prime Minister.
However, the Orange Revolution was not enough to scare Yanukovych away from poltics forever. In 2010, he was declared President over Yulia Tymoshenko-a candidate who, according to BBC online, held the votes of the capital city, Kiev, and 16 regions of the country. Soon after the election, the government had Tymoshenko arrested .

Fast-forward about three years and the event occurs that brought the love triangle to center stage: President Yanukovych and his cabinet announce that they are officially rejecting an agreement that was created to strengthen ties with the European Union (EU). The cabinet instead proposed closer relations with Russia, a decision that mirrors choosing a lover despite the outcry of friends and family.

With Kiev at the heart of it all, protesters gathered in the thousands across Ukraine in order to express their extreme discontent with the direction in which their country is headed. These demonstrations were met not only with national police forces sent to quell the action, but also with pro-government supporters staking their claim in Maidan square in Kiev and the more pro-Russian cities such as Kharkiv.

These protests and riots have been going on for weeks now with the number of protestors hitting 800,000 on December 8. Things turned deadly on January 22 when two individuals were shot and killed after a fight with the police. The death toll escalated dramatically after Yanukovych’s parliament imposing anti-protest laws on the Ukrainian people.

Although the laws were short-lived, they provided enough motivation for the protestors to continue their fight for their voices to be heard. All of this pressure quickly became too much for Yanukovych who fled Kiev after signing a compromise deal with opposition leaders and the foreign ministers of France, Poland and Germany calling for the creation of a national unity government and a new election in December.

The President was last seen in Balaklava near the Crimean peninsula on Sunday, a predominately Russian region of the Ukraine. There is now an official warrant out for Yanukovych’s arrest on the grounds of the “mass murder of peaceful citizens,” according to interim interior minister Arsen Avakov.

Although it seems to be clear that a large number of the Ukrainian people want their country to make headway on closer relations with the European Union, there is still so much left to decide and determine. From the finalization of a unity government to the insidious amount of debt that the country has accrued since protests began, the future of the Ukraine is shrouded in mystery.

Now comes the question of what is next for this Eastern European nation, literally and metaphorically sandwiched between the two entities who wish to attach themselves to it. As if the political climate of the nation was not enough already, there is also the issue of economic instability and the repercussions that would come upon the Ukraine determining which nation to run into the embrace of.

From where I sit, it appears that there are about two potential paths for Ukraine. The first would be that the newly appointed government would decide to listen to the cry of its protesting people and make strides towards closer relations with the EU. This would upset dear Russia and by doing so, put the Ukraine in quite a sticky situation monetarily speaking due to the potential withdrawal of around 15 billion Russian dollars. The second option would be for Russia to continue with Yanukovych’s plan and deny the EU for its first love and veritable sugar daddy, Russia. This, I believe, would be the worst thing the Ukraine could do at this point, in terms of politics and the current zeitgeist of the nation. Although saving them money, this choice would almost certainly lead to more uprisings, immense civil unrest and perhaps more death and violence; it would be a blatant slap in the face of the people.

Either way, there will be a group of Ukrainian citizens who are not happy with the decision. But, that is nearly always the case when it comes to politics. If the Ukrainian government cherishes its people and wants to do right by them, I believe that moves should be made to continue to improve relations with the EU. However just like any good relationship, for it to work it is imperative that decisions are approached with humility, candor and courage.

Ukrainian Riots of February 2014

The fires are still burning through the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, following violent protests towards the government that began earlier in the month.

 

In November 2013, Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovych refused to signed an EU trade agreement to strengthen ties between the country and the union. Minor protests followed that turned violent into the New Year.

 

On February 18th of 2014, a planned protest by Right Sector (a group of right-wing, government opposing young men and women) took place, initially intended to be a peaceful affair.  Police cordons were put in place, and angered by the government’s seemingly unnecessary barricade, Right Sector fought back with force. Almost 50,000 people lined the streets of Kiev, attacking police in order to gain control of the area. It resulted in a violent uprising in the country, as protesters threw Molotov cocktails, the police have begun to retaliate with live ammunition.

 

Some protesters claim that Russia’s heavy handed attitude of assisting Ukraine has led to the country being inadvertently under Russian rule. After giving a loan of $15 billion to Ukraine, as well as a discounted use of Russian oil, the Russian government has pressurised the Ukrainians not to give in to EU support. As a result, Ukrainian’s right-wing activists are reacting in the only way they know how.

 

Viktor Yanukovych has fled to the east of Ukraine, escaping the mayhem that ensues in the capital. The former government that last ruled ten years ago, headed by Vitaliy Zakharchenko has stepped in to take over and help to bring peace back to the country. As the government in power’s chairs sat empty, Zakharchenko won by a vote of 386-0.

 

It’s hard to condone the acts of the Ukrainian Government, Police or the right-wing protestors. All are acting instinctually by resorting to violence. Whilst the protestors have almost been driven to this, it seem Ukrainian officials are acting in this way due to pressure from Russia’s officials. It’s an understandable looming pressure, but when it compromises the demands of its people, it jeopardises Ukraine’s future as the conflict only grows between Ukraine and its citizens.

 

Russian threatens intervention in Ukraine

As the dust settles on the ground in a fractured Kiev, an arrest warrant for ‘mass murder’ has been issued for ousted Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych. However the world’s eyes aren’t focused on Yanukovych but on the President of neighbouring Russia Vladimir Putin amidst fears that Putin will act on threats to intervene in the situation in Ukraine.

 

These fears have prompted Britain and the US to offer further financial help to Ukraine to compliment the $15bn loan deal that has been agreed with Russia, however if this deal is to fall through it is vital the US and UK help out and deliver the $35bn that is needed to meet government needs this year.

 

The country has been plunged into grave financial turmoil in the wake of mass protest turned violent, which resulted in 88 deaths and hundreds more injured.

 

Fears that there may be a Russian intervention have come after the Russian foreign minister claimed that protesters had failed to abide by a peace deal signed on Friday. This prompted Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, to say today, “If people crossing Kyiv in black masks and Kalashnikov rifles are considered a government, it will be difficult for us to work with such a government.”

 

However it has been made pretty clear in the same statement that the money promised by Russia will be received by Ukraine as Medvedev as he said that any of these agreements that are legally binding ‘must be honoured’.

 

With this I believe that Ukraine will be able to begin mending the wounds these past few weeks have given, however the biggest factor on home turf will be the capture of the ousted president, not any intervention by other countries. If Russia and Ukraine are able to sort out the differences of opinion and get this money transferred then this should divert any feeling that there should be any military intervention in the country.

 

However because there has already been a ‘failure’ in the eyes of the Russians with the peace deal that has been agreed on Friday, it’s hard to assume that there won’t be any more intervention on by their neighbours and it may feel for the Ukraine to accept the money offered that there is something owed to Russia. This is where the EU as a whole needs to try and take some sort of regulatory role to make sure there isn’t any foul play on either side of the agreement, and this may be helped by the pledge from George Osborne to give money to Ukraine, and any other offers from the US or any other European countries so that they might have a say too.