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

malia

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.

 

I Predict a (Pussy) Riot

pussy riot

Tension in Russia is nothing new. If you happen to be a straight cisgender male, you’re generally okay. If you are literally anybody else, you essentially reside in an informal jail cell. Protestors of the human rights deficiencies in the country are treated with extreme measures, and nothing exposed this as viscerally as the treatment of the Pussy Rioters. A feminist punk rock protest group from Russia, they first made worldwide headlines in 2012, when they staged a performance in Moscow’s ‘Cathedral of Christ of the Savior’ of their song ‘Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away” in reaction to the Orthodox Church leader’s support of Vladimir Putin during his election campaign. they were arrested and charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”. they were imprisoned for two years and only released in December 2013. “We didn’t ask for any pardon” Alyokhina stated at the time of her release, “I don’t need mercy from Putin.”

Today, it has been revealed that two members of the Pussy Riot movement, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, have been arrested in the Russian resort of Sochi,  near where the Winter Olympics are being held, after Alyokhina posted a photograph of what appears to be them imprisoned in the back of a police van in Sochi.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told the BBC that she and Maria Alyokhina were being held at a police station after being detained on suspicion of “theft”. They have not yet been officially charged. Ms Tolokonnikova said that they had arrived in Sochi on Sunday to perform a new song, ‘Putin Will Teach You To Love Your Motherland’, about “political repression in Russia”. She tweeted that the authorities used “force” during the detentions near a ferry terminal about 30km (20 miles) north of the seaside Olympic venues.

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This comes after more controversy in Russia concerning the removal of a transgender rights activist from the Winter Olympics arena on Tuesday, which was defended by the International Olympic Committee as being “peaceful.” Former Italian MP Vladimir Luxuria – dressed in rainbow colours – was taken away by four unidentified men in a car with Olympic markings as she tried to enter an arena Monday night for a women’s hockey game. The first openly transgender parliamentarian in Europe was guilty of watching the Olympics in Sochi while holding a banner reading “Gay is OK”. This is another event showcasing the rising tensions in Sochi due to Russia’s oppressive human rights laws. While being gay has been legal for twenty years, a new law that was passed recently puts LGBT rights and issues are alien to Russian culture, and members of LGBT communities should be regarded as second-class citizens and should not be regarded as equal to the rest of Russian citizens.

Scottish Independence Debate Podcast

Stuart Johnston presents an independence debate with Ashtin Loughry and Cameron Bark. Will independence be a good thing for Scotland or not?

All of us first

Asked to write a blog piece on Independence leaves me with the same feeling of erroneous responsibility that fills you up as you take the driver seat for the very first time after the L plates come off, tentatively turning the key and glancing for your absent co-driver. I have formed my own hazy opinions based primarily, I completely put my hands up and say, on my parents vibrant discussions on the debate. Despite having come to an almost definite conclusion regarding what i’ll vote, yes by the way, I definitely don’t feel armed or able to create solid arguments to involve myself in the discussions which are going on around me. And it seems that, yet again, for women across the country this is widely the case.

The current yes polls stand at around 30% of men and an estimated 22% of women. While of course polls aren’t the be all and end all, from my experience social media debates – and those had around a few pints at the pub – are too, male dominated. To me this demonstrates an issue almost as important as the very question of independence itself. Why are women not immersing themselves in the world we all share in the way that men are? For lack of a better word i’d describe myself as a feminist (although i’d prefer just a people-ist), but I definitely feel that if women are shying away and not getting involved in the current affairs which are going on around them how can we ever establish a world where gender equality isn’t a fight, but a given? Discussions with various female friends and relatives have lead me to a couple of conclusions, is it the adversarial set up of the debate (and debates in general) that puts women off? Or perhaps that we are relatively new to the whole voting system in the first place? Or, on a more intrinsic level, it could be that in general women fear contentious situations more than men, with anxieties surrounding separation – a yearning for togetherness.

For me, some of the most important issues rooted in the entire debate are in how the results will leave different groups within society feeling placed, for example English people residing in Scotland and how we guarantee they are as welcome as those born and bred in Auld Reekie.

So, while I feel completely unequipped to write a coherent and balanced piece on why my gut, heart and head are all telling me yes, I would happily get stuck into some of the remarkably pertinent issues being starkly highlighted by the Independence debate.

Scottish Independence- the infuriating campaigns

The Scottish referendum is set for the 18th September 2014, or as both campaign websites plaster all over there page- 233 days,13 hours and a couple of minutes because everyone is just dying to know that kind of information… Anyway it’s coming up and us Scot’s aged from 16 upwards are going to have to decide whether we want to be free from the apparently obvious English oppression or stay in the warm and positively “cuddly” United Kingdom. Either way its almost guaranteed that no matter the outcome, as soon as things start to go bad everyone will claim that they are free from blame as they “wurney even near wan ae they votin hings” and the problems facing the country are all ………………’s fault (insert A. Alex Salmond or B. David Cameron and the other one).

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No matter which way you’re leaning towards voting for in the referendum one thing is certain- the campaigns are infuriating. Every day we are bombarded by propaganda from both parties, either slagging the other off or inundating us with facts and statistics that are completely at ends with their rivals daily dose of useless numbers and “facts”. What’s possibly the most annoying thing is not just the lies and hate mongering told by both sides, but their frankly childish excuses for disagreeing with the opposition. To be fair I’m slightly pulled towards favouring the yes campaign at this point as they regularly detail how Scotland will be so much better without the English “oppression”, whereas the “better together” campaigns website only details three things that Scotland need from the United Kingdom- security, prosperity and interdependence. so basically without Britain we are hooped, to put it politely- and the blatant fear mongering for votes is something that I despise.

Saltire and union flag

The Yes campaign is no better in this regard however, with many of their campaigners claiming that England is the source of all our problems and if we don’t get rid of them immediately then our country shall become a totalitarian oppressive government such as the one seen in “V for Vendetta”.

Personally I think that no vote is a wrong vote, both sides have a valid point but the thing that many people don’t realise is that nothing is going to drastically change! it’s almost certain that the wealth disparity will get bigger, the Government will still continue to make cuts no matter how much money they save, and politicians will always be class A wankers.

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But a question still needs to be asked, where do the majority stand on independence? is it a good idea or will it doom us all to become a impoverished third world country begging Britain to be friends again? comment your opinions!

Scottish Independence Rambling – Adam Sturrock

2014 is a huge year for scotland: hosting both the Commonwealth games and the Ryder Cup. But most importantly, Scotland gets to decide where they stand in their Union with Britain.

What has become a staple of politics is the constant faeces flinging to belittle the opposing side but not showing an actual attempt to answer questions. A flailing attempt to win over floating voters is only met with confusion by the public.

Solidarity at last

Both sides still have questions to be answered. We could for example, call into question the validity of rejoining the EU as an independent country; would Spain vote for us in fear of starting off a Catalonian campaign? Why are we trusting our money with the bank of England?

To the other side; Why aren’t the government down south getting involved? Will you offer more powers to Hollyrood if No is the majority?

To both sides, how are we to deal with the pension problem?

To be quite honest, neither side have offered anything to be proud of. One offers blind patriotism and the other, fear mongering. Guess which one is which?