Interview with Alex Creece, July Featured Author

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Starting this month, Rosewater will be having a “featured author” each month. The editors choose a contributing author, ask them a few questions, and focus that month on publishing many of their pieces. This month, we have chosen Alex Creece, a dedicated Rosewater contributor. Alex’s pieces have historically crossed genres, focusing on personal narratives, virtual reality and occasionally the overlap between the two.

Where did you grow up? How did it shape your writing?
 
I grew up in Australia and Dubai (UAE). I’ve always been extremely shy, but I think this trait has helped me become perceptive and find my voice through written words, rather than pressuring myself to talk for the sake of merely filling the silence. I’ve also met lots of vastly different people in my life so far and I try to strike up a good balance between upholding my ethics, but still being open to new information and making sure I am respectful of diverse opinions, not just ones I already agree with. I am passionate about my principles, but I like to make sure I am never too proud or righteous to be wrong or learn something new.

Which authors have most shaped your writing style?
 
Octavia E. Butler, H.P. Lovecraft, Margaret Atwood, Franz Kafka and Maya Angelou. I love oddities and honesty in literature.
 
What is your favorite Rosewater piece that you’ve written?
 
Witchcraft in the Modern Workplace. It has a lot of heart. And witches.
 
Describe your writing style in six words.
 
Whimsical, unashamed, vulnerable, introspective, sincere and…playful.
 
What advice do you have for young writers?
 
Share your work. I used to be terribly secretive about my words, even with my friends. At some point, I think I just became more interested in getting the feedback than I was afraid of it anymore. I’m so glad for that. Keeping my writing to myself didn’t give me enough opportunities to improve and expand on my ideas. It kept me in a bubble of self-preservation. Vulnerability is one of the most refreshing aspects of literature, and it’s even more wonderfully vulnerable if others can engage with your words too. No piece of writing will ever be universally appreciated, but if it matters to you, it will probably resonate with at least one other person. Your words cannot hold as much freedom if you clutch them too close to your chest.
 
Some of your pieces have dealt with difficult topics, like cat calling, mental health, and body image. Is writing your self-care? Do you have other ways to take care of yourself?
 
Writing is an important aspect to my self-care but I try to make sure I do lots of little things to help myself, just as I like to do for others. I was talking recently to my beautiful friend Tyran about stress management and he told me that I needed to make sure I was setting aside some time every day, even just fifteen minutes or half an hour, to dedicate to writing or any other kind of thoughtful catharsis. This has been helping me a lot, as I am trying to frame my own needs and well-being not as a pipe dream, but as a daily priority. Even in small bursts, dedicating regular time purely to my own interests makes me feel less suffocated, and as if I am switching off the other channels so I can listen to myself and properly tune in.
 
Where else can we find your writing?
 
Ramona Magazine, Antipodean Sci Fi, Literary Orphans…I actually have a list on my website, but it is in need of an update: http://www.creecedpaper.com/works/
 
What is next for you, writing-wise or in general?
 
I’d like to write some more short stories when I get a chance. I’d also like to get out of my comfort zone and try a new style or genre, or attend a workshop, or even read some words out loud where other people might hear them. As for what’s next in general, I’d like to continue finding ways to use my powers for good while still dressing like a villain. I hope that takes me somewhere interesting and helps a lot of people along the way.

On Becoming My Own Boss

I’ve never worked a real job in my life. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The minute I graduated college, I started applying for jobs with furor. Writing gigs, editing, blogging – anything and everything creative I could find. Looking back now, I realize that I had no idea what I was doing. I was given little career advice from my college, other than a few meetings at the career development office where a friendly well-dressed woman named Meredith gave me a few pointers. I would spend hours crafting “the perfect cover letter” then would ask more experienced friends and family to edit them for me before sending them off and crossing my fingers. In return for my hard work, I was rejected – constantly. Applying for jobs is emotionally and mentally exhausting. Half of the time I just wanted to write:

I’m applying to this because I need the money and I’m currently using my degree to write blog posts on topics such as, “20 of the Weirdest Etsy Items.” So please hire me NOW.  

Weird Etsy
20 Weirdest Things on Etsy

I hated every minute of it – the struggle to find the rights words to encapsulate why you were the perfect person for this job and how you just knew you would love working there. Then emailing your letter off into the internet abyss and waiting. Waiting was the worst. It could be a few weeks, it could be months. I tried to follow up by email or even phone calls if I was desperate. Most of the time, I felt like I was shouting into a cave, my voice echoing back at me in the face of this invisible company that was aloof and stony-faced.

Meanwhile, I was bouncing from internship to internship, while also working part-time jobs on the side. Despite feeling like I was wasting my college degree, I felt lucky to work in a beautiful tiny tea shop, with earthy wooden counters, surrounded by iron teapots and huge canisters of pungent tea. The shop’s mission was to focus on the art of tea, with food that was made with care and organic ingredients. Most of the customers were wonderful and intriguing. I also discovered my love of event planning and rediscovered my love of poetry there. My second job was in retail, which I mostly hated because, despite the quirky, beautiful atmosphere, the company culture was catty and all the managers played favorites. But it did help me make friends in my austere isolated suburban town. I also now have plenty of fuel for writing if I ever need to write about rich white women and their attitudes towards sales people.

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Sip Tea Lounge

Long story short, one and a half years go by and I’m pretty much in the same place. I don’t know what I want, but I find jobs I want. So I apply, but I just don’t quite have the ‘thing’ they’re looking for. Part of it is that I’m terrible in interviews. I hate being put on the spot and talking myself up. I turn into a nervous stammering wreck, who loses track of what I’m saying and then ends up trailing off.

At the time, I was in a long-distance relationship. Every time I visited my boyfriend, I felt so sad to leave him in a city that was actually affordable, where there were a million things going on and the possibilities seemed endless. Part of this was because we were still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship. But part of it was also the fact that I was returning to a place where I spent most of my time at work or home, where I was working so hard to pay my student loans and save money but I still just seemed to be treading water. I found myself sinking lower and lower into a funk. I started applying to jobs in Baltimore, hoping for a change. I went on a few interviews and continued to be my messy self. It was like stepping into the room turned the interviewers into demons and my inner self-doubt emerged to dance around the room, taunting me.

I didn’t have a job waiting for me, but I had a loving, supportive boyfriend, so I took a leap and transferred stores to a Maryland location of the store where I was already working. I quickly discovered that being in Baltimore was different and exciting. I suddenly had a big group of friends. There were things to do. Cheap things – sometimes free things. It helped lift my funk.

But moving locations doesn’t necessarily mean anything changes. You can’t escape your problems. Two years went by and I still didn’t have the full-time job I longed for. I felt incredibly guilty for moving from one support system (my parents) to another (my boyfriend). I felt like I had tried to make a change but I had reverted to my old patterns.

When I was let go from a contracted job after just three months, I decided I was done. Frustrated and fed up. I decided that it was time to take my career into my own hands. I would try freelancing. I was already managing a family friend’s Twitter account, so I listed this on my resume. I started applying for freelance gigs. Through a connection (funnily enough through the job I was let go from), I managed to get a marketing and social media part-time position at an organization that focused on women business owners. I attended a happy hour hosted by the organization and met tons of interesting women. Through that, I got another gig. It didn’t pan out. But still, I’m getting work and I’m doing work that is relevant to my skills.Through a list serve, I got another gig. I feel confident and capable. I thought it was going to be an uphill battle, just like applying for jobs, but for the first time, I feel like I’ve taken my life into my hands and created something, instead of ending up in tears over rejection.

Freelancing is a whole different game. Being my own boss is incredibly hard and sometimes lonely. There’s no office chit chat, no one to explain things to me when I’m confused and no one to complain to when another coworker (or in my case, client) is being a pain in the butt. If I don’t know how to do something, I have to either commit to researching how to do it or reach out to ask for help from someone else who might know. As a woman, I find my skills second-guessed and questioned constantly by male clients who are more experienced (or at least think they are), consistently interrupt me and have a certain idea of how things should look.

Freelancing becomes a lesson in standing up for myself. I have to learn what to charge people and how to value my worth. As a writer, a woman and someone who has low self-confidence, this is a huge deal. But, I’ve learned how to look objectively at what I know I’m good at and what I think I could do better at. Sometimes, I have to explain when I’m out of my depth and know that this is ok. It doesn’t make me weak or inferior. It just means that it’s a chance to learn something new. This is something that most people learn in their office and then are taught by someone who has done it before. I don’t have that, so I am figuring it out on my own. Sometimes, I have no choice and I have to figure out how to complete a task, even if I’ve never tried it before. It’s hard – really hard – and it’s terrifying but it also makes me feel so proud of myself when I can manage to untangle a problem.

I have to learn how to advocate for myself and not be afraid to insert my opinion. I’m slowly learning how to convince myself that I have a lot of experience and I DO know what I’m talking about! At least once a day, my inner voice tells me that I’m a fake and I will never succeed. I am a constant victim of imposter syndrome. In an office, there’s someone to give you feedback, which is at least some assurance that you are on the right track whereas here, I’m my own worst critic and it’s like I have my very own Miranda Priestly living in my head. It gets so bad that sometimes I almost want to cry. My imposter demon will sneak up behind me and whisper, “You are a f**king joke. What do you think you’re doing?” If I’m struggling with a problem, it will smirk and say, “Why are you even trying?” I’ve started writing down these thoughts in the hopes that I will look back on them in a few months, realize how horrible they are and understand that it’s all in my head, that I’m doing the best I can.

Becoming my own boss has its pros and cons. It’s a many-headed beast that I sometimes tame and sometimes it tries to devour me. But in many ways, it’s freeing. If I don’t like the work I’m doing, I can always walk away and find something else. I can make my own schedule, work where I want and travel where I want, as long as I get it done. Whenever I tell people that I work for myself the usual response is how lucky I am. I think that they imagine me as a character from Girls, spending my days watching tv, baking cupcakes, working on art projects and meeting people for coffee in the middle of the day, while occasionally working. It’s not like that. That is a glamorized Martha Stewart version of what I do. My job is hard in many ways that are different from a 9 to 5 office job. If I don’t get work done, if I can’t complete a project, it’s on me. I have to learn to get along with clients because even if we don’t work together in the future, they can be the key to my next job. I have to know my worth and be completely unafraid to tell people that I have to work for a certain amount and no I can’t go any lower. I need to make a living and my work is valuable. This is my career. It’s empowering, it’s terrifying and it’s mine.

Prevenge: Murder, Mayhem, Motherhood

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD

A slasher film about a pregnant woman committing murder with a kitchen knife sounds like some weird version of Mad Libs, and not necessarily a watchable movie. Nevertheless, writer, director and star, Alice Lowe has made a movie like Prevenge a tense, yet funny, gory, yet artistic, horror film. Filmed during Lowe’s actual pregnancy, the movie’s main character, Ruth, is a British woman expecting her first child. Ruth’s partner, as we gradually learn, died in a climbing accident due to the apparent negligence of the other climbers.

Prompted by the voice of her unborn daughter, Ruth kills the people she holds responsible for her partner’s death. By taking advantage of how others treat her in her delicate state, our heroine shockingly becomes adept at committing murder. 

I learned of the film when a trailer appeared as a suggested Facebook ad. I was hooked the minute I started watching. As a fan of both women-led media and horror films, I knew I would enjoy Prevenge. The film plays with society’s notion that pregnant women exist in a state of bliss, full of love and motherly devotion. In contrast, our main character Ruth is hindered by her pregnancy and frightened by the will of her daughter.

Prevenge Poster

The fetus is extremely verbose, complaining about the people and world around her. She speaks in a cutesy demonic voice that sounds like Peppa Pig on drugs. “You can’t shake me, I’m fury.” Ruth tries to lecture her daughter, but it’s pretty clear who is running the show. As Ruth’s condescending midwife says, “Baby knows best.” But unfortunately, what the midwife doesn’t know is that the baby wants people stabbed to death.

While the movie’s premise has the promise of a cheesy B-Movie, it’s actually the opposite. Slow moving and deliberate, this is not a stylized or exaggerated film. Ruth commits her murders in a believable way and the story is all the more effective for it. Aside from the murder, you could be watching a movie about a woman mourning and working her way through a difficult situation. Ruth having her autonomy stifled by the wants of her unborn daughter offers an exaggerated metaphor of women feeling that their body no longer belongs to them while pregnant. 

Music by the group, Toydrum, adds to the freakiness with a synth soundtrack. Even in the film’s calmest moments, the soundtrack reminds you that all is not right and something menacing is right around the corner.

I was impressed that Lowe took advantage of her own pregnancy to play Ruth. It added a layer of creativity to her project that otherwise wouldn’t be there if someone else was playing her. It’s rare, unfortunately, that we see a film with such a strong female presence behind and in front of the camera.

Some people could interpret the madness aspect of the movie as hinting at pre and post-natal depression. Yes, Ruth is not all in her mind and clearly depressed. But the film does not go into detail about what can be a complicated illness. Ruth’s midwife never brings it up in conversation during her appointments. Whether that is a deliberate story choice or neglect by the character is not commented on. However, women who have experienced pregnancy-related mental illness may relate to Ruth. Having never been in that situation, I can’t make that judgement.  Prevenge is more art than exposition, if you are looking for an in-depth discussion of the disease, you may have to look elsewhere. 

Would I consider Prevenge a feminist film? Yes. A female character does not have to be a shining beacon of morality to be a good character. Society praises women who are loving, kind, and feminine, and female characters who don’t follow this are often derided by fans. Look at how people responded to Breaking Bad’s Skyler White and her criticism of her husband Walt’s meth dealing. The hate got so bad that actress Anna Gunn wrote an article about it that can be read here.

Ruth is a three dimensional. Yes, she is going around committing murders, but her partner died, leaving her pregnant and alone. Along with the violence, we get scenes of Ruth sadly contemplating her situation. I for one just wanted to give her a hug.

In the movie, Ruth criticizes the expectations of how women are supposed to act during pregnancy in a great scene to disparage how mothers-to-be are poorly treated in the workforce. She attends a job interview as a ruse to meet with one of her victims. The woman interviewing Ruth tells her that while qualified, she wouldn’t be hired because she is pregnant. After she slits the woman’s throat, Ruth throws a sexist comment back at her as a post-kill one liner.

Finally, nothing beats Ruth as she gets ready to commit her last murder. This mild-mannered and ordinary woman transforms into an avenging goddess, red dress flowing around her, with a face painted like a skull. 

While I really enjoyed the movie and all the squirming feelings it produced, I thought that the ending was a little rushed. Prevenge was wonderful at creating suspense, I don’t want to spoil the climax, but it loses steam as it nears the finish line.

That being said, I know that Lowe gave her best performance. Ruth was never a cardboard cutout, such as when she kills a man and then lovingly putting his senile mother to bed when she wanders out of her room. Prevenge is unforgettable, I sincerely hope that this is not the last we see of Lowe.

Prevenge is available to watch on Shudder.com.

Interview with Art: Pippin Lee Truman

We sat down with animator and illustrative artist Pippin Lee Truman to chat about their artwork, intersectionality, and their advice for fellow artists! Check out the interview below!

V: What inspires your artwork?

P: I would say that my inspiration mainly comes from the media around me, especially things like comics, because they’re such an interesting way of telling a story. At the same time, I’m really inspired by illustrations that incorporate different types of media, that maybe are part digital and part traditional. I often make comics out of everyday things that happen around me, like dreams that I’ve had- it helps me communicate abstract thought through art. It’s really a combination of lots of different things, but definitely other artists, especially ones that I grew up admiring. I love James Baxter, and classic Disney artists too.

hands practice

 V: Do you think the mundane, everyday experience is more inspirational than huge, impossible things? 

P: I’m a huge fan of absurdist humor, and that style that’s really popular on Tumblr. So making comics about dreams is a really fun way to explore communication, especially with those weird transitions that we all get in dreams. It’s a really fun way to explore as a storytelling device. I also make comics of my day-to-day life, conversations I have and little interactions I have, in order to capture those moments. Especially since I suffer from chronic depression, those mundane moments can be the nicest. Obviously, the everyday can be really tough when your feeling rough, but the mundane can be a really nice escape from it all. The little moments are really sweet to look back on, especially through my sketchbooks. 

V: So, you’re in university at the moment. What would you say are the main things you’ve learnt through studying art, and looking at it as a career?

P: The main thing I’ve found is that there is a huge separation between your working art and your doodling art. The difference between work and home has really helped me, especially when working in an industry environment, as my course is quite strict about that. I find myself much more productive when I’m in a stricter environment, working on tight deadlines, rather than at home relaxed. I set myself such strict goals, and then let myself relax when I was at home, so I can draw what I want. On such a tight schedule you don’t have the luxury of only working when you’re inspired- when you’re working on a project that is much bigger than yourself, you need to put that before your own inspiration. 

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V: What would be your advice to new artists to stop getting burnt out when working to a deadline? How to you keep the creativity flowing?

P: When I first started out, I would usually just doodle, and that’s where I did a lot of my growing. What worked for me, was studying other artists I really liked the work of. Years and years ago I came across some fan art for one of my favourite shows, and just started copying their style, because I loved their art. I gradually got better and better, because I was studying, but it was something I enjoyed studying. Obviously this only went so far- I found myself thinking that I didn’t need to study anatomy, because I had already got it. I now realize that made me look like a fool, because you need to study something in the 3D to properly translate it to the 2D. I started taking life drawing lessons, and still to this day take them too. Always try to be improving yourself, once you’ve learnt something, you can then break the rules too, which is such a lovely milestone to come to.  When you start to see your past mistakes, that’s when you know you’ve become a better artist.

V: Your work features a lot of people other than cis, able-bodied, white people, and it’s so great to see such intersectional artwork. What are your inspirations for creating such diversity in your characters?

P: I’m a massive believer that if your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism. If you’re not including all kinds of women, disabled people, or trans people, it’s not feminism. I’m transgender, I’m non-binary and I use they/them pronouns, and I’ve always been very outspoken about that in order to demand respect. I have a character called Jules, who when I was younger was very much a mirror of myself and who I wanted to be, and he’s really androgynous. He’s actually his own character now, and I draw him every so often. He was born out of my own gender and sexuality questioning, so I like to draw characters that aren’t similar to myself, because other wise I wouldn’t be challenging myself as an artist. I live in Birmingham in the UK, so it wouldn’t occur to me to not draw people of diversity, because I grew up surrounded by so many different people. In school I grew up around people of different races and religions, so if you’re not drawing the people around you, you’re not representing them. I obviously still have some learning to do about racism, and ableism, and we have to find out our own information on topics like that. I constantly have to educate people on what non-binary is, or what transgender is. It comes along in leaps and strides, and sometimes it doesn’t. I see people saying that, for example, they can’t draw fat people, because it’s too hard- but it’s really not, it’s exactly the same as learning to draw anyone else. Everyone needs to be engaging with intersectionality, because we are all linked with it. ahahahahahaha

V: How has drawing people other than cis, able-bodied and white been received by your colleagues and lecturers? 

P: I’ve had a couple of occasions where teachers or fellow students don’t seem to connect with my work. A lot of the time, my main experience is with being trans. I’m completely out at university, and have been for a while. In the first few weeks of university they had my legal name on the registers, even though my preferred name is different. I wouldn’t respond to my legal name being called out, and would be marked absent, which was a huge problem academically. Another time, we had to choose a clip to animate a lip-synch to. The clip that I chose was with two voices, one being a higher pitch and one being a lower pitch, and I decided to do it with two girlfriends, with one being a trans woman. In my head, she suited the lower voice, so I put her to lip-synch with that voice, and everyone misgendered my character! Obviously in that situation no one was getting hurt, but it was very odd to have to deal with that. 15

V: What would be your advice to those who find themselves in similar situations? 

P:If anyone ever finds themselves in that situation where someone demands information, or just doesn’t understand, you are never obliged to educate anyone. If you want to give them a whole detailed run down of your subject, or who you are- go right ahead! However, you do not have to do that if you don’t want to. Hopefully in the near future, people will be educated on a base level on subjects like that, so we won’t be put into that sort of situation. If I’m not in the mood to go into details, I tell people to Google it! We have a wealth of information in our pockets all the time, and you never asked to be put in the role of a teacher. Obviously I’m speaking from a place of privilege, I’m a white person and a trans person that is generally at lower risk in the community, unlike my trans sisters or some of my other trans friends, and that’s always important to keep in mind. But keep in mind that you don’t represent everyone, and everyone’s experiences are totally different. 

V: Do you think everyone can use art as a therapeutic activity? 

P: When you’re frustrated or annoyed or sad, I always feel  a little better when I’m doing some art, even if it’s really shit! Communicating your feelings in a way other than just to yourself is a really healthy way to process your feelings. 

V: If someone booked you as an artist, and would give you unlimited money, and allowed you to do any project you wanted, what would it be?

P: I have a lot of projects living in the back of my head that I would love to make a reality! I have an idea for a video game where the protagonist is deaf, and you have to navigate the world using vibrations and very small amounts of clues- but I have lots of little ideas, that I’m constantly adding to. My character I mentioned previously, Jules, has an entire expanded universe and world that links with him and his best friend Adam. That story has been with me ever since my teens, and it’s been developing and growing ever since I’ve been developing and growing. I would love to make that a reality, but I would never trust anyone else with it, because they wouldn’t understand and connect with the characters the same way that I do! I would love to make a fun, experimental animated series for young adults involving all these characters that I’ve been developing for years. I’ve been trying to write a novel for years, but I never have time. So, if anyone wants to give me lots of money and time, I have about ten years of plot living in my brain- hit me up! 3

V: Can everyone be an artist?

P: I think everyone is an artist in their own little way. It might not be drawing a beautiful portrait, but it could be a beautiful singing voice or being great at drumming. There are a lot of ways to create art. Talent doesn’t get you that far- talent will get you a failed audition and a coffee cup full of tears! The idea isn’t to have talent and just see how it goes, it’s about working hard and putting heart into everything you do! Even if it a tiny thing, that’s more than you would’ve made if you just sat there and been sad (not that you can’t just have a self-pity day), but after that’s done, I pick myself up, take a deep breath and pick up the pencil again! 

box-of-jules

Check out Pippin Lee Truman’s portfolio here!

Please contact leeleetruman@gmail.com for information on artwork or commission enquiries.

DON’T Talk to Me ~ Free Desktop Wallpaper

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Read. My. Body. Language. Don’t talk to me!

As always, you can buy this artwork as a print or on products like cushions, phone cases and more in our Society6 store! Plus, scroll down to see it in a range of desktop wallpaper resolutions.

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A Catcalling Story

Catcalling has increasingly become a mainstay in my life. I’m not sure whether it’s the colder weather or simply the fact that my moving off campus has made my time on public transportation increase exponentially, but it seems nearly everyday I can’t escape the unwanted attention. I can’t differentiate between the innocent hellos and the gateway conversation progressing into an uncomfortable territory.

Everyone has a catcalling story. The most impactful story for me occurred during one of the many times I missed the shuttle to the metro station. I decided to brave the 12 minute walk to the station as my feet and back weren’t yet at the point where they ached due to the weight of my too heavy tote bag or my black heeled boots. Walking down Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC is always interesting as one passes through the mixture of students, faculty, people waiting or the bus, street vendors, and those hanging around, everyone soaking up the atmosphere of faint GoGo music and construction work. As I was walking past a corner store with my earphones in, but not playing anything, two men having a conversation on the side of the street stopped to say hello. I gave a small nod and continued on my way, just wanting to make it to a train leaving the city. As I passed one of the men made an “oh” sound and asked for my number. My face warmed and I flinched, about to look back, but remembering that replying in any way was more trouble than it was worth. One girl, who I assumed was still in high school due to her backpack and khaki pants ,must have sensed my slight panic. As I continued to pass, much slower and more visibly uncomfortable she whispered “just keep walking.” I whispered back a “thank you” and continued down the street. Luckily, the man had no more words for me.

What this young woman did was one of the nicest things a bystander could have done at that point. In that situation I felt alone and embarrassed. What that simple phrase did was assure me that I wasn’t alone and that someone was paying attention and gave me a reminder that the best thing to do for myself is to keep moving. I had never had anyone do that for me, and I have never done that for another woman, but I will now.

I want to thank that girl again, even though she most likely won’t read this. Thank you, that small act brightened my day and encouraged me to help others. It reminded me that even during times I feel alone, I am connected. May bystanders continue to be brave in face of  crappy catcalling.

Instagram Intersectionality: Even More Bloggers for the Feminist Makeup Lover

We are back again, with Part 2 of our intersectional Instagram piece! If you’d like to check out Part 1, link is here. Below are some more fantastic beauty bloggers to make your Instagram feed more intersectional and way more feminist!

Brandi.xo

Brandi specialises in “monolid” art. Monolids are common amongst Asian people, so her Instagram would be very beneficial, especially since the common trends (eg. cut creases) fail to adapt for people with monolids. Brandi showcases some fantastic eye looks, ranging from trendy glitter looks to modern, bright colours. This account is definitely worth a follow.

Stefani_model

Stefania Ferrario is an activist, model and an artist that is determined to #droptheplus. Priding herself on being an “andro queen”, she banishes beauty standards in the best way possible- by slaying all day long! This is more of a fashion blog, rather than makeup, but it’s difficult to turn a blind eye to Stefania’s attitude and confidence.

Jbone89

Jordan Bone is a beauty blogger who has a passion for glamorous makeup looks. After a car crash ten years ago, Jordan became wheelchair bound and a tetraplegic, so is unable to open and close her hands, but still can do her makeup flawlessly, despite physical setbacks.

Oliveskinbeauty

https://www.instagram.com/p/BOv3WZRhJKF/?taken-by=oliveskinbeauty&hl=en

As you can probably tell from their account name, Arzo specialises in beauty for olive skin, creating an account that showcases makeup not just for white skin. She also does a lot of DIY beauty at home, including DIY facemasks and hairstyles, as well as mini tutorials. A great account with a great balance of everything!

Ellarie & Yoshidoll

These mother-and-daughter accounts showcase a beautiful mother, Ellarie, who creates incredible makeup looks and mini tutorials, as well as her adorable daughter, Yoshi. Over on Yoshi’s account (managed by Ellarie), we see fantastic hair tutorials for kids with black hair, whereas on Ellarie’s account, you will find straight up glamour. Follow both for an overload of sweetness!

Sebastienmua

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKggTQrhtHJ/?taken-by=sebastienmua&hl=en

Serving barbie-pink glam couture, this account will have you begging for more. A non-binary makeup artist, Sebastien always delivers with their beautifully crafted looks. Full of diversity, we can see a super conceptual look one day, and then glittery glamour the next. Give it a follow if you like a little bit of everything on your makeup feed!

Featured image: Credit to sebastienmua

 

Diversity in a Virtual Universe

There were two occasions in high school where I was received an invitation to a party – both being last minute pity offerings via Facebook Events. I appreciated the inclusion nonetheless, and also, the fact that they were costume parties. Although the idea of social shindigs themselves instilled me with a great deal of anxiety, the opportunity to dress absurdly ultimately won me over.

To the first of them, I dressed as the Joker, and received a number of comments about how I should’ve dressed Harley Quinn and been “hot-scary” rather than “just plain scary”. Needless to say, I rolled my eyes so far back in my head that I could see my brain cells dying. I got a lot of ocular exercise, if nothing else.

Not a great start, but I tried again.

On the other occasion, I dressed as Scooby Doo. A kid who was seemingly wearing casual clothes told me I would’ve been so much cuter as Daphne. This was frustrating. Everyone (who’ll listen) knows my Scooby Doo character preferences are ranked as follows: Scooby, Velma, Shaggy, Daphne, the Mystery Machine, Scrappy, Old Man Jenkins, and Fred (look, he’s a sweet goof, he just needs to find the words to describe a girl without being disrespectful). I am open to critique of my costumes, but this needs to be constructive, and I’d prefer it coming from someone who has made their own cosplay attempt too. With that in mind, I asked the kid what he was dressed as, and he told me he was Alan Wake. I bit my lip to stifle some ugly laughing. It made sense. Of course he was.

For those who don’t know, Alan Wake is the eponymous hero of a series of horror games. He is one of the most bland, archetypal video game protagonists ever – and he’s certainly not lacking in some stiff competition there. He is, just casually, a famous author. He wears jeans. He is white. He has brown hair and a short, scruffy beard. His wife, Alice, is a blonde photographer whose interests include her husband and his novels. Alan Wake is the imaginative equivalent to the experience of eating a giant hard-boiled egg, as its dry, black-tinged yolk clogs your throat with vague discomfort and an overwhelming, slow-moving blandness.

Video game diversity leaves a lot to be desired, which is somewhat odd considering the medium – after all, if a character can be an alien, a robot, a domestic dog, a square, a slice of bread or a metaphysical concept, is it so crazy that they could sometimes be a woman of colour? Dare I dream?

Gender diversity in the industry itself is improving, but still leaves much to be desired in becoming a safer and welcoming field for women to participate in. At least progress is being made here – unfortunately, game development has a long way to go in regards to racial inclusiveness. It is largely a Westernized and masculinized industry, but it shouldn’t have to be. Eventually, games should be as socially modern as they are technologically. Slowly, but surely… please, please, surely.

For those who adore video games, and those who may have shied away but are interested to dip their toes in, here are a couple of picks for games with interesting protagonists who exist far beyond the realm of Alan Wake’s cookie cutter nightmares:

Broken Age

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Broken Age is a story-driven adventure game, with two interlocking tales and separate protagonists to switch between. I enjoyed this unique feature, as sometimes point-and-click games can lose their novelty the first time you get stuck, so having two perspectives assisted with maintaining a sense of progression. The game is artistically delightful, and this is showcased by the variety of landscapes and fantasy elements of its universe. I particularly loved playing as Vella, a young woman of colour who is offered as a ritualistic sacrifice to the monster that has historically been calling the shots on her village. She, of course, resolves to destroy the beast instead. The premise itself is quite classic, but the game brings enough original twists and turns to make it worthwhile nonetheless. While Shay, her male protagonist counterpart, is a likeable character, I find that Vella specifically shines with her loving but strong-willed nature.

Undertale

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Undertale is a character-rich game with progressive sensibilities in the relationships and personalities depicted. Although the gameplay is a throwback to old RPGs, it is revitalised by the influence of player choices – the game differs based on whether it is played as a pacifist, anarchist, or a happy medium between the two. The dialogue is also sincerely funny: I’m talkin’ puns! While it does not overtly push a feminist agenda (unlike myself, let’s be honest), Undertale is refreshing in the way it normalises its own diversity: female characters are not tokenized, non-heteronormative romantic feelings are commonplace, and our protagonist, Frisk, is non-binary and/or androgynous. Simply by rejecting male or straight as the default way of existence, the social narrative of the game feels a little less prescribed. Undertale leaves space for the player to bring their own interpretation, and subverts the argument that representation is a form of pandering or politicising. Rather than the developers of this game asking, “why should we have female or non-binary characters?” it feels like they’ve simply asked “why not?”.

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor

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This is a game of dichotomies. Trash and treasure. Hope and hopelessness. Vibrant and plain. Busy and mundane. Alien and familiar. Individual and society. Haze and clarity. The Janitor, described as a girlbeast, is an enigmatic protagonist who reflects the unique but humble way we each play bystander to the worlds of others, while simply trying to survive our own. It is not climactic in any sense, but is nonetheless compelling to play with a focus on exploration, existence and emotion. It possesses enough intrigue and personal connection to feel invested in, and even touches on some of the complexities of depression and gender dysphoria.

Fran Bow

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Fran is a girl with a mental illness. Just like me. But also, not. Not at all. She is institutionalised within the hellscape of reality and perception, an experience that entails both an uncomfortable familiarity and a chaotic terror about it. The game, and our hero, are equally unsettling. Despite this, Fran retains some of the endearing and youthful qualities which humanise her. In a game tackling themes of mental illness, it is crucial to establish depth of character and ensure Fran is not a reductive token of “insanity”, but is also engaging to play. The world around her is explicit, darkly humorous, and changes as she self-medicates. It is a point-and-click, but is full of puzzles and minigames which add extra depth to the gameplay.

Dex

dex-rainy-alleyDex is a woman of resistance in a futuristic world, where she is persecuted as a cyborg by a powerful network of governments and corporations. Sound familiar? No, it is not the political climate of 2017 so far, it is a humble video game! The setting holds all the elements to a classic cyberpunk tale – a city bleak but for neon fringing; a focus on advanced technologies, run-ins with hackers, and artificial intelligence; a downtrodden, low quality of life. The community is diverse and intriguing, and the gameplay incorporates elements of a platformer, an RPG, a side-scroller, and a beat ‘em up brawler.

Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa)

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Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (I Am Not Alone) is an aesthetically beautiful game about a young Native American girl, Nuna, and her Fox, as they try to save their home from a powerful blizzard. The gameplay takes the style of a platformer with some puzzle elements, particularly in how both characters must be navigated in tandem. The collectibles in this game unlock educational insights into various aspects of Alaskan Inuit culture and folklore, which I find to be a creative way to utilize video gaming as an informative and connective tool. The premise of this game and its focus on Native peoples is a unique strength. It’s also near impossible not to adore Nuna and her gorgeous animal friend.

Gone Home

largeGone Home is a bit of an oldie but definitely a goodie. It was created by a group inclusive of female developers, features a female protagonist, and also incorporates Sapphic relationships. Lots of ticks there for social progressivity, but it is also genuinely fun to play! It’s got a rad 90s nostalgia feel, and a healthy dose of mystery. It plays as an unfolding story that is masquerading as a suspense game. While you begin by searching for a what, as is often the assumption, you eventually come to focus more on the why of your discoveries. This game also subverts the idea of who the protagonist is – I felt that I (the player) was not necessarily the main character, but rather felt more connected to the characters we never interact with, but delve intimately into the lives of. Gone Home reinforces gaming as an immersive and interactive means of telling stories regardless of genre.

Transistor

Our protagonist, Red, is a renowned but controversial singer, left voiceless and with no choice but to fight a corrupt world wielding the weapon that it intended to use to destroy her. The transistor is a unique article which absorbs the consciousness and knowledge of all it vanquishes. It also serves as Red’s ally and narrator to the game. Transistor is visually stunning, and like Supergiant’s previous popular title, Bastion, it offers a melodic soundtrack produced by Darren Korb and featuring vocals by Ashley Lynn Barrett. This ties in nicely with the tale of music as a form of social and political capital, and contributes to a highly-developed gameworld experience.

Sunset

Sunset, like Gone Home, is a game where storytelling is uncovered through exploration and context. We play as Angela, who has needed to take up a housekeeping job in 1970s Latin American during a time of political tumult. There is a civil war, and through Angela’s unique perspective we are immersed into the world of the bystander – of conflict, of wealth, and of class systems. The world outside suffers as Angela watches from the creature comforts of a high rise, albeit as a housekeeper and not a resident. She is between worlds, and this premise allows for greater depth in the developing the plot and the connection between she and her employer. The gameplay itself is simple, but I appreciate the unfolding of the story and how it is incorporated into everyday existence.

 

So, there you have it, for now. Some games to play for when you’re not in the mood to play as some dead-eyed white dude with a bland romantic subtext involving his female equivalent. I hope you enjoy them – they are all available on Steam, which frequently offers sales and discounts. Get gaming!

I am not sorry for the comments I made about Alan Wake.

Intersectional Instagram: Beauty Bloggers for the Feminist Makeup Lover

In an industry dominated by thin, cis, white bodies, it can be difficult to wade through to find intersectional blogs and influencers in the beauty industry. Listed below are some fabulous Instagram accounts that focus on beauty and makeup that break through the stereotypes of beauty standards, so our newsfeeds can be as intersectional as possible!

Thuy Le (@xthuyle)

With flawless skin and a wide array of colourful looks, Thuy Le is a makeup artist from London who not only blogs about makeup, but also skincare rituals and hair. Going from strength to strength, Le has been jumped 20,000 followers in just 2 weeks; take a peek at her page, and you will see why. 

Kristi (@RawBeautyKristi)

Kristi is a self-taught makeup blogger who not only shows off her glamorous looks, but also dabbles in special effects makeup. She placed in the Top 6 for the NYX Face Awards, dazzling us with her detailed and unique work. Her 31 days of Halloween series is pretty amazing, which is available on YouTube (trigger warning: gore).

Heather (sokolum)

A page littered with makeup, fashion, piercings and tattoos, you’ll want to follow Heather to get your dose of alternative beauty. Original and colourful, Heather finds a fine balance between wearable, everyday beauty and out-of-the-box designs. A fantastic page to follow, even if it’s just to appreciate her ever-changing hair colours!

@queenpeaa

This talented professional makeup artist is not only a beautician, but also a licensed hairstylist! With stunning pictures of her clients before and after the makeup application, this is a great account to follow if you want to see lots of different styles in one place (especially bridal makeup). 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BOnXShejqqL/?taken-by=queenpeaa

Ascher Lucas (@spectredeflector)

Destroying the stigma of boys’ wearing makeup, Ascher Lucas is a talented makeup artist, cosplayer and stuntman. Creating works of art of his face, this account has a very relaxed ambiance to it. You can also donate to Ascher’s fundraiser, which is raising money towards his top surgery (link in his Instagram bio). 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BM3_lOOASRm/?taken-by=spectredeflector&hl=en

Fifi Anicah (@fifi.anicah)

Described as a “modern day Frida Kahlo”, Fifi Anicah is a London based model, taking the world by storm, one “power brow” at a time. Fifi Anicah’s account will not only showcase her own modelling work, but will also show you how to constuct a full, natural unibrow that even Frida Kahlo would be envious of. 

Sabina Hannan (@sabinahannan)

If you crave glittery, glamorous makeup looks, this is the account for you. With an incredible YouTube channel to partner her Instagram account, Sabina Hannan’s makeup is always flawless.Sabina challenges the stigma of wearing makeup within the Muslim community. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BO0PjsPBVNC/?taken-by=sabinahannan&hl=en

Habiba (@makeupholic_moon)

A DIY godess, Habiba seems to be able to make a beauty remedy out of everything from your kitchen cupboard. Not only does she showcase some incredible makeup looks, she also will help you DIY your way to clear skin, using natural products you can find in your own home. She also reviews some wacky beauty tools, so be sure to check those out!

Shalom Blac (@shalom_blac)

An exceptionally talented artist, Shalom Blac fashion and beauty account has something for everyone. A burns’ victim, Shalom’s mini tutorials include a wide array of brands, ranging from high end to drug store; so no matter what your budget, you can follow along too!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BMwlxAxAFMD/?taken-by=shalom_blac&hl=en

Tania (@whentaniatalks)

A lifestyle and beauty blogger, Tania’s Instagram is beautifully minimalist and constructed beautifully. Mainly working from her blog of the same name, Tania balances out her beauty posts with lifestyle posts, updating her followers on her health, her journey with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, food allergies, and lots of other interesting things happening in her world.

The Eagle Huntress: A Review

In the remote Mongolian steppe, one girl is dreaming of becoming an eagle huntress. Directed by Otto Bell, this documentary tells the story of 13-year-old Aisholpan, who wants to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter. This century-old tradition has been passed down from father to son, but the idea of a young woman taking part is rejected by many of the Kazakh eagle hunters. Despite their criticism and resistance, Aisholpan’s father, Nurgaiv, agrees to train her.

The expansive shots of the Mongolian plains and mountainside are enough to make you enjoy this movie, let alone the story. After training with her father’s eagle, Aisholpan goes on to capture her own eagle by scaling a cliff and taking a fledgling eagle from its nest. She will raise, train and hunt with her eagle, then release it back into the wild after some years, to continue the cycle of life.

The film opens with another hunter releasing his eagle back into the wild, explaining that this ancient tradition is as much about the human-animal relationship as it is about respecting the cycle of life. The film then goes on to show Aisholpan training for the renowned Golden Eagle Festival, where she faces off against 70 of the greatest Kazakh eagle hunters in Mongolia. The training is difficult, but we never see the eagle huntress doubt herself for a minute. It’s clear that she believes her gender has nothing to do with her ability. Small snapshots of her life, such as when Aisholpan painting her and her sister’s fingernails outside their ger, or her daily life at school, illustrates how a young girl can believe in her abilities, be strong and be herself, all at the same time. She can teach her eagle how to hunt, while wearing flowers in her hair!

Throughout the interviews with older male eagle hunters, it’s clear that they have a certain idea of women, explaining that they can’t hunt because they are weak and will get cold. They believe this tradition should be learned only amongst men. The film’s website explains that “there is a long history of patriarchal ideas and customs among Kazakhs, many of which exist today in the average ger.” Scholar Dennis Keen explains, “Household labor is rigidly split between men and women. Men herd cattle, take care of finances, and have a greater luxury of recreation and hunting, women herd children, take care of guests, and when free, sew or shop. The left side of the ger is the domain of women; the right for men. It’s easy to see why the older eagle hunters would reflexively object to the idea of a girl hunting eagles, even though there is no set rule against it.” Even so, it’s refreshing to see that though Aisholpan’s family are traditional in their culture, they break with some of these practices. Both her parents fully support their daughter and her choices.

Even if you have never seen an eagle festival before, there’s a palpable excitement to the whole event. From watching Aisholpan perform in a timed contest in which she must call her eagle to her, or showing off its hunting ability, you’ll find yourself getting caught up and sitting closer to the edge of your seat.

No spoilers, but rest assured that Aisholpan wins hearts and prizes at the contest. It seems to surprise everyone – even her father who, at the end of the contest, is surprised by the results, so much so that one of the other contestants has to remind him, “Go hug your daughter!”

The narration by Star War’s Daisy Ridley and the fantastic soundtrack are just an added bonus. This is a movie, you need to see for yourself.

Aisholpan plans to become a doctor. Her father, Nurgaiv, a master eagle hunter, who has won the annual Eagle Festival himself twice, plans to teach the eagle hunting tradition to his daughter’s younger sister and brother.

This story is in many ways an ancient and modern one – ancient because it represents breaking down barriers of an old tradition, but modern because it shows young girls that if they are determined enough, they can fulfill their dreams.