I recently stayed up for 36 hours straight thinking. I couldn't sleep. I've been driven mad by boys, by politics, by media blackouts, by sexism, racism and homophobia.
I came to this realisation that I hadn't got stuck into politics for a long time. I live in LA without my mum and without Sam Duckworth - my two main sources of politics/news/opinions and my favourite people to talk to for hours about the world and war and injustices and the government. Without them I've grown lazy, uninformed and ignorant. These are not traits that I like or ever wanted for myself. I've grown lazy because I'd rather look at pretty pictures of cool stuff than read about Gaza, or I can't finish a book because I'm used to information in 140 characters these days. This is not the kind of grown up I want to be. I want to be informed and I want to be part of inciting change and fighting injustices.
So I started by using the Internet to inform and empower myself. I started reading up on Iraq, on ISIS, Israel and Palestine and most recently Ferguson. I know this stuff seems totally overwhelming, but this is why it's totally important and in my opinion why we need to start taking more action.
We come from quite a privileged generation. We don't really HAVE TO fight for stuff because our parents did that. And some cool shit happened in the 90s and now we can express ourselves sexually and run our own blogs, start our own businesses and if we're really lucky then the shit that we don't like or want to change, isn't actually affecting us day-to-day. We have to pay our bills, go to work, take the dog to the vet, meet up with an old school friend, call our nans - it's not affecting us to the degree where it disables us from living our everyday lives (IF WE'RE LUCKY) and we kind of push our politics to the side because we have shit to do and that's totally understandable.
Anyway I watched a documentary recently Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine. It's a moving documentary about Matt, a teenager who was violently beaten to death because he was gay, and it tells his story. During the trial, his parents fought to save the life of the kids that murdered him because they believed that they should live because Matt didn't, and that the circle of violence had to end somewhere and now his mother runs a charity and campaigns worldwide to "Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion, and Acceptance." It's incredibly moving and stoic and inspiring. After watching the documentary I learned that there are 29 states in the US that you can be fired in for being gay. Did you know that? I didn't bloody know that. A lot of people I tell that didn't know it either. How did we not know this? Like why is this ok in 2014 and how come we didn't bloody know this? Who's doing anything about this?...you get my drift.
So I learnt that once there is a progression for a persecuted group, then often there is an aggressive reaction to that, like two steps forward one step back. We make progress, someone is pissed about that, doesn't like change, feels threatened and reacts violently.
In the past week watching things spiral out of control in Ferguson, hearing that an unarmed teenager has been murdered by the police is almost too much to take in. Is this shit still happening? Why is it happening?
So the first place that I go to now for information, a source of hope, humour, and democracy and "the news if the news was true" is Russell Brand's The Trews on YouTube. It's fun to watch, he is intelligent and believes in peace and spirituality and is incredibly intelligent, but he still makes funny jabs. I would recommend watching one video everyday if you can, it is awesome and it is really helping me digest the news and all the crazy shit that's happening in the world right now:
The other great thing about 2014 is the Internet and Twitter, as much as I fear both have bred laziness within me. The awesome thing about Twitter is that if there is a media blackout, I can go on Twitter and check out a hashtag, follow a journalist that is live tweeting from an actual riot and find a live blog. I can check out a bunch of different sources with different perspectives and see what's actually going on. The Internet can empower me as much as I can let it dumb me down. I've realised it's a choice. And that I can have my cake and eat it too. I can check out the Ferguson hashtag, watch the Trews, read the BBC and CNN website, see if any of my friends have posted any relevant links on Facebook and then watch a video of a bunny eating a raspberry to calm me down all whilst drinking my morning coffee. This is awesome.
So anyway my next thought process was like, "What could I do about this stuff? What is my area of expertise and how can I take action about things that I care about and can actually help with?" I don't want to do it alone. I'm powerless that way. I need a group of cool, passionate people who care and want to talk about serious shit but also use entertainment, creativity, storytelling and music to do it - blend entertainment with reality, like Billy Bragg once told me, "Get 'em with love songs".
I've been working on the idea of girl and outsider empowerment movement: Freaks Hold Hands, Girl Gang and Kate Nash's Rock 'n' Roll for Girls After School Music Club for a few years now so I want to grow this. I've been feeling lonely in LA. Everyone drives cars and the roads are too big to walk on, and I miss going down the pub to chew the fat and shoot the shit - talk about the world, get serious about stuff, then tell shit jokes, have a roast and hold each other in a circle singing along to Journey. I want to create a forum, a support group, a collective out here. I want it to be a global thing too. So I am building and growing the idea of the Girl Gang and I want to encourage you to do the same. This is not about sitting online and debating whether Miley Cyrus is a good or bad example for young girls, or whether shaving your pussy is a political or personal choice. I feel very lucky that I wake up every morning and don't have to shave my toes, but I can if I want to. Yay for me! Thank you feminism, genuinely. But I feel unhappy that still so many girls are afraid of having a voice; that they are encouraged to be silenced. Women still get paid less than men, there is still sexism in the workplace, we still look down on older women that don't want to have kids, prostitutes are still criminalised and have no rights, women are still being body shamed in the media, beaten up in their homes feeling guilty for having provoked someone and raped and told they dressed like a slut. What can I do to change any of this?
I feel like it's our responsibility together to start making noise and taking action. We need to have a more "fight it" attitude, get angry, make some waves, be loud. There's absolutely been progression, but we don't want to take two steps forward and then one step back. I personally think our generation has sat back a bit, because we could, which is awesome, but let's not let that slip!
I really believe that if you want something and you don't give up and work hard enough at it, you can achieve it. There's really big dreams that I have for the future of this foundation/company/idea, whatever you want to call it. But I can't do it alone. I held a meeting in my garage last night and got a bunch of cool girls together. We went around the room introducing ourselves, telling each other what we do and discussed some issues that matter to us. This will start small - girls feeling like they have a community, feeling supported, helping each other out, becoming a real community, and then we will try and figure out some serious stuff too and become a force. I am going to host a public Girl Gang meeting in LA in September. It will be an open meeting, anyone can come, including feminist boys. And I am asking you to create your own meetings; I would love it if we could hold a public meeting together on the same date and share pictures and info about what happened and what we want to change. I just kind of feel it's time.
So host your own Girl Gang meetings. Make a poster/flag, ask any girl or feminist guy you think is cool and that wants to be part of it to come. Be inclusive, extend the friendship group, create a safe environment and be vulnerable with each other. Exchange e-mails and discuss what you do, what you want to do, what you need help doing and anything you feel passionately about: injustices, prejudices and things you want to change. We need to share information to find out what needs changing. Let's inform each other. And please, I urge you, have a political opinion. Also read '#Girlboss' by Sophia Amoruso, it is super inspiring.
I will keep you updated on our weekly meetings and when the public meeting date will be. And then I will appoint some of you that I know will be down for this to have your own public meeting on the same day as ours. You know who you are. Let's get to it.
Ok, over 'n' out.
Images By Tessie Navarro
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