Keep making noise

So last night, this happened.

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At what point have I invited attention here? Or is it the case that I’ve got my head down, keys between my fingers in my pocket, ignoring my boyfriend’s text messages lest I become distracted and vulnerable, trying to simply get the fuck home? It doesn’t matter, because as a woman on the street – a public space and by default a male space – I’m fair game.

The narrative between my female friends and I is tedious and exhausting. ‘I’m sorry you had to go through that’, we say with almost weekly-regularity. ‘That’s shit’. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘At least you got home safe’. At least you got home safe. Like the entirely feasible and almost unsurprising alternative is not getting home safe, and if you’re aware of my back story you’ll know that actually, not getting home safe is a very real and possible outcome. How many men message each other after a night out (or in fact after a bloody movie and a pizza at a friend’s house) with ‘Ah well, at least you got home safe’?

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We don’t know what the fuck to say to each other anymore. The above placatory sentences are meaningless. ‘I’m sorry you had to go through that’ is meaningless. Of course I’m sorry my friends had to go through that. Any human female who’s deigned to walk unchaperoned in public has been through that. I’m a human female and the very fact that we’re friends indicates that I can’t tolerate that kind of shit. So… what? An eye-roll emoji? A fucking shrug? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  Do we seriously live in a world where our friends message us to say they feared for their safety and we’re like ‘AH WELL. C’EST LA VIE. At least you’re alive’, simply because it happens with such alarming regularity they may as well be talking about the weather?

Fuck.

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So we make noise. We make noise about this bullshit in digital spaces and the results are mixed. Take, for example, an episode a few weeks ago when I challenged a man in a garage who deemed me too delicate and precious to put air into my own goddamn car tyres. I was called a hero and a feminist pioneer, but also a liar, a bitch and – tremendously – mentally unstable. The latter insults not just by men either, sadly, but by several women who subscribe to a form of institutionalised misogyny that – hands up – I think we’ve all been prey to at some point (‘I’m not like other girls.’ ‘I prefer to be friends with men because there’s less drama.’ ‘I’m a “cool” girl.’ And so on).

It’s deflating, absorbing the trolling and sexism and hatred that follows openly discussing your own experiences (after all, random strangers know better than you!). Here’s a good example from last night *slow hand clap*.

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And here’s a Nice Guy™ who totally missed the point.

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And another.

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And I’m sure more bullshit will follow. But the important thing is that women keep making noise about this. Because until these digital spaces existed in which we now have the opportunity to make noise, this entrenched misogyny was all but invisible to our decent-thinking male friends, unless they witnessed it first-hand. And even then, well… How many times have you gone out wearing a ring on your left hand so men know you’re ‘off limits’? How many times have you gone out with a group of friends and some guy won’t leave you alone so you’ve asked a male friend to pretend to be your boyfriend? And how many times has the perp apologised to your ‘boyfriend’ for his behaviour, instead of you? The silver lining here – faint as it may be – is that in drawing attention to this issue we’re able to create a new awareness among men who don’t subscribe to this entrenched social misogyny. The fact is, they’re the ones with the power to change the situation.

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So keep making noise, even if it makes people uncomfortable. Because you know what’s uncomfortable? A large 6’4” man angrily demanding a blow job on a dark street. A man staring at your ass as you inflate your tyres. A man punching you in the face because you’re trying to stop him beating his girlfriend to a pulp. A man smashing your head off a car bonnet simply because he’s having a bad day. Fuck anyone who pushes back against these experiences – and your experiences – because it makes them feel uncomfortable.

Keep making noise.

Seven lessons the new Ghostbusters movie would’ve taught the younger me

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The original Ghostbusters movie came out the year I was born, so evidently I didn’t see it on its release. I think I was probably about five or six when I saw it for the first time, and my main takeaways from it and its sequels were:

  • What the hell is going on with Dan Aykroyd’s character and that ghost?
  • I’m never getting in the bath again
  • Probably never gonna look at any portraits again, either
  • Women need men to save them
  • Lol, Slimer

I also had a weird crush on Egon.

We can all agree that they’re super fun movies, and ones people my age revere so highly no doubt because they harks back to a simpler time (when we didn’t have to pay bills, or get cars repaired, or deal with performance reviews, or confront the hellish reality of our political landscape). Perhaps this is why so many people have a problem with the reboot? They don’t want their pure memories of carefree childhood bought into the modern age, where everything is a bit shit? That, and misogyny.

In any case, I’ve been thinking about what Younger Rachel would have taken from the new version. Without confusing blowjob scenes, damsels in distress and bizarre and premature sexual awakenings to deal with, I think these would have been my key takeaways. And I challenge anyone who has a problem with the reboot to say – hand on heart – they wouldn’t want their kids to experience the same.

Own your passion

Erin is quick to dismiss her book on ghosts, because she’s worried it’ll affect her chances of tenure. Because she’s worried people won’t take her seriously because of it. Because she’s worried it doesn’t project the socially-approved image she’s worked so hard to create. But in the end, her passion ends up saving the whole goddamn city of New York. At the beginning of the movie, she’s hella uncomfortable with Holtz’s dancing, but it’s not long before she’s doing awkward aunty dancing with Kevin. She is her authentic self for having followed her heart. Do the same, Younger Rachel.

Tough times reveal true friends

There’s a line somewhere in the film that goes: ‘Okay, scientists! And Patty’.’ As Erin says, they weren’t really looking for another member of the gang. But it wasn’t long before she was assimilated into their clique. In another, ghost-free, world, would they have all formed this unlikely friendship? Probably not, but that’s just how it goes. Some of my very best friendships have sprung from the oddest places.

If at first you don’t succeed…

…make like Holtz and keep on trying. Every gadget needed a tweak here and there, and each led to the creation of a bigger and better invention. If she’d downed tools at the first hint of adversity, everyone would be fucked.

You can always learn from your elders… and from those younger than you

Don’t use age as a yardstick for wisdom. Look at Holtz and her ‘mentor’ at the end of the movie. Their scene together lasted about 30 seconds but in it they learned something important from each other.

Always question those in positions of authority

Look at what’s going on in America and the UK right now. How many headlines are borne of misplaced trust in politicians, law enforcement agencies, judicial systems and even the media itself? As the hapless mayor in Ghostbusters shows, people in power do not always have society’s best interests at heart. Younger Rachel; engage with these individuals, speak up and ask questions, but don’t take everything they say as gospel.

Men, though

I can’t be the only one who thought our boy Rowan smacked of Nice Guy. ‘Waah, life has been unkind to me so I’m going to react in a hugely disproportionate manner then they’ll be sorry.’ Kudos to the casting unit for choosing someone who looks so stereotypically jemble, by the way (if you have a problem with this statement pull up a chair and let’s talk about the character of Janine Melnitz – and indeed Dana Barrett – in the original movie). Younger Rachel, you’ll encounter a lot of pissbaby men in your adult life – and indeed men who masquerade as something else in order to fulfil their objectives. Don’t stand for it – send ‘em to hell.

Don’t leave your keys in the car

But if you do, it’s not the end of the world. As the movie showed, sometimes your biggest mistakes lead to the biggest successes.

Update: This post has been edited to reflect my memories from the original trilogy, not just the debut film. Thanks to everyone for pointing that out – this is how we learn.

Can we discuss the infidelity narrative around Lemonade for a second?

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I’m not the biggest fan of Beyonce’s music. There, I said it. Send over the angry mob.

It seems that I never really grew out of my tortured alt-kid phase, so even now at the grand age of 31, times of emotional turmoil are more likely to see me lying face down on the floor listening to Placebo or Ill Nino than the heartfelt and empowering lyrics of Queen Bey. It’s just personal taste.

Nonetheless, I recognise that Beyonce is a fucking phenomenal woman, and an absolutely critical role model for all women during these dark times – few will take such a central place in the cultural history books than she, and her recent surprise visual album drop is testament to that.

Did Jay-Z cheat on her? No-one can say for sure, but the themes running throughout Lemonade – and of course the unrelenting media speculation – would suggest something was up. And she owned it. She took all the pain, anger, sadness and desperation of infidelity and turned it into a defiant masterpiece from which others can derive strength and comfort (which is unquestionably more important than the musical offerings of white boys whinging about their high school girlfriends). When life gives you lemons, make lemonade AND THROW IT IN LIFE’S EYES, right?

So this is the dominant social narrative to come from Lemonade thus far. But there’s another line of thought simmering away among the noise – one voiced by young women in particular.

“If Beyonce gets cheated on, what hope is there for me?”

A jokey, throwaway remark designed to get a few RTs, right? Maybe, but its underlying context nonetheless is that in order to be worthy of love and fidelity, you need to be rich, ultra-talented and gorgeous. That you always have to be your very best you (and then some) in order to enjoy some pretty basic relationship fundamentals, such as trust and respect. Come up short against these exhausting and relentless requirements and, oh well, what did you expect?

The focus of Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity has been put on her: She’s so hot and talented, what could she have done that would mean he cheated on her? And this is total, utter bullshit. His infidelity has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with him and his alarming lack of morals and yet the internet is awash with jokes about him being caught out – when really, he needs to be held to account – and, worse, commentary from young men applauding his ability to bed a number of hot women at once. There aren’t nearly as many bloody lemon emojis plastered over his social media accounts than there are on Rachel Roy’s (or Rachel Ray’s for that matter – idiots), but that’s an entirely separate – and equally problematic – issue.

Lemonade is Beyonce’s battle cry in the face of one of the worst betrayals the human heart can bear, and it’s vital that we shape its infidelity narrative (and all infidelity narratives) around the shortcomings of the cheater, not the cheated. Listen to the album. Listen to the lyrics. This is the message Queen Bey is pushing here, and one that even I, with my predisposition to whiny, introspective guitar bands, can derive great strength from.