the limitations of ‘lad culture’

I am a feminist woman who has dealt with more than her (un)fair share of sexual harassment. Yet I still feel like I am being gradually worn down by the term ‘lad culture’ being brandished as the cause of all sexism and homophobia on campus. Everyone has heard of the term ‘lad culture’ yet it is still aggressively mainstream. I believe that this is because lad culture is symptomatic of a greater problem rather than the sole issue itself. Replace ‘lad’ with the word ‘rape’ and here we have the real and depressingly huge issue. Rape culture sounds far more daunting doesn’t it? Yet it is the bleak reality which many universities are totally complicit in.

What is lad culture? We need to separate the more harmful activities within lad culture from the standard aspects of university life. Many people, when they hear the term ‘lad culture’ recoil and defensively enquire “Whats wrong with liking a drink and hanging out with the lads?” Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. However university’s tame attitude towards rape culture allows ‘drinking with the lads’ to fester into something worse. With no zero tolerance policies or noticeable awareness/implementation of these policies there is nothing to stop the harmless aspects of lad culture dangerously spiralling.

The most recent NUS report suggests that only 1 in 10 institutions have a policy covering sexist and discriminatory behaviour in place, while many suggested to the victims to resolve matters ‘informally’ as opposed to seeking help from their institution or the police. Evidently then, universities are still harbouring an alarming reluctance to tackle lad culture for what it is: a weaker strain of rape culture. Here is how I believe we can eradicate sexual harassment on campus:

1. Be Specific

We need to work out which specific parts of lad culture are harmful, then we must name them, then we must stamp them out. As a for mentioned, throwing the term ‘lad culture’ around usually has one of two effects on those it is aimed at. The first being that ‘lads’ who benefit from or enjoy the harmful aspects of lad culture will simply take the piss out of the term and carry on unaffected. The latter being that so-called ‘good lads’, who genuinely don’t act in a harmful way, are likely to feel accused and therefore alienated by it.

For example, one of the key harmful aspects of lad culture is a distain for femininity. Hence why dressing up as a woman, pink fishnets and all, is one of the most hilarious things a ‘lad’ could do. What about using ‘feminine’ girls as fodder to be fucked and chucked in order to impress the lads while simultaneously dishing out abuse to ‘unfeminine’ girls? This attack on the feminine is also responsible, I believe, for the prevalence of homophobia ingrained in lad culture. Due to stereotypes of gay men exhibiting ‘camp’ behaviours – otherwise known as classically feminine behaviours – any man open about his sexuality is inherently more feminine and deserving of the same abuse directed at women.

In this example, the specific problem within ‘lad culture’ is called toxic masculinity. In order to eradicate this particular aspect, we must devote time to understanding how it is learnt and then come up with specific strategies for toxic masculinity to be unlearnt.

2. Empower Those On The Receiving End

All too often the solutions to lad culture revolve around ignored poster campaigns and ineffectual pleading with perpetrators to please, stop harassing women. All the while, those on the receiving end of the harmful aspects of lad culture i.e. sexual assault are waiting patiently for this ongoing onslaught of harassment to end. This is not good enough.

Universities across the UK must introduce zero tolerance policies to sexual harassment (and any other form of discrimination/abuse). Once these policies are firmly in place, serious money needs to be invested in ensuring 24/7 awareness of them. Ramping up awareness of these policies will not only empower more victims to come forward: it will also be a gentle yet firm reminder to potential offenders that sexual harassment will never be tolerated.

Furthermore, universities must ensure the reporting process is sensitive and supportive. This means allowing friends to accompany the victim, BELIEVING THE VICTIM, and treating them with total respect and honesty. It also means treating students reporting sexual harassment from the LGBTPIAQ+ community with the same respect and dignity. In other words, a complete departure from the horror stories of ridicule and alienation that I have been pained to hear about in the past.

3. Take action

They’re called ‘zero tolerance’ policies for a reason. Why should a student who admitted to groping a fellow student be allowed to continue their education in the same institution as the person they assaulted? Why must the victim feel wary, on their own campus, of bumping into that person again? Zero tolerance sets a strong precedent: if one offender is kicked out of uni and reported to the police over a seemingly ‘minor’ incident, such as groping someone, then the campus dynamic is gonna radically shift so that potential/actual offenders are the ones who will be wary rather than their victims.

4. Engage

There are some people (namely but not always cisgender men) who heartily enjoy the benefits of sexism and lad culture, who do not want to see it go. These people are vile and I will not waste any time trying to change their minds. I believe that there is a strong majority of men who do want to help in the fight against sexual harassment on campus. I also believe that we shouldn’t paint these men with the same brush as the former. Doing so will only lead to their alienation from a cause that they would have otherwise been ready to help out in. We cannot let that go to waste.

Ask any woman who calls herself a feminist what the most helpful thing a man can do to be a good ally and she will say ‘call out his friends’. Instead of lecturing sports teams about what consent means, we should be engaging with them and teaching them how to call out their friends behaviour within the realms of lad culture. We need to work together rather than relentlessly taking the piss out of one another.

In conclusion, although  ‘lad culture’ is a useful term for paraphrasing a severe problem behind closed doors, I believe it’s practical use has become too vague and therefore limited. It is my current priority (as Newcastle Uni’s Gender Equality Officer) to pressure my Student’s Union into implementing and raising awareness of existing zero tolerance policies against sexual harassment. I am a firm believer that, instead of endlessly pleading with sports teams to stop binge drinking, sexual harassment can be eradicated through providing it’s victims with easy reporting processes, action against the offender in question and, most importantly, unwavering support.


Being ‘Easy’

TW: reference to rape and graphic depictions of sex

‘Other girls aren’t like you are they?’ whispered the Tory before he proceeded to brutally fuck me four times and request that I leave. ‘You’re like a bloke when it comes to sex aren’t you’ muttered the socialist, after he explained to me that gender roles are the product of capitalism. Ever since I heard what the word ‘slut’ meant I wanted to be one. I wanted to be the worst thing you could call a woman – and revel in it. I wanted to take back the power, reclaim if you like, my right to sleep with whomever I wanted.

So I slept with anyone who wanted it, like Emma Stone in Easy A, except I followed through and didn’t charge. I have a ring and a t-shirt that both say ‘slut’ on them. I wore them proudly (still do) and delighted myself at the discomfort it aroused. I knew that this discomfort was rooted in the fact that the word ‘slut’ did not belong to me. It was the possession of my peers who could hurl it at me to shame me and put me back in my place. It was the property of a society, which would control me with it in order to silence me and refuse my sexual liberation. Well fuck that, I was gonna have the best time, I was gonna be a feminist icon like Courtney Love; legs spread and arms open.

That’s all very well isn’t it? Be a slut – do what you want etc. But I realised that my power was limited, in my easiness I became a blank slate for whichever man asked first to project himself onto me. I have a strong memory of the night I went out in ma freakum dress, wearing red lipstick and feeling like a feminist goddess – only to go home with a rugby player who, in an attempt to normalise his urgent need to fuck me up the arse, informed me that ‘any man who does not like anal sex must be gay’. Or the time when I was handcuffed to a bed post and suddenly enquired to my visitor ‘are you a feminist?’ to which he replied: ‘of course not babe, don’t worry’. So I find myself gritting my teeth, repeating this is empowering, for fucks sake this is empowering, I am using him to objectify myself over and over in my head till I believe my own bullshit.

“Christ, you’re actually enjoying this aren’t you?”, gasped by ex boyfriends best friend with incredulous delight after he decided to use my hair as a lever while he rammed his dick in and out of my mouth at a mechanical rate. How on earth he managed to decipher any enjoyment is beyond me. I should point out that this was all consensual; I may have been misguided or fucked up but I said yes. Of course there were times when I said no, and sex happened to me anyway. Some have suggested my easiness made me ‘fair game’ as if having regular sex with different men somehow made my body public property to be used and disposed of at will.

I said earlier on that I slept ‘with anyone who wanted it’ and that, right there, was my fatal flaw. I never stopped to ask myself whether I wanted it too, I bet half the time I actually couldn’t be arsed. Sexual liberation is only liberating when you allow yourself to exist freely within or outside of labels. I will always find the word ‘slut’ empowering: it holds great strength for me, however it is my label. A label that only I can apply to myself. As soon as I acted out the role of the ‘slut’ that individual men fantasised about, I started losing grip of my autonomy at an alarming rate.

Of course sex is never just sex. Tracy Beaker once told one of her mates (CBBC, c’mon) that her heart had been broken so many times, it was half sellotape. Granted, her heart was probably broken for different reasons than mine, but that phrase still resonates with me. What I’ve learnt is this: openly being a slut has also opened up masses of vulnerabilities in me that have been exploited by people I could have loved. I wasn’t sexually free on my own terms; I was like play dough being moulded into whatever shape by carefree children. Except, a lot of the time, I was a fifteen year old girl being tossed around by older men.

I don’t know why I’ve written this blog post to be honest; it’s lazy, self indulgent writing and yet it is important to me. Being a slut is important to me. And while reclaiming the word slut is not high on my agenda as a feminist activist; it is high on my agenda for coming to terms with who I am and making peace with myself. Being ‘easy’ is actually really hard: you learn to embrace the ephemeral, the temporality of those who are important to you. You get humiliatingly rejected by people who you don’t care about anyway then shamelessly used by people you would die for.

The resolution is a simple rejection of people who make me feel shit about myself. I have no obligation to fuck anyone but I am allowed to have consensual sex whenever I want. This is where the beautiful word ‘no’ comes in.

Jeanann Verlee writes:

Learn how to say “no.”

Cram that word inside your mouth,
the whole thing, make sure all of it
gets in there. Let it walk on your tongue.
Practice with it in the mirror, push it
out, make faces, learn to love the salt
and bitter of it. Teach it to perch on your lip,
buzz, collect pollen from your sugary gloss.
Make it swarm between your cheeks.

Then, when the days come (there will be
many) where he pushes too hard, speaks
too sweetly, when the hand at your thigh
draws a thump in your stomach, when
the bitch gremlin inside whispers ‘it’s not
worth the fight,’ says you can barter
for your worth tomorrow, when your ribs
shrink, when he unfurls his Almighty Smile,
when four come at you at once, when
you love someone else, when the bar
is closing and your name becomes ‘Take
What I Can Get,’ when the girls hate you
anyway, when you want him until the burn
if only he wore a different face–

pull back your lips, bare the teeth you have
sharpened to their perfect points, flick
your stinger tongue, set free your swarm.

Be a slut. Do whatever YOU want.

disclaimer: the socialist who thought I I was like a bloke when it came to sex IS NOT the socialist I’ve been hanging out with lately 🙂

Next blog post: A Review of Germaine Greer at the Harrogate Theatre (1 ticket available if any1 wants to get spangled with me)

Hot Feminism (It’s A No From Me)

I was very down for ‘Hot Feminism’. I envisaged a feminist manifesto arguing that ‘hotness’ could be channelled and embodied by anyone. I thought, just maybe, I would feel better about my thighs after reading it. Although feminism has long advocated the right of women to look however they want (regardless of patriarchal standards of beauty), I can still understand why some women may feel the need to reinforce this particular aspect. After Polly Vernon’s set at Hay Festival, however, it became clear that Vernon’s new, exciting brand of feminism was just, well, the same feminism we’ve had for 100’s of years but from a confused, conceited and deeply privileged perspective.

Vernon (like so many others) has been exposed to the myth that feminists are angry, man hating, hairy legged shrews- who of course will berate a woman should she choose another path. A myth that was actually created through a reactionary barrage of misogynistic abuse in early 19th Century media as a way to ridicule and dismiss suffragettes fighting for the right to vote. Instead of deconstructing this myth, Vernon has bought into it and blames her discomfort with patriarchal beauty standards on these imaginary women – rather than the patriarchy.

She clearly thrives off the validation that subscribing to patriarchal standards of beauty invokes. There is nothing inherently wrong with this – nothing at all. My issue is that Vernon feels the need to tear herself away from the feminist movement in order to promote something that feminists have been advocating for years: choice. There was an awkward moment during Vernon’s set at Hay Festival where she asked the audience to raise their hands if they had ever felt ‘less of a feminist for liking salad’. Honestly, liking salad has never been something I’ve felt attacked by feminists for doing and the nervous laughter from the audience suggested that this was not really something that had ever occurred to us.

Vernon’s main beef is that feminism has become ‘anti female’ in that it shames other women for having differing views. She fails to make the distinction between shaming and criticising. There are ‘feminist’s’ who do not believe that trans women are real women, who believe it is their decision to decide whether or not Muslim women everywhere should be able to wear a Niquab, who refuse to take disabled women’s opinions seriously. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. We absolutely need to have arguments in the feminist community, we need to flesh this out. The ‘sisterhood’ is not and will never be a bunch of women sharing exactly the same opinions.

Vernon leaps on the idea that women shouldn’t be criticising other women- primarily because it acts as a shield for her. She admits that, yes, women can be dicks yet refuses to allow that any other woman would be warranted in calling her a bit of a dick head. God forbid anyone accuse Vernon of being a ‘dick’ then she will immediately label them ‘trolls’. It’s very important to make the distinction between trolls and critics. Trolls send you anonymous, intimating and usually irrelevant bile. Trolls are the internet’s reaction to women possessing agency. Critics, on the other hand, are rarely anonymous and provide genuine feedback from a point of interest. To dismiss critics (a.k.a anyone who disagrees with her) as a troll works perfectly for Vernon. Any woman seen to be disagreeing with her is therefore ‘letting the side down’ rather than expressing valid criticism of her work. In characterising her critics as scary trolls she is also perpetrating that old trope, afore mentioned, of the scary, man-hating feminists who demand that all women must mirror their militancy.

I refuse to become the scary, shaming feminist that Vernon so excitedly accuses her critics of being. She has a huge and valuable place in feminism but at the moment what she is selling is a tangled, vulnerable wreck of:

– Her enjoyment of practising traditional ‘feminine’ and idealised beauty
– The fact this does not make her immune to sexism
– Needing someone to blame for this
– Blaming feminists instead of the patriarchal, male dominated society.

Her act of blaming other feminists is, in itself, conforming to what the patriarchy wants her to do. I am not telling her to hate men; I am encouraging her to redirect her discomfort where it will have an impact. She speaks so passionately about women supporting other women yet at the same time tears down feminists for ‘excluding’ her due to her hotness. I absolutely believe that women should be able to define and revel in their own ‘hotness’. However I do not feel that feminism has ever been an obstacle to this. Feminism advocates looking however you want, regardless of, or in tune with patriarchal standards of beauty.

How To Be The Perfect Rape Survivor

1. Let your rapist(s) remain anonymous

Do not name your rapist, instead allow them to exist in a vacuum with all the other scary monsters. All the other scary monsters that deep down we know do not really exist. Your rapist must exist in other peoples minds as a villainous, masked figure worthy of a Crimewatch reconstruction yet not capable of walking down the street. In this way people will not have to come to terms with the fact that real men do actually rape.

A favourite of Anti Rape campaigners has been to place a sign saying ‘Real men don’t rape’ into the hands of a macho looking sports player then taking a picture. This picture sends a message out to the world that rapists don’t exist, if real men don’t rape then the men doing all the raping must be a figment of my imagination. Rapists must remain anonymous, if we start admitting that rapists are actually real people what are we gonna do when our friend is accused of rape? Our favourite footballer?

2. Become a stronger person because of it

Become a ‘Pride of Britain’ award worthy victim, let people wonder how you managed to achieve so much from the remnants of such trauma. There’s nothing the masses love more than someone who’s overcome adversity: who they can project all their childish notions of heroism onto. By making you the hero, they isolate you. One of the defining qualities of a hero is that they are a rarity, by making a rape survivor’s story look like a rare incident they are denying that rape is an epidemical issue. If we only pay attention to the outspoken survivors, we can forget about the silent majority.

3. Omit the gory details

When telling people about your story, make sure you edit it throughly so as not to discomfort anyone. No one wants to know that you couldn’t shit for days afterwards, about the chronic cystitis or the yellow bruising staining your thighs. In this way people can continue to think of rape as a sexual act rather than one of violence. Your rape becomes stomachable and less of a burden for your friends to carry.

4. Get over it

It happened years ago, don’t you dare suffer from post traumatic stress in front of me! When you come out as a survivor of rape it is almost as if people are expecting you to be over it. Some of us are, some not. The fact that we’re talking about it doesn’t mean the wounds have healed over.

5. Ignore all of the above

Despite my bitterness (which I make no apologies for feeling) I know that it does not have to be this way. Be fucking frank about what happened to you, make people uncomfortable and name the scum who hurt you. Surround yourself with positive people you can trust who will come with you to STI clinics, police stations and courtrooms.

Reject any bullshit that reinforces the idea that rape is cisgender women getting raped by cisgender men. The reality is that all genders are capable of being raped by another person of any gender. Rape does not require a penis and a vagina.

Furthermore, its not always roofies and strangers on street corners. Rape is inherently violent regardless of whether or not it left you with bruises. Your friend slowly fucking you while you sleep is violence. A one-night stand continuing after you’ve passed out is violence. Being informed by friends that you had sex last night is fucking violence if you cannot remember it! It is okay to be in pain.

We need to create a culture where rape is unacceptable. ‘Unacceptable’ may seem like a weak ask but as I write this the seven different men who forced themselves on me remain anonymous and free individuals. While I get all pent up and piss people off by constantly nagging on about rape culture, my rapists are living normal lives: full time jobs, football on weekends, girlfriends, sunday dinners cooked by their mothers etc. I bet they don’t go around bending peoples ears off about sexism.

Ched Evans, a convicted rapist, was defended by a loyal band of rape apologists in early 2015 on the basis that it could have been a false accusation. Even though he was convicted. Even though conviction rates are despicably low. Even though the false accusation rate for rape is the same as it is for other crimes.

If you are raped please do not let the world bully you into silence or being ‘the perfect survivor’. Report it – if that will give you peace or if not, open up to someone you can trust. Accept the support you deserve. Please, please don’t keep it to yourself. Surviving trauma manifests itself into our lives someway or another and it is NEVER a battle you must fight on your own.

Ed Reckless: He Hit A Woman and it Matters

Over 3500 people have signed a petition calling for Ed Reckless to stand down as Loughborough’s new Student’s Union President. These people have signed because Reckless hit a woman and was banned from his own SU after doing so. It is simply laughable that he was even able to run for the position of President. Conversely, it is terrifying that he was actually elected.

There are varying responses to this campaign demanding his resignation. Aside from the mass of supporters, who amazingly think that hitting a woman should not be rewarded, there are two other main reactions. The first is easily the most abhorrent. This is the voice of the proud Reckless voters: who knew he had committed an act of violence against a woman yet voted for him anyway. These voters should be hanging their heads in shame yet they brandish their knowledge of his offence like a badge of honour. Need I produce anymore evidence that universities are harbouring sexist attitudes other than this? Men and women students alike are defiant in their decision to vote in a man who hit a woman and this attitude needs to be addressed.

Unsurprisingly, Ed Reckless is a white man: he is, by definition, in possession of a degree of privilege that women of all ethnicities and men of minority ethnicities cannot attain. Would his staunch defenders be so vocal if it was a woman in the same position? The second common response relates closely to the aforementioned question of gender: these are the people who agree that Reckless should resign but on the grounds that violence towards ANYONE is enough to warrant his dismissal. I agree with this response entirely and would support the petition regardless of the gender of the person he hit. However I personally find the ‘it doesn’t matter that she was a woman’ stance quite derailing.

Ed Reckless hit a woman. Notice how radical I’m being by omitting the word ‘allegedly’. If the Loughborough Student’s Union saw fit to ban him due to his offence then we can be quite sure the offence took place. Furthermore he has never denied committing this offence – rather he assured potential voters that it ‘allowed (him) to learn and move on from (his) mistakes’. Brilliant. In one sentence he deems the woman he hit as his ‘mistake’ and also as a learning curve for him. The slap to the face she received only existed to aid Ed Reckless’s personal development. This rhetoric supports a wider culture of stripping women of their agency: a culture where we exist as stepping stones for men’s personal and professional improvement.

Here’s why it matters that he hit a woman:

1) Violence Against Women is happening epidemically across universities The NUS ‘Hidden Marks’ survey conducted in 2014 found that 1 in 7 women students had been the victim of violence or sexual assault. Not only has Ed Reckless committed an act of violence against a woman student he is now in the position of REPRESENTING women students at Loughborough University. Violence against women is a specific problem that Student Unions should be combatting not rewarding. By allowing this man to run for election, Loughborough Students Union has sent out the message that violence against women will not be taken seriously. What kind of message is that for students who may be experiencing domestic violence/ the victims of male violence on campus?

2) The perpetrators of violence against women are rarely punished

Ed Reckless is a rarity in that he is one of the few who have actually been punished for committing an act of violence against a woman. Loughborough Students Union had the opportunity to take a real stance against violence towards women yet they let it pass them by. They had the chance to make a real example of Ed: Here’s what happens if you hit a woman – you get banned from the union and have a career prospect denied from you. A pretty meagre punishment really, but enough to send out a strong message. It is a situation which bears resemblance to the sickening case of Ched Evans. Both are men who have been found guilty of committing a crime and both are men who are defended by people refusing to accept their punishment. Just as signing Evans to your club perpetrates rape culture: allowing Reckless to be President perpetrates a culture where violence against women is trivialised and, in this case, rewarded.

3) The vitriolic misogyny unleashed in defence of Ed

The internet has long been a breeding ground for violent misogyny and the case of Ed Reckless is no exception. Indeed the Epinal Tab wasted no time in declaring anyone who supported the petition a ‘feminazi’. Ah yes, because wanting gender equality is comparable to, you know, genocide right? The fact that the Woman’s Officer at Loughborough (who I absolutely adore) is even having to defend the petition is a striking indicator of the sexism that is rampant and accepted as part of university life.

I’m going to finish by reflecting on the various lessons learnt from this debacle. Ed Reckless has seen his violent behaviour rewarded through his right to campaign and due to the fact he was elected: his behaviour has been validated. He learnt that hitting a woman is not actually the end of the world and his career prospects were not (originally) marred by his violent behaviour. Students at Loughborough and across the UK learnt that even if you hit a woman, your institution will still grant you privileges. We have seen a culture of violence against women and sexism on campus be reinforced.

The victim learnt that being punched in the face wasn’t enough to stop her attacker achieving success and that her Students Union didn’t care enough about her to stop him from campaigning. However, thanks to the efforts of the Loughborough Women’s Officer, she will have also learnt that she has over 3500 supporters who are whole-heartedley on her side and believe that violence against women must never, ever be accepted in NUS institutions.

To show your support please sign the petition:

The Real Reason #cut4zayn is Not Okay

Teenage girls declaring war in the only way they know how – against themselves. For many young girls, Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction has marked the end of the world as they know it. Predictably, twitter has become a cesspool of the same kind of tortured heart break that poured from 90s fangirls when Robbie left Take That. Less predictable was the highly triggering and disturbing trend #cut4zayn, which saw countless young girls slashing their wrists then uploading the picture online in order to prove their misery.

There is no doubt that these teenage girls are trivialising a serious symptom/resulting behaviour of mental illness. My initial reaction was of disgust yet it has mellowed out into pity.

There has long been an indie-inspired disapproval of bands like One Direction rooted in musical snobbery. A key element of this snobbery is the fact that in popular culture, a self-identified female following equates to a loss of credibility. Why is it that when young girls like something, that thing becomes uncool? Okay, so 1D’s existence is credited to a commercial cumstain of class exploitation known as The X Factor. They’re achingly aware of their good looks and their songs are upbeat cliches lain over old hits from the Grease soundtrack. However, I still would argue it is the fangirl’s incessant and, let’s face it, blind adoration of bands such as One Direction that incites the most disgust from hipster hunnies such as myself.

Fangirls are the epitome of female weakness. They are shrill, emotional, mentally unstable, obsessive, infatuated, frenzied bags of nerves. It is this stereotype that perpetrates snide remarks about Taylor Swift and her ability to drive men away with her emotions, that causes us to laugh at ‘crazy eyes’ jokes on How I Met Your Mother, that instills into the masses the belief that women cannot be leaders because they are TOO EMOTIONAL FFS.

Rather than rushing to condemn these girls we should be asking the question: ’Why is it that the only weapon these young women have is their mental wellbeing?’

Indeed when I was trying to cope with a miserable mood disorder I coped through the infliction of harm upon myself. When I was trying to understand why I kept getting abused by men I navigated my understanding though the application of a razor to my skin. I believed I had no other channel to express myself. I have since realised that there are other options. What are the options for angry girls on the internet?

When men get threatened/angry online they offer rape threats, promises of violence, scorn, hatred to others. When young women get angry online, they cut their own skin and take a picture. Look at how much pain I’m in! Please stop me hurting myself! Neither is acceptable, yet both contribute to a larger tragedy surrounding gendered expressions of anger online.

Self harm is the behaviour of those with nothing left, no other strings to pull. As Susanna Kaysen points out in Girl, Interrupted, ‘You hurt yourself on the outside to try and kill the thing on the inside’. It becomes a way of control when everything else is turning to shit. Whether you have a mood disorder that makes you feel like a stranger in your own head or there are environmental factors around you that make you feel like a stranger in your own life: self harm is about control and coping. And it is the behaviour of the desperate. As Mark points out in an early episode of Peep Show: ‘I’m not actually cutting myself, I just need to convince Sophie I’m desperate and obviously I need some evidence’. This is clearly the mentality of the fan girls participating in #cut4zayn; they’re not actually depressed or anything, they just need some evidence to show him they’re upset.

When you ridicule someone’s voice to the point where she and everything she stands for becomes a universal pillar of mockery (as we have done to fangirls), it is only a matter of time before she stops using her voice and resorts to more shocking, physical means. The wailings of fangirls have lost the ability to shock us, the herd of voices screaming about how they’re going to ‘marry Harry’ have long been drowned out by the sound of NME reader’s derisive laughter.

Oh and while we’re at it, let’s not tarnish all fangirls with the same #cut4zayn brush. I’m sure the majority are just as disgusted as the rest of us – more ammunition is being fed into the cannon that blasts all fangirls as frenzied psychos when in reality they’re just teenage girls who love a band?

The solution is clear – we need to let fangirls have a voice. In the grand scheme of things there are far worse things your younger sister could be than a One Direction fan. I would argue it’s actually healthy for young women to experience emotions relating to romance and rejection vicariously through bands like 1D and may give them valuable life experience for future relationships.