These Aren’t Safe Schools

I wish that I was past being surprised by how low we continue to sink in Australia; and surely after today I can’t be shocked anymore. But the news that broke while I was at school in a class with 28 students today, about the proposed alternative to Safe Schools – “minus the ideology” hit me like a punch to the gut. Firstly, I have always rejected and continue to reject the idea that any of the 80 odd students I’ve worked closely with over the past year weren’t ready to tackle the content which we are told they are “too young” for. Any 7 year old in a classroom can tell you that all kinds of families are valid; whether they have one parent, two heterosexual parents, only grandparents, foster parents, two mums, two dads, or any other configuration. They know that every kid wants to have fun, have friends and be happy. Diversity is celebrated in schools today. What’s so hard to get? There’s no risk here – it’s the pearl clutching and moral panic over the supposed “rise” of LGBT people demanding things they don’t desrve like EQUALITY that is the danger to Australia’s young people. The kind of society that targets marginalised, at risk groups and makes them a scapegoat is the greatest danger I can imagine and as a teacher is a society I actively oppose in my classroom.

The sparkly new Celebrity Endorsed (c) Safe Schools alternative is a compromise, and some may argue that a compromise is what is called for. But a compromise with the terms dictated exclusively by the ACL who lead the witch hunt against the program? I don’t think that’s a compromise worth having. And frankly, I don’t think a compromise is acceptable at all. There are some things that aren’t worth compromising on, and the happiness and quality of life of vulnerable people – vulnerable CHILDREN – is paramount to me.

When Ben Grubb, Missy Higgins, Troye Sivan, Joel Creasey et al. propose that rather than reaching for acceptance, we should settle for the tolerance of LGBT people in the community, this doesn’t just stall progress, it actively undoes it. Tolerance calls to mind cohabitation without integration; it is reminiscent of ‘separate but equal’ ideologies. Toleration necessarily implies a level of unhappiness – I don’t like it but I’ll tolerate it for not wanting to make a fuss; I’ll tolerate my neighbours loud music because it’s too early to complain; I’ll tolerate my housemate watching fishing shows because I made her watch hours of Pretty Little Liars.

Tolerance was my all girls high school saying “You can use a classroom for a LGBT group but only outside of school hours, and you’re not affiliated with the school”. I’m not satisfied with the LGBT community being tolerated – I want – I demand acceptance, equality, support.

Ben Grubb would rather be tolerated than accepted and fine, that’s his prerogative. I’ll happily tolerate him so long as he stays out of my newsfeed in future. But to speak on behalf of the thousands of LGBT children who are voiceless because of their age; victim to the whims of adults and policy makers who apparently view them as pawns to be traded away for power; is frankly cruel. Has anybody asked any of the students they purport to care about, what they want? As adults, our job in the school is to make students feel safe, comfortable, and supported so they can learn and become the people they carry the potential to be. Crippled by fear – either as students questioning their sexuality/gender, or as students being raised in ignorance to hate without understanding why – children don’t get the opportunity to become these people.

None of the adult LGBT figures who have co-signed the petition being sent straight to the inbox of good ol’ Malc are at risk of being ‘tolerated’ in their community – they are all white, conventionally attractive, and most importantly ADULT. They are celebrity, beloved. They are being held up as the bright future our youth can aspire to. They have nothing to lose, even if Safe Schools was to fold tomorrow. To them, it could be reduced to nothing more than a cause to back and if it were lost, to wax lyrical and mourn the loss. But to children? To the students who stand so much to lose, this program can be life or death.

I know that people don’t understand the Safe Schools programs; that there are those who genuinely are afraid and lash out in hatred at what they call indoctrination, Marxist propaganda. I am wracking my brain to view them with sympathy, but I’m blinded by my fear that the children I teach might grow up to be as hateful; or become those students who have nowhere to turn. I’m not naive, I know that Safe Schools has always had its detractors and probably always will but we have to look long range. The program we had held potential for a more accepting, harmonious, happy society in the long term; and what we need now is the nearest approximation. Today, I have felt betrayed, hurt, shocked. My heart breaks all over again for the children who are victim of adults playing for power. What these children – all children but especially these children – need is to know they are loved and accepted unequivocally. Tolerance is not enough.

13 Reasons Why….I Won’t Watch ’13 Reasons Why’ If It Gets a Second Season

**This post contains spoilers for the entire first season of the new Netflix Original ’13 Reasons Why’ **

Trigger Warning for discussion of sexual assault, mental illness, violence and suicide

Look before I start I want to say – I liked 13 Reasons Why for the most part. I thought the characters were interesting and complex and I really appreciated the nuance in each of their stories and how you end each episode confused as to why you suddenly don’t hate the bully quite as much as you feel you should. I even liked the element of having an unreliable narrator, and the constant reminders that she was “telling her own truth”, and the concept that everyone has their own truths that overlap. I thought it was a great opportunity to open up a dialogue about mental illness and suicide and I’ve had some really meaningful conversations since but the fact remains there are some issues that in combination, I can’t get past.

13. I’m not the target audience. I mean, I’m just not; much as I am engaged actively with pop culture, I’m starting to realise that some things are going right over my head and 13 Reasons Why is one of them. It’s simply not targeted at me, my memories of High school are securely in the past and even my baby sister is older than every teenager in the show now. I enjoyed the first season for the most part, but my interest in the main characters only extended as far as finding out why Tony was so invested in protecting Hannah and with that bit of curiosity satisfied, I can lay it to rest. The moment I referred to one of the characters and rolled my eyes, I knew I was doomed. I’ll accept though, this is technically more my problem than a problem with the show,

12.I found the timejumps so confusing Again, I’ll concede this is my own personal issue,  but even with the useful visual cue of the bandaid/wound on Clay’s head (which my housemate had to explain to me), I struggled with the back and forth style of the show. That said, in a second season I’m not sure there would be quite so many jumps.

11.Clay Jensen is a rubbish main character. I mean, is there anything less sympathetic than seeing a white middle-class heterosexual teenage boy struggle to understand why a classmate might self harm? Or realising that someone he considers a good friend is gay when said friend has done nothing to hide it and the only excuse is his own obliviousness? While the viewer watches much of the show through Clay’s experiences of Hannah’s story and the community she left behind, I found that I spent the majority of my time exasperated at just how clueless Clay is. More often than not I cringed at his bumbling attempts at connecting with classmates and like so many others I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t just sit down and listen to the tapes.   Not only was he clueless, he was actually boring. Every other character in this show has some kind of hobby or interest but as far as I can tell, before he got the tapes to listen to, all Clay did was sit in his room staring at the walls. When the other characters are (with the sole exception of Bryce) complex and nuanced and interesting, pushing Clay on us as the protagonist serves only the purpose of building his missed-connections love story, and that (sorry) just isn’t enough for me.

10. In fact, I don’t care about any of the characters apart from Alex and Jessica. As outlined above, my heart breaks for Jessica and I want to know that she’s okay more than I want anything else in the show. Anything that is EXCEPT knowing that Alex is okay too . Alex is a fascinating character to me because like many of the characters – he’s really complex. The first to own up to his own guilt in causing Hannah to suffer at school, Alex is portrayed throughout the season as becoming consumed with guilt and ultimately stating that he thinks all the subjects of the tapes should be held accountable including himself. My curiosity is piqued by the cliffhanger of his gunshot wound (and how he ended up shot) which is pretty obviously going to be a major part of Season 2 but….I’d be satisfied to just know he’s alive. Justin running away? Don’t care. Marcus and Zach feeling bad? Snooze. Courtney coming out to her dad? Whatever man just cut back to Jessica please.

9. No Justice for Jessica (yet) I’m sorry if you disagree but when I saw Justin leaving home, I thought he was for sure heading straight for Bryce’s McMansion to at least give Bryce the same kind of talking to Bryce gave Clay (i.e. with his fist) but no, turns out he just wanted to cry on top of a crane or something.  In the midst of all of his feelings, Jessica is totally alone and coming to terms with the person she trusted betraying her in a way that makes me feel sick to even write about. I’m curious why the writers decided to give Justin’s crying as much airtime as Jessica’s, honestly. I accept that he had no malicious intent in allowing his friend to y’know…have sex with his passed out girlfriend…but he definitely wasn’t looking out for her and frankly I support Jessica in telling him to stay the hell away from her forever. What I did like was that she is never once blamed, and there is no discussion of what she may have done to ‘encourage’ Bryce (for once no victim blaming, thank you thank you thank you) but on the other hand literally EVERYBODY KNOWS WHAT BRYCE DID AND NOBODY DOES ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Toxic masculinity, amirite?

Anyway… My heart aches for Jess, I’m disappointed we didn’t get to see the entire interaction with her dad in the final episode as I could personally have really done with some closure on that story and someone just giving her a goddamn hug. Here’s hoping her military dad takes a more um…active approach to dealing with Bryce than Justin did.

8. The mystery is solved. Listen, as I just said, I care about Alex – I do, but the cliffhanger of whether or not he’ll survive and whether he shot himself or was shot by someone else is really not enough to reel me back in for a second round because a) I have my theories and b) I’ll be able to find that out in 20 seconds if the second season happens. The reason we were all here was to find out why Hannah Baker died and we did it guys – we’re free. I honestly don’t think it matters whether the school is successfully sued or not, because that’s not the point. Now a cliffhanger about whether Bryce will get a beatdown from Jessica’s dad or not – that I would tune in for.

7. There are so many other cool shows on Netflix. Guys. I mean guys come ON. Netflix is delivering the goods so I really don’t think I’d give away another 13 hours of my life when I could be watching a second season of One Day at a Time or even Riverdale, the trashy love of my life. Gossip Girl is on Netflix guys! The entire series of Lost! Sense8 is coming back! I found out the other day that the mid-2000s Hilary Duff classic Raise Your Voice is on Netflix too!

6. The ONLY PURELY DECENT PERSON IN THIS SHOW IS KILLED AND WE DON’T EVEN GET TO SAY GOODBYE. In the first instance, you could almost miss the fact that Jeff aka ‘The Love of My Life” is killed off violently in a head on collision but even once it sinks in, the fact remains that Jeff was the only nonproblematic sweet baby angel of this show who seemed to be friends with everyone and made Clay his friend and tried to help him be less of a wimpy no personality loser. Clay drops in to Jeff’s parents to self importantly let them know “Hey, I don’t think your son was drunk behind the wheel” with no prompting, probably tearing open the wounds again, and then bounces out of there with hardly a goodbye. I’m not a professional….anything but surely an autopsy would have revealed whether he had been drunk or not? Just a thought.  Bye bye Jeff, you deserved so much more.

5. I disagree with the message. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and interpretation but my personal reading of the show was that it a) tells teenagers that the adults in their lives will be not only clueless but indifferent to their struggles; b) tells us that people can ’cause’ suicidality without any external force (i.e. depression) and blames a gang of teenagers for someone’s death and c) suggests that Hannah’s death is some kind of revenge plot like “Look what I did so you’d be held accountable for your actions” and buddy…that’s messed up. I’m all for addressing serious Issues through media and I think it can be a really wonderful way of starting the conversation in public spaces but handling suicide this messily is irresponsible at best, if not potently dangerous. I’ll repeat: blames a gang of teenagers for someone’s death. This show needed to make it explicit that Hannah’s classmates were not to blame for her suicide no matter what she felt or said, because that is so dangerous

4. For a show about teenage suicide, the show doesn’t address mental health issues at all. OF COURSE experiencing bullying could trigger depression or contribute to existing depression but the stance taken by this show that Hannah’s bullying was the sole cause for her suicide is reckless. I’ve rarely seen a show with such great scope to present a nuanced depiction of mental illness and then totally neglect to. Jessica’s PTSD after her assault, Alex’s anxiety around his guilt, Hannah’s depression, even Clay’s own night terrors and associated psychological treatment is brushed over and never addressed. Subtlety is only an effective literary tool if the audience knows what they’re looking for, and I think it’s a huge call to assume that every viewer is already familiar with the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Imagine if we had slightly fewer scenes of Clay frowning while listening to the tapes, and just one scene in that Communication class about “the major signs of depression” cut with flashes of Hannah displaying all the signs? How hard would that be? How poignant would it have been to see Alex having a panic attack as his anxiety clearly ballooned throughout the season, or a proper discussion of Clay’s history. I mean, since we’re mining for shock value, why not right?

3. It’s all about diversity but no representation. For a show with 2 canonically non-heterosexual characters, there sure was a lack of non-heterosexual interactions. Courtney’s closeted struggles touched me, and I found her performative hyper heterosexuality (flirting with Clay etc) poignant but on the other hand, almost the only time Tony’s boyfriend appears in the show is to play the Jealous Lover role. We see them physically interact only once and that was honestly a blink-and- you’ll-miss-it moment. I appreciate the obvious attempts to weave Tony’s sexuality into the show subtlely before comes out to Clay, but there’s a line between subtlety and erasure and all I’m saying is it would’ve been nice to see them kiss even once after that; compared to the dozen times we see Jess and Justin. The show’s depiction of LGBT characters who were also POC was something I actually did enjoy for the most part, so I don’t want to harp on this too much but it stuck out to me.

2. It’s brought the MPDG back for the next generation Throughout the series, I was reminded of something consistently and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was until the final scene. Clay drives off into the sunset with his newfound friends and I was reminded keenly of Looking for Alaska by John Green; a book adored by quirky teens back when I was one myself, and now widely referenced as Manic Pixie Dream text. Yes, just like the eponymous Alaska, Hannah Baker ultimately serves her purpose through death by providing our dull hero Clay Jensen with a purpose to find his voice; finding connections and a new group of friends; and a new determination to make the most out of life….or something like that. It’s trite and we’ve seen it before and it’s frustrating beyond belief that we’re still here.

1. Did we really need to watch Hannah die? Top of the list has to be that scene. You know the one, even if you haven’t watched the show. At the show’s culmination comes the suicide that everyone has whispered about for the previous 12 and a half episodes – as the viewer we watch helplessly as Hannah Baker makes one last plea for help and then climbs into her bath fully clothed and kills herself. Not only is this scene tragic, it is a graphic depiction of a horribly painful and messy death; and a prolonged scene at that. I was disturbed by many of the scenes throughout the 13 hours of screentime, and I know many were more than disturbed despite the trigger warnings provided – but this scene in particular upset me deeply. I’ve heard a variety of opinions on it but everybody agrees it is incredibly upsetting viewing and personally, I strongly believe it was entirely gratuitous. Worse, it was irresponsible on a number of levels -it reduced me to sobbing in a way I have rarely reacted to television, and I can only imagine the impact on other viewers. This scene alone has been enough for me to warn other people against watching it, or at least encouraging them to watch it with someone else there. To me, it was the ultimate in mining for misery and displayed a serious lack of care about the show’s potential audience at the expense of ratings. Well, congratulations everyone because you got the ratings.

For me it comes down to this: the show wouldn’t be worse off if that scene wasn’t shown, the message remains just as potent. Portraying the suicide of a teenage girl is exploitative, insensitive, and grotesque and when the risk of including it was triggering viewers to panic attacks, dissociation or worse; on balance, no ratings should be worth that.

A Suitable Girl – Ali Barter

I feel like I know Ali Barter.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that that’s the lure of celebrity – the feeling that they’re so familiar and at the same time so far removed from the mundanity of every day life. But I recognised something about her; from the moment I first saw her performing live. She reminds me of my friends, girls I went to school with who seemed impossibly cool from a distance but turned out to be down to earth and witty and as impatient for the demise of patriarchy as my adolescent (and adult) self. That sense of kinship is what drew me to her in the first place, confused as to why I felt so attached to the artist before me, curious to find out more . I’ll admit, I wasn’t an early adopter, partially due to my limited access to radio but mostly due to my previous disdain for female-led music until embarrassingly recently. The first Ali Barter song I came across was Girlie Bits when it was freshly released in 2016. On my first listen I grinned to myself and bopped along, by the second listen I was Googling the lyrics and I’ve never looked back since.

A Suitable Girl is Ali Barter’s first full length album after what feels like a lifetime of EPs, singles and features. To existing fans, many of the songs on this 11 track, 39 minute journey are familiar but hearing them in recorded form one after another they sound fresh, and bring a new dimension to the experience. Each track has a unique concept and every one of them begs to be played up loud and sang along to. The lyrics are acerbic, speaking of love, heartache, and what it’s like to be a girl with equal amounts of sentimentality and wit. Barter sings with the same kind of straightforward clarity she performs live; her voice is clear and sure, she is self assured and damn I’ll say it again she is cool.
While Girlie Bits is undoubtedly the track that’s lead to the most car singalongs with my sisters so far, the standout track for me is one that got under my skin some time ago – The Captain. One of the mellower tracks on A Suitable Girl, it sings of heartache and the sadness you can’t do much about but just make it through. It’s a slow build with a huge payoff in the final verse and it’s honestly been on my mind since I saw it live during the Jezabel’s tour late last year.

Barter has a Facebook series called The History Grrrls about powerful female musicians of the 20th and 21st century who have shaped her musical leanings and shares music to a related Spotify playlist. Hole, Patti Smith, Madonna ; all of these influences and more are evident (I’ll take the liberty of adding The Cranberries to that list in my personal opinion) and Barter’s love of the 80s and 90s sings through on A Suitable Girl . The entire album is washed in what is becoming Barter’s signature: 90s nostalgic, guitar heavy, grungy indie rock vibes; to the extent that as I drove through Melbourne yesterday with this album blasting, I felt like a deleted scene from a teen movie à la Kat Stratford in the immortal 10 Things I Hate About You. In fact, if there’s a genre Ali Barter fits into most neatly, it’s Angry Girl Music of the Indie Rock Persuasion.

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A Suitable Girl is out now on Ronnie Records/Intertia available on digital download from Spotify, and Apple Music and CD from Music Glue, JB HiFi and independent stores

 

 

 

Live Music: Stonefox @ The Workers Club 19/11

Last night November 19,Stonefox played their second Melbourne show and second-to-last show of the Hands Of Gold tour at the Workers Club, supported by fellow Melbourne bands Soft Corporate, and I Know the Chief. Celebrating the release of their latest single by the same name – the Hands Of Gold tour has seen the Melbourne trio performing up the east coast of Australia over the past couple of weeks.

An audience of hometown fans had the bandroom buzzing with excitement before the trio took the stage, and the atmosphere only lifted from there. Stonefox performed their rapidly expanding back catalogue almost in full, with each new song translating virtually seamlessly from recording to being played live; complemented by the unique, raw sound that live performance creates, even with a full band present. This young band have been working hard, and it shows. They wasted virtually no time in taking the stage and played song after song until the last minute of their set, with only short intervals between tracks. They even found time to throw in a cover version, putting their own spin on a slowjam version of The Killers hit Smile Like You Mean It.Every song saw the audience singing along, while Ghost and Dreamstate – the most upbeat songs in Stonefox’s repertoire drew a particularly strong response as the crowd broke into dancing too. The stand out track for me was always going to be Arrow, and it was particularly moving with the stripped back sound of live performance. The excitement of playing to a home crowd was evident, and was reflected back so the entire event had the atmosphere of a party about to kick off.

Their set was rounded out with the very song that brought us all there together – the new single, Hands of Gold which was released in mid October. Hands of Gold continues in the style Stonefox are proving themselves so adept at; mellow jams which draw fitting comparisons to The xx and Daughter amongst others, with a more guitar driven sound than either of these other two acts. Following up from previous singles, Hands of Gold continues to build on the hype surrounding Stonefox and will hopefully garner more attention to this talent.

The band’s friends and family showed their support and turned up early, but by the time Stonefox took the stage, they were rapidly outnumbered by other admiring fans and supporters who crowded into the small space. With the hype the trio are gathering, it won’t be long until friends may find themselves fighting for their spot in front of the stage.

Stonefox still have one date left on their tour – next Thursday, 24/11 at The Zoo in Brisbane – head along if you’re about town!

A photo posted by Stonefox (@stonefoxmusic) on Oct 3, 2016 at 1:21am PDT

 

You can hear more from Stonefox on Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes, Triple J Unearthed,  Facebook and at stonefoxmusic.com

On the US Election

Ever since the result became seemingly inevitable, not long after I got back from lunch around 2pm today – this sick feeling has settled in my stomach. After months of campaigning, the United States election had reached its final stages and against all odds, it seemed that the ‘joke’ candidate, Donald Trump was going to take on the world as the new POTUS. And so it unfolded, all of Clinton’s campaigning coming to a disappointing and frustrating end.

All these months, we considered the possibility of a Trump government, but never seriously. It was taken for granted that Clinton would bring it home in the end – after all, she was hands down the better candidate with experience, public endorsements, and barely a foot set wrong throughout the entire campaign. And yet somehow, she has lost. It breaks my heart because I was so excited for Madame President to grace us, but it has happened. She has lost, Obama is stepping down, and Donald Trump will sit in the White House for the next 4 years.

I am angry – that millions of Americans feel disengaged, not represented or otherwise made to not care about their electoral power and therefore didn’t vote in this election. I am frustrated that in 2016, nothing got through to them. And  I understand that a portion of this number would have voted for Trump and I don’t care. I believe that the right to vote is a responsibility and should be honoured and treated as such, and I believe that everybody has a responsibility to vote. Coming from a country with compulsory voting, I see how much people don’t care about their votes and choose to throw them away. Still, I think this is better than never engaging in the first place.

I am devastated for the minorities within the United States who are facing down 4 years of subjugation. For women, the LGBT community, and all POC, I extend my deepest sympathy and support. The world is with you, a vast number of your fellow citizens are with you and we will endure. I can’t pretend to know what you will experience under this new administration, but I hope it is less than we fear. The months that follow will be trying and probably frightening at times; I hope we can support one another and lend our voices where we are needed to prove that we cannot be silenced as Donald Trump would have us be. I am shaken by the vitriol that has been spewed at these communities, will continue to be put forth. We can no longer deny the sexist, racist, homophobic, bigoted heart of our societies, because today a President was elected as a result of it. I can’t reconcile myself to that – can you?

I am frustrated by the people I see on social media who are only now realising their views were flawed or blinkered by their own privilege. Earlier today, I was furious at the men I saw who suddenly realised that when women point out issues of sexism – they’re usually correct. Throughout the last few weeks, I saw a number of men questioning and challenging the notion that the campaign against Hillary Clinton was run on sexism so let me just clear that up for you – it was. Without question. If she were a man, this outcome would have been different. Please don’t pander to me and tell me that you see my point now because it’s too late. We were right, and you didn’t listen, and she lost. It has taken me until now to calm down, and still as I write this I can feel my stomach churn again and I swear if I ever see another person telling me that what I’m calling out isn’t sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/otherwise offensive and oppressive I’m going to lose it. This is my threshold, this has to be the limit for us all. We must do better, be better.

For all my friends in countries other than the United States of America – this is an opportunity for us to realise the path that politics is going down globally. Please don’t fool yourself into thinking that this result is limited to a country across the ocean when worldwide we are seeing a shift in politics towards the cruel and inhumane. Don’t just laugh at America because “this is what happens” in the United States; “this” is happening all over the world. In Australia, our Conservative government is daily working towards limiting the freedoms of its people and ensuring that minority groups’ rights are limited even further. Who are we to cast judgement? How dare we??

Above all else, I am saddened that what could have been a historic moment has been reduced to the status quo. The past 8 years of the Obama administration was the exception; as it turns out, we are not yet as exceptional as we feel. I hope that Hillary Clinton is as proud of her campaign as I am to have been alive to witness it. Whatever her failings – and I will not deny there were many – she was a formidable candidate and I am bitterly disappointed that we will not find out what kind of a President she would have been.

But we can learn from this. I hope beyond all hope that we learn from this. While we may be bruised by today, we must never let ourselves be discouraged permanently. While I let myself feel angry tonight – tomorrow I will use my anger to motivate me to work for a world I want to live in.  The best we can hope for is that when the election of 2020 rolls around, we have learned from our mistakes and are ready to be accountable and face up to what must be done.

 

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded – Hannah Hart

In March 2011, I was sitting on a friend’s couch in Ireland – waiting for her to come home from university as I was her houseguest, and I was watching YouTube videos to pass the time. In the ‘Recommended For You’ panel on the side was a video called “My Drunk Kitchen“. On the spur of the moment – call it a gut instinct-  I watched it, I loved it, I laughed and I subscribed. Memories of the rest of my Gap Year in England are signposted in a way by memories of subsequent My Drunk Kitchen videos – showing them to my friends, rewatching my favourites and feeling this instinct in my gut that told me this was going somewhere. MDK and the other content created by @MyHarto (or Hannah Hart as she is commonly known in day to day life)quickly became some of the videos I most anticipated viewing each week.

In the 5 odd years since then, I have remained an ardent supporter of Hannah Hart’s work in whatever form it has come from Contiki sponsored trips, to movies, to live comedy shows; so naturally when she announced the release of her long anticipated second book BufferingUnshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded, I preordered it the very same day. When it actually arrived at my house a few weeks ago I was incredibly excited but had to be “responsible” and “honour my commitments” and finish all my uni work before I could trust myself to begin reading Buffering. 

Well, as it turns out it was for the best that I waited because I sat down this morning to read it and didn’t get up again until I’d read the final page – including the acknowledgements which I almost always skip. 5 hours later with frequent breaks to compose myself and process what I had just read, and I’m almost at a loss for words. Almost.

Hart has always proven herself to be compassionate, insightful and considered in her communication with her audience. While one video may feature her drunkenly mopping her kitchen floor (my personal favourite America Strudel Parts 1 & 2); the next may be a Q&A during which she gives sincere and meaningul responses to each question she is presented with. My interaction with YouTube really took off upon discovering @MyHarto but Hannah has remained my go to, feel good, have a laugh but also have some real talk channel, whatever the vibe I’m looking for.

Hart’s writing style is much the same; she admits to being more candid than ever before while touching on topics that range from the entertaining experience of learning how to “do” comedy with her friends; to deeply personal, moving, and at times devastating accounts of her childhood and her relationships with her family. When we talk about prominent figures, I think it is all too easy to forget that these individuals have personal lives just as complex and nuanced as our own. Reading about events occurring in Hart’s life as recently as 2015 and reflecting on the content she was producing  around the same time was jarring for me, as I had to realise that life – even the lives of the rich and famous – isn’t so easily compartmentalised, and the woman you love to watch drunkenly cooking, who has such a quick wit, constant smile and easy laugh; can have a past and personal life that is just as difficult to navigate and filled with memories fraught with strong emotion as any other. In the digital age, we understand that everyone’s online presence is carefully curated to show only the best, yet somehow we accept this curated reality as the full story. And when it is revealed, we are perplexed by the preference – as Hart has expressed in the past – to keep some things out of sight.

I feel like I’m circling a point here without really hitting on it and this is 1) because you should really read the book and see for yourself and 2) because I feel uncomfortable writing up examples of anecdotes. Sure, a book has now been published detailing this same information but it feels different to pass it on – almost like gossip? I really think that speaks deeply to the power of Hannah Hart. As of today she has 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube – disregarding all other social media platforms – and yet I still feel like to divulge the secrets of Buffering would be a betrayal, like gossiping about a secret entrusted to you by a close friend.

Upon finishing the book, I realised that my view of Hannah Hart has changed, probably forever. Buffering doesn’t pull its punches (and when it does, Hart doesn’t apologise but explains her reasons) as this uncanny life is laid bare and explained. No longer hiding behind a camera, Buffering is Hart sharing her life, and sharing herself in a way she has never done before. I feel a new degree of understanding, and of respect for someone who has worked hard to become a version of herself I imagine she never would have envisioned was possible.  Not only is she compassionate, generous of spirit and recklessly optimistic – but she remains all of these things publicly while simultaneously privately negotiating the turmoil of her messy, complicated, and at times heartbreaking past and the implications for her present and future. She is a force of positivity, awareness and the desire to grow and this should be the take away message from her writing. Today, she speaks of her optimism, her love, her passion and the drive to make people happy that she identifies as motivating her as early as elementary school. She writes with an understanding of the privilege she holds; of the uphill struggle to get there; of no longer being ashamed of recognising when she falls short and details learning to be proud of her successes.

Hannah Hart has proven to me once again why I felt immediately at home with her 5 years ago as I sat on the couch a 19 year old watching a drunk ‘adult’ making grilled cheese/toast. Today, I am 24 years old and the same age she was when creating those first videos. Today I remembered why I loved her so much to begin with – and why, even as I find myself become more and more isolated in the older age range of her fanbase, I keep watching for one more episode.

Play Like a Lady

I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of live music this year, significantly more than in recent years. 2016 seems to have been the Year of Music because I cannot count the amount of banger singles, album drops, tours and general awesomeness that has been produced by musicians worldwide and just last night I was joking how I’m sending myself bankrupt because every time a new concert is announced I just can’t say no. In the busiest year of my life so far, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in queues outside venues and sneaking into the house well past midnight – rolling up to placement totally exhausted but elated the following day. Here’s to an equally bountiful 2017.

In particular though, I’m totally buzzed by the music being created by Australian women right now.

I’ve been a self fashioned music person~ since I was all of 14 years old and wore my best skinny jeans to see Fall Out Boy playing at Rod Laver Arena; and proudly profess to have a broad and varied catalogue of artists of whom I consider myself a fan. That said, I’ve often noted in passing that women were very under represented in my collection. Due in part to the pop punk leanings of my formative years, and my aversion to actual pop until I was 19 (yeah I was one of those), I turned a blind eye and said like so many others, “it’s not that I don’t like female music, they’re just not THERE”. But oh boy was I wrong. They’re here.

Not only are ladies gaining a strong foothold in the Aus Music Scene (and in my Spotify rotation) but they are raising the bar and improving the game.

In the last month alone I’ve been witness to killer sets from Alex Lahey, Woodes, Bec Sandridge, Montaigne, Ali Barter, The Jezabels, Bel, Alice Ivy and E^ST, all of whom have surpassed my (pretty high) expectations in terms of live musical prowess, quality of show and general vibes. I’ve also had the good fortune to meet a good portion of these artists after their sets and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I have never felt more appreciated as a music lover. No ego, no pretense, no vibe of wanting to get out of this conversation as soon as possible. Instead, I’ve been able to share (gush) my thanks and well wishes and felt loved in return and in one notable instance, hugged tightly while we both shed a small tear. The same night, I tweeted frantically at an artist to please stick around so I could meet her and she replied “okay!!! Where are you I’ll come find you at the merch desk!”.

Camp Cope and Courtney Barnett are just two examples of artists who have spoken out about the culture of live music which has tended to the violent, drunk, messy and aggressive in recent years (and probably, always). Weekly, new articles supporting this perspective and accompanying movement are published as we’re forced to interrogate ourselves as live music fans. I can’t speak for any experience other than my own but I’ve never felt so positive leaving a venue as I have after seeing any of the aforementioned artists. Maybe I’m comparing these to the heavier concerts I’ve attended in the past but the crowds I’ve experienced have been without violence, aggressive behaviour and provided an all-round better experience.

It’s not just a genre thing though, because I’ve also been at my fair share of concerts of artists across a range of genres, and the crowd vibe is different – somehow competitive and unfriendly as we all stand in a situation which should surely be unifying? As angsty teens we used to talk about how seeing My Chemical Romance perform felt so good because we didn’t feel alone – we felt part of something bigger. Well I’ve found that feeling again. Creating these safe spaces allows young women to find a place that they can go to enjoy their favourite music, dance, sing and not feel judged, harassed or otherwise out of place and wow I didn’t realise I needed it but I really did.

I finally feel a part of music in my city. I do. I feel like that sounds like a weak excuse because I know many women who are an active part of music that doesn’t exclusively feature women and that’s amazing and wonderful but I’ve never quite found my niche there.

Representation matters guys, we knows this, and it warms my heart to see all the young women representing at these shows, potentially being inspired, seeing something they recognise themselves in and going home to create and keep the momentum. These incredible women performing, bring women on tour with them as their supports, who inspire more women to find their voice.

Gig Review: Alex Lahey @ The Gasometer 8/10/16

I have fallen in love with music again this year and it feels amazing. I’ve rekindled my longstanding affair with mid 2000s emo (go on, roll your eyes, I won’t mind), branched out further in my exploring of different genres and for the first time I’ve come to really appreciate Australian music. Specifically, the music coming out of female artists in Australia right now is on another level. The rise of young women in music right now is something I’ve never witnessed in my own time engaging with music  and I feel so lucky to be in the midst of it all.

Alex Lahey is proof of this – she’s going from strength to strength and watching her blowing up this year has been fantastic so I had high hopes rolling in to Collingwood last night. Saturday 8/10 was her grand return to Melbourne after 10 weeks of touring in promotion of her debut EP B Grade University, and the home crowd was excited to greet her.

Opening acts Frida and Soft Corporate did a superb job building the atmosphere in the room, and the buzz grew gradually over the 2 hours between doors opening and Lahey taking the stage with little to no fanfare. As she acted as her own roadie, my friend commented that there’s no way we’ll ever be seeing Alex Lahey playing $15 gigs for much longer after this – she’s heading to big things for sure.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical about the time being filled when I realised Lahey’s set was a full hour long but she didn’t disappoint with almost back to back songs interspersed with some *ahem* hypothetical anecdotes about dating, breakups and generally being a 20-something mess; all relatable topics for the 400 people who packed out the Gaso. And packed out it was, to the extent that the stairs were lined with people and the crowd was squeezed in so much that my feet in the front row were hooked under the front of the stage.

To my absolute delight, her set was also broken up with her take on the literal best song in the whole world – Torn; and just like everything else last night it went off perfectly and I have 3 minutes of footage that I’ve already watched three times today and have plans to watch at least three more. All I can ask is that Alex gets into the studio and records a studio release of her guitar heavy version as soon as possible.

No doubt exhausted after 10 weeks of touring , Alex proved herself outrageously generous with her time and posed for photos, held brief conversations and signed anything and everything pointed her way (including one guys stomach) after the set finished; when she was no doubt keen to get upstairs. Waiting up there were her family who were watching proudly as 400 strangers were united by their mutual love of Alex Lahey; and connecting with her stories of love, life, and that loser you broke up with who won’t just go away.

Gig Review: Twenty One Pilots, July 5 @ The Corner, Richmond

First coming to Australia in early 2014 in support of Paramore, Twenty One Pilots (often shortened to TØP) have graced our shores twice more in the year and a half since – most recently this month.

Last Sunday July 5,  TØP played not one but two high energy shows at Richmond’s Corner Hotel. The afternoon set for the underage crowd was sold out weeks beforehand; and the evening performance was similarly full to capacity – with the line stretching down the street hours before doors even opened. The  fans gathered eagerly from all walks of life; wearing a combination of home-made shirts, merchandise from previous tours, makeup reminiscent of that sported by band members Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun at different points, sporting tattoos dedicated to the band, home-made Sharpie drawings similarly adorning their skin, and overwhelmingly unified by their passion for the two-piece.

Their performance is high energy, featuring front man Tyler Joseph intermittently playing piano, bass guitar, singing with microphone in hand or from a mic hanging from the ceiling, pacing back and forth at the front of the stage or indeed climbing onto the crowd to lead them in a rendition of fan favourite songs. The audience in turn watch Joseph’s every move, singing back to him and at times leading the song as he watches, unable to hide a grin. Drummer Josh Dun sits further back on the stage, almost so as not to detract from Joseph’s stage antics. Multiple lighting changes, costume switches and after a little audience banter, (“is it anyone’s birthday here today?….yeah i don’t care” Joseph quips with a laugh and follows up with “I love doing that; I’m sorry!”) are par for the course as Twenty One Pilots power through their impressive set list. The audience is captivated, by turns singing, rapping, dancing and jumping as instructed by Joseph – even keeping up when the lyrics seem impossibly fast; blurring the line between spoken word poetry and rap. Older songs like Car Radio (in which Joseph reflects on the thoughts which plague his mind when he is left sitting in silence) are interspersed with tracks from the new Twenty One Pilots album Blurryface such as recent singles Fairly Local and Stressed Out (which sees the band confront the little voice in your mind that fills you with doubt, sadness or insecurity – named Blurryface by Joseph).

"we are twenty one pilots, and so are you"
“we are twenty one pilots, and so are you”

As an encore, Twenty One Pilots come back on stage (after explaining “we’re going to pretend this is the last song, and then we’ll come back and play another”) and perform one of their older songs – Trees.  While every TØP performance typically ends with a rendition of this track (in similar style to Fall Out Boy performing Saturday), the emotional power of this song doesn’t fade. Every person in the room sings along in perfect unison, finally chanting “hey” as Joseph and Dun perform their most impressive maneouvre of the night; climbing atop the crowd and performing a synchronised drum routine.

The cheers don’t die quickly, Dun and Joseph stand on the stage waiting for it to quiet down for close to 2 minutes, Joseph making several attempts at speaking but being overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, before he manages to step forwards and say the words that strike the heart of every person there. “We are Twenty One Pilots, and so are you”.

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The mutual love between TØP and their fans is reinforced post-concert as hundreds of audience members wait in hopes of meeting their idols. While Joseph is otherwise occupied, Josh patiently talks to and takes photos with people, despite the chill of the night and his probable tiredness.

TØP seem to almost effortlessly encourage a kind of devotion among their fans – equalled only by that of their own devotion to their fans. Tackling issues of depression, anxiety, self-doubt, love, loneliness and hope, Joseph and Dun are candid about their struggles, and through their music they offer a life line to the audience watching below,  It is this kind of reassurance of belonging, understanding and acceptance; that brings such a diverse group together on a cold, mid-winter Sunday night.

Casual Transphobia – This Week on the ABC

I’m usually a huge fan of the shows broadcast on Australian tv station ABC, but tonight I’m more than a little disappointed.

Comedian Charlie Pickering’s latest project, The Weekly has been a relative success (at least in my book). The program, in the style of the American ‘Daily Show’ is largely entertaining, informative and surprisingly insightful. Pickering has tackled serious, newsworthy topics with sensitivity and intelligence – and tonight was no exception. Opening with the ongoing debate regarding footballer Adam Goodes’ “war dance” during the Indigenous round football game last weekend, Pickering used Goodes’ overt display of Indigeneity to herald a segment regarding the outlandish incarceration rates of Indigenous people. The segment was equal parts hard-hitting and sensitive, informative, and well overdue.

However, the piece also overshadowed a more troubling story earlier in the program, which seems to have been largely ignored. Tom Gleeson hosts a segment each week, named “This Is What You Think”, and this week the Australian public were schooled to think in terms of transphobia and mockery. Alleging to explain the recent developments regarding Caitlyn Jenner’s very public debut as a transgender woman – Gleeson went on a bizarre rant, coming very close to accusing Jenner of ‘faking’ as some sort of stunt, admitting to understanding very little of transgender issues and reducing the entire situation to farce.
Mid-rant, Pickering interrupted, asking “Isn’t that transphobic?” to which Gleeson responded “Probably! I have no idea what I’m doing!” This aroused a round of laughter, because casual transphobia is a barrel of laughs.

This is horrific on many levels, not least because the ABC tends to view itself – and be viewed – as a more progressive, left leaning broadcaster – one would hope for more empathy and understanding were this really the case.

More important than the bruised ego of one TV station, is the careless cruelty of the piece in the first place. Reducing Jenner’s courage in coming out so publicly to a joke, implying it is a publicity stunt is shockingly insensitive and could have untold consequences  The harm that could have been caused to individuals throughout Australia as they watched their televisions tonight, and saw what was thought of them is crippling. Laughing at what can only have been a monumental decision, many years of fear, pain, and confusion and a life altering journey is despicable and I am so disappointed. As arguably the most respected broadcaster on Australian free to air television, the ABC must hold itself to a higher standard and take responsibility for the consequences of being held in such high regard. If this was meant to be satire (which, it has been pointed out to me, it might have been) it missed the mark by a lonnnnnnng way. Satire is only effective when it doesn’t victimise already vulnerable populations. The general rule of only punching up seems a good one to abide by

I understand people not knowing what to say, or how to react – but the answer isn’t making insensitive jokes. Thinking of any other subsection of society, jokes at the expense of a minority or vulnerable group are grossly offensive. Instead we are encouraged to be open-minded, learn the appropriate ways to speak, and wonder at how quickly the ‘other’ is normalised. I would argue that the same is applicable here. Though I doubt Tom Gleeson had any malicous intent, his actions are not excused by ignorance and I truly hope that he, and we all, can take the opportunity currently being given to us to learn and grow. Caitlyn Jenner risked ridicule, and allowed herself to be made incredibly vulnerable by so publicly coming out. She has done a great service for transgender communities and has given society another push towards having to make a choice. How do we treat people? How do we consider our humanity? Only last week, Margot was being heralded in The Age for her courage in coming out as transgender at such a young age – and tonight I feel like we’ve taken two steps backwards.

Well tonight Australia has told the world that we laugh at transgender people; we reduce their struggles to jokes and we shrug when challenged on our views. I have learned that the Australia represented by The Weekly is not safe for transgender people, does not take them seriously, and definitely is not an Australia I want to associate myself with.