Masculinity is an old friend

Masculinity is an old friend

I don’t think it’s fair to blame
My father who wanted a son
Or society who wanted
To treat me just a little worse
In truth, masculinity fit me well

For my sister, she claimed
The feminine through force
Pressed on nails and
Eyes winged perfectly
Despite protests or 
Hollow calls against

But I couldn’t find space 
for me with that paradigm
Until talking with a friend
He unraveled the gendered
Pointed out he was just a man
Who liked “feminine things”

Until the tarot brought me
The sun and the moon
Push and pull of tides
Both held within our husks
To give and to take 
and to give again

When masculinity calls
Like an old friend, I answer
Remember times they held me
Moments they made me worse
But recollection not regret
Reminds me why 
We don’t stay in touch

Magda Nawrocka-Weekes (she/they)
Instagram: @xan6ua

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The Home Front of the Culture War

Considering that we are currently witnessing one of the most serious conflicts in Europe in recent decades, you’d be forgiven for wondering why so much of the surrounding discourse appears preoccupied with pronouns, gender, and sexuality – topics that perhaps, on their surface, appear only tangentially, if at all, related…

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Who ‘leans in’ and how? Masculinities in workspaces

In 2010, the then Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, delivered a TED talk entitled ‘Why we have too few women leaders’. This talk spawned the now-infamous 2013 book Lean In which lays out her brand of corporate feminist doctrine in greater detail. The crux of Sandberg’s argument is that women lack the assertiveness and ambition of their male colleagues, and that is why they fail to get ahead in their careers.

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Talking anxiety with Nin-ja

Most alt-R&B tracks are centred around more or less the same thing – love. Love in all its agony, love in all its euphoria. But Nin-ja wants to dig deeper than that. The singer-songwriter’s just released her new single Lockjaw where she sings candidly about her struggles with anxiety. Nin-ja’s been in the music game for about four years now, but after taking a brief hiatus, she’s back with a new single and more honest than ever. 

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Awards Shows are for the Boys

For the majority of the 2000s and the decades before them, awards shows have been a cultural concept distinctly owned by the feminine. The prestige of the Academies, the swelling of romantic music after every award, and of course, the unparalleled glitz and glamour of the evening’s most decadent stars. Remember the running joke of the Oscars being the “female Superbowl.” Imagine groups of housewives prepping parties and organising bets on who would be wearing Chanel while their husbands stand stiffly in the kitchen over beers. Joan Rivers in gold, poking at the ribs of underaged starlets as camera click and waves of taffeta turned to fodder for tabloids…

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Dear Past Me, don’t run away from life

Dear past me, don’t run away…

It’s 7pm, and I’m guessing you’re still in bed after aimlessly scrolling on social media that make you feel like your body is not toned enough and that you aren’t having as much fun as other people your age. You woke up, and it was dark. You decided you were going to stay in bed all day.

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Reclaiming the Dildo

Dildos have a long and controversial history, and have existed for much longer than many of us think. Despite this, they continue to be a taboo topic of conversation. However, dildos can also bring a lot of joy, freedom, and liberation to those who use them. To write this article, I collected responses from a variety of individuals with different gender and sexual identities, and different opinions on dildos. In doing this, I wanted to explore the contested opinions and complex emotions that many have about dildos…

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get out of my skin please

get out of my skin please

I want my crannies to nook for you
But you don’t even look 
Look;
I want my biomap fingerprints to interlock with yours 
Inexplicably the maze patterns slot in harmony
written for the other, waited two lifetimes for this chance meeting

Racing to the maze middle
I am discouraged
By your disinterest
Cheers or jeers would be preferable to this silence
I find myself the lone contender 
You are unfit to adjudicate;
Trusting the leaves on the left
They lead me out
Heart lead
Guide me to the end of desire

The heartstrings that make up my right ventricle 
You appear to have turned into a hammock
Summer months approaching
The sway pulling strings in all the wrong directions 
Transcending my corp-Reality into a grotesque puppet mimicry
More and more it swings and stings and disrupts the flow from my head
unto my toe
And it isn’t red within, there’s translucence for dinner
This I know
Because a slice of me is cut for the prizewinner 
The ones who made it to the middle grossly engorged
Their fingers ragged and wrecked from dragging through unforgiving foliage 
bloated, bursting, not seen to be sightly
Unseen in safety, for he has forgotten me
And our fingertips never even touched

But the incessant twitch that makes me dream of itching the scratch right out of my chest 
Is treated in waking like a Victorian asylum patient: tightjacket escape artists
My little lost mazerunners bravely perform their Sisyphean trope 
and I traipse about too, comfort-grasping the lighter in my pocket closer to these wistful fingerprints.

Leah De Mey (she/her)

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Art Under Fire: Ukrainian Cultural Institutions 

I have a friend who is currently working in Kiev. He asked me not to share his name, to protect his safety and identity. He was originally on his semester abroad, but since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he has been working in a local art gallery and cultural museum with his fellow classmates…

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Dear pre-trauma me, men will harm you more than once…

I can tell you now, even with everything men have put you through, you will still try to see the best in people. Sometimes this will be your downfall. They will gaslight you so much that you will start gaslighting yourself – I wish there was a way to warn you to always trust your intuition. If it feels off, that’s probably because it is…

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Poetry Callout – Freeverse

Hey cuties, we’re doing another poetry callout! For December we’re looking at free verse poems and the theme we have chosen to go along with this structure is “Distance”. You…

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Not Funny Then, and Not Funny Now: Responding to the Changing HIV Epidemic

New figures released last month by the UK Health Security Agency, to mark the beginning of National HIV Testing Week (7th-13th February), have revealed the changing form of the HIV epidemic in the UK. For the first time in a decade, the number of new HIV diagnoses in England is higher among heterosexual people than gay and bisexual men…

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You almost ruined my favourite song 

You almost ruined my favourite song 

I listened to the Wombats today
Only to be taken back 
To the dimly lit parking lot behind your flat in Cowgate
Pushing me against the wall and whispering into my ear 
You say I am the best thing that you’ve ever seen 
My bare back digging into the wall but 
I could have stayed there forever 
My very own New Jerusalem

The chorus of the song I sing to day and night 
echoes from inside 
So do cheers of people playing beer pong 
They awaken us from our trance 
There’s nowhere to hide 
1,2,3, time to dance

When we enter everyone takes out their flashlights pointing them at us 
My head is in the clouds and my Converse in the gravel of the parking lot
You on the contrary 

You 
are on one knee 

I
can hear my heart breaking 

Everyone 
is cheering
 
This is all that I used to want 
And now all I can think of is
You just ruined my favourite song

The greek tragedy of all of this is 
You thought you were buying tickets 
To see a romantic comedy 
But I turned out to be your Antigone

Flash-forward and I’m walking through the all too familiar streets
As a prisoner sentenced to live my life 
On the land from which you’ve been exiled 
The smell of smoke 
From when we burned with bad intentions 
Still fills my nose 

On days like these
I write you endless poems you will 
never see

My headphones blasting that one song by the Wombats 
On repeat 
On repeat 
On repeat 

If you ever see this 
Please let me know
When you hear that song 
Do you still sing along? 

Veronika

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In a dystopian time, we must be indulgent in our utopian fantasies

On March 6th, 2022, I attended a memorial protest at Scottish Parliament on the one-year anniversary of Sarah Everard’s murder. Several women spoke in her memory highlighting brutality of gender-based violence in the U.K and around the world, calling for the dismantling of the very systems that are meant to protect us but instead regularly create violence and fear.

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The Curator

The Curator

The scene has been set: museum opening,
The artist: Chinese, come to London last spring,
The decor’s exquisite, all gold and Art Deco,
Trays of canapés, tall-stemmed flutes of Prosecco,
At the room’s centre, she’s not hard to spy
With her red ruby mouth and her bright topaz eye
Head thrown back and laughing, with her hand at her neck, 
Hair a tight bob, hands with gold rings bedecked
In a fur coat and brocade (all vintage – all thrift)
Wrists jangle with bangles (Tracy Emin’s – a gift)
She’ll glide through a room like she’s riding a breeze,
Kiss and cry “My, I’ve not seen you since Frieze!”
She’ll hug and address you with “darling” and “dear”,
But don’t flatter yourself: she knows everyone here. 

She’s up at Tate or she’s down at the Met,
At Cornelia Parker’s, smoking french cigarettes,
Or out in South London, where that new Dutch film’s showing, 
Or a night out in Hackney – if Grayson Perry is going. 
Hostesses and hosts supplicate at her feet,
Beg her presence at this show or that meet-and-greet,
With her social grace, though, this isn’t so shocking,
Her sparkling wit keeps enchanted mobs flocking. 
She’ll check the black book where her diary’s kept, 
Ignore it, smile archly, then warmly accept. 

A crowd is a challenge, but she fears not the test:
For these are her people; this is what she does best.

By Levi J. Richards (he/they)
Instagram: @levijrichards and @doorajarcomics

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Glitter makes us blind: A critique of Euphoria

The idea of a child has always been available for corruption. It’s not a fact we like to talk about, but it’s something we’re all aware of. Nabokov’s Lolita, Jodi Foster’s precocious Iris, Youtube compilations of under-aged girls dancing, curated faithfully by anonymous men…

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Dispelling the myth of the ‘indulgent’ orgasm

Despite the leaps made in popular representations of the female orgasm, the orgasm gap is very much still present for many straight women. Why is it that the myth of female sexuality as deviant, excessive, and indulgent still impacts our sexual experiences?

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We are all beating

We are all beating

Walking is an something I return to a lot
I once read we walk at the rate our heart beats
And create a cacophony with the ground
That matches the organ keeping us alive
Imagine if we all would walk in step
The earth would be one huge heart
Vibrating with the beating of billions 

On walks I see a lot of leaves
Always in winter and I want to imagine
each leaf inside has a tiny heart
That pumps water and nutrients and juice
Through each capillary 

I see squirrels and pigeons and gulls
I think of their beating hearts
The continuous rhythm
That propels one squirrel on her circuitous round.

A heartbeat moves in a cycle of seasons
Offering hope when all has gone awry and
the next day is so far away
Our hearts beat steady under our skin
Invite a beginning with the end of each step
A terrible chance
To liberate the me
from my four walled room
And flex my toes and think of gravel paths
That my feet can wander.
I like to begin
fresh from the next beat
Consider
And follow each route
my heart wants me
to feel and to see
the million hearts beat
the leaves and the trees
Tug me on a thin thread
Trembling.

Hannah Udall

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Love of Community: bell hooks’ continuing resonance

bell hooks’ influential All About Love has become somewhat of a handbook for many since its publication in 2000 as we try and understand the ever-perplexing subject of love. With each chapter hooks dissects a different aspect of love, spanning from personal romance to political justice. Her text, thereby, embodies the now highly popularised, originally feminist concept that the personal is always political. 

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a game to play when you can’t find the strength to shower

when you’re feeling down

and don’t know how to take care

of yourself, go to where they sell plants.

quiet your heart. let the smell

of their freshness fill you.

reach out and touch their leaves.

one will find you.

don’t force it to, just

let it commune with the hurt inside you.

take it home. find it a spot in the sun.

water it, feed it, nurture it, let it grow.

let it take care of you as much as you

take care of it.

by august (in the wake of) dawn

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I am not queen of my own heart, stop telling me I should be

The first thing I do when I wake up is assess what I’m going to be capable of that day. I check in with my body, how much pain I’m in, and where the pain is most intense. I check in with my nerves: how anxious am I? How exhausted? And I check in with my mind: how coherent are my thoughts? Sometimes my brain fog prevents me from doing anything that requires much thinking. Sometimes I’m simply too tired or fed up to consider ticking anything off my perpetually growing to-do list…

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WHEN I DREAM IT FEELS LIKE DROWNING: an interview

I carried out an interview with Door Ajar Comics after reading their first publication, WHEN I DREAM IT FEELS LIKE DROWNING. Their fascinating, heartfelt and brilliantly insightful answers explore inspiration for the work; personal experiences; narrative development; horror as a genre; readership, and much more.

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