#BrockTurnerisarapist | rape and rape culture at universities in 2016

I’ve had this post unfinished in my drafts for six weeks now. I am angry, more than anything, as I write this. I am angry and afraid and upset and I have started too many posts this way, and yet, I still cannot fathom the anger and sadness that the victims of rape must be feeling.

Brock Turner is a rapist who is good at swimming. After raping an unconscious Stanford student at a frat party, and being proven guilty – he was pulled off of an unconscious woman by two grad students. The day after the rape, Turner remembered nothing. He couldn’t remember what she said, or whether he left with her. Come the trial, dear Brock, guilty of  ‘twenty minutes of action’ according to his father [that sentence made me throw up in my mouth. Twenty minutes of action? He raped an unconscious woman. RAPED. To call that ‘action’, as if a swimming feat accomplished is everything wrong ] could remember everything. He could remember that she said ‘yeah’ repeatedly. FYI: if all she can say is yeah and can’t form a coherent sentence, you shouldn’t be having sex with her. Brock Turner received six months imprisonment, because Judge Perksy believed that a confirmed rapist would not be further harm to society. Because Brock Turner, the rapist, shouldn’t have to suffer the adverse effects of a longer time in prison.

John Enoch is a rapist who is good at academics. After raping two women in 2013 and 2015,  he was found  faced two counts of felony rape, but was only convicted of misdemeanour battery with moderate bodily injury. Enoch, the rapist, with a bright future in  economics, avoided jail time and was sentenced to just one year probation.

At Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, earlier this year, a series of rape protests took place. The #RUReferenceList was released, displaying the names of people who had raped victims. You can catch up here.

I was in a protest at my university this year. We lay on the ground in silence, showing solidarity with the one in three women in South Africa who are raped. I cried. We sang, and talked, and cried.

I am tired. I am tired of sexual assault being a recurring theme in my blog posts. I am tired of being angry about my friend who was raped. I am tired of having to explain to nineteen year old boys why ‘she was pretty drunk, so’ doesn’t count as consent.

There is one way to have sex. ONE. You ask for consent. If a partner disagrees, you don’t have sex.  It’s that simple. I don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t know how to write about this anymore. I don’t know. I am sad.

Rape culture is your rape joke, your slut shaming, your fetishisation, your victim blaming. That is rape culture. That is why Brock Turner and John Enoch will walk. That is why this victim’s letter is nothing but a scratch to her rapist.

You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.

Rape is a lack of consent. If you rape someone, you’re not a good kid who made a mistake. You are a rapist.

shalom

‘tortured artists’: a note

“The myth of ‘You have to be a tortured artist’ is a myth. You can have a happy, healthy life and still go to all these crazy dark places in your writing, and then go home then go play with your child and hug your wife.”

– Dr Lin-Manuel Miranda

The year is 1870. Vincent van Gogh is  a crazily talented man who is terribly troubled and misunderstood. Nobody buys his work. Nobody cares to read his letters, and he spends much time in isolation. Time passes, and he grows more and more lonely. 1890 rolls around, and he (allegedly)* commits suicide. He dies in the arms of his brother. People start to notice him once he’s died. “His work – it’s almost as if you can see his pain!” It’s believed by many that he wouldn’t have been able to produce any his best works had he not been in such dark places so often. His work becomes a hit, and he accrues posthumous fame. The tortured artist trope is born.

Following his death, and long after, many people subscribe to the idea that those suffering will create the most beautiful things. This idea is affirmed by tragic losses such as Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway. The question: does mental illness make for better art?

I study English at university, along with my other three subjects. In the literary field, you’ll come across countless artists who were mentally ill, and claimed that the mental illness enabled them to write as well as they did. Some pseudo-scientific studies have shown a clear link between depression and good poetry, but I disagree with them almost entirely. Unfortunately, mental illness is romanticised to the nth degree, thanks to the likes of tumblr, and the idea that you need to endure some form of affliction to be great is frequently taken to be gospel truth. to  I’m saying what Lin-Manuel Miranda is saying – that the myth that you have to be tortured to make good art is a myth.

I’m certain that mental illness can inspire art. My experience has inspired my writing and my choices when performing on stage. I don’t, however, believe that a poem written about heartbreak by a happily engaged person, would pale in comparison to that of a heartbroken person.

I’m of the opinion that the ability to transcend your own experience in your artform is one of the highest forms of art. To get into another’s frame of mind without being in that frame of mind yourself takes a massive amount of skill, and the idea that your work would be inferior because of your transcendence sounds highly unlikely to me.

love and light,
shalom xo

*there is speculation that good ol’ vanny may have been murdered,but it’s all a bit sketchy.

ça c’etait quoi? | learning languages

I’m really quite unfortunate when it comes to numbers. High school maths was a mess of a mission, except for the very end when magic and blood made a miracle happen. I am, however, better with words & languages. So today, by request, I’m going to share any and all language learning things that I’ve got swimming around in my head (and that are on the internet).

As of right now, I can confidently say I’m fully bilingual. I can speak English and Afrikaans fluently, and that’s mostly because I speak English at home and spoke Afrikaans at school for ten years. I’m intermediate in French, and a basic beginner in Spanish and a very basic beginner in Italian. BUT! I am learning all three of these languages with the end goal of being an eventual polyglot. Here’s the how to from someone who needs a how-to.

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There are SO MANY language learning apps out there. I’ve tried many of them, and the trick to knowing whether it’ll help is this: if it promises a short cut, it won’t. Un/fortunately, language learning is a long and specific process, so those “SPEAK FRENCH IN FIVE DAYS!!1!!1” apps really won’t help. Here are two that will:

  • Duolingo

Duolingo is amazing. It’s a super user-friendly app that will guide you through your language learning process. It costs ZERO MONEY (relevant to the July series I’m working on) and is really effective.

How it works is that there are bite-sized lessons that you can do on your phone, laptop, iPad, Apple Watch, or any device, and you slowly but surely increase your fluency percentage. Duolingo works. They have research on it. My advice: use a pen and paper along with this. It’s easy to learn phrases like “elles sont riche et calme” and “nosotros bebemos el agua”  but the grammar lessons (which can be found with a simple click to the comment sections) really help to understand why certain verbs are the way they are, why you can’t add that -le to the end of that word, and how to pronounce some words like a local.

  • Memrise

Memrise is another really good app for language learning, with a big focus on getting you to store the words and rules you’ll learn in your long term memory. The idea is that your mind is a garden of knowledge, and you really, really need to water the seeds so that you can harvest that gorgeous five-language-fluency. There are also different ways of learning which keeps the process fun & interesting.

people and blogs

Again, bless the internet. There are some amazing sites & people who’ve proven to be incredibly helpful. Let’s start off with ever favourites, Damon and Jo:

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DAMON AND JO MAKE ME WANT TO SHUT UP AND GO. THEY BLOW MY MIND. The creators of shutupandgo.travel, Damon Dominique and Joanna Franco are pretty much GOALS. First off, they’re huge inspirations of mine with French, Spanish, Portugese, English, and Italian (I think?) under their belts. IMAGINE. What a dream. They’re travel vlogger-bloggers who decided to #shutupandgo: stop complaining about wanting to travel, making moves, and travelling anyway. They’re also so YOUNG (Damon & Jo are 24 and 23 respectively) and make videos about their travels, but ALSO (!!!) about how to learn a language, and help you sound more local when speaking a language. For example:

Another blog I love is brainscape.com which has tonnes and tonnes of links to resources you can use for almost ANY language (10/10 would recommend). FluentU is another well of knowledge if you look for the right things, even if you don’t want to pay for a subscription (because I sure as hell do not, cannot, and did not). Preppy Burro (previously ‘Always Spanish’) is a fantastic spanish learning adventure, and Talk in French helps you to do just that.

other tips

  • change the language on your phone! you know your phone. learn what ‘lock screen’ is in italian.
  • have an other-language day (this is how i learned to speak afrikaans). for a couple of hours on a chosen day of the week, translate every sentence you say into the language you’re trying to learn.
  • watch youtubers in that language! hello! it always slaps me in the face but like !!!!! there are other-than-english youtubers!‽
  • keep a journal and make sure to write in your new language at least twice a week. check for grammar errors!
  • get a book. for real. grammar is important. it’s a spend that i hated making (don’t worry, the books aren’t that expensive, i’m just that broke) but do not regret.
  • learn about the culture. it’s nice to do.

The internet is amazing. There’s so much STUFF. Go learn a language. Pet a dog and tell it that it is beautiful in Italian. Sing happy birthday to your mom in German. Learn. 

Love and light,
shalom xo


note: none of these apps / people / blogs are here as a paid for endorsement – i love learning & they can really help. // photos are edited by me originally from death to stock, or are assumed to be in the public domain.

rebuild | orlando, islamophobia & unity

this is a response to today’s one word prompt


i don’t know how to write this, really.

i can’t adaqueately express the anger and sadness that i am feeling for the victims of tragic and senseless gun violence in the usa this past week, and for the victims of a tragic bombing in lebanon. i can’t imagine the pain and suffering brought about by the senseless loss, or the foolish backlash that the lgbtq+ & muslim community must be receiving.

i can be sorry, and i can pray that the god i believe in will have mercy, and i know that it isn’t enough. but i don’t know what else i can do.

fifty people were murdered at pulse nightclub in orlando, while almost fifty others were injured. fifty people had their lives taken for no reason apart from being in a space that promoted loving who you love. pulse is a beacon for so much of the lgbtq+ community in orlando, and because of a sensless act of cowardice, people have lost so much.

the entire lgbtq+ community has been shaken by the shooting. if queer people cannot be safe in a space for them, amongst other queer people, where can they be safe? a day after the shooting, a man carrying heavy explosives and weapons was apprehended. he was on his way to the l.a pride parade. he was headed to a space full of queer people with the sole intention to kill them.

what part of this doesn’t look like a hate crime? what part gives you the inclination that there was another reason, apart from rampant homophobia, for these attacks?

is it ignorance? is it trump? i hate to mention trump’s name. i believe that the guy from the apprentice is only in the posoition he is in because of the press we give to him. trump needs a mirror, but more so, he is a mirror.

the fact that so many of the senators tweeting their condolences and prayers voted against gun control, and can’t seem to realise that they need to answer the question, “how do these people get their weapons, and why is it so easy?” in order for us to make any progress is troubling.

the same people who called the lgbtq+ community animals are the ones offering their sincerest regards. those who claimed that the lgbtq+ community in bathrooms is a danger to public society are now looking at the slain members of the community, and finding something else to talk about. calling up islamophobia, and terrorism, ignoring the fact that crime after crime after crime like this can be so easily prevented if some fucking republicans would get their heads out of their asses.

what, then, do these muslim-hating republicans, have to say about the religions of the white perpetrators of the biggest mass shootings in us history? what do they say about the religion of the white people who shot children at sandy hook elementary school, who prayed with unarmed black people and then shot them? why are queer lives not valued enough for this to be seen as what it is – a crime against them?

i am beside myself. i feel selfish for being sad, when so many are directly affected. i feel helpless, because every time something like this happens, a ‘pray for’ hashtag is generated, and the president makes a speech, and some people cry and change their profile pictures and post things on instagram and nothing changes because it always happens again. america, it always happens again.

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in light of all of this pain, what is left? what is left but the countless souls who will mourn, who will bury the lost, who will have to continue with their fragmented lives – those who will rebuild. the lgbtq+ community will rebuild because it is what must be done when your entire existence is reduced to someone’s intolerance.

twitter is always wild when something like this happens. he-who-must-not-be-named with a nose and bad hair tweets something stupid and ignorant, someone makes a “joke” that’s hate speech, and so many of us spend hours fighting with people trying to stir up hate. i am christian, and my friend yasmin is muslim, and we spent three hours online yesterday trying to explain why islamophobia is (a) always senseless, (b) always unfounded, and (c) should always be avoided in every way. i got hate from several christians for advocating for lgbtq+ rights, as did yasmin from many muslims. i’d like to share a passage from the bible and the quran each with you:

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbour?

-James 4:12 (NIV)

Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.

-Qur’an 5:32

there is no place for hatred. there is no place for prejuciced christians who love selectively. there is love, and love wins. my god is a god of love, and love wins. as lin-manuel miranda said last night at the tony awards, “love is love is love is love is love is love, and cannot be killed or swept aside”. hate will never win.

“if anyone knows how to rebuild, it’s us.”  please watch this stunning & evocative piece by anna oakes-monger. to the entire lqbtq+ community: we are with you. i am with you. this is not and will never be okay, and we will fight with you. “if anyone can love through pain, it’s us.”

love and light,
shalom xo