Welcome back to my regular series with suggestions of awesome people and things to check out, read, participate in and follow. The festive season is much on my mind today, with a couple of great ways to transition from this year to the next as well as some bits of reading about Christmas. This is followed by two pretty serious pieces about extremism and the controversy around recent revelations about Last Tango in Paris. Lightening things up towards the end is another article about kawaii and our attraction to cute culture. Last up, as I like to finish with a funny video, is the first viral video I ever saw (I was a bit late to the game with this phenomena): a hilarious send up of Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind. Enjoy!
Susannah Conway has been offering her free ‘Unravel Your Year‘ workbook for several years now and it’s an essential part of Christmas for hundreds, if not thousands, of women around the world – myself included! It’s completely free to sign up for and contains lots of gentle but powerful questions and prompts to help you reflect on the year that’s passed and look to the one ahead.
Susannah also offers a free five day course entitled ‘Find Your Word’ which helps you to discover a word or phrase to guide you through the coming year. I’ve also done this a few times and recommend it highly too!
Gender equality is for life, not just for Christmas: Kat Lister writes for the always brilliant The Pool on the extra emotional and physical labour that December’s festivities place on women in ‘The “perfect” Christmas doesn’t exist so why are women still expected to provide it?’
If that one might stir up anger then the next two may well generate some tears:
Fi Newsam’s ‘Father Christmas didn’t come’ for The Huffington Post blog tells of what it was like to grow up in a family who belonged to a Christian denomination that didn’t celebrate Christmas. At all. No presents, no special food, no nothing. The emotional impact upon Newsam is fascinating and also so sad.
Totally contrary in tone is the story from this week’s Independent that a Muslim-owned restaurant is opening up its doors on Christmas Day to offer free meals to the elderly and homeless. Welling up just writing this plug for it! Just goes to show that even a holiday traditionally associated with one religion can actually provide an opportunity for different communities to come together. A gorgeous story.
The serious stuff
Also from the Independent, and also about Muslims, but very different in tone, is an in-depth report on what make young British women turn to an extreme form of Islam known as Salafism. This branch of the religion is associated with the Islamic State and very strict rules and regulations. This article provides a nuanced insight into these women’s lives and experiences that will undoubtedly make you think.
The Pool provides a second recommendation this week: the also brilliant Sali Hughes (whose work appears here quite regularly) wrote a powerful piece for them about the revelations that have recently come out regarding the notorious rape scene in The Last Tango in Paris. Even if you’re not familiar with this debate, or the wider issues that it draws upon, ‘The callous abuse of Maria Schneider, and the impunity of Hollywood men’ will make you care.
Now for something completely different: kawaii
If you’re looking for an intelligent read on a diverse range of topics, the Conversation is great resource. The site features blogs from academic experts on all sorts of subjects, including this analysis of kawaii and what the attraction of this Japanese cult of cute is.
I was a latecomer to the world of viral videos but I clearly remember the first one I saw: it was late on a Friday night at my friend Mel’s flat in Wandsworth and I’d gone round at the last minute in order to do a 5k Race for Life with her the next morning. She was incredulous that I didn’t know what a viral video was nor had seen this particular example of the genre – a parody of Alicia Keys’ epic song Empire State of Mind featuring the Welsh town of Newport. Clever, so clever – and hilarious too. Point of information for readers outside of the UK: the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) is a government organisation that deals with driving licenses etc and is based in Swansea, another south Wales town. Because so many people have contact with the DVLA, it’s well known for being based there. In fact, the agency’s address is DVLA Swansea SA99 1TU – that’s how intertwined the two are. There are probably lots of jokes in the video that need explaining to non-Brits but that’s the one that jumped out for me!
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