I May Destroy You

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I May Destroy You

A staggering 6 weeks ago, when lock down restrictions were beginning to ease, our TV screens and minds were illuminated by: ‘I May Destroy you’. I, myself, who fared badly from the pandemic, was starting to recover from a long tail case of Covid-19. This drama series was the primary broadcast I was desperate to watch. Its impact is set to last far beyond the 6 hours of air time which the BBC allotted. 

The main narrative centres around the rape of the Arabella; the feisty, strong-willed, leading lady. Michaela Coel who wrote starred and co-produced the series plays Arabella. The realistic screenplay leads us through flashbacks of her being raped. In reporting the matter to the Police they were able to establish that she had been subject to date-rape drugging. Perhaps not so realistic: the Police are shown to be professional, compassionate and supportive. Inevitably the case had to be shelved until a DNA match presents itself to the investigation. However, what is ground-breaking is we see Arabella: a hard-partying recreational drug user, convincingly being able to differentiate clearly between being secretly drugged, then subject to intercourse and simply, narcotic indulgence followed by consensual sex. At no point is the viewer directed to blame Arabella due to volatile lifestyle choices or to consider her to be unreliable as a consequence.

Arabella’ response to the violation could be considered from varied viewpoints. Promiscuity as a result of a sex attack liberated sex-positive behaviour or further examples of not fully consensual sex as a result of drug and alcohol usage. This leaves her vulnerable to a further sexual assault, interestingly in the form of stealthing: removal of a condom without the consent of the sexual partner. I and many viewers, male and female, were unaware that this was a criminal matter, the show was surprisingly informative.

We are offered some reasoning as to why Arabella’ sexual conduct presents us with a large variety of partners, many of whom are little more than acquaintances. The series takes us back to her infancy, parents who reside separately, but are still in a relationship. A father who indulges in a ‘Fancy Woman’ and to a degree, neglects his parental duties.

Breathtaking to see greater diversity on our screens, the main characters all being from ethnic minorities (Within the UK, not Globally). I found Arabella immediately appealing, the funky jacket and the wilds of pink hair. Terry, the loyal friend that every girl need to have, both are: fun, alluring, party goers. In opposition to this, the only more than minor white female: Theo, is overweight, unattractive and morally warped. A wondrous mid-series episode takes us back to secondary school, only done successfully in Romy and Michele’s High School Union during the late nineties. The retro-fun element of camera phones being new, hilarious in comparison to the multi-faceted smartphones of today. We see the only significant white, female character, falsely accuse a black man of rape. Equally to this, it becomes clear that Arabella’ rapist was white, herself being of colour. Is this a lesson for white supremacy, are matters being transformed in terms of traditional villain, victim roles in terms of race?

As a white female, I found some of the script a little isolating, the dialogue of:

‘I don’t like white people.’

stated by Terry. The scene in which Arabella takes extreme offence from being referred to as being from an ‘Afro-Caribbean background’ as opposed to simply of ‘African background’. This combined with making the medical professional linger while they shoot a podcast. This did not appear to be an act of standing up to racism, more the conduct of adolescents that belonged in a classroom seated next to Catherine Tate’s Vicky Pollard.

The range of taboo subjects brought to the drama was radical, in the extreme. The casual use of sanitary towels, menstruation no longer to be hidden and ignored. However, I found the scene in which she brings home a Man which she has just met in a night club off-putting. They endeavour to have intercourse while she is on her period. This combined with them both playing with her heavy, ‘Squishy’ discharge bordering on vulgar.

We are introduced to group sex on several occasions and internet dating, which pre-Millennial’s didn’t indulge. Significantly, the concept of social media addiction is raised, something we are all beginning to ponder over as a result of lock down and periods of isolation. Primarily, we are embraced by the subject of male rape, a major taboo, the public only being widely aware that this happened since the turn of the Millennium. Although the male rape scene was convincing, I was deterred by the response of the character. Devastation, regret and self-blame were not conveyed convincingly.

Although there were some downsides, this is a monumental step forward in challenging the many failings within our society; primarily rape culture. The ambiguity of the concluding episode adds to the mental turmoil over violation and redemption. The series instigated discussions and debate, a drama which will get us talking about rape.

Set to take the short trip over the pond, let’s hope Arabella & Co, can do the same for the Americans!

Watch the Series

Stealthing

Missed: Mrs America?

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Wednesday night saw the TV series Mrs America hit our screen in the UK. The series dramatises, more than documents the path of second-wave feminism in the United States.

The initial episode centres around Phyllis Schlafly, played by the Hollywood great: Cate Blanchette. Schlafly, a staunch anti-feminist who lead the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Many hold Schlafly accountable for the bill never being passed and eventually abandoned in the early eighties.

Schlafly, the women who Betty Friedan, mother of seventies women’s movement, insisted should be burned at the stake. The Republican who led a league of housewives, home-makers and churchgoers against the progressive feminists of the day.

Growing up during the great depression, Schlafly had a modest upbringing, her father of long term unemployment. Motherly support of her education steered her towards a scholarship place at the now named Maryland University. In tangent to her studies she worked as a model, but she also ‘Test fired machine guns’ for the largest munitions factory in the US, World War Two raging across the Globe. Eventually studying post-grad at Harvard, then becoming a researcher for the Republican Party.

Marrying a wealthy lawyer, fifteen years her senior, resulting in six children. Author of many publications the most notable: ‘A choice, not an ego,’ selling over 3.5 million copies, highlighting matters in opposition to National defence strategies.

After another unsuccessful run for Congress in the early seventies, she turned her attention to women’s politics and battled successfully against the ERA. The main policies were in favour of women remaining exempt from the Draft, Vietnam was at war and American troops were being sent East. Other motions looked to protect social security benefits for dependent wives. Although her eldest son was openly gay she stood by conservative policies against single-sex marriage and anti-immigration.

The dramatisation brings the seventies to our post lock-down TV screens. Brown patterned floral prints, chunky jewelry, twin sets and hand knitting. Hairnets and curlers creating the bouffant of the day. Although an anti-feminist, Cate Blanchette portrays a strong, capable woman, more than a little opposed to being assigned the role of note-taking. We see a true beauty parading the national stars and stripes in the form of a bikini.

In opposition, we encounter bad sex aesthetics not spoken about during the decade. When exhausted she submits to undesired intercourse with her demanding husband. Lying back motionless as he ploughs internally with no regard for her pleasure, indulging in merely his gratification.

What next for the series?

Although slaughtered by Gloria Steinem in person, her character was introduced and takes the limelight in the next episode.

A drama to be indulged, not a doco to be scrutinized!

Watch on BBC iPlayer

The Green

the Green

The Green is an extract from the novel: Casual Nexus, written by Alison Little, she is looking to publish the novel later in 2020.

Stood aback from the green space, intersected by cars negotiating the rather complex one-way system, a moderately plump woman stands, examining an item of jewellery. She has just left the small countered repair shop which has presided on the green for over three generations. Excitedly, she opens the locket and looks adoringly at the miniature photograph inside:

‘I’ve got you back, mother!’

Caitlin McBride mouths internally to herself. Examining the clasp, a fitting repair job, her hand run over the shinning silver gleaming after the buffer wheel treatment. She slips the primal keepsake she has of her mother carefully into the upper zip pocket of her jacket. As she secures the zip her eyes scan over the green, her mind re-encounters the fair she went to as a teenager. Churning of the stomach as she remembers the lad she had met and their liaison in the undergrowth. Vomit rises into her throat as she recalls taking him in her mouth. Giggling at the time, now remorseful, it was simply another tangled interlude she had engaged in as she was too confused to determine her desired course of action.

Eyes rotate around the central space attention focusing on the swing park. A father playing with his children. Reminiscing over the few times her father has taken them to any form of a playground, but he had always been so busy with his work and the band. Her expanding gaze then halts, she looks at the Father in greater detail, her vision fixated, anguish overcomes her thoughts:

‘J-A-C-K’

She vocalises statically, the volume reduced but out loud. The man, then boy, who had determined the turmoil of negativity through her teenage years and transcended into adulthood. Jack who she had hidden from fearful of his advances. Jack whose manipulation had overcome her in the end. Jack who had a happy family, children, a wife and a house. Jack who had stolen her childhood, Jack who had taken so much from her and what her future would have been. Jack who her brother had never stopped, Jack who had never paid for what he had done to her during her teenage years.

She wipes the tears straining through her face as she makes haste towards the far side bus stop. As she moves further from Jack and the falsehood of the family man, the more composed she becomes.

A Void

womb

A Void

In this, I have agreed to what was termed ‘A life modelling process’ for an artist seeking volunteers for a project he is working on. I stand before him in my dressing gown, nude underneath and wondering what he wants me to do, he tells me:

‘Don’t worry, I have done this lots of times before.’

From this, I am somewhat reassured, but still, air a little caution.

‘I just need you to lie down so I can paint you with latex.’

In this he shows me the latex, it’s white and when he paints a little of my arm it feels cold but pleasant on my form. I agree to the process and he helps me untie my dressing gown belt, although naked I feel comfortable in front of him, he has put me at ease.

I lie down under his direction and move into the position he needs me to be in. He starts painting around my neck area, slowly but surely working his way down. He is careful but professional as he covers my breasts, making sure he only touches my nipples with the horse hair bristles of the paint brush.

Working his way further down my body he comes to the groin area. I become nervous again, worrying about what he is about to do.

‘Relax, I have done this many times before.’

I let my muscles fall low, then with warm air, he blows gently inside myself. From this, like magic, I open right up like a great white shark about to launch an attack.

‘That’s right, good, you’re doing well.’

He directs, then he moves onto his back and slides his head and upper body inside my womb. From this, he begins to paint, carefully and professionally, coating the walls of my womb and ovaries in latex. When he has finished he edges out carefully and puts each hand delicately on the inside of my legs. Then without touching me with his lips he sucks air from the inside of myself. I return to my normal size, at ease with everything going on, amazed at what has been performed by this genius.

From this, he works down my legs in a similar motion. He then turns me over to work on my back and lower body. So relaxed with the brush motion I am almost asleep when he finishes:

‘We just need to wait for it to dry.’

He whispers, in this, he picks up an old fashioned guitar and begins to sing folk songs.

He wakes me up to tell me that it’s time to peel the latex off. I stand up for him and he begins stretching off the suited coating, carefully going over my breasts. After my ribs he stops and places a hand on each side of myself, then he kisses my forehead, gently and childlike in motion. As I smile he gets back to action, working the form off down to my lower body.

After a gentle shake, my womb falls out. Before me, I see its squashed in structure, perfect on the inner coating, but de-revelled on the outer. My ovaries flop out almost deformed and entwined, messy and forlorn. Ahead of me, I see the babies, I will never give birth to and the children I will never raise. The bedtime stories I will never read, the play parks I will never go to, the football matches I will never go to and the school plays I will never attend. In this he finishes the removal process, then he shakes out the body-like creation. He clips it onto a line, in this, it stands tall and strong, an independent being, strong, singular, but of great value.

Alison Little

A Void is a flash Fiction works from Alison Little. This piece was first performed in the Hornby Rooms, Central Library, Liverpool for International Women’s Day in 2018. The subsequent year it read for an event marking the same celebrations held during the 209 Women exhibition marking the centenary of women being able to vote in the UK (Although restricted to those over 30 and with property).

The illustration was also created by Alison Little using a bamboo dip stick pen and Indian ink. It feature a close up of a womb and creates an impression of scarring. She is looking to make a sculptural piece from latex later in 2020 to represent the works.

More about 209 Women exhibition, Open Eye Gallery

Convict Blanket

Blanket 090

Convict blanket is the latest art activism works from concept-based arts practitioner, Alison Little. A sensation to shock and stand against rape, rape culture and the authorities put in place to tackle sex crime within our society.

Convict blanket confronts us with the homage style of using material available, in this case, the humble scratch provoking woollen coverings of the bed. The use of blanket stitch and appliqué reminiscent of techniques used in prison protests where all resources must be reclaimed from the sparse provisions available when incarcerated. The blanket is floor-based, slightly raised to one side. The text and images locate with the nearest edge in which they are placed, allowing the viewer to read the statements as their paths encircle the form. The use of hand-embroidered text reminiscent of the marker pen on corrugated card portrayals commonplace throughout activism. Texts vary in scale, case and font in regards to the emphasis placed on the statement which is being presented. Large bold statements often present definitive assertions, small joined-up style wording is often examples of dialogue and opinions of the minority. The black text looks to address how to reduce the numbers of sex attacks by convicting more rapists. In opposition, the red highlights issues within society and the authorities put in place to tackle sex crime which are failing at every given opportunity. Although male rape is equally as relevant, this identifies with female rape which is statistically committed in greater numbers.

The first of the black text presents a printed abbreviation, ‘HMP‘. This is commonplace within the UK, ‘Her Majesties Prisons’ being the full term and the title for units of incarceration. The larger appliqué fonts present ‘Convict‘ and ‘Rapist‘, indicating an intention for more sex offenders to be serving custodial sentences. This is emphasized in greater detail by a well-defined corner based statement:

We must press for the conviction of more rapists.’

A powerful sentence, stating the motivation behind the activism, the use of the second person to engage the viewer with the protest.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is common among rape survivors is raised within smaller statements. Dressing down as a result of being raped is proposed, backed up by an image of a ‘Hide under’ hoodie. Larger texts draw attention to statistics:

‘1 in 10 rapes are reported to the Police, of these only 1 in 10 lead to a conviction.’

Due to current changes within the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) this figure is currently much lower. The statistic highlights how rape is one of the most under-reported crimes. The statement is reinforced by the pie chart indicating that only 1% of rapes committed lead to a conviction.

Patriarchy is addressed, male supremacy being a factor in why rape is not being tackled effectively. Police apathy over sexual assault cases is presented. Demands towards the recruitment of ‘Strong, capable women,’ are made, requesting women who will prioritise rape over trivia to be brought into the Police Force. Drawing attention to the vulnerability of the rape survivor, showing how there needs should be prioritized. The black statements concluding with the most vital statement of them all, the rapist being ‘100%‘ to blame for rape.

The red text looks to highlight why our society is failing to reduce numbers in terms of sexual assault and punishing more sex offenders through the penal system. The large appliqué terms read ‘Rape Culture’ and ‘Victim Blaming’. Across the blanket, we have statements which highlight examples of victim-blaming, itself a factor within rape culture. Projections of low morals, promiscuous clothing, the rape survivor being presented as ‘The Whore’ and extreme example of ‘Slut-shaming’ are identified. Misconceptions around PTSD are given, many are still not aware that this condition is commonplace with rape survivors. The second delusion of rape being unusual is also stated. Narcotic and alcohol use are presented, suggestions that mild cannabis inhalation could result in hallucinations an example of ignorance. Again, blaming the victim through alcohol consumption, the concept of consenting to sex being overlooked.

Patriarchy being stated, showing the focus of the law to be on protecting men from being falsely accused of rape. How the Police Force is male-dominated, the notion of many of these ‘Men’ having little intentions of acting against rape, in this, recruiting weak, feeble women to actively fail rape survivors. This is developed by drawing attention to the actions of many Police Women, their sole contribution to a rape enquiry to be establishing what happens when they get dressed up, thus providing the opportunity for them to reflect on their superior beauty. The trivial nature of operatives, examples of attire being copied being prioritised as opposed to communicating the nature of the sex attack. This is matched by their counterparts, Policemen, many are only interested in their prowess, continually falsifying reports on how the rape survivor is attracted to themselves. Looking at the attitudes of Police personnel, those who feel that they are not expected to do anything in a rape case, the extremities being the role of the rape victim to protect and shelter vulnerable officers.

Ultimately, the saddest statement of all:

‘It was my fault I was rapped.’

The victims who blame themselves, a factor in why so many crimes are not reported to the authorities.

‘Convict Blanket’, innovative works, at the helm within the spectrum of art activism. Artwork which can challenge misconceptions around rape, concepts which can address issues in society and confront the authorities put in place to act against rape. Ultimately, ‘Convict Blanket’ will lead to the conviction of more rapists, reducing rape crime and proposes a safer society.

Convict Blanket will be exhibited from spring 2020.

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