The Tattoo Industry Is Facing ‘A Reckoning’

Accounts of abusive behaviour in the tattoo industry are typically confined to whisper networks. A close-knit community with a hierarchy that sees the most influential artists positioned – and protected – at the top, allegations of sexual assault and racism often become open secrets and stop there, lingering in a liminal space of accountability. But just like the film, tech and gaming industries, the world of tattooing now faces its own reckoning. At the end of May, countless women began to speak out about being sexually assaulted and harassed by male tattoo artists in the UK. Sharing their experiences mainly on Instagram, similar accounts came up again and again of men repeatedly using their position to take advantage of their clients, cross boundaries, send sexually explicit messages without consent and act abusively within romantic relationships. Set up in March, an Instagram account called Tattooists Sexual Assault Survivor Support (TSASS) began to receive hundreds of messages from women coming forward with allegations. Artists from all over the world assembled under the name “Tattoo Me Too Recovery Artists” offering to fix, rework and finish pieces for victims of abusers in the industry. After being called out publicly, two Norwich-based artists acknowledged their behaviour in Instagram posts on the 4th of June and announced their intent to leave the industry. Many other artists who’d had allegations levelled against them went quiet, or simply shrugged them off. As all this unfolded, conversations about systemic racism also began to take place within the tattoo industry, in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and the ensuing international protests against racism and police brutality. Glasgow-based tattooist Charissa, who works under the name Rizza Boo, launched Shades Tattoo Initiative in June as an educational platform and support network for Black and POC tattoo artists in the UK. High-profile UK tattooists like Grace Neutral also used their Instagram accounts to host conversations between Black tattooists like Charissa and Montana Blue, addressing the current climate in tattooing and racism in the industry in general. Meanwhile, New York-based artist Doreen Garner called for people to discuss their experiences of anti-Blackness in tattooing, such as Black clients being turned away, overcharged or told tattoos “don’t look good on their skin”. Tattooing has become increasingly diverse over the last decade, due to its mainstream popularity and accessibility via social media platforms like Instagram. Growing numbers of women, Black, POC and trans artists have been able to enter the industry by working around the more “traditional” and gate-kept pathways to success. However, while the landscape of tattooing may have changed, the dominant culture and attitudes have remained largely the same. Artists advocating for change are frequently met with resistance from those keen to hold on to a western perception of tattoo “tradition” that revolves predominantly around whitewashed imagery of the military, motorcycle gangs and prisoners – all commonly associated with the “white male outcast”. While there is a longstanding tradition of borrowing from other cultures within tattooing that can lean towards cultural appropriation, Charissa says the bigger issue is when “folks from those cultures are then not given a voice or a proper place within the tattoo community”. “The narrative that tattooing is a white male industry is only partially true, and I think we need to start re-reading the story,” Charissa explains over email. “The industry would not be what it is without people of colour. Historically, tattooing came from us, brown people! Tattooing does not belong to white men, it belongs to all of us, so this shift that is happening is absolutely necessary.” “They’re scared of things changing,” Fidjit Lavelle, a 30-year-old artist based in Glasgow, says over Skype. A long-time advocate for survivors of rape and domestic abuse, Fidjit is best known for her designs of figures with their heads partially underwater, symbolising anxiety, depression and PTSD, which have come to be referred to as “The Drowning Girls Club”. “They feel like something is being taken away from them, or you’re trying to strip them of their rights or tell them what they can or can’t do, but that’s an incredibly intense conclusion to jump to,” she says, referring to the industry’s usual response to sexual assault. “There’s this whole idea that ‘no one’s safe anymore’ or ‘everyone’s going to get outed’. I think people are just using tradition as an excuse not to step up and do what needs to be done because they’re frightened, which makes me question them. If you’ve not done anything wrong, then you’ve got nothing to be afraid of.” The prevailing figure of the “white male outcast” is one that often shuts down conversation in tattooing, as a high proportion of men in the industry come from difficult or working class backgrounds, and generally tend to view themselves as being left-leaning or anti-establishment. Many seem to find it difficult to reconcile what’s stacked against them with their capacity to inflict harm on others. When pulled up, they get defensive – and so do their fans. The exact same problem can be seen within alternative music scenes, which the tattoo industry overlaps with, as hardcore, punk and metal communities continue to be rife with abuse, and dominated by white men.Photo: ‘Tattoo Age’ by VICE Tattooing is predicated on a mutual feeling of trust and respect. Sessions are physically and emotionally draining and, in addition to being in the vulnerable position of having their physical appearance permanently altered by a relative stranger, clients are also more likely to be vulnerable themselves. Studies have noted that one of the first ports of call for people who have experienced trauma, for example, is to get body modification done as a way to regain control of their bodies and their environment. “Sometimes there is deep emotional attachment to the piece someone is trying to get tattooed,” says Charissa. “We are changing their physical appearance, the visible look of the person’s skin, and this requires that we speak about skin, skin tone and colour much more often than other workplaces […] We are then faced with a unique set of issues and specific micro-aggressions, which black and IPOC folks are subjected to within tattoo shop environments.” It takes an admirable bedside manner to make someone feel comfortable for up to eight hours at a time while working with their body so intimately and painfully. But the old school mentality of tattooing is one that puts the artist rather than the client first. Like musicians or performers, people come to them because they like what they do, and therefore they’re in control of the experience. That mentality is still prevalent today, and is further complicated by the deregulated nature of the industry. Tattooing has no central organised structure, no professional guild, no background checks and nothing resembling a human resources department to oversee employment standards. For many artists, that’s part of the appeal (plus: anyone who’s dealt with the aforementioned bodies will know they do little to combat abuse of power in workplaces where they do exist). Unfortunately, that means accountability has to come from within the industry itself, which it rarely does. It’s no secret that female-identifying tattoo artists, especially Black and POC artists, struggle to gain respect while starting out, especially within male-dominated studios where there tends to be more bravado. Several women contacted for this piece tell me they’ve had to deal with apprenticeships where they’ve been ignored or made to clean the room 25 times in a row with no advice or instruction on how to actually tattoo, worked in studios where male artists have made derogatory comments about clients or had sex with them behind the screens, or been told they might get further with their work if they posted “raunchy photos or did nudes”. The power imbalances in the industry don’t just exist among artists themselves, but also between the artist and the person getting tattooed. Beyond a very clear fuck-up with the actual tattoo, there’s little to no recourse for anyone who experiences harm in a tattoo studio or, as is increasingly common these days, a setting where an artist works alone or from home. As a result, predatory behaviour, racist attitudes and abuse of power often go unchecked. “I really love the fact that it’s an underground industry, even though it’s not so much anymore,” says Fidjit. “You’re free to be your own person and do as you please, and it’s sad that it looks like that’ll have to end, because it really is one of the best parts of it – but there’s a lot of people walking about blindly in tattooing, not even realising that the way they treat and talk to clients is something they need to worry about.” Lucy Pigeon, a 28-year-old tattoo artist from Surrey, founded TSASS in February – initially as a Facebook group, then as an Instagram page in March – to address sexist attitudes in the industry, help victims and share resources. Lucy conceived of TSASS as a safe space for people to vocalise their experiences. “Having an anonymous or benign person to hold onto that for you and share the burden can be really helpful for a lot of people, I think,” she tells me over Skype. “I’ve actually been assaulted twice on two different occasions by tattoo artists, and with both of them I was a fan of their work. I thought I wasn’t valuable enough to warrant ruining their reputation or their career, and I still feel guilt over it, almost, but it doesn’t negate the fact that they should be held responsible. That contributes to people being silent for so long.” A few weeks into May, emboldened by the posts of a few high profile artists, people began to name names. Artists and clients alike started to talk about their experiences of sexual misconduct from men who tattooed them – some publicly, some privately, many for the first time. Within the space of a few weeks, the pages for TSASS and Tattoo Me Too Recovery Artists went from having a few hundred followers to a few thousand. Both groups became inundated with DMs from people coming forward to speak about their experiences. At the end of the first week, Lucy’s screen time showed that she’d spent 70 hours on Instagram alone replying to messages to TSASS. “It’s overwhelming, but obviously shows there’s a massive need for this kind of platform for people,” she says. This is perhaps the closest the UK has come to what happened in North America in January of 2018, when hundreds of women accused men who tattooed them of sexual misconduct. A Jezebel report at the time called it “the industry’s own version of a #MeToo moment”, but nothing on the same level has happened in the UK, where problems within the industry are compounded by strict libel laws that leave those who speak up open to potential defamation. “I think a lot of these people are afforded rock star status,” Lucy says, arguing that certain artists are put on a pedestal and protected by their friends, large followings and influence. “Why would you believe Jane Doe compared with this Goliath figure in the community? People are scared of taking down these big names.” “People don’t want to rock the boat or say something about someone they think is influential,” Fidjit agrees. “The whole point, though, is that [artists] know they’re in these positions, so they feel like they can get away with anything they want – and they do most of the time, because people won’t challenge them, and people see them as something far more than they actually are. There’s a lot of abuse of power, where [artists] know full well that young girls look up to them, and maybe want to start tattooing themselves. That’s used and exploited all the time.” Charissa adds: “There are just too many stories of people of colour having awful experiences in tattoo studios. One of the main words we are hearing thrown around at the moment is accountability. I think that, within tattooing studios, a large amount of this rests on studio owners and managers to make sure there is a level of professionalism being maintained. I’ve worked in a lot of different types of studios and that is not always the case.”Photo: ‘Tattoo Age’ by VICE Several studios have opened over the last decade – including Saved Tattoo and Welcome Home in Brooklyn, and east London’s New Language (co-founded by Philadelphia-born artist Morgan Myers) – with a safe space ethos, holding anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia at the centre of their practice. “I think tattooing is experiencing a reckoning in that the industry can no longer treat clients as interchangeable or secondary to the practice – we are being required as a field to demonstrate that we value our client’s lives and humanity, not simply their commercial value as clients,” Tamara Santibañez, an artist at Saved Tattoo, explains over email. “The practice of expecting all tattooers to approach their craft in the same uniform way can function similarly to assuming that if one treats all clients ‘the same’ it will result in fair and equal customer service. What this doesn’t acknowledge is that each artist and each client brings their own unique set of experiences and identities to the tattoo exchange, and that what might be fair treatment for one client could be wholly unfair to another.” Before the pandemic, Saved Tattoo held events with the Women’s Prison Association in New York, offering free cover-ups and reworks of tattoos on women who have been justice impacted. In collaboration with the WPA, Tamara put together a workshop informed by the needs of clients who are trauma-impacted or survivors of violence. It was recently consolidated into a free pamphlet called Trauma Informed Tattooing, which describes ways to integrate informed consent into the tattooing process, practical ways to be mindful of boundaries and tips for active listening. “I notice a huge disconnect in how tattooers perceive themselves to be doing a fine job and how they might be – often inadvertently – harming their clients,” Tamara says. “The artists perpetuating harm are likely not getting feedback or disclosure of this fact, and the people who are being trusted with that information tend to be women, queer and trans artists, as well as Black, Indigenous and other people of colour, who are then disbelieved or dismissed by the dominant culture tattooers when they try to advocate for change.” These pamphlets have begun to make their way around the industry through word of mouth, and are an example of the kind of educational material that could guide studios and artists in the future. But the power dynamics that cause abuse to go unchecked in the industry can be invisible and difficult to name and unlearn. As Tamara explains, they can extend to “cultural capital, industry seniority, shop favouritism and a culture that prioritises a tattoo artist’s position as the professional provider and minimises the lived experience that a client has in getting tattooed”. Deconstructing that is a long and slow process, but one that is currently underway – little by little. It can be a painful learning curve for some. After interviews for this piece were conducted, some survivors said they received replies from TSASS and Tattoo Me Too Recovery Artists that were dismissive, minimising and contained apologist sentiments in instances where the person responding knew the accused tattooist personally. Both accounts have since posted apologies. Responding to a request for follow-up comment, Lucy directed VICE to a public statement later published on the TSASS Instagram page: “I have still made mistakes in my effort to provide support, and for that I am truly sorry,” Lucy wrote. “I’m just a tattooist and a fellow survivor trying desperately to provide a service that is clearly needed.” A similar statement was issued by Tattoo Me Too Recovery Artists, which reads: “We have since learned a lot about how to deal with these situations and survivors and work closely with charities to be able to help the industry in the future.” (Tattoo Me Too did not respond to VICE’s initial request for comment). Perhaps above all else, this highlights just how many people have been affected by abuse within the industry and how few opportunities there have been to vocalise it. While this isn’t the first time women in the UK have spoken out, it is one of the most unified efforts to address the issue. There have been several suggestions on how to improve things – one being an enhanced DBS check that would flag if someone has been arrested for a sexual offence – but Fidjit worries about the impact that would have on people with criminal records in general. “I also just don’t think it would work, because these people generally don’t have any legal convictions for this because it’s so hard to get one,” she says. “Most people don’t have a conviction for rape, sexual assault or domestic abuse, and a lot of people haven’t been arrested for it either.” Tamara agrees: “Though I do believe tattooers should have more resources for navigating professional needs, I simultaneously believe that trying to standardise those needs and serve them with a single organisation would leave out and further marginalise many of the people practicing tattooing who aren’t acknowledged by tattoo artists in shops.” Charissa, Fidjit, Lucy and Tamara all believe that the responsibility for accountability ultimately lies with the artist, but that studios can certainly do more to set community standards, expectations and consequences for bad behaviour. Studio diversity, transparency and education, they say, can help. “Studios can set the tone for the cultural norms that exist within their walls, and can act as contact points for feedback on their clients’ experiences,” Tamara says. “If tattooing wants to be so individualistic and self-regulating, individuals need to step up to actually being accountable, rather than using those industry qualities to avoid responsible engagement.” As tattooing becomes more diverse – both in terms of its clientele and its tattooists – it’s more important than ever for all artists to be respectful and sensitive to people’s individual needs. Rather than trying to impose a more formalised structure onto an industry that has never had one, though, tattooists seem to agree that the way forward for the community is education. “There must be education for tattooers about how to speak with their clients of colour in a way which is more respectful, and that they are aware of what micro-aggressions they could be inflicting on another person,” Charissa adds. “If you can’t take the time to see that, then I really don’t think you should be permanently altering that individual’s body at all.” @emmaggarland If you or anyone you know has been affected by the issues raised in this story, please use the following resources for help and support. In the UK Refuge ’s freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247. The Rape Crisis Helpline is 0808 802 9999 (England and Wales), 08088 01 03 02 (Scotland) and 0800 0246 991 (Northern Ireland).
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The Rise and Fall of Claire’s Accessories

I realised the accuracy of the tagline for the high street brand Claire’s – “we make memories” – while reminiscing about the shop’s lilac chaos. To many millennials who grew up in the 2000s, memories of Claire’s are familiar and specific: butterfly clips, tubs of heart-shaped lollipops, “sterling silver” earrings and those balls of tiny, brightly coloured plastic spikes (on jewellery, key rings and even spiky balls for spiky balls’ sake). If I could hold one of those products now, the feel of the squidgy spikes and the smell of the plastic would transport me straight back to 2005. Over the past decade there have been moments when Claire’s risked being relegated to memory forever. By 2010, 14 years after its UK launch, Claire’s had 465 stores across the country. But in a tricky retail climate, this number was reduced in the two years that followed. In March 2018, the brand filed for bankruptcy in the US. The same year, Claire’s undertook a restructuring across its European arm, including closing more underperforming stores of its remaining 370 in the UK. Two years on, though, Claire’s remains firmly on the UK high street, with 316 stores remaining. Over 24 years it has used its cheap, fashionable products and free in-store ear piercing service to cement its fun, casual reputation. But as a brand primarily aimed at teens and children, it is under constant pressure to stay relevant. So do Gen Z still flock to Claire’s for multipacks of studs and to goggle at their friends getting pierced? What does it mean to today’s youth, and can it survive on an increasingly barren high street? Though the neon spikes have disappeared, Claire’s has retained its colourful style, which still has plenty of teen appeal. Lula, who’s 12 and lives in Oxfordshire with her mum, tells me over the phone: “At places like Accessorize they generally just do plain earrings. At Claire’s they do watermelons and more fancy designs, and teenagers and kids like that kind of thing.” Claire’s has also continued its Best Friends range, offering gifts and every variation of matching “best friends” jewellery (from classic broken heart necklaces to a pair of avocado-shaped key rings bearing the words “avocado” and “avocadon’t”). These products still hold significance for tweenies aside from their aesthetic value. “Lots of people get them,” says Lula. “People feel like it makes them closer to their friend. It’s kind of nice to have that symbol.” That Claire’s is a brand targeted at children and teens has always been reflected in its low prices. Buying cheap jewellery can be the first foray into expressing your style independently, because, unlike clothes, you can afford to buy it yourself with pocket money. Clare Bailey, an independent retail expert, explains that Claire’s is a brand designed for “exploratory shopping”. This actively appeals to young consumers, but also eliminates much of the threat of the online market. “This age group would go out to shops with their friends. They’d visit places like Claire’s, Lush and Primark, and they’d go for a milkshake, and come back with bags of stuff that they didn’t really need,” she says. “The spend is more a hobby than a purchase you’re really thinking about.” A former employee of a Claire’s store in Gloucestershire, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that in her experience customers were usually “teenagers who wanted to get pierced without their parents, and young children who wanted to spend their pocket money.” That said, Gen Z are well aware of the sacrifice of quality that comes with low prices – and in turn the impact of that low quality. Susannah, who’s 17 and lives in south London, doesn’t shop in Claire’s because she finds it “a bit cheap and tacky”. “I like to buy from local businesses, or Etsy or Depop,” she tells me. “It’s much more sustainable. I don’t think Claire’s is particularly eco-friendly.” Lula, too, is “a big environmentalist”, and has concerns surrounding Claire’s sustainability. “I go there sometimes but I try to look for things that aren’t packed with plastic packaging,” she says. “They’re not very good with plastic, and that makes me want to shop there less.” Clare Bailey confirms the effect of Gen Z’s environmental awareness: many teens would rather buy second hand than from fast fashion outlets, including Claire’s. “Less organic, biodegradable products are used in costume jewellery, and this generation is not interested in that,” she says. Brands like Lush, which she groups in the same “exploratory shopping” category, can retain their teen market more easily because their products are expendable: when you use it up, you need more. With Claire’s, though, “if it breaks or tarnishes or is no longer fashionable, it just goes in the bin.” As well as these offerings of “stuff”, as much fun simply to buy as it is to own, Claire’s is known for its in-store free ear piercing – which remains as divisive a topic as it was in my school in 2007. In the wake of recent lockdown-easing legislation in the UK, independent piercing and tattoo artists expressed outrage online that their businesses were not allowed to reopen due to social distancing regulations, but Claire’s, allowed to open in its capacity as a shop, could still carry out ear piercing. “Tattoo shops can’t open? Piercing specialists can’t open? But Claire’s Accessories can still fuck your ears up? Go fucking figure,” one user tweeted on 23 June. That Claire’s will “fuck your ears up” is an idea still circulating among teens. Susannah tells me she would never go there (she thinks one of her friends did and that the piercing got “severely infected”). Claire’s is clear about its safety and hygiene regulations, though (particularly in the wake of COVID-19), and plenty of people have no qualms about its ear piercing (it has pierced “over 100 Million Ears Worldwide”). Bailey says in the late 1990s and early 2000s Claire’s was “a nice, fresh alternative to going to a piercing studio” as tattoos and piercings stopped being taboo (she attributes this partly to the Spice Girls era). Lula doesn’t have her ears pierced yet, but wouldn’t have a problem getting them done at Claire’s since her “mum got her ears pierced there.” I got my ears pierced at Claire’s too, but my perception of Claire’s as a simple, nostalgic purple haven is clearly outdated. For Gen Z, who have inherited a burning planet, buying tat comes at a greater cost. To fix their complicated relationship with Gen Z, Claire’s will have to adapt. “Their original customer group has grown out of it,” says Bailey, and Claire’s needs to consider what experience they’re offering beyond “just buying things”. Make no mistake: the youth of today want more than squidgy, spiky balls.@_emilybootle
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An In-Depth Investigation into the Origins of the Phrase ‘It Is What It Is’

What it is: being mugged off by a girl you like. Being mugged off by a boy you like. Getting picked last on Love Island. Louis Tomlinson’s tattoo, a curling cursive font across the 28-year-old multi-millionaire’s chest, proudly announcing itself for what it is, which is to say, it is. No-one knows exactly when “it is what it is” became the enduring motto of British life. It percolated into our cultural lexicon in the 2010s imperceptibly, like agricultural run-off into a stream. Tomlinson had the phrase tattooed on his chest in March 2013. By the late-2010s it is everywhere: Harry Kane mumbled it in Volgograd ahead of England’s opening World Cup game in June 2018. 2019 brought season five of Love Island. None of the girls pick Sherif Lanre during the initial coupling up. “It is what it is,” the semi-professional rugby player shrugs. By 2020 Jerry Seinfeld is using the phrase in his standup set, whilst Gen Z users of TikTok had turned “it is what it is” into a meme using the ripped You Tube audio of a group of wisecracking young men. “It is what it is” ripped through Twitter in June after people began changing their user names to include the 👁👄👁 emoji and the phrase. After breathless coverage in the Independent and Forbes, the group clarified that it started out as an in-joke that got out of control and calling on followers to donate to anti-racism charities.When the father of modern situational comedy and Gen Z TikTok users are saying the same thing concurrently, you know you’ve tapped into the motherlode of the cultural zeitgeist. But where did the phrase come from, and what does it mean? And more importantly: will “it is what it is” ever die? The first thing to note: although “it is what it is” feels as British as beer bellies, sunburn and fading St George’s flag tattoos, the phrase is arguably as American as it is British. A New York Times article from 2006 was amongst the first to glom onto the phrase’s increasing popularity. Author William Safire used the example of George Bush Jr’s press secretary fielding media inquiries about Dick Cheney’s hunting accident (“it is what it is, and it’s time to move on”), and Britney Spears being photographed driving with her infant son on her lap (“I made a mistake, and so it is what it is”) to show how the phrase could be used to draw a line under behaviour of questionable legality. “Often accompanied by a shrug, it is used to deflect inquiry with panache,” Safire concludes. In all likelihood, “it is what it is” was probably circulating long before Spears went for that drive: linguistic expert Dave Wilton, editor of Word Origins.org, has found an early reference to the phrase in a Jet magazine profile of LL Cool J from October 2000. “This is a real record, it is real from the heart,” says the rapper. “It is what it is.” Wilton explains that it takes a while for new slang to form part of the written record, meaning that we cannot know for sure who first coined the now-deathless phrase. “No one knows why a word or phrases catch on,” he says. “It just kind of happens… whilst we can track its published uses, you can’t track the oral sources.” “It is what it is” seemed to accrue momentum around 2005, finding its way into newspaper articles and magazine interviews. For the next 15 years, “it is what it is” multiplies exponentially in use. “It’s lasted longer than you’d expect,” muses Wilton. “It’s been steadily increasing for a good 14 years. Normally you’d see a sharp drop off after a few years.” Whilst “it is what it is” has remained a constant of our cultural discourse for the last 15 years, the phrase’s meaning has shifted over time. “Initially, it had a sense of: don’t ascribe additional value or meaning to this phenomenon,” says Wilton. “But over time, it evolved to connote resignation. People would use it in situations where things couldn’t be changed.” Slang lexicographer Jonathon Green perceives a fatalism in the phrase that tracks back to the macho masculinity of 70s war veterans. “It reminds me of the fatalism you have in books about the Vietnam War,” Green says, “people constantly having bits of themselves blown off and doing something appalling, and saying ‘it is what it is’ and being terribly brave about it.” From the Vietnam War to the marginally less dehumanising environs of the Love Island villa: “it is what it is” is a one-size-fits-all leitmotif for every aspect of the human experience. “I can’t take credit for the phrase,” Sherif Lanre tells me. “But I will take credit for taking it mainstream in the public eye.” After Lanre introduced the phrase to the villa, housemates repeated it constantly, like malfunctioning Alexas, for the rest of the show’s run. “It’s a phrase to ease the bumps in life,” he explains. In the Love Island villa, “it is what is” took on a new, almost mythological significance. It became a corrective to thought, a panacea against self-doubt, a curative for introspection – a modern-day Serenity Prayer for the Instagram generation. Sweet, befuddled Tommy Fury used the phrase like a magic talisman to ward off situations he found confusing, of which there were many. Its anti-intellectual qualities were useful in a scripted reality TV show, because so often housemates would find themselves in situations that made no sense, or were out of their hands. When you find yourself mugged off by a girl in lycra on national TV, what else is there to say, but: “it is what it is?” “When you think something is out of your control,” Lanre says, “rather than dwelling on it, you say, ‘It is what it is.’ The only step you can take is moving forward… but if it’s within your control, it definitely isn’t ‘it is what it is.’ Because you can change it.” In other words: Lord, give me the patience to accept the muggings off that I cannot change, and the courage to avoid the muggings off I can change. After Love Island, ‘it is what it is’ took hold of the nation. Your mum started tweeting it; it was printed on mugs. But the phrase has a wider use beyond the Love Island villa. “It is what it is” is a charm against chaos in an increasingly fractured and bewildering world. In this age of rising income inequality, climate change, political instability, and global plague, Stoical forbearance seems a logical response to a world full of hopelessness and despair. As journalist Andy Beckett writes in the Guardian, “‘it is what it is’…[is] a mantra for an age of diminishing expectations, when many people no longer assume – unlike their postwar predecessors – that they will become richer than their parents, and live in an ever more sophisticated or just society.” Lanre got kicked off Love Island after just nine days, for accidentally kicking fellow housemate Molly-May Hague in the groin and calling it a “cunt punt”. In his exit statement, he said – what else? – “it is what it is”. A year on, he feels ill-used by the show’s producers. “I don’t think it was worth getting kicked off for,” Lanre tells me, explaining that he felt they demonstrated “unconscious racism” in their heavy-handed treatment of what was ultimately a crass joke, but not malicious. Does he feel that the producers hung him out to dry? “Pretty much… in the nicest, most legal way possible,” Lanre responds. After our call, I reflect that in Lanre’s case, “it is what it is” also has a more sombre meaning: the acceptance that there are systems that may not always treat you fairly, because of the colour of your skin. After Love Island wrapped, the producers put out a supercut of the Islanders saying “it is what it is”, cementing its entry into our common language. On Twitter, the video has 248,000 views. Lanre doesn’t feature. @thedalstonyearsUPDATE 06/07/20: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sherif Lanre is a semi-professional footballer. The article has been updated to reflect the fact that he is a semi-professional rugby player.
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How ‘Deeply Unsettling’ Intermittent Fasting Apps Took Over Social Media

On TikTok in the middle of the night during lockdown, I watched hours of videos that include: a dog that howls like a man, a Rube Goldberg machine made of bourbon biscuits and an update from a middle-aged man trying to quit fizzy drinks. And then I noticed that I was seeing a particular advert in among the videos very frequently, and one that jarred with the content around it. A thin, conventionally attractive woman talking to the camera about how she gained weight from “staying at home” recently, but then lost it again thanks to an intermittent fasting app called Simple. Then I realised that I was being advertised other similar apps too, and I started to see the adverts on Instagram and Twitter. I asked some friends, and then some strangers, and found that a significant number of people, usually but not always women, have had their social media feeds carpet bombed over lockdown with adverts for these same apps. Intermittent fasting, the practice of restricting the hours in which you eat to set windows each day, has been a favourite health regimen of Silicon Valley bros for a while, part of a trend for “biohacking”, or optimising the human body’s performance as though it were a machine. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, for instance, spoke last year about how he had been “playing with fasting”, and sometimes goes for days without eating at all. It’s also been favoured by celebrities. Kourtney Kardashian’s lifestyle company Poosh plugged an intermittent fasting app called Zero in a blog post recently, which also included tips like licking salt off your wrist to make yourself feel less hungry. But over the past year, a number of different companies have sprung up offering apps to help ordinary people fast, and started advertising intensively on social media, pissing a lot of people off in the process. I have not enjoyed seeing these advertisements. My own obsessive food restriction used to centre around apps that allowed me to log and monitor my food intake, and those habits took – are taking – years to break. When I asked other people how they felt about these adverts, I got some strongly worded responses. “It’s deeply unsettling,” said one woman, “to see something advertised which helps and encourages you to disrupt your relationship with food”. Another woman, who is recovering from anorexia, said: “Every single one of those ads is an absolute body blow and I detest them.” Many more people, both with and without histories of disordered eating, spoke of the anger they felt at seeing the adverts, including people as young as 15. The apps that appear most on people’s social media feed at the moment in the UK seem to be Simple and Fastic. The adverts vary: animated characters encouraging you to download, illustrations of the different types of belly fat a woman might have to lose, and the most uncanny type: first person, on-camera endorsements of fasting. Adverts on TikTok – a platform where 37 percent of the US audience are in their teens – are particularly integrated with the rest of the content. One advert, for Simple, begins with the actress whispering to herself “is it recording?”, to seem as much like unsponsored content as possible. Rose Lyddon, a graduate student, mentioned these adverts, featuring women with protruding collar and hipbones, in particular as being highly reminiscent of “thinspiration” posts, and therefore triggering. “That was the visual language of online ED (eating disorder) communities when I was a teenager,” she said. It’s been documented that Instagram and TikTok in particular have a problem with pro-anorexic user-generated content on their platforms, but paid-for advertisements are another matter altogether. Ysabel Gerrard, a researcher into social media platforms’ content moderation policies around eating disorders at the University of Sheffield, was firm about how harmful this content can be: “We know that discourses like this are damaging, and at the very, very least they’re triggering for people.” I interviewed one of the co-founders of Fastic, Phil Wayman, and the founder of Simple, Alex Ilinski. I put it to both of them that their adverts were seen by some as irresponsible, and upsetting by many. “I’m sorry to upset them: we don’t say they should lose weight,” said Ilinski. Similarly, Wayman was apologetic, but only to a point: “Especially on social media, you get a lot of shit-storm for everything nowadays but we go strictly against starving. It’s more like an eating window.” Most of the apps are age-limited at over 16, but you can set your date of birth as whatever you like. I mentioned to Wayman that Fastic allows users to register as being 13 years old, and he was quick to assure me that this would be rectified in the next update. Each of these apps advises you to check with a doctor before altering your diet, but you can set your current weight and your goal weight at dangerously low levels. It’s also easy to find pro-anorexic websites and social media accounts that explicitly recommend these apps to pursue unhealthy weight loss goals.The difficulty is that intermittent fasting is not inherently bad for you. Fasting for religious reasons is practised widely and safely all over the world. Both Wayman and Ilinski were effusive about the supposed health benefits of intermittent fasting, including increased mindfulness, energy and weight loss, and said that they continually seek the expertise of nutritionists. “We want our users to reach full consciousness about [nutrition], whether it means fasting or just balancing their diet until they find what’s best for their body and mind,” said Ilinski. It all sounds healthy enough, if a little obsessive in tone – I’m not sure why someone would want to reach “full consciousness” about what they’re eating. However, the benefits of fasting are far from a medical certainty. I spoke to two experts, registered dietician Aisling Pigott and registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert, both of whom said that there was no large body of evidence that suggests intermittent fasting has any health benefits, weight loss included. But the potential for these benefits allows these apps to market themselves as a health platform, and to trade on ill-substantiated medical claims. An advert for Fastic on TikTok claims that coffee prevents Alzheimer’s. Ilinski told me that Simple’s advertising only encouraged responsible lengths of fasts: “We don’t tell you to fast for 24 hours, for two days, for three days.” When I pointed out that the company Instagram had posted admiringly about one of their users who had not eaten for over three and a half days, he admitted that this could “maybe” encourage unhealthy behaviour.Fastic app advert on TikTok. Aggressively marketing food restriction apps on social media contributes to an atmosphere of oppressive heterodoxy when it comes to body image. This is difficult for the 1.25 million estimated sufferers of eating disorders in the UK, and especially during lockdown. One anonymous woman told me: “Lockdown has been a nightmare for people with EDs, and promoting these apps just looks like preying on the vulnerable.” There are plenty of people for whom fasting apps are useful tools for following a lifestyle that is not in and of itself dangerous. Fastic has amassed 4 million downloads. But these apps are wide open to misuse, and being marketed in irresponsible places and with irresponsible messaging, to people likely to misuse them. The responsibility for preventing this misuse lies with the app developers, but also with social media platforms. Adverts to do with fasting on TikTok, like all their ads, are supposedly vetted and age-gated, but the Director of External Affairs at BEAT, Tom Quinn, told me that “it is clear further steps need to be taken to limit the amount of harmful advertising” of this kind on social media platforms. Perhaps we should just be reporting the adverts and moving on with our lives. But the issue, especially for people with burgeoning disordered relationships with food, is that a part of you is curious about what you’re seeing. I see these adverts, and a small voice in my head says “maybe you should use a fasting app”. These adverts may not all actively promote harmful behaviour, but they certainly contribute to the feelings that lead to it.@imogenWK
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What It Was Like Working at a Pub the First Night After Lockdown

Pubs in England reopened this weekend on what was dubbed “Super Saturday”. Below is an account of what Saturday evening was like for those on the other side of the bar, from a member of staff at a London Wetherspoons.I didn’t sleep at all the night before my shift because I was dreading it so much. But when I arrived at the pub at 5PM, things were running surprisingly smoothly. I thought, ‘Okay, this is good. The place is clean. People are keeping their distance. We can make this work.’ We had a lot of good measures in place, including reducing our capacity to 150 seats; before COVID, we could fit 650. If you didn’t have a table, you weren’t coming in, so there was a big queue out the door, which was pretty good-humoured for the most part. I was working in the kitchen, as well as being out on the floor. It started out alright, but as the evening went on it became a whole different story. One of the main problems was there was no limit on how long people could stay. When we asked, ‘Is there going to be a drink limit?’ we were just told to use our judgment as normal. It wasn’t even necessarily worse than an average Saturday night – the reduced capacity helped – but it still ended up being pretty chaotic. Whenever I had to leave the kitchen, I was literally having to push past people, even though we had stickers on the ground telling people to social distance. We really hoped that people would respect this, but they didn’t. We also encouraged people to order using the Wetherspoons app, which allows you to get table service, but people mostly ignored this and just went up to the bar as normal. When customers came in we gave them test-and-trace forms to fill out, but there’s nothing to stop anyone from writing, ‘What’s your name? Micky Mouse. When are you leaving? When I want.’ When I looked at the forms, I saw that people had mostly written stuff like that. People absolutely did not observe the “no shouting” rule. How would you even enforce that? Are we meant to muffle them? It’s a pub – everyone’s shouting to their mates. Generally, it felt like customers were trying to follow the rules for the first few hours, but as they stayed, and got more drunk, everything got worse and worse. At a few moments, things got really messy. There was a bad incident where a guy who was pretty intoxicated fell over and injured himself. This caused a huge commotion, and half the pub got up from their tables and crowded around our manager. They were trying to help, to be fair, but this was the last thing we wanted. People were huddling together dangerously close and I was trying to get them back to their seats so we could call an ambulance and let the bouncers sort it out. That was quite scary, actually, because I felt like an ant compared to all of them, with my flimsy paper mask on. Crowd-control gets so difficult when there are that many people. When people are drunk, they don’t realise how loud they are, they don’t follow instructions, sometimes they don’t realise how much they’re spraying you with spit when they’re talking. It was intimidating and stressful – we just shouldn’t be in that position at all. Throughout the evening, I was very conscious of my own health, and concerned about my colleagues. In the kitchen, we’ve been provided with face masks and hand sanitiser everywhere, which is good. But whenever I went out on the floor, no one was wearing a mask. You just have to take it on trust that customers are washing their hands. You haven’t got a clue who’s got COVID and who hasn’t. I was terrified. I still am. I had to get really close to people when I didn’t want to. It’s stressful, because I’ve worked my way up to being a shift leader in the kitchen and I want to look after myself and everyone else at work, but I know we’re in harm’s way, despite basically every single measure you could think of being put in place. You always have the anxiety of catching COVID. But I absolutely, 100 percent don’t blame the customers for all this. This would not be happening if the government hadn’t opened pubs so early and been so brash, putting out adverts saying, “Go get a drink! Raise a glass!” Going to the pub has been framed as a patriotic duty. People are going to see this messaging from the government and follow it. Even though I obviously do wish the customers had been a bit more careful, there’s only so much I can blame them. If you feel guilty about coming to the pub, you should be aware that none of us in the Wetherspoons union want a boycott. Our hours are already at the bare minimum because the company’s made no money. If trade is significantly reduced, I’m going to have my hours cut, along with everyone else. I’ll lose income and I won’t be able to pay my rent. Boycotting is not helping the workers right now, it’s just suiting your own narrative. If you genuinely want to support us and help out reasonably then come in, wash your hands, don’t be a dick, wear a mask, and be respectful. We just want to do our jobs without getting infected, without feeling stressed. I shouldn’t have to be consoling one of my co-workers who’s broken down sobbing on the stairs mid-shift. This shouldn’t be happening. But now isn’t the time to stay away. Even though last night was chaotic and stressful, we still took in way less than normal. It was nowhere near as profitable as a regular Saturday night, which is not sustainable. Ultimately, businesses are going to have to make decisions and people will lose their jobs. The crisis is only beginning. The fact that pubs have opened this early and we’re being placed as cannon fodder is horrific. I didn’t speak to a single colleague who was happy to be there. We’ve gone from being furloughed to going straight into a normal shift, and the risk isn’t gone. It’s very much still there.@jake_photoSee more photos from the weekend below.
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Thousands Demonstrated for Trans Rights in London This Weekend

Right now is a distressing time to be a trans and/or non-binary person, both globally and in the UK. According to a recent Equalities Office national LGBT survey, 41 percent of trans people responded that they had experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months. Sixty-seven percent of trans respondents also said they had avoided being open about their gender identity for fear of a negative reaction from others.In June, it was reported that the government is planning to drop proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Instead of allowing trans people to change their gender on their birth certificate without medical consultation, the government plans to block trans women from using female-only spaces, including refuges and public bathrooms. This rolling back of trans rights will see the UK “plummet” down the European rankings for LGBT equality, according to Amnesty International’s women’s rights programme director, Chiara Capraro. Following last weekend’s Black Trans Lives Matter march, this Saturday saw over a thousand people assemble in Parliament Square to protest against the GRA changes. Speakers made it clear that this community will not be silenced, and that the rights of trans and non-binary people are valid and essential. Kacey, a 48-year-old trans woman, said, “I’m here today because enough is enough. I’m a teacher as well as being trans, and that’s just a part of my life. I transitioned while working in a school about three to four years ago, and ever since then the transphobia in society has been relentless. Every time that we think there seems to be movement and progress happening, it just gets taken away. The sounds coming from the current government are just shocking and appalling. It’s time for it to end.” Asked about the planned GRA reforms, she continued, “It’s just disgusting, it’s appalling. The GRA is literally about a birth certificate, which you don’t really need. I’m unlikely to change my birth certificate. I’ve got a driving license, I’ve got a passport. Self-identification already happens – that’s why I’ve used toilets of my choosing ever since I transitioned. It’s just dog whistles and inflaming people, literally for hatred and bigotry.”Georgie Georgie, a 24-year-old academic and researcher in the fields of gender and sexuality, echoed that sentiment: “It’s absolutely unacceptable. We shouldn’t be protesting for the absolute bare minimum rights. A reform is long overdue, and the fact that decisions concerning the GRA have been scrapped at a time where obviously it’s going to fly under the radar shows this. It’s barbaric and it’s an act of structural violence against the trans community.”Asked how the legislation directly impacted them, they responded, “I’m still considering a transition, and I’m aware of the fact that if I do want to transition I will not be able to get my documentation, my birth certificate changed, without individuals who know nothing about gender – know less about gender than I do – making that decision. As a non-binary person as well, the idea that I would have to live as my gender in order to prove a transition is reductive and binaristic, and it’s almost impossible for our community.” In a speech, Maggie, a trans woman, said, “We deserve a gender recognition system that treats us with dignity rather than forcing us to jump through hoops. We are not guests in gendered spaces – they belong to us just as much as they do to cisgender people. We deserve access to proper healthcare, not gatekeeping that doesn’t allow us to choose our health decisions for ourselves. We are not here to plead with you for these things, they are nothing less than what we are owed.”See more photos below:Maggie@bexwade
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How to Sesh Responsibly On ‘Super Saturday’

Lockdown has been a strange time to take drugs. As society grappled with the threat of coronavirus, something felt inherently wrong about spending your furlough money on a bag of cocaine to ingest with three other impossibly sad men on the other end of a Zoom call. As someone who did this just once during those sombre days of spring, I can confirm it was an Objectively Bad Idea. But with the spectre of open pubs and legal house visits now upon us – not to mention the nation’s current penchant for illegal raves – the scene is set for Brits to rekindle their love of the sesh. Harm reduction and drugs testing charity The Loop just released its Trans-European Covid-19 survey, with results broadly echoing those of the Global Drug Survey and EMCDDA: alcohol use increased during lockdown, while the use of “party drugs” like cocaine, MDMA and ketamine decreased without pubs, clubs and smoky kitchens for us to congregate in. I spoke to Fiona Measham from The Loop, as well as addiction charity We Are With You (WAWY), about how to indulge safely post-lockdown and, ideally, not be a dick in the process. Image courtesy of The Loop, showing the results of its Trans-European Covid-19 survey.WATCH YOUR TOLERANCE Of the 47 percent of respondents to The Loop’s survey who normally take MDMA, just 9.5 percent reported using in the lockdown period until the 1st of June. 51.8 percent of cocaine users decreased to 24 percent, and 46.5 percent taking ketamine reduced to 18.8 percent. While it’s clearly positive that people put down their straws, these reductions provoke concerns around tolerance, as a nation of casual drug users emerge from stasis into the bullring of a state-sponsored “Super Saturday” tear-up. “A break from using drugs would definitely lead to someone having a lower tolerance,” says Dr Rachel Britton, Director of Pharmacy at WAWY. “Start by taking an amount that would be smaller than your usual dose.” In practical terms: don’t let your mate who picked up every weekend during lockdown tempt you back with with huge “honey, I’m home” slugs of gak or ketamine. This advice is particularly relevant if you’re heading to an illegal rave or outdoor party. “There aren’t paramedics or first aid,” warns Fiona Measham, founder of The Loop. “If you wander off in a forest or a field feeling worse for wear, we know that the people who get a delay in medical help are ones that can die.” One 18-year-old died of a suspected drug overdose at Oldham’s Daisy Nook rave, and headlines around young people passing away after taking large doses of high strength MDMA and ecstasy are maddeningly familiar. “If users are having a bad time or get separated, that will be a real worry at these events,” says Measham. The Loop’s standard advice? Start with a quarter and regularly sip water. YOU DON’T *HAVE* TO GET INVOLVED Your WhatsApp group might be popping off with the hedonistic possibilities of Super Saturday, but the nation’s collective brain matter is in a perilous state. A recent Mind study found that, of those with a pre-existing mental health condition, 75 percent of people aged 13 to 24 years old, and 65 percent of over-25s, reported it getting worse. A report by Nuffield Health found that 80 percent of remote workers said working from home had worsened their mental health. With this in mind: set, setting and staying in your comfort zone are more important than ever. “You’ll have people that are really comfortable going out again. Being in a busy pub, surrounded by people at an outdoor party, maybe taking drugs or drinking lots in these environments,” says Fiona Measham. “But many people won’t – it might be because of pre-existing mental health conditions or because they’ve become socially anxious through being inside for months.”Ease your way into things. Don’t feel like you have to traipse to the pub or drop a half if the mood isn’t right for you. Similarly, Britain might have been home to Europe’s two capital cities of cocaine pre-lockdown, but if you’re feeling pleased that you’ve managed to kick your casual cocaine habit, don’t feel pressured into immediately meeting with the Big Thursday crew that normally trigger you into putting in a call after two pints . “Cocaine use is about people, places and things,” Dr Adam Winstock of the Global Drug Survey told VICE in January. “If people want to cut down or stop using drugs, it’s best to avoid people or situations where they would usually find themselves doing those things,” says Dr Rachel Britton.RESPONSIBLE SESH While our social life support machine is slowly flickering after flat-lining for months, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that coronavirus loves a sesh. Bars were thriving in Arizone during June, and this week the state went back into lockdown, while 100 new cases in Seoul were traced to one 29-year-old man visiting five bars and clubs across one night. If you aren’t moved by the health implications that might ensue from ignoring social distancing guidelines, Fiona Measham suggests thinking about the economical repercussions. “Some people might not care about catching the disease – maybe they don’t have older relatives who can get infected. But we’ve got a recession incoming, and many business that clung on will go under if they go back into lockdown. Young people are going to be hit worse, and it’s their future.”We’ve also seen a scourge of littering after parties and raves in the UK, with tabloids gleefully posting headlines about “hippy crack”. “People seem to have lost their heads in their UK [regarding litter],” says Measham. “A greater sense of collective responsibility is needed.”In terms of practicalities for those using shareable substances, Dr Rachel Britton says “coronavirus can be spread by sharing e-cigarettes, pipes, bongs or joints, or nasal tubes, such as straws. If you have to share, wipe down the mouthpieces with an alcohol swab before sharing, or use separate mouthpieces.”If you’re a smoker, bring everything you need – rolling tobacco, papers, filters, lighter – with you so you’re not sharing. Hand sanitiser: clearly. And one final personal thing from the point of view of your lowly writer whose girlfriend manages a public house: these most totemic of British institutions are opening their doors for the first time in over three months, with likely anxious staff trying to incorporate strange new operating procedures designed to stop people dying. Be endlessly pleasant to those pouring your booze, tip like an American, and if things aren’t working as smoothly as you like – don’t be a dick about it. @dhillierwrites
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Worst Opinion of the Week: Black Lives Matter ‘Too Political’, Says UK Media

Story: The UK arm of Black Lives Matter tweeted “FREE PALESTINE” this week, as it finally started to sink in that the wider movement’s calls to defund the police also applies to Britain. Reasonable take: Defunding the police and standing with oppressed people all over the world, including Palestinians, have always been fundamental tenants of the Black Lives Matter movement.Brain rot: It seems this fleeting social media campaign has been “hijacked” for “political reasons”, so regrettably we won’t be supporting it anymore. Sad! – The BBCBlack Lives Matter. Sorry, that’s Black Lives Mattered, apparently. It’s been quite a sight to see members of the British establishment recoiling in horror this week, as it began to dawn on them that a highly political movement such as BLM is not actually some sort of “Fair Trade” seal of approval they could freely slap over their brands without having to do any of the work.After realising that defunding the police is a core tenant of the movement, The BBC is now distancing itself from Black Lives Matter, amid concerns from other parties – seen by The Telegraph – that the “organisation” is being “hijacked” for “political reasons”. To clarify once again, Black Lives Matter is not an “organisation”, but a decentralised social justice movement. According to reports, presenters and guests on The BBC are not permitted to wear “visual symbols of support” for BLM on-screen after bosses deemed that wearing badges would fall foul of impartiality guidelines – but did say they will continue to discuss BLM on-air. Heaven forbid someone wears a pin badge denouncing racism interrupts The BBC’s daily scheduled programming of property developer porn, posh cunts fannying around auction houses and late night debates featuring Andrew Neil and Julia Hartley-Brewer. Can’t be seen pandering to Black Lives Matter protesters! The BBC came under fire for a similar decision back in September, after BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty was found to have breached editorial guidelines over comments made about US President Donald Trump. At the time, the decision prompted an open letter, published in The Guardian, from British broadcasters and journalists of colour, making the point that “you can’t be ‘impartial’ about racism”. Elsewhere, the leader of the Labour party, Sir Keir Starmer, fully dismounted from the bandwagon and began dismissing some of the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement as “nonsense”, despite recently “taking the knee” in support. “Nobody should be saying anything about defunding the police,” Starmer said, before lamenting what “a shame” it is that BLM “is getting tangled up with these organisational issues”. There really isn’t a finer litmus test for discovering which side of history you’re on than the liege lord of pastel chino xenophobes, Nigel Farage, “heartily agreeing” with you and offering his solidarity because of your “condemnation of the Black Lives Matter organisation”.It’s safe to say that whatever the fuck Keir Starmer’s approach of “There’s nothing wrong with any of our organisations that uphold oppression – c’mon, guys, let’s just get Hula Hoop for Equality Wednesdays off the ground!” is for, it’s the absolute antithesis of what the labour movement was meant to represent. These are just a couple of the figures and corporations who are apparently being “forced to distance themselves” – as The Telegraph phrased it – from the movement, over concerns that it might actually stand for something more than a hashtag. We’re all so fucking smooth brain at this point that we can watch weeks of mass protest footage and still not be able to conclude that Black Lives Matter “might be political”.Then, to finish us off, Conservative blue tick Darren Grimes decided to interview his “hero” – one of Britain’s foremost historians and massive Tudor nerd – Dr David Starkey about the Black Lives Matter movement, vacantly nodding along as Starkey said things like, “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?” and that the British Empire was generally “fruitful” and “the most important moment in human history”. Grimes’ doe-eyed defence of his interview with Starkey – who has, of course, said incredibly racist shit before – was that he “wasn’t engaged enough” to do anything. Good job that both these people don’t make a living being national media figures! Even our police forces have been slow on the uptake that a movement reacting to systemic racism and police brutality might want to fundamentally change policing in Britain. So far, the plods’ best efforts to engage has been to Instagram their constables kneeling in “solidarity”, before steam rolling into council estates and racially profiling people for walking their dog suspiciously. Hertfordshire Police recently u-turned on their stance of it being a “personal” choice for their officers to kneel, now saying that it isn’t always “appropriate”. Northumberland County Council even deleted all its posts on social media that supported Black Lives Matter, with Conservative councillor Peter Jackson quoted in The Telegraph as saying the movement had “definitely strayed into the political arena”. Galaxy brain throbbing, he added that “when we get mindless vandalism, when we get talk of de-funding the police and attacks on the police, and when we get people effectively trying to rewrite history, it looks like a political movement to me”. No matter how these consortiums of neoliberal cronies attempt to dilute, diminish and stifle these causes with bullshit stories like “BLM protesters want entire chessboards to be black”, or attempt to pit oppressed minorities against each other, we would do well to remember that if a cause offered to change nothing, it would continue to have the undivided support of the status quo. Then, just when you thought our establishment couldn’t have their finger further off the pulse, our Prime Minister literally suggested we should “clap for bankers who make our NHS possible”. At this point, I would say it would be generous to suggest Britain has a pulse to finger. We are a degrading, farting corpse that flatlined out of reality a long time ago.@MULLET_FAN_NEO
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Lockdown Loneliness Inspired Me to Create a Load of Imaginary Friends

A few weeks into lockdown, VICE UK put a call out to some of our favourite photographers. We wanted submissions for photo essays that reflect the time we’re living in – but interesting, imaginative projects, not just “I’m stuck inside, here are some pictures of my cheese-plant”. Luckily, because the photographers we reached out to are all interesting and imaginative people, we got a ton of great ideas back, which we’ve whittled down to ten final projects. We’re running one every week for ten weeks, to be followed by an exhibition you can stage in your very own home (details on that to come). The fourth project is by Flora Maclean, who has kindly explained it for you below.I started this project right at the beginning of lockdown, when we all felt super lonely and weird. I wanted to make light of the situation and make myself feel better at the same time, subverting the idea that loneliness or being alone is this heavy, deep thing that we were all experiencing. I was living alone at the time, so I decided to make little imaginary friends to keep me company. Kinda like when Tom Hanks makes Wilson in ‘Cast Away’. Limited by what I already had in the house, I improvised and shot them all in my living room, one a day over the course of a week. It was a good exercise for my brain. I wanted to keep busy and reflect on this time we were in, without thinking about it too deeply. It’s in retrospect that the project takes on a deeper meaning. Making friends out of found objects in this confined space, but staying connected to people via technology – Zoom, Facetime, etc – shows that friends don’t need to have a physical presence to be a significant presence.@floramac
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Prince Andrew Is ‘Bewildered’ That the FBI Wants to Question Him About Jeffrey Epstein

This article originally appeared on VICE US. Now that Ghislaine Maxell has been arrested and charged, Britain’s Prince Andrew is under increasing pressure to talk to the FBI about his involvement with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. But even as lawyers for Epstein’s victims say Maxwell is likely to turn on her former friends, the royal claims to be “bewildered” by calls from the U.S. Department of Justice for him to make a statement. Disgraced British socialite Maxwell was arrested on Thursday in New Hampshire and charged with assisting Epstein’s abuse of minors by helping to recruit and groom victims known to be underage. Now, the U.S. authorities’ focus is once again turning to Andrew, a friend of Epstein who claims to have seen nothing untoward when visiting Epstein’s home in 2010 — after Epstein was convicted of procuring a minor for prostitution. But the royal was drawn into the scandal last year when Virginia Roberts-Giuffre, who says she was Epstein’s “sex slave,” said she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York when she was just 17. Andrew has denied any knowledge of the incident, even though he and Roberts-Giuffre were photographed together at Maxwell’s London home. On Thursday, during a press briefing on Maxwell’s arrest, acting US attorney for the southern district of New York Audrey Strauss once again called for Andrew to fulfill a promise he made last November. During a car crash BBC interview, he promised to speak to U.S. authorities. “I am not going to comment on anyone’s status in this investigation but I will say that we would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement,” Strauss said. “I have no further comment beyond what I just said, which is that our doors remain open, as we previously said, and we would welcome him coming in and giving us an opportunity to hear his statement.” But Andrew, who stepped back from royal duties last year as the scandal exploded, appears to be in the dark about U.S. investigators’ demands. READ: Ghislaine Maxwell groomed girls for Epstein by trying to ‘normalize sexual abuse’, prosecutors say “The Duke’s team is bewildered by the DOJ’s comments earlier today as we have twice reached out to them in the last month and have received no reply,” a source close to the prince told the BBC and the Guardian. This is the latest back and forth between Andrew and the U.S. authorities. Last month U.S. prosecutor Geoffrey Berman said Andrew had “sought to falsely portray himself” as eager to cooperate with the inquiry into Epstein, but had “repeatedly declined our request” to schedule an interview. The pressure on Andrew to give his side of the story is likely to grow as lawyers for Epstein’s victims believe Maxwell will now do anything to save herself — and that includes giving up her former friends. “I’m sure Ms. Maxwell will make every effort to turn on others to save herself. That includes Prince Andrew,” Lisa Bloom, who represents six Epstein victims, told the New York Post. “Prince Andrew should be very concerned. I’m sure he will not be setting foot in the U.S” Bloom said, stressing that Maxwell’s arrest should leave all of Epstein’s inner circle “shaking in their boots.” Gloria Allred, the lawyer representing 16 of Epstein’s victims, said Andrew should step up, as his lack of cooperation is “traumatizing” the victims. “The question is, Prince Andrew, when is he going to tell what he knows,” Allred told Good Morning Britain on Friday. “He needs to do that. He needs to do it without delay. It is so traumatizing and difficult for the victims not to know the truth. And this kind of torture test that Prince Andrew is subjecting the victims to, like will he or won’t he give a statement, if he will, when?”Cover: Prince Andrew The Duke of York visits the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London to open the new Stanmore Building, 3/21/19. (zz/KGC-375/STAR MAX/IPx)
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