25. An Open-Letter to the LSE’s ‘Anti-Racism’ Officer about Palestine, Racism and Injustice

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Dear Ms Gross

Let me introduce myself, I am Zena, I was the first speaker at the LSE event on Tuesday night about gender and resistance in Palestine. I have written this blog in response to your article and I have a few questions for you.

First, do you realise that the woman you described as delivering an ‘appalling attempt’ lost her husband and countless other family members in Gaza? Do you realise that the student you accused of ‘condoning the indiscriminate killing of Israelis’ has her entire family in Gaza and is not allowed to go back?

I ask you this because I’m curious as to whether or not you realise that by taking this stance you have explicitly aided the oppressor. The LSE is a University; therefore a plurality of voices should not only be encouraged but actively sought out. Even if the event was all that you said it was (it wasn’t, but let’s pretend), shouldn’t the critique be more holistic in its approach, rather than slanderous and personal?

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16. Women’s Role in the Gaza War

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The role of women in war is always harrowing: they are simultaneously seen as ‘victims’ as demonstrated in the ‘women and children’ mantra when assessing human costs – a phrase which implicitly robs men of their victimhood by virtue of being men – and women have historically been used in war as weapons, with rape and sexually abuse prevalent. This latest chapter in the Palestine/Israel War is no exception. The month-long Gaza conflict has slaughtered 1400+ human lives, 80% of civilians and when UN buildings were bombed, women and their children were the first victims. In tandem with this, there has been a worrying growth of misogyny coming out of Israel towards both Palestinian women and the ‘slut-shaming’ of Israeli women who speak up. On the other hand there many women involved in the Israeli War effort, either by directly fighting – remember that both men and women have compulsory military service in Israel – or by moral support through stripping, protesting etc.

10. An Open Letter to Creeps

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Can someone explain what the correlation is between sun and creeps? Logic tells me there shouldn’t be one and yet the evidence proves otherwise. It’s almost as if creeps store up all their year’s worth of harassment until the sun triggers their perverted ways.

I always opt to walk or cycle home after nights out. Being neither drunk nor ‘scantily dressed’ gives me the false confidence that nothing will happen to me, it makes me feel like if something were to go down I could get away quick. That thought in and of itself is tragic: neither alcohol nor clothing should ever be considered as an excuse for harassment or worse. I’ve been told I’m brazen, perhaps even rash, but I do it for many reasons. First, that women would prefer or need to take cabs or else require (usually male) company is an abhorrent idea when men don’t deal with the same burden. Secondly, and most importantly, I think the more women that demonstrate they are prepared to walk around alone at night, the more normalized it gets and the more comfortable we’ll feel to about doing it in the future.

8. The Politics of Hair

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One of my most striking physical attributes is my curly hair. Growing up my mum would plait it and brush it out every morning before school so it wasn’t until I was 11 that my best friend, Gen, drew my attention to my natural curls. Gen’s mixed race – her grandmother’s from Jamaica (though I detest the idea of anyone fractioning their heritage like that) and she has beautiful curly hair. She pointed out that when wet, my hair would spring up into ringlets; she showed me what products to use to tame the ‘frizz’ and how to style it. I went from being unaware to fiercely proud of my hair, in fact, we were so proud we formed the CGC – the ‘Curly Girl Crew’ – where we invited members with similarly curly hair to join us. Duties involved changing our MSN names to ‘reppin’ CGC’ before promptly forgetting it ever existed, to date we’ve only ever had five members – how cool was I?

It was over the course of my teenage years that I grew to love my hair, in fact I was on the number 52 bus one time and I overheard an Iraqi mother say to her daughter in Arabic ‘that girl’s got beautiful hair’, it made me glow and over time I’ve come to value it as one of my defining features. I straighten my hair a couple of times a year and people always remark how different I look and how long it is when straight. Though I do love the change (and convenience) of straightening my hair, I also feel like I’ve lost something that makes me stand out – like I’ve somehow ‘normalised’ myself. I appreciate this is a pedantic point that some could even class as neurotic but hair is political: how you style your hair, as a woman or man of colour, influences how you are perceived both within your community and without. The colour, texture and style of hair for all non-white communities is inherently contrasted with European ideals where straight, white hair is considered beautiful.