Reflecting on The Rolling Stones: ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ and ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’

Famous songs lose their context and impact when you grow up with them. You enjoy a great rhythm and learn to sing along without hearing the words. And sometimes when you do hear them, you hear the wrong parts too loud.

I was vibing with the lyric ‘What a drag it is getting old’ this morning and it made me dig out ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ and listen to it again:

‘Mother’s Little Helper’ official lyric video on YouTube

I know this song well and have long thought it was an interesting critique of the misogynistic culture 1950s and 60s housewives endured; worn out, unappreciated, and bored, relying on early prescription anti-depressants that were addictive and harmful. Not the take you expect from a bunch of young men living the life of rock stars.

Most are in a hurry to point out that the Stones are underlining the hypocrisy of middle class family values critiquing drugs in youth culture, but there are a lot of barbed lines specifically aimed at the misogyny and showing a lot of empathy for the women themselves:

“Men just aren’t the same today”
I hear every mother say
“They just don’t appreciate that you get tired”
They’re so hard to satisfy
You can tranquilize your mind…

And four help you through the night
Help to minimize your plight…

The song describes a woman or women heading for a complete breakdown and being offered drugs instead of help. The men don’t appreciate how much they do ‘that you get tired’, the experience of women is recognised as a ‘plight’ that’s being minimised.

The jaunty, off-kilter riff makes this sound like an upbeat song despite the minor key – it distracts from the fact that this song is actually quite empathetic and alarming (much like the tranquilisers alluded to as ‘mothers little helpers’.

All of this, I was pretty familiar with. What changed listening to it today was that rather than considering it a historical artefact – grounded in the situation of a housewife, a very alien concept to me – I related to it.

It’s not just that I myself am getting older, and seeing the big Four-Oh approaching. It’s that the anti-depressants I rely on to function are not masking the horrors of the life I am struggling to live in.

Anti-depressants have come a long way. I have unironically described the Duloxetine I’m currently on as a ‘Wonder Drug’. It does powerful good at controlling my anxiety without making me feel sedated. Depression and anxiety are the things that are altering my mind. the SNRI I take restores balance. Or attempts to.

And unlike what the song says, this is a genuine illness. I have an imbalance in my chemicals (amplified by trauma) that needs correcting.

But there’s no denying it, the situation I’m in is fucked. I do not think I would need the drugs I’m taking if I wasn’t frequently required to keep working through intollerable things.

For the mid-century housewife, misogyny and rigid gender division of labour, which devalued women’s labour, was the biggest cause. For me, an ableist, capitalistic hellscape fraught with growing fascism and transphobia is front and centre. But the two things aren’t that different. Both are rooted in binary gender essentialism and capitalist economic tyranny.

These are real problems. A real plight for which no one is offering tangible, practical help. So I need to take medication, because the heightened level of anxiety about real problems on top of my existing trauma, has just gone on too long.

The drugs in this case aren’t bad, but they’re not the long-term solution I need. In a more just society, I wouldn’t need them.

Which brings me to my second Rolling Stones song, which YouTube helpfully pointed me at after I listened to the other:

‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.

This lyric hit a little harder, and rang a little truer than it had in previous listenings:

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, we’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t, we’re going to blow a 50-amp fuse

I am so full of frustration – the ableism and transphobia are so overwhelming right now. Hell YES I feel like I’m gonna blow a 50-amp fuse.

Only there’s nothing like the demonstrations of the 50s and 60s, and I’d be too sick to go to them if they were any.

I want to RIOT but I can’t.

I also realised that over the last few years I’ve been misreading this lyric.:

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime
You just might find
You get what you need

I thought it was putting ‘you’ down for wanting things (‘I want doesn’t get’) and what you ‘need’ might be a slap in the face. The sort of thing a parent tells you to get you to shut up. I was not a fan of that.

But listening to the rest of the lyrics – especially the protest verse… It’s not saying to *stop* asking for what you want. It’s saying you have to keep trying to get what you want. You have to ask over and over, even if it means not getting what you want over and over. Because if you don’t ask, you never get what you need.

Sometimes you don’t get everything you ask for, but you still get something.

We have to get better at standing up and asking. And we have to keep standing up for each other. Because it’s hard to keep speaking up and getting your ‘fair share of abuse’.

It gave me another view of the protests I’ve been too. Especially the last one (against Trump’s visit to the UK). It was depressingly small. A police officer made me censor my sign to be more polite under threat of arrest. A fascist infiltrated our tiny protest and the other protesters had to use their signs to cover his. I ended up getting too tired and had to go home early.

It was not exactly an uplifting experience.

But like Mick says, when it’s important, protests aren’t great, validating experiences. They’re running up against a dominant culture that SUCKS. You’ll get abused for going, and most of the time you won’t get what you want out of it. But you have to keep showing up.

You have to keep showing up and asking for what you want, or you’re never gonna get what you need.

So thanks, Mick. Things are pretty shit right now, and the utter apathy of the vast majority of people about the issues that are absolutely essential to me… it’s gutting. And I can’t afford to keep pushing myself if I’m the only one doing it. But I guess what I get from this is that even when it feels like you’re just volunteering to get beaten up over and over again, continuing to show up matters. Even if it’s just writing on a blog post or a committee that never seems to achieve change.

Sometimes you achieve change. Sometimes you’re an inert object that stops bad change from happening. Sometimes you’re just an irritant that slows the tank of capitalism down as it rolls over you.

You can’t always get what you want. But sometimes, you get just enough of what you need for it to matter.

We get more of what we need when we show up together.

I’m going to continue showing up in the shitty situations where I don’t get what I want and mostly don’t get what I need. But if you show up with me we’ll get what we need a little bit more often.

Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Poster: The Last Jedi(Here be spoilers.)

I wasn’t sure I wanted to review The Last Jedi, but men on the Internet are being so silly, I felt like there needed to be a voice of reason.

I’ll never understand why middle-aged men think of this franchise as solely theirs – as though women and girls weren’t right there in the cinemas watching it from the beginning. But maybe they were watching different films to me, who knows?

They apparently didn’t see Leia using the Force to tell where Luke was when he was hanging, barely conscious from a metal spar beneath Cloud City. They didn’t hear Yoda say “There is another,” clearly meaning both another Skywalker and another potential Jedi. They heard Leia say “Somehow, I’ve always known,” when Luke tells her she’s his sister, and they’re so distracted by the fact that this implies she knew she was snogging her brother that they don’t see this as yet another example of Leia’s Force clairvoyance.

And I guess they missed in the last film that she knew that Han was dead.

Oh, they say, we’re not denying that Leia is Force sensitive, but for her to actually move physical objects with her mind, like a Jedi, is preposterous.

Sure, sure. What Yoda meant was, “There is another who is Force sensitive, but could not possibly have been trained as a Jedi.” And his statement that “There is another,” is just as significant if there are in fact many people who are Force sensitive and Leia is just one of those. That totally makes sense.

These are often, by the way, the same people who are eager to argue that Han is Force sensitive, based on little cues like him knowing Gredo was about to shoot and therefore shooting first, and the fact that no one actually could navigate an asteroid field the way Han does, given the odds of 3,720 to 1.

Personally, I’m delighted by the idea that many people are Force sensitive, and I think we see evidence of this across the old movies and the new, but you cannot have it both ways. There’s really no other reasonable interpretation of Yoda’s words. He meant Leia. And he either meant that Force sensitivity is so rare that anyone with it could become a Jedi, therefore Leia is another potential Jedi, or he meant that Leia is also significantly powerful such that she could be a Jedi were she to be trained. If she’s not significant – if she’s not special in very much the same way Luke is – he wouldn’t have been talking about her at all.

Leia standing up to Darth Vader in A New HopeOn this basis, every woman I know who loves Star Wars has been waiting on baited breath to see Leia use the fatherfucking Force for more than ‘just’ clairvoyance. Don’t get me wrong: Yoda’s training of Luke in Empire strongly suggests that clairvoyance is actually a very sophisticated skill – one he only trains Luke in after a considerable amount of running through the jungle and lifting things with his mind. More: using that skill responsibly is clearly a key aspect of being a Jedi – one Luke fails at spectacularly, dashing off to save his friends despite Yoda’s warning. Whereas we never see Leia be ruffled by her clairvoyance into emotionally irrational behaviour. Leia is a military leader the very first time we meet her, at 19. She’s tortured by Vader and gives up nothing. She has always had the mental discipline to be a Jedi. She just, quite frankly, had better things to do.

All this was blindingly obvious to us. It’s written into the original trilogy. Explicitly. Through the voice of Master Yoda. And we were disappointed to see Leia still exhibiting nothing but clairvoyance after all these years when The Force Awakens rolled around.

Leia rescuing herselfSo we were cheering when Leia used the Force to do something Luke never did: she rescues herself (as she has always done) from the vacuum of space, using the Force to pull herself back into the spaceship.

Now, there is a legitimate question about why she didn’t die in the vacuum of space. Two things to say about that: firstly, a human being can remain conscious for about 15 seconds in a vacuum. We know because it has happened and the dude was revived. So Space Leia has some time to play with. You won’t last long, but your eyes won’t explode or anything gruesome. Secondly: we know the Force can be used to manipulate the physical world. It’s reasonable to suppose that Leia might use the Force to pull some atmosphere around herself to give her some literal breathing room. This is just an extension of Force telekinesis. We have seen forcefields in Star Wars seal in a hanger deck from the vacuum of space – why couldn’t someone strong in the force do the same?

Don’t get me wrong – the experience would still fuck Leia up, as it is seen to do. She spends most of the rest of the film unconscious. But that doesn’t make it silly or unreasonable.

Frankly, this moment was the culmination of 35 years of waiting for many female fans. And it felt like an apt tribute to the late and wonderful Carrie Fisher – Princess and General Leia, and goddamn awesome human being.

You want to take flying through space away from Carrie Fisher? Really? Really?

Carrie has written and spoken at length on the sexism she experienced in Hollywood – and indeed on the set of Star Wars. The toll it took on her mental health. She wanted her obituary to read that “I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”A woman who was told by George Lucas in A New Hope that they wouldn’t have bras in space, so she wasn’t allowed to wear one… and who was then forced to sit as a mute slave in a gold bikini in Return of the Jedi. A woman who received relentless abuse from the industry and so-called fans because illness and simply getting older meant that she didn’t stay looking the same way she had at 19.

I would not deny Carrie her obituary for anything, but I am so, so glad her iconic character, General Leia, did not drown in moonlight, but instead flew through space to save her own skin. Just as she had been saving herself and her would-be rescuers right from the beginning.

You will take flying Force Leia from my cold, dead hands.

So. Now we’ve got that issue out of the way, let’s discuss the rest of the film.


Following the events of The Force Awakens the rebellion are fuuuuuucked. The First Order has a way of tracking them, even through hyperspace, and they are almost out of fuel. It’s deliciously reminiscent of the Battlestar Galactica episode “33“, with the heroes a benighted flotilla, running out of resources, pursued by a superior force who are tracking them in an unknown manner.

Worse, Captain Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) disobeys Leia’s orders, expending precious resources to take out a Star Destroyer. The plan works, but at a cost they can ill afford, as they lose almost all their fighters. When Leia demotes him for his action, Poe protests that the people who followed him were heroes. “Dead heroes,” she replies, and we feel the impact of her words most acutely, for we followed one of those heroes very closely in her last moments as she gave her life so that Poe’s mission might succeed.

That hero’s sister, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), meets Finn (John Boyega) as he appears to be fleeing the ship. At first, she seems merely to be grieving, and when she recognises Finn it is with the fangirlish charm we have seen from Tran on the red carpet, where she has burst out crying, hugged fans dressed as her character, and generally expressed a genuineness that can’t help but bring joy to anyone who sees her. She then explains that she’s been doing her part to honour her sister’s memory by tasering deserters. Which she promptly does to Finn when she realises he is leaving.

The First Order strikes a blow to the rebellion’s flagship, taking out all the leaders save Leia (who saves herself, but is incapacitated). Vice Admiral Amylin Holdo (Laura Dern) takes charge (with her amazing purple hair) and seems, to Poe, to be insufficiently active. Despite being demoted, he demands the same access and knowledge from Holdo that he had from Leia. She puts him in his place and tells him to do what he’s told. He doesn’t like that, so he hatches a plan (well, adopts Rose’s plan) to find a code-breaker to disable the tracking device, so the fleet can escape through hyperspace. Rose and Finn leave to find the codebreaker. Poe stays behind… to be a pain in Holdo’s arse, I guess?

Meanwhile, Rey is with Luke, failing to persuade him to join the rebellion. For some reason she doesn’t lead with the fact that she wants to train as a Jedi, but eventually Luke figures that out and sets out to give her three lessons. The lessons, he says, will teach her why there should be no more Jedis. Luke thinks the order is broken, that the Force is in everyone and that the Jedis fell to their own hubris in thinking that they somehow were the sole keepers of the knowledge and power to maintain balance in the force.

Finn and Rose visit a rich-person’s casino resort in search of a code-breaking gambler. They fail, but find an insalubrious substitute who seems to be equipped to do the job, escaping on adorable and impressive rabbit-horse creatures.

Meanwhile, Rey has been having mental meetings with Kylo Renn, and becomes convinced she can turn him away from the Dark Side. Despite Luke’s warnings, she leaves to attempt just that.

Can Rey save Kylo? Can Finn and Rose get back to the fleet in time to disable the tracker? Exciting, fast-paced tension ensues!

My thoughts

Honestly, I loved this film.

Apparently there has been a ‘review bomb’ to skew its score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is part of the reason I decided to dust myself off and write my own review, but I’m delighted to see that Wikipedia is currently saying “some considered it the best film of the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back“, citing a wide range of sources.

Screenshot from Wikipedia.

For me? It had almost everything I wanted. There’s a joke in the opening sequence that fell a bit flat for me, but otherwise, it hit home with just about everything.

A porg sitting next to Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millenium FalconI thought I was going to hate the much-hyped porgs, but no, they are adorable, and hilarious. The decision to have them give Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo)a hard time was genius.

I also loved the aforementioned rabbit-horses, and the crystal critters, which are like arctic foxes created by Swarovski. Cute alien animals can go easily wrong and become cheesy, cringe-worthy figures of awkwardness (and I say this as someone who unashamedly loves ewoks), but these ones work.

Plotwise, the pacing was fast and gripping, and though there were many nods to the original films, The Last Jedi forges its own direction, which seems right to me. Empire, the second movie of the original trilogy, was famous for it’s anti-narrative, risk-taking ending, and it is in keeping for The Last Jedi to seek a similar stamp of originality. I loved the nostalgia of The Force Awakens, but I found I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen with The Last Jedi, and that kept me hooked.

I loved the diversity. We saw more people of colour in Rose and her sister and DJ (Benicio del Toro), the Latino, dodgy code-breaker, as well as many background characters and a visible presence of women pilots and fighters.

I do rather feel like they wasted Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), again, bringing her only late into the movie; although they did at least give her an epic fight with Finn. On the other hand, I was intensely relieved that Vice Admiral Holdo proved to be a genuine hero in the end, and not as cowardly and ineffectual as Poe assumed. Indeed, both Holdo and Leia calling Poe on his shit was glorious, and messages about listening to women in power and not ignoring the chain of command are important in an era where we are learning that decades of showing Bad Boys breaking the rules and succeeding has reinforced unhealthy attitudes in, for instance, policing in the US, where fatal shootings of civilians continues to rise, while data suggests police run much less of a rick of getting shot than they used to.

I was also a little disappointed that the fan-popular romance between Poe and Finn has not materialised, and Rose seems to be being positioned as a love interest for Finn. However, let’s remember that Leia kissed Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, and, well, we all know that was not meant to be. A friend knocked me for being shippy about this, but in all honesty, the possibility that Poe Dameron and Finn might be gay (or bi) is huge in terms of representation.

Another complaint on the net is that Luke Skywalker seemed different to how he did in the original films. My goodness, it’s almost like he aged 35 years.

I’ll admit, watching The Force Awakens I was struck by the differences in the characters of Han and Leia, but I swiftly adjusted my perspective on the basis that they are older. They aged. Like people do. Like the actual actors who play them have. The Last Jedi, in my opinion, is great precisely because it explores the issue of how people age and how experience changes a person. We see Rey having conversations with Kylo that are alike not just in subject matter, but in earnestness, to the conversations Luke had with Vader. Meanwhile Luke is begging her to see reason, that Kylo will not turn, and is furious with her for seeming to turn so easily to the Dark side.

Why? Because he has been precisely where Rey is now, and he has learnt lessons, hard lessons, about the impetuousness of youth.

Yet what struck me was that we need youth’s idealism to have these hard and challenging conversations. I remember having Rey’s passion and belief. Her ability to stand up to a mind like Kylo Ren’s and believe that she might change him. Just as Luke once spoke with unrelenting hope to Vader. As we age we learn that such conversations are all too often fruitless. We become discouraged, like Luke. We want to hide away. And we want to destroy the structures of pride we built, believing that we had all the answers.

What this film shows us is that both perspectives have validity. I am glad Luke has realised that the hubris of the Jedi order brought its downfall. I am glad he wants to bring down the systems that failed. I am glad that he recognises what I always felt: that if the Force is in everything, then it can be owned by anyone, not just a small elite. Equally, I am glad for Rey’s hope and her willingness to keep fighting. And I’m glad to see her inspire something in Luke – to make Luke believe in the power of hope again, and to be willing to use himself as a symbol to guide others and give them the strength to find belief in themselves.

The film honours the mythology of the original trilogy, while encouraging us to think that that world – that world that we love, that inspires something so powerful in so many of us – can change and evolve and be open to new thoughts. That was what Luke was in the original films, after all – a challenge to Yoda’s assumptions. And it is even what Obi-Wan was in the prequels. The impetuousness of youth, willing to believe and strive against an established order, is shown to have value, even if sometimes it fails, as Obi-Wan did with Anakin, but Luke did not with Vader.

So, thematically, I am well on board with this film.

But more than that, and more than the cute critters, I was blown away by the visuals and feel of the film.

Space felt like space again. In a way CGI space has never achieved for me before. I felt wonder. I felt inspiration. I felt the reality of another world in which individuals face titanic struggles. I felt the wide possibilities of alien environments opening before me with a stark beauty that took me out of my real existence. The mineral planet Crait is not Tatooine or Hoth, but it somehow captures the barren strangeness that led me to fall in love with both.

This is a film to see and to love and to find something to believe in again. Let it transport you to a galaxy far, far away…

But, I mean…

[Cross-posted from my Tumblr, In Search of the Happiness Max.]

Virginia Woolf’s seminal essay, A Room of One’s Own, which I come back to again and again when I see in myself and others the struggle to engage in intellectual pursuits whilst beset by poverty and the impossibility of peace and quiet and the room to fully develop complex thoughts, starts with an unusual word:


But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction—what, has that got to do with a room of one’s own?

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

It is an essay that starts with a conjunction. It is an essay that starts with an interruption. It embodies how opressers (especially white men) constantly seek to cut the less privileged off before they get started. She has only given the title of her lecture and already her interlocutor has cut in to object. Wants to argue that she hasn’t understood the question. Devalues her right to speak. To have been invited to talk on women and fiction in the first place.

After all, she is only a woman who writes fiction. What could she have to say? How could her thought about the room possibly be something she could explain to be relevant. The connection is not immediately obvious (before she has explained it) so it could not possibly contain a ‘nugget of truth’.

And at the same time as embodying her interlocutor’s aggression and silencing, it is also her word, the word with which she begins her essay.

It expresses how women are constantly battling to find a voice. To force a wedge into conversation from which we have been excluded.

The combination reminds me of a man I once knew who became incredibly angry with me, because he perceived that I was always interrupting him. Which was not true. What would happen would be that I would start a sentence, he would interrupt me before I had completed my thought, and then when I sought to complete my thought – or (very frequently) correct the assumption he had made about what I had been trying to say (he almost unfailingly assumed I was trying to say something very simplistic, something he could easily debunk) – he would become furious that I had been so rude as to interrupt him.

I was both interrupted before I could fairly get started, and having to interupt to find a way back into the conversation.

Because men don’t make room for women to talk in the pauses between their sentences.

I watched this same man constantly allow other men to talk over him. He would begin a sentence and then stop when another man started talking. He would attempt to interject in another man’s talk and acquiesce entirely unruffled when the other man pressed on to complete his thought.

My problem was twofold: a) I listen when other people want to join a conversation and allow them to speak, to voice counterpoints; and b) he would not permit me to complete a thought the way he would another man.

And thus it is for women to attempt to speak and voice our thoughts and get them out whole. So too, I think, with other people who are oppressed, in the presence of those with privilege over them. Although, it is a complex thing. A gay white man may still talk over a woman; a disabled white man may find himself ignored completely, and so on. Privilege and oppression are not a single axis.

People who have been marginalised are perceived as being at the edges of conversations. Always butting in. Even when they sit at the very centre of the issue. Even when they have been asked to talk on that issue.

And what intrigues me is the language we see evolving, especially in places where the less privileged feel more free to talk and to experiment with language.

I find it with my own writing. I take a conversational tone on my blog, and somehow that winds up with me starting a lot of my posts with ‘So,’. There’s no need for it. In formal writing this would be a faux pas. Drop the filler word and just make your statement. Not ‘So, there was this thing I was watching the other day’; rather: ‘I was watching x’.

But that filler word is important in the speech of marginalised people. It’s how we get our foot in the door. It’s very rare that we simply be allowed to speak, just because we want to. ‘So’, ‘But’, ‘And’, ‘I mean’, these are ways of us interjecting without immediately launching into the thought no one wants to hear. The thought we need a breath to formulate when people aren’t talking over us. These ways of beginning are often labelled as ‘weak’. But Virginia knew the truth.

These aren’t things that weaken our language. These are tools we use to crowbar our way into getting heard.

And it’s not just my idiosyncrasy. Tumblr, renowned (or notorious, depending on one’s perspective) for social justice, is full of people beginning posts with ‘I mean’, ‘OK, but’ and ‘But what if’ – as though they were entering an existing conversation, rather than starting a post fresh. And where in a conversation with an oppressor such terms can make you feel weak, on Tumblr they are lighthearted, freeing.

I do think they reflect the patterns of talk of people who are used to joining conversations in an underconfident way, but they are not taken as underconfident in that context. They are taken as reflective of the fact that on Tumblr we are in conversation. Not a literal back and forth (the platform is uniquely poorly set up for that, as a form of social media) but an evolving exchange of ideas between people who are not being interupted. You say as much or as little as you want in your post, and people engage, for the most part, by reblogging or liking that post – by spreading your thoughts, rather than interrupting or smothering them.

It’s also part of the linguistic signalling that identifies Tumblr users as part of a group. Dispite the fact that it is an unusually diverse group. That’s how we talk, here. It goes along with the linguistic ticks of using no punctuation or capitalisation to suggest a certain tone. And it’s done in the presence of people who rejoice in language and provide fascinating analyses of the evolving syntax with which we are engaging.

If I start a post with ‘I mean’ on Tumblr, I know I’m not likely to be judged for it, because everyone there knows what I’m doing. They speak the lingo. They are already listening. They are a part of my conversation and they have decided to let me talk.

It’s a powerful thing. Turning the brokenness of being constantly interrupted into strength and community.

International Day of the X

I’ve made a number of posts on various International Days of Stuff over the years. International Women’s Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance, Bisexual Awareness Day, Asexual Awareness Day. It’s relatively unproblematic for me to post something about International Women’s Day, because I’m a woman. I’m talking about me and my peops. It gets more complicated when I do it for a group to which I do not belong, and I know I’ve made mistakes in the past.

Like, I reviewed a film called Soldier’s Girl for Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2011, when I was just starting out on a journey of self-education about trans issues. I had known some trans people, but not as many as I do now, and I certainly wasn’t as aware of the issues trans people face and how this interacts with their representation in film. I acknowledged my ignorance in the post, but I still made the post. I’m now aware that there’s a real problem with trans women only being played by cis men in films and TV. It’s a problem because it takes work away from trans women, because it suggests that cis men are somehow better at presenting trans women than they are themselves, because it divorces the real people of the subject matter from the audience – it renders them pure entertainment, seen only at one remove from themselves, as they are presented by cis people. It’s also part of an uneasy tradition of only presenting LGBT stories as tragedies*. Soldier’s Girl did have involvement and approval from Calpernia Adams, the real woman the film is about, but it’s still true that her role is played by a cis man: Lee Pace.

There were problems with me promoting this film as a way of participating in Transgender Day of Remembrance, and they were problems of ignorance. The ignorance that comes of privilege.

There’s also a problem with making a post that draws people to my site on a day that’s meant to be about giving attention to another part of society – a group over which I already have a bigger voice due to my privilege. Everybody does it. International Day of the X provides bloggers with a free theme guaranteed to draw eyes. But it makes me… uneasy. I know how it feels to see prominent male bloggers using feminist issues to draw people to their platforms when they’re not really best placed to comment on the issues they are discussing. I don’t want to be doing that for other people.

So, my question is this: what’s the best thing to do if you want to do something to raise awareness on an International Day for a group to which you do not belong? Would it be better to simply collect links to blog posts by people who are in that group? Is it possible to post sensitively about issues you do not directly experience?

*This trope has been dubbed by ladysaviours as ‘dead gays for the straight gaze’ and ‘queers die for the straight eye’ by powpowhammer in a critical post on Tumblr to which has also been added some valuable historical context from moon-crater. As Transgender Day of Remembrance is specifically about highlighting the disproportionate number of murders of trans people, it’s possible that it isn’t as inappropriate a choice as it might have been, but my overall point is that it’s complicated, and I’m possibly not best placed to judge what is appropriate.

Manfeels Park

Comic panel from Manfeels Park.I haven’t reviewed a comic in a while, and given that I’m entertaining myself with this one whilst I wait for the painkillers to kick in, a review only seemed fair.

Manfeels Park is the creation of Mo and Erin. It can be viewed either on the website,, or on the Tumblr, . It consists in taking found comments – ridiculous male responses to feminism – and presenting them as though spoken by Jane Austen characters, using tracings from stills of adaptations from film and TV (chiefly, but not solely, the iconic 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice).

The name, Manfeels Park, is a pun on the Jane Austen novel, Mansfield Park, and the term ‘manfeels’, used to lampoon male complaints against feminism that are distinguished by expressing exaggerated pain for minor ills and the demand that the focus of feminist campaigns be diverted to deal with male issues – sometimes also referred to as ‘male tears‘.

I’ve sometimes been on the edge about terms like ‘male tears’ or ‘manfeels’. As someone whose anti-prejudice politics stems from merciless bullying at school, I instinctively withdraw from anything that involves poking fun at the pain of others. However, I have come to understand more and more quite how much male privilege is founded upon belittling the pain and discrimination women experience, persuading us to be silent about the abuses conducted upon us, and insisting that we put the pain of others before our own. This is a theme of interaction that interferes in every aspect of life: that daughters are interrupted by their parents more than sons; that women speaking only 30% of the time are perceived as dominating the conversation; that the YA genre is dominated by cis gender male characters, but perceived as dominated by women and girls because 33% of main characters are cis girls; that Anita Sarkeesian can be driven from her house by threats against herself and her family for offering an academic critique of gaming culture; that when women are raped, the media focuses on the loss of opportunities for the rapist and blames the woman as the cause of this.

Whilst I cannot condone actively hounding an individual for behaving in a childishly selfish and sexist manner, I have come to appreciate that mocking of the ridiculousness of men who insist they are worse off than women has become a vital outlet. Just as Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto, from the 60s, should not be taken as a literal call to ‘cut up men’, feminist mocking of ‘male tears’ is not directed at minimising male pain; rather, it is a call to recognise the ridiculousness of the discrepancy between slights actually experienced by men and the assertions made by so-called ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ that they receive discrimination far in excess of women.

If we don’t laugh, we’ll cry. And we are done crying.

As far as pokes at ‘male tears’ go, Manfeels Park is light-hearted, gentle mockery, and mockery that has no need to exaggerate. The text of the comics is drawn from the words of men themselves, and occasionally from the wittily underwhelmed responses of their women conversational partners. The Jane-Austen-style regency framing for these remarks provides the perfect context to both highlight how outdated the thoughts behind them are, and for setting the viewer in the mindset of social commentary and satire.

Panel from the comic 'Legitimate snak'.It’s also empowering for the woman reader to see their own feeling of askance echoed by a raised eyebrow from no less a figure than Lizzie Bennet; to hear a witty comeback to modern misogyny in her voice, backed by the authority of the world-renowned Jane Austen; to have a comic panel dealing with street harassment express the incredulity of female observers to the ridiculous defences men give of such behaviour by presenting five women’s sceptical looks to those of three men, and to do so via the mechanism of an iconic scene.

I also enjoy that the comments section is titled ‘Next Week on Manfeels Park…’, correctly predicting that the comic will be regularly commented upon by men who exemplify exactly what is being critiqued.

If you enjoy light-hearted mocking of the patriarchy, I really can’t recommend Manfeels Park enough.

(Countdown to fulfillment of Lewis’s Law in 3, 2, 1…)

Review: Maleficent

Maleficent posterIt’s been such a very long time since I exited a cinema without feeling angry about anything in the film I just saw, but Maleficent achieved this. Utterly captivating, bitter-sweet, ultimately uplifting, and not at all sexist. Like, that never happens. It was such a relief! Such a joy! And knowing I would be able to talk about it without getting people down! Honestly – I don’t like to be down on all the geek movies out there at the moment, I want to join in the fun. But it’s not me who is bringing the downer to that party; it’s the films.

Such a breath of fresh air not to have that.

Granted, I got about ten feet from the cinema and realised that this was an incredibly white film. Everyone is just the palest of the pale*. And for anyone under the impression that filmmakers can ‘get away’ with this (and seriously, you want to question why exactly they want to) because ‘there were no people of colour in medieval Europe’ (even setting aside the fact that the main character in this film is a fairy) I encourage you to check out MedievalPOC,  the history and art tumblr, and enjoy having your behind handed to you in an extremely well-sourced way.

There also weren’t any obviously QUILTBAG characters (i.e. Queer and Questioning, Undefined, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans*, Bisexual, Asexual, Gay and Genderqueer), and although I can see the interspecies subtextual relationship between Maleficent and Diaval as a stand in for a QUILTBAG relationship, that’s something of an uncomfortable suggestion. Just as people of colour do not want to only see their issues discussed via alien stand-ins for themselves, QUILTBAG people deserve to be directly represented as well. And given that enough people seriously think that gay marriage will lead to bestiality, the fact that Diaval is only sometimes human makes for a problematic representation at best.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Time for a brief outline of the plot (contains some spoilers).


Maleficent (young Maleficent: Ella_Purnell and Isobelle Molloy) was a lovely young horned and eagle-winged fairy who was friendly to everyone. She lived in a fairy realm that abutted a human realm, and relations had never been awesome between the two. But everyone loved Maleficent, because she was awesome and sweet and kind and super powerful and unusually large for a fairy.

One day, a young human boy, Steffan (young Steffan: Micheal Higgins), stole a gem from a pool in the fairy realm and got caught and they got Maleficent in to deal with it, because I guess she was better than all the adults or something – the fairy realm doesn’t seem to have a formal leadership structure. Maleficent persuades the young boy to put the stone back, and they become friends.

As they grow up, they lose touch. Steffan is off making his human fortune in the human realm, following his dream of one day living in the castle. Maleficent (adult: Angelina Jolie) is becoming steadily more badass, and the king of the human realm decides that she is a threat. He goes to war, Maleficent rallies the troops, there is a kickass battle. Maleficent defeats the army and mortally wounds the king. As he lies dying up in the castle, the king promises his daughter’s hand to whoever can kill Maleficent. Steffan (adult: Sharlto Copley) hears this and goes to find Maleficent. He tells her he has come to warn her, but he drugs her and cuts off her wings as proof of defeat.

Maleficent is understandably traumatised, but she pulls her shit together and goes into bitter-brooding. Whilst in this frame of mind, she comes across a raven, trapped by cruel men. Identifying with his predicament, Maleficent saves the bird, Diaval (Sam Riley), by turning him into a man. Whilst uncomfortable with her method of rescue, Diaval is grateful for his life, and swears himself to service in whatever form she might choose to put him.

When news comes that Steffan is king and has had a kid, Maleficent turns up, as in the Sleeping Beauty story, and spoils the party, cursing the girl to fall into a forever-sleep on her sixteenth birthday, to be saved only by ‘true love’s kiss’ (Maleficent allows this concession because Steffan’s behaviour has taught her there is no such thing).

The child is raised in seclusion by fairies, in an attempt to hide her and protect her. But as she watches the girl grow up Maleficent’s heart softens, and she comes to regret her curse…

Why this made me happy

Maleficent attends the Christening.Well, there are a bunch of obvious reasons. This is a story whose main character is a badass powerful lady who is in no sense sexified for objectification. Is Angelina Jollie strikingly beautiful? Of course. But unlike most films I have seen her in, she has not been shoehorned into skimpy or tight clothing to show off her assets. Part of that is because this is a kids film, but it’s refreshing, nonetheless. The only character who gets nekkid is a man (Diaval, after his first transformation). Again: kids film. We don’t see a lot, but it’s really nice to have the tables turned. And in a world where women are criticised for covering up as much as for showing a lot of skin, it’s freakin’ awesome to see a famously beautiful woman dressed for power in a way that accentuates her beauty without in any sense presenting it as ‘there for’ anyone else. Maleficent risesWhether it’s head-to-toe covering up to crash a party and curse a child, or dressed practically for war as she rises above her enemies on strong wings, Maleficent casts an imposing figure, of which she is completely in control.

And she is not the only interesting female character. Aurora (Elle Fanning) is interesting as a character who is both ‘blessed’ and ‘cursed’ in such a way that she should not only be beautiful, but regard every situation with good humour. Although it is never directly addressed, one feels, in the humour of Aurora’s incongruously bright attitude, that there is something just as restrictive and controlling in forcing upon someone a bright and pleasing attitude as there is in cursing her to eternal sleep. Nevertheless, Aurora is not without character or independence. Whilst loving her ‘aunts’ she nevertheless recognises that their (rather incompetent) care is not all that she wants from life, and she takes the initiative to leave home on her own, to live where she feels she would be better suited.

By turn, the fairy ‘aunts’ cut interesting figures in that, despite their good intentions, they are not in the least naturally maternal. And although they care for Aurora, they do chafe under the restrictions placed upon them in raising her. As a non-maternal woman myself, it’s really nice to see this represented, especially in a film that places Maleficent’s growing maternal feelings so close to the heart of the story. It shows that we can respect and praise mother-daughter relationships without saying that to be a mother or to be maternal is inevitable or essential to all women.

The film also walks a tight line in introducing its romance element. I have been wary of other films that sought to ‘soften’ a powerful ‘evil’ character (especially a woman) by giving them a romance element. I’ve never felt a compulsion to see Wicked for this reason (which, I grant, is not to condemn the musical – after all, I haven’t seen it!), and I was pretty disgusted by the very concept of Oz the Great and Powerful, for taking one of our precious stories about female power and making it all about a man whom women are fighting over. Refreshingly, though, introducing a love interest for Maleficent does not undermine her in any way. She does not go to war for love and she doesn’t curse the child for a broken heart. War is brought to her by an aggressive and xenophobic nation, and she defends her people. She then suffers massive trauma – the removal of her wings by someone she trusted – and it is that which darkens her heart and makes her seek revenge. She shows no jealousy for Steffan’s wife whatsoever, and before her wings are taken she had accepted that Steffan had moved on with his life, even though she missed him.

This is not a story about a woman overreacting because women are so emotional. This is a story about a woman surviving abuse, finding her power again and, eventually, finding a way to heal. And doing so with the support and love of those around her. Other critics have focused on the mother-daughter relationship and sisterhood, but, whilst that is important, we would do wrong to ignore the importance of her relationship with Diaval, or with the rest of her people, who stand by her in her time of need, even though it sends her to a very dark place.

And now I’m going to talk about the thing I really liked. CONSENT.


The story of Sleeping Beauty is kinda really problematic, in that its heroine is literally deprived of all agency, and the ‘happy ending’ comes about because, uh, a dude makes sexual advances on her when she’s unable to consent? All sorts of creepy.

In Maleficent, the love interest for Aurora is pressed by those who wish to save her into kissing her, but he resists (at least at first), saying that they only just met and it wouldn’t feel right.

But even more than this, I find real positivity in Maleficent’s relationship with Diaval. Her first transformation of him is without consent, but to save his life, and they discuss this. He tells her that he was not OK with her doing that without his consent, and that even if it saved his life, he wasn’t happy about it. Later, having gained his consent to change him at her will, Maleficent changes him into a wolf. Diaval really doesn’t like this. Again they have a discussion about both partners’ wants and needs. Diaval acknowledges that he had given her carte blanche to transform him, but having discovered that he does not want to be changed into a wolf or a dog, she agrees never to do this again. And she doesn’t.

Whilst the romance between them is never made explicit – not least because it is obvious that Diaval understands that she is hurting and unable to commit explicitly on that sort of emotional level – this is a really wonderful exploration of a dom/sub relationship. Wherein one partner may enjoy adopting a submissive role, and the other a dominant role, without losing respect for one another, and whilst explicitly discussing rules for their relationship. Diaval objects to her changing him without his consent, so she never does that again. He gives her permission to change him at will, but when he realises that there are some things he doesn’t want to be changed into, he voices this, and she respects that.

Moreover, just as she saves him when they first meet, he is given the opportunity to save her when she has been caught in a net by cruel men, later. And his saving of her doesn’t rob her of power, as he is only able to do so because she changes him into a dragon. It is a wonderful and interesting example of a relationship we rarely get to see on screen – where the woman is dominant and the man is submissive but both work in harmony.

Everyone is in charge of their self-actualisation and they work together to support one another and none of this robs them of power.

By contrast, Steffan moves in the opposite direction, and things do not go well for him. He seizes power from others, and fear of retribution consumes him. When he finds he cannot kill Maleficent he sees robbing her of her wings as a ‘good’ option, as ‘saving’ her. But she never consented to being saved in that way. This is the nice-guy logic that says that because a man didn’t take advantage of a drunk woman at a party, she therefore ‘owes’ him sex further down the line. But simply not taking advantage of someone does not earn you a cookie, and ‘merely’ horribly maiming someone, when you could have killed them, is not ‘saving’.

Maleficent never asked to be saved. She was perfectly capable of defending herself. If he decided he didn’t want to kill her – if he had genuinely had her interests at heart at all – he would have left having done nothing. He was looking for a way to be the ‘good guy’ and gain what he wanted (power – by metaphor, sex) too.

The contrast between this extreme, abusive, nonconseunsual act, and the explicit discussions of consent elsewhere in the movie are not only dramatically effective, but really important. I cannot underscore how wonderful this felt, not only as a rewriting of a really problematic story, but as an important message about power and consent for children to absorb.

If you’re a parent: take your daughters to see this, take your sons to see this. Let them learn to admire strong women whose strength does not lie in their beauty. Let them learn to be outraged at acts that are nonconsensual, and to root for people who discuss consent and treat each other with respect, even where there is a power disparity. And go to see it for yourselves, because it is wonderful.


* Looking at the scenes from the throne room, I can see that plenty of the courtiers are people of colour, which is nice, but none of the main characters (or even speaking roles) are.

[Edit:] Some essential balance on why it’s all very well for me as a white woman to enjoy this movie, but the lack of PoC really needs to be addressed: Yet Another Bland, White-Washed Fantasy World.

Whitsle-stop review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, poster.I wish I could devote more time to reviews, but it’s crunch-time in Rhuboland, so here’s a whistle-stop tour of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, good and bad.

The Good:

They beefed up Gwen’s (Emma Stone) role and gave her interests outside of her bf. They also showed her thinking about how kind of self-centred he can be and how she’s not content to wait around for him.

Plus, Gwen had some agency and some role in saving the day.

The character, Max (Jamie Foxx), is initially interesting, as a black guy getting to play something other than the tough guy, the guy presented as animalistic in some way. Although I wonder if the black nerdy, socially inept scientist is getting to be another stereotype. I was reminded strongly of Lem from Better off Ted, but I’m aware that I may be blinded by my own privilege in trying to assess what makes for a stereotypical black male character.

Max also gets to voice legitimate concerns of vanishing identity and feeling invisible, which can affect people of colour who are not recognised and rewarded for their achievements in the way that white men tend to be. Both Max and Harry cut sympathetic figures, at first.

The CGI is fucking fantastic. Second to none. And worth seeing in 3D, if that doesn’t affect you negatively.*

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield shine, instantly lifting both the acting and (one feels) the script in any scene in which they are in.

The Bad

Hopefully it isn’t too much of a spoiler to say that things do not go well for Max. And whilst they toy initially with making him a human dude who doesn’t want to do bad things when he first gets his (basically very destructive) powers, he rapidly descends into the violent revenge trope and becomes a basic monster figure with almost nothing of his original character left. Fear of the Other. Terror of the Black Man (complete with hoodie, argh). It’s just all the worst stereotypes.

And they make him blue. Instantly cutting in half the number of obviously PoC characters I noticed in the film (the other being an anonymous cop).

And he cedes Chief Monster Spot extremely quickly to the spoiled rich white guy, swiftly assuming a Henchman role.

Prior to that he had been Comic Relief, aspiring to be Side-kick (but not actually cool enough for that). It’s basically a race ‘You wanted a “You Tried” sticker, but you really don’t deserve it’.

I think the moment where Random Unnamed Woman Secretary-I-Don’t-Know-What-Her-Role-Was-Meant-To-Be-That’s-Not-How-Oxbridge-Interviews-Work told Gwen she could go in for her interview was meant to make this film pass the Bechdel Test. But, honey, no, that’s not good enough. She could have easily been a professor, btw, but she wasn’t.

Peter Parker stalks Gwen and she finds this romantic. PETER PARKER STALKS GWEN AND SHE FINDS THIS ROMANTIC. NO, Hollywood! Stop putting this crap in our mouths. You want to have your hero stalk a lady, represent it as every bit as creepy as it is, and not ‘poignant’. NO, NO, NO.

Mental illness = evil. Illness that alters conventional beauty generates mental illness. People who get sick have cooties. White able-bodied men are better than everyone.

All the people in any position of power, from the unnamed people in dealing with a potential air crash in the powercut, to Harry Osborn (Dane DeHann), were white men. Harry delegates some power to Felicia (his father’s assistant, played by Felicity Jones) on a whim, but even if she is capable, her power is 100% derived from him and, as far as we are given any reason to believe, given to her because she is pretty and not currently trying to seize power from him.

And, last, but only so you can skip it if you don’t want spoilers…



The fridging. I knew (because people tell you these things) that Gwen Stacey was not slated to live that long, but this still pissed me off. I don’t care that that’s how it happened in the comics. I know fridging happens in comics, that’s how come we have a name for it. We are living in the 21st century, and if you are remaking something, you can make it BETTER and MORE SUITED to the world we now live in. The whole movie I was sitting there, trying to work out if it was going to go somewhere sexist or not. And I guess the moment Peter says he’ll go with her to England so that she can follow her dream (a totally legit thing to do that needn’t compromise his dreams in any way, as they discuss) she was doomed. Allow a woman too much agency, and she has to die to fuel the mangst. And we were treated to a longish epilogue to that effect. Not to mention the fact that Peter, for no apparent reason than just because he likes to be in control, never loses an opportunity to deny her agency. Webbing her hand to a car because she (rightly) points out that she knows more about how to solve the issue at hand than he does, is perhaps just the most painfully obvious of these.

Also, the pacing was really patchy, and the (exquisitely CGI’d and very impressive looking in terms of FX) fight scenes were too long and not punchy enough. Again, I felt like the Multiple Villain Factor was a problem – why not let Electro at least be head villain? Green  Goblin is totally up to fronting another movie.

So, there it is. I really wanted to like this. I did enjoy parts of it quite a lot. But it had a LOT of problems. And I’m kind of done making excuses for studios unthinkingly churning out this shit anymore. I’m done with saying ‘Maybe the next one will be less ableist/sexist/racist’. It’s not good enough. It doesn’t make the mark.

But do stay after the movie for the mid-credit Marvel Thang. Mistique kicking arse is a wonderful palate cleanser.

*On that note: please also be aware that this film contains strobing effects.

International Women’s Day: Inspiring Women #5: Geena Davis

Geena DavisYeah, sure, Hollywood actor, Oscar Winner, Golden Globe, big whoop. Except… she’s also a sportswoman, activist, and, frankly, Big Damn Hero.

As well as narrowly missing out on joining the US Olympics team for archery, she’s also fronting the Geena Takes Aim campaign for the Women’s Sports Foundation for an Act of Congress to bring equality of sports opportunities.

She’s sponsored the ‘largest research project ever undertaken on gender in children’s entertainment‘, which showed that there were nearly three male characters to every one female character on average for the 400 children’s shows analysed.

In 2005 she launched a project with the group, Dads and Daughters, aimed at equalising gender representation in children’s programmes, and in 2007 she founded the The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which conducts research into the representation of women in Media (and the impact of that) and advocates for a greater female presence in the media.

If you’re on Tumblr at all, you’ve probably seen the results of her work, which has shown that just 17% of characters in group scenes are female, and, as Geena comments:

That’s what starts to look normal. And let’s think about in differen[t] segments of society – 17 percent of cardiac surgeons are women, 17 percent of tenured professors are women. It just goes on and on. And isn’t that strange that that’s also the percentage of women in crowd scenes in movies? What if we’re actually training people to see that ratio as normal so that when you’re an adult, you don’t notice?

Interview with Geena Davis in ‘Casting Call: Hollywood Needs More Women’, by NPR staff

Prompting the creation of an (unaffiliated) dedicated Tumblr called 17percenttheory.

Basically, she noted a subjective sense that there were significantly less women in the media than men, was worried about what effect that might have on her children, and she went out and got the data and the research to show that there was a problem, and then she founded an institute to work towards providing a solution. Just the effect of the spread of information and solid data (and the revelation of how little evidence had actually been collected before) has had a palpable effect on the blog-o-sphere. And her willingness to put money, time and effort where her mouth is gives me hope that she can affect real change.

Oh, and she was in Thelma and Louise. Which is awesome and feminist and shit, too.

International Women’s Day: Inspiring Women #4 – Le Chevalier d’Eon

Le Chevalier d'EonThere’s gonna be some people who’ll disagree with this one, but I see how my trans friends get treated by some feminists these days, and I feel it’s important to include trans women. Moreover, reading up on le Chevalier d’Eon, I was deeply uncomfortable with the way that historians refer to her as ‘he’. The reasoning is that because a post-mortem examination revealed that Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont (aka, le Chevalier d’Eon) that she had male genitalia, the famous transgender spy was ‘actually’ a man.

Why am I judging differently? Well, despite the fact that d’Eon presented as both male and female at different times, she lived as a woman for much of her life and petitioned the government to be treated as such. Whilst there are reasons a person could insist that they were one gender without really holding it to be so, trans people go through enough that if someone claims that status, to me, I think we have a duty to believe them, and the fact that people were curious enough to know what was ‘really’ inside someone’s pants to perform a post-mortem examination of the matter is just… all kinds of wrong. I think the least we can do is call her by her preferred pronouns now.

As for the woman herself? d’Eon was a part of the Secret de Roi, a network of spies operating in the service of Louis XV. She befriended Empress Elizabeth of Russia and became her maid of honour. When she found her finances stopped on a mission to England, d’Eon bargained for return to France by publishing some, but not all of the secrets in her possession. The English public came to support her and the French king ultimately renewed her pension, although she remained in exile.

She published her memoirs, La Vie Militaire, politique, et privée de Mademoiselle d’Éon, although these are believed to be ghost-written by a friend. She led a division of women soldiers and taught fencing lessons until wounded in a tournament in 1796. She retired to live with a widow, Mrs Cole, and escaped debtors’ prison by signing away rights to her biography.

She was basically a badass who should have all the Hollywood movies made about her.


International Women’s Day: Inspiring Women #3 – Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai – Activist for the Education of Women

Malala: 16 years old, youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, shot in the head by the Taliban at 15 for the work she was already doing on behalf of women’s education. At which point she had been blogging articulately for the BBC for three years, after being banned from attending school.

Breathtakingly intelligent, brave, self-motivated, and self-sacrificing – if you aren’t inspired by Malala, I’m not sure that you’re human.

She’s been featured on the cover of Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and as one of the 16 most influential teens. Winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, which has now been named the National Malala Peace Prize in her honour. Winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Spoken at the UN. She’s been made an honorary citizen of Canada, and she’s been nominated for a Nobel prize again in February of this year. She has already done more in her life than, well, probably everyone you know.

My heart breaks when I think that we might have lost her. She was shot in the head.

And it did not scare her off. She has only become stronger.

And now she has set up the Malala Fund, for empowering girls and educating children in developing countries.

Malala is my hero. If you’re moved to do anything for International Women’s Day, you could do a lot worse than donating to the Malala Fund.