A failed system…

Last week we saw two huge protests within the U.K. The first being the protest against Trump’s visit on Friday where it is estimated that over 250,000 people attended in central London to tell Trump that he is not welcome and never will be. This is the biggest protest in the U.K. since the Iraq war protest in the early 2000s. The second protest was against the FLA (Football Lads Alliance) who were marching in support of Trump, Tommy Robinson and freedom of speech.

As we all know, Trump is a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, sexist individual who was voted in as President of the United States by targeting minorities within the country such as Muslims, Mexicans or Black people and scapegoating them for various issues in order to gain votes and become President. Since then we have seen him and his administration attack the rights of the LGBTQ+ Community, Black people, Mexicans, Muslims and others. His rise to power has empowered other right wing organisations across Europe to stand up and “claim back” their country from immigrants and Muslims.

The election of Trump has sparked the debate once again surrounding freedom of speech, which is where Tommy Robinson and the FLA come in. There is however a difference between freedom of speech and hate speech which a lot of these supports do not seem to comprehend. Freedom of speech means we can hold and express opinions and ideas, and criticise people in power. This does not however make hate speech okay. The Public Order Act 1986 makes intentional expression of racial hatred a criminal offence.

The notion that Islamophobia for example is not racism as Islam is not a race is an argument that comes up very often when the far right wish to justify their behaviour towards Muslims. However, regardless of how they wish to word it, they tend to associate anyone brown to be Muslim and anyone Muslim to be a terrorist or a member of a grooming gang. Just last month, the FLA marched in Leeds and a few days after there were arson attacks on a Mosque and a Gurdwara. Coincidence? No, not really.

Whenever any right wing group such as the EDL or Britain First for example came to Coventry I would often question them about why they have the views that they have, but all I would get back is “f**k off back to your country you p**i” or “BOOM!” or even “you interested in my young daughter you f*****g rapist”. For me it is clear that no one is willing to actually engage in a conversation about their views and why they hold the views that they hold which is when this problem begins to worsen and create further tension.

As a third generation British Indian in this country it does genuinely astonish me that there are white British people in this country doing the Nazi salutes as if Germany and the rest of the world didn’t go to war? But also demonising and targeting people whose origins are from the countries that helped Britain during World War 1 and 2. Of course there is a problem with terrorism and grooming gangs but it’s not just a small group of people who label themselves as Muslims? There are white terrorists and white grooming gangs in the country as well. Instead of trying to target a small section of society and blame them for our problems, we should instead be looking at the wider problem and realise that regardless of religion or skin colour, evil people will always be evil people. Terrorism has no colour, evil has no colour, so why do a small minority within this country still choose to scapegoat and target an even smaller minority within the country for its problems.

If anyone is to blame it’s the failed system: the failed justice system, the failed education system, the failed economic system and the failed political system; not just in this country but all over the world. People’s needs are not met and the most vulnerable in society are often the ones who are affected the most. Everyone is entitled to their views but I also think people need to take a look at the bigger picture and realise that the scapegoats that the media and government use are only pawns in a much larger game…

 

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My battle with Depression.

“From around the age of 10, I constantly felt down; never happy or content. Negative feelings such as hopelessness and sadness engulfed me. Being so young with such ill feelings, I was hardly aware of the fact that not everyone else felt this way, although I knew what I was feeling wasn’t normal I brave faced it and carried on with life hoping for the best not knowing what else to do.

Since I was born, my mum battled with cancer which eventually took her from us just one week after I turned 10. Combine this with having no friends in my primary school, getting bullied and having relationship difficulties with my family – things were not going well and my life was in a downwards spiral into a dark black hole that sucked all the happiness and courage I had.

A year passed and things got worse. The feeling of sadness intensified until they became feelings of depression and at my worst points, suicide. The small thoughts began to take over my brain; day and night the demons came out to play. No matter what I did, no matter where I went, the thoughts were always there. No escape, no peace, no hope. See that’s the thing with depression, it’s not always triggered by a specific event, sometimes it just happens for reasons unexplainable or for no visible reason at all. It’s like a whirlwind, it hits you out of nowhere, and doesn’t care what’s in its way – its goal is destruction and it sucks you into the darkness where you feel powerless.

I began to exclude myself from everything, from everyone. My hobbies no longer existed, I had no energy, no motivation, no lust for life, I just wanted to sleep forever; to me, life was meaningless and because of that, at depressions worst points, I did not care whether I lived or died. The life that I once loved and cherished, I was now wishing would end. For many the hardest part of that, especially when there’s no particular reason for it, is you just don’t understand why. You feel guilty, even though you know you no longer have rational control over your feelings.

It didn’t help that I had no one to speak to, no one that I believed cared enough. Due to the many mental health issues in current society not really being understood as much as they could be in my culture, I couldn’t confide in my family because of fear that their reaction may have been inconsiderate. I had no friends to speak to either as I was bullied throughout primary school. Because of my practically non-existent space to vent depression just weighed heavier on my shoulders. Waking up and constantly having to battle with the thoughts inside your head is by far one of the hardest things I think anyone can ever do, it is such a personal experience and often even if you do have someone to speak to you just can’t believe any positive words about your being. So many people fight this battle silently day and night.

All people suffering from such issues deserve to get the right treatment and the right care to be able to carry out and enjoy their day to day lie without such a heavy burden on their chest but there simply is not enough funding for these services. Personally, I had to wait over 2 months to get any counselling and that is a considerably short amount of time as I know of waiting lists for counselling treatment spanning over 6 months. It is shocking how underfunded the mental health services are in the UK considering it is one of the biggest issues we have to face as a society.

Depression is a silent killer and despite more societal focus on it, it is still on the rise which essentially means more could be done to tackle it. Many can’t put up the fight against it, it is incredibly tiresome and you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle this leads to thousands of people each year committing suicide. To me, the effects of this could essentially be considered a ripple effect, one suicide affects the lives and emotional well-being of many. With more and more people being diagnosed with depression each year, it is vital that more is done to fight it.

Even to this day I will have my good and bad days, I go through phases where I’m surviving and other phases where I want it all to end but I know deep down that things will get better. Things still are not great but they’ll get there eventually. You mustn’t lose hope otherwise it is even more of an uphill struggle.”

This is my story. Many others are going through a similar or more difficult battle. If you are going through a personal battle, it is okay to speak out about it. People are here for you and together we can end the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Perfect”.

To not feel pressure to fit into societal norms is a rarity in this day and age. Too many of us look towards models and celebrities to see what we should look like, what size our waist should be, how big our features should be. We live in a world where very few people feel confident with their bodies or the way they look, simply because others are judgemental and pick flaws in those around them.

Studies have shown that at least 80% of girls are uncomfortable with their bodies. The “perfect body” that the media portray to us, especially within the modelling industry is 20% below the ideal healthy weight. This leads to many people around the world attempting to reach this “perfect body” by damaging their health both short term and long term to feel comfortable in their own skin.

40% of women and 20% of men have considered having plastic surgery to alter their appearance. This is most likely increasing year upon year as more and more people become insecure about themselves. But what is perfection? Does perfection exist? No, it doesn’t. Regardless of what we do, we will always be seen as imperfect to someone around the world. That is the beauty of society, we all are different and have different likes and dislikes; the whole world does not has the same concept of “perfect”.

These differences must be acknowledged but appreciated. No one should live and feel uncomfortable looking the way they are because other people judge them. Body image should be a personal choice, it should be a choice where the person WANTS to change their body, not because of any external influences.

We are heading towards generations of people where no one is comfortable being the way they are; generations of millions with eating disorders; and generations of millions with no self-confidence. We need to show people that they are perfect the way they are and that they should not feel a lack of confidence due to the people they see on TV.

Do not quantify your worth by the amounts of likes you get on a photo, you are worth more than you know and do not let anyone tell you any different. The fight for body confidence will be a tough one but hopefully more and more people learn to embrace who they are rather than allowing the media to tell them what they should look like to be “perfect”.

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Hot chocolate?

Consent. Something that, for some reason, many people struggle to understand and get their heads around so we are going to use a quick example to explain consent in a different context.

Think of you and someone watching TV. You ask the person if they want a hot chocolate. They say “yes, I would love one right now”. From this it is clear that they want a hot chocolate. If the same person says “I’m not sure, I’m not really feeling it”, then you can make them a hot chocolate, but it doesn’t mean they will drink it, and if they don’t, you cannot force them to drink it.

If the same person says “No thank you, I don’t want a hot chocolate” then you don’t make one, under any circumstances you don’t make a hot chocolate or try to give them a hot chocolate as they have made it clear they don’t want one.

However, the person could also say “Yes please” as in the first scenario but then once you have made it they have changed their mind, and this is okay too. It might be frustrating yes, but it does not mean that just because the person said yes, that they are not allowed to change their mind; you just have to be okay with it and not force them to have it.

A further scenario would be if the same person is unconscious, do not make them a hot chocolate as they cannot answer whether or not they want a hot chocolate. If the person was conscious and said then but then became unconscious, you do not give them the hot chocolate. If the person started drinking the hot chocolate and became unconscious whilst drinking it, you don’t carry on giving them hot chocolate, you stop.

If someone said yes to a hot chocolate last week, it doesn’t mean that they will want hot chocolate every week. Saying yes once, doesn’t mean it will always be yes. For some this may seem like a stupid analogy but hopefully it puts it into terms that people can understand and comprehend.

Consent is needed both ways, not just from one person. Consent is not exclusive to one gender, one race, one religion; consent is universal and everyone has the right to consent. In the modern age, consent is something that not many people fully understand; with a music and media culture that blurs the lines with consent, many people become confused and don’t know what is right and what is wrong.

We hope this blog post gives you a clearer view regarding consent and helps you understand what is and what isn’t acceptable.

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Who are you?

Hypersexualisation is to make something sexual in character or quality, or to become aware of sexuality; especially in relation to men and women. This concept is important to grasp in order to understand the rest of this blog post.

Wherever you look in the media, whether this be movies, magazines or shows, women are hypersexualised in majority of media outlets out there. An example of this would be the Cosmopolitan magazine, which is one of the top selling magazines amongst young women in the Western World. A study done on the readers of this magazine showed that readers were more likely to believe that women should use their appearance to attract male partners compared to less frequent readers.

Whilst many may not see the issue behind all this, it is important to realise that by teaching young women that things such as intellect, creativity and ambition are not as desirable as good looks, you begin to create a society of self-conscious women who feel that looks are all they have to offer in order to attract males. This is the wrong message to be sending to women, and more should be done to empower young women to not be sexualised by the media or be portrayed as sex objects because women are worth more than that.

It is not just women that are hypersexualised but also men, albeit to a lesser extent. All over the media, “desirable” men tend to be tall, muscular, and a particular skin tone. It is the notion of being “masculine” that is used to hypersexualise men.

Again, this sends out a message to men that women are only interested in you if you are tall, muscular and masculine, but this is not the case. Women want things in men such as ambition, generosity, intellect, creativity; perhaps not all of these apply to all women as choice is subjective; but on the whole both men and women want similar things in partners, yet we are faced with a media who want to hypersexualise individuals and create a generation and world in which looks are the decisive factor when it comes to dating or love.

This again leads to a generation of young men who feel pressured into becoming “masculine” and this is most likely a huge factor behind toxic masculinity. The idea of being masculine is not just physical, but also a mental state in which you don’t show emotions because “men” don’t do that. We recently did a blog post about toxic masculinity so check that out if you are interested in reading more about the issue.

Who are you? Are you who the media wants you to be or are you who you want to be? You are you. Our message at Break the Chains is simple: do not let the media sexualise you and do not feel pressured to look like the people you see on TV or any other media/social media outlet.

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Invisible Injustice.

Trans Day of Visibility, the 31st March, is dedicated to celebrating Transgender people and raising awareness of the discrimination faced by Transgender people worldwide, and that is exactly what we are about to do.

Between 2008 and 2014, 1,612 Trans people were murdered across 62 countries – equivalent to a killing every two days. This rate has not slowed down as in the past year there has been at least 190 murders of Trans people over the world, equivalent to more than one every two days.

The stigma around Trans people still exists massively, both in the western and eastern world. Whether this be due to religion, tradition, or just negative perceptions; it needs to be addressed that Trans people are still severely at risk of being murdered or targeted due to their change of gender.

Two in five Trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity from 2015-2016. It is also important to remember that not all people within the LGBT+ community will report their incident to the police as more studies on the Stonewall website show that four in five LGBT people who have experienced a hate crime or incident did not report it to the police.

The abuse that is received by Trans people not only exists physically but also verbally. Over 10 per cent of Trans people experienced being verbally abused and six per cent were physically assaulted at work. As a consequence of harassment and bullying, a quarter of Trans people will feel obliged to change their jobs. No person should ever feel the need to change their job due to being targeted because of their gender identity, sexuality, race, religion or anything else for that matter.

People in Japan who wish to undertake a gender change are required by law to undergo sterilisation before changing their gender; this law exists in a number of other countries and also existed in Sweden until 2013. However, as previously mentioned in this post, this can be for a variety of different reasons such as religion, tradition or just negative perceptions as a whole. This does not mean that it cannot be changed; over the past few years we have seen various countries such as the US, UK and others announce same-sex marriage as legal, which is a massive achievement and victory for the rights of the LGBT+ community.

There still exists hatred and fear of the LGBT+ community within these countries, even within the UK, but the acceptance of the community is becoming more apparent and widespread than it has ever been before. If Lesbians and Gays can now be more accepted in society than previously, then Transsexuals will someday become more accepted in society than they are currently. It will be a long and hard fight for equality, but all it takes is one conversation, one interaction, one action to change the perception of one person; and one by one the ripples of change can bring about equality.

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Too afraid to be you?

Real men are emotionless. Real men are aggressive. Real men are strong. True? False. Yet this exact notion goes through the minds of hundreds of millions of men each day, more often than not – subconsciously.

Society has been created with the “stereotypical male” that each man is meant to live up to and look up to. The idea of emasculation ( a range of “feminine” interests or activities a Real Man would not do, that in turn disprove his masculinity regardless of his other actions) has created a society of men who are too afraid to be themselves. They feel pressured to be something they are not. They feel that they need to be aggressive in certain situations because that is what a “man” would do; or they feel obliged to pay for everything if they are in a relationship or on a date because that’s what “men” do.

We have genderised thoughts and feelings; toxic masculinity shows men that they are the thinkers, not the feelers and that women are the opposite; whereas the reality is we are both. Toxic masculinity defines the “norms” for men to act; even issues such as misogyny and homophobia stem from toxic masculinity as men are taught that you shouldn’t have any deep personal connections with a male, and that the “treat em mean, keep em keen” works when it comes to women.

The misogyny goes even deeper than this. All you need to do is turn on the TV and see the music industry. Time and time again women are sexually objectified by rappers, called “hoes” and “bitches” because this is what a “real man” does. In addition, the lyrics tend to speak about how much men love sex which is another by product of toxic masculinity. Many men feel pressured into wanting to show that they are eager to have sex or that they are always ready to have sex because this is the “norm”.

Truth be told, if the music industry was not misogynistic and stereotypical when it comes to males, we may have less pressure on young males to act and speak the way they do. Teenagers and young children need to be taught that it IS okay to cry; it IS okay to speak about your feelings; it IS okay to want to care for your skin and your hair; it IS okay to like romantic movies; it IS okay to not want to have sex with your girlfriend/boyfriend straight away; it IS okay to have deep personal relationships with your male friends or family members.

According to the Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2017, in 2015 there were 6,639 suicides in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Male suicide rates remain consistently higher than female suicide rates across the country, roughly three times higher in the UK. Men commit suicide because they do not speak about how they feel, many are scared of being ridiculed for showing their feelings. Many keep things bottled up as they would get told to “man up”. If this does not highlight the issue of toxic masculinity nothing will.

We need more men in high positions of popularity and influence to show men that it is okay to talk about feelings and that regardless of what others think, you should not let others define you as a man or not. Everyone has subjective views on what they may consider to be a “real man”; but their views should not define you, you define you.

““Femininity is depicted as weakness, the sapping of strength, yet masculinity is so fragile that apparently even the slightest brush with the feminine destroys it.”