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Bristol’s biggest battle: SEVs should they stay or should they go?

Bristol City Council Offices. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this year, Bristol City Council debated approving a new policy that would reduce the city’s two adult sexual entertainment venues (SEV) to zero. Multiple online sources define SEVs as ‘any premises at which a live display of nudity or live performance which is intended to stimulate sexual activity is provided before a live audience for the financial gain of the organiser or entertainer.’ 2021 wasn’t the first time Bristol’s relationship with this type of venue had come into question.

In 2018, Avon and Somerset’s police and crime commissioner, Sue Mountstevens joined Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire in opposing the relicensing of Central Chambers and Urban Tiger. Mountstevens and Debbonaire weren’t and aren’t alone in their dislike of SEVs. Three years later as public consultation is underway, the Bristol Women’s Commission are resolutely in favour of banning these types of venues.

An ITV online article, described this debate as between “those fighting for female empowerment, while on the opposing side are those battling for gender equality. The Bristol Women’s Commission believe these venues perpetuate and profit from “harmful sexist attitudes…and sadly do, lead to violence against women.”

Bristol’s Liberal Democrats took to their blog to tear down the justification that SEVs hinder women’s safety, instead of deeming that these ideals contribute to the objectification of women.

Amélie, an Urban Tiger employee was quoted in the blog saying “As a woman, I feel way safer working in a strip club, walking around in my underwear, than I do going out to a regular club fully dressed.

“Punishing and blaming women for men’s behaviour is dangerous and is simply victim-blaming…I do not believe a nil-cap on SEVs will solve any issues regarding VAWG or women being objectified.” Councillor Dr Caroline Gooch said, “…Evidence from the Avon and Somerset police illustrates that more sexual assaults occur in the main clubs in the city centre than in the SEVs. Therefore, in terms of sexual assaults, the main clubs are a considerably higher concern.”

In the last few months, concerns over sexual assault and spiking within the city’s main clubs have risen. Across social media and local media outlets, articles and examples have been made of spiking victims and perpetrators. Articles such as Bristol post’s article ‘Bristol teen recalls ‘gurning and foaming at the mouth’ after horror spiking incident’ illustrates this.

Furthermore, publications such as The Evening Standard, Bristol 24/7, The Independent, The Tab and The Times covered spiking cases throughout Bristol.

In response, venues like The Louisiana and Kingstreet Brewhouse joined the Bristol Nights ‘Bristol Rules’ initiative to combat toxic attitudes to drinking and spiking. Bristol Rules is a collaboration between the city’s council, universities and venues aiming to advise and support those venturing out to enjoy the “nighttime economy” (Bristol 24/7, 2021).

The project operates a six rule system – posters and 3D signage are visible throughout the city’s venues and popular drinking spots. Its rules include, ‘Out together, home together’, ‘Call it out’, ‘Don’t be a creep’, ‘Respect everyone’, ‘Keep away from the edge and ‘Take it easy’.

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Being ‘streetwise’: footwear thoughts

Trainers on a wooden floor. Image credit: Pixabay

When getting dressed, I habitually think about my potential safety. Glancing in the mirror, ticking criteria off my mental checklist, all in the hopes I’ll get through the day unscathed and unbothered. 

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my footwear. Can I run in these? Are they grippy? Can I get from home to B and back again? But, Sarah Everard was wearing running shoes in broad daylight and Wayne Couzens still murdered her. So what’re we to do, when the things we’re told will keep us safe don’t work? Doesn’t that suggest the narrative’s floored?

Public discourse has codified a safe existence for women, making it conditional and the responsibility placed solely at our feet. Our appearance constitutes large clauses of this code. Don’t wear anything short, don’t smile too much, don’t do this or that or this. Like others, I’ve been led to believe appeasing this criterion will keep me out of harm’s way. 

Sarah’s not alone. Women around the world are disappearing, dying and being harassed when running, walking, clubbing and trying to exist. Research by UN Women UK found that as of 2021, 97% of women have been sexually harassed. With 96% choosing to not report these instances because of beliefs that little would change.

Commonly, these incidences are met with the response that we as women should alter our behaviours, routines and lives to evade harm. We do need to contemplate personal safety, but when people actively endanger our lives the problem is not with us. 

Social media platforms and news organisations assist in the dissemination of this rhetoric. This year, as ‘needle spiking’ hit the headlines, Durham University coined the hashtag ‘don’t get spiked’. This was met by widespread media outrage, but they have not always been so quick to defend victims of spiking and sexual violence. In 2016, a Sun tweet reading “woman drank six jagerbombs in ten minutes on the night she was raped and murdered” sparked a media frenzy. 

Huffington Post responded with an article titled, “A Woman Was Raped and Murdered. Why Is Her Drink Count Relevant? The piece concludes that The Sun was not only complicit in victim-blaming, but reinforced the notion of excusable rape upon the involvement of alcohol. Corrine Barraclough, a Daily Telegraph columnist hit back, arguing that “Attempting to perpetuate the “right to get drunk” is an alarming feminist fantasy.”

She continued to explain, “If you can’t guarantee your behaviour – or protect yourself when blotto – how can you have a right to get drunk?”  Corrine, we’re trying to keep ourselves safe when we’re sober too and that’s not working? Rightly, she highlights that as a society, we have an unhealthy relationship with drinking. However,  she fails to consider that external threats shouldn’t mean we have to remove ourselves from environments and activities that make us happy.

Sarah’s death single-handedly undermines Corrine’s closing statement, “Step off ‘Feminist Fantasy Island’, get streetwise, and start empowering women to make educated choices.” She was streetwise, she made all the ‘educated choices’, yet Couzens still decided to murder her. 

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How To Survive Thirteen Years Of Friendship

We’ve always thought of ourselves as Yin and Yang type people, you with your unbreakable patience, willingness to see the good in others and well me a tad more on the cynical side. 

Your skort to my jeans, your cocktail to my pint.

Alas like puzzle pieces, we just fit. 

Laughing till we’re crying, crying till we’re laughing. 

From dancing and dress up at eight, to bevs and boogying at eighteen; I often wonder if we’ll be busting moves at 80 – hip replacements and all. 

Whilst not much has changed in thirteen years, we’ve swapped our commute from a fifteen minute walk to a two hour drive and £3 Aldi wine for a cheeky gin and lemonade.

I’d trade a lot to be sat in your garden, watching you unconsciously chain smoke, whilst claiming tipsy status from a single glass of vino. 

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COVID-19: The Virus That Paused The World

2020 was the year the entire world stood still. 

Parents would become teachers, once nameless neighbours would become friends and society would learn that the most neglected workers were, in fact, the most vital.

But, what will the history books recollect? The streets lined with clapping families, the able fetching shopping for the elderly or windows filled with messages of hope – pictures of rainbows that promised this shit shall pass. I hope it’s all remembered, but with the good came the bad. Society will never forget those that lost their lives and the thousands that tirelessly treated people, with no hesitation or thought for their own safety. 

For those of us that stayed at home, that was the year that we found pleasure in the small things. We went on walks and actually enjoyed them, smiled at strangers because for the first time since World War Two; this was something we were all in together. And, whilst many of us had it easier than others, we were all united in our uncertainty at what the future would hold. 

On the contrary to what many journalists initially said, Covid-19 did discriminate; it had a bank balance bias. It picked on the already ill, the elderly and those that had no feasible choice but to work. This was the year the poor would get poorer. Students would pay for tuition they would never receive and rent for a house they would not set foot in. Countless international students would be forced to stay put, far away from family and all alone. 

Many third-year students would never get their end of year shows, exams and graduation ceremonies. Never getting to spend one last Summer in their student houses, abruptly saying goodbye to a city or town they had come to know as home.

Countless people would lose their sources of income, no furlough, no way to pay their bills. Domestic abuse would rise, suicide rates would soar. 2020 was the year we realised the businesses and people that cared. Not the Waterstones, or Wetherspoons of the world, but the Joe Wicks and Captain Toms.

Holidays would be cancelled, weddings postponed, and funerals attended by none. Those that died in care homes would never be forgotten but, the politicians that massaged the death statistics would be held to account. 

It was the year we took as a lesson, to seek out connection in a world that can feel so disconnected. We learnt the members of society we need, the ones that work without flaunting their efforts. Not the billionaires or pointlessly famous celebrities, but the doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, retail workers, delivery people and everyone in-between that just did something to help in their own way.

How will this moment be illustrated in the countless films that will no doubt retell it? With rainbows and window waves, with facetime chats to loved ones – or by the sprouting seeds planted during hours spent in the garden. 

Upon leaving our homes some returned back to their old ways but for the masses, everything changed. Individuals continued to cook and bake they persisted with reading and writing and finally, society saw the value of the things they had ignored. 

And, we would all walk, everywhere. 

2020 was the year we waited out the rain, in the end, a rainbow would appear. 

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What Ticks Your Boxes?

Time and time again, people have created photo projects of people being told they’re beautiful. Truthfully, I’m bored to death of this.

What if instead of placing emphasis on appearance we thought about people’s quirky mannerisms, dirty laughs and other odd attributes . That is exactly what we did, revealing to a group of strangers messages from their loved ones; explaining just why it is that they appreciate them.

As you can imagine, their friends weren’t going crazy for their fantastic faces or sets of steel abs. Alternatively, appreciating characteristics like their zest for life or their fascination to learn.

Moving away from home to University is odd. In my experience, I went from a small town where everyone looks like they’re photocopied straight from a Topshop Catalogue to a huge City. In Bristol, people more closely resemble the Tweenies. Since swapping Joni Jeans for Dickies, I’ve been questioning more than ever my own ideas of attractiveness, and what being beautiful really means.

Whether we do so consciously or not, the varying height on which we place beauty ideals in respect to our own lives is interesting. What are your ideas of standardised beauty? What ticks your boxes?

The origin story of the word beautiful is extensive, transcending all geographical and linguistic barriers. However, in almost all cultures it is a term solely reserved for women.

Why is this? Is it because our existence is valued more on the basis of our exterior?

The definition of standardised beauty ideals has changed through time, from the unibrowed women of ancient Greece to the porcelain coloured skin and accentuated foreheads of the Georgian era.

The digital era presents its own handful of new expectations. A recognisable theme throughout all these periods, is the lengths in which a lot of women feel they need to go to in order to visually appease and satisfy.

We’ve moved from scrawling charcoal across our eyes and putting leeches on our cheeks to achieve the perfect rouge to putting jelly tot looking blobs into our bodies so we’ve got the perfect boobs.

Who are the people you choose to have in your life? The ones that make you laugh till you’re in pain, the ones that remember how you like your coffee or the ones that you just look good in photos with.

Appreciating appearance isn’t worth nothing, it’s just not everything.

In the end, looks fade and what are we left with? I’m trying to place higher value on the things that take a little digging to find, in others and especially in myself.

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Twenty Twenty Pending

How is it that this year has simultaneously flown by and moved at a sloth’s pace?

Adhering to the massive cliché that I am and it being only a few days into 2020, I’ve been trying to figure out what the f**k this year was. Honestly, I don’t think I’m the only person that’s been feeling a little baffled. If years of our lives were given titles like books or films, I think the past 12 months of my life would be named ‘heavy’.

It feels like something’s been sat on my chest. And it wasn’t until I gave myself a week at home to gather my thoughts that it dawned on me that I’d been operating in autopilot. Until you leave a big city, you often don’t realise you’ve been holding your breath the entire time.

We are a generation of extremes, especially as students. Obviously, the odd individual falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. However, the majority either neglect their studies and focus on their social lives; or stay in the library till the early hours downing a litre of coffee.

Before finishing for Christmas, the people around me, made it so evident why we are called the burnout generation. A friend jokingly said he’d scheduled his breakdown in for just after his deadlines, explaining he didn’t have the time. Why do we feel guilty and wrong for trying to take care of ourselves?

Taking into account that we spend a vast amount of our time looking at screens or plugged into some sort of tech, why do we never think to recharge our batteries when we’re running low. We wouldn’t wait till our laptop’s battery died to do something. 2020 won’t see me creating crazy resolutions that I will have abandoned by the end of January, instead I’m just going to try and do more of what makes me laugh with the people that make me laugh most.

Plenty of people aren’t bothered by the beginning of a new year but, the transition of the 31st to the 1st is my favourite time of year. It’s another book in the saga of our lives, with all the best characters rolled over.
This year is going to be my year but I reckon we can share;)

Happy New Year!