A Short and Possibly Futile Attempt at Organising My Thoughts on the EU-Know-What.

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I’ll give you a heads up – I have no idea what I’m talking about.

It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve scoured many an article, interview and expert’s opinion piece on the EU-You-Know-What the past month or two. Me; politically active, total feminist, absolute liberal. I just could not get my head around it. But there’s one thing we can all agree on – it’s been a fucking shambles.

Essentially, the impression I’ve gained is that Bremain is Brexit’s older, wiser brother who is trying to calmly and honestly explain that he absolutely didn’t do anything wrong, whilst toddler Brexit stands runny-nosed and tantrummy about Bremain taking away his toys. Bremain isn’t exactly totally honest, of course, or at the very least he bends the truth, but for the most part, he’s in the right for taking Brexit’s toys away because he was getting a bit dangerous with them and Bremain totally believes he’s gotten away with it. Until Mummy Britain and the good people thereof started getting that exhausted by Brexit’s crying and whining that Mummy Britain eventually started to give in to Brexit because, you know, he might have a point, and Bremain can’t really believe it. At this point, I’m not sure where the toys are anymore and I’ve no way of knowing who’s telling the absolute truth because both sides are bending it a bit and telling me the other one’s definitely lying. It’s against the very core of my being to agree with David Hameron, for christ’s sake.

I’m not going to go into detail about either side’s argument because quite frankly, I haven’t got a monkey’s. All I’m going on, really, is the fact that one of Brexit’s main points is that countries like Turkey will be joining the EU soon, ever expanding its horrific knack for peace-keeping and human rights. Because who wants other countries to have those sorts of things, right?? I may well have voted leave under another, fairer government but weirdly, I don’t trust the Tories to inject all that money into the NHS after the past year, and I’m quite a fan of holidaying. I mean, never mind those countries with silly things like war and corruption who are desperate to join for some stability and growth, they need to learn to fend for themselves! Like we will! Hurrah! Rule Britannia!

I’m sorry, that was mean.

But seriously, Brexit speaks to a very, very large group of people who are very very angry. Now, I’m not going to generalise because defining a whole group of people (like immigrants, for example) by the actions of a select few or by the media’s impression, isn’t fair at all now, is it? But I have noticed a pattern. For example, my entire news feed, consisting of university students, parents & young people, have voted to Remain today. My entire shop clientele, consisting of mostly old, white, working class men, have voted to Leave. Again, I don’t speak for everyone. But Bremains usually have an economic, social or security reason. 9/10 Brexit’s reason is immigration, or I’ve heard ‘What have the EU ever done for us?‘ A number of times. But I understand why. These are people who have worked hard all their lives only to watch the value of their money and labour decline. Who have perhaps lost their jobs as the Polish family moved in next door. People who grew up in a time when you were taught to fend for you, your family and no-one else. At least our generation knows we’re fucked. We’re ready for it. The generation ~generally~ voting for Brexit feels personally attacked. So I understand why you want to leave. You were probably taught to look after your own. There’s nothing wrong with that. You do you, hun. But to me, as a human being, disregarding my politics, shutting the door on someone who needs help, no matter what language they speak, is fucking terrifying.

Please don’t take this generalisation as fact. As I said, that’s not what I’m aiming for. I’m just trying to find an explanation for the neck and neck polls. The problem isn’t in whether we have too much immigration or money going out or a failing NHS or whatever – it’s the fact that the nation is divided in itself. Because you know what? Maybe you do think immigrants are the cause of all our problems. But the other half think that’s bullshit. Something very wrong has happened here. Whoever you are, it’s creating more of a ‘them’ and ‘us’ vibe which we all know doesn’t go down well, historically. Whatever that might be, a vote with 50% each side or thereabouts should not be made by the public. I’m all for democracy and freedom to cast whichever vote you may please, but this isn’t going to solve anything. Either way, almost of the country is going to be furious. Almost half of the country is going to hate the other. The other part of the country didn’t even want to be involved and will just have to duck in the bar brawls. 

We are already divided enough as it is. This decision should have been debated, fairly and with expertise, in parliament by the people we pay to represent us, however much we may hate them. It’s their job. I’m not saying don’t vote if you haven’t already. You have the opportunity – use it. I don’t care how you vote, it’s your right to do so. I just wish it hadn’t have come to this. Everyone is confused and uneasy and it’s just shit. It’s really shit. I wish I had more eloquent words to describe how totally rubbish this situation we find ourselves in is. We don’t know who to believe or what to think and even the most curious and investigative of experts haven’t got a clue, or can’t get a straight answer into the mainstream outlets. And the total lies, misinformation and scaremongering that is occurring is atrocious, but it’s been working, as the Independent found that Britains are wrong about nearly everything to do with the EU Referendum. I don’t know how they get away with it – it’s just not fair to insult the intelligence of working people like that. The other solution, I suppose, would be a mandatory legally enforceable fact check on all posted campaign information but hey, that’s not going to happen anytime soon so let’s go with the next best thing.

I personally don’t understand anything about the EU, its economics, trades, security measures or anything else. And I’ve tried. I’ve tried to find the truth, but that’s what both sides claim they offer. And please don’t bother telling me your opinion because I’ve already voted and besides, I have done enough research and I still could not make up my mind, so your facebook comment probably isn’t going to sway me, sorry. In any case, by 10pm tonight it will all be over and we will know what the future will hold for Britain by tomorrow morning. But if you haven’t guessed already, I voted Remain. My fundamental reason for doing so, above all the confusion, was that we know what it’s like to be In, but we don’t know what it’s like to be Out. And because I may well agree for once with David Hameron but I absolutely draw the line at Boris. But it should never have been about who I agree with on principle. It should have been about making the right decision with enough easily accessible information, and instead of everyone talking about how confusing its been and scaring people off further, laying the facts out bare right slap bang in the middle. Voting In to keep things the way they are may well have been the most conservative thing I’ve ever done in my life and I am sad that I didn’t have concrete information and worried that I made the wrong choice. But mostly, I am terrified of what the people will do as a result of reading so much misinformation and becoming so convinced of the lies they were told. There are two kinds of voters: those who are informed and those who are not. The scary ones are those who think they are informed but really, really aren’t.

But that’s a whole other blog post.






What Scares Me The Most About The Panama Papers

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Hold on tight, it’s going to be a ranty one.

In 1968 ten million workers and students in France almost overthrew a government. They were angry and disengaged with the politics of the time and took to the streets to change things. It sparked anti-establishment movements across the globe and had apparently been a long time coming. It had all started over students requesting the right to sleep with each other, and ended in what was almost another revolution in France.

Meanwhile, in 2016, journalists from 80 different countries have been sifting through the gory details of the Panama Papers. If you have no idea about the huge shit-storm of a leak that dropped this week, you can read it in its simplest terms here. As someone who basically knew there was something to be very angry about but knew very little about what was actually going on, that piece helped. The media is furious – the headlines dire and calls for global reforms are rife.

But for me, the most disturbing thing about the Panama Papers was the total media silence from my very left, very anti-establishment peers. Short of a leak revealing a move towards a New World Order or Bush admitting he really DID do 9/11, this is every conspiracy theorist’s wet dream. Many a time we’ve sat around the pub table wishing that our talks could be solidified with something other than a Zeitgeist DVD or a reddit thread as a reference. Yet here it is: something that we’ve all long suspected or, rather, known – that the wealthiest people around the globe have been squirrelling away their enormous wealth to avoid having some of that enormous wealth being taken in tax to be used on silly things like healthcare and public infrastructure – has finally come to light. There were other reasons too – like using the money to buy weapons for dictators or hiding the money when your people could really, really use it. Essentially, it is history repeating itself – as this article puts it – ‘normal rules do not apply to the global elite. In a new gilded age, taxes would – once again – appear to be for the little people.’

And not one actual person – bar the media – seems to be saying or doing a bloody thing about it.

Now, I’m not saying we need to Viva la France this bitch up. I’m just a bit shocked. I’m also not blaming you. I’m a true believer in a system that works hard to distract you, inadequately informs you and discourages critical thinking. This breeds an attitude of indifference. Hear the word ‘tax’ and your lack of school education on the subject immediately sends a shiver down your spine. We have our own lives, our own problems and jesus can’t you shut up about war for ONE second whilst I’m watching the telly PLEASE I just want to sit down for ONE MINUTE of peace.

I’m being succinct with this but that’s essentially my stance.

Even those who are attuned to ‘what is going on’ have Keyboard Activism Syndrome (including myself): clicking a link on the latest scandal, facial expression only slightly concerned, sharing with an angry heading and sitting back like the job is done. I fall into this category and I can tell you the reasons for it. Three things: firstly, it’s easy. We like fast and simple. We like activism we can do snuggled in front of Netflix on a Friday night, scrolling through Facebook. Thanks to the wonderful development of technology and amazon, we are used to getting everything worthwhile at the click of a button. If you get frustrated when a webpage takes more than ten seconds to load, you know what I mean. We are, as a generation, used to immediacy and if revolution won’t happen overnight, without us being involved or leaving our rooms, we’re alright, thanks. Secondly, the rules and regulations that have suffocated protesting since 1968, plus the general reportage and subsequent attitude to protesting. Great for preventing mass riots and violence (that, more often than not, are rumoured to be sparked by plants – the government kind, not potted – or caused by the opposing government themselves), rubbish for organising large-scale demonstrations. The people are rightly scared of getting hurt or arrested or killed. Finally – and this applies to those in the first category too – is that even if we wanted to complain properly, we wouldn’t know where to go or how to be taken seriously. So we sign the next online petition and move on.

These attitudes are enforced by a government that doesn’t listen and continues to punish those in need. The student protests of 2010 (and continuing) failed to change anything and the NHS junior doctors, despite their actions, are powerless against that bastard who just keeps saying ‘no.’ Work, family and social expectations get in the way too – I know a lot of people who aren’t prepared to move regular life around to go to protests or think that appearing at one will damage their reputation. Deadlines and catch ups call and always seem more attractive than sign-holding and shivering in a puffer-jacket at 5am.

And so for the most part, we let them get away with it. Even sitting here now, writing this very angry blog, I’m doing nothing to change things apart from perhaps spreading awareness. We think that’s enough and at this point, it isn’t. I’m not damning fun, Netflix or social media – I’m damning our whole lives revolving around distraction. I’m damning the impulse to pick up your phone during a lull in conversation. I’m damning the false and disguised information, the total silence of my friends and peers over this horrific concealment. Fuck, I might be angry and I might be wrong, but at least I’m trying. We are desensitized and disengaged whilst having the whole world at our fingertips. We believe nothing and therefore we can do nothing about it in case we are wrong. This is dangerous, dystopian territory. If we stop taking action, if we stop believing we can change things, if we consistently believe that things will get sorted eventually, we’re fucked.

I don’t mean to undermine the efforts of the many, many, many, many individuals and organisations who work hard to get out there and change the world. I also have a lot of friends who are very passionate about these things and are in the same helpless position I find myself in. I also wouldn’t be writing this today if those brave souls who leak these documents didn’t exist. I’m definitely not saying we’re a lost cause. But as a whole, we need to find a peaceful yet steadfast and collective solution to speaking out. There are more of us than there are of them.

I’m not calling for violent protests or all-out riots. The world is bleeding enough already. But this is a desperate call to metaphorical arms. The beauty of the internet is the ease of spreading information. But this isn’t enough anymore. We need to collectively smash our bloody heads together and come up with a solution. I’m not talking about changing the world – I’m just asking for one thing that lies in parallel to the 1968 student protests – that you care about something enough to do something about it.

So please educate yourself. Please write to your government and MP. Please attend local meetings about issues that you care about and actively encourage discussion amongst your friends. And someone come with me so I have someone to go with. PLEASE VOTE – make a day out of it, go to the pub after and don’t alienate those with different opinions to yours. Make it fun and non-argumentative – yes, that is possible, if both sides remain open-minded and neither are dicks about it. Be left, right, middle, independent, not affiliated, whatever, but aim to have an educated opinion, please. I’m still learning, I always will be. I’m just asking you to stop dismissing politics as boring and inaccessible and just stop thinking that someone else will sort it all out one day.

Because that’s what they want you to think.

But that’s a whole other blog post.


My Dystopian University – A New Teaching Dynamic For Academic Drama Courses

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You might have noticed that I haven’t posted anything for a good few months. This is because in-between groggy 9am lectures, rehearsals for performance modules set by my university, dissertation stress in the physical form of stacks of books I’m not interested in reading, I simply haven’t had the time.

But this week, in one of those said lectures, my mind began to wander. Instead of focusing on material I hadn’t chosen and didn’t feel like I was gaining from, I started to think (I know, bloody hell) about what my life would have been like had I chosen my own education. And I don’t just mean my institution. I mean, what if I had been given the opportunity to study precisely what I wanted?

A little background for those who might not know me, in case I’m pitching something here that already exists but simply seems too far out of reach from my standpoint: my university lied to me. I signed up for a drama course that was diverse, unique and allowed students to choose from a wide range of modules. It advertised technical theatre course, Shakespearian acting, Irish theatre and several others I would have had trouble choosing from, as they were all so delicious. This is what was advertised on their website, brochure and confirmed by the head of year on my individual tour after I missed the open day. It lacked the pretentious stench of a drama school yet offered the range of teaching and guidance I wanted, with the aim of eventually starting my own theatre company after graduation. I arrived as a doe-eyed first year, enjoying and exploring a wide range of subjects, putting up with that I didn’t enjoy or wasn’t interested in, appreciating its place in the curriculum nonetheless. At the end of the year I began to panic. “So, um, when do we get to choose our modules for second year?”

“Oh, we don’t do that anymore.”

“What? We don’t choose?”

“No, it’s set modules.”

“Oh, alright, do we get a say in these modules?”

“No, we chose them for you.”

These modules were Classical Theatre, Contemporary Theatre and Applied Theatre. The three modules I could not stand, which you then got to choose from again in third year. This was how you ‘specialised.’ You can imagine my disgust.

Therefore, I spent most of my second year angsty and distanced from the course. I hated lectures, its content and its organisation. I thankfully gained some technical knowledge from a graduate friend who spent his time running a course the university should have offered. I spent seminars scowling from underneath my fringe like a teenager being forced to do maths (which I was also adept at) and I became renowned for hating my university.

Then, third year rolled around and now, I’m in the shit. I have no speciality, I have no real interest in my course, my dissertation may well be the biggest pile of bullshit ever to be excreted in the history of mankind and I feel like I haven’t learnt a thing.

Boo-hoo, I should have gotten on with it, read a book from time to time, I know, I know. But there’s a raging resentment inside of me, still, at putting myself in debt for the rest of my life over three years of my life I could have spent elsewhere. I continuously re-iterate that I don’t regret moving to one of the most wonderful cities in the world, I don’t regret the friendships and connections I have made, and I don’t regret discovering playwriting in that year I felt so disconnected from my course. But I do bloody wish it’d been different. But how?

A sudden flash of inspiration: what would an efficient academic/practical drama course look like? How do you make sure every student gets to study what they want, at the pace they like, but with motivation for creating something wonderful? Be that a ground-breaking, original essay, an innovative piece of performance art or the next big West End show? Ladies, gents and non-binary, I ask you to humour me and picture this: a harmonious, happy campus, filled with students who are passionate and interested in every aspect of their course, because they, as individuals and as small groups, have chosen every step.

The first one or two weeks of term would be intensive, dedicated to taster sessions and short lectures – a quick whistle-stop tour of the main signposting practitioners, theories and movements. That’s your introduction to theory, not 2 years down the line when you’re only just hearing of Mike Alfreds when you could have used his bleeding technique in year one.

After this, students are not required to attend set lectures. Instead, they are required (by a punch in-punch out system) to be in the building at set times, or for a set amount of hours per week. Within these hours, tutors do not teach entire classes subjects that perhaps only 5 out of 30 students are interested in. Instead, they are available to approach during these hours and asked to lecture on certain areas of their expertise. Just like lectures, they would be limited to one or two hour sessions, encouraging succinctness and relevance from both the student requiring assistance and the tutor giving guidance. If the tutor is unavailable, students are encouraged to read, research, discuss and debate with other students.

And so beautiful, professional relationships are formed. The girl you sat next to on the first day turns out to really enjoy the study of Meyerhold techniques as well, so you go and practice them together. You argue in the canteen over the pros and cons of documentary theatre. Someone on your course is stuck for a new project, so you suggest they look into Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble because you read it last week and found it interesting. It’s a course fuelled by curiosity, a willingness to learn and a passion for your subject. I know, weird, right? Almost sounds like the university brochure.

This way, students who want to learn are free to do so, encouraged and rewarded for it. Those who distract, revolt or are just downright rude are not inflicted on anyone else, usually left to their own devices if they continue on the course at all. But I’m all for second chances and believe that as soon as you show an interest in learning and knowledge, you immediately become an asset to someone else again.  Group work evolves as a result of interests and complimentary skills rather than being enforced by awkward ‘pick your groups’ sessions and time constraints. The group or individual presents when they are ready, when they feel that they have truly developed something meaningful. Reliance on practitioner and theoretical influences to fill your bibliography becomes inspired by and explored in the style of _____ because you actually enjoyed it. It reduces the frustration of having to go over things others in the group may have studied already and removes the awful feeling of being the tutor giving a lecture only 3 people are interested in. Education becomes an exchange: expertise and experience for growth and understanding. Am I really being unreasonable, here?

“But how is it graded?!?!” I hear you cry, brainwashed by generations of schooling that measures your worth with numbers on a sheet of paper. You can read my post here about why I think that’s a terrible idea in the first place. But if it absolutely has to be for the sake of placating Mr Ofsted, you won’t be shoved into the ambiguous and perception-based system they call marking criteria. If you’ve shown a positive attitude to learning itself (and by this I mean that even if you hit creative or academic blocks and may get frustrated, you show a determination to work around them) then you get a big tick. Students can present their progression in any way they chose, through essays, presentations, video diaries, series of performances or any form of exploration. Anyone who tells you that a scrapbook is the easy way out has never known the joy of piecing together the jigsaw of a life. Rehearsals can be filmed or sat in on by tutors, who can then asses how effectively the group or individual progresses in terms of communication, level of thought process and how they deal with problems that arise. How does the group learn to deal with conflict? How does the group learn how to speak to each other effectively? How does the group learn what ideas work and don’t and why? You mark the progression, not the final product. This neutralises the clawing need drama students have to climb over each other – there is no ‘top’ – if you’re in a group, you work together and that’s how you succeed. The emphasis focuses on how the students collaborated their strengths and knowledge as well as improving on those skills, not on throwing something together for a deadline. The performance will not be marked as a whole in which one shining star of a performer might be brought down by someone who might just not quite ‘get’ acting – the latter might have studied every single postmodern artist and the significance of their work between 1963 and 1970 and that knowledge enabled the former to portray the character of Marina Abramovich down to a T. The guidelines change from ‘candidate has x y and z qualities’ to ‘candidate progressed in x y and z areas of study.’ By default, if the students have developed and properly understand their work, the outcome will be something spectacular.

Yes, yes, real world talk, deadlines exist. Commissions have to be given out. Guidelines have to be followed. What can I say, wishing for an education in which I’m rewarded for actually learning and not, as I find myself now, getting the top marks for knowing how to cheat the system. I wish university had been somewhere I could have left the memorising of information to gain marks behind.

I’ve never studied teaching nor do I have any desire to do so. I don’t claim to have the perfect solution and I’m not naive enough to believe this dynamic doesn’t have flaws. I’m also not saying that all academic drama courses are crap – I know plenty of people who love their none-drama-school courses. But most of them say the same thing – it’s because they have a lot of free reign on what it is they do. I made the wrong choice and that’s on me. But, I’m a dreamer. My idea requires, in the world we live in at least, money, which incites the dreaded words: private schooling. It requires students who have some kind of incentive to stay and learn no matter what. It requires independent thought and the ability to take risks which, unfortunately, is beaten out of us extremely early. It requires tutors who are willing to take each hour as it comes, instead of planning which animation they’ll use on next week’s PowerPoint presentation. It requires an entire shift in mind set, but I really think that it’s a style of learning that can tailor seamlessly to each individual studying drama in an academic sense. And who knows, maybe one day, when I’m rich and famous from somehow turning this piece of shit degree into something worthwhile, I’ll be able to open my own school, in which the students are rewarded for their thirst for knowledge and their desire to improve, both academically and personally. Your degree will really, truly and honestly become what you make of it.

But that’s a whole other blog post.

Franki x

P.S I’d love to know if you can think of anyone who has had similar ideas in the past and how they worked out. Or perhaps scholars who completely disprove this ideal? I’d like to know! Please leave a link or suggestion in the comments.

How Our Education System Automatically Fails Us

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Anyone who knows me knows that I have a big fat grudge against the education system. Not just my university, which at this current moment in time is making me want to quit human life and become a goat, but all through my life I’ve been faced with terrible academic decisions made by my schools and my government. First and foremost – before anyone picks a fight – I’d like to point out that the majority of this piece is my story. I’m having a whine. I’m not a teacher – never will be – just a very disgruntled student. Don’t get me wrong – some people have had wonderful educational experiences. It just so happened that I have found mine utterly disgraceful.

Story number one: my year 6 Gifted & Talented class. I was one of the prestige elite, bestowing my teaching assistant with a curious disposition and a habit of talking incessantly. If you didn’t have G&T (an acronym of things to come) class at your school, it was basically a small club of the most ‘promising’ students on paper which were taken out of regular class once or twice a week to do the more ‘advanced’ stuff like easy algebra and books without pictures. I distinctly recall being highly embarrassed because one of my classmates asked me what ‘befriend’ meant, and I told her that I thought it meant when you stop being friends with someone, only to be sarcastically corrected by the TA. Other than that, I remember very little from my G&T classes, except the aftermath. When I passed those all-important SATS and made it to big school, my thriving enthusiasm and inquisitiveness was soon crushed by the humiliating realisation that, in the bigger scheme of things, I was neither gifted nor talented.

It left me with a devastated ego. I know, I know, please save the tiny violins. But what a stupid fucking concept. “Let’s take these already smart kids out of the regular class and make them smarter, whilst we leave the average kids to ponder why they aren’t special, with no way of knowing how to become that special. No, we’ll teach them the regular stuff, because they couldn’t possibly comprehend it.” I’m not saying we shouldn’t nurture intelligence. But we shouldn’t reject the academically average, either. Because what are you using to measure that? The passion in their eyes when they start learning about how chemicals react with each other? The joy in their voices when they realise they cracked the maths equation? Their curiosity and enthusiasm to learn? No, our system has decided that box-ticking and anxiety-inducing exams are the best way to test whether or not a child is intelligent.

Story number two begins with the single most resonating sentence one of my maths teachers ever said to me. I was absolutely terrible at numbers, and algebra, and finding what ‘x’ was. I was terribly frustrated with my lessons in which I felt as though I knew nothing and learnt nothing. Then, one lesson that I was almost in tears over, a few weeks before a final exam, my frankly brilliant maths teacher said to me these presumably comforting words: “It doesn’t matter about being clever, because these exams…they test your memory, not your intelligence.” And that was it. My faith in the education system fell through beneath my feet. Because it wasn’t just mathematics. A near straight-A student in every other subject, I started to wake up then to how ridiculous the testing system was. I was deemed as intelligent because I’d ticked boxes somewhere. My English was deemed as satisfactory because I’d used ‘x’ amount of metaphors in my creative writing, and when it came to analysing texts, I had to realise this particular amount of things in order to get the mark. Even in drama, a subject literally marked on a living, breathing, person, it was from the examiner’s perspective whether they deemed you ‘believable’ enough according to this criteria and that criteria. Not what they made you feel, not the amount of work they put into the rehearsal or research process, but whether they ticked this particular acting box.

Story number three: an old boyfriend tried to teach me to play the guitar. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get my fingers to go in the right places. Believe me, I tried to learn ode to joy for about three weeks. I could see in his eyes that he was frustrated with me – it was something he ‘just got.’ You’ve heard that expression before, right? ‘How do you understand complex equations?’ ‘Oh, I just get it.’ Well, my brain just wasn’t wired up that way. It’s been like that with all musical instruments. I can stand up on stage and make you believe that I’m an entirely different person for two hours, but I could not tell you what a ‘G’ chord is for the life of me, despite studying music as a subject for two years. I sang instead of played.

This always frustrated me. Our education system is fundamentally flawed: it claims that it tries to cater for all abilities and learning styles, and yet every single marking sheet consists of exactly the same thing. One of my current housemates gets frustrated with me because I’m lucky enough to be able to write an essay the night before it’s due – he spends months on the same assignment and we end up with the same mark. In a perfect world, I should be at the bottom of the heap in that respect – and I wholeheartedly mean that. I put 0 effort into things that don’t interest me but have figured out the system well enough to still look good on paper, and that’s not fair.

But should I also be forced to write a three-thousand word essay on something I could show you in a workshop in one hour? Should I be measured on my ability to write about something I have little to no interest in, when I could write a twelve-thousand word emotionally and politically engaging play instead of my dissertation? I’ve heard the argument against this already – “you chose to come to university, university is academic, this is what you are expected to do.” But the question I’m asking is: who are you to tell me that putting all this down on paper is academic but my translation of it isn’t? Because ‘someone said so?’ They tell us at university that you have to start ‘thinking for yourself’ – yet we are supposed to do that after all we’ve ever been taught is ‘this is right, this is wrong, don’t think for yourself because it’s probably wrong.’ Even now, at higher education, we’re told we cannot make a point without backing it up with someone else’s words, or performing something without showing who we stole it from.

We learn how to learn backwards – our creativity is beaten out of us before the age of twelve and ‘silly questions’ are treated like stupidity. Then, we are asked open questions in class that nobody will answer in fear of being wrong. By this time, when the exam board wants to see ‘creative and imaginative answers,’ we’ve forgotten what it was like to be curious – because we’re forced for years to study subjects we hate and held back by conforming to marking criteria in the subjects we love. How can you expect a child to learn independently when all they’ve ever been taught is how to memorise the right information? How can you expect a child to want to learn when they’ve been forced to study a subject they’ll never understand and punished for not understanding it? How can you expect a child to become a well-rounded, individual adult, when all they’ve been taught is how to be exactly like everyone else?

What really makes me angry is that students are put under intense pressure to gain these high marks, so much so that their whole worth comes down to what gets printed on that piece of paper. I’m telling you now: you are worth so much more. These government peeps don’t know that you’re the only person who can calm your little brother down. They don’t know that you secretly love painting but won’t do it because your dad wants you to be a lawyer. They don’t know that you don’t know what you want to do when you’re older – but they’re gonna make you think you need to know right now and still make you ask whether you’re allowed to go to the toilet.

My solution is utopian, I know. Remove the tight controls over education and let students choose what they want to study with detailed outlines of what it is that includes. Then let the students be curious – teach them the tools for independent learning at a very early age – let them ask questions, encourage their enthusiasm and for the love of god, scrap the timed exams. Scrap tests altogether – focus on the student’s passion, their dedication and their style of processing their knowledge. If you don’t know the answer to their questions – encourage them to find out the answers for themselves. If they want to study whether or not bugs poop at the same time of day – let them study it. You’ll never know whether finding out what time of day bugs poop at will lead to a monumental discovery about bugs in some other way. Perhaps bug’s poop has something to do with the way the earth is fertilised and would lead to massive overhauls of the farming industry – leading to better, more fruitful crops. You never know, do you? I don’t even know if bugs poop, but you get my drift. Curiosity is key. This way, the ‘intelligent’ is made redundant – those who put in the work and are passionate about learning do so, becoming the creative thinkers in the workplace – driving it forward. Of course, there will always be a hierarchy – and those who fail to put in the work and bypass their opportunity to learn will become the bottom feeders. I say this, because I would be one of those bottom feeders. I have lost faith in ‘putting the work in’ because right now, it’s not worth it. But if I had been allowed the chance to learn what interested me without judgement, I’d sure as hell work as hard as I could.

You could argue that some students wouldn’t know what to study if they were never given a baseline – if that’s the case, then why are we making 14 year olds make subject choices that determine what they will do for the rest of their lives if they are incapable of knowing what to study in the first place? There’s also this one – “If you’re so bothered about independent learning, why aren’t you doing it now?” Well, put it this way, despite my entire brain being wired up in a different style of learning including being deathly terrified of rejection and huge pressure to give the ‘right answer’ – you just read about 2000 words written by yours truly on a subject I am passionate about and have informed myself on. It will never be examined by a very tired teacher in the middle of June. It will never be given a mark on grammar and spelling (something I would fail dramatically.) It will never be ticked or crossed in the margins. But it got a message out. It was read by people I care about and want to inform and encourage to think for themselves. Hell knows, it might change a mind or start a debate. It lead me to reading about the Finnish education system, statistics about the stress and emotional damage of exams and the reasons why examinations came into existence in the first place. And all that came out of me, waking up this morning, and making a decision for myself. Given the ability to do so, the curious and the driven will find a way to learn.

These are philosophical questions I’m not entirely sure will ever be listened to. I’m not sure how many politicians will accept my argument about bug poop. And of course I, being the quiet anarchist, am convinced it’s all a big plot to keep our population dumb – a plot to stop us from being curious at all, so that we keep watching our reality TV instead of finding out that bug poop is actually poisoned by mind-controlling drugs that keep us all from revolting.

But that’s a whole other blog post.

What’s the deal with dick picks?

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Alright, I know most of my posts have been leaning towards the more sexual nature lately, but with good reason. You all know how passionate I am about fixing the state of this country’s sex education system one step at a time, and this subject is just another cog in the machine. This one’s been a long time coming, if you’ll excuse the pun. But there is no other common sexual practice that I can’t get my head around more than the ‘dick pic.’

I decided to write this article after the last straw appeared in my tumblr inbox a few days ago. A total stranger, provoked by nothing I had posted or insinuated, decided it would be a great idea to send me three unsolicited pictures of his sweaty, hairy cock. Now, I’m no stranger to the dick pic (I’ve been on tinder long enough to know that to some boys, “hello” translates as “she wants me to show her my penis right now”) but this one particularly disgusted me. Why?

He was wearing socks and sandals.

Alright, so that wasn’t the worst thing. The shock, disgust and vulgarity was the worst thing. But what bewildered me most was that if he had been following my tumblr for any length of time, he would have known that I am first and foremost a passionate feminist who regularly speaks about empowering women and most importantly about CONSENT. What made this random stranger think that it was appropriate to send me an un-asked for, unwanted picture of his genitals? There wasn’t even any caption. Just straight up dong, standing to attention. I was absolutely flabbergasted and mostly, just embarrassed on his behalf. It’s not a pleasant thing to do to a person. Let me just put this in perspective for you: Imagine you’re on a train, minding your own business, when someone comes up to you and slams a slab of uncooked raw steak in front of you. Now, steaks can be nice, with a little bit of time and care. Steaks can make a really great meal. Steaks can be really tasty. But if a stranger presented a wet, slimy, raw piece of meat on top of your morning paper, you’d find it really weird. Right?

It unfortunately it wasn’t an isolated incident. You can ask the majority of girls whether they’ve been sent inappropriate pictures without consent and I can guarantee that nearly all of them will say yes. What is it about these boys that makes them think, “If I send her a photo of my cock, it’ll make her want to have sex with me.” Please, honestly, I need your responses, because I’ve racked my brains for a logical answer that might work for that train of thought. You do realise that, as a whole, genitals are some of the ugliest pieces of body that human evolution has created? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying sexual urges, personal preference or ‘heat of the moment’ type attraction, and I’m speaking from personal preference. But you have to admit that a penis kind of looks like an over-excited slug. And don’t worry! I’m not just attacking the male gonads here, I’m well aware that vaginas look like sloppy ham sandwiches (I know, I don’t know how I manage to get laid, either). But that’s exactly my point. Genitals aren’t attractive.

What’s even worse is the attitude towards the people who call these fuckboys out on this behaviour. I have been called a prude, a slut (which made absolutely no sense), a bitch and even a ‘heartbreaker’ for telling boys that I didn’t appreciate them sending me these pictures. I’m sorry, who is the one waving their genitals in my face? Do you know what would happen if you did that in the middle of the street? You would be arrested.

I wanted to see if I could figure out the history of the dick pic and although it might not be entirely factual, this article by Aimee Ouellette on dick pics through the ages made me laugh out loud. On a more serious level, Cyriaque Lamar puts it down to being our lack of cultural progression – noting that past generation’s ‘pent-up sexual frustration’ led to outlets in other areas, but with the arrival of the immediate smartphone the owner now believes he has ‘the power of Zeus’ in his hands. I personally wondered whether this fling-it-about mentality comes from the lie these boys are told by the media, by their porn magazines and videos. These women show their private parts and tell these boys how much they want to have sex with them, so the two connect themselves. What they fail to remember is that those women are being paid to do so.  These boys start to think that this exhibitionist technique is a big red bottom in the big wide world of baboons and will get them laid. Well here’s your explanation boys: us girls, we don’t particularly like arses in our faces.

The dick pic may come from nowhere. The dick pic may creep in after a little bit of small talk. The dick pic may arrive when you mention that you’re home alone and –bam- there it is. I’m really trying hard not to generalise this epidemic, but it’s common enough for it to be relatable to guys neglecting foreplay. You can’t go in dry, and if you do, you’re an ass. If you have any kind of reasonable explanation for this, I would really genuinely want to know, because I simply cannot figure out your train of thought.

The fact is, unless you have express permission from the dick-pic-ee, please, please, keep it in your pants. It’s not pretty, it’s not clever and in 9/10 cases it’s not going to get you laid. It’s actually pretty rude. I’m thrilled and honoured that I can make your flaccid trouser meat hard as a final fantasy boss, but I’d rather find that out in a moment of passion, not right after I type “Hi.”

Franki x


Franki’s Guide to the Frickafrack – Part Three.

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The Secret Ingredient to Sex Is…

If your attitude towards romantic ideals of sex and sexuality is apathetic and cynical, you’d probably do best to skip this last section. It’s all about to get a bit touchy-feely. Or, you could read it and entertain the idea of sex being something other than glorified masturbation, I don’t know, maybe.

Most people see sex as something that solidifies two people’s attraction towards one another – the end game. Some people see it as purely an act of mating, or sexual gratification. Some people hate it. Some people have sex with the person they love, wondering why on earth they aren’t enjoying it as much as they thought they would, yet acting as if it’s the best sensation in the whole wide world.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience sex, not as a physical act, but also as a spiritual one. You can roll your eyes all you want, but I couldn’t describe it to you if I tried. I was young, hormonal and I know I probably won’t ever feel like that again. I feel almost like the psychiatrist in Equus, jealous of the ability to feel so passionately. Not that I want to go round poking the eyes out of any horses. The trick was that I stopped thinking about sex as a means to an end, and so did my partner. It was about being with that person, experiencing them, and to hell with the rest of the world. You’ll know it if you ever experience it, because you won’t question for one moment what the both of you shared. It tugs on you from the inside out. It’s blinding and euphoric. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with someone you are completely in love with, but it helps.

One of my favourite films puts it brilliantly – “The secret ingredient to sex, is love,” (Nymphomaniac, 2013 – how very aptly named). Unfortunately for you cynical romance-haters out there (myself included – currently being reminded of this fact) – it’s true. Once you start to have sex as an act of passion and not an act of obligatory expectation, you might start to enjoy it.

Too many times have I had to tell my friends that they deserve better. Too many times have I had to tell myself that I deserve better. I do envy the prude expectations of the pre-Victorian era sometimes, in a very strange and backwards sort of way. They might have still had bad sex when they got down to it but it was a privilege, a taboo, something that was so secretive that the sheer excitement of it meant the passion had to be there. The expectation was that sex = passion = the love of your life. Now, I’m not calling for naivety, but I’m calling for a little more than walking into my bedroom after a house party to see a boy with his kit off, expecting a fuck because I gave him the rest of my beer.

So please, once in a while, think about having sex to enjoy the sensations created before the orgasm, instead of expecting one at the end of it. Have you ever seen the beauty in the curve of a neck? Have you ever moaned and kissed someone in the same breath? Have you ever traced the arch of someone’s back whilst they kiss your shoulder? No? Perhaps because they don’t show that side of sex in porn. I’m not saying you have to love someone to have good sex. I just don’t think good sex is possible between two people unless they’re willing to entertain the idea of appreciating the other for the beautiful human being they may well be. I think the solution is to stop thinking that the sole purpose of sex is to achieve an orgasm, and to actually enjoy being close to another person.

Or whatever. I’m not bitter.

The End.

Franki’s Guide to the Frickafrack – Part Two.

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Oh my god, what are you doing?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get down and dirty. I’ve tried to compile the most common mistakes that are made in bed and I must warn you that most of these are aimed at straight white cis boys. Don’t blame me, I’m going off my notes, here. You must know that, as a collective, you really do have a terrible reputation in bed. So I apologise for the gendered language which I have tried to avoid as much as possible, but I’m not even going to deny that I’m not pointing the finger here. I am. You’re mostly terrible.

Another important thing I’d like to highlight is that I do not speak for everyone in these particular posts – and once again I’m not officially qualified to talk about this. It’s an opinion piece. You are as entitled to enjoy terrible sex as much as I’m entitled to moan about it.

Number 1 – The Jackhammer Penis

What’s the deal with pounding your penis as hard and as fast into a vagina as humanly possible? Do you have any idea how uncomfortable that actually is? Apart from our fear of queefing being heightened significantly and that luscious, insecurity-fuelling sound of skin slapping loudly onto skin, it’s also really fucking painful, sometimes. The vagina is on average, only 4.5 inches deep. So if anything, when the well-endowed of you are trying to fit your entire right thigh into our orifices, it’s really uncomfortable. Do you know what we also know when you’re going as fast as you possibly can? We know that you’re trying to come. We know this because when you’re about to come and you realise it’s too soon to be acceptable, you slow the fuck down. We ain’t dumb.

Not only is it not enjoyable but it’s also a dick move. At that point, we know you’re not enjoying the experience of being naked and vulnerable with us, you’re enjoying the hole in our bodies that feels like warm, squishy bacon wrapped around your dingle. Hats off to my ex for that particular analogy.

Again, it boils down to humanity’s obsession with the orgasm which I touched on in one of my first posts. Boys, you have it easy. As a general rule, you know that you’re probably going to come. As a women, we have to enjoy sex for other reasons; the closeness, the passion, the feeling of moving with another person.

Some of you get that. The vast majority of you just fuck us.

For us, an orgasm is a bonus. A dream, even. For you, it’s a guarantee. It makes no sense to me that that shouldn’t be a motive to get to know your partner well enough to make them come, if you know you probably going to come anyway. There are better, more fun, more intimate ways than acting like a jackhammer. And girls, don’t act like you’re enjoying it if you’re not. There’s nothing worse than being pounded by some guy who thinks his penis is the Usain Bolt of shagging and pretending it’s the best sex you’ve ever had, because they’ll continue doing it whilst you’re thinking ‘ow, ow, ow, OW, ow.’ This brings me swiftly onto my next point…


I honestly do not know a single girl who hasn’t faked an orgasm. And not just faked one, repeatedly faked orgasms with multiple people. It’s a female in-joke, I promise you. “Did he make you come?” “Nah, but what guy does?” Honestly, I don’t mean to emasculate you but the chances are, at some point in your life, a girl has faked an orgasm with you. I’m guilty, myself. This one is our bad.

I used to think it was just polite – this guy’s not gonna make me come but I can’t possibly be that mean and dint his ego, right? Oh boy, how my opinion has changed since then. It’s so mean to do that to a person. It’s like trying to teach a dog to sit but giving him a treat no matter what it does – it’ll be blissfully happy with itself but it’ll never actually achieve what it’s supposed to do. If a boy – if anyone – ­can’t make you come, don’t sit there and do your best porn-star impression, you sit that weak ass down and let ‘em know they’ve disappointed you. It’s the only way they’ll learn.

The lack of communication in sexual relationships astounds and infuriates me. There such an awkward taboo about telling someone “Right a bit…no, quicker…slow down…yes, that’s how I like it,” like you’ll embarrass someone for not doing it right. I come from a background that taught me that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Perhaps it’s because I come from Yorkshire and ordering someone about in bed in our accents sounds completely ridiculous – “Ere, raaaat there luv, aye,” – that it’s so irregular here. No-one is going to be perfect, you’ll both be exploring new bodies, new kinks, new preferences, and it’s okay to make some mistakes along the way. But would you do yourselves a fucking favour and talk about it? Please? I don’t think I can handle another look of disappointment on some poor girl’s face because her boyfriend of three years has never made her come and she’s never told him. That’s criminal.

Number 3: How to act like you’re enjoying oral.

Alright. I chose to word it like that because I’ve had so many boys over the past few years tell me they wouldn’t go down with me ‘because they hated it,’ yet expected a blow job every five seconds, which incidentally is about how long they used to last (sorry, cheap joke).  Newsflash: your banana ain’t any prettier than my ham sandwich, boy, and I don’t particularly enjoy it either. Again, I don’t speak for everyone here. I have a friend who hates receiving oral but loves to give, although I’m convinced she’s from another planet. I speak for the majority of females who have to act like they absolutely love having a foreign object shoved down their throat whilst having to concentrate on tucking away their teeth, using their tongue, incorporating their hands, trying to simultaneously open up their airway by doing an ‘inside yawn’ because this asshole is trying to shove his babymaker into my actual lungs. All whilst moaning and trying not to let your eyes water with the fear of being choked to death.

But ‘it’s too complicated to give a girl oral,’ right?

I’m done with trying to tease men in bed, I’m over the consistent disappointments, so I wouldn’t come to me for advice on how to give a good blow job. I’m not even that great at it myself and the last time someone came in my mouth I was physically sick. Nevertheless, I’ve developed a weird sense of superiority over the years, even though I know I’m no expert. If you happen to tick certain boxes – give oral, enjoy or seem like you’re enjoying oral, give oral for a significant amount of time (being good at it isn’t a prerequisite – that comes with lessons and practice), and genuinely seem to be enjoying the sex for the sex and not for the race to orgasm – then I might give you a blow job. It’s a trade off. There’s one or two of you in the past couple of years who can raise your hands to that title, well done. See, I promised it’s not ALL men.

My point is, the disgust at oral usually goes both ways, it’s just practically unheard of to refuse a man a blow job because ‘you hate it’ due to the social norm – man has always seen sexual pleasure as his right, whereas a woman’s pleasure is a bonus. Seeing a pattern emerging, here?

I’m getting off topic. I’ll give you some tips, look away if you’re only in this for the intellectual conversation and philosophical debates. If you happen to have the opportunity to delve into the ‘mystery’ that is a vagina, don’t see it as a chore; you’re exploring the body. You’re finding out how to please your partner. Everyone has different tastes and preferences but a good general rule is to start with a flat tongue and long, wide strokes for a while until you recognise how your partner’s body is reacting to certain places you’re paying attention to. Then pay special attention to those places. And for the love of god, if she’s holding your head somewhere, don’t fucking move. She’s holding your head there for a reason.

One last thing: Vagina’s aren’t supposed to smell like mangos and flowers. They’re supposed to smell like vagina. Think about that the next time some poor girl has to suck on your sweaty balls and dick cheese.

Number 4: Anal, Shmanal.

Ah, this is my favourite debate, the ‘that’s the wrONG HOLE’ discussion. Can I just ask, is your obsession with doing it up the bumhole a direct evolutionary blunder or is it just the side effect of watching too much porn? Either way, it doesn’t make any sense. “It’s tighter!” I hear you cry. Yes! Much tighter! That’s why it fucking hurts so much when you try and shove it in there without any lube or preparation J

I saw a brilliant post on tumblr (which I can’t bloody find now) about how, if a boy is pressuring you into doing anal and telling you it won’t hurt, you should buy him a dildo the same size as his manhood and ask him to do it first. “If he’s scared of the pain, case closed.” If not, then at least he’ll understand the preparation and attention that needs to be paid to the area before anything can insert it safely. If you feel like you are being pressured into anything then you should probably get out of there as soon as possible, anyhow.  Sexual exploration should always be safe, consensual and exciting for both parties, and both parties should respect and honour each other’s likes and dislikes without holding it against them.

Personally, I’ve always hated anal. I don’t understand the appeal. I poop from there.

But, if you will insist on following through with your fantasies enforced on you through a highly sexualised society and easy access to degrading, unsafe, unrealistic porn, then so be it. Just be prepared to spend a lot – and I mean a lot – of time with your fingers or other smaller instruments than your willy up there. You can’t just shove it in. Trim your nails, get some nice lube, make sure you’re both comfortable. Having a shower together beforehand is always nice so that you can feel comfortable with each other’s bodies and also know that you’re both clean and fresh.

And for the recipient, know that pooping semen is one of the weirdest experiences you’ll ever have.

Number 5: Talk Dirty To Me?

Now, I haven’t claimed to be speaking for anyone in any of these sections but especially so in this one. Personally, dirty talk terrifies me. It’s mainly because I fancy myself a bit of a comedian. If anyone ever says ‘talk dirty to me’ the only things that will ever immediately pop into my mind will be the most un-sexiest things known to mankind. “Shake my titties like a polaroid picture, shake it, sh-sh-sh-shake it.” That and I have the immediate urge to sing the trumpet solo from that Jason Derulo song.

I cannot stand it. Whilst you’re telling me how much you love ‘fucking my tight, wet pussy’ I’m probably grimacing into your shoulder because it’s so unbelievably fake. I hate anything porn-esque and that is on my top three list of Absolutely Not Sexy Ever. I’m biased towards a more intimate style of sex – can you tell? It’s what makes me tick. Not telling me how hot my ‘big juicy titties’ are. I know my tits are phenomenal, thank you. You don’t have to put on a silly voice and tell me whilst your fondling them like a clown’s horn. Honk honk.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that if you don’t have anything nice to say – don’t say it, unless otherwise agreed in terms of kink or preference. If you catch me in a good mood, you might be allowed to call me a slut. But it’s bad dirty talk I cannot condone – uncalled for, awkward and downright disgusting. Kiss my pussy, don’t insult it with your GSCE adjectives.

In Conclusion

Some of you most undoubtedly will get turned on by these behaviours and I don’t wish to undermine your desires. But the fact of the matter is that I am wholeheartedly disappointed in male attitudes to sex, apart from a few exceptions, and believe me, I am speaking from experience. All I wish to do with this particular section is to educate, if nothing else, in sexual consideration for other people. Talk to each other. Treat each other’s bodies nicely. And don’t base your entire sexual knowledge on porn.

Part three will be released tomorrow, on the secret ingredient to good sex.