And why your pick-up artist is making it harder for you

I’ve been on this planet for twenty-four long, drawn out years. Sometimes it seems like a lot longer, if I’ve spent too long going through my message requests. Throughout it all, from training bras to conference calls with Madrid, I’ve endured both the brilliant and beastly of male attention. I’ve seen success, and I’ve seen failure. I’ve been repulsed, and I’ve been overwhelmed.

And I don’t hate you, incels. In fact, I hope I can help.

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Surprisingly for some, although definitely not for others, I haven’t always been the girl in the bright red lipstick rolling her eyes at frightened men in Players. In fact, if you knew me at all before I turned twenty, I think you’d find it surprising that I’d even be let into a club, let alone one where I’d have the dubious honour of having a Lord pin me against a vodka stained piano surrounded by hollow-hearted civil servants bellowing Mr Brightside. So, let that be a lesson to the bitter hearted among you: I was unattractive, too.

I was an outsider, a nerd, a weirdo, a loser. I was the one with long empty weekends and a deep loneliness that cut into my bones. I was the one with mud brown eyes, a clumsy gait and hair that stuck out in an uneven, untameable mass. I was the girl with a skirt below the knee, the girl in the library, the girl who wouldn’t get drunk or smoke weed. That was me. I was one of those girls. The girls you forget. I know the bitterness well. I know the taste that lingers in your mouth when you enter a room and realize that no man is ever going to look at you. I know what it’s like to lie awake and taste the salt of your tears when you wonder if anyone will ever love you. I know what it’s like to sob into the mirror because once, just once, you want to be held and looked at like you’re someone. So no, I don’t hate you. I don’t sneer at you for what I once felt pulsing through me too. I just hope you know that on the other side of it, there is always a girl looking into the mirror wondering if any man would ever give her anything in this world if she looked the way she did before the miraculous transformation of adulthood, and if she can ever heal from the wounds that insecurity had left her. Be kind. You might look at a girl and think she has it all: sex, attention, power, but it is rarely so clean cut or precise in an underworld fraught with self doubt, the shadows of childhood and the scars of what has been. …


Short psychological fiction

He was a silent man who lumbered around in the dark, hands searching the wallpaper roses when the light bulb had long flickered out. Someday, he would replace it, but for now, he liked the gloom.

Kettle switch, paracetamol, the low hum of radio. The bark of the dog that feared him. This is the start of days, and the end of days. There is a nothingness to him, a bleak, bland mundane stretched out with little purpose between unpaid tax returns to HMRC and the faceless exchange of change by the long peer that slurs into the mist. He is a stretch of numbers, a bank account, citizen insurance number 1093819, someone to be deleted off a spreadsheet after a heart attack one January, alone. He dwells on that, sometimes, the fact the next person to touch him will be the person to check his pulse. …


From a disappointed British would-be immigrant

Dear America,

I’ve always been in love with you. I grew up with you, flickering in the pixels and glittering blur of television screens and movie theatres. You burnt brighter than a supernova with your optimistic joy, every vein within your body bursting with a million lights, lives and dreams.

I’ve wept with your sadnesses and I’ve rejoiced with your successes. I’ve sung your songs, I’ve stood for your anthem, I’ve felt the pain of your heartbreak and grief, I’ve felt safer when you have stood up and given your sons and your daughters in the name of the vulnerable, the persecuted and weak. You were my inspiration, my hero, my big brother. My first memory is 9/11, the deepest wound that was yours as much as mine. I had nightmares for years, seeing you in flame, weeping, angry. I was five, and I was angry. I was angry for you.

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We speak the same language. I’ve made you laugh, you’ve made me cry. I can stand on any one of your streets and be understood. I have stood beneath the skyscrapers of New York and the redwoods of Sonoma and felt I was home, for the first time, at home with the zeitgeist that are central to my very being: freedom, justice and hope. Every time my plane lands in DC, New York or LA, I feel like I can breathe again. I don’t have that love, that joy for this sad, grey and cold island that is written on my documents, stamped into my passport. …


Short horror story

Gerald Van Daalman was a man seldom to be found without a cigar in his mouth and his wide right hand around a Gibson. He was the kind of man you would rinse out the cologne from your blouse with over the motel sink, but never quite get rid of the lingering taste of disgust.

The girls of La Dourada Passaro called him Old Bubonico, for the gift of dark ink blue bruises he left in bite marks around their necks. He was a man to be avoided when sober and feared while drunk down the tobacco choked streets of the crumbling favela.

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A wise girl is never fooled by a silk cravat or french tie, the madams would whisper when his stumbling carcass was nothing more than a white suit on the edge of the hill. All gentlemen are beasts, and the worst of them have enough money to have you buried. No flutter of Daalman’s notes was worth the price of inexperienced girl to the madams of Carvalho Street. Everyone from the waitresses to the virgins sweeping the bars knew what a night with Gerald Van Daalman meant, well versed in the ice baths, chloroform and hushed tones of pitying sisters down the winding hotel rooms. What he wanted, few could say. He never found pleasure in satisfaction, only in the pain of the women he hated. Whatever he sought, he never found it, eyes swiveling in their sockets for the next girl to ruin, thick fingers running down the spines of his next prey. But, here in the shadows of the damned, the women looked out for each other, if nothing else. Dignity here meant nothing. Safety meant everything. …


I managed to sit through this consumerist binfire, and I didn’t like it

I don’t get to say ‘as a bisexual feminist’ as often as I’d like, but this is definitely one of those rare occasions where it isn’t wildly irrelevant. As a Bisexual Feminist™, I had the privilege of being one of the first people to facepalm at the planned live remake of Mulan: 1998.

Allegedly because having a relationship with someone who was your former commander is ‘problematic’ (and not because of the rampant homophobia that results in the criminalization of thousands of LGBT+ folk every year in their target market, lol), they got rid of the only positive representation of bisexuality or ‘gender-subversive’ sexuality in the main Disney canon: Li Shang.

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Liu Yifei looks incredibly bored throughout the whole film

For those of you who aren’t millennial bisexuals, Li Shang is cool, macho, hardworking and diligent, not to mention hot, and is allowed to develop romantic feelings for a person he believes is male in the narrative, and then accept the same romantic feelings without any question or ‘ew’ when they are established as female. Which, for 1998, was pretty hip. Even in the early 2000s, as a confused eight year old, that was a subtly comforting thing to see. So when I heard that he was out of the remake script, off the bat, I was suspicious of this sanitized remake that broke the original screenplay to meet the doubleplusgood logic of CCP China, or, as the producers allege, the ‘omg so problematic’ feminists who are weirdly obsessed with Disney. But don’t worry. I’m not one of those people who demands Disney answers to all feminist-genderqueer theory and sanitizes their screenplays accordingly, so you’re good there. This isn’t one of those essays. …


Short horror fiction

The earth in Chulao now cloyed in the air, acrid with carbon and a strange, singing sourness that lingered in the mouth. The clean rigid lines of the city were fractured, white sandstone broken to reveal hollow concrete bones, vertebrae of iron bars twisting into the sky. The rubble bled into the streets, every so often tumbling down in a flurry of discarded papers, broken china and faded books. It was silent, now, save from the odd murmur of a helicopter overhead.

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They had made love, then, in Apartment 21BwA. It was a sacrilege, perhaps, as the carcass of the town reeled and the small bodies of lives unlived were dug out of their unsuspecting tombs. It wasn’t planned. Tom had boiled water on the gas stove to clean the cut on his hand, and she had wrapped it in the fabric samples they had found in the drawer. They hadn’t agreed to do it. It was wordless, his fingertips lingering over her waist, her chin coming to rest on his clavicle. It wasn’t sexual, just closeness, closeness in the heart of that wound. She had lain on her back and stared up out of the open balcony doors at that cerulean blue above that didn’t care nor mind nor shift what that the mortals suffered or sinned below. Numb reassurance, her hands creased around the cotton of his shirt. He performed love like an athlete, press ups and perseverance, eager to please. She didn’t mind. She wanted him, then, in the shock and the strange unscreaming that inhabited both their lungs. The low rhythm of his breath, his eyes purposefully on her. …


As a new wave of widespread misconduct is revealed, it’s time we evaluated what we participating in through complicity

In the wake of @Kelsey_Caine’s activism, and the expose on Tyneside Cinema, why do so many victims stay silent? Why take months, or years to come forward? If you knew how Britain operated around freedom of speech, perhaps you’d see why so many people stay silent about misconduct.

All advice, opinions and legal positions have been provided to me from qualified solicitors. This is a general advice piece and should not be read as referring or inferring specifically to any one case, individual or ongoing investigation.

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NDAs and Settlements

For those of you who are fortunate enough not to know, an NDA is a ‘non-disclosure agreement’. When you sign one, in a wider contract or separately, you agree not to publish, repeat or discuss anything that is reasonably covered by the agreement.

This could be innocent and appropriate, such as not discussing a patient’s medical records, or as appalling as staying silent over racism, professional misconduct, workplace bullying or mental cruelty. Employers, politicians and celebrities can, and do, use these to try and cover up wrongdoing in the workplace or within relationships. Some even attempt to threaten or intimidate former staff, partners or spouses into retrospectively signing specific settlements to avoid costly legal action from their employer or partner or just to get their wages. …


Stalin had her post taken down. Not today, Satan.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was written by an employee of ‘Stalin’. He’s had it taken down for identifying him. Naturally, I was extremely eager to assist in making sure he was given an appropriate pseudonym.

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I first met Stalin at The Ivy members club for a job interview. Though at the time I remember thinking it was an odd choice of venue for a job interview, I also can’t deny feeling impressed as I thought surely it must be a sign of the business’ success, which I now realise is textbook Stalin behaviour; the facade of a lifestyle he so desperately tries to emulate.

Initially nervous, I was quickly put at ease by his smiles and nods of agreement as I explained why I thought I’d be a good fit for the role. Similar to so many others, I was fooled by what I perceived to be charming, albeit eccentric behaviour. I was disarmed by his enthusiasm for my ideas and my experience, and excited by the promise of an attractive salary. Little did I know just how much of it was smoke and mirrors. …


It’s taken over six months for me to feel ready to share this

Article Amendment: Due to an individual reporting this as violating privacy rules, I have edited out information naming them and introduced appropriate pseudonyms. I have kept a copy of the original text for legal reasons. All pseudonyms are in bold.

Author’s Note: All recollections and opinions in this piece are to my knowledge factually accurate and I can provide multiple witnesses and evidence for all statements made herein. Remarks taken from third parties may not reflect the full personal experiences of other victims who may wish to speak out after this piece or pursue personal damages against the individual referred to as ‘Stalin’ in this piece. The lack of inclusion of major incidences of cruelty towards other victims that may yet surface does not negate my knowledge or recollections on any such occurrence. …


Short political satire

No one was going to arrest her. If they arrested her, they’d have to arrest half of Fenheyton. But still she shut her satchel tightly as she left the building, pressing her hands over the shape of the book that protruded beneath her papers.

It wasn’t like it was a banned book. Very few books were actually banned. You could probably get it online, although she didn’t dare search for it. The book seemed to have found her, at any rate, and it needed to be read. She’d just read it quickly, and hide it behind the library returns, or something. No one would ever no she knew what happened inside. All the same, it wasn’t until she had shut the door against the unforgiving November wind that she released her grip.

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“Why are some books bad?”

Her mother had glanced at her, turning off the hob. It was just them, now, in the untidy little cottage at the end of the sea. “They have things inside that hurt people, sometimes. Or they say dangerous untrue things about the world. So it’s best that we don’t let ourselves get radicalised, I suppose.” …

About

Madelaine Hanson

24 year old with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually. Email me at m.l.hanson@outlook.com

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