WOW Festival: Women & Finance

Recently I attended the absolutely amazing Women of the World Festival which is held every March at the Southbank Centre in London. As always with these type of events choosing one panel to attend out of the 7 or 8 in each time slot is so hard because they all look so good. Do you choose the ones that appeal to you the most, or the ones that you find less interesting but will plug your knowledge gaps? Either way you have to accept that you can’t get to them all!

Yet the ones I did attend were fascinating. Hearing so many knowledgeable, talented women share their experiences and call out the misogyny in the world felt so liberating. Hearing what women are doing to combat it was inspiring and empowering. In some of the larger talks there were more people than seats and when I looked around the room I saw everyone paying rapt attention. I felt like part of a congregation listening to a sermon.

Turning 30 and realising that I have no money to save at the end of each month led me to attend a lot of finance related talks this year. I learnt a lot about myself and women & finances as a result. I wanted to share some of that knowledge here in case it helps empower someone reading in the way that attending these workshops helped empower me.

<<Note: a lot of the stats below come from research done by The Fawcett Society and the Chartered Insurance Institute whose members headed up some of the panels. Check out the reports listed at the end of this post for more information.>>

 

Firstly, I learnt that several factors contribute to women being less financially literate than men:

  • Girls are not encouraged to study maths at school.
  • Girls and young women are steered away from finance related professions.
  • Traditionally, society has dictated that in a partnership women deal with home and child care whilst men deal with the dough. Society has fostered a culture which encourages women to feel like they should let men deal with the money.
  • This feeling is exacerbated by the confidence society places in men about their ability to deal with finances; men overestimate and women underestimate their knowledge and capabilities.
  • In the media women are usually the assistants, the secretaries, the moms, the care-givers but rarely do you see a film about female business owners, investors, insurers, bankers, or CEOs etc. etc.
  • Finance products such as pensions, investments, and buying stock, are designed, written, and advertised in ways that cater to men rather than women – and so therefore exclude women.
  • Women are more time poor – so have less opportunity to learn about finances
  • When women seek the counsel of a financial advisor, they are given biased advice because of their gender! Of the women who have an advisor, 73% feel misunderstood by them showing that their needs are not being met as much as men’s.

And I’m sure there are many more reasons that we can add here too. Feel free to comment below with any that you think of.

 

This financial illiteracy is then combined with economic disadvantage.

Women are more likely to be living in poverty. More likely to be unemployed. Are paid less for the work they do, even when doing the same job as men. They are more likely to work part time – and part time workers are paid less per hour. 86% of lone parent families are headed by women. They are less likely to put themselves first, if they have spare money it will go on the home or the kids. Women are disproportionately affected by domestic and financial abuse.

There are many more facts I could list but I’ll stop there for now…

 

Together the two factors lead to some shocking results:

  • There is a 32% gap in insurance wealth between genders.
  • Men are twice as likely to hold stocks and shares.
  • After a divorce women experience a 10% dip in income whilst the man’s income increases.
  • 71% of divorcing couples don’t discuss their pension, leading women to miss out on £5bn every year.
  • At the age 65-69 men’s average peak pension wealth is five times that of women’s.
  • Because women are more likely to live longer and will experience more years of ill health in later life – they will have to pay more for their care in old age. This is made harder because they will have less assets as state provision declines and they are less likely to own their own home. And remember their pensions worth less!

This all really shocked me and in the panels I felt like bursting into tears, because if this is the state of affairs for women in general – then for bisexual women (who are already more likely to be affected by abuse, poverty, and disability) the situation will be worse.

bi-pound

Image shows a pound sign over a bi coloured background.

 

So what can we do to help ourselves?

Non-UK based readers – please Google the equivalent sites for your country.

Read websites such as Savvy Women and Money Saving Expert inside out.

Buy books on financial advice, or visit your local library. If they don’t have a book you want you can request them to order it in.

I understand that debt is complex and not everyone will be able to break out of it- but if lack of knowledge is hindering you, start by reading this sections of Money Saving Expert or Citizen’s Advice Bureau and take it from there.

If finances allow, seek advice from a financial advisor and a pension advisor. The women on the panels advised to ask questions and get explanations if there is anything that crops up that you don’t understand. It’s not your fault for not knowing or not understanding – it’s their job to explain it properly to you!

Bisexuals often lack support from their families. Especially if you have suffered abuse in the past or been cut off after coming out. This means that we lack a safety net many others have if something goes wrong. If we can no longer work – who will take care of us? How will we pay the rent and the bills? We might be able to cover a short term shock but what about if illness or disability knocks us out of action for a long time? For this reason it might be worth looking at critical illness cover.

If you know of any future shocks lurking on the horizon you can prepare for them. This wasn’t something I had thought about before. So with me for example I have huge dental problems. I have an open bite which means 8 of my back teeth are doing all the work. In my teens and early 20s they all got fillings. Ten years on these are all turning into crowns. It’s costing me hundreds of pounds each time that I don’t have – and the next tooth could fall apart at any time. Last time it happened I had to take out a loan to cover the cost! I’ve only just paid it off. I didn’t know until I attended these panels that I could either get a special dental insurance or ‘self insure’ – by setting up an account and paying a sum into it each month. £30 per month means £360 each year – which would cover the cost of one crown per year from now on and/or the root canal work and implants I will likely need in the future.

For other people it may be car troubles, house repairs, uniforms when kids start a new school…anything.

In fact, even if there are no shocks you know of coming up, build up your emergency fund anyway if you don’t already have one. You never know when you might need it.

If you don’t have much just do whatever you can. If you’ve got £5 per month to save, then save it.

And if it all feels too much – just read a page of a website per day.

Finally the women leading the panels also said don’t feel guilty and don’t beat yourself up. What’s done is done. Don’t feel bad about anything in the past such as the way you used to spend, decisions you made, or not knowing stuff. What matters is where we take our lives from here.

 

So thank you to all involved in the Women of the World Festival. I’ll be seeing you in 2019!

 

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You Are Not Alone

When you’re attracted to more than one gender it can be incredibly isolating. Often you’re the only person you know who is like you. You are the sole bisexual at home. You are the only bi in school/the office. You hang out with your straight/gay friends after work. Perhaps you have a gay/straight partner you can spend time with too.

Maybe you have some bi friends and attend several bi events every year, but once your time together has passed it’s back to being the only one (that you know of?) until next time.

Daily life is exhausting. Being the only one wears you down and affects your mental and physical health. A lot of the time my heart sinks when I step out of the front door in the morning because I know I have another day full of heternormativity, bi-erasure, and micro-aggressions ahead of me. And yet I know I’m lucky and privileged. I am safe. I have a job. I always have enough. Even if it is dispersed around the country, I am part of bi community. Most days do not involve discrimination,  harassment, or overt biphobia.

When I feel alone I come on my site and look at the stats map.

map of world

The image shows a map of the world. Scores of countries are highlighted yellow or orange.

If a country is coloured in it means 1 or more person has viewed this site from that location. The darker the colour, the more hits from that area.

I know this probably looks like I’m trying to inflate my own ego or something. I’m sorry about that. I just wanted to show you this map of the world because it contains just one year’s worth of data from one small website. Yet WordPress logged hits from 84 separate countries! Assuming all of this traffic was not made up of accidental clicks by monosexuals then imagine how many more of us are out there.

We are not alone. We exist in every single place on Earth. I draw a lot of comfort from that.

Had more sex with cis-men than any other gender..?

I grew up in a small town that was very white, Christian, and straight so unsurprisingly in my teenage years there were not many opportunities for a bisexual to share affection, kiss, or have sex with anyone apart from cisgendered boys. Though once when I was 14 I snogged a girl in the year below me at school whilst at a local band night.

And then that was it until I moved hundreds of miles away from home to go to university four years later.

From then on I found it really hard to let other women know I was interested in them and explore things beyond kissing for several reasons. Low self-esteem, being covered in eczema, past abuse, but also because…then what!? We only received very basic sex ed in school which didn’t mention anything apart from heterosexual penis-in-vagina sex so I had absolutely no idea what to do next. (Or even for that matter, enough knowledge of sex, pleasure, and anatomy to be able to tell others what would make sex enjoyable for me.)

The aforementioned things are all difficult obstacles to overcome. Plus bis are so hypersexualised that potential partners often assume you’ve had a lot of sex already. In fact, many women who are curious and are looking to experiment have said that they’d like to have sex with me because I’m experienced and can show them what to do! (I’m flattered my personality and love of Doctor Who counts for so much.) So yikes, no pressure then.

When faced with that situation I would retreat into my shell like a turtle. I still do! Though when I have the spoons I also challenge their biphobic assumptions and explain that being bi does not automatically make you anyone’s sex teacher. I’m not an object for your ‘practice run’ either (so you can presumably experience the ‘real thing’ with a monosexual later).

It wasn’t until 23/24 onwards that I started to have sex with people who weren’t cis men. I know there must be many others out there who have or are experiencing something similar. For those who realise they have, or develop, an attraction to the same-sex later in life you may well be in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, and have ‘only’ had sex with cis men. I imagine older bis might feel the pressure of people thinking they should know what they are doing by that age.

(See also, ‘You can’t be bi, if you were you would have known about it by now/tried it when you were younger!)

It doesn’t matter how much or how little sex any of us have had in our lives but we are all socialised to feel like it does and society judges us by it.

Some people seem to think bisexuality can only be granted as a label when you’re able to rattle off a long list of sexual experiences but people aren’t conquests, achievements, or objects that give you a certain status.

So what does all this mean?

It means that, if you experience either a sexual and/or romantic attraction to more than one gender you are bisexual/pansexual/biromantic/demisexual regardless of any sexual experience you may or may not have had. Congratulations! It’s impossible to be ‘not bi enough’.

It means that, if someone thinks they have the right to challenge what label you use to identify yourself as because of knowledge they hold about your sexual history (e.g. ‘you can’t call yourself bi, you’ve only had sex with men’), you can tell them to fuck off!

It also means that, if people don’t believe you and question you about your sexuality (e.g ‘But HOW can you be suuurre you’re X if you’ve only done Y, hmmmmm?’), then you can also tell them to fuck off!

Or you can be more polite about it but you get the idea. You don’t have to justify or explain your sexuality to anyone else.

For a lot of people who really want to have to have (more) sex with women but a lack of knowledge feels like a huge barrier I recommend reading Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon. It’s a really informative book full of hints, how-to guides, and diagrams. Its content covers communication, pleasure, and consent, and the book is trans inclusive.

Game Review: Gone Home

Recently my beloved laptop of 8 years reached that point where it technically still worked but in reality was just not very practical. It took about 10 minutes to start up, 5 to open a program, and crashed if I tried to watch a video. Then the plug started sparking so it was definitely time to go shopping.

The new laptop is bringing me a lot of joy. I can download and play games on Steam again. One of the first things I tried was Gone Home, a Fullbright production released in 2013. I know, I know my finger is hardly on the pulse here. If you game this will be old news for you. And you may have read a dozen blogs on this already anyway. But just in case you’ve never heard of this before, I heartily recommend it because it is a BEAUTIFUL experience with a romance between two teenage girls as a main plot point and a HAPPY ENDING.

This is not a drill.

I repeat, IT HAS A HAPPY ENDING!

You play Katie, an American who returns home after spending a year abroad in Europe only to find none of her family is home. What has happened? Why is everyone missing? By walking through the rooms and looking at everything inside you can begin to work it out. And it’s not what you would expect…

It’s a short game, playable in 2-4 hours depending on how long you take to explore. But the more time you take to open every cupboard and drawer, read every scrap of paper, and examine every object, the more you’ll understand the characters and their lives. And that is all there is to it really. You don’t meet any other characters in the game. There’s no running or shooting. Nothing will jump out and try to hurt you. You’re just looking at stuff.

I feel that if I tell you any more about the plot it would spoil it for you. The main joy for me was not knowing a single thing about it going in and watching it all unfold and surprise me. But I can tell you what other things I loved about it.

The house has so much soul. You really feel like you get to know all the family members by the end. It really captures how people live. For example, you can tell who uses a room most by whose belongings dominate the space. Or where each character feels their happiest. The game doesn’t patronise you. Sometimes you have to put together the information you’ve learned from multiple rooms to figure out what’s happened. Sometimes you only realise something on your second or third walk round, or by trading theories with a friend because you’ve both noticed different things.

I don’t even know where else to start. The graphic design is beautiful. As is the music. The Easter Eggs are very funny. It’s set in the mid 90s so invokes a lot of nostalgia for those who remember that era. You can pop tapes into cassette players and listen to music as you explore the house and see which episodes of The X-Files people have recorded off TV. There were at least two LGBT women/game designers on the creative team that I know of which is awesome.

Gone Home oozes cool. Katie’s younger sister Sam makes feminist zines and listens to riot grrrl music. And I love how interactive everything is. Yes, there is not much point in collecting all of Sam’s pin badges that she’s strewn around the house, but it is fun to see what’s on them, and how many you can find and return to the desk in her room.

Anyway…all this is besides the point really, which is that it has a wonderfully written, detailed teenage romance between Sam and a girl called Lonnie whom she meets at school. Sam has been writing you a diary whilst you’ve been away. Discovering certain things in the house will trigger an entry to be read out by actress Sarah Grayson. There’s 23 in all. So as well as learning about Sam through the environment the story unfolds in her own words too. You hear her ups and downs in life. How she falls in love for the first time. How she discovers her sexuality.

Our memories, relationships, and experiences in life are connected by objects. What I loved was that by the time I reached the end of the game I could say, ‘oh they wrote this together’ or ‘Lonnie bought that for Sam back in May’. Their relationship felt so real and vivid to me. Like I could call them up and invite them out for pizza. The ending was so beautiful I listened to the final diary entry 3 times in a row and cried. (Happy tears.)

And if you want more there is, of course, a whole load of fan art to be found on the Internet.

image

The picture shows a photograph of Lonnie that you find in the house. She’s got blonde hair, and is wearing her dark green army cadet uniform.

The major drawback for me was the intentionally creepy aspect of the game design. It’s amazing how unsettling dark rooms, thunder & lightning, and creaky doors can be. But it made me feel very anxious when I didn’t need to be. And it took my mind down Horror Highway (i.e. wondering if I’m going to find someone’s dead body) when simply walking along Mystery Lane would have been fine.

You can download the game via Steam, or if you just want to listen to Sam’s journals they can be found over on YouTube but of course you won’t get the full picture from those alone.

One last note, I left the game feeling very positive. You can see that each of the characters (except Katie) have gone through bad patches in life. Yet there are clues that they have also worked hard to overcome them and that happier days will come. In a world where our futures are portrayed so negatively (bis cheat, murder, die, don’t exist at all, or leave so that others continue the story) this was a wonderful feeling to end on.

 

Bi Erasure in Doctor Who: Clara

If you have the pleasure/misfortune to know me then I’m sure that if you were asked to describe me in 3 words, ‘Doctor Who’ would be two of them. I’ve been obsessed with it my entire adult life. Had I not been born in what fans dub ‘the dark years’ (the period between the late-80s and 2005 when it was off the air) then I have no doubt I would have loved it as a child too.

I always feel guilty about loving something that relegates LGBTQ characters so far into subtext land that you need binoculars to see them (Classic Who). Or blink and you’ll miss it representation (New Who). As much as I live and breathe the show I hate that there is no real visibility for me within it. That it is often biphobic.

Time and time again LGBTQ people are told that we are “rubbing people’s faces in it” at the merest hint of non-heterosexuality, such as when you mention your girlfriend’s name or that you’ve read a Sarah Waters novel in conversation. So it hurts all the more when shows have a heterosexual kiss/sex scene/flirtatious moment in virtually every episode.

And yet a character that supposedly represents bisexuality? Nothing.

Poor Clara doesn’t get to say she’s bisexual. She is only allowed to hint at it through brief sentences that can be passed off as jokes in case anyone gets too worried. Jane Austen is a phenomenal kisser apparently. Naturally we never even get to see her and Jane meet. But she does have a season long romantic storyline with her boyfriend Danny.

Another litmus test for me is whether the cast or crew ever mention it whilst doing publicity. “She had a love affair with Jane Austen,” Jenna Coleman says in one of the Series 9 DVD extras. And whilst it’s awesome that it’s stated out loud and on the record how awesome would it have been to see that story play out on screen!? Why are we denied that part of her identity? What is so wrong and terrible about it?

Nothing!

And what a terrible message it sends out to the audience; that same-sex attraction should be secret. Because it’s too naughty, wrong, and risqué to be shown on screen. Because it’s not worthy of being shown in a single scene.

It really upsets me.

Especially, as I’ve mentioned before, when it’s a sci-fi drama where aliens, time travel, monsters, living on the moon etc. exists and is often depicted. But two people of the same gender having a relationship – hell no. Damn you for even wanting it!

Clara Bi Pains

The image shows a portrait of Jane Austen on the left and a publicity photo of Clara on the right. The colours of the bisexual flag have been painted in behind her. A red strike crosses out the image from bottom left to top right, obscuring Clara’s eyes.

And then you come across all the speculation about her sexuality in the media, because after all there’s nothing official that confirms it. Jenna Coleman’s words could be interpreted as a joke or given the meaning ‘was very interested in as a hobby’. And then the press do hurtful things like start an article with “No, we’re not being salacious…!” and I want to scream at the world over and over again to stop sexualising bisexuality.

I know this is nothing new in the show, River Song falls into this category too and there are plenty of other examples outside of Doctor Who. The show has taken some long overdue steps forward with the latest companion Bill (I’ll debate the pros and cons of that character later) but it’s not enough. It’s got a long way to go to make up for all the hurt.

 

Handing Over Your Bi Group

After setting up and/or running a bi group the day will inevitably come when it is time to leave it. This could be temporary or permanent. It could be because you want more free time, you want less responsibility, you’re leaving the area, or you’re burnt out. Maybe it’s just not interesting or fun anymore.

These are all valid reasons to hand over the group to someone else. Please don’t feel bad or guilty about it.

When is the best time to go?

  • Before life changes mean you’re too busy to run it properly
  • Before you get too bored/fed up/pissed off/burnt out to care

Clearly this is a lot easier said that done. You might be fine one week then suddenly have to care for a relative the next. Who knows what life is going to throw at us? But at least there are some things you can plan for, such as accepting a new job which you know will eat up the time and energy you use to run the group.

Sometimes if you’re used to ploughing through things you might not realise how you’ve been feeling until you’re already wrung out and disillusioned. It can take a long time to untangle yourself from a bi group. Few people could predict they want to walk away from something in 3 or 6 months time.


What’s the best way to hand it over?

A good friend of mine would say the following; as soon as you set up your bi group start training your successor! Whilst you might want to give yourself time to settle in first, it is sound advice. Especially if you can get 2-3 people on your team who know how you run the group, can monitor email and social media, and know the group members. Then you can be ill, take a holiday, go to a work conference, or treat yourself to something nice without have to worry about the next meet up. Being able to take a break every once in a while will also help reduce burn out.

If people are helping you, you might want to think about drawing up some volunteer guidelines. For example, keep personal information you learn about members confidential. Don’t post any hate content on the group social media etc. etc. I’m sure any potential helpers will be lovely people, but even if you only say it once or hand them over on a piece of paper – it’s been said. You’ve expressed how you want the group to run and you’re on the same page. And if you do have any problems later it’s a lot easier to revisit things you’ve already discussed rather than have that first conversation after an incident has taken place.

In addition to training up helpers you can also prepare some kind of handover file or document from the start. It’s a lot easier to write these things as you go rather than hastily bash it all out later as you’re handing everything over! It could contain anything someone might need to know, such as logins, passwords, who you liaise with at the venue you use, a copy of group guidelines, resources you’ve found helpful, past booking forms, invoices. Anything! (But be careful you’re not sharing any of your own data like your bank details.)

In our perfect dream world volunteers would fall over themselves in their eagerness to sign up and help you. What will probably happen is that 3 people will say they want to but can’t. Then no one else will step forward, except for Gertrude who has only been to one meet up 7 months ago and can’t be relied upon to help with anything! It’s up to you whether you want to hand over to Gertrude or not. Is someone like Gertrude better than no one, which means the group will go on hiatus?

It’s also vital to make sure that the person who takes over is of good character. It’s impossible to list everything here but to provide some examples; if they’re racist, transphobic, Islamaphobic, a known sexual harasser, someone who will behave inappropriately at meet ups… Don’t brush it away and think it will be fine. People who do these things shouldn’t have any positions of power or leadership in our communities. Especially in spaces where people can be vulnerable. (E.g. bisexuals suffer higher rates of poverty, mental illness, domestic abuse.)

 

Here’s some potential outcomes and solutions:

 

You have a few helpful people who don’t quite have enough time or energy to run the group by themselves.

Could you divide duties ? Perhaps one person does the social media and a few others facilitate the meetings between them so they only need to commit to a few meet ups a year each?

Can you reduce the workload? You could meet every quarter or every two months instead of every month. If you ran workshops and pub socials before perhaps just do the pub socials for a while going forwards.

 

No one can/wants to help.

A sad but true fact of life is that everyone wants the thing, but very few will run it themselves. So you could keep running it until you find someone. New people do turn up every month. Perhaps one of them will love your group so much they’re happy to jump in! I’m not a fan of this option. Unless you are very lucky and find someone, people will take you for granted and let you keep running it – thus delaying your exit indefinitely.

You could put a hard deadline out there. Seeing that they are going to lose it might spur people into action. Here’s an example script; “At the end of July I will step down from running the Storybrooke Bisexual Group. If no one is able to volunteer the group will have to go on hold until a new leader is found. Thank you to everyone who has come to the group or volunteered at an event and made it so wonderful these past few years.

Once announced, stick to it! After the deadline you can check emails/social media every once in a while to see if someone wants to take the reins. Hopefully in your absence people will exclaim, “By Jove, we haven’t had a bi meet up in Storybrooke for 6 months! The socials were so good. Let’s start it up again!”

Some former group leaders do come back after a time when no one has done anything in their absence. That’s fine if you’re happy to do so – but think carefully before doing anything again. Can you do things differently than the last time to make it less hard work/more enjoyable for YOU?

 

Yay, you’ve found someone! 

Unless they’ve asked you to mentor them for a while, hand over and leave them to it.

If you’re still attending the group it can be very tempting to point out how you would do things differently, or how much better it was when you ran it. Even if this may be true being smug, gossiping, or behaving in a way that undermines them isn’t going to help you, them, or the group.

If you really feel they’re doing something wrong why not suggest a change directly to them instead of bitching or complaining about it? E.g. “The Storybrooke Pub used to be a great place to meet, but now the Hungry Hippo Boardgame Club use the space too, it’s too noisy to hear anyone speak. How about looking at a new venue?”
or
“I’ve noticed no one is advertising the group online any more. It’s absolutely vital to do that. Are you able to start doing it again or ask someone to help you?”

Hopefully though they’ll do a great job!


Handing it over can be emotional.

Take it easy for a while after you’ve left. This was probably something you invested a lot of time and effort in. If you set up the group from scratch and ran it for a year or two, you’re saying good-bi (pun intended) to a huge part of your life.

If you didn’t want to leave but were forced to because of illness or a change in your circumstances then you’ll need time to grieve.

Even if you needed to get away it’s still a change to get used to. If you were burnt out then your mind and body can take longer than you think to recover. Who knew you could feel more exhausted once you’ve stopped doing something than when you did it!?

Try not to feel too angry or disheartened if no one volunteers to take over. People have their reasons. Those reasons might not be immediately obvious to you. Take comfort from the lovely folk who wanted to help but couldn’t. And you never know what might happen a month or a year down the line. Perhaps you inspired someone and changed their life so much – they will become a bi activist or run their own group one day!

If the group goes on hiatus try not to feel too upset about it. You may feel all your hard work was for nothing – but it wasn’t! Just think of all the people you helped through running the group. You would have had such a vital impact. (If you are not sure about this you could even set up an anonymous online survey and ask! The answers will be more meaningful than you imagined – and can help demonstrate to LGBT centers the importance of funding bi spaces.)

Your bi group meetings may not happen any more but that won’t ever change or take away from the great things that you did. Say well done to yourself and celebrate everything you’ve achieved!


Draw your boundaries – and stick to them

People might bug you to start the group going again. Or something might not be run how you think it should be. Don’t get sucked back into things if you don’t want to! The group may not continue exactly how you want it to but just let it be. It’s not your responsibility any more.

Some might see you at a BiCon and complain about the new person who took over. Others might tell you that the new person is better than you – ouch!

But you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. Change the topic of conversation to something else. You don’t have to justify your decisions or answer anyone else’s questions.

 

So what now? 

Live. Laugh. Rest. Do all the things you wanted but never got round to. Make time for you. Put your needs first for a change. Put the experience of running a bi group on your CV if you’re able to.


Remember,
no matter how much they love your group, no matter how much it’s changed their life for the better, very few people will think to say well done and thank you. So say well done to yourself and celebrate everything you’ve achieved! 

Queer Subtext in My Little Pony: The Movie

I am lodger in a family home and one of the children living there is a five year old girl. Let’s call her Twinkle Bum for the sake of anonymity. She likes the kind of things you would expect a five year old to like, such as colouring in and jumping up and down on my bed when I’m trying to get ready for work in the morning.

One day I noticed a poster for the My Little Pony movie in her bedroom and foolishly said “Hey, I can take you see that when it comes out!”

A well known film critic had implied it was a hot mess of sound, colour, and incomprehensible storylines so I began to wonder if there was any way for me to get out of it. But a promise is a promise and Twinkle Bum was so excited about it so there was no way I could turn her down.

The shocking thing was, I actually really enjoyed it. Whilst the plot was thoroughly predictable for adults, it held up and had a good message behind it. Friendship is important. As is making sure everyone is included. The only way to defeat the bad guys who invaded their land was for all the different animals (Ponies. Cats. Birds. Mer-griffins?!) to work together. With Trump, Brexit, lack of free press in the UK, and a Conservative Government – it was a message that felt very relevant!

The songs were ACE and Twinkle Bum & I danced all the way through the end credits. We sang anything we could remember on the bus back home and then we watched the videos of the song lyrics on YouTube for about another hour later that afternoon.

But one thing that really tickled my pickle was the queer subtext.

Rainbow Dash is probably one of the more well known ponies and the easiest to link to LGBTQ symbolism but I’m actually more interested in Twlight Sparkle. Look at the picture below and you’ll see why.

Princess_Twilight_Sparkle_ID_S4E26

The photo shows an image of Twilight Sparkle; a purple My Little Pony with wings and a dark blue mane and tail. There are also purple and pink stripes in their hair.

Now as Twilight Sparkle is a purple pony (or unicorn, seeing as they’ve got wings and a horn) with a bisexual coloured mane and tail I’m going to make a bold statement here: this must be a movie with a bi character in the leading role – who is also the protagonist! A rare occurrence in cinema!

Later on in the film the ponies have just fled from the baddies’ clutches yet again and made their escape by hiding on an airship that flies away. This leads to the ponies singing a song which encourages the crew to the free roaming pirates they truly are, rather than the cargo transporters they’ve been forced to be.

But take a look at the lyrics of Time to be Awesome. Here’s a few extracts:

“But there’s a light shining deep inside. Beneath those fears and doubts, so just squash ’em. And let it shine for all the world to see.”

“You’ve no idea how hard it’s been. This dull routine we’ve been forced to do.”

“Don’t let them rob you of who you are. Be awesome, it’s all up to you.”

“I feel the light stirring deep inside. It’s like a tale still yet to be told.”

They could easily be singing about how hard it is when you can’t come out and have to keep up the straight facade here. And that your sexuality is special and amazing – and so are you!

Just in case the subtext wasn’t clear enough already, Rainbow Dash gets overexcited and flies in circles around the airship making spirals of rainbows around it.

At the end of the movie, the song by the pony based on Sia (a bisexual singer), who is actually voiced by the songwriter herself, is called ‘Rainbow’. Lyrics here.

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The photo shows ‘Songbird Serenade’; the pony based on the singer Sia. They have the same black and white fringe that covers the eyes like Sia does and a multitude of rainbow -coloured hearts on their side.

So this has been a blog post I never thought I’d write! But that’s just one of the many joyous surprises that living with a 5 year old brings. And do I recommend that you watch this film? Well maybe, if you have children in your life or normally love this genre of movie. : )

Some of the songs are so damn catchy. As with Moana I’ll be singing the soundtrack for a long time to come. I’ll definitely take Twinkle Bum to the cinema again in the future but you’ll have to excuse me for now, it’s time to go and be awesome…