My writing explores themes of mental illness, film, fandom, trauma and popular culture and has appeared in a diverse range of publications, from DIY zines to academic publications and national magazines.
Browse my writing on Contently and explore a small selection of my work here:
Gender in so many ways is a question of morals, this arbitrary assignment of new born bodies with unfaltering beliefs, of punishing the gender atheists and panicking at the gender agnostics. It’s how we define violence, but it’s also about who we allow violence against, and within what context. What is hereditary is how we pass down pain and how.
Comedy is the mask we wear as a coping mechanism for our tragedies. It can save us, craft us into characters bigger and braver than ourselves in order to carry us through painful times, and challenge the powers that cause such pain. Yet a new tragedy announces itself when we wear the comedy mask for too long and find that it’s fused to our skin. When we see mental illness and trauma as fixed scripts with self-destruction as the inevitable ending. To find our way in this world, we must make room for all these contradictions—in our experiences, ourselves, and our heroes. We cannot stick smiley faces on some folks and sad faces on others. Our lives don’t fit into genres, and we are not fixed characters.
Kurt and Elliot and David and Ernest. Good working-class names, for good working-class deaths, the kind you need to use your hands for. Practical, like making a chair, taking a carpentry course, chopping wood, shooting game. An object fetish for the options of one’s execution, handed over to the consumer repackaged and replicated like an Ikea flatpack.
Within the subgenre of horror known as ‘body horror’, the scary stories stem from the question of what can be ‘done’ to the body, how far it can be distorted and devastated across the film’s running time, and how much disgust and desire can be provoked from its audience in response.
Madness is a fluid thing. To be “crazy” has no fixed meaning, it changes to fit the definition required – whether that’s a quick fix to deflect blame for the powerful (think racism, terrorism or fascism damagingly dismissed as “mental illness”) or a cunning way to dismiss the powerless: She’s not telling the truth! She’s crazy! Madness may be utterly meaningless, but it has infinite power.
What we can learn from Harry Potter’s “mad women”, The New Statesman
2016 was universally understood as the Worst Year Ever for its unique blend of far-right triumphs and music legends passings. What cannot save me from death, but was promised to save me from death: pop music, glam rock stars, youth culture, movie stars, good manners, celebrity endorsements, a vague liberal sensibility that positions cultural consumption as a radical act, an ‘edgy’ sense of humour, revealed to be wholly unironic in its adoption by the far right, a cute sense of style. All proven meaningless in one year. All proven meaningless as the 45th President sang along to 3 Doors Down.
‘Come with me let’s die anywhere else’: Suburbia, Searching and Not Getting Out, We Can Be Heroes Zine
A ball of black hair down a silver shower drain in a white bath. Dark hair is disgust, nothing is nastier than pulling out a medium sized mammal from the shower drain, a space of cleanliness turned dirty by the passing presence of a racialized body. It is the embodiment of filth. It is pubic and obscene. It is coarsely crawling around on its snake-y belly with an afterlife of its own.
And it is becoming increasingly clear that the female serial killer, the female evil, She Devil incarnate, is less Hannibal Lecter and more a countless list of working class women who have been sexually abused across infancy and adolescence, spit out from society and shut out from sympathy, only to be obviously and inevitably swallowed into abusive relationship of extraordinary damage.
“Sex isn’t real. But pop stars are. And we can twin the history of rock and pop to the construct of the orgasm, mass marketed, instantly accessible and utterly out of reach. The stadium seats of Beatles concerts were covered in the come of girls who just wanted to hold their hand, the opposite perhaps of sexual frustration? Sexual elevation? Sex without boys but by boys, John Lennon was a pretentious creep in retrospect, but his contribution as a rampant rabbit to girls the world over can be seen as a gold star for the history books.”
I can’t get no satisfaction: sexual frustration + pop music, Fuck What You Love
All art is an exercise in faith. Faith that what you’re doing won’t suck. Faith that you’ll live to finish it. Faith that the work will last long enough to share it with someone. Faith that it’s worth sharing with someone. Even if that someone is you yourself alone. But when does faith, so pure and true, turn into the dirty delusion of my own egotism, my own mania, my own psychosis. How sick do you have to be to think you’re special? And how sadistic do you have to be to tell a psychotic to believe in themselves?
Psychosis or High Self Esteem? Doll Hospital Issue Three
And I keep thinking about those amongst us who are seen as too ‘scary’ to be mentally ill, whose trauma and mental illness has resulted in negative, even violent behaviour to those around them, so they are reduced to phrases like ‘evil,’ ‘monster,’ and ‘psychopath,’ and as result are seen as lost causes, incurable, ‘born bad.’ It is perhaps more comforting to isolate these incidents, to separate them from cozy Etsy-store-style mental health brands, so we in turn can deflect accountability from ourselves and forget we exist in conversation with the communities around us, and as a result of fucked up coping mechanisms and internalised bullshit from a hostile world, hold that same capacity for hurtful behaviour.
People say I am strong. But I am not strong. People say I am inspiring. But I am not inspiring. I am not an MIA gif set. Or a pair of Frida Kahlo socks. There is a particularly colonial thumbprint on the caricature of the strong woman of colour. For I am not strong, but suicidal. And I do not want my perpetual debasement to serve as a catalyst to the very model of white authorship that made me sick in the first place. I do not want my vomit chunks used to paint masterpieces. I do not want that one bit. Charlie Kelly is not a strong woman of colour. He eats garbage out of the trash. Bernard Black is not a strong woman of colour. He has mushrooms growing out of his hair. Jesse Pinkman is not a strong woman of colour. He is well…he is Jesse Pinkman! Survival is not inspiring, it is repulsive, and it is always the rats that run first, the cockroachs that survive. I am a rat. A cockroach. A parasite. (Parasitic lifestyle blogging is another hashtag that is dear to me.) And Charlie crawls around the sewers of Philadelphia with no clothes on.
Charlie the Survivor, Doll Hospital Issue Two
Playing with a pet is not enough, and perhaps you don’t own a pet. Or I don’t. I don’t know. Taking a walk is not right either. I don’t have a lawn to trim, and if I do, I do not care to. Suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem. But if executed properly it can be a short-term solution to a long-term problem. That makes no sense, but stay with me. What depression needs is a little death (a little suicide). Napping is a little death, staying in bed all day is a slightly bigger little death, falling asleep in a bath with the lights out is a little death. Sometimes self-care does not work you (I) just need to die. But that death does not to be of the ugly kind. Make it a little death. And then come back like Christ. They can poke at your absence if they like, and they will, and that is not a bad thing. Not the worst thing. I have died a lot of little deaths to avoid a big one and when I sleep my bed is a little grave and daisies come out of my mouth. It is very nice, much nicer than slitting my throat like a pig and making people sad. I would not like that so much.
Suicide in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Doll Hospital Issue One [pdf]
The autistic savants, disabled geniuses, and feel-bad narratives fill our screens and influence our lives. We live in a culture that simultaneously pushes the narratives “I wish I was special like you” and “I would kill myself if I was like you.” Both statements speak of an othering — specific to that strange, imagined idea of disability constructed by an able-bodied imagination: something special, magical, tragic. The common freak show rhetoric (the kind painted in big bold letters on faux vintage posters) refers to disabled bodies in fantastical terms: as mermaids and monsters. Empathy is difficult if the person in question is a fairy-tale creature or imaginary friend.
Outsider/Insider, The Hairpin
Like many survivors of child abuse, I have always sought comfort and escape from my own life in the lives told in fiction—especially movies, in my case. A safe and scripted portrait of growing up, fucking up, falling in love—one that links you with the other people around you and is available for purchase as a six-disc box set on Amazon—is so much more appealing than an unreliably remembered reality that you are too traumatized to relive and too scared to retell for fear that the response will be “I don’t believe you.”
Crimes and Misdemeanours, Rookie Magazine
Rooms are the set designs of our lives; the bodies that inhabit them act as a mere footnote to their curated spectacle. The bedroom serves as a manifesto, a narcissistic pool of water to mirror one’s desired self. Thus, the space operates as a form of propaganda, projecting the cult of personality the inhabitant wishes to see in the outside world, to the secret, sacred, space of the inside world. However, the unbridled narcissism of the curated performance of the self turns to farce when you are both the sole curator and the intended audience. This can be identified in the emergence of the ‘aged child’ in western culture. This is the person who, whilst inhabiting the age brackets of adulthood, remains in their infantilised state, still residing in that critical place of development, the childhood bedroom of one’s family home.
Curating Childhood, Cura [pdf]
- Why the Whitewashing of mental health needs to stop, i-d
- Heroines: In Conversation with Kate Zambreno, Doll Hospital Issue One [pdf]
- Ghost Photographs: An Interview with Angela Deane, Doll Hospital Issue One [pdf]
- In Conversation with The Coven, Doll Hospital Issue One [pdf]
- Everything’s Major: An Interview with Sara Lautman, Doll Hospital Issue Three
- For Books’ Sake Talks to Janet Mock, For Books’ Sake
- Ragini Nag Rao: Fashion, Queerness and Postcolonial Identity [pdf]
All you need to know about Oxford is that you start and end at the gift shop. Buying and returning your Harry Potter gown, amongst Harry Potter movie merchandise, the I ❤ Oxford hoodies for the tourists, the ‘born to go to Oxford’ baby bibs for the pushy parents. And it’s one week later and I’m photo shopping out the stupid out of my face and the creases from my shirt.
I see childhood trauma like a hall in a 1950s hotel and I walk down the carpet floor and there are all these different doors. There is a door for become an abuser. I do not go in that one, because that is not the key I have been given. There is a door for become an Inspiration. I do not go in that one, because that is not the key I have been given. There is a door for stay a child forever. I do not go in that one, because that is not the key I have been given. There is a door for write a shitty blog and be a fucked up disgusting person who writes truly terrible first person stream of consciousness nonsense and still thinks South Park is funny and that Nirvana’s Rape Me is A Really Good Smart Song. This is the key I have been given
There are a lot of reasons for not creating work under capitalism, from the bog standard butt-hurtness that your Nobel Prize Winning Novel has undergone a moonlit monster transformation into an automated rejection email, to the whole like-having-to-have-a-real-job-thing, to the mental illness induced by both
The Hardest Part is Letting go of your dreams, Milk Teeth
My body is for me only. I am a self-sustaining organism, a plant cell splitting in half to form a whole.
Clever Animals, Milk Teeth
Amelie exists in the same universe as Enid Coleslaw and Lux Lisbon, the celluloid secret of teenage girls. There’s an identi-kit isolation of watching these same movies, in the same suburban homes, intrinsically connected but utterly alone.
Amelie in Isolation, Milk Teeth
“In academia, literature, art and journalism the ghost of a working class background is used as a defensive shield against any legitimate criticism against that person’s work or personal belief. In mockney posturing some of the most privileged figures in the creative industry, cishet white people with steady incomes, nice homes and broadsheet columns, can claim fantasy working class oppression (my great uncle worked in a mine!! Yeah but YOU don’t) as a way to deny the very real oppression of people of color and trans people. This is a bizarre fantasy world where writing a thesis on Marx is the exact same thing as blue collar labour.”
Working Class Oxbridge Professor Is A Oxymoron, Milk Teeth
Love is constructed from two parts, the dream of the lover and the dream of the self, so whilst this story may be of love (even if it is the scary kind non-Nicholas Sparks kind) it is not about togetherness. Cheryl is a study in self-hood, in isolation: she is her own servant, her own dog; but twoness, not oneness, is the goal.
The First Bad Man, Miranda July, For Books’ Sake
“Critics’ mocking notes on self-cannibalism, of Dunham constantly rewriting her lived experiences, smack of hypocrisy when such writers show no sign of losing interest in writing about her. If women are going to be overanalysed, surely they should be allowed to ‘over share’ also? And what does the term ‘over share’ even mean in a world when women are consistently under-valued and under-published?”
Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham, For Books’ Sake
“Unhappy families work well within questions of suicide, held within the medium of a novel. Imperfect suicides, imperfect lives, imperfect language: all the ‘not quites’ that make up the whole. The “typos on your tomb stone” paired with the “DNA as a trail of bread crumbs” that provide an unflattering, but not unwelcome, family portrait. “
A Reunion of Ghosts, Judith Claire Mitchell, For Books’ Sake
“Storytelling is kinda tricky when your life ping-pongs between secrecy and spectacle. When the politics of respectability and the pathologisation of trans bodies make it necessary to project your life as a happily-ever-after fairytale, often condensing your life into “I always knew,” erasing your infinite complexities to eliminate any possible ambiguities. And for that, amongst so many other things, I am beyond grateful that Janet Mock’s story is out there in the world.”
Redefining Realness, Janet Mock, For Books’ Sake