Awaiting our interview with the world’s most famous trans woman, Olympian, reality TV star and outspoken Republican, we concur that Caitlyn Jenner is a contradictory and divisive figure. When we first catch sight of her at the Cambridge Union Society, wrapped in a Tom Ford bodycon dress and strategically lit by a photographer’s floor lamp, she fuels our cynicism. Perhaps sensing our apprehension, she ushers us into armchairs, pulling our voice recorder towards her before sharing her experience of transitioning. She makes us feel at ease, inspiring an unexpected sense of camaraderie as we collectively nod and high-five. In her own words, Jenner is happy to be ‘on this team’, and on this matter we find it easy to agree.
We’ve read that you consider yourself to be a spokesperson for women’s and LGBT+ rights. How did living sixty-five years under the name of Bruce inform this?
I have lived a very interesting life. Not many people can say they’re a men’s Olympic decathlon champion and Glamour’s Woman of the Year. I’ve seen the world from both sides.
You have a very unique perspective.
I think women are generally brought up differently to men. They are brought up as the so-called ‘weaker sex’, physically and emotionally, told to be in the background rather than out in front, and I think that’s engrained in them at a very young age. It’s very difficult for them to get away from that. My journey into womanhood was very different, so I see the world very differently. I don’t think women realise the amount of power they should have in all areas of society. I want to encourage them to stand up for themselves.
At a small exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery early this year entitled ‘Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862-1948’, a white printed caption on a black wall read: ‘There’s nothing like a photograph for reminding you about difference. There it is. It stares you ineradicably in the face’. In the exhibition’s selection of over forty photographs capturing snapshots of black lives and faces, the sheer size of some of the glass plate prints demanded that we face their near life-sized subjects eye to eye. Some were welcoming, and others hostile. What stared at me ‘ineradicably in the face’ was not so much their difference, but their familiarity. I was curious, not to see how vastly unlike mine their lives were, but to discover to what extent I might be able to understand their view of the world. How far was it possible to read stories from faces?
Wonderful photography by Juliette Simon and Words by Mini Smith and Xanthe Fuller
Apple day is a mystical day of celebration. Celebration of what, you ask? Not entirely sure, everything about it is a bit enigmatic. However, we have discerned (via the facebook page, and having attended the event), that it’s all about apples (talk about tree of knowledge!) Every October, Murray Edwards hosts this event, and it is such a key date in the Medwards calendar that a friend once even returned from her year abroad to attend. And what does Apple Day mean, you ask? Well it’s a wholesome day, in the most literal sense, filled with copious crumble and custard, and all round good times. It felt like Medwards had just got Pinterest and been inspired to do everything remotely crafty. There were s’mores, there were sparklers, there were crafts, you name it, it was there. All of this apple-y joy with a backdrop of groovy tunes and smiling faces. You may have missed the magical day this year, but don’t fret, you can get your fructose hit next year. But in the meantime, here’s a little taste of what happened this year:
(Shoutout to the Medwards catering staff and gardeners – they have an adorable Instagram @gratefulgardener!)
In honour of Black History Month, FLY* hosts poet and filmmaker Victoria Adukwei Bulley for a screening of ‘Mother Tongues’; a series of films capturing mother-daughter interactions as poets from the African diaspora have their words translated from English into their native languages by the women who raised them. It features Victoria herself, alongside Theresa Lola, Belinda Zhawi, Tania Nwachukwu – and their mothers. Their words are translated from English into Ga, Yoruba, Igbo and Shona, respectively.
Before showing the films, Victoria explains why the versions of the poems in the mother tongues appear first, before the English recitations, by drawing on her own experiences of language:
“The project was born out of a need to connect with my own language, Ga, spoken by people historically based around Accra, in Ghana. I’ve heard it spoken around me since birth, yet don’t understand it. My parents wanted us to be fluent in English as a priority, to make it easier for us to – well, the nicer term is ‘integrate’, but I think a more realistic term would be – assimilate.”
Victoria expresses her sadness at not understanding Ga and her longing to reconnect with a language which is at once so intimately connected and foreign to her. In each of the short films, the mother’s translation of the poem is presented before the daughter reads her work in English. We experience that same sense that Victoria has described to us, as we hear the now rising, now falling, intonations of a foreign tongue, experiencing language for its sounds rather than its meanings. As the mothers recite, the camera-focus moves from gesturing hands, to smiling lips, pausing over a dangling earring. It’s beautiful to experience.
I am not sure when I first heard the term ‘self-care’.
Most probably it came from the depths of the internet in my early teens, in mental health positive circles I feel lucky to have stumbled upon now in hindsight, and it was probably with relation to things like doing fun, healthy things to help you feel good in times of stress.
My definition of self-care has since come to be something much broader. In Parks and Recreation, something I merrily binge-watched in Lent Term last year for its quirky, feminist explosion in the form of Leslie Knope, her co-workers Donna and Tom have an annual ‘treat yo self’ day. They save up and then go on a shopping spree once a year (the 11th of October, if you’re interested). This is maybe the most commercialised, capitalist sense of what self-care is: one-off occasions involving extravagant (expensive) activities to make up for any stresses in your life. I’ll admit that being extra kind to yourself is certainly a good practice, but self-care should also encompass the small things, the everyday, necessary tasks which are about looking after yourself on the most basic level. It can be celebrating the wins which are often taken as ‘boring’ yet which can be momentous chores for anyone suffering with mental illness(es), or can even just be improving an overall sense of wellbeing and productivity. It is not just for those who are struggling – it is for everyone, in good times and bad, and its definition varies depending on the situation.
I accept that eating a good breakfast, drinking more water and doing my laundry when I really don’t feel like it isn’t going to make the enormous essay deadline staring at me from the pages of my planner go away, or my cold symptoms magically clear up. Actually, I’m often tempted to think that skipping simple things to give myself more time to write an essay is the best idea, and I can have time for self-care later, another day, when I’m less busy. I’ll do all of that boring stuff tomorrow. I’ll start that hobby I’ve been dreaming of next term. I’ll catch up on sleep some other night…
Inclusivity is at the heart of the ethos behind the genius The Man Presents: More Women, which has enjoyed a stellar run as the ADC Late Show this week. With a rotating cast of 16 performing on alternate nights, The Man Presents features a divine selection of women in comedy, all delivering character monologues which are stunning in their breadth and detail.
In an interview with Alina Khakoo, co-founder of Girl Talk, Stephanie Childress talks about her abandoned ice-skating career, being at one with her (bloody old) violin and working out her next move. Stephanie is a third-year music student at John’s and President of the St John’s Music Society. She plays the violin and has a passion for conducting. Having participated in countless concerts and competitions, including BBC’s Young Musician, she plays an active part in the Cambridge music scene. On Friday 27th October, she is conducting Beethoven 9 in St John’s College Chapel.
How old are you?
Are people funny about your age?
Yeah definitely, I think when they first speak to me they don’t really notice. When I first came here I thought no one was going to know, but then somehow people did, and it affects them in different ways. It comes up in conversation a lot, but I don’t have any issues with it. I jumped a class in primary school and then I dropped out of school when I was 15 to do my A-Levels in a year, so that meant that I’ve just ended up being a bit younger than everybody else. I was in a French system, and it’s quite normal to have people jump classes or redo a year there, certainly more common than in England. But ending up here after dropping out was probably what surprised people most.