Samantha Neville-Jones

Samantha is a twenty-something teacher and aspiring writer. She lives in south London with a boy and two pet gerbils, and loves obscure sitcoms, serious debates on silly topics, and jammy dodgers.

Out Of Mind: Let’s Talk About Bi Women And Mental Health…

worried-girl-413690_1920Another day, another grim story about budget cuts. In the last four years, benefit sanctions against people with mental illnesses have increased six hundred times. Nearly 20,000 people have had their disability benefits stopped, sometimes for weeks at a time, in an attempt to force compliance with schemes such as Welfare to Work which tries to help people back into employment. But as the charity Mind has pointed out, forcing people into financial difficulties is not exactly conducive to good mental health.

This counter-intuitive approach to recovery and work is hardly an anomaly. Mental health services in the UK are in crisis. Budgets are plummeting, and care professionals are increasingly depending upon unproven services to make severe cuts. Short term financial problems are compounding a longer standing issue – the fact that mental health has so often been the poor relative of physical health when it comes to treatment… Continue reading

No laughing matter: Sexism on the comedy circuit

no-girls-allowedWhat do you call a woman at a comedy club? The waitress.

I recently experienced some old school, 50s-style sexism at the hands of an award-winning London comedy club. Don Draper didn’t pinch my bottom. I wasn’t thrown out of the board room. I was kept out of a less glamorous room – the upstairs of a north London pub.

A little bit of background – I’m not a professional comedian. I’m entirely new to the world of comedy, having just done a beginners course, and I’m trying to book a few London gigs and make performing a semi regular hobby. I’d heard that this club (which shall remain nameless) runs a well respected new acts night. When they told me that they were fully-booked for the foreseeable future it wasn’t particularly surprising – clearly lots of people want to get on the bill there. But then the surprising thing happened. Three male friends who had done the comedy course with me were given spots, despite having asked after I was told no.

So what does a girl do in this situation? Well firstly, I obsessed that I had somehow come across as an unfunny idiot in my initial email, and that’s why they’d said no. Then I went into detective mode. I set up a new email account under a male name, emailed the club pretending to be a completely new person, and waited. Lo and behold, my male alter ego was given a spot, no questions asked.
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School's out: Should we segregate LGBT students?

rainbowskoolSchools are routinely failing their LGBT students. Homophobic bullying is widely reported, teachers feel awkward around the topic, and research regularly shows that rates of depression and even suicide are much higher for LGBT teenagers than for the rest of the population.

So what can we do to make the lives of those teenagers who are suffering a little bit better? One suggestion which has been suggested by the group LGBT North West is schools specifically for homosexual, bisexual and transgender students. The group has recently been given a government grant to assess the feasibility of opening a school in Manchester.

A lot of commenters have expressed uneasiness with the plan. Depressingly predictable homophobia has been spouted, but the main reasonable objection is that segregation is not a route to future acceptance. If queer students don’t go to mainstream schools, the argument goes, the straight kids at those schools are… Continue reading

Booby trap: The "return" of page 3

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Page 3 vanished… and then swiftly returned a couple of days later.

Petty is a brilliant insult. It lets someone know that you disapprove of what they’ve done, but more importantly you think that as a result they are below you. Childish. Inferior. Not worthy of your consideration. With that meaning fresh in our minds, let me shout the following as loudly as I can: The Sun is petty beyond all belief.

In case you’ve missed all the fuss, a couple of days ago the Sun didn’t show a topless model on page 3 (which by the way I refuse to capitalise. It shouldn’t get to be a proper noun), and loads of media sources reported that the feature had been dropped for good. A lot of people were very happy about this. The excellent folk over at the No More Page 3 campaign were thrilled, and received huge amounts… Continue reading

Laid bare: The new porn laws

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“The regulations are purportedly being brought in to ‘protect performers'”

As of December 1st, porn produced in Britain and streamed online is banned from showing certain acts, including “facesitting, penetration with an object associated with violence (so, a penis? Can I get a radical feminist amen?), watersports, and female ejaculation”. This only affects the performers and producers. Us regular pervs won’t be prosecuted for watching any of this stuff. So if it won’t impact on your special alone time, why care?

Well, a lot of people do. The news has been met with accusations of censorship, and there’s even a planned “facesit-in” to be held at Westminster to protest the new act. There’s also been a large amount of confusion – why now? Why these types of porn?

The official stance has been that this law will protect the performers. But it isn’t individual sex acts that porn performers need… Continue reading

Worlds collide?: When hen parties hit the gay bars

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“The rigid gender segregation of hen parties grates on me”

So there I was, wrapped in toilet paper with a plastic penis strapped to my head, while a gaggle of pink-clad women took photos and giggled raucously. It could only be a hen party…

Hen parties are controversial and I have mixed feelings about them. I love the concept of an event celebrating your upcoming nuptials, and I love the focus being on friendship. Having fun without your partner around is crucial – it can help the bride to be maintain some independence, and to keep a sense of self external to her relationship. Wedding planning can be overwhelming, and a big boozy night out with friends can be just what the doctor ordered at this stressful time. On the other hand, the rigid gender segregation that seems to be de rigeur grates on me, and there is no denying… Continue reading

"Coming out of the sanity closet…": Talking about mental health

 

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I never had a coming out moment. I’ve long considered myself “not straight” (whatever that means), but it’s been on a need to know basis. Bar a few situations that a lady really does not reveal in polite company, my not-straight orientation has been largely theoretical. I’ll drop past girl attractions into conversation from time to time, and beyond a few expressions of surprise it has never been a big deal. I also have a male partner, which generally means people assume I’m straight. I’ve discussed my frustrations with this in past Biscuit articles, and it’s not exactly ideal that people somewhere in the middle of the sexuality scale get shoved to either end, but for me it’s also meant that I’ve found the idea of coming out fairly alien. People know me, people know my partner, what more do they need to know?

My real “coming out”… Continue reading

"I kissed a girl": The myth of performative lesbianism

Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus enjoy a peck

Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus enjoy a peck

Fake lesbian, two-beer queer, gay until graduation – these derisive terms for female sexual experimentation are common parlance, and reflect similarly dismissive attitudes held by straight and queer people alike. The idea of the “fake lesbian” is widespread – the girl who dirty dances with and kisses her friend, surrounded by a gaggle of ogling lads, one of whom she goes home with that night. Straight women hate it because she’s a whore. Gay women hate it because she is putting on a marginalised identity for her own benefit without suffering any of the hardships that come with being a real member of that group. And I hate it, because she doesn’t exists.

Yes, there are (usually young) women who kiss or engage in sexual contact with other women in public. This sort of behaviour is so often dismissed as “just putting… Continue reading

"That's so gay!" Bi/homophobia in schools

 

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“Homophobic bullying is a huge problem in our schools”

I am a high school teaching assistant, and one of the issues constantly perplexing me is how to deal with the homophobic language that so often litters teenage conversation. Any time I hear the word “gay” used by students around me I start doing mental gymnastics, trying to work out how exactly the word has been used, whether it was aimed at another student, and what I, as one of those sexually deviant not-straight types sent to corrupt your children, should do about it.

There are two main ways the word “gay” is used by kids, and both are harmful but for very different reasons. The first is as a straight-up (lol) term of abuse, directed at people, and used to ridicule them for behaviour seen to be against the macho standard demanded of (primarily) teenage boys. I saw a… Continue reading

Selfridges: Redefining beauty (but only a little bit)…

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This new ad campaign, using the slogan “Hello beautiful”, has been all over the place in recent days. The bright yellow background and smiling faces seem to have been following me around London, and the more I see them the more they confuse me. At first glance it’s great to see an ad campaign based around positivity. But something doesn’t quite sit right about the message behind it.

One of the reasons that this campaign strikes me as slightly disingenuous is that most of the markers of unusual beauty are changeable. The majority of the models used are outside the beauty norm because of their hair, piercings, tattoos, and so on. Underneath all that, they’re all still conventionally stunning. Superficially, the message that different image choices can all be beautiful is great. But when you look a little deeper, the message seems to be that only the conventionally… Continue reading