The Vagaggle: A Year In Review — The Helpers
So it’s a pretty known fact that 2017 has been a shit year for most people (someone please pass the memo onto Taylor Swift, it’s getting embarrassing now), and unless you’re a cisgendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle-class, white man it’s pretty much guaranteed that in some way your basic human rights have been threatened. Natural disasters have been wreaking havoc like that scene from Hercules where Hades releases the Titans. There have been attacks that have shook the western world and caused millions of people to change their Facebook profile picture and there have been equally devastating attacks that have been collectively ignored by western civilisation because it doesn’t affect them. Major global powers have screwed themselves over by trying to outdo each other with stupidity with acts like Brexit and anything the talking wotsit lays his fingers on. And to top it off Matt Damon is trying to get us to congratulate the men who haven’t raped people, as if that is something to be proud of. I mean come on Matt, don’t be a dick.
But as often as I’ve seen these awful stories and events pop up on my timeline I’ve also seen a quote pop up time and time again:
‘"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.’
- Fred Rogers
Now I don’t actually know who Fred Rogers is because a) I’m British and b) I wasn’t born when he was on the TV, but he and his mother (who he quotes within his quote, a.k.a. quoteception) had the right idea. The quote has really stuck with me whilst this shitty year has tried to break my spirit with horror after horror. So, without further ado, in no particular order, here is my list of helpers:
1. Munroe Bergdorf
I became aware of Munroe Bergdorf back in September when L’Oreal made the dick move of dropping her from their True Match campaign because she had the audacity to call out the blatant and pervasive way that white supremacy is ingrained in our culture and actively hinders those without white privilege. Despite being bombarded with transphobic and racist hate speech, Bergdorf continued to go up against bigots and knock them flat with her eloquence and knowledge. And she has continued to do so, including a stunning piece on GMB which proved that white people are more shocked about a black woman using the n-word than the racist abuse that a black woman experiences on the daily. You know it’s happening, stop pretending to be shocked and stop silencing women of colour when they speak out about it. Munroe has also been incredibly involved with trans youth, actively reaching out to them via social media and fully embracing her fame to better the lives of those who might be struggling.
2. Travis Alabanza
Travis Alabanza is an incredible performance artist and writer whose style is deadly and whose Instagram offers an unadulterated window into what life is like as transfeminine. This year Travis accomplished incredible things, yet, as is the case for many trans folks and especially trans people of colour, they have been harassed and abused almost constantly. This was especially prevalent after a transphobic incident in Topshop was followed by an also hideous transphobic smear campaign in national papers. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon incident, and in their TEDx talk, Travis talks about another experience with public abuse and the silence of those who witnessed it. It is the most harrowing yet inspirational talk I’ve watched to date, and if you haven’t watched it then I implore you to. There are so many beautiful things about Travis, but perhaps the most beautiful is the fact that they continue to live and create art publicly in a world that is not always welcoming, providing much desperately needed representation for trans youth.
In June, the UK watched on in horror as the Grenfell Tower went up in flames, many celebrities expressed their outrage and shock, with a few even sharing how to donate to those who lost their homes, possessions and families in the blaze. Meanwhile, Adele went straight to the scene. No paparazzi, no tweets, no livestreams. Just a Londoner going to mourn, comfort and give whatever she could. Which would seem like the decent thing to do, but please bear in mind that our Prime Minister couldn’t even get her shit together enough to visit. But Adele didn’t stop there, she used every possible outlet available to her to speak out and against the authorities that not just allowed this tragedy to happen, but caused it with their own greed and vanity. She even set up her own donation fund, a way to bypass donating to the authorities so that she could give the money directly to the families affected. I was lucky enough to attend her last tour date at Wembley stadium and she spoke about it passionately, connecting on a personal level with 90,000 people, keeping it relevant, in the papers and in people’s minds. And even now she hasn’t stopped: she attended the memorial service; she is still vocal about backing the residents and criticising the appalling job our government has done. And so should we be, it’s now six months since the Grenfell Tower disaster, yet there will still be families living in temporary accommodation for Christmas.
4. Ariana Grande
An attack on children, an attack on women, an attack on the LGBT community. A mindless, senseless, horrific attack. And all eyes looked to one person, the person whose music those affected had come to celebrate. Ariana Grande was already fast becoming a pop icon known for her feminist stance, and when her concert was targeted she showed her real, powerful, raw strength. Within two weeks Ariana had organised a tribute concert with the aim to raise money for the victims and their families, and offering free tickets to anyone who had been at the Manchester concert. That day, Ariana Grande did what was needed to be done — she tightened her ponytail and went to work. She embodied the purest way to show terror that it will not win. She brought strength to thousands and she raised millions doing it, putting other's needs before her own in a way that can’t be described, even at a time when she needed to heal desperately. I can not even comprehend what I would have done in that situation, but I can hope that it would have been somewhat similar if not the same.
5. Megan Jayne Crabbe, a.k.a. Bodyposipanda
They say never meet your heroes. Well, I’ve known mine for 13 years now and she’s still pretty great. If you don’t know who Megan (@bodyposipanda) is, then where have you been? Probably still buying into diet culture and trying to be something you’re not. Everyday, and I mean every-freaking-day I see this woman strive to better the lives of others, I see her lift others from out of the pits of despair with her words, I see her embrace others with videos of her dancing. I watch Megan constantly bettering herself, learning from those around her, remaining humble and always striving to push her knowledge to the next level. There are so many things I could list off that Megan has accomplished in the past year, but I’d like to focus on one. The book that shook my whole world when I didn’t know my world could be shook anymore. If you haven’t read Body Positive Power then get yourself on Amazon and get a copy in the post right now. My copy is currently in Scotland after I passed it onto a uni peer and made her promise to pass it on to whoever she felt needed it, she then did that to the next person, and currently I’ve managed to track it down to Scotland where it is changing someone’s life as we speak. I’m incredibly blessed to know Megan in real life and so lucky to count her as a close friend, but I can genuinely tell you that if you are following her on social media then you are basically getting the same thing because this incredible woman gives everything to her followers to help them live a better quality of life.
And so concludes my list of helpers, as always please remember to support these people artistically, follow them on social media, share their messages and most importantly buy their art! I hope everyone has a happy holidays and gets to celebrate in whichever way they deem fitting. See you in the New Year!
P.s. This list is by no means definitive, these are my opinions and are centred mostly around British current events. If you have your own list of personal heroes and helpers please let me know on instagram @thevagaggle.