I’m Voting Yes?

[Note: This post was not written with the idea of proselytizing. I am not interested in trying to police others’ political choice in this respect. The issues are not black and white, and I respect people voting either way. There are so many factors to weigh up and how each person prioritizes these issues will be different.]

With only one month to go until the independence referendum, and after a while of being firmly in the No camp, after a long, long time weighing up my options, I’ve finally decided that I’m going to vote ‘Yes’. After a while, the increase in grocery prices and the decrease in research grant money couldn’t make up for the shitstain on humanity that is the Tories, and their increasingly Toryish competitor, Labour. The choice of Tory vs. Baby-Tory governments isn’t something I would like to continue, if I can help it. And there is a way I can escape it, so I will take the chance.

I’m tired of the history of Scottish votes being meaningless (we would have had a Labour government up here a lot more often if we’d had our way). I’m tired of disabled people being treated like shit on the government’s shoe and effectively being murdered by the anti-benefits system. I’m tired of the anti-immigration and racist rhetoric that spews like vomit from more and more politicians’ and citizens’ mouths. I’m tired of living in a country that doesn’t seem to want to do much to champion equal rights. I’m not putting all my faith in the Scottish government to sort out all these problems miraculously post-independence, but at least we’ll have a chance.

I’m still not absolutely sold on the idea, I must admit. The burgeoning problems that are bound to arise in the wake of a massive political decision like this will most likely affect people like me first and foremost, i.e. those of us who already struggle with money. It will be a tough time immediately after the plans are all put in place, and maybe at first it might not even seem worth it. But in other aspects of my life, such as when I was debating leaving a job when my prospects were unclear, or when my twin brother and I were deciding whether to live separately or together when we went to university, I tended, although anxious and afraid, to take the “well, you never know until you try, even if it turns out bad” sort of attitude, so in its own way I’d feel a bit hypocritical if I didn’t adopt the same mentality with this. Those two plans went wrong, incidentally — I quit my new job after two weeks and went back to my old one, and after spending night after night calling my brother crying that I missed him we ended up living together again anyway — but I can’t regret that I made the decision to see if they worked out. I wouldn’t have wanted to play the “what if?” game the rest of my life. Of course, the independence question is a whole lot bigger than those examples, but the principle remains the same.

There’s a lot I haven’t appreciated during my decision-making process. Those who have not entertained even for a second the notion that it’s not been a easy, snap decision for all Scots. Those who have not only acted like someone voting No — because of uncertainties or because they feel it’s too much of a risk in this current climate or that we’re simply not ready — is a turncoat, but those who have actually deigned to call me one when I was explicitly voting No. Now, I’m not a hardcore patriot, but my pride at being Scottish doesn’t mean I thought we were ready to be independent, particularly when I didn’t have many facts coming from the Yes side at all. When I say (like in the above paragraph) that I’m not 100% sold on the idea, it’s not that independence as a notion is something I’ve never fancied. Even when I was going to vote No, it wasn’t the idea of independence putting me off completely, it was other factors. I wasn’t going to ignore the risks I felt were present. Hey, I’m not a gambling person, clearly.

But now that anti-immigration, anti-Europe, anti-anyone who isn’t a rich, white, cis, straight male Eton-educated politician, basically, sentiments are all on the rise within the UK, and now that Labour have determined to be just as stringent if not more so than the Tories have been on welfare cuts, and now that I’ve discovered that the PM did not allow the SNP’s proposed 3rd ballot option — more powers, or something along the lines of devo-max, which is something as a No voter I was supporting as a kind of compromise — well, I can’t quite make the remaining risks feel worth it when everything a good country should be is simply not present in what the UK (or more specifically, London) is offering.

It’s not been an easy ride, and I’m not looking forward to the problems that will inevitably present themselves (particularly for us poorer folks, not really for the big rich politicians who are selling us the grand idea), but if I don’t vote Yes, I’ll be asking myself “what if?” for the rest of my life.

Harmless gossip or relentless bullying?

As anyone who is aware of my (insanely amateur) beauty/fashion YouTube channel, Dance of the Knights, will know, I am a fan of beauty gurus on YouTube. These girls, in some circles, have become figures of scrunity regarding their habits of downplaying certain company affiliations and sponsors, as well as their use of high-end, very expensive products. In that respect they have been mostly honest, if a little sneaky, and I don’t particularly blame them for not shouting about this deal and that sponsorship all the time – it’s a little humble as well as simply assuming their viewers have common sense, and they’re allowed to use whatever products they like, regardless of the fact that young girls who might not have money will watch these videos, eager to emulate the look; the “gurus”, which, by the way, isn’t usually a self-claimed title, often suggest ‘dupes’ or duplicate products which those with less money, or simply those who are too frugal to spend £50 on one foundation (!), can instead use to recreate a similar look.

Being a YouTuber puts you in a spotlight. You’re opening your identity and life up to strangers all over the world. I know this, despite my channel being very local in the sense that half of my viewers are friends. Those strangers may or may not like you and what you do, and that’s their prerogative, but there’s a line, and the object of my dislike, and quite honestly, pity, has crossed it.

There exists a website, which you may know, but I won’t name names, intended for discussion of these gurus, and I have to give credit where it’s due – they have the “Rate a Guru” section, where forum members can write everything they love about each guru, and many threads include helpful tips and recommendations, and there are social aspects to it too, with the non-guru sections focusing on getting to know each other and make friends.

Now, I would let their “Trash a Guru” section continue without a word from me, but their excuses of “constructive criticism” etc. just don’t cut it. They do have every right to discuss openly what they think about this girl and that girl, especially in a world where pre-teen girls want to be those gurus and fail to see the problems, the hard work, and the pretenses involved, as are involved in any job concerning any sort of “limelight” or media fame. But it’s my honest opinion that a lot of the content on there borders on bullying, if not outright bullying, and my question is ‘why?’

It’s true that I’m now spending time criticizing and judging the gossipers when I could simply let it go (especially since a new thing I’m really teaching myself these days is realizing that others’ paths can be acceptable even if I wouldn’t choose the same), but I don’t think it’s okay to allow these people to openly snark and criticize girls in a very juvenile manner, all the while accusing this guru and that guru of being childish, immature, and bitchy.

Even if that is an invalid argument, and I can guess that some people who read this will believe that (surely they’re allowed to voice their opinions publicly just like I am right now, good or bad?), the biggest thing I’ve noticed about those forums is that the gurus simply can’t win. Something is criticized, and then if someone else does the opposite, or even that same guru attempts the opposite, they’re criticized again. Case in point: I won’t name names, but one of the gurus receives a lot of stick for being too “childish” despite being 24, due to her love of cute animals, naming inanimate objects, and wearing dinosaur hoodies. I understand this argument, short of thinking “why can’t you let her live her life? She’s not harming you, is she?”, but recently she has received more flak for acting “too sensual” in a video, and trying too hard to be sexy and adult. Does this make sense to anyone?! Surely if you want this girl to stop being childish (and I think it’s unreasonable to seriously suggest to the point of forcing that someone changes their own personal style just because it doesn’t agree with your own), you can’t turn around and complain when she tries to be more grown-up?

I might be biased here: I love my stuffed animals. I name inanimate objects too (I’ve christened a lunch bag L.B. and refer to it as ‘he’, much like people do with their cars). I call things cute, act girly, and sometimes wear clothes that wouldn’t be amiss on a 13-year old girl. But I have a first-class degree from a prestigious university, constantly engage my brain for leisure, and enjoy having discussions about political, socio-political, and philosophical ideas. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.

The gossipers need to remember that they’re only seeing a snippet of someone’s life. That people change over years, and it should be accepted, however grudgingly, rather than you attempting to change this person back. That being on video does sometimes lead you to adopt a quasi-“persona” on film – where you’re not being completely ‘fake’, but you’re not exactly being the same ‘you’ who appears at a party or chilling out with friends. That you can be a beauty guru and still lounge about at home with yucky hair and pajamas. That you can’t claim that you’re not telling someone they need to lose weight but then go on to say that if you were a beauty guru, you’d “take better care of [your] body”. That the YouTube life is not black-and-white. That most of the gurus and personalities are probably very aware that this isn’t for life. < In fact, the gossipers did mention this last point recently: “oh, they need to get a grip and realize this won’t last forever.” If it’s so obviously fleeting, why are you so desperate for them to conform to what you want to see in them?

I understand the disappointment when someone changes for what you see as the worse, not the better. I understand that these gurus do have annoying habits sometimes, and do weird things like fake stupidity, downplay their PR deals, and only approve positive comments like a strict propagandist. But these people spend hours, days, months, years, on a website dedicated to bitching about these girls: anyone who dares answer a query in the ‘trash’ section without antagonizing the guru is declared a ‘minion’ (this doesn’t actually happen every time) and is advised to go to the ‘rave’ section instead. Things are criticized before the truth comes out (no, actually, if you’ve watched the video in full you’d know she actually used fabric paint, so maybe you shouldn’t come along here criticizing her for not doing so), and there’s a clear bias against the gurus to the point where anything and everything is slated regardless.

I could go on and on, because the place is full of hypocrisy and judgment and, dare I say it, bullying. Yes, the gurus could ignore the site (although there’s strong implications from them sometimes, and this I’ve seen and decided myself, that some of them do read the site), yes, I could ignore the site and get on with my life, but I pity those who spend so much time deluding themselves that they’re better than a girl who is able to splash out on Chanel and make lots of friends with other YouTubers and become a confident, swishy vlogger, whether you think that’s a faked ‘persona’ or not, when they’re content to spend their time bitching them out. The way the bias is so strong reeks of high school bullies, who, in my own experience, can latch onto anything, however absurd, as a way of antagonizing you. I don’t understand how they can complain about how much money the YouTubers make when they’re directly contributing to it by watching every video. I don’t understand how everyone is apparently supposed to act their way or no way.

Apparently if you’re on YouTube, by the way, you’ve to do videos directly related to your degree, tell the whole world who you are or aren’t dating, in fact, tell the whole world where and what you studied, and for how long, and you’re not allowed to change your mind about anything, ever. You’ve to tell them everything about your life despite the fact that they make assumptions about you anyway. You’ve got to be contradictory at every moment, never consistent, or you’ll end up the subject of juvenile insults about your weight or who you make friends with or how fake you apparently are in a public forum. Oh, wait, you’ll end up there anyway if you’re popular enough.

They could at least decide what they want these beauty gurus to be like, instead of flip-flopping on their ‘rules’. Or, you know, they could realize that people do change, and if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to be a part of it. You don’t have to hide behind “constructive criticism” (especially not when discussing a girl’s “sausage fingers” or greasy skin), or pretend you care about the younger viewers being “brainwashed”; your relentless efforts and petty jokes show that it’s more about you guys somehow being better than girls who’ve managed to make a name for themselves and reap the successes. I won’t use the ‘jealous’ word, because I think it’s absurd to assume someone who criticizes another is simply jealous of them, but I can’t understand why they do what they do to such an extent, especially since each forum member changes their own mind about what a guru should and shouldn’t do more quickly than the weather. Why invest time in that? Why continue to be a consumer of their world if you want them to fail? Why not succeed in something of your own? I can’t imagine they have much time to do anything else, based on how often they’re watching gurus’ videos and elaborately, but hypocritically, slagging them off for hours, the same boring, pathetic arguments and insults coming up time and time again.

This has probably lasted for a whole page now, so there you have my views on the topic.