sophie heawood

Freelance journalist. I write columns and interview famous creative people for Vice, Guardian, Times, Independent, Grazia, Elle, Marie-Claire and NME, among others. British, used to live in LA but am now back in London with my two-year-old daughter.

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Some days you give birth to someone and they grow into the cheeriest soul you’ve ever known. 

Hard Out Here - when you can’t see race at all

It’s been a funny old week, Granville. Lily Allen, a popstar I have loved and championed and interviewed and happily chatted to on Twitter, released a video for a new song called Hard Out Here. In the video she sings that she doesn’t need to shake her arse because she’s got a brain, while a group of black women, who are highly-skilled professional dancers, shake their arses all around her. The camera zooms in on their almost naked butt cracks, their almost naked breasts, all while Lily is fully clothed and laughing. It’s been widely explained as a jokey pastiche of other such pop videos, but it made me feel sick.

I’d already seen a still photograph of the Lily Allen Has A Baggy Pussy balloons, which made me laugh my own baggy pussy off, so when I finally got home and was able to watch the whole video, I was excited. God, I was so eager to press play on that thing, having been out and about with a phone with a broken screen all afternoon. But a minute or so into watching it, I wanted to go back in time to that blissful moment where I hadn’t seen it yet.

Anyway, it’s not the video I want to talk about, or even Lily, who I’m sure is having a long hard look at this stuff now. I’m still excited to hear the rest of the album soon. I’m a fan.

It’s the way people responded after the racism accusations began. Talking to lots of my friends, looking down my Twitter, my Facebook feed, all of that stuff. The majority of my friends, who are white, saying “oh ffs this isn’t racism” or “the video was a JOKE, duh, you’re missing the whole point,” and all the lols that accompany that.

And then the minority of my friends, the black and Asian ones, many of whom were going, “yep that is racism, I know what that stuff looks like, I know how I feel when I see it, I’m almost inured to a world where you lot don’t notice it day in day out, but fuck me it hurts. Especially when you’re presenting this video as a great moment of equality - for you.”

On talking to those friends more, several said they were so sick of having to be the Angry Black Woman again, still sitting there in that angry chair. Told, yet again, that they were humourless, and not getting the joke. (The joke being, ultimately, their body.) Quite a few of them said that being shouted down like that, by their supposedly free-thinking, politically-active mates, had left them pretty disillusioned, to put it mildly.

What particularly pissed some of them off was that many people who are actively engaged with feminism, so used to fighting the “Calm down dear” culture, seemed to be dishing out the exact same routine this time around.

“Calm down dear,” is what David Cameron said to a female MP in the House of Commons when she was getting really into her stride about something on which she disagreed with him. Everyone laughed at her, and at his joke. Chortle chortle, the power structure remains intact, the woman is hysterical and not to be listened to. We’ll let her into parliament but we all know whose voices are really going to resound the loudest in here. Men like that dismiss women’s claims of misogyny with lines like calm down dear too - they think misogyny is an invention, something that ranty people just go out looking for, to score points. (What are these points, exactly? And where are they tallied up? Is there a secret scoreboard?) 

Well, this time, it has to be said that a lot of right-on white people are saying Calm Down Dear to people who are, traditionally, less visible than them. Less heard. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this too. Maybe us white fembots have got so good at recognising sexism everywhere that we just don’t want to investigate our complicity in other power structures. Maybe we’re all just ignorant. Maybe we’re all tired of blogs and tweets and other people’s outrage, tired of being told that it’s not enough to look at gender, you now have to look at race too. (Well, here’s the bad news - it’s not enough to look at gender, you have to look at race too.)

Maybe, deep down, a lot of white women are scared of a lot of black women. Maybe I am. I don’t know. I’m trying to work it all out. 

I do know what doesn’t help though - people saying that they don’t even see race, that they are so fantastically colour-blind that they don’t even see difference - we are all the same, and can’t this just be about fun? That attitude, my friends, is about as helpful as our old chum the prime minister saying that we’re all in this together, because he too had to instigate 25% cutbacks on the number of liquid gold goblets at his banqueting table last week.

Yes, it’s a horrible thing to be called a racist, or to be accused of committing a racist act, because the word is so ugly and it feels like a terrible thing to be branded with. But it’s exactly because it feels so terrible, that it’s worth going, hang on, if racism feels this bad to me, how does it feel to the person who is currently experiencing it?

Rather than using all my energy to insist that everything is fine, maybe I should use that energy to find out how it feels when it isn’t? If I’m wriggling away from that word at a speed of knots because I can’t bear to be associated with it, how the hell does the person who’s up against it, and goes through it on a regular basis, actually feel? Even if it’s largely invisible, and somewhat dubitable, to me?

So much racism is structural and internalised and implied, rather than overt, and I’m not saying you have to read books about it or go to a conference. But identifying as an anti-racist person doesn’t mean you can’t simultaneously be taking part in a power game that you’ve never noticed. No, you’re not an actual racist. You were having a laugh. You didn’t mean it. You were trying to HELP. Wouldn’t it have been much worse if you had… etc etc. Yeah, we can tell ourselves that until the cows come home. But the history of silencing people, when they protest, isn’t a pretty one.

I’m sure I’ve been racist a lot of times myself, whether I realised it or not. I probably will be again - maybe somebody will pull me up on it, and maybe I’ll be annoyed, and turn it into a joke, and be dismissive, like I’ve probably done before. And then maybe, months later, I’ll start to see what they meant, and in some small way it will help.

(via caragh)

wolfe with an e

It is late December, the last few days before Christmas, and I’m staying at The Jane hotel in New York for four nights while we shoot the ending to a film that we worked on in LA over the summer. It’s called Wolfe With An E, directed by David Zuckerman, produced by Michael Hekmat, written by DZ and Mandy Kahn. It’s about the musician Henry Wolfe, but he’s a mysterious figure, whose appearances are fleeting, and somehow my lines are more plentiful. I play a British music journalist from The Times, sent to America to interview Henry. She’s called Sophie Heawood. Yup, the method acting is killing me.

So I spent today pretending to be myself going record shopping in the West Village. Pretending to be myself running into an old friend. Pretending to go to her Brooklyn loft and pretending to get excited about Haydn’s clock symphony and then pretending to get so worked up about classical music and the mathematics of time travel and interplanetary egg breakfasts that I nearly slipped into unconsciousness. (Still not quite sure about that bit, but it was in the script. I did ask but they just frowned and muttered something about “the future”, and then started calling me Soph, always a sign I should have kept my mouth shut.)

Gaby Hoffman, who’s been acting professionally since she was a small kid living at the Chelsea Hotel, played my longlost friend. You can tell her to say anything and it just springs out of her mouth like she invented the language. I thought I sounded quite natural until I saw how she inhabited it; how the words she said didn’t sit and linger on her for a second. She seemed to be made of earth. I could have watched her for days.

My own experience of acting is quite like my experience of broadsheet journalism. You try and try to make sentences sound good while a small voice inside your head won’t stop nagging at you “but is this how you ACTUALLY TALK?”

Except today, acting was way better than journalism ever could be, cos I got given my very own hair and make-up lady to keep beside me all day long, patting my face down, sexing up my eyelash dossier and rearranging my “bangs”. She was, no word of a lie, the most exciting thing that has ever happened to the front section of my head.

starlings

"An introduced species is a species living outside its native distributional range, which has arrived there by human activity, either deliberate or accidental. Famous examples include the introduction of starlings to North America by an Englishman called Eugene Schieffelin, a lover of the works of Shakespeare, who, it is rumoured, wanted to introduce all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays into the United States. He deliberately released eighty starlings into Central Park in New York City in 1890, and another forty in 1891."

overheard in hollywood

RUNYON CANYON

Four young women out for a gentle hike; one is a white nanny with a pushchair containing a brown baby. The other women coo over the child and ask, “So, is this her second baby?”
"Yeah," says the nanny.
"So, what, did she like RETURN the other one?"
"Yeah."

A young white guy, maybe about 25, has been monologuing at his female friend for so long that I start subtly transcribing him into my Blackberry (with my super fast typing thumbs.) Seriously, this whole passage is verbatim:

"So I read in Oprah magazine about this kid who grew up in this super super strict family, like born again Christians? And like, he was gay? And obviously his family were not gonna be okay with this AT ALL, and he finally came out to his dad who was, like, traumatised and told him never to tell his mom, but his dad dropped dead a year later so he finally told his mom he was gay and she put him through all this electro shock therapy and all of this awful stuff to try and cure him and she pushed him and pushed him and so finally he snapped and he, like, KILLED his mom, and so the whole of the rest of the family was like really against him, you know, cos he’d killed his mom I guess, and nobody would support him and finally his grandmother on his dad’s side came out in support of him and she defended him at the trial and so her husband divorced her at the age of 75 and now the kid is still in jail and his grandma has moved to be near him so she can visit him but she’s totally alone and the whole rest of the family won’t have anything to do with them and it just goes to show that, you know, you don’t think something like that is going to come between you, because you think your family will always be there for you, but you know you’d be SURPRISED, sometimes at the end of the day it’s weird but people really don’t pull together over this stuff."

GREENBLATT’S DELI, SUNSET BOULEVARD:

Waitress: Anger doesn’t get Russian dressing
Customer: What does get Russian dressing?
Waitress: Joy

Customer: Luxembourg? That country that was so random that Hitler forgot to invade it?
Waitress: That’s pretty much what they put on all their t-shirts. Have you seen In Bruges?
Customer: Sounds foreign
Waitress: I don’t think it is foreign, I think it’s English
Customer: Where is Bruges?
Waitress: Somewhere in Europe
Customer: Luxembourg.


Customer: Cindy was pretty wild when she lived in New York. She was dating some guy who had a dungeon. But these days people stay in touch.

For a mere 18,000 Euros you can buy this lovely Portuguese ruin. Do it now, so I am unable to. I must be stopped. It’s the dog.

by Jeana Sohn

levellers

Many years ago I started having singing lessons from a wonderful kind-hearted woman. I was younger and shyer then, and was immediately attracted to her generous philosophy. She told me that everybody has a voice, everybody can sing, and if they don’t sing in tune, well, maybe they’re singing a different tune, and that’s fine. I had lessons for some time and she taught me well. Once I spent a whole weekend at her house watching her work with another student - a middle-aged man, recently divorced - to successfully turn him from tone deaf to singing in harmony.

Now that I live on the other side of the world from her, we haven’t seen each other in a long time, but we recently met up in America and went on a retreat together. At this retreat there was a creative writing teacher who was going round saying that everybody has a voice, everybody has a story to tell, and everybody can be a writer. Now that I’m a professional writer, I found myself turning my nose up at his idea, and muttering darkly to myself that everyone can’t be a writer, just as not everyone can be a pastry chef or a chemical engineer.

Later, I told my singing teacher that I had become a horrible old snob who didn’t believe that everybody could write. She said that she no longer believed that everybody could sing. “But I watched you get that man from tone deaf to singing in tune!” I reminded her. “Oh GOD, but that was SUCH hard work,” she groaned. “I’ve realised that everyone in the world can make a noise,” she continued, “but… it isn’t always pleasant to listen to.”

My dark cynical heart felt quite a lot better after that.

Alexander Calder: Bird’s Nest

Drew Barrymore on phone sex

"It was just a thing you try, like wearing orange for a while"

a tommy cooper joke for you

And the back of his anorak was leaping up and down, and people were chucking money to him, and I asked, “Do you earn a living doing that?” He said, “Yes, this is my livelihood.”

From Devendra Banhart’s heart of art

why is the dog called lucky?

Midge Ure’s house on the island of Monserrat had to be rebuilt after a termite infestation, after which it was promptly blown away by Hurricane Hugo. He restored it a second time but it was then destroyed by a volcano which had sleeping for 400 years. He bought his parents a thatched cottage in Devon, which caught fire. Twice.

Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband

SIR ROBERT CHILTERN
What an appalling philosophy that sounds! To attempt to classify you, Mrs. Cheveley, would be an impertinence. But may I ask, at heart, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Those seem to be the only two fashionable religions left to us nowadays.

MRS. CHEVELEY
Oh, I’m neither. Optimism begins in a broad grin, and Pessimism ends with blue spectacles. Besides, they are both of them merely poses.

SIR ROBERT CHILTERN
You prefer to be natural?

MRS. CHEVELEY
Sometimes. But it is such a very difficult pose to keep up.

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