Author: Luke-David Boswell

18-year-old college student from the UK. Consider myself to be a democratic socialist. Three things I intend to do with my life: Write poetry, watch Netflix and write anything else.

Toxic Femininity Exists and Gillette Is Feeding It

Luke-David Boswell | United Kingdom

I’m a bit late to the party on the Gillette advertisement. But after watching the video, I learned that it sums up the current political climate; a small, vocal group of radical feminists are speaking without a clear understanding of men. I’ll forever stand by the belief that feminism is for the equality of both sexes. However, this increasing group of self-proclaimed social justice warriors receives constant media catering. In many cases, this is due to merely being brash and vocal against people who disagree and searching for ways to label society as oppressive.

I can agree that the motives of Gillette are brave. Nonetheless, the way they depict toxic masculinity (which I believe exists) is obviously stereotypical and against the popular opinion. For this reason, I cannot fathom how it got approval. If we’re going to discuss toxic masculinity and take out all our energy focusing on how men are apparently the devil, then we also have to talk about toxic femininity.

What Is Toxic Femininity?

Toxic femininity is noticed in passive aggression, person-to-person manipulation and systemic manipulation of victim complexes. A frequent talking about weight in women’s circles, female on female ‘slut shaming’, and using the status of a woman to ruin a man’s reputation are all evident. Ignoring that toxic femininity exists is detrimental to feminism’s own principles of equality. It is an issue we must recognize as much as toxic masculinity is attracting attention.

Toxic masculinity is not at all barbecuing, having a beard, playing sport, hunting, fishing or even laddish humor. Instead, we should recognize toxic masculinity for what it is. A harmful mental aspect of being a man and the pressure to assimilate into the regimented image of manliness is a key reason why many men feel like they don’t fit into current society.

Real Instances of Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity is present in the objectification of women, violence, and the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. It also appears in an inability to express emotions and in homophobia when men express non-masculine traits. Hugging a male friend, crying or struggling with mental illness may sometimes get the response of ‘man up’. as a man is often countered with ‘man up’. These issues are the true exemplifications of toxic masculinity. The issue is much more complex than the single narrative that many in the feminist movement focus on.

My main problem is the ad focused on how men need to improve themselves and become like Gillette suggests: the best they can be. Instead, we should also focus on how men need help overcoming the restrictions society has placed on them. Gillette, though, chose to generalize about men, further adding to a narrative of hatred.


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Stop and Search: Doing More Harm Than Good?

Luke David Boswell | United Kingdom

There is currently a contentious debate over whether police powers, such as stop and search, are lacking or are too powerful in the United Kingdom. The intents and purposes of these police powers are to protect the public and enforce the rules of society. However, it emerges that those we trust with our protection may be liable for the deaths of innocents. Although these cases have become headliners raising important issues within the police force, is it fair to label the entirety of the police as liable? Or is it only the “few bad apples”?

However, these powers are subject to abuse, often times by white police officers. Cases occur where they routinely stereotype minority groups in stop and search. Evidently, this suggests that stricter regulations are necessary to control the extent of the police’s power. The idea of such regulations would be to prevent the formation of systematic racism and profiling.

Stop and Search

Stop and search is one of the police’s most scrutinized and controversial powers, due to the common occurrence of innocent people being stopped and searched. Under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, a stop and search are only permitted when the police have reasonable suspicion to do so.  Code A (paragraph 2.2), mentions that a stop and search cannot take place when solely based on personal factors. Additionally, Code A states that the stop and search must be utilized “fairly, responsibly, with respect and without unlawful discrimination”. The goal is to prevent discrimination against civilians on the basis of race, creed, age, or appearance.

Racial Issues

Despite these regulations, there are doubts that stop and search is on a tight enough leash. Out of the 300,000 stop and searches in England and Wales during the 2016/17 period, there were 4 stop and searches for every 1,000 white people, with 29 stop and searches for every 1,000 black people. This statistic shows that black people are 8 times more likely than white people to be the subject of a stop and search. Clearly, this demonstrates an inequality and perhaps a prejudice in who the police choose to stop and search.

However, statistics may be misleading alone. Due to government housing programmes, the vast majority of minority groups live in high crime and unemployment areas. This culminates a cycle of poverty, disillusionment with the authorities and subsequent crime.

No Reasonable Suspicion Necessary

There are, in fact, legal clauses for police to perform stop and search absent of reasonable suspicion. Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, states that the police do not need reasonable suspicion to stop and search in designated areas. A crime occurring in a specific area and the police having limited time to secure the area and all possible suspects in it would be an example of the practical beneficial use of this clause. However, this clause could also be an excuse to unjustly target an area of a certain ethnicity.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, states that random stop and searches in ‘the fight against terrorism’ have no need for reasonable suspicion. The majority of the abuse of stop and search has occurred under this clause. In Gillan and Quinton v UK, both of the appellants were stopped and searched near an arms fair under Section 44.

Gillan and Quinton were journalists partaking in a peaceful protest against the arms fair. It didn’t help that the police did not recover anything in this search. After this incident, the appellants bought their case to the European Court of Justice. The court held that the stop and search violated the appellant’s rights. Their ruling upheld that the search was unnecessary and Section 44 did not apply.

Where is the line?

There is a very fine line that police have to walk. Powers that are necessary for protection are also easily subject to abuse. How to ensure that police do not cross the line is a pressing issue for the United Kingdom today.

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Is Democratic Socialism the Way Forward?

Luke-David Boswell | United Kingdom

Only two decades ago, any mention of ‘socialism’ in American politics as a potential governing ideology would have been met with extreme backlash and cries that communism had come to destroy America. However, in modern times (at least among younger generations), the stigma surrounding socialism has largely evaporated with a University of Chicago survey finding that from a pool of 18-to-34-year-old Democrats, 61% “expressed favorable  views towards Socialism.” One Gallup poll from a few months later also reported that more Democrats hold “positive views” of socialism than of capitalism, at 57% versus 47%. Compare this to the post-World War II era where, for example, only 15% of Americans wanted to see the country “go more in the direction of socialism”, according to a 1949 Gallup poll.

Why the Shift?

This new shift in favor of socialism in America could be boiled down to the essential need for a radical change in politics after the once inconceivable idea of a President Donald Trump became a reality. Many Americans are currently finding their voices in politicians like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Julia Salazar, who are seen to argue for the working class and those without the ability to speak up. All three are associated with Democratic Socialism, especially Ocasio-Cortez and Salazar, who belong to the Democratic Socialists of America.

Despite being written off as a joke in politics, the party membership had leapfrogged from only 6,000 to nearly 50,000 people in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. This was largely because of political figures like Sanders, whose ‘radical’ views promoted a new way of doing politics and a credible alternative choice for those tired of the controversies of both Republicans and Democrats.

With the reintroduction of socialism into America, there comes confusion and ignorance in relation to the objectives of democratic socialism and exactly what it means to be a democratic socialist. Upon hearing the dreaded s-word, people tend to link it to the totalitarian dictatorship of the USSR, a fake socialist country hiding behind the word to achieve the government’s own goal of a single party for a single state, with no other options. In reality, the USSR was a Communist state, an ideology which democratic socialism opposes entirely, hence the ‘democratic’.

However, due to the moral panic caused by the anti-Soviet propaganda of the Cold War, socialism couldn’t take off in America, thanks to being labeled with the red brush of Communism despite vehemently disagreeing with the USSR’s practices. From one perspective, the view of socialism relating to the USSR and the Cold War remains in the USA as a deterrent from understanding the benefits. People may even say that someone can’t believe in both democracy and socialism, but the two go hand in hand perfectly.

What Does It Mean to Be a Democratic Socialist?

Essentially, democratic socialism is socially responsible, ethical capitalism. It means affordable education, healthcare for all, and a suitable living wage, whilst still spending money on anything we choose. Those who follow democratic socialism believe in a moral, yet wealthy America; an America where no person is too poor to live. Yet, Republicans and Democrats constantly attack the ideology, trying to ‘rein’ in its speakers. Trying to silence anyone with a socialist viewpoint, like the “Communist Control Act” under President Eisenhower, is a direct breach of the 1st Amendment and, no matter how radical the belief, a person shouldn’t be silenced for their opinion.

One of the main missions for the democratic socialists in the USA is to achieve free education and healthcare. As someone from the UK, where both of these systems are open to every person in our society, it astounds me as to how some members of the right, particularly in Trump’s administration, can argue against universal healthcare when the introduction of the NHS system in the UK has led to equality. The idea that someone has to pay for a physical injury or mental help is incomprehensible to me.

Although the NHS has had troubles with funding recently, these issues are down to the conservative government, who want to see the return of privatization. During the years of the socialist Labour government (who introduced the NHS), the system ran efficiently and most importantly assured the poorest that they wouldn’t be in debt to the government for their own misfortune.

The Failure of the Opponents of Democratic Socialism

Opponents of democratic socialism in the USA seem to counter points with the state of the nation in Venezuela. In arguments that I’ve had with individuals who have different ideologies, this has been a response word for them whenever I mention socialism. Opponents citing any governments run by a dictator, where the seizure of private property occurs only shows how misunderstood democratic socialism is. The cry of Venezuela is immediately supposed to invalidate socialism, as a corrupt system that looks good on paper but in practice, fails on its promises. I point to a quote from The Guardian which sums up the argument: ‘Republicans go completely Caracas at mere mention of the s-word’.

The comparison between the potential for democratic socialism in one of the richest countries in the world and a ‘socialist’ third world country, that has always struggled economically is incredibly stupid. Any comparison with a leading country like the USA is unwarranted, as a socialist system being implemented in a third world country without infrastructure, is a key to disaster, but a socialist system in a first world country is proven to succeed. Notably, in the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Finland. These countries are models for democratic socialism in the world and are among the places with the highest quality of life.

Another view of democratic socialists is that the rich must be taxed exceedingly higher than they are currently. The taxing of the rich, in order to achieve a just and equal society, is a must. Any mention of further taxing seems to make the people on the right believe that if in power, socialists would forcibly take all wealth from the rich. This is simply not true, only higher taxing, which the rich can afford (whilst still living in mansions, sipping wine) would be implemented.  Chiefly, a 70% top marginal income tax rate would be put into law, which would not only benefit society as a whole but also not decrease the quality of life for the rich. Meghan McCain screeching on The View at any mention of democratic socialism really shows how terrified Republicans are of the notion that they’ll rightly get forced to pay extra taxes if they’re substantially richer than the average population. This system results in the rich still being wealthy but the wealth gap closing, with the poor being given a better chance at success.

Looking at the beginning of democratic socialism in the USA, it can be traced back to those who wanted to incorporate the interests of the women’s movement, civil rights movement, gay rights movements and other social movements born in the 60s into a single cause. In fact, the founder of the Democratic Socialists of America, Michael Harrington became one of Martin Luther King’s informal advisors after they met on a picket line protesting the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, and he advised the civil rights leader on writing the manifesto for the Poor People’s Campaign.

The combination of these movements and economic fairness is central to a democratic socialist, with a summary of items on their agenda being:

  • labor reform
  • pro-union policies
  • tuition-free public universities and trade schools
  • universal healthcare
  • federal jobs programs
  • fair taxation that closes loopholes that the wealthiest citizens have discovered
  • taxes on the rich and corporations to pay for social welfare programs
  • reducing classism within society
  • eliminating the threat of price fixing
  • equality in society
  • reducing the threat of economic cycles
  • efficient economy, with the input of the people
  • increased room for value judgments, not based on finances

One of the keys to understanding democratic socialism is, instead of focusing on private profit or an attitude that rewards those who are able to survive, the focus should be on a humane vision where everyone has the chance to share their view and contribute.

In the UK, openly socialist Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn visits colleges where queues of people await him and is the most followed political leader in the UK, despite not being in power. This, I predict, will soon change on the next election and the world will have one more socialist country. Perhaps, in another two or three elections, a Democratic Socialist may be the leader of the USA. At the rate in which the popularity of Sanders, Salazar, and Ocasio-Cortez is increasing, it isn’t an impossibility. Nothing seems impossible after Donald Trump.

List of Notable Figures Who Support Democratic Socialism

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York)

Bernie Sanders (Vermont)

Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)

Carolyn Maloney (New York)

Julia Salazar (New York)

James Thompson (Kansas)

Sarah Smith (Washington)

Summer Lee (Pennsylvania)

Sara Innamorato (Pennsylvania)

Elizabeth Fiedler (Pennsylvania)

Kristin Seale (Pennsylvania)

46 Democratic Socialists won their primaries in 2018.


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