If Lego Ninjago is representative of a typical playtime fantasy we have some serious issues on our hands. Why? It’s that old chestnut – erasure of women.
The film starts with a live action scene that feels like an homage to Karate Kid. A young boy being bullied seeks solace in a wise local Chinese man. We then move into Lego world and meet Lloyd and the other ninjas. Through adventure and battling their evil nemesis they find their inner strengths.
Fantasy playtime that doesn’t include women and girls
After meeting the two males in the opening scene we meet more in the Lego world.
There are six teenage ninjas, only one of whom is female.
The only other notable woman is Lloyd’s mother Koko. She does motherly things like make him food and worry about him. She does have an interesting back story which is referenced later but she doesn’t influence the narrative in any way.
Where does that leave us?
Male wise uncle
Male arch baddie
5 male ninjas
1 female ninja
This is a totally normal ratio coming from Hollywood, so it’s frustrating but not surprising. The reason why it worries me is this is supposed to be the inner child in all of us playing in our toy world. So why no more women?
If the film is aimed only at boys do they not weave women into their play? Do they not deserve to see strong inventive skilled women? What are girls watching this film supposed to think about themselves?
Only men can throw things
A key part of the plotline is that Lloyd famously can’t catch or throw because his he didn’t have a father to teach him. But his mother could have taught him. She was more than qualified since she’s a secret ninja warrior. But apparently only men can throw things.
Yes it’s a common trope, men playing catch with their sons. But this film makes SUCH a big deal out of it it just highlights the massive sexist plot hole.
Some parts were amusing enough. I liked the live action cat destroying the city. But for a children’s film to not only fail the Bechdel test but to exclude women from the narrative to such a degree it really let itself down.
The female characters weren’t represented poorly, they were skilled badass ninjas after all. There were just so few of them and they didn’t get to drive any of the story.
It’s the largest arts festival in the world. There are 50,000 performances of well over 3,000 shows across a whole month. Squillions of people visit Edinburgh every August for the Edinburgh Festival, Fringe Festival, Military Tattoo, Book Festival and all the other events.
Learn how you can skillfully navigate this mayhem like a local.
Where is the festival?
Every accommodation description will tell you its ‘near the festival’ but what does that mean?
Most events are in the town centre but they’re pretty spread out. With over 500 venues ranging from theatre halls to public bathrooms there’s no one central place. It’s more a series of smaller hubs and individual locations.
Make sure you know exactly which venue you’re going to. The names can be very similar and the locations not quite where you’d expect.
Assembly Mound is not at Assembly Halls. Pleasance Dome is not on the Pleasance!
Where to stay
Staying in the Old Town is best for the Fringe Festival as it’s near a large proportion of venues. The Grassmarket, Royal Mile and Cowgate are lively areas for bars, restaurants and a good concentration of the Festival venues.
New Town is more upmarket and will be a little quieter but still walking distance as long as you don’t mind a bit of a hill to get into the town centre.
Further afield we have places like Marchmont, Tollcross and Gorgie/Dalry to the south. These are all around 20-30 minutes bus ride from the centre.
Or to the north there’s the famous Leith. Some areas of Leith have a bit of a reputation but the main road into town, Leith Walk, is full of independent shops, multi cultural restaurants, and there’s a lively artistic community.
University halls of residence are hired out over the summer and can be much cheaper than big hotels. They’re clean but basic. Use the University Rooms website to search for a room. Just check the location on the map before booking.
There are camping and caravan sites around the edge of the city too which are cheaper but not as handy.
Use Google Maps to see how far your prospective accommodation is from St Giles Cathedral. That’s on the Royal Mile so a good proxy for the ‘centre’ of the Festival.
There are no e-tickets, you need to collect your physical tickets instead. The Royal Mile ticket office has reeaally long queues but there are loads of other collection locations.
Walking is easiest but it can get confusing as Edinburgh’s Old Town has roads that run underneath other roads and little wynds that cut between streets. Prepare for some steep hills and steps too.
The two main taxi companies are Edinburgh City Cabs who have a handy app which uses your location if you’re not sure where you are; and Capital Cars which can be cheaper than metered fares.
The bus system is focused on going into and out from the centre of town along main arteries rather than round the houses (which can have its own drawbacks). Go to the Lothian Bus website for maps and timetables.
Single fares are £1.60 no matter how far you go. There are no transfers, you have to pay again if you swap busses. The bus driver doesn’t have change so have the exact change ready.
Download the My Bus Edinburgh app before you go. You can see all the bus routes and stops, set your favourite stops, and it tells you how long there is to wait for any bus at any stop. Lothian Bus also have their own app but I find My Bus is better.
You can always ask the drivers for help… but if you’re the third person in a row to do that the locals will start tutting and rolling their eyes at you.
Where to eat
There are hundreds of superb restaurants in the city to suit any budget and taste. But eating out is a bit different when you’re on your own. If you don’t want a table service dinner or are pressed for time there are still lots of options.
Mosque Kitchen: 31-33 Nicholson Square
The Mosque Kitchen offers cheap, hearty, delicious Indian food in the Old Town. It’s between The Pleasance and University areas which are both major hubs for shows.
It’s cafeteria style service so go up to the counter and pick up your food then just find an empty seat. It’s much easier for a solo traveller because everyone just slots in where there’s a free seat.
Note that it closes for a short time on Friday lunchtime for prayers.
Waverley Mall: 3 Waverley Bridge
If it’s raining and you’re near Princes Street pop in to Waverley Mall. It’s right off the station too so very handy for transport. Plus you can do some shopping while you’re there.
The food court has a range of meals from sushi to pizza, fast food or baked potatoes. It’s open seating so it’s very easy to find a space for one.
Marks and Spencer: 54 Princes Street
It doesn’t look like it but there’s actually an M&S supermarket underneath their Princes Street shop. They have packaged sandwiches and lunch items as well as ingredients for doing your own cooking.
Food stalls: Everywhere
A lot of the Festival venue hubs have food and drink stalls. So George Square, The Pleasance Courtyard, the Udderbelly will all have burgers, noodles, crepes, that kind of quick fix.
Queues aren’t normally too long either.
Is it safe?
Edinburgh is a pretty safe city and there’s a bigger police presence during the festival to keep things in line.
The biggest issue will be the crowds. Especially around the Royal Mile or the festival hubs where there could be thousands of people at any one time. It’s an inviting place for pick pockets and opportunists.
Keep your belongings secure. Keep your bag close to your body and properly zipped up.
The street performers can be amazing but don’t get so absorbed that you don’t notice someone dipping into your bag.
If you’ll be out late remember some venues don’t normally have so much footfall and the area might be dead at night. Plan your onward travel in advance and take taxi phone numbers with you.
What shows should you see
With so many shows to choose from use the website rather than scouring the 450 page printed brochure to find something to see. You can specify timeslots, locations, genre and key word to drill down into something you’d like.
Reviews are helpful but the official fringe website only allows the person who booked the ticket to review the show online, and some performers don’t allow reviews on there.
Look in the free specially published guides and in newspapers for recommendations, or ask the people you meet while you’re there.
Lots of places use a chalk board to write up the names of that day’s sold out shows. They’ll show you what’s popular so you can get a ticket for another day.
Scheduling – not just for organisation lovers
You’ll need to be organised if you want to pack in a number of shows in one day. Most are 1 hour long but they could be longer or shorter. They don’t have nice organised half-hourly start times, it’s every 5 minutes.
Start by making a short list of shows you like
Transfer the key information to a spreadsheet or time planner app.
(I’m old school and do this by hand, writing times down the side of a grid and each show in a different column along the top. Then I shade in the timeslots so I can see the overlaps at a glance)
Pick out which shows would fit together into one day. Leave at least 1 hour between one show finishing and the next one starting.
Transfer your finished schedule to your planner!
Get the EdFringe app to see what’s on near your current location, what’s at the half price hut, your calendar and maps. It’s really handy if you’re rushing from one place to another and you want to check the map for the exact place.
What’s that? You want some more advice?
Queue up early
Give it half an hour if you can. It takes some logistics to get everyone into and out of the rooms. Plus seating is not assigned so if you want a good seat you need to get there early.
Edinburgh isn’t known for its heat but most venues don’t have air conditioning, windows and other such luxuries. Add 50 people and some bright lights into that room and it can get very stuffy.
Take water and a paper fan with you. Flyers make a good fan, there’s no shortage of those!
Take snacks Save money by bringing a packed lunch, or just have a snack bar in your pocket for emergencies. If you’re in a long queue you won’t want to lose your place to hunt for food
Half price hut
The hut is by the galleries at Princes Street. They sell half price tickets for shows later that day.
If you’re willing to take a gamble you can sometimes get free tickets from promoters on the street. (I once saw an utterly terrible show set in the inside of Celine Dion’s mind that way.)
Or if you’d rather choose for yourself there’s hundreds of free shows in the listings. Just be prepared to give a donation at the end. Be a good person.
Prepare for all weather Bring a light rain coat instead of an umbrella. Unless you want it to join the umbrella graveyards that build up around every bin on a windy day. Edinburgh can get VERY windy.
Layer up your clothes so you can adjust as the weather changes every ten minutes.
Escape the crowds and explore
It’s not all about the shows. Go and see the castle and galleries. Take a walk up Arthur’s Seat or Calton Hill. The Royal Botanic Gardens is a beautiful escape from the noise and crowds.
Forgive the locals For a few years I had to walk along the Royal Mile to get to and from work every day. After 9 hours in the office, an IT failure and a 3-hour meeting I’m not going to be in the mood to wait for tourists to take pictures.
Locals have busy lives to lead as well as the festival to contend with. Please forgive us if we’re not as welcoming as we could be sometimes. We’re sorry!
Do you have any other gems to share? Pop them in the comments below…
When I moved in to my first flat I felt a huge weight of responsibility. It was my job to keep the place maintained, to put up shelves correctly, to know what sealant to use.
Invest in a simple set of tools and with a little common sense you will be able to tackle most jobs around your home.
For each new job that needed done I’d do my full research. I’d google the issue, watch YouTube videos and learn the pros and cons of various tools involved. Over the years I’ve done loads of DIY jobs and collected a range of tools.
So don’t immediately call your male friends and family members to fix something in your home. Empower yourself to take care of it yourself. (Within reason. Don’t start cutting through pipework or anything!)
But tools are expensive
The old adage is ‘you get what you pay for’. Take that with a pinch of salt though. Something bought from the local bargain store may not be the most robust. But you don’t need to spend hundreds on the most top of the range items.
Buying individual items rather than a cheap multi-set is likely to get you better quality. Plus it saves spending money on things you won’t use.
What do I need to get started?
Here is my list of the key things you’ll need.
There are different shapes and sizes of hammer. Avoid the very teeny and the massive mallets and get something in between. Get one that’s made out of metal and has the ‘claw’ on the back so you can remove nails with it or use it to pry things apart.
You can get an electric drill for not too much money. You’ll need it to make holes for putting up shelves or joining things together.
There are different drill bits for things like wood, stone, tile and metal. Get a drill that comes with a good variety of drill bits. Or if it only has a few you can buy a separate set. Always use the right type of drill bit for the material you’re drilling into.
A drill with a ‘hammer’ function means it’ll be easier to drill in to stone if you have brick walls in your house.
Screwdriver (Interchangeable one)
This is one of the most useful and versatile things you can buy. I recommend getting a screwdriver with interchangeable heads. That means you always have the right kind to hand. Remember to use the head that best fits the kind of screw you have otherwise you can mash it up and it’ll be unusable.
Getting one with magnetic heads really helps you to not lose the screws too.
Just line it up so the bubble is in the middle of the two black lines and your shelf will be exactly level.
A lot of DIY involves cutting. A decent knife will be more sturdy and reliable but you can get sets of sharp disposable knives for just a couple of pounds.
Those lines on the side of the blade mean you can just snap off the end when it gets blunt. But it also means you should never ever use it sideways or the end could snap off and go flying. Only use it in the cutting direction.
(You might think that’s obvious but I had to explain that to a few women recently who were using them to ‘dig’ and it was terrifying.)
Pliers are vital for gripping at awkward things, pulling out nails, holding things together, twisting difficult nuts and bolts etc. Get a couple of pairs.
“Measure twice. Cut once.” Get a good tape measure and make sure you use it accurately. After all, you can’t un-cut something.
These little things are very handy for a variety of small jobs. They’re not really built for big bits of wood or anything complicated. But they will do in a pinch for small bits of wood, plastics etc.
This is a handy tool for detecting metal pipes, electrical wires and joists behind walls and floors. Pass it over the area and it’ll beep where it detects something.
It’s really important to know you’re not going to drill through an electrical cable or water pipe so it’s well worth a few pounds for one of these. Better than the call out charge for an emergency plumber (not that I’ve ever done that. Cough cough)
Any job will take at least twice as long as you think it will
I’m scared I’ll destroy everything!
It can be scary to start on some DIY if you’ve never done it before. Your mind races with images of the roof falling in or a water pipe spraying the whole house.
But it’s really not that complicated.
Just take it slowly and use a lot of common sense. Think about what might be behind the thing you’re working on. Wear protective goggles, gloves and a dusk mask if appropriate.
As a rule of thumb any job will take twice as long as you think it will. If you’re new to it then add a bit more time to make sure you’re not rushing and making bad decisions.
Satisfaction is all yours
It’s incredibly satisfying to step back and look at what you’ve achieved. Whether it’s putting up your favourite picture or fixing squeaky floorboards.
I once spent an entire weekend stripping, wallpapering and painting my hallway. Ok some bits weren’t amazing but the difference was astounding. And the sense of empowerment I felt by doing it myself was wonderful.
So do your research, use the right tools and give it a go!
You may have seen one of the latest sexism debates hit the news. Same old excuses, same old men looking for justification before they express any outrage.
Nikon released their new D850 camera and wanted 32 people from across Asia, Middle East and Africa to go on a road trip taking pictures with it. So they approached professional photographers to find the best talent available. The result?
All 32 were men.
Outrage ensued and in their defence Nikon said
“Unfortunately, the female photographers we had invited for this meet were unable to attend”
During the backlash many people pointed out their enormous error. Women are yet again ignored. Companies refuse to showcase women. Refuse to market to women. Refuse to include women in any meaningful way and their excuses are laughable.
Like those all-male panels excuses abound
“The women we asked couldn’t come” – How many did you ask? Did you make it easy for them to come?
“We couldn’t find any women who were qualified” – Are you setting your parameters so high women are unlikely to have been able to attain them in this male dominated field?
“We don’t know any women in this field” – How hard did you try to find any?
As a woman, and the chair of a women’s amateur photography group I expressed my dissatisfaction on social media. Perhaps more annoying than Nikon’s rejection of women was men’s refusal to condemn.
They wanted proof that all reasonable excuses had been explored before they’d speak up against it.
“It’s an Asian company, they’re less progressive there”
“There are just fewer female professional photographers”
“But the women they asked couldn’t go”
Stop faffing about trying to deny there’s a problem and get on with calling a spade a spade.
I say to men
Understand that we weren’t angry because we don’t like men. We’re angry because it seems very much like Nikon hates women. We’re not looking to oust men from every job they have. We want equal promotion and job opportunities for women.
So if someone points out something sexist don’t seek ways to defend the act before being willing to condemn it. Whatever the intention, the outcome was sexist and offensive. It should be condemned by men as well as women.
Imagine if the tables were turned and 32 women had been chosen. Would you seek to defend their motivations before pointing out the outcome was wrong?
Having workers in your home can be stressful and scary. Especially if you’re a woman on your own.
Horror stories run through your mind as you open the door to a burly builder. After all, aren’t we constantly told not to meet people we don’t know, not to let strangers into our homes?
Firstly, it is much safer than your racing mind will tell you at the time. The overwhelming majority of trades people are upright professionals.
Secondly, there are things you can do to make yourself safer, and importantly, feel more safe and confident.
Be sure who you’re letting in
Ask for advice from friends, colleagues and family on what the issue might be. They may be able to share a similar experience and offer guidance.
Get personal recommendations for a good company.
Look for wider recommendation schemes like local council approved, Trustmark, Which? Approved or memberships to professional bodies. Double check their credentials with the approval bodies themselves.
Check they’re registered with Companies House (or an official company registration database in your country). You can also see if they’ve ever been made bankrupt or failed to file accounts.
Write down a set of questions you need to ask.
That way you’re asking the same things of everyone and won’t forget anything. Think about how long the work will take, what possible fixes are, or anything else relevant to the job.
Get multiple quotes
At the very least get 3 quotes. Make sure they give you a written quote after their visit with information about whether tax is included, length of guarantee, what exactly they’ll do and what the cost breakdown of parts and labour is. If they won’t write it down they don’t get the job.
Politely decline anyone who you don’t choose. It’s better to know they haven’t got the job (and why) than to leave them hanging.
Security on the day
Tell someone which company will be coming to your home and what time.
Ask what happens to your keys each night if you’re getting longer term work done. Will they be returned to the office and locked up? Do you need to keep them and give them out each day?
Keep your pets out of the way. They can be a pest, could get hurt, or the worker might have allergies or phobias.
If possible stay in the house but out of the way. Don’t hover over them, it can make people uncomfortable. Plus jobs always look worse half way through so you might get the jitters.
Give them a drink, chat briefly about the weather and what work they’ll do then retire to another room and let them get on with it.
“45.6% of trades people said being watched closely while they worked was annoying”
– RatedPeople Survey 2016
Tips for being alone with trades people
Do your research before they come
Look up what the problem might be and what possible solutions there are. The more you know on the topic the more confident you’ll feel in trusting (or not trusting) what they’re telling you. And that they’re doing the correct work.
Lay out fake ‘partner’ items in your home
Borrow some men’s shoes and a big sports bag and leave them in the hall. Put out a second toothbrush. They indicate that a man at least stays over regularly. It’s a sad fact that the presence of another man can often deflect unwanted advances or scammers.
Talking about a pretend ‘other person’ you need to discuss things with reduces the pressure to make a decision on the spot. You don’t need to outright lie and create a huge backstory. Just drop a friend’s name into the conversation and say ‘we’ not ‘I’.
Offer food and drink
Offer a drink to anyone making a short visit. Offer food and drink to anyone doing longer works. Making a point to leave out tea, coffee, mugs, sugar and cookies will make the workers feel welcomed and it means they won’t raid your best china when they need a cuppa.
Hide or remove your valuables in advance
Especially if you’re staying away from the house. Partly for safety as there will be tools, building materials and equipment moving through your property. But knowing your things are safe will make you feel better about having people over.
Remove or hide paperwork
Even if the vast majority of workers are fine and upstanding people you’ll feel better knowing you didn’t leave all your personal bank details on show.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If you’re not happy with the way something is going don’t bite your tongue. If you’re not comfortable speaking up call a friend or neighbour to come over, ‘spot’ the issue and raise it with the workers.
Better to have a slightly awkward moment than have to look at something wonky for years to come.
Do you have any other tips to share? Leave them in the comments below.