Kirill thinks I’m awesome!! Yes, it’s true. Controversial party photographer and self-described ‘Slut Whisperer" thinks I, as well as all girls for that matter, are awesome, due to the fact that if you meet one randomly, “a few drinks later she has your penis in her mouth”. It is this statement, as well as others like it, that have given party photographer Kirill Bichutsky, better known as Kirill Was Here, a basis to form his career off of. Known best for "pouring champagne on sluts” and taking photos of it, Kirill has built himself up quite the controversial profile, one which had almost gone unnoticed by me until this morning, when I happened to stumble on something that had shown up on my timeline. So without further ado, here is my open letter to him.
A friend of a friend had posted about how she was receiving a large amount of backlash from people who were upset that she had gotten a certain 'artist’ banned from a Halifax venue. I messaged my friend asking who the artist was, and he responded by sending me the link to this CBC article:http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/party-photographer-kirill-bichutsky-barred-from-halifax-event-1.3031241.
After reading the article, I decided to take a look at your Twitter page to see how bad the damage really was. I didn’t have to scroll very far to find the tweet about girls being awesome. Scrolling a little further down, I found another diamond in the rough: “Why can’t girls take a joke as easily as they can take a dick” (April 10th). At this point, I was pretty disgusted, and subsequently messaged my friends with this new information. After seeing articles about you plastered all over MTL Blog, we finally found out that on May 8th, you are slated to come to Muzique, a well known club in the heart of Montreal’s nightlife scene.
At a time where I should have been studying for exams, I instead found myself sending an email to the establishment requesting them to prevent you from coming to their club. Whether they follow through or not is something only time will tell. But I could not for a second sit back and let a man who parades around with openly misogynistic content under his belt be readily accepted into these kinds of establishments, no questions asked.
Yes, this all goes back to nightclub culture, and my efforts are quite surely not going to do anything to change the dynamics of the way these venues work. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try.
And yes, maybe by doing this I am giving you the attention and shock value you so craves. But as a female, I personally feels disgusted and insulted, knowing that in your eyes, I am comparable to “the fat girls from Nova Scotia” who were mad about you “coming to the party”, and that while I have no intention of ever attending an event you are affiliated with, I wouldn’t “get into the party anyways” because “cats can’t be [my] +1”.
And on the subject of your content for one second, while I’m surprised that I’ve exercised this much self-control and not been the “retard to cry 'BULLYING’ and report u”, you have made an effort to address the content of your social media postings after you were banned from The Argyle Grill and Bar in Halifax. According to you, you’re “an ugly Russian Jew who likes to go to parties and take photos of hot girls. Oh and poke fun at everyone including myself on social media. The rule of comedy is to make fun of everything or make fun of nothing. So yes, I make gay jokes (my sister is gay). I make fat jokes (I’m fat). I make Jew jokes (I’m a Jew). And, oh yes, I make fun of everything else in between”.
The fact that you know someone who is part of the LGBTQ community or that you associate yourself with a certain religious identity is not a Get Out of Jail Free card. Even if you don’t get offended by too many things and constantly self-depricate, this does not make up for the fact that many of your comments are extremely offensive, way past the point of being comedic. You say that it saddens you that “in this day and age with all the horrible shit happening in the world, I am the problem”? I hope when you talk about “horrible shit”, you recognize that it constitutes things like slut-shaming and the objectification of women and homophobia-based violence, because those things are all horrible things that your words and your attitude proliferate and encourage.
And let’s talk about your job for a second. Most photographers take beautiful pictures that can be considered art, while you take photos of “happy, smiling, laughing girls willingly asking me to pour champagne on them because they don’t give a fuck what others think!” And who am I to say this isn’t art? Your photos obviously attract a certain type of crowd and have elevated you to the platform you are on today. However, I feel as though your statements saying that people who criticize the way your work portrays women “don’t like it when women think for themselves” and “don’t want women that are in charge of their own bodies, fate, and consequences” is a little bit problematic. Obviously you belong to the exact crowd you accuse of this behaviour, or at least you did on April 9th, when you oh so eloquently tweeted “Why do women like men who are smart, goal oriented and have a sense of humor? Cause opposites attract!” Which one is it, oh great slut whisperer? Do you only think a woman is in control of her fate and consequences and can think for herself when she is naked and letting you pour champagne all over her? You cannot pick and choose situations in which you “support” strong women. This doesn’t make you valiant- it makes you a hypocrite, and an asshole.
At this point, I have about 24 hours until I go to take my Microeconomics final exam, and I have yet to actually learn about anything we did in the course this year. But I would rather my GPA take a hit than my conscience.
One last thing before I try to force myself to study: I intend to post this all over social media and I really hope you see it. Am I worried that you will compare me to one of the “fat girls” from Halifax that you so dislike? Not particularly. In the words of you yourself “If you’re too stupid to realize that while I make fun of fat girls on social media, in real life I love them. They give the best blowjobs”.
All quotes attributed to Bichutsky have been taken from his Twitter account, @KirillWasHere. Photo taken from CBC.ca.
When I was around 7 or 8 years old, I subscribed to a Canadian children’s magazine that would feature various content regarding things that pertained to kids in my age group around the country. One of the articles featured in this magazine was with a girl named Hannah Taylor. She was the same age as me, but was already on her way to greatness. In her short 8 years, she achieved things that I didn’t even consider fathomable in my lifetime, let alone as an 8 year old. I remember feeling intrigued and inspired, and wishing that I could either 1) be more like Hannah or 2) meet Hannah someday.
Fast forward to 10 years in the future, where I have not only been able to meet Hannah, but have also been privileged enough to call her a close friend.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Hannah and talk to her about her work as founder of the Ladybug Foundation for an article with HerCampus McGill (can be found here) but I also asked her some more questions, to satisfy my own curiosity that had been developing over the past 10 years. Hannah did not fail to impress.
Background: Hannah Taylor is a first year, U0 Arts student at McGill University from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is the founder of the Ladybug Foundation, a registered charity that raises money and awareness for impoverished people. Ladybug is affiliated with over 60 different shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens across Canada, and their work has directly and indirectly raised over $4 million for the homeless.
Maya Koparkar: So obviously, there’s a story here, as to why you started the Ladybug Foundation. What is it?
Hannah Taylor (HT): When I was five years old, I saw a man eating out of a dumpster. I had never seen something like this before, and was therefore confused and wondered what the man was doing. I asked my mom, and she told me that the man did not have enough food to eat. My five-year old heart could not let go of this. I kept worrying about this man and asking questions about him. One night, as I was being tucked into bed, I asked my mom about the man and she told me “If you do something about it, your heart won’t be so sad”. I ended up giving a talk to my grade 1 class about homelessness, which led to us organizing our first fundraiser, where we collected clothes for a local shelter. I kept speaking to others about what we could do to help. Eventually, my connections got big enough that Ladybug became a registered charity when I was 8 years old. It was then that the worry in my heart started to lift.
MK: What are some of the things you’ve gone to do as a result of your work with the foundation?
HT: I’ve been fortunate to speak at many schools in the past. I love being able to bring that moment of realization that I had when I was younger to kids. We’ve also gone on to create a separate organization called Make Change. It contains a full curriculum that can be taught from kindergarten to Grade 12 with lessons plans aimed at teaching young people that they can make a difference and giving them the tools to follow their passions. It’s currently being taught in over 8000 classrooms in Canada, the US, Singapore, and France.
When I was 9 years old, I was also a member of the Child Jury for the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child. The jury was composed for a kids from all over the world working for human rights causes, and would give out prizes for people helping children around the world. As the jury, our job was to pick the nominees. It’s an incredible experience to meet people from all over the world. It definitely makes you watch the news differently. I’ve also been a speaker at We Day with Me to We, as well as met with Prince Charles when he visited my hometown. My experience has brought me all over the world and all across Canada, and I am so lucky.
MK: What would you consider your biggest accomplishment in working with the foundation?
HT: I honestly never thought the foundation would get this big, I just felt that it was something I needed to do. The work itself is so rewarding, because when you give from the heart you get so much back. Giving people hope is my biggest goal, and I especially love it when I can help kids realize “If she can do it, I can do it”.
MK: Has there been a particular person or event that has stood out to you in your time with Ladybug?
HT: When I was 10 years old, I was in Toronto, visiting a shelter for homeless youth that was seeking our support. I was being given a tour, and eventually the kids from the shelter began to join in and tell me stories about their lives and their projects. As I was saying goodbye to everyone, I noticed there was one girl who hadn’t said anything. She must have been older than me, but was so small for her age. She stepped out from the crowd, hugged me, and said, “Before today, I thought that nobody loved me, and now I know that you do”.
MK: What motivates you?
HT: Starting Ladybug was all due to the fact that I had a lightbulb moment at a young age. People have these moments and discover what their passions are. I’m very lucky that I found my passion so early, and this is what keeps me going. I have also been fortunate enough to meet incredible people through the work that I’ve done. Seeing people that are living on the streets but have been so kind and courageous gives me so much and hope and reminds me why this work matters.
MK: Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout this process?
HT: I have been inspired by countless people but there are two in particular that come to mind. The first is my mother. She is the strongest, most loving, caring human being I’ve ever met. The second is a man named Rick, who I met when I was 7 on my first homeless shelter visit. Rick was homeless for 25 years, and prior to this, grew up in a residential school and dealt with addiction problems throughout his life. When I visited his shelter, he gave me a big hug and thanked me so much for caring about everyone in the shelter. Today, Rick is doing incredibly well. He has retired from his job, has his own place to live, and is even part of our advisory board. Rick inspires me because of who he is. He was able to rise above everything he had to deal with in his life, and has always been so wise, generous, and gentle, when life hasn’t been that way to him at all. I call him Mooshum, which means ‘grandpa’ in Ojibway.
MK: Your message is a great one, and I am sure most people agree with the fact that it is one that needs to be heard, but as you well know, there are a fair amount of naysayers. How do you engage people who are apathetic or downright dismissive of your message?
HT: Honestly, if people don’t care about the homeless, I hope they care about something else. Apathy comes from a lack of knowledge and understanding, and stems from the idea that one person isn’t significant enough to make a difference, which doesn’t give you much of a foundation to work off of. One time, when I was 11, I was speaking at a business conference, and a man asked me, “Do you honestly think that this is going to work?”. I told him that we should make sure to share everything and care about each other always, and that this was a good place to start. Then he replied, saying “This will work when pigs fly”. A few weeks later, the same man sent me an email. It said that every morning, on his way to work, he would pass by the same homeless man, and was always so angry. After my talk, he finally gave in and sat down next to the man and had a conversation with him, which made all of his anger go away. I ended up also receiving an ornament in the mail from him. It was a pig with wings. Once this man was able to understand the situation, it made such a change for him.
MK: The McGill community is obviously, no stranger to homelessness. What advice would you give to a student who might see a homeless person while walking along the street to go shopping, for example?
HT: If the person asks from some change, give them some pocket change. If you’re going in to get food, bring out an extra sandwich. Or even simply say “Hello” or ask “How are you?”. Being homeless is incredibly lonely and isolating, and reminding people that they matter is so important. I’m sure everyone knows how good it feels when someone stops to say hi and acknowledge your presence. It’s the same for anyone living on the street.
MK: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
HT: 29….hopefully I’ve graduated from law school, and have traveled a bit and experienced a little bit more and met more incredible people. I want to go into human rights law and I want to do something in the field that makes an impact and helps more people to care.
MK: Where do you see the foundation in the future?
HT: I hope that our education program grows, since it is now entirely online and anyone in the world can access it. I’ll still continue to actively work with Ladybug- my role has changed a little bit because school is so demanding, but I’ve found that Skype is a great tool for speaking. Besides this, I hope that it continues to grow and is able to reach out to a lot more people. Ultimately though, I hope that one day we’re going to be out of business.
One thing that always gets me when it comes to transcript interviews is that people reading the interview don’t have the incredible privilege of experiencing the interview subject talk about one of their passions. For me, that was the best part of my interview with Hannah- watching her face light up as she talks about her work is the unfortunately the most intangible, yet the most rewarding part about interviewing her, and it also tells me that Hannah is someone, who unlike so many philanthropists today, is wholly and truly invested in her work. It’s absolutely incredible how someone so wise and so accomplished beyond her years appears so modest and, dare I say it, normal from the outside. But, as Hannah explained to me, the secret to success is that there is no secret. If she can do it, anyone can.
For more information about the Ladybug Foundation and how you can get involved, please visit http://www.ladybugfoundation.ca/.