Recent English Literature graduate, Olivia Anderson recently won the ‘Mary McPherson Essay Prize’. We caught up with Olivia to ask more about her essay and what inspired her to write on her chosen topic.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you study at Royal Holloway?
My name is Olivia and I’ve just finished my final year of study at Royal Holloway, where I read English Literature.
2. You recently won the ‘Mary McPherson Essay Prize’, can you tell us about your essay?
My essay for the Mary Macpherson prize was entitled ‘Incel Terrorism: When Loneliness Becomes Toxic’. It explores the recent growth in the ‘incel’ – involuntary celibate – subculture and the threat it poses.
3. How did it feel to know you’d won?
I was so happy to win! I never thought I would, but I enjoyed the process of researching and writing the essay so much that even if I hadn’t won, I still would have felt a strong sense of satisfaction. It was a really fascinating foray into investigative journalism and a very eye-opening experience for me.
4. What inspired you to write your essay on your chosen topic?
I was partly prompted to write about incel terrorism following the murder of Sarah Everard. I, like a lot of my female friends, felt really shaken by what happened. Instances of violence like this one and acts of incel terrorism that are so clearly drawn down gendered lines illuminate an insidious kind of threat that is centred particularly on women. I wanted to cast light on a perhaps under-explored area that has such serious ramifications. I was also interested in the idea of loneliness that has been at the forefront of public consciousness owing to the pandemic, and what happens when that kind of loneliness becomes poisonous.
5. What has been your favourite thing about studying at Royal Holloway?
My favourite thing about studying at Royal Holloway has been the friends that I have made, but also the intellectual development that my degree has afforded me. I think my time at Royal Holloway has made me so much smarter and more confident too.
6. How do you like to spend your time outside of study?
Outside of study, I love spending time with friends and family (preferably at the pub) and my dog Douglas.