Somewhere in the USA, Late September 2017
That losing the show wouldn’t be the worst thing, that there would be financial ruin, bullshit stories, public vilification, name-calling, getting spat at (because yes people do that), private conversations with jerks in dark moments telling him good on you for speaking up — that things would not be cool AF — hadn’t occurred to Guy.
– You’re going to lose it all – YOU’RE GOING-
This was Katy (Talent Manager).
– Please take me off speaker, said Guy.
– Jesus – fuck!
Guy placed a Xanax under his tongue and lay on the pressure-cleaned Persian rug, breathing into his stomach, telling himself things would be fine, if Katy could just chill, things would be cool AF.
– Katy, I’m concerned. Are you OK? Don’t aggravate your- thingy.
– Listen to me. Money, sponsorships. It’s all response-quality-conditional.
– You’re gonna lose Single Guy Scrubs Up, every sponsor, if you don’t apologise.
– It’s not that bad, said Guy, swallowing. Everyone’s touchy about everything.
– It’s worse than bad, said Katy. Leaving aside my feelings for a second, let me tell you: they want a gesture. You need to show you care. You hear me?
Guy breathed deep:
– Tell me exactly what I did wrong.
ProMod Offices, London, Late September 2017
Sadia had an elbow in her brain.
She logged in.
Items awaiting moderation: 194
The elbow pressed down, her brain was- put it this way: how can the office be so busy with content moderation this early?
Video: an old man touching a young girl’s crotch on a bed.
She marked it: not suitable for platform.
The sound of keyboards and mice, an erratic pulse of soft clicks. Twenty-eight desks in four rows of seven, employees, laptops, muddy sunlight stuck in the small windows at the front. A poster on the right-side wall, bold letters: KEEP CALM AND MODERATE CONTENT. And a pinned-up paper with writing in black marker pen: WE PROTECT. WE DO NOT JUDGE.
The video police shielding social media from nastiness.
She sucked her 7up can.
A man killing a chicken with a machete.
Not safe for platform.
Her hand tingled.
A TV interview:
– So tell us Guy, how did you start Single Guy Scrubs Up?
– Single Guy started out as a humble project. Unemployed, broke: bad situation. Bad. On top of that, my girlfriend dumped me: hello Marisa (audience laughter).
– Hence why ‘Single Guy’, said the host.
– Hence why-
– Oh this dickhead, said a voice.
Sadia paused the video and removed her headphones.
Ashley (Supervisor) stood behind her.
– I cannot stand this guy, he said, narrowing his eyes.
He handed Sadia a mug.
– Next time don’t yawn in my team meeting.
– Not suitable, he said, heading back to his desk.
She sipped from the mug. She spat it back.
– Ah fuck, fuck.
She sucked on her 7up can.
Ashley took his seat. He was chill. Was he chill? Why was he being nice to her? Men weren’t. He had a nice back. You couldn’t just say this. Hi boss, your back looks nice. Tight blue shirt though. Nice.
The video continued:
– But we have to address the elephant in the room, said the host.
Sadia opened another can. The elbow relaxed.
– Yeah. Well. About that, said Guy, I’m not apologising to anyone, especially not some hysterical online bitches. I’m not going anywhere.
Sadia logged in:
Reddit Message Board: Life-Shit
New Post: Not Happy
wouldn’t normally write here but am smashed. basically: im fucked. you say nah its good all life ahead but im telling you straight up lifes over. im nearly 30, live on my own, and everything i do i basically fuck up. i work. that’s it. i earn enough to pay rent, buy food. Nothing left. Shit boring job – come home – eat tuna – go bed. My rents hate me – they tell me – my bro is big success, how come i fucked up so bad? who can I talk to? i don’t have a partner – i did when I was 18 but that ended cus they went to uni and that’s it. i never sleep. i need sleeping pills, bad dreams. most of the time im weird, getting worse because work is crazy, can’t say what it is, but its mad shit. fuck knows.
Superboy: Am super sorry to hear this bro. You gotta take care of your mental state. Can recommend a few things but one main thing is check out motivational stuff like Single Guy Scrubs Up to get you going. You need to be strong!!
Steven Greene, Lexicon Magazine, “All the Single Guys, put your hands up!”, 01.10.2017
“…Cleaning, who’dda thunk it?
Look what it’s done for young men!
Single Guy Scrubs Up is not merely another Youtube show with an overly-ambitious twenty-something (his name is Guy, geddit?) masking products and corporate-speak as life-advice — it is that, but — it’s something more. It reasserts the radical potentialities of masculinity — albeit implicitly — for a largely young, heterosexual male audience. It says, in short, ‘hey fellas, you can still be straight and male, and not be a macho asshole”.
So we have to protect Guy and trust to due process: the truth will out, so why destroy a good thing?…”
Bee Porter, Black Milkshake Magazine, “Clean up your act SGSU”, 02.10.2017
“…It’s not just profoundly irritating but also demonstrably wrong to claim that a Youtube channel where a young man cleans for himself (let it never be said that the bar for men is high), reasserts radical male potentialities.
Rather, it casts this labour — which for countless centuries has been performed by women, mostly unrecognised and unpaid — as a CIS-heterosexual male activity, for which men are now to receive benefits and acclaim. It does not say ‘men can clean too’, rather, it says ‘cleaning is now OK because men are doing it’.
And concerning Guy’s latest scandal, it is of course concerning, but unfortunately predictable to see so many come out in his defence. I make no such equivocations: he should be boycotted. No public figure should be allowed to do what he did.
But this furore (as usual) overshadows a much deeper issue: tell me, what woman has made upwards of $5 Million simply for cleaning?…”
Somewhere in the USA, Early October 2017
– You’re a genius.
– Katy, speaker, said Guy.
– Sorry, hey where are you? NY?
– No, airport on the way to Boston. Gonna meet the guys, catch up, eat steaks. All the shit.
– Take photos for your insta.
– Katy, dude, I’m not in the mood. I need someone to talk to. I don’t even have enough pills for the weekend – doing forty-dollar airport slammers instead.
– No listen to me. You leant in to the chaos. You’re so hot right now. You’re going to get so many girls, trust me. Big, big opps from this-
– Don’t bullshit me. God! I don’t even know why I didn’t just apologise. Something just came over me. It’s a mess. I should just do it.
– No! said Katy.
– Listen, you’ve got balls, Guy, that’s why. You’re landing. You’re connecting. This has driven your site hits and sales way, way up. Listen, bad news: the sponsors are drying up. But not all of them. The IronMan people freaking love you.
– For real? I’ve barely promoted any of their shit. It’s all junk.
– They’re expanding – they don’t care if some computer nerds don’t get you. You took a stand and guess what, young men love that: you know, your number one demographic. Tell me what the IronMan slogan is?
– Take a stand against dirt?
– Exactly. The IronMan people are sponsoring you on a European tour. Let things cool down here and you connect with their new markets. You do London, Paris, Barcelona, sixteen cities all-told, live talks, QandAs.
– Oh freaking what?!
– ‘Oh freaking what’s’ right.
Somewhere in South London, Early October 2017
Colour slipped off the sky, off like a bird to Africa or some other warm place, but Sadia didn’t hear London’s sea noise: she had her headphones in.
The queue for the bus was long.
She watched her phone:
Cleaning your oven. You cook up all kinds of shit in your oven: beef, lamb, potatoes. So basically your oven is covered in shit. Coated in fat. And since its such a vital piece of kitchen equipment, you need to keep it in good working order, just like a car. Two things you’re going to need: some IronMan industrial strength oven cleaning agent, and some strong ass rubber gloves. I’m not kidding, this is shit is damn near toxic. You do not want to use this shit with bare hands. OK? It is strong A-F. Let’s get to work.
– Shit, whispered Sadia.
– I know, said the old woman in front of her. Bus taking forever.
Guy (Single Guy Scrubs Up)
Single Guy. Scrubbing up your lives and minds.
@SGSU: I’m a man. I respect everyone, regardless of gender. But don’t tell me to apologise for being a man.
@SGSU: People don’t believe in due process anymore! Put me on trial if you dare!
@SGSU: I wanna thank all my loyal fans. Y’all are cool af!
@SGSU: Europe! I’m coming for you! London ‘mates’, come down to the Roundhouse on November 24th for an evening of realness!
Tooting Broadway, London, Mid-October 2017
No more fag ends on 7up cans. No more 7up.
The bread now goes in the bread bin.
No more black spores under the windowsill.
Plus, Sadia saw the flat differently.
Bed sheets (with tuna stains) — out. Why? Drag on self-image.
Waste paper basket bought. Lack of one: lack of self-esteem.
She bunched up a paper and tossed it from the other side of the room. Goal! She did it again. Two in a row!
The elbow in her brain was chill.
Dad came round to fix the toilet.
– Just a simple flush, said Dad. No need to call some Polish fucker for that.
– How’s mum?
– With your brother and his wife, shopping for suits.
– What for?
– Some event next week, not important.
– Here I made an egg. You want one?
– Sa-dee-ah, I have bloody Crohn’s disease – eggs?
– You don’t have fucking Crohn’s disease. You have gas. You don’t think about anything.
– You’re crazy. Just like your mum. I’m telling you. And don’t swear! A week ago a handful of hair came out in the shower. If you’re such a genius what was that then?
– You’re mental. Fully mental.
– I’m not mental, said Dad. What’s mental about looking after your own health? The world’s mental.
– Actually yeah, it is.
– Hmm? My back is a mess.
– Dad shut up for a sec. Did you see the protests? About this guy who cleans on the internet. It’s mad. Fully crazy.
– What’s he done? And where did you learn to talk like this? Me and your mother taught you to be a nice girl-
– Dad shut up, listen. He didn’t do anything.
Dad checked out the kitchen.
– Well he must have done something wrong, he said.
– Dad come on.
– Saa-di, people don’t protest for no reason.
– Oh man, are you on their side? she asked.
– Excuse me? Yes, I’m on their side. I don’t even know what you’re talking about, OK? People don’t get angry for nothing is what I mean.
Sadia gave him a face.
– OK fine, this guy did something wrong or he didn’t, said Dad, how the hell should I know? Everyone wants to be told what to think all the time.
Sadia pulled the egg onto her toast with a fork. She lifted the toast to her mouth.
– Your egg there is bad, said Dad.
– It’s fine, she said with her mouthful.
– It’s fuckin’ black, he said. And what’s different here? You look different. You paint the place?
– Self-stuff Dad, said Sadia. Sleeping, exercise.
– Where’s the dart board gone? It was here wasn’t it?
He ran his fingers over slight bumps in the wall, and, stopping, lifted a frame from the floor.
– This is? he said. It was leaning against the wall. You’re gonna put this up here? What is it?
– Dad, said Sadia.
She took the frame from him.
– It’s just a painting. From the DIY warehouse.
– OK, he said. Need help putting it up?
– Don’t take the piss, she said.
She placed the frame face down on the kitchen counter.
– I’m not. I thought I should ask you to move back in. You want? Me and your mum wouldn’t mind you know. Take care of you if you need.
– Oh my God. Dad. I’m fine. Look at me. I’m better than ever. You should try it. You ever clean anything before?
– Only my act. No more booze, Mashallah. Maybe now you get yourself a husband.
Reddit Message board: SGSU
PlatoNick: I think SGSU is kinda corny tbh but you know, no one has the right to shut him down just because they don’t like him. IMO it’s all politics.
Reply: TheBeast: Yeah! Guy’s a game changer: Libs don’t want men to think. They hate that we respect ourselves.
BillSmith: The gradation of criticism goes from logical questioning (can cleaning really help you?), to feminist bullshit (wtf even was the scandal?). Men are always the villains. They only have postmodern name-calling.
BigMikeBoy: His shaving tip was a lifesaver. Use the vacuum cleaner on the sink to get the hairs.
L12Leo: If you guys are so big and strong, why haven’t you destroyed my boi pussy yet?
Reply: TheBeast: STFU Leo, go troll somewhere that has time for your shit.
DinkytheGod: Let’s hit the streets! Let us clean! Let us clean!
Reply: TheBeast: Yes. Yes. Yes.
KayKayKay: If women are so pissed, let them get back in the fucking kitchen and scrub up!
Twitter recent search results for “@SGSU”
@BeePorter: It’s time we talked about @SGSU. He’s not only profited from a traditionally female work domain, he’s made deeply misogynist and homophobic remarks too.
@Trudy33: .@SGSU’s “amazing” advice: clean your house. Revolutionary
@QueerPOCqueen: We get it @SGSU, you’re a true man. On your gravestone, we’ll write “Guy, Heterosexual”.
@Kellyfromtheblock: Whoever takes out wasteman @SGSU is a hero/ine! I’m telling you. Mandem that go on like its 1817 and not 2017 need to get merked.
@OttoVon: Makes writers like me anguish to @SGSU’s name in the bestseller lists. It should be in the worstseller lists. Should be selling in negative numbers. Should write apology to the OED for damaging their property.
Somewhere in South London, Late October 2017
Sadia rose early,
She went for a run.
She showered and ate muesli with fruit and yoghurt.
She wiped down the surfaces.
She aimed the tissue at the bin: goal!
She texted her parents: good morning!
At the office, she and Ashley made coffee in the kitchen.
– Hey I loved those drawings in your presentation, on our different users, she said.
– Oh great yeah, thanks. I’m a doodler. I actually make comics in my spare time.
A homeless man wailed outside.
– Ah cool, said Sadia brightly. You know I’m decorating my flat. Maybe you can recommend some cool designs?
– Ah yeah, sure. You know, I actually do a regular comic online, about different things. Like whatever’s been happening on the news. Satire.
– I mean, a lot of stuff, said Ashley, I mean here, at work I mean, I don’t judge, just do the job. But then, there’s some stuff you can’t help it. Like your guy, he was in one a while back — the cleaning guy. And I put him in a panel, sweeping up loads of cash into a big pile. All these housewives are at the side with their arms folded. Men. Just- men.
– Oh Guy? Yeah he’s awesome, said Sadia.
Ashley pulled the cup from the machine in silence. Sadia plugged her mug into the slot.
– Maybe I should do something arty, she said. Never tried you know. Painting. Or what’s that one in that film, with the ghost? Pottery! Why not?
– You definitely should, said Ashley. It’s a big stress reliever.
– Ah deffo should. Maybe you could show me more of your work sometime. Inspire me.
– Oh! Sure, said Ashley.
He nodded at the door, gestured people to come in.
– Like, at a pub? asked Sadia.
– Ah yeah, sounds good.
He waved at the door.
Her heart lifted.
– Also, there’s one more thing, said Ashley.
Sadia turned. The kitchen was now full of her colleagues. Ashley said:
– It wasn’t said in the meeting today, but our employee of the month is Sadia! (kitchen applause). She moderated more than 2,500 items in the last month. Great work, Sad!
What’s app Family Group, 20.10.2017
Me: i have some big work news
Mum: Well done again Adnan!
Dad: Such a nice day.
Adi: Thank you. Get home safe?
Mum: We’re home now, thank you son.
Adi: Hey Sadface, mum and dad came to
Central to watch me collect my
award. shame you were too
Adi: That’s what I thought, with what lol?
Mum: Newspapers were there.
Me: OK. nice one.
Juliette Armison, Conservative Clarity Magazine, “Women are losing the gender war – because of women”, 10.11.2017
“…But now there’s also the case of Youtuber “Single Guy”. Everyone knows he’s been ‘cancelled’, but he’s decided to push on through. In fact he seems to have metamorphosed into a something rather sinister. Yes, he should have been called out, but did we do it correctly? He has gone from telling young men how to dust, to advising them to mistreat women.
“Now fellas, we all know women are conniving b*****s”, he started “jokily” in a recent upload, “but seriously, that’s why you have to look out for yourself”.
Here was a man who was idiotic. But would he have become a hero to Neo-Nazis, men’s rights activists, and angry young men without our reaction?
…Did we have something to do with it?”
Bee Porter: @JulietteArmison, Oh my fucking God. You’re right, women really are holding women back. You’re a prime example.
ProMod Offices, London, Mid-November 2017
– Sad, talk?
– Maybe write? she whispered.
Slack Private Channel: Ashley. W. P.; Sadia S.
AWP: Hey! Sorry I didn’t call. I was bit sidetracked by a family thing.
AWP: I am very sorry. And look I just wanted to say I had a really good time. We should get another drink sometime soon. Can I?
SS: didn’t scare you off then?
AWP: Haha absolutely not. Exact opposite. I don’t know why it took four years for us to talk.
SS: me niether. neither? can’t spell lol. i’d really like another drink with you.
AWP: Great! Let’s find a time. Also, I wanted to say that you’ve decorated your flat really nicely. I can give you some drawings if you like?
Tooting Broadway, London, Late November 2017
Sadia popped a pep pill from its cosy foil and plastic casing as the cashier rang up her purchases.
She slammed the pill into her mouth.
Items awaiting moderation, she thought.
No, no. Not at work today.
Not at work, but: Ashley.
She smiled. Things were going her way.
She paid for everything: the IronMan industrial oven gloves, the IronMan brushes, the IronMan glass spray, the IronMan industrial oven cleaner.
She piled it into her rucksack, even though everything, especially the oven cleaner, was too big. Look at it! It’s as big as a paint can!
She stepped out into the grey city, its gutter air. She got out her phone:
@SGSU: Shout out to all my Single Guys. Let’s clean London Up! See you at the Roundhouse!
– Hell yeah, I’m a single guy, said Sadia.
She checked the responses.
@RadBitch: @SGSU you are scum.
She put her phone away.
– Fuck’s sake, she said.
Somewhere in North London, later that day
– Katy, said Guy.
– Sorry buddy, speaker, right. How’s the car? asked Katy.
– Small. What time is it over there?
– Nevermind. What’s up?
– Bee Porter, that little girl who’s been calling you out. She’s there to cancel your appearance at the venue. I’m telling you, walk through, OK?
– It’s cool Katy, it’s chill if I get some photos with some guys though, no? It’ll look good?
– No, no, this is more than leaning in. It’s out of hand.
– You told me to do this Katy. Goddamn London’s small.
– Listen Guy, I didn’t tell you to go hardcore with this shit. Pay attention. Do you have anyone with you, did any of your boys fly out?
– No, they all bailed after Boston. Said their girlfriends are pissed with me.
The phone cut off.
Guy tried to call back. No connection. He opened Facebook. He scrolled down to Marisa Williams. He started a private message:
Hi Marisa. I know I’m probably the last person you want to hear from. I just wanted to say I’m so sorry about everything. If there’s a way we can talk? Maybe we can fix things-
His phone vibrated. Katy. He answered.
– Guy, so, I need to know. You’re alone?
– Well, fuck yeah. Iron-man!
– Walk through, don’t stop. Walk into the venue.
In front of The Roundhouse….
…traffic was blocked. The groups faced one another on opposing sides of the street.
THE PATRIARCHY’S GOT TO GO!
THE ALPHA MALE IS HERE TO STAY!
In the middle of the street stood a row of green-jacketed, heavy-looking police.
One nudged his colleague, said:
– All this, over some fucking cunt who likes cleaning?
The Guardian, “Live: Protest outside Roundhouse over controversial Youtube star”, 24.11.2017
“…Martin Witt reports: The crowds are getting more unruly, particularly the counter-protest supporting Guy. Police are having to begin to intervene. They’ve even taken away a young man who was carrying what appeared to be a baseball bat. Bee Porter, activist and cultural commentator is at the head of the anti-Guy protest. Asked to comment on the day’s events, she said: “Brothers, sisters, non-binary siblings. If you have a problem with us, with women, then the only thing I want to say is, like your therapist will one day love telling you: time’s up!…”
Camden High Street…
Crowd noise in Camden: markets, music, tourists?
Sadia didn’t know what to make of it.
How would she get in?
She joined the crowd near the door.
The crowd was warm at least. They did keep knocking into her rucksack though.
She closed her jacket zip.
She didn’t know what they were chanting.
The police had their eye on her.
A microphone was shoved under her face…
…The Guardian, “Live: Protest outside Roundhouse over controversial Youtube star”, 24.11.2017
“…Martin Witt reports: I’ve been speaking with a few of the protestors here. Karen Kaur, a student from London said “Guy demeans women everywhere and makes money off it, he needs to be stopped”. Luke Smith, also a student from London said, “Guy doesn’t represent all men, but men need to be the first to step up and speak up”. And right after, somewhat peculiarly, a young woman who didn’t want to be named, simply said “Guy is the man”. Mixed responses to say the least…”
Camden High Street…
A car arrived, and alone, out stepped the blonde star. White suit, dark glasses.
He waved to the crowd.
Sadia’s side booed.
– What the fuck? she said.
But then, her stomach lifted: the clean waving hand, the clean blonde hair.
Guy gave the crowd the finger. The crowd opposite Sadia cheered.
– Hello ladies! shouted Guy. Single Guy is here.
Sadia’s side of the crowd bulged towards Guy.
At the head of the crowd was a girl, a girl Sadia had seen in videos.
– Where’s Bee?! shouted Guy. Where’s Bee? Hello Bee Porter!
That’s it, Bee Porter.
She wasn’t being chill though. She was screaming at him. She was moving towards him.
She was going to RUSH HIM.
Oh no. Fuck this. Fuck this fucking shit.
Sadia tried to move forward but the crowd was too large. The arms were bodies, coats were buildings, the police jackets barked, sirens revved, dogs had voices, hair, eyes, fists.
There was nothing in Sadia’s pockets. But then she remembered!
That bitch! Her tiny complaints. This tiny woman! She was pulling Guy’s jacket!
Sadia reached into her rucksack. Pulled out a huge paint can of IronMan industrial cleaner.
She popped open the lid.
She aimed for Bee’s face.
ProMod Offices, London, Late November 2017
The office was quieter than normal. There was the soft pulse of clicks, the muffled machine noise, but from his desk Ashley could hear the traffic outside. A homeless man wailed.
Ashley got himself a coffee from the machine, sat back at his desk. He readjusted his cardigan, his shirt, to keep out the white, cold day.
He logged in.
Items awaiting moderation 151
– Where is everyone today? he asked loudly.
No one answered.
– Guys? he said.
– Who knows?, said a voice from nowhere.
Ashley sipped his coffee.
Video: Taken on a phone, a crowd of people. A man is standing in the middle of the road. A woman heads towards him. Then suddenly — there’s shouting, screaming! Something hit the man in the face. A bucket. White powder. He doesn’t know what’s happened at first, but then it’s all over him, his face, his hair. He screams! The crowd is wild! The camera turns to the person who threw it-
She wasn’t at her desk.
He turned to the other end, then the next.
His phone vibrated. A message:
Hey on your way home can you pick up some milk? We’re out. Love Ya, XX J.
He wrote back:
Yeah sure thing baby. I’ll be home a little later tho. Working late. I love you so much Jenny. Ash xx
He put his phone down.
The note caught his attention:
WE PROTECT. WE DO NOT JUDGE.
Ashley’s cursor wavered over the safe for platform button.
Gurmeet Singh is a British working-class POC writer living in Berlin. He has published short fiction and essays in 3AM Magazine, Misery Tourism, Social Text Journal, The Quietus and elsewhere, and was longlisted for the 2021 Disquiet Prize in short fiction. He is currently working on a project relating to archives and memory with the Berlin Literaturhaus. You can read more at gurmeetsingh.co. He tweets @therealgurmeet.
Unlike many other Arts & Entertainment Magazines, STORGY is not Arts Council funded or subsidised by external grants or contributions. The content we provide takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce, and relies on the talented authors we publish and the dedication of a devoted team of staff writers. If you enjoy reading our Magazine, help to secure our future and enable us to continue publishing the words of our writers. Please make a donation or subscribe to STORGY Magazine with a monthly fee of your choice. Your support, as always, continues to inspire.