Everyday Feminism

We can all take action, however small.  Small actions add up.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

― Margaret Mead

A tiny change today brings a dramatically different tomorrow.

– Richard Bach, One

There are many many excuses for not doing things, but there’s one huge overriding reason why we should.  The world is unfair and unequal and without action it will not change.  It is not in the interest of half the world’s population for things to change.  And when you include the women employed in industries which oppress women, the number who have financial interest in maintaining gender inequality increases.

Think of the people involved in fashion, beauty, magazines who spend so much time telling us and showing us that we are lesser citizens.  That we have to work harder, show up painted and adorned before we can take part in society.  It is a tool of oppressors.  And the more they think we are at risk of fighting back, the louder their message will be. If we start to question, they will amp up the volume.  Send out more and more messages which crush self worth.  Instead of rising together as a movement, we are beaten into our own, individual battles with ourselves.

Think of the power we have that we use to oppress ourselves and others, what if we used that differently?  If instead of repeating my own messages of self hate, what if I turned that out and used that voice to bring down the patriarchy?

Everyday Feminism: A small, everyday act which contributes to the aims of feminism and/or supports women.

I ran a workshop about this at a conference yesterday and some of the ideas we discussed were:

  • Replace gossip magazines in waiting rooms with magazines about something be it science, wildlife, cooking, writing, photography, anything with substance
  • Sticker over sexist graffiti, adverts etc
  • Use twitter and facebook to complain to companies but also to congratulate companies who are carrying out good practice
  • Boycott products with sexist advertising or packaging
  • Turn magazines with offensive covers round in shops
  • Mix up magazines, books and clothes in shops where they are labelled as “mens” and “womens”
  • Compliment someone on something other than their appearance or compliment them about about something different to the norm – great haircut in a fab shade of grey etc
  • Reframe problematic language
  • Tell people you are a feminist
  • Leave leaflets in books, public places, blu-taked on toilet doors
  • Be mindful of our own negative thoughts and behaviours
  • Don’t belittle yourself – “I’m just a…” “Can I just add something small to this debate…” etc
  • Do not apologise for yourself

If you have any other ideas, let me know.

What makes you come alive?

At a recent appointment with my psych nurse we spent a while talking about rubbish things which have probably contributed to the recurrent depression, self harm and anorexia.  Needless to say, the mood in the room was heavy.  Then she turned the conversation and we started to talk about things I enjoy.  After a while, she stopped and looked thoughtful and then told me how she had seen me come alive as I started to talk about photography, travel etc and how she’d really felt the atmosphere change in the room.

A few days after, there was a post on twitter which said find what makes you come alive and do more of it (or something to that effect).

It’s something I’m really trying to keep hold of.

What makes me come alive and how am I planning on doing more of it?

Photography – I’ve started following a couple of photography blogs for inspiration; I’ve made a note of techniques I want to try out with my diana mini; I’m hoping to get to the lomography store whilst I’m in London this week to pick up some interesting film; I’ve got my eye on a new lens for my DSLR and it’s only £150 so is affordable-ish.

Books – keep reading! I’ve got a good routine at work now where I read on my lunch break instead of sitting at my computer.  I also think it would be nice to set aside a couple of pounds a week to go to a cafe with a book.

Travel – I can’t fly at the moment (I have been forbidden by the psych nurse on account of my weight which is a good reason for gaining some weight and I need to keep reminding myself of that) but that doesn’t mean I can’t make plans.  I have planned in a bit of detail an independent trip to Norway.  I’ve also decided on a small group tour in Cambodia and started to look for somewhere to stay in Lille.  In the meantime, my travel is restricted to trains but that’s ok – I’m off to Scotland in August for a writing, photography, art week away on a remote island.  I’m also staying at a hotel which is in a bookshop on the way and way back!

Learning – over the last couple of weeks I’ve been to quite a few workshops and lectures as part of York Festival of Ideas – Writing Recklessly, Randomness and Chaos in Art, The Rise of the Female Diplomat, Listening to the City (a writing workshop), Frogs Don’t Need to Get Hot (about social support and mental health) and Moving Beyond Boundaries (about teaching women’s history in schools).  I’ve really enjoyed these and have (reluctantly) acknowledged that I’ve got so much more out of them because I have been eating more and have gained a little weight.  I’m also trying to get back into my Future Learn courses.  Last night when insomnia struck, I returned to looking at the MA in Women’s Studies that I want to do but I know, sensibly, that I can’t do right now.  I also had a look at some of the open university modules and think that might be an option before the MA.  But before that I need to get healthier.  So I’m currently waiting for the centre for lifelong learning brochure to come out and hopefully I’ll book myself onto a short course or a weekend course which I think will be more achievable.

Dinosaurs – dinos rock!  They are amazing and I feel like me and dinosaurs have been a bit distant of late so I’m hoping to reconnect with them and their awesomeness!  This has most recently included a trip to the natural history museum in Brussels where I bought a hoodie with a dino on it (I’m that cool!).  I also have the bones of a poem about a diplodocus which I need to go back to.

Speak louder (or why I’m talking about my mental health)

DSC_0294 edited

I’m talking a lot about my mental health at the moment (more so on twitter than here) and I feel a need to explain.  One of the reasons I think I have ended up where I am is because I didn’t talk.  Therefore talking is important to my recovery.  Also, having a way of externalising bad thoughts and feelings and acknowledging the good days and behaviours is a healthier way for me to validate my experience.  I have an overwhelming need for validation and I know this is something that drives my destructive behaviours and keeps me trapped in their vicious cycles.  Eating disorders and self harm can be incredibly secretive and talking about them is helping to free me from them.  Talking (or tweeting as is more often the case) helps to keep me accountable, even if it’s just being accountable to myself.

I also think that we should talk about mental health and one of the ways that some good can come out of where I am is by raising awareness of depression, self harm and eating disorders.  Even if it’s just normalising the fact that someone is talking about it.

So, if you happen to speak to me you may find I mention my psych nurse, my eating disorder appointments, my weigh ins or my dietitian in passing.  These are part of my life at the moment and the fact that they are means I am fighting, I am trying to recovery.  The fact they are part of my life is a positive thing.  If my talking about it makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why.  I am not ashamed.  Are you?

Off topic part 2 (or things people can do to help)

Edited to add trigger warnings: self harm & eating disorder

Because the last off topic post was somewhat bleak I wanted to counterbalance it with one where I’m basically saying I am trying to fight the stupid part of my head. My GP knows about depression and self harm and a bit of eating stuff but she kind of ignored me when I told her I wasn’t eating… I’m on antidepressents and when she tried to refer me to counselling they told her to send me to the pain clinic instead. Had my first pain clinic appointment recently which was useful from a pain point of view. They are going to send me to a joint Occupational Therapy and psych appointment to look at ways of coping with pain, relaxation and stuff like that so I’m hoping that will help. I did also mentioned food stuff to them but they didn’t acknowledge that I’d said it… Seems to be a theme…

One of the things I’ve been asked a lot is how people can help me. I’m not really sure. I’ve been trying to find some answers and the following is the best I’ve come up with so far:

    • If you see me, give me a hug
  • If I ask odd food related favours, it’s probably taken a lot to ask so don’t question me too much
  • Talk to me. About anything. I’m interested in your life but I have lost almost all of my ability to have a conversation.
  • Distract me

Most importantly, look after yourself and know that I am the only person who can really help me.

Off topic

edited to add: trigger warnings. Of you don’t feel safe, head to google and look at pictures of kittens

I don’t know if anyone will read this. I’m not posting a link on twitter. I put the title as ‘Off Topic’ but I guess in some ways it’s perfectly on topic. I know that there are things I need to say but I struggle to find the words. I struggle to unlock the words. I know I need help but I don’t know that I can actually handle being given help. It fact I’m fairly certain that if anyone tried to help me I would shrug them off or collapse in a heap. Neither being much fun for anyone.

I cope with pain and depression by numbing myself. I always have. I self harm and I develop a really unhealthy relationship with food and weight. If I am well, I really don’t care about weight and calories. I never care about them in relation to other people. If I am numbing myself, I care about them obsessively. It’s not about body image. It’s about control. It’s about making myself feel as small as I can because I don’t feel like I have any right to take up space in this world. It’s about having a focus, something to centre your life around so you don’t feel the pain any more. The thing you can think about when your own thoughts hurt too much. I want to shrink away to nothing. I don’t want to kill myself. But neither do I want to be here.

I don’t feel any connection between my body and my mind (I do literally, except if I’m dissociating but that’s another issue). It’s like they belong to two different people. I can’t comprehend that I am damaging myself with my actions. I know there are risks with self harm and starvation. I know that. But I can’t get my head round them in relation to myself.

For something that’s fundamentally about control, I feel a bit out of control right now. Self harm I can manage. I, for want of a better phrase, know what I’m doing and do everything reasonably safely. Restricting is another matter. I’ve never been this bad before. I went 48 hours without food. The sensible voice in my head knows that was stupid and dangerous. The other voice wants to do it again, wants to do it better. The sensible voice is why I am writing this. The other voice is why I’m not posting a link on twitter or talking to anyone. This voice will probably have deleted the post by morning.