True Life: I was a SJW University Student

Hi there.

Back in university, I managed to become the president of the feminism society. I’ve told people about it so much since then it feels like a meme, but in reality I was mega-stoked. It was one of my proudest moments, I felt relevant, I felt empowered, I felt challenged.

Flash forward to today. It’s 4 years later. My university events and “debates” we organised feel like distant irrelevant memories. At the time we were so proud of ourselves, making feminism bigger on campus, meeting with the Student Union to talk about fighting Lad Culture by reaching out to the sports teams, pre-emptively.

The-Inbetweeners-lr3.jpg
Image from YouGov’s Report on Lad Culture. Seriously.

Then I left. I worked in retail, then mental health. My feminist empowerment days appear to be over now, left for the young people, the people with the time and the energy and the freedom to follow their interests.

In retail, no one has time to discuss gendered clothing, or unhealthy body expectations. You can try to wind it into conversation, but shit, it’s too late, they noticed you haven’t shaved your armpits! All must halt until we work out if you are one of “those” feminists…

Spoiler alert: Kinda, yeah. Cue downtime discussions about simple basic repetitive grade-one style feminist issues. Enough “but aren’t there differences for a reason though?” and “I don’t hate men :)” for the matchsticks to snap from the strain.

Facing the Music

My complex web of sociological knowledge was wiped away, paled into insignificance against the stock targets for this week. I hadn’t realised until I left how much of an echo chamber and a bubble I’d been afforded in university, just by being outside of the work environment.

I still didn’t want to leave it all behind. I wanted to build on what I knew, stay woke, stay in the loop. Didn’t want to become right-wing, bigoted, lazy, small-minded like people believe is natural as you mature, because I knew I didn’t have to be.

I started this blog. I still had so much to say about the basics, about current affairs, I wanted to get it out there in an accessible no-nonsense way, to more people than my bored semi-curious co-workers.

Reality, I was adding to the same echo chamber, and not even on a large scale. The information is out there, for people who need it or want it, there are entire blogs about the smallest part of feminism or racism or ableism. Speaking up is important, yes, but was it my job?

“Feminist” is not a job. When you’re young, like I was, and looking for direction, like I was, it can seem like it. You can see into the matrix at last, and now it feels like you can escape it:

matrix feminsim
More at http://skepchick.org/2012/02/seeing-the-patriarchy/

Yet, when you care, you can’t just switch it off. It feels like a double life, a shit superhero. Activism gets called out for being either inaccessible, or ineffective, or both, because it is. My university activism was tiny, but felt huge, because my university world was small. Tweets are tiny, but easy, and can make a difference if enough people join in, but mostly you’re shouting into the void.

The Liberal Elite?

Activism is inaccessible because it needs money, or to be able-bodied, or to be neuro-typical, or to have time off work. It’s ineffective because the media doesn’t report on it, or because people write you off as a loony before you even speak.

Activism is only a tiny portion of the Real World TM. It’s hard to get your head around when your world has only just expanded from school to a university campus and almost unlimited free time; you feel almighty, unbeatable. Education feels like the way forward, debates are a regularity, everyone thinks you are the future.

Like-minded, educated, soft. The definition of the Liberal Elite TM. The irony being that “elite” implies actual power; not just an insular illusion. Some graduates go on to be powerful and influential, most don’t, by the law of averages. Not everyone is in a pipeline to government, most people are there just to get degrees and then jobs. There’s more liberalism than the general public, but there’s plenty of outrageous right-wingers too. At my university liberals utterly dominated the student union; the right wingers simply didn’t bother with it. Perhaps the union seemed too cuddly and cloying for their take, or perhaps they were outnumbered.

avocado toast
Detached Millenial Students. (From Humans of Remuera.)

Coming Down From The Ivory Tower

Real world politics is different. There are actual stakes, not just a debate about union policies, but people’s jobs, homes, safety, wellbeing, towns and communities. Real world politics is a houseful of people with mental illness, all living off benefits, almost none of whom believe in voting. Real world politics is working a job that doesn’t mean anything except numbers in a foreign bank account and cheap clothing on people’s backs.

You can’t access real world politics from the ivory tower, no. Once you are forcibly ejected from the tower, you can’t scramble back up and continue to pretend the world is simple and misinformed. In the dirt, you have to find a way to be relevant again.

Perhaps you will be relevant by starting a realistic blog about issues which will be written off with all the other lefty online nonsense (and adds nothing original to the topic anyway). Perhaps you will be relevant by using your role to encourage education and liberalism; in a role not built for that. Perhaps you will work in your community, to recreate that little ivory tower of hopes and dreams and equality, and make a difference to some peoples’ realities.

The Wilderness?

The real issue with student Social Justice Warriors is where they go afterwards. That keyboard warrior you battled for months, the opinionated youtuber, that bizarre blog with a fixation on manspreading. People who are against SJW’s worry about what we will do, but it’s time we do too. We need to worry about where we go from our ideals. How do we drag our ideals into reality?

hypocrite not

People believe that the judgemental SJW they laughed at once is a one-off, lamentable, ridiculous. Sometimes, that’s true. Sometimes, it really is a phase, and real life gets that person down off their high horse. Or maybe it’s an anxiety condition, and that person really does need to chill out and stop. Or maybe its genuine belief that the world can be a better place. If that last one is true, we need to commit. Take action that doesn’t reinforce the echo chamber, action that engages the public, doesn’t just create shock value or alienate ourselves from society.

The Future

To be a social justice warrior but not make it your job, to weave it into your action. What does that mean? I don’t know yet, but I hope I will. I no longer often call myself a social justice warrior. I climbed down off the high horse and gave up on the endless internet debates, and realistically, at the ripe old age of 24 I’m too old now to legitimately embrace the identity…I’m not even sure if anyone else does at this point.  Perhaps by now I need to go by political label; socialist, communist, leftist, etc. I’ll get around to reading Marx at some point, but until then, labels feel too small and counter productive.

If social justice is deluded from reality, perhaps the answer lies in reality; in being kind and being fair and standing up for people’s rights in the real world. That’s not as easy as it sounds. It isn’t always achieved by blurting facts and stats at people, but by whisteblowing, using the law on your side, by being brave. This kind of activism is what stops atrocities or enables them, what reminds us of our humanity and dignity, or doesn’t. The decisions being made in the UK around welfare are being made by people, who just need to get their jobs done to make the UK a better place. Why do they make evil choices with awful results? That’s where we need to look.

black and white thinking
(image source)

I’m going to try and update more regularly now, talking about reality. I work in mental health and I live in the UK, so I’m going to write more about the reality of this, and the ethical issues at play, and moral responsibilities to handle.

Stay safe and thank you for reading. I’m not going to release the second half of diet culture yet, because I want to focus on this realistic blogging future instead for now. Thanks. ^_^

 

 

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Diet Culture: We Are At A (Fat) Crossroads

Everyone knows about the horror of yo-yo dieting and fad diets and most people have been on diets for years, on and off. Even BMI, the holy grail of “health” vs “weight” used by the NHS, was really designed in the 19th century only to measure statistical averages in the population, and people are starting to doubt its usefulness for individuals.  Meanwhile, Weight Watchers still has a turnover of $267.4 million a year, despite being a treadmill that’s almost impossible to stay on…

diet culture
So where are we really at?

Let me paint you a picture of how confused and conflicted our society is becoming about the F-Word (…fat!), diets and beauty.

Continue reading “Diet Culture: We Are At A (Fat) Crossroads”

I didn’t know I had OCD. Here’s why the stereotypes are so harmful.

Psychiatric disorders aren’t always simple or easily diagnosed…

Let's Queer Things Up!

Eight years ago, I was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.

I didn’t completely fill those shoes, but after spending so many years struggling, I was just relieved to have a label — any label — to help me make sense of things. And when none of the medications seemed to work, they told me I was borderline. While I had a nagging feeling that wasn’t exactly right, either, I didn’t know what else it could be.

I was passed around the mental health system, with clinicians throwing their hands up, unsure of why I wasn’t responsive to any of the therapy or medication they offered me.

At one time, I was on seven different psychiatric medications, and yet I was still reporting that I felt deeply hopeless and anxious.

When I was hospitalized a second time, included among my discharge papers was a handout about personality disorders, emphasizing that…

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I Was One of the Scary Kids

The stigma we attach to people who are mentally ill or neurodivergent has human consequences and we need to listen.

Cracked Mirror in Shalott

Content note: ableism, stigmatization of Autistics and other PWDs, the Sandy Hook shooting

I didn’t want to write about the shootings at all. I knew a number of people (who I’ll link to throughout this post) and organizationswould be posting and writing, working to counter the inevitable stigma fail that would happen. I even was keeping to commenting on the links of people I care about, people who I know and who I want to have these sorts of discussions with. Then, it happened. I’ll leave the critiques of the post gawker promoted toothers, but I feel obligated to make a comment about some of the assumptions it is based on and promotes.

That comment starts with a declaration: I was one of those scary kids.

It’s not some great proud thing to say. It’s a truth, a truth that when I reveal it makes people…

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No Winners? It’s Not About Winning

Read Part 1 and Part 2 here!


Abandoning the idea of winning people over? On the internet? What is this heresy!

One of the heralded values of the internet is the freedom of speech and thought and self expression on it, but what is the point of self-expression if no one is going to be convinced?

We need, as individuals and “content creators” (however small scale that is; your Facebook status is miniature “content”) to adjust our goals.

Continue reading “No Winners? It’s Not About Winning”

It ain’t what you say…

I wanted to be able to find this again more easily. Men said, women *adjectived*; it matters.

language: a feminist guide

Women/ Rabbit rabbit rabbit women/ Tattle and titter/ Women prattle/ Women waffle and witter/ Men talk. Men talk.

These are the opening lines of ‘Men Talk’, a rap poem by the incomparable Liz Lochhead (you can watch her performing the whole thing here). It’s built around the familiar lexicon of disparaging terms for women’s speech: words like ‘rabbit’, ‘prattle’ and ‘witter’, which represent women’s talk as excessive, trivial and inane; and words like ‘gossip’ and ‘nag’, which represent it as malign and spiteful.

But those words are only the tip of the iceberg. If you look at the way the act of speaking is described in everything from news reports to Great Literature, you’ll soon discover that it’s persistently represented in stereotypically gendered and sexist ways.

The most neutral way to describe the act of speaking is by using the generic verb ‘say’. ‘X said’ is the reported speech…

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You Won’t Do Your Research

You're not going to believe what I'm about to tell you

Initially, I started this blog because I wanted to start a discussion, or create a resource.

I was sick of the insular Tumblr politics, and sick of the prevailing dismissive attitude found everywhere else on basic concepts like body positivity, racism, and capitalism.

Every day I find a new pet peeve that I wish people would just give the time of day.

Continue reading “You Won’t Do Your Research”

This Debate is EMBARRASSING: Jordan vs Cathy

As of 12 February over 6.8 million people have watched a “debate” about gender politics between clinical psychologist (and YouTuber) Jordan B Peterson, and Cathy Newman, a Channel 4 news presenter. Jordan is a clinical psychologist in Canada who 4 years ago started putting his lectures on YouTube, whereas Channel 4 News is a mainstream broadcaster, known for having more “lefty” beliefs. Together, Cathy and Jordan cover the gender pay gap, Jordan’s recently released book, and the politics of campus protestors.

Yet this was no debate, and it does not deserve the views or the acclaim that it has been getting. It is an embarrassment.

 

First; Oxford Dictionary Online says a debate is:

debate defintion

So this formal structured discussion, featuring arguments from only one side, Jordan’s, and questions only from the other side, wouldn’t count. Not only this, but in the description itself the segment is described as a “fiery interview”, despite Cathy confusingly calling it a “spat” and a “joust” on twitter.

Continue reading “This Debate is EMBARRASSING: Jordan vs Cathy”

2018 Blog Maintenance Post and Update: Thank you

Just a little post to say I am currently writing again, and taking it more seriously this time around. I’m keeping track of the time I take, and working on posts regularly, and I’ve found a structure that I believe is going to help me get more interesting and relevant posts out more often.

I’d also like to take this chance to thank everyone who has helped with my blog this past year in 2017, it was my biggest year so far and even though we are still small, every view and comment and like is very meaningful to me and helps me to keep going, and to believe in the vision that this blog stands for, for interesting, topical and relatable content about social justice issues, from someone who has been there, done that, and still wants to keep going.

T-shirt saying "If it involves feminism, social justice, or equality, count me in""
You could say I have seen it, done it, and bought the T-shirt. But I didn’t, so this T shirt is just pulled from Google Images; sorry Zazzle.

Hope everyone is having a great 2018 so far, and look forward to seeing what is coming in the other 11 months of the year!

Thank you