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…
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…
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…
There’s a few posts coming soon, because I have a couple of ideas, but they might take a while to come out, because I’m in work again, and still not sure on the blog direction and purpose just yet, through I did find this website http://www.answerthepublic.com which gave me some interesting ideas. I’ve also been spending a lot of time mucking about with my hair, instead of reading, or doing social justice research that makes me want to post on this blog.
I did also have an idea to start posting anonymised Facebook discussions about controversial topics and to analyse and fact them in reponse style, a bit like a broader-topic WeHuntedTheMammoth, after seeing a climate changer denier fighting about wind turbines beneath a petition for more onshore wind farms…I thought it was interesting how the discussion moved forward and I thought that might be an interesting way to go!
In the meantime, radio silence resumes, enjoy your WordPressing and thanks for reading 🙂
So many people have blogs and opinions.
So many people work in government and in media.
So many people vote opposite to how you would like to vote, whoever you are and whichever side you are on.
For every activist conference there’s a tonne of people at home who don’t care and don’t need to, or who have accessibility needs that haven’t been addressed, or feel disillusioned with mainstream campaigns, or who can’t make it out to London again with the cost of train tickets being so damn high. (That last one is me, sitting inside having a nice day reading and not making a damn bit of difference to the world.)
So what can we do to actually make a difference as an individual?
I’ve been trying to improve my life, like we all do. Since working in a job about helping people live full lives, I’ve been even more aware of what I can do to fill my own life. This blog was one of those things, and so was a sewing project, that died.
When is the right time to shelve things? When is the right time to give up?
One of my goals last year was to make a dress. In a fit of nerdy enthusiasm in 2014, I’d bought a pattern and fabric to cosplay Cersei from game of thrones, and then in a fit of typical nerdy procrastination, worked on it super sporadically for the next 3 years, lugging it with me from house to house.
By the time New Year 2017 arrived I was utterly sick of this dragging, lingering, stagnating project. I resolved that this year I would finally “take no prisoners”, it would be the year of getting things done with, including this God. Damn. Dress.
I reframed my dress-making goals to something more realistic and specific; that now, I would make it merely for the sake of finishing something. I would give up on the dreamy optimisism of it looking nice, or wearing it, or enjoying the process, I would simply make it as an excercise of willpower.
This didn’t work.
I took a deep breath, ground my heels in, and rebranded again: this time, I would it for the sake of making a horrible test dress.
Again, it didn’t work. The final goal was to make not just a horrible dress, but to make the most horrible dress ever. Not to put pressure on myself to try and do it well, but to just get it done to no standard at all.
Surprise surprise, it didn’t happen.
The only real decision left was to let it go.
I gave the extra fabric and the scraps and even the pattern to a friend, to see what she could salvage, and accepted that I would never succeed in making the dress.
In a similar vein, this is what I’ve been doing with this blog. Not entirely shelving it, not entirely working properly with it. I’ve tried different approaches with it, and now I’m beginning to question why I’m even setting it as a goal.
I enjoy writing, but I feel self conscious trying to write where other people can see me.
I enjoy thinking about topics that I don’t see written about, I enjoy working through my thoughts. I used to write lots on scrappy sheets of paper about the injustices and hypocrisy of the social justice vs manosphere world. But then I stopped; unversity finished and I predictably stopped, like a cliche.
I don’t know what my next approach will be. I’ve tried making a schedule, I’ve tried making a rule, I’ve tried writing down topics that I feel inspired by, I’ve tried to just follow inspiration, I’ve tried brute force. I don’t know what I’ll try next; but today I was going to retire this blog. After writing this, I’m not sure if that’s the lesson I need to take.
I’m ending the daily blogging, I don’t enjoy it and I think it comes across in my writing more than any improvement does, and that dis-encourages me. What the next approach will be, I don’t know.
post note: Also, editing is the hardest shit. I never know when to stop writing, and when I start trying to edit things and cut down things again, I realise I kind of want to completely rewrite something completely different now, and I kind of worry that one day I’ll just completely disappear off down a rabbit hole of editing and rewriting my own work. One can only hope I’d ever actually end up working that hard….
We’re all familiar with the commercialised images of a woman in a bath with cucumber on her face; branded as “me time”. But if your time isn’t being spent on building yourself up for you, then who else is your time for? You could argue that “me time” is a way for capitalism to repackage and resell you your own leisure, which it took away from you in the first place.
Empty time, by comparison, is what I call the time when you are doing nothing. You’re not indulging yourself, but not working for someone elses’s ends either. It is the conscious choice to spend time doing nothing, definitely not consuming. Many people already do this in their “me-time”, for example meditation and the practise of mindfulness is a common past-time. Continue reading ““Empty Time””→
I went to a wedding yesterday, so I didn’t write, and I’m “writing” that day off in terms of my daily-day-off blogging.
Today I’m making some points about the upside down of society. Locks are designed to keep the other out; not wearing your pajamas is designed to keep you looking respectable; Sunday’s are designed to be peaceful quiet days and goddamn bras are designed to keep you from being knocked out when you’re riding a bicycle barefoot and in your pajamas. Welcome to my morning.
Instead of having a lock and clothes and shoes and my decency, I locked myself out whilst trying to be productive and do the bins. I had my cutesy over-sized tea stained Spice Girls T-Shirt, and full length winter-white creamy deer pajama trousers from Fatface; and that was it. Forgetting that the door now locks behind me, I’d failed to bring out my keys.
First, I of course hoped it actually hadn’t shut. Second, I hoped someone was about to come through the door. Neither of these things happened, so I had to start actually thinking; I tried the intercom for a couple of my neighbours, as I had left the flat itself open I only needed to accesss the communal hallway. I tried the backdoor, but it was steadfastly and diligently shut. I tried all the other neighbours. I got nowhere.
Taking stock of your options when you have literally only two items of clothing which you are currently wearing is pretty quick. You can’t ring anyone, you would have to ask a stranger. You also can’t check anything on any websites, without again asking a stranger. You can’t walk anywhere far, because you have no shoes, and also look completely innappropriate, so you’ll be in pain PLUS you’ll be judged. The estate agents that I rent from is just 3 minutes down the road, so that was an option; but could I face walking that distance in front of a busy road and relatively populated high street?
Cursing every single one of the other flat residents for not being in or being incapable of answering their remote control doorbells, I courageously made the trip only to then remember it was sunday, and it was of course shut, meaning I had to trudge all the way back, past the cars and the people again, back to suare one, i.e my door step.
My boyfriend has keys; eureka? But he was also in town, at work, 20 minutes walk away. I couldn’t ring him, and his break wouldn’t be until 3pm anyway. That would be pretty dangerous, considering the jacket potatoes I put in my oven just before fatally forgetting my keys… and then I remembered my bike, which remains my most important item because it literally rules my life. On a bike, no one can see that you’re wearing your spice girls shirt and your pj bottoms, right??
It did actually make me feel a lot more comfortable, even though I was whizzing past more people than before, because you are slightly hidden on a bike. Then I went over a bump and good lord I realised how important bras are for bike riding, jesus. Self consciously, I continued to make my way towards town, the 10 minute ride being just something I would have to do, like a cersei-style walk/ride of shame for the crime of forgetting my keys… and then I remembered my friends who live 5 minute bike ride away.
Praying that they would be in, I rolled up to their house, bringing my bike with me, because of course, I had no lock. (I don’t lock my bike up, and I keep it in my back garden, which isn’t locked. So shoot me, considering the trouble I get in, I’m happy to continue keeping it in this precarious situation!) When I heard their voices I realised that I almost cried; being on the street on your pajamas alone is a kind of isolating situation, and I hadn’t been able to even text anyone for help or sympathy yet at that point!
Armed with a set of borrowed clothes, bike lock + helmet and small drawstring bag for my pj’s, I left my befuddled and amused friends to go meet my boyfriend, who had now been alerted. The ride into town, with my illfitting helmet, tight vest as a makeshift bra, and VERY short dress (with borrowed panties, the most glamorous request so far today that was not at all embarassing to ask even from a best friend, not at all), should have been pretty uncomfortable, but it was a million times better from shoe-less pajama riding, and I didn’t even need to ask anyone on the other end to look after my bike, cos I now had a lock!
After all this, popping into my boyfriend’s shop and grabbing his keys was a pretty nonchalant affair, I just wanted to get home and rescue my potatoes and stop being the village idiot. As I rode home in my borrowed gear, I felt that it was the height of ridiculousness that such a tiny mistep, mis-action, can push you so firmly down so many rungs on the social ladder so quickly. I’d gone from normal morning, with all my resources, to suddenly desperate and begging from friends, albeit temporarily. Everything was dictated by external factors; that I already keep my bike (and own a bike) outdoors with minimal security, that my friends are lovely (and were in, and own bike parephanalia), and live on the way into town, that the lettings agent was shut because Sunday, that all the neighbours were out/asleep, that wearing sleepwear outside is looked down on and attracts attention, that tarmac is painful to walk on without shoes, that my boyfriend works in town and I can access his workplace at will, all of these things.
If things had been different, my morning would have got back to normal easier and quicker, or alternatively, way less easier and with more difficulty. The flat could have caught fire from the burning jacket potatoes, I could have been forced to borrow a phone from befuddled strangers, I could have spent the entire day in my pajamas but not in my house. I could easily have spent a lot more time curled up on my porch trying to pretend this horrendous and also really stupid situation wasn’t happening to me; and I wouldn’t have blamed “me” if I had. It was an awkward, mildly amusing and embarassing morning, and I did what I could, as anyone else would who made such a silly and stupid mistake.
I think it’s worth thinking about how external factors shape our lives, how there are always ways we are both lucky and unlucky, have options and have them taken away. At the end of the day, all we can do is follow the options we have and hope that we’ve chosen the best one, whether we’re locked out, or the ones holding the spare set of keys.
One thing I think about a lot is ways to design my life to improve it; for example, this month I am starting on a system of cash-buying, so that I improve my spending habits and awareness. But I’m always painfully aware of how lucky this makes me; these are some thoughts on that.
Whilst I was planning it out, I found my diary from last january, when I moved out of my parents home and money was a LOT tighter, but I was incredibly excited because finally it was all my own money and my own choices. In this diary, I’m making choices to eventually get a bike, to eventually get a job that I don’t have to commute to, choices that I have now, in the space of the year, more than fulfilled.
Another way that I can “design my life” is that I’m currently taking driving lessons. Because I have enough money that I am able to save, I have been able to pre-book my theory test, and bulk book my lessons. These are some more obvious things that people with a lower income or higher outgoings (e.g with a family, or hiked-up rent costs, or debts with outrageous inflation) would not be able to do, let alone choose to do in order to improve their near future.
In my work, I see a lot of different kinds of people coming to stay to destress and hopefully de-escalate a mental health crisis. Some of them have money; they have cash on them and come with a nice suitcase with enough things for their stay for the next few days. These are relatively rare though. More often than not, people come who don’t have money for a pack of fags, who didn’t bring anything else, who can’t afford the bus, and these people are quietly heartbreaking. Yes, they spent their money on something, but many of these people can’t work, and I don’t blame them. Employment is hard enough as it is having my full health and mental functioning, I would not like my chances as an anxious depressive who barely finished school and has turned to drugs to try to cope with life, bouncing along to the coffee shop to fill in their trite (yet also somehow demanding) little application forms (“Give an example of when you gave great customer service!”).
On the less obviously tragic side of things I find* you have a disctinctly female kind of crisis. These come in two forms. Young women, somewhere around 20, with plenty of things and normal sounding lives and coming in after a suicide attempt. Or mothers, who have been holding it all together and now they really aren’t sure they can leave the kids at home alone and also they feel worthless and terrible. (The worst is when these mum-types go home, and don’t stay, because they think they are letting their family down. You can’t stop them, but it’s never fun.)
Again, it’s the people least able to change their lives who really need to change it the most. Young girls feel completely trapped, even as they are supported by their parents, and though it’s a mental and emotional trap, it’s one I recognise (or perhaps project) from myself; I didn’t move out of my family home after university, in fact I moved back, to save on rent, to make myself more secure. I spent 5 months back home, and a lot of that time was spent crying or travelling away from it; not because it was a bad place, but because it wasn’t working for me. Yet I felt, (and I assume others also feel) that I owed it to my family to save the money, to make the effort, to not hurt feeelings.
Eventually, I had to move away, because I felt that I would either end up killing a member of my family, or myself in that situation. It wasn’t comfortable emotionally, but I was lucky practically. A series of lucky hires from managers who inexplicably liked me and wanted to give me a chance meant I had got to a job I could reach from my boyfriends house, and having a boyfriend gave me an automatic place I could stay whilst I found a place. The next stroke of luck was a SHOCKINGLY cheap houseshare room that was completely tiny but neat and perfect. Only because of this combination did I get my freedom.
The mother’s entrapment is as obvious as it is cliched as it is depressingly common, women are expected to tie their entire being to motherhood, and be glorified for it for one day of the year. Too many don’t realise how limiting this is, how unhealthy and unnatural, so too few people bother to fight against it, almost no one appears to consider that parenthood should be an equal burden, and that hands-on motherhood is no more or less of a blessing than hands-on fatherhood would be.
Ultimately, it’s the cages we put around ourselves and eachother that are the hardest to breakout of. The economic cage is one a lot of us live within, and to liberate other people is an impossible thought, cos we ourselves are trapped by our rent and our bills and our debts etc. However, if we can, we should. Our lives are worth it, and the people with the least fortunate lives are the most trapped. We cannot free the person who believes the answer is in the bottom of the beer can, but we can help by looking to see where we can make a difference. The landowners who rented me out that houseshare might have just been trying to fill a tiny box room, but it made the world of difference to me. The people who care about their jobs and genuinely want to help people, make a huge difference to the people they help. The people who run charities and the political parties that care about social security, make the world of difference to people who are running low on choices, if they are still able to believe they have a right to them.
If we don’t look out for protecting people’s choices, it only gets harder. People easily judge others who have far more limited options than themselves, and people begin to judge themselves and put themselves in boxes, even when they have the “choice”. Yes, maybe there’s a chance we ourselves might not have options, but that shouldn’t be the motivator, that should be a reminder that we are lucky and we should use our choices wisely, because we are lucky enough to have them.
*Disclaimer: This is my opinion, the holy grail of mental health is that everyone is an individual, and my colleagues would likely argue that this isn’t a trend, but hey, it looks like one to me, and it works well for my point, so tough.
Today I wanted to work through some thoughts I had about bias and context. Recently, I went from a modern day blog about (mocking) hardcore misogynists, WeHuntedTheMammoth, to watching a BBC4 documentary about women in Restoration England, (cos as we are aware, I am the biggest snob/nerd), followed by an advert for Handmaids Tale, and by accident, I realised we seriously need to talk about confirmation bias.
It’s kind of the unspoken monster in the corner of internet or even real debate. Everyone is kinda aware that it’s there, but no one wants to look right at it or admit it, everyone would rather get on their sounding boards and say their piece. I feel that it’s the biggest single obstacle to cooperation that there is.
On the Internet
If someone thinks that women are evil and that society should contain them, then the truth is in the eye of the beholder. All the evidence of misogyny because evidence for misogyny; women have been hated for thousands of years becomes proof of inferiority, not unfounded discrimination. It’s mirror opposite to the intention of this material, another example that comes to mind is the inanity of video responses to Anita Sarkeesians now infamous video games feminism videos:
This trend extents to other areas too, like research about racism. One of my favourite tumblr discourse adventures was when I was “debating” someone about anti-black racism, and they pulled up a source to say that black people and specifically black babies were less scientifically fit, something to do with birth rates and survival.
I inconveniently cannot find the file anymore, if you wanted to trawl through the wreckage of my tumblr discourse page you might find it, eventually, but today is not that day. (Note: I really did enjoy that page at the time, but for the reasons listed in this article I rarely bother taking part in it anymore.) but he linked me to an scientific journal that explained that systemic anti-black racism was probably behind these differences, which he was using to say were in fact inherent proof of inferiority. The goggles were firmly fixed on, all related evidence was now either conspiracy or consolidation.
Ugly bigotry is not the only place we see this, though it’s common and it’s easy because there are strong feelings either side. Other places where this confirmation bias comes in are common, for example parenthood; All childhoods are viewed through the lens of parenting styles, in gender, in ability, in moral character. Similarly in institutions, like prisons or care homes, prisoners or patients are sometimes seen through a moral lens as “difficult”. In the state, especially when it comes to social security, lower classes are viewed through a lens according to what political end of the spectrum you are.
Confirmation bias sees antagonism where there isn’t, and can conjure it up through force of will; think someone is “bad”, but no one else sees it? Treat them (subtly) like shit until boom, like magic, they misbehave or underperform, bam, your point is proven. You see this circle over and over again; the gender pay gap is a flawless example of this. Evidence that “women aren’t hired at the same level as men” could be interpreted to mean women are terrible lazy employees, which would make not hiring them a very sensible option, which would then help to cause a gender pay gap, starting the cycle again.
When you look for antagonism, you can help to cause it. In this way, you enter yourself and the opposing side into a battle that neither of you might want, but both feel you have no choice in. This is never going to be a helpful or productive environment, it is beyond evidence, and is personal biases made real and reinforced through the antagonism they both create and sustain. You shape the evidence according to your beliefs, then shape your reality according to those beliefs.
The truth is that seeing any ground as a battleground will end in the fighting you already have decided is necessary. The only way to get around this, is to to address it in ourselves, which is actually easier done than “said”, and takes a long time. It’s hard to say because even when we doubt ourselves, we know that others will doubt us more; so we aren’t eager to rush in with a nuanced view that will get melted down even more in the discourse that follows. If we want genuine nuaunced discussions, more peaceful interactions about practical solutions and goals on the same page, we first have to believe that this is a possibility. We have to believe things are neutral, so that they are, so that we can see them this way. We have to believe peaceful outcomes are possible, so that they are.
In the example of the state and other institutional forms of this self-reinforcing confirmation bias, it’s about defining things in a neutral light, not an emotive one. Interpreting situations as neutral allows us to break free of our confirmation bias just a little. If we consider that a woman’s sexy blouse isn’t proof that women are evil harpies manipulating the world through breasts, then what is it? Just a blouse? Then we feel there is no action needed, and the situation de-escalates. Instead of a fight about her blouse, the woman goes about her work day, and someone is mildy sexually frustrated, and the situation ends there. The autistic kid is bad at eye contact? If we see that as okay, we don’t fight them to make eye contact, and the situation de-escalates. The kid goes about their life without fighting themselves to make eye-contact they don’t need. Mentally ill but without medication? If we see it as okay, we let that patient be less sedated without seeing this as a loss, then that patient goes about their mental illness without fighting staff about medication.
There obviously are situations where it is not actually okay. We can’t simply tell each other what these are, because everyone will see things differently. We can try and work out what they are, looking past each other’s blind spots and possible biases in a gentle co-operative way, and that’s what is trickier to do, but still much easier and more productive than becoming slaves to our own confirmation biases. We all make choices in our beliefs, and this then shapes how we view the world and evidence about it, the best way to then work together is to be honest about this, and admit that we really aren’t all seeing the same thing, to try and come to a peaceful cooperation instead of getting bogged down in our own little worlds.
(Wow, so that was a little longer than expected and I’ve been sat here at least an hour and a half…next time, I’m putting a limit on, and hopefully that will make my writing a little bit more focused!)