header image by frl.zucker

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Read ALL the Light Bulb Moments

I haven't been posting on here for a while, but I cannot stress how immensely important this blog is to me. I recently contributed to a book of stories of why we became feminists, a British answer to Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists. This one is called The Lightbulb Moment and is edited and published by Sian Norris of Crooked Rib Publishing. Sian is also a prominent blogger and occasionally a DJ - check out her blog, Sian and Crooked Rib.

My contribution is an extremely personal story about my gradual discoveries of feminism, and this blog features in it prominently as a source of motivation and inspiration and action that I created for myself when in a particularly difficult moment in my life. But it also touches on other important experiences, and is painfully honest, to the extent I wasn't sure I wanted it published, but at the same time, I think, a great illustration of how the personal is political. So I hope a story about depression, promiscuity, traditional family, bisexuality, moving around the world and other stuff will actually mean something in this important context.

The book also contains loads of other contributions from more or less known feminists and is fantastically interesting. From the Crooked Rib Publishing website:

"Some of the names you may recognise. Laurie Penny writing about Germaine Greer. Finn Mackay telling the story of how she went to peace camp. Jo Swinson campaigning for girls to wear trousers in her school. And then there are the women and men whose names you might not recognise, but who are working every day in the fight for gender equality and a better world for all.

Many of these stories are funny. Some are moving. Some tell of pain and trauma. Some are about family members or friends. All of them are inspiring and exciting.

Editor of The Light Bulb Moment, Sian Norris says:

‘After reading ‘Click’ I felt very strongly that we needed this book for the UK. We have such a rich feminist scene here. I thought it would be fascinating to hear how the women and men involved in UK feminist activism ‘found’ feminism. And I was right! These stories are so diverse and unique – I hope that people will enjoy reading them as much as I have.’

By bringing together the stories from women and men from a range of communities and generations, The Light Bulb Moment hopes to offer a snapshot of feminist activism in the UK today, and share the stories of the women and men involved.

The eye-catching cover was designed by illustrator Susie Hogarth."

You can buy it over at Lulu for £7.99 (that's 20% off the original price): http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-light-bulb-moment-the-stories-of-why-we-are-feminists/18726169

Now, I also feel obliged to explain why this blog has not been what I meant it to be lately. It was something that dragged me out of a black hole of despair and inactivity, but recently I reached another difficult point in life, and unlike previously, I have way more responsibilities than I can handle, and somehow the work that's the most personal and satisfying and therefore important requires so much effort and is only self-imposed, so a lot of the time, even though I think about posts all the time, I never sit down and write them out, because whenever I have time to sit down I instead lie down and do nothing. If I'm making any New Year's resolutions, if there's one thing I promise to myself I'll do more not less, it's to post on this blog, because always having it in the back of my mind but never quite managing to fulfill my own expectations for it is bad, for my own self-esteem and expression. So I hope you will be able to read more on it than there already is.

So not as an excuse, but more an explanation, without being dramatic and also additionally promoting an amazing, amazing artist, I wanna quote Hyperbole and a Half, from her post Adventures in Depression. It's very recent and it resonated with me a fucking lot. Here are a few pictures, but read the whole story here. Hyperbole and a Half is Allie, who describes herself as "heroic, caring, alert and flammable," makes these incredibly expressive drawings in Paint, and is currently writing (drawing?) a book, scheduled for release by Touchstone, a division of Simon and Schuster, for the fall of 2012, "just in time for the apocalypse!" Definitely something to look forward to.

"Some people have a legitimate reason to feel depressed, but not me. I just woke up one day feeling sad and helpless for absolutely no reason."

 "It's disappointing to feel sad for no reason. Sadness can be almost pleasantly indulgent when you have a way to justify it - you can listen to sad music and imagine yourself as the protagonist in a dramatic movie. You can gaze out the window while you're crying and think "This is so sad. I can't even believe how sad this whole situation is. I bet even a reenactment of my sadness could bring an entire theater audience to tears."

But my sadness didn't have a purpose.  Listening to sad music and imagining that my life was a movie just made me feel kind of weird because I couldn't really get behind the idea of a movie where the character is sad for no reason."

"Essentially, I was being robbed of my right to feel self pity, which is the only redeeming part of sadness.

And for a little bit, that was a good enough reason to pity myself."

"Standing around feeling sorry for myself was momentarily exhilarating, but I grew tired of it quickly. "That will do," I thought. "I've had my fun, let's move on to something else now." But the sadness didn't go away.

I tried to force myself to not be sad."

"When I couldn't will myself to not be sad, I became frustrated and angry. In a final, desperate attempt to regain power over myself, I turned to shame as a sort of motivational tool."

 "But, since I was depressed, this tactic was less inspirational and more just a way to oppress myself with hatred."

"Which made me more sad."

"Which then made me more frustrated and abusive."

The story continues - I won't repost it all here, but go over to Hyperbole and a Half for  the rest of it. It's sad and depressing, but also captures sadness and depression and some other things extremely well, and is still a cartoon done in Paint. Pretty amazing.

My best friend Nadine, with whom I set up this blog, says that the most feminist act is self-care, and I agree - and there isn't enough talk about that. Hyperbole and a Half posts about other things, too, of course (such as cake or spiders or alot or adulthood/the internet) but I feel like this one is particularly important because even in this slightly comical lens, mental illness is still seen as essentially a weakness, laziness, feeling sorry for yourself, and essentially your fault. Especially for women, who to keep up are expected to be pretty, well-dressed, fit, but also to have good jobs (if you're liberated now, at least take the fucking advantage), stable partners with views for a family, and on the side loads of great hobbies and additional activities just to you know, seem interesting enough.. And that's just the top of the iceberg, with all the contradictory underlying expectations of sexy but unavailable, smart but not imposing, liberated but not too independent, caring about body and looks but not vapid, interesting but not intimidating, etc. I feel like you don't have to be mad to crack down under all of this shit, so it's even more important to talk about it.

Nishma Doshi is another blogger who talks mainly about politics over at Topsoil, but also about extremely personal things and experiences of depression on her personal blog AcaciaThorns. I admire her greatly for never being ashamed to talk about how shitty she is feeling, and about how mental illness is still hugely stigmatized, and feels like a vicious circle with no breaking point even to so-called privileged young people, including people who are so involved in changing the world and fighting for ideals - and that for nobody is it just whining, or being lazy, and the last comment you ever need is "cheer up." But I also admire how the personal, again, coincides with the political, and on Topsoil she would still post entries about mental illness, such as this one about Time To Change:

"In the past, when I have spoken about my mental health conditions, I have either been called “brave”, or patted on the back and told to “sort myself out”. I don’t know which is worse. Is it brave to talk about something that burdens me every day? Can I really sort out an illness that changes the way that I think? In all of these points, I’ve sought for someone else to not only bring up some statistic and then tell me I’m not alone, but to share with me a story of how they cope. But I don’t hear those tales. Stigma does not only harm us in that society ignores our existence – it prevents recovery. The last thing anyone wants when they are ill is to be alone. And so many of us are."

This blog was set up to not be lonely. I will be doing my clumsy best in the next year to actually post about all the things I've been planning to post about, but also new things, exciting things, ALL things (this is a reference to an internet meme that originated from this Hyperbole and a Half drawing:

A good explanation of the phenomenon can be found here, and Google Images will give you 60,600,000 results for it, too.)

But this was also set up as collaboration, so is open to everyone and anyone, as long as the contributions are related to feminism/promoting female activity. In the very first post this is what I said was our main objective, and that's also quoted in my contribution to The Light Bulb Moment - that it is "important to promote and inspire female activity, expand the scopes of femininity, dispel stereotypes and cushioned conceptions of perfect equality, and protest against discrimination and stereotypes that fuck with female and human dignity.”

If this means something to you, you are always welcome - as a supporter, reader, commenter, guest, contributor, sister. I'd like to make this place meaningful, inclusive, and alive. Be good to yourselves and see you in the New Year. xoox