Things I Love Thursday #59

child nightmare

A bit of a heavy post this week, perhaps. But what I’m loving right now is activism.

If you’ve been paying attention to the links in my Procrastination Station posts, you might have got the general gist that I’m a bit of a feminist. You’ll certainly have got that gist if you follow my Twitter. If you’ve been my Facebook friend for a while, you might also have seen one or two angry feminist rants up there, too. Maybe — if you’re a real die-hard fan of mine — you’ve even spotted out my little-used feminist/political blog, Girl Poems. And yes, it’s true — I am a feminist, and more than just a little bit.

It’s happened quickly. Had you asked me two years ago, I’d have said HELL YES I AM A FEMINIST, but I wouldn’t really have been able to tell you all that much about why. At that point, I hadn’t really woken up to the massive discrimination that still comes with identifying as female. Then I had my “click” moment: I watched Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly 3.”

As the women on my training weekend this past weekend (which I’ll talk about in a moment) pointed out, when you get your “click” moment, it’s like coming out of the Matrix. You start seeing misogyny and discrimination everywhere. You start realising that things you say and do — things you’ve always said and done — are really not cool. You see that you have friends — really good friends — who are part of the problem. You get really, really, really angry. And other people get really, really, really angry with you.

Over the past two years, since watching Jean Kilbourne, I’ve kind of done a DIY women’s studies degree in my spare bedroom. As well as teaching and reading for my PhD, I’ve also amalgamated a pretty huge collection of academic feminism textbooks, pop feminist polemics, women’s anthologies and women’s studies tomes, and read them hungrily. I follow more feminist/political blogs than I do poetry and writing ones. I’m no longer lazy about this stuff — as well as identifying as feminist I am also trying really hard to be a good trans ally, to rid my students’ (and, sometimes, my colleagues’) vocabulary of homophobic language like “that’s so gay”, and I’m also trying extremely hard to stop being ableist (I’ve only recently realised how gross my use of the word “lame” to mean “rubbish” really is). In terms of the kind of feminist I am? I want intersectionality so badly. I try as hard as I can to check my white, cis, able-bodied privilege, though I’ll admit, sometimes fail. And I am way, way pro-sex (ask me some time about my plan to kick the shit out of the sex industry’s status quo. Seriously).

Twitter has become my safe space. I post anything I like there, and I’m generous with my use of the ‘block’ button. I’ve also built up a sweet network of feminist Twit-buddies of all genders, which is really nice. But I’ve still felt bad about not doing enough. Not talking about this stuff enough. Not trying hard enough to exercise change. Not explaining myself properly. Not really making a difference.

So this past weekend, I went along to Scottish Women’s Aid’s all-weekend “Stop” training. The “Stop” campaign, or Together We Can Stop It, is about recognising that domestic abuse affects everyone, but that — as one of my training-mates put it — we can all affect it right back. It is designed to spread the message that domestic abuse is disturbingly prevalent, and that it’s so not OK, as well as aiming to provide everyone everywhere with workable ways to tackle the problem. The training weekend took me and seven other smart, angry young feminists and taught us how to become Community Champions: we’re now qualified to go out into the local community and help SWA and the “Stop” campaign to spread the message.

The training was a truly amazing, eye-opening and inspiring experience for me. Because I’ve taught myself all this women’s studies stuff, I’ve never been in a space before where everyone just ‘got’ it. There was no mansplaining, no ‘explain yourself to me!’, no ‘what about the men?!’, no arguments about how you can’t be feminist if you’re white and Western, or if you like sex, or if you’re straight, or if you’re a trans woman, or blah blah blah blah. There was no ’stop being hysterical!’, or ‘nobody really cares about this!’, or ‘it’s just a joke, lighten up!’ No one in the room said anything was ’so gay’ or referred to another person as ‘a total retard’ or suggested that ‘girls who dress slutty ask for it.’ There were no rape jokes; no one wanted to whine that Julian Assange or Roman Polanski are awesome, stand-up guys and so great at what they do and therefore everyone should forget about the fact that they raped women and hey who says they even did it I mean these stupid women make shit up all the time. I’m wary of using this word because I know it makes some people queasy (feminists included), but it felt like sisterhood.

There were a lot of opposing views in the room. We talked about tons of issues around and outside domestic abuse including intersectionality, classism and general feminist stuff. We had heated discussions. We disagreed about things. But we all got it, we were all working towards a common goal: to make women’s lives, which are so often hard and frightening and downright depressing, better. In two days I learned so much about women, about feminism, about society, about activism and about myself. It was utterly fantastic.

Now, come to my comment thread and ask ‘what about the men?!’ I dare you.

Honourable mentions: Bare Hands Poetry. Thanks a million for taking one of my poems, loves! // Working on editing together Creatrix. So many great submissions, so many difficult decisions. Watch this space for a post about it. // Being in a play! OMG! Come and see me at the Traverse, in “Dear Glasgow.” // The second printing of my book has landed — let me know if you want to buy one! // Real Foods. Greatest grocery store ever // The lovely Lovely Boyfriend. Better than all the other boyfriends combined.

What are you loving this week?

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

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2 Responses to “Things I Love Thursday #59”

  1. Susan Says:

    Thank you for sharing the “click moment” of your feminist awareness, Claire. Mine came during a 1975 divorce when a group of women showed me that what I called “basic human consideration” was political and not personal–or “the personal is political”–ie, the feminist agenda. And then as they published in various ways, researchers like Kilbourne shocked me with how pervasive the problem was. I had to start deconstructing–seeing meant seeing between the lines. Hard work, that, for women and for men. I’ve watched amazed as regressive movements made these messages vital in the present and no longer simply feminist history. In the USA, one political party seems entirely anti-women. Even the women seem that way. Yikes!

    So–”Things I love this week” include this “Thursday” column–er, blog– of yours! I follow every link. I loved clicking on the picture above and finding the Scottish Women’s Aid anti-abuse web site! The pictures tell stories.

    Amazon.com says your book is out of print. Will they get supplies? If not, I’ll have to trust paypal, I guess.

  2. Claire Says:

    Susan — thanks for this lovely comment. You’re absolutely right about deconstructing — suddenly having to look between the lines of things you’ve always thought were just “the way things are” is difficult and sometimes scary. But I also think it can potentially be challenging and exciting — as in, OK, here’s what we’ve got to work with, how can we fix it? That seemed to be what was being asked at my training, and it was great :)

    Glad you’re enjoying TiLT — and yes, SWA’s photo stream is amazing. Heartbreaking and very revealing. Did you see the dioramas made by children using lego to depict their experiences? I thought that was a great tool to use.

    Amazon probably just haven’t received new copies of the book from my publisher, as the second printing has only just come off the presses! You can buy books direct from me, though, which means I get a cut (I don’t if you buy from Amazon) ;) Info here: http://www.readthismagazine.co.uk/onenightstanzas/?page_id=1448 You don’t need a Paypal account, you can just pay via credit card on the Paypal site as you would on Amazon :)