[content: sexual assault, #metoo, Harvey Weinstein, etc]
For most of my adult life I worked in the anti-violence movement, doing support work and consent education. And much of my work, both one-on-one with clients and in workshops and lectures of 10-200 (mostly) young people, involved undoing toxic messages learnt from the media and terrible Hollywood movies that normalize and reinforce rape culture.
From rape being used as a plot point (how else will we know that this literal dictator is the bad guy?!) or for titillation to the ubiquitous romantic comedy and action movie trope of the woman saying no in a thousand different ways and the man pushing through physically only to have her melt into his arms because that was what she really wanted, she just needed to be told that her desires and boundaries mean nothing, we are inundated from an early age with self-serving myths about consent, sexual assault, and rape culture more broadly.
There are few things on the internet that I find more tiresome than privileged people “taking down” a movement for marginalized people because they haven’t been given enough deference.
We see it all the time. Black Lives Matter is bad because it doesn’t cater to white people’s fragility. Feminism is bad because it doesn’t centre men and give them cookies for being non-awful human beings. Queer liberation movements are mean because they don’t praise straight people for not being homophobes. And on and on ad infinitum. If these movements would just be nicer they would have allies galore!
If you’ve spent any time on the internet you’ve encountered “wellness.” You can probably list off the things that “wellness” is a euphemism for: whiteness, thinness, able-bodiedness, middle/upper classness, performative consumption.
Wellness, rather than the state of being well, is an ongoing project by which certain (mostly? exclusively?) women either signal their inclusion in an exclusive strata or strive to gain entry.
“The wellness thing is big”…”We’re calling it ‘the new luxury.’ It used to be about fur and leather. But people just want to feel better.”
Wellness, if you were to only examine it through the lens of Instagram and lifestyle bloggers, is about $12 cold-pressed juices, yoga poses that photograph well, $50 water bottles (no, I will never get over how expensive those god damn water bottles are), and something else. What is that other thing? Oh, yes, being young, thin, white, and conventionally attractive. Continue reading “Selling Wellness”→
It seems like every day there is a new health fad people are talking about on Facebook, mentioning in the office, or being made into a documentary of questionable truth value. Many, if not all, of these play on our deep wish to be in control of bodies that simply refuse to do as we say. And in a society that is deeply unjust, that is facing increasing anxiety about climate change, fears of nuclear war due to a certain orange monster, and unreasonable capitalistic expectations when it comes to labour and work/life boundaries (or lack there of) these fads gain traction quickly. We all want that magic bullet that will insulate us from disease, pain, and suffering. And most of us are not trained in evidence-based medicine. Very few of us, unfortunately, are given the tools to properly evaluate health claims. So I’m offering a crash course in evaluating health (or other scientific, but I’ll focus on health) claims. Continue reading “How Do You Evaluate Health Claims?”→
[CN: Discussion of violence against women, racism]
There are a few courses I took in undergrad and grad school that have especially stuck with me through the years. One that I think about often was an upper-level Women’s Studies course called Monstrous Women which looked at the ways we frame women who transgress the bounds that society places before them. And how women who fail to perform “womanhood” adequately (whether through eschewing motherhood, being overtly aggressive, responding to male violence with violence) are transformed into “monsters”–both as a control mechanism and because we don’t know how to reconcile women who don’t perform mainstream womanhood in our brains.
One of the biggest learnings I’ve taken from therapy and probably the thing I share the most with others is the idea of nurturing vs indulgence when it comes to self-care.
Often when we see self-care talked about on the internet or talk about it amongst friends we’re talking about indulgence. These are the things that feel fabulous in the moment (wine and Netflix, cake, leaving the sink full of dishes for tomorrow) but don’t necessarily set us up for success and sustainability long term.
Nurturing self-care, on the other hand, is a lot less fun. It’s going to therapy, setting healthy boundaries, prepping your lunch the night before, going to bed early, washing the pile of laundry in the corner so you have something to wear this week. These are things that aren’t generally much fun but set you up for the long term.
Ideally we’ve got a good balance of mostly nurturing self-care with some indulgence thrown in–there is certainly space for Netflix (ask me how I’ve spent my Sunday morning!) and ice cream, but we need a base of healthy, sustainable habits to keep us going in our jobs, our activism, the onslaught of horrible news coming rapid-fire out of the US, and just our lives more generally.
What that looks like will be different for everyone, and sometimes the same activity might fit nurturance and indulgence at different times depending on what else is going on in your life.
I try to make active decisions around indulgent self-care but sometimes I find myself three episodes into something with a bowl of popcorn before I stop to ask myself “Is this indulgence or nurturance? What do I need right now?”
Indulgence is wonderful and fun and can help recharge, but if I’m staying up too late on a work night to do something indulgent I’m going to feel it the next day and probably not be pleased with Past Me’s choices. When I find myself doing something indulgent past the point of self-care–that is, it feels good in the moment but I’ll regret it tomorrow–I try to call on my Gentle Parent Voice to help steer me toward better choices.
My feeling is that a lot of people are struggling with self-care in general these days, and are likely leaning more on the indulgent side than the nurturant side when they can manage self-care at all. That is kind of to be expected. Indulgent self-care is a lot easier and a lot more fun. So I just wanted to give a gentle reminder that it’s the not so fun, not so easy self-care that sets us up for sustainable mental and physical health, and that provides us the habits that keep us going.
In an effort to support nurturant self-care and thanks to Xshadyside Gyms in Pittsburgh I’m hosting a giveaway for a $25 (USD) gift certificate to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Whether you need a new sports bra or yoga block or running shorts or cute AF running tights, all you gotta do to be entered in the giveaway is comment below with EITHER what you would buy if you won the gift card OR some kind of self-care you do regularly (indulgent or nurturant).
Here’s the fine print: Xshadyside Gyms in Pittsburgh are providing the gift certificate and, in lieu of payment to me for hosting the giveaway, have generously made a donation to an organization of my choice. The giveaway is open to everyone and will be open until February 26th when a winner will be chosen at random.
**UPDATE: The giveaway is being extended to Saturday, March 4th. Comment below to be entered!**
My preliminary thought as a monster is made leader of one of the most influential countries in the world is that there is work to be done. Some of that work, yes, is grieving, and being afraid, and being angry, and letting yourself feel whatever you need to feel. But once you’ve felt (or while you feel), there are many concrete steps to be taken now, tomorrow, and over the next four years. Below you’ll find concrete actions of resistance we can all take. Many are collected from other writers and organizers and thinkers on the internet, some are my own thoughts. Not all of these will be appropriate, safe, or doable for everybody, but I’m offering as wide a diversity of tactics as I can pull together because it is a diversity of tactics that makes for effective resistance. Continue reading “There Is Hope In Resistance: Concrete Actions in the Face of Fascism”→
I’m obsessed with neoliberalism. I’m fascinated by it as an ideology, and I’m fascinated by how successful it’s been in such a short time. Mostly, I’m fascinated by how pervasive it is–infecting every corner of life in the Western world–and yet how successfully it has remained invisible.
Like it’s brother capitalism, it’s become an ideology that just is. Ask most people what neoliberalism is and they’ll shrug. But ask them their views on government’s role in society, on privatization, on healthcare or welfare or trade and they’ll be either espousing or critiquing neoliberalism.
Because it’s become the toxic water we swim in–that is, invisible yet fundamental to shaping how we live–I thought it might be useful to offer a little primer on neoliberalism as well as some of the ways we see its impacts. Especially because a lot of writing on neoliberalism is far from accessible, and that is one of the ways we remain unable to fight it. When we don’t have language for what we’re fighting, nor the full scope of the problem, it’s hard–if not impossible–to mount an effective and broad opposition.
So first, what is neoliberalism? It’s a political ideology (that is, a way of understanding, organizing, and governing the world) that emphasizes and prizes individualism over collectivism and encourages consumption as a source of identity and the primary way that we engage with society. Continue reading “A Primer on Neoliberalism”→
I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. I especially don’t believe in New Year’s goals meant to make us feel shitty about ourselves. I won’t be fasting in the new year, hitting the gym twice as hard, drinking only green drinks, or doing any number of well-marketed plans that use empowering, appropriated, language to get at the same destructive message: You’re not good enough as you are and you need to starve/punish/contort yourself into something alien and acceptable. Instead, I’m offering a few reminders to myself and anyone else who might need them. Continue reading “New Year’s Reminders”→