My hope for women is the same as my hope for all people. Find something that matters to you and pursue it wholeheartedly.
Go for it, if it floats your boat. I don’t think that guys have to be “masculine” all the time, or that women have to be “feminine.” Most of us are an idiosyncratic mix of both. Gender is a construct, etc etc.
Hi Gabrielle. Moving to London - how exciting! What will you be studying? Re: feminist events, UK Feminista runs an activist training camp each summer, this year to be held in Birmingham on 17-18 August (not London, I know, but the UK is tiny compared to the US or Oz, and pretty cheap/easy to get around by train).
The London Feminist Network is a bit more radfem than, say, I am, but is an excellent source of feminist news and events. And you should definitely follow Feminist Events (@feministlondon) on Twitter. The Feminism In London conference, which I attended when I first moved here in 2010, is scheduled for 26 October. @Sarcastathon on Twitter has just launched a feminist group, too, focussed on taking feminism “out of the tweets and into the streets.”
And of course, I run a feminist discussion group of my own, which you can get on the list for either by clicking here, or emailing us at email@example.com. We meet on the first Monday of every month.
Anything I’ve missed?
Great question. The funny thing about non-fiction writing (and any writing really, and possibly even anything) is that the more you do of it, the more critical you become of other people’s attempts. So while something like, say, Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth inspired me to want to write a mainstream feminist book, when I returned to it after writing most of said book, all I could think was, “Naomi, your analysis of power is all wrong.”
Anyway, books that have shaped my thinking in writing my own include (listed in order of most to least accessible) Leonore Tiefer’s Sex Is Not a Natural Act (very readable), Gail Hawkes’sA Sociology of Sex and Sexuality (a bit dense and academic), and Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, which took me three attempts over as many years to understand, but when I finally did, I was like, “Awesome. So you’re basically arguing the same things I am.” I also liked Annie Pott’s The Science/Fiction of Sex which, while a bit academic and from a different perspective to my own, is a fun and smart read.
For non-sex related books, Brigid Delaney’s This Restless Life felt like life wrapped up in a(n admittedly complicated) bow to me when I first read it, and I have recommended it to countless people since. It is smart and ambitious, but very readable and not at all academic. Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption makes climate change so compelling and easy to understand that I texted my friends in excitement as I read it. Hazel Rowley’s biography of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre is an inspiration, and while I wouldn’t say it has particularly influenced my philosophy per se, Catherine Mayer’s Amortality is an excellent piece of non-fiction work.
Finally, on the fiction side of the fence, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin (much better than the film, IMO), and Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach are all outstanding. If you haven’t yet read them, you are very lucky, because it means you still have the chance to enjoy them for the first time!
Hey Michael. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this. I have to admit, I feel a little (a lot) out of my depth answering your question: each person’s experience of eating disorders is different, and I’m not a qualified psychologist or therapist. But I can tell you a bit about what has worked for me.
I never actually hit rock bottom, in any dramatic, Lifetime movie sense. I never went to hospital (although having an eating disorder did have deleterious impacts on my body, and arguably still does to this day) and my “darkest moments” were mostly in my head, in the way that I felt about myself and my life.
But it wasn’t my darkest moments that helped me get to being “a better me.” It was getting to a point where I didn’t feel quite so shit about myself, and where I no longer felt compelled to control my food intake and body shape in order to feel okay. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t slip up along the way (or, to be 100% truthful, that I don’t still slip up on occasion), but I don’t think you can get better until you want to get better.
So if there was one piece of advice I would give you, it would be to focus your energies on how you feel, and trust that eventually, treating yourself better will follow from that. Throw yourself into things that you’re good at, and that make you happy. Spend time with people that make you feel loved. Do things that make you feel worthy and valuable and excited about life, that have nothing to do with what you eat or how much you exercise.
Another thing that has helped me is to be honest about what I’m doing. Whenever I engage in self-harming behaviour, I tell someone I trust – not because they will judge me or tell me to stop doing it, but because the simple fact of telling them means I am less likely to do it in the future. As I wrote in my post a couple of weeks ago, eating disorders thrive on secrecy. Being honest about your behaviours a) makes it harder to continue with them, and b) makes it more obvious when they become a habit.
Finally, if you’re having trouble coping right now, it would be a good idea to seek professional help: whether in the form of a counsellor, a self-help group or something else. Personally, I found the Something Fishy website a great resource when I was in the early stages of recovery. In fact, I think it was that website that gave me to motivation to start getting better.
Scarlett asks: I recently wrote about a friend on my blog without their permission, citing a fairly personal example to prove a frivolous point which, needless to say, they are quite upset about. Have you ever been in this situation before and what advice might you give writers who are stuck between a rock (using your and others’ life experiences for creative purposes) and a hard place (honouring the trust of your friend)?
This is a tricky one. I’ve gotten into trouble for not mentioning a friend on this blog before, for passing on a friend’s email to a journalist, and for revealing too much about myself online, but I’ve never gotten into trouble for this situation specifically.
That said, I think it’s a pretty regular dilemma that comes up for anyone who writes about personal issues, in any capacity. Even if your writing is fairly “you”-centric, your experiences will always intersect with other people’s, and the stories you want to share are not always stories the other people in them are happy to have told.
My general rule of thumb is to keep things as anonymous as possible. If you’re telling a story about a friend, don’t use their name (obviously!), and don’t use any details that might identify them to mutual friends or acquaintances (unless the story is really innocuous, in which case they might be fine with identifying details). If it’s something your friend told you in confidence, ask them for permission before you write about it - or don’t write about it at all.
Of course, there will always be people who don’t want to be written about at all - not even with names and identifying details removed, and not even in the most vague and innocuous of ways - and it’s not always possible to predict who those people will be. In that case, the only thing you can really do is listen to your friend, apologise, remove/edit the offending post, and promise not to do it again.
Has anyone else been in this situation? If so, how have you handled it?
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Related: When to shut up online.