I’ve been doing a lot of sitting this week. Not literally. Literally, I couldn’t stop moving. I pounded the roads running, cycling, walking, hurtling, trying to rid my body of the toxicity of the week. I thought, if I could just keep moving I might arrive at some harmonious destination, some grand moment of enlightenment in which my path ahead would be clear, and the journey out of this darkness would be a simple activism by numbers. No such luck.
So I sat in my thoughts and didn’t think anything at all and allowed the wave of total and complete exhaustion to wash over me.
The Guilty Feminist podcast – an old staple that is a good example of active allyship in that its host, Deborah Frances-White (an unapologetically white, university-educated, cis-gendered, able-bodied, middle-class woman), pivoted the podcast early on to ensure it championed diverse voices of the otherwise marginalised – always begins with a question: have you had a guilty week or a feminist week? I like the space of that, I like the idea that you are allowed to have weeks of slipping up, falling down, failing to do your part for the global good. I like that it implies a process, a constant and evolving journey that doesn’t begin or end in a single week. I like that, in the act of owning your shortcomings, you are still showing up.
(Quick sidenote: if you’re new to exploring your role in feminism, activism or just generally seeking to see the world from a myriad of viewpoints in a way that is as entertaining as it is educational, The Guilty Feminist is an amazing resource. A comedy podcast, it uses humour to inform and quell the many contradictions and insecurities of what it means to be a feminist in our society.)
To that end, these weigh ins will similarly emphasise, when relevant, the ways I’ve let myself – and the general human population – down. Ways I maybe stepped back when I needed to step up, times I moaned I was “too tired” when the voices who needed me have suffered nothing but tiredness for decades – when even muttering “too tired” is a luxury to be foregone. Opportunities I didn’t take, petitions I didn’t sign, causes I didn’t donate to because I’m saving for a plane ticket. I want and need you to know that there is so much I’m not doing. And I hope, in bearing this honesty, it might make us both feel less alone in our fallibility. Without being condescending, I want this weekly check-in to encourage and it cannot do that if its only dimension is “look at what I’VE done.” Let’s both be real in our human tendency to get sidetracked, shitfaced, stressed, hormonal. Ok? Ok.
HI, MY NAME’S HOLLY, AND I’M A TERRIBLE ONLINE ALLY:
What a delicious segue into my first weigh in! So, after posting a lot on my Instagram page around last week’s weigh in – after, essentially, boasting of all of the things I was going to DO and READ and LEARN – what did I do? I DELETED MY INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT. My only social media portal and one that causes me as much angst as pleasure. In a time where showing up online has arguably never been more important – look at what has been achieved with Munroe Bergdorf and L’Oreal: I can’t help but feel the sleuth of online abuse had a significant role in this – I decided to step off the virtual world because it was “too much.” I’m nervous writing this because I recognise how, with every word, I’m perpetuating the exact white person trope so many BIPOC activists have called out. “You’re tired, sweetie? You’re feeling depressed? It’s all getting too much? Well how wonderful that all you get to do is press a button and all of that trauma disappears – we don’t have that privilege!”
Except, I think I did the right thing. I WAS overwhelmed, I WAS stressed, I WAS completely and totally stultified by genuine grief and guilt and helplessness. Social media was making it worse; every act of allyship being performed by friends, every new wave of stories brimming with links, resources, IGTVs, activist discussions, was only paralysing me further. And what good am I paralysed? What is the point in me seeing all of this information if I can’t take any of it in? What is the point in me being technically “present” but absent in every other conceivable way?
I wish I was stronger than this but I’m not. And, the truth is, a huge part of these weekly weigh ins for me is recognising my vulnerabilities and owning my failures. So, instead of feeling guilty for my “weakness” and “fragility” by remaining online while being incapable of taking definitive action, I deleted “d’apps” and decided to sit in my thoughts instead. I decided not to feel guilty about taking this time off. I reminded myself that the world does not need my voice right now. You see, the resources we’re all seeing now – these aren’t new. The books, the conversations, the articles, the petitions – they have existed before George Floyd and they will exist after him. We don’t need to gorge on them now. Pick one. Stick at it and sit in it. I am in this for the long haul. This is going to be a lifelong process of learning and if I overwhelm myself now, I stand little chance of sticking with it.
I’m now back on Instagram. Reluctantly. And, in a few days, I can’t quite believe how quick conversations have turned or changed. Some are still posting but others – you can probably guess who – appear to have returned to content as usual. I am realising that my role in this will be, instead of giving out about it, to call it out. SO, to all of the influencers with large platforms who have posted a black square and believed that sufficient, to everyone with a social responsibility who shared a few links and is now continuing in their old tropes of dog videos and eyebrow tutorials, I AM WATCHING YOU. For now, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt. But I am monitoring your behaviour and if I don’t see consistent allyship I WILL call it out. This will be very difficult for me. I want to be liked. Dear God, I hope I don’t have to do this.
GETTING BANG FOR MY BUCK
So, I disengaged from the world. But I also took baby steps and tried to recorrect some bad habits I have spent my 27 years on this earth acquiring. Namely: a complete lack of follow-through. Last week, I told you that I had started paying for the writings and teachings of some black creators and activists I follow. Now, I have done this in the past because I do believe we need to pay for content but the problem is, once I pay, I generally fail to actually USE the content I’ve unlocked. So many subscriptions, so many ignored emails. So, one evening after work, I made my dinner and sat down to read every email and recent blog post of Aja Barber’s. Not skim, not skip, actually read. This might seem small and stupid but for me this is big – this is a change. I so often flick, lose interest, will do absolutely anything to get out of staring at a screen past 6pm that to sit and read something that generally makes me feel bad about myself feels something akin to achievement. I did this, I will do this and I will keep doing this.
Last week, I wrote about Christy Harrison’s Anti-Diet and why our perception of bodies, diet culture, and attractiveness is founded on principles of deep racism and discrimination. This week, as I attempt to curate a piece on my own journey towards accepting my body, I am devouring (just a slight pun there to lighten the mood) the work of Stephanie Yeboah, a vibrant and energetic part of the body positivity movement. Despite being a narcissist reluctant to share my limited wordcount with other peoples thought (boooooooooring!), one way I am going to be better in amplifying melanated – and any marginalised – voices, is in my writing. Academia, pop culture, the wellness industry – all are overrun with the manifestations of white privilege. As a writer, it is my job and duty to ensure my sources, quotes, and ideas are representing as many points of view as possible. I look forward to including Yeboah in my work.
CONSTANZA ELIANA CHINEA
Speaking of the white-centred wellness space, one person I did come across who is CHECKING. MY. PRIVILEGE. is Constanza Eliana Chinea. She’s the founder of Embody Inclusivity and a powerhouse. If you want to be challenged, follow, support, learn from her. I’ve signed up to her online panel discusson aptly titled “F*ck your White Centred Wellness” and I am SO EXCITED ABOUT IT.
CALLING IT OUT
What I already know will be the most difficult part of this, is calling out the people I love when they say something problematic. I am ALWAYS the friend who makes a situation uncomfortable when someone says something sexist, racist, generally ignorant. I see friends eye me warily when they introduce me to an outrageous friend, I see them silently begging me to not make a “thing” out of someone’s careless slur. Boyfriends haaaaaaaaaaaated when I met their friends. And that’s not a nice place to be all the time. I don’t actually like being the party pooper, feisty know-it-all, bitch. But it’s also the most effective – and realistic – thing I can do. An Instagram post just doesn’t cut it.
So this weekend, when someone I loved interrupted a story about a violent man to ask what nationality he was (the insinuation of this question was that the individual was foreign and probably Eastern European) I called them out. Not in the jokey tone I’ve adopted to avoid confrontation but straight out. Unapologetic. It didn’t go down well but I did it.
Tonight, I’ve organised for my family to sit down together and watch the short Irish documentary, ‘THIS LAND.‘ I’m trying to be as inclusive in my learning as possible – I could easily sit and watch this alone in my room but what good is that? What good is even sharing it on my social media platforms when most of the people who follow me already agree and see the racial prejudices inherent in Ireland?
IRISH TIMES WOMEN’S PODCAST – HOW TO BE ANTI-RACIST
With so much focus on the US right now, I’m trying to be mindful in diversifying my learning to ensure I keep it grounded in how systemic racism presents in Ireland and what I can do to combat it. This episode in which three black Irish women, all in their twenties, share their experiences isn’t so much eye-opening as it is invigorating. I recommend a listen.
This is quite long already so just two additions in the interest of brevity!
ON YER BIKE
I have developed a new rule for transportation that appropriates the journalistic doctrines of Louis Theroux: if a car is already going to my destination, then I can travel within it. However, if said destination is within walking or cycling distance, then I cannot get into the car if it otherwise wouldn’t be travelling there.
…I am rediscovering the joy of cycling.
NO FAST FASHION FOR HOLZ
Look, sorry to burst your bubble but if you are still buying clothes you do not need from fast fashion retailers you are NOT for the climate, you are NOT for Black Lives Matter and you are not for humankind in general. This marks another week I haven’t bought a fast fashion item. Please join me in this and remember that just because Penneys is open, it DOES NOT MEAN you need to go shopping. Every time you say no, you are honestly taking drastic action for climate and social justice. That lecture is my second act of climate activism – you’re welcome, sweetie.
This list is so not exhaustive but quickly let’s just mention….Petitions!! I have been signing and reading as they enter my inbox and social media feeds. One thing I am giving particular attention to is the government agenda surrounding the climate crisis during government formation. WE NEED TO STAY ON TOP OF THIS, THE PRESSURE CANNOT LET UP. To this end, while I have a tendency to be lackadaisical about online advocacy, I am signing everything Stop Climate Chaos, Friends of the Earth and similar send my way. Not a lot but it’s all I’m capable of right now. Join their mailing lists to fight the good fight.
Ok, my hand is going to fall off AGAIN! Guys, I so hope you are well and minding yourselves. I thought I didn’t deserve any form of self-care or generosity of spirit but actually, now more than ever, we need to nurture ourselves. If you’ve found this helpful, slide into my DMs. If you didn’t, then please also slide and explain why. If you’d like to share your learning with me, then absolutely, definitely, do not hesitate to slide on in there and tell me how and what and with whom you are acting. Come on, world, let’s frigging #wednesdayweighin the shite out of today!
Hugs, hugs, hugs galore.