Friday, October 21, 2016

Negotiating volunteering and the glocal

As of two days ago, I am one of the women behind the popular Twitter account of the Sydney Feminists. As with any lifestyle change, I am taking the time I need to readjust to the responsibility, the labour, and the fulfilment. Just because no one pays volunteers doesn't mean that they aren't doing hard work. I'm doing this because I believe in the organisation's values and it's rewarding, but also stressful. I'm still figuring out my identity as a Sydney Feminist social media assistant - which tweets I'm going to have difficulty ignoring, and which I will need to retweet despite initial hesitation. The possibilities are endless - we follow over 2,000 accounts, which means there's a constant stream of data pouring in. My job is to identify the choicest tweets for our purposes and amplify their voices. It's a position of power which I take very seriously, and I now understand what a good job the women before me have been doing in managing the account. They are my co-conspirators.

I'm writing this post at a Peruvian restaurant, high on the novelty of it all. There simply aren't that many Peruvian eateries in this part of the world. The decor reminds me of old Inspector Gadget cartoons, but suggest more class and sophistication between the brush strokes. I am forever searching for the best the world has to offer. There is a particular attraction to the continents I haven't let my eyeballs swish around - Africa, South America, Central America, the Caribbean. Due to money constraints and health concerns, I am unlikely to visit these places soon, so I'm actively seeking out connections with them through my local environment.

Sydney. It's changing all the time, yet sometimes it feels like we're stuck in unimaginative right-wing policy. So I focus within. I focus on my relationships with imaginative left-wing people. I nurture my romantic relationship here as best I can. It constantly surprises me in the directions it takes. I think this is a good sign. I'm reading again, devouring feminist literature by the eyeful. I avoid those who impose themselves upon me. Shake it off, baby. Shake it off. Life goes on, and it is more good than otherwise.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Quietly, while the spectacle plays out

The Tweets started streaming in, and I decided I needed a safe(r) space. Writing a new blog post can help me clarify my mindspace constantly, so in the face of lucrative toxicity I turn to the Blogger gods to sort me out. 

I have spent most of my life suppressing anger. These days I am loosening my grip on the container. Some of it emerges. I need to keep letting go.

I keep watching lesbian films, and feeling like the spaces openminded people create are too good to be true. I feel like at any moment homophobia could barge in and harsh my mellow. In fact, sometimes the mellow is unsafe to inhabit. Maybe I need to be more conscious of creating a safe space within myself. 

It didn't help that I was verbally abused yesterday. The attack was not homophobic in nature, more misogynistic, but it wouldn't be hard to find the connection between them. It speaks to the strength of my romantic relationships (yes, you read right: there are two, for I am polyamorous) and my social sphere that I was able to process the negativity this event stirred up within so quickly. A few years ago I selected 'No' as the response to the OKCupid question 'Are you happy with your life?', but now I'm not so sure. I'm ambivalent. 

I am thinking of book titles, as I periodically do. There is much to be written.


The older I get, the more dangerous this blog feels. 

It's often organised around what would otherwise be diary entries, with the minimum of screening for social acceptability - a woman has to keep herself safe on the internet, after all. I thank my lucky stars that I'm not a famous feminist, just one more blogger in an oversaturated field, and haven't had any misogynist comments for years. 

I spoke to an old friend today, who reminds me that it's okay that not everything's alright. I don't believe anyone is every really 100% okay. Constantly manageable emotional states are illusions. Very common illusions. Let us do without. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


It's uncomfortably familiar
And I wish it weren't so
I remember really struggling
With it, long ago

Searching for inner balance
Trying to maintain my tune
Hum along with my 'shadow' self
Listless and inopportune

The answers won't be found outside myself
That space, once cultivated, lingers
Trying to (de)centre and uncomplicate myself
Within the bounds of 'mental fitness'

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My favourite 'Dangerous Ideas'

It's always a pleasure to attend the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, something about Sydney I can honestly say I love. This year I was lucky - I had only bought a ticket to one event, but by virtue of being at the right place at the right time, I ended up attending a session for free. Neither of these sessions has been filmed for YouTube post-festival consumption, but there were a few that were that I wanted to share with you:

#1. 'Why Black Lives Matter' by Alicia Garza

#2. 'Open the Borders' by Philippe Legrain 

If you think about it, #1 and #2 are interconnected. In order to have the ideas that will allow us to open the borders, we have to recognise that poor and/or black lives matter. Whether that means treating would-be immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa as having a lot to offer, or giving poor African-Americans the ability to move to, say, New Zealand or Western Europe, it's a matter of recognising the worthiness and dignity of every individual. 


So the FODI sessions I attended were called 'Generation Less' and 'What don't we want to talk about in the arts?' 'Generation Less' was an interesting, if depressing, analysis of how my generation has less opportunities for wealth accumulation than our parents, and while I couldn't relate to some of the labour-related inequities (since I'm 'mentally disabled' (I prefer mentally gifted and mentally out of place) and don't have a job), I do feel that there are very few opportunities for me to advance economically. I applied for three volunteer positions a few months ago and wasn't able to land any of them, which just goes to show that there's so much competition even in the non-profit sector. I had been intending that a volunteering role would gear me up for a paid placement somewhere. 'Hold your horses, Epiphanie,' the world cried in response. 
At the same time, I recognise that I don't need to own property or have a high disposable income to be happy. I manage to travel every year, and if I can keep doing that, I will be happy. Or, rather, less miserable than I was before. Buddhist theory really helps with finding inner worth within. Anyway, the woman who spoke to us about generational inequality was called Jennifer Rayner (in case you want to look her up). She is involved with the Labour party, so her ideas are correspondingly more centrist than mine, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a lot to offer. 

'What don't we want to talk about in the arts?' was more challenging - it asked us to consider that there is a failure of empathy on the Left towards progressive Muslim voices - the ones who want to reform their religion to make it friendly towards gender equality and GLBTI rights. And here I have to admit that I spend less time empathising with Muslims than I consider would be beneficial in my more reflective states. I don't have any Muslim friends. I'm not actively seeking out to deepen my understanding of progressive Muslim voices. I enjoyed Persepolis and used to follow its creator, Marjane Satrapi, but now that I think about it, I'm not sure she's Muslim.
So what are the reasons for my avoidance of progressive Muslims? Every day at home I hear vitriol about them from people who are close to me. I do my best to ignore that and keep an open mind, but it does tend to drive me away from them. And I'm sorry I'm not doing more, and that I prioritise other kinds of empathy. There's no excuse. But if an interesting voice crosses my path, I am open to listening, and supporting them. I will try to direct myself more towards these people in the future. 
Lloyd Newson is the name of the brave gay man who spoke out against discrimination by fundamentalist Muslims, if you want to look him up. He's a director of politically charged dance performances which look amazing from the clips we were shown last week. 


So what is my own Dangerous Idea? That the so-called mentally ill have meaningful experiences which ought to be listened to and not shut down. We should be encouraging them to open up and connect to other members of the community, not automatically drugging them with neurotoxic drugs. 'Open Dialogue' is a good start, a treatment which respects each client's reality and helps them make meaningful sense of their experiences. Originating in Lapland, Finland, Open Dialogue is the future - but for how much longer will clients be systematically dehumanised by a psychiatric class that doesn't want to relate to them?

Slow down

The pace of the city can take some time to disconnect from. It takes conscious effort to walk slower. Look up, savour each nosefull of the flowers spilling out into the street.

I brought the jacket home
And deviated from submission
How quickly true colours
Reared their ugly heads

I feel helpless and I'd
Rather not participate
In this war of attrition
But my dreams I'll fight to save

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Within a patriarchal context (Poems)

Exposed to the very
Thing I was avoiding
Saw the stuff of oppression
Rise up within me
I could ask
Them to stop creating
These kinds of series
But it's unlikely
To make much
Of an impact


My voice isn't what it used to be
I've made it more authoritative
Less sexy
It's liberating
To subvert the conventions
Embody the struggle
And how
I confuse myself
When the time comes
The voice that received such attention
Has grown into something
More instinctive
I remain softly spoken
But am I missing
The seductiveness
That ensured my popularity?
What does it mean
To want to be desired
Within a patriarchal context?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Childfree and loving it

The more I read about motherhood from feminists, the more relieved I am that I will never occupy that role. Something really radical would have to happen for me to change my mind. In the past I've been more vague about my intention to stay childfree, leaving open the possibility that I might do a U-turn and submit to societal expectations, no matter how unlikely that seemed. Today I am ready to come out and commit to my freedom from dependents: I refuse to have kids.

I don't consciously will it to be so, but I surround myself with people with similar views on mothering. Perhaps those who are mothers are mostly too busy with the incredible demands on their time their lifestyle provides. Perhaps some of them feel, to some extent, that I am too immature or selfish to hang out with. Perhaps it's not active exclusion so much as non-inclusion. It makes sense to seek emotional support from people who can relate to your situation.

Likewise, I want to be around people who have time and energy for me - who like to travel as often as possible, who don't have somebody relying on them and hence taking up the majority of their time. I think it's nice that I have adult friends who enjoy their social lives and advancing in their intellectual pursuits. Who are rebellious feminists.

Being 32 and childfree means that I have the freedom to spend my money in whichever way I wish. I have a growing foreign film collection and a ton of international travel experience. I'm proud of how I conduct my life. I don't feel I am missing out on something because I'm not having a baby, and I'm not at all worried about "being alone in my old age." There will always be people around to share my life with, whether they are my partners, friends, or just friendly faces I spend some time with due to circumstance. (I imagine there will be plenty of social opportunities created by my generation of elderly peeps.)