Friday, 30 May 2014

Selective Attention Paying

If you're a feminist, you may know of Jessica Valenti. She's been in the public domain as a pioneer of feminist theory for decades, and has been extraordinarily influential. She's currently writing for my newspaper of choice, The Guardian. I read her work with interest, but with some reservation. Why? Because she invariably focuses on the backlash against feminism to a degree I find counterproductive. When writing about Monica Lewinsky's return to American public life, she highlighted misogynistic comments that had been made on the internet, instead of using the space to make a positive argument. As such, I read Jessica's work while keeping in mind that I always have a choice about what to focus on.

Many years ago, when I started out blogging, I made a misogynistic enemy. I made the mistake of adding him to my MSN Messenger list and chatting with him, in a brave attempt to find out 'what he was really about'. I should have trusted my instincts and simply ignored him, but then again that's the benefit of hindsight for you. Our interaction was mutually antagonistic and as a result of learning more about him, I cared more about his reaction to me. It's not a knowledge I can unlearn. However, I can change how I feel and think about it. Not to mention ensure that my focus remains elsewhere.

Last year I made a decision to care about the opinion of someone who clearly hated me. Not only that, I developed an attachment to his online presence and sought his attention. Fortunately I have made a decision to ignore him from now on, and my mental health has never been better. My point is that we always have the choice of what to focus on. The world could be ending - you could choose to focus on that beautiful painting you created during that time. Instead of spending your last moments panicking, you could make the choice to bask in serenity, knowing that to get caught up in the collective panic would be counterproductive to your attempts to make the most of the rest of your life.

I'll never know what it's like to be Jessica Valenti, and I admire a lot of what she does, but I'm glad that I'm getting back to my 'normal' - paying very selective attention to the world outside.

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