When pinpointing one of many causes of mental illness, I think there is a big difference between stating that your mental health was impacted by how you were treated by others, such as bullying, harassment, *phobia, racism, etc, and that your mental health was impacted by others calling specific behaviours out.
In the first, other agents are impacting you, hopefully in the second the realisation that you are being an arse (in whatever way), causes you to step back and reflect on whether or not you were/are an arse, and what you may need to do to change that. When it is your behaviour that has impacted on your mental health, when said behaviour is pointed out, you cannot blame those who have pointed out that your behaviour is bad.
**Trigger warning – this post discusses suicide attempts, police violence, PTSD and rape flashbacks**
I think it’s beyond time to review the Victoria Mental Health Act (1986)*. The way the system treats those with mental illnesses is horrifying, and the other day this was brought home to me again as I chatted to a woman I know and her very recent experience with the Mental Health Act and the whole medical/police system. I’m going to summarise her story, and leave out anything that will identify her. That said, I don’t know every step of her story, I know what she told me the other night, and that in itself is horrifying without knowing all the rest of the story.
Today is/was R U OK Day – a day where you are encourage to approach people (friends/family/strangers?) and ask them if they are OK. From the R U OK website:
Thursday 7 October, 2010 is R U OK?Day. A national day of action that aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones.
On that day we want everyone across the country, from all backgrounds and walks of life, to ask family, friends and colleagues: “Are you OK?”.
Because staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feelings of isolation and being alone are major contributing factors to depression and social issues that can ultimately result in suicide. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.
It’s so simple but in the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.
I get the whole raising awareness thing, but right now this doesn’t really work for me. If I had waited until today to ask my friend who attempted suicide a couple of weeks ago, whether or not she was ok, she may not have lived that long. The analogy for me is something like “Safe Sex” day where everyone practices safe sex and forgets about it for the other 364 days of the year (365 on leap years). That would be a bad thing, and having one day singled out in a year where you’re told (not encouraged) to ask someone you care about if they are OK, versus the rest of the year, is not exactly helpful.
I think I’d be less … something… about this if they more clearly stated that this was an awareness exercise and that this was to raise awareness of the tools available to those who want to ask if someone is ok, and to provide information to those who need it. Mainly stating that this is the day you should ask someone if they are ok, misses all the other days when they may not be.
It also assumes that everyone has the spoons to ask someone else if they are ok, or are ok enough themselves to ask someone else. I have had days where I did not have the spoons to ask someone if they were ok because being prepared to listen and engage with that person enough for answer required energy I did not have. Asking if someone is OK is not a short conversation, and can go beyond the one coffee suggested above. It requires focus, probing and understanding feedback, and a willingness to engage – and as well the understanding that whoever you’ve approached may not be willing to open up to you and that isn’t something you should take personally.
The R U OK website also has a page providing suggestions and advice on how to start an R U OK conversation. This page is full of good information except for one bit which I found somewhat problematic. The page rightly tells you not to offer advice, “Avoid telling someone what to do: it is important to listen and try to help the other person work out what is best for them“. But then delves immediately into:
Encourage physical health. Maintaining regular exercise, a nutritious diet and getting regular sleep helps people to cope in tough times
Encourage the person to seek professional help from their family doctor, a support service or counsellor, or a mental health worker
Encourage self-care. Sometimes people need to be encouraged to do more to look after their own needs during a difficult time
So on one hand, don’t give advice, but on the other encourage them to look after themselves more, seek help and maintain their physical health – things the person you are meant to be listening to may not be able to actually do for a myriad of reasons, or who may be doing all or some of them and doesn’t need you to comment on.
When I found out from my friend about her attempted suicide, I hugged her, took her somewhere quiet and listened to her. I asked if she’d like to come to my place for a while, if she needed to, again being ok with her saying no, because this was not about me – it was about what she needed.
The fact that the R U OK website also lists groups you can speak to if you need help now, is also a great resource.
In the end the R U OK idea is good, but for me to be satisfied with it, it needs more tweaking. More conversation up front about how this should happen every day and not just once a year. More tools for people who’ve never had conversations like this. More information about what constitutes being helpful, how to provide feedback during the conversation so that whoever is being listened to knows that they are being heard, what to do if things get out of hand, how to check up on someone again later and how to debrief with someone afterward so that you too are OK.
Welcome to the 29th Down Under Feminists Carnival. Thank you everyone for your submissions which I have organised as much as I can. I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I did, and that you continue to submit posts to an awesome carnival. Thank you so much to Chally, of Zero at the Bone and FWD/Forward and Radical Readers and Feministe for organising this carnival and letting me host it.
Thank you to Chally, Jo, Mary and Deborah for hunting down and finding most of the great posts to include this month. Thank you to everyone else who submitted their or other’s writings.
If I have used incorrect pronouns to identify any of the participants please let me know so that I can correct them. Any misuse is unintentional and due solely to me being unfamiliar with the author of the post.
If I have misrepresented/badly summarised your post, please let me know and I’ll correct it.
So, this carnival is big and full of fascinating reading. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it all together.
This month’s optional theme was Awesome Women.
So, put your feet up, down, sideways or however you feel comfortable and enjoy.
Ilaeria blogged about the three people who have had the biggest impact in her life, her mother and two grandmothers and share the lessons she learnt from them.
tigtog writes about Bell Hooks week at Hoydon About Town. Deborah at In a Strange Land, during one of her Friday Womanist posts quotes Bell Hooks.
Deborah from In a Strange Land blogged about the anniversary of Sufferage for Women in New Zealand (17 September 1893) and the hard work that was put into gaining signatures for the petition that helped make is possible.
Mary at Hoydon About Town has been awesome and has developed a Firefox bookmarklet to make submitting blog carnival posts easier. Please go and install so it is much easier to submit posts for the next carnival.
Media and society
Wildly Parenthetical at Hoydon About Town talks about Sexting and Slut Shaming and how bad the Minister for Home Affairs’s new campaign is for young women.
I spoke about Rampant Sexism in an edition of the MX where it suggested the women were different than men, that women should earn less than men for the sake of their heterosexual relationships and that women can steal men and that men can do nothing about it.
Pickled Think writes about media and societal pressure on men to propose regardless of what their girlfriends may feel about marriage because it seems that their feelings aren’t important (all girls want to marry right?), and Pickled Think also discusses the patriarchal institution of marriage and the lack of the “big gay proposal”. (The last line on the first comment is also gold).
Blue Milk reviews Radical Act, a documentary about queer/feminist musicians in the USA, made in 1995
Ju at transcendancing has written a review of Glitter Rose, a short story collection by an Australian author doing interesting and challenging things with female characters. The collection is published by a press that is also doing interesting and challenging things with a feminist focus in publishing.
Kim writes at Larvatus Prodeo about feeling sympathy for Stephen Conroy and the ongoing debate about the internet filter being more complex than liberties or the rights of adults.
Mary at Hoydon About Town wrote about #groggate and the outing of Grog Gamut’s legal name by The Australian. The scary thing about The Australian’s justification is that they’re arguing for the outing of anyone who attempts to influence politics (or anything else) regardless of the wish for anonymity.
There are many ways that the less powerful are silenced, and conflating having something to hide or keep private with being not worth listening to is one of them, and insisting on identity disclosure is another. Not all pseudonymous writers are using pseudonyms to ethical ends, this is abundantly clear to anyone who has ever been on the Internet. But insisting that only those who name themselves and state their interest to everyone who lives in the country can speak is far worse.
Ariane at Ariane’s little world, adds to the discussion regarding #groggate by explaining that a person is not their job.
Bodies and health
Ariane calls bullshit on obesity being the root of all evil and society’s with focus on fatness as a health issue. Ariane also points out the negative health consequences of dieting.
Split Milk talks about why she doesn’t want to engage in discussions about dieting and how important fat acceptance places are.
Many fat activists also identify as feminists and in my opinion the most important tenet that those two movements have in common is a core belief in bodily autonomy. Advocating for fat acceptance is about asking for freedom from oppression and prejudicial treatment.
You know what? Fuck you. You’re not me. You’re not that other person. You don’t know the circumstances surrounding why someone is the way they are unless they tell you. Yes, we all make superficial judgements but does that give you the right to be abusive or phobic? No.
Fat Heffalump shared her paper that she presented for the Australian Fat Studies conference this month. She shares the effect that the “war on obesity” has had on her and most likely has had on others.
Sam at fat dialogue writes about her experience with Control Top Underpants and how important making people uncomfortable is as a really powerful critical and political intervention.
Julie at the Hand Mirror writes about Thin Privilege and how it isn’t all that great.
The Thin versus Not Thin dichotomy is yet another false division that just sets women against each other. We need to fight, together, against a culture which judges us on our physical appearance, whether that appearance is one that conforms or not.
Steph writes at LadyNews that although Christina Hendricks is great, and the media acceptance of her not typically represented body type is also great, having her body shape/type as one to aspire to is not a good thing.
Pickled Think shreds an article discussing a new sitcom hopefully not coming to a screen near you, and how fat really isn’t coming back to Hollywood.
Health and disability
Jo at Wallaby writes about Accessibility and Sydney’s public transport, focusing on Sydney’s buses.
Michelle at The Red Pill Survive Guide (*trigger warning – discussion of suicide*) writes about World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, and talks about how she understands that level of despair.
Chally at Zero at the bone, writes about taking a sickie and how hard it is for people with disabilities to take a “sickie” for legitimate reasons let alone “bludging”.
Helen at FlyingBlogspot.com talks about her ordinary and what she does to manage day to day. Helen also discusses how her ordinary may change with a review of her medication and trying some new treatment.
Race and Racism
Hexpletive blogged about the NSW Parliament amending the NSW State Constitution to finally recognise indigenous Australians as the first people in the State.
I wrote a piece about Boat People and how it should not be an issue.
Queen Emily at An Army of Rabbits discusses the concept of whiteness and the difference between white in Australia and white in the USA.
Jo at Wallaby writes a post about an anti-violence march asking some very pertinent questions for you to answer before you read Blue Milk’s post below.
Blue Milk writes about the march in Alice Springs by Aboriginal men to “stop the violence” and the lack of media coverage about positive Aboriginal stories.
Steph at 天高皇企鹅远 writes about japan ken and barbie, how they’re in Japanese inspired clothing and not actually Japanese, leading to the fetishisation and exotification of non Western cultures.
Chally wrote at Feministe about one of her favourite bit of cognitive dissonance.
stargazer at The Hand Mirror wrote about how collective responsibility is not productive, and states that, “i still don’t accept that i have any responsibility to apologise for the actions of someone i’ve never met and have absolutely no chance of influencing.”
the news with nipples writes Another burqa blog post and reluctantly gives Sergio Redegalli some of her time while she discusses how wrong his latest “art” work is. Then asks why the debate about burquas is still being controlled by people who do not wear burqas.
Blue Milk talks about how Stephanie Rice’s apology to queer people was not adequate and points out all the flaws in that apology very nicely.
Steph at 天高皇企鹅远 went to WorldCon and discusses her experiences with two panels, one on queer themes in SF, which she had to walk out of and the other chaired by a trans academic which was a far more positive experience.
PharaohKatt at Distinctly Disgruntled (*trigger warning – discussion of suicide*) deconstructs Bob Katter’s comments regarding the apparently non-existent LBGTIQ population in his electorate, the high rate of suicide of LBGTIQ people and Bob Katter’s comments about suicide on a Q&A segment.
I think the dynamic is deeply conditioned by internalised queerphobia. Specifically, internalisation of the double standard that there’s a threshold of queerness that someone has to prove in order to be ‘really’ queer (when there’s no such threshold for heterosexuality).
Maia at The Hand Mirror discusses a proposed bill in New Zealand which would re-criminalise street sex workers and how the relevant political parties have voted.
It is specifically targeting street sex workers. Street sex workers do not generally have $2,000 to pay a fine. The fines, when they’re awarded, won’t have the magic power to stop someone being poor and working as a sex worker, it’ll just make them poorer. It won’t make street sex work disappear, it’ll just make it harder, more dangerous, and more marginalised.
Steph at vegan about town discusses how veganism, race and ethnicity intersect and how calling for China to be “wiped from the face of the earth” for the way they treat animals is hypocritical when every country mistreats animals.
Maia at The Hand Mirror also discusses how there is a connection between problems the way food is discussed and the problems with way food is produced and looks at this under a feminist framework.
Shiny writes about how she is all out of cookies and isn’t going to give them to people who meet basic human standards of decency.
Callistra writes about safety and safe spaces, what they can be and how they are created.
Safety and feelings of safe spaces are also a place of sanctuary. It’s an intimately known quality, where so much discussion has already occured that the system can meet your needs. It means when you’re miserable and need company to listen to, you have friends who can answer that need. Or if you’re miserable and need to talk; you know you can have these needs met. It means if you need to sit quietly and absorb group energy, you can do so without worrying what others might think, say or do. I noticed this as being ‘a place where you can exist without struggle of identity’.
Callistra also writes about what connections are and how they contribute to safe spaces.
Writing at The Hand Mirror, anjum writes about women in minority cultures, who as feminists want to criticise and change the culture, but who fear that it will only give ammunition to haters in the majority culture.
steph writes at vegan about town regarding exclusionary language in the vegan and animal rights movement in Australia and how veganism and the animal rights movement are often seen as white/Anglo-Saxon, middle-class movements.
Pickled Think writes about surviving the Christchurch earthquake and how she feels right now.
Blue Milk writes about breastfeeding and how she felt when she first started and how she feels about it now.
Hexpletive writes about the 9th World Indigenous Women and Wellness Conference she attended and presented at in Darwin and then goes on to discuss the other Conferences and Conventions that she is interested in for the remainder of the year. I’m going to have to look some of these up.
Spilt Milk shares an experience of encountering penis graffiti with her young daughter and recounts Helen Barne’s Young Adult novel ‘Killing Aurora’, in which the protagonist draws vagina dentata graffiti in response to penis graffiti.
Spilt Milk wrote about her childhood comforter and how that was taken away from her, and now how the childcare centre her daughter goes to wants to take away her daughter’s teddy bear.
Queen Emily writes at An Army of Rabbits, two (related) things that never happened to her in Australia, specifically the assumption that she’d been to church followed by an exhortation to keep god in her heart.
Chally wrote about how social justice can also be about staying silent and doing what is right for you versus the wider world (this post could fit under most categories, and I struggled to find the best fit).
Wallaby writes about how prioritising and choosing your energy drain is important for your wellness, and your choices in this regard should be admired, fostered and encouraged.
tigtog clearly states for the record why banning commenters and refusing comment publication is not censorship as blogs are privately owned spaces.
the news with nipples writes about the petition put together by Plan Australia to make September 22 the International Day of the Girl. You can sign the petition here.
Natalie at definatalie.com writes about her feral leghair and why she’s going to grow it. She includes a great discussion about The Gruen Transfer and their discussion about redefining femininity based on advertising.
steph discusses at LadyNews the current Jadelle (a contraceptive implant) furore in the media. steph advocates choice and education for women, which some of the quotes in the article also supported.
Megan at Craft is the New Black writes about the need for the ‘generations’ of feminism to recognise and celebrate each other’s worth.
In a post to mark Women’s Suffrage Day in New Zealand, Ele at Home Paddock writes of the need for us to exercise our hard won right to vote in the upcoming local body elections.
*Trigger warnings – posts in this section discuss violence against women*
The Dawn Chorus discusses Street Harassment and how when reporting it or writing down what has been said, the tone of what was said is missing which is one of the reasons why street harassment is often belittled or dismissed.
Blue Milk explains that asking is sexy and that without consent it isn’t sex and the comments are great too.
I don’t know why the idea has persisted that asking for consent is necessarily a clinical business – what is stilted about – more? do you want to? do you like? Because “mood-killer”? Are you kidding me? That moment when they close the space between you both and ask you to put your cards on the table – is this on or not, can I do this with you – is one of the most heart-flippingly exciting moments in all of existence.
Jo at Wallaby wrote about the treatment received by two women who had been sexually assaulted in different legal systems and how much those legal systems differed.
XY writes about why he won’t be walking in Reclaim the Night/Take Back the Night march and provides and excellent resource (if you need one) to explain to some men why they are not always welcome to march.
AnneE at The Hand Mirror takes some relevant material from a paper on people who abuse their partners.
blue milk at Hoydon About Town writes about the strange behaviour of the state and society when a mother whose daughter was victim of incest is upset and protective of her daughter when pornography is displayed at a 7-11.
And isn’t it a strange world where police can be called in to protect your right to display pornography? So unquestioning are we about it that the newspaper article actually describes what unfolded as a “bizarre incident”. It is the same strange world where it is estimated that up to one in four girls will be sexually abused during their childhood.
Both Deborah from In a Strange Land and I wrote about Brendan Black and his opinion piece in Fairfax media on breastfeeding and breasts. Unfortunately he fails terribly at being a feminist ally when he could have done very well.
Jo at Wallaby suggests that men should not go out alone otherwise they might, “be accused of, and/or commit, indecent assault, sexual assault, rape or other sexual violence.”