It’s time. {On the invisibility cloak…}

It’s time.

It’s time to talk about all of this…. this strange twilight zone that we seem to be living in. This endless confronting news cycle. This overwhelming media assault. This strange counter-argument that keeps creeping in, seemingly to justify or give some explanation for the wreckage that has been left behind by this patriarchal society that has dominated for centuries.

Yes, I’m angry. I’m absolutely furious. I’ve been so angry that it has taken me weeks to actually write this all down.

Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building at the Capitol Hill in WashingtonIn the midst of my desperate self-preservation,  I have read and digested much of the news cycle. Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s devastating and measured testimony followed by Brett Kavanaugh’s angry, rage-filled rebuttal. His subsequent confirmation to the Supreme Court in spite of such doubts about his character. Bill Cosby’s conviction and resultant sentencing for his crimes against women. Harvey Weinstein’s trial. Take it back even to Larry Nasser’s trial.  And then, closer to home, the removal of access to basic contraception within the country that I live. Young women being expelled from school should they fall pregnant in a country that does not advocate even basic sexual education. An assault on sexual and reproductive rights that already has devastated and will continue to devastate many. Victim and former gymnast Aly Raisman speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (R) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing

Where do I start? Where do I stop? The whole horrific cycle has gone on for years. Yes, we say #metoo and #timesup. But is it even making a difference? With every victory we are faced with more revelations of just how much damage has been done and continues to be done around the world, from the most powerful, developed nations in the world to developing nations.

Even today I heard a story that horrified me by what can only be described as a cultural ‘invisibility cloak’ where a sexual crime perpetrated by a minor on another child was ‘dealt with’ by a family paying off another family…. No counselling sought for either child. No investigation into how or why this happened. No recognition of any trauma. Just ‘dealt with’ and swept away with the rest of the daily news.

My heart truly hurts in this knowledge. In the knowledge of the psychological damage that exists for the children and the fact that I live in a country where there is one social worker per region……an insurmountable caseload. A country where rape cases are dealt with in the same way, with the same ‘invisibility cloak’.

assaultledeIt makes me wonder about the strength or breadth of this cloak. This protective, invisibility cloak that exists that protects perpetrators, hides the truths and covers up so much under a guise of appearances, explaining away, it’s in the past, ‘harmless fun’, ‘banter’, ‘boys will be boys’…. while women are desperately trying to break glass ceilings, there is an invisibility cloak that we can’t even get near.

The cloak crosses nations and borders. For every President who talks about grabbing a woman’s pussy, there is a rapists family paying off a family in order to ‘keep it quiet’ and stop any scandal. For every sexually abusive coach, there is a 5 year old child bride being married off to a 60 year old. The cloak protects in different guises. But it is there. It is real and it is dangerous.

This invisibility cloak dupes a jury into seeing the underwear of a rape victim as valid evidence of ‘asking for it’ in a trial. This invisibility cloak confirms a sexual predator to the US Supreme Court. This invisibility cloak convinces communities to ‘keep it quiet’ and avoid a scandal. This invisibility cloak covers up years of misogyny, abuse of power and victim blaming.

It’s time. This invisibility cloak can no longer be invisible. It’s real. It’s dangerous and it must be torn apart.

margaret-atwood-1-1I am thankful for the rising of women….this wave of powerful women who are trying to tear this cloak apart. From Eve Ensler to Ilhan Omar. From Maxine Waters to Nadia Murad. From Malala Yousafzai to Kat Banyard to Minna Salami…. look up these names if you don’t know them and look further.

Misogyny is the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

Feminism is the belief in the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.

Self-care isn’t always about manicures, bubble baths and healthy food. Sometimes it is forcing yourself to get out of bed, take a shower and participate in life again. – Meredith Marple

So I want to talk a little about social anxiety, social introversion and the importance of those little acts of self-preservation.

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For as long as I know I have had a certain battery life when it comes to being social. I can very easily stay at home, close my curtains and watch endless episodes of Netflix for my whole life but I recognise that it is not okay for me to do that. It damages my friendships and it damages my self-esteem and mood even more than making myself go out and be social and face the big social anxiety monster.

But, it exhausts me. The mental and emotional effort it takes for me to attend social events can sometimes knock me out for the following days.

Knowing and recognising this about myself has been a bit of a journey but, now that I do know, I have started to learn how to look after myself and monitor my social battery and the resulting anxiety that accompanies a large amount of socialising or the aftermath of a busy time.

Without a doubt we live in an anxious world. We are bombarded with countless disasters in the news, constant ads, crazy expectations – it comes as no surprise that worldwide diagnosis of anxiety is at an all-time high. As someone who has come through PTSD, social anxiety and the resultant depressive episodes are something I have learned strategies to deal with and strategies to cope with.

Feelings of fear have a purpose, they are designed to help us survive scary situations we might encounter. Historically, they made us quicker to respond to the threat of being eaten alive; forcing us to run, hide or for those who are a bit more courageous, throw a stone… the ‘fight-or-flight’ response which causes the heart to speed up, hyperventilation, and an increased blood flow to the muscles.

Social anxiety takes that fear and attaches it to social situations. This often results in finding yourself worrying about other people’s reactions, extreme nervousness and anxiousness, insecurity when taking part in social situations, sometimes paranoia and avoiding social situations altogether.

Since recognising that what is going on with me is actually social anxiety, I have found ways of looking after myself. The first thing being – tell people about it! My friends are familiar with my ‘closed curtain days’. Hiding or suppressing anxiety actually produces more anxiety and I have found that telling people that I am struggling has often helped me to be able to process my feelings a lot more. The media often leads people to believe that mental illness is a weakness, which makes people less likely to admit to themselves and others what they are going through. We all have mental health and it is reported that up to 1 in 3 of us, will at some point experience a mental health issue. It’s okay and important to talk about it.

Self-care isn’t always about manicures, bubble baths and healthy food. Sometimes it is forcing yourself to get out of bed, take a shower and participate in life again. – Meredith Marple

As much as avoiding social situations will make me feel better for a moment – it’s only a short term solution. Sometimes facing my fear and forcing myself to participate again is part of the process. You see, anxiety has a way of grabbing your attention and turning it inward upon yourself, making you not only self-critical but forgetting that there is a whole world out there. It’s easy to forget that no one is perfect when we live in a world that aspires to achieve perfection. It’s also easy to forget that not everyone will like us nor does everyone need to. It’s also often forgotten that it’s okay to make mistakes as it makes us human.

Yes, my closed curtain days are important – it’s like resetting the battery. But being there with people and in the moment is so important too. Even with the mammoth effort it takes for me to do so.

So if I cancel plans, please do not take it to heart. There is always the possibility that I have used up my quota of social battery for this week and needed to recharge. Let me recharge, check in on me, and I’ll be back as soon as I can. I’m trying.  I promise.

 

“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth” – Benjamin Disraeli

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This image is sealed on my heart and my mind. Emma Gonzalez, survivor of the Parkland school shooting, at the podium of the March for our Lives in Washington. She took to the podium for 6 minutes and 20 seconds. After speaking briefly, naming each victim of the shooting that took place in February, she fell silent. Purposefully silent. A silence filled with rage, focus, remembrance, passion. As the tears fell down her cheeks, the rally also fell silent, punctuated only by occasional chants of ‘Never Again’ and supportive cheers. There is power in words, but there was even more power in the courage of that young woman, standing in front of a world audience in silent defiance. In a silence that was louder than all the chants and the cheers that had been heard over the day. Her phone alarm beeped and she spoke once more, stating that 6 minutes and 20 seconds had passed – all the time it took for 17 people to be killed in a rampage by one young man with an assault weapon, ending her speech with these words: “Fight for your lives before it is someone else’s job.”

The moment was powerful. Remarkable, even. A powerful call to action to all the law-makers who have not acted – who have blood on their hands – said with over 4 minutes of silence. There have been many great orators of our time, but none, I would wager, who would have been as brave as to stand in silence for 4 minutes in front of a huge crowd. In future years,  I feel like we will look back at what Emma did yesterday with just as much awe.

As the New York Times said of the marches: ” They made music. They made a scene. They celebrated the political power of noise itself. But it was the silences that were the most striking: silences that were strategic and symbolic. The young—the very young—women who spoke on Saturday made the silence awkward. They made it shameful. They made it powerful. They made it, above all, speech.”

The Parkland shootings have galvanised a nation of young gun control activists in ways that are far greater than previous years. With the history of gun violence that exists in the USA, it is shocking that this has not happened before, but sometimes there comes a time where there is enough momentum for change to feel like a real possibility.

Martin Luther King, Jr said, “One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

This revolution is youth organised, youth led, and is a powerful show of just how incredibly smart Generation Z are. These are the young people who have grown up in full knowledge of social media. These are the young people who have grown up with the omnipresent internet, cable news and open media. They have seen the repeated devastation that comes from lawmakers not acting. They know enough is enough. They know how to make their voices heard. They know how to keep their message being broadcast. Doubt them if you dare.

They are unstoppable. They are incredible.