Getting it off my chest

    • Disclaimer: I wrote this post several months ago  – January . Today – in my second day of #OpenHouseRiot and after having a twitter conversation with Selina Thompson, I feel somehow galvanised to share it – with minimal editing.

      So, here is my first blog under the name of Feminist Shakedown

      The idea for Feminist Shakedown occurred to me back in 2012. I wanted to do a series of classes that folded technique with body love and looked at plural feminisms.  Everything felt clear then. I – a privately educated oddball trapped in feelings ugliness and shame was having a troublesome relationship with authority and I wanted to create something else. A space of celebratory resistance.

      Authority. I haven’t ever been in trouble with the law. I guess my challenges with authority have been far more insular and local. Without a fair trial. A teacher hit me when I was nine and I hit her back only to be told that that was nasty behaviour. At eleven, a lifeguard didn’t believe I had just been sexually assaulted preferring the narrative that I was flirting with him. Fifteen, and an adult I barely knew told me he was going to take me out onto the street and rape me – “Would I like that?”.

      In my twenties, I am voiceless as:

      A man in the street wants me to sit on his face

      A photographer wants me to do a dance move that is completely me

      A choreographer thinks I am not risking enough or convincing him I am in danger

      An academic tells me to check my anger

      A doctor asks Hamish if I am highly strung…instead of suicidal which we have both told him over and over that I am – particularly by that point in the appointment…

      A psychiatrist prescribes me antipsychotics and then asks if I know what is wrong with me

      My mother becomes homeless

      Thigh gaps become a thing

      Miley Cyrus becomes a thing

      Beyonce’s skin looks whiter and whiter with each album cover

      I read books my friends are enjoying – How to be a Woman, The Vagenda etc. – and feel depressed, out of sorts and lonely.

      I took The Vagenda on holiday recently and halfway through turned to Hamish and said that I didn’t want to live anymore and that I would be so much better as stardust. The book literally made me want to re-define my existence and leave all definitions behind. How optimistic and hopelessly tragic is that?

      The penny takes its time to drop…

      The world as it is, is not made for a lot of people who live in it

      But, sometime later…

      I am (we are) not voiceless

      I attended ‘Are We There Yet?’ – the launch of a study room guide on Live Art and Feminism by LADA and my ideas around Feminist Shakedown came back into my mind. The event was most inspiring in its acknowledgement that the project happened in a contained set of circumstances and in its invitation for discussions to continue and broaden.

      The event kicked me up the ass to create for myself a place of honest restart. For now, it is this blog which I hope will then stand me in a good place to offer workshops. I will still fall back on my coping strategies of sticking my head in the sand – watching countless movies with the curtains drawn – but every now and then, I will write and dance as honestly as I know how. Writing and dancing I hope will shift the shame and isolation I (we) feel as people who – through no labelling of our own – have been called ‘other’.

      Jamila and I received a question from Phoebe Patey-Ferguson. As you can see below, the she is just as unsure of it as can be because – yes, it is all a bit awkward. It is nice to be in that awkward space with her…

      (I’m trying to work out how to word this question properly but it’s sort of about ‘intersectionality’ please tear me to pieces if you feel it needs it. Just interested in the marginalisation of diverse voices within many women-led campaign groups etc.) Do you feel included by the dominant feminist discourse? When you think about your experiences as black women, do you think they differ to the ‘everyday sexism’ experienced by white women?

      My stomach tends to know things before my brain has figured the situation out and as I read the question, I feel nauseous. Why? I guess the magnitude of it – I cannot ever hope for an overview of Western Feminist discourse(s)  let alone elegantly locate my place within it. But also, I don’t think that a white woman would be asked this question in the first place. Why do I have to answer/justify/explain/defend positions others don’t? A part of me does still want to answer this question – probably one dance at a time. On and on, forever. Until I am stardust.