Thoughts On Happiness: A Life Audit

Thanks to @nylontoast for letting me use this INCREDIBLE artwork.

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Disclaimer: depression is an illness. I know this; I’ve been in the grips of it, and when you’re that deep and that hollow, it’s very difficult to get out. Maybe you need medication, or therapy, or time and support, or a mix of all of that. Whatever you need, you go ahead and you do it. This blog is taking another angle, and it might help you too, but it might not, and that’s okay. This blog is looking at general unhappiness, rather than clinical depression. Okay, we on the same page? Good.

It should also go without saying that these are my opinions and experiences – but here I am, saying it.

I firmly believe that we can be in charge of our own happiness in that instance. It’s well known that humans are prone to putting themselves in shit situations and thinking it’s the only option. I know I’ve done it in the past. I can honestly say that I’ve only felt truly happy as a person for about 18 months. But I soon realised that (aside from the bipolar and the anxiety), I was making myself miserable. I undertook a life audit. I changed a lot.

What Makes Us Unhappy?

I took a step back and, one by one, analysed the things that made me miserable. Here’s a handful of what I found:

Work – I hated my job. I thought I hated the commute, but I do that same commute now and it’s no skin off my nose. I was working long hours in a thankless job for no money. I was lucky enough to find something else, where I could flex my creativity and my talents and really feel like I was making a difference. It’s a trap a lot of people fall in to – and for some there isn’t another option, which is always shitty. Your job is the place you spend the most of your time, so of course it impacts what you’re doing. If it is making you miserable, look for something else. You do not have to put up with people who think they’re better than you; you do not have to make money for people who do not respect you; you do not have to waste 40 hours a week on something that bores you; you do not have to settle because it’s easy. You deserve better. Figure out what you want to be doing, and make a plan for how you’re going to achieve it. Sometimes even just having the plan there can help.  Even if you’re not a career person, and you don’t want to be rising through the ranks, and you just want to make money and go home – it’s so important to be working somewhere that isn’t actively detrimental to your mental health.

Money – Live within your means. You do not need expensive things to be happy. More often than not, if you’re buying lots of stuff you can’t afford it’s because a. you’re trying to fix something else by throwing money at it or b. you’re trying to impress other people. Neither one of these things will make you happy.

Toxic Relationships – If someone causes you more upset than happiness, cut them out. It’s that simple. If they’re bad for your health or your self-esteem, fuck ’em. Friends, boyfriends, even family – whatever. They are not worth it. You are important, and you are your priority. If you don’t put you first, no-one else will. In a relationship with someone who makes you chase them? BYE FELICIA. Feel like you need to change yourself to fit in with people? TOODLE AND ALSO OO. You don’t need them. When I realised I’d rather have no-one than be surrounded by assholes, my friendship circle suddenly whittled down to pure motherfucking solid gold. Seriously, my friends are the absolute shit. I cannot stress this enough.

Don’t stick with someone because you’re frightened to be alone. You’re fucking brilliant, you’re all you need. It’s a cliche but god damn is it true.

Confidence – This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, and it’s a tricky one to navigate. I’ve spoken before about how I discovered self-love and body confidence, and how much it changed my life, and I can not overstate it. Take stock of what you love about yourself: your personality, your looks, your talents. Do things that make you feel empowered – for me this is performing and wearing tight clothes on a body I used to hide. Learn to say ‘fuck off’ to the asshole in your head that tells you you’re not good enough. You are not here for long; life is short as shit, so don’t waste any time on hating yourself. It’s not worth it.
If you died tomorrow, would regret not having the ‘perfect beach body’ or would you regret never sunbathing naked? Would you regret eating the calories of a biscoffi krispy kreme, or would you think about all the times you drank good wine with good people and be so happy that you got to experience that genuine connection? At the end of the day, what randoms think of you is not important. You do you.

You Do You – This is my BIGGEST rule. First of all, there is no cookie-cutter person that lives happily ever after. It  doesn’t exist. You might think you need to have the perfect relationship, and go on perfect holidays, and live like the family on a christmas card – and hey, some people do have that and it’s great. But you can be a fucking weirdo and be happy. You can be single and be happy. You can be poor and happy, rich and happy, fat and happy, thin and happy, hair and happy, bald and happy, have 25 cats and be happy (I highly advise that one actually). As long as you’re doing it for YOU.

“You can’t mismatch prints!” – you think it looks good? Fucking mismatch those prints. “Chokers don’t suit you!” – DISAGREE. “OMG I could never go two months without shaving.” – K don’t then, tf does it have to do with me? “Feminists aren’t stay at home mu-” let me stop you right fucking there, we’re all feminists and we can do what we like, move along. Guess what – what other people think does not dictate what will make you happy. What society says you should do is not necessarily indicative of what you should do. You know you better than anyone else knows you so please just DO YOU. Big into throat singing? BELT IT. Want to paint hairy nude dudes? GRAB A GOD DAMN BRUSH YOU BEAUTIFUL WEIRDO. Can you imagine how much more interesting the world would be if everyone just went with their gut?

As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else, you damn well do you.

Be Passionate – While we’re on doing you – do it with love. Find something that gives you life and do it. Paint, write, sing, build, dance, programme, clean, organise events, go travelling, watch every film, learn a language – find the thing you love and do it. Because otherwise, what are you wasting your time doing? As I already mentioned – your time is RUNNING OUT, fucking use it.

What makes you happy?

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The Intersectional F Word

Feminism. It is for everyone. It is important. It shapes who I am.

What is it? How did I discover it? Why is it important? Why must it be intersectional? How does it affect my day-to-day life?

I have several blogs in the pipeline, but it occurs to me that a lot of them are around a similar theme: Feminism. So let’s take a quick look at what it is, and what it means to me.

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that if you’re here, on my blog, you’ve a vague idea of what Feminism is – and you’re more than likely a feminist yourself, judging by this Twitter poll:

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But just really quickly for the people at the back.

FEMINISM = EQUALITY.

Got it? Need to write it down? I’ll wait.

One thing I am told from time to time is that, as a feminist, I am sexist myself. I am pro-women and anti-men. Which is, of course, bullshit. I love men. A lot of my friends are men. I’m even married to one. But I do not love men who hate women. So before I get on to my personal experience with feminism, I have borrowed a quick explanation from FemBotMag:

So why “feminism”? Why not “equalism,” “egalitarianism” or another name with a similar connotation? Feminism is a movement centered on advocating gender equality. Not only does feminism seek to elevate the status of women in society, it seeks to bring justice to people who have been discriminated against in terms of their race, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, and much more. Seeing that females have suffered from oppression in our patriarchal society, I think it’s okay that one movement is more associated with the oppressed gender, especially considering how it’s one of the only things we have to ourselves. Had males historically suffered the same amount of discrimination at the hands and will of women or from a matriarchy, perhaps the name meninism would be acceptable. However, males, especially white, straight males, have not suffered at the hands of sexism to the degree females have.

Feminism seeks to balance the scales, so to use fem in the ism, is to give females the boost we have been deserving of all this time, but have been consistently denied. Feminism doesn’t just seek to discover equality between all genders, it seeks to give back women everything they were denied; this is why it’s called feminism.

I’m aware this blog could get incredibly lengthy, so I’m going to try and keep it short and sweet.

How Did I Discover Feminism?

I discovered feminism as something I identified with when I was given Caitlin Moran’s book How To Be A Woman by my friend Lee-Anne. “It’s about feminism,” she informed me, “but it’s not all man hating and not shaving your armpits. I actually think we might be feminists.”

How right she was. Whilst I’ve always believed that women can do whatever they want, and that we should all be paid the same, and all the stuff that to any normal person seems like logic, I did spend a few years of my late teens as that utter dick who considers herself ‘one of the lads’, and who ‘hates girls’ because they’re ‘so dramatic’. What a prick. This book kick-started my feminist journey and taught me just how much more there is to do.

Why Is It Important?

Feminists aren’t angry lesbians with hairy legs who hate men. We’re men and women with consciences and an awareness of societies’ bias and white male privilege. Yes, we’ve come a long long way, and things are so much better for (at least cis-gendered) women than they were even 20 years ago. BUT. There is still a 23% pay gap. Women hold less than 20% of seats in US Congress, US Senate, US House of Representatives. They hold less than 30% of seats in the House of Commons. (When I first found these stats they were 3 years old, but upon researching further this is still, disappointingly, the case.)

Women are still taught to feel shame when they are raped and sexually assaulted, whilst men such as Brock Turner get off with light sentences because of their ‘bright futures’.

Female Genital Mutilation happens to girls as young as 5 months in 29 countries across the world. 120 countries don’t have law against marital rape.

Because when Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom faced off in the Tory leadership battle, the questions coming up surrounded their family situation; something which never would have happened to a male candidate. (side note, they’re both terrible, but that’s got nothing to do with their vaginas.)

Women are under-represented in the media, in industries, in boardrooms, in comedy. It’s getting better. But we aren’t there yet.

Fuck, a man who has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women can still be elected to the most powerful seat in America, I mean fuck.

As Joss Whedon stated when asked why he writes such strong female characters, we need feminism “because you’re still asking me that question.”

And I haven’t even begun to talk about trans women, gay women, black women….

Why Must It Be Intersectional?

There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all feminism. We’re in danger of becoming oppressive in our feminism, which sort of defeats the object, no?

My problems as a white, able-bodied, bisexual woman (in a heterosexual marriage, so let’s face it I pass as straight) do not fit one cookie-cutter type of feminism that would also fit those of a black woman, or a trans woman, or a disabled woman. To quote Kimberle Crenshaw, the American professor who coined the term, Intersectionality is:

“The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples include race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity.”

If we’re talking about equality, we have to look at it from all angles of oppression, and from all angles of inequality. So I’ll end on a quote from writer & comedian, Ava Vidal, which sums it up better than I ever could:

To me the concept is very simple. As a black feminist, I do not condone Chris Brown physically assaulting his (then) girlfriend Rhianna, but I will object if someone describes him as a ‘black b*****d’, as one white woman did to me. It does not mean that I support domestic violence as she then accused me of doing. It means that I, like the majority of black women, don’t support racism.

The main thing ‘intersectionality’ is trying to do, I would say, is to point out that feminism which is overly white, middle class, cis-gendered and able-bodied represents just one type of view – and doesn’t reflect on the experiences of all the multi-layered facets in life that women of all backgrounds face.

To sum up. Intersectional Feminism, or GTFO.

How Does It Affect My Life?

I find myself getting angry more often lately. It’s a smorgasbord of Trumpy Brexitty Moronic Cousiny madness that envelopes me, and gives me the drive to write blogs like this, to knit pink hats with ears, to go to protests and to argue and shout and stamp and wave my arms around and make my little, human sized person BIGGER AND LOUDER AND MORE NOTICED.

Since discovering feminism, I’ve discovered body positivity and overcome years of self-confidence issues. I’ve found new, amazing friends to fight alongside. I’ve changed the why I write both at work and in fiction. But it has destroyed some relationships. It’s made it harder to respect some people. It’s made me disappointed in others. It’s a belief that I subscribe to so strongly, and I feel that – if you’re an ‘anti-feminist’, despite knowing what it stands for, then we really have nothing in common. And that’s been a big realisation.

Tell me your Feminism story in the comments!

Disclaimer: I AM STILL LEARNING, just like the rest of you. I read and research and listen to what others have to say to make sure I’m accurately reflecting my beliefs, and that my beliefs accurately reflect reality. I’m totally open to discussing all of the above, so Tweet me or leave a comment!

You can also join in the live Poll Thread over on Twitter. Tell me about your feminism

Ruining Chick Flicks by a Feminist Killjoy

Warning: Hey there! I’m a feminist killjoy, and I am here to ruin some films.

How many movies have been ruined for you since you discovered feminism? Lately, I’m noticing a hell of a lot.

This weekend, I had ‘the girls’ over for a movie night. We bundled into a pile of blankets and cushions and giant unicorns, cracked open some leftover Christmas wine and ordered pizza. It was heaven. Except…something in our movie choices was a little off. These were all the so-called ‘chick flicks’ we’d grown up with and loved – but suddenly, through my smash-the-patriarchy lenses, I found myself recoiling every few minutes. Teeth drying moments of “oh, no,” spattered throughout these stories I knew and loved so well.

Despite all of my friends identifying as feminists, I seem to be the most, shall we say, vocal, on certain things. I was shushed repeatedly as I snorted with derision each time a man came to the rescue, or the already-beautiful actress removed her glasses and suddenly became a princess. But it got me thinking. How many of these films we grew up feeling empowered by are actually littered with sexism? And can we still watch them, once that veil has been lifted? Or are we doomed to dump them with Lara Croft in the bin of pre-third wave feminism pop culture?

So, I took a look at a few films and a few common themes. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

The “I Want” Song

Any writer or movie enthusiast knows that no story will work without a passionate protagonist; someone with purpose and flame. In musical theatre, this is known as the “I Want” song; the character generally is given a solo to show what means the most to them, and what they’re willing to fight for. So I took a few examples, with the of some Twitter folk, to study what some of these female characters are after, and if its conducive to sexism.

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I’ll start with the heartbreaker, just to set the tone. Bridget Jones’ Diary has been one of my favourite films for as long as I can remember, and despite her career flourishing mid-film, it is blatant to see that her drive is to find a man. She is single, and she laments being single. She is convinced she’ll die alone, and writes about it furiously in her diary. She doesn’t specify what she expects to gain from a relationship; merely that she wants one – and despite the film’s supposed empowering decision to have Renee Zelwegger put on weight for the role in order to seem ‘normal’, the only other real aspiration she shows is that of losing weight. So Bridget is negative about her, quite frankly, banging body, and she feels much better about it when validated by a man. Oh. Shit.

My Best Friend’s Wedding – Julia Roberts’ character is driven, throughout the entire film, by chasing a man.

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Legally Blonde – a film considered by some to be quite empowering based on the supposition that a pretty, peppy, fashion major can also be a bad-ass lawyer – is unfortunately tainted by the fact that she only goes to law school for…you guessed it…a man! Oh. Shit.

The only one of these films I could think of that didn’t have a man at the centre of the I Want, was Miss Congeniality. Sandra Bullock’s Gracie Hart is focussed on her career in the FBI, on catching bad guys and standing by her strict moral code. She’s not fussed what she looks like, she doesn’t care about acting ‘feminine’ to gain approval from her peers. Great, fabulous, I fucking love it. Oh wait, what’s that? The rest of the film is about how that’s not acceptable and she has to change? Oh. Shit.

Apologies and Girl-on-Girl Crime

As Tina Fey says in the immortal Mean Girls, there’s been some girl-on-girl crime here. (I’ve checked, Mean Girls passes the Bechdel test, don’t panic.)

Many of these films are lousy with the pitting of women against each other – jesus, look at Bride Wars! – and slut shaming. And yet when a woman does apologise, it’s to a man!

Let us not forget that this so-called feminist Elle Woods called Vivienne a ‘Frigid Bitch’ simply because she dared to get engaged to her single ex-boyfriend. And while we’re on that, what’s with the whole blondes are the good-guys, brunettes are the bad-guys thing? And don’t even get me started on the whole ‘minorities can only be sidekicks’ thing. Eugh. Have we not seen enough of that? Yes, I realise they sort it out at the end, but not before Vivienne has gone on to slut-shame Elle for what is actually a sexual assault. Oh. Shit.

In Miss Congeniality, there’s Gracie loudly judging all of the contestants of the Miss United States pageant. And why? Because they do care about beauty when she doesn’t. But neither is fucking wrong. We know this, as feminists. We know that the whole idea is to do what you damn well want and not what society wants you to do. This film seriously got my goat, there’s so much wrong with it I can’t even fit it all in this blog. BUT I’LL TRY.

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Oh and a special mention to Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On for apologising to her love interest dude, despite having done shit all wrong, and him just being pissed off because she didn’t immediately fuck him after they did some weird teeth-brushing flirty dance, what? SERIOUSLY WHAT?

The Look & The Gaze

Elle Woods is constantly within the male gaze, throughout the film, even in moments when she’s supposed to be all ‘sisters before misters’. She’s a sex toy, an object, to be pursued by Warner, by her TA, by her professor. She’s eye candy, despite her brains. What message is this sending to audiences?

Coming back to Miss Congeniality (this might be the worst one, seriously guys, watch it again and come back to me). Gracie is considered un-worthy based on her lack of femininity. Her life is portrayed as sad and lonely. When she is forced to go undercover (based on how she looks in a swim suit because that’s how the FBI works), she is scoffed at for not being the ‘ideal’ woman. So who do they get in to ‘fix’ her? A MAN OF COURSE. And who suddenly notices her once she looks nothing like herself? A MAN OF COURSE. UGH THIS FUCKING FILM YOU GUYS.

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I’m diving really deep in to the childhood ruining now, I’m so sorry. But. How could Eric have fallen in love with Ariel when she didn’t even have a voice?! Oh, yeah, boobs. Gotcha.

The Bechdel Test

So, you’re a feminist right? So you’ve probably heard of the Bechdel Test? Here are the 3 rules you need to adhere to in order to pass it:

1 – Are there 2 or more named female characters?
2 – Do they talk to each other?
3 – About something other than a man?

Let’s review a few:

Bridget Jones’ Diary

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1 – There are at least four named female characters.
2 – They certainly do talk to each other…
3 – Ah. Oh dear.

Legally Blonde

1 – There are three named female characters I can think of.
2 – Yep, they talk to each other!
3 – Ah. Even when she’s giving counsel to her client, they’re talking about her husband. Hmm.

The Little Mermaid

1 – Precisely two named female characters
2 – They do talk to each other very briefly
3 – Never mind.

Miss Congeniality, through some fucking miracle, actually does pass the Bechdel test. Proof that it’s not definitive. Yikes.

But you see my point. And trust me once you start checking, you won’t be able to stop.

Does this mean we can’t enjoy them?

This is the main issue, I guess. I took this to twitter, and the general consensus is that the level of sexism has a direct correlation to whether people are willing to watch them now that they’re more clued in. There appears to be a level of sexism that, much like the movies of the 60s and 70s, we are willing to forgive because it was ‘the way of the time.’ But does this feed future productions? Does it hold back progression in feminist cinema? And how can we, in all good conscience, pass these films down to the next generation, our cultural successors, without passing down that subconscious acceptance of those flagrantly wrong attitudes? How do we share something with which we have such a positive connection whilst impeding the negative impact?

 

I think it falls to us to make quite clear anything that is out of date and damaging, and to explain this to the future generations as they discover the films of our youth, so that they don’t fall into the same patriarchal hole.

As for me – I’m finding it harder and harder to enjoy the films that I once loved.

(Except The Little Mermaid, because come on.)

What do you think? Tweet me @UpAndGeorgia or leave a comment!