‘This is a huge world. The world is so much bigger than yr problems. It’s so much bigger than the PTSD that you probably have from growing up in a culture that hates queer people, hates people of colour, hates women…we don’t get out of it without being damaged. But we can pull ourselves out’ Michelle Tea
Allllll the way back in May I did an event with the awesome Cat Simons and Em Ledger talking about per-zines and our writing. It was a pretty intense experience and Em has already written a super awesome post about it here, but seen as my work ethic when it comes to my own writing is practically none existent it’s taken me this long to tie some of the threads together.
As we all chatted about some of the things we’ve survived and experienced and how we used writing to give a voice to that, a common theme emerged for me. We live in a culture which is at times intensely damaging and abusive and often these experiences get sucked in and internalised (especially for women who are socialised to turn their anger and hurt inwards). The flip side for all three of us was that writing (and zines) exist as a strategy for navigating ourselves out of that place and as a way of connecting to others who had been through the same shit. There was also a determination as all three of us grew up to reach out to a younger generation going through similar situations, to ‘be the person you needed when you were younger’. Zines also exist as a really important way for those of us who don’t have the confidence to get up on stage and play in a band (or whose talents just lie elsewhere) to participate in DIY scenes.
This talk came just after the Just Do(ing) It Again Conference and my head was thinking about some of the debates which went on about whether cultural activity is really political, or if it is just froth (like on a cappuccino). The way that I see it is this: without this work, without the strength and encouragement which comes from sharing our stories and without looking after each other and looking after our mental health, I for one am no use to anyone whatsoever. This is not an exaggeration, those who know me know that when I’m really bad I can barely even leave the house, nevermind start the fucking revolution. I have (finally) accepted that I have a chronic mental health condition. So none of this is optional for me; without management (be that meds, or exercise, or time out, or meditation, or support from good people, or writing) things quickly get out of control. That’s just the way it is. But I also know that when I look after myself properly and get my shit together I am pretty much unstoppable.
One of my friends who isn’t involved in Riot Grrrl once asked me why the girls in the scene were all lovely but a bit…mental. At first I took offense, but then I realised she kinda had a point. Living in a world which objectifies and abuses you isn’t easy and it can slowly but surely fuck you up. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many of us coming up through this scene have pretty gnarly stories from our teenage years. And our recognition of the systematic as well as personal abuses of power that create our histories and our subsquent resistance and healing of ourselves and our communities will, for me, always be a political act.
But it’s more than that.
We are writing for our lives.