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An Interview with Elizabeth Farrell

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By Anna Hill

A continuation of my series of interviews with various UK Teen activists to showcase the diverse and innovative landscape of UK feminism and to inspire other teens and teen girls particularly to get involved in any way they can! To read the other interview in this series go here.

The next person is Elizabeth Farrell, more commonly known as glacier996girl and whose project Remember the Glaciers was started during her gap year – as her instagram says she is “ raising awareness about climate change, adapting the aesthetic of ‘eco-friendly’ to appeal to the iGeneration”. She is also now writing a column for polyester zine, which you can read here and here for a more in depth look at her work.

1.What started of your work as a visual activist?

My A-level art project (years 12 &13). My favourite subject was geography and for art I thought it was important to pick something you enjoy and something you can be passionate about. My project was about the correlation between mass consumption, capitalist society and globalization and the environment. I used myself as the subject representing a generation constantly manipulated by advertisement. Remember the Glaciers was a continuation from this.

  1. Before you started your great project Remember the Glaciers, did you have any experience doing activist work?

No, it never even occurred to me until 3 years ago. Now its my life!

  1. How does the internet and tumblr/social media affect the work you make?

It just means I can spread the message to a wider audience of creatives. It’s also important for me that they are visual forms of social media too.

  1. Why do you use the colour blue so much?

From the start I was trying to steer away from the stigma of environmental activism therefore not using ‘eco-green’.  My project being ‘Remember The Glaciers’ made sense to use blue to represent the ice. Glaciers are so powerful and beautiful yet at the same time in their ice form so vulnerable and helpless.

  1. What role does rage and anger play in your work?

My anger can definitely be used as ammunition and a lot of the time is a catalyst for me to work. I remember when I found out about Shell’s plans to drill in the arctic I was crazy angry and didn’t understand why and how this was even being considered? It just made no sense. I thought it was some kind of sick paradoxical joke: the words arctic and oil drilling?!?!! But I took this anger, using it to spark a 2 man protest outside my local shell gas station in London.

  1. How do you keep doing the work you do when you feel like you are making no headway? What keeps you motivated?

Using your emotions to your advantage and using that to push yourself to feel like you are making progress. Remember the achievements you have made previously and know that you will come out of this mindset, and that a mindset is all it really is.

  1. What advice would you give to others who want to get involved with activism [both environmental and other forms]?

Pick a way to do it that you will really enjoy and a medium that you are passionate about. I think it’s really important to  enjoy what you are doing and that people can see that through your work. Maybe try a different approach to the activism that’s already out there?

  1. Now that you are going to university, what are your plans for the future – will you be continuing Remember the Glaciers?

Yes of course! Hopefully just with more knowledge and ideas to share, eventually I want to be a glaciologist but I’ve got a long way to go yet, I guess ill just see how it all goes!

Thanks Lizzie!!

An Interview With Eva O’Flynn

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By Anna Hill

I was really inspired by a speech that Eva made at a no more page 3 protest (the full text of which you can read here), where she talked about how the campaign had given her a voice, and empowered her to act, not just for NMP3 but for other important issues too! In response I thought I would interview some of the voices that are important, honest, hard working and inspiring in current UK Teen Girl activism. Who better to start with than Eva herself?! (more…)

The Skin I’m In

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By Anna Hill

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Trigger Warning – Self Harm

Since I was born I’ve had eczema – a skin condition I still can’t spell, that leaves me with itchy, red, dry patches of skin in various different areas. When I was younger it was much worse, more of my skin was covered in the bumpy patches – behind my knees, my ears, the inside of my elbows and so on. The constant scratching and obvious red areas made me very shy of showing my body in any capacity, and I would hate specifically showing my arms. The skin between my forearm and my upper arm was the worst, particularly in summer. I would often scratch until I bled and the whole cycle made me feel ashamed. The eczema sometimes got so bad that I would have matching bumpy red, bleeding skin behind my knees and my elbows, all at the same time.

It was so obvious my skin was angry, it was writhing with anger, just under the surface. It was so evident inside me, around me, irritating me. I had so much restless energy, which ultimately led to more itching. My itching was never commented on explicitly but it was always present, implicit in the glances and the stares of my teachers, classmates and adults who I came into contact with. The feeling I got after I had itched – namely pain, after some satisfaction at first, forced me to be anchored to my body, and so did the glances at the patches on my skin. Not only is it dull, but it is very tough to be present, only so far as the confines of your body, to the landscape of our physical selves rather than the present where the world exists both internally and externally.

One of the reasons why eczema made me feel so insecure, was that it was not discrete. Whilst I felt my friends were growing up daintily (which in hindsight is not true), and had pretty skin (to me they always looked nice even when it was dotted with spots), I imagined myself as a tomato. The redness of my skin wasn’t helped either by the fact that I too am a blusher. My whole body was red, it was a walking wound sometimes and I felt like my weeping skin took up too much space.

After a while I started to see that my skin became alive with that itching feeling – you know the one, that little tickle starts and once you give in you’re gone – especially when I was stressed. During my G.C.S.Es not only was I very stressed but I also itched a lot, and then I realised that my skin was more raw (because I made it that way – even when I was sleeping) during that time I made the connection.

It went further than just stress being a trigger for it though later on, and although it took a while, I excavated my pain and my pressure in a way that made sense on my skin. It’s difficult when you have a skin condition that actually shows those around you your feelings. My anger and my stress all come through on my skin, and undoubtedly they still will, because I have a diagnosed skin condition. But it is what the stress and the anger are directed at is what I want to change. The further I went into my ruins the more I understood that a lot of the reason I continued to itch was to punish myself. It was to show myself that I was angry, angry at the world that hurt me and told me being queer was wrong, and also at myself for failing to live up to my impossible standards in life and school. I felt guilty for all these things. I felt my anger was not allowed – I was a girl, I was supposed to be pretty, sweet, kind and mostly importantly have soft skin. I wasn’t supposed to be covered in red scars and full of a yearning to burst out of my skin. To peel away all the bad skin and be shiny and new born.

When I itch now I recall all that itching that I did when I was angry and frustrated at life and myself. I recall all those times I did it to inflict pain, or to inflict any type of feeling on myself. The repetitive action of itching is very difficult to get away from and when I look at my body now I often feel like I look like a wound, my body is a visible reminder that I hurt, that I felt pain, that I damaged myself. That my trauma bleeds out of me, visible to everyone that looks at me.

But is this thinking helpful to me now? My skin will always be bumpy and itchy, so is it helpful to talk about it in the context of self-harm? Does the way I talk about it reinforce the pain, and the cycle of tearing at my skin? Leslie Jamison, in The Empathy Exams, wrote that “[her] feelings were also made of the way [she] spoke them”. It is a constant balance between the “state of submission” to feelings and thoughts and the “process of constructing” them.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to approach not only my eczema but my whole body with more compassion, with more understanding. I could completely accept my interpretation of my actions – that they stem from a place of hatred, but then it would be too easy for me to continue to hate, to continue to despair at myself, and thus punish myself when I fail all the more. Instead I want to make a home for myself in my self. Regardless of how aesthetically pleasing my body is, it is mine. It is the only constant home I will ever have and it will be with me my whole life. It’s presence facilitates a lot of what I do – my fingers typing these words for example – and so my goal is not to be perfect in treating my body, it is to be kinder to it. My body is not just made of scars and it is easier to remember that when I attempt to be kind, in little ways and big ways. I aim to be less angry at myself and at my red bumps, to be less frustrated when I fail to reach an academic goal, to be kinder when I do mess up. I aim to accept the skin I’m in rather than revolt against it.

 

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If you are interested in hearing more about self harm from a young person, go here.

If you want to know more about self-harm, go here.

Youtube and Sexual Abuse

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By Anna Hill

Recently, I have noticed certain disgusting behaviour of some prominent and successful male Youtubers has come out of the woodwork of the Internet.  The whole situation has been handled badly, and honestly I, along with many others, am very upset about it. As a part of the Youtube community (as both a Fangirl – or a consumer of media – and a content creator), I believe it is our job – those who are part of the website – to continue to talk about this and ensure that it never happens again. The pervasive abuse from “Youtube celebrities” is not being tackled properly, and this is a huge issue because it means that many are completely unaware of the situation, therefore continue to support the abusers’ content.

One of the reasons this is all so scary is because people aren’t speaking up. I’ve seen just one video explicitly naming those that should not be endorsed in any shape or form, instead of watching, and thus supporting their work, read up on the master post of all of the abusers and the victim’s stories: http://unpleasantmyles.tumblr.com/post/79455706244/tom-milsom-hexachordal-heres-the-post-olga although obviously some trigger warnings apply (such as emotional manipulation, rape, sexual abuse)) which is infinitely important, but that was the only video. We must be vigilant and open and ensure everyone is educated to make the right decisions about the content they watch and which they therefore support. (here’s the explicit video by Lindsay or Pottermoosh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pAQDoLeNIk )

It’s also a huge issue because those who are mostly in danger of being preyed upon by older, emotionally manipulative men are the large demographic of 13-17 year old girls that use the website. These are the same girls that we are continually told are “ruining” Youtube due to their fangirlishness when they are actually the ones who are most vulnerable and most in danger.

Frighteningly, one of the main culprits of some hideous behaviour, Ed Blann (Edplant on youtube), tried to come back to Youtube after having a three-month break and then attempted to claim it was all a mistake and people should forgive him. If this sounds like I am being too cruel to him, then let me explain:

  • Abusers need to accept that sometimes they cannot be forgiven.
  • Going back to a platform, which you used to abuse and even rape girls, is not the way to prove how much of a changed man you are.
  • You can’t treat this situation as if the benefit of the victims’ suffering is that you learned something and are a better person. That is not good enough and that’s not a solution.
  • We cannot trust abusers.

In the case of Ed Blann, whose come back video (a song supposedly explaining how much of a changed man he was) was well received by all too many people, he continued to prove that he does not deserve the ears or eyes of all the wonderful women who watch him by deleting actual comments from the main woman who he abused about her feelings towards his return (see here: http://that-teen-witch.tumblr.com/post/88175226722/lions-and-snails-i-commented-on-eds-video ).

Ann, or TheGeekyBlonde, is a fantastic Youtuber and has made a great video about the situation and how we can deal with it and move forward. She outlines some of the ways we can help combat and move on from this experience:

  1. Amputate – This means we have to cut abusers out of EVERYTHING, we cannot allow them to turn up to events/be on Youtube/etc. etc. No endorsement and no publicity
  2. Vaccinate – TELL EVERYONE ABOUT IT. Write blog posts/ have discussions, let the community know and make sure the community knows that behaviour won’t be tolerated. Stand with victims.
  3. Elevate – Value the work of women and teenagers rather than phasing out or neglecting their work! Big up women, and women on Youtube. Listen to them, believe them, support them.
  4. Exfoliate – This is about responding to irl/online creepiness: do NOT do nothing: stop them, talk to them, confront them. If you are too scared to talk to those that are being abusive or dodgy try to help the victim, ask them if they need help, compliment their shoes. Just try to give them a way out of talking to them or engaging with them.

Ann’s Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Uc5eNNG60o

Consent videos are all very well but the viewers don’t need consent videos, the prominent Youtubers who suck do! There have been about four videos defining consent (which is important and useful, don’t get me wrong) but it is not enough – we need real change. A recent example of a consent video falling short is Jack and Dean’s (or omfgitsjackanddean) consent song which ultimately does nothing to rectify the situation, although many celebrate them as being really great people, even when they describe the sexual abuse as a “hullabaloo” and refuse to say that the song was a response to the behaviour of Youtubers.

If you’re aware of Youtube then you’ll be aware of the Vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green. Their position as de facto leaders of the Youtube community (through their creation of events like Vidcon) means their lack of a real stance and inadequate to no discussion of the situation is reprehensible.  Such behaviour, or lack of any real analysis or response makes them somewhat complicit in the actions of the youtubers that are abusers. (John Green even went as far as welcoming Ed Blann back to twitter after the allegations came out! http://i-burn-i-pine-i-perish.tumblr.com/post/89193450074/eddplant-returned-to-twitter-back-in-february-and-john). The lack of support that John and Hank Green gave to survivors means that not only do a large portion of viewers know absolutely nothing about this, but that they have let down a large percentage of the community – their failure to speak up has meant that this community no longer seems to listen to or care about the very people that allow it and, by association, them to have so much power.

If you are not protecting women and girls from this kind of treatment then you are allowing it to happen. No public discourse, no actual change.

 

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