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Ode to the teenage diary

Author:
dear diary

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I feel as though when I say that I keep a diary, people look at me differently. There’s something judgemental in their response. That’s something that I’m used to, because I was a teenage girl for a pretty long time, and I’m a massive One Direction fan – most people tend to look down on people who meet this criteria. Actually, there’s a link there. People who like One Direction and people who write diaries can be anyone, but what demographic are they traditionally associated with? That’s right – teenage girls.

Obviously, I’m a cheerleader for teenage girls. I love teenage girls and I have experienced first-hand how smart they can be, how kind they can be, how strong and brave and creative they can be.

I am also a cheerleader for diaries and journaling. I believe that there is so much value in this practice, especially as something in the life of a teenage girl.

In a culture which teaches girls to hold back our emotions; to be good and sit pretty; where we are to be seen and not heard – writing a diary is an amazing release. Our diaries are private spaces, and nobody can criticise or judge us. Our diaries are places where we are allowed to let it out. All of it.

Anger is a particularly difficult emotion for a lot of girls to express, because we’ve been taught that it’s an ‘ugly’ emotion. I really struggle with it, and tend to only ever direct it onto myself. But if I take the time to sit down with my journal (or any old notebook, even a scrap piece of paper – and failing that, the notes app in my phone) I can get out some of that pent up rage. I can release my frustrations, and it doesn’t cause any harm to me or to anyone else. I also like that because nobody else is going to see what I write, it can be messy visually, too. I like things to be ‘perfect’, because I like to have people’s approval. In the comfort of my own pages, I don’t need anybody’s approval. I can, for once, relax, and scribble away.

It’s not just the emotions of girls that are undervalued, but our everyday experiences. We are taught to value what upper-middle class white men say, and to ignore the lessons we learn in our own lives. We learn early in life to question what we have to contribute to the world, we are told the story of our irrationality, our fickleness, our naivety. When we write in our diaries, we tell ourselves a new narrative. When we write about our lives, we are writing to remind ourselves that we have something to say and that it matters.

As a teenage girl, I was told often that my mood swings were normal, ‘just hormonal’, and that I was overdramatic. Now, I cannot say that I was not dramatic – I remain so to this day – but I can say that these comments were dismissive. They told me that other people knew best what was going on in my head, and that stopped me from talking about it. I even told myself, “you’re making this all up”, “this isn’t real”. I didn’t believe in my own version of events, I didn’t trust myself in the slightest. Finding that self-trust is something I’m still working on. But I am always learning, and my diary is instrumental in that discovery. At 15 years old, reading my own diary entry from the day before was what made me wake up, and realise that what was going on in my head was serious. At 19, it is what made me stop denying the truth and recognise the significance of what I was feeling – my diary helped me to end a relationship I was no longer happy in, and leave a space that was triggering my anxiety and depression to the extreme. My diary saved me from my own denial.

This record of memories and the validation of our personal experiences is also important to our identity. It is so easy for your sense of who you are to get tangled up with who you’re ‘supposed to be’. Teenage girls are thrown hundreds of mixed messages every single day, and we lose ourselves to it all. We allow ourselves to be defined by others and simply categorised. Not because we want to be, but because it’s overwhelming, and it can feel like the easiest option to play pretend. But in our diaries, we can take off the masks. We can be honest, and that is healing.

Nobody’s identity is static, but mine is particularly erratic. I have spent my life moulding myself into different forms, usually out of a sense of desperation, a need to be seen, a fear of being abandoned by the people I loved. For me, identity is something I don’t understand – none of the people I’ve been in the past really feel like me. When I read through old diaries, it’s painful. “I don’t know her”, I think, going through the journal I kept during my hospitalisation at 15 years old. But as uncomfortable as my past selves make me, it’s important that I connect with them, learn to accept them and, ultimately, forgive them. And when I read my old diaries, I learn about who they were, and by extension who I am. This was the only place that I was honest, and so it gives me an insight to thought patterns; shows me the consistencies in my likes and dislikes; proves to me that there is a thread which connects me to myself. I’m not just fragments.

Election Reaction: Trumping Trump

Author:
trump_farage

Content Note: Rape, sexual violence, racism

It’s hard for us to have words for what’s happened in the US election. We’ve felt shocked, lost and broken, but we’re ready to fight. Here are some reactions to Trump’s win from the young women who write for us:

Amy, UK –

I was all set for election night to be one of my most positive university experiences. My university has an unusually high proportion of American students, and everyone at the election night party (with ‘democrafted’ decorations and balloons to pop as each state announced their results) was initially in very positive spirits. Obviously, this didn’t last. Being in the room with so many Americans who were disappointed, angry, even afraid as the results rolled in, made the reality of what this election result means hit even closer to home. Yet their engagement, passion and anger was infectious and inspiring. They are not taking this lying down. We should not take this lying down. By uniting and engaging against the fear mongering and hate fuelled environment likely to be perpetuated by the election result, we can feel less helpless and hopefully make a positive change.

Anna, UK –

Donald Trump is a racist rapist. He will not take responsibility for his actions and and now there is no court high enough that will bring about justice for his actions. This is an incredibly upsetting and triggering situation to have to come to terms with and I really hope that survivors of all kinds of violence, but especially sexual violence, are able to take care of themselves and each other. The only way I can really accept this is if I totally commit to my own survival and the survival of other survivors – nurturing and polishing my rage and self and taking direct and potentially violent action against Trump, but also against all men who violate people – all abusers and rapists. I refuse to let Trump’s election crush me, or you. We will rise.

Evangeline, US –

Coping with the election results has been difficult. It has been a process of self-care to recover from the literal shock of the results. As I am currently studying abroad, it has especially been a struggle to stomach the results so far from home; however, I have found solidarity with other Americans studying abroad with me and locals just as impacted by the results, showing what a truly global influence these results have. Above all, what makes me most heartbroken about the results is the hate — both through words and actions — and the fear, the feelings of unsafety that such hate produces. All I can fairly say at this point is that, no matter who is in office, at what speed, and in what way, I hope we can positively move forward.

 

Christiana, US –

Despite having a week to process this election it’s still hard. I woke up Wednesday and it took an hour to fully hit me, but when it did I couldn’t stop crying. I cried as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I cried as a woman, I cried as an aspiring ally to people of color and people of differing abilities. I cried for the numerous victims that had come forward and been completely ignored. I cried for our country. I still haven’t fully processed how to put all these emotions into words. I stood before my Introduction to Women’s Studies class speechless, trying to explain to them that despite it all we’d keep moving, that it would be okay. Yet student after student was still just in disbelief, shock, and fear. I want to believe everything will be okay, but I’m genuinely scared. I’m scared of the hate crimes that ensued after the election, I’m scared that my friends will be hurt, I’m scared for my personal safety when I’m out with my girlfriend will be at risk. I’m also angry. Angry, that I’m surrounded by people who voted for him, but still tell me that I’m important to them, angry at people who have wives and children and women in their lives that supposedly matter to them, angry at people who claim they’re not racist, but believe that supporting a racist candidate is okay. Mostly, I’m angry that the work I’ve dedicated my life to—sexual violence prevention is jeopardized. How do I look at victims and tell them that justice is possible, when our country’s highest elected official has been convicted of sexual assault multiple times and never served a day in jail?

The one bright light I have seen in all of this is the organizing. I’ve seen groups on college campuses and in the community coming together. Groups that have never interacted before. Intersectional feminism is happening right now! As Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Rights Groups, Feminist Groups, LGBTQ+ groups, etc. continue to merge it is creating a ripple effect and a roar so loud that even the White House will shake and we will move forward, but most importantly We. Will. Not. Go. Away!

Self-Care: A PBG Masterpost

Author:

By Sophia Siman-Bashall

Screen shot 2014-12-09 at 17.25.33

Self-care is a really important thing. It is a necessary part of living a happy and healthy life, and yet it is all too easy to neglect it. It is easier to beat yourself up than big yourself up. It is easier to focus on others than focus on yourself. But this is not sustainable. You have to be your top priority, you have to be kind to yourself. If you really struggle with it, consider this post as permission to love yourself.

Keeping your mental and physical wellness in check doesn’t have to be especially radical. Here are a few suggestions for making day-to-day life better for you:

  • Take social media breaks. This is something that a lot of us find really difficult – it’s a link to our friends, our family, to musicians/comedians/actors/writers etc. For many of us, social media is what makes everyday activism possible. But the constant information can be overwhelming, particularly when a lot of it is negative (as unfortunately, it usually is, due to the sorry state of politics, and the world…). It can be really beneficial to distance yourself from it all sometimes. Whether it’s one day a week, or a week every month, or even just that you only use it when commuting, but not at home or anywhere else! Not only does your brain get a rest, but you’ll probably find yourself with more free time to do things you REALLY want to do…
  • Don’t be working all the time. Again, this can be tough. When there’s so much to get done, for school/college/uni/work, it’s difficult to ignore it. But taking a day off – and I mean entirely – is really beneficial. It clears your mind, and when you go back to what needs doing, you will feel so refreshed, and more prepared to tackle your workload. Think about it: a day with no guilt that you *only* made some notes, or *only* wrote one essay, or *only* sorted out one problem. A day when you don’t even think about work, because it’s simply not on your agenda. Make a day that’s yours, do what you want with it. It’s so freeing.
  • Radiate gratitude. A positive outlook on life is not an easy thing to adopt, but the more you train your brain to it, the more natural it will become. Write at the end of the day, listing what made you smile, and what you’re feeling thankful for – a smile from a stranger, walking in the sunshine, eating a really delicious apple. It is far better to go to sleep thinking of these things than what may not have been so good about your day. You should also try to write what YOU did well, what you are proud of achieving that day. Be grateful to yourself for existing.
  • Eat well. I am not going to prescribe a way to do this, because frankly, that’s irritating, rude, and not helpful. Different things work for different people. Find what works for you. On a general level, fruits and vegetables should feature regularly. As should chocolate.
  • Be active. You don’t have to go for a 10 mile run or a high-intensity workout at the gym. If that’s what floats your boat, by all means, go for it. But for many, it might be something else. Here at PBG, we have runners, horse-riders, swimmers, gym-goers, and people who just like to dance around their room to Beyoncé/Taylor Swift. For me, it’s a combination – although I would always choose to ride, if I could. Again, it’s a question of finding what works for you –you should enjoy it, it should make you feel good, empowered, strong. Don’t force yourself into something that you dread.

For me, these are the basics of self-care. Doing these things help keep me mentally and physically well, for the most part. But looking after yourself is more than this, it’s also about having fun, about knowing how to soothe yourself when you are sad, or scared, or overwhelmed. So as a team, PBG have pooled together our favourite acts of self-care, and we hope you find some of them help you too!

  • Draw. Paint. Do colouring in. It’s calming, it can be an outlet for emotions, and it boosts your self-esteem, because you are producing something.
  • Talk to people. Whether in person or over the phone/video chat, having a conversation with someone who you love and who loves you is always a nice thing. It stops you from being stuck in your own head.
  • Get outside! SUNSHINE! OR AT THE VERY LEAST FRESH AIR! OR EVEN JUST A CHANGE OF SCENE!
  • Write lists! Lists are great, for some unexplicable reason. Write lists of people who inspire you/things that make you smile/things you like about yourself/places you’d like to visit in your lifetime/your favourite positive songs… the possibilities are endless! Look up ‘Listography’ for some pretty unique (often silly and hilarious!) ideas!
  • Run yourself a bubble bath, put in bath bombs/salts or essential oils (lavender is particularly calming). Lie in it and relaaaaaaaaax.
  • Paint your nails. Paint them different colours, make them glittery, try making designs on your fingernails – although be prepared that when attempting intricate designs, it will go wrong, and your fingers will NOT look like those in the pictures on Pinterest…
  • Go for a walk in the park or through city streets, depending on what you feel like. In the dark, city lights can be a really beautiful sight. Equally, walking past the ducks in the pond is a pleasant feeling.
  • Cover your face in make-up (this can be really exciting, as Anna and Alice discussed!)
  • Bake bake bake bake! Baking is fun, and you get a wonderful product out of it! That is, if you can refrain from eating most of the mix before it goes in the oven…
  • Play fast/upbeat/positive/your favourite music and DANCE – it’s not about looking cool, it’s about having fun and feeling free! Bonus points for singing along too, the more off-key the better!
  • Read a great book! Whether it be crime fiction, YA romance, dystopian, a classic, poetry, a biography, or a great feminist book like Laurie Penny’s Unspeakable Things – whatever takes your fancy, whatever will keep you engaged, read it! Reading is a great way to occupy your mind without feeling trapped – quite the opposite, you get to escape into another world!
  • Look back on fond memories – photos, tickets, postcards, messages, they’re all great reminders that when you are feeling low, that feeling will not last forever, and more good things will come your way.
  • Eat something that comforts you – peanut butter, ice-cream, chocolate…
  • Watch a film – a comedy is usually best, tear-jerkers are great, but not when you want to boost your mood!
  • Yoga. Yoga is always a good thing.
  • Write down everything you are feeling – LET IT OUT!

Putting together a ‘toolkit’ for self-care is potentially a big help – have handy a few felt-tips, a colouring book, some delicious recipes, favourite photos, a little bottle of essential oil, brightly-coloured nail polish, a pen and a notebook to write in… know when you need to utilise these things, and pick something at random out of the box, if you can’t make the decision. Look after yourself, it’s the most important thing you will ever do.

 

Why Self-Care Matters in Activism

Author:

selfcare

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I tend not to think of myself as an activist. I’m involved with movements and do a lot of little things in my daily life to effect change, but I don’t do anything I consider particularly big and spectacular. I’ve never been on a protest, partaken in public speaking, started a petition, or anything along those lines. But lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am wrong in not identifying as an activist. I am wrong because the little things DO count, they ARE important, and I AM helping to make a difference. I write for Powered by Girl, I sign petitions, I use social media to spread awareness of issues, and I argue with people on a regular basis about why the things they have said and done are problematic. Yet when I think most deeply about it, the most significant thing I do is something that nobody sees the political value of. I look after myself.

Most likely, you’re wondering how on earth that counts as activism. But trust me, self-care is vital. It’s something that I strongly believe everyone can and should partake in. I’m sure most people would agree that it’s important to be good to yourself, but what’s the link with activism, you ask? WELL…

What does the patriarchy rely on? The collective self-loathing of women.

It simply would not do if we all loved ourselves. If we did, we’d do things like take more ‘man’ jobs; positions of power. If we loved ourselves, we’d demand more autonomy, more sexual freedom, more respect for who we are. We would ask to be treated like human beings, and like equals to the men around us. That, obviously, would just be terrible.

Whilst we fight for these things and more, the patriarchy concentrates its efforts at keeping us down in different ways. It does a pretty thorough job of it, too.

The diet industry, the cosmetic industry, the fashion industry – they’re all tools used to remind us of our inferiority, to amplify our every insecurity and make sure we are feeling bad about ourselves, all the time.

If our concentration is on our flabby thighs, we’ll buy the fat binding pills, the weight watchers meals, the slimming world memberships. If we’re focused on superficial ‘flaws’ we will feed the capitalist system and we will have less energy to put into advocating equal opportunities, campaigning for new media guidelines and standing up for ourselves.

The more we hate ourselves, the tighter the constraints on us get. The more we feed the negative voices, the more comfortable those in power become. The less we value ourselves, the easier oppression becomes.

So, if you’re thinking that you “don’t have time” for self-care, think again. Because caring for yourself is exactly what you MUST spend time on. Improving your own life will indirectly improve others, too.

Go on, tuck into that bar of chocolate and defy the manipulative diet industry. Have a good swim, and refute the mythological weakness that is supposedly in your female genes. Sleep in late instead of going to work one day, because you don’t live to please others, you live for yourself. Read a book you’ve been wanting to read, stimulate your mind, and disprove that your intelligence is inferior to a guy’s. Go bare-faced when you’re running late in the morning, because you love the skin that you’re in, and you’ve got places to be and people to see, more important things than looking ‘flawless’. Experiment with make-up, take selfies and bask in the light of your beauty and your abundant energy. Do what makes you feel good, and laugh in the face of the patriarchy.

Self-care also aids the rest of your activism – taking care of your physical and emotional health allows you to give so much more to writing, to campaigning, to educating. You cannot fight for the rights and equality of the masses when you are fighting with yourself. Self-care isn’t selfish, self-care is essential.

In the words of the great Audre Lorde, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”

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