Friday, 7 April 2017

Typography and Trauma: Conversations on Doll Hospital Journal, Writefest 2017

I was so lucky to skype with the folks at Writefest about all things Doll Hospital Journal. Here's a rough transcript of what we chatted about :)

What is Doll Hospital and why did you start it?

Doll Hospital is an art and literature journal on mental health (though it’s of course great if people beyond that frame of experience enjoy and appreciate our work too!) We consider both I suppose ‘traditional’ notions of ‘mental illness’, by which I mean individuals such as myself who might consider themselves as ‘mentally ill’ as well as broader questions of survival and self-love within a hostile world.

I’m not going to say we’re the final word on mental health or anything ridiculous like that. It’s easy for small press publications to set unachievable and arrogant goals, it’s a little bubble so it can be tempting to see yourself as fancier than you are. However, with any publishing project on marginalised narratives I think it’s better to see yourself as part of a wider conversation and constellation of publishing and creative projects.

I started Doll Hospital from a space of my own mental health struggles and of wanting to find a platform to explore themes of trauma and stigmatised mental illness beyond online magazines, where I found myself to self-censor, to rebrand myself as more appealing, more sane in order to appeal to both comment sections and a performative politics of respectability and also beyond me live tweeting my suicidal ideation at 3am on my Twitter.

How many people work on each issue?

On average we have around sixty contributors per issue, with each issue spanning around 150 to 170 pages. Behind the scenes, I manage and edit submissions, seeking editorial and proofing help from, on average around half a dozen editors and proofers. Though I may have an editor credential on my mast head I have complex learning difficulties, an element that is rarely considered within publishing. So while I think I have a pretty good eye for exploring and curating mental health narratives, I struggle so much with practical issues such as spelling, formatting and some other quite ‘basic’ tasks. I remember in issue one before we got proofing help I spelt the word ‘depression’ wrong in the contents, I was so embarrassed so I’m so grateful for that side of the Doll Hospital team!

Beyond editing I work chiefly alongside Maggie, our amazing graphic designer, this is definitely my favourite part of working on Doll Hospital! We work on unique spreads for each and every piece to do each story justice within a print medium and to provide a visual narrative to our readers. We do all kinds of fun stuff like scanning cute fabrics for backgrounds, sourcing interesting illustrations, handwriting titles and poems (though that’s Maggie’s speciality-my handwriting is rubbish!), choosing cover art and so on. Visually we are definitely inspired by the beauty and texture of the Rookie Yearbook series and I’m so grateful for the support of their editor Tavi Gevinson gave us when we were starting off.

What do you look for in submissions?

I don’t have any pre-set notions of what a ‘submission’ should be, I hate the idea that a work does not have ‘value’ because it does not match some pre-set aesthetic credentials set by an editorial team, which itself turns so called inclusive spaces into weird cliques.  There’s a worrying history of this within feminist publishing history, whether that’s Sassy magazine’s alternative cool girl mentality or the trauma anthology genre of the 1980s, where personal stories were rejected because a survivor’s story was not written ‘sophisticatedly’ enough (which is a issue that Kali Tal, an amazing trauma theorist and an inspiration of mine, interestingly critiques in her book World’s of Hurt). Really I want our contributors to guide this process not me, if they have a story they want to tell I just want to be here to help facilitate the process.

What challenges have you run into when either finding pieces to publish or publishing the journal itself?

Funding a print journal if you don’t have disposable income is super tough! We fund printing costs for our hard copy issues issues through hard copy pre-orders, whilst we sell digital copies of our journals on a pay as you wish basis, which helps us pay for things like postage so we can send free hard copies of our journals to our staff and contributors.  It’s a shoestring budget but I try to make it work. For instance, we launch digital copies of our issues before the print version goes out and once print versions have sold out, people can still access the digital copy.

We’re very lucky that we’ve never been short of amazing pieces to publish, we’ve had so many incredible submissions across all mediums, whilst my own interest in mental health and wider self-advocacy work for marginalised folks means I always have an endless list of people I’m keen to reach out to. In this sense I think submission wise the most frustrating part is lack of time and resources! We actually had to close our submissions for writing works as I just couldn’t keep up and that kind of sucked. I need a time machine and a pot of gold or something!

What role do you think literature and art plays in one’s mental health?

That’s a tricky one, and something I think all creative folk with mental health struggles circle around this endlessly. We are taught that literature and art gives our struggles ‘value’ which is a structure I would query, it feels like a scam, mental illness isn’t a coupon you can exchange for a prize winning novel or something! I think this artificial heritage of ‘the tortured genius’ can limit our creative freedom, it’s easy to find yourself comparing yourself to tragic characters in movies and feel like these totally ficticious individuals carry more weight, more credentials than our actual lives!

However, I don’t think it’s as simple to say that to engage with this history is to ‘romaticise’ it or even that to ‘romanticise’ something is always a bad thing, the people who adore this work are often mentally ill themselves, especially mentally ill young women, teenage girls. It’s meaning and role is reinterpreted and reinvented by the viewer to create a world that is a little bit more beautiful for those who are far too lonely to find the ‘real world’ to be enough. And yes I am partly talking about myself here! I’m a total pop culture geek! Even with corny things like the Suicide Squad movie I love watching them and thinking about them and what they mean to people.

There are a number of issues related to mental health that are included in the magazine. How do you decide which ones to include? In other words, do you try to include pieces that cover a whole slew of mental health issues, or do you aim to publish the best of what you receive, regardless of which issues are covered (or not covered) in each issue?

I don’t have a pre-set idea of what mental health (or broader oppression experiences) should and ‘will’ be included, our submitters guide that, I don’t start with certain pre-set ideas that seems weird to me, you can’t theme this stuff, you just give people the space and the platform to tell the stories they need to tell. The range happens naturally because everyone has different experiences, different intersecting oppressions, different struggles. You can’t force that to happen.

When it comes to submissions I actually have a ‘no rejection’ rule, I mean right now we can’t look at writing subs as we simply don’t have the space, but when submissions are open whoever reaches out to us is going to be in Doll Hospital. Maybe that’s not ‘practical’ or whatever but I don’t care. If someone wants to be in the journal then they’re in! If a piece is not quite developed or suitable for publication straight away then we’ll work with them until it is, even bringing in different artists for cross collaboration to support them in their storytelling. If the original piece submitted is not quite right then we will ask to see additional work. We live in a disposable culture where we judge someone by one email, one draft, it’s a case of taking time to collaborate and connect with each of our contributors. I know what it’s like to get rejection after rejection, how crushing it is, to enforce that kind of mentality in a journal which works within anti-ableism advocacy….well that would be messed up and nonsensical!

How do you think the magazine addresses issues of helping people to understand mental health versus sensationalizing it? And connected to that, do you feel like the magazine is aimed more for people who have a mental health issue or is it to educate/bring awareness to those who do not have a mental health issue?

Doll Hospital is created for those struggling with mental health and the psychological impacts of intersecting oppressions, it’s not so much an ‘awareness tools’ for able-minded people, for people who are not struggling, though if individuals outside of mental health and survival struggles, appreciate and our educated by the work in Doll Hospital that’s great.

The ‘awareness’ model of mental health often feels a little strange, like I am altogether aware I’m mentally ill (!) but how are we going to use this *awareness* to change the world around us to make it more liveable? Awareness without action is not sustainable support for those who need it most.

One of the most common models of this is these ‘talk about mental health day’ iniatives, I can’t help but find these sanctioned mental health awareness days a little frustrating, to me it feels like those who are struggling *are* talking, not just 1 day but all 365 days a year, it’s just that our needs are not necessarily being listened to, ask anyone in Britain who is struggling to access mental health care via the NHS, mentally ill individuals are reaching out, seeking to bring awareness to the struggles they face, but due to profound cuts to disability support these voices are not being recognised or can’t be addressed without the resources needed. Jade, a doll hospital contributor, actually wrote an amazing essay on this issue in Doll Hospital Issue Four.

But in regards to the question of sensationalising mental health, like I said before, I personally don’t think a mentally ill person looking to express their experiences needs to be shut down under the lines of sensationalisation, or romanticsation, that’s an able minded issue, that romanticsation of mental illness as like a tragic super power or whatever. Yes, those of us are isolated may gravitate towards certain aesthetic models of expression, certain pop cultural symbols, but that’s a question of making life a little more bearable. I think people who get mad at mentally ill teenage girls for being to into like…Winona Ryder or Courtney Love or… whatever need to get their priorities in order.

 What do you think about using humor when writing about serious subjects?

Humour is a subject I think about constantly in regards to mental health and trauma, I’m actually writing my entire PhD on it as it happens! I also wrote an entire essay for Doll Hospital on navigating trauma and cultivating survivordom through comedy characters like Bernard Black in Black Books, Mordecai in the Regular Show and Charlie Kelly in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Though I should say I’ve recently got pretty disillusioned with It’s Always Sunny I stopped watching after the first episode of the most recent season as it fell into that ‘say anything as long as it’s presented as a joke’ model, not only is this just lazy writing, I think this does the power of comedy a disservice! Because the whole point in humour is that it *does* have power to both enforce and subvert existing belief systems, to topple the powerful and belittle the already vulnerable, to dismiss something as ‘just a joke’ (which is so often the standard trademark of a school bully) fails to realise how powerful humour really is.

One of the reason I became drawn to humor was through the act of nervous laughter, I effectively got ‘told off’ in therapy as I nervously laughed when describing an traumatic event. I was told that I was not taking my childhood sexual abuse background seriously enough! Like what the fuck does that mean? What’s the correct way of dealing with such a difficult thing?

I love comedy and humour because I hate the politics of respectability that tells us there’s one ‘right’ way, one ‘respectable’ way to address such a deeply personal issue.  

How do you organize each issue?

Each issue has certain standard features, at least two or more interviews, a mental health themed playlist, a roundtable discussion that discusses a marginalised mental health experience, an editor’s letter and of course as much awesome art, comics, poetry and essays on mental health and survival experiences that we can fit in!

I always try and balance text with the visuals, not everyone likes to read, not everyone as a result of mental health can concentrate on a long form text piece, or a result of associated learning or developmental disabilities finds reading a lengthy essay a realistic feat, so for every essay we include I make sure we also have a range of comics, paintings and illustrations that tell a story too.
However, in terms of accessibility for improving our issues we’re working on translating our issues into screen reader form so Doll Hospital readers who are blind or visually impaired can enjoy the artwork too. This is a longer process than I would like though, I wish I’d translated it all already by now! I’d also be so interested in translating Doll Hospital into different languages however my translation skills are non-existent sadly!

What do you hope Doll Hospital will accomplish (or continues to accomplish) in the future?



Oh gosh, honestly when I started Doll Hospital in 2014, nearly three years ago, I had no expectations it was just a tweet asking if anyone wanted to make a mental health zine with me, I didn’t realise it was going to materialise in such beautiful and unexpected ways. Similarly I have no expectations with what and how Doll Hospital will develop or divulge in the future, I’m just happy to be here.

Follicle: Thoughts on Racialised Hair Pulling, Doll Hospital Issue 4 Essay


Doll Hospital Issue 4 is live! Yay! Read a preview, find out more here or grab the whole thing for pay as you wish!

I wrote two essay for this one! Here's the second:

FOLLICLE:  Thoughts on Racialized Hair Pulling
cw-trichotillomania, internalised racism, childhood sexual abuse, self-harm, anorexia, suicidal ideation

"For breakfast I ordered a poached egg on a piece of toast. When the dish arrived – and I tell you, it makes my stomach curdle just to write about it – there was a gleaming, curly, jet-black human hair, three inches long, lying diagonally across the yolk of my poached egg.
Whose hair was it that had lain embedded in the slimy yolk of my egg at breakfast? Undoubtedly it was the cook’s hair. And when, pray, had the cook last washed his head? He had probably never washed his head. Very well, then. He was almost certainly verminous. But that in itself would not cause a hair to fall out. What did cause the cook’s hair, then, to fall out on to my poached egg this morning as he transferred the egg from the pan to the plate. There is a reason for all things, and in this case the reason was obvious. The cook’s scalp was infested with purulent seborrhoeic impetigo. And the hair itself, the long black hair that I might so easily have swallowed had I been less alert, was therefore swarming with millions and millions of loving pathogenic cocci whose exact scientific name I have, happily, forgotten."
                -The Visitor, Roald Dahl
A ball of black hair down a silver shower drain in a white bath. Dark hair is disgust, nothing is nastier than pulling out a medium sized mammal from the shower drain, a space of cleanliness turned dirty by the passing presence of a racialized body. It is the embodiment of filth. It is pubic and obscene. It is coarsely crawling around on its snake-y belly with an afterlife of its own.
I starved myself, to de-sex, because I was molested and I was swarthy, because the two felt connected somehow, because I was molested, I was not blonde, and I was not a child, was never a child, could never be a child, no one would do that to a child so I was not a child. I starved myself to torch myself, my hair fell out, my hair fell out.
My thoughts are weeds each hair is a weed, I pull out the intrusive thoughts that pop out of my parting. All my thoughts are bad because I am bad. I am so bad and so ugly. I am out of control and so is my hair.
On the internet it says Arab girls are so ugly (read-so hairy) that they cover themselves not out of devotion but out of shame.
I started cutting when I started shaving.
Dark hair absorbs warmth, it heats my head, makes it glow like a halo. This is good as England is cold and cruel in both temperature and temperament.
When I was 15 I stood in front of the classroom projector and my dark curls projected on the whiteboard and the GHD girls laughed with their blue eyes and stable homes and said 'thank god that's not me'.
When I was 10 I was told I could not have a Jennifer Anniston hair cut because it did not work on 'ethnic hair', when I was 19 I was told I could not have a fringe because it did not work on 'ethnic' hair.
When I was 19 I stopped going to the hairdressers as no one wanted to cut my 'ethnic' hair. My black hair split from salon neglect. I pulled out the split ends, twisted off the breakages to keep it neat. I pulled high to the heaven until I pulled it out at the root. Pulling out my hair in public as a form of public apology for the space I occupy.
A failed apology though. Each hair I pull I am shedding more of myself though I am also sharing more of myself. Who wants to find long black hair on their seat. That's gross. That's dirty. I'm gross. I'm dirty.
I shave my back. I shave my hands. I shave my arms. I shave my face because there is too much to pluck.
'You can shave your back now Jason' says Regina George in Mean Girls! I am Jason! I am a monster!
I want to die but my hair is dead already. A dead thing, a foul thing.
My boyfriend finds a skull shaped box filled with my hair, he asks me what it means but it doesn't mean anything, I'm not that deep, I'm not deep at all. 

'She Devil': On the Demonization of Sexual Abuse Survivors, Doll Hospital Issue Four Essay


Doll Hospital Issue 4 is live! Yay! Read a preview, find out more here or grab the whole thing for pay as you wish!

I wrote two essay for this one! Here's the first:


'She Devil': On the Demonization of Sexual Abuse Survivors

cw-rape, childhood sexual abuse, internalised victim blaming, misogyny


Sexual violence survivordom is satanic worship and psychosis is magic demon power so either way I am going to Hell. No! I am not going to Hell. What a silly thing to say. I am Hell. You are going to me. When you die I'll carry you inside me. I will cradle you in my belly like the wooden crotch of a big oak tree in an Enid Blyton book where the little dormice live with their straw bonnets and scarves eating apple pie and talking magic.
I am not an Evil person, I am Evil itself. I am not Eve, I am the Apple. I am not Sméagol, turned monstrous in his addiction, I am the one Ring that made the poor fellow that way. The Instigator not the Embodier. She Devil.  It is much worse to be the whisper in the ear making the poor person do the bad thing than the innocent oaf that gets sucked along for the ride. Those piddly paedophiles with their magazine columns and their Hollywood movies are the victims I am not. Calling him a rapist really hurt his feelings and don't you know a court case will look bad on his CV? I am a bully. I am petty. I am increasingly realising that my function in life is to comfort the happy childhood-ed fangirls when their favourite rapist celebrity dies.
The survivor is the bad thing.  The original evil. The one that made him like this.
The She Devil on his shoulder.
It is all my fault.
The satanic survivor is amongst the living dead. Reanimator. A zombie in a pink cardigan who can write uncomfortable think pieces and might click maybe on your birthday party but won't actually ever turn up. She hasn't eaten one bit of breakfast but has reserved seats in the quiet carriage of the train station so that is something. The Satanic Survivor is a big success! She is wearing shoes and under eye concealer!
Being a survivor does not feel like surviving it feels like a living death. 'I AM AWAKE IN THE PLACE WHERE WOMEN DIE' shouts Jenny Holzer. But I do not wish to be awake, to be imbedded in this death space. My body is both war crime and war memorial. Surviving should equate to success, to escape, so why am I like this?
I am fascinated by Female Evil. The two-faced witch, whose crone-y crime is the aged ugliness she hides from the men who want to fuck her, her secret smelly face that shows only when alone and naked in bed. Snow White, The Shining, Game of Thrones, memes of girls with and without make up, a movie monster with as many incarnations as Michael Myers. Take her swimming on the first date, see if she has her devil face beneath the skin. Ugliness is evil, it is a betrayal. Beauty is evil too of course, though explanations differ on the what and why. Some say it makes people crazy, turns family men into neighbourhood child molesters. The child rape victim is not a child she is a Beautiful Nymphet, outside of innocence and outside of accountability.
The She Devil on the sex offender's shoulder strikes again.
It is all my fault, again.
And it is becoming increasingly clear that the female serial killer, the female evil, She Devil incarnate, is less Hannibal Lecter and more a countless list of working class women who have been sexually abused across infancy and adolescence, spit out from society and shut out from sympathy, only to be obviously and inevitably swallowed into abusive relationship of extraordinary damage.
These are women (some fictitious, Mallory Knox some altogether real, Aileen Wuornos) who are serial killer sex abuse survivors.
When I am told I am Evil for experiencing the worst things warm blooded murder is perhaps an outcome that would be convenient to ignore. The violence not of turning into your abuser but of becoming so scared that everyone is your abuser that you will punch out at anyone who presses too deep. When the crimes of our abusers are welcomed with a smile, whilst we are pushed out of heaven for being nasty little holes, it is understandable we want to rebrand ourselves as Saints and not She Devils. Those this and that outlines which press against the hipbones of overtly unwell women until they eventually draw blood. The hyper vigilance of post-traumatic stress disorder is a saucepan to smash the skulls of those around us.
Always on. Always Evil. Always tired. That curious mix of cruelty and creepiness that embodies the enduring fascination with childhood sexual abuse. The time lapse of the body. The endless rape. I Spit on Your Grave is a movie made in 1978 that has been playing on loop ever since its consummation. You think it’s about to end but it never does. They all keep coming back. The infinite gang rape swells across time, stretches over breakfast, lunch and dinner, before being clipped like a pigeon’s wing into a YouTube masturbatory montages and rewarded with a remake. This trauma never ends!
But they want that sweet, sweet She Devil, they need her. They need me. (Or me if I was not so greasy and so ugly and so ethnic). There’s a reason Harley Quinn is the Halloween costume of choice and not the Joker. They need the She Devil, to beat and to fuck, and on very special occasion even to be. Whether in a dress up show costume or a coveted movie role. A very special mask to pass around the dinner table.
I am a necessary evil, a warning, a dress up box, a ghost story. A She Devil.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Is Mental Health Political? A Panel Discussion


image description: a purple background with handmade patches by the artist hancdote that read 'did some self care', 'you are strong', 'I am trying', 'don't give up', 'stay hydrated' and keep trying', above the patches is a title that reads 'the arts students' union mental well being project: Mental health matters'.

Back in January I was invited by Arts Student Union Officer (and all round good human) Scarlet Shaney Langdon to speak on a panel discussion at London College of Fashion on mental health feels alongside artist superstar IggyLDN, zine queen Hannah Daisy and mental health mega genius Leah Frances. 

Here's a a rough transcript of some of my answers :) 

Many of you make artwork with themes relating to mental health - what inspired you to do this and what political impact do you think art and media has in destigmatising and challenging society's perceptions of mental health?

With Doll Hospital at least, the work I do comes not from the conventional idea of 'inspiration', or the traditional model of 'destigmatisation', which as my friend Rose Lyddon points out has the real potential to throw more marginalized mental illness experiences under the metaphorical bus, but more from a necessity to cultivate a creative space away from ableist expectations. I’d written on mental health themes in more open online spaces and found the politics of respectability inherent in the performance of online publishing to be incredibly limiting to the complexities of trauma and mental illness. I think I just recognized a need for a space for and by mentally ill individuals.


We work under capitalism, a system where people have to work to survive and are forced to constantly compete with each other. What impact do you think the capitalist work ethic has on mental health?

In many ways capitalism has not just simply worsened mental health but created a new model of mental suffering. This applies to both employment and unemployment, so much of the groundwork for Doll Hospital was created when I was unemployed so the latter is particularly on my mind. You only need to look at the relationship between long term unemployment and suicide to realize the reality of this.

However, when we talk about capitalism we need to open up our understanding of oppression to consider not just mental illness, but other experiences impacted by ableism such as chronic illness and physical and developmental disability. I personally struggle with my physical health and find these struggles exist in conversation with my mental health, a symptom of my physical health troubles is severe fatigue, this symptom is worsened dramatically when I push myself to match unrealistic ideals of hyper-productivity, this fatigue makes me suicidal, it’s a horrible knock on effect!

Capitalism is designed for the able bodied and able minded but considering poor working conditions even if a person enters in this ‘abled’ state, in all reality they are not going to exit it like this, poor working conditions are destructive both physically and mentally.

Theresa May recently announced plans to “transform attitudes to mental health.” What impact have the Tory government’s policies had on mental health in Britain? What do you think the government should be doing to actually make a positive difference?

Off the Record, a Bristol based charity for youth mental health, whose work I really respect, described May’s recent announcement as ‘meaningless gesture politics’ and there’s so much truth to that, to perform an interest in mental health from a position of power holds a great deal of currency right now. As much as mental health can happen to anyone we can’t ignore the fact that the most socially isolated, socially marginalized are the most vulnerable to mental illness, that unemployment and suicide are critically intertwined, that as much as people love to make fun of young people ‘self diagnosing’ on tumblr these medical institutions have consistently failed those in need, and turned away those who have sought the courage to get help.  As Clare Allan pointed out in her great piece for the Guardian these ‘destigmatise’ mental health iniatives can be used a manipulative tool to distract an audience from the root cause of why so many people are suffering.

We are currently facing a student mental health crisis where we’ve seen a 132% increase of students disclosing mental health issues, and most universities failing to provide adequate support. What would you say are some of the factors contributing to that?

It can be hard to base this purely on statistics as that does not consider students who in the past did not feel like could disclose, and of course students right now who don’t feel safe doing so.

Nonetheless, from personal experiences as a student I have had first hand experience of this failure. I once worked up the courage to confide to a lecturer I was having suicidal thoughts and was referred to Powerpoint presentation classes to improve my confidence! It’s totally bizarre and really worrying.

To understand mental health in academic spaces we need to consider sexual violence in campus spaces, imbalance of power between lecturers and students, which can again lend itself to abuse, institutional racism, classism, ableism and misogyny whose affects are so devastating.

And there is of course the practical realities of being at university, what it means to be in a different city, or even a different country or continent, the financial struggles, the fear of what comes next, it all piles up. It is also important to understand that there are many young people who are not in academic spaces, who have been shut out, rejected from such institutions, young people’s mental health is not contained just to higher education.  

How does structural oppression such as racism, sexism, ableism and LGBT-phobia affect people’s mental health and access to adequate services?

Structural oppression does not just shape access to mental health services it shapes the very way we approach and create what we now know as ‘mental illness’. To understand the nuances of this and work towards making a change we need to be investing and amplifying some of the amazing advocates working within the field of intersectional mental health.

A few I’d encourage you to support are Recovr, a UK based iniative to connect young black individuals to black therapists and counsellors, Imade Nibokun of Depressed While Black, Semana Thompson of Queer Indigenous Girl, Vilissa Thompson of Ramp your voiceUnmasked Women, an art curation project on black women’s mental health troubles, Thick Dumpling Skin, a collective for Asian American folks with eating disorder struggles, Dior Vargas, of POC + Mental Illness Photo Project, Bassey Ikpi, creator of The Siwe Project, the Kenyan mental health support hub My Mind My Funk and No More Martyrs which focusses on mental health support and suicide prevention for black women.

In the media, young people are often called the “snowflake generation” and we often hear comments suggesting that mental health is just a “millennial problem.” Where do you think this is coming from and what would your response be?

In general I don’t worry too much about what sub-Reddits or Guardian columnists have to say about mental health struggles, after all the notion of moral panics over self centred and entirely media created ‘generational groups’ resurfaces pretty much each decade.

However, it is concerning that this republican bootstrap mentality, where rugged individualism must be reasserted to conquer the notion of ‘oversensitive’ millennials and override the concept of ‘trigger warnings’ and the call for ‘safe spaces’ has in part propelled Trump to his position. Especially considering how such subjects have been utilized by far right fascist groups as proof that their freedom is somehow being taken away.

Mental health issues are often seen like an individual’s weakness that a person needs to address on their own, rather than something inflicted upon us by society and the system we live in. How do we challenge that idea? How can we collectively address mental health problems in our communities?

This individualistic approach exists not just towards mentally ill people but within ourselves. We internalize these attitudes, we think that to for our struggles to have worth we must cultivate a singular institutionally affirmed voice, whether that’s some kind of inspirational tedtalk, ‘you could be like me’ book deal, an accessible online brand, the celebrity spokesperson genre, the tortured genius myth. What we see as activism or advocacy is still aggressively individualistic, and cult of personalities inevitably lead to abuse of power. And for me, like I am a clinical narcissist so these ideas actually worsen my own mental illness! One way to question this structure is to question how these pre-set ideals of what it means to talk about mental illness, what ideas of ‘personal worth’ and ‘productivity’ means, this change need to also come from within ourselves.

But equally there is a particular model of social justice that encourages the martyrdom of the most marginalised for the so called 'movement'. Disabled women of colour are presented as disposable, and as artist and poet Khairani Barokka reminded me in a recent interview I conducted with her for Doll Hospital Issue 5, that in a ableist, exploitative world staking a creative space out for yourself is an incredibly defiant act. As much as self care can be manipulated to encourage capitalist productivity we need to remind ourselves that to care for oneself is still radical, we can't forget that.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

I can't get no satisfaction: sexual frustration + pop music



(cw csa + self harm)

My essay I contributed for Claire's now sold out zine on pop star crushes! Enjoy?!

Sex isn’t real. But pop stars are. And we can twin the history of rock and pop to the construct of the orgasm, mass marketed, instantly accessible and utterly out of reach. The stadium seats of Beatles concerts were covered in the come of girls who just wanted to hold their hand, the opposite perhaps of sexual frustration? Sexual elevation? Sex without boys but by boys, John Lennon was a pretentious creep in retrospect, but his contribution as a rampant rabbit to girls the world over can be seen as a gold star for the history books.

“My audience has an urgent need to touch, to shake hands, to move out of their seats, to defy so-called security, to make physical contact. They don’t simply sit and observe, but feel the urge to act. It’s a great compliment for me, and one that most Grammy winners could probably never imagine.”

- Morrissey


To both create and engage in pop music is by definition to be trapped. Trapped in school, trapped in youth, trapped in record contracts, trapped in your television set. Trapped behind the stage, trapped beyond the stage. It is to be both central and sideways, the tight trousers and blue ballsing, the curdled desire contained on 7 inches, to be a figure of fuckability who sings songs about no one wanting to fuck them, in order to have people fuck them. It’s all a bit weird and back to front.


Self harm is my sex, I engage with male celebrities only in an elaborate performance art of disassociation (childhood sexual abuse is a snow globe in which physical intimacy and bodily identity is distorted) and whilst initially this led to an utterly apologetic introduction of imposter syndrome of the authenticity of my authorship for this essay maybe this all slots in nicely. Abuse and the imagination. Masturbation is called self-abuse in abstinence pamphlets and day-time TV moves and abuse-abuse (read: statutory rape) is altogether common in the unbalanced system between consumer and creator. If these performers are not presented as people but something beyond, impossible to touch, impossible to hold, how can we hold them accountable as perpetuators of systematic abuse? How can an angel break my heart?

“Now more than ever the rock star is the untouchable god. What has Britain got if it hasn’t got its cool? What would happen if police started to turn up at the front doors of our rock stars whose sexual misconduct has been well documented?”

-Alex Miller, How Britain's Paedophile Scandal Killed the 1960s


Blink 182 was as much about the passing of time as it was fucking the neighbour’s dog and the comic crotch thrusting and first date singing places sexual frustration as synonymous with escape: escape from suburbia, escape from parents, escape from the monotony of the lower middle class and as the fandom ages, realizing that though the school timetable has lifted freedom never came, escape becomes a nostalgia. Let’s make this night last forever:

“Blink-182 can still headline because their core fan base never really grew up – they're just a lost mass of 20-somethings who've realised that the key to their own personal happiness is watching Travis Barker play a 15-minute drum solo in a field.
This regressive middle class is a generation that was sold a lie. They are a group who once believed that working hard in school, getting a degree and staying off heroin was the key to financial mobility, but have finally recognised that this is just bullshit.” 
-Jack Blocker

Pop music has become the black head build up on the back of the public imagination and I’ve been watching pimple-popping videos on YouTube to relieve my own tension. It’s been building up and now it’s ready to burst.

The Post-Traumatic Bath Trope

cw: blood/gore/potentially upsetting images


“He felt so ceaselessly dirty, so soiled, as if inside he was a rotten building, like the condemned churches he had been taken to see in one of his rare trips outside the monastery: the beams speckled with mold, the rafters splintered and holey with nests of termites, the triangles of white sky showing immodestly through the ruined rooftop.”
-A Little Life


Stills and gifs: requiem for a dream/perfect blue/carrie/martyrs