Category: General (page 1 of 27)

NOT JUST THE NIGHT, RECLAIM IT ALL

 A CALL TO ACTION
ASSEMBLE ON PARKER’S PIECE AT 5:30PM ON THE 11TH MARCH.

“We march to reclaim our bodies, space and to put an end to sexual violence.” The Reclaim the Night March has a long history in Cambridge and this year, it falls at a particularly interesting time with discussions about sexual violence have entered the mainstream. All women and non-binary people are welcome to attend, no matter whether they have been involved in feminist organizing or not.

We welcome all community groups to march alongside us – the march will be divided into blocs, with disabled students setting the pace.

Below are the experiences of women and non-binary people who have attended the Reclaim the Night March and the vigil that happens after:

Lola Olufemi, CUSU Women’s Officer
I put the date of the first reclaim the night down in my diary immediately when it was announced. I remember actively seeking out the women’s campaign before I arrived at university because I was interested in feminism. I owe so much to the space for teaching me what a truly liberated future might look like and how it was ours for the taking. Marching through the Cambridge with other women and non-binary people screaming at the top of my lungs made me feel powerful. It made me realize that a future without sexual violence is possible. It is not a dream.

Claire Smith, Women’s Campaign Zine Officer
Reclaim the Night has been one of my favourite and most important experiences at this university. I came to my first march with two people from my college and a banner made on my floor the night before using a toothbrush and navy acrylic paint. The march and the vigil afterwards gave me the tools to ask for what I needed after a really difficult time in early 2016. I felt unqualified to sign up for a stewarding slot in my second year (because of imposter syndrome destroying my brain) but I signed up anyway and the rush I had from screaming down the streets was unbeatable. I love the women’s campaign and I love marching with women and non-binary people who are really fucking angry. Reclaim the Night, and the women’s campaign in general, reminds me that anger is valid and necessary, that change comes through disruption, and that hearing the voices of women and non-binary people in the streets at night is an incredibly life-affirming feminist action.

Waithera Sebatindira, Women’s Officer 2016-17
I love the power of Reclaim the Night marches, but my favourite moments have been the vigils that follow the march. The room booked yearly in the University Centre, usually used for conferences and meetings, becomes a space for radical softness. Women and non-binary people open up about painful experiences in ways that aren’t possible in our day-to-day lives. They do so as a method of healing, not just themselves but others. I’ve gotten the impression that it’s also a space for anger. An anger that is empathised with by everyone in the room and can exist without policing. It’s a truly transformative space and, not to be dramatic, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.

Siyang Wei
I went to Reclaim the Night in my first year, and I think it was the first political march I ever attended. I didn’t really go with anyone, and initially I felt self-conscious and out of my depth. But I was surrounded by so many other women and non-binary people, chanting and shouting and making a space of affirming feminist anger that energised me too. We are taught so much to watch ourselves, to watch others looking at ourselves. It was the abandon of the march –the letting loose of ugly or painful things into a moment of empathy and resistant community – that made it for me so powerful and transformative.

Anna Pick
Reclaim the Night reminds us of the visceral power of feminist organizing. By marching – taking up space – we show that sexist oppression does not exist in the abstract, but in the direct, lived experience of inhabiting a gendered body. In almost every country in the world, smartphone data shows that women walk significantly fewer steps than men day-to-day. This comes as no surprise to me, or to the majority of the women and non-binary people I know, for whom the anxiety – even terror – of walking alone at night, of being followed or harassed, has become second nature.

Reclaiming space is a vital practice. It shows that identity politics cannot be reduced to a lack of resilience, to the ‘snowflake generation’ – what is at stake here is our survival, our dignity, our humanity. This is why feminist spaces prioritise lived experience, and why it is so vital to attend to the ways in which sexism intersects with race, class, sexuality, ability and other categories of oppression.

At Women’s Campaign events this year there has been a lot of discussion about institutional memory. How do we ensure that the work done by activist students today is taken up by others when they leave? Part of the answer seems to be that each generation of students needs to develop its own language to speak to these issues, its own tools and strategies to address them. Reclaim the Night is an opportunity to draw inspiration from those who have come before, whilst also owning the space for ourselves, adding a unique voice at a unique moment in the long struggle against gendered violence.

At the risk of turning this into a weekly essay, the word ‘reclaim’ is from the Latin word meaning to ‘cry out against’. Reclaim the Night is about solidarity, but it is also an expression of anger. On 11th March we will gather strength from each other, and use the privilege of safety in numbers, to shout back at the world and its injustices.

Amy Clark
One of the first marches I ever attended (at least at Cambridge) was Reclaim the Night, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was a joyful, cathartic, and collective display of solidarity and anger. We marched through the streets of Cambridge holding placards that spoke against transmisogyny, sex-worker exclusionary feminism, and sexual violence. I remember listening to the speeches on Parker’s Piece, standing together against the violence that is directed against women and non-binary people across the world. One of the parts I remember most vividly is collecting together afterwards to read poetry – hearing so many people stand up and tell their story during the evening was beautiful.

Jun Pang
you look and expect soft edges –
a kind smile – silence. you reduce
me, think that because I have small eyes
I cannot see, that because I have pursed lips
I cannot speak, that because I am myself
I am an open door, like the cherry
blossoms blushing pink in springtime –
or something along those tired lines.

I scream and you are scared for my safety
pins and needles prickling your skin from
the sheer magnitude of the noise. My lungs
expand and I am shrinking no more, reclaiming
the top of my lungs without you, against you.)

Love and solidarity, we hope to see you there.

The CUSU Women’s Campaign

xx

ZINE CULTURE, A TED TALK

By Claire Sosienski Smith

Hello and welcome to my ted talk okay buckle up and keep your hands mostly inside the car but I know we are all impulsive creatures!! What? No one gave me a ted talk? That is a non-problem. I’m going to keep referring to all my extended conversations as ted talks and you cannot stop me!!

This is zine culture to me. It’s self-publishing, including spur of the moment diatribes on whatever you want. I say ‘to me’ not because I love gazing at my own navel but because I’m not entirely comfortable outlining exactly what zine culture is to everyone. Some general definitions are that it is personal and radical and firmly rooted in a DIY ethos. This definition is affected by its history, but that is complicated too: are zines a remnant of 90s DIY punk culture, taking on a life of its own when the RIOT GRRRL movement used zines as a way to get girls to the front of the punk scene? Are they the updated scrapbooks that women have been making and sharing since women weren’t allowed to be in public male spaces? Are they another form of letter-writing, just broadcast more widely?? Zine culture is such a conglomerate messy old thing with a victorious heart and its aim has always been rooted in counter-culture, a way of challenging the mainstream ways of sharing knowledge.

I am going to pause here to suggest that in this moment of brands infiltrating all channels of communication, we need to be aware that there are some things that zines are not. Yes, the term itself is half of the word magazine, but we’re a dissected chunk from them that grew better and stronger!! What are magazines doing jumping on the zine train now? Oh, trying to appropriate a radical aesthetic to sell more things??? Quelle surprise!! If they’re too lazy to say the whole word magazines, then a glossy publication that makes profit is a ‘mag’ not a ‘zine.’ Guess I can be a gatekeeper when I want to!!

Hey, it fits into that messy definition I outlined earlier, that zines need something to define themselves against. Zines are trying to give a voice and way to organise to people who are not represented in traditional media channels. Zines are like that really cool friend who you can’t quite tell whether you are desperately in love with or just want to actually BE. She is a good presence in your life regardless. Zines are about presence, about taking up space, about The Present and the future, nodding to the past that brought us a method that means if you have something to say and access to a printer – or now just the internet – you can get it out. Better out than in!! What you have to say is important and publishing your words in zines reinforces this unapologetic and unpolished action of being here. Zines are tangible, which is important for people whose identities and narratives are so often appropriated, talked over, or completely erased.

Zines are not competitive, zines are not for making a profit (the price for a zine should be recuperating your expenses, including your labour and ideally the labour of those who contributed?? But in this world, zines often end up being voluntary contributions of art), zines are not edited, airbrushed or perfected pieces. Zines are an expression of selfhood and community, of your thoughts and what gives you purpose, feeling your feelings and not apologising for the mess. There is always space for more zines. This brings me to the crux of my ted talk: make your own zine. You can do this by folding and stapling / sewing / just keeping the paper loose, writing on the pages and handing it to another person. Maybe it becomes a zine in that act of handing it to another person. Radical connection in the face of isolation. I leave you with my very simple guide on how to use a Microsoft Publisher template (I know, a brand, I’m inconsistent and complacent) to print your zine. It’s a matter of clicking on the right template, compiling your work and printing it out double sided.

That’s all there is to it. There is no reason why you can’t make a zine. I know I would love to see it, but more than anything, I hope that you will love seeing it, holding something in your hands that you made. That feeling will remind you that what you contribute to the world is valuable and worthwhile, just like your zine-loving corporeal form.

 

SORTA-DISPLACED

by Kitya Mark

[CN: brief mention of Holocaust]

 

  • This is how I imagine the cashier’s perspective of my mother’s face. (bright colours/vibrant accent/blind in one eye/ a portrait of ExOtIC

Leaning against the counter whilst buying socks for her ceramics teacher my mother replies casually to the cashier that, yes, she is ‘South African’ (jokingly adding that this is in spite of the fact that she has lived in London for twenty five years). Later, over Rooibos tea without milk she and a friend who’s name is also a street-sign discuss Zadie Smith’s ‘On Beauty’ and whether women can be women before they are mothers. (m-o-m crossed out/ the searching o replaced with an undulating u)

Diaspora is a word I have grown up with and grown up under:

Google search etymology:

Greek diaspora “dispersion,” from diaspeirein “to scatter about, disperse,” from dia- “about, across” (see dia-) + speirein “to scatter” (see sprout).

I am a second-generation immigrant. My parents/grandparents/greatgrandparents are second generation immigrants. In Year Two we had to make a family tree and I wonder where I put mine because sometimes inside the rim of my eyelids the tracing through and back stops and I forget or misremember or I was never told where my story began.

“Does identity always have to come from conflict”? (an intellectual debate about politics – perhaps I should have done HSPS)

“well, personally (immediately begin. Because it’s always personal – I do not have the objectivity to do Law) because obviously I’m Jewish (it is the only obvious badge I can wear) my identity is so so so interlaced with conflict cause of the holocaust etc”

Ensure to end with ‘etc’ so it does not come across as too heavy// Step one in intellectual debates: never make them too heavy. Especially if you are just a fresher trying to seem interesting-enough-social-enough-funny-enough-fill-the-footfalls-of-their-friends-from-back-home.

Diaspora – “to scatter” (see sprout) but we were never given the chance to sprout and I suppose its too late to be angry about all that. That is so perfectly in the past. My eldest sister (who knows about such things) told me that ‘Of course we only feel Jewish, if we aren’t Jewish what are we?’

I say only to myself that I am also a

  • Woman
  • Queer (brave enough to put it on the list this time)
  • Sister
  • Daughter
  • Friend
    • I am lots of things and I am also Jewish but my question is different – where did we come from?

‘Yeah, I guess it’s just strange because we’ve grown up somewhere our parents don’t call home’.

I AM TRYING TO CARVE OUT A SPACE/PLACE FOR MYSELF.
I AM TRYING TO BUILD MYSELF BACK UP AGAIN (cornflower blue – reaching steadily towards the stitched weave of sky)

diaspora
dʌɪˈasp(ə)rə/
noun

  1. the dispersion of the Jews beyond Israel.
    • Jews living outside Israel.
    • the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland.

But it’s not dispersion its displacement. Only the trouble is I cannot remember what we are overflowing from and when people say homeland all I can think of is that stupid television show that I never watched but everyone else always used to talk about on the bus.

(-find-search-‘I’-19 times – I suppose – 20-  it is okay if this is all rather self-indulgent)

SPEAK UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN: ADHD DIAGNOSIS IS AN IMPERFECT PROCESS

By Claire Sosienski Smith

I didn’t speak until I was three years old. This rate of development isn’t incredibly slow, but delayed enough to cause alarm in paediatricians, so my first few memories of hospitals were going for hearing tests. My mum, however, was not alarmed. “How can the kid have hearing problems, when she can hear a crisp packet open from the next room and come running?” was her reasoning. I was a quiet, hungry child. Quieter than a lot of the other family members around me, but definitely part of the family: distracted, erratic, emotional, exhausting. I overheard my mum talking on the phone to my psychiatrist that all the women in my family are like this, but I am the only one who has gone to Cambridge, so this diagnosis of ADHD makes sense. To my mother, I make sense.

And my family make sense to me, and so have my state schools, particularly my primary school which catered for a lot of specific learning disorders at a time when government money was earmarked for its provision. ADHD diagnostic questionnaires don’t make so much sense to me. The person to waltz through an ADHD diagnosis is the type to bump into all other dancers on that floor: the stereotype of the young male child, disrupting their lessons, acting out at home. Have you ever heard of ADHD, inattentive type? I don’t really mind if you haven’t, because the wording of ADHD is outdated. “Attention deficit hyperactive disorder.” How can we avoid deficit models when discussing disability, if ADHD has ‘deficit’ in its name? ADHD is a difference in attention and processing of information. I find it to be an unpredictability of attention. I call myself erratic because ‘attention deficit’ doesn’t match up to when I can be hyper-focused, making links between unrelated topics. It’s an incredible state of mind. My attention is everywhere and, channelled properly, is a complete asset. It’s difficult when I’m in environment that doesn’t cater for ADHD.

I have a style of cognition that takes in a lot of information at once, and my manifestation of working type is ‘inattentive’, rather than hyperactive. This means that my mind will wander off to distraction and daydream to seem permanently spacey or lost in thought. The hyperactive type would typically manifest these symptoms in physical movement, such as rushed speech, a twitching leg, tapping fingers. Most ADHD-types are impulsive. We can call this risk-taking, which is a good thing, yet it can be demonised if you don’t have access to an outlet for this energy. ADHD is over-represented at universities. It is also over-represented in the prison system. People with ADHD have increased susceptibility to alcoholism and drug abuse, for self-medication or as a result of impulsive behaviour. I sympathise that the same impulses that fuel my academic obsessions spill into me being reckless with drink or drugs. People say that there are two types of times with ADHD: now, and not now. Of course I can drink seven pints. The consequences aren’t affecting me right now. I don’t conceptualise things in a linear way. It is all now: one big, bright and incredibly loud mass of information.

Sounds overwhelming? Let’s return to my primary school. I wasn’t the child disrupting class. I was finishing my work early, allowed to choose books from the shelves outside the classroom, I could sharpen all the pencils, I could be cutting out displays for the corridor. I would technically be leaving class a lot, which is something they ask about at ADHD screenings. But somewhere in my school life I became very timid about leaving class, speaking out of turn, seeking extra things to do. I think young girls and other marginalised people are more aware of boundaries: they feel the edges where they are not meant to be with more distinction, shrinking within these boundaries so they can breathe. I wouldn’t leave the classroom or draw too much attention to myself, because I didn’t want people to look at me. I internalised my distraction and restlessness as procrastination, a poor work ethic, an indicator that I was just a little bit crazy. All the women in my family seemed a bit strange, a bit too much, so I tried to be still and void-like.

Symptoms of ADHD must be present before the age of twelve to warrant a diagnosis. But we teach girls to not speak out of turn, to hide unfeminine behaviours, to work harder so no one can tell that you forgot a relative’s name because you were preoccupied with your thoughts. When you are raised female, you learn how to work harder to hide the unacceptable parts of yourself. Add into the mix the theory that, whilst it gets better for boys after twelve years old, ADHD gets worse for girls after puberty. We have a lost generation of girls with ADHD who do not know that their high-speed thoughts are signalling that they are different, and need to work with, rather than against, their brains. These narratives of women with ADHD are missing or invalidated.

I’m incredibly lucky. I had great, social ways of learning so that it was only coming to university that brought my differences in cognition to an impasse. I had a GP here who suggested I go to the Disability Resource Centre for a meeting about ADHD. My NHS waiting list took six months so I didn’t have provisions for exams, but I managed to get through them. The university wouldn’t pay for my diagnosis because the funding that makes this possible had been revoked under the current government. I was supported by my family and friends who would fill in the forms required for diagnosis, when various people in my life would question whether I had ADHD at all. You cannot be ‘too smart’ for a specific learning disorder, especially as these differences in learning and adaptive skills we gain as a result are often the origins of our academic success. People with specific learning ‘disorders’ think differently. It is essential to celebrate and create space for these differences.

I was diagnosed after my psychiatrist called up my mum to discuss her feedback about my childhood. She hadn’t scored me highly enough to qualify for ADHD under the requirements that certain symptoms must be present before puberty. My psychiatrist had told me in person that it seemed incredibly likely that I had ADHD, she just needed the forms to reflect this. Fortunately, she could prompt my mum into understanding that what she saw as good behaviour were examples of leaving the classroom, being distracted, and changing goals constantly, even if the language used in diagnostic questionnaires points towards a child who does not resemble me and uses the language of deficiency. We have imperfect diagnostic tools for ADHD and non-inclusive images of ADHD that leave a lot of people incorrectly diagnosed with anxiety or depression, or left completely undiagnosed.

I am grateful to have a diagnosis and supportive family and friends, whose input was essential to my diagnostic process. I am equally grateful that I was born with this cognitive difference. It’s time for centres of academic prestige such as Cambridge to start catering for brains that don’t work like ‘normal’ ones. Spoiler alert, this is every single brain. There is no such thing as a normal brain. The term ‘normal’ is a lazy and exclusive shorthand. Diagnosis helps people with specific learning disorders access the adjustments, support and (sometimes) the medication they need. I am not about to throw off the label I worked hard to be diagnosed with, but I refuse to see it as something shameful or an indicator of any deficiency.

These alternative forms of cognition are not disorders, and when the environments we are in actively include people who work differently, people with ADHD make sense and are able to access their unique abilities. I feel lucky that I have found a voice within an unwelcoming educational institution, finding pockets of resistance raising awareness that you do not have to change; it’s the traditions, attitudes and stereotypes around you that need radical and complete transformation. Let’s start with the diagnostic criteria, including who we recommend for and recognise are in need of assessment and support. To those who are currently slipping through the cracks: I hear you, even if it may look like I’m not listening – that’s just the way I work. ∎

 

You can get in touch with me at csosienskismith [at] gmail [dot] com if you want to discuss anything I have mentioned in this article. Your GP can recommend you to an ADHD specialist during a standard appointment. If you’re a university student, you can contact your Disability Resource Centre (or equivalent). Two great resources for women with ADHD are smartgirlswithadhd.com and kaleidoscopesociety.com.

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