Mental Health is the New Kale

Before I even start this piece, I want to say that this post is not intended to demean anyone with mental health issues.  At all.  My target rather is the politicians and celebrities who are rather cynically in my opinion ‘raising awareness’ for their own causes.  If you have to deal with your mental health in any way, I wish you love and cuddles.  Or at the very least, a smiley wave from across the room if you don’t want people in your personal space.

I suppose I have rather given the game away with that above caveat, haven’t I?  But in the interests of my own mental health, I shall continue post haste to the meat of the issue.

It had been an aggressive morning.  The persistent rain had me shirty before I even left the house, a shirtiness taken to boss level by the white van parked across the pavement but 20 yards from my house, blocking the path, forcing me to deviate from my predestined path and shove the pram (yes I was with son) across the road.  I shouted and tutted at the workmen who looked on openmouthed, so stunned by my vitriol  as to be rendered immobile, unable to apologise, fall to their knees with shame or even move the goddamn van.

I had made an impression. I waited on the other side of the road to see if they were going to move the van in a rush of guilt and responsibility, but HID the fact that I was checking on them by looking at my phone; a classic mum – spy technique (and not at all suggestive that I could perhaps do with a chat about my own mental health).

Most of the time I wish I didn’t have a phone, especially one with such an eager to please commitment to current affairs.  My phone is always sharing headlines with me, like a cat, dragging bird entrails into my mind-porch.  Harmph.  I hate the news, too.

But the headline of choice this morning sent me beyond boss level shirtiness.  It was this:

‘Theresa May Vows to transform Mental Health Support’ (The Mirror)

Two things – and I will deal with the lesser one first.  If a politician ‘vows to’ do anything, in my considered opinion and experience, it don’t mean shit.  If you vow, pledge or promise, it means that you haven’t done anything to this date.  It’s an acknowledgment of failure in political circles.  Show me your progress, not your process, Theresa.  (Note:  since I was first angered by this article, Mental Health Professionals have come forward to say that such a ‘vow’ means nothing unless backed up by funding.)

Secondly, why Mental Health?  Why not? She added, lazily.   My beef here is that the broad term ‘Mental Health’ is veering dangerously close to buzzword territory and is in danger of losing its impact as a social condition affecting millions of people.  Carrie Fisher spoke about her mental health with humour, with gravity and from diverse experience – and as such came closer to resolving the stigma around the subject than anyone ‘vowing’ to ‘tackle’ Depression for example as if it were a boil to be lanced.  Mental Health is the new Kale – its worthy to talk about and people like to hear about it, but few who are talking about it know what to do with it.

But hey, its not Brexit, is it, hey Theresa?  Must give you a bit of a break, just to emptily vow something.  I have an image of the PM slowly drowning in a lake of Headlines, bravely waving a sprig of kale overhead.

 

 

 

The Snake Eats Its Tail

Noises Off Day 6

My week of audiofasting has led to a lot of thinking and reading and thinking about reading and reading about thinking.  Sometimes these things fall into line with events in the real world, in my world, which open up a new line of thought, or in this case a new resolve.    Although not strictly following in the spirit of previous posts, I have no doubt that my thoughts wouldn’t be as clear had I not had this week of withdrawal from all extraneous noise.  Enough elucidating, let me begin ….

 

Reading Susan Sontag’s essay on style in bed this morning and feeling a range of emotions as I plough and ponder the words.  I fluctuate between envy and admiration, because she is an incredibly vigorous thinker and writer and engaging with her discourse is it’s own challenge and reward.  The envy is because she is so damn succinct and brilliant and better than me and I allow myself this bitter comparison for a second before I get over myself.

 

So I’m enjoying my read,shifting between tiny eurekas and huh? moments, when a phrase hits me with its relevance.  In her essay Against Interpretation, she describes pornography as a “substitute for life”.  My initial reading of this phrase is that of a snark, that men who use porn are losers who evidently can’t get a girlfriend.  This is a party line that I have held for such a long time that it has calcified, my long rehearsed ‘rant’ against Page 3 forming a strong part of my teaching repertoire for dealing with year 11 boys.  And this has been a momentous week for the brilliant-but-I-can’t-believe-this-is-still-prescient-in-the-21st Century Campaign against print-based porn, No More Page 3.

 

The campaign, which is petitioning to have Page 3 removed from The Sun and associated newspapers as well as pressurising supposedly family friendly companies against advertising in their pages, received a timely spike of publicity.  Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton, lanced a big parliamentary boil during a debate on media sexism.  In a brave and lucid speech against Page 3 culture and portrayals of women in the media, she wore a No More Page 3 T-shirt – and was promptly rebuked for inappropriate dress!  Here’s a better summary of events,

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/jun/12/caroline-lucas-page-3-t-shirt

This, and the Sontag, and my week of contemplation has made me re-think my position.  And it goes a little something like this…

My traditional standpoint of vilifying men who enjoy Page 3 has been missing the point enitrely.  Sorry.   Page 3 and its counterparts mayin fact provide a convenient barrier for otherwise sound adult men against the reality of forging strong personal relationships with women, whether erotic, romantic, platonic or all three.  Obviously, there are men who may use these images as a springboard for abuse or denigration, but I believe that there are more who have had their images of women so screwed up by concomitant 1D stereotypes in the press and on film, that confronting a real lady is a hair-raising experience.  So what happens?  A whole load of men stay in their shells and, along with a whole load of women, miss out on truly generous, loving relationships, which means a whole load of miserable where it could be a whole load of happy.

So am I beginning to feel pity for Page 3 readers?  Maybe yes, because my attention has been misdirected for some time.  So what of the women? In this spirit, I changed my focus to my year 10 girls and shared with them the debate and footage of  Lucas’ speech.  They feature spotted brilliantly (we’ve been looking at persuasive language techniques) but didn’t really engage with the matter at hand.  When I showed them some recent copies of the Sun, however, the response was electric.  The majority were quick to label the models as ‘whores’ and ‘not even that fit’, but when I probed them about who made the decisions and controlled this women’s image, they disengaged again.  Before this week I would have faceplanted onto my planner in frustration, but I think my audio fast is making me empathetic….

15 year old girls are hormonal, vulnerable and desperate to find stereotypes and images of women to identify either against or with.  I would say that the former is more prevalent than the latter; I would put the ratio at 3:1.  It seems easier to confess to hating goths or thinking Katy Perry gross, than it is to love Beyonce or pronounce oneself a skater.

 

As such, the Page 3 girl is not providing an aspirant model for teenage girls; more often it is an image for them to kick against; whether because they think its a model of beauty that genuinely appeals to men, but one that they can never achieve; or because they are conditioned to think of these women as cheap, worthless and “easy to define themselves against”?  Either reason is equally toxic, as both involve women-hating and self-loathing in equal measure, feeding the monster of poor self esteem that most of us, as women, have had to live with as teenagers.  And who is responsible for fostering poor self esteem?  I don’t really need to answer that question; the snake eats its tail.

My thoughts may be simplistic, silly, hardly revelatory, but my personal realisation that Page 3 makes no-one happier, male or female, makes me more determined to contribute to its removal. No More Page 3 is not a feminist campaign, it’s humanist.

 

W T F?

British journalism: The rampaging lion of integrity.

Seriously.

I can’t believe what I’m having to listen to/read/see.

I am not a political being at all, but the eulogizing of David Cameron in the majority of Britain’s press makes me distrust this country’s ability to govern itself.  Day after day, I am subjected to some  the most partial cloying reportage under the tattered banner of ‘free press’.  Witness today’s  article in the Evening Standard, by Vassi Chamberlain:

Okay so SamCam is not quite first lady yet but here’s one prediction we can unilaterally call: the frumpy political wife is out. Our Jackie O and JFK moment is nearly upon us. Finally, we can boast of the loveliness that is likely to be our new prime minister’s wife.

Does that girl ever look tired? Does she have a bad angle? Does she ever dress badly? Just look at last night: while Sarah Brown looked neat but dull in a short red mac and Miriam Clegg dowdy in cardi and messy hair, a pregnant Mrs Cameron was luminous, pretty and groomed in her purple shift.

Disgusting on several grounds.  First:  utterly subjective.  Second:  utterly irrelevant.  Third:  Criminally chauvinist (women beware women).  Fourth:  widely distributed!  The Evening Standard is given out f. o. c near tube stations, a welcome piece of tat to fill the commute home with.  Really, keep your fanzine pap to yourself in future,  Chamberlain – you demean the profession of journalism with your puerile adolescent simperings.

And the Standard’s article is the soft stuff, the filler, at the other extreme we have the font page of Murdoch’s Sun (see picture), so desperate to hammer its colours to the mast that it seems to have forgotten that its primary function is to report current events and has turned itself into a Tory jazz mag.

God I’m angry.  Give me news, not shit opinion.  Not your opinion.

This election has totally swung on what the majority of the right wing press in this country has churned out and while it is a shame that a section of the public hasn’t developed their own point of view and choose to vote according to what the Sun tells them, I vow to never again, even in jest, turn to a free paper or Murdoch ordained news source for my information on how the world is turning.

Sadly I can’t vouch the same for my compatriots.  And therefore, we can pretty much welcome in 5 years (at least) of Tory rule.