12 thought-provoking articles from 2016

I read a lot, be it articles, books or blog posts; it’s why I started my This week I’ve been reading posts. I love discovering new writers, re-visiting old favourites and I’m grateful to authors, bloggers, columnists, journalists and writers for putting pen to paper, so to speak, and sharing their work with the world.

To mark the new year I’m sharing 12 thought-provoking articles from 2016. These articles have all resonated with me in some way and I find myself returning to them frequently. They’ve helped me understand the world a little better. They’ve challenged my views on certain issues. They’ve helped me come to terms with things in my own life. They’ve reminded me of the importance of words and the power of telling our stories.

12 thought-provoking articles from 2016
Photo: kaboompics

What To Do When You Feel Like Your World Is Ending And Everybody Hates You And Nothing Will Ever Be Ok Again

I’ve seen a few debates lately about what the “right” kind of self-care is. Should you do the dishes or leave them in the sink while you take a nap? Should you make good on your plans and go out with friends even when you feel crappy or should you bail with some transparent excuse? Should you clean your room or hunker down with a good book and let your future self worry about picking up your clothes? – What To Do When You Feel Like Your World Is Ending And Everybody Hates You And Nothing Will Ever Be Ok Again

This post, by Anne Thériault, is one I’ve returned to regularly throughout the year. I even printed out the list that is included at the end.

Bustle and the Industrialization of Confession

Cases can be made for and against a survey that distills human experience and outright trauma down to a series of boxes to check, but what is inarguable is that this document is a sign of the times. I would add that it’s a fascinating one. The current media climate demands more life from writers than ever, especially if they aren’t interested in doing actual reporting. The market rewards personal storytelling with attention—the more lurid and specific, the better. Just a few weeks ago, we saw a young xoJane writer seemingly pushed to the brink by what she perceived to be the demands of her job and her reluctance to reveal. Nora Ephron’s signature mantra “everything is copy” has become the norm, except everything can’t ever be enough when your job is to churn out posts on a routine basis. – Bustle and the Industrialization of Confession

Much has been written about confessional writing, but this article about the Bustle Writers: Identity Survey is the best I’ve read.

Shout, shout, let it all out

As someone who talks feminism on the internet a lot, this is a point that gets put to me on average a couple of times a day. That we’d advance our cause a lot faster if we were… well… just a little bit nicer about it. And in general, I think being nice is great. It’s very nice to be very nice.

But when we’re talking about women taking up space and making their voices heard, we have to be pretty careful about what behaviour we reward. Because when people say women talking about feminism should be “nicer”, what they often actually mean is “gentler”, “softer”, “quieter”, “smaller”.

When people ask feminists to be nice, they’re more often telling us to take up less space, to be less disruptive with our disruptions. We need feminism because women are constantly punished for acting unladylike, so much so that our discussions of women’s rights are punished for it too. – Shout, shout, let it all out

Fiona Longmuir’s article, in defence of shouty feminism, had me nodding along and shouting “This. This. So much this.” to an empty room. Read, enjoy and be proud of your shouty feminism.

Anxiety and the ‘fuck budget’

Anyway. She says: the secret to living a happy life is to stop giving a fuck about everything. You make a ‘fuck budget’, in which you have limited fucks to give, stop giving a fuck about things you shouldn’t, then revel in how amazing your life is now.

Except she ties it to anxiety. And that’s not always how it works if you have anxiety. As I have had to explain to relatives and friends when I’ve failed them in any one of a thousand ways: anxiety is not like an M+S jumper – you can’t get rid of it by just deciding that you don’t want it any more. It would be like preventing the flu by simply deciding never to get the flu. Or solving a transport problem by deciding that you’ll learn to fly. – Anxiety and the ‘fuck budget’

Telling someone with anxiety or an anxiety disorder to stop focusing on things they don’t need to isn’t always the best course of action. Not giving a fuck isn’t always doable for the person with anxiety either.

For me this ties in with the recent focus on self-care. Yes, self-care has its place but it isn’t a substitute for outside care (be it talk therapy or medication) and placing the onus to “get well” on a person who has a mental illness can be dangerous. Sometimes the last thing you are capable of doing when you’re in the thick of it are the very things that top every self-care list going (exercise, mindfulness etc.)

To All the Straight Women Who Love Gay Men: Your Safe Space Is No Longer Their Safe Space

This is a thing we do, we straight girls. Especially cis, straight, femme girls. We maintain intimate friendships with beautiful gay men, basking in their appreciation of our femininity, jointly appraising male sexiness, seeking expert opinions on relationships, and invading party spaces. Here we dance, let loose, sing out loud, and enjoy ourselves without fear of predatory male sexual attention. Straight girls love gay male public spaces because they feel like safe spaces. The Orlando massacre reminds us this safety is an illusion of our relative privilege. Not even gay public space is safe space to be gay. – To All the Straight Women Who Love Gay Men: Your Safe Space Is No Longer Their Safe Space

This is an important read about queer spaces and how they can’t really be safe spaces for straight women when the Orlando shooting proved that queer spaces aren’t even safe for queer people. The last line is particularly powerful.

My Home

My body has changed shape. My jaw has sunk into my neck and my silhouette is rounded and my summer clothes don’t fit. My belly gently brushes the tops of my thighs when I sit down and those thighs rub each other when I walk. I’m forty pounds – about three stone – heavier than I was. My physical self is a battle scar, though: every ounce I have gained is testimony to surviving in the only way I could figure out how. Food. But my size isn’t the point. The survival is. – My Home

This is an incredible piece of writing about depression, gaining weight and body confidence. It was something I needed to read more than I realised and it’s something I’ve returned to numerous times.

Self-Care Isn’t Always Sweet And Cozy

What we need is very rarely what we want, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary or important. Some nights, taking care of your mental health means vanilla scented candles and a long bath. On other nights, taking care of your mental health means forcing yourself to do your fucking laundry. The important thing is to remember that there is a balance between the two. – Self-Care Isn’t Always Sweet And Cozy

An important reminder that self-care isn’t all about relaxing baths, fancy candles and buying things all in the name of treating yourself. Sometimes doing the thing you least want to do is actually self-care.

The Audacity of Hopelessness

“A bigger part of tonight’s story is that millions and millions of Americans are willing to vote for a candidate who has been endorsed by the Klan. They are willing to vote for a candidate who has displayed open contempt for women. They are willing to vote for a candidate whose base is openly hostile to people of color, immigrants and Muslims. We cannot ignore the hate that Mr. Trump both encourages and allows to flourish.” – The Audacity of Hopelessness

My response to Donald Trump’s election was to repeat “this is what the white supremacist patriarchy looks like” over and over to anyone who would listen. Roxane Gay’s article in the immediate aftermath of the result has stayed with me.

Questioning Safety Pin Solidarity Revealed why I Can’t Trust White People

Don’t expect thanks for the solidarity you should have always been showing. Don’t expect your pin to provide comfort in lieu of action. And don’t expect it to bring actual change. We have real work that has to be done and I suggest we get started. – Questioning Safety Pin Solidarity Revealed Why I Can’t Trust White People

Safety pins made an appearance twice in 2016; first following Brexit and then after Trump’s election. I’ve read many articles about the pros and cons of wearing a safety pin and the thing that struck me was that all the articles in favour of safety pins were written by white people who wear them and the articles that had issues with people wearing safety pins were written by people of colour, the very people the pins were supposed to help.

This article, by Ijeoma Oluo, is a must read on the subject. 

Queer Writers in the Age of Trump

“Contemporary America is filled with shadows and ghosts; we have never been free of the bigotries of homophobia, sexism, and racism. But it is also, despite all this, a more tolerant America than the one Highsmith lived in. The title of her novel had come from the biblical story of Lot, whose wife turns into a pillar of salt because she looks back while running away from the fallen city of Sodom. We cannot turn back to the past, either.” – Queer Writers in the Age of Trump

On queerness and queer writing, how it has evolved and what it means in the age of a Trump presidency.

NOW IS THE TIME TO TALK ABOUT WHAT WE ARE ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT

Hazy visions of “healing” and “not becoming the hate we hate” sound dangerously like appeasement. The responsibility to forge unity belongs not to the denigrated but to the denigrators. The premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity. – NOW IS THE TIME TO TALK ABOUT WHAT WE ARE ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the election of Donald Trump because sometimes only the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will do.

Sometimes There Are More Important Goals Than Civility

Civility is not the highest moral imperative—especially in response to perceived injustices—nor is hand-holding and guiding reluctant people to confront their bigotry gently. American history is full of fights, including the ongoing struggle for civil rights, that have been as fierce as they are ultimately effective. Civility is overrated. – Sometimes There Are More Important Goals Than Civility

We hear so much about civility and it’s role in political, human rights and social justice movements. We’re all familiar with tone policing; the refusal to engage fully with an issue because of how the people affected by that issue act or react. In Ireland, it’s most noticeable when it comes to the #RepealThe8th and the pro-choice movement. This articles is about people of colour reacting to white supremacy, racism and the election of Donald Trump in whatever way is best for them, without having to worry about “alienating” people.

12 thought-provoking articles from 2016

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