fredag 15 september 2017

Support your local larp feminist

So after over three years of working with Larp Women Unite I notice and come in contact with other female outspoken larp feminists who have hit the same wall as I have done and suffered.

The first part of this post will be about recognizing some of the symptoms and to get some researchable names for different conditions and phenomenon. The other part is what you can do for yourself, some advice from me and finally what you can do for a friend who is suffering from feminist burnout. Here and there throughout the text I will refer to the local larp feminist as "she" but the content is for any gender identity.


Part one - Recognizing what is happening

Feminist Burnout: You can suffer burn out symptoms from doing activist work. You spend a lot of time on it. You might not notice the change you are causing. You might feel alone, shunned and hopeless. Symptoms can come in all kinds of forms but usually you suffer anxiety, have trouble sleeping or are dead tired all the time. There can be bouts of crying and feeling really hopeless about everything. You might wish you never became a feminist an long for days when larp was just "something fun" for you. You might need a break from the fight and that is ok. Make sure you have some other things to do that is not tied into you activism and maybe tell your close friends that you are "off duty". I even have people who fill in for me in the admin groups I'm in.

Compassion fatigue
One day you feel meh. Or you feel anger that you are doing "all the work" while "no one else is listening or fighting their own fight". You feel "screw them" and "whatever". At the same time you can feel deep shame that you really don't care and you no longer feel pleasure from doing what you used to love. Compassion fatigue was originally researched in nurses and social workers. It mainly manifests in larp feminists that work with traumatic episodes, such as workings with victims of trauma such as out of game rape in a larp context or a former abusive spouse. It is also known as secondary traumatic stress.

Wikipedia says:
"Persons who are overly conscientious, perfectionists and self-giving are more likely to suffer from secondary traumatic stress. Those who have low levels of social support or high levels of stress in personal life are also more likely to develop STS. In addition, previous histories of trauma that led to negative coping skills, such as bottling up or avoiding emotions, having small support systems, increase the risk for developing STS."

The Female Gender Role
In most countries women are expected to make others feel loved, accepted and welcome. If they are granted power they are more expected to use that power fairly and justly and to be more informed about social justice politics. Women are supposed to be both knowledgeable and skilled in the so called "soft values". A woman is expected to suggest and not demand and to be modest and if she is sure of herself, not show it. A woman is expected to smile more than a man, and to show at all times that she is not angry and that she is no threat.

Emotional labour / Emotion workWikipedia says this:
"Emotional labor is the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job.  More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with customers, co-workers and superiors. This includes analysis and decision making in terms of the expression of emotion, whether actually felt or not, as well as its opposite: the suppression of emotions that are felt but not expressed." (read more here)
When the same thing is done privately it is called emotion work, but in the larp community a lot of functions can be seen as jobs. Larp Organizer, community organizer, safety host, ombudsman etc. When you are the local larp feminist, over time people might see you less as a human being and more a s a person who has the "job" of being the local larp feminist. This can be especially difficult because if you are a woman, then you are fighting for your own rights to participate fully in the larp hobby, so you WILL have a lot of emotions on the subject.

Genderlect and sociolect.There is a thing called sociolect , it's about how members of different groups speak or are expected to speak. A common clash is when neurotyphical middle class white feminists encounter members of the working class and or feminists from other ethnicities. Often they are very preoccupied with the "correct" way so things and might feel attacked and uncomfortable with other ways of speaking and writing, even when it is done in the same language. They might want to "help" you by correcting you language so that it becomes more "effective at conveying you message". What really should happen is them learning that there are many ways to communicate.
Genderlect is when you look at how different genders are expected to sound and write. In many cultures women are supposed to use more softening words and speak about how they "feel" and not about how things "are". If you deviate from you genderlect people might see you as being aggressive or timid depending. People deviating from their genderlect will suffer social punishments for this.

Social media overwhelming / entering radio silenceYou might feel your heart race every time you phone says it has a message for you. Or you dread what the person you are having an online discussion with will say next. Maybe you start feeling like you don't "deserve" to be seen on social media. You stop posting and start lurking. Maybe you stop using your accounts at all. Maybe you close them down. Sometimes this is a good coping strategy, like the "Tap Out" described below. But if you notice that you or a friends suddenly dramatically changes their online behaviour, something might very well be up with them emotionally.
Or they could just be at a larp.

Part two - Supporting yourself / supporting the suffering

Radical acceptanceThis is a technique I didn't want to use at first. But I have found that sometimes it is the only thing that works. I stop what I'm doing and I kind of "look up" either mentally or physically. Then I say to myself: "It is what it is". Then I make a decision if it is something I have the time and energy to work on right now or if I should just go do something else. The something else is sometimes a simpler project, sometimes something that recharges my batteries. I've used radial acceptance for my body issues, for relatives illnesses, for bleed after larps, for doing a brain scan or a breast scan or for going into doing a test I am afraid I will fail. Or simply accepting that there are people out there who hate me and want to harm me. Some for valid reasons, some not so valid.

Take care of the bodySleep, eat things you enjoy, work out by doing cardio or lifting heavy weights. Also drink a glass of water when you get overwhelmed, maybe a cup of tea if that is you thing. A very basic thing can be go take a pee.
Taking a hot showing or a long bath might make muscles you didn't even recognize were tense lighten up. If you have energy to be social, call a friend or meet some people over a board game.

Tap outYou never have to stay online. You never have to hang around a space that feels unsafe for you. You don't need to go to a specific larp if it's not giving you what you need. You don't exist for any one else's pleasure. When the dark wave hits of self loathing, confusion, anger and maybe even flash backs for those of you who have suffered trauma like sexual abuse, rape and or/being beaten. You can practise self care and unfollow that thread o facebook, leave that instagram beef or quite simply ask the person talking to you to please leave you alone. If the interaction is online you don't even have to say you are leaving, you can just leave after you said your piece. (I call those "post and run" for those days when I don't have the energy.)

Choose a small, measurable goalI chose to work with larp feminism to follow the principle of "think globally, act locally" or the Swedish proverb "dig where you stand". Sure it's hard to be a prophet in my own home town, having heated discussions with people that could probably help me with my "larp career". To do this I often try to write down or say to myself what I want to achieve and what I will count as success.
"I want them to add a ingredient list to the home page" or "I want at least two other people to mail them about removing the rape joke" "I will go get the guard if there is another issue".

Ask for and accept helpIf you feel all alone in a discussion but maybe you notice you are getting some likes. You can maybe PM those people and say that you do feel alone. Beware of not starting a so called "dog pile" where there suddenly are a lot of people against one other.
Or maybe you are feeling like the worst person ever after having a disheartening back and forth with the organizer to your favourite larp. PM a friend you trust and ask to vent. Don't carry it all inside of you. Maybe write on your FB wall that you are having a bad day and would like some kind of encouragement. I often ask for "describe me with a gif" of "give me weird compliment".

Using mantrasHere are some mantras I use to self soothe or disengage and manage my energy.

"What other people say about you does not define who you are." I've also used this one to comfort people who have been threatened to that rumours will be spread about them
"People have many opinions" - just a statement to remind myself that is just all it is. Opinions.
"He's just wrong." - I use this when someone is using a clearly faulty logic or fact. I try to not engage or just engage on a basic level, like countering them. You can't join every argument and when people are wrong some other larper will often engage them.
"But he has a JOB!" This one I credit Christina Bodling. This is when others claim we can't expect some guy to act as a human being because he doesn't know better. If this individual has an employment he clearly knows enough to get hired and acts well enough at work to not get fired. So he should be able to act well enough even in the larp community.
"If they want to stop me, they are going to have to stop me." This isn't so much for when I'm nearing burn out, but more for when I'm getting back up. This is for handling people who are "warning" me about doing something that I truly believe is the right thing. I often use this mantra to give myself courage to ask for straight answers like: "What are your rules about male and female toplessness at the larp?" or "can you explain to me exactly why you don't think me, Johanna or Mia who applied for the character of the General would do the role well enough. Can you be concrete and specific?".

Focusing on your ethics

When there is a lot of critique against you and you are feeling the pressure pound down on you, walk trough your ethics in your head. You can understand and sympathize with the feelings others are having, while still following your own ethics. Maybe go through your ethics again. Are they still your ethics.

Forgiving yourself
So maybe you fucked up, I truly and deeply have from time to time. And maybe you feel like you don't deserve love. But a lot of feminists have very high demands they place on themselves. If you are also raised as a girl you are also under pressure to please other people and make them feel good about themselves. When demanding change in tightly knit communities you will often be seen as a trouble maker and sometimes you will be a trouble maker. Even if you have a set of ethics you are pleased with there will come times where you afterwards look back at your actions and feel shame of what you have done. When this happens, see that you stop the behaviour, back off, offer an apology and if welcome offer reparations that a possible for you to do. But try to move on. Maybe not immediately, but sooner or later. Especially if the people you acted badly towards have moved on.

Helping your friend

Let them know you are thinking of them.
Recognize when they seem tired and hopeless and express this online or in body language. Don't wait for your friend to ask for help. Throw them a PM or a text message mentioning "hey I saw what you wrote on FB, how are you holding up" or if you know they don't mind the phone, call them. Maybe offer to feed them their favourite food, at their home or at a restaurant.
Don't think they know you like them, tell them, especially when times are grim. Some people really really appreciate silly little gifts. Send them something nice in the mail. Named or anonymous.

Explicitly invite them to things.
When you are the local, vocal, larp feminist you can often feel like a hated outcast in your own community. Sure a lot of people send love your way but it can be hard to take that to heart when there is so many aggressive messages sent your way. You are made feel unwelcome and that you are "destroying the community" and "hurting people". This can lead to a reaction where you withdraw from even the social circle's where you are welcome by the organizers. So it can be nice and validated to be told "we especially want you to be here/there" even if they might not be able to make it due to time or exhaustion.

Don't hold them to impossible standards.None of us truly know everything that happens to another person. So when you local larp feminist either messes up, seems to be overreacting, seems to crack from something "small" happening, that can probably come from being under a lot of pressure for a long time. She might be getting straight up hate mail and threaths. Maybe she recently lost a close friend who said she was to "angry" these days or that they were "afraid" of her. Or maybe when she stays friends with "the wrong person".
Remember that she to grew up in the patriarchy, she didn't come to you from an alien planet where all genders were treated equal. Getting rid of internal misogyny is an on-going work and I don't know if there is a human born today that will get there in their life time.

Don't overestimate their strength
We have a cultural narrative of the "strong female protagonist". And I myself have often been told that the people who hurt me the most had no idea they even could hurt me, because I seem like such a bad ass. This is in spite of me being very open with being a vulnerable, emotional human being. They will crack and they will stumble and they will have bad days when they never want to larp again, or talk to another larper ever again. That is not because they hate you specifically, but because hey have been lead to belive "everyone" in the larp community hates them.