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Archive for September, 2009

Ever since my crazy eczema breakout in the summer when I was basically crippled for two weeks, I have been putting Avacado Oil on my skin after showering as a friend told me about it as a rememdy. What a revelation!

This weekend I was away and forgot to take my oil with me, thinking my trusted aqueous cream would see me through the trip. Luckily, my skin did not breakout, although I did notice how sterile and medical it felt after the luscious oily-ness of avacado oil which seems to both calm the skin and make it silky smooth.

In contrast, aqueous cream seemed like thick paint that my skin barely wanted to suck up. I will continue to use it in the shower as a substitute for soap, but its oil all the way for me now. So if you are suffering from eczema, get yourself a bottle of avacado oil and lather it on and enjoy touching your smooth skin.

On another point, I *think* that the homeopathic remedy I am taking – Sulphur – is having an effect. I have enjoyed homeopathy so far, if only for its quasi-counselling style, its engagement with emotions, spirituality and dreams. I have had two sessions and I can feel a shift in my bodily culture. It seems as if my body gets to that stage where it threatens to break out but instead of jumping off the cliff it retreats back. I feel safer in here at the moment, which I think is a major sign that something is happening.

I have also been having calmer nights sleep the past few nights. The past months – and in particular after taking the remedy – I exploded into night itch frenzy. It was interesting though, because for the first time I became aware of how the memories in my muscles are programmed to itch. Its like the way my body curls in on itself, the way it thinks it should be. I would be very interested to learn of muscular therapy which re-programmes memories/ reactions/ petit-traumas in the body, as I think this would be a valuable form of therapy to undergo after I have finished with homeopathy. I would like to make my muscles forget that scratching it what they ‘want’ to do.

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Tour Guide

blogpiccie

A few months ago I agreed to answer some questions for Sonja Eismann who is one of the main editors for

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As I mention in a previous post, I’ve been privately reflecting on being part of the feminist, queer, DIY networks in the first decade of this century – networks that I don’t feel quite a part of now. These reflections turn to sadness when I go out to gigs. I am still to find my woman positive space where women can participate in an equal way to men.

My worry is that for all the Ladyfests my friends and I organised and attended, it has ultimately failed to create any kind of lasting impact on the music scene. Women are still consistently marginalised and tokenised within male dominated bands. If they appear on stage they are often playing a certain type of acceptable music that doesn’t rock the boat. They can perform, as long as they don’t challenge things.

At least that is what it feels like in Bristol. Living here I have been shocked at the way the various DIY/ punk scenes hold onto that precious goblet of male privilege. This happens through the exclusion/ marginalisation/ tokenism that I describe above, but also through valuing competency and skill as a main way in which bands are included in the scene or booked for gigs.
I am not saying that girls can’t play their instruments as well as boys can. What I want to draw attention to is that boys are far more likely to have the assumed confidence to pick up an instrument – that’s any instrument and any style of music because male musicianship knows no bounds – and be encouraged to play it from a young age.

Girls may not be as fortunate. Girls are bound by limitation from an early age – be they the norms of the culture that parents have internalised and are passing onto their female brood – or from the range of female musician role models that are not easily apparent to the young girl. This invisibility is mirrored on the everyday stages I see in the Bristol music scene. Where are my strong female role models defining themselves and the music they are playing? I am 28 now, but every time I go into a space that feminist politics have seemingly left untouched, I need them even more.

I am not saying anything new here. The first thing we learn about culture when we turn to it with a warped sense of sociology is that it is male dominated and that this domination is all pervasive. Great! I am sure some things have changed somewhere – but there is this everyday, bottom up and top down disempowerment that robs girls of the right to participate. It’s this horrible recurring motif. However as Edie, my collaborator, domestic wife and songwriting partner reminds me, it is our right to participate. She told me today that knowing how male dominated everything is, only makes her want to fight more. We know that we will not necessarily be heard when we perform, but we will not go away.

I should have prefaced these words with the low self-esteem i have been feeling about music and creativity. Sometimes I get so low about my right to perform/ play music/ take up space that I can barely sing or want to play guitar. I feel this acute sense of shame about what I do. I imagine my voice being rejected as disgusting by people who only have ears shaped by the norms of male cultural listening practices. I let this mould how i relate to my own creativity – that is, my life spring, my right to be alive.

I know this is melodramatic, and as someone who has read a lot of feminism, i should know better. I have had depression in my life which sometimes returns to lodge into me in ways i wish it did not. I am also super sensitive, to the spaces i move through and to responses to my ‘art’ and politics. I know that feminist queer punk is not appropriate in male dominated punk scenes, but then what does that say about that scene if it can’t handle women singing about politics?! Yes dears, patriarchy is a problem and you ain’t going to smash the nation state without smashing that as well. Get with it.

I also know that without the Ladyfest and related queer & DIY networks my band drunk granny would probably not have thrived or survived these years. We would have not had an audience to listen and care about the music we made. I think this is reflected in how we were described in Plan B as a ‘post-Ladyfest’ band, shaped by that sociality and politics, shaped by the possibility of a space where girls could perform on their own terms. Imagine that, how novel! I think the problem is those networks are not so animated now and the familiar male domination has just slotted back into place. I’m not saying that Ladyfest was perfect either, it wasn’t!

People are still organising feminist/ queer friendly events, me included. My worry is that it is always an autonomous space that exists independently and doesn’t offend or challenge male domination in either its polite or aggressive manifestations. The ground beneath everybody’s feet hasn’t changed. The ground we are walking on is still male. What are we going to do to change it?

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22_22tshirt

My friend Rose Clark is making these t-shirts for FAG Club. They are incredible. What a talented lady she is.

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Or maybe i’m just getting old. It’s hard to tell, but i just don’t seem to be enjoying queer spaces anymore. When I’m in them I feel this acute sense of alienation and enclosure, that something is really missing in the events i go to that claim to be both radical and queer. This creeping sense of not-belonging struck me upon my visit to Berlin. There was a queer music festival taking place at a well known (among those networks, of course) queer space in the city. The event was well organised in a badly organised kind of way (you know anarchists, they never seem to be able to start on time), but i just couldn’t get into the flow of things. Strange really because music and queer are two things that I really love in my heart of hearts.

My main feeling is that the politics are not enough. I’m fed up of isolated queer politics that fails to connect to anything outside of the queer bubble. Like the claim to fuck gender! as a radical political act. Yes, this is all very good, but if the gender fucking is ultimately contained within the realm of titillation and performance and not connected to wider things, such as the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Iraq or just anything, then can it really claim to be radical? Is queer for queer’s sake enough anymore? Maybe the first time a person claims to fuck gender it can be – the moment exists as a personal-political revelation – but after that, questions asking why and how these actions can undo wider oppressive structures need to be posed and answered. The radical queers, and mostly here I mean the white radical queers, need to join the dots, but this might just mean evacuating the ghetto of persecution and pleasure we have created for ourselves in the name of safety (and of course, radicalism).

I admit I am cynical and saddened to the max about this stuff. I have been involved in queer, feminist and DIY organising in the UK since 2004. It has only been recently that I’ve come to appreciate that I was actually part of something big, something that people really believed in – you might even call it a social movement. The splurge of organising and connection of queers and feminists in the first decade of this century, and the passion and energy that went with it, was a powerful and significant thing to be part of. It also seems now like the party is over as familiar cracks in organising communities have appeared and split networks into non-participation, or at least different kinds of participation.

In April this year I organised the Race Privilege, Identity gathering that took place in Bristol. The gathering was meant to create a space to discuss race politics, privilege (including class and disableism) and build anti-racist strategies within queer, feminist, and diy communities. What it did was dramatically highlight the endemic racism of these communities. Many people of colour who attended experienced the very worst white dominated organising had to offer in the form of casual and explicit racism. It’s pretty well documented on the blog, so I won’t go into the details now.

I don’t think what happened in Bristol was exceptional to that space. Tensions relating to race have been existent for as long as I have been organising in the community. This of course does not make what happened there in any way acceptable. It just opens the responsibility out to other white dominated queer networks and groups who think they are not implicated in racist politics just because the gathering didn’t happen in their town.

The point is that in Bristol our UK wide radical white queer community radically failed to make the space safe for people of colour. This lack of safety I think would be true for any predominantly white queer event. The problem with the idea of a radical queer space is that it is supposed to create a safe space for queers of all genders and sexualities to frolic and be as gay as the day they were (re)born. My problem, and the reason I feel so utterly miserable these days in those kind of spaces, is that I know that white queer safety is maintained at the expense of queers of colour who I imagine (and know from the experience of Bristol and reading Race Revolt and Mimi Nguyen) don’t feel safe in those spaces. On an even more teenage angsty level, I wonder how can I feel safe when there are people in the world who are not safe – I’m thinking here of people subject to Britain’s continuing colonial wars. I can’t and I can’t have a good time.

I’m fed up of working with only part of the jigsaw. My white queer bubble bursts time and time again. I don’t care about S/M and can’t be sustained by the gossip of who is fucking (over) who in the latest badly negotiated polyamoury drama. These spaces are just not for me anymore. These spaces are not safe, and they are certainly not radical.

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230

Part of the reason I wanted to start this blog was to create a space where i could write about having eczema. I thought this would be a therapeutic release for me, and might stop me from moaning all the time about it to my nearest and dearest. Already I’m feeling better.

The above photograph was taken after five nights of bad sleep while I was on holiday in Berlin. Aside from the acutely interrupted sleep, I had a great time, by the way.

Travelling with eczema is not easy. It exaggerates the problems with everyday movement that I usually struggle with, coupled with the worry of not being able to access the things I need to keep my skin under control such as a daily shower. I am sure this seems like a small thing, but for me is absolutely necessary for keeping my body in check. There is also the stress of imposing my skin problems on my hosts, for example by also keeping them awake at night with what my incessant itching. I wonder sometimes how people with eczema have intimate relationships, I especially wonder how my lovers put up with sleeping next to me voraciously itchy body.

I have called the image above ‘Self-Portrait’ to emphasise that although that skin no longer is attached to my body, it is still an important part of me. It would be tempting to say that the skin that the eczema sufferer continually brushes off their body is dead skin. However, I still feel attached to that skin. Before I photographed it, I put that skin between my fingers, I swear it still felt warm. It is fair to say that this skin has a life beyond that which is stuck to my body, or that my body literally extends beyond the boundary where people think that bodies begin and end. This was literally true as I shook my skin off the sheet outside the window of the flat I was staying in. There is a lot of me left in Berlin, at a material level.

Through the skin left on bedsheets, clothes I wear, environments I pass through and the keyboard on which i type this, I see and experience a separation of self and self. It provokes my thoughts as much as it makes me feel slightly ashamed. As a guest in people’s houses, I brush myself away hoping that people do not see that I am shedding profusely on their bedsheets. I badly try to hide my body freakery.

In this sense I know that my problems and anxiety with eczema is intimately bound up with my own disgust and embarrassment towards my body when it behaves like this (I have better patches where life is relatively normal, although at the moment I seem to be in an accelarated phase).

So part of my writing this is because I crave community around living with eczema because I feel incredibly isolated as much as I am supported with love by the people around me, so please get in touch if you also are prone to leaving a lot your skin in places in an involuntary fashion.

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