I read an empassioned post about feminism and what it means by the fab Laura from Keeping it Eclectic the other day entitled 'The Shame Of The Storyteller' and it really got me thinking. Thinking about why some individuals (of all genders) seem to seek to interpret the definition of 'feminist' to exclude those they feel don't deserve the designation. A power thing do you think? I'm not certain, but Laura's comments regarding the importance of sharing our stories really resonated with me. I'm sure many would class me as an online oversharer, and therefore according to the Guardian article Laura referenced I should not consider myself a feminist, because I am drawn to be open about aspects of my life. Although she repeatedly used selfies as an example of oversharing and I don't do selfies (I have issues!), Suzanne Moore had got me pondering the intention behind my choices.
Way back when my father was found guilty of violent sexual assaults against me I went to both freely distributed newspapers in my locality, waived my anonymity and shared my story. Part of my motivation was to let other young people out there know that sometimes the abusers don't get away with it - to provide an example of that. But it wasn't all altruistic, I was aware of that even then. There was little that could have been printed without identifying me, so his conviction would only have warranted an inch or so of newsprint. But I wanted people to say "Isn't that Brian, you know, the guy who does the car boot sales?" and "I saw Margaret's husband in the paper". I wanted her to be embarrassed - not him so much, I figured being in custody for sexual offences against a child was probably pretty tough - but her. I wanted her friends, her work colleagues, her neighbours and the postman to know. I wanted her to look into the eyes of the people around her and know what they were thinking about, what they thought of her. They had spent years branding me as a problem child, a troubled teenager - I wanted people I had grown up with to go "ah, that's why she was a bit weird" and "god, I wondered why she went into care, it makes sense now". So I signed the release forms giving permission to use my name, I was interviewed by both papers and ended up with his picture on both front pages. Of course what I hadn't realised was that one of the papers back in Crawley was part of the same group as the Bristol Evening Post, so he (along with me) also graced their front page that weekend. I wouldn't have done it had the verdict come back differently, I openly admit that. But I know what I would have felt, had I read a story about a successful prosecution a few years earlier - that although the stats are devastating, sometimes there are convictions. And that it can never be your fault, no matter what anybody tells you. And I know it's egotistical, but I hope that someone who read one of those newspaper stories felt better because of it, that it brought them some comfort or maybe a little strength.
According to Ms Moore and her article, however (and I do encourage you to go and have a read), this 'confessional' is a type of "self reinforcing victimhood", and that sharing our stories of struggles with low self esteem, our regrets, our "issues", we are simply "reinvent[ing] the wheels that continue to flatten [us]".
I don't agree. I believe that sharing our stories - all of them, any of them - provides a means to connect with others. It gives us context, fills in the colours and details and characters of the works around us. Recognising something of yourself in the experience of another is hugely unifying, and a realisation that the thoughts you have are not simply your overtired mind going of on a tangent but instead a reaction to what we see and hear and touch and live on a daily basis can be immensely powerful.