I am thinking about how we take oppressive components of our worlds and use them for purposes that differ, to make something better.
I have met a number of women with mental illnesses who use make-up to deal with anxiety issues. The make-up means conforming to patriarchal standards, but it is also a way of dealing with the world and protecting themselves, as a ritual or a mask or something else. It’s a tool that is valuable both in itself and in that it doesn’t get remarked upon by others or held up as a sign of deviancy, of not-rightness.
Something I come back to a lot is how men’s narratives have dominated storytelling, and how women have operated within those boundaries and sometimes exploited them. I think about how women have altered science fiction, often called a genre of colonialism, of white male dominance, and used it to talk about alienation, about being the other, and to imagine different futures. I think about women passing down stories any way they could, keeping these small stories going where they couldn’t control the dominant narrative. I think about fan fiction and the thousand brilliant ways in which women writers have modified, shaped, added on to, grown stories into something much larger, nuanced, fun, communally built universes.
I’ve been thinking about women’s sexualities in my culture, how particular aspects are regarded as trivial by men standard-shapers and have therefore gone largely unpoliced. In these respects women have been more free to shape our own sexualities than men in the same system have been. Within these dynamics that approach what some of us are/can be/do as less than, we’ve built more and more and been free to do it.
I find it interesting and heartening to see these things used for other purposes, to create spaces of calm and belonging, if only within ourselves, that we’d otherwise go without as long as we’re living here.