18 February 2009

“My response to racism is anger. I have lived with that anger, ignoring it, feeding upon it, learning to use it before it laid my visions to waste, for most of my life. Once I did it in silence, afraid of the weight. My fear of anger taught me nothing. You fear of that anger will teach you nothing, also.
Women responding to racism means women responding to anger; the anger of exclusion, of unquestioned privilege, of racial destortions, of silence, ill-use, stereotyping, defensiveness, misnaming, betrayal, and co-optation.”
-Audre Lorde, The uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism

This is not the article I intended to write. But it's the article I'm writing.

I am depressed. I have bouts of sadness, deep and absolutely unwavering. They last for days. On those days, I fight my soul to get my body out of bed. My chest feels heavy and I become an inarticulate ball of anti-fun. I can't read more than a few lines of a book, I can't keep my head up at work, I can't form coherent sentences when I talk to my mom. I chain smoke, and try to write, and wait.

Recently, I started reading articles about depression as a feminist issue (and I'm pretty sure my good friend Tyra Banks probably has an episode or two on the phenomenon). Most of what I was reading was pretty two dimensional, unsubstantial, "women can't handle life outside the kitchen," bullshit. As expected. At the same time, I think there's a little sing song voice at the bottom of all of those studies and blog posts and op-eds that does dig a little deeper. The rampant attempts to explain why women are two times more likely to develop clinical depression is simply trying to give foundation to a fact that exists and will not go away.

Maybe it's the hormones in my brain. Maybe my estrogen is sending me through crazy woman cycles of irrationality. Ok. Biology is a good cop out. There's nothing society can do about biology (other than drug it!). There's none of that silly accountability to worry about.

But in this particular Ninja post, I'd like to challenge that. I'm not standing on the pedestal of modern psychiatry, academia, or sociology that would legitimate the next few paragraphs, so as always take it as you will and dissent loudly if you do.

I think I'm depressed because women in my family, women that I love, women that are my best friends, and myself have all been raped or sexually assaulted by men. A part of my soul dies when I am told to my face that I have been hired for a job because I'm a skinny white girl, and it happens all the fucking time. I was sitting with a friend watching "women's television" for a few hours one night, and nearly every commercial and TV show was about weight loss, exercise, being too fat, being "too" thin (but only just, don't you dare gain TOO much weight), and I turned to him and said, half kidding, "I think one day I might just die of a broken heart from all of this." I am VIOLENTLY depressed that my gorgeous, successful, intelligent, roommates and I have each acknowledged that our concerns about weight and appearance have infiltrated our every day. I'm depressed because women from my "liberal," upper middle class suburb of Boston do not have adequate access to sex education and birth control, and no one cares. I worked Riker's Correctional Facility for a few months last semester and I am depressed that the majority, if not all the people on the bus to Riker's on any given Saturday were black or Hispanic women. That my little brother contacts me on a regularly to tell me about the incidences of racism and homophobia he witnesses on a daily basis in high school, because you know "kids will be (intolerant bigots) kids." I am depressed because every time I turn on the TV, walk out of my house, attempt to buy things, or in any way move through this world I am bombarded with representations of women that encourage self-hatred, violence, generalization, objectification, and discrimination.

Y'know. It's motherfucking depressing.

I used to violently reject traditional therapy. Then I changed my mind and saw a therapist. Then I stopped, and later found another one I liked better. These things have not cured me. I never expected them to. Most websites on depression offer tips on how to control your "illness" (deviance, otherness, "why the fuck aren't you happy all the time like you're supposed to be, you must be sick"). These tips usually include: eat healthier, exercise more, develop a regular sleep schedule, avoid alcohol. I can't recommend or not recommend any of these, but I would like to postulate what we'll call a radical feminist approach to mental health.

I'll stop here and say that I understand that depression is different for every woman and man, and has to be understood and handled in your own way. At the same time, I think it's silly and absolutely erroneous to prove that women are statistically more depressed than men in a society that rejects our personhood and represents us as only worth numbers on a scale and sexual accessibility, and then say that depression is nothing more than a chemical imbalance that can be cured with pharmaceuticals and exercise.

The Feminist Ninjas, to me, is very much an expression of how I cope with my own depression. Sadness is a hard fucking emotion to cope with. Nobody ever really tells you that there is power in your sadness. But ohhhh lord. There is. If I did not feel sadness, and really absolute rage about the aforementioned, yes it would probably be a lot easier for me to wake up in the morning and jaunt about with my morning coffee and whistle all the way to work. With my anger, I have began progress on a degree in Gender Oppression, helped organize Feminist Fight Club, met some of the most fantastic and radical individuals who feel similar anger. I've created art. With an identification of my anger, I was able to find words to locate an opposite to that anger. There is a joy in awareness, and anger against this shit can fuel the revolution toward necessary change.

I don't want this to be perceived as an "angry" blog, because the connotations of that are inherently negative, and I think collective action around social wrongs is a totally positive, rad, A plus thing. But there is so much power in the anger we feel everyday, and what I've come to understand about my depression is that it always comes around when I do not exercise the power of the anger that I feel in my life. Not in a violent, lashing out, "irrational" way. This entry is a product of anger. The creation of this blog is a product of anger. Again, over and over, there is power in anger, and there is change. Therapy, medication, and a nice 3 meals a day diet can certainly improve the quality of your day to day life. I do not discourage that, for you or for myself, if that is what's right for us individually (I should really quit smoking). Anger can go beyond that, and collective anger can inspire the kind of change that means the social depression that I, and so many women I know, feel so oppressed and injured by can and will be destroyed.

Love and Rage yo,


  1. Hello Keri
    im an uneducated ,small town , construction worker, and for what ever reason im glad the youth of the nation is friggin standing for something !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my hard hat is off to you and as a personal issue you can do with out the cig later Tony T carbondale ,pa.

  2. hey Keri as i was routed to this page after the protest page . i have just read your blog and i might add this i can wimper for the rest of my born days about my life ,lost mother @5, brother@16,growing up in the projects, failed relationship of 15 yrs
    seeing my kids tormented by our divorse but as ive strived for my self and others helped id never change a thing .it is what it is but..........its also what you make it hope the best 4 yaaaaa
    Tony T