By: Liviana Bath | Storycollector | Germany, Czech Republic
This is Gül
Gül Sabrina Asik describes herself as a socialized female part of the Leipziger Woman Circles. She is the daughter and grandchild of Turkish immigrant workers, who came from a village close to Mut, a city in the mountains of the province Mersin. Gül writes, dances and investigates movement. She is a DJ and researches somatic through performance, art, and nature.
Müniver, Necla und Ovula nach Alemanya
dein Körper ist deine beste Freundin
ich erschöpfe mich nicht mehr
das gute Leben zu jeder Zeit
Ich kann nicht dafür einstehen
den Wandel körperlich zu erspüren
ohne es selber zu leben.
Ich bin über diesen Punkt hinaus,
dass ich zurück konnte.
Ich weiß jetzt was auf der anderen Seite ist.
Ich habe mir die Treue geschworen,
ich kann nicht mehr zurück
Müniver, Necla and Ovula to Germany
your body is your best friend
I am not exhausting myself anymore
the good life is all the time
I can’t vouch for that anymore
to feel the change in my body
without living it by myself
I overcame the point,
that I can go back
Now I know what is on the other side.
I swore loyalty to myself.
Now I can’t go back anymore.
Mothers where are you?
You left mountain village
für die Verheißung
¨Das bessere Leben¨
¨Das gute Leben¨
Gastarbeit – through
schmerzlich versuche ich die Lüge loszuwerden.
Mothers where are you?
I miss your soft trust feeling
your warmth reminds me of you
loveable I, adorable I am
Ich muss mich doch nähren in Selbstliebe.
Mothers where are you?
I need to meet you in circle
I have so many questions
Imagine, I love to listen
I decide to love myself
Is that ok?
Mothers where are you?
My legs are burning
Ich bin verdammt fruchtbar
Forest is calling for manifestation
Ich kann nicht mehr
Ich muss in die Rückverbindung
Mothers where are you?
My body is pushing me down
my breast press against a closed wooden gate.
With my movement the gate is moving
My heavy womb is threaten to open out at every moment
and its sides to open with full weight.
Rhythmically against the gate,
contracting to outside and again
in the same way direction outside.
It could (as well) go on like this.
I seesaw in front and back.
Sadness is dressed up in rage, it’s radical.
The door is closed.
I tried the keys.
I walked indirection.
I dressed up.
I am tired.
Naked I lean out of the window
with my back I slide down to the floor.
My legs lean, my head sinks down and I follow the weakness.
I sink in a thousand years sleep.
I seesaw front and back, my rustled leaves let the wind talk.
In my shadow my mother is playing.
She left her village.
Her memories took me with her.
I am the child, of the child of an immigrant worker from Turkey.
Intangible far and indescribable close.
Visiting I understand her movements, her gestures, her sounds.
I feel belonging to them.
In many steps my grandmother released from an arranged marriage
and she fought for that alone starting a new life in Germany.
Prepared to give everything.
For my mother disappears community, the mother and the like-minded people.
She were the others.
She was the unseen.
Her children should have it differently. Her heart stayed hurted,
how should she teach me self love?
By: Belle Williams |United States
Cultivating Strong Roots: My journey understanding care
I have never had a healthy relationship with self care. My discomfort with self care has affected various aspects of my life; I have always felt a disconnect from my surrounding spaces and even my own body. I felt–and, at times, still feel–guilt for taking care of myself, even in the most rudimentary ways.
This sense of guilt that I have around self care has come from what feels like every aspect of my life. Having grown up in a conservative Protestant environment, I was fed lesson after lesson–both directly and indirectly–that feminine self care is a selfish and conceited indulgence. “Your body is a temple,” they would say. With girls and women, this Christian principle never talked about the connection with one’s own body, respect and care for one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual self; or expectations that we should have for others’ treatment of our bodies. Instead, this idea of body-as-a-temple was used to elicit guilt, fear, and remorse because it taught principles of sexual preservation and physical modesty.
As I grew older and became more involved in advocacy work and social justice, I made a conscious effort to untrain my mind to think about myself, my body, and other women in this rigid and oppressive way. However, something convinced me that basic self care was an unearned indulgence. Without realizing, I let a new source of guilt in taking care of myself creep into my thought pattern. I felt guilty taking any amount of time for myself. Over and over again, I would think to myself; “Who is [insert showering, sleeping, eating a full meal] going to help long-term?” and “If I had all the time in the world, I still wouldn’t be able to tackle half of the injustices that I need to. How can I know that and waste this precious time by serving no one other than myself?” I became overwhelmed with all of the injustices I saw around the world and in my local communities. I convinced myself that there was no time to take care of myself or do things just for my own enjoyment. I not only stopped fulfilling the needs of my physical self, I also stopped all of the things that enriched the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual spheres of my person; I quit making art, writing, reading, and spending time with the natural world around me.
These are two of the major pressures that have obscured my path toward leading a healthy mental and physical existence. Without these pressures, though, I would not associate such rich meaning with the idea of holistic self care.
Today, I am try to use both of these seemingly negative forces of guilt and self-denial to explore the depth of meaning embedded in the term “self care.” I am redefining the deeply-seated belief that my body is a temple in a way that does not instill fear, but rather empowers me by realizing the vast complexity and power that my body contains and creates. Additionally, instead of letting guilt convince me that I am wasting the world’s time by taking care of myself, I now see self care as a form of activism. A quotation by Mary Mellor has helped me reach this realization; she states that there is “a connection between the exploitation and degradation of the natural world and the subordination and oppression of women.” By denying myself care for my physical, emotional, and mental self, I violate my own basic rights and the natural world that is so intimately intertwined with my own person. I now view self and community care as ways of cultivating strong roots for future generations of young feminist activists seeking to protect their own bodies and the natural sanctuary around them.
When I Think of the Earth
When I think of the earth, I think of my body. Its curves, its peaks, its soft wet soil, its hard parched surface. My stomach, which still holds the refuse from my dinner. Artichokes from Italy, sun-dried tomatoes from California, avocados from Mexico. I used to think that only a dozen or so hands had touched the undulating surface of my abdomen, but the trace of a million hands can be found on every inch of my skin. Hands calloused and cracking from years of working with the dirt. Hands that are nimble and aching from threading a sewing machine. Hands that package or pick or heal. Hands without which I would be unable to stand. Hands that support me, constantly.
Alexandre Hogue – “Erosion No. 2 – Mother Earth Laid Bare” (1936)
But hands are also weapons. They build and make and steal and hit and push. They dig into tired mountains who safely hid their goods for millennia but gave way to clawing machines and well-laid plans. Now parts of Appalachia look like my stomach too–carved, raw, and scarred. I look at the mountain, now missing its face, and I whisper, ¨They did that to me too.¨
When I was young, only 15, hands of destruction, white hands, the hands of a Christianman, also picked out goods from my insides that weren’t theirs to take. They destroyed you in order to produce energy; they destroyed me in order to take all my energy away. I, maybe like you, threatened them. My exterior hid the secrets of my body. The XY chromosomes. The internal testes. The vaginal canal that was too short for them to penetrate. My unwitting deception scared them. Like you, I had a deep source of power that could be used to build or destroy, and they, those hands, wanted to keep that power for themselves. I’m so so sorry. That power was never theirs to take.
But even as I type this, I doubt my words. I am working on a computer produced by a company that has poisoned water and workers. Whose brightly lit screen draws from the energy of your dark insides. Even as I type this, I wonder if my anger is justified at what those doctors did to me, without my consent. Did they think what they were doing was right? If they had not carved me up, would I be who I am today? I don’t know.
But I remind myself that, that is the binary talking. Both can be true as can neither. The answer may be, like my body, like yours too, riddled with beautiful and horrifying crevices and contradictions. Contradictions and crevices into which we can pour our love. Our love. Earth, I promise I will remember how similar our bodies are, and I will remember how much violence my hands are capable of.
By: Leslie Arreaza | Guatemala/United States
Taking care of others by taking care of myself
“Look who that is!” the man said to me. I stared, confused, because I had no idea who he was talking about. “Papi!” my older brother exclaimed, and I realized who the man was pointing at.
I was three years old when my father left Guatemala, and four years old when my mother left. Years later when I was told I would see my parents again, I was confused; my grandparents were all I could remember. All I knew about my parents was what my older brother said about them, but I didn’t even know what they looked like. Coming to the United States was his dream, but mine was to stay where I was – with my family.
Migrating to the United States was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Learning English, the culture, making new friends, being away from my family – it was too much for me to handle. Yet the hardest part was having to reinvent who I was as a daughter, a sister, a friend and a girl. Learning to navigate a new society where I was not welcome and live in a land away from everyone I knew changed me.
I grew up knowing that if I made the smallest of mistakes, I could be deported. I had to keep everything to myself because I was told to trust no one. My identity revolved completely around seeming like the perfect American girl. I was not allowed to talk about my family or my home in Guatemala. I was not allowed to talk about what I loved to do, or who I wanted to become. I had to get straight A’s and be the best at everything I did so that Americans would not hate me.
I began to advocate for immigrant rights out of anger and fear. At first, it was easy to stay engaged and motivated because the injustice of being a “good immigrant” was still fresh in my mind. That wore out fast. I began to go on a downhill spiral and it happened so fast that I didn’t even realize. I let all the comments on media and attitudes towards what I was doing get to me.
I wasn’t taking care of myself and I crashed. When I felt tired, I told myself, y friends and family couldn’t take a break from being mistreated so why should I take a break from fighting for them? It was so bad¨that my professors and colleagues noticed. My manager sat me down and he reminded me that I couldn’t take care of anyone else if I didn’t take care of myself first. At the time, I thought about how silly that sounded. I didn’t need care, I needed results. But one day, after breaking down in front of my roommates, I finally realized how bad I had let things get.
It has been months since I have been making time for myself. I began writing, running, and dancing again. I take time to shut down, and sometimes I even skip out on rallies and advocacy events. It was hard not to feel guilty about this at first, but self-care is important in advocacy work. As I begin to feel better emotionally, I have noticed how my energy impacts those around me, and I now understand how much taking care of myself impacts taking care of others. I can help my community in many ways, but if I am not emotionally present and ready to fight, there is not much I can do.
By: Lily Johnson | United States
Fearless in Wilderness
I am a young adult woman currently in my junior year at University of Minnesota, where I study environmental education, and spend my summers guiding wilderness trips for girls of ages twelve to eighteen. I have always considered myself aware and progressive, though have not always thought of myself as a feminist. In fact, it wasn’t until this past summer of guiding wilderness trips for young women and processing my experiences with this through thought, conversations, and a couple read of Feminism is for Everyone by Bell Hooks that I became proudly feminist in addition to my standing identifier of an environmental advocate.
It wasn’t until spending significant amounts of time on trail with these young women that I realized that the common thread of their experiences, and of the female experience, are those that characterize being a ~girl~ : the pressures of dating, makeup, and popularity of course, those are stereotypes of our space and time in society, but also those of subjection to emotional caretaking and those of normalized unwanted sexual advances.
Day two of my first trip of the summer, we were sitting in the tent playing cards while it thunderstormed outside. Cards shifted to a game of hotseat, and an offhand question asked during the game sidetracked conversation to one questioning sexual harassment, a conversation where all of seven girls had a story to share. This isn’t what I expected, these girls were thirteen and fourteen years old. These conversations arose in some capacity during every trip of the summer, in groups of twelve year olds to eighteen year olds. Young women. My role of a guide grew to one of a facilitator in letting these girls bond and share their experiences in a safe and supportive environment. Collective care became a theme of every trip I lead, and it quickly became evident how the majority of young women have endured extremely difficult personal experiences, and that many don’t feel their experiences are valid enough to share openly. That other people are going through worse, or that they will be judged by parents or friends for sharing what has happened to them. A wilderness environment, where one spends significant amounts of unobstructed time with the same group of people, and forms friendship through laborious tasks such as paddling and portaging, hiking, setting up camp, and gathering firewood while in storybook wilderness settings, allows a type of trust to be built which permits blunt honesty and openness.
Natural spaces allow uniquely empowering, connecting experiences.
Emotional bonds are nurtured more healthily and genuinely in the wilderness setting than in any other sort of experience. The most honest and genuine interactions I have ever experienced or witnessed have occurred in nature. The experience I have shared is how I came to realize that in order for people to understand the wilderness, they must find themselves within it. This can only happen if it is protected. These experiences so clearly demonstrate why keeping our environment healthy, accessible, and advocating for its rights as much as our own is vital to all life.
By: Alicia Nathanson Thulin| Sweden/Colombia
To heal, we need to collaborate
I stand with two feet in different continents. With one foot, my body and heart, in Sweden and with one foot and part of my heart in South America. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia and I recently traveled through Peru to study the expressions of feminism and environmental justice in the country. I was lucky to have had the opportunity to meet activists, artists, lawyers, researchers, young feminists and many incredible people.
Environmental issues and lack of climate justice became clearer to me during the trip. For example, I met a group of women in Valle de Tambo who had participated in protests against a mining project near their village that would toxify their water and crops. Four people were killed in the protest, either by the police or the company, and many were hurt during the confrontation with the police. It was horrible to realize that four people who only raised their voices to protect their ability to drink clean water, grow their crops and support their families were killed.
The visual and powerful campaigns by “Ni una menos” and “DEMUS” against sexual violence, murders of woman and the sterilizations that occurred in Peru had great impact on me. Environmental issues, sexual violence and the lack of climate justice are not abstract nor distant. It is an urgent issue which is affecting vulnerable groups in society the most – particularly indigenous people, women, mothers, and economically marginalized people.
To be politically active in Sweden is mostly safe, depending on the issue – environmental activists are not likely to be murdered for protesting outside a mine. Tragically, those are the consequences for climate justice fighters and life defenders in Latin America. One such case was Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader. She was the co-founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) which is an organisation defending the environment in Intibucá and rights of the indigenous Lenca people. She was murdered 2016 for her activism. I realized that my experiences with activism are widely different from many activists in the world.
That is not to say that feminist activists do not face violence in Sweden – many of my colleagues have received threats, hatred and violent messages. Even threats of murder occur. These people are between the age of 13-26 years. How can that be? Apparently it is polemic for a young woman or non-binary person to take up space in the political sphere and talk about issues concerning equality. We are creating politics based on equity, climate justice, redistribution policies, pacifism, equality and anti-racism. Yet we are often blamed for using “identity politics” or for being non-realistic.
As a young feminist it is easy to lose faith. It is easy to be pushed back by people that are threatened by the full spectrum of gender. It it easy to be ridiculed by people petting the top of your head condescendingly telling you: “Well tried, girl”. It is easy to be depressed knowing that the neoliberalist economy is destroying ecosystems all over the world.
On the other hand, there are reasons to regain the strength and energy that got us into politics in the first place. The knowledge of young political leaders and activists (with different ideologies) talking about climate change and environmental issues impresses me. I believe that if the younger generation would lead the world today, we could make broad agreements and collaborate across borders. Emissions have no borders and neither does solidarity. Solidarity in practice is collaboration, and the work for climate justice is in desperate need of solidarity.
I also believe that the success of feminist movements needs cooperation and healing to cope with sexism and opposition. By sharing our techniques to deal with difficult conversations or actions we can help each other evolve. I’m fully aware of the fact that the conditions of the feminist movement varies a lot from countries, which can difficult the exchange. But I also believe that’s what makes it valuable. To heal we will have to work together and be strengthened together. The leaders of the world will not do it in our place, so let us become the leaders.
“Las revoluciones se hacen sin prisa- y sin pausa”
By: Tira Okamoto| California, Unites States
A version of this poem was originally included in a solo multimedia performance piece titled Finding the Red Dress (2016), performed as part of an undergraduate senior showcase for UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance.
My parents don’t know where my hair comes from
It’s big and beautiful and so different from the hair of the people who made me
Its wavy curls clashing and flowing at the same time
The waves of my hair can’t decide who or when to be
No product, no comb, no magic potion can tame it
The waves are untamable just like the ocean
The ocean is always a mystery to me.
My friend once said that the ocean’s mystery made it the most beautiful thing in the world
To him, the ocean cradles him in a massive embrace
To me, the ocean is unpredictable, its power only confusing me
What amazes me is that I need the ocean
I grew up near it, waking up every morning to see the San Francisco Bay out my window
I drown without it and then suddenly I’m allowed to breathe when it’s in sight
The sound of crashing waves and smell of salty spray is an instant hug
It comforts me to know that the land ends and the ocean begins
That we do not dominate everything on this planet
That we haven’t destroyed everything, or at least on first glance
That I am small and insignificant yet completely connected
Waves also make me think of my mother
Whose second wave feminism enveloped our household
Who grew up in the context of Title IX, Gloria Steinem, and Roe v. Wade
My mother taught me that I deserve everything a man is given in our society
Yes, but why should I always be chasing a man I ask…
Our waves of feminism clash and flow just like the ocean, just like my hair
Waves of hair, waves of the ocean, waves of feminism
These waves are powerful together in contact as one moving colliding mass
Their power is embodied in me
My body – the site of all three
My curls are the water and the songs of womxn uprising and reclaiming their bodily worth
The smell of the ocean spray is the same as the smell of my mother leaning in for a hug
The texture of sand on my feet is the Earth reminding me that we come from the same place
A grain of sand and I both have a home here
I wear the sound of continuous water colliding with a beach on my head, neither the water nor my locks staying exactly the same the moment one comes into contact with the other
My body is also the expression of pain and tiredness, of womanhood, of oppression, and of abuse of power
I am tired of performing a silent display of beauty and innocence, reduced to sexualized dirt
This body – both mine and the earth’s – is constantly battling the visual and physical taking of space and all we are trying to do every day is scoop out more water than pours in so we do not sink
We will sink if we choose not to fight
These waves and I have a positionality in time and space
I’ve asked myself…
Can I be an ecofeminist even though the term is hippie and New Age, appropriation from assumed indigenous spirituality?
Can I be an ecofeminist with all of my Western straight able hapa woman privilege?
Can I be an effective climate justice ally while working within the system that created the injustice?
Trying to get at the question of if I am allowed or should I participate in this movement
Trying to find a clear answer on how best to utilize my white-presenting skin and my toolbelt of privilege…
Sit back + listen to frontline communities
Stand up to the well meaning white woman
Reach out to hear rising voices calling for change
Reach in to unpack and challenge my own racism, sexism, classism, and colonial baggage Is it all of the above?
Like that Code Switch podcast episode said, racial impostor syndrome is tough and add the complexities of the patriarchy and climate justice and it’s a recipe for disaster
Or is it?
Lately I’ve been asking myself How questions…
How can I build community with other mixed-race feminist climate justice activists, allies, and advocates?
How can I better navigate the capitalist climate adaptation world and the climate justice world? Where do they intersect and how can I advocate within the adaptation world for climate justice?
How can feminist climate justice allies and advocates practice self-care in a way that unpacks privilege, works through trauma, supports healing, and regenerates inspiration and conviction?
How questions are Yes, and questions – waves crashing onto the beach, water spilling in every direction, only to recede again to ask another follow up question, demanding to be heard
I stand here acknowledging my power and privilege
Acknowledging that time is against us in this fight
Acknowledging that the oppressors are forcing a green business as usual future down our throats
Acknowledging that a climate just future requires us to unpack structural racism and patriarchal systems, period.
The King Tides I see lapping at San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront street twice a year help me visualize what the future San Francisco Bay will look like with sea level rise
The larger than normal waves crash against our crumbling seawall
I stand as witness to our changing earth
Breathing in wisdom in the form of salty air
Breathing out solidarity, hope, and resilient joy