Clouds Got In My Way

Guest Contributor: Heather Pearson lives in Edinburgh and writes stories, commentary and poetry, mainly around women’s experiences. She runs and curates the The Grantidote website which centres on women – their lives, their faces and places, their enormous impact on the world and their stories, as seen by those who live with them or remember them.

In this touching blog post, Clouds Got In My Way, Pearson discusses 2017 and it’s negative impact; the ever-increasing importance of storytelling; and the continuing need to be strong even when the feminist components of the world you once knew are slowly crumbling around you.  A woman after our own hearts – we whole-heartily support the important work she is currently undertaking.

All contributions to The Grantidote are welcome.  Please consider centering and contributing a women’s story by reflecting on memories, writing poetry, providing a photo essay or even sketching a storyboard or recording spoken word.  All queries to Heather at thegrantidote@gmail.com. 

Follow The Granidote on Instagram & Twitter – @TheGrantidote

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The ability to sit in the eye of a metaphysical storm with a faith in yourself that things will improve radically when the weather settles has been an awareness that took its time in getting clear, for me.  Feminism’s like that, sometimes.  Hell, any type of personal growth involving a nose to the ground work ethic is like that, in my experience.

I want to tell you about when that eye of the storm process happened to me in Summer 2017.  If you’re reading this, chances are you also experienced what was deeply affecting me from mid 2016 to the middle of 2017 too, so I’ll make the recap brief.  We got Trump. Oh boy, did we all get Trump.  We got the joy and pain of The Handmaid’s Tale on TV, we got Tim Farron’s confusion over women’s bodily autonomy, a Tory Rape Clause, a deal with the women’s rights stomping DUP and the brutal murder of Jo Cox.  I could go on but I don’t think we need re-traumatising when the wounds are still open.

In short, it’s been grim.  Yet, thank the stars, these dark times have offered brief shafts of hopeful light, too.  As some people hit rock bottom in their distress, discussions around everyday sexism have become louder; change often happens when people start to feel there’s less to lose, after all.  Because of the speaking out, some abusive men are even starting to face consequences.  Additionally, the wave of courage around talking has opened a bigger portal of listening, too.  Keeping that portal open and evolving it is our current challenge and, thanks to some incredible voices across the global feminist movement, I think real change is within reach.

Back in summer though, before #MeToo, it was my persistence in discussing women’s issues as if I had rights that lead to me being ‘feminist hunted’ by two misogynistic trolls searching out opinions like mine and instructing their half-bot armies to assail my notifications and sense of personal safety.  For the first (and hopefully last) time, I almost left Twitter.  Had it not been for the fact I was trying to write two different creative pieces about my Glasgow grandmothers at the time, I would’ve waved a sad goodbye at the wee blue bird, such was the strain.  However, pushing against a deadline and needing chat to keep creative thoughts moving, I asked a simple question on Twitter about what people called their grandmothers.  Then… lo… a new thing was born.  Quite inadvertently, my notifications went mad again – this time with women-centering goodness.  First, it was people telling me what they called their grandmothers; Nan, Granny, Gaga or Oma.  Then came the grandmother’s real names; Tulsi.  Ida.  Meg.  Geneva.  Then came the grandmother’s stories, accompanied in many glorious cases, with photographs.  Black, white, sepia and colour images of women who’d gone before appeared on my screen.  I looked at each one and saw their connectedness with what was going on in the world right then, even if they were no longer physically in it with us.

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I’d woken up that morning thinking my feminism might have to go into hiding for the sake of my sanity.

I went to bed that night knowing my feminism had to get louder about nuance and history for the sake of my sanity and change.

That night and every night after for a week the conversations about grandmothers continued.  They were the total opposite of the toxic masculinity beginning to engulf everything since around the time Trump stood on a bus laughing about grabbing women’s pussies and seeing an entire gender as fuckable or irrelevant.

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Reading the tweets about grandmothers proved to me that by changing the gender and timescales of who we were focusing on, the entire conversation shifted; defensiveness was replaced with listening and holistic reflections were winning over isolationism.  Then, seeing the threads have the same effect on others, I started a website to continue the conversations and collect the stories.  Because of its power as an antidote to toxic masculinity and because everyone can start with centering a woman’s experiences by thinking of their grandmother and her heritage, I called the site The Grantidote.  It’s been slowly building strength and diversity ever since and, by next summer, I’m aiming to have one hundred women’s stories in place; an online re-framing of how we see, remember and discuss women’s impact in a world focusing by default on men’s often bizarre truths.

So, from the eye of my storm came a different weather system.  I got my creative pieces about my grandmothers submitted and the cloud of change-phobic conversation gave me a silver lining to jump forward from.  The Grantidote’s run out of my home in Edinburgh and, so far, features stories of women from all over the UK, the USA, India, Denmark, Thailand, Australia and Ireland.  The archive is wide open for more stories and, for contributors who are less confident about telling stories, I offer full, free, loving and private editorial support so everyone who wants to take part can.

A young woman in Dundee living in extreme poverty contacted me a few weeks ago to say she’d been reading The Grantidote stories and they’d made her feel her own life was ‘less insignificant’.  I’d like the project to do a lot.  Knowing that it already helped just one woman with her back against more walls than any of us should have to face?  That really matters too.

Here’s to women’s stories, using trolls to fuel our fires and faith in hard work already done seeing us to the end of the raging storms of change.

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