Recent news has been dominated by Northern Ireland’s record-breaking period without a government and the terrible fire in Primark in Belfast City Centre, as well as the now-normal barrage of Trump and Brexit bad news. While all of this is undoubtedly real, serious stuff and deserving of our attention, sometimes it can feel that there’s too much of this to deal with, especially when we all have a whole glut of our own concerns to attend to as well. Many of us might be feeling a little downhearted as we wave goodbye to the summer and get ready for back to school, so this blog is going to attempt to provide a little distraction from the worries of day-to-day life over the course of Monday evening with a short list of suggestions of mood-lifters that might help us all to recharge.
#1 A Book – Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
“One of the most unusual and thought-provoking heroines of recent contemporary fiction” Irish Times
“Hugely original, a funny and sad tale of a survivor who tackles the challenges of emotional reconnection with grave courage. Unmissable” Sunday Express
A few of us in the office have recently had the joy of reading this lovely book. I read it myself when I was feeling in a bit of a funk and it really made me feel better about the world. The characters feel real and seeing Eleanor journey out of loneliness and find that she has the power to change her place in the world and to enjoy being part of a community in a way she hadn’t thought possible really challenges the feeling that the world is just a big, bad place. The whole thing feels like a tribute to human kindness, and the real hope and power that exists in all of our relationships.
Note, Eleanor Oliphant does go to dark places before it comes back to the light, and the book deals with themes of child abuse, alcoholism and depression and suicide, so it might not be for you.
If you’ve already read, and hopefully enjoyed Eleanor’s story, Waterstones recommends these if you’re in the mood for something similar.
#2 Meet a Friend – Get hold of a pal, maybe someone you haven’t seen in a while, whether in person or on the phone. It could be for a quick catch-up, or you could spend hours gabbing and putting the world to rights, either way, it’s always nice to make a connection and let somebody know you’re thinking of them, and have someone listen to you too. If you’re in or around the Belfast area it’s a great opportunity to get back into the city and show solidarity with all the retailers who have been experiencing a decreased footfall after the Primark fire too, though do be aware that the air quality isn’t great after the fire and if you’re sensitive to this or have respiratory problems you might be best to avoid the area. Many of Belfast’s shops are open to 9pm on Thursday so a perfect way to beat mid-week blues!
#3 Positive News – These days we’re all connected to the 24 hour news machine pretty much all the time, in our houses, offices and pockets, and sometimes you can feel overwhelmed by the negativity in the reporting. If you need something to shift your perspective and open your eyes to all the good things that are happening, have a look at Positive News, “good journalism about good things”. You can subscribe to their quarterly magazine, become a supporter, or read many free articles on the website. The whole project is based around the idea that too much bad news isn’t good for us and it might be just what you need to see to feel a little better about the world this week.
Media has a powerful influence on our world. We believe excessive negativity in the press is destructive for society, and instead we are working to create a more constructive and compassionate media. Positive News
#4 Podcasts, Audiobooks and Music – The Positivity Playlist
One of the many great things about music, audiobooks and podcasts is that they’re a mood lifter that you can fit in anywhere, you can have your headphones in or the radio on while you’re doing your grocery shopping, driving, or just standing in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil, and it can always put a smile on your face.
In aid of a happy week for all of us, we’ve put together a Playlist of songs and artists that lift our mood, some have a positive message, some are nostalgic, and some are just great for a dance – hopefully you’ll find something here to brighten your day, and if not, you can always do your own version – and be sure to share it with us on social media!
Here’s to a mood-boosting week for all of us! Feels like it’s about time…
Finally, I want to make it clear that we aren’t trying to patronise anybody, these things are intended only as friendly suggestions to perk up your start to the week and distract from daily life stresses. There are plenty of us out there who might need more than this. If that’s you, there is absolutely no shame in seeking the help you need, and there are people and organisations who can help you, whatever your situation.
PIPS – 0800 088 6042
PIPS Charity have an open door policy no appointment is needed just come along for a chat a cuppa a friendly face to help you through your trauma or worry or just having a bad day, whatever, we will be there to help.
Lifeline – 0808 808 8000
Women’s Aid – 0808 2000 247
GenderJam – 028 90 996 819
LGBT Switchboard – 0808 8000 390
Belfast has a problem with Rape Culture. Eating lunch, buying clothes or even just walking down the street, women in this city are met with a barrage of misogynistic material. Violence against women is made light of and women’s bodies are used as room dressing. We have a high rate of violence against women and the way women are presented in pop culture is part of the problem.
In February 2018 the David James Kerr clothes shop was called out on its misogyny for this poster showing the lower portion of a couple having sex. The owner responded to the suggestion that the image was demeaning to women and inappropriate in a clothes shop by posting ‘its only a toilet door FFS’ on social media. The pornographic image is degrading and it is outrageous that the shop’s Instagram feed shows a pic of a child posing in front of it. The toilet icon above the poster is also deeply concerning, It shows a male character looking over a stall divider at a female character. This is an image of a man assaulting a women and it is being casually displayed in a clothes shop. This shop is popular with children.
Some have tried to dismiss this as a bit of fun or just lad culture but this kind of behaviour has real world consequences. In 2016 there were 3,160 reported sexual assaults in NI including over 800 rapes. Crimes of this nature are notoriously underreported and so we know this is only the tip of the iceberg. NI clearly has a problem with men’s attitudes to women and sex. Educating young men about the basic concept of consent is an uphill battle when this kind of imagery has been in their faces and infecting their sub consciousness since they were children.
The décor of Made In Belfast, a trendy restaurant in the Cathedral Quarter is more subtle in its misogyny. They display vintage looking prints of women in their underwear across from a giant mirror with the words ‘treat me like a piece of meat’ printed on it. Northern Ireland definitely has a problem with rape culture if we consider this appropriate room dressing for a restaurant. Pairing these items together evokes the age old trope that women are somehow asking to be the victims of sexual violence. The pervasiveness of images and messages like this in our society creates the impression that misogyny is acceptable.
In 2017 Ribs and Bibs restaurant on Botanic advertised its bargain lunch with this catchy slogan, ‘ya can beat the wife but ya can’t beat a 5 pound lunch!’. The restaurant’s initial response was to try and gaslight people who found making fun of domestic violence objectionable by telling them to ‘get a life, it’s a bit of wit’ on social media. This did cause a substantial backlash and Ribs and Bibs eventually said it would discipline the employee responsible but that person still thought it was okay to try and use domestic violence as a marketing tool and their boss thought this was witty. Northern Ireland has a shockingly high rate of domestic violence (one call to the PSNI every 18 minutes in 2016) and maybe part of the problem is that as a wider society we don’t take violence against women seriously enough.
That is the common thread running through all these examples, that we as a society do not take violence against women seriously. Women are abused by partners, assaulted and treated like a piece of meat. Our bodies are disrespected and denigrated and our privacy and safety are compromised. Some of those actions are illegal, all are morally reprehensible but we are not going to make real progress in tackling them as individual issues unless we dismantle a culture which thinks it is okay to use them to sell us stuff.
The next time you’re out shopping or grabbing lunch and you see rape culture looking back at you, point it out to the proprietor and let us know on twitter and Facebook. No more women hating in public spaces.
Bold Women Blogging is a public submission blog. Posts do not necessarily represent the views of WRDA but rather operates as a platform for open discussion to encourage younger women’s participation in social and political issues. To find out more visit this page.