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*sigh* Okay, so this article happened...


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Just a warning: this post is about something that might be trigger-y for some people, in addition to being exasperating. Apologies in advance if this is the wrong forum for this, or if it upsets anybody. This relates to suicide so I thought the depression forum was the best place to post it. Again, sorry if that is wrong. 

 

A bit of background, which some of you may already know: 

 

Apparently a magazine called Vice (which I had never heard of before) wanted to have a photo shoot "honoring" female authors, while advertising designer clothing. They thought the best way to do this was by spotlighting female authors who had committed suicide with photos of them directly before or after their suicides. No, you did not read that wrong. They "artistically" recreated people's suicides. Real people. To sell clothes. (Please PLEASE do not look for these photos- they are still on the internet but they are extremely upsetting.)

 

Sizable chunks of the internet exploded at Vice, thankfully, and the magazine took the images from the photo shoot off their website (but it's the internet, so you can still find them. Don't.) I was initially gratified that so many people responded with the appropriate level of disgust, and that the magazine backed down. So far so... er, well it could have been worse...

 

But then I saw this article: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/99-reasons-i-as-a-female-writer-wont-be-killing-myself

 

And now I'm just like, I don't know... :/

 

This is from an online magazine I actually really like, which is usually great on many issues. And this author means well, I'm sure. But I find the idea behind this list really troubling, and don't think the author understands at all what it feels like to be mentally ill and suicidal. We all have things we cling to and use to cope, sure, but at the end of the day, in all honesty, I don't think there's a damn thing on this list that will make you not kill yourself if you're seriously depressed. I realize the author means well, and seriously believes that suicide is a cultural phenomenon and wants to fight it, which is... I don't know, well-intentioned, I guess? (And certainly culture impacts the mentally ill.) But I feel like this article feeds back into the idea that depression is something you can inspiring-quote yourself out of, like you can just be really positive and it will go away. That hasn't been my experience at all, either of my own illness or of others'. The suicidal impulse, as a symptom of mental illness, is a visceral, unreasoning agony that can only be cured by comprehensive psychiatric intervention. And to act like you can fight it off with a list of authors you like (and I'm a g-damn writer) seems really... disrespectful? Yeah. To me it feels disrespectful to the people I've known who are surviving mental illness and trauma. 

 

But I don't know, I've been known to over-react. Am I reading too much into this? Do you guys find this article as problematic as I do? 

 

But yeah, this site is usually a great read. Like I said, I could be over-reacting, but I feel almost betrayed. :/ It's troubling. 

 

Anyway, your thoughts would be most welcome.  And please, if you are upset about this article too, don't go capslocking the author in the comments. Please. I really like this site and don't want to give them trouble. 

 

 

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<snip>

 

This is from an online magazine I actually really like, which is usually great on many issues. And this author means well, I'm sure. But I find the idea behind this list really troubling, and don't think the author understands at all what it feels like to be mentally ill and suicidal. 

 

And hopefully, the author will never have to find out what it is like to be in that situation.  

 

Good news, bad news, responsible reporting, just yelling stuff in to the camera, respecting the feelings of others, or talking about which group is going to Hell;  all of these things exist to serve one purpose and that is to sell advertising space.  

 

The reporters may or maynot have sincere intentions, maybe even the editors want to do the right thing.  But someone owns that site or magazine and they own it for one purpose, to turn a maximized profit.  

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I think that you're missing the point.

I don't think that it's about depression, so much as it's about objectification and women's role in society.

They're responding to a fashion shoot that was about famous women writers who had killed themselves. And the fashion shoot was NOT about the suicide so much as it was about objectifying the women, who were smart, and great writers, and should be known for their writings. And whoring them out is so not okay.

 

The response has nothing to do with depression, so much as it is saying hey. Objectifying smart women is so 100% not okay.

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My take.  I think the Vice article glamourizes suicide and was really in poor taste.

 

The list I think was well-intentioned, but I couldn't talk myself out of suicide by what I'm looking forward to.  I don't know if how it would affect my children is enough to stop me, but none of the other things are. 

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I don't think I'm missing the point at all, so much as addressing how the author's handling of the issue was problematic. Had she written a post about Vice objectifying and diminishing female writers, and how that related to our culture devaluing female lives, I would have been satisfied. Instead she chose the very gimmicky conceit of listing her reasons not to commit suicide, which is deeply problematic for reasons I've already expressed (and, to add insult to injury, most of the list is filler.) The author framed her response around the idea of suicide, I am only following her lead.

 

I'm not sure how a photo shoot of people committing suicide isn't about suicide. It can certainly be problematic for many reasons, but the fact that it fetishizes/glamorizes suicide is definitely one of those reasons. 

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You may have put it in that light, but you have put this discussion in the depression forum.

Which, to me, signifies that the article is, to you, about depression. And I posit that it is not about depression at all. If this were in reaction to men who have committed suicide, say Hunter S Thomson or Kurt Cobain, would we be having this same discussion? Not in bitchmag, we wouldn't. Which rather proves my point. That the article is about women's role in society, rather than women and mental illness.

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The issue here is the difference between intent and execution. What Vice did was incredibly harmful to BOTH women and people living with mental illness. I have no doubt that the author of the Bitch article intended to primarily address women's role in society. HOWEVER, her execution was deeply flawed. By titling the post "Reasons I won't be killing myself" she put the issue of suicide front and center, then trivialized and misrepresented what suicide is for the majority of the mentally ill. Suicide, psychiatry, and therapy are all mentioned explicitly on the list.

 

The most troubling item on her list, atleast to me, is the last reason: "99.  Because I want to live to see the day where all women's lives are considered so valuable, where women and girls are so well treated, that we have everything to live for and suicide would never even cross our minds."

 

Does that jive with your experience of mental illness? It might, and that's fine. But I, for one, was raised by two wonderful feminists, grew up in a very progressive area, was encouraged to pursue any field of study I chose- and still I tried to end my life. If you have a psychiatric illness you can "have everything to live for", and still want to die. Pretending otherwise just makes the sick feel guilty and makes their friends and family more less likely to take their distress seriously and get them help before it's too late. Of the families I've been close to who have lost members to suicide, none saw it coming. They all knew their kids had "everything to live for", and could not understand how, if you're mentally ill, "everything" sometimes isn't enough.

 

I'm NOT saying that society does not impact mental health and suicide. I KNOW it does. I've been part of the LGBTQ community long enough to see how prejudice makes people both more vulnerable to mental illness and less likely to get effective help for it. But I also know that societal change isn't a magic bullet. Some people will still get sick, and they should never be made to feel that their misery is their fault. 

 

So, yeah. I respect the people at Bitch and hold them to a high standard. They could have put out a piece discussing all the problems with the Vice shoot, a few being: the inherent violence in fetishized images of dead or dying women, the belittling of great artists because of their gender, the way society silences women's voices, the way society limits women's choices, the objectification and commodification of women. They could have done all that WHILE discussing mental illness in general, mental illness as experienced by women, and how dangerous Vice's glamorizing of suicide is to an already vulnerable population. In short, they could have tackled the issues raised by Vice's stupidity in an even-handed, expansive way, addressing the issues of all groups involved and doing a disservice to none. It's hard- but I've seen feminist bloggers tackle similar issues before, and handle it as admirably as I would have expected from Bitch. 

 

But Bitch didn't do that. Instead they put out a trite, gimmicky article which NEITHER does justice to people with mental illness NOR offers any substantial/novel analysis of women's role in society. It's a disappointment, and all parties involved deserve better. 

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Can you do something, anything, to alter what has taken place? If you cannot then consider how much emotional energy you are burning without any result: if your justifiable angst can change the course of the event, go for it! However, perhaps this is not the best venue to change the world...

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Aah, yeah, you're right, Indigo. I hardly ever get mad these days, so I don't know why I let myself get so worked up over it.

 

Yeah, I wish there was an multi-writer blog/online magazine that focused on mental health issues in life and culture the way other blogs focus on race/gender/etc. I don't suppose anybody knows of one? :/

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Aah, yeah, you're right, Indigo. I hardly ever get mad these days, so I don't know why I let myself get so worked up over it.

 

Yeah, I wish there was an multi-writer blog/online magazine that focused on mental health issues in life and culture the way other blogs focus on race/gender/etc. I don't suppose anybody knows of one? :/

 

Best solution? Start one of your own and invite participants.

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