A story about a young woman who looks at herself in the mirror and doesn’t like the person who looks back from there. A story about a vulnerable mind that takes in every negative comment and doesn’t believe the good ones. As tory about eyes that see only negative qualities of herself but the most beautiful ones of others. A story about a broken mind that is not able to see her perfect imperfections and always pushes herself for something more both physically and mentally.
She was quite a chubby child. Normally, in a way that kids are. Apparently other kids didn’t always know that it is not that good to comment on others' appearance and she got comments that hurt her. Not so many, but even then they stuck in her mind. Those comments followed her to her teenage years. Even she had grown taller and lost the chubby appearance, it was very hard for her to see herself in that way. Also interest in nutrition and healthy lifestyle came into the picture after childhood and she has read a lot of that theme.
Excited on the monthly numbers of a fitness magazine, reading tips for nutrition and training. In the magazine there is always a specific topic on which the number focuses on: “Get rid of your belly fat!”, “This is how to gain muscles”, “Bikini season is coming, this is how to get in shape!” These headlines were very appealing to her. Athletes in the magazine were very good-looking women with sixpacks, trained arms and minimized amount of body fat. She believed in those magazines, she believed every advice in them were true and worth trying for a 14-16-year-old girl.
She ran, even though she did not find a lot of pleasure in that. She went to the gym and the only thing that was in her mind was decreasing belly fat, getting a “perfect body”. She went to group fitness classes after which she cried because she had pushed herself too hard. She wanted to stick in her training routines and even if she was tired after travelling to grandma’s she rolled her training mat and did pilates. Because she had to. She was also being told: “I am worried if you’re eating enough”. Of course she did, why would people think about something else? But still, only a limited amount of bread per day and portions formed by a plate model and after eating she started to wait for the next time. Because she was hungry. Moving a lot, eating small portions and wanting to make sure everything was as healthy as possible.
One day a new number of the magazine arrived. In that number they told about disadvantages of sugar, about the harm that it does to our bodies. Before reading that article she considered: is this smart? Should I just skip the article and leave it for others. But she read it. And what did that mean to a conscientious person? She took the message of the article literally. It confirmed the beliefs and ideas that she already had had around health and made her more attached to her thing. It meant going extreme: no sugar in anything. That became her guideline in what she did, what she ate. In sister’s graduation party she was very aware of not eating too much, not taking too much sweets and couldn’t actually enjoy the eating part properly. During school’s exchange project abroad she didn’t eat snack bars given her by her host family or enjoy the traditional street waffles in Brussels. Always first checking the list of ingredients of products to see if they included any added sugar.
She searched for alternative ways of baking without sugar, at Christmas baked gingerbread cookie balls made out of dates and oats. No added sugars. Period. She wanted to eat sweets, wanted to taste the lovely flavor of gingerbread dough or candies. But she just could not take them. The inner voice forbidding her from doing that was too loud. It was very tiring for her. It led to a point where she cried flopped on the chair in her room, crying because she would have wanted to eat a traditional pastry baked by her mom, but she couldn’t. Feeling a pressure in her chest, packed with emotions that had built up within months.
During all this she had faced the death of a close family member. For a young mind there was too much to process in that, and controlling eating habits was also a way of having a feel of control over at least something. What else is easier to control than that besides training?
At some point she started to realize that the model of her behaviour was not healthy. She wanted to feel better, both physically and mentally. She realized she needed help. And so she contacted the public nurse and asked for it. From there started a slow but steady journey towards getting better, learning to loosen the control, learning to eat enough and trusting that not every eaten piece will show up in the waist. By different experiences she built a more loving relationship with her body and learnt to see it in appreciative light. She could finally be proud of kilograms gained after one another that took her back to her normal weight. In other words, slowly but steady she became healthy again.
This story was mine. I wanted to tell the story because I think it is important to be aware that all the people have their own stories. The people you meet everyday may carry something invisible inside of them and “the perfect life” that you imagine might not be that perfect after all. This has helped me to be more merciful to myself and see people and their lives in a more humane way. After all, we decide what is perfect for us. Nowadays I want to believe that imperfect is good enough.
Since I am well aware of the lack of cultural knowledge and understanding about Sámi people I realized after viewing my short lecture, that some clarifying sentences might be in place.
First I promised to post some links/give tips.
The page samer.se shortly summarizes Sámi culture and history.
The movie "Sami blood" won 4 guldbaggar 2018, a very small part of scandinavian and Sámi history.
The book "Liberating Sápmi" by Gabriel Kuhn about current Sámi politics and activism.
Also my own Instagram page "@govvidan" or email for deeper questions and thoughts firstname.lastname@example.org
For scandinavian speakers I also recommend @mittsapmi and @inaomma on Instagram. And "Samernas tid" documentary on UR. The book "Herrarna satte oss hit" by Elin Anna Labba.
Secondly I talked about values and gender equality. I have to state that our community is neither more or less equal then the rest of Scandinavia. Most of us live with the same values as majority society teaches. However we have just "started" our own feminist movements within the Sámi community. This is because we've realized that all values and fights within the majority societies don't apply to us, or non-intentionally opposes our movement. And that there are issues not addressed or existing for others, than sámi or indigenous women.
Another issue I touched upon within this topic was health-care and how that, for us, is a gender equality issue too, but differently. Men in our communities seldom seek, or when they do, get help for mental health issues, mostly because of the lack of cultural understanding which is a part of the structural racism we face.
An advantage we have in the fight for equality within our community is that the men can relate to how it is to be oppressed and discriminated. And I hope it can compensate for how our women are double discriminated, for both being women and Sámi.
We often talk about how the situation we are in, is because of you. Because of the white colonizers. Well, I can tell you that I have never met anyone who has taken responsibility for being part of that group, so I guess you don't need to either. I don't want to put any blame on where it doesn't belong but if you for any reason feel any kind of guilt or shame when learning about indigenous peoples situations, ask yourself why? Especially if you are European and first time finding out that we have one recognized group of indigenous peoples on this continent, Sámi. Who is going to take responsibility for the structural silencing and ongoing colonialism? You can, you have the voice we need to be heard. Swallow that pride and start supporting us, sign petitions, tell your friends and follow our politics and court-cases. As you support Greta Thunberg, recognize that the things have been said before, by so many indigenous leaders.
Thirdly I talked about the lack of community but didn't really come to the point, sorry, I was very nervous and lost some content! But what I wanted to say was, that we lack all kind of resources to have thriving communities within Sápmi, for example most of us are completely reliant on our normal Scandinavian working places, schools and elder care. The traditional jobs are not highly valued in the majority society. For me this meant that a time came (in August) when I left my community for a social entrepreneurship program in Väddö, Southern Sweden. 1200km from home and approximately 300km from what is defined as Sápmi, our land.
How we are scattered all over Scandinavia, Russia and all parts of the world where Sámi moved to find opportunities, became very present this year. When due to Covid-19, borders to my grandmother in Finland and cousins and best friends in Norway closed, it became clear to me that we are landless. The distances we happily drove to connect with each other, to be understood in our language and feel safety aren't an option anymore. Neither do we meet each other inside the borders, when all cultural platforms are restricted. It's not like you go out in a bar and meet other Sámi, of course depending on where you are but for most Sámi the odds are small, as for me now, living south.
And lastly I said in the video, that one of our biggest issues is lateral violence, that is after global warming, exploitation, predator politics and racism and violation of our lands and traditions. The lateral violence is however something we can work on internally. Again, you should take the responsibility for the other issues slowly killing our community. It's pretty damn hard to try giving yourself opportunities and change conditions as a minority.
I don't know if my intention of reaching out a hand has come across. How I've articulated things I could have done in a less harsh way. But I don't want you to take my hand in pity or momental sympathy. I want you to say "Yes, let's do this TOGETHER, I am ready to take the responsibility for our future that I understand your ancestors have taken, and you feel obligated to continue taking."
I want everyone to be ready to sacrifice, or compromise or just offer something of them for the sake of life, equal rights and real physical and psychological well-being, instead of economical.
And the only life we have is not of, but with earth, the feminine entity who has taken enough shit. As she has tried to save and warn us for centuries, I am ready to admit my faults, guilt and shame, I am ready to take responsibility. Are you?