A certain kind of masochism
May 1st 2022

The first version of this article was the kind of text we seem to always be writing: explaining in detail a particular issue relating to racism in Finland, with a dissertation’s worth of research with quotes, dates – proof!

I found myself trying to find details about the residential schools that children from Saami and Finnish Kale families were sent to, scrounging through search results for something that isn’t behind a paywall, frustrated at not finding it and fighting to maintain that cold and calm demeanour needed to read and write about genocidal politics… 

And that’s when it hit me. No one had asked me to do this kind of work. I wasn’t expecting to be paid for it.

There was absolutely no reason that I had to be writing this now. Especially not now now; 2 weeks into SNRI withdrawal with the new medicine’s side effects mixing with the old ones and PMS leaving me with flash like, electric shock type sensations in my head, zero appetite, nausea, diarrhoea AND the many aches and pains that fibromyalgia brings me at this point of the menstrual cycle.

Sleep deprivation aside, I am hardly in my best cognitive state and yet, I felt very strongly that it is my obligation to use this opportunity to raise an important conversation about the limitations of terminology surrounding ethnic identities in Finland, with historic context and all. What the actual fuck!? 

Being actively feminist and antiracist in this country is a certain kind of masochism.

There is no safer space to retreat to, little or no guidance on how to go about organising and very little support if you’re outside of whatever “in group” is in the spotlight, and when shit hits the fan? Tough luck. Whether online or out in the world, being the one doing the calling out is lonely, disheartening, and sometimes quite frightening.

Sometimes it’s your peers that are the ones tone policing, gaslighting or discouraging you, but it’s usually the white feminists or the packs of anonymous misogynist/racist/transphobic/ (insert bigotry) that gnaw at your self-esteem or conviction. 

I just recently joined TikTok and to my amazement, the amount of feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist content being offered to me was inspiring!

From the teenage children of immigrants to the middle-aged white man that’s also a municipal election candidate to the many many unapologetic young Black people, suddenly I’m hearing conversations in Finnish I could not have imagined 10, let alone 20 years ago. And I’m 33!

There is so much engagement in social and racial justice issues on other social media platforms as well, but something about the casual and lighthearted manner in which TikTok content is created made those first moments almost magical: it really hasn’t been in vain! Change is here! 

Then the dust settles, that moment fades, and the bubble pops: this is all still very niche for most people.

There are still areas in this country I would hesitate to travel to alone with my children. Honestly, the way that Independence Day has become an annual get-together for far-right and nationalist extremists to gather, I don’t even feel at ease when I travel inside Helsinki like I used to. Of course, that’s what they want and I wish I could be braver, but having small children makes you very aware of one’s human limitations, so it’s safe over sorry every time. 

Still, here I am. Another public profile, another feminist rant posted. I know there may be backlash, so I watch the waters for any ripples that may lead to a wave of trolls. Another article, another poem, another painting… Another opportunity to learn that sometimes, it’s enough to just exist in a space with ease and integrity. Sometimes, seeing someone just doing that is worth much more than another performance of the Strong Black Woman (or Femme), because it really isn’t my duty to save the world. 

Being visibly queer, openly depressed, chronically ill and not only talking or ranting but downright lecturing on various societal issues as an anarcho-feminist and anti-racist anti-capitalist in a country like Finland is a certain kind of masochism.

At the same time, you know that you are immensely privileged and thereby complicit in the ongoing oppression of exploited people near and far, but also you know that the many wonderful things about this being the happiest country in the world are fancy headlines hiding alarming statistics about gendered violence and hate crimes.

There is a lot of work to be done, and it is easy to lose track of what is being fought for while doing it. Worse – there is an incentive to cut corners, to fix the system from the inside, to celebrate grand and symbolic victories rather than do the less rewarding but more necessary small, repeating tasks that would strengthen the base on which to build. A certain kind of masochism, but I’m beginning to see that there is less to gain in tolerating pain than there is in refusing to endure any more entirely. 

Here’s to shifting from grinding on and pushing through to letting go and resting when we need rest. The future I want does not require my mental, spiritual, emotional or physical well-being as a sacrifice. Give me some new feminist joy instead of the misogynoirist pain.

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A certain kind of masochism