The "I'm Tired" Project

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The “I’m Tired” Project utilizes photography, the human body and written words as a tools highlight the lasting impact of everyday micro-aggressions, assumptions & stereotypes and pull back the layers of discrimination to reveal thoughts and feelings that aren’t usually voiced through fear of backlash and lack of being relatable.

Co-creators Paula Akpan and Harriet Evans use FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram to share photos of what participants are most tired of, which is displayed across their bare backs creating a positive space for people to share their personal stories. Participants remain anonymous providing a safe and honest platform to be both vulnerable and empowered.

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"I’m tired of explaining consent.

It really is very simple. “Yes, you may have some of my fries.” “Yes, you may have my number.” “Yes, you may touch me.” But before all this, you must ask. Why are we not asking? When did consent become assumed?

Initially, I was very quiet about it. Very patient and polite, but not anymore. It is not acceptable that my “no’ is diluted to a “strong maybe” after 6tequila shots and half a bottle of gin. That at noon in upmarket Westlands it's “No” but at2am in Wangige, a lower, sketchier side, where I might literally have my neck chopped off, it's “absolutely yes!” because I am too scared of what might happen to me if I say no.

And if I say no and experience abuse? the questions are "what were you doing there?" "why were you there at that time?" "what did you expect of a person who lives there?" It is, of course, my fault.

We seem to have all accepted that we are living among rapists, and we are okay with it because eventually, someone will say yes, we do not care to know whether they were coerced. It doesn't matter how this so-called ‘consent’ came about.

I’m tired of hearing another victim have to explain why they were there that late or had those many drinks, or what they were wearing. It appears that “no” is only a “no” if it is under unique circumstances, all of which are constantly changing to protect the perpetrator.

Consent seems so complex, but it’s not. Really. Just ask."

Photo credit: Phyllis Githua-Mokaya
Photo editing: Phyllis Githua-Mokaya and Harriet Evans

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“I’m tired of the world’s obsession with romantic love. I'm not interested in the love they keep telling me about in the movies. It is So. Fucking. Boring.

It's a very exclusive and contrived love that we are all supposed to aspire to. It's a romantic and carnal love that is reserved almost always for the beautiful, white, thin and heterosexual. (It's a love that lasts forever, by the way, else it doesn't count).

No wonder that those of us who don't fit into that feel like failures, or don't appreciate the love we do have in our lives because we're too busy trying to shoehorn it into this template of normative idyll.

This love is deliberately shoved down our throats precisely because so many of us cannot have it (and actually, upon examination, don't necessarily need or want it anyway). This love is often performative and competitive and can serve to make those outside of it feel small and inadequate.

I don't wish to undermine romantic love. It's wonderful and exciting and one of the many joys of being human. But it's not the most important one and it has a much wider expansion than the films are willing to show us. The films don't want to romanticise fat love, black love, queer love, platonic love, nonmonogamous love or the small and woefully uncelebrated love and dedication of carers, nurses, and teachers. They don't want to celebrate love for nature, for words, for art, for pets, for family (blood-related or otherwise), for yourself, for knowledge, for the body that labors and functions for you every day, for food, for dancing. They don't care about the small and mundane things that actually make love what it is – the unsexy, everyday rituals that add up to the whole sum of being cared for and cherished and SEEN for who you are. We can have all these things going for us and yet still feel deprived because we haven't found 'the one'. If you believe in that idea, I sincerely hope you have or will find it. But it's a belief that I fear gives some heart but most grief, in the end.

Therom-coms only care about selling us a fantasy that we can chase into a black hole - all the while finding fault with ourselves because the fantasy isn't as seamless as we thought it would be. 

Sometimes things can't be til-death-do-us-part. Sometimes it's until long-distance-do-us-part or the-natural-course-of-this-relationship-do-us-part or lengthy-and-expensive-divorce-do-us-part. That doesn't make the love that you once felt for that person less meaningful or you a failure. 

Love isn't given enough credit for being the incredibly large, complicated and all-encompassing thing that it is. If not having romantic love makes you feel unloved or lonely, consider widening your definition of what love can mean. Whether you're curled up with bae on a bed covered in rose petals, chilling with mates, having a cuddle with your dog on the sofa or just happy to watch a film or read a book in your own company, it is ALL love. None of these forms of love is more important, more beautiful or more worthy of celebration than the other. 

Honestly, once you start to see it, you couldn't escape it even if you tried."

This photograph was taken in collaboration with The Pool as part of the #GenInsta campaign. 

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"I'm tired of being the "Sexy Mamacita".

Last year, I was awarded a full scholarship to study law and moved to the UK to pursue a postgraduate degree. Last night, I went to a club with some friends. I love to dance and I wanted to have fun. But something happened, as usual: a guy approached me at the club and asked me to ‘twerk’ for him, as he ‘could tell’ that I am ‘not from here’ because of the way I looked and danced. In this moment, and in many moments since, I've felt like it doesn't matter how hard I work or what I achieve, I will always be seen as the 'Sexy Mamacita'.

As a woman from the Latin American/Caribbean region, I have experienced how social imageries portray me as a hyper-sexualized human being, not only because of my gender but mostly because I come from a very ‘exotic’ and ‘hot’ place. This happens particularly in societies like the UK, where I am seen as the ‘sexy Mamacita’ (‘mamacita’ is a Spanish word that can be understood as ‘fine or hot girl’). As a Latina, that boosts my perceived sexuality and characterizes me as willing to please everybody around me. People assume that I want to have sex with them right away when they speak to me. Let's not forget, the hyper-sexualization of Latin American and Caribbean women is a consequence of colonization and slavery, and nowadays, mainstream media still promotes this stereotype.

We, Latin American/Caribbean women, still have to deal with the lusty looks, the nasty phrases, and even the uninvited physical touches whenever we say we come from one of these countries. 

We also have to face discrimination in academic and professional circles. People are amazed to meet a Latinx with achievements and ambitions when they meet me. 

Whenever people say to me ‘Oh, your English is so good for a non-native speaker!’ or ‘Wow! You are so smart and accomplished!’ because of my career up until now. I know most of the times, people mean good with these comments; they do not mean to offend me - but at the same time, these comments come from a general idea of denial, that Latinx and ‘brilliant’ or ‘accomplished’ do not come hand-in-hand. And this stereotype can shut down doors for those of us who want to pursue a career in academics abroad. My professional achievements should not be defined by my ethnicity: I should do that for myself. Moreover, I wish people wouldn’t devalue my opinions because of my origin, just because my little island it’s not a ‘world potency’ like your country. I have often felt that my critiques are received with an attitude of ‘what do you know about that, you foreigner? 

No, I am not your "Sexy Mamacita." I am just another strong woman, beautiful in my own way, and willing to work hard and fulfill my dreams; and I am not the only one."

Photo credit: Harriet Evans
Photo editing: Harriet Evans

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"I'm tired of pretending his emotional abuse hasn't left scars.

He was my first boyfriend and had always been slightly commanding before we had even got together, but I thought he must simply be strong-willed or driven. However, just three weeks into our relationship that I realized something was not quite right. I had attended my best friend's birthday party and the next day he just shut off. I asked him why multiple times before he revealed that he had found my outfit ‘repulsive’ and that he thought I was ‘better than that.’ I had been wearing a skirt with tights, a crop top, and leather jacket, not that it matters. I had never been made to feel so disgusting or small as I had in that moment. 

From then on I let him control my life without even realizing it. If my nails grew too longfor his liking he would watch whilst I cut them; if I was stressed due to work he told me that my struggles were nothing compared to his. He isolated me from my friends who he deemed ‘too loud,’ ‘too confident’ and ‘too excitable.’ He claimed that my parents fed me unhealthy foods and they drank too much and that if I wanted to stay with him then I better stop partying. He even made me give up my passion for theatre, as he did not want me to fraternize with any guys. Eventually, I believed only he could give me happiness. Towards the end of our relationship, I entered the darkest point of my life. I was afraid to be tagged in photos or even go out for coffee with a mate for fear of what he would say to me. 

It only took me 9 months to slip into that rut. When I told him I was finally done with him he would threaten to kill himself or threaten to kill me. He would ring me telling me he was one razor cut away from killing himself. I would instantly panic and I would ring his mother who would inform me that he was, in fact, sat next to her eating pizza without a care in the world. He eventually blocked my number on his mothers' phone so that I could only talk to him. 

One morning I woke up and blocked him on every platform possible after I finally spoke to my mum about everything the night before. I cut him out and as soon as I did I felt like I could breathe again. 

It shocks me that I allowed myself to be so played by one person, but he made me believe that I needed him. It seems so simple to leavefrom the outside looking in, but it is only now when I reflect on this relationship that I realize that I was subject to abuse. 

We must teach boys and girls that abuse does not need to be physical to be valid. This relationship lasted less than a year, but I know the consequences of how I feltduring it will haunt me far longer. 

I am currently in a long-term, happy, equal relationship, but it took months of discussion and tears for me to finally realize my own self-worth, and what the real meaning of being ‘in love’ is. 

Today, I watch as the emotional abuse of women seems to become part of our everyday lives: the mocking of women and telling them to make a sandwich, or make a baby, or tidy the house, it seems so blasé for those not directly affected. Yet, for so many women these are not just bad jokes, but their reality with life-altering and, potentially, life-threatening consequences. 

It took only months for him to destroy everything I loved about myself, and 3 years later I am only now finally able to rebuild the foundations alongside the people who love me for me.”

Photo credit: Harriet Evans
Photo editing: Harriet Evans

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"I'm tired of being judged for not being married or having kids.

I once saw an interview with Shonda Rhimes discussing her opinion about wanting to be married and having children. She stated she could never see herself being married and never had a desire for it. She continued to state that society often shames women for this because we’re supposed to “want it” and if not; “there must be something wrong”.

Whenever I tell people I don’t have kids, I get one of two responses; either the person is “proud” of me (and possibly impressed), or they appear to be confused as if they’re trying to assess why. I also have friends who say “I should be married with kids by now” despite all their accomplishments.

As for my parents, they have two different opinions about my status as a 31-year-old, single, childless woman. My mother is “proud” of me and my father at times states “it would be nice if you gave me a grandchild before I passed away” as if I am consciously not having a child to spite him. In a past conversation, he stated “you don’t want kids” as if it would give him an understanding of my childless life. I’m often annoyed by these responses simply because I always have to explain why I am childless and single. During my mid-twenties, I used to wonder if I was "failing as a woman"; often questioning, if "I'm good enough" due to being single and childless. Once I turned 30, I began to embrace life and became appreciative of the things I have achieved in my life thus far. I’ve also come to the realization these things may not happen for me, and have thought of adopting as an option.

It was only as of 1920 women were allowed to vote and work. Before then, a woman's purpose was only to provide domestic services in her household. With that being said, people still have those values ingrained in them regarding what a "woman's role" should be and in turn, attempt to pass it on to their children, such as raising girls to keep the house clean and cook as well as raising boys to find a woman who has these qualities while not teaching them to be self-sufficient. With time, women will continue to challenge these stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination by fighting for their rights which will slowly change society's expectations."

Photo credit: Rob Olsson
Editing credit: Rob Olsson

Peep more of these powerful stories at https://theimtiredproject.com