'I'm Tired' - The Instagram Account Helping You Feel The Weight Of Others' Woes

Two students started a photojournalism project to highlight the micro-aggressions, assumptions and discriminations people face everyday.

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One in five black and minority ethnic (BME) people in the UK have said that they were worried about getting physically attacked because of their religion, ethnic origin or skin colour.

Nearly half of young transgender people have attempted suicide.

And two-thirds of young women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

These are just three statistics that illustrate that however far we have ventured towards equality, there is still so much to be done.

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While we are becoming more able to tackle the bigger aggressive prejudicial moves, such as racially motivated street crime, we are yet to find apt ways of tackling aggression on a smaller scale.

Micro-aggressions - phrases, comments and names used in colloquial speech that might seem innocuous to some, but are deeply insulting to the people at which they've been aimed - are just one of the ways that racism, sexism (and all the other -isms) are able to persist even in more culturally understanding communities.

Harriet Evans

The 'I'm Tired' Project is run by two 23 year-olds, Paula Akpan and Harriet Evans.

It's a project that tells individual stories of micro-aggressions to expose these issues to people who haven't experienced them, to start a conversation and maybe even get someone to rethink their position.

The two became friends at Nottingham University, and after realising how tired they were of the many -isms in the world, they decided to do something about it.

Intrigued by the success of the stark, faceless photos and honest, raw mini-essays on their page, ELLE reached out to the young activists to find out more.

Can you tell me about the name The 'I'm Tired' Project and how you decided on it?

H - In a lot of the coverage we see people are quick to label us and our subjects: 'angry, man-hating feminists' or the 'angry black woman,' but, overall I think you'll find the people who experience micro-aggressions and discrimination are tired and worn down, more than anything.

What Are Micro-Aggressions?

P - Micro-aggressions tend to be language or actions said or done in passing, normally without thinking on the part of the perpetrator but they serve alienate the recipient who will often be a member of of a marginalised social group.

Examples include 'that's so gay', 'you probably did well because you're Asian', 'she must be on her period' and 'no, I meant where are you really from?'

They serve to make you feel like you don't belong, that anything you do or don't accomplish is as a result of your race, gender, sexuality, religion, size, disability or that you're generally just not part of the club.

We have more and more people engaging in dialogue around discrimination. However, you still get the small nuances - micro-aggressions - falling through the cracks.

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"I'm tired of being asked if I'm 'the woman' in my gay relationship. "Being what many people consider the more feminine one out of the two men in my relationship, I am sometimes asked if I am “the woman” in my relationship and my boyfriend is “the man”. I am tired of this question, and the very problematic attitude that it stems from, for two reasons: "The first reason is that, by asking this question, someone is essentially suggesting that for a homosexual relationship to succeed it needs to be modeled on a heterosexual one, where one person identifies as a man and the other as a woman. "The second reason is that, by thinking this is an acceptable question to ask, someone may also think – strangely – that it is acceptable to apply sexist attitudes to the relationship as well. For example, they may ask the so-called “woman” (and I have been asked this myself) if they will be “the one to stay at home and look after the children”, and if the so-called “man” will be “the one to go to work and earn the money”. "Nobody likes to be identified as something that they're not. I wouldn't tell a straight man who happens to be feminine that he is “the woman” in his relationship. Equally, I wouldn't tell a straight woman who happens to be masculine that she is “the man”. So why should I, a gay man who happens to be feminine, have to identify as “the woman”? "I am not a woman, I am a man. The happy, long-term relationship I have shared with my boyfriend is not made up of a man and a woman, it is made up of two men. Gay men should be allowed to describe themselves and their relationships in exactly this way, without being expected by anyone to identify as anything else." Photo credit: Paula Akpan Photo editing: Ming Au and Harriet Evans #theimtiredproject #stereotypes #discrimination #photography #gay #lgbt #lgbtqia #heteronormativity #sexism

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H - Being a woman is still having to deal with the MACRO-aggressions. I also had a couple of experiences while at uni of being touched inappropriately, as well as being followed home, and both just didn't seem to be taken seriously – it drove me nuts!

But then, in addition to this, being so close with Paula taught me her struggles as a woman of colour, and how easy I have it as a white woman in comparison.

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Micro-aggressions are harmful because they are so under-the-radar that it makes people feel like they are over-reacting.

I believe that it's described as 'death by a thousand cuts' - very small but consistent insults that build up over time.

You photograph the backs of people - it's really striking. Can you walk us through why you chose that aesthetic?

P - We chose to picture people's backs for a number of reasons. Most importantly it's so the participants remain anonymous, which enables them to be as honest and blunt as they want. This also means viewers can relate to the experiences more as they can slot themselves into that role.

There's also the symbolism of having to carry these experiences of discrimination and stereotyping around with you. Lastly, it's practical because it gives us a huge canvas!

Have any particular stories stood out to you?

P- We were invited to exhibit in New York last year and asked to photograph the locals. I met one incredible woman who has Parkinson's.

She described the process of going grocery shopping and the inevitable experience of people behind her tutting and sighing as she slowly puts bags her items after they've been scanned, leading to her always having to reveal that she has Parkinson's in order to gain some respite.

"I'm tired of having to reveal my Parkinson's in order to be treated like a human being. "At the supermarket, I begin unloading my cart. The cashier quickly checks the items of the person ahead of me. Trying to keep up, the conveyor belt moves along revealing gaps in my performance. My speed is apparently not up to par as the woman behind me not so subtly makes me aware. As I turn to the cart my eyes catch hers which flash down to the remaining items, then to the belt, instructing me. I avert my gaze and concentrate on the task. As I rise, groceries in hand, she leans toward me, a gesture of assistance. Nothing is said, and I would take her body language as kindness, but I am all too familiar with the true motivation. "My groceries begin to pile at the end of the belt. I am not meeting the standard and my judge is much less subtle in her critique. I begin bagging items, but as things overlap it becomes more difficult. I hear her clear her throat and shuffle her feet. She notices my difficulty in opening a bag, rolls her eyes, grabs a magazine, glances and shoves it back in the rack. The cashier finishes and assists with the bagging, frustrating me as items are bagged haphazardly, but to my judge a relief as she exhales a heavy sigh. It isn’t until I have difficulty removing my card that her impatience, and lack of humanity, are truly revealed. As I struggle, the cashier offers assistance, which I decline. Like a racehorse at the gate, the woman next in line shuffles, and sighs heavily, eyes rolling inside her head that can’t decide in which direction to look, all the while snorting mumbled WTFs. "As I am still packing the trunk, she whisks past, quickly and efficiently loads her groceries and drives off. I think, “I wish I were that quick, but no, not at that cost.” Then I wish I had said what always comes to mind, “I have Parkinson’s. What’s your struggle?” But, I remembered, as she exited, she paused, looking directly at me. The handicap spaces are directly in front of the exits... (See FB for full post) Photo credit: Robert Olsson #theimtiredproject #stereotypes #discrimination #photography #parkinsons #disability

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As someone who is not a disabled person, I have privilege in terms of never having to think about how a debilitating condition affects someone's daily life so it was a firm reminder of the things I often take for granted.

This woman attended the exhibition launch and saw people reading her words and taking pictures of her picture and got a bit emotional - which in turn got me a bit teary. Always great when you're a bit drunk and have to give a speech in a matter of minutes.

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H - One particular story that stuck out for me was about size, and unfortunately the reason that it stuck out to me is because of the amount of hate that the post received.

The model was simply saying 'stop judging me for my size, it's really none of your business. I eat well and I exercise, I just have an invisible disease'.

We received an incredible amount of people who thought they were doctors or nutritionists, who completely missed the point of the post 'Stop judging me' and instead judged her, and in quite disgusting ways.

The courage of this woman, who is, to this day, so supportive of our project, is amazing. I am in awe of her.

As much as you get support there must be 'haters' and those who are ready to critisize the project?

P - We've had a terrific amount of support. People have gotten in touch with us just to let us know that they resonated with one of the pictures or felt very much alone.

One of the most touching things was when we posted a picture that addressed the taboo of miscarriages and in the comments, people who had themselves experienced a miscarriage where posting about their individual experiences and reassuring one another.

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It was just really humbling to have been able to facilitate what was hopefully a source of comfort.

Though, we've been called over-sensitive, typical millenials, snowflakes, the lot.

H - In terms of trolls, they come in hoards. We get Nazis, we get uber conservatives, we get people who say we're not even doing a good enough job at being representative, we get people who just want to kick up a fuss.

When it comes to the plain disgusting comments – the racists, the homophobes etc. we just delete the comment.

They're not adding anything to the discussion, they're not here to learn, and they're not even here to get an actual point across.

They are just angry and their intention is to hurt.

Our models are real people, and they do check the comments on their own photographs. Our number one priority will always be to protect them, and the community that they're representing.

Despite the subject matter of our page being about what people are tired of – want to harbour a happy and supportive environment, so trolls have got to go.

Do you think your project has the capacity to change things?

P - I used to think that our project just has the capacity to open dialogue and start conversations.

But since carrying out interactive workshops with young students that explore and define micro-aggressions, stereotypes and discrimination, I do genuinely believe that maybe we can have an impact.

Regram from @1976taz at our exhibition at the @uniofnottingham this evening. Thanks to everyone who came along!

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H - Absolutely. The subject matter itself is about micro-aggressions: small things which have a big impact on a person. That's proof in itself that small things can make an impact.

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