Entries by S.J. Vespertine

Trump is a Troll

trump

 

Trump is a Troll

Donald Trump is a classic internet troll, especially when he’s on the internet. His twitterfeed is a perfect example; you will check that there’s a blue tick and it’s not actually a parody. Everyone does. It’s unbelievable, and ridiculous, and then scary – just like Trump is in real life, and that’s how you know it’s him.

Internet trolls are simple creatures, and easy to spot with a little practice. There’s been an academic study, and several more user-friendly articles on the back of that, too. But these often relate to deliberate trolling in specific types of forums, rather than that annoying person on facebook who shares David Avocado Wolfe posts, angel wishes and calls you a ‘libtard’ for not hating immigrant children – and they’re trolls, too. Try asking them a direct question, especially about something they’ve just said. All you’ll get is another question – often the one you just asked turned around – accusations, or abuse. Post a statement contradicting their point of view, even with all the evidence in the world, and they’ll just say you are lying. Then, obv, more abuse. How dare you bully them like that? You fascist*.

Unlike a lot of internet trolls, however, Trump is also a troll in real life. This is because he’s basically a narcissistic sociopath**. Lots of trolls behave the way they do on the internet because they don’t see the people they are talking to or about as real people; the text barrier allows them to easily dehumanise the people behind the comments. Trump does this to real people, right in front of him. People whose angry, hurt and frightened responses are right there on their faces and in their body language – but he still doesn’t care. It doesn’t change him or what he’s saying in any way. Even when there is direct, well-founded, empirical evidence right in front of him that contradicts everything he says.

This doesn’t stop him contradicting himself, however. But, even when you can show him direct, empirical evidence of what he himself has said, he still just calls you a liar, and moves right on. He simply doesn’t care what you think, or even what you know. For him, you are just an annoying noise on the outskirts of Trumpworld, and what you believe, think or feel is of no importance. You don’t just not matter, you don’t even exist. This isn’t just you, tiny internet nobody. This is Crooked Hillary, The Lying New York Times, senators, political experts, scientists, even those at the shitty end of the stick he carries with him to beat on his rabble-rousing drum.

So, Trump is trolling reality. Ok, we all know the advice – don’t feed the troll. Smart people are advising this as well: don’t RT his tweets, don’t respond, don’t share facebook posts about him, or articles from the press. It only encourages him, he loves the publicity, and most importantly, you’ll not change the minds of his real supporters.

There’s a core of truth, here. Trolls just say that stuff to get a response, so by giving them one, by caring, you give them more power. Trump does speak for a section of the public, and they adore him. Like with him, there is nothing you can say that will change their minds or alter what they believe – you, just by trying to do this, are part of the conspiracy against him, after all.

But, whilst there’s often no point in continuing to feed a troll, there is a point in responding. Just once, just to say, ‘No. That’s not right, and please don’t say such unpleasant things.’ On the internet, in your local facebook group, say, you can see this with clarity. If someone posts blaming the increase in littering on a particular group of immigrants, then to just ignore it and leave it without any response at all might well mean that the person who posted it will eventually get bored and wander off again. That post will scroll down, and many people will probably not even see it.

But during that time, anyone coming into your group will see that post, and see that no one has even said, ‘Well, I’m not sure that’s entirely the whole issue…’ It will seem, to an outsider, that you’re all tacitly agreeing with it. Yes, maybe you don’t want the whole awful fallout popping up on your alerts, but hopefully a group admin will step in before then, or it’ll be reported and be seen to contravene the Community Standards***. Or you’ll just block them if necessary. There are tools there designed to protect you, and to allow you to say, ‘No, thank you. You’re being rude and hurtful, and I don’t appreciate it,’ without fear of reprisals or abuse.

I’m not in any way saying you need to go full on Social Justice Warrior, and take down anything hinting at bigotry wherever you see it. Please don’t, in fact, as it can be a very unpleasant and occasionally dangerous business. What I am saying is that there is a purpose in responding to misleading posts or sharing the truth when you find it; there is a group that you can and will reach – and that group is The Lurkers.

Look at any group or forum on the internet: it’s a good way of seeing how society works in microcosm. Look at how many members there are, then look at how many actually post regularly. The average can be as low as ten percent. So, what are the other ninety percent doing? They’re enjoying the show! Sometimes they’ll sneak out for a moment to like or reshare something, but often they just stay quiet, reading along.

Huge portions of society are lurkers. Entirely passive, they see everything, but they don’t interact beyond that point. What they see therefore, matters. They either don’t have or don’t wish to use critical thinking skills to look beyond what’s in front of them, and so they are particularly easily mislead by propaganda. Our politicians know this, and so are even less afraid of telling outright lies than ever before.

There was a dream that the internet would democratise information; that one day, everything would be there at our fingertips, and no one could ever lie to us again. Instead, we have the opposite – everything is there, in our eyeline, so we don’t need to make any effort to look any further. Brexit happened because a significant number of people believed what they were told, and voted accordingly. No one can blame them for that – at a pinch, you can even not blame the people who voted for Brexit because they ‘didn’t think it would actually happen’.

Let’s not have that happen, with Trump. Let’s address the people who think he’s just ‘a bit of a laugh’, a ‘character’, just saying ‘the stuff that all blokes think’ or not actually going to win, so it’d be funny to vote for him. Let’s address the people who still think he’s a successful businessman, that he always wins court cases, that the scandals around him have no basis, that he’s not a possible rapist and a definite serial abuser of women. Let’s make sure that the people who think he might speak for them hear what he’s actually saying.

Trump is a troll, but we are going to feed him. We’re going to feed him the bitter truth, even if he spits it back in our faces like the spoilt child he is. We can’t stop Trump and his supporters from saying the awful things they’re saying, and neither should we. Instead, what we can do is to shine a light on every contradiction, every lie, every abusive and aggressive post, every call to violence, every belittling, nasty, childish comment and soundbite. Find the truth, check the truth and then share the hell out of it, whenever you get the chance.

And let’s all do it, because we are a global community now, and our words can travel across national and cultural boundaries. Let’s all do it, because we care about each other as human beings, and because those of us who do care are the majority, and will listen to each other.

And because if that isn’t true, we truly are doomed as a society, whoever the next US president is.

 

 

 

 

*What is it with idiots calling left-wing rhetoric fascist? It happens so often, and it’s really odd.

**I’m not a psychiatrist, and bandying mental health diagnoses around is not a good or smart thing to do, generally. But I make a needful exception in this case.

*** Hahaha. As if…

At Sea

 

“My father’s house has many rooms…”

Well, mine has few, but they all echo with him,

In an endless cycle of lost expectation.

Everything here is soaked in it;

Every scent, every sound, every speck of dust.

And I, still listening in the dark

for the distant ebb and flow of his breathing,

Lie shipwrecked by the the wash of the waves,

Caught in the tides called by the gravity of his loss,

The massive pull of the place where he used to be,

Endlessly empty, endlessly filled with his absence.

Everywhere here is full of him.

Everywhere here is where he used to be.

Everywhere echoes with the lost whispers

Of one last story, before I sleep.

Love Song

The rhythm of this pleases me more than you can know. This took a long time to write, and I had no idea where it was going at any point, until it was done. Once I had the repeat of ‘shadow’, it fell into place with a very satisfying sound.

 

 

Rock and bone, blood and stone,
Ancient eyes have always known
The darkest depths still to be shown,
Hiding in the shadows.

Shiny bright and sharp the blade
That this forge has freshly made.
For who would want these scars to fade
When they mark us out as heroes?

We who wander other ways,
Who look with an unflinching gaze
Into the dark heart of the maze,
Are not afraid of shadows.

Death, despair and foul disease.
These are the truths on which we seize,
For tho they bring us to our knees
We’re not yet at the gallows.

While I know that I may find
The strongest ties with which to bind
The joy that is a true like mind
Then I shall be your shadow.

Autumn

I wrote this, sat in the back of the car driving down the A55 on the way into Wales. It’s a lovely journey, often alongside great vistas of land and sea, and it will always make me happy.

I suppose this is a prose poem, or a freeform poem, or something… I find things often dictate their own form, sometimes against my designs or better judgement. I think it indicates that they are whole and complete and ready to be let out into the world, when I realise they are nothing like what I set out to write.

 

 

 

 

I love the Autumn, and the all day dusk it brings; the cold, silver light making every lit window spill liquid gold, gently wistful yet softly warm, welcoming you home again. The velvet depths of mauve and violet shadows, so much softer now than the technicolour bright, bold brilliance of Summer.

I love the smell of ice on the air, the wind that bites, the subtly encroaching closeness of blanket-clouded grey skies. I love the shattered cracks of bare branches on the horizon, the blown and blustered birds, even that vague melancholic ennui that permeates everything and settles gently across the expanse of your soul like a dusting of frost, like a cool hand on your forehead.

But most of all, I love the sea in Autumn. Its colours, its smells, its moods. The unspoken threat of a bitter cold so deep, so powerful as to be beyond mere human reason and rationale. The whispered promise of a swift, smooth, all-engulfing peace, ready to enfold you and cradle you in a dark so profound it has become much more than the absence of light. Waiting, as it always has been, beckoning, reaching, calling to you in the soft susurration of the waves’ caressing touch across the shore. Sweeping your mind clear and clean. Soothing, slowing, gently stilling your thoughts until your bones become connected to the bones of the land that lie beneath the sand, beneath your feet; bones no longer articulated but calcified, sinews run through with seams of ancient quartz, blood become viscous as the sea now seems, and surely, you have always been here, in this place, in this moment?

The lights fades and flows and slowly slips away, draining from the darkening sky until there is only you, wrapped in twilight, still as stone, lost in one long, limnal note that stretches out before you like eternity, washing over you from the horizon and back again to the ephemeral edge of the waves. Beckoning, reaching then retreating, calling with the wicked beauty of a siren’s song. A beauty so sharp you swear it could cut like a razor, honed by millennia of tides.

And behind it all, waiting with an ageless, ancient, infinite patience, the whisper of Winter on the wind.

Writing Won’t Let Go

I was in an interesting place for most of last summer. Aftet my father died, I spent a lot of time at my mother’s house on Anglesey, and the fact I was already off work was something of a godsend. To be honest, there were just lots of days, one after another, with me and my mum just getting on with living, watching tv, cooking food, idly chatting about something and nothing.

There was something of a distraction in the middle, with our wedding – which would never have happened if not for some of the best friends a person could ever wish for – but I was very much a bystander in my own life for quite a while.

But the world, ignorant bastard that it is, keeps on turning. Shit keeps happening. People live and die without so much as a by your leave. The pictures of the two little brothers washed up on a Turkish beach did send a spark of reality into my wooly haze. The reactions of the press and social media actually impacted on my thinking, and I started talking to people about it, especially on facebook. I undertstood the effectiveness of shocking images in creating a real public outcry, but that didn’t mean that all and sundry should share those pictures in their statuses like random clickbait. We couldn’t do much for those children, I couldn’t do much, but I could ask people sharing the pictures why they were, and if they would consider using another image, because maybe the one thing we could do was try to give them some dignity in death.

I had some really interesting, thoughtful discussions with people I hadn’t spoken to for a long time, and actually felt like I was starting to think again, in some small way. I lay in bed, still thinking over what had happened, and how people were responding to it, and also, the awful, horrible reality of what had happened to that family. I had an odd, recurrent image of an illustration from Charles Kingley’s book, The Waterbabies, of a small, cherubic child sinking down through the depths of the sea, and it wouldn’t leave me. More than the image, the words, ‘Oh my babies, my poor waterbabies…’ kept running through my head, and it took me a little while to recognise the process; I was writing. Writing like I used to. Writing a poem, by repeating and repeating word and rhythms until it would take shape. Part of me was watching myself do this, fascinated, as it had been so long since I wrote anything like poetry.

So, I wrote a few lines, slept a while, dropped them onto facebook for want of anywhere else to put them, and that was that.

I had some really nice responses and a few shares over the next few days, which was lovely. But much more importantly, I felt like I had something of myself back that I had been missing. Times have been up and down since then, but that part of me that wants to craft words into a shape and share them with other people is still there. I’ve written a few things since then, and I’ll share them here with a little bit of context around each one, as suits.

But here is that first one. It’s not perfect, and I think the rhythm isn’t ideal, but it’s the one that my mind wanted, and so it’s the one it has.

 

 

 

I was once told a story about Waterbabies,
And how they were lost, unloved and alone.
Til at last they found sanctuary under the waters
And were taught of the kindness from which love is grown.

But oh my babies, my new Waterbabies,
You were loved so much more than comfort and home.
But you have learned nothing but ruthless exclusion,
And how crocodile tears swell the morning tide’s foam.

Catch Up

There’s been a small gap in my bloggery.

Ok, a fucking huge, yawning abyss of a gap, and, by Christ, this one did stare right back at me.

First, I was busy. Then I was tired. Then, I was ill.

Labyrinthitis is a very odd condition, and more common than you might assume. Turns out I know a few who’ve had it, and several who’ve had it since. Every single experience varies, in pretty much every way. It leaves you feeling sick, dizzy and uncoordinated, and even shifting position in bed can be like a rollercoaster ride – and not in the good way.

Luckily, my experience only lasted around three months, during which I saw two different consultants, had an MRI, hearing checks, physio… God bless the NHS. But as those symptoms faded, I acquired a whole new set to replace them. At first, it seemed that they might be just the result withdrawing too fast from the prochlorperazine that had been so helpful. Sometimes, coming off it makes people anxious. But I got worse and worse, and ended up with a whole new diagnosis of anxiety and depression, the severity of which might have at last started to decrease, nearly 18 months later.

This all in the year that not only did we get married at last, but also my father died.

In amongst all this, work went from being unexpectedly supportive, to less so, to unsupportive, to firing me.

I’m sure I may get some further mileage out of several aspects of this, in time to come. I’ve moved slowly back towards writing over the last year, and feel more and more able to do so. I will start by making a few posts out of the things I’ve written in the interim, and then get back to posting properly, I hope.

There are plenty of things to post about, after all.

Fuck Hate

So, my mental meltdown started not long after I looked up the term ‘kyriarchy’, after doing some research into ‘intersectionality’ and discovering you’re not supposed to ask people what ‘CIS’ means, because your ignorance is NOT THEIR FAULT. Radfems, UKstraightPride and TERFs, oh my.

And my brain went ‘Excuse me?’

And then, ‘What the freaking fucksticks is going on? How in the name of all the fucking demons is this supposed to help anything??’

I mean, come on guys. Do any of you actually KNOW what you’re hoping to achieve? At all?

Now, I’m a lucky person. I have a home, a partner and children. I have a job, and I’m white and educated. I’m not disabled or marginalised in any particular way by society. Check MY privileges out, bitches.

I’m also lucky in that I have good friends from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. None of them seem to hate me for being who I am, and all are happy to talk to me about their experience of the world, and seem glad that I want to understand the way that life may treat them. I was under the impression that this was how we make progress, and live in harmony and all that shit. It’s also how we learn to adjust our thinking, grow as people and develop appreciation of life outside our own personal boxes.

I was also under the impression that marginalisation was a bad thing, and acceptance and understanding and equality for everyone was what we were working towards.

Now, if it’s not what you think we should be working towards, then… well, fuck off, frankly. Sorry, but – and I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite here (see below) – but bigots of whatever nature can just fuck right off. If you have a problem with anyone purely because of whatever subset of humanity they belong to, then you need to rethink your prejudices. I don’t really want you to fuck off; I don’t hate you, but I do question your beliefs.

You see, questioning beliefs is fine. Not just fine – it is important. It is vital. And the only way you can truly maintain your beliefs is by being open to having them questioned, and by being open to hearing the beliefs of people who believe differently to you. If you can’t do this, what you have is not belief, it is dogma, and it is bigotry and it is bad.

Don’t criticise a person because they are part of a group, or criticise a group because of the actions of only a few of its members. Don’t label people just so you can mush them all together and criticise them as a group. If you take away people’s individuality, if you dehumanise them like this, you are just making them easier to criticise, easier to blame, easier to hate and easier to kill. If you talk to individuals about their lives and beliefs and problems, if they then talk to you about yours, if you find common ground – hate goes away. Change happens. Understanding happens. Acceptance and love and nice things and ponies and sweeties and roundabouts and rainbows! Less shit generally.

Haters DON’T gotta hate. Haters have to stop hating, because all hate does is breed more hate. No, you can’t even hate the haters, because hate and aggression both come from fear and insecurity and ignorance. You can’t even silence them, because freedom of speech is important, and it lets us know who the dicks are. Only by communicating with them do we have any hope of changing them.

It’s really easy, and quite satisfying to tell someone who is being a dick to fuck off (See above). But whilst I admit to having done it myself on occasion, it achieves less than nothing.

If you feel society is marginalising you, then speak out. Speak loud, and be proud, and tell people. Fight for your right to be accepted, and to live your life as you choose – so long as you are not hurting or oppressing anyone else by doing so. But choose your words. Remember that other people can’t know what you are going through until you tell them, and if they ask you questions, it’s because they want to understand. If you’re speaking out, you are also putting yourself out there as an expert on your own life experiences. People may ask you questions that seem stupid, but the best way to defeat ignorance is through knowledge. Answer them. Use short simple words. Don’t roll your eyes, even metaphorically. Try not to patronise.

Oh god, and can I go off on a tangent here? Do not accuse anyone of ‘mansplaining’. You’re devaluing what someone says because of their gender. Sexism is a Bad Thing. It applies to anyone. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice. Hating men counts too. Yes, even if they are being dicks. Being a dick is non-gender specific, non-anything specific.

If you are being mistreated, if you encounter injustice and abuse, if no one understands what you have to deal with on a daily basis – tell people. It’s the only way to end stigma and prejudice and ignorance. But make sure you are then open to hear other people’s experiences, too, and try to show some compassion. No matter what the wrong done to you, no matter how awful the oppression you encounter, and how minor anyone else’s problems seem to be in comparison, please don’t play ‘my pain is worse than your pain’. Pain is pain. There is no prize for being the most hard done to, and there WILL always be someone suffering more than you. There are people being killed and tortured every day, all over the world. People with no one to turn to, little hope and no voice.

You have a voice. Use it well. Use it to bring understanding and defeat ignorance. There is too much hate in the world as it is, so make sure you’re not adding to it.

Whatever someone’s ‘privilege’, whatever their material wealth or fame, whatever their race, gender, religion or level of disenfranchisement – if they are suffering and brave enough to speak out about it, OFFER THEM SUPPORT AND SYMPATHY. Don’t judge them, don’t grade their pain against your chart of worthiness, and don’t belittle or criticise their experience. You are privileged to have been allowed an insight into someone else’s life. That’s the only privilege that counts here. Be damn grateful for it.

Give one other person some hope, and you may find you’ve actually given it to lots of people. The actions of one person can grow and spread, and the only person whose actions you can directly affect is you. Make sure you are doing something for the greater good, when you use the beautiful, wonderful gift of being able to speak your mind and use your voice freely.

Don’t be a dick, dearheart. Be nice.

It works – and you know what, it confuses the people who are being dicks no end. Angry people have no idea what to do with you being nice to them. It wears them down, and makes them listen to you, and makes them rational against their instincts. Shouting is all very well, but a moment of compassion changes people.

Jesus. Did I just turn into the Giving Tree? Fuck. Sorry. I did start off being really pissed off… I’m going off to find some right wing, racist, sexist, ignorant gun-toting dickheads to abuse, now.*

*Not really

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad…”

Children. Gawd bless ‘em. Little lambs. We can live vicariously through them, and whilst they may ultimately be more trouble than dogs, at least there’s a chance they’ll get rich and famous and buy us a nice house, one day.

Before you start, I have three children of my own. They are all quite remarkably bright and beautiful, and my absolute pride. If anything justifies my presence here, it’s their presence here, and they are self made, self determined people that I can take no credit for. They also deal amazingly well with questions like ‘How are you here, if your mum’s a big lezzer?’ I apologise to them for having to deal with that, but goddamn, they can give good answers.

My life choices have affected their childhoods in a variety of ways, not all of them good. But I hope I’ve been supportive, open and loving to them, and always will be. I hope I’ve taught them to be the same. I love my children.

But, not everyone loves children. Not everyone wants them. Women are supposed to be genetically predisposed to hit puberty, and want babies. Men are supposed to be genetically predisposed to want to have lots of sex so they can propagate their genes. Women are supposed to be led to choose a mate based on their ability to give them good strong babies.

Which is fine, if your only consideration is your hormones, and that’s what your decision making is based on.

Jesus. Imagine for a moment if all your decisions were based on your hormones.

We’ve evolved as a species to live in a larger society, and to have wider concerns than our own selfish drives. We have empathy, spirituality, quantum mechanics and science. Our ability to override primal urges and work together are what have made us the dominant species on the planet. Compassion and intelligence are what will keep us there.

Children are lovely. But they are not a prerequisite to being part of society. It has been part of the issues raised against #equalmarriage – gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, because marriage is all about bringing forth offspring.

Bollocks. Marriage (as stated in previous blog) is about two people making a declaration that they as adults would like to be joined together. If they would like to then raise children, well, that’s lovely.

If they don’t, then no one says they have to. (Apart from the Catholic Church, but that’s a whole other thing) No one who matters says they have to.

Some people want children, desperately, but can’t have them, and my heart goes out to them. Science has done a lot to change this, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. There are many good people who would be excellent parents, but can’t be. I hope all of them find a way to give that love to children who need it.

Then, there are people who really don’t want children. It’s just not something they feel a need for. Perfectly normal, heterosexual people. They may like other people’s children. They may not actively hate all children. They just don’t feel any need to breed.

And you know what, they have a hard time too. From their parents, from society, from Mariella Frostrup (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/19/i-dont-want-children-husband-broody)

I’ve nothing against Ms Frostrup’s column. She very often gives good, reasoned advice, and advice columns are by their nature subjective. She has a valid point of view – I just disagree with it in this instance.

As a species, we are breeding far too fast for the resources available. Yes, you may be middle class and both have nice jobs and are able to provide for little Emily, Joshua and Beatrix. But oh, your carbon footprint. Three children from two adults…? That ways lies species death!

Yes, one of them will be an amazing scientific prodigy (he could read at two, you know?) and solve world hunger. Fine. Keep your children. Yes, I have three too.

I would never advocate breeding control. What I would and do advocate is people’s right to make a choice, and not have to put up with pressure from anyone to change that. It’s not selfish not to have children. Lots of people have children for very selfish reasons, and you know what – that’s a much worse thing to do. I understand that one day, a woman can wake up and realise that the time has passed, and she will never have her own biological child. But that regret is a much smaller and less damaging thing than waking up and realising that you should never have had the children you did.

People have unexpected pregnancies. There is a whole industry devoted to telling us tales of stomach ache turning into a baby rather than the expected large poo. Women find themselves pregnant for a variety of fascinating reasons, and find that the child they end up with is the best thing they ever did. Babies can come from awful relationships, traumatic events, hellish pregnancies and then, then they hand you that baby, and you become overwhelmed with an all consuming love that never leaves you.

Of course, you can have a lovely relationship, glow through your pregnancy, plop out a child with ease and find that you look at that little scrunched up purple alien and feel… nothing. There are no rules, and no easy solutions.

The important, the vitally important thing to remember through all this is that you are bringing a whole new person into the world. Whilst you can never be fully prepared for all this will bring, even when you’ve done it before, you can at least try to make sure that it’s something you really want. And if you don’t want it, don’t do it. If you do regret that decision later, then adopt, foster, start a playgroup, sponsor a child in another country, become a teacher… You can channel that need in ways that will help children whose parents perhaps made the wrong choice, or circumstances shat on.

I work with children, and I see the problems that unprepared, unwilling or damaged parents can have, every day. These problems are fixable, and children are redoubtable creatures, but they are the reason that no one should ever feel pressured into breeding. At three in the morning, even the most wanted and loved baby, toddler or heaven help us, teenager becomes a beast from hell. Everyone with children has had one of those hours. Everyone with children has had a dark hour of despair. How you deal with that, and get through it may well depend on the decision you initially made, and if it wasn’t for the right reasons, it becomes so much harder. I won’t go into politics, and funding for vital support networks here. I will however bless our interconnected society, the NHS and its subsidiaries, and even social care, and hope that no one ever feels they are alone with whatever issues they find themselves up against.

If you feel the need to have something that will give you unconditional love, that you can give a silly name to and dress up – get a small dog. If you want to raise a child, and are prepared for the shit and vomit and angst and expense, if you want to lose your lovely designer home and fill your life with Balamory, Barney and Blues Clues, felt-tip on your white walls and Sudocrem on your ipad, if you are ready for  pain and arguments and destruction, the end of your independence and sheer exhaustion, fine. Go ahead and breed.

But if you don’t, then be strong. We breeders need you for babysitting.

Which is a good final sentence to this. But I do have to say, if you really don’t want children, think of the people that do. Consider donating your eggs or sperm to help those that do. You’re not using them, and there are people out there that need them.

http://www.hfea.gov.uk/egg-donation-and-egg-sharing.html

http://www.ngdt.co.uk/become-a-sperm-donor

https://www.gov.uk/foster-carers/becoming-a-foster-carer

https://www.gov.uk/child-adoption/overview

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/for_parents

 

Some thoughts on your special day

doves

You may have noticed on my introduction page (Just up there. It says ‘Hello’) that I mention my lovely wife.

And she is lovely too. But she’s not really my wife. Obviously, since we are both girls. We could be civil partners, should we so desire. But we really don’t desire. We would like to be wives.

We would like to get married.

There are other factors, mostly financial, that stop us tying the knot. But I am determined to hang on until we can get married, and call it married, because I can see no reason whatsoever that we shouldn’t be able to. ‘Marriage’ is just a word – it doesn’t actually belong to any faith or denomination.

I don’t like the term ‘Civil Partnership’. It sounds dull and businesslike, and was created purely to placate the people who don’t want marriage for non-heterosexual couples, and as a sop to those who do. Although it could have a place: if we are going to have equality, let’s do it properly. Same sex partners should be able to get married, and different sex partners should be able to get… Civilled. Or whatever we’re going to call it. Partnered? CP’d? Civilpartnershipped? Let those who want to do it choose what they put on the invites, anyway.

I don’t want that, I want marriage.

Oh, and I don’t want it to be called Gay Marriage, either. Just marriage. No ghettoisation, please. As the excellent stand up Bethany Black said recently on twitter (@BethanyBlack), we don’t go gay shopping for our gay toilet rolls, gay tomatoes and gay biscuits, and pop them all in our gay shopping trolley…*

People have tried to bring procreation into the argument, but marriage isn’t only allowed for people who are going to have children. There’s no special clause in there where you have to promise to breed. If that were true, then infertile people wouldn’t be allowed to get married. Neither would people who don’t want children. And they are. I even know some of them. Anyway, gay people can have children. Lots of them do; and guess what, they don’t just have gay children, either.

The bible may talk about marriage being between a man and a woman to bring forth children, but it has a lot to say about all sorts of things. Like stoning adulteresses, and not eating shellfish, and coveting oxen, and keeping concubines and… I’m not Christian! So why should it apply to my choices in life? The bible isn’t the law. None of it is. Various religious bodies have been picking and choosing which bits of the bible they want to take notice of and which they want to ignore for years. There is no bit of scripture that is relevant to this debate, unless it’s any of the stuff that nice chap Jesus said about love and respect for others, whoever and whatever they are.

If there is any religion that has ever had any legal relevance to The State and The Law in the UK, it’s the good old C of E, which exists purely because Henry VIII wanted to redefine marriage. Okay, yes, there was a bit of Catholic burning went on at the time, but it all worked out in the end! And even that isn’t relevant to this debate, because we’re not talking about Christian marriage for Christians, we’re talking about marriage as a concept.

All of which leads me to ask why, in our brilliantly multi-cultural, multi-faith society (whatever the Daily Mail says) is marriage in a Christian church still a special thing, but not in any other temple or designated place of worship? Jewish and Quaker marriages get a special authority, but just them. Why not everyone else? Do we not have religious equality? Why give rabbis special powers, and not Imams? Why does the law not apply to all religions equally?

I refer to recognised religions, by the way. But, once you say ‘all religions’ people start getting creative about how you define ‘religion’, and it could all get a little complicated, and we really don’t need complications.

So, let’s simplify things.

Why not make everyone have to get a legally registered, secular person to authorise their marriage?

Everyone.
Whatever they believe.

You can have a religious ceremony if you choose, and of whatever kind you choose, but you still need to sign an official document in front of a registered official to do the actual deal. You can be legally joined to your partner of choice by fulfilling the legal requirements to do so, and any further issues with your dogma or deity are between you and them to resolve.

Oh, and just as most jobs, and indeed laws, are not allowed to discriminate against anyone due to colour, creed, gender, age, disability, sexuality, height, hair colour etc, neither are the designated marriage officials. They are representatives of the law, and if the law says it’s okay for homosexuals to get married, then they need to marry homosexuals. With a smile and a congratulatory handshake at the very least. If you want to perform religious ceremonies, join the priesthood.

There is nothing illegal any more about being gay, and we are never going to go back to it being so. In which case, gay people should have the same rights and liberties as straight people. All the same rights and liberties. All the time. I cannot see any just argument against this.

Please note: this is not going to bring forth anarchy. It won’t mean that next, people will be able to marry their dog, their daughter or several concubines. None of those things are legal, and nor are they likely to ever be.

Letting people of the same sex get married WILL NOT LEAD TO CARNAGE. Society will not break down. Everyday life will carry on just as before if two adults, of whatever denomination or gender, are able to legally demonstrate their commitment not to fuck around and be recognised as a family unit. And they can have a big party and people will buy them toasters and decent sets of knives, and everyone will get drunk and someone will throw up somewhere inappropriate, and there may be tears, and embarrassing episodes on the dance floor.

Is that too much to ask?
I don’t think so.

I would like to marry my lovely Laurie. Let’s make this happen.

And when it does, you’re all invited.**

 

 

 

(*Unless we’re feeling particularly camp that day. Okay, so sometimes we do. But that’s NOT the legal term for it!)

(**You may not all be invited. Some of you are weird. Yes, you. You know who you are. But you can come and stand outside with banners protesting about our destroying all that is good and holy. And I will defend your right to do that just as strongly as my right to declare my love for another person in a public and legally binding way. But you can’t be in the photos. Sorry.)

Losing the Lads’ Mags

So, the #losetheladsmags campaign hates ‘Lad’s Mags’, because they ‘portray women as dehumanised sex objects’ and they ‘promote an idea of male sexuality as based on power and aggression, depicting women as sex objects and including articles that feature strategies for manipulating women’.

And, you know, that all sounds good. As in, it sounds bad! No one should want anyone else to be dehumanised and open to violence. I want my daughters to grow up in a society that tells them that however they look is fine, and whoever they decide they are is beautiful. I want them to have a positive body image, and grow into strong, empowered women. If I had sons, I’d want them to respect themselves and everyone they met, whoever they are and whatever their appearance, gender and beliefs.

So far as I can determine from the website, (http://www.losetheladsmags.org.uk/) this campaign has two issues:

1. It wants to protect us from ‘page three style’ covers being on view in major supermarkets. The reason that page three is on page three is so that it’s inside and not on general view, as it involves nipples. Most major supermarkets have modesty covers for anything vaguely sexualised, including gay interest magazines – which is all well and good, unless you want to know what the articles are about this month.
So, we are not actually subject to those images.

2. Employees can and should sue shops they work in because they are being forced to handle objectionable material. But that’s really not going to work if they were already selling them when they took the job. You can’t work in Ann Summers for 6 months then decide to sue them for exposing you to sexualised material. That would just be silly.
So, employees can’t sue their workplaces for things that are already on sale.
Which makes the whole ‘campaign’ a bit of a waste of time.

If you really want to make sure that overly sexualised and unrealistic body ideals are not promoted to the impressionable, then ‘lad’s mags’ are not your target. The true, insidious promotion of dehumanisation of womens’ bodies is right there, at eye level. In the magazines for women, selling us size zero, photoshopped ideals, telling us how to please men, how we should look, how we should orgasm. Telling my daughters that they should diet, and what they need to spend on clothes to fit in.

If you are going to ban things according to their covers, then I give you this. Which of these covers offend you? Which do you not want your children exposed to? Which should be removed from our shelves to protect impressionable young minds?
(Warning: boobs. Do not look if offended by women’s bodies)

mags composite 2

Take Bizarre, which may or may not be included in the very unspecific ‘Lads’ Mag’ criteria. More than anything, bless Bizarre for making a mockery of this whole campaign. I agree they should be top shelf/modesty-covered, along with the tattoo and gay interest magazines, but don’t you DARE ban them. Bizarre, in particular are one of the few (if not only) magazines on general release that positively promote plus size, transgendered, disabled and sub-culture models. Say what you like, but I’ve let my daughters read Bizarre from an early age, and I hope that is one of many things that have made them more accepting of all the various definitions of sexuality and beauty that exist.

Lads’ mags sell to lads. They know who they are. They like cars, beer, gadgets and boobs. They like short sentences and innuendo. And, damn you all, so do I. They are NOT the problem.

The problem is girls’ mags. Deriding female celebrities for being photographed not at their best. Mocking anyone in the public eye who puts on any weight. Questioning the value of any woman who isn’t in a very small and exclusive subset of body image. Making ordinary, attractive women question their worth based on which products they buy, where they shop and how often they have sex.

In all honesty, I’d rather my daughters saw large boobs at eyelevel in the newsagent than stick insect celebrities. But the fact is, they don’t, because we have ‘modesty covers’. So what IS the point of the #losetheladsmags campaign? I struggle to understand, and I say their ire is entirely misplaced.

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