Politics

Belief in Better

Human beings work on belief. The simplest philosophy that we all understand is Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”. Beyond that lies chaos, and we instinctively fear chaos. We are drawn to order, to control, to knowing what will happen and why, and to good things happening to good people.

We want to be those good people. Nice people, in nice homes, with nice families and nice incomes, and nice things will happen to us and everything will be fine.

Good things happening to good people. British values. Strong borders. People like us. Safe people.

I mean, why should you support asylum seekers who have just arrived here, immigrants put up at our expense, someone who has never bothered getting a job, some teenager living at home, some bloke with anxiety, a woman who’s got a job but has more children than she can feed – has she not heard of condoms? Why should you, indeed? Why not withhold the few quid from your taxes that goes to welfare, and fingers crossed you never need it.

The problem with not wanting to support minorities is that you can actually become one at any time. It’s weird, and doesn’t really bear thinking about, but there are a million ways you can end up as a minority, and several other exciting way in addition that you can suddenly need the support of the state, as well. And, we will generally all one day become old, at the very least.

A party towards the right wing, like the Conservatives (and boy, are they right, right now) are marvellous, when you’re winning, when you’re on their team. Goodness me, they’re excellent for rewarding their good people for doing their good things. But if you slip off message, if you stop being part of the team…

People have died, under this Conservative government. They have died for being poor, for being disabled or ill. The numbers of children being treated for conditions related to malnutrition  have risen sharply, as have adults, too, especially the elderly. Schools are talking about working on four day weeks to stay open, our NHS, our beloved flagship NHS is sinking. Austerity has done nothing but drive people to foodbanks and despair.

And then, in the weeks leading up to this election, terrible things have happened. Awful, senseless things. They were the acts of misguided individuals, and we all mourn the innocent lives lost on those awful nights here in Manchester, and most recently in London, too.

Now, I have quite a partisan point of view, on this. I took issue with Theresa May’s speech, after London. But beyond the clumsy ‘Islamist’ xenophobia of it, the outdated ‘cyberspace’ phrasing, and the wildly inappropriate scare-mongering, there was one point I could not let go of.

“Enough is enough.”

At first, I was just upset that now, two weeks after Manchester, this was enough. London was enough, but Manchester was not.

And after all, she had been Home Secretary for six years, so someone should have just got terrorists to stab people on Tower Bridge ages ago, since that was all she had been waiting for. We could have had this all dealt with ages ago, guys. Fucksake.

But what really, truly rankled was that “Enough is enough!” was the final shriek of the parent who has not bothered to go and check what the hell their children are doing until they smell smoke or there’s a single, horrible thud and then silence; and they know they should have gone up to check hours ago, but, you know, they had an episode of Eastenders to finish and this gin doesn’t drink itself.

Right. Enough is Enough. No more terrorism. At ALL. And no more INTERNET for ANYONE.

And we’ve all been for too tolerant of extremism, apparently. So it’s all our fault. And not hers.

That’s the final part of her speech that got me. For someone that wants us to go back to proper British values, she’s taking down one of the few remaining ones we’ve got left.

Tolerance never drove anyone to harm. Tolerance never caused anyone to murder. Tolerance is one of our strengths, and she can’t take it off us. Tolerating and accommodating all points of view, all races and religions doesn’t stop us calling out extremism if it puts our way of life at risk, either.

And that’s what we need to do, now. We need to stop tolerating Theresa May’s bare-faced fascism. She’s right not to face the public, or even the opposition. She’s right not to answer any direct questions. She’s right not to even try to defend a direct attack on the competence of the Mayor of London from the President of the United States. Because she doesn’t have any answers. She should simply step down now, stop delaying and let the people who think they are voting for her see what they are actually voting for.

Oh yes.

I’ve got a point.

Please, please remember. Whatever your opinion of Theresa May, and whatever your opinion of Jeremy Corbyn, you are NOT voting for them.

You are not voting for a party leader, you are voting for a party.

It’s entirely possible neither of them will lead the country, come Friday. In the case of Theresa May, it’s extremely likely she will not lead the country on Friday, whatever the result. The fact that she’s done less and less press is very telling, never mind this whole damn election farrago and the fact that the Brexit bucket of shit was dumped on her. She’s off, Friday morning. Odds are, if you vote Tory, you could well be voting for Boris.

Yeah. Think about that. Boris, welcoming Trump to Britain. A true meeting of minds.

This is a very real possibility.

But the other side of this coin is that if you’re not voting Labour because you don’t like Corbyn, you’re a dafty. You aren’t voting for him, you’re voting for your MP in your constituency, and beyond that, for the party that best represents your interests with its policies. Leaders change. Become a party member and you can be part of the decision making process.

Now, perhaps you look at your constituency now, and who you actually get to vote for, and it all looks a bit less exciting. I remember being a lot less excited when I first got to vote, that I didn’t get to vote Thatcher out personally. (Yes, I am that old.) Perhaps you live somewhere with a massive Labour majority, or Conservative, or LibDem, or Plaid Cymru, or SNP –  but not UKIP because nobody likes them. In that case, what difference DOES your vote make?

Look at who your next biggest party is. Look at what your individual councillors are offering. Talk to them, even. Heck knows, they’ll be keen to do so. You can also look at strategic voting and vote swapping. Your vote genuinely does make a difference. Every single goddamn vote makes a difference. Even if you draw a massive vag on it.

So,

Our points today:

Your vote matters, use it well.

You are not voting for a leader, you are voting for a party, and principles.

Theresa May is a bad person, but Boris is much worse.

Beware fascists.

Belief is important to all of us. It is an intrinsic part of being human. Belief is what keeps chaos at bay, belief in the good in others, and that things will be alright in the end. A lot of people don’t dare believe that things will be alright, right now, however. A lot of people are afraid of the result of this election, and they have every reason to be. Five more years of Tory government will be a mandate for oppression in the same way that Brexit was a mandate for racism. I want to believe that change can happen, that it’s safe to hope, mostly because I know belief and hope are catching, and they spread, and good god, wouldn’t that be a thing?

I know it’ll be really shitty on Friday if you have hope and actually, nothing changes. But you know what, it’ll be really shitty anyway. It’s better to have loved and lost…

If people have hope, they spread hope, and people with hope, with belief, do amazing things.

 

 

Love From Manchester

 

Say something about this?

Ok.

No. I say No.

I say Fuck right off.

I say not in my fucking name. I say not in the name of my city. I say not in the name of fucking love either, you stupid twats.

Do you know what we send when we send love from Manchester? We send bastarding love, you thick cunts. Love.

And it doesn’t matter if this picture was phtoshopped or not, it just matters that it exists. No one at the other end of a bomb gets to read what’s physically written on it, anyway. But I’m pretty sure no one consulted the people of Manchester before writing that, whoever it was.

And whoever it was, they can fuck off. But not fuck off and die. Because you know what? No one else needs to die. No one. Not one single fucking tosspot of a person.

Not even bloody Morrisey.

Grow up, you daft apaths. Why not come and find out what love from Manchester actually is? There’s enough to go around, you know?

Love from Manchester

x

Voting for Dicks

You have until midnight on Monday 22nd May to register to vote.

Maybe you think you already have, but you’re not sure. It doesn’t matter, you can do it even if you you’re already registered, and check the data that’s publicly searchable on the electoral roll about you whilst you’re there. That’s worth doing, right? Five minutes of your time. You’ve got the option to vote, then, if you choose to use it or not. Choice is important. Don’t lose the option to choose.

Okay. That’s simple. You have to register to vote. There’s no sensible argument against that.

Let’s get on to the important stuff.

Your vote matters.

It matters far more than you imagine.

Maybe you aren’t intending to vote, don’t know who to vote for, hate all the parties, don’t see what difference it makes, feel it’s a waste of time, simply can’t be arsed or just don’t care.

I can understand why you might feel that way, but let me try to explain why you need to get down to the polling station anyway, and why it’s not just important but absolutely vital.

I’m not going to try and tell you who to vote for, or why you should vote for any particular party. That is between you and your conscience, and you’ll make that decision when you stand in the booth with a pencil in your hand. Whatever anyone says to you, whatever you say you’ll do won’t matter until you look at those names and make your mark. Maybe, at that moment, what you’ll actually do is draw a massive, anatomically correct, spurting penis with the word ‘anarchy’ written down its length. Then you’ll fold your slip, walk back to the boxes, post your vote and walk out with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

And you, my friend, will have voted and I will congratulate you on a job well done.

In the last election, more people didn’t vote than voted for any of the major parties. Maybe you were one of those non-voters. Manchester, I’m looking at you.

Because those people didn’t vote at all, they are mostly disregarded as a useful statistic. We don’t actually know who they are, why they didn’t vote, or what kept them away, so there is nothing practical done to reach them because there’s no way to know how to do so. It’s assumed they simply don’t care, so they’re ignored.

Spoiled papers, on the other hand, those are counted. Spoiled votes include penises, anatomical or otherwise, rude words, other comments on the electoral system and anything that isn’t one mark in the box against one candidate’s name.

Do bear this in mind if you aren’t intending to spoil your vote, too.

A high percentage of spoiled votes would be regarded as significant, and would raise questions about electoral reform. You can still make your voice heard, even if you don’t feel there is a party you can vote for. Don’t stay at home on Election Day.

In this country, there is no option for ‘None of the Above’, although there is a push to have one from one group. You may, if you wish, follow that lead and write NONE on your voting slip, but it is likely down to the individual teller if that is counted as anything but simply ‘spoiled’.

But however you choose to spoil it, a spoiled vote is counted, and if it gets people to the polling stations, if it gets people engaged in the political process, then it’s a start.

A start is good.  We need people to vote, for change to happen, and we need change to happen.

Do bear in mind that I will not accept that politics is all bullshit or boring as an excuse for not voting.

Oh, and you don’t get to be some sort of conscientious objector and fight the system by not taking part because they’re all bastards, either. In this election in particular, you can look at a vote not cast as a vote for the Conservative party, so well done you. Vote for a little party that has something close to ethics, vote for a joke party, spoil your paper, but make your voice heard and have some balls behind your rhetoric. Take some action whilst you have an actual opportunity to do so, or shut the fuck up.

And if you don’t care, then we’re going to have to look at exactly why you don’t care.

Not caring is a privilege, a massive, huge privilege. It means that you’ve not yet ended up with the shitty end of the stick. It means that you’ve not been genuinely poor, or out of work with bills to pay, or sick, disabled or old. It means you’ve not had first hand dealings with the justice system, or children who’ve had problems at school. You’ve never had to go to your MP, because you’ve not known who else to turn to. You’ve not marched, because you’ve felt you’ve had to, and shouted until you were hoarse.

It also means you can’t have had anyone you cared about who has had to experience any of those things. Or if you have, you haven’t cared about that, either. If that is the case, you might well be so selfish and self-centred that this is all wasted on you.

I hope that isn’t the case. I hope you think politics is boring simply because fate and fortune mean you’ve been lucky and just didn’t know why it matters so much, until now.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.

But, if you’ve been lucky to never be troubled by any of those issues I’ve listed above, you could say that you’ve always been strong, and stable. Which is lovely. I imagine there’s probably an ideology that prefers exactly that sort of person. I imagine that ideology really doesn’t like those who aren’t strong, or stable. I imagine that ideology would rather be rid of those people. The vulnerable. The weak. The damaged. The disabled and sick. The poor…

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.

But I am going to tell you that five more years of Tory government will mean that people will die who would not otherwise. People with families, homes, lives. People just like you, but for a turn of fate.

So, vote for whoever you like. Draw a massive cock on your paper if that’s what floats your boat. Just make sure you don’t inadvertently draw it next to the Tory candidate’s name.

Oh, and vote Labour.

Damn. Sorry. It slipped out.

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…

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.

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

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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