Sunday, 29 July 2012

The difference between bad things happening and being marginalised

One of the eternal frustrations with trying to talk marginalisation with privileged people is the ignorance of what persecution actually means, what being marginalised actually means. Yes, I know, blink and step back “surely it’s obvious!?”  right? I mean, groups that are marginalised are treated horrendously in a myriad of ways for centuries – how can we not know what that means?

And yet – how many times have we seen a marginalised person described some event in their lives where prejudice has screwed them over and you have some privileged person saying “oh, yeah, that’s just like what happens to me!” And then we to resort to the marginalised serenity prayer – give me the serenity not to kill this person with axes. Increasingly it seems I am lacking in serenity, on the plus side, I have no shortage of axes.

However, axe murdering does rather stain the carpet, and putting out plastic sheeting every time is a nuisance so can we actually address what marginalisation is and why privileged people don’t face it, even if they think they do?

So, let us begin with the “that happened to me too.” Ok, but does it feed into a societal pressure and habitual victimisation? Do things like that commonly happen to people like you, for that reason? Does it reflect or build on a major societal pressure?

Because this all matters. Say tomorrow I am walking down the street, leaving my firm and someone decides that he really really hates lawyers and decides to violently attack me with my own axe. Woe, I have been attacked, due to my profession. I have been victimised. Yet, if we take exactly the same attack and change one thing – that my attacker tried to kill me for being gay instead – and we’ve got an entirely different situation.

Being attacked as a lawyer wouldn’t make me worry about it happening again. It wouldn’t make me check the news for other attacks on lawyers and feel that fear every time I see it appear. I probably wouldn’t actually see any other incidents, or very few. I wouldn’t change my behaviour or worry about how I’m acting and what I’m saying. It wouldn’t send a message to all other lawyers that they’re under threat and their lives aren’t valued. I wouldn’t walk into a room full of non-lawyers and worry about being safe. I’d be pretty sure that it wasn’t part of societal attitudes to destroy me, drive me out or render me invisible (well, except for people who’ve seen one to many of those “I’ve had an accident” Underdog adverts, but even I want to punch them. After I’ve tracked down the Go Compare opera singer anyway). There won’t be powerful forces in authority encouraging people to discriminate against me for being a lawyer, to condemn me for it and to add to a culture of violence against lawyers. I can expect the press to report on my attack, rather than ignore it, I can rely on them not demonising me for being a lawyer. I am confident that, being attacked as a lawyer, my attacker will be treated like a criminal, I will be treated as a victim, I won’t be blamed for my attack, my attacker will be sentenced appropriately, the crime against will be treated as a grave one.

And this is just a surface scratch of the differences. Even though it’s the same offence – there’s a vast difference once a marginalisation comes into play. Or, to put it another way, no, it didn’t happen to you, too. The context matters, the societal history and pressure matters. Because no crime (or other prejudiced incident) against a marginalised person happens in isolation.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Somehow I shall blame this on Beloved

Here I am, merrily going about my day when my glasses decide they are tired of life. The frames, which, admittedly is very old, finally give up, snap and drop a lens on the floor. Disorientated, I knock them off my face and they’re on the floor too, which expels the other lens. Now hardly able to see, I kneel down to retrieve the pieces, cursing mightily. And kneel on one of the lenses, breaking it well and truly (also: OW! More cursing)

This does not make me happy. What makes me less happy is finding out that I don’t have a spare pair at the office. Or, as Eccentric Secretary oh-so-helpfully reminded me, I’m actually wearing the spare pair after my last glasses broke and, despite her repeated oh-so-helpful reminders, I hadn’t replaced them. She’s a helpful soul.

I call Beloved and inform him of the situation. After he finishes making jokes and giggling and ensuring that I will be extra-creative in my revenge, I ask if he’ll have time, at some point, to swing home grab a spare pair and rescue me (“Can’t you go get them?” “No, I don’t have any glasses, I can’t see, I’m not safe to drive!”)

There follows a very frustrating hour while I give myself a headache of doom trying to read (and get nothing done because, of course, I can’t actually read anything less than 22 font without glasses – and that with straining) until Beloved can hurry home

Then I get a phone call from Beloved informing me that all I have is sunglasses. With 8 year old prescriptions, at that, so not even at my required strength.

So, now I have a mental note to get many spare glasses made.

I also have a lot of clients who think I’m even weirder since I spent the rest of the day being Cool Lawyer in Sunglasses.

I also have a headache of doom from using glasses that are too weak for me.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Beloved cooks. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

I try to be an organised person – in particular I always make sure I have food ready to defrost and cook just in  case I find myself unable to cook and I am faced with the dire threat of Beloved cooking. Beloved reheating I can just about manage (though it’s criminal what he has done to my food before now), but cooking? I’m a good person, I don’t deserve that.

Unfortunately, as has been previously obvious, Beloved gets his little… obsessions. The garden is continuing, he seems to be revitalising interest in the damn fish –and he wants to cook. To cook. The man who cannot reliably toast bread wants to COOK.

So, unable to cook, I left strict instructions on what beloved was to defrost, how he was to do defrost it and how exactly he could turn the frosty into the edible.

While he ignored.

Instead he decided he would inventively cook pork steaks in apple sauce with baked potatoes. Now, on the plus side it has to be said that he chose a less-than-inventive meal that should not be very taxing. After all, he couldn’t get this wrong, right, could he?

Ah-ha oh yes yes he could. I honestly don’t know what he would have done if we didn’t live together since university (yes, we lived together before we dated. Complicated). He would literally be dead now, dead, if I couldn’t cook. Dead. I’m actually sure that years ago he COULD cook competently back then – I seem to recall eating meals he cooked (for a given value of cooked) without fear… so maybe he’s right* and he has just rusted from lack of use.

Anyway I returned home to find this… meal prepared. And I was afraid, dear readers, I was sore afraid.

Like the baked potatoes. Now, there are 2 ways to do baked potatoes – slowly and lovely in the oven. Or quickly and not nearly so lovely in the microwave. Apparently there’s also a third method – quick and oven baked, all you do is set your oven to HOTTER THAN THE HEART OF THE SUN and then put in the spuds (presumably wearing Hazmat suits to get close to the oven) and they will cook in record time! With charcoal-like skin and completely raw centres.

Then there was the pork steaks. Now there are many ways we can cook pork steaks and make them delectable. Top of the list of things never ever to do? Do not put them under a grill (a raised grill at that) and slowly bake out every last drip of moisture and every iota of flavour. This steak wasn’t dry, it was desiccated. In fact, we need a whole new word for how dry this was. This is the aftermath of a world destroyed in fiery apocalypse. This is what happens if a desert became food. This is the very essence of dryness. So dry was this steak that we could have dropped it into a body of water and it would not only still be dry – but it would destroy all liquid it came into contact with.

And the apple sauce… now, I didn’t complain about the previous items on the plate not being seasoned because, well, it’s rather like complaining that a serial killer said mean things about you. But I found the missing seasoning – it was in the apple sauce. All of it. In fact, I think that someone needs to assure me that the North Sea still exists since I think Beloved dropped one of the steak in there and, after all of the water was absorbed, he scooped up the tons of salt remaining and put it into this… sauce. This over-cooked, stewed, salty mass of vileness. It was actually so salty it was nauseating.

In a perverse kind of way, I almost want to see him cook again – just because I am impressed at how truly awful his cooking can be.

*something I will deny ever ever saying, under torture

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Slash Goggles, Fanservice and No Actual Inclusion

Ok, it was cute for a while and it has lots of potential, but I’m beginning to get tired of “bromance.”

Now, there are many definitions of “bromance” on TV and many kinds of “bromance” but the one I’m talking about now is the

Now is it possible we’re just looking at very close male friendships being depicted? And, after all, who says that guys in friendships can’t be physically affectionate? There is zero reason for this stigma – and if guys who are very good friends want to hug, casually touch, hold hands, even kiss and grope…

Wait… grope?

Ok, grope. Fair enough, why shouldn’t good friends who feel that close to each other express their friendship through groping be considered perfectly normal. It doesn’t have to be some kind of attempt at achieving edginess or feeding meet to the ever growing and headachey slash fandom, right?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Privilege, Marginalisations - and which one's appropriate

Privilege, oppression and marginalisation are concepts we talk a lot about in the social justice blogosphere (and beyond). There’s a lot to talk about and many nuances, intersectionality and so much more. But there’s also a creeping habit to, by intent or accident, use the language of privilege and oppression in a way that denies our own privilege, centres our own marginalisation as more vital (or universal), or gives our own marginalised group a pass on the badness. It’s a common reaction – after all, we all want to think of our people as “the good ones” and, despite it being easier to live as the oppressor, it’s certainly more sympathetic to identity with the oppressee. But it’s still not all good – because it does come down to denying privilege, denying marginalisation or dismissing marginalised people’s issues.

The most common thing I see is us just taking a rather scattershot approach to privilege – including every privilege the offender has – even the ones that are not relevant to the situation.

Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke in a grossly misogynist way because of her testimony on birth control. And, thankfully, people describe what a privileged arsehat he is. This is good – but I also saw many people cursing him for his straight, white male privilege. Sounds right – after all he is a straight white male (and he’s also a homophobic racist as well as a misogynist). Except, he didn’t use straight, white privilege to (though those privileges add to his power and position, certainly) to attack Ms. Fluke; his male privilege was the relevant one. And this matters – because by adding the straight and white privileges there we’re implying that if Limbaugh were gay or POC (or both) then he would not be oppressing Ms. Fluke, he would not have privileged over her - or, he simply wouldn’t do such a thing. We know that’s not true. Being gay or being POC is no defence against being a misogynist.

It’s not that he doesn’t have these privileges – it’s that they’re not relevant to the current discussion – or the relevance they have is fraught since it also implies a pass for those groups.

Another example – in my many many fraught discussions of the problems of slash and m/m genres  many people have joined me in objecting. But some of the objections are of the appropriating writers using straight, white privilege. Except I’ve a whole shed load of homophobic fail in my inbox from straight POC writers, slash, m/m and yaoi defenders, declaring their natural ally-dom to all gay men since they’re man-sex fetishisers. It is by their straightness and othering that they are oppressing – and, again, we’re giving a pass to some of the privilege offenders by bringing in these other privileges. Some of the homophobic bullshit is given a pass.

Another common tactic I see is to distort or change the meaning of words in a way that magically includes you in the oppression (something I’ve mentioned before). I’ve read a blog that has a handy little lexicon that describes “heteronormative” as a “white, middle-class, straight lens”.  Which isn’t what it means – if you have a large group of straight, working class, POC then you have a heteronormative situation. This reduces diversity to racial and class lines alone, by co-opting a word used to criticise the erasure and ignoring of GBLT people and giving the show/book/culture a pass if it is seen from a racially inclusive lens even if it completely denies the existence of GBLT people.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Frustration, Badness and Wanting a Cure

So today I was wandering along and happened to see one of my exs (exes? An ex anyway). Beloved, rightly, commented that I was looking waaay hotter than him which is, of course, what all right thinking people hope to be the case when spying an unpleasant ex and yet I didn’t smile as it deserved,

For I was having one of my Bad Moments.

Which is the frustrating. Because a part of me (ok, most of me) is still really not happy with not being over, well, everything. C’mon I’ve been in therapy for a while now, I’m taking the pills regularly (barring the odd hiccough), where’s the sanity? I want my miracle cure, damn it!

In fact, I’ll settle (at the moment) for being over anything – see, I don’t ask much brain, but can you at least resolve a few issues? Isn’t this what therapy is for? What the hell is the point if these nasty pills (and their nasty side effects) and dragging all (ok, some, not quite up to all) of the nasty shit out for therapist blokey to poke through if it’s not going to FIX anything?

Ok, ok, yes, when I first went to the guy I was in the Spiral of Doomness and I have stopped getting actively worse which, yay, progress and all that. And no, I’m not as bad as I was at all, everything is much more MANAGED now; there’s not nearly so many Bad Moments and the Bad Moments aren’t as Bad and I can, pretty much, keep things on an even keel. I am no longer drowning. I’m afloat. Soaking wet and on rough seas, but afloat.

But when do I reach dry land (to overextend this maritime metaphor beyond all reason)? When does it all stop, the Bad Moments, all the ickiness, the pills, the therapy, the whole caboodle. When do I push the magic “I’m currrrrrrrred button”? Which I should probably ask therapy blokey. But I can’t – I’m not a fool (much), I know the answer to that could be “well, it’s never going to be cured, it’s about management.” Which I don’t want to hear, I think part of the way I keep putting up with it all is an unspoken understanding of temporariness. I’m wary of my own reaction if I get confirmation; so either I don’t ask the question or I do ask it and start chanting “nah nah nah I can’t hear you” with my hands over my ears if he says something I don’t like. Which is very undignified and a bad habit for therapy, methinks.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Stop the GR Bullies: Stalking, Tantrums and Bullying

It seems a new site has been started called Stop the GR Bullies, aimed at book reviewers at Goodreads. It seems to be author driven in response to the many many trainwrecks we have see all too often; you know the kind, an author sees a less-than-shining review and unwisely decides to responds - frequently leading to cringeworthy temper tantrums and shocking behaviour.

There is a lesson these authors seem to be sorely missing. They are producing a product and they are producing a work of art. The first means that people will review and critique the product they bought (as is their right), the second means that, given the subjective nature of artwork, some people will not like it - in fact some will loathe it and they will say so. They will never please everyone all of the time and it is no-one’s duty to lavish praise when it is not deserves. The book is not their baby, it is not something precious and special that needs to be treated gently - it is a product that is being sold and, like any other product we buy, if it’s awful - be that new furniture or a takeaway pizza - then we will say so, quite possibly in intemperate and scathing terms. Books are not a special category that makes them somehow untouchable.

That is not bullying. This is critiquing. This is reviewing. This has been going on not just with artwork, but with every and all products since the beginning of time. It is actually insulting and offensive to call this bullying, especially at a time when we are seeing so much more attention to the growing bullying rates among schools and the horrendous rate of teen suicide it causes. To try and invoke this imagery because people are criticising your book? No, really, that’s not on.

On to the drama reports - which is one of the things they’ve accused Cuddlebuggery of. Now, I actually read
Cuddlebuggery, partly because it’s amusing, partly to keep my eye out for decent books and, yes, partly because I want to have a heads up if an author is going to explode into chunks of messy outrage should I review one of their books and find it less than utterly perfect. And, yes, I will be avoiding that author, why would I seek them out? And I will say that, yes, they’re snarky, yes they can be (justly) harsh but they are never anything but honest - and every single one of those drama posts they’ve written have been a direct, honest report of actual poor author behaviour (which is considerably more honest than the highly skewed and dubious accounts Stop the GR Bullies has written, to be honest) and they include links back for you to see the authors in all their failing glory.

You are not being bullied if someone honestly reports your actions. If you show your arse to the world and people point out that your butt cheeks are on display, it’s not their fault that everyone is commenting on it, criticising it and disapprove of your arse bare to the winds. You are facing the consequences of your actions and your utter lack of professionalism; not being bullied.

Also, let us add that you’re not being “driven off goodreads” by these mean critics. If someone criticises your book, even harshly, that is not driving you off. If you respond to a negative review (which is already foolish) and people continue to criticise and, yes, even mock, that is not driving you off. If your dubious, unprofessional and unacceptable behaviour is reported and people mock you for it, that is not driving you off. If you leave in these conditions you are not being driven off - you are flouncing.

But, you know what? Even if these reviewers were tearing up your precious, even if they said some truly hurtful, mean and even personal things. Even then this site would still be beyond the pale. At Stop the Goodread Bulllies, they go to extreme lengths to attack their critics. I actually would run out of space trying to list their terrible behaviour - and I am in two minds of linking to their site because of what they’ve written there:

They post the real name (and if they don’t have it, they keep looking), home city and, if they can find one, photograph (again, if they can’t find one, they keep looking) of the people they’re attacking. This is already frightening and, frankly, dangerous; but they then compound that by listing their place of work, they even go so far as to list the bars and cafes they visit, the walks they take - and their schedule.

Read More

Friday, 6 July 2012

Give Me the Serenity not to Murder People with Axes

There are some things that are never good, some things that are guaranteed to cause panic.

And one of those things is a phone call at 4:00am. That nearly always means something is on fire or someone has died. Or, well, in my case, it means I'm on call and someone needs me to turf out to the police station and/or swear at them and tell them to say nothing until morning and I've had some sleep. I'm told the latter is unprofessional. I say professional and 4:00am are mutually exclusive concepts.

So when the phone rang this morning I was pertubed, even more so when I recognised the voice not of my work place, but of one of my many cousins, I was concerned and ready to give condlences (he lives in California, leaping into action is a somewhat limited option).

Cousin: Sparky! I need your help

Sparky: Don't worry, take a deep breath, I'm here (what? My family's prone to excessive panic). What do you need?

Cousin: oh... I just wanted you to help organise a few things for our trip

Sparky: Your trip?

Cousin: yeah, we're coming home in October for a few weeks, thought you'd be the best person to organise it, being all legal and all (Not that he needed legal help, but he had forgotten whether he was a British citizen or not. As may be guessed, he's not well known in the family for his intelligence)

Sparky: Is there a deadline or something?

Cousin: No... I thought this would be a good time?

Sparky:... What time do you think it is?

Cousin: 8:00 by my watch

Sparky:... I mean here.

Cousin: Lunctime?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Homophobic Bullying: Doing Nothing isn't Fixing Anything

When we talk about homophobic bullying that hurts our youth so much there’s always a lot of distractions – there’s the “no let’s tackle all bullying” and the “why are you focused on GBLT kids” distraction, there’s the “religious freedom” wail, there’s the “indoctrination hiss” and, inevitably, there’s the earnest and tearful “but what can we do?”

Because, y’know we’re all utterly helpless before this, how can we stop this? It’s so tragic but there’s nothing we can do! This is usually followed by plaintive worries that teachers can do nothing, worries about the effectiveness of laws and disparagement about even offering support to the victims.

99% of GBLT kids in Britain hear homophobic language in schools. 99%. No that’s not an exaggeration or made up figure – and anyone listening would realise that is true.

23% have tried to commit suicide. 56% actively self-harm.

More of the typical “oh how tragic but what can we do?” right?

Well, how about this:

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Cher, Straight Folks as Gay Icons and Gay Folks Daring to Question

Want to know why I am so sick of straight folks as gay icons? Then cast a look over Cher’s twitter feed (@cher)

She writes a tweet praising homophobic pastor Joel Osteen:

“I love Joel Osteen,hes example of Christian!He makes Every1 feel welcome 2 his church no matter who they R!1st book like this I ever bought”

And someone, naturally, wrote back:

@cher Umm... not everyone. He's pretty uncool about gays.”

(Personally I would have said he’s a raging bigot and utter scum, but that’s me). After all, an utter homophobe does not make gay people seem welcome. This is an extremely polite and gentle correction, I think, especially by internet standards. And Cher’s response?

“But IM NOT!Proved this my WHOLE LIFE! We have a BOND! Christians hav hard time,but WE COULD HELP CHANGE THISRTHe's pretty uncool about gays.”

“4 gays to get married & on & on! Chaz could be out & loved! Anything can change when we make ppl c us loving human beings! If u can cut me”

“Loose because i think we can change what pple believe today then my heart is broken! Maybe im naive to believe everything can change ,”

“But gay pple have stayed w/me through 40 yrs when every1 else left! If i broke our bond & u hav no love 4 me anymore this is my last txt”

“U hav been my best Friends!My Heart has broken MANYx's because ive lost 1 of U!I hav Sat w/U til last your LAST BREATH!I will ALWAYS LUV U”

Um… wow? Someone pointed out you were singing the praises of a homophobe and calling his bigoted church welcoming and you have to splurge your ally credentials, how you love gay people and how very very very hurt and sad it makes you to face… a gently worded correct? Seriously?

How would you have reacted if someone had ACTUALLY criticised you? Or would that be stepping way out of line for a GBLT person to do?