Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Remembering When This Was A Writing Blog?

So. There's been a lot of posts about issues really. Feminism, internet privacy, that time I met Caitlin Moran. If you follow this blog because you wanted to see my writing you may be disappointed*. I could write something impassioned about activism and the importance of standing up for what you believe in but to be honest the whole reason this posts exists is that people are probably getting sick of that sort of thing so instead I'm going to let Chumbawamba explain it in the medium of song.

The world is a scary place. The recession doesn't seem to be going away. The Tories are in power in England and things aren't looking great for the Democrats in the US. Reproductive rights are under attack. To many girls of my generation have had misogynistic jokes so ingrained that they believe they don't need feminism, even though they aren't entirely sure what it is. Roughly century after the Suffragettes we still have to fight over issues like 'rape jokes aren't funny' or 'maybe don't slut-shame a twelve year old'.

I don't like this. Of course I don't. It's exhausting. Given the choice I'd rather write about the books I love (or love to hate) and the latest film to come out of Hollywood and the book I'm writing. Those things make me angry. Facing up to issues make me sad and angry and powerless. I don't do it because I like it. I do it because I'm afraid if I don't then nothing will change. I'm not especially influential and I don't even have all the answers. But I hope by challenging sexist language and making a fuss on Twitter I'll start a series of ripples that'll start in making someone think and, years later, contribute to equal pay, reproductive rights and an end to the stupid sexist language we block out or even contribute to every day.

And then I can sing about love.

*And I say that to both my followers.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

North East Feminist Gathering 12

Alternate title: Remember when this blog used to be about writing?

So this weekend I was at the first North East Feminist Gathering. It was a lot of fun: there was feminist drumming and feminist poetry and all kinds of things that are not inherantly feminist but were a nice break inbetween the sessions of reproductive rights and grassroots activism. Caitlin Moran was not there, which is surprising considering how often she's been featured on this blog recently. In writing news, I wrote a pantoum* which was actually quite good but which may be appearing as part of my MRes portfolio so won't be appearing online at this time until I work out how that affects my copyright.

Anyway, having been doing that all weekend I haven't had much time for blogging, so here is picture of a heavy horse sculpture from Glasgow.

*an Indonesian form of poetry, featuring patterned repetition.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

An Open Letter to the Internet: re Caitlin Moran Twiter-gate

What is there left to say about the Dunham-Moran scandal on Twitter? For the last week or so it seems like everyone on the internet not only has a strong opinion about what happened but is set on expressing it in capslock. I don't want to rake over it again. I don't want to dismiss the (entirely legitimate) problem of lack of diversity in television. I don't want to vilify a person I don't know for a tactless reply to someone who was, let's be honest, harrassing her on Twitter.

Here's the thing, internet. I actually agree that all kinds of groups of people are under represented in the media: not just on terms of ethnicity but also sexuality, class and ability. Some of these issues affect me personally or at least someone I care deeply about. Some I just care about because I'm a human being with empathy and I know what it's like to be ignored sometimes. By all rights I should be joining in the anti-Moran witchhunt still going on on Tumblr right?

No. Because when you want someone to agree with you you do not start by harrassing them over Twitter. It is not how you open an honest dialogue that might lead to actual change. Even the most reasonable person on the internet (admittedly not a sample group well known for being reasonable) is probably not going to agree with you if you open your argument by screaming at them and calling them a racist.

It's perfectly understandable to be angry that you still have to fight this fight. I am sometimes angry over the issues I have to face. But yelling at people does not make them like you. More importantly it does not make them empathise with you. And I'm guilty of it too: the guy I snapped at yesterday in the library for saying, apropos of nothing, "Catherine Howard [fifth wife of Henry VIII] was a prostitute and a slut". I hold that he was wrong to do so, not only because it was untrue but because slut-shaming a historical figure at a table entirely populated by feminists, history students and feminist history students is a Bad Idea. I admit that yelling at him probably didn't give him the best portrayal of feminism. It did not make him agree with me. It just made him confused at why some crazy woman was shouting at him.

Which leads me onto my next point: nobody is perfect. If you are one of the people who has been crucifying Caitlin Moran will you please take a moment to imagine that people had been scrutinising everything you've said for the past week, or even month. Can you honestly tell me that nothing you've said could be interpreted as sexist or ableist (don't forget, you can be misquoted, so even using words like 'crazy' or 'depressed' or 'I'm so full of cold I want to die' count) or homophobic (be honest, as a kid you probably used 'gay' as an insult) or racist (those photos of you playing cowboys and indians on your seventh birthday might yet come back to haunt you) or prejudiced against religion, which is not the same as racism.

The difference of course is that you are probably not famous. The percentage of people who care what you think on the internet is much lower than the percentage of people who care what Caitlin Moran thinks. You can say insensitive things without being called on it because far less people are watching. There has been a lot of talk about the various priviliges that Caitlin Moran has but there is one privilige that you have and she doesn't and that is the privilige of relative anonimity on the internet. And no: I am not for one minute comparing that to white privilige, or straight privilige or the frankly dubious 'class privilige' of someone who was born to a working class family of seven children and who is still outspoken about benefits and other issues facing the working classes. Because that would be really stupid. I am just politely asking that you extend Caitlin Moran the same empathy you believe she should extend to you.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

In Which Kate Meets Caitlin Moran. Scream!

So, two weeks ago today I got to meet Caitlin Moran. I know. SCREAM!

She was as lovely in person as in print and is clearly a natural storyteller. She's funny, unpretentious and managed to make a whole room agree that maybe if you want to go into the music/publishing/media industry you should actually support it by you know, paying for stuff. A room full of twenty-somethings no less.

Which is a good point: as a writer it's hard to get paid for anything when there's so many young hopefuls (some of them more experienced than you) willing to do it for free. In theory, doing stuff for free is supposed to generate exposure and give young writers something to put on their CV. In practice... well it helps. But your writing has the value you give it and paid contributions tend to count for more.

Anyway, if you ever get a chance to hear Caitlin Moran speak I advise you to take it. Not only is she really, REALLY funny, she's also super nice. Anyone who stays until everyone in the (really long) signing queue has been seen, despite having a train to catch, is good people as far as I'm concerned.

On reflection I thought this picture would look
 better than the face melty one. You're welcome.
Due to the timescale (and my friend Rachel distracting her with an awesome owl hat) I didn't get to speak to her for long. I did however get a hug, which was good for two reasons: the first being that Caitlin Moran gives awesome hugs and the second being that it didn't require my to say very much. It's really hard to speak when you meet one of your heroes but at least I didn't dissolve in some kind of Raiders of the Lost Ark scenario for looking too closely upon the Goddess Moran as I was half afraid would happen. That's a compliment. I think.

Also, I got a signed copy of her new book for my mum's birthday and brought along my old copy of her first book for myself, a situation which led to her thinking I was called Margaret. Which I take as proof that a) I am a good and selfless daughter and, b) Taylor women have a family resemblance so strong we're destined to be mistaken for each other even when we're hundreds of miles apart with a thirty year age difference. If I go to the village where my mum grew up old ladies I've never met have been known to start talking to me on the basis that I'm 'obviously Margaret's daughter'. Although this is the first time I've been mistaken for a relative the other person had never met. Obviously we all need to start wearing t-shirts with our names written on, Flash Gordon style.