The Women’s March on London

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As probably a lot of you have heard, last Saturday hundreds of Women’s Marches were held across the world in protest of recent political events. Donald Trump had just been inaugurated. Over the previous week he has continued to do pretty awful stuff. These Women’s Marches were in support and protection of our rights, and for equality.

I attended the Women’s March on London. It was my first demonstration/march/suchlike — I didn’t bring a placard, and I wasn’t able to march the whole way, but I walked for a bit and then my mum & I stood on the steps in front of the National Gallery. I was surrounded by others who were angry about the world.

We talked a bit to the those standing around us, and it was cool to see that there seemed to be a wide variety of people attending. The newspapers after said that it was mostly young people, but I actually saw a lot of families there, so. I’m not sure where that came from. I don’t completely know the stats, though.

You can keep reading this guest post I wrote on The Feministas. 🙂

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LGBTQ+ History in Schools

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Hey! So, if you guys remember, I went to a weekend and learnt some stuff about how to campaign… And I guess this is me announcing my project? For the next year or so I’m going to be working to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ history, with a focus on getting it into schools.

Homophobia and transphobia is still present in schools, and can be highly damaging to young LGBTQ+ people. Nine in ten secondary school teachers say pupils are bullied, harassed, or called names for being perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual (The Teacher’s Report, 2014). Three quarters of trans young people say they have experienced name calling, and 27% have attempted suicide (Metro Youth Chances 2014).

Schools have a legal duty to promote the wellbeing of all young people, including those who are LGBTQ+, and there is clear Ofsted guidance looking at how schools tackle homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Despite all this, over half of young people have never learnt about LGBT issues in school (The School Report, 2012).

In raising greater awareness and discussion of LGBTQ+ history in schools, we can support LGBTQ+ students and teachers, celebrate LGBTQ+ stories from the past, and through learning help tackle prejudice. History is so important to help us understand and navigate our own lives; it can empower and educate our opinions on the world we live in. But when LGBTQ+ voices are erased from our education it can seem that LGBTQ+ people do not have a place in that history, or in our present society.

LGBTQ+ young people are at high risk of suicidal thoughts, depression, and self-harm. As a queer young person I’ve found it incredibly isolating to never see other people like me in my learning. Leaving LGBTQ+ people out of learning only creates the sense of difference, the sense that we somehow do not deserve a space as much as non-LGBTQ+ people. I believe it is incredibly vital that we work to ensure that others do not feel this way.

LGBTQ+ history can be integrated in so many ways as part of students’ education, whether that is within the history curriculum itself, or as part of an assembly or PSHE lesson. LGBT History Month is held every February in the UK, and the theme of 2017 LGBT History Month is Citizenship, PSHE, and Law. Pride Month, held every June, is another excellent opportunity. Both LGBT History Month and Schools Out, a charity working for LGBT equality and visibility in education, have many resources available for schools and teachers, among others.

We want to learn LGBTQ+ history. We want to see it as a part of school life. Therefore I’m asking schools to commit to including LGBTQ+ history in their schools — not just once but into the future as well.

I know there’s a lot of bad stuff happening in the world right now, and I know that perhaps this is not the worst of it — but I thought this might be a good place to begin, because I have to begin somewhere. I didn’t want to do something that wasn’t mine to champion. Since over the last while I’ve become pretty passionate about LGBTQ+ things, I thought that would be a good place to start.

This project is going to involve several different things, but to start with: I have written a letter. I’m going to be sending this letter to schools in the UK, but I need your help in supporting it. If you could share this, keep an eye on my work, or do a little research of your own about LGBTQ+ history then it would be so greatly appreciated.

I’ve got a couple of things that I want to do — just researching for this has opened up a lot to me, and I really want to share things with you! This is a journey for me too since I’ve basically never learnt about LGBTQ history, sadly. February is LGBT History Month in the UK so you can look forwards to some posts about that, and if you have any suggestions for what you want to see, then let me know! (Would you guys want a page of links and ways to find out about LGBTQ+ history? A Twitter chat? How you can do stuff in your own area)   In the meantime, you can follow a subscription letter that I made for this to update you, if you would so wish. Thanks for reading. ❤

In Search of Ace Representation // it’s ace awareness week!

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All this week — the 23rd to the 30th October — is Asexual Awareness Week! It’s pretty self-explanatory, but it’s a week to raise awareness about asexual, aromantic and anywhere-along-those-spectrums experiences. (Although I don’t know why all these weeks start on Sunday. MONDAY IS THE START OF THE WEEK?? But anyways haha.)

I actually missed ace awareness week last year because I didn’t even know it existed until it came around… So this time I was especially determined to write something. I mean, I still got the dates wrong but pfft, I’m writing this in advance.

If you don’t know what asexuality is — and no, it’s not just for plants — then it’s basically just a lack of sexual attraction. That’s it! There are also people who identify as aromantic, which is a lack of romantic attraction, and people who identify as demisexual/romantic (when you only experience attraction to people you’ve known for a long time) or grey-sexual (a general time for people who are somewhere in between).  But I’m not here to you to explain what asexuality is… Whilst obviously that’s extremely important, it’s also in many other places across the internet, in a much more eloquent way than I can put! I’d recommend the Ace Awareness Week site and the AVEN wiki as a starting point.

So, after that little intro bit, I decided to talk about some misconceptions people have. Although of course raising awareness is super important, my personal experience is that people know the technical definition but don’t always understand what it actually means. The diversity of ace and aro — I’m kind of using this to mean all people who identify along those spectrums; I hope that’s alright —  is SO WIDE. Yes, some ace people aren’t interested in any relationships. Some ace people are interested in relationships, or other options like queerplatonic relationships. Some ace people are also gay or bi or trans or any other identity, Some ace people want to have sex. Some ace people don’t. (But that’s not the same thing as celibate.) Some ace people can experience certain kinds of attraction, in certain situations. You can’t just say THIS IS WHAT AN ACE PERSON IS LIKE. I mean, you can’t do that for anything. But in my personal experience, asexuality = the plant one to many people.

Yet despite all this intersection with other identities, there are barely an ace characters in books and the media? It’s estimated that 1 – 4% of people are asexual, which is kind of similar to the percentage of redheaded people living in England. I can name SO many redheaded characters, yet I can count the number of asexual ones on one hand. Often there will be a character who seems like they’re ace, but the word is never actually mentioned? I mean, I feel like this is getting better for asexuality, although I’ve never seen aromanticism mentioned once. And sometimes it isn’t always needed, like perhaps in a fantasy setting where society works differently.

It’s just so frustrating to still see media where a lack of attraction is seen as something inhuman. Take Sherlock — which, I’m going to be real, is very far from the paragon of representation, but anyway. Sherlock’s just this unreachable icy guy, and it’s like his apparent lack of attraction means he’s a psychopath? *sighs* And Steven Moffat literally said asexual people weren’t interesting to write about, ugh. (This show is problematic in so many ways, I know. And yet I still watch it. Kind of.) I will headcanon Sherlock as asexual until the end of time just because of that — because all the characters keep saying how can you manage without a relationship?

I don’t want it to be that way. I just want characters who are ace and aro without being any less human; without abstaining or choosing the high moral ground or something. Characters who are just people. Because romantic love isn’t always the most important, you know?

I enjoy reading romantic stories — like, I enjoy them even more than I enjoy romance in real life. I read a book like Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun and marvel at all the love there. (Of many kinds.) It also makes me kind of sad, though… I don’t know if I’ll ever have that, or even if I want to. Currently I identify as grey-asexual, but it’s fine if that changes in the future. And it probably will, because it’s sort of a deduction game… It’s a lot more difficult to tell the absence of something. I don’t think I’ve ever had a crush, but maybe I have; maybe I just didn’t know what it felt like. I’ve spent SO LONG searching things on the internet trying to tell if I’ve felt it or not.

Quite honestly, the internet has educated me about asexuality more than anything else. Some parts of mainstream media still sneer at identities like demisexuality. (I’ve seen it with my very own eyes. I have not forgiven that newspaper.) I obviously only have my own experiences, and I’m still very much learning, so I don’t mean for this post to be anything like speaking for the whole community. I just wanted to say my little bit, and I really hope to see more great books with ace representation in the future.

do you have any ace/aro book recs for me? any headcanons? read any cool things for ace awareness week? let me know!

Generation Politically Correct? // germaine greer & freedom of speech

Apparently I am a member of Generation Z. (I have no idea what we’re going to name the generations after this, but hey.) Over the last few months I’ve been accumulating various pieces of media about how we’re all far too radical and politically correct, and this kind of culminated in me doing a whole bunch of research into attempts to no-platform speakers, most notably Germaine Greer.

Basically, there was a petition to ban Greer was banned from a Cardiff University talk for saying among other things transgender women ‘aren’t real women’. Across the issue various other people like Peter Tatchell and Mary Beard signed a petition supporting freedom of speech in unis. (Many signers later received death threats.) Although many journalists might tell you that this issue embodies how young people are destroying the concept of opinion, it’s more about the reaction of students to people being transphobic.

Okay, freedom of speech is obviously a really difficult thing to discuss: we’re supposed to be able to say what we want, but when does that become hate speech? Where do we draw the line? What’s the difference between an offensive comment and a comment born from the privileges of society? Yeah. A lot of stuff like that.

Often when people quote long words about privilege and equality and the oppression of society in comments, they’re dismissed as being ‘too Tumblr’. That attitude is sseen a bad thing, and in some ways I think it is. I am an avid Tumblr user, and I see almost daily the somewhat aggressive social justice agenda on that website. I do love it sometimes, but what frustrates me is that if you make one mistake, you are bombarded with criticisms — you’re not allowed to be ignorant. Just having no malicious intention isn’t okay: it’s are you sponsoring the discrimination of society? By using this word are you supporting that prejudice? It means that often in a discussion I will stay silent rather than risk offending anyone. Even as I write this, I’m kind of hesitant because I don’t want to offend anyone. I know that I have a lot of privilege, and I can’t speak about all kinds of discrimination. I can only talk from my own viewpoint. So if you think I’m speaking out of line then please, please say.

Anyway. I digress. I’ve realised that I’m using a lot of rhetorical questions in this post… Probably because I don’t really have any of the answers. I’m just someone trying to formulate an opinion about all these other opinions. I DON’T KNOW.

Now that we’re over my small angst introduction, it’s time for me to let out some of my current frustration at Germaine Greer. You can read some of the things she’s said, which are lots of general crude comments about how trans women aren’t real women.My immediate reaction was: well, I don’t agree with you at all, and to be honest that hasn’t really changed as I’ve researched. Obviously I’m not going to agree that being trans is a delusion…? :/ I have so, so many problems with what she’s saying, and I don’t think it’s okay.

Just because a person says one problematic thing doesn’t make all their views wrong, of course. I know of Greer, but I haven’t really read anything she’s written.  Since she’s not as much of an icon for me, I suppose I’m not really inclined to defend her. Do her views on trans people make her a less desirable speaker? Does that mean she should have been banned from speaking at universities?

I mean, going back to Tumblr I think that in particular it has a habit of shutting people down as soon as they say anything slightly wrong. Sometimes these things take a bit of time and explaining rather than righteous fury. By that logic I should probably be saying that Greer shouldn’t have been banned from speaking. I think the situation has worsened by doing that; she seems to just be defending her views as before along with a whole cohort of freedom of speech advocates. This open letter to Greer is excellent, and I’d like to hope that kind of thing would be more useful. But…to be quite honest, I feel that if a uni wants to ban her they can. There’s a difference between a casual person on the internet and an official speaker saying hateful things, you know? I personally wouldn’t have gone to a talk with someone who says things like this. Although: allowing institutions to accept this kind of transphobia isn’t cool, but perhaps it was not the decision of the institution to make the ban. I think it was the whole student union trying to ban her?  But I guess I don’t know enough about the role of unis and their relation to visiting speakers.

I am frustrated that a lot of people have spoken up saying this shows how young people always shutting down any dissent or debate. We apparently don’t want to hear any opinion to ours. It is a problem, but that’s not the whole story.  It’s not always because we don’t want to hear any different opinions. Usually it’s because we don’t think you garner respect or responsibility from misinformed views and hurtful words. We’re changing, alright? Yeah, maybe it’s not okay for you to call someone’s identity a delusion anymore. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Look at all these far too radical and politically correct students! How dare they!

Having said this, that doesn’t make it acceptable to attack people in response. Many people who signed a petition for freedom of speech in universities received death threats. I know you might be angry, but those actions are also not cool. And they’re not going to persuade people of anything, if that’s the aim. To give this a Les Mis allegory: We need to leave the Valjean eye for an eye/several limbs phase and move into a slightly more forgiving mindset, I think.

I think there’s a lot more I could talk about on this topic. Maybe I gave myself too broad a headline. Because there’s SO MUCH. This opens a whole span of issues about the words we use and how we deal with inclusivity. I’ll probably have to write something else in the future. But I’ve looked at a crazy amount of articles for the moment, so I’d like to hear what you think.

should we be able to ban speakers from universities? what do you think about germaine greer’s comments? how do we draw the line between freedom of speech and hate speech?

But Netball’s For Girls! // gender and school sport

I go to a co-ed school. Mostly, it’s pretty good at being welcoming to all genders — we aren’t separated for any academic classes, and you aren’t particularly encouraged/discouraged into anything because of your gender. This is with the obvious exception of sport.

For some reason I’ve always directed my general frustration with school at sport. I’ve never been good at team sports, so I spent most of my primary school days being told to practice shooting in the corner as the A team was coached. It’s definitely better now, but there’s still a massive gap between boys’ and girls’ sport.We do play hockey, tennis, and water polo mixed, which is great. But continuing down the list: girls do netball, dance, fitness, and rounders. Boys do football, fives, cricket, and occasionally softball. I quite honestly cannot fathom the reasons for this…?

I often see the ‘males have a biological advantage over females’ argument put forward. I don’t actually know the science of that, but top male athletes do perform better than female athletes. Still: I would like to know the strength required to play fives. Obviously women could never be physically capable of patting a ball against a wall. It couldn’t possibly be because fives is a sport almost exclusively invented and played by public schoolboys. Of course not. -_-

It’s not just girls wanted to play ‘male’ sports. I know a lot of boys who’ve expressed interest in playing netball or rounders. (Although there are probably also many who would only play it as a joke, so that’s not the best argument.) I detest the idea that girls must do fitness but boys are…I don’t know, already fit. Encouraging gender stereotypes doesn’t help anyone, and it certainly doesn’t teach values of equality to your pupils.

And  all this discussion discounts the existence of non-binary pupils. Let’s just remember that non-binary genders aren’t even recognised under UK law, fabulous! Which apparently doesn’t result in ‘any specific detriment’. Apart from the obvious detriment of being forced to choose a gender that doesn’t represent you, and effectively being told that your identity isn’t as worthy as someone else’s. Not being able to access the right healthcare. Not being able to choose the correct title. Not being able to apply for jobs, courses, use public services because they require presentation of ID that only has two gender options. (I found some of these in this article, where you can also find many other quotes about the Ministry of Justice’s statement and living as a non-binary person in Britain.) It also means that there’s very little awareness of non-binary identities, and schools probably aren’t going to start doing things to support pupils who don’t identify as either male or female.

Sports, like many others things, is just very linked to the gender binary, since the divisions are based on sex and physiological advantage. Maybe with the exception of roller derby, which I really recommend you check out because it altogether seems pretty cool. I don’t know how we’d solve that. I probably wouldn’t want all my sports lessons mixed. I know that I’d be uncomfortable around many boys, because they have harassed me and I really just don’t like them as people. (I guess I deal with them in class, though?) A lot of young people — and above, too — are embarrassed of their bodies. They don’t want to be around the ‘opposite’ gender, and it’s difficult to just force that to happen, you know? Maybe it’s better when you’re in a sports team with fellow players who respect you, but I’m unlikely to ever be in a position. But then again: mixed teams are going well, so maybe we should just take the lessons together and be done with it.

It’s difficult. I know that I’m pointing out everything that’s wrong and not providing very good solutions. In general the state of Britain and current UK politics is pretty depressing right now. Still: to be honest, teaching fives to girls and netball to boys wouldn’t be that difficult. Neither would legally recognising non-binary genders. *coughs* But though I don’t know if there’s a perfect solution to gender and sport, I hope that it’s something we continue to explore and improve.

Feminism in YA // hollys bourne & smale, cj daugherty, and anna james

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I had been very excited about this event ever since I bought tickets. Feminism and YA are two of my favourite things! So, obviously I arrived super early, despite the fact that I had CCF earlier… Yes. Can you tell I was enthusiastic?I had a lovely chat with the lady  sitting next to me about book signings and ALL l the books I TOTALLY NEED TO READ. When the authors came in I attempted to guess who was who, because I am professional and mature. 😉

When they were introduced, turns out I was actually pretty accurate! I’d seen Holly Smale at panels before, and I think I spotted books journalist Anna James cosplaying Eleanor from E&P at YALC? But don’t ever quote me on that. I guessed Holly Bourne from my memories of her author photo, which left CJ! (Just by the way, in this post HS = Holly Smale, HB = Holly Bourne, CJ = CJ Daugherty even though it totally should have been CD, and AJ = Anna James).

First of all we started with stating the belief with stating that the authors thought feminism was the belief men and women should be equal in social, political, and all things. (I am very tired of people telling me they’re not a feminist because it’s only women’s rights. FEMINISM IS GENDER EQUALITY, thanks.) The first question Anna asked was “What makes a book feminist to you?”

CJ: For me, it’s putting girls in positions of normality and equality. The girls do things wrong sometimes and do things right sometimes, and the guys do things wrong sometimes and things right sometimes.

HS: I think it’s the same thing for me; it’s putting both girls and also boys and showing there’s no female and male in terms of how people think and act. It’s also about showing  that strength can be physical but it doesn’t have to be, that it comes from many different places. We’re all breaking that feminist egg in different ways to make one big omelette!

HB: I wanted the link in my trilogy to be feminism; it’s kind of ABC of feminism for teenagers. But a book that doesn’t explicitly write FEMINISM isn’t less feminism. A feminist book is just pushing back at the gender construct bullshit pushed on us from birth. (A few cheers. Because YES THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS.)

I really agreed with all the authors said! I mean, I spent a lot of the evening agreeing. But I thought it was very important to mention that a book doesn’t have to explicitly mention feminism or have a typically ‘strong badass female character’ to be feminist. It’s just a book with well-rounded characters of all genders!

“You’ve all alluded to this strong female heroine thing. Are we past that? Does it have any worth now?”

CJ: I don’t think so. I know I’m writing aspirationally, about characters who are brave enough to take chances and hoping it will inspire me to do the same.

HS: It’s not about showing girls who are flawless and strong. Being able to shoot a squirrel is a great talent to have; we’d all like that very much. But it’s about showing everything that’s part of a person; creating real and not flattened out women is the step towards feminism.

CJ: You can’t be brave unless you’re afraid of something. If you aren’t brave, you’re reckless. As adults we address things that frighten us every day of our lives, and then you have to do the scary thing. We’re introducing teens to that idea.

HS:  I had to deal with a lot of crap like ‘Oh, I’m not reading a fluffy book about models.’ Putting a character who is scared of the world of make-up is bravery; it’s something we as women have to tackle on a daily basis — how much of ‘being a woman’ do we sign up to in order to be feminist?

HB: With Katniss Everdeen, she’s too busy saving the entire world to worry about boyfriends, and with Evie I wanted it to be a feminist novel — but she also just really wanted a boyfriend because she thought it would mean she was normal. The boys in books I read about as a teen were not the boys dumping me on the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve, which is a story I always bring up! You can be a feminist and want to have a boyfriend. For Evie bravery was leaving the house; I wanted to take back that bravery is saving the entire world from a guy in a robe.

HS: I’d have been much more interested in that series if Katniss had been a bit shit at shooting things.

HB: Or she got her period when she was stuck up a tree and she just dripped blood. She never had her period!

HS: Bringing in romance is difficult. It’s about not changing yourself for someone you love; it’s about finding someone who loves you for being you. (11:39)

AJ: I studied an adult novel where the man was the one entirely changes. Why is this still so unusual?

HS: How I Met Your Mother wouldn’t have worked if Ted was a woman. Everyone would have gone ‘What is it, the 1950s?’ We’re watching this because it’s a man’s search for love.

“Do you think writing YA is a different experience to adult fiction? Sometime’s it’s perceived to have more of a responsibility to its readers; is that valid, and how do you deal with that?”

CJ: I wasn’t going in with an audience in mind. It was just like: words on a page, brilliant! It was only once my readers started feeding back about feminism and saying that my MC Ally was always getting rescued. I made the series about her going from that girl to the girl who rescues herself.

HS: I’ve always been a die-hard feminist. When I was four I hit a boy with a stick for saying I wasn’t allowed to be an airplane pilot! The Borrowers was one of my favourite books, because Arrietty was just this kickass genderless girl. It seemed natural that I would write a feminist book.

HB: You have  responsibility to not corrupt children with swear words that they couldn’t possibly know, or talk about sex like there isn’t porn on the internet. You need to pander to that so people buy your book. But you also have a responsibility to be honest to teenagers, and that’s the one I always side with. Pretending the world isn’t there is very damaging.

HS: It’s just about being true to your character and the book you’re writing. It’s about showing people our version as authors of honesty. I feel like I’m responsible for showing girls what they’re capable of and who they can be inspired by.

Personally I really dislike when books are ‘dumbed down’ for teenagers. Yes. I know not everyone wants to read swearing — and it’s totally cool if you don’t; books are allowed to have warnings. But everyone at my school, like, swears the entire time. I hate books that pretend the world is all wonderful unicorns; I’d much rather read an honest book and characters. (I just really hate taboos in children’s & YA, guys.)

“Feminism is cool right now. How do you feel about the way we talk about feminism at the moment?”

HS: I would rather have people being feminists than saying they’re feminists.

HB: Actions not words is what the suffragette cause is about! We need to use both.

HS: People say we shouldn’t call it feminism because it causes people to move away, but I’m like, we shouldn’t have to change the word feminist just because people are scared of it.

HB: Two women a week die in this country because of domestic violence and people are worried about branding? All over the world half the human population are so much more buggered and you’re worried about a word not emasculating you? I don’t have time for that when people are dying.

“What place do you think men have in the conversation? Emma gets a lot of criticism for dumbing down the message with her #HeForShe campaign.”

HB: I’m very pro-men — I’m pro-human. I do think when you’re in a position of privilege it’s important to listen to the oppressed group rather than talk. My anger isn’t coming from nowhere; listen to my anger, and try to understand rather than getting your feelings hurt. It’s tricky when men want to talk. But if someone wants to talk to me about intersectional feminism I think I should listen.

CJ: We don’t win by making men invisible in the debate; they’re 50% of the population. I’m so happy when men say they’re a feminist.

HS: Having one gender talk at another is the problem we’ve had for thousands of years. It’s about not making women objects to look at and men people to listen to.

“What’s next? How do we move the conversation on?”

HB: This is really obscure, but if you’ve ever seen that episode of Buffy where she creates the spell that unleashes all the slayers — that’s what I’m trying to do with the Spinster Club books. I wanted to release all these feminists and inspire young people to change things in a positive way.

HS: It’s about saying feminism isn’t necessarily about scary hairy women shouting at you. It’s about keeping the conversation going. But it can’t just stay in books; you have to bring it into your real life.

Now it went onto questions! To avoid confusion when authors were being addressed, the two Hollys asked to be called S and B which apparently is a thing from Gossip Girl. I’M SO SORRY I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT GOSSPI GIRL. But there we go. I haven’t transcribed everything for this section; I just summarised the answers instead. 🙂

“I’m a reception teacher and I’m already seeing sexism in four and five year olds. Would any of you be interesting in making a feminist picture book?”

Holly Bourne recommended the feminist picture book My Big Shouting Day, as well as suggesting the recommended reading lists of the diverse picture books charity Inclusive Minds. “That really scares me, what you just said!” CJ Daugherty said that maybe picture books were lagging behind, although there was a movement to reduce engendering in toys and books. They also talked about the new more diverse Barbie dolls — in the 60s feminists swapped the voice of GI Joe with the voice of Barbie!

“Do you think you can write outside your gender? Do you think a male author can write a woman the same way a woman can?”

All the authors agreed that it was definitely possible, if portrayed responsibly and sensibly; not just for an element of representation. “How do you not emphasise the difference and close the gap? It’s a fallacy to say that our experiences are the same.” CJ talked about her co-writer on The Secret Fire, Carina Rozenfeld, who usually writes from a male POV, and said she thought Carina was successful — “She didn’t patronise them; she treated them as equals.” Hollys Bourne and Smale added that male writers can write female characters badly, for example in the movie About Time! Who was — well. Very manic pixie dream girl.

“I’m 16, and when girls say they’re feminists boys say things like ‘When are you going to stop shaving?’ How do we let girls know these things aren’t all actually true?”

Holly explains that her third book addresses cognitive dissonance — having two conflicting beliefs at the same time — and that it’s difficult to be a feminist in every single action you do; “There’s no perfect feminist.” Anna added that asking “Why?” is a good way to respond; then people will either have a thing that you can tell them is wrong or will realise it’s nothing. It’s difficult to combine maybe wanting to be attractive but also wanting to be a strong woman. The world and media is a myriad of problems we as feminists have to sort through. “Feminism is in your head; it’s about being able to do what you want to do and not what society tells you you should do,” said CJ.

“How did you come up with the premise Manifesto on How to Be Interesting [by Holly Bourne]?”

“I had a massive fight with my boyfriend, because I discovered he was popular at school,” Holly said. After taking a train to London in a fit of rage, Bree’s whole story “downloaded” to her head. Which both Holly and everyone else agreed would all be lovely to happen again. “Just get angry and go to London!”

“How do we keep feminism going after it fades as a trend?”

Holly Smale said the trend right now is for very overtly feminist books, but even if the trend morphs into something different women’s voices will continue to be heard in fiction. CJ talked about the new young generation of feminists, which was lovely to hear because at least for me, young people are passionate about feminism.

“We’ve talked a lot about male and female, but not much about nonconforming genders or even disabled characters. What’s your view on that?”

CJ started straight off by saying that this should be the next wave, but that publishing moved very slowly. People also want to get it right — “although that isn’t an excuse for not publishing it at all”. Holly Smale said that you have to tell the story that you personally have to write the story you want to tell, and you have to make sure you and publishers are listening and encouraging all kinds of stories. CJ finished by saying she hoped that more diversity would also be seen in writers as well as books.

After this we all got our books signed! My copies of Geek Girl had all been a YALC, and much to my disappointment/dawning realisation, ALL MY HOLLY BOURNE BOOKS ARE ON KINDLE. But I got her new Spinster series one, How Hard Can Love Be? signed. And promptly read it. 😉 It’s fabulous, for the record. Overall I had such a great evening and I came home so excited by feminism and books and EVERYTHING. So this post ended up being way longer and more detailed than I intended it to be. 😛

what did you think about the authors’ responses? talked about feminism with anyone recently? have you been to any great book events? 🙂

I Am a Person Too

Sometimes, I forget that people can be horrible. People are horrible, all the time and in many different places, but as these things go: I am lucky.

But I am also not an iron man. I am not an android sitting at my computer and typing. (OR AM I now that would be a plot twist.) I, too, have feelings! And, like, it is definitely going to upset me if you tell me that I am not valid as a person. It is definitely going to upset me to hear you say that you support equality but only for some people because we are definitely still running on the logic of Animal Farm, peoples.

I am probably going to 100% regret writing this. I prefer not to start arguments that aren’t just ‘you pronounced scone wrong who are you’… But this has also been stewing inside me for too long. And I don’t really know what to do with it.

Did you guys ever have that phase where everyone would say ‘no offense, but…’ and then insert something super offensive? For some reason, that was such a thing for our little ten-year-old selves, because obviously putting ‘no offense’ in front of a criticism makes it All Okay. Obviously.

Detaching yourself from something offensive doesn’t make it acceptable. You can’t just put a disclaimer at the bottom like ‘Whoops, sorry if I made you cry and lock yourself in the bathroom for an hour but it’s totally not my fault!’ I get that sometimes people don’t mean to hurt others; accidents happen. But if you’re sitting at a keyboard, you have a lot of time to consider what you’re saying. I mean, often that’s what I like about it, because yay, I can sort out my grammar and find the exact right gif for this exact moment! Hurrah! The consequences are that your excuses for being mean are not terribly convincing.

I accept that I’m not going to change everyone’s opinion. It just bemuses me that people can claim they support equality and want to help you with your anxiety and depression yet also say things that hurt very very deeply. Literally no one is going to feel good if you call them unnatural. No one is going to feel good if you tell them that their body is ugly and it is all their fault. You are not blameless because you prefixed your words with ‘no offense’.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes… I know they happen. I just wish that sometimes people would — think. Words can stay rattling in your brain for so bloody long. What was a careless comment can echo off and become so much more, even if it doesn’t feel so bad right in that moment.

God, I wish I could walk away from this. It just feels like all the little things are mounting up inside me and I don’t know what to do with them. I thought for a long time that I should just leave this post alone… But I’ve been writing variations of it for so long. 9I can point them out in my drafts for you, and they’re not very pretty. It’s mostly: I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT ANYTHING!) All of those festering feelings were triggered and now they’re spilling out of me in a horrible mess of words that interfere with my blogging schedule.

But I need to get these things out. I deserve equality as much as everyone else. I’m a person too.

Take Note, Muggles | Wizarding v Muggle Issues

take note muggles british wizarding issues

I’ve got to admit it, if I found a wormhole to Hogwarts I would totally go. IT’S FREAKING HOGWARTS. However, outside of my flailing-and-desperate-checking-the-post-for-my-Hogwarts-letter, I do have some Actual Real Problems with the wizarding world. And I realised that most of them had something in common: they’re also actual problems that I have with British society today.

So! I present to you a list of some of the difficulties of the wizarding world that occur throughout and beyond the HP books, and how they’re actually pretty relevant. (Mostly to Britain, because that’s where I live, but you don’t at all need to have an in-depth knowledge of British politics. *looks down at self and coughs* They’re pretty broad ideas.)

The government is corrupt. Hurrah. The system is a villain.

Aside from the Death Eaters taking over the government for a teensy while, the Ministry isn’t that bad. There are lots of worse fictional examples. See an annual televised fight to the death.

yay hunger games

But: Umbridge. Umbridge. There are people who like Draco and Snape and Voldemort, but to be honest, I’ve never seen anyone who likes Umbridge. (Let’s face it, she is the scariest character.) Whereas Voldemort is the Big Bad Villain to be Defeated In Battle By The Good and Pure Hero, I think Umbridge is more frightening because her brand of fear is more real. Plenty of people have been caught out by the system which is supposed to protect them – I mean, the law isn’t perfect. Though I’m not saying that, like, the entire government is corrupt, many people of high status (and wealth) get away with nasty stuff. There is still a ton of prejudice and bias – heck, Parliament isn’t even all that representative of the people. At least 20 MPs – out of 650 – were educated at Eton, and there’s no way you can tell me that’s proportional. I just feel like we were really screwed by the 2015 election. Ugh. The seats did not at all correlate to the percentage of votes so maybe the voting system actually needs to change??? Speaking of which:

The education system revolves around tests and, frankly, it sucks.

Okay, this is another Umbridge thing that thankfully was resolved after The Order of the Pheonix. I find it interesting how the Ministry’s reach for more testing and less practical work was kind of villainised by JK Rowling, because that’s pretty much what’s happening now in the UK. Our children are doing worse compared to the rest of Europe? Give them tests from age 5! Get rid of coursework! Let them spend another hour in the exam hall defining their future with their ability to use keywords from a mark scheme!

I really dislike the current education system. Learning shouldn’t be something that make you sick with anxiety. I mean, I get that I’m going to have to work but it’s not learning that I inherently dislike. I enjoy gaining new skills. But you know what? Not everyone works well in exams, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t clever. Likewise, there are plenty of occupations that can’t be prepared for simply with written work. You can’t learn everything from textbook. :/

People cannot be categorised with a word.

Just. GET RID OF HOUSE STEREOTYPES. Please.

I dislike what the Houses have become. Sorting people based on qualities they value makes sense, right? You’re probably going to achieve more and be happier. What I feel the Houses often become is a sorting of people based on their personality.

It’s so difficult to box people up into four different types. There’s always dissent about Sorting of fictional characters, and if you think about Sorting your friends or even yourself into Houses…it’s pretty hard. We all have different facets. We are not defined by one trait. And we certainly don’t remain 11-year-old self for the rest of our lives. (What, people change? *gasps* -_-)

The HP books almost exclusively from the viewpoint of a Gryffindor, which means that a lot of stereotypes are perpetuated. Gryffindor not the only House worth being in. (Or a bit of Slytherin if you like villains.) Gryffindors are not all awesome. As this excellent Tumblr post says: Cedric Diggory did not die for all the good Harry potter merch to be Gryffindor and Slytherin.
This is not okay. ALL HOUSES MATTER. Hufflepuff is NOT the freaking potato house. Not all Slytherins are evil. Ravenclaws have actual personalities beyond intelligence. Gryffindors are not always the heroes. (Another nice post about this.) Many people could probably fit into more than one house. You have choice.

I know that you can be moulded by the people you surround yourself with. I don’t want that to happen to all the ickle new first years. (Though! Non-Hogwarts schools also yessss.) So many stereotypes exist around us, sometimes based on things that aren’t even our choice. They need to go.

Prejudice? Stereotypes? Yeah, I’m not done with this.

I don’t feel that strongly about Snape but I absolutely do not forgive him for Lupin. Lupin was awesome, and also he was an awesome teacher. He’s the teacher we all wish we had. Obviously he is not?? a? danger????

In my opinion, Potter isn’t that good at diversity. I mean, plenty of fans write and draw and imagine it diverse, using the relative freedom it gives, which is super nice, but. It’s so widely read that I felt such a difference could have been made. Instead…yeah.

But I think we can probably agree that Lupin definitely didn’t need to leave, and the prejudice against werewolves is not cool. Prejudice is not cool, full stop.

Is loss of free will equal to loss of life?

Ah, the 3 Unforgivable curses. You probably know them I find it fascinating that those three were chosen to be Unforgivable – with punishment as a life sentence Azkaban – because most people rank Avada Kedavra as the worst, then Cruciatus, and finally Imperio. Why did Rowling choose to make crimes different in the eyes of many the same in the wizarding world? Should using Imperio get the same punishment as Avada Kedavra? Okay, this isn’t a problem per se, but I find it interesting JK Rowling chose it to be this way.

This thing about the Chosen One. What.

The concept of a Chosen One is strange. I just…do they start off like that? Hell, why is one person even chosen to be more special than the others? It just feels weird to me. It’s used in so many texts yet I feel like that one person is so removed. It sounds pretty lonely. Where are the effect? In this moment of promotion for my favourite mages, I present to you a reason why I am HELLA EXCITED FOR CARRY ON. Exploration of this yesss.

In conclusion, I have found that complaining whilst listening to the Harry Potter soundtrack is a great way to pass the time. *coughs* Ahem. What do you guys think of issues in books and issues today? Do you know your Hogwarts House?

I’m collecting my blog survey results soon – thank you so much for all your responses so far! – so if you haven’t already filled it out, this is a pretty great chance to make my blog more awesome. 😉 It will only take up a tiny portion of your internet browsing time, I promise!