Be careful what you wish for

I realised a strange thing this week. Through the power of the internet I saw a Natzi go from blustering about his power to weeping in fear that police might shoot him. The comment section was full of people holding him up as an example of the fundamental weakness of Natzis as a group. Something about it seemed familiar. A also saw a young man who marched with Natzi’s and thinks that multiculturalism is cancer but swears he isn’t a Natzi complaining about getting death threats over the internet. Something about that seemed familiar too.

I realised that they were experiencing what it’s like to belong to a minority. They’ve been saying for years that white men are the ones who are really oppressed and now they get to find out what that’s actually like. You see when a woman fails she fails on behalf of all women. When a person of colour breaks the law the reaction is disproportionately harsh. When any member of a minority sticks their head above the metaphorical parapet someone will try to shoot it off. One needs privilege to survive mediocrity and incompetence.

I have no illusions that it will last. Either things are going to get very dark or the Natzis will climb back into their holes for a while and people will forget that there are still Natzis in the world. Very soon it will again be possible for white people to espouse the beliefs that sent millions to the gas chambers and plunged the world into war and other white people will pretend that they don’t really mean it.

But for a while perhaps thost of us who really do face discrimination and oppression are allowed a little schadenfreude at the idea of Natzis finding out what it’s like. They really don’t seem to have the constitution for it.

Well suck it up, buttercup. This is what life is like for everyone who isn’t an able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual white man. This is what the rest of us put up with while you’re whining on the internet about how women oppress you by refusing your advances or sleeping with men you don’t approve of. While you’re blaming immigrants for depressed wages and affirmative action for keeping you out of your ‘rightful’ job the rest of us have been working twice as hard for half as much and being told that we should be grateful for it.

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Harriet Potter and the crippling fear of rejection.

I’ll be honest. There are very few Harry Potter references in this post*, just some JK Rowling quotes**.

A friend pointed out an excellent agent for my novel. I’ve decided that I want to query and they are currently open for submissions. This agent has made statements that would tend to suggest that they might actually welcome the kind of genre hopping, funny/dark thrillers that I write. There are literally zero rational reasons for me not to query this person.

It’s been more than two weeks and I still haven’t written the query. There are no rational reasons for this delay but there are about a million irrational ones. I haven’t had time (I do have time I’ve just been avoiding my computer unless I have some other task to do on it). It keeps slipping my mind (it only slips my mind when I’m using the computer). The agent is definately going to reject the novel so what’s the point (I’ve got nothing to loose by the wrong agent rejecting the novel and if they’re the right agent they won’t reject it). I’m scared (I don’t know what I’m scared of). I might I fail again (in this instance failure will cost me nothing).

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” J.K. Rowling

She’s right of course. Not querying the agent is a far bigger failure than querying them and being rejected would be. I know this intellectually so why is it this hard to accept?

The most confusing thing for me is that rejection is something I should be used to. I’ve been rejected all my life. As a fat, disabled, middle-aged woman I am pre-rejected by society. It doesn’t want me and it’s not afraid to say so loudly.

Maybe it’s because I know that society’s rejection of me is meaningless. Society isn’t rejecting me it’s rejecting the false version of me constructed by prejudice. When someone rejects my novel they’re rejecting the product of the best part of me doing it’s very best work and that is meaningful. That is personal. That really fucking hurts.

* By very few I mean none.

** By some I mean one.

My country wants me dead. Again.

At the last election I was faced with the realisation that the electorate of the United Kingdom either actively wants me dead or at least doesn’t care if I die. It was a sobering realisation.

This time it is, if anything, worse. Because now it’s not just the United Kingdom. Many of my fellow Scots want me dead. Why?

Seriously, Scottish Conservative voters, why do you want me and people like me dead? You’ve voted for a party that has cut disability benefits, attacked the NHS, cut Social Care spending and refused to condemn the forced institutionalisation of disabled people. People are dying. People have died. And if, as seems likely, the Tories cling on to power then more people will die.

If you voted Conservative in this election then you voted in favour of turfing out law abiding EU citizens, you voted in favour of the rape clause, you voted in favour of taking mobility cars from disabled people, cutting benefits to the mentally ill and to people with learning difficulties. You voted in favour of benefit sanctions that drive vulnerable people to food banks where they can hang out with nurses and police officers. You voted against the NHS. You voted in favour of fox hunting and selling ivory and cosying up to Donald Fucking Trump.

If you voted Conservative then why? What was it that you thought you were voting for?

Of course if it’s Scottish Conservative MPs that return the Conservative party to power against the will of the English electorate I am going to laugh for about a week. Particularly since the EVEL legislation, pushed through by the Conservatives in the wake of the independence referendum, means that they wont be able to vote on a lot of bills.

Not a real person.

One of the things I struggle with a lot is the feeling of not being a real person. I think some of it is imposter syndrome and some of it is a throwback to the bullying I grew up with. When everyone tells you that you’re ugly and stupid and worthless you tend to start believing them. If you’re smart enough to know that it’s not true you still can’t help suspecting that you’re not a real person because who would treat a real person like that? Real people have rights. Miss-treating real people has consequences.

But lets not forget that for a lot of people I am not a real person. I am a poor, disabled, depressed, fat, middle-aged woman. You’d be surprised how many people will lose interest in my humanity the moment one of those trigger words is mentioned.

There are a few men for whom no woman is a real person. They might not express it this way but it’s clear that to them personhood is a uniquely male quality. That’s why they think that rape is not a thing. Because they think that only male desires count. If you think of women as objects then of course you don’t care about consent.

There are a larger group of men for whom women are people but with an asterix. They say woman* or female* but that asterix leads to some mental footnote that defines a woman according to some personalised criteria. If you listen to them long enough you find out that woman means a cisgendered, hetrosexual (or bisexual but only for male entertainment), able-bodied woman, between the ages of 17 and 35, with a BMI in the underweight or normal weight range with an attractive face (and if she’s a woman of colour she’d better have a really attractive face) and “good” breasts. The rest of woman-kind doesn’t count as female because we have failed in some aspect of our femininity. Remember that to them the primary purpose of a woman is to be decorative. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do only how we look.

There’s a lot of people for whom poor people aren’t really people. That’s why they don’t care about minimum wages or benefits or social housing. The assumption is that poverty is some kind of moral or intellectual failing rather than a necessary side effect of capitalism.

Some people make similar assumptions about both physical and mental health. There’s an almost superstitious belief that ill-health and injury must be a punishment for something. There’s also a surprising number of people who are happy to declare that depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, OCD and autism are “all in the mind”. Which of course they literally are. They are illnesses of the brain. They cause changes in brain activity, neurochemistry, and sometimes in the physical structures of the brain. No amount of willpower is going to remake the chemistry, activity or gross anatomy of your brain. You can’t just get over it.

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to agree that people are people.

Regardless of skin colour, nationality, religion or lack thereof, political affiliation, age, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, wealth, health, ability or IQ there is only one Homo Sapiens species. We all belong to it and we are all people. Even me. Even when I don’t feel worthy of it. Even when people in power are trampling all over those rights that I have but for some reason can’t use.

Please don’t kill me.

The UK is facing an unexpected election in June.  I have a message for everyone eligible to vote in it – I’m a human being, my disability doesn’t make me any less human, people like me don’t deserve to die just so that our elected leaders can pursue a dream of austerity that most reputable economists regard as purest bunkum.

You might be wondering what on earth I’m going on about. It’s not like anyone is talking about loading disabled people on to cattle trucks. Yet. So here’s some further reading for you:

If you vote Conservative you’re voting for people who don’t care about child poverty, the working poor, or disabled people. You’re voting for people who can’t even lie consistently. You’re voting for people who claim that they are subsidising an entire nation (Scotland) while refusing to subsidise a spare room to store the equipment needed by a disabled child.

A vote for the Conservatives says that you’re just fine with selling off the NHS. It says that you think filling in an 8 page form about sexual assault is a reasonable burden to place on a woman just trying to get tax credits for a third child. It’s saying that you think the 50,000 disabled people who have already lost their motability vehicles are better off indoors.

Whatever else you think you’re doing when you put your X in the box marked Conservative And Unionist Party you’re also telling me and people like me to just fuck off and die quietly.

Musings on self-publishing.

A friend recently posted this link, in which Alan Moore advises new writers to self publish, on Facebook and it set me thinking.  It mainly set me thinking about a talk on professional self publishing that I attended at XpoNorth.

On the one hand I hear Alan Moor, respected author, wizard and wild man, telling me that self-publishing is the future because publishers suck*. On the other hand I hear Ben Galley, respected author and self-publishing consultant telling me that in order to self-publish professionaly I need to hire people to edit, and design, and do cover art, and typeset/layout the book and that it will “only” cost about £1,500.

If you are a young writer reading this and you are still in education and you have any hopes of some day making a living from your writing then I suggest that you  make a list of skills to learn as soon as possible. I suggest that this list should include touch typing, typesetting, book design, web design and spreadsheets. You’ll need to learn how to do your own website and you’ll need spreadsheets so you can track sales etc. If you have any artistic talent at all then learning how to do your own cover art would probably be good. Having these skills will save you a lot of money but you’ll still have to spend hundreds on an editor or two because you can’t properly edit your own work.

None of which helps me. My problem is one of lack. I lack the money, the time the skills and the spoons to self publish professionally. Writing takes so much out of me that if I’m writing I can’t also be learning any of these skills. I can’t afford to buy in the skills and I’m certainty not going to try to persuade someone to do it for free for exposure. I could barter with the skills I do have but if anyone else valued those I’d have enough money to pay.

I suppose this is all just a long winded way of saying that no matter how good I am at writing I’m not very good at being an author. I should be self-reliant and practical. I should be managing my writing like a business. This is just one more failure in a lifetime of failure. Once more I am forced to admit that my best is just not good enough.

*Please note that I am not saying that publishers suck. That is the opinion of Alan Moore. I am merely reporting his opinion.

 

 

Hard not to take personally.

Today I’m considering the sobering fact that my country wants me dead.

It sounds super dramatic but it’s also kind of accurate.  I live in the UK.  I’m disabled and I receive benefits.  Like other disabled people in the UK I’ve been hit hard by the government’s austerity measures.  According to some reports people like me have been hit nine times harder than the average citizen.

The combination of benefit cuts, sanctions and assessments has lead to an epidemic of suicides and other premature deaths.  People have starved to death and died from stress induced heart attacks and strokes.  It’s been a hard few years but I hoped things would start to get better.

Yesterday the UK re-elected the Conservatives.  The people who have presided over changes that have driven people to their deaths are back in power.  The politicians know what they have done and they just don’t care.  So far the “austerity” measures that have hit people like me so hard haven’t actually saved any money.  Setting them up has cost the government more money than they’ve saved through the cuts.  Of course if more of us die then they’d start to see some savings.

The government wants me dead and my country just re-elected them.  Therefore my country wants me dead.

Well, perhaps not my country. I live in Scotland.  The Scottish Parliament seems to care about the sick and the disabled. But benefits spending is set by the UK Parliament at Westminster.  Scotland did not re-elect the Conservatives but it doesn’t matter.  As usual the governing party was decided by the English electorate.  There was nothing we could do to prevent it.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say that my country wants me dead.  Perhaps I should say that England wants me dead. I’m not sure about Wales.