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activism Book reviews book shops Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

The Problem with Wilful Blindness

There was a time back in the last century, when I gave credence to the idea of ‘colour blindness’ as a way of solving racism. It turned out to be a way of convincing yourself it had been solved – if you happened to be white British, that is. While we were being virtuously, wilfully blind, assuming everything was going to be rosy from now on, Liverpool was in turmoil, and school kids were passing around those “Boot Boys” novels. Many of us had completely blinded ourselves to the renaissance of fascism.

It doesn’t work because we don’t have a level playing field. I can see that you are black and act as though it doesn’t matter, but you can’t see that I’m white and act as though it doesn’t matter. I can pretend we’re the same colour, and the problems disappear – from my view. Not from yours.

But now, we have another form of wilful blindness to deal with. Understandable, and well-intentioned, a horde of would-be progressive academics, activists and politicians – to give a random sample: Dawn Butler, Philip Pullman, Owen Jones – and now Margaret Atwood apparently – are pretending to be sex-blind.

As with race, the problem with pretending to be sex-blind is that women have very real, very practical problems that can’t be catered for and can’t be funded unless our sex is recognised. The police, pretending to be sex-blind, record cases of ‘women’ committing violent and sexual crimes, and every time they do it, the statistics that women’s services depend on for their funding get hazier until they become worse than useless; women’s health and wellbeing groups are trying to get by without using any of the words that clearly denote the female condition, and as a result, the grounds for their funding and the efficiency of their outreach go down and down; and teaching on sex and gender has gone the same way – now so far from reality that we have a generation of young people who really cannot tell sex from gender.

What we need to know

Black people can’t escape the problems of being black unless we sort out our institutions and our racist cultural heritage, and we can’t do that unless we see, and talk about, the realities of colour.

It is not wrong to talk about, learn about, and formulate rules about, colour – in fact we need to.

Women can’t escape the problems of being female unless we sort out our institutions and our sexist cultural heritage, and we can’t do that unless we can see, and talk about, the realities of sex.

It is not wrong to talk about, learn about, and formulate rules about, sex – in fact we need to.

Like many people, I’m busy reading up on anti-racism now, because I realise we really, really need to talk about it and sort out the injustices going on around us. I was hoovering up Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” and agreeing with every word… but I ground to a halt on page 181. Feminism, she tells us, must work to liberate everyone. Yes, in a sense. I do believe that if we can deal thoroughly with sexism, we will all be living in a better, healthier society – but, to revert to my first example, does that mean we should be yelling “all lives matter” when black people have something to say? I don’t think so.

Eddo-Lodge says that feminists should be thinking about “disabled people, black people, trans people, women and non-binary people, LGB people and working class people” – well yes, but am I allowed to add “if they’re female”, or is she doing the “all people matter” thing at feminists?

Reality matters

Having included absolutely everyone in the worklist for feminists, Eddo-Lodge then illustrates her statement by saying feminism will have won when we’ve ended poverty, and when women are no longer required to do two jobs by default (meaning the care and the emotional work as well as the money-earning – true, but that’s about female people, isn’t it?). Feminism must combat sexual violence (that is, almost always, males attacking females). Feminism must combat the wage gap (because females earn less). And it must be class conscious (true, absolutely, unequivocally true). And she says feminism must be aware of “the limiting culture of the gender binary”.

And she’s lost it. Feminism is, and has always been, grounded in challenging the social rules and practices based on ‘gender’ – that is, the social constructions that tell us how males and females should behave and should be treated – constructions that are different in different cultures, but that have some commonalities (based on sex). But like many commentators, she’s translated that into telling us we must also disregard sex – wrong. Then she slips from ‘sex’ to ‘sexuality’ and tells us feminism must recognise that sexuality is fluid – well, that’s a whole nother argument and I’m not going to go into that one here but the key point is that reality matters.

Eddo-Lodge tells us that feminism, like anti-racism, has to be “absolutely utopian and unrealistic, far removed from any semblance of the world we’re living in now”. And here, at last, we have the key to a clash that’s been causing endless pain and furore in recent years. Yes, we must deconstruct race and racism. But colour won’t go away, because people are different colours. That’s reality. We must deconstruct GENDER and sexism – but we can’t deconstruct sex, because biology won’t go away. That’s reality.

Rejecting reality in order to be wilfully sex- or colour-blind means blinding yourself to problems that need our attention. If you want to help find solutions, please don’t do either.

Reality matters. Sex matters.

Racism, sexism and classism are the errors to be corrected.

Do please read Eddo-Lodge’s book – it’s excellent, except for page 181. We need to think about, and act on, what she’s saying.

And if you haven’t already, do please go to J K Rowling’s website and find out what she actually said about sex. It is exactly what we need to be saying, and exactly what women are being repeatedly punished for saying.

Categories
Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Our Short Story Comp Judge

Journalist and media consultant Lynne Walsh, an arts reviewer at the Morning Star, is judging our Short Story Competition this year.

Here’s Lynne’s story…

Lynne Walsh describes herself as a journalist and campaigner, and says it’s not clear which came first.

The desire to be a reporter came early; she says: “My mother complained that, at about 4, I was always up and down the bus, asking other passengers ‘Where are you going? What will you do when you get there?’ Then I’d give my grandparents the headlines, when we arrived for tea: ‘There was a man on the night shift, a lady drinking tea from a red flask, and a little girl like me – she’d lost a button off her best coat.’ Big news in the South Wales Valleys, I reckoned.”

The campaigning [aka kicking up a fuss] crept up on her, as a teenager: “Volunteering for Oxfam, running fundraising events, making speeches – it’s a good training ground, when you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re very shy!”

The love of short stories started young – “My friend Penny and I, walking round the village, creating tales from what we saw around us. One, a ghost story set in the old mine workings, had us running for home; we’d scared ourselves, with our own fiction.”

Love turned to obsession, with trips to ‘town of books’, Hay-on-Wye. “My boyfriend and I would come home with the boot and back seat of the car full of books. We read voraciously – and we wrote: journals, terrible poetry, stories, plays, all that stuff that stays, forgotten, in attics.”

Journalism was a way of telling stories, even when they came from turgid council meetings or traumatic court cases. “There’s a lot of discipline in reporting, a lot of constraints – but at its heart, there are the complicated lives of real people.”

As well as working for newspapers, magazines and radio, Lynne has helped run major campaigns. “My CV says I worked on HIV & Aids campaigns in the 80s and 90s. The story, though, is that I was quite ashamed of my chosen profession at that stage – tabloids writing about a ‘gay plague’. I wanted to work with scientists giving us facts; the challenge was to turn that into something meaningful for ordinary people.”

The CV also shows a stream of clients, with whom Lynne has developed media strategies, coached spokespeople and created events:  Women’s Resource Centre [WRC], Drinkline, National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, Hestia, British Association for Counselling, BackCare, National Family Mediation, Mental Health Media, National Appropriate Adult Network, Fair Play for Women and Safe Schools Alliance.

There are personal stories within all of them; “At Drinkline, I voiced all the recordings for their helpline. It did worry me that friends who were concerned about their alcohol intake might call, and get my voice. For some, more of a hindrance than a help!”

At the WRC there was the Women Speak Out! Project, helping speakers make short films to promote their expertise on trafficking, poverty, domestic abuse and slavery. “I met Ntombi, who’d been trafficked, held in Yarls Wood and Holloway. She’s a dancer now, part of an African cultural troupe that performs with incredible joy. She brings a new meaning to the term ‘survivor’. Telling her story makes my heart skip a little beat!”

Lynne handled the UK media work for LGSM [Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners] around the launch of the film ‘Pride’ and the 2015 London march. “There are 101 stories from that series of events – one of them involved my colleague Alison and I moving the entire Tredegar Town Band across a packed parade. We shoved aside baffled Met police, insistent corporate sponsors and anyone who got in our way. That’s the power of the hi-vis jacket.”

There are stories of a different kind in Lynne’s community learning classes. She’s taught hundreds of learners to write accounts of the lives of their families, neighbourhoods, and experiences. Students often get creative; stories embellished, with flights of fancy; incidents become more colourful in the retelling. Lynne lectures at conferences which examine the links between storytelling and health, and is occasionally evangelical about the benefits: “Let them confabulate! Encourage them to create different versions of themselves. Help them understand they can ‘write their own endings’. Why not? It’s not newspaper reporting.

“I teach the basics, of planning, gathering material, structuring the story. I’ll even help them get over anxiety about grammar and syntax. I’ll read poetry, or song lyrics, or ask them to bring in a memento, and tell me its story. What I’m always looking for is the heartbeat of a story – it sounds cheesy and I don’t care, because it’s true – the memorable or quirky or emotional thing that makes me want to tell that story to the next person.”   

Competition entry details….

Poetry Competition

Flash Fiction Competition

Short Story Competition

Categories
activism book shops Labour Politics prejudice Uncategorized

Read this, Sir Keir

We need to tell our politicians something…

Sir Keir’s recent comment on BLM (which he corrected apparently, after a lot of shouting) demonstrated that he can’t see why Black Lives Matter have made many of us want to change everything. He can’t see why people want to change or educate our institutions, including the police.

He’s a long way from being the worst on racism – just look at those Tories – remember Theresa May, Amber Rudd and their development of that ‘hostile environment?’ Remember the list of revolting, racist comments Boris Johnson has to his name?

I know many of us are busy learning to be anti-racists now. I see the books by and about black people leaping off the shelves in the bookshops. If you haven’t done so yet, please do some reading.

If you’ve started already,

please do this now

Get a photo of yourself holding up a book you think would help Sir Keir understand. Spread it all over social media with these tags…

#BlackLivesMatter

#ReadThisSirKeir

And then save the photo somewhere where you can find it again so that every time a politician does or says something that demonstrates they just don’t get it yet, you can post it again, with their name on the tag.

Categories
Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Uncategorized

Our Flash Fiction Judge

We’re pleased to announce that Jocelyn Simms is once again our Flash Fiction Competition judge.

A message from Jocelyn, from her home in Deux-Sevres….

A busy time just recently processing entries for the Segora Writing Competitions (which we’ve run since 2007). A record 21 countries are represented this year. It’s an exciting time wondering what the judges will choose.

This brings me to my Summertime Task. The judging of Earlyworks Press Flash Fiction Contest. It’s a fascinating but rigorous duty to judge the entries of a writing competition. As I enter lots of competitions myself, I know the dedication it takes to refine one’s work to a standard, then the nervousness of sending it off into the ethers. Have I followed the procedure correctly? Did I Pay? Did I send the right version? Then follows the seemingly endless wait for the results, to be followed by delirious exultation or disappointment. There is nothing like winning, but comfort yourself that the rejected piece is now ready to go elsewhere, and with the reminder that there is inevitably a certain degree of subjectivity in the final phase.

I first became aware of Earlyworks Press 100 words flash fiction challenge when I was published in This is a book about Alice, 2012. What I really like about these anthologies is the quality both of the contents and the publication, including their terrific covers and intriguing titles!

Currently I am working on a ‘coalescence’ of personal journals and don’t know where that will take me. Also on a project researching Georges Simenon who lived here during the final two years of WW2, in hiding from both the Gestapo and the Free French. During this period he wrote some of his finest romans durs, in which local villages and villagers feature.

It’s a real pleasure to be involved with this forthcoming competition and I look forward to the entries flooding in. Being part of an international writing community means a great deal to me. It’s uplifting and thrilling to know our words matter to one another, across oceans and mountains, that through language we are part of a shared culture which both defines us and grants us freedom of thought.

Now, after these lofty insights, I have a potager to water and my neighbour’s chickens, geese and ducks to feed!

Flash Fiction Competition, closing date 30th August click here for entry details.

Jocelyn Simms is the author of Tickling the Dragon, Hiroshima and after, published by Circaidy Gregory Press

Tickling the Dragon by Jocelyn Simms - cover pic
Categories
activism economics Hastings NHS Politics Uncategorized

Who puts the skill in key jobs?

There isn’t *quite* a poem called sweeping the street by George Herbert, but you don’t have to be religious to grasp the wonderful truth of his idea that you can sweep the street ‘for god’.

Categories
activism Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

White woman thinking

Do you remember your personal experience of #metoo? Does it bear some lessons we can use to learn anti-racism?

All the stories

#metoo was a celebrity thing at first, but then it started flowing around social media and those posting their experience, and those reading those posts, began a journey. For me, it was a slow realisation that whilst I’d been ‘pretty lucky’ (a friend pointed out a story that started “apart from the usual groping…”) – although I’d been pretty lucky, I had never realised just what a morass I’d been ‘rising above’.

That morass included quietly accepting the blame for all the shame or confusion I suffered – of digging it quietly in, dodging the consequences of “don’t get yourself into trouble” – but not successfully dodging them – of growing up with a feeling that I ‘handled things badly’, or ‘put myself in the way of harm’.

The backlash

And then came the #notallmen and the #getoverit and the outright aggression from men – and yes, some women – who took any talk of female oppression as an insult to any and every man. We’re seeing all that now in the ‘all lives matter’ responses to BLM.

It hurts

I still clench my fists and cringe when I remember an incident from decades ago – I cringe, and send up a prayer of thanks to a woman I’ve only met once, the woman who stepped in and saved my then teenage daughter from a situation I’d been completely blind to – blinded by the horrible familiarity of unhealthy male attitudes everywhere I went.

I’m not blind to sexual exploitation any more.

#metoo was an excellent learning experience for women. It helped bring us together, and empower the latest wave of feminism. Despite the scary bits, I don’t regret it for a moment but what I’m thinking about now is how raw, undermined and vulnerable many women felt at the time. To participate, you had to speak your pain. To really spread the word, you had to speak your pain in public, on social media, in all the places that would invite the backlash, that would remind you of, and put you in the sights of, the people who want to hurt you.

#metoo was an excellent learning experience for men. Many men did get together and have enlightening conversations, and discuss what was going wrong, and how to help put it right. Even if it made them feel uncomfortable.

Black Lives Matter

Many of us are engaged now in a very similar exercise – we’re learning what’s missing from our history, and in finding out that “I’m not racist” isn’t enough. We have our ‘L’ plates on, and we’re learning how to do anti-racism. That’s great, but it does mean that we have our attention very much on ourselves – what can we do, what do we need to know, etc etc

Black feelings matter

But this morning I read some messages from black women about the emotional toll black people are currently suffering from all these statements and actions. Of what a slog it is to unburden and analyse a lifetime’s defensive reaction to racism, of how many times they’ve already had to try and explain, of the anxiety caused by the attention on them, and the anticipation of the inevitable backlash…

So – if anything I’ve said here about the experience of #metoo resonates with you, please use it to inform yourself about how black people might be feeling right now. We need to tread carefully, we need to be aware of all the stirrings of lifelong struggles that have common elements, but may be far more intense than we realise for some around us.

We need to be honest, and kind, and humble and do a lot more active listening than maybe we’re accustomed to.

Resources for learning and activism

I haven’t been through all the links yet but this looks useful.

Categories
Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Poetry Uncategorized

Poetry deadline extended

We have decided to extend this year’s Earlyworks Press poetry comp because – being locked down, your editor (that’s me) has not managed to put the work in to publicise it. In short, we need some more entries, so please spread the word!

The Poetry Competition is open for entries until the end of JULY.

Click here for entry details.

It can be any kind of poem, on any topic, and if your poetry has been flowing well of late, you can enter six poems for a fee of £20.

Prizes

The first prize is £100, the runner up prize £30 and with luck, there’ll be further runner up prizes. We’ll publish the best ones on the website if the authors wish it, and we’ll offer those authors publication in our next print anthology if/when the press is properly in action again – probably early next year.

We’re also offering a selection of poetry books to the shortlisted authors – a copy of comp judge Mandy Pannett’s Wulf Enigma for the top three, and a selection of our anthologies and/or Circaidy Gregory poetry titles for everyone shortlisted.

Our poetry judge

Mandy Pannett lives in West Sussex where she works freelance as a creative writing tutor. She is the author of four poetry collections: Bee Purple and Frost Hollow (Oversteps Books) All the Invisibles (Sentinel Poetry Movement) Jongleur in the Courtyard (Indigo Dreams Press) and Ladders of Glass ( a pamphlet of poems with English and Romanian parallel texts. (Integral Contemporary Literature Press).

She is also the author of two novellas: The Onion Stone (Pewter Rose Press) and the recent publication The Wulf Enigma (Circaidy Gregory Press). A new poetry collection Crossing the Hinge is due to be published in the autumn 2020 by KFS Press.

Mandy worked for several years as poetry editor for Sentinel Literary Quarterly and has also edited anthologies for SPM Publications including ‘Poems for a Liminal Age’ which was published in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières. She has won or been placed in many national competitions and has been the adjudicator for others.

Here are entry details for all the competitions – please share, and spread the word.

Poetry Competition

Flash Fiction Competition

Short Story Competition

All the best,

Kay Green

Categories
Hastings media Politics Uncategorized

So, Sally Can Wait…

Hastings and Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart says….

Get a job, feed your children

Hart says it’s sad if children are not fed by parents because of choices they’ve made. She says the amount of Universal Credit granted to Hastings is very high and that HBC is very slow getting everyone jobs. She says…

We need to reopen our economy

Hart’s message on coronavirus is that we need to be confident. to get ourselves back out there, live with the virus, be brave and move on. She acknowledges that a large proportion of Hastings’ income is tourism related, that we’ve lost Easter and we’ve lost May Day and we need to get out and earn some money now.

There are two glaring problems with this

  1. On going child poverty

Even before coronavirus, there were many, many parents in Hastings who, whether working or not, were not getting a decent, reliable income that allowed them to look after their families properly. The fact that they then missed out on the usual ‘big earning’ weekends in the spring has made that worse, and brought more people into the danger zone.

The school summer holidays are almost upon us and there is no way, not with even a Tory-sized ego, a family can make up for three months losses on top of ten years of Tory austerity and be sure to feed their kids properly.

There is no way that Hastings Borough Council, struggling with swingeing losses to government grants over ten years of austerity, can magic up thousands of well-paid jobs overnight to solve these acute and immediate and devastating problems.

Sally-Ann Hart, please understand those families need help NOW.

2. We need to protect our depleted health and social care services

Both services have been run down during the ten years of austerity and, when Hastings people set up those admirable volunteer services to help people not properly compensated by the government to stay home safely, they weren’t doing it because they lacked confidence, they were doing it because they had an eye on the small number of available hospital beds and other services. They wanted to make sure that we didn’t all fall ill at once, and keep within the limits of the Tory-depleted services we have, and to avoid overwhelming our hard-working, under-paid NHS and social care staff.

Sally-Ann Hart, please understand our health and social care services need re-funding NOW.

Sally can wait – we can’t

The landlord won’t wait for the rent. A hungry child can’t wait for economic measures to filter through. Sally-Ann Hart, please understand – Hastings does not lack confidence, but Hastings can’t wait.

Hastings in Focus interview with Sally-Ann Hart MP

What Sally-Ann Hart MP said about refugees

All Hart and no Information

Categories
media Politics Uncategorized women

Liz Truss has been listening to women

Well done, Liz Truss, for implementing some of the vital elements of the 2019 Labour Manifesto.

If today’s leaked document is correct, Truss is proposing to maintain women’s protected spaces under existing sex-based rights; retain the current basis on which individuals can affirm changes in legal gender, and make so-called ‘gay conversion therapy’ illegal.

Now, just watch a load of ill-informed people go to war over imagined losses.

A bit of context

right wing press announces new Tory policy

We are all being seriously misled by jockeying politicians and a malevolent media. At some level, we understand that the people who need support and redress now are, as ever, oppressed groups including black people, women, LGBT people, the disabled, the stateless, the poor and those denied a decent education.

Establishment in crisis

The coronavirus situation has brought many of those issues to a head, especially in the United States and the UK – it has also shown up the helplessness of either Trump’s people or Johnson’s people in the face of a real problem that needs managing. My, how the politicians and the establishment would like to deflect all that into an argument about statues rather than address the more deadly #BLM issues, and how grateful they are for any other available spat, like furthering the pretence that there are large groups of women trying to be nasty to trans people.

…but where have we seen this policy before?

TERFs?

Let us be clear, most women wish to preserve sex-based rights and safeguarding for women and girls. Most women defend trans people whenever they come across them having a hard time. Those two ideas are not in conflict. What is in conflict is what constitutes ‘trans rights’.

Labour Party manifesto, women and equalities page, committing to ensure that single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision
…in the 2019 Labour Party manifesto.

Stonewall, LGBT Labour and many other well-funded, US-inspired groups have been touting the idea that cancelling sex-based rights (a necessity to make legal self-ID meaningful) is a ‘right’, rather than a ‘demand’, of a group they never actually define – Stonewall, under their favourite banner of ‘acceptance without exception’ include absolutely everyone who might fancy hanging around the girls’ changing rooms as under ‘the trans umbrella’ – thus providing an open door for rapists, abusive husbands, peeping Toms and whoever else. THAT is what you hear women getting angry about.

Progressives?

Cartoon with protest banners: 'terf' 'bitch' 'ban her' 'cancel her' 'kill her'

Ironically, it’s likely that the ‘woke’ left, including some otherwise very good socialists, are now going to set about attacking the Conservatives for protecting women’s rights. Is there any chance at all that they’ll put a significant amount of their energy into supporting this excellent decision by Truss to crack down on gay cures, and help her find a solution to the degradation of sex-based rights, a solution that also leaves room for helping trans people? Somehow, I doubt they’ll do that much thinking or debating before they act.

Conflict?

Protestors' banner - "The Media Is A Virus"

It’s my opinion that Labour created a conflict for ourselves by committing to both sex-based rights and on-the-spot sex self-ID in the same manifesto, without thinking through how both those things could work. It’d be really great if Labour’s self-avowed progressives would now resist the media-fuelled frenzy, sit down and do that thinking before they start shouting. If they do, I think they’ll realise that Truss’s announcement is largely good and that (as our manifesto also states) we have yet to come up with the best answer for trans people.

If you are one of those who insist there is no conflict between the ideas of sex self-ID and sex-based rights, please consider what happened to Jeremy Corbyn’s policy manager when he set about the perfectly normal process of running impact assessments on those policies…

Focus please, socialists!

Defend black people, women, the disabled, the stateless, the poor and anyone else who is being discriminated against. Defend anyone who is attacked – but where ‘rights’ and ‘demands’ conflict, don’t go in with hobnailed lefty boots on; check the law, check the policies, do some consulting and real thinking.

Categories
book shops Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Poets – three weeks to go!

Competition Closing Dates

Virus response, climate crisis, for many of us, financial crisis – and now the new, national awareness of racism and other urgent social issues – these are definitely what they call ‘Interesting Times’. I hope all our authors and associates are getting through okay, and I remind you of the one compensation authors have against any kind of crisis –

May it all come out poetry

–  or flash fiction – or stories.

Poets – a call to action

This year’s poetry comp closes in three weeks’ time. Click here for entry details, and get ready to send your poems…

Poetry comp closing June 30th

Fiction authors have a little more writing time left…

Flash Fiction comp closing August 30th

Short Story comp closing October 31st

Don’t forget, we have two categories for the short stories – up to 4000 and up to 8000 words.

More prizes

It’s not clear whether we’ll be in a position to produce a paper anthology this time around, due to all the consequences of lock-down. If we don’t, the money not spent on the printer will mean more runner-up prizes for the comps.

Helping hand

We’d be grateful for any help spreading the news about our comps and books. It’s simply not been possible to run events or visit bookshops and libraries so far this year so, if you have social media accounts, or are a member of any online writing groups, please could you retweet/share this blog, and/or pass on this link to the Competitions Newsletter sign-up?

All the best – keep safe, keep well, and do keep writing!