Not an Odalisque

Sick Note

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I have a strong dislike of blog posts apologising for not having posted, and promising renewed blogging enthusiasm. “Who,” I think, “do you think you are? Do you think we were all sitting around saying to ourselves, ‘I wonder why so-and-so has stopped writing her wonderful blog posts? Is she having a lot of sex, or has she been kidnapped? Or both? I do wish she’d return and share more of her scintillating insights with us.’”

With a little self-hate, therefore, I will give my excuses. I’ve been sick, horribly, horribly sick. It happened gradually, looking back, I can see the accommodations I made without realising, and as my reserves of energy drained, what I dropped, what I struggled on to do, and what became a roaring dragon of a task nesting in my life.

Blogging was one of the first things to go. It held on a little longer than sex and kink, but eroticism is, as Bataille points out, a supreme waste of energy. Writing is, too.* Driving long distances went a year ago, it gave me headaches that made getting home again was a terrifying and dangerous feat, so I get the train. Dancing, munches and kink events held on until about six months ago. Going out isn’t just tiring, it’s risky—what if I’m hit with extreme tiredness, nausea, a piercing headache, miles from home? So life whittled down and down. I sleep, sometimes I eat, I go to work and get sent home. I stop going to the supermarket, and order, sporadically, online. I don’t cook. I don’t wear pretty clothes, I wear the yoga trousers I no longer yoga in, even to bed, and I sleep eleven hours a night. I don’t read difficult books, and then I don’t read books at all. I sit in bed and watch films without subtitles. I get to level 21 in Skyrim. I develop a terror of my work email account. Now and again I go to work, and call the lover, crying, from the car park, because my head hurts so much I don’t know how to get home.

I’m deficient in B12. I don’t know why. I know injections are making me better. By which I mean, I worked for eleven hours this week, and only spent one day in a darkened room with a hellish headache. And I think I’ve told you the truth about my illness, but the memories are fuzzy. Apparently it’s something to do with lack of oxygen to the brain.

Then, in the middle of it all, came Christmas. When I’m not making enough money to pay the rent, when I’m shivering in my unheated house, and people expect presents. When I feel like throwing up, and life’s about shortbread and sprouts. And for the first time in my life, I was to host Christmas. On 2nd December I called the lover in tears, on a train from Leeds, unable to carry the Christmas decorations my father was going to throw out, if I didn’t give them a home. December days crept by, and lifting the hoover remained beyond me. I started gluing paper chain, it was repetitive, mindless, and hurt my muscles. The lover went away for a long weekend, I kept wandering to the fridge and away again, vaguely aware that I ought to eat, but with no idea how to solve the problem.

After my diagnosis—a very happy day—and my first few injections, I declared that I needed a Christmas tree. I was to be my main Christmas expense. It’s a moist day, mist clouds the windscreen and gathers in beads on the tree branches. There are shrubby trees with long, sprongly tops. There are fat green firs with short spikes, and thin ones that look like they grew up in a crowd, with their arms pinned to their sides. I like the grey-blue trees with long fronds and tiny fir cones. I run from one to another, getting the lover to stand them up so I can see their height and breadth, and check the branches behind. I choose one. I can’t see him behind it.

Do they deliver? Yes. But they don’t say anything more about it, and I’m suddenly so, so tired. The trees are now slightly wavy, slightly out of focus. It’ll fit in the car, they tell me, once it’s gone through the tree-trussing machine. I feel sick. The lover puts the car seats down and I try to put a blanket over the boot, but the tree man doesn’t listen. I don’t have the energy to fight. When the it’s in, I just want to get away. I scrape some tree sap off the mirror and return it to position. I can’t see the lover through the pine needles, but I grope underneath them for the handbrake, and ask him if there’s anyone coming from the left before I pull onto the main road. I drive a good fifty metres before I pull in and ask if we’re anywhere near the curb. I can’t drive home, I tell the tree. Everything’s gone wrong. There’s a rustling.

The lover called his in laws. We treated my dizziness with a kitkat and a coffee at the B&Q café, until they arrived like knights in a shining estate car. They carried the tree inside and lay it on the living room floor. It had grown at least a foot since we put it in the car. We stood around the prone tree and looked at the room: the curtains were closed and the heating was off. I could almost hear them thinking, “You want us to spend Christmas here?”

More people came to the recuse. The lover and his wife spent the evening cleaning, tying the tree to my bookshelves, hovering up its needles, and threatening me with canes when I got off the sofa and tried to join in. By Christmas, they had done my washing up, cleaned my house, done a supermarket shop with the in-laws, cooked a turkey, brought over a table and silver tableware, made hundreds of paper snowflakes, and God knows what else, because they sent me to bed.

Christmas worked. There was food and fizz and Christmas cocktails. The oven broke while we were making Christmas dinner, but that didn’t matter because I got more presents than anyone else. I can’t take responsibility for being a fabulous hostess at Christmas, but I can be amazed by my poly family, and my poly family’s family. They aren’t the type you expect to spend Christmas at their daughter’s husband’s girlfriend’s house. I don’t think they’ve ever been called dangerous free thinkers. I have to remind myself not to call them Mr. and Mrs., because they feel so strongly like schoolfriends’ parents, and not the ones who talked about being 60s radicals and wandered around the house nude. When I needed help with an oversized Christmas tree, they give it. I think that’s amazing.

I don’t know when I’m going to be better, but I do know I have help. For now, though, I have to go, because the lover’s in-laws are coming round to take away my tree. Maybe I’ll post again soon.

*I realise some people write for money, and therefore aren’t wasting their efforts but earning coffee tokens, but these people exist in negligible numbers.

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Written by Not an Odalisque

January 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Intruders

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I’m writing this in the lover’s house, because I don’t want to go home.

Earlier, sitting on my bed, in my dressing gown, talking to the lover on the phone, I heard a noise. It was a lot like the sound of my front door opening. It couldn’t be, though, because the front door was locked, and the only other person with a key, the person, in fact, who surely locked the door as he left my house last night, was calling me from work on his lunch break. I chatted a bit more, then I heard another sound. I went out to see if the cat was eating my gladioli, and there was a middle aged lady standing at the bottom of the stairs.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I’m looking for Hard As Nails,*” she said.

“It’s next door,” I told her.

“This isn’t the manicurist?” she said.

“This is my home.” I thought she might leave then. The moment when she opened my door and stood on my post would have been a good moment. The minute when she pushed open the next door and looked up my stairs to the cat’s scratching post would have been good too. I can see how it may have seemed rude to leave just as a woman in her dressing gown asked her why she was here, but now seemed like the perfect moment to apologise and get the fuck out of my flat. Instead, she asked for more directions.

“This is the first time I’ve been.” She said. Well, yes.

After she left, I frantically locked the door. Then I called the lover back, and shouted, a lot. I don’t think he’ll repeat the mistake for a while.

Middle aged lady in hallway, looking for a manicure. No big deal, right? Well, no. I would consider it a favour if she’d stolen the yellow pages from the doormat, and she did, albeit slowly, go away without a fight. So why am I freaked out?

Partially, it’s because I’m scared of what goes on around my home. A couple of weeks ago I heard screaming and begging in the middle of the night. I opened the kitchen window and shouted,

“Are you ok down there? Do you want me to call the police?”

“Yeah,” a voice answered from the dark.

“Well, keep it down then,” I said. He was either ok, or wanted me to call the police. The cops arrived within about 30 seconds, in six police cars with flashing lights, which was nice.

Since then I’ve had an irrational fear that whoever was threatening someone in the alleyway behind my house that night is going to come round and smash up my car for thwarting him, which is a bit silly since it might just have been a couple arguing about the gas bill. That my door was unlocked all night brings out terrifying imaginings. Still, I suspect that isn’t really the root of my fear. It’s probably this:

I was once in bed with my girlfriend on a lazish sort of morning, when I was living in private halls. The door was locked, this time. I was in the middle of my room, walking to the bathroom, wearing nothing at all, when I heard a key in the door. There was a strange man standing in the doorway. He walked into my room. I said. “Get out!”

He didn’t stop. He told me he was here to test the electrics in my room. He kept walking towards me. I started yelling, “Leave now!” over and over. He kept telling he he wouldn’t go. Eventually, I must have mustered enough of a commanding tone, because he said he’d give me a minute. I put on my dressing gown, and stormed out to find he’d retreated to the kitchen. I demanded to know what he thought he was doing. He explained that since students slept late, he had a key and just went into the rooms and got on with his work. I said there was no way he was coming into my room now. He said I had to let him in, I’d been given notice by the sign on reception (“Electrical checks will be carried out in this building on …”). I said he had no right to walk into my room without permission. He sighed and exchanged a “silly women!” look with the teenage trainee he’d brought along. My girlfriend and I went to complain at reception. By the time we got back, they were in my room again.

I’ve developed a bit of a thing about people in my space since then. That might be why I yelled at the man from United Utilities yesterday when he turned off the water to my flat without telling me he was going to. It might be why I wasn’t friendly and helpful to the silly woman in my hallway. It might be why my landlady saying she’d let the surveyor in if I wasn’t there drove me to blind rage.

And you know why? It’s salami slices. The men are going to exchange that ‘hysterical woman!’ look sooner or later, so why not make that sooner? The man who pressures you into letting him walk you home is going to pressure you into letting him in for coffee, and the man who pressures you into a dance is going to pressure you into a close move; before you know it, there’s a penis poking you in the hip. The next place my girlfriend lived featured a landlady who used to hang around in the hallways of the shared house, and eventually turned up with two big men to force their way into her bedroom and take away her bed. Each individual step is only mildly objectionable, but it’s the journey that matters.

I’m stopping them sooner, the harassers and the landlords. And I’m getting an intruder alarm.

*Comedy shop names substituted to protect my address.

Written by Not an Odalisque

August 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Stone Butch Blues, Today

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I have been reading ‘Stone Butch Blues’. When I first saw the title—browsing the library catalogue for books on butch/femme identity and trans issues—I thought it was a musician’s autobiography; I had to go all the way back to the library when I realised my mistake. For those of you as ignorant as me, it’s the story of a butch lesbian in 1960s America, and it’s full of oppression, systemized violence and rape. Her lovers are prostitutes and the gay bars are danger zones. It’s a story about being on the fringes of society, and, for some characters, losing grip on society’s tassels entirely.

I have a sense that this experience should speak to me, as part of lesbian history. The freedom I have now, to kiss a girl in the street, was won by people like her returning to the gay bar, night after night, in the knowledge that if the police come—and one day they will—she’ll be beaten and raped. In a sense she did it for me, yet her fierce identity, her need to refer to all lesbians as ‘butches’ or ‘femme’s (nouns, not adjectives), her intensity, alienates me.

Reading Emma Donoghue’s ‘Passions Between Women’, on the other hand, which explores lesbian identity in eighteenth century Britain, I have a sense of fun, a sense that, in those circumstances, I would form a ‘romantic friendship’ and pen pastorals to my love. I would marry a woman dressed as a man, or do many of the numerous, ingenious things women who loved women did to make room for their passion in a restrictive society. The penalties for such behaviour were not heavy. Female husbands, for example, were generally tried for fraud (as the ‘male’ partner, they owned the wife’s property). In 1694 one was sentenced:

She was ordered to Bridewell to be well whipt and kept to hard labour till further order of the court.

Donoghue notes that,

The punishment, too, sounds mild, in the context of the period, when pickpocketing and rape were hanging matters….there is no record of executions in Britain or America. When British female husbands received any punishment, it was typically a matter of six months in jail and a symbolic exposure.

Adjusting for the harshness of the era (with a lack of subtlety that probably has Foucault spinning in his grave), British lesbians of 300 years ago were afforded more self-expression than American lesbians 50 years ago, and if they wore a suit they did it to create a private space for their love, rather than to slot into an inflexible butch identity. That freedom may be why I feel more affinity to eighteenth century lesbians than I do to the Stone Butch crowd.

I didn’t grow up in a world where lesbians were seriously oppressed. My mother’s cousin used to come to visit, wearing black trousers and doc martens, she leant me tomes on feminist theory, and lived with her best friend. My school had an openly lesbian head teacher, in addition to the obligatory P.E. coven. The head teacher was terrifying, respectable, and given to reading out long passages by Julian of Norwich on Monday mornings. She was in no way transgressive.

Did I find it difficult admitting I like women? Sometimes. Have I played the pronoun game? Absolutely. I’m not worried about retribution, though, I’m just overcome by the weight of misunderstanding.

In my forays into mainstream society, the assumptions about me are so great and so many that I don’t know where to begin changing them. I’m a woman, so I must be obsessed about my weight, elated when complimented on my looks, scared of strange men, reassured by the protective presence of male acquaintances. I must demand monogamy, probably against the instincts of my male lover, I must prefer sweet white wine to real ale, I must want a desk job, and refuse to consider one that involves lifting files (thanks, recruitment agent, for that).

Not everyone makes these assumptions, but enough people do, often enough, that fighting it feels futile. When someone says, “you look good, you must have lost weight,” I could say, “I looked good beforehand, and in any case I have no interest in weight as a measure of beauty, given the socio-economic factors determining both,” or I could be polite and change the subject. When I say I have a date and everyone assumes it’s with a man, or when I say my partner has a date and everyone assumes it’s with a woman, frankly, there are bigger things I’ve let slide.

Which is all to say, the world hasn’t recognised my sexual identity and given me a card and some balloons, and I’m ok with that. In this particular kettle of fish, my sexuality is a sardine to the giant tuna of other aspects of my life. What of ‘Stone Butch Blues’? Well, I’m glad they did it. Maybe it’s because they fought so hard that I’m able to put my energies into frying bigger fish. Maybe I’m missing something important, about how things were different in America, about what it means to be lesbian and working class, and maybe I’ll learn those things if I keep reading. I’m curious, though, about how everyone else feels about our history. Do you feel some affinity for their pain, or are we so far beyond it, that the historical lesbians we identify with have to be the ones with pluck, breeches, poetry and cutlasses?

Written by Not an Odalisque

July 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm

The Perils of Polyamory: The Gap Between Saying and Doing

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It took me a long time to learn is that people don’t base their image of your relationship on what you say, but on what you do. I spent a year with a boy at university, constantly repeating that I wasn’t monogamous with him, that it was casual, and that I wasn’t willing to continue our relationship after we graduated. I slept with him, cooked elaborate meals with him, spent every holiday at his parents’ house, and didn’t sleep with anyone else. He was pretty hurt at the end of third year. I thought I’d got better at communicating about the boundaries of my commitment, but a couple of years ago, a boyfriend left me alone in his house for a fortnight and contacted my girlfriend to say maybe she’d like to call in. I had great sex, and made the discovery that he thought my girlfriend and I had been ‘just friends’ for the last nine months. Oh, dear.

So when people talk about poly and communication, I think: that’s fine, talk all you like, but as Alice Walker pointed out, people don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel. If you’re making your partner feel safe, loved, special and exclusive, your partner will be surprised when you jump into bed with Deidre, no matter how many times you warned him or her that you would.

Which brings me to Friday night. On Friday, I was working, then celebrating the shiny £20 note I was rewarded with, by driving to the supermarket. I made dinner, watched a television programme, and asked twitter how to cure the wounds on my feet. They were kind of gross and painful. I decided against spending money on medical supplies, the Lover was sure to have some, and he’d be home soon.

Save your relationship: buy dettol

I sent him a text message, asking if he was having a good time. I picked up a book about eighteenth century lesbian gender and read about hermaphrodites. I sent him an email, remembering that his phone was low on battery. I asked twitter about cures for gross, weeping feet, established that I possessed none of them and then moved on to female husbands. At 11pm, I thought he was probably on his way home, they wouldn’t keep drinking after six hours, so I called him. His phone was off. They must be having a good night out, I’d call him again at midnight when he was sure to be on the bus. He phone was still off. Someone on Twitter told me that crushed up asprin might help, so I ransacked the drugs drawer and established I didn’t have any. I did an hour’s website writing. Unable to get the Lover on the mobile, I thought about calling his landline, but decided that I didn’t want to risk waking his wife. I took some painkillers and got into bed, read about cross-dressing pirates. I called the Lover once more, at 2am, before I went to sleep.

This could be read as a story about a girl who is so clingy that she can’t even let her partner go on a date without calling him four times and sending him two text-based communications. A story about a strange, proto-stalker, who ought to get a grip, or possibly arrange her own dates so that the people in her life have room to breathe (and stock her medicine cupboard). I think, though, that it’s a story about a girl with a caring partner who has been so attentive for so long that it’s become the norm. Regular presence, the constant opportunity for communication, and a supply of Dettol and bandages are all expected, and anything else is going to be strange and difficult to negotiate. Which isn’t to say that it’s the way I think it should be, just the way it is, without either of us deciding it. He was my first phone call when I broke my collar bone, and didn’t know what to do.

The next morning, as I was drinking my coffee and thinking about limping to the chemist, the Lover called.

“Hello, you dirty stop out!” I said.

“It was quite dirty!” He made a chuckly, chortly sort of noise. It was, well, one way of introducing the fact of a new partner to a current one. Is there, though, a right way to introduce change to the everyday practice of a relationship? Perhaps is it as unyielding as Kundera implies when he says,

“Oh lovers! be careful in those dangerous first days! once you’ve brought breakfast in bed you’ll have to bring it forever, unless you want to be accused of lovelessness and betrayal.”

Written by Not an Odalisque

July 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm

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Not’s Guide to Munches, part I

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I’ve been to a lot of munches.* York: a dingy function room in a dingy pub, a running joke that the announcements were interminable that didn’t make sitting through them any more amusing. The Fab Munch: as much fun as you might expect sitting in a cold basement with a dalek would be. The Under 35s munch: takes over 35s, bus has good beer and fruit in the Pimms. The Spanko Munch: Saturday’s adventure.

I liked the Spanko Munch. I liked it even though it was in a cold bar, with, I counted, five hen parties over the course of the afternoon. The members of the munch, distinguished by their lack of sashes and tiaras, were mostly male, mostly middle aged, and not one of them was screaming. They had manners. They introduced themselves at the beginnings of conversations, offered chairs, and used verbal signifiers to notify when they were going to talk to someone else. I feel like I ought to send them a thank-you-for-having me card.

Within first half hour, though, I was cornered by an excited middle aged man. I have manners, too, but as I nodded and smiled, and (rarely) uttered a sentence, I wondered why every munch has one of these men, and why they always talk to me.

This man was overjoyed to be at his first munch. He told me about his wife giving him permission to come, then he told me that he didn’t feel guilty about it. He told me how excited he was to be there, and then told me again that he feels no guilt, and how he’s told his wife that she might have to stay away overnight, sometimes, on spanking related business. Then he told all those things to the Lover, while I talked to someone else.

Not a big deal, individually. Put it alongside the man at York Munch who, within a few minutes of conversation, was telling me about oral sex with his previous girlfriend, and how much he likes black women. Put it alongside the man who gave me, it seemed, his life history at a Manchester munch. The man who told me all about his kinky weekend, pointing out the players in the room along the way. The sheer number of kinky epiphany stories I’ve heard from middle aged men.

I understand your excitement, boys. The man I met on Saturday said he felt like he’d be set free from a cage. All the same, this is a social interaction like any other, and the normal rules apply. Two rules intersect here: don’t tell strangers about your sexual fantasies, and don’t tell strangers about things they’ve expressed no interest in at great length. Your foot-flogging fetish, ranks, I’m afraid, with your matchbox collection in conversational terms, characterised by your infatuation and my indifference.

So ask questions. Save your great act of self-revelation for your lover, your cat, your blog, your masterpiece of literature. Ask questions, but not just any questions. We haven’t crossed the border into a Never-Never Land of your kink, so don’t dive in with, “Do you like anal fisting?” Start with something simple like, “Have you travelled far?” or, “Did you go to the caning workshop last week?” Yes, you’re going to be faced with the challenge of moving the conversation away from the state of the roads between here and Bolton, and onto topics of interest, but that’s a challenge you’re more than up to, armed with all clues about shared interests that come in the answers to your questions. If you fail to find the clues, though, you’re slowly reclassifying the answerer. After all, I don’t mind when my acquaintances ask me whether I’m into tawses.

*Munches are socials for kinky people. All talk, no play, and no kinky outfits. Usually.

Written by Not an Odalisque

June 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm

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How Is A Classroom Like An Aeroplane?

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Debate about consent annoys me. The community’s got it pinned down: you’re a rational being with a sense of self-preservation, which means you get to make up your own mind about the risks you take, and I get to do whatever I want as long as you agree to it. Any conversation after that concentrates on grey areas, extremes, and improbably thought experiments, and leaves me wanting to scream, “Kant was wrong! Nothing’s universifiable, even universafiabilty!” and hit people without their consent. The people saying, “Ah, but what if…” too often have an agenda. “Ah, but what if the drunk girl is your long term partner, and she’s deliberately come into her—well, our—bedroom and taken off her clothes?” That scenario doesn’t have much bearing on the wrongness of sleeping with drunk 14 year old strangers. The difficulty of determining the precise number of gin and tonics I have to drink before caning me is a bad idea doesn’t alter the principle, either. Image

I’m maundering on about consent. I do have a reason: I came across an issue I hadn’t considered before, that of “manipulating safe words.” It was brought up by a top involved in group role plays, in a tone of obvious annoyance. Safe words, I heard, where not for the moment when you need to take a breather, have a cup of tea, calm down and return to the scene, but for real, and possibly embarrassing, medical emergencies. Manipulation of safe words is a crime which will exclude you from all future play.*

 My first reaction was negative. It was something along the lines of, “Fine, I don’t want to play with you either, you big bully.” The ability to pause a scene, to say I’m being pushed too far, I need a break, I can’t cope, is valuable to me.** I don’t expect that we’ll always be able to pick up where we left off, sometimes you just can’t get back into the headspace, and sometimes, as happened recently after I stopped a scene with HH (due to abdominal pain, in case anyone wants to accuse me of manipulation), the number of strokes will miraculously multiply when a scene is resumed. Would kink be a better experience for me if I couldn’t safeword out of a scene that isn’t going in the direction I want it to? Unequivocally not. In fact, being able to stop a scene is what gives me the confidence to take a risk, and it’s rather nice not to always know where every scene is going.

I, however, rarely take part in group role plays. I’m rarely invited, maybe because the other participants are worried I’ll safeword every time I feel like having a hot drink. In those circumstances, I would have a responsibility to the others playing, which includes not ruining their carefully arranged scene on a whim. The idea that stopping play for anything but a medical emergency is manipulation still doesn’t sit quite right with me, though.

Consent only means something if you can withdraw it. What I want now might be different from what I thought I would want when you asked me a week ago. We have safewords to make consent meaningful, to ensure that every second a scene is going on, everyone wants  it to continue. If your excuse is, “She said three weeks last Tuesday that she really liked the idea of Suffragette-style forced feeding,” then I think you’ve got your head around the letter, but not the spirit, of the law of consent. 

Here we come to the universifiability problem, however. It’s not just gags and subspace that cause issues. How do you constantly consent to being on an aeroplane? Or having an operation under general anaesthetic? Could I withdraw my consent to my mobile phone contract, please? And what if my kink is being pushed so far beyond what I think I can deal with that, given the choice, I’d be screaming my safeword and coming at you with a knife? Am I not allowed to play with that one?

 I think mobile phone companies are kind of evil, and I wouldn’t invite one into my bedroom. Practical problems, like the one in the aeroplane example, ask us to put a value on continual consent, and it is clear that they don’t have a high value in wider society, but we can expect them to have one in kink. I charge for tutorials cancelled at the last minute with little guilt, but that it because I believe that answering my questions on this week’s reading isn’t torture.  At least, it shouldn’t be. Or won’t, if I work a bit on technique.

 The great thing about consent is that, knowing the aeroplane won’t stop if I change my mind, or that using a safeword because I need a break isn’t allowed, I can opt not to get on the plane or into the schoolroom in the first place. That’s an elegant solution until it strikes me that it applies to everything: I can choose not to get in the gentleman’s car if I don’t want to be raped; not go into the dungeon if I don’t want to be beaten senseless.

Having come round in a big circle, I’m still wondering: does kink require a higher standard of consent than other activities? If so, how do I make sure, that for me at least, it gets it?

 

*I’m reporting a short speech, out of context, from a limited perspective, and omitting all the useful detail. That’s because this is a post about my reflections sparked by these words, not about my rightness and someone else’s wrongness. The speaker only concluded that ‘manipulators’ of safewords wouldn’t get to play again, a position I’m not going to criticise in a post about consent. 

**I actually don’t have a safeword, I rely on my partners’ abilities to understand “Hubert, I want to stop the scene.” I’m using ‘safeword’ throughout as a useful shorthand.

Written by Not an Odalisque

June 5, 2012 at 7:45 pm

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Making People Angry

Being in the middle of a blog furore is a strange feeling. The day is sunny, I have solid things to do, even if they are as uninteresting as washing the car and wondering why the chapter at the climax of my novel seems to be mostly about the smell of trains. Goings on online feel strangely unreal, but they keep drawing me back.

I criticised someone in a blog post and he’s upset about it. This isn’t the first time it’s happened to me, although it’s the first time that quite so many people have responded to the rallying cry of the distressed performer. I’ve said my piece, he’s said his, and now I’m left with soaring site traffic and a Facebook page of insults.

I’m not surprised that the performer is upset, I would be, too. If I can give an angry and defensive response to a request that I tidy away my shoes or put less chilli in next time, how much more defensive would I be about a personal performance of a piece I wrote myself? What I find interesting, in the world of the internet, is the orchestrated surge of support for your perspective, the attack on the people who disagree with you.

I’ve responded to these rallying calls myself. I’ve clicked links on Twitter to ask Facebook to delete groups promoting rape. I’ve been outraged by Unilad, I’ve left supportive messages on feminist blogposts under attack. The usefulness of a feminist response to something like Unilad is in showing that their perspective is not mainstream. A critical mass of responses tips the magazine from funny, but frowned at by a few humourless feminists, to a disgusting rag promoting violence against women, reviled by society. Now and again we bring something horrible to light and kill it. That’s a good thing.

It doesn’t happen very often. Usually, people just get locked in mutual antagonism with one another. If the internet’s glorious freedom of information and communication has a downside, it’s that there seems to be an expectation that everyone has a right to be heard, and anyone who writes something online will be willing to educate the rest of the world, one person at a time. I’m not.

Joe Black has encouraged a lot of people to read my blog and comment on it. He’s thanked them for their, “wonderfully funny and also intelligent comments,” such as, “what a cunt.” (Special shout out to Glynn Evans for that gem). On my post, I received some lovely, interesting, insightful comments. Ok, I received one lovely, interesting, insightful comment, and many less interesting ones.

I’m not willing to educate the world one person at a time. If you can’t see that Art influences culture, and that culture influences people, then you’re not going to understand my post. If you struggle to see how fiction can contain more or less insightful ways of looking at the world, you aren’t going to understand my post. If you haven’t got the basics of feminism pinned down, you aren’t going to understand my post. I realise I’ve frustrated a lot of people by not replying to their comments individually. Maybe I should put up some signposts to the basics.

In the meantime, let me acknowledge these things: Joe Black has more fans than I do. Joe Black espouses more mainstream views than I do. I am not under any illusion that I speak for the majority. If you came here to tell me you think I’m wrong, please don’t feel frustrated that I’ve closed comments, as I’ve already got your message. Feel free to share your views somewhere else; I just didn’t see any useful dialogue coming out of the comments I was receiving.

Me, I’m going to put on a miniskirt, wash the car and go to a WI meeting. You know, the sort of thing us humourless feminists get up to on a sunny afternoon.

Written by Not an Odalisque

May 22, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized