Awesome things.

So the last few weeks have been awesome. ‘Cruelty’ is finished, I love the concept art for the cover, a reviewer loved the book and another one is hoping for a sequel, NaNoWriMo is finished and I’ve finally found five minutes to keep reading ‘Prince Lestat’.

Do you want to see my front cover?

image

Aaaaaaaaah! I fricking love this. Everything is kicking off. I need to sort out a place for the launch, which we are  hoping is going to be early Spring next year.

I’m going to be doing a reading at St Nicholas’ Market on Saturday 13th December in Bristol. It’ll be around 2pm so if you’re in the area pop down. Loads of other people who use the Fae in their work will be doing readings and it’ll be a good afternoon.

Sammy and her husband came down for the weekend which was lush. We just hung out, ate good food and watched good T.V and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, which is an awesome, awesome film. Hanging out with friends is so good for your soul.

December is going to be super busy with Church and choir and marking so we may not speak for a while. I’ll let you know how things go.

Ellen. Xx

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Calling all Reviewers!

Whoop, whoop! Editing is done and now we’re looking for some reviewera. It’s half urban fantasy, half paranormal romance set in Ireland with fae, magic and deranged gods. If that’s making you say ‘Hell, yes!’ and you are a shiny book reviewer then you might be able to get your hands on an Advance Reading Copy, if you’re lucky!

If you are interested, please drop Sammy at Kristell Ink a message, either on Facebook or via email to admin(at)grimboldbooks.com

Those who agree to read and review on the major review sites when it’s live will receive a lovely signed paperback (I’ll even put in a nice message for you.)

Feeling really excited.

That shirt, that ass and the road to Hell.

So this week has been dominated by two things. The Rosetta comet landing and Kim Kardashian’s bum.

This week, after a ten year mission, we landed a probe on a comet. The scientific world was in raptures about this amazing feat of science, this incredible thing that Europe had achieved. People were in tears at the enormity of what they had accomplished. And then Dr Matt Taylor came out with ‘The Shirt’. If you haven’t seen it, here it is.

The shirt

A shirt with scantily clad women, holding guns.

Oh dear.

There are two problems with this shirt: the fact that no one thought to stop him from going on world wide television wearing this shirt and the way the Internet exploded with utter viciousness at Matt Taylor.

I am not going to lie. Personally, I do not like this shirt. I do not like the way women are depicted on it. Or the message it gave to the world. Unfortunately, regardless of his intentions, the shirt gives the message that he objectifies women. It sends the message to some women that he believes that this is the role of women is to be object. That they don’t have a place within the world of science. Given that there is a shortage of women within the world of science, maths and engineering, it could be interpreted that this prominent scientist doesn’t think that women have a place. As a feminist and a woman, I was offended. I was offended that no one thought to tell him that it wasn’t exactly appropriate or that it is not ok to show women in this fashion.

As I said a few weeks ago, when I talked about Sarah Silverman’s half-naked photo, it is not ok to view people as purely sexual objects (which is why we are offended by naked boobies, we see them only as sexual) and this shirt did nothing to help that misconception.

However, what was more offensive to me than this shirt was the way the Internet exploded with bile. During the week the image kept coming up so I read around it. The shirt had been made by a female friend of Dr Taylor’s, who owns her own shop and makes these shirts for a living. It occured to me that maybe he just wore it because he thought it was awesome and wanted his friend to get some coverage for her talent. But the Internet didn’t see that maybe. The Internet and the extreme feminists went absolutely spare. They hounded him and hounded him, told him he was all kinds of shit for what he was wearing, dictating that he was a sexist bastard and a terrible human being, a woman hater and an oppressor of women. They sent threats and vile messages. In short, they bullied him. They bullied him into submission and they got a public, tear-stained, apology.

Is that victory? Is that moving the movement forward? In my opinion, it isn’t. We have fought for decades to be able to wear what we want without being slut shamed or attacked. And then we rounded on a man for wearing something he liked, something that brought him pleasure. Now, this is not going to be one of those ‘not all men’ or a feminist apologising for her sisters. This is a post that questions how we go about fighting the fight and changing the way the world works.

If we are going to move forward, if we are going to change how we are viewed and treated, we can not lower ourselves to the same standard that we are fighting against. We can not bully and scream and shout and attack those who wrong us. All that does is fuel the mysoginsts and those who want to keep women in the kitchen or the bedroom. We need to fight but there is a way to do it and it is not by using the same tactics. We need to educate and explain not howl in outrage. Bullshit must be called out, whomsoever spreads that bullshit, it must be stopped. And it stops with us. As women, we are right to be outraged by mysogyny, by the poor treatment we receive, by how our sisters are treated and our brothers trained to beat us into submission, by child marriage, by rape and the lack of access to abortion  and the whole host of other issues that plague our gender. But we do not doing by getting into the mud and fighting dirty, by bullying those who make mistakes. We must set a new standard of behaviour and we must carry it high. We will make mistakes and we will stumble and drop the standard but then we pick it up and hold it even higher. The whole system needs an overhaul and to be rebuilt. We need to set the standard and treat others as we wish to be treated. We need to lead by example and be careful how we set that example.

This leads me onto Kim Kardashian’s naked photoshoot

. kim-kardashian-paper-cover

Yes, this photoshoot. In the same week we landed a spaceship on the comet, the Internet was taken over by this image and the other ones from Paper. Nudity, an ordinary thing, overtook the accomplishment of the mission. Again. Or did it?

Go and Google it. Go on. It didn’t break the Internet, although Paper did get 16 million hits on their website. People have stopped talking about it. Two days ago. In fact, when I put her name into Google, her bum did not come up. I had to put her name, Paper and bum for me to be directed to what I needed for this blog.

I have to admit I am conflicted by this image and I have another confession to make. I am not a massive fan of nudity in general. I think people should keep their clothes on. However, I still firmly believe that if men are allowed to go topless in public then women should be able to. I may not like nudity but if you want to take nuddy photos of yourself, that’s your business.

So in that respect, ‘I’m like wow, go girl. How brave are you?’ I see a woman, bravely taking hold of and celebrating her sexuality, in a world that condems women for doing so. In another, I see a darker side; another image objectifying women, sexualising women and promoting unrealistic expectations of the human (female) body. I know what will happen. It is a sexual thing and it will be used as masterbation fodder. It is another stick by which women and young girls will beat themselves. Other women will comment on how disgusting she is and how twisted her body looks. How do I know all this? I’ve seen it happen. I work at a school and in the corridors and in private conversations, all of the above have been said from the ‘Pwoar I’d so give her ones’ to the ‘Eurgh isn’t she uglys’ and the ‘I wish I was that thins’.

And it gets worse.

There are serious racist connotations in some of the photos. The original photo was taking by the same photographer, Jean-Paul Goude, of his black girlfriend Grace Jones, a woman he called ‘ a schizo… outrageous bitch.

Kim-Kardashian-Jean-Paul-Goude-1stdibs

Esk. There’s an article you reall need to read on this topic from The Grio website. Not only does it address all the issues raised from a feminist perspective, it also raises the racist ones. The pictures are reminiscent of Sarah Baartman:

‘Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman (before 1790 – 29 December 1815 (also spelled Bartman, Bartmann, Baartmen) was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions in 19th-century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus—”Hottentot” as the then-current name for the Khoi people, now considered an offensive term, and “Venus” in reference to the Roman goddess of love.’

Saartjie Baartman called the Hottentot Venus (from Namibia ) she was flaunted as a freak and curios sex object because of her enlarged hypertrophic genital organs and prominent buttock bottom She died in 1815 after a life of-misery and-prostitution

Oh God.

Furthermore, not only is the photo just a rehash of an old favourite of the photographer, the orginal is from a book called ‘Jungle Fever.’ Yeah. Yeah. Gets worse again:

According to a People Magazine article written about the couple in 1979:

Jean-Paul has been fascinated with women like Grace since his youth. The son of a French engineer and an American-born dancer, he grew up in a Paris suburb. From the moment he saw West Side Story and the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, he found himself captivated by “ethnic minorities—black girls, PRs. I had jungle fever.” He now says, “Blacks are the premise of my work.”

Here’s the link to the full article. thegrio.com/2014/11/12/kim-kardashian-butt/ I recommend you read it.

As I said earlier, I am conflicted about this image. I would love it just to be the perfect expression of female sexuality, her taking control of her body and celebrating her beauty. Sadly, it isn’t. It is still objectification, with even darker, racist, overtones.

Yet there has been no outcry from the same feminists who lambasted Dr Taylor, no scream of ‘hang on, this image is sexual objectification, people will use her image to fap to.’ Nothing. I’m really confused. I don’t understand. How is the scientist wearing the shirt with all the ladies on it offensive but Kim Kardashian’s naked spread empowerment? If a woman is allowed to celebrate her body is it not ok for a man to celebrate the sexuality and beauty of women as well? Do we have to go to museums and protest against nuddy statues and paintings? Or is it ok because there are ones of the male form too? He landed a probe on a coment. The culmination of a 10 year project and that is all washed away by a lapse in judgement, a decision that doesn’t really reflect who he is. Just in the same way if Kim Kardashian knew the racial overtones of the images, she wouldn’t have done them.

The problem that lies in both situations is that the sexualisation of women is normal. No one said to Matt Taylor not to wear the shirt on TV and no one considered a naked Kim Kardashian as a controversial image. And there is no dialogue about it. It is either the same for all or for none.

The langauge around women remains violent and mysogynist, attacking and objectfying. But the female response cannot be to use the same language, to stoop to that level. At the end of the day, we need to keep fighting, we can’t let the violence and the nastiness continue but we still need male allies in our broken patriarchy. We need to remind our brothers, and our sisters, that we are people, members of the human race. We won’t get it right every time, it will take time to fix it, but by reverting to extremism we harm ourselves. I want to be equally better, not equally bad.

I understand the outrage and fury and those things are justified. I understand the intention to point out that Matt Taylor’s shirt was inappropriate but as the phrase goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. If we fight back, violence for violence, we start a road down a dangerous path.

Remembrance

This week, I think it is only fitting to remember all of those brave men and women who have died in conflicts since WW1. Thank you for your sacrifice. We will remember you.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Anniversary, NaNoWriMo and Boobs.

Yes, that’s right. Boobs but more on that later.

This Hallowe’en, Adam and I celebrated 10 years since the day we met. What. The. Actual. Fuck. How did that happen? It doesn’t feel like 10 years at all, which is a good thing. Every day is new and exciting and I honestly cannot wait to see Adam when I come in from work. Long may it last Adman.

I’m going to be a bit gushy and soppy but I never thought I would love anyone as much as I love Adam. I still get a rush of excitement when he comes through the door.  So this is our story. When Adam and I met, I was a wicked fairy at the Hallowe’en party that was being held at my halls of residence. I wore a black velvet dress, little plastic fangs, had purple hair, homemade wings made from cardboard and coat-hangers. I opened the wine with my teeth. And I still pulled. (Eighteen year old me had game). It was the great literary love of my life that brought us together. I have a first edition copy of ‘The Vampire Lestat’ and Adam mentioned that he liked Anne Rice and collected first edition books. He held my battered paperback as if it was the Holy Grail and I was sold. I knew I’d met the love of my life.

It’s been an amazing 10 years, full of more ups than downs, but the last year has been really hard. We lost our 2 eldest guinea pigs last Christmas and the miscarriage has put a lot of stress on us but we’ve fought through. If I hadn’t had Adam by my side, I don’t think I would have made it.

Do you want to see what he bought me?

10300794_10152767456113605_4193084922721830696_n1604928_10152767447358605_8787468691777100694_nAren’t these frickin’ awesome????

I have been very good and haven’t devoured ‘Prince Lestat’ in one sitting. I am loving it so far and will write a review of it when I finish.

‘Cruelty’ is on its second edit and is progressing well as we merge chapters. I’ve started another project which is NaNoWriMo. It’s essentially a 50,000 word novel in a month. You give your novel an name and a genre, put a snippet and try to write about 1667 words a day. When you’re done, you upload the whole novel. I’ve decided to do a supernatural murder mystery, in first person, from a few different perspectives. Not my usual style but I like it so far. I’m going for a kind of dark humour vibe. Adam’s read my first three chapters and he’s laughed. I’ll post the Prologue on a separate page. I’d love some feedback so let me know what you think.

Now, my final topic – boobs.

This week Sarah Silverman posted this photo (which has been subsequently edited by the outside world. I actually can’t find it unedited):

putin

What the actual hell? Why am I being subjected to Putin’s old man nipples while the woman’s nipples are blacked out? Apparently, her image is sexual. What? Let’s just take a moment and reflect here. It’s still breast tissue and it’s still a set of nipples. So why is the woman’s blacked out? Because we have sexualised women to such an extent that the idea of women showing breasts in public is something gross and makes us feel uncomfortable. Even breast feeding in public freaks us out. We are so removed from the idea that breasts are for feeding children, that even other women think it’s dirty to do so.

It’s weird being a woman in the 21st century. On one hand, there seems to be the celebration of female sexuality. We have shops like Ann Summers, LoveHoney and a miriad of others which cater for this ‘female’ market and the ever increasing consumption of erotic fiction from Mills and Boons to ‘Fifty Shades’. All of this suggests that women like sex and that’s good. But then there are the negatives: firstly, this absurd ideal of the perfect sexual woman: perky boobs and butt, flat tummy, plump pouts and never ending libido. But the second a woman in real life expresses sexual desire, she becomes a whore. She is gagging for it. (Yuck, I feel dirty saying that) And she will put out. And she loves to be used. Any woman who doesn’t is a frigid cunt.

Linked to this negative image of the sexualised woman, is the ideal of the pure woman. The woman you take home to meet to your mother, not the girl you shag. She is worthy of being your wife and mother to your children. But she is the aforementioned frigid cunt the second she refuses you. This is why boobs cause us so much issue: we have so crossed the line that breasts are inherently sexual, rather than functional, like your liver for example. They do serve a purpose beyond titillation: they feed children (BTW I am not pro-breast over formula. However you chose to feed your babies is your business and none of mine.)

Women simply can not win. We are given far too many mixed messages about how we act (or are supposed to act) what is acceptable for our gender and what is not. We are told that if we don’t make ourselves pretty, men won’t want us but if we dress in a certain way we are inviting rape. We need to be sexually experienced to please husbands but if we know more than one position, we are a slut. A sexy bum is used to sell furniture but if I wear tight jeans, I’m a slag. Make up your God-damn mind.

And do you know what is the real kicker? Women are the worst at judging other women. Women call each other ‘bitch’, ‘slut’, ‘whore’. Women break each other down. Women create these sexualised adverts. Women lead the attacks against other women who aren’t being ‘woman’ enough. The fucking awful ‘real women have curves’ campaign subliminally attacking thin women or trans women. It’s insane. Rather than women going ‘this is not how we should be defined’ women turn on other women as fast as they can. We are so invested in this contradictory dichotomy  that we run ourselves in circles.

Women are still subject to objectification, still treated as something desirable to acquire rather than seen as whole people and women buy into it. We buy the padded bra and the Spanx pants to make ourselves as attractive as possible. Now, before anyone gets upset, there is nothing wrong with being sexually attracted to someone, to being drawn to a shapely body or a nice bum. There’s nothing wrong with wondering what someone looks like naked or what it would be like to kiss (and more) a person. Attraction makes the world go round. But it’s when the attraction becomes objectification that there’s a problem. When it’s not about the person but about ‘she’s/he’s mine. Look at how good they look and they are mine’ we have a problem. People are people. Not trophies.

Now ladies, I have news for you and you aren’t going to like it. We are just as guilty as men as objectifying people. There will be some women who saw the photo of Sarah Silverman and went ‘That’s disgusting’ and immediately got googly eyed over some dishy, topless man. Or some women who were outraged by the fact the picture of the woman was edited and then went and got googly eyed over some dishy, topless man. Let me repeat (in shouty capitals): IT IS OK TO FIND OTHER PEOPLE ATTRACTIVE AND TO SAY SO but if it is ok for a man to be topless, it is ok for a woman to be topless. By the same standard: if it is not ok for a woman to be topless, then it is not ok for a man to be topless. We live in an eternal double standard and it should be all or nothing.

Now I realise that I am speaking only from my opinion. Lots of cultures have issues with the human body and keeping it covered. In my own faith, Christianity, there are lots of churches that teach modesty, that the naked body should only be shared with your partner. Islam and Judaism also have sects which teach a similar philosophy and that’s ok. I understand why any naked body would make someone with that ethic feel uncomfortable so nudity is blurred, which makes me realise something. The mainstream blurs penises and vaginas and bums. So if our downstairs are all treated equally, why aren’t our nipples?

I studied both Ancient History and English Literature at Uni and I studied gender and sexuality for both those subjects. Now I am not claiming to be an expert but I realised something interesting. Fear over female sexuality comes down to one thing: babies. You can prove that child is a woman’s because it came out of her vajayjay. Until DNA testing (and even then it took twenty plus years to get it precise) there was no way to prove it was the husband’s. How could you guarantee that the baby was yours? You kept your women inside and away from other men. Even then, if you weren’t sure, you could abandon the child in the street (Romans) or chuck the child away (Spartans). Of course, you had prostitutes and slaves etc., to slake your lust and who gave a shit if they had your baby? More slaves and you didn’t have to pay for them. You think I’m joking…look up the term Creole and then tell me if I’m joking (I know, I know I’ve jumped 2,000 years in the future but it still applies.) While you’re there, educate yourself about the Romans and their ‘orgies’. Not as common as you think.

This fear over male succession is so potent that armies played on it. If I say the words ‘rape and pillage’ you’ll probably imagine Vikings and long boats. Well, come back a moment and pay attention: an army doesn’t just conquer by murdering people but by raping and violating the women. Rape of the Sabine Women, anyone? By doing so, you break moral because you can not guarantee that any child born in the next year is the woman’s husband. No man will want to raise a child that isn’t his and no one will want a soiled woman so you won’t have an army rising up for revenge. Rape and pillage still happens in troubled areas of Africa and the middle East because within these communities there is still emphasis on woman’s purity and guaranteeing fatherhood.

I urge you to go forth and read about these things, not least because it’s interesting, but because it’ll make you realise how antiquated some of our ideas are. We haven’t really moved forward at all. (Really, you should read around it as I’ve only given you a few choice bits and pieces from my reading. You should make your own opinion)

My last word on this topic (for this blog) brings me back to the photo that was posted by Sarah Silverman and it’s more a comment on Facebook’s idiot rules about nudity. As I’ve said, as a society we are programmed to see lady boobies as glorious but shameful bags of joy and man boobies as perfectly acceptable. My friend and publisher Sammy shared the photo and was reported by someone for posting nudie pics. She was banned for 24 hours, which is ridiculous. Facebook allows videos of beheadings, animal cruelty, challenges of people drinking bleach and all kinds of other abhorrent shit and racist opinions but it chooses to draw the line at boobs. Boobs. What the hell is wrong with you Facebook? Nudity is more offensive than a beheading? Get it right Facebook: ban it all or allow it all.

Now, of course, I don’t want porn on Facebook. I don’t want children exposed to anything they aren’t ready to handle which includes obscene nudity(there is a difference between nipples and people pleasuring themselves publicly), beheadings and animal cruelty. Facebook is messed up and needs to adjust itself.

Here endeth the lesson. Until next week.

Ellen.