In Which I Have Learnt About Racism in the US

I wasn’t going to comment on the Charleston terrorist because I knew that a lot of people would automatically take umbrage with the term ‘terrorist’, and more might expect a ‘not all atheists’ blog. Both of those potentials are weird and exhausting so I figured I’d just share some posts by people smarter than me. Like this and this:

I think between them they express my opinion enough that I don’t need to waste Internet space trying to say the same thing. What I would like to talk about today is what I’ve been learning about the American south recently. I have never actually been to the States and I suppose I’ve been quite lucky in that the American culture I’ve absorbed over the years is as intelligent, if not more so, than the culture I’ve experienced from anywhere. MCR, Mindless, a million and one novels, the civil rights movement et al is all really fucking smart. No racism allowed, no sexism allowed, don’t be a piece of shit to other people and what in God’s name is wrong with letting people get married.

In the wake of this Charleston murder spree I’ve learnt that I’ve been really lucky, and blinkered, to only experience the smart people. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that there are stupid laws about letting idiots own guns and letting police officers shoot unarmed suspects… and I have a Tumblr account; I read the ‘white privilege’ posts. I just didn’t fully understand them until recently. I try really hard not to be a ‘all x people’ – when the English say ‘Americans are stupid’, I’m usually the first person to say ‘maybe you just haven’t met the smart ones. There’s a lot of people in that country, statistically they can’t all be as thick as this fucker on Fox News’.

By the same token when I see a post screaming about all the white people, promoting misandry or being rude about straight people, I think ‘you’re tarring a group the way some people tar your group. Kindly look out of your fucking window and understand that being discriminated against does not give you leave to discriminate’. Judge people based on their shitty personalities for Christ’s sake… So that’s me trying to be less of an arsehole than the dregs of Tumblr.

I just had no idea that the Confederate flag flies over the South Carolina or that roads are named for Confederate generals who fought for slavery that descendants of slaves have to pass through every day on their way to work. Those Tumblr users still need to grow up, but I think I understand more about why they’re so angry. I’m angry, and I’m white and live thousands of miles away from where this shit is happening. There is an inherent race issue because it’s fucking ingrained into the nation’s subconscious. Changing laws is one thing; changing culture is quite another and I must say, American government, I can’t believe you have the gall to invade other countries to teach them how to deal with racially-motivated terrorists when you have the problem within your own boarders.

I also didn’t know that being an atheist in the South is a really huge deal. Until I saw this:

There are two schools of atheist thought? Some atheists are against feminism? Whut. I think I’m beginning to understand why Dustin Lance Black makes a point of going back to Texas… Liberals in the States are dealing with a lot more shit than I ever appreciated and they have a massive job on their hands politically, socially and geographically. (Seriously who decided Texas should be the same size as the entire UK. Scottish independence just looks like if Dallas wanted fiscal autonomy.)

So that is what I’ve been learning recently. What about you?

When Smart People Make a Boo Boo (#DistractinglySexy & Tim Hunt)

Generally speaking I think it’s a good rule of life to never engage with online debates, mostly because ‘debate’ usually means ‘people SHOUTING THEIR OPINION with NO INTENTION of EVER listening to OR learning from the other side(s).’

But  I must say I’ve enjoyed the #distractinglysexy hashtag.

For those of you who try not to listen to news about people being sexist: Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel Prize-winning science professor at University College London, recently told a conference that when one is working with female scientists, ‘three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.’ I’ve never worked in a lab, but apparently it’s just one of those things.

I suspect someone has had a few fleeting/wonderful/awkward workplace romances in his time. Which is okay. When you’re attracted to someone, they are incredibly distracting. If I did work in a lab and liked a colleague, I would have to transfer workspaces until they moved or it blew over, just in case I accidentally spill polonium on my shoes when they take their coat off. (That sentence in itself may be why I’ve never worked in a lab.)

So it’s okay, Tim Hunt. We get it. What we don’t get is a) why you are distracted by all the girls, b) why they cry why you criticise them (the best teachers do not criticise, they merely point out what we can improve), and c) whether or not your views have ever genuinely impacted someone’s career.

I’m really not that bothered about a 72-year-old thinking a certain way about a certain type of person, and he’s perfectly within his rights to say it – although he might not be all that smart if he thought it would be a good idea to be sexist in front of a room full of women. The only really worrying thing is that people with ignorant views, whether they’re sexist of racist or homophobic or whatever, are often in positions of power and responsibility – and not everyone can separate their personal views from their jobs. I’ve no idea if Tim Hunt was ever involved in allocating grants or awarding places, but some people are and it makes me want to petition a law preventing CVs from showing anything but skills.

Still, at least the people on Twitter are making light of it all.

Petitioning D&G?

I’m going to break an unofficial habit of a lifetime and talk fashion.

Haha, not actual fashion, snowflakes, that’d require interest in clothing other than my jeans. Dolce and Gabana, yah.

So if you pay attention to LGBT news, fashion news or the general news, you’ve probably heard that Misters Dolce and Gabbana have got themselves into trouble with Elton John, and anyone who’s ever used IVF or been part of a non-traditional family. Even though Dolce and Gabbana are definitely not traditional. And neither are lots of their clients. And most people.

I think they’re hypocritical, and short-sighted for not having considered the potential backlash, but if they think IVF babies are ‘synthetic’, that’s their prerogative. I’m not that interested in the bitchfest that’s started up either, because it’s not that different from any other bitchfest, and any argument via Instagram makes me feel a bit like this:

Found on Tumblr I think
Found on Tumblr I think

My conundrum is that the other day I got an email from All Out. I love All Out – they’re a LGBT rights group that works almost exclusively through online petitions, which tend to call for political change in regards to LGBT equality. They campaign to stop deportations of LGBT people to countries where they could be imprisoned, for example, and helped ensure the Olympic charter was altered to prohibit discrimination of athletes based on sexuality. I get to help the civil rights movement by doing a small thing that can help a lot of people. Yay!

This week All Out sent an email asking me to sign a petition asking D&G to ‘use your platform to open minds, rather than spreading hate’. They point out that D&G have ‘become part of the problem and not the solution’, which is true. Straight homophobes will almost definitely use their comments as excuses for discrimination… ‘the gays only like traditional families, let’s deny them the right to be one’. It’s gross. Plus they’re undermining all of the LGBT people who are living in fear of their lives or fighting to have their rights recognised.

But if D&G wanted to use their platform to promote LGBT rights, they would. They’ve already backtracked/elaborated on their comments (which were made in a magazine so could’ve been misprinted slightly in the first place?) and apparently they have different views about IVF and family anyway – none of which are really anyone else’s business. On the other hand, do they have a responsibility to be pro-anything-which-supports-LGBT-people, both as LGBT people and major designers? If they do, should I tell them that?

My gut feeling is that they should be allowed to say whatever they want, but also that they should know better. I won’t boycott the brand, mostly because that would involve having the money to buy from it, but I would pause for thought before accepting any D&G castoffs. I’m just not sure if it’s my place, as someone who’s pro-freedom of speech, to tell someone what to say. What do you guys think?

International Women’s Day ft. Men

Happy International Women’s Day! I spent ages looking for a GIF of Mary Elizabeth from Perks of Being a Wallflower saying “thanks for the crumb” but I couldn’t find one, so I’ve decided to not be too cynical… apart from to say “thanks for the crumb, we’ll go back to not existing for the next 364 days!”

Wait, I’ve changed my mind. I just glanced through the #HappyWomensDay tag on Twitter and Christ almighty, there are things to say.

This is an MCR reference that's actually relevant (well it had to happen sometime). from sunshinethekatt.tumblr.com
This is an MCR reference that’s actually relevant (well it had to happen sometime). From sunshinethekatt.tumblr.com

I almost wrote a blog yesterday about Selma and MLK’s I Have a Dream speech, but it felt contrived partly because I hadn’t done a lot of research but mostly because I haven’t been on the receiving end of racism to the point where I feel qualified to write about it. And that feels weird, because if, as a women, I read an article by a man which thoughtfully and carefully discussed women’s rights and sexism, I’d be delighted.

I recently stopped calling gay rights ‘LGBT rights’ and started saying ‘civil rights’ instead, because civil rights are people rights, and we are all people… right? At the risk of sounding like Tumblr, we all have something that makes us less-than citizens in the eyes of the law and society – unless we’re incredibly wealthy, straight, white men who have been highly educated. But that doesn’t mean wealthy, straight, white men who are highly educated can’t be just as passionate about civil rights as everyone else. Maybe they have a direct link with a minority group through their family or friends, or maybe they just have the capacity for empathy. Some of my favourite civil rights rants and gestures have been by the MCR guys – remember Frank’s homophobia is gay t-shirt? Or when Gerard did that Q&A and talked about gender fluidity?

I’ll probably end up writing something about MLK or Selma, but not until I’ve got the time to make it a decent piece of work. I’ll still get really nervous, though, that black people are will say “fucking white girl has no idea what she’s on about and just made things worse.” I don’t want to step on toes, I want to show that we are all people who deserve the exact same rights and treatment regardless of the characteristics we can’t control.

I’m going to stop talking before I ramble my way into a hole. Does any of this make sense to you guys? I mean, I’m definitely more eloquent than those people on Twitter, but it wasn’t hard…

Instaglam

It has occurred to me that I might not have actually told you guys that I have an Instagram account. I know it was included in those little icons that used to be on the sidebar, but they annoyed me and I haven’t got around to putting them back minus the annoying bit (pixelation and wonkiness. I am very tech-savvy). Anyway, to remedy that I am now trying to include a little widget in this post and maybe on the sidebar so I have one less icon to depixelate.

I wasn’t actually expecting that to work. Anyway, I put quite a bit of stuff on there that’s not anywhere else, because Instagram posts embedded into Twitter do my head in. I also spend too much time looking through the feeds of people whose work I like.

If you’re on there say hello and we can embark on a frenzy of over-tagged 1970s-esque arty pics!

Colour Codes

I think I might have been insulting people for ages. I mean, I know I’ve been insulting people for ages, but it turns out I might have been accidentally insulting people who I actually wish to do the opposite of insult.

That’s getting tautological so I’ll get on with it: yesterday Benedict Cumberbatch (I’d forgotten how hard his name is to type quickly) apologised because he accidentally used the term ‘coloured’ instead of ‘black’. I did a quick Internet search, aka poked about on Twitter and Tumblr, and there was surprisingly (refreshingly) little bullshit about… or maybe I didn’t look hard enough, haha.

My point is, I was under the impression that it’s completely okay to use the term ‘people of colour’ to describe non-white people? I mean, it’s pretty standard usage on Tumblr, and if anywhere is going to eat you alive for using the wrong terminology, it’s those snowflakes. Where I come from people say ‘black’ and ‘coloured’ interchangeably, and not usually in a racist way (if you want to insult someone’s race, there’s a way more varied list). Apparently Martin Luther King used the term ‘citizens of colour’, and if we should follow anyone’s example my gut feeling is that MLK is a good dude for the job. So should Benedict have said ‘actors of colour’ instead of ‘coloured actors’? Or ‘black actors’? What if he meant anyone who isn’t white but isn’t necessarily black? Should anyone care when he was actually making the point that the acting industry isn’t as diverse in the UK as it is in Hollywood?

Have I just insulted more people in my ignorance?

Help.

Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2014

This year has some new categories and tough competition!

Books of the Year

I’ve stopped trying to pick one.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which I thought was going to be about whiny teenagers and is actually a lovely story about twins with great names who go to university in Nebraska. One of them writes a fanfiction that has thirty thousand hits a day. Whatever you think it will be like, you’re wrong. Read it if you’ve ever read or written fanfiction.

Or How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper, which I read in Greece. It’s about Doug, a 29-year-old widower who hasn’t left his house in a year except to buy Jack Daniels until his sister comes to stay. The characters are incredibly real and although they’re not nice, you want to spend time with them… I wasn’t sure at first but it is A*.

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan. Because Nico and Reyna got their airtime and it was beautiful.

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I tried re-reading this recently and I couldn’t because after the first page I remembered how much my stomach was tied in knots the whole flipping book. If I could write like anyone, I’d pick Khaled Hosseini. The power to make your readers cry, man..

The True Lives of My Chemical Romance by Tom Bryant. I read this the Sunday after the #revenge10 meetup in Camden, which was the fist time I’d been able to listen to live MCR since MCR ended. It was lovely hanging out with other fans and not having to explain or justify how much I love this band. The book made me sad in a lot of ways because it opened a window to the inside of MCR, and it was contrary to the image portrayed by the media (and maybe the band) at the time… But by reading the entire history, told objectively by someone who understood and respected the magnitude of MCR, I felt like I could really start to enjoy MCR again. Listening to songs didn’t make me sad any more; I was genuinely excited for the guys’ new work. So thank you to Tom Bryant! Also I met him at #revenge10 and he is a good dude.

Best New Musician

Lorde. Lorde Lorde Lorde. I ignored her stuff for ages because I was bitter and twisted that someone younger than me had a) such great hair and b) worldwide success. I am now over that. Partly because girls should support girls on their quests for awesomedom, and partly because her music is excellent.

Best New Album

Stomachaches.. Hesitant Alien. May Death Never Stop You. Come on, was I going to pick anything else? I haven’t bought anything else! I am turning into an old lady when it comes to new music. I hope to change this in 2015 buy physical copies of the music I like.

Live Show of the Year

King Lear (amateur production) in my town. Lear almost dropped Cordelia. Unlike the Sam Mendes production, there was a little room for audience participation – mostly because there was all of 50 people watching and you could make eye contact with most of them.

Most Interesting TV Event

Eurovision… Conchita winning was pretty brilliant in itself, but I think this part of the show may have been the most entertaining for the viewer:

Rudest Person on the Internet

Either most of Tumblr, the person on DeviantART who told me they’d ‘just print’ my artwork instead of buying an official copy, or the people featured in @TheDMReporter’s screen shots.

Indifferent Ignorance Homophobic Dick Award

This was such a hard one to choose I was wondering if you guys would like to suggest any examples? I mean, there’s the usual US-pastor-saying-something-offensive, and recently a UKIP MEP who is actually gay called equal marriage “false bollocks”. I dunno, I feel like we need to expand our horizons. Anyone got any horror stories

Indifferent Ignorance Ignorant Fuck Award

It was very hard to narrow the nominations down this year. So I haven’t.

The purportedly Muslim group calling itself Islamic State. You sirs are giving Islam a terrible name and you ought to be ashamed. My knowledge of Muslim theology is not as thorough as my knowledge of Christianity (A Levels, huh) but I’m pretty sure the Quran is not telling people to behead aid workers and use people as slaves.

Vladimir Putin and his inner government group. (I am not sure what the Russian name for that is.) Do you actually think no one minds or has noticed that you’re rebuilding the Iron Curtain? Please stop. I would like to go to Eastern Europe and Russia in my lifetime without feeling like I’ve stepped into 1965.

The citizens of America who think it is 1965. It’s not. Shooting people is not even remotely a good thing. Shooting them based on their skin colour is even worse. You’re embarrassing your country.

Okay I think that is enough for one post. Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions for different winners or new categories? I couldn’t think up a category for Chantal Claret’s Pledge campaign, for example, or one for Lola, the chimp who does Gerard Way’s PR. 2014 has been an action-packed, sometimes-hilarious-but-mostly-depressing-news-stories year!

A Quick Question About Getting Too Social Justice-y

Darlings,

Wifi where I am at the moment is definitely iffy, so although I can’t download Blood of Olympus to my generation one Kindle, I also can’t stumble upon any spoilers. Schrodinger’s novel I suppose.

Anyway I have an indifferent ignorance question. I’ve been chatting about the whole Tory ‘we’ll get rid of the Human Rights Act’ conference claim. I personally am not convinced that scrapping rights-based documents are a good idea – call me a hippie, but I appreciate legal equality – and I’m not convinced that the government, whoever it ends up being, will make a British bill that’s as watertight. I can just see the rich white dudes making loopholes to make deportation easier, or cheap labour more accessible, or reducing gay rights – partly because they don’t understand what it is not to have those rights and partly because they want to appease Daily Mail voters.

The people I was chatting to reckon that I’m taking the other side of the argument too seriously; believing the leftie Mail-esque rhetoric. I had never thought of that. I mean, Tumblr has a lot of those other-way-extremist viewpoints (I think they’re called ‘social justice’ bloggers?) like that ‘white people are inherently racist’ post the other week. I thought I was pretty middle of the road in terms of understanding political arguments, but have I been hoodwinked a bit? Am I just as indifferently ignorant in my own way?

My phone battery’s going and I want to sunbathe so I’m going to shut up now. It might take a while to reply to comments, but please do leave them so I’ve got some nice emails to look forward to when I’m clicking the wifi buttons and wondering if I should just use a typewriter!