How dog whistles work, or some authors think we’re idiots

There are, in fact, two kinds of dog whistles. One is the type that John Lennon, a genuine wanker, put at the end of ‘A Day in the life’ simply because it cannot be heard by human beings, although dogs can.

The other kind is perfectly audible by humans, but is used by dog handlers to pass instructions to working dogs and make them do amazingly clever stuff.

Contrary to popular belief (and Wikipedia), it’s the second type we talk about when we refer to racist or sexist ‘dog whistles’. It’s not that the whistles are inaudible, but that they use a special code between the whistler and the intended target. Dog handlers use long or short whistles to get the dog to go left or right, and conservative politicians use words like ‘entitlement culture’ and ‘socialised medicine’ to appeal to their base of rich, greedy people while trying to plausibly claim to be inoffensive.

Unfortunately for people using dog whistle language, the message is perfectly understandable once you know the code, just like we know what the dog is being asked to do, if we know what whistles were used in its training. So when Reagan used ‘welfare queens’, it was all too obvious that he meant those people – you know, those black people. And Tony Abbott invokes ‘socialism’ in a mistaken belief that Australians are frightened of a society where the richest help pay to look after the poorest.

And when a bloody wanky author uses phrases like  ‘Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist’, and words like ‘segregating’, we know that he is deliberately invoking the civil rights movement in America, and the struggle of Rosa Parks. Why? Because being forced to sit in the back of the bus is only a problem if it’s based on race. Dog lovers are forced to sit at the back of the bus in Stockholm, and smokers were once relegated to the back of the upper deck on London buses. No one thought this was appalling. But being forced to sit at the back if you were black was a constant reminder of one’s inferior status – and that’s what Hugh Howey is trying to invoke with his horrible, inaccurate post.

Other people have said this all much better. I just want to point out – shame, in fact – a few people commenting on Howey’s post – like the ineffably wanky Jamie McGuire who also used ‘segregation‘ and ‘equality’ in tweets, then wandered over to Howie’s post to handwring and say:

I agree with Courtney Milan that civil rights language shouldn’t be used, but I have get to see anyone use the term “racial segregation”. I’ve seen a few comments on this, and I’m confused why some are so focused on semantics and turning it into something else instead of working together for change. I’m glad she steered away from it. Equality and segregation are acceptable terms to use in this situation or any similar situation where there is the action of setting someone or something apart from something else.

She’s confused? You mean she and Howie both ‘accidentally’ managed to invoke the same historically charged imagery and now she doesn’t know why people think she did that? When the very first comment on Howie’s post – which Howie doesn’t correct or comment on as inaccurate in any way – says:

This sounds like segregation. Next thing you know, they’ll make the whole group sit in the back of the bus. It’s time for a civil revolution, and you’re just the guy to do it.

Like inaudible dog whistles, the best way to know if one is being used, is to look at the reaction of the intended target. If the dog barks, it’s heard a whistle. If right wing voters start whining about food stamps buying lobster and ‘illegal immigrants’ taking all the jobs, then you know they’ve been given the green light by their political masters.

And if commenters on a subject take up the subject of ‘segregation’ and run with it, then you know that the images of civil rights inequalities were used with intent.

Sounds like Howie’s commenters heard and interpreted that dog whistle just fine. Is Ms McGuire now going to pretend we misheard?

Does DeAnna of Wonderland Press think that ‘separate-but-equal treatment’ does not invoke civil rights history in any way, when both South African apartheid and racial segregation explicitly used this exact phrase as justification for their hateful regimes? (And ‘pubsplain’? Bitch, please.)

How fucking stupid do they think we are?

Howie, DeAnna, McGuire, T M Williams, and the rest of the fools know exactly what they are doing, but want to pretend that no, no, we’re misinterpreting the code. How can we possibly think that they are using utterly inappropriate language over a non-issue in the foetid, steaming pile of crap that is the world of too many self-published authors obsessed with sales and not writing?

How indeed.

Ceilidhann said “The list of things that are comparable to the civil rights movement is a very short one. Actually, it’s just the words “the civil rights movement” and literally nothing else.”

And that’s all that needs to be said.

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Y is for Y Chromosomes – a response to Olivia Waite

Olivia Waite has been writing a terrific series of posts on Intersectional Feminism in Romance and her latest is Y is for Y Chromosomes: Gender Binary (Part 2) – on the topic of m/m and f/f romance. It’s an excellent post though coming from a somewhat disapproving stance. Go read it.

Here is my response, which I left in a comment currently awaiting moderation:

Hi Olivia

I’ve loved all these posts that I’ve read, and thank you for writing them.

As a straight female author of m/m, I’ll cop to being the problem as you see it. I disagree strongly with Sarah Frantz that straight women aren’t the majority of women authors in this genre – and at the very least, the majority of women authors are those enjoying heteronomative privilege (even while being bi or gender queer.) She is right to say that there are large numbers of non-straight cis women writers, as there were and still are in the slash community.

That’s not really the problem – the gender/sexual identity of an author shouldn’t come into it. But as you point out, the way we write about marginalised groups we don’t ourselves belong to, *is* the problem.

My reasons for writing m/m have not so much evolved, but become clearer to me. Slash spoke to me very powerfully when I first encountered it – first of all, it was a community of women doing it for themselves, and it was taking a very straight male-oriented gaze on relationships between people (men and women) and turning it into a female gaze. We took control of the stories and relationships as we saw them, and made them speak to our interests, our way of seeing things.

I will admit initially there was a great many naughty thrills and indeed arousal to be had from writing and reading ‘transgessive’ sex (transgressive in the sense that it was non-vanilla PIV, not transgressive because it was gay men having it). But that passed a long while back. I mean, there are only so many sex acts, and once the shock/kink value is used up, then you have to go back to the emotions, the relationships. I write almost no sex scenes of any kind between any characters now, and skip over those in books I read. I want the *people*. However, there are clearly readers and authors who are in it for the smut almost exclusively, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not for me. (I’ll also add that for many ‘straight’ women, it’s a safe way to explore our inner sexuality which might not be all that straight, however we have framed our external existence.)

Ultimately as an SFF writer, I believe in writing the change we want to see. I want non-traditional relationships, non-heteronormative lovers, to have the same acceptance and equivalence as I enjoy as a straight woman in a hetero marriage. So I show futures where same-sex marriage is utterly ordinary, where gender lines are blurred, and where the conflicts between people aren’t driven by the need to keep sexuality or gender hidden. I write contemporary fiction where LGBT relationships are shown as healthy and strong. I write my characters as usually bisexual, and their opposite sex relationships are given equal importance to their same sex ones. I show men and women as equals, and women as important in gay men’s lives, not as rivals.

I am even more determined to keep doing this after one of my readers – who had, ironically, just had an enormous packet of my stories sent to her by me for free – told me that she hated one of my contempory stories (free to read) because she couldn’t believe a household of LGBT people could live happily together, because it wasn’t natural or right. And this from an avowed fan of m/m and slash!

I’ve also had young gay men write to me and thank me for my stories, one saying that as he lived in a society where gay rights are suppressed, my stories gave him a great deal of comfort. So even as a straight women, I have some power to affect the emotions of gay people.

Is it right or moral to write what I do? I believe it is, with a good deal of care, and I agree with everything Tamara Allen has written above (if you ever want to dip your toe into writing that is the opposite of fetishistic and exploitative, can I recommend her writing because it is the loveliest and most loving you will ever read.)

Should I, as a straight woman, stick to writing het romances? If I had to, I would never write because those stories bore me. I have nothing inside me which wants to be told regarding men and women in love with each other. I want to write the world as it should be, could be. Not reinforce the status quo.

Do I do that well? Only the readers can judge. And they will. I don’t hide my straight female being, so they know who’s writing what they read. If it speaks to them, then I am happy.

Thoughtful post. Thank you.

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There oughta be a law – or why you can’t be a rebel when you’re the boss!

Well, I could rant yet again about yet another group of spineless authors demanding that Amazon violate customer trust and generally make it completely unsafe to review at all, just to protect their fee fees, but constant readers already know my views. These idiots need to grow some stones and realise that plenty of writers have actually died for their art. When you’re executed, threatened with death and have several people involved with publishing your book killed or shot, or imprisoned just for writing what you believe, then that’s ‘criticism’ that’s dangerous to your career.

The rest of it is just annoying crap to be ignored (or mocked in private) and goes with the territory. Just stop it.

No, what I want to talk about is world building and magic and why it’s important not to violate the rules. Continue reading

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In which I talk sense to myself, to overcome personal grief

Dear Ann

Recently I learned, quite by accident, that my father had died. I could have been told by my sister, who had my contact details, but she chose to conceal the fact my father was ill, was dying, and had died, and went so far as to omit me, the oldest child, from the funeral notice entirely. She didn’t mention a thing about my father being sick during contact last year, at which time he was either seriously sick or terminally ill.

Continue reading

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Dear fellow white feminists – have a cup of shut the fuck up tea

Before you call for my head, I’m not asking any woman to shut up in every case, or about feminism in most cases.

But when it comes to women of colour, we need to learn to shut up. Because we’re hurting them, with clueless, massively privileged demands to ‘learn’ (but really to school those ignorant non-whites.) We’re sucking the oxygen out of discussions about how traditional feminism hurts women of colour.

And too often we’re outright attacking women of colour for daring to use their voices because we think that means less space for our own. Yes it does. This is not a bad thing.

Lemme give you a direct analogy. You know how annoying it is when we’re talking about women’s problems, and men come charging in with whines about ‘what about the men?’ and ‘all men aren’t like that’? You know what I’m talking about.

Do you cringe when some bloke labels himself a feminist because you know that very same bloke is going to show his arse in exactly fourteen point oh six seconds after saying that? I know I do.

Do you get sick of explaining feminism 101 to men who apparently can log onto any blog on the internet, but the googles is a complete mystery to them?

You get sick of that shit, right? A lot of women are now pushing back and just not bothering to engage with guys like that. Even with the miniscule possibility that the guy isn’t just trying to exhaust us into silence, it’s just not worth the energy spent. We have too many other things to do.

Well, a lot of women of colour are like that about white women. They’re tired of teaching the unteachable. They’re tired of bad faith. They’re tired of all the attention being given to white women who label black women toxic, just for demanding their views be given some time, let alone equal time. They’re tired of betrayal by so-called allies. They’re tired of always having to be the ones to rein in their temper when talking to the absolutely fucking infuriatingly rude and dismissive, because they’re labelled as aggressive or bullies.

They’re tired of white feminists like feminists of all colours are tired of MRAs.

So my fellow white feminists, this is what not to do.

Don’t jump into the twitter stream of a woman of colour and demand education and validation and then become abusive and accusing when your ‘well-meaning’ efforts are derided as privileged crap.

Don’t write essays about how you’re not really that kind of white feminist, and then expect absolution for your mistakes that you will keep making. Stop talking. Start listening. Stop making the mistakes. That’s more convincing.

Don’t use your platforms to abuse women of colour talking about their communities.

Don’t use your platforms to support the abuse of women of colour.

Stop going into their spaces. Stop interrupting their conversations. Stop that right now. If you’re invited, be respectful. Otherwise, stay the fuck out. We have plenty of places to be of our own.

Stop expecting cookies for basic human decency.

And when I say ‘we’ I am including ‘I’. Because I’m part of the problem, and I know it. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I can look back over too much shit to claim I ‘get’ it. I’m a white feminist who’s made all the mistakes, and that’s why I am skeptical of white women eager to exempt themselves from criticism by women of colour. If you’re sitting there reading this and going, I’m not like that, well, if you’re not, fine, then obviously the criticism isn’t about you, but I bet you’re more like it than you want to acknowledge.

There’s one area where we shouldn’t shut up. We should be writing this kind of article, not linking in congratulatory mode to a man ripping into white feminists however nasty they are. Because (a) it’s not any man’s place to lecture a woman on how to be feminist and (b) if we as white feminists aren’t prepared to use our substantial (or even our little) microphones to criticise those who purport to speak for us, then we are the problem too.

Blog, tweet, email. But when it comes to women of colour, shut up and listen. If two women are talking about matters concerning women of colour, and one is white and one is black, give your attention to the woman of colour. Don’t dismiss her in favour of the white voice of authority. Just don’t.

Because we don’t learn much about anything if we’re too busy making lots of toxic noise about our hurt feelings. And while we’re busy fighting among ourselves, there’s one group grinning at the whole damn thing.

ETA: Some more links which are relevant:

http://jaythenerdkid.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/dear-white-people-stop-talking-just-for-a-second-please

http://jaythenerdkid.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/a-white-woman-walks-into-a-bar-she-claims-it

http://jaythenerdkid.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/we-all-have-opinions-heres-why-i-dont-care-about-yours

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George Zimmerman is no longer the most defended unconvicted creep in America

Woody Allen takes that mantle easily.

[I wasn't going to write about this. Many, many excellent, and some not so excellent posts have been written about this whole awful mess, but it was reading the responses to this post and previous ones on the same blog - one I usually admire and read with pleasure - that pushed me right over the edge. I just got sick of reading the same bullshit, aggressive, unempathetic rape apologies from angry, frightened men who are worried that poor oppwessed Woody might suffer so much as a paper cut from what he did to his kids. So caveat lector.]

[Another note: if I seem to be placing too much emphasis on the 1992 Vanity Fair article as a source, it's because it's the most contemporaneous to the acts under discussion, and is very detailed. Please do investigate further if you want to. Information and primary sources being freely tossed around in the links I've given below.] Continue reading

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Love and sex and the whole damn thing

Constant readers will know that my romance stories are a little out of the norm for m/m. Some of them don’t have conventional “happily ever after” endings. Many of them have cheerfully bisexual leads. Most of them don’t have a lot of sex in them, and quite a few have no sex scenes at all.

So I’m used to readers coming new to my books being a little confused. I still don’t understand this reader’s remarks about Kei’s Gift not being m/m because to me it’s a pretty normal, if very long, romance between two guys, who end up together. There is sex. There is love. There is a happy ending. What else is needed in a m/m story? (I really want to know.)

I also get the confusion over Lindira. This reviewer was originally furious that the story contained no gay sex, until I pointed out it wasn’t labelled gay erotica as he thought it had been. He then changed his review to something a lot less angry, but just as confusing, because he says “This is not a gay story”. The core romantic relationship of the story is between two male characters. They have been kept apart by a curse which, to be broken, requires a woman to have sex with both of them. So the sex is male-female-male, but there is no romantic connection. This reviewer isn’t the first to complain about the het sex in a gay love story, and I don’t mind that too much, but I will insist until I’m blue in the face that the story is, at heart, one about a gay romance and bringing two lovers back together.

In Lindira there is certainly substantial heterosexual content for vagina haters to complain about, but I have no sympathy whatsoever with people who don’t like cunts in their gay smut – especially women who complain about it. It’s sexist, transphobic, and also biphobic. What’s the point of including bisexual characters if we pretend their attraction to one gender doesn’t exist? What’s the point of pretending gay men never ever have sex with women when polls, and numbers of LGBT people with children conceived in the ordinary way, say the opposite? (And that’s not even considering the men who have sex with other men but don’t identify as gay.) Even Cole Porter, who was pretty damn gay, was married to a woman to whom he was devoted, and with whome he had sex at least once, since she sufffered a miscarriage.

Most gay men having sex with women aren’t actually bisexual. Many are closeted, many are in denial, many are romantically attracted to their wives or female lovers but sexually incompatibale. A gay man having sex with a woman isn’t being de-gayed, and I have never written any story which implies otherwise. At the same time, sex with women is a reality for a lot of gay men, and I don’t see anything wrong with ackowledging that fact.

Which is why this review makes me bloody furious. “What makes an author think that a reader picks up an MM themed story only to read about graphic heterosexual intercourse???”

I don’t know, dear reviewer. Maybe the kind of reader who understands that 600 words of unerotic, coercive heterosexual sex between a reluctant husband and a manipulative unfaithful wife trying to cover up her pregnancy by another man, in a novel of over 308,000 words, doesn’t make this a book a heterosexual romance or straight porn. Maybe the kind of reader who knows that sex between a possibly gay, certainly uninterested husband and his wife in an arranged marriage in a society which doesn’t approve of gay relationships and values marriage and family over all else, isn’t all that surprising. Or maybe the kind of reader who understands that this sex scene is the setting against which Arman’s meeting Kei and becoming attracted to him is both a wonderful relief and a terrible threat to his social position.

I have plenty of readers willing to read past the excerpt. I have plenty of readers who won’t recognise this reviewer’s description of me or Kei’s Gift or Remastering Jerna (in which there is no heterosexual sex, or indeed menage sex in either book.) I have plenty of readers, gay, straight and bi, male and female, who won’t toss a book aside because it mentions the dreaded vagina in whatever context, and who trust my books to do what they say on the cover. If it’s m/m, then the principle onscreen relationship is between two men (who may be gay or bi.) If it’s gay romance, again, the principle romantic relationship is between two men (or at least two males.) I don’t know where this reviewer got his impression of my books, but it certainly wasn’t from reading them all the way through.

As for this reviewer’s sneer that “this author either does not like/respect/or truly understand her gay, male audience or that she simply does not trust our level of intelligence”, this is barely worthy of dignifying with a response. I have a number of happy gay readers. I have had responses from other gay men who don’t find my books satisfying. That’s fine. But my putting any degree of heterosexual content into my books does not equate with thinking gay men are stupid (perhaps he thinks I’m trying to fool them into reading the books? He’s read plenty of m/m from his Goodreads profile – does he really imagine most m/m attracts or is aimed at gay men in the first place?)

I write my books for me, and hopefully a few other people will like them. Most of those people will be female because I don’t for a second believe my little romances are really reflective of how gay men live their lives. Frankly I’m amazed that any gay men like my books. I try not to be offensive, or desperately unrealistic. For more than that, you’ll have to go find another author.

Mr Sim would certainly be better off looking elsewhere for his vagina-free jollies. Perhaps he’d like the kind of transphobic, biphobic misogynist that Jesse Wave would enthusiastically approve of.

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Bamboozled? No, just fucked up

Let me tell you about a story I heard recently.

A man starts chatting to another bloke at a bus stop. To his amazement, the stranger tells him that he’s our bloke’s former girl friend ‘Helen’, having gone through gender reassignment surgery, and now called ‘Harry’. They two broke up eleven years before, so our bloke suggests they have a drink and catch up.

Over the course of several hours and many drinks, our bloke and his ex decide to spend the night together – and yes, have sex.

The next morning, our bloke (Pete) is all ‘yuck, gay cooties’ because he did the nasty with a guy. But at least it was with someone he used to love, right? Continue reading

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