This is the first blog post I’ve written in quite a while and I have to say, the reasons for my absence have been varied. Yes, I’ve been busy working – writing and editing The French Escape in the run up to its September publication. But more than that, I’ve had a lot on my mind and ordering my thoughts when it comes to the real world has been a tad difficult.
It honestly feels like the world has gone mad. What’s happening in America, Brexit, all the internal conflicts around the globe… And it’s not as if I can say it’s these things per se that are bothering me, the world is constantly full of conflict in one way or another. It’s more the response from certain quarters that I can’t seem to get my head around. Even the #MeToo campaign, an issue that needed bringing front, right and centre, has had the most atrocious feedback from a lot of individuals, both male and female alike. It’s as if sexism, racism, all the ‘isms going in fact, have suddenly found their voices again and aren’t afraid to use them. The verbal attacks on people and communities have been ridiculously ignorant, yet do those spouting these ill-informed comments care? It’s their right, freedom of speech and all that.
Of course, I agree with freedom of speech, I’m a writer for goodness sake. What I don’t agree with is the eagerness in which some people use this right to offend others. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but we all have the ability to choose our words. We can get our points across without being cruel, or dismissive, or antagonistic. But many choose not to.
So why am I writing this now?
My sister came to stay last weekend and we had quite a discussion about Feminism. I’m proud to say that I’m a feminist and, yes, I firmly believe that sexuality is the root of all women’s oppression. As we talked, however, it was clear that my focus was on the discourse used within the feminist debate, something I personally find quite restrictive. For me, the language employed doesn’t encompass many of the women’s issues that affect us all , for example, menstruation.
In our society, our monthly cycles aren’t celebrated, we’re conditioned to see them as negative. I’ve often said that if I had a daughter, I’d mark the occasion of her first period, jokingly referring to it as a period party. I’m not necessarily talking about getting all her mates round (although I don’t see why not), but her step into womanhood would be celebrated – a concept that is often met with a strange look or a loss of words. But that’s my point, the way we talk about things impacts not just on how we actually experience them, but how we’re expected to experience them.
I’m not suggesting we follow the lead of Donald Trump, who’s clearly a master at choosing his words carefully. After all, just like all the trolls, sexists, racists and abusers etc, he uses words as a weapon to meet his own ends. I guess what I am saying is, as with any issue, including the ones I’ve mentioned, our use of language is probably the one thing we can all do to make the world a nicer, more understanding place in which to live. We don’t have to agree on everything, life would be pretty boring if we did, but we can be polite, kind and respectful.
Whether we like it or not, we need to stop with the excuses for our nastiness, we need to look outside of ourselves, as well as in, and acknowledge the damage our choice of words can do.
In my view, we need to take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths.