“It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee.

Since the rumours of Gove’s most recent nail in the educational coffin began to surface on Twitter yesterday, I’ve been trying to translate my utter despair into written word, but my mind has continued to return to the above quote from the great novel at the centre of this story.

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Anti-Rape Panties – because rape shouldn’t be easy.

You know when you stumble across something online that seems so utterly ridiculous and inconceivable that you know, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it just cannot be real, humanity cannot have stooped to such lows, it must be some elaborate hoax or spoof designed to expose the very nonsense that it appears to condone?

Yeah, this is one of those kind of things.

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A Correction.

A correction.

For writers, words are our daily bread.

We try and taste all new words that we come across, endeavour to maintain a balanced diet of verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns, pronouns, all mixed together in the pot, producing sentences and stories to tantalize the tongue. We consume books, magazines, newspapers, novels, poems, plays, anything we can get our hands on to satisfy our hunger for words and the knowledge that comes with them. We learn about new styles and tastes, explore recipes from throughout history and national flavours, we could simply not exist without words. Life would be bland, beige and unexciting.

As a creative writer and an aspiring journalist there is one word that stands at the forefront of everything I write, printed in bold, capital letters among all others in my repertoire, that word is TRUTH. Even in my most fictional offerings, the foundations are built with truth, an honest representation of some place or person or feeling. Throughout history writers have endeavoured to capture their world and the people in it with honesty, truth and integrity, I think of Dickens, Austen, Joyce. We know their worlds as clearly as our own.

I mention integrity because there is dishonesty in not telling the full story.

To recognise Father’s Day I wrote a brief, honest list of things which I had inherited from my father, lessons he has taught me over the years, but it was not our full story, not even a fraction of it. The truth of the matter is, and even now I only glimpse at that truth, is that the most important lessons my father has taught me have not been easy truths to accept. I have not made peace with them yet, as my father and I have not made peace with each other. He disapproves of my choices in life as much as I disapprove of his, that is perhaps the shortest telling of it. It has been a long time since I have wished him Happy Father’s day because ours is a tumultuous relationship, and truth means as much to him as it does to me, we cannot pretend and simply play happy families. We are each other’s catalyst, testing patience, breaking tempers, building character. The glimpse of my father’s influence on me which I tried to capture yesterday, did not do either of us justice. He will always be the most important and influential man in my life. He has made me who I am, the writer I hope to be, the shining example of everything I hope not to become. And someday I hope to be brave enough, at peace enough, to tell that story because I owe it to him as much as I owe it to myself. But not yet.

The most important stories we have to tell are always the most difficult to write.

Keep Calm and Do What Now…??

Stop me if I’m being sexist here, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that the person behind the now infamous ‘Keep Calm and Hit Her’ t-shirts was a man.
The story goes that the series of ‘Keep Calm and’ t-shirts produced by Solid Gold Bomb and sold by Amazon, were created by an automated computer dictionary and a scripted programming process, which to my technophobic ears equate to as much as “Computer says no”, or in this case, “Computer says rape a lot”.
The scripted programming process in question was compiled by only one staff member of Solid Gold Bomb – incidentally anyone sensing some massive overcompensation in the company name? The founders obviously follow the Gillette school of thought, just whack three relatively masculine sounding words together and watch the money roll in  – they might as well have called themselves Massive Throbbing Cock. But then, going to work everyday might have been a cruel reminder of the sad, pathetic truth he carried around in his Y Fronts.
But anyway.
This single member of staff, or Scapegoat, as he will be go down in history, is the only figure the company has put forward as any source of blame, or at least incompetence. Only one person was responsible for the automated scripted programming process, and sorry Scapegoat, that’s you. Good luck buddy!
It seems incredible that no one else at Fusion Titanium Pimp had absolutely no duty or interest in what their automated computer dictionary was throwing up all over Amazon, or that in designing the scripted programming process, no one thought to restrict any obviously offensive or risky language, say for example, RAPE or KNIFE.
It’s all pretty hard to believe.
And in my experience, if it’s hard to believe, then you shouldn’t.
The sorry excuses being rolled out by Raging Steel Dragon are as unimpressive as their t-shirts, unoriginal, unacceptable and offensive.
The least the company could have done was have the Solid Gold Balls to come out and admit that they were trying to make a cheap buck out of uneducated, overcompensating teenage boys, you know the type, they wear huge baseball caps saying ‘THUG’ that their mums’ bought for them in Matalan.
The truth is, offensive as the t-shirts were, having the word RAPE emblazoned across some guy’s sagging moobs is the tip of the feminist iceberg, and actually the image is laughable. It’s about the only thing in this whole saga that has raised any humour, the general response on twitter is a resounding ‘Rape is not funny’.
I am always amazed by people who make rape jokes, it’s a sense of humour I hope never to get. But in a bid to try and understand this kind of mindset a little better I did some research. Why would a businessman (which I am still assuming the braincell behind Turbo Platinum Excel is) ever consider branding his product with this kind of distasteful and disturbing humour?
So as well as researching testosterone-pumped words to ridicule Huge Matrix Hustler, I also looked into what Google had to say on the query “Why do men rape?”
Let me assure you, it doesn’t make for pleasant reading. The first result was perhaps the most disturbing even though the nature of it was simply someone on Yahoo! Answers asking the same question as I had, but the phrasing of it was still disturbing. He (I checked) asked why men “indulge” in rape, as if it’s just a slightly more expensive bottle of Rioja you let yourself buy because you’ve had a tough week. The responses were just as worrying, most notably because it took four answers before anyone pointed out that rapists aren’t indulging, they are committing a violent crime.
But thankfully, RapeCrisis England and Wales had a more educated answer. This is what they had to say:

(There is a huge Google world out there with a million different answers, but I settled with this answer, mostly because I couldn’t quite stomach reading any more opinions on the psychosis of rapists at bedtime.)

“Rape is an act which is totally controlled by the perpetrator. During rape a woman’s right to be self-empowered and sexually self-determined is completely denied. Our sexuality is fundamental to our sense of ourselves and such a violation takes away the control we expect to have over our bodies and our lives.”

If this is the case, whatever the sexual desire or intention on the surface of the attack, if rape is perpetrated in an effort to defy or violate a woman’s self-empowerment or sexual self-determination, surely the perpetrator’s own emasculation is a given? If a man resorts to rape in order to determine his own masculinity he is a testimony to the empowerment of women. It certainly seems to be the general consensus surrounding the culture of gang rape in India, that women are being punished for having a mind of their own, for refusing to live as second class citizens.

I realise this kind of theorising offers absolutely no consolation to the victims of such a horrific crime, and I don’t pretend to offer the suggestion as such. But I hope it sheds a little light on the idiocy of Solid Gold Misogynists or whichever Scapegoat they are trying to pin this on.
‘Keep Calm and Rape A Lot’, roughly translated through this theory, means ‘You are a weak and emasculated man who has no other humane or civilised way of exerting his own sense of self worth than by wearing a t-shirt which promotes the violent violation of another human being’.

I’d like to imagine that any receipt of purchase on this product just said ‘Is your mother proud of you?’

Because that’s the really sick part in all of this. We know that companies and businesses and corporate operations will do pretty much anything to make money, no matter how offensive or disturbing it seems to the everyday man or woman. We’re never really surprised by their abhorrent behaviour. What is most disgusting about this whole thing, is that most of us know someone who would have seen that t-shirt and laughed, maybe even bought it.
These t-shirts are just another by-product of a misogynistic culture which has normalised the violent abuse of women. And it’s still not funny.

One Billion Rising.

I’m Rising Because…

I was brought up by a father who taught me never to take shit from any man, not even from him. My mother, and all the women in my family, have been the greatest examples of strength and courage even just in their day to day lives. They never fail to amaze me. I’m rising because these women, and millions like them around the world, just get on with things. They work hard, they shoulder every heartache, every trouble but they don’t stop, life goes on, they must go on with it.

I was brought up believing that women have an equal right to life and happiness, and that if anything, they work harder, strive further, and deserve more than men. But I know that not every young girl is taught this growing up, not every young girl is lucky enough.

I’m rising because all across the world today, young girls will see their mothers, aunts, sisters, rise up and dance for One Billion Rising, and it might be the first time they’ve ever seen them dance, ever seen them rise up against the violence or suffering of women, ever seen them make a stand against anything.

I’m rising because, for the last few months I’ve been trying to write a piece about feminism and its continuing importance in the world today, but every day, the piece gets longer and longer, because every day a new story breaks. Whether it is the gang rape of a female student in India or the death of a woman in Ireland who was refused an abortion, or a Christmas advert from Virgin Mobile in America that normalises, even makes a mockery of sexual assault against women.

A disturbing culture has grown out of this kind of advertising, or perhaps the advert is a result of a wider normalisation of these attitudes. Young men, and women, make jokes about sexual assault, abuse, rape every day that suggest that this kind of violence against women is not only normal, but funny.

Recently I read a study which compared the comments of convicted rapists with those made in lads mags (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2011/dec/09/lad-mags-rapists-study). Half the people surveyed couldn’t tell the difference between the two, and can we pretend to be shocked? How often have we heard the ludicrous words “She was asking for it”?

I’ve confronted people who’ve made these kind of lads jokes in the past, and the most common response? “Lighten up”.

I don’t know any of those kind of jokes, but I have got a pretty good punchline…

One in three women will be raped and beaten in her lifetime.

Anyone laughing?

I’m rising because no women anywhere, ever “asked for it”.

I’m rising because the only time a man ever tried to hit me I hit him back twice as hard. But I know that not every woman will be able to fight back, we all have to fight for her.

Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.


The CEO of 2day FM, the Australian radio station responsible for the now infamous Hospital Prank earlier this week, has told reporters he is satisfied the DJs concerned “broke no laws”.

Oh well that’s alright then. A woman is dead, two teenagers are now motherless, but at least no one’s going to be sued.

The insensitivity with which Rhys Holleran has responded to the “tragic” suspected suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha is appalling. The fact that the prank call was made in the first place is absurd. What comic value did the DJs really think they were going to get out of the call? I’m pretty sure they don’t consider it a laughing matter anymore.

Holleran defended his employees with the frankly pathetic excuse that no one could have “reasonably foreseen” the suspected suicide of the woman they made the butt of their jokes. It is true, how could they have possible known that this poor woman was in such a delicate mental state that becoming a figure for international scrutiny overnight could potentially push her over the edge? It’s not as if she works in a stressful, high pressure environment like say, a hospital? Or that she was dealing with a particularly important, high-profile case like say, the care and welfare of the heir to the throne?

There is a famous quote believed to be coined by Plato “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Of course the CEO or radio DJs or company lawyers of 2day FM had no way of foreseeing the awful turn of events which their little skit could have triggered because they didn’t know nurse Jacintha Saldanha, they had no idea what occupational or personal stress she might have been dealing with at the time, neither do we, everything at the minute is speculation, but is “how were we to know?” a valid excuse?

It’s the excuse of adolescent bullies. We’ve heard it before; it’s all fun and games till someone gets hurt. The actions of those at 2day FM were unthinking, insensitive, unkind. They may not have been able to foresee this tragedy, but that doesn’t purge them of all responsibility or blame.

I’ve often had to remind myself of Plato’s words when I get frustrated with a customer at work or a friend who seems distant or uncaring, because it’s easy to forget what troubles others might be carrying around with them when you’re busy trying to shoulder the weight of your own world.