What Exactly Are We Teaching Our Daughters? On Being Lectured About Feminism And Called A Thick Bitch Ditzy Girlie Stupid Twat Simultaneously

If I have girls, and I hope that I do, I’m going to try really hard not to give them a list of things they shouldn’t do because, genuinely, life is better without constraints, a lot of the time. But I’ll need them to know what feminism is, because no-one does now, or knowledge is selective and thin, and celebrities think it’s best to denounce the word like it shouldn’t exist and FB friends, mutual and actual ones, are always ready to educate. Be wary of that, though not wary in general. Sometimes, you have to trust your heart to the person holding it. Remember, even certificates can’t guarantee quality. And a profile picture doesn’t identify trolls, easily. So watch who you take lessons from, who’s giving them.

Firstly, importantly, I’ll tell these girls, my girls, not to call people thick bitches on Twitter, or online anywhere, because that shit spreads. And what does it say about you, that you have to resort to verbal slurs, instantaneously, extremely publicly, when rapport heads south? Secondly, to these insults, don’t label other women in attempts to degrade them, especially if you don’t know them, personally. This is important, because often women are undercut, passive aggressively, like it’s normality, so don’t remind them of the way they’re made to feel anyway by the media and members of the public. Using words like ditzy and girly and twat is just unnecessary, if you’re really trying to establish an academic point about femininity, feminism, the vote or women’s rights. Directing an insult in lieu of a conversation, unless it’s a joke one, destroys the scaffolds we’re building for our daughters so they won’t be oppressed by the moulds this world sets for them: of being ditzy, girly, stupid, twats. Labels are about as useful as Rotten Tomatoes percentage ratings: it’s a small slew of opinions.

Lastly, learn sarcasm. All too often, feminism’s so unpalatably serious, when it shouldn’t be. Sometimes a joke is the only way to make sense of something. Tread lightly online, I’ll tell my children, because you can’t completely tell tone on FB, and you might accidentally patronise somebody’s friend, assume you know most and, even if you do, say you’re the expert on what a feminist is, it’s impolite, surely, to laud this on somebody’s status, in a group conversation, and in no way upholds the feminism tenets of equality and solidarity. Don’t knock a person down if you can avoid it. Have a sense of humour about everything, even the most deplorable of things, because life will fuck you either way. And to laugh isn’t to make light, at all. Actually, it’s the only way, often, to give voice to the unpopular issues. To the subjects famous people offload like sandbags, because it’s bad business to say you care what a feminist is.

But daughters, above all, how many of you there are, be gracious. Learn what grace is. And don’t take shit. Know that there are smarter words than bitch.

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The Internship

This year I was an intern for National Flash Fiction Day, which involved receiving, compiling and covertly reading submissions before anyone else saw them. Sure, it was an admin task, the core of which involved building a spreadsheet of all the anthology entries, logging names, email addresses and word counts. But it somehow managed to be super fun. It was great seeing entries arrive in the inbox, some from recognisable names, some from newcomers, and getting to read them first. I didn’t have a say in the judging process, but it was awesome reading the stories before anyone else, trying to guess what might make the cut. The main lesson I took from this was that a story might be great, but that doesn’t mean it’ll fit into any project, necessarily. There was such a volume of entries, it must’ve been tough to choose what made it into the book, and what didn’t. And a part of that has to be which stories create a product, fit together, are cohesive. A story doesn’t always find a home on its first submission. Which is why it’s massively worth re-subbing, over and over again if need be. It was cool to see the breadth of responses too, each about a piece of art, be it book, film, sculpture, each so unique, personal, different, new.

From the spreadsheet I created a mail merge, which built a word document containing all of the submissions, each uniform, all in the same font, anonymous, with title only, so that the judges could read every story without the prejudice of knowing its author. I like that Calum and Holly read all the submissions this way, it makes it so much more fair if the first time they see the work they have no idea who submitted it. Everyone has an equal shot.

Once the selection was made, I compiled a new document with the chosen entries in it, which Calum typeset (and I still can’t believe how quickly he made the book happen, and that we’ll have it in a week).

There are many reasons I love flash. It’s the first form I really enjoyed working in. I just got it and it, me: it’s like the most reliable boyfriend/girlfriend ever. Flash can tell a whole story, a half of it, or a moment only, as it passes. It’s at times impossible to define, maybe called poetry or a prose poem in the mouths of others. It works in sequence or solo, but it’ll never spawn 7 sequels like Die Hard’s going to. It’s so much more efficient than that. Sparse yet filled with possibility which the reader injects like a jam machine in a donut factory. It’s compact, resourceful, won’t waste morsels. It’s the opposite of a Kardashian. And I’m totally, one hundred and ten percent, in love with it.

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Flash Kardashian

(Originally published on the National Flash Fiction Day blog, 17th June 2013)