Female is not a Genre

Imagine that you’re an alien. Imagine that you’re so huge, (no, huger).

That you can see all that is going on down on planet Earth. Wouldn’t you begin to wonder, why those creatures that walk upright, are divided into, what appears to be two camps? Look at them,*points, they seem to be the ones in charge, you might think. And those *points, they seem to be as capable as those others, but get less recognition, rewards and status than the first ones. How weird.

What, we wonder, keeps these creatures in this apparently, permanent state of conflict and division, oppression and submission?

Hmmm, Men and Women, what a conundrum; not saying I have the answer folks, if I did have a wand to change things…boy, there’d be some sorry asses I can tell you (FOR I AM A VENGEFUL GOD!)

GaladrielStormQueen-559x241
Galadriel; Elf, Storm Queen, Helper of Hobbits

 

I have been around a while (hey! Less of the ageist jokes!), and admittedly there have been some changes and redress of balance; female leaders, female presenters on TV and Radio, women doing ‘men’s’ jobs, men doing ‘women’s’ work. (I personally am blessed to be married to a man who truly knows what equality is, he cooks better than I do, so does 99.9% of it, he changed baby nappies as much as I did. He does the same amount of shopping and housework as I do.)

But are we anywhere near parity?

Don’t get me wrong, I know my life is so much better than my mothers, or my grandmothers. And there are inroads into traditionally male dominated careers, but when I see something in the media  that is attempting to say – ‘look here’s a woman who can play football/lift a spanner/throw a ball/play a guitar’ etcetera, etcetera, it usually comes with the ‘hidden’ adjunct, ‘as good as a man’.

sana mir cpt Pakistan Cricket team
Sana Mir; Captain of Pakistan ‘female’ cricket team
Soccer - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 - Group 6 Qualifier - England v Wales - The Den
Casey Stoney (MBE); England women’s football.

 

Why can’t women be that thing without referencing men? There was a horrible period when the creative industries adopted feminised versions of career description, and so we had Actress, Comedienne, and the worst – Authoress!!! Now we say things like, female footballer, The England  female cricket team, female band, lady doctor! Yes! Really, I hear people on buses, even my own parents saying that they had to go to the GP/Hospital and saw a ‘lady doctor’.  Why cannot a writer be a writer, regardless of gender?

emma watson actor and wizard
Emma Watson; Actress and Wizardress. Make that Witch!

Anyone who thinks Feminist movement is not required anymore is living in a dream – and it isn’t just males, there are plenty of women out there who think it’s all over. It isn’t. When we can print books, hold music concerts, conduct interviews, book tickets for a match, vote for leaders, and everything else without mentioning that persons gender – then and only then, will we be on our way to an equal world.

lady_doctor
A lady doctor? What were they thinking?

Let us just speak of how good or bad a writer is. Let’s just say how strong the performance was. Let us just commend a well directed movie and not say something along the lines of; “And it is directed by first-time female director —“.  Let us just recognise people, and gender need only be mentioned if it has relevance.

The world population has almost, almost not quite, equal numbers of males and females – but when did you last read or hear about, the male cricket team, the male mountaineer, the male member of parliament, the male writer?! I think it is easy to miss this, and so we compound the problem.

I have included, below, some sites you might like to visit in regards to further information and articles on this point.

Thank you for reading.

George Eliot
George Eliot; Writer. Only got away with it because everyone thought she was a he.

 

  • On census night, the population of the United Kingdom (UK) was estimated to be 63.2 million.
  • There were 31 million men and 32.2 million women in the UK.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/bulletins/2011censuspopulationestimatesfortheunitedkingdom/2012-12-17

Female Cinema is Not a Genre

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14581200._Female_cinema__It_s_not_a_genre___Jodie_Whittaker_on_her_new_film__Broadchurch_and_equality_at_the_movies/

Two Women Walk Into A Bar

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/helen-keeler/two-women-walk-into-a-comedy-club_b_6514570.html

Men on Earth

https://qz.com/335183/heres-why-men-on-earth-outnumber-women-by-60-million/

Female is Not a Genre

http://www.thegirlsare.com/2015/03/02/roxanne-de-bastion-female-is-not-a-genre/

Women at work Around the World

https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2017/mar/08/women-at-work-around-the-world-in-pictures

 

 

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The Alan Gibbons Interview

 

Alan Gibbons  is an English writer of children’s books who has won a Blue Peter Book Award. He lives in LiverpoolEngland, where he used to teach in a primary school. His father was a farm labourer, but was hurt in an accident when Alan was eight years old.  The family had to move to Crewe, Cheshire. He began to write for his pupils as a teacher, but never tried to get any of his work published.                                      (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Gibbons)

In 2016, I attended a writer’s workshop run by Alan, he managed to fit a heck of a lot into that 4-hour session, from how to write catchy opening lines to setting a scenario;  we all had to create our own ‘good guy finally comes up against the bad guy’ scene. We were encouraged to focus on detail; through the eyes of a person immobilised in bed, to imagining being trapped in the room we were writing in and writing a first person account of meeting the villain of the piece. He worked fast, gave honest feedback and provided a fresh angle on, what the industry calls, Young Adult literature.

He has over 70 published books!

I am extremely grateful to Alan, for taking time out of his, evidently very busy schedule, to be interviewed. And as you will see, as well as being no slouch when it comes to writing, he has definite views on politics, and is no cry baby!

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Hi Alan, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

And talking about flailing; Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

Alan: Always. When you are young, you think you are on a journey and one day you will reach the promised land. Later, you realise you are already in the promised land and you have been wandering round in it without knowing.

Me: Your books often have political leanings; in An Act of Love (2011), two childhood friends are tested by the onset of the war in Afghanistan, in Whose Side Are You On? (1991), you tackle racism. Would you describe yourself as a ‘political animal’?

alan gibbons book 2

Alan: I am, definitely. I am on the Left, but spend most of my time arguing with what I perceive to be the moral and political failings of my own tribe.

Too many people on the Left are trapped within the mindset of the past, the sclerotic failings of Stalinism or lack of courage to adopt truly radical political positions.

Me: Do you see any disparity, or connection, between those books that are based in the ‘real’ world, and those of a more ‘fantastical’ nature; such as The Legendeer Trilogy?

Alan: Not really. Fantasy is just as capable of insights into power structures, class relationships and issues of oppression as more naturalistic work.

It is the quality of the ideas behind the book and their artistic execution that matter.

alan gibbons book 1

Me: What is the first book (another author) that made you cry? And have you ever shed any tears when writing yourself?

Alan: Nothing makes me cry. De nada. Among the books that have moved me are Jane Eyre and Grapes of Wrath, Alex Wheatle’s Island Songs, Bali Rai’s City of Ghosts and Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses.

Me: What’s with your obsession with football?

Alan: Growing up as a working-class boy in a white bread and tinned veg part of the North West, we didn’t do feelings so we found an emotional outlet at football grounds. It offered tribal loyalties, heroes and a sense of common values. It was a myth of course. Racism and violence stalked the terraces too.

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Me: What other authors are you friends with, and do they help you become a better writer?

Alan: I know people like Bali Rai, Alex Wheatle, Andy Seed, Cathy Cassidy, Steve Barlow, Steve Skidmore and Paul Cookson. I wouldn’t say I discuss writing much with these guys, but I learn from their work and their outlook on the world.

Me: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Alan: No bullshit.

You fall in love with somebody? Don’t hang back. Tell them.

You think somebody’s a clown? Don’t waste time on them.

You want to say that kind of thing in fiction? Don’t self-censor. Do it.

Me: How many unpublished and/or half-finished books do you have?

Alan: Maybe four. I have been lucky that most of my stuff has been published. That is getting less true. With the modern day obsession with the market and shifting ‘units’ and the celebrity culture, writers are facing new pressures.

Me: How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

Alan: A short novel takes a month, a longer one six months.

Me: And finally, What is your favourite childhood book?

Alan: For younger kids Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

For older kids Treasure Island. Most books could do with losing a good fifty pages. In this book, every word is needed.

 

You can find Alan Gibbons at www.alangibbons.com or www.alangibbons.net

To book Alan for a school visit email mygibbo@gmail.com

 

Next time – Mike Wood on Sci-Fi, music, and Travel.