19 June 2014

No, Not All Men #yesallwomen

A few days ago, I posted an opinion article on the hot topic hashtag #yesallwomen. Although I encountered both positive and negative response, the great thing was, I received a response. Twitter had the worst sort of comments, Facebook had the best, perhaps because I cull the douchebags and the rest that have survived the cut, I can have a healthy intelligent debate with any day of the week. My post gathered the interest of David Youngquist, head of Dark Continents Publishing and so, this post was written and sent to me. With gratitude and pride, I offer his opinion and not just mine. - C.C. 

No, Not All Men by David Youngquist

Because I shouldn’t have to hold my keys like a weapon and check over my shoulder every few seconds when I walk at night. - Sophia Bush.
Because even a taped confession admitting to raping me wasn’t enough to put him in jail. - Jessi Smiles.

These quotes are only a few of the thousands upon thousands that have appeared on #yesallwomen in the last few days. Painful isn’t it? Not all men Not all men are bad guys. I know this. I’m a guy. But flip that around. Turn it over and look at it. Every woman I know at some gut level has a mistrust and even outright fear of men. Because of the guys out there that are assholes. Who are misogynistic bastards who really don’t care who they hurt, but feel it’s their right, and in some cases their duty, to act the way they do “to keep women in their place.” (Yes, I have heard that justification before. No, I will not go into how much I wanted to stomp the guy’s face into a mud hole) This point has been driven home to me lately by three different women. All three had the same exact reaction to me when they walked around the corner and found me coming the other way. Immediate fear. Gasping and throwing a hand over their heart. Locked up in their step; frozen in place. It puzzled me, and bothered me at a deep level.

I’m not a big guy. I’m not a threatening-looking guy by most people’s standards. I’m not all inked up with a dozen piercings and a shaved head. I don’t look the stereotype (I’ve said for years the guys that worry me the most are the ones that look like Jeffery Dahlmer or Ted Bundy) and yet I got the same reaction from all three women. And guess what? This didn’t happen in some dark street or an empty parking garage.

I wasn’t some stranger to these women. One, as a matter of fact, was my wife of 15 years. The other two were at work and I had known them both for the nine years I had worked there. I apologized for scaring them (just by standing there) and we laughed it off. But it started me thinking about the why of it. In talking to one of the ladies, who was an older woman in her sixties, we kind of figured out a few things. She had grown up in the large urban area to the east of me (Chicago). The others had also lived in large urban areas. (I myself have spent times of my life in good sized cities, so I was beginning to understand things) We talked, and I asked her why I often got this reaction from women I catch off guard. “Dave,” she said, “If you’re a woman, you don’t know if the man you see or bump into is going to be a nice guy, or drag you off to rape you or worse.” That was an eye opener. That made me step back and think. This was from a well- educated woman. A woman who was an executive with this company. A woman who had worked her way up through the ranks of corporate American. A woman who had raised a family while building her career, yet she had the same gut reaction to a man she had known for nine years as she would to someone she would run into in a dark parking garage.

 I don’t have to live with that mindset. I don’t live with that fear. I learned how to take care of myself armed or unarmed a long time ago, and have been blessed to not have to use the skills I have learned. I’m a guy. The right body language and awareness in a given situation will keep me out of a bad situation and keep most other guys from giving me shit. Some idiots will think they have to prove it, but, there aren’t many of those. Women live with this fear. Even if they are confident, strong, aware, and know their surroundings, most women are going to lose out in a physical confrontation with a guy. The equalizer is a weapon of some sort. Which is why I have no problem with women carrying concealed. Which is another reason my 14 year old daughter started martial arts training when she was 10. The problem exists. Deal with it. Stop bitching about being blamed, and figure out how to be a problem solver. Don’t get defensive and point your finger at women as being feminazis or cunts. Deal with it. Admit it is there. Realize your wife feels this, your mother feels this, and most likely, your daughter is going to feel this as well. You personally are not being blamed. But rather than piss and moan and dig in your heels, do something constructive like figure out how to change it.

We’ve sexualized and objectified women on a massive scale I believe the real starting point was in the mid 1980’s, when we began to package and sell women as much as the product they were promoting or advertising. Certain women made a career out of being themselves and selling themselves based on simply who they were and what they looked like. Think Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford. Prior to that time, really, models were simply used to sell a product. These two were some of the first who actually became a product themselves. So much so that Cindy Crawford became the corporation Cindy, Inc. Women became products But that wasn’t enough. As people in advertising know, sex sells.

Let me clarify that.

A woman’s sexuality sells. Before you yell at me, look at the advertising campaigns out there. How many of them have sexy, ripped guys standing around in their jockey shorts (besides the people trying to sell jockey shorts) versus how many products are sold by undernourished women in their underwear? Sexuality is a business Multibillion dollar business. Everything from mangos to perfume to cars are “sexy, sleek, stylish.” You don’t go to auto shows and find a new model car surrounded by guys in thongs.

 This sexuality has wormed its way deep into our psyche. My eighth grade daughter would come home from school to tell us of girls in fifth and sixth grade wearing pushup bras and makeup. Why the hell are we doing this? Why are we sexualizing our daughters at an age when they should be playing with dolls and stuffed animals? (don’t even get me started on pageants) Because it’s been ingrained in us that in order for a girl to be successful, she has to fit the image. In the media and the world around us, women have become sexualized objects. Not people. Not real human beings. Things. They have been reduced to what’s between their legs. Nothing personal. Cop a grope. Yell at her. Insult her. Knock her around. She could be the CEO of a major corporation, and some guys (again, some guys) will see her as nothing more than boobs and a butt. The societal standards for what is acceptable behavior have all but disappeared What do I mean? Let me give you two examples from my Grandpa Warren Westcott.

One time, Grandpa took my brother and I all the way across the state to watch his beloved Cubs play at Wrigley Field (they lost to the Pirates 8-5 in 14 innings). We parked several blocks from the stadium. As we were getting close, we could hear the crowd. We had box seats, and were anxious to get to the field. As we were walking past some of the brownstone homes in that neighborhood, we saw an old lady trying to pull her grocery cart up the steps to her apartment. My grandpa stopped, tipped his hat and asked if she needed help. In her very thick Polish accent she thanked grandpa profusely as he wheeled her cart up the steps. We weren’t late for the game, and it only took a couple minutes of his time.

Another time we were waiting in line to pay for gas. The guy ahead of us apparently was in a hurry. The clerk behind the counter was apparently new, as she was having trouble ringing up the sale. The guy started cussing and swearing and calling the woman some unflattering names. After about the third or forth outburst grandpa spoke up.

“You watch your mouth and apologize, young man,” Grandpa said. “There’s a lady present.”

The guy turned around and glared at grandpa. “What did you say, old man?”

My grandpa was a WWII vet, and a big guy. Even when he was near 70, he could be pretty imposing.

 “I said you apologize to that lady. She’s doing her job. You don’t have a right to be rude to her.”

The guy glared at grandpa for a second longer, turned, and apologized to the clerk, who by now had the sale rung through. He took his change and left. The woman thanked grandpa, who brushed it off, and we went about our day. Those things stuck with me. They made a major impression on me. My father is the same kind of man. I never heard the man swear in the first 21 years of my life. I have tried to pass these values to my son, and from what people have told me, I’ve succeeded.

But how many of us drop the ball? On a daily basis? How many of us have seen guys do shitty things, and not call them on it? How many of us have heard a woman insulted, and not said anything ourselves? How many of us have looked the other way when we see a fight or argument between a couple?

I’m guilty on some counts. I’m not pure or perfect. But I try to change things where I can. When I can. We need to start patrolling our own ranks, and correct the guys who do these things and let them know they are not acceptable. Women are not objects. We need to stop selling them as sexualized products. I have a wife. We’re raising a daughter. We have raised a son. You have to raise them slightly differently (believe me, boys are easier) but they are raised with the same values. One of the differences is simply the fact that my son is six foot two and two hundred and fifty pounds. He has a concealed carry permit. I have very little worry about him being dragged off. I have even less worry that he would do harm to a woman. I am more sure that he’d be the one stepping in and helping a woman out if she were in need. My daughter is five foot six, and all off 110 pounds soaking wet. She’s blond haired and blue eyed. Trim, and with a nice figure. Which is why she started taking martial arts at the age of 10. I have no illusions for her future. She’s smart. She’s an independent thinker. She’s amazingly artistic. None of that will matter if some jackass decides he wants to drag her off, rape her and blow her brains out. Our daughters, our wives, the women we know are at a risk we as men will never understand. Women are our equals. In some cases, they are our betters. (spend time in a birthing room guys, and tell me how strong you are)

I am blessed to have worked with some great women over the years. From teaching, to training horses, to writing, I have had a lot of women in my life, starting with my mother, who have taught me to respect women, to treat them as equals. To talk to them and interact with them as people. Understanding is a whole different topic, but just simple human interaction between two people regardless of gender is how it should be, and how it needs to be.

With DCP, I work with four ladies who help make this company function. They’re writers, editors, and idea people. I’ve never resented that. I’ve never grumbled about it. Matter of fact, I kind of went out of my way in getting some of them involved in the first place. Why? Because they’re good. I don’t care if they’re men or women. Tracie, Sylvia, Nerine and Carrie are exceedingly good at what they do. Talent, skill, intelligence, creativity are not gender based.

So there it is. My opinion on this matter. We can change these things. If we want to continue as a functioning society, we need to change these things. It can’t be done by women alone. Guys need to realize what has happened, take some piece of this, and work to make the change as well. It’s an attitude change. It’s cultural change from the shallow, to the deep, more realistic, more human attitude. And it needs to change at every social strata. It’s not going to be a quick, easy fix. It took better than 30 years to get here. It’s going to take awhile for it to get better. To actually change, not just mouth the word. Let's get started.

D.M. Youngquist has had many jobs over the years; from horse trainer to painting contractor. Through the years, he has always had a passion for the written word. His first paid writing job was while he attended Western Illinois University, where he worked for the college paper. After graduation he freelanced between teaching gigs for places such as Carousel Horse News and Trader, American Hunter, and SHOOT! Magazine. He became bored with nonfiction, however, and turned to the dark side of fiction. His first story, ’77 Coupe DeVille was published by the British webzine DarkefireUK in 2006. In 2007, his first collection of ghost stories was published by Quixote Press, followed in ’08 by his second. Frustrated with the publishing industry, he turned with five others and founded Dark Continents Publishing, in 2010. He currently serves as President and Publisher of DCP. He lives in Illinois with his wife and family.

Dark Continents Publishing
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10 June 2014

On handling disappointment and coffee #writertip

Today has been one hell of a day. Maybe not to you, but to me. I'm stressed and can't punch anything within plausible reach realistically, so I'll blog.

Lately, there seems to be a drive for author support, such a review an author, share links, etc. Which works fantastic, as word-of-mouth is really the best referral a customer, client, or especially reader in this case, can give. But what if we get a not-so-exuberant review?

Stay calm
First off, it's not the end of the world if a reader doesn't find your plot line particularly exhilarating. And what if they don't get that your story is a great big subtle metaphor for the state of the whale rights in Patagonia? Be safe. Stay calm. Most importantly of all, keep your retorts to yourself.

Even on social networks.

Stress turtle says less-stress
That's right, filter your response to the world. Because the world is watching folks, and it's even judgier than you.

Some authors are all sunshine-farts and bubbles of Eau de Madre Theresa, others are stormy individuals, subject to instant mood-shifts with tongues of lightning. It doesn't matter. Very few authors get ahead by talking shit about the very people they write to amuse, entertain and/or inform. Readers are friends. Readers are family. Readers are also customers.

Let me demonstrate.

The Starbucks state-of-mind
If any of you have set foot in Starbucks coffee chain stores lately, you might have noticed there's a new campaign for "love your coffee or we'll make it right." Right? You pay your five bucks, or whatever, they craft a coffee-infused delicious goodie for you and you are guaranteed to orgasm in your stomach or they will make that sucker all better. Well, what about books?

Do we get a guarantee we're going to love every single word? That the punctuation will be utterly flawless, enough to make Ellen Datlow weep over her keyboard with tears of joy? No. And if the reader doesn't like the book (aside from a return on Amazon and usual return policies at brick-and-mortars) do they have an iron-clad open offer to toss the book back across the way for a refund, or better yet, a full-rewrite? Not exactly.

It's a gamble
So, what Carrie's saying here, every book means taking a chance. Spending well-deserved time of relaxation on this pretty cover or that hot recommendation from RT magazine. Disappointment's a bitch.

Back to coffee.

IF your coffee was made wrong, would you go back to the barista and tell them only what was right about the coffee? Or would you say, it's bitter, too sweet, etc, and state the problems with the creation?
Aha. Gotcha.

Reviews are a choice, people. They are generally a right. People reserve the right to form an opinion based on what their five senses are telling them, and if your book (or mine) sets their stomach to a roil, or crashes their brain, they can completely say so. This is for honest, open reviews, not in reference to trolls that set out with pure intent to damage an author's career by smearing their works.

So what matters in this particular entry is a state of mind that you want to have, should you happen to catch a nasty little slash at your latest beautiful and all-perfect production. Understand that society is generally a "hated-it" sort of crowd, or ZOMG I WANNA HAVE BABIES WITH IT FIVE BILLION STARS WITH TOO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS THAT FALL OFF THE WIDTH OF THE FUCKING WEBSITE...and not much in-between.

Now, make sure you leave a review every once in a while, and enjoy that perfect coffee.