Stanek’s still writing about me and I suppose I could close up shop & adopt a new internet handle & let her frame my story to suit her agenda. But I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I told the truth about the abortion & I’m not going to lie about what happened to me to make people feel better about trying to control women’s bodies. I do want to shield my kids and my husband, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let this…creature run me off the internet or run my life. We’re moving out of Memphis in no small part because I don’t feel safe here. I’ve already spoken with law enforcement, and after reviewing some of the emails I got they suggested moving. Not necessarily out of the state, but definitely out of our apartment and preferably out of the area.
Am I stressed out these days? Yes. And what with being human and all, I can only deal with so many sources of stress at once. Moving accomplishes many things for my family (not least being free of this awful apartment including the collapsing ceiling in the bedroom), but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to be silenced. It does mean I’m going to take reasonable precautions for the physical & emotional health of my family. There isn’t anything I can do about Stanek’s fixation on me, or her stated views, but really that’s always been the case hasn’t it? I’m going to keep living my life, and people can think or say whatever they like about how I do that. Because in the end I have to be able to look myself in the eye every day. So, I’m going to have moments when I wibble, and moments when I curse, but in the end all the moments are mine to have and for now that’s enough.
As some of you already know a few months ago we packed up and moved to Memphis. On paper it was a good plan. In execution…well, we wound up in an apartment where the floors slope at an angle so steep nothing on wheels can stay in place. One of the bedrooms has a hole in ceiling big enough to stick my arm through that we’ve been trying to get fixed since the week we moved in. And then there’s the roach problem (complete with a nest inside the dishwasher), which…let’s just say that we landed with the worst landlord possible and he shows no signs of getting better. Fortunately our lease is month to month. Unfortunately, having been here for the last six weeks we have discovered that we don’t like Memphis. At all.
We’re a family of walkers and Memphis is not pedestrian friendly in the slightest. We do have access to a car, but we hate having to drive everywhere. The kids were excited in the beginning, but between the apartment issues and the lack of playmates at any of the parks (it is too hot to play outside and the pools aren’t open yet) they’re miserable. We’d rather cut our losses now, instead of moving into another apartment in a city that we don’t love in the first place. It doesn’t help that having attracted the attention of the Cult of The Fetus (aka Jill Stanek & her followers) a few weeks ago, I don’t feel super safe here. As silly as it may sound we’re ready to head back to Chicago and accept that we are really Chicago kids. But, the expenses of moving down here mean we don’t have enough cash to pay bills here, find a new place, and afford all the attendant costs of reworking our lives all over again. In theory we would eventually earn enough to swing it, but that would mean being here for months and we really don’t want to do that.
So, I’m offering up a YA novel Of Fairy Wings And Glittering Crowns to be written in 60 days and posted chapter by chapter at Atypical Princess. I’ll be posting the plot synopsis and character sketches today with an eye towards posting the first chapter tomorrow. There’s a Chip In page that’s not quite accurate (I got a couple of donations yesterday), but will still provide a way for folks to keep track of our goal. If you can’t donate I still want you to read, after all what’s the point of fiction if you can’t share it? All I ask is that if you like it, you link it to your friends and family for their perusal. Thanks so much, I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I plan to enjoy writing it.
Selena Newly grew up in a family that took the fun out of dysfunctional. Sharing a house with a mother that never wanted her, aunts who detest each other, and a grandmother that has them all at the mercy of her purse strings hasn’t exactly made for an idyllic childhood. In fact it has left her yearning for adulthood since she was old enough to walk. The day her mother throws her out is the best and worst day of her life. She is free, but she has nowhere to go, and no idea how she’s going to support herself. When the door into Altanur opens it seems like the answer to all her childhood prayers. Her family isn’t really her family, and she’s a fairy princess. Unfortunately she’s about to learn the hard way that everything has a price, and sometimes that price may be too high.
Okay, so I have the Atypical Princess wordpress set up, I created a Paypal button, & I’m checking out Kickstarter & Indie Gogo as possibilities for folks that might not want to use Paypal. I took a look at the two books that were mentioned as being potentially similar (other than the basic premise they are not anything like Fairy Wings & Glittering Crowns, courtesy of my lack of fascination with the concept of the Unseelie Court), and I’m going to start posting character sketches tomorrow as teasers. Is there anything else folks want to see in the lead up to launch?
So, you’re a member of X group and you want to write fiction that includes people who are different from you. Possibly they have a different racial background, sexuality, religion, gender identity, or are disabled in some way. First things first, why are they in your story? Aside from being different, what purpose do they serve to the plot? Is there an actual role in advancing the plot that they play? When you Google a phrase *like “stereotypes about Fat, LGBT, disabled, African American, East Asian, Southeast Asian, West & Central Asian, Native American, Latino people” and read the resulting links does your character fit into those stereotypes? If so, why? Is that characterization necessary to advance the story? Or did it just seem like an easy way to include some diversity in your work?
Despite the hype, no one is saying that you cannot write the Other as part of a story. What is being said is that you need to write the Other as a fully fleshed character instead of a convenient plot device or prop. When you are talking about people (of whatever background) you need to remember that they may well be in your audience. And they’d like to see themselves in the works they are reading, but they don’t want to see bigoted caricatures as that representation. The first part of being a good writer is being a good reader. That includes reading about the lives of the people you’re writing about (preferably in their own words), and really honoring their experience instead of ignoring their reality in favor of reflecting whatever biases might be convenient to your plot line.
Will following these guidelines guarantee you immunity from criticism? No. Anything you write will be critiqued by readers. But, putting forth the effort to try to get it right may well change the tenor and content of those critiques. We all have to do our research & there’s no guarantee that any of us will get it right the first time or even the first 50 times. That doesn’t mean we stop trying, but it does mean that trying to get it right includes listening when you’re told that you’ve been getting it wrong. Personally I’d rather be critiqued for my unfortunate habit of splicing commas, than for writing something horribly offensive about a group of people because I couldn’t be bothered to do some basic research.
*I am well aware that I didn’t list every possible permutation of a person that may be included in a story. Presumably anyone reading this can do some research of their own, and can take a moment to learn about concepts like intersectionality. Also my use of Wikipedia does not indicate a belief in its constant veracity. These are basic examples & any readers should definitely do more research. Also, books like Writing The Other are an invaluable resource.
We have a lot of conversations around masculinity now since kid #1 is pubescent. At not quite 12 he’s starting to feel his way through what kind of man he wants to be and having parents that he feels he can talk to is helpful, but occasionally traumatic for all concerned. We’ve talked about sex, drugs, booze, and money at various points over the last few years. All those conversations were tough but the “Don’t be a rapist” convo was possibly the most awkward of my life.
When the story first broke about the 11 year old girl being assaulted in Texas he asked me about it. Why? Well he’s 11 and he has a ton of 11 year old female friends. Since we’ve been pretty open about the mechanics of sex he was upset & confused at the idea of a girl like one of his friends being forced to “do it” with anyone, much less with a group of strangers.
After the initial conversation about why rape happens, and a discussion of the harm it can do, I left the door open for him to bring any other questions to me or his father. Over the last few months we’ve talked about kinds of rape as he’s seen them mentioned on the news (date, stranger, corrective, etc.) and why people blame the victims. Lately, the conversation has turned to stuff like Slut Walks & how telling women to live a certain way in order to avoid being raped doesn’t do anything to stop rape.
He’s having conversations with his Dad of the “No means no”, “Alcohol, emotional upset, drugs, etc. can impair judgment”, & “Don’t hang out with guys that think a girl has to be convinced to have sex” variety. At one point during the course of these conversations I got a little worried about whether the topics were too heavy for him. Then I had a chat with the mother of his best female friend who reminded me that this is the age where girls start talking about it, because this is when the warnings about how to behave to avoid trouble really start pouring in as their bodies start changing. So, I guess if the topic isn’t too heavy for his female friends it isn’t too heavy for him either. Is it okay if it feels too heavy for me right now?
I saw this article & for some reason I assumed that anyone reading it would see through the hyperbolic billboard to the petty abusive personality behind it. Then I looked at the comments (I know, I know I should never look at the comments on any news story), and remembered I was awake and on planet Earth. Is it really that hard to see that even if she had an abortion she had a perfectly logical reason not to want to be tied to this guy for life?
All this backlash about Rihanna’s Man Down video sounds a lot like “Think of the Poor Rapist” with a side of “How Dare She?” and it highlights (for the nth time) the influence of racism in rape culture. If this video had featured a dainty young white woman it would probably be getting hailed as a anthem by everyone from the NRA to Sarah Palin for showing a woman fighting back because she was empowered by owning a gun. Don’t believe me? Think about Independence Day & Goodbye Earl.
But a black woman who both enjoys sex and thinks she has the right to say no? Pfft, rape culture already thinks women in general can ask to be assaulted, but for WOC there’s the extra layer that claims that we never say no. We’re not just sluts for wearing tight clothes, we’re supposed to be sluts on demand for anyone that wants us and once we are in our “proper position” we can only redeemed by becoming Mammy. Sexual agency is never an option for us.
Goodbye Earl celebrates the murder of an abusive husband, and Independence Day is all about a woman remembering her mother freeing her through a murder suicide. The lyrics & the tempo of both songs is upbeat, catchy, with no sign of remorse or grief. In stark contrast Man Down focuses on her regret and highlights that having acted in the heat of the moment Rihanna regrets taking the life of her rapist. Yet, it is her song that is blasted for promoting violence. And for added…something, her abuser’s name is brought up as though his actual violence against women is less important than the fictionalized revenge of a rape victim. Interesting how the message after all these years is still one of “You don’t own your body, so how dare you try to defend it?”
ETA: A friend on Twitter hipped me to the fact that there was some backlash against Goodbye Earl for encouraging women to resort to murder in order to escape domestic violence. I tried to find links, but the song is old enough that all I can find is the stuff about the Chicks being Anti-American and some references to their being some complaints about the song. Anyone remember the size & shape of the uproar against Goodbye Earl?
Aside from a willful refusal to read past Stanek’s misleading headline (I never admitted embellishing anything. Because I didn’t embellish anything. But hey, keep letting Stanek lie to you instead of reading for yourself.), I’m getting the same few criticisms leveled at me in the spam comments over and over. Apparently I’m cold, not graceful enough in my response to the attacks by Stanek & her followers, and too angry. Also, if I were telling the truth I’d act just the way the commenter demands (that ranges from naming the doctor to filing a lawsuit to publishing my medical records to not talking about what happened to me at all to providing them with a platform to blogging how many tears I cried), and all I can do at this point is roll my eyes and wait for the trolls to figure out that I’m not going to be bullied.
Stanek’s lies about me aren’t going to become the truth no matter how many times she plasters her delusional interpretation of my words on any site that will accept them. People that claim to be pro life demand to know why I didn’t just die that day instead of having an abortion to save my life. Others insist major surgery (that is what a c-section is for the record) was a better option than the abortion. Fascinating how many people claim to be medical professionals and then display a complete lack of medical ethics in trying to prescribe treatment for a patient they’ve never seen.
I’m 99.9% certain that most of the people making demands would swear they were acting this way out of concern for their cause or my kids or some other batch of buzzwords that masks the reality of their hatred for women. I suspect my race adds a layer to the conversation (I’m also getting lots of comments about knowing my place which would be upsetting if it wasn’t so ridiculous), but then this wouldn’t be the first time misogyny and racism have intersected in the life of a WOC. So, once more the new folks who will undoubtedly be dropping by today. Stanek is attacking my experience to raise her profile. I can’t stop her from doing that, but I’m not going to be bullied into pretending that I lied about the treatment I received. Nor am I going to pretend that this harassment is coming from any place but one of hatred.
People are encouraging me to reply to the latest volley from Stanek and her followers, but there’s really nothing for me to say. She’s decided to ignore many of the actual words on screen, and create new meanings for the words she does see in front of her. I don’t know how one rebuts claims that are obviously false, especially when the person making the claims proves your point for you. I didn’t embellish a thing and I never said I did. I’m not interested in blog wars with Stanek or her ilk so I’m going to keep leading my life. Hopefully she’ll find her way back to reality.
So, I’m looking at some of the comments and emails that are flooding my inbox demanding to know all the inner workings of my life when I had the abortion that saved my life. And I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but there seems to be an ongoing assumption that I had tons of family support, disposable income in abundance, and that my two kids were self sufficient. At the time my oldest was 8 and my youngest was 1 1/2. My friends are supportive, and one of them stepped in to take care of my kids that night but I’ve never had the kind of family of origin that will pitch in to help me (or each other) with more than the most basic things most of the time. It was better before my grandmother passed away, but she’s been gone a while now and without her we’re not a close family by any stretch of the imagination.
When I say my family will help, I’m mostly referring to my aunts or my husband’s family. My parents? They aren’t helpful. They got the phone call that I was in trouble while they were en route to St Louis for a televangelist’s convention. They suggested I call someone else to come get my kids, and then they continued their drive to St. Louis. I did get a phone call from my mother the night after the surgery. She was more concerned with me interrupting her weekend away than anything else as far as I could tell from the conversation. Admittedly I stopped listening after she launched into her latest version of ” This would be shocking, but this is the same woman that didn’t bother to name me and then got mad when I was 13 and filled out my own birth certificate with the name I’d been using at school instead of the moniker she’d always planned to saddle me with so I wasn’t shocked. It was the last straw for our already tenuous relationship, but that’s a story for another blog.
On the disposable income front…at that point we were a one income family and just barely getting by on that one income. It was cheaper for me to stay home with our two kids (childcare costs in Chicago are astronomical), but that also meant we had very little wiggle room financially. So, there was no question of my husband taking off work for weeks on end to allow me to stay in bed all day every day. And while his family will help to their best abilities, they have their own households to run and must go to their jobs too if they want to pay their bills. Same thing with our friends. I don’t know where people live that folks can just stop working and keep living, but I don’t live there.
Someone else asked why I didn’t take my kids with me to the hospital. Aside from not wanting to traumatize them, there was also the part where my oldest was at school. We lived close enough to his school that he could walk home, but having him come home to an empty house was not an option. Nor was waiting for him to get home since you know, I was bleeding profusely and all. My friend cleaned my blood off the walls and hid my sheets so that my son wouldn’t be scared. As for the demands that I have a c-section just in case a micro-preemie could have survived? You should go look at the survival rates for 20 week preemies again. Death wasn’t going to be averted, it was just a question of whether we both died. There seems to be this assumption that major surgery was a better idea than a less invasive procedure. Umm..no. The first thing discussed when I got to the hospital was the lack of viability for a child born at that point, then there was the part where I was in active labor & had no amniotic fluid when they did the ultrasound. But hey, go ahead and assume you know every detail of what was going on in my life so you can pass judgment on the decisions made by the person actually living it.
Lastly, no I wasn’t paid by Salon or anyone else to write that post. It’s not fiction, and the title of my blog isn’t an indication that my nonfiction should be taken with a grain of salt. It is an indication that I’m a published author of fiction and non fiction. The idea that this was a publicity stunt is laughable. I don’t know what planet some of the folks making that comment are on, but on no planet that I work on is having a blog post about a tragedy a way to boost attention for a closed company. Yes, I said closed. Verb Noire is defunct and has been for some time. My writing career has been developing for years and really, I know enough people to have a good chance at selling the book I’m working on.
Mind you, I wrote that post after an argument on Facebook with someone who insisted (as many people do) that abortion is not a medical procedure and that no one ever needs one. I posted it on my personal blogs & on a blog that I co write with several other angry black women. Most of my posts are made in a similar fashion. Most do not go particularly viral. This one has, and yes I did put myself out there when I agreed to let Salon re-post it. Not for an agenda, but simply to write what happened to me and talk about the fallacy in “No abortion is ever necessary” arguments. Did we file a lawsuit? No. I had a lot of other things to do (like mourn and heal) and the hospital staff that did eventually treat me encouraged me to go through internal channels so that patient care would be improved. I did that, and then for the sake of my sanity and my family I put away what happened to me and got on with the business of living my life.
Some say I should name and shame the doctor that refused to do the procedure. If I knew why he refused I might have done just that, but since I know that there are many possible reasons that he did not do it? I’ve left him to deal with the internal procedures in place. Same thing with the hospital where this happened. I could name it (funnily enough many people have correctly guessed and more than a few remember me naming it when it happened), but I didn’t write this post to shame the hospital any more than I wrote it to shame the doctor. Hard concept to grasp for some, but this post wasn’t about revenge or money. It was about me coming to terms with what happened and about my disdain for a particular pro-life argument. Believe it, don’t believe it. That’s up to you. My life will go on either way.