Equality Schmequality

Come on Britain, open your eyes and look around you. Is everyone the same as you? No? Thought not.

I ran a stall at a Christmas Fair yesterday to raise a little money for charity – mainly the MS Society. And Ty Hafan Children’s Hospice, as I’d bought a load of Christmas cards from them to sell. I was also supporting a relatively large event being run in a small village. It’s almost an hour’s drive each way, and Martin and I gave up our Saturday for this. I’m just setting the scene before I start criticising.

Because most people we met were very nice.

But the ones that stick in my mind were the rude ones. The ones who can’t cope with anyone being different from themselves.

One woman wanted Christmas cards, but told me she wouldn’t buy the charity ones because “charity encourages lazy people to expect everything for free”. I sold her some that didn’t say they were charity cards and forgot to tell her where her money would go.

A middle-aged woman told me how much she liked to support new talent and asked me which of my books I would recommend. I suggested The MonSter and the Rainbow, thinking she may appreciate that. She flinched when I mentioned it was about disability, so picked up a copy of Chrystal Heart to read the back. It took about three seconds for her to read my tagline, “She’s a 188 year old, bisexual, cyborg vampire and she might just save our world” and put it down as if she might catch something. She left my stall in a hurry.

I’m afraid if you don’t want to read about people who have disabilities, non-mainstream sexual preferences or interesting personal habits, then you’ve come to the wrong writer.

If anyone’s thinking of reading Chrystal Heart, I should warn you that it includes a character who cross-dresses, someone with a disability and even a redhead. There’s also one character who will behave in an unexpected way after their initial appearance – but you’ll have to wait for the next book to find out who. Unless you’ve already spotted the clue, that is. 😉

Personally, I like a fictional world to bear some resemblance to the one around me. That includes people of different shapes, sizes, skin colours and modes of dress. I’m not going to set a story in the 21st Century and pretend no-one is blind or in a wheelchair, not will I insist all my characters stick to heterosexual relationships and dress in three-piece suits. But I won’t include people from minorities just because of some belief it’s the “right” thing to do.

The weirdest behaviour yesterday, though, were the people who decided I was a rubbish bin for their use. I spotted a man dashing away – having left a couple of polystyrene cups in my stock behind the stall. At least I assume it was him- he didn’t wait to be asked, just came behind our stall and the cups were there when I went to investigate what he was doing. I was too busy to take them to the bin, but I looked round a little later to see a woman adding another cup to the stack.

I said, “Excuse me – that’s not a bin!”
She gestured at my wheelchair, “So you put it where you want to.”
I tried again. “Can’t you put your cup in the bin?”
She snorted, “You people,” pointing again at my wheelchair. Then she left.

She didn’t know me, she hadn’t even looked at my stall and evidently had no interest in me, except to assume that my wheelchair entitled her to treat me like a servant. Or a bin.

A few minutes later, I spotted a man adding an empty beer can to the growing pile of rubbish in my stock.
“That isn’t a bin,” I said.
“It’s not mine,” he replied. I must have looked as dumbfounded as I felt.
“We just found it outside,” he explained.
“So you thought you’d add it to my stock?”
The same woman who’d shouted at me before shouted again, “Just leave her to it, if she’s going to be bad-tempered about it!” and the man left again.

Bad-tempered? Yes, I was. I think I have every right to be bad-tempered when someone’s rude to me, expects me to clear up her rubbish and then sends her husband (or whoever) to do the same. She could have told him to drop the can into the bag of rubbish in the car park – or to put it under the stall closest to the door. Instead of dumping it in the stock of the person in the wheelchair who had the nerve to complain that she wasn’t a bin.

I hadn’t gone all that way to be a servant for a lazy woman without any courtesy for someone who happens to be in a wheelchair. Neither do I write my books for people who can’t see beyond their own cosy world.

If you disagree, don’t try to read my work. It’s not erotica, but neither is it dumbed down to only include white, middle-class middle-aged people with no unusual habits. If you’ve bought a copy, it’s yours to burn as heresy, if that’s what you want. In fact – you’re welcome to burn as many copies as you can buy. I don’t mind. I’ll even sign them for you, if that’ll make you feel better.

It isn’t illegal for someone to be different from you. What is illegal is treating them as lesser because of those differences. And being rude when they object.

Come on Britain, we’re better than this, aren’t we?

Droit de Seigneur – Are Celebrities the Modern Royalty?

Some historians talk about the right of a lord to take the virginity of his serfs’ daughters. There is some debate about whether such a practise ever happened, or if the right was ever truly accepted. But true or not, the myth is well-established in Western culture.

And maybe we are now seeing a modern variant. Are certain celebrities being allowed to commit crimes simply because they are public figures?

Have celebrities become the new Royalty and are therefore above the law?

With dozens of charges now being brought against the late Jimmy Savile, we have to wonder who else has been getting away with behaviour that in a lesser-known person would be called paedophilia or perversion. And some of those may continue to escape justice by denying they ever even met the girls in question – unless they were caught on camera.

Women are saying they didn’t speak out because they thought no-one would believe them. Others did complain and weren’t believed. Are we allowing an unelected class of people free rein over ordinary people just because they are famous? Why should we trust someone who seeks attention above anyone else?

The neatly-rhyming phrase stranger danger has a lot to answer for. Not only does it lead people to believe that someone known to a child cannot be harmful, but now it appears that vulnerable children have come to harm because no-one would believe that a famous face could hide an abusive personality.

Lessons need to be learnt from this chapter of celebrity history. Never again can we assume that someone is above suspicion just because we’ve seen them on the telly.