Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Brand Is Not The Dollar Bill

Never discuss sex, religion, or politics in polite company, isn't that the rule?

Lately there's been a lot of heated rhetoric flying about the blogosphere, Twitter, FaceBook, and so on.  I've flown (flung?) a bit of rhetoric myself, breaking said rule, above.  And yet...

Betty Koschin, Coast Guard
Bill Koschin, Navy
My mother & uncle
March is Women's History Month.  I look at the pictures of my mother and her friends, proudly serving in America's Armed Forces during World War II, even though afterwards there was a big push to send them back to the kitchen.

Some of them went; some of them stayed working despite the push to "give the jobs to the boys from overseas", and some of them spearheaded the women's movement of the 1960's and 1970's.

There's nothing wrong with raising children. I loved having a house full of kids; many women (and men) do.  It's a valuable and extremely important job, for children, families, and for our society.

But to be ordered, "You have to go home, raise your kids, and keep that kitchen floor shiny and lemon-fresh," after being told you were needed to be Rosie the Riveter, or staffing vital lines of communication during the War (my mother earned the rank of radioman during her service in Ketchikan, Alaska)...

Many women didn't take kindly to that.

Not every woman is suited to work outside the home, and not every women is happy being restricted to it.  True in the 1950's; still true today.  During the 1950's we had segregation, we had back-alley abortions and the specter of nuclear war looming... It wasn't "the good old days" for everyone.  Keep in mind, Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver, of Leave It To Beaver) was a working mother, even though the fictional character she portrayed looked happy, vacuuming in her pumps and pearls.

What seems to make women (and men) happiest is having choices.  A  society that truly values individual freedom offers its members the opportunity to pursue their dreams, regardless of gender, skin color, or other externals.

via Marlo Thomas
Women's rights are human rights, plain and simple.

I look at my older sisters, during the Women's Movement of the 1960's, fighting for equal pay for equal work, for access to birth control.  For simple things like the right for women to own property and have credit in their own names, not simply through their husbands (passed in 1981).  Because of the battles they fought, women have rights today that many take for granted. 

Until 1976, marital rape was legal in every state in the US.  Even by an estranged husband; after you'd moved out of the house and were planning to divorce.  July 5, 1993, rape by one's husband became a crime in at least one section of the criminal code of all 50 United States.  (Yes, that is less than 20 years ago.)

Laws and attitudes changed because women stood together. As the sign above said, we weren't born Democrat, Republican, or yesterday.  Things changed because millions of decent men also stood up and said, "No, I will not allow injustice to go on any longer for my mother, my sister, my daughter, my lover."  Men still stand with women todayMen are not the enemy; injustice is the enemy.  Whether it's perpetrated by men or women, or on men or women.

I look back at our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, the suffragettes who got the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 (less than 100 years ago).  First introduced in 1878, it took forty years of polite negotiations, unladylike protests and bitter hunger strikes to finally carry the day. 

Photograph of Kenyon Hayden Rector, Mary Dubrow, and Alice Paul standing outside the
1920 Republican Convention in Chicago and holding a banner,
"No self respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her self.
Susan B. Anthony, 1872. Via Wikimedia Commons"

Did you realize that women were unlawfully arrested and brutally force-fed simply because they protested in front of the White House?  Nicknamed "Iron-jawed Angels," some women were willing to risk everything, even their own lives, to secure the opportunity to vote, for themselves and their daughters.  (Alice Paul, pictured above, and portrayed in the video clip below, was one of them.)

Some women in the UK did die, as a consequence of being force-fed.

Today, women still face pressure and legislation that would attempt to drive us back to the kitchen (or the delivery room), whether we want to go or not.  Legislation is being passed to force us to carry the dead fetus inside us until it is expelled naturally, just like cows and pigs; we're told that we might be confusing normal marital relations with rape; that we should have to stay in a marriage even if we're being beaten.  WTF?!?

I would love to see women come together again, as we did in the 1870's and 80's, as we did in the 1910's and 20's, as we did in the 1940's, serving our country at war, and as we did in the 1960's and 70's.  I would love to see us reclaim the word feminism, which has somehow been twisted into being a dirty word, when it actually means:
the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
Women make up the majority of Internet Bloggers.  We make up the majority of readers and book buyers. We are strong, we are powerful - and we are all different.  We don't share the same religion or politics; our sex lives are anywhere from freely and unabashedly recreational, to married and monogamous, to celibate by choice.

 I don't want to drawl between your legs and make your reproductive and sexual decisions for you, and I don't want some creepy legislator vicariously doing it to you (or to me either).  *shuddering*  I know I am strong enough and smart enough to make my own choices, and I trust you are, too.

We could make a huge difference - if we are bold enough to speak up.

I've heard many speakers and branding experts say, "Don't ever say, write or Tweet anything that might offend someone, or make them feel squicky."  (Like this post, lol.) I heard one agent express that a tiny link on one's author's page, which led to a support site for women who've suffered miscarriage and stillbirth, made the agent feel "uncomfortable."  Like now she knew personal things about this author that, in her opinion, were better left unshared.

I truly appreciate her honesty, and that of media "experts" who advise us to always play it safe, don't get into controversial subjects. Think of your brand, the Internet is forever, and so on.

I agree that calling names is probably not a wise thing to do, period. When you fling poo, you can't help but get poo on you, too.  (Though I did call Rush Limbaugh a blowhard and a dirty old man. Among other things.  And I'm not real pleased with Bill Maher's misogynistic attitudes, either. ) 

Yes, the experts are right, they are all 100% right that if you blog, or Tweet, or post on opinion boards, you may attract the trolls.  You may have fewer people buy your books.  You may be "diluting your brand."  You may make readers, even agents and publishers, "feel uncomfortable," even chose not to take you on as a client.

I don't want this blog to become a rant channel, every post, or even a third of the time.

But here's the thing about my brand (and I don't presume to extend this to other women and men - your choices are your own).  If I withhold the subjects about which I am most passionate, the things which inspire and shape me, I don't know that my brand is me.  I don't know if I want to even try to sell a "brand" that is cleaned-up, homogenized, and neatly stripped of all controversial content.

I don't know if I would recognize her. 

I look back at women's history, and revisit what our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers had to sacrifice, just to get me to a place where I could have a decent-paying day job and write books on the side, hoping to turn my writing into a career.  And I'm supposed to live in fear of sacrificing a few blog readers, of losing a few book sales.  Really?

I yam who I yam, as Popeye said.  I've blogged about rape and slut-shaming.  About child molestation. About mental illness and hoarding and racism and a whole lot of ugly stuff, that has little to do with the kinds of books I write (although I like to think my characters are complex and reflect many layers and ways of being).  Still, in my opinion, we as a society need to talk and write about controversial subjects, if we want to work these things out, not simply leave it to the extremists.

I also blog about writing tips, techie-stuff and smexy short stories and pictures of yummy firefighters.

Don't get me wrong, I want to sell books. My plan is to be published within the next few years, hopefully with lots of different books available for readers to buy, and they won't be political diatribes.  But... if I suppress every bit of moral outrage, every controversial thought, everything but what might conceivably sell books and make readers feel comfortable, all the time, then what I am really putting forth as my "brand" is the dollar bill.

That doesn't feel comfortable to me at all.

What's your take?
Does a post like this make you less or more likely to buy one of my books?
Or, no difference, you'll judge based on whether the book itself interests you?

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