Me, too

A couple of days ago, the first handful of “Me, too” postings turned up in my Facebook newsfeed. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s what the instructions said:

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me, too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
Please copy/paste.”

Usually, those copy/paste status things on facebook make little to no sense and I don’t join in. This, though, made sense, so I did. Because yes, me, too, and if I can be of a little assistance in increasing visibility of something that happens throughout our society on such a regular basis, it has become near invisible, then yes, why not. It seemed logical. Simple.

Of course, things rarely are simple. Or logical. While I was still copy/pasting, the little voice in my brain was already busy murmuring. “What about the men?” it inquired. “Men get harassed or assaulted too. This isn’t just a woman thing.” Or: “Define harassment. Some woman may post this when the worst that ever happened to her was catcalls.”

Funny how the brain immediately starts to shift guilt or make light of a situation.

So what are the facts?

A survey in the US, conducted in 2014, found that 65% of all women had experienced street harassment, with 41% having experienced more than mere catcalls. They got sexually touched, followed, and/or were forced to do something sexual. Among men, the street harassment figure is significantly lower, 25%, and there’s also a significant difference between LGBT-identified men and heterosexual men – the most common form of harassment men experienced were homophobic or transphobic slurs. (Source)

In 2015, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was asked to investigate 6,822 allegations of sexual harassment at work. (Source) This number undoubtedly represents a small fraction of what’s actually going on, because according to a 2013 YouGov/Huffington Post poll, 75% of people who experience sexual harassment at work don’t report it. Complaints from men seem to be on the rise here – in 1990, 92% of all claims were filed by women, compared to 83% in 2015. The reason for that could be a shift in society – you know, this thing where men aren’t allowed to appear weak? Yeah, we’re slowly getting off that particular horse. Or maybe it’s to do with the fact that more and more women are taking over leadership positions, and power corrupts. I don’t know, and the statistics have no answer either.

According to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, one in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. One in six women and one in thirty-three men will experience attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. (Source)

Conclusion? An overwhelming majority of sex offenders are male, and an overwhelming majority of victims are women. Yes, women can be perpetrators too. No, it’s not just a woman thing. But it’s an overwhelming majority woman thing. On the other hand, are we so focused on the female victim that it’s hard for the male victims to make themselves heard?

A male friend of mine took the above mentioned Facebook status, silently swapped ‘women’ for ‘people’ and made the status his own. All the girls applauded him for his bravery, and rightly so. At the same time, girls who told the stories of how they were harassed or assaulted also mentioned how their protests were met with “Don’t make such a fuss” – and not just by the perpetrator, but also by witnesses. So while it may (big ‘may’) be easier for women to speak up about sexual harassment or violence, in my experience they’ll more likely be silenced than the men.

Either way, as the figures – and the steadily increasing number of ‘Me, too’ in my Facebook newsfeed – show, the problem is a huge one, and what’s worse, it’s a problem we’re all aware of BUT IT EXISTS ANYWAY. Because not enough is done about it, not by the mythical beast known as the society, nor by every single individual who has ever experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or assault.

Don’t be complacent, don’t be complicit. Speak up, shout if speaking doesn’t do the trick, shame the perpetrators, and do it now – not tomorrow, not in ten years when you can’t prove your allegations anymore. Do it now. And maybe, just maybe, they, whoever they are, male, female, will understand that no means no.

 

 

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Half Time. Or Something.

Two days ago, it happened. I turned 40. I’m now officially old as an oak. Or maybe just old, I don’t know. I’m treating it as something like half time. 80 sounds a reasonable age. Anything beyond that is probably rather creaky and painful, unless I’ll happen to inherit some genes from my mom-in-law, who at the age of 74 still joins the kids on the trampolin, but since it’s pretty impossible to inherit something from someone you’re only related to by marriage, well, stop rambling and get to the point.

Um. I’m not sure there is one. It’s not like turning 40 suddenly infused me with wisdom and my postings will miraculously start to make sense. But I could try going for a progress report or something like that.

What I should probably mention at this point is that I utterly failed my own silly things challenge. I don’t even remember how many I accomplished, but it was definitely far from 99, and chances are, I didn’t even manage 10, unless I add ‘stupidly challenging myself to do 99 silly things’ as one more item to the list. It would be valid, yes, but… so what. I failed. Now why is that? Looking back, I can’t say it was because I acted any more careful than I would have done otherwise. In fact, I actively looked for situations in which to act silly. Then again, my own definition of ‘silly’ has changed a lot over time, and even more so over the past year. Some things that would have easily made it on the list years ago now don’t cause me to do more than shrug. Full speed with the supermarket trolley? I do that all the time, even if I don’t have the kids with me. Pretending I’m a ballet dancer when I clean the house? Sure. Vaccum cleaning is much more fun if you’re pirouetting and belting out Tori Amos. I sing on top of my lungs in the car, with the windows open, and I don’t care who hears me, and when I take the little boy to his football training (that’s soccer for you Americans), his sister and I do cartwheels on the green.

Last weekend we went to the North Sea, where the ocean completely disappears during low tide and you can walk for miles ankle-deep in the mud and find the most awesome shells, and of course we managed to go exploring at way-too-late in the evening AND about half an hour from the shore it started pissing down AND on the way back the wind started really whipping AND if it hadn’t been for the lights of the ugly hotels we would have got perfectly lost in the middle of that mud desert AND by the time we finally reached the shore, it was pitch dark and we were drenched and frozen to the bones… not silly, sorry. Necessary. The kids felt like the biggest adventurers ever, we played tag all the way back to the apartment in the dark and pouring rain, and had a hot-chocolate-and-cuddles session afterwards.

Maybe there just aren’t that many things left that seem silly at the age of 40. Maybe the amount of fucks we give really decreases over time.

There’s something else I noticed too, though: I’ve begun to occasionally stop and consider the consequences before barging headlong into silly, and if my fallout might hit someone dear, I hold back, even if the occasion is mindblowingly perfect. So maybe I did grow up a bit after all.

Just a bit.

It’s possible, right?

Whatever. Here’s a free book. Happy belated birthday to me.

 

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Cats are demons

Yes, I know, there’s loads of people out there who’ll readily tell you that cats are evil, secretly reigning the world, constantly plotting to kill you. The truth is much more interesting.

They’re demons.

It’s true. I have proof. Okay, not exactly proof, more like an eye witness, but that eye witness isn’t the friend of a friend’s brother’s workmate (who, for sure, is in any way incontestable), but myself.

You know how cats always climb into boxes/shopping bags/the kids’ schoolbags/basically anything whether they fit in or not? Well… a while ago, I heard that a circle painted on the floor will do the trick. Yeah, right.

I tried it.

I have two cats, an orange, stripey tom and his little sister, whose coat of fur is best described as something orange and stripey covered in mud. Or possibly chocolate. They’re nice cats, for the most part. Good with kids, good with the dog, I trust them not to eat me in my sleep.

I filched the kids’ water colors and painted a purple circle on the kitchen tiles. Both my nice, trusted cats came running as if dragged by invisible strings, straight towards the circle, like I was performing a summoning spell. So far, so bad.

Next thing they did was, they began to rub at that one tile with their paws, scratching the purple line, as if trying to break the spell by disrupting the circle. It was obvious that they knew what I was doing, that they understood the workings and were attempting to counter my magic. The tom (always the more clever one) quickly realized he was out of his depth and ran away, to hide in his favorite spot (some tupper thingie originally intended to transport cake in, see picture), where he pretended to be asleep. His sister (less clever, or maybe just lazier) continued her scratching and wiping, her movements growing clumsier and more erratic by the second. Eventually, she succumbed, and slowly lay down, in the center of the circle. I had successfully summoned a cat.

What happened then, you ask? Well. I got them both a treat, wiped the circle away and resigned myself to the fact that I’m sheltering two feline demons. It’s fine, really. They’re nice cats, for the most part. Good with kids, good with the dog. And I still trust them not to eat me in my sleep, as long as their bowl gets filled regularly.

 

 

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Summer Time…

…and I’ve just realized it’s been four months since my last confession, I mean, blog post. Um. Oops. Now how did that happen? I wish I could pretend I was busy writing, but the truth is, I haven’t written anything useful in the entire time. Instead, this is what’s been keeping me:

Reason #1:

I had a job to do, which was translating a very funny YA fantasy book into German. I’ll put the details on my Translations page once the publishing process is finished. For now, here’s the link to the English version of the book. It’s called Frotwoot’s Faerie Tales Book 1 – The Unseelie Court, by Charlie Ward, and you won’t regret reading it. It has a talking tree, an OCD knight and a goblin girl with a terrible sense of humor.

Reason #2:

I got sick. The little boy was so kind as to bring a viral infection home from school, so for the first time in forever, I spent three weeks frying eggs on my forehead, coughing my lungs up and feeling like something not even the cat would drag in.

Reason #3:

Vacation! And what a vacation that was; three weeks that felt much longer due to the fact that we ran from one extreme into the next, from busy British city to lonesome Austrian mountain top. Lessons learned on the way were that there’s either more poverty in the UK than in Germany, or it’s simply more visible, I don’t know, not having checked the figures yet, and that sometimes reality comes in colors that look perfectly photoshopped. Seriously. Look at this. No one will ever believe me that the sky was really that blue.

Reason #4:

School holidays. Because three weeks of vacation means there’s still three weeks of holidays left and the kids want entertained, but the husband has an office job and the grandparents can be called upon, but not all the time. Not that I would want to do that.

Now I’m out of reasons, though, school has begun again, the nights are getting cold and I’m back at my usual daily routine. Or something. Not that there’s much of a chance I’ll ever turn into a reliable blogger. Anyway, I hope you all had/are still having a lovely summer xx

 

 

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Male, Female, Balance

Quite regularly, I find myself beta-reading for other writers. That’s a given if you want to improve your own writing (yeah, and if you want to guilt-trip other people into beta-reading for you). Over the past years, I’ve read everything from epic fantasy to murder most foul, from paranormal romance to superheroism, from women’s literature to children’s books.

Usually, I don’t give a damn about whether the characters are male or female, or if there’s a healthy power balance between them. As long as they’re well written, believable, and necessary to the story, their gender is the last thing on my mind. Recently, though, I’ve come across a couple of books that made me question my stance in that respect. All of them by the same author (nope, I’m not naming), they were all written from the perspective of a male main character. And here’s the thing: While throughout every story, said male occasionally bumbled along quite charmingly and needed a female to rescue him, in the end, it was always him who saved the day, and the girl who needed a strong pair of arms to pull her out of the final disaster. It was like they were keeping records, with the boy constantly one-upping the girl until she finally, however tough she was, had to admit defeat.

Now, I’m not much of a feminist and I find no pleasure in raising my own gender by putting the other gender down, but I still couldn’t help thinking that this wasn’t a message I could condone. On the one hand, because that little detail wasn’t necessary to the story – it’s of no importance who ultimately saves the day, as long as the day is saved – on the other, because the books were aimed at a teenage audience. Aim a book at adults and you can write whatever you want, in my opinion, but if your target group is children or teenagers, you have a responsibility. Any message you constantly repeat might sooner or later be believed.

While I was busy ranting at that author about his unresponsible ways, a nagging little voice at the back of my head kept asking, Are you any better? So he’s a man writing from a male perspective and always letting his boy win. What about me? I’m a woman, and the one series I have aimed at teenagers has a female narrator. Did I make the same mistake, only the other way round, without even noticing? I went and checked.

And the oddest thing happened.

I realized that the cast of characters in my Resident Witch series is completely balanced. Exactly as many males as there are females, the same number of people with or without magic talent, of seriously clever or moderately intelligent, of cunning and useful or plain comic relief, of evil or good, on either side of the gender gap.

I was completely stunned. Why? Because I hadn’t planned any of that. I didn’t go and say to myself, if you have a clever girl, you need a clever boy as well. If two females can do magic, you need two males who can do the same. Oh, and you’ll need a bastard for every bitch. I just wrote the stories and it happened of its own accord.

That got me thinking, because seriously, where did that come from? Is it representative of the little bubble I call my world, my personal echo chamber? Is it how I want to perceive the world as a whole? Is there a moral in any of this rambling here or am I just showing off what a liberal, balanced person I am?

There might be a little moral. A rather obvious one, but I guess repeating this message until someone finally believes it isn’t the worst thing I could possibly do. Imagine a world where we still are males and females, but we no longer label each other with all the prejudices and preconceptions those two words are loaded with. Imagine we stop judging each other for the things we do that others perceive we do because of our gender. Imagine a girl crying over a sad movie – is she just ‘acting like a girl’? Or an empath and too good for her own good at relating to someone else’s pain? Or the guy who keeps lecturing other people on things they really know themselves, thank you very much – is he ‘mansplaining’? Or just an arrogant idiot and someone should tell him to shut up? And yes, I know those weren’t the most balanced examples, but I thought I’d go with the most stereotypical ones the better to drive the point home.

Long story short, it’s up to you. If you can imagine a world that’s not filled with men and women, but with people, and you can judge people by their words and actions, not by their gender, hey, what a world this could be.

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Out now: Paws and Claws

Cake & Quill’s third anthology is out! Check it out, it’s full of great stories and poems, my favorite of the three so far. I have three stories and a teeny weeny bit of flash fiction in it. Enjoy! All proceeds to charity, as usual.

Cake & Quill

It’s the first of April, and unlike the rest of the world we’re absolutely serious. So, no, it’s not a joke – our latest anthology, Paws and Claws, is out and available. Filled with all sorts of creatures, furry, fluffy, slimy, scaled, winged, weird, it tells you stories to make you laugh, make you cry, and make you wonder. As announced, all proceeds will go to Bob’s House for Dogs, a small charity that offers hospice care for older dogs,helps making senior dogs ‘more adoptable’, and ultimately works to try and give more dogs who have found themselves without a home, a forever home.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing and compiling it! It’s on Amazon, in e-book as well as in paperback format. Perfect Easter present, isn’t it?

Get in the mood by watching the trailer!

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Our furry friends #3

We’re running a series over at Cake & Quill, where our writers get the chance to spill the darkest secrets, biggest tears, whatever, connected to past or present pets. Here’s my contribution. Make sure you check out the other ones as well!

Cake & Quill

Angelika Rust is next in line to tell us about the furries of her past. Austrian by birth, she lives in Germany as a translator and mother of two human and three non-human kids.

Angelika donated three short stories and a piece of flash fiction to Paws & Claws, featuring different kinds of birds, a mongrel dog, and a suicidal snail.

*****

I grew up with pets. Loads of them. They’ll tell you it’s important for a kid to have pets, as it will teach things like responsibility and compassion. I’d say, though, that the main lesson I got was that death is a natural occurrence, something that just happens. It also told me that adults take it harder.
By the time I moved into my first apartment, my brother and I between us had buried four hamsters, two rabbits, and one guinea-pig. I was never particularly sad. It’s dead?…

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