The Emily Pankhurst Blues

Usually I blog about fluffy writing issues but recently something has really got me riled up and so I decided to share my feelings and join the debate.

I feel very blessed to have been born when and where I was, it has meant that I have been able to express my opinions freely, to protest when I have found injustice, gain as much education as I could ever have wanted and wear exactly what I want.

Usually the injustices I have railed against have occurred in the developing world and that’s because the generation of women before me fought hard and long to give me the right to raise my voice and have an expectation of being heard and for that I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Lately, however, I think some of our politicians have forgotten just how strong women are and have decided that quick political points can be made against them in the current social climate and I have reached the point at which I have to say, enough!

What am I talking about? Well it is the headscarf issue of course, it seems to be the local darling of the political elite. Suddenly, a mere 500 years after they first came into use, it has been decided that the most threatening thing to a civilised society is the sight of a woman wearing a full head covering.

I have two problems with this, firstly the precedent that it is OK to legally dictate what a woman can and cannot wear and the second is the insidious assurances I am hearing that one of the major reasons this law should be passed is to protect women from being forced to wear something they don’t want to. Enough!

Women are women are women, whatever their religion or the country they were born in, they are strong, intelligent and resourceful, they have had to be to survive generations of injustice at the same time as raising their oppressors’ children. Women of the Islamic faith are absolutely no different from women anywhere else and, here’s a shocking thing, some of them actually have a faith of their own which is not forced upon them by their wicked husbands. If a woman, of any faith, makes a decision to honour the teachings of her religion and cover her head, then are who are we to say she cannot.

Is it really more acceptable to tell a woman what she cannot wear than what she should wear is ridiculous in itself, isn’t it? “We have to protect women from wicked men who tell her what she must wear by telling her she will get arrested if she does.” That sounds sane to me-not! We live in a society which bombards girls with images of scantily clad women in every advert selling everything from batteries to bread, where lingerie lines are marketed for three year olds and where female singers feel they have to go naked and gyrate like a whirly-gig just to be heard. With all these clothes related issues the thing the politicians feel we ought to legislate is the wearing of too many layers. Hmmm.

Now I’m not daft, I have heard their arguments of safety, trust and anti-terrorism, I would counter that argument by asking why has this suddenly become such a big problem?

Well I’m giving notice, if this ridiculous law is brought in, as it has been in France just 21 miles away, I will be buying a burka to wear as a fashion choice in the hope that I will be arrested and then they can tell me exactly why I cannot wear exactly what I want when I want in the democracy where I live.

Rant over, normal fluffy writing related service will be resumed soon. Thanks.


Flash Fiction

Today’s blog is a little different. I set the Rayleigh Vineyard Writing Group a flash fiction of about 500 words with the title “Shh! Did you hear that?” and I thought, as I set it, I might share my attempt. So here it is…

Mandy by Hellen Riebold

“Shh! Did you hear that?” Robert hissed, annoyed.

“What?” Mandy looked at him confused.

“Well, if you would just stop yammering for two consecutive minutes I might be able to hear what he was saying.”

Mandy’s face crumpled and Robert regretted his harsh tone. “I’m sorry Mandy,” he whispered, “it’s just that I paid a lot of money for this conference, specifically to hear this guy tell me how to get rich writing and I keep missing stuff because you’re talking.”

The people around them rose to their feet and started applauding enthusiastically as the seminar came to an end.

“Now I’ll never find out what number seven was.” Robert exclaimed, rising wearily to his feet and politely joining in with the clapping.

Mandy, in the meantime, turned to the person behind her, “Excuse me,” she said politely tapping the person on the top of his arm to get his attention, “can you tell my husband what number seven was please, I’m afraid I distracted him and he missed it.”

The man ignored her completely, turning instead to the person standing beside him, “Isn’t he insightful?” he said and his neighbour nodded his agreement.

The clapping died down and people started leaving the room, barging past them without so much as a by-your-leave. Robert was getting more and more annoyed and Mandy, wanting to deflect some of his anger, decided to try again, “Excuse me? Hello? Could you help me?” she tried stopping the flow of people several times, tapping them, waving at them and even sticking her foot out to cause them to stumble but nothing. Everyone was in far too much of a hurry to even look at them.

“What are you doing?” Robert’s eyes bore into her. “First you make us late leaving with your cooked breakfast and endless check-lists of things we don’t need, then you forget the tickets so we have to go all the way home, then you needed that loo break and, when you finally do get here you talk to me just at the most crucial part of the seminar. I really have no idea why I brought you along!”

Mandy felt her bottom lip start to tremble, she didn’t like it when he exploded and she could feel an eruption was imminent, “Robert, I’m sorry. I was hoping I could ask one of these people what you’d missed. I thought if I could find out for you it might make up for my ‘yammering’. I really don’t know why you keep me around, I’m such a nuisance.”

He looked at her trembling lip and pleading eyes and his heart melted, he let out a deep sigh and took both her hands in his, “Mandy.” He began, “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. You are not a nuisance. I love you, I couldn’t bear to be without you.”

She smiled, “I know. Would you like me to go home ahead of you and get the dinner on, then you could stay here and find out what you missed.”

“That would be great.” He smiled.

And with that Mandy disappeared.

Rayleigh Vineyard Writing group is completely free and meets the third Saturday of every month at Rayleigh Library, Essex from 2pm to 4pm and new members are welcome. Have a look at our Facebook page for more info