On Wednesday night I went to see Fleetwood Mac in concert. I could write an entire post about just how fantastic they were, but a little speech Stevie Nicks made got me thinking about women, the Internet and success. As tends to happen every day.
Stevie’s speech came before Gypsy, which is about the day she wandered into Velvet Underground in ’68, stood in the spot where Janis Joplin shopped for rock chick clothes, and had an epiphany- she just had a feeling that success was coming her way, and walked out ‘head held high, a changed woman’. She then gave this speech, paraphrased slightly because I got back from the gig at midnight:
‘I want to tell you that in today’s world, which just seems to be getting crazier every day, that if you have a Velvet Underground moment, if you have a dream you want to pursue, don’t you dare let anyone tell you you can’t have it, that you’re too young, too old, not smart enough, not pretty enough. You reach out for that star and pull it down. We’re proof that dreams can come true.’
A lovely speech, one that she gives at every concert, and echoed by Mick at the end with a little bit more of the ‘be excellent to each other’ philosophy thrown in. My deep long-standing love for Stevie aside, her point is really easy to forget when you’ve got lady chromosomes and try and do things generally on a daily basis. This week, for instance, here’s what ground my gears:
– Three white van men hurled insults at me. I say insults, but it wasn’t anything coherent like a catcall or wolf whistle- it was more BLEUURRRHGHH and some universal ‘phwoarr’ hand gestures.
– After a certain scientist said some ill-advised things about women, I get told that women just aren’t as good at science by a Twitter bellend. Apparently, my irritation at this just proved his point. Right.
– After a broadband outage reduced me to 4G, I had a Twitter chap geeksplain hotspots and tethering to me. I work at Raspberry Pi, and was a QA engineer before that. Imagine how well this went down.
– While explaining how badly geeksplaining goes down, I get a double whammy of withering sarcasm and patronising from one gent, and a defence of the aforementioned idiot scientist from a Twitter follower where one look at their MRA lunacy-riddled timeline made me reach for the banhammer faster than you can say ‘actually, it’s about ethics in novel writing’.
Now, this is all sub-optimal. The other thing, though, comes back to Stevie’s point about not being smart enough. I get quite sore being told I don’t know things- or more to the point, don’t know them ‘properly’, whatever that is. It’s sadly not just the lunatic gents of social media that do it; I find online activism of many sorts, particularly feminism and left-wing politics, hard to bear because there’s always a vocal minority there to kick over your sandcastle. (I mean, really, I even got snarled up in white men arguing about prog with Al Murray a while ago. Not even joking.)
Before you hurl pitchforks, note that I said ‘minority’. But they’re so vocal, and so insistent, and so impervious to ‘please stop being a bellend’, that trying to engage with the original useful point about austerity or equal pay or whatever becomes wearying, and I give up. So I guess the method, rather than the message, is often the problem.
A Twitter pal made me sad by saying he often ‘never feels smart enough’ to express his views to others, because a nagging voice tells him he may be wrong. One of the reasons I moved to Edinburgh was to get away from the kind of person for whom intelligence, and so validity, was a black and white thing.
It’s a real shame, because often I’m broadly on the same side as a lot of folk, but I can’t seem to convey it the ‘right’ way. What is the right way though? Is it reading very particular books on how to do economics, feminism or creative writing? Is it spouting the correct buzzwords as found in the columns of the Holy Grauniad? Basically, fucked if I know the rules of the internet, but I trundle along my own way and hope it’s the one that annoys the least amount of people- and maybe the people getting het up aren’t worth bothering about in the first place. I think what I’m trying to say is that sometimes it’s not worth leaping in and being the Captain Well Actually the world doesn’t need. In fact, it’s almost never worth it. Provocatively worded as this is, I still like to point people at Miguel de Icaza’s piece. Yes, sometimes folk are full of sound and pedantry, signifying ‘get off the internet and have a stiff drink’ time.
I’m getting better at not letting the haters get to me. I’ve stopped caring, for instance, that I’m not pretty enough in the warm weather when I let my furry limbs roam free and attract the inevitable Mean Girls eyeballing. I don’t care that several people I’ve known for years were so insanely critical and disapproving of my decision to write that I had to block them off completely. I don’t care that I still have to put up with being told I’m ‘doing it wrong’, whether it’s my day job, being a woman or being a writer. I do care about sticking with the lovely bunch of online and offline chums I’ve found through writing and geeking- smart, confident women and supportive, savvy men all- and counting tiny successes as I go. Why, this year I’ve done all these things:
– Met six published authors at networking events and didn’t cry or run away. (I don’t name names because that would look a bit ‘hey look at me with all my celeb chums’ when it’s really just me quivering with a JD and Coke and nodding occasionally at nice people who Know Stuff.)
– Walked up to one author and did the book elevator pitch, and they were really enthusiastic and also didn’t cry or run away.
– Became sub-editor of the official Raspberry Pi magazine, The MagPi, which is very shiny and you should all read it. </shill>
– Joined 26 and got picked to write for the upcoming exhibition. My piece is finished and I’m quite pleased with those 62 words. Maybe 62 good words means I have a few thousand good words of short story in me, or a few more chapters of the second book I’m prodding to distract myself from the first book’s queries out in the wild.
All these little things make me feel less like going ‘sod it’ and giving up. It takes a wee bit of help from external sources too. So basically this ramble serves as a thanks to the lovely people inside my PC who aren’t part of the noisy Twitter dogpiles. It turns out you should never think you’re not good enough to join the club, because Stevie says just go for it. And lord knows, we need more strong women around in this mad little online world. Preferably ones who whoosh round in voluminous skirts and just be themselves.