Congratulations to McK, Samantha luce, and Marion. They each won an ebook copy of All the Little Moments by G. Benson. Woo!
A bit of coolness here for y’all at Women and Words today. Author G. Benson stopped by to celebrate the success of her debut novel, All the Little Moments, and to talk about the differences that aren’t all that different and the similarities that are there regardless.
And, because she’s super cool like that, she’s giving away three ebook copies of All the Little Moments. Yeah, that’s totally badass. Leave a comment below and I’ll draw some winners on Sunday, August 30.
Only a Colour by G. Benson
Travelling, for me, had been the thing I forever dreamed of but was always out of my reach. And then, mind made up, my belongings were condensed into a backpack (and a carton filled with things left in my mother’s house I now no longer remember but seemed important at the time), and the world lay spread beneath my feet. Clutching a one-way ticket across the world, I sat on a flight that took off at sunrise-disgustingly poetic-and watched colours streak over the sky as my country was left behind. I was thirsty to experience what was out there, a notebook in the prize location in the front pocket of my backpack.
I fell easily into the rhythm of travel. I rarely booked in advance. At times I booked a train ticket the same morning I checked out of my hostel to a place chosen on a whim, or advice from a friendly person met on the hostel sofa. Once someone who couldn´t sleep until past midnight, I learnt to sleep to the beat of a train at two in the afternoon, or curled around my pack on a station floor in the late morning. I watched cities and countries fly past a window until I stumbled off a night train, aching deliciously, with an itch already starting in my feet. At times, I didn´t even know which city I was in. Dances I couldn´t name, I watched in awe. Languages in which I didn´t understand a word, I listened to, baffled and delighted. I ate food that not only looked strange, but tasted it, and asked for more (sometimes). Friendships were built in hours, solidified over days, and left behind as I boarded the next train.
This was incredible and freeing. When no one knows you, when no one has a preconceived idea of who you´re meant to be, it´s actually easier, more comfortable, to become the person you´ve always felt you were under layers of history and conceptions that don´t belong to you.
My fingertips have scraped along walls not built decades ago, nor centuries ago-but millennia before me. I was thrust into recognising that the world is so much more than just my world view. Before this, I had always thought I was open-minded: I marched in rallies. I tried to defend people-sometimes badly-and was disgusted by the racial slurs that fell so easily from people´s lips; from people who would never call themselves a racist.
In reality, I knew nothing.
I still don´t. But I know more, and I´m willing to keep learning. Yet at times, it´s exhausting to be confronted with the enormity of what´s ahead. Where do you start? How do you make the change around you that you want to see?
Growing up, I had always been uncomfortable and couldn´t word why when I heard phrases like ¨don´t cry like a girl¨ or ¨you´re different to other girls¨ or even ¨man up¨.
I watched, confused, as a toddler with a pink wheelbarrow was told it couldn´t be his because pink was for girls and blue was for boys. Perplexed, he stared at the adult in front of him, lost.
This is the society that then cries this is the natural way, when you can literally see it being taught. That two-year-old had no idea he´d committed such a crime by simply wanting to play in the garden.
It´s a colour. Only a colour.
I´ve had conversations with people I would never have met if I didn´t take that first plane. My eyes have been opened, and will continue to be until the day I die. We never stop learning, we can never be accepting enough, respectful enough, open enough.
Something my travels taught me is that the destructive attitudes that put people into small, constricting boxes exist in my home country, Australia, and in every other country too. It’s everywhere; nowhere is perfect. There are some places in the world where this destructiveness is loud and the oppression is obvious. While we look down on these, preening our feathers, we fail to notice the quieter, less apparent bigotry deeply rooted and tightly clinched, a glass splinter in our own society’s sole.
People throw words around as if feminism isn´t an issue. They drop bombs that explode in the minds of tiny, shapable humans and plant seeds as they shatter. The ash provides a perfect ground. Not everything takes root: but most of it. It´s small, it´s covert: it´s nowhere nearly as palpable as fifty years ago, but many say the same for racism; for homophobia.
Thousands of years of prejudice don´t go away with a civil rights movement or a law that says you can practice any religion or have the right to vote.
Girls are still sent home for wearing ´distracting´ skirts, as if boys can´t be held responsible for their actions: blame the victim and excuse the rest. Why are these adults looking at children and screaming the word slut? If I was a boy, I´d be insulted: I´m literally expected to have zero control. These girls are sent home for being too revealing in countries that frown upon and mistrust cultures in which women cover up.
What was she wearing? What was she doing? She was asking for it, clearly. There are still tropes and clichés on television-the crazy lesbians and the fabulous gays; thugs and terrorists; lonely cat ladies and friendzoned men, colourlessly painted and begging for your sympathy. We can’t really control what they put on the screens in front of us.
We can choose what we read, however, what we write. What we cry out for.
Thankfully, so many of us are crying out for words layered with meaning. Words painting a picture that truly reflect the world as it is slowly becoming–where consenting adults can kiss without anyone else thinking it´s got anything to do with them; where the colour of your skin or your gender doesn´t determine your future. In that world, a woman can cover her head if she chooses to, because naked or covered, she should be able to do what she wants-because who is to say what empowers a woman if she makes a choice? A man can cry and not be shamed , nor does he have to feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand up when he realises a police car is nearby.
I believe: read what it is you want to read, write what you want to write, and more will come; supply will meet demand.
We can live in a written universe that doesn´t just have white, cis, able-bodied boy meets white, cis, able-bodied girl and all is well. We can have girl meets girl; boy meets boy; boy is in a wheelchair with well-kept dreads and a cocky grin or girl scours the universe in her pink-toed heels, kicking alien butt and finds her love-agender and everything she ever wanted. Strong women? Sad women? African American heroes? Aborigine detectives? Write them all. Plant a new bomb, so that when it explodes it shatters these tropes, these stereotypes, and plants something of substance in its ash.
Why write for the majority when you can write for everyone? Who says what stories we can relate to? If a story is about people, with human emotions and human experiences, why does the colour of their skin or the type of relationship or the gender of the hero change the experience you can have when you open that book and lose yourself within its pages?
Words are power, but so are people, in all their diversity. So go pick up a pen and write them. Pick up a book, and enjoy them-all of them.
G. Benson spent her childhood wrapped up in any book she could get her hands on and—as her mother likes to tell people at parties—even found a way to read in the shower. Moving on from writing bad poetry (thankfully) she started to write stories. About anything and everything. Tearing her from her laptop is a fairly difficult feat, though if you come bearing coffee you have a good chance.
When not writing or reading, she´s got her butt firmly on a train or plane to see the big wide world. Originally from Australia, she currently lives in Spain, speaking terrible Spanish and going on as many trips to new places as she can, budget permitting. This means she mostly walks around the city she lives in.