Category Archives: Current Affairs

Raising Children With A Sex Not A Gender

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I’m raising my children to know their sex, not their gender.

To explain I’ll describe what I mean by each.  Their sex is what they are.  The girls have vaginas and XX chromosomes, the boy has a penis and XY chromosomes.  Obviously there are other physiological differences but that’s the basics.

Gender is something else.  Gender is what each sex is “supposed” to be interested in, “supposed” to like, think and feel.  It’s the boys like pirates, girls like princesses, and boys like football, girls like ballet, school of thought.

So, how do I raise them with one not the other?  And why?

They need to know their sex.  There are medical issues that could come into play for one thing; they need to know their body parts in order to describe any pain or discomfort.  They need to understand the changes that they’re going to experience on their bodies, things that will happen to them because of their sex.

Whilst I definitely believe we all need to know the physiology of the opposite sex, when it’s going to happen to your own body what you learn needs to be more intense.  I’ll be teaching the girls about periods; how to use tampons or pads, what pain relief works best.  I’ll be teaching the girls about yeast infections and what to look out for, what treatment to use.  The boy needs to learn about erections and testicular pain, about his voice dropping.  These are basic simple biological differences that will manifest as they grow and experience life.

But gender is unnecessary.  And in some cases it is harmful.

There’s a flow chart floating around social media that is spectacular at explaining why children do not need gender.

IS IT OPERATED WITH GENITALS?

/                                   \

YES                                             NO

/                                                              \

THIS ISN’T FOR CHILDREN                      YOUR CHILD CAN PLAY WITH IT

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series. Rose And Mum And More Blog, Parenting Blog, Mummy Blogger

Photo credit Cheryl Holt

Nothing that children play with, watch or wear is restricted to their sex.  Absolutely nothing.  There is absolutely no reason boys can’t play with My Little Ponies, Barbies or hair dressing sets.  There is absolutely no reason girls can’t play with dinosaurs, trucks and footballs.  And when we teach them that it’s not the case problems happen.

I recently had a conversation with someone one Twitter who’s raising her little boy as female now.  I assume that doesn’t include learning about the medical reasons he needs to know about his body, I don’t suppose she’ll be teaching him about period cramps and how to get blood stains out of knickers.  She’s raising him as socially female.

She tweeted that every birthday and Christmas he asked for dolls, and every year he cried when he was bought trucks.  I asked why she couldn’t just let him play with dolls?  Why not let the kid have what he wanted?  She said because he was teased for it, made fun of, laughed at for liking girl’s toys.

She taught him that the bullies were right.  She taught him that the bullies were right and he was wrong.  That something is wrong with him.  She changed him, not the bullies.

He is now on a path.  He’s being raised as a girl now.  He’s on a path that leads children into puberty blockers, a life time of medication, hormone therapy and, if he chooses to go down that path, surgery.  Or if he’s like high profile trans child Jazz Jennings who went on puberty blockers, he’ll find that his development is so damaged that not only is he unsuitable for surgery, but he’ll also not develop fully and he’ll grow older with an infant’s penis on an adult body, with nothing anybody can do to help.

Because he wanted a Barbie.

With other parents that could be my children.  Miss Rose is not a traditionally feminine girl in a lot of ways.  She likes her hair short, she loves football.  She plays with bricks and cars and super heroes.  With different parents she could easily have been taught that they are boys toys, that there’s something wrong with her wanting those things.  The more traditionally “girly” things she enjoys could have been hyped up, she could have been forced to grow her hair long and wear frilly pink dresses.  She’d be uncomfortable, she’d feel she was wrong.  She’d be told that only girls like these, only boys like those.  But she likes those.  You can see how their little brains make that leap without any slight concept of what they’re getting into.

Gender stereotypes being imposed on children starts them on their journey to adulthood in a way that is just not healthy.  Fifty years ago that meant little girls grew up to be housewives.  They were forced to play with make up sets, ironing boards, and dolls being groomed for a life of servitude, beauty and motherhood.  Little boys were forced to play with weapons, cars and blocks, preparing them for a life of adventure, money making and dominance.

Photo credit KlimKin

We started to leave that behind.  Movements like Let Toys Be Toys highlighted that any child can play with any toy.  We’re becoming accepting of little girls who like adventure and little boys who like domesticity.  We’re moving towards embracing both facets of our personalities, little girls like Miss Rose loving toy cars and My Little Ponies without any concept that she could be wrong in doing so.

But the more tolerant we become of celebrating differences, the more intolerant we become of those who are different.

Now it’s more tolerant to believe a little boy who likes Barbie is really a girl.  It’s more tolerant to think a little girl who likes her hair short and doesn’t wear pink is really a boy.

Gender stereotyping is getting a resurgence in popularity but under a new name, and instead of those who are against gender stereotyping being the progressives, it’s those who will strictly conform to it to the point of medicating their children who are applauded.

My children will be raised to know their sex.  To know their bodies, to understand what they do and how they work, how they’ll change and what to do to be healthy.  They’ll be taught to love their bodies, respect their bodies, nurture their bodies.

My children will not be taught their gender.  They’ll never hear from us “that’s a girl’s toy” or “only boy’s wear that”, and if they hear it from others they’ll swiftly be reassured that it’s nonsense, that they’re perfect they way they are.  If they’re teased for their differences I’ll never side with their bullies.  Ever.

Femininity and masculinity are both fine.  Women and men are both fine.  Girls and boys are both fine.  It’s okay to be anywhere on the feminine to masculine scale regardless of what sex you were born.

I’m raising my children to know their sex, but not give a flying f*ck about their gender.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

8 Things I Learned From My Book Party

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I attended my very first book release party on Tuesday.  Not just any book release party, the book release party for my own book.

As well as food and drink, laughter and fun, books being signed and photos being taken, there are things that I learned.

1. Getting glammed up is fun.

J.J. Barnes, Sirens Launch, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic RabbitI work from home as I write for a living.  I don’t go out much because I’m a tired mum.  When I do go out it’s usually for a curry.  Getting glamorous isn’t my natural state, at least not anymore.  When I was younger it was, but those days are long gone.

At 4PM, Miss Rose and I had appointments at the salon to get our hair done for the party so we could be at our most glamorous.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Sirens Launch, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit

Miss Rose had requested Rainbow Hair so we went armed with a box of hair chalks and my goodness she looked incredible.

For me I simply said “I’m not glamorous… but I want to be!”

My head is not used to be primped at and pulled around so it was an odd experience but one that resulted in some gorgeous hair full of golden butterflies that Lilly Prospero herself would be proud of.J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Sirens Launch, Rose and Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit

When I got home and did my make up, got the girls into their new dresses and me into mine, I actually felt pretty fabulous.  I admired myself.  I looked nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start making all this effort normally, leggings and slippers is something I am very comfortable with as a fashion choice, but every so often it’s fun to feel glamorous.

2. I am not a natural party animal.

In the build up to the party I was frantically busy.  Media had to be alerted, food had to be chosen, decorations organised.  There were meetings to meet at, interviews to conduct, invitations to send.  The build up I felt quite natural at, I felt quite confident.  Even on the day I felt alright, getting ready to leave was fun.  But then it was actually time to go.

Driving my children and Jonathan McKinney to The Swan Hotel in Stafford, where the event was being held, was one of the worst driving experiences of my life.  I was physically shaking.  I felt sick.  My eyes hurt, my head hurt.  My hairdo felt too tight, my dress felt too restrictive, I struggled to breathe.  I wanted to go home.

Most people headed to the most important party of their lives that they’ve been working so hard towards would feel like Jonathan McKinney felt; excited and happy.  Me?  No.  I felt like I was dying.

Jon was calming and gentle.  Focus on one thing at a time, he said.  All I had to do at that moment was drive us to The Swan.  It’s a drive I’d done loads of times, a drive I know really well.  That was all that I was doing.  Just focus on that.

3.  Our products are bloody brilliant!

It’s easy to get anxious about what it is you’re offering the world when it’s about to be presented on such a grand scale.  What if the books are rubbish?  What if the merchandise is crap?J.J. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master Enchantress

As we posed in front of our book covers, smiling as people snapped various pictures of us, I realised that actually these books are fantastic!  People there were fans, people who’d read one or both books, and loved them enough to come and celebrate them with us and tell newbies all about them.

It was an odd surge in confidence.  One I greatly needed.  I smiled and I actually felt quite confident for the first time that evening!J.J. Barnes. Jonathan McKinney, Sirens Launch, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master Enchantress

Our books looked good on the shelves around the room, the posters celebrating our books and quotes from inside looked brilliant.  The Siren Stories mugs put out as gifts for the guests looked beautiful and the whole room was looking ready to do it’s job.

4. Our family are so very proud.

My parents, his parents, my grandparents, and his brother all came.  Family showed up from miles away to support us.J.J. BArnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit  They were genuinely proud.

Jonathan McKinney and I both come from successful families.  Our brothers are all in careers where people are able to go “wow” and “ooh” when our parents talk about their accomplishments.  Until now we have been unpublished struggling writers, and none of that gives the required “ooh”.

It hasn’t stopped our families being proud, indeed my mum and dad have found reasons to brag about me my entire life, even when I’ve seen nothing there worth bragging about, they have always found something.  And I’m a major screw up so they’ve had to be damn determined at times.  But bless them, no matter what, they’ve always succeeded.

At this party I finally felt that their pride was justified.  That my mum’s smiling face as she posed for photos with me was deserved.  Sure, we’re not hugely successful yet and our debut novels are mostly unknown, but they’re there.  We’ve achieved something huge.  My mum can hold her head high now when people ask how I’m doing, and she can brag about more than my ability to eat an entire 15″ pizza alone in one sitting.

Our parents have published authors for children.  They can be proud of us.  And they are.

5. High heels are the invention of the devil.

I used to go out dancing in high heels until 4 in the morning.  I used to wear high heels to work in an office.  I used to wear high heels just for the fun of it because they’re so pretty.  I own a collection of high heels so beautiful and sky scraping that Carrie Bradshaw would be proud.

I wore some comparatively low high heels to the party.  Black, sparkly, gorgeous.  They went perfectly with my dress.

One blister, one agonising ingrowing toenail, and one twisted ankle later I furiously removed the stupid things and stuffed them under a chair.  Evil.

6. Working Mums are always on mum duty.

Miss Rose is usually asleep between 6 and 6.30 every night.  She gets tired and she asks for bed.  She thrives on routine and structure, her stories and sleep being an essential part of the day she looks forward to.  She never asks to stay up late.

Adrenaline carried her far.  We arrived at 6, the party started at 7.  As things were set up she and Z charged around excitedly, posed for family photos, and played with the toys they had brought.  As people arrived she was admired by strangers, cuddled by friends and family.  She had been looking forward to this party for weeks, telling everyone she knew about it, and thrilled to finally be there.

At half past 8 she crashed and she crashed hard.

Grandma was deployed to step into the breach and get her home for a Grandma sleepover.  But getting her out to the car involved her screaming hysterically, begging not leave me, and being carried out of the party so I could hold her in my lap and calm her down as she desperately sobbed and begged me to go with her.

Then there was Baby Boo.  Throughout the evening I was stopping to give her cuddles and the occasional breastfeed, but she was, for the most part, remarkably contented being handed between her nanny and her grandma and various family and friends.  She had photos, ate spring rolls, and generally loved every moment.

Then we went live on Facebook to announce the winner of a signed copy of Emily The Master Enchantress.

Then she started to scream.

If you check out the Siren Stories page and watch our video, you’ll hear Boo in the background, then witness me disappear as soon as Jonathan starts signing to book, and return moments later with a newly calmed Boo in my arms.

I spent most of the rest of the party sitting down, cradling her and feeding her.  She had reached her limits too but, unlike Miss Rose, couldn’t be whisked away by Grandma.

7. Despite my fear, the party was a success.

As I looked around the room and snapped photos for social media, I realised something.  Everyone was smiling.

JJ. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master EnchantressJonathan chatted to fans and friends with his trademark amiable smile, easy and engaging conversation, and generosity of spirit.  Everywhere I looked there were smiles and enthusiasm.

The food was good, and it was eaten enthusiastically.  The waiters carrying around drinks were friendly and charming, the drinks were delicious.

Everywhere I went people greeted me warmly, asked me to sign books and pose for photos.  Nobody looked bored or like they wished they hadn’t come.J.J. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Siren Stories, Rose and Mum And More, Lilly PRospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The MasterEnchantress

Proof reader Zoe was laughing her head off with her friends and taking selfies.  Illustrator Sarah had managed to get there despite recent knee surgery and was drinking and chatting with a huge smile on her face.  Friends were meeting for the first time and sharing thoughts on our books, bits that they liked most, parts that brought them to tears.

Despite my greatest fears, despite my head being full of fireworks of panic I was desperately trying to ignore, the party was a success.

8. I’m going to have to do it all again.

The releases of Lilly Prospero And The Mermaid’s Curse by me, and The Fundamental Miri Mnene by Jonathan McKinney will coincide again, and so forth will come another release party.

Will I be so nervous next time?

Probabably.

Let’s be honest, the likelihood is I’ll never get full used to this.  My natural habitat is that of a hermit, locked up quietly in a room with a laptop, some jazz music playing quietly in the background, and a steaming cup of coffee at my side.

But perhaps somewhere beneath the fear of impending vomit will be the memory of the success of this party.  The memory that fans, old and new, have wanted to gather to celebrate this occasion.  The knowledge that the positivity we received has not gone away.

Next time will be another fabulous dress, another spread of delicious food, and another party full of books to be signed.

But for now I’ll ride high on the experience of last time, and put the fact I’ve got to go through it all again out of my mind.  Because it was brilliant.  And it’s not every day you get to attend a party celebrating your first novel.

I’ll never get a first book party again, I’ll never write a first novel again.  So I’m glad this one happened with such a lovely evening to commemorate it.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

No I Won’t Cover Up

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I am a breast feeder.  I fed my first daughter for nearly 11 months and I’m currently feeding my second daughter who is nearly 8 months.  I have always breastfed on demand, as and when required.  Whether I’m in a restaurant, a shop or the theatre I’ve simply fed my baby because she’s hungry and needs feeding.

Generally my feeding so publicly and without shame has been met with positivity or, for the most part, not been noticed.  Until now.

There is a misconception amongst those who argue vehemently against public feeding that breastfeeding involves some dramatic wafting of a bare breast with milk spraying.  In reality, in my own case and the case of breast feeders I have been around, it would be easy not to know the baby is having a feed at all.  You can’t see anything as there’s a baby head in the way.  It simply looks like a cuddle.  There’s no wafting breasts or spraying nipples because the breast is behind a baby and the nipple and milk are both in their mouth.  On any Saturday night you’ll see more exposed breast flesh for fashion than you’ll see from a breastfeeding mother.

J.J. Barnes, Rose And Mum And More, Breastfeeding, Blog, Feminist, Mummy Blogger

Photo credit Avina Voicu

This weekend we went on a big family reunion to a remote area on the moors outside Buxton.  There were aunts and cousins, grandparents and grandchildren.  On Sunday we headed en masse to a local pub for a traditional Sunday lunch.

The Knight’s Table in Quarnford, Buxton, has an isolated charm.  The wind whipped and the rain fell, but we hurried inside and it was warm and cosy.  Targeted at families, offering children’s meals and with over the top medieval themed décor, it seemed the perfect location.

I was sniffy about the word “Damsels” being on the ladies toilets whilst the men got to be knights, but I put it aside as it was just part of a theme.

With nearly 30 people in our party we took over the majority of the restaurant area.  Those of us with children stationed ourselves at a back table behind a wooden partition, it seemed sensible given the likelihood of strange noises from tablets and games. and I took a seat in a high backed booth style bench with good back support for feeding.  The rest of the family filled the subsequent tables.

In due course Baby Boo required feeding so, as usual, I cradled her in my lap, slipped a boob out of my nursing dress and latched her on, then continued chatting.

“You need to cover up,” cut through a voice.  I looked up in surprise and saw the woman who had previously seated us.

I looked down at myself in confusion, had I accidentally exposed myself?  No.

I looked back at her and she pointed a finger at Boo.

“There are other people here,” she said crossly.  “You’ll need to cover that up.”

Incredulously I said, “No!”

I was furious.

Besides the fact I was tucked in a corner and surrounded by family, besides the fact I am legally entitled to breastfeed in public without harassment or discrimination, besides the fact that even businesses as well respected as Claridges have publicly apologised and admitted fault for similar incidents, I was furious because I was embarrassed.  I was humiliated. I lost my appetite, gathered up my children, and we left.

As defiantly as I refused to give in to her unacceptable demand, I felt ashamed.  As strong as I felt for continuing to feed, I felt weakened. I felt betrayed.  This woman had seen me doing something legal, normal, natural, which her establishment is required by law to respect my right to do, and instead of behaving appropriately had turned her back on both the law and the history of women’s rights.

J.J. Barnes, Rose And Mum And More Blog, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly Prospero

Photo credit Bohed

One look on TripAdvisor confirmed I am not alone in this experience and other nursing mothers have been similarly harassed in The Knight’s Table.

I chose not to make a scene out of embarrassment and the desire not to negatively impact the experience of an extended family I am only just get to know, but part of me wishes I had.  Part of me wishes I had challenged her on it.  Alerted the matriarch of the family who, she later assured me on learning about the incident, would have defended me passionately.

I should have fought at the time,  but I am choosing to fight now.  No woman should be made to feel that way.  Had I been alone or a first time mother the experience could easily have put me off breastfeeding for life.  I’m a defiant, proud feminist with an established history of feeding and a loyal family at my side and it still made me feel crap.  Other circumstances could have been far harder and nobody has the right to that power.

I didn’t fight immediately but one thing I can assure you is that I am no damsel.  I can fight the dragon myself, and I beg of any other nursing mothers who find themselves in The Knight’s Table to brace yourself, then proudly fight that dragon too.

We will not be bullied, intimidated or shamed.  We are not damsels.  We will fight.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

The World Needs Angry Women

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I never used to be an angry woman.  I was calm and quiet, I was intimidated by angry women who shouted about the patriarchy.  I considered myself a humanist not a feminist.

How times have changed.

I started exploring the world more.  Not physically, but by reading an watching.  I watched documentaries, I read articles, I engaged in conversations on Twitter and Facebook.  Something, perhaps age or motherhood, pushed me to want to know more.  To want to learn about the world.

It started around the time of my daughter’s birth four years ago.  It grew after the breakdown of my marriage.  It developed in my time as a single mother.  The more I learned, researched, the angrier I got.  The angrier I got the more I wrote.

I wrote because the world needs women to write.  Because the world needs female voices.  The world needs angry female voices because without anger nothing will change.  Without anger nobody will fight.

And there is so much to fight.

I don’t count myself as a humanist anymore.  I count myself as a feminist.  I believed being a humanist made me more focused on equality, but if you don’t recognise where the inequality lies, how can you properly address it?  Internationally it is women who primarily are being oppressed, not men.  I am a feminist.  I recognise this imbalance and that needs correcting before anything else.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Feminist Blog, Feminism Blog, Parenting Blog,

Photo credit Alexas Photos

And I am angry.  And I assume that anyone who isn’t angry simply doesn’t know the truth.

How can you not be angry when you learn that every single year between 600,000 and 800,00 people are trafficked (Stop The Traffik).  That is an active slave trade happening right now.  They are trafficked primarily into the sex trade, forced into prostitution in brothels, forced into pornography and raped repeatedly on camera, forced into arranged marriages and raped repeatedly by their husbands.  How can that not make you angry?  And when you learn that approximately 80% of those trafficking victims are women and girls, how can that not make you a feminist?  Hundreds of thousands of women and girls being raped for money every fucking year.

How can you not be angry when you learn that every hour in England and Wales alone, approximately 11 adults will be raped (that doesn’t include all the children) (Rape Crisis).  Eleven people being forcibly penetrated without their consent.  The lasting psychological damage of rape is huge and it is happening to eleven people every damn hour.  That is outrageous.  It is horrific.  And when you learn that 88% of these rapes are female victims, how can you not be a feminist?

How can you not be angry when you learn that there are at least 200 million females alive today who have been subjected to female genital mutilation? (Unicef).  That is girls who have had their vulva cut, labia sliced off, clitoris removed, and sometimes have their wounded body sewn shut.  How does that not make you furious?  And do you know why they do it?  Why they would mutilate young girls so badly, cause them so much pain and damage?  For men.  To ensure virginity for marriage.  And because a cut vulva is apparently more sexually satisfying for a man to put his penis in.  How can you not be a feminist when you  know that this is what is happening to girls every damn day?

J.J. Barnes, Rose And Mum And More Blog, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly Prospero

Photo credit Bohed

Then there’s the differences in pay forcing women to do the same work for less money, the rates of domestic violence, the pressures of the beauty industry causing a huge rise in anorexia and plastic surgery and depression, the representation of women in the media and ageism.  These are all genuine issues that people dismiss because “other people have it worse”.  But they’re still issues.  They still exist.  They still demonstrate the inequality the world gives to women.

This is all worthy of anger.  And all of it is an issue for women and girls primarily.

You can talk about the men who are victims too.  Men who suffer too.  I hear you, I get it.  But men are not crushed every damn day based purely on their biology in the same way as women.  They are not cut, raped, sold, abused as routinely as women.  And not only are men not as regularly victims of the evils of the world, they’re the ones primarily perpetrating the crimes in the first place.

Be angry.  Be furious!  I find so much comfort from seeing the voices of fury rising from women around the world.  I know I am not alone, I know we are doing something.  We are marching, we are campaigning, we are petitioning.  We are shouting about it.  Writing about it.  We are doing anything we can to make people know because dammit it is worthy of anger.  It is worthy of rage.

And if you refuse to acknowledge that women need the focus, if you refuse to acknowledge that inequality cannot be changed if you don’t recognise where that inequality lies, you are part of the problem.  If you refuse to accept that it is women and girls who are being treated so badly because “men suffer too” you are part of the problem.  You are part of the problem.

I am angry, and I love the angry women around me.  The more of us putting our voices out there, the more of us telling the truth to the world, the more people will know and learn.  The more people know and learn, the more people will get angry.  The more people get angry, the more they will shout about it.  The more of us shout, the more change can happen.

Be angry.  Be fucking furious.  The world needs your rage.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

It Wasn’t All Bad

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Everyone hates the year 2016.  The internet is full of people bidding the year adieu with a middle finger and a resounding “fuck off”.

The deaths of beloved icons who featured so strongly in our development such as David Bowie, Carrie Fisher and Alan Rickman have left us heartbroken.  Our leaving of the EU with Brexit has left a large portion of the country shocked and worried.  The US election pushing Donald Trump into one of the most powerful positions in the world has left much of the world genuinely terrified.  2016 has handed us some serious blows to the gut.

But for me personally?

2016 brought about some of the most wonderful events of my life.

In January 2016 a book I spent years of my life creating was released.  My first novel; Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit.  In the course of my life I wrote many books, most of them dreadful, most of them incomplete, but when I began the process of forming Magic Rabbit and the universe those characters inhabit I struck on something that was special.  It warranted the development, the thought and learning that I put into it.  They are characters I have known and loved and watched grow for longer than I have my own child.  I have invested my heart into them.  Breathed life into them.  I love them.

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit by J.J. Barnes

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit by J.J. Barnes

It developed from a simple idea of a picture book into the first novel in a series that sees my readers laugh, gasp and cry, and was the launching point of an entire world of stories with my writing partner Jonathan McKinney.

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit changed my life.  I am now an author.  I am legally registered as a working writer.  My career may be small fry in comparison to the authors I admire and aspire to emulate the success of, but it’s a career.  It is THE career and I am incredibly proud of it.

In February I nearly died.   I was pregnant and contracted swine flu, and was rushed into hospital where I resided on high dependency in isolation with the man at my side planning how to break it to my parents and daughter that I had died.

This obviously sounds like a traumatic and terrible event but, clearly, I didn’t die.  Not only did I not die but my baby didn’t die.  Baby B survived, something nobody believed was possible.

it-wasnt-all-bad

Yes it was a traumatic event but we survived.  We came through it.  Miss Rose learned how to survive without me and became a stronger child for it, and The Boy and I found our relationship forged stronger than I knew it could be as he sat at my side in quarantine watching my heart rate drop, helping me use the toilet and cleaning up my vomit.

In July she arrived.  A binding seal between two families brought together after two divorces.  Baby B, my little wonder girl who shouldn’t have survived but did.  My second daughter.

Watching Miss Rose develop as a person with a sister was a joy.  She is devoted to her.  Totally devoted.  Cuddling and kissing her baby sister is a priority daily and she is incredibly proud of her, bragging to everyone we meet that she is a big sister.

My daughters.  My golden girls.  My joy, my true loves, my wonders.

Photo Credit Llangal

Photo Credit Llangal

And my biggest girl?  She started formal education this year.  It hasn’t always been easy but my goodness the girl has flourished.  Her first parent’s evening I was told that resoundingly she is a true joy and that her teacher wishes she had a class full of her.  Not one criticism or critique was offered.  Not one suggestion for improvement.  Nothing but praise and celebration and a big cuddle between student and teacher.

2016 has been eventful.  It has been traumatic and sad and upsetting and hard and frightening.  It is leading into a world where Trump is in power, beloved stars are absent.  But 2016 has brought about some of my life’s most beautiful and wonderful events and I will never hold hatred for this year.  The six month old baby currently suckling in my arms is enough to make 2016 a beautiful memory even without everything else.

Thank you 2016.  Most hate you but I love you.  Thank you.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Carrie

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

2016 has been the year of celebrity deaths and it’s now at a point where we’re not shocked as more and more actors, singers and authors pass away far too early.  People say we shouldn’t mourn celebrity deaths as “real” people are dying and leaving sadness in their wake all the time and celebrity deaths don’t deserve any more attention than any other strangers’ passing.  But they’re not just strangers and the grief we feel is real.

For some David Bowie was the immortal Jareth and his presence was felt in life as much as his absence in death.  For some Alan Rickman is always going to be missed.  For my friend Kylie the loss of George Michael has broken her heart.  All these feelings of sadness are genuine and valid, and the pain we feel when someone who means something to us, for whatever reason, should be respected.

For me the celebrity death that has brought out such despair is Carrie Fisher.

Even writing this I feel such sorrow I could cry, though it would confuse and trouble my daughter so much that I’m holding it in.

Why Carrie?

I’m not the hugest Star Wars fan in the world.  I’m a fan, I adore Leia, I’ve seen the movies several times and been to the One Man Star Wars Show (hysterically funny and very clever if it comes to a theatre near you).  But there are certainly bigger fans than me, including me step son Z.

But still.  Carrie.

It’s not all about Leia, though she was an amazing character.  A female role model, strong, smart, fearless in a very male dominated franchise and genre.  She never went to the dark side despite being surrounded by men who succumbed.  She was a warrior.  She beat the shit out of the monster who enslaved her and went on to become a general leading rebel troops.

People keep using the image of her chained up at Jabba The Hut’s feet in her gold bikini to memorialise her and it’s pissing me right off.  Sure the scene is iconic but Carrie Fisher and Leia were both more than that scene.  They were both worth more than being remembered as a sex slave.  She choked the monster who enslaved her with her own chains for fuck’s sake!  Use that image!  Use her freeing herself with strength and courage not sitting at the monster’s feet!  Use images of her as General Organa, that would be even better.  But as a chained woman?  She was a badass.  You’re doing her a disservice purely for the titillation of men who get off on women being dominated.

Indeed, she said herself to Daisy Ridley, “Don’t be a slave like I was…You keep fighting against that slave outfit.”  She would never have wanted to be remembered that way.  Leia was worth more.  Carrie was worth more.

Carrie herself is why I grieve.  She is the woman the world has lost.

Carrie Fisher spoke openly about her mental health.  She had no shame and spoke with pride about how she coped.

“At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”

She made it okay to be mentally ill and she made everyone understand how impressive it is to cope.  Even now when people talk to me about how weak they feel for struggling, I remind them how badass they are for surviving.  How proud they should be. How strong they are.  Carrie knew that.  Carrie told the world.

She spoke against body shaming and the way women are treated.  Obligated to be young and beautiful forever to entertain the men.

“Am I obliged to entertain you with my appearance?” she asked.

“What I didn’t realize, back when I was this 25-year-old pinup for geeks… was that I had signed an invisible contract to stay looking the exact same way for the next 30 to 40 years. Well, clearly I’ve broken that contract.”

It is okay to age and Carrie knew that and fought against those who tried to shame her for it.  In a world, and industry, where women aren’t allowed to age at the same rate as their male counterparts, Carrie gave zero fucks and encouraged us all to do the same.

Carrie was an outspoken pissed off feminist in a way I aspire to.  I am still too apologetic.  I am still too anxious about offending.  I want to be Carrie.  Carrie said it how it is without apology.  She was bold.  She was strong.  She was what I wish I was strong enough to be.

Another of my aspirations is to be a best selling author.  She wrote fiction and non fiction, she wrote plays and screen plays.  She was a highly respected script doctor.   She was a respected best seller in a field I long to be successful and respected in.  She was a master of the written word in a way I aspire to be.

Carrie Fisher has died.  A woman I admire, who inspires me, whom I aspire to be.  A woman who was strong, brave, smart, phenomenal.

My gaping celebrity wound of 2016 is Carrie Fisher.

I truly believed she’d make it.  When news of her cardiac arrest hit I said no.  She will pull through and we can start 2017 knowing she is still here.  That good can come from fear.  That the world isn’t doomed.

Now we enter saying goodbye to some amazing people and characters, and looking ahead to a Trump presidency.  And that could mean we lose even more people and 2018 will start even gloomier.

Good luck world.  Goodbye Carrie.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

What Is A Woman?

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

What is a woman?  What makes someone belong to the female of the species?

Biologically that’s easy.  A woman is someone with a vagina, a cervix, a uterus, ovaries.  But, for some, it’s not as simple as that.

According Trans rights activists, a woman is anyone who feels like a woman.  Anyone who “identifies” as a woman.  Genitals are irrelevant, it’s the person inside.  If you feel like a woman, you are a woman.

So what is a woman?

If you’re going to permit anyone who “feels” like a woman to be legally classed as a woman, you must first identify what a woman feels like.

Why?

Because once you’re legally a woman you are immediately put into spaces of vulnerability for other women.  You’re a sports coach alone with teenage girls in the showers.  You’re a support worker with female victims of rape with PTSD.  You’re taking Brownies on camping trips and sharing their tents.  You’re confined to a cell with your female cell mate, having intimate checks done by female officers.

You’re entering the tiny changing room at my gym where there are no cubicles and my little girls and I are naked and alone getting changed after swimming.

Once you’re legally a woman you are entrusted with your fellow women and girls when they’re at their most vulnerable.  And that is not a right that should be handed out lightly.  That is something you need to respect, need to understand.  It cannot simply be subjective or anyone who claims to feel like a woman can enter those spaces.  We must be able to identify what a woman is if people can legally identify as one.

We separate ourselves by sex for a reason.  Approximately 85000 women and girls are raped every year, with 31% of women experiencing sexual abuse in childhood.  These statistics are absolutely shocking and horrific.  Choosing to separate by sex is not only about comfort, as being naked and vulnerable around strange men can be uncomfortable at the best of times, even in hospital settings for instance, but it’s also a matter of safety.  Not all men are out to assault and abuse, and not all trans women are out to assault and abuse, but statistically those with a penis are more likely to abuse those without a penis.  So penis havers go to one space and vagina havers go to another out of both comfort and safety.

So what is a woman?

Photo credit Flash Buddy

Photo credit Flash Buddy

Is it FEMININITY?

Many trans-women are drawn to traditionally “feminine” things.  So, is a woman feminine by definition?

I consider myself feminine.  I like pink, and glitter, and shoes. I paint my nails and wear mascara.  I favour skirts over trousers and have been known to purchase scatter cushions.  Feminine things appeal to me, and I am a woman.

But feminine things are not exclusive to women.  There are many women who have no interest in the traditionally feminine, and there are many men who feel love it and feel far more comfortable in a pair of high heels than I do.

It is also not as simple as being a feminine or masculine woman.  Most of us are on a sliding scale that moves depending on mood, circumstances, hormone fluctuations.  We are not simply girly or not girly in our preferred style.   Being a woman is absolutely not about whether or not you prefer feminine things.

Femininity is not a requirement of womanhood and nor is it exclusive to women.  So it cannot be femininity.  And belief that it is all about feminine style is incredibly reductive.

Is it BODY SHAPE?

Are breasts and hips a requirement of a woman?  Is committing to breast implants for a womanly shape what makes you a woman?  As someone with the hips of a teenage boy and who, until I got pregnant with my latest baby, usually wears a AA cup bra, I’d like to say no!!  I am a woman but I do not have a curvy shape that one might traditionally associate with being a woman.

Feeling more comfortable with breast implants or wearing a padded bra is fine, but it cannot make you a woman or those of us with flat chests would also be discounted from the sex.

Is it SEXUALITY?

This one is obviously a big fat no.  And millions of lesbians would absolutely agree with that.

Sexuality is not defined by your sex.  Having a vagina does not mean you want to make love to a man, and vice versa.  Women are straight, gay, bisexual and, to the fury of many trans women, a lot of it does actually depend on genitals.

I have seen lesbians receive no end of abuse on Twitter and in news articles being called bigoted and transphobic because they don’t want to have sex with trans women, after all, a woman is a woman.  But if you don’t like penises then you don’t like penises and that isn’t bigotted, that’s being a lesbian.  Intimate interactions with one anothers genitals is a huge part of any sexual relationship.

So no, it is not sexuality, and the way lesbian women are being treated and abused is horrific.

Wanting to have sex with men or lesbians does not automatically make you a woman.

Is it EXPERIENCES?

Ideally we would all be completely the same and our sex, colour, race would have absolutely no impact on how we experience life, but we know that isn’t true, even if it’s something we wish was.  So it must be experiences that give us that feeling of womanhood.

There is no doubt in my mind that male privilege exists.  It is why men are less likely to be raped, hold more senior positions in business and government, and are paid more for the same job.  It is the reason men don’t have to shave their legs to be considered sexy.  It is the reason why male newscasters are old next to their sexy young, female co presenters.  It’s the reason women will have their labia and clitoris sliced off and their vaginas sewn shut.  It is the reason women are more likely to be trafficked into forced prostitution and sexual slavoury.

If you reach adulthood living as a man, you will have been experiencing patriarchal advantages your entire life.  If you reach adulthood as a woman, you’ll have been experiencing life on the other side.

It does not mean you’re unable to empathise and it doesn’t mean you won’t have had pain and sadness and abuse in your life.  It just means you’ll have had a different experience, and different societal pressures.

Is it BIOLOGY?

This is the crux of it.  If it is not your preferred style, if it is not your sexuality,is what makes a woman simply down to biology?

Other than interexed individuals which is a rare, women are XX chromosomes, men are XY chromosomes.  Women have vaginas, men have penises.  Women have ovaries, men have testicles.  Women have more oestrogen, men have more testosterone.

The Rapractice

The Rapractice

Within those biological frames we have our brains giving us experiences, preferences, pleasures and pains.  And there will be those on both sexes that are extremes towards feminine and masculine.

There should be nothing wrong with a man being feminine and a woman being masculine, and there should be no way anyone on those spectrums should be treated without respect and equality.  But being automatically considered a woman?

 

I do not believe all people who identify as trans are a threat, but I fear the increasing push to accept anyone’s version of transgenderism is.  We are being forced to accept men proclaiming themselves to be women with no real understanding of what it is to be a woman, and demanding access to our lives by reducing our entire sex to feelings when being a woman is about so much more.  It’s about your life, your body, your self.  It is incredibly complex and it is varied and it is full.

My belief is this.  We cannot simply allow men to self identify as women and be granted access to women’s spaces.  We cannot reduce an entire sex to “lady brain” when clearly there is no such thing or we’d all have it.  We cannot force women to either accept that  some penises are female penises and that their attached man means us no harm when walking around naked in our changing rooms or trying to bully lesbians into having sex with them.

Define what it is to be a woman.

Identify what it is to be a woman before you allow people to identify as a woman.  And if someone doesn’t meet those parameters then respect existing women enough not to reduce who they are to a preference for pink or a fetish for lesbians.  Because a woman is so much more.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!