Yep, I’m a Feminist

girl power

There are things going on right now that deeply disturb me. Strange and unusual things. Things like a movement to redefine what rape is to counteract Roe vs. Wade. I get that people don’t like abortions, but what I don’t understand is why any woman in her right mind would support legislature that decreases the rights we’ve fought so hard to get in the first place. Push the topic of abortion aside for a moment. Redefining an ugly act that has a deep stigma associated with it for its victims is really narrow-sighted and incredibly selfish. This isn’t “for the people,” this is for someone’s vanity.

Just this morning, I came across an article talking about how Justice Scalia claims the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to women or gays, in part because he prefers an original interpretation of the law. The “original interpretation” makes me laugh. Our founding fathers were not gods, they were human. They applied the law to what they thought would be best for their society at the time. Although the law does affect future generations, there’s only so far a human being can see into the future. Take a trip back in time for a second. The 14th Amendment was drafted because back in 1868, they were still dealing with the repercussions of something called “slavery,” yet another topic we gloss over and pretend has no effect on racism today.

Keep in mind, too, women didn’t receive the right to vote until 1920. That is less than a hundred years ago. Multi-racial marriages? Weren’t legal until 1967. It’s worse for people dealing with sexual orientation issues; it’s now 2011 and two human beings still can’t marry who they choose to? Were any of these changes in the constitution? Nope. Laws change as a result of our cultural progress. Sure, our culture ebbs and flows like the tide, but it flourishes when we have a well-fed, healthy and literate population.

What kills me about these attacks, is that if we let this happen, we do a great disservice to the generations that came before us. We forget the wars they fought to be treated like decent human beings. The U.S. is still very, very young compared to the rest of the world; our country is unusual because it has experienced rapid growth. Are we cultural leaders? Yeah, not a chance.

While this country has been through a lot, our short history is rooted in violence and strife because a bunch of immigrants forged a series of micro-cultures on top of the ones that already existed here. (e.g. Native Americans. Yeah, they were here first. For thousands of years, in fact.) Did America begin with an amalgamation of different religious and political movements? Yes. Has our society changed dramatically over the last century? Yes. Not only did we go through several wars and the Age of Industrialism, our population levels have increased, to the point where a movement called “zero population growth” was founded in the late 60s. And we’re still growing. Still advancing. Still changing. Truly, miraculous.

Mind you, I love this country and all its possibilities, but what I don’t love about it is our cultural attacks on “the other.” When someone isn’t like us, typically we don’t try to identify with them, we isolate them and attack them. Worse, we make claims that someone is whining when they stand up for themselves. It takes a bunch of kids dying for us to go, “Oh shit, maybe bullying gay kids is bad.” Terrible stuff, that.

In my opinion, the biggest challenge we face is apathy. The increased channels of communication we have are both a blessing and a curse. Change is happening all over the world and we’re right there to see it, hear it and respond to it without ever leaving our desk. But change is damn scary to a lot of people, if not most of them. Very scary. Some believe that if they themselves change, it makes them less honorable or a hypocrite. Some people are so afraid, that they need to either revert progress to make it safer for them and those around them, or they hide and stick their heads in the sand. Let someone else deal with it, it’ll sort itself out. Right? Or, change it back to the way it was, because that’s how they can cope.

Maybe I’m missing something, but when did we lose our ability to be empathetic toward other human beings?

So what happens when the proposed changes by our elected leaders are not justifiable? What then? Do we allow a reversal of rights to happen, even when it doesn’t apply to us directly, because it’s too hard to deal with? We absolutely have to pick our battles, sure. But for crying out loud, if there’s one thing I learned: the less you exercise the rights you have, the more chance you have of them being taken away.

So yeah, I’m a feminist. I abhor labels, especially ones I have to identify with simply because I support the idea that all human beings were created equal. For bonus points, you should know I also believe we are not islands. Just by living, we have a relationship with other people, our environment and the animals around us. So, I guess my stance also makes me a person of coloralist and a gayist and a senior citizenist and an animal loverist… Well, you get the idea.

A couple of links follow below. I am absolutely willing to hear alternate points of view. Do I listen to the “you suxx0rs” comments? Yeah, no. Fair warning: if you’re going to be an asshole, I will screen your comments out. Unlike YouTube! or a newspaper, I do have a comment policy. Say what you gotta say, just don’t be a jerk about it.

Oh? And the reason for the picture? Because I needed a little pick-me-up. I shouldn’t have to remind myself why I’m awesome, but hey… Sometimes, I have to reassure myself that just because I was born a woman, of which I had no choice over, I don’t have to allow myself to be treated like dirt.

Why Piracy Might Just Be “Black-and-White”

Thumbprint | Georgie C | Sxc.huThe subject of “piracy” seems to pop up on my radar every now and then. Since this is an issue I deal with directly, I thought I’d chime in with some of my thoughts on the subject.

I feel that the topic is fairly complex, because many of the arguments I’ve been reading online don’t address piracy directly. Rather, the articles seem to talk “around” the issue by trying to determine either “why” piracy is occurring or justify “why” content should be freely shared and distributed. So, for starters, I’d like to pose the question, “Why is piracy so confusing to define?”

Say I go into a brick-and-mortar store and I find the coolest pair of socks that I simply have to have. Whether or not I “should” steal the pair of socks isn’t the issue nor is it open to debate. What matters is what the law states. If, according to the law, I take that pair of socks and don’t pay for them, then I am breaking the law. With digital piracy, some people do not believe that downloading a product is the same thing as stealing because pirates are taking a “copy” of the physical product and the product is not removed from a website. However, just like there are laws that define what stealing is, there are also laws surrounding illegal downloads. Read Piracy: Online and On the Street via as just one example. For the purpose of this post, when I refer to piracy, I’m referring to the situation when someone downloads or shares an electronic product illegally, either for their own purposes or with the intent to distribute.

Unfortunately, the arguments that advocate piracy are not only convoluted, they are downright frustrating to people like me. I feel that people standing up on the “pro-piracy” platform are demanding free content and cheap prices in addition to unlimited electronic distribution. For whatever reason, it’s become some sort of revolutionary cry to “teach” businesses what’s what by taking something that normally requires payment. Do illegal downloads make businesses sit up and listen? Sure they do, which is why there’s a few piracy crack-downs that are in development as we speak. Already, some of the telecoms are negotiating with different businesses to block internet access based on piracy — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. While the law has not been able to keep up with the rapid changes in technology, the courts are working on it.

It’s no secret people are unhappy with the way that businesses, like the RIAA, are handling pricing and copyright in this digital age. Are copyright laws outdated? Yes. Do businesses need to adjust to the times? Absolutely. Are the laws challenging to understand? Yep. However, engaging in piracy and/or justifying illegal downloads is not a good solution, in part because “piracy” and “copyright reform” are really two, separate subjects that are being addressed in two, different worlds. Think of it this way: How is “I take without asking.” different from “What rights do I have to take?” If you don’t like the way the laws are now, then get involved! Contact your local representatives or join the appropriate advocacy group and help bring about positive changes.

Part of the reason why I have strong opinions on this subject is because piracy threatens the livelihood of the people who create the content you’re downloading illegally. Songwriters, artists, authors and others are directly affected by rampant online distribution of illegal content because of the way that they are getting paid. (If you want to see an interesting graphic, check out How Much do Music Artists Earn Online?.)

If an artist doesn’t get paid, then they can’t afford to keep creating their works. Remember, most artists (writers, musicians, etc.) get paid differently than people with full-time salaries. They often get paid by the download rather than by the hour. Do the math on that. Say an artist makes a ten percent royalty rate on a $4.99 product. Fifty cents may not seem like much to you, but it adds up quickly. The more people download a product illegally, the less money an artist makes, which means that they’ll have to work even harder to make up the difference. Most artists I know work well over forty hours a week just to be able to make ends meet.

As part of this discussion, I’d like to mention that William Aicher has written a book entitled Starving the Artist: How the Internet Culture of “Free” Threatens to Exterminate the Creative Class, and What Can Be Done to Save It. In the interest of full disclosure, I work on his team at Musicnotes, Inc. This work was not written as an off-handed anecdote, but from a business-minded individual that sees how the popular ideal of “free” threatens an artist’s ability to provide for themselves in order to keep creating. Also, I have seen the numbers and have heard horror stories from other artists that are directly affected by digital piracy. All in all, it is not pretty.

Of course, I can’t talk about piracy without briefly mentioning my thoughts on “free” products. Let me be extraordinarily clear on this: I believe that the topic of “free” is yet another conversation. For extra credit, check out my posts about Free, Freemies and the Undervaluation of Goods and Services, My Stance on Writing for Free and Puking Content, Plagiarism and Too Much Free.

In the end, I believe that it’s unfortunate that a lack of consumer education is affecting an author’s, artist’s and musician’s ability to do what they love to do in the way that they know how to do it. It is way too easy to point a finger and say that an artist is being “too greedy” or have long, sordid discussions about how the system is broken. The current system is the way things are right now, and that’s the one that we’re all trying to work with. Until things change, perhaps we can all push philosophy aside and simply abide by the rules.

Beware the Self-Titled “Expert”

When I first started this blog, almost a year ago, I wanted to add my voice to a community of writers and hope that one day there will be this magical exchange of ideas where we all sit down and treat each other like adults. Almost every post that I write I try to take the attitude that even though this is my perspective on what has (or hasn’t) worked for me, maybe this same thing works for someone else. Most writers will tell you that in order to be truly successful in the field you have to be in the right place at the right time and be open to criticism. I feel I’ve achieved moderate success based on milestones that I’ve set out for myself: this year I’ll have two publishing credits for novellas. But–and this is a big “but”–I’ve never published a novel before, never dealt with an agent before. Maybe someday I will; maybe I won’t. Since I haven’t been there and it’s not on my radar, I haven’t posted about it yet because I’m doing the research to provide relevant and useful information from whaddaya know–actual agents.

For the most part, I’ve had really great responses because I’ve learned to put the caveat on what I say: I am asking this question because… or I am asking for your opinion. You’d be amazed by how quickly attitudes and egos get out of whack when you either post directly about anything or postulate a vague-ish question to generate some interest or camaraderie.
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How to Ruin your Online Reputation in 10 Easy Steps

Are you concerned whether or not you’ll get hired in the future? Wondering if a potential date will Google your name? Don’t care whether or not there might be legal repercussions to what you say? Well, great! If you don’t care what people read about you online, then you’re well on your way to ruining your online reputation. Here’s my top ten tips for tanking your online reputation indefinitely:

(1) Become a Member of the Grammar Police: Remember to correct grammar and spelling in every post, email, and comment you read–even people that have established reputations. Everybody loves to be corrected on their English, don’t you? Not only will you get the reputation as a know-it-all, but you’ll also be quickly recognized as a major pain-in-the-butt. Or, if you so choose, remember the phrase “when in Rome” and post exclusively in txt, LOL or l33t-speak.

(2) Take Credit for Other People’s Work: Feel free to avoid referencing, linking or crediting the content you’re publishing on your own site. Sure, there’s so much content on the internet that no one will ever know if you plagiarize, right? And who knows? Other people may notice what you’ve done and start talking about it. Free publicity!

(3) Claim you’re an Expert on Everything (Even When You’re Not One): Be sure to speak to your vast and impressive background of experiences whenever possible. This is especially true if you don’t have any experiences (or proof) that you are knowledgeable in the subject you’re talking about.

(4) Be “the” Internet War Guru: Start flame wars by calling a fellow poster an [insert word] here. The fastest way to tank your reputation online is to start an argument with someone over the [topic of your choice], so start early and fight often. Forum posts and email are great vehicles for flame wars, because other people who don’t even belong to the forums (or know you personally) can read what you wrote. Fantastic!

(5) Put Other People Down to Get Visits: Promote your site and get more traffic by telling other people how much they suck. This is a great way to get traffic to your own site. Simply, all you have to do is comment on as many blogs and websites as possible, trashing what they’ve done and telling people where they should go–to your domain.
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Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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