Beautiful bird, is it not? The Cockerel? The diminutive, Cock and Cocky have been used for year – YEARS – as nicknames, slang, euphemisms… a versatile and well-used word. We’ve all heard it, read it and/or used it. It is not restricted to any one peer, class, race, gender or age group. It crosses nations and languages, breaks the ice at parties (after a few drinks) and puts people in their places. I calms situations with humour or gets people fighting. It is a fun and flirty word, it is a rude and angry word. It is not one thing, it is many. And like all those other dirty, flirty words, it belongs to everyone.
Around the world, people fight daily to ensure communication is not stifled and censored. Freedom of speech is vital to create open and honest discourse and debate, to enrich minds and lives, to allow expression and understanding. Stifling the creative process by constricting the use of language is detrimental to the advancement of society.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban banned books and education for women, marginalised the female population and dis-empowered them, ripped away their voice and their freedom. They lost the freedom of not only speech, but expression. They lost – sorry, not lost, but were denied access to the written word. Yet, they did not give up. They did not bow down. In their own way, perhaps even if it was only in their heads, or in their dreams, they continued to create.
Education is vital for the young and the old. Do you know how many children around the world do not have access to schooling? How many do not have free and ready access to books? How many are illiterate? How many female authors in the history of time were denied publication unless they used a male pseudonym?
We fight and fight and fight and we finally, in the West, have a powerful presence in the literary world that is recognised and lauded. With the help of wonderful publishers, like Virago, championing women’s literature we have made the female voice stand up and be counted.
‘What on earth is she ranting on about?’ I hear you thinking?
Well, it is something that blew up Twitter a couple of months ago – or at least it did in the literary world – because an author trademarked a word. A single word. Monsanto trademarked a genome sequence and almost decimated rice production in India. This author has arrogantly assumed she can do the same, even though she did not ‘discover’ the word, did not create it and most certainly is not the exclusive user of it.
Faleena Hopkins, aka Sabrina Lacey, has trademarked the word ‘cocky’ in the United States and not only asked several authors to change their book titles (which they have reluctantly done as they cannot afford to fight her legally), but has also had Amazon remove titles that have the word ‘cocky’ in the title. She has ‘generously’ agreed they can “keep their books, rankings, reviews and their money by retitling which takes one day”. Ms Hopkins has been writing the ‘Cocker Brothers’ books since 2016. I think the first book in the series was published in September of 2017, less than a year ago. Apparently, she has a ‘huge’ following and her readers keep selecting the ‘wrong books’. [choke]
RWA are in talks with Intellectual Property Lawyers to recover this egregious situation.
As privileged, free-thinking, caring individuals of the western world, it is our right and our duty to ensure the lines of communication between people and countries remain open in every way, including language, to ensure free-thinking and freedom of expression are not constrained.
Ms Hopkins, if you are reading this (which I highly doubt, as I’m way too small an author), please read All Rights Reserved. Then, read 1984 and pay particular attention to Newspeak and ask yourself who it helps to trademark this word and how it will affect the future. From one tiny seed, from one tiny idea, from a single drop of blood, revolutions are born that can decimate nations. Please, please, put aside your pride, sense of entitlement and your self-righteousness and think seriously about not only who benefits from this and who doesn’t, but the harm it has and will cause. Otherwise, the deprivation will drive a wedge into our creative souls and this is what we’ll be in for: Will this be your legacy?
If you’ve a mind, you might also like to read Fahrenheit 451. For the destruction of books does not necessarily require a flame. Then, watch the sacking of the library at Alexandria in Agora. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
Readers, if you are as outraged as I and wish to to do something, please speak/open discussions on the subject. Alternatively, if you wish to be a silent demonstrator, please click here, if you wish to sign the petition.
Click here if you wish to purchase a copy of Cock Tales (they couldn’t use the word Cocky – see above); it is a book full of stories by various authors, the proceeds of which will go to support the RWA’s fight.