Bobbin Lace, Pandemics and Christian Morals

You may be justifiably baffled about the title – what do these three things have in common? And, understandably, you probably can’t guess the correct answer. Because that answer is my maternal grandmother.

I have never met any of my grandparents, all except my grandfather died before my parents even met, and my grandfather has died when I was merely three years old. So I know very little about any of them, except for what my parents have told me. And today I would like to share a story about how the bobbin-lace-making tradition started in our family. It is not a nice story.

My grandmother has broken her leg during play when she was four, she fell from a haywagon and her leg got between the spokes of the wheel. Her parents wanted to take her to the hospital, but her father’s mother has refused to pay for it, saying that God will take care of things. He did not. In fact, it got worse to a point that when they finally did go to the hospital, it was too late and the leg was beyond repair. It stopped growing and no attempts at mending it worked, including a graft of healthy bone from the other leg.

A few years later, when my grandmother was seven years old, the Spanis-flu pandemics has broken out and her mother got sick. She was delirious from fever and kept hugging my grandmother saying “My poor child, if I die, I want you to die with me, they will torture you when I am gone.”  Unfortunately, she died and…

From what I gather, my grandmother’s father was a mild-mannered man. A gamekeeper who preferred the quiet of the forests to people. He was not very keen on religious practice, saying that he meets with God in the forests and does not need to go to church. But at home, he was completely in tow of his abusive, miserly, and religiously devout catholic mother, who ruled the family with an iron hand. They lived at a homestead, and that means a lot of work needs to be done on daily basis. Oftentimes hard work even for healthy people.  And everyone was expected to do their share. My grandmother had three healthy sisters, and she was constantly shunned and mocked for not being able to work properly. At one point her grandmother has refused to “feed the cripple any longer” and when she was eleven years old, she was sent to a cloister.

A cloister that was adjacent to a castle and has provided a lot of free-child-labor to the said castle. My grandmother was of course not suitable for many works, but she was very apt with her hands, and she learned several useful crafts there. Including bobbin-lace making – the cloister made bobbin-lace for the countess. She liked those crafts, but my guess is she would probably like them better if they did not come with a sidedish of beatings and hunger as a punishment for not meeting the daily quota of work.

At seventeen years old she was poised to become a nun, but this is when her luck finally broke for better. An employee of a mask and wig lending shop from a big city was shortly at the cloister and she noticed the exceptional skill of my grandmother. And she asked her if she would like to come to the big city to work at the company. And she did. But she was not of age yet, so she needed consent from her father to go.

The parish priest had a bad conscience with regard to her, for not putting pressure on her grandmother to send her to hospital in time. And one nun has liked her and wanted for her a better future than the cloister. So they conspired to prepare the paperwork and catch her father at the marketplace, where he went alone without being supervised by the abusive family matriarch. And he signed the papers without arguing.

And that way my grandmother escaped abuse and finally got to live on her own. Two years later her bad leg had to be amputated, but she got on to live a happy (for the times – WW2, then totalitarian communist rule etc.) life. And she kept making bobbin lace and passed the craft onto one of her daughters. Who passed it onto me, where it stops.

Today, my mother has finished another of her masterpieces. A round tablecloth, 80 cm across. She worked on it for 220 hours and has used 1530 m of thread. It is beautiful and I do wish I had a cheerier story to tell with it.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

 

Harry Potter and the Troublesome Ethics

In the last post I covered some of the more obvious problems with the world building. This one will focus on some of the ethical problems. I will focus on issues with sex and gender, not only because that’s generally my beat, but also because Rowling is being hailed as some sort of feminist icon, when her works don’t even show what I would call “house and garden” feminism that you can see in many so called “gender critical feminists”. In fact, the politics of sex and gender in Harry Potter are deeply troubled.

One:

Strong women: When Harry Potter was first published, it was lauded for its inclusion of so many “strong women”. “Strong women” are seen as the opposite of the “Damsel in distress” and sure, we got lots of capable women or girls showing agency: McGonagall, Hermione, Ginny, ehm, did I say “lots”? Yes, those women are shown as capable, more than equal to their male counterparts, yet they are also absolutely exceptional. We don’t get a female Ron, let alone a female Neville, a girl who is just average in about all aspects and who is still an important member of the group.

Two:

Women are either mothers, nuns,  or evil: If we look at the women in the Harry Potter universe, there seem to be just two types. Mothers and evil women. Let’s start with Harry’s own mum. She is portrayed as the best person we could ever meet. She stood up to bullies at school, and she loved her son so much that she sacrificed herself for his sake, as a mother’s proper role demands. I could go on and on about dead mothers in fiction, but that’s probably for another day. Her role was not that of Harry’s dad, who valiantly defends himself and his family, but that of a sacrifice, who dies so her son could live. This is seen as an especially motherly deed. It is a mother’s love that protects Harry, not a parent’s love.

The next woman we get is Molly Weasley, who is the archetypical SAHM. She’s got seven kids and is the perfect homemaker, who keeps everything tidy for her husband and children and makes ends meet with very little money. She is being portrayed as a wholesome character whose only little flaws is that she’s a bit overbearing and overprotective. In other words, she’s an ideal mother. Yet, you got to wonder: what is that woman doing all day? When we first meet the Weasleys she’s got exactly one kid left at home, by book two that number comes down to zero. Most household chores can be done by waving a wand (and still she longs for an enslaved creature to do them for her) and in line with the upper class boarding school setting of the novels, large parts of raising the kids has been passed off onto other people. From the first book on we know that money is more than tight (5 underage kids do cost a lot of money), yet working outside of the home is apparently considered a no go. This is repeated in Ginny, who we learn has a great career as a Quidditch player until she ends her career to raise her family.

The only mother who is somewhere in between is Narcissa Malfoy, but even with her, her motherly instincts are her redeeming feature. Her childfree sisters gets no such chance. She is just pure evil, with a flavour of madness to it (well, she’s been tortured by the “good guys” for over a decade, so madness seems kind of understandable). Aunt Petunia would feature somewhere in between as well, but I’m limiting myself here to the wizarding world.

The nuns are, of course, the teachers. Because teachers (did I mention that the numbers don’t add up again? That’s not enough people to teach in a school the size of Hogwarts. Even with only two classes each year, no teacher can teach ALL classes in a certain subject) need to be pure beings without their own family or lives. While this holds true for all teachers in Hogwarts, there’s no denial of the gendered history of female teachers being expected to be chaste and celibate. Many countries had laws that banned married women from teaching, while married men were, of course, ok.

And then there’s the evil women. They are not necessarily evil as in working for Voldemort, but they are clearly portrayed as bad characters. The two most prominent ones are Rita Skeeter and Dolores Umbridge. There have been speculations about whether Rita Skeeter is supposed to be a trans woman, as she’s described as having “mannish hands”, but I’ll leave that in the realm of speculation. What is true is that Rita Skeeter is an ambitious woman who is also apparently single. The same holds true for Dolores Umbridge: the thing she wants most in life is power over others. There seems to be no other motivation to her actions. She sells her work to the highest bidder and enjoys abusing her power. It’s important to mention that this sadistic person was first allowed to mistreat kids under the “good guys”. There’s another thing both of them have in common: They are coded as extremely feminine. I don’t think any other character’s attire gets mentioned that often. Rita is portrayed as trying to be attractive, probably trying to finally get herself a man, while Umbridge is trying to look cute and sweet. She likes kittens and bows. Clearly that makes her evil. Let me say it clear and loud here: shaming women for being feminine isn’t feminism, but patriarchy in a feminist wrapper.

There’s one more important woman, Merope, but I’ll come to her in a separate point.

Three:

Women are prizes to be won. I must say, the struggles through adolescence were some of the more enjoyable parts of the books. Especially in book 4, where Harry is such a self-centred prick as only adolescents can be, and with adolescence comes the awakening of romantic and sexual interests and that’s completely ok. Only that of course it’s all damn heteronormative, with the girls being passive creatures that need to be pursued by the boys. In book 5 we get the feeling that Hermione fancies Ron, yet she is unable to ask him to the Yule Ball. Harry pursues Ginny, yet he makes the decision to drop her for her own good. But in the end, both boys get their girls for having bravely defeated Voldemort. They can now start the nice domestic life of a heterosexual couple where mum raises kids, because those women are what they deserve. Though the question of domestic bliss leads me to the next point:

Four:

Wizards marrying Muggles is miscegenation. While the “good guys” consider Muggle born wizards and witches to be ok, it is made pretty clear that a relationship between a wizard and a Muggle is bad. There are no working Muggle-wizard couples in the Harry Potter universe. We get Voldemort’s parents (more on this later), we got Snape’s parents. Snape’s family life is described as pretty bad. His mother married a Muggle and the relationship is described as unhealthy and bad. Basically Snape’s nastiness (and no, I don’t care about his redemptive arc, he’s a nasty bully and should never have been allowed to teach kids) is explained by his home story. He is an outsider wherever he goes. The other one is Dean Thomas, whose father was probably a wizard who abandoned him and his mother. Now, how nobody in a community so small ever guessed who his father was is another question, but again we get the idea: You must not fuck a Muggle. And that’s from a book that apparently teaches that “judging people by their bloodlines is bad”. Can you think of any happy Muggle-wizard couple?

Five:

Rape is ok (if done by women). This is probably the worst of all. Rape is treated as no big deal. It is stark to see how a world where using the unforgivable “Imperius” curse to make somebody eat a worm will earn you a life sentence in a torture institution, but drugging somebody and make them have sex with you is such a minor thing that underage kids can buy those drugs in a joke store. The treatment of this reveals why Rowling’s descend into Terfdom shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Like many “gender critical” people she apparently believes that all women (only cis women are women to her, of course) are delicate creatures who need to be protected and who cannot commit rape because they don’t have a penis. The first time we encounter a love potion is when Ron eats some chocolates that were meant for Harry and now is madly in love with some girl. This is funny, haha. We’re meant to laugh at Ron, who is obviously out of his senses (and also at the girl, because isn’t the thought that somebody could be in love with that girl funny, haha). We are not supposed to be abhorred at the fact that somebody just drugged him to the point that he would do things with that girl he’d never consent to if he were sober. There are no consequences for the girl who drugged him and it’s no problem that the Weasley brothers sell their potions to whoever can pay for them (except for Ginny, cause their own sister needs to be chaste). However, if you think this is horrible, look at the most important use of love potions in the books: Voldemort’s story of origin.

I’ve hinted at this several times already, but Merope and Tom Riddle Senior are about the most fucked up story line in the whole books. When we first meet the two, it’s pretty clear with whom our sympathies are supposed to lie. Tom Riddle Senior is an arrogant ass. Some rich bastard’s son who looks down on his poor neighbours, not knowing that they are actually wizards. Merope on the other hand is the poor abused girl who has to care for her violent father and brother (somehow the wizarding world is ok with that as well). When those two get thrown into prison, Merope uses her shot at freedom by drugging and raping Tom Riddle. Of course, it’s never described like that. The way we learn about it in the books is a very sanitised version.

(Dumbledore) “Can you not think of any measure Merope could have taken to make Tom Riddle … fall in love with her…?” “The Imperius Curse?”, Harry suggested. “Or a love potion?” “Very good. Personally I am inclined to think that she used a love potion. I am sure it would have seemed more romantic to her…”

Then we learn that Riddle returned to his parents with talks of having been “hoodwinked” by Merope. The tale in his village was that he had married because he thought she was pregnant.

“But she did have have his baby.” (Harry) “Yes, but not until a year after they were married. Tom Riddle left her while she was still pregnant.” “What went wrong?”, asked Harry. “Why did the love potion stop working?”

Dumbledore speculates that Merope, whom he describes as deeply in love with Riddle, stopped giving him the potion, hoping that he’d stay for her sake and the baby’s, but:

“He left her, never saw her again, and never troubled to discover what became of his son.”

This is perhaps one of the worst passages in the whole books. A man is drugged over months, repeatedly raped, and when he finally escapes he is the bad guy for leaving his pregnant “wife”. There is no sympathy here for Tom Riddle. There is no horror conveyed. The use of the love potion gets described as “romantic”. Harry thinks that Riddle no longer being drugged is a sign that something went wrong, and Dumbledore immediately offers an explanation that paints Merope in a good light.

The next time we hear about Merope is that she sold her family heirloom after Riddle left her, or as Dumbledore calls it “when her husband abandoned her”. Now we come to Merope’s one and only crime: dying. While Dumbledore still tries to be sympathetic, finding reasons and excuses while Merope gave up, Harry is indignant.

(Dumbledore) “Of course, it is also possible that her unrequited love and the attendant despair sapped her of her powers. Merope refused to raise her wand even to save her own life.” “She wouldn’t even stay alive for her son?” Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “Could you possibly be feeling sorry for Lord Voldemort?” “No”, said Harry quickly, “but she had a choice, didn’t she…”

Now I’d like to raise the question why we shouldn’t feel sorry for baby Tom Riddle, conceived through rape, born to a rapist mother who did not want him if she couldn’t have his father, and who was absolutely abandoned by his own community, although they absolutely knew about him, since “his name has been down for our school (Hogwarts) since birth”. But again, we’re meant to sympathise with Merope. The wizarding community only gives a fuck about Tom Riddle once he’s old enough to attend Hogwarts. Dumbledore doesn’t give a fuck before that. And Riddle is described as a bad person even from the time he was a wee baby. Again, see the point about miscegenation. We are meant to believe that Tom Riddle was bad because of his blood (and not, maybe, because he was dumped in a non magical orphanage without any loving person around), yet somehow even this isn’t meant to raise some sympathy. It is hard not to see the gendered aspect here: Merope is always the victim, always somewhat less responsible for her own actions than others, while the man she raped and the boy she birthed are to be judged. We are meant to believe that an abandoned and mistreated 11 years old boy is just inherently bad, while a mistreated 18 years old woman is just “in love” or “heartbroken”.

There are many other ethical problems in Harry Potter’s world. You can find more examples in Charly’s comment on the last post, or Andreas’ post on interspecies relationships. I’ll leave it at this for now.

Transphobes being creepy, or a day ending in Y

As you probably all have heard by now, Elliot Page has announced his coming out as a trans guy. While this has been greeted with joy by a lot of people, there’s of course also a particular group of people who is absolutely outraged at the thought of a young-ish* person afab deciding about their own life, body and future. Now, actually it’s two, but the one I’m talking about is nominally feminist transphobes. Page has long been an icon of the queer community, lending voice and fame to its struggles, but since they don#t consider trans people to be part of the community, this is now a massive betrayal of a community transphobes don’t want to be part of anyway.

This is what a well known transphobic lesbian, Claire Huchan (does it surprise you that she is British and a Swerf?) had to say (CN deadnaming):

I find it depressing how many young lesbians now feel that, because they do not perform or feel invested in conventional femininity, they can no longer be women. And so they shift from identifying as lesbian women to straight men. Compulsory heterosexuality all over again. If coming out as transgender brings the actor formerly known as E… Page any measure of peace, then I am glad for them. But my heart also breaks as the lesbian community grows smaller. Again. And loses a role model. Again.

So. Much. To. Unpack. Here.

First it’s the presumption that being trans or not is about gender roles, expression and gender performance, not about gender itself. Which is rich coming from people who fiercely police people’s gender roles and expressions, who are ok with threatening and excluding cis butch women because they don’t look feminine enough, and who also criticise trans women for being “too feminine”. Pro tip: it’s not trans folks and their allies who are policing people’s bodies. We don’t go on and on about jaw lines or hip width or facial hair. We aren’t trying to find the exact amount of make up a woman is allowed to use before she becomes “a tool of the patriarchy” or are claiming that a trans woman or drag queen putting on make up is akin to “blackface”.

Next comes an idea that is big with transphobes: Trans men are really silly little women who don’t know their own head. You’re not getting more misogynist than that, but here we are. The claim at the centre is that trans men cannot be trusted to know who they are. Now, they don’t believe that trans women are who they say they are, but the reasoning is usually different: trans women are really men, and men are inherently predatory, so a trans woman is really just a predatory heterosexual man who wants access to cis women (straight trans women exist, but transphobes will tell you that they’re probably just making their heterosexuality up). With trans men it’s different. Since they’ve been placed in the inherently harmless and fragile class by transphobes, the predator argument makes no sense. Instead, they are poor victims of the patriarchy. They cannot be trusted to know who they really are. Instead they’re confusing “not being into make up” with being a guy, because that’s definitely something that happens. Especially with a world famous actor. Married to a gorgeous wife. Yes, that’s absolutely the person who knows nothing about the difference between putting on some clothing and make up and being somebody. And that’s just the first tweet.

The second tweet takes it all into creep territory. Because now they actually mourn for Elliot Page, claiming that the lesbian community lost him (funny how a trans man who fancies women is hetero (correct), yet a trans woman who fancies women is somehow also hetero?). As if Elliot Page wasn’t a person with his own life, feelings, and desires, and not some asset to the lesbian community, a canvas ion whom they could project their ideas and desires. Her heart breaks over Elliot Page finding happiness? Lady, that’s creepy as fuck. That’s obsessive. That’s acting like this person owes you something, like he has to live his life according to your rules. And also, what’s up with the role model shit? Can a trans man no longer be a role model? And while representation is important, can you only have role models that match your own identity 100%? Because I guess I’m seriously out of luck here and have to be my own role model.

And last but not least, it’s the blank dishonesty in mealy mouthed support for Elliot Page and his happiness. If you were glad for him, you wouldn’t do the thing that you exactly know is causing him and other trans people harm, and that is deadnaming him. The longer this goes, the less differences there are between Christian Conservatives and self proclaimed “radical” feminists. They both treat people afab as their personal belongings, their bodies as a thing they need control because the owners of said bodies obviously don’t know what’s good for them.

*I mean, he’s 33, but according to transphobes, people afab only become adults once they agree with transphobes.

An Important Petition from Iris

Iris at Death to Squirrels has a post up regarding the cruel treatment and unjust imprisonment of a young bi-racial girl with mental health problems. It’s an ugly story about a family looking for help and finding horror instead. It’s not only an indictment of the American mental health system but another urgent example of why Black Lives Matter really does matter. The more I read, the angrier I became, and I encourage you all to go read the story and get angry, too. Then, go sign the petition. I did, but I’m not an American, and the petition needs American voices – lots of them. At the very least, it will let this family know that they are not alone, but maybe collectively, we can get this child the help she desperately needs and offer her a future. Thanks.

YouTube Video: I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike

I have a hate-hate relationship with all professional sports*, especially with zero-sum competitions. Apparently even that IMO shitty environment can be made even shittier for women by men who have no clue but wield a lot of power.

This video spoke to me for some reason.

*In short, they are unhealthy and they more often than not foster self-harm, tribalism, and abuse.

They’re not bad at sex, they’re abusive

Every once in a while the following conversation happens in my Twitter feed:

Dude: “eating pussy too submissive for me it feel gay”

Woman: “I’m fascinated at this trend of dudes admitting on social media how bad they are at sex.”

And don’t get me wrong, I do get the joke, I’ve made it myself, but today I thought that this was only part of the story. When feminist people talk about sex, we usually think of something that most people (but not everybody!) wants and enjoys, that often includes orgasms and lots of fun together in a mutually pleasing activity. Therefore, a cis guy who is not invested in his cis female partner’s pleasure as well as his own is really bad at this activity. This idea also lines up with the very patriarchal notice of men’s sexual prowess, where a man’s value is linked to his ability to “satisfy” women in bed, only that in that version sheer exhaustion is seen as success as well.

So already we’re talking about different ideas of what “good in bed” means, but for the moment the following definition must suffice: straight guy is good in bed when his female partner enjoys the sex. The guy in this tweet does not think about his partner’s enjoyment. He thinks of his own masculinity, which is very cis and very heteronormative. In his world her pleasure does not feature. Eating pussy is evaluated in terms of his social standing and self image. Giving her oral sex would be submissive, and I bet you a tenner that he absolutely feels entitled to getting oral sex because usually the Venn diagram of straight dudes not giving oral sex and dudes seeing it as her duty to perform oral sex is a circle.

Given that he is very much invested in his own pleasure and not at all in hers, we can pretty much say that he will enjoy sex much more than she will. And usually people crave things they enjoy a lot more and things they don’t really enjoy that much less. What do you think happens when a dominant man who enjoys sex a lot is together with a woman who enjoys it less? Personally I don’t think that he’d simply accept a “no”. At least he will repeat asking, nag, talk about how she’s neglecting him. In the end there will be consent, but there won’t be consent that’s freely given. There will be “duty” at best and violence at worst. A man who publicly declares that he is not invested in giving his partner pleasure is therefore a man you shouldn’t let near you.

 

 

Creeped Out: the Price of Being a Woman in Public

Yesterday was Pokémon Go Community Day. For those of you who don’t play the game, that’s a day when  a specific Pokémon appears a lot during a three hour period, often in a special colour as well and with an exclusive attack. In short, a day when we meet our friends and spend the day together, catching Pokémon and then having good food and fun together. I went with them for part of the time (I was out for a full two hours, I’m so happy and proud) and quite at the start, the following happened:

I was standing there with my two phones (yes, completely normal for Pokémon players as well), when some random dude approached me:

“Young lady, you’re pretty backwards, even I am more advanced in my usage than you!”

Now, first of all, no strange man in such a situation calls a 40 years old woman “young lady” as a compliment. He was berating me and trying to remind me of my place. Second: I have no clue what he was even getting at. He had obviously no clue what I was doing, but of course thought that he was entitled to explain it to me. I looked up from my phones:

“Excuse me?”

He continued:

“Yes, you gotta tell your phone what to do don’t you know…”

At this point I gasp interrupted him:

“Could you please leave me alone?”

Of course he reacted like any old white guy reacts when being told to leave a woman alone, he started to rant:

“I’m entitled to have an opinion! Am I no longer entitled to have an opinion or what?”

I answered that yes, he’s entitled to have an opinion, he’s just not entitled to my company, so he needs to leave me alone. He repeated something about this being a free country and so on and grumbling left me alone. This happened because now my friends and family, who’d been standing all over the place catching their own Pokémon had by now gathered around me to support me. We’re all pretty sure that this would have gone very differently if I’d been on my own.

I’m pretty sure all women here have had similar experiences. Such harassment has nothing to do with “looks” since I’m a fat middle aged lady. It has nothing to do with “being helpful”, because I obviously didn’t need or want any help. It’s got to do with male entitlement to the public sphere, where women are only allowed on condition of putting up with such shit. And it also shows how this entitlement is framed in terms of human rights and especially the ever favourite “freedom of speech”. That guy thought it was his right to keep bothering and lecturing me, while me telling him to get lost was akin to China mowing down protestors with tanks or something.

YouTube Video: Lawrence Krauss, Jeffrey Epstein, and Firing Your Heroes into the Sun

Yup, losing heroes is nothing new to me personally. Everybody has flaws of course, but Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins and many other “Skeptics” and “Rationalists” have really quickly sailed past the “Cape of Flawed Human” through the “Straits of Doubling Down” right into the “Sea of Shitlords” where they finally found their stable and comfortable niche.

What really gets me about the Epstein case specifically – and Rebecca alludes to it in the video, although probably coincidentally – is the sheer arrogance. He had a private jet, he could travel wherever and whenever he wanted for his sexcapades, so he could travel to countries with a lower age of consent. It would still be shitty behavior, but he would avoid doing something blatantly illegal (if he also avoided forcible rape that is). But, as is typical for such rich privileged assholes, he just did what he did in the USA and he was sure he will get away with it because he is rich.

That is the part that makes me angry.

The part that makes me sad is that he did get away with it. Even if he goes to prison now, it is too late and even a life sentence will be thus too short.

Teacher’s Corner: The Girl who Cried Wolf

We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf, which, in one version or the other is something adults tell children to warn them about the danger of lying or making up emergencies when there are none. The adults never bother to sit down and think about how fucked up the story and its message are, because if they did, they’d tell it to adults to warn about a different danger.

The boy who cried wolf is sent out to herd life stock, but children aren’t meant to be alone al day, they need company, they need intellectual stimulation, so the kid makes up stories to get people to pay attention to him. When he does so repeatedly, none of the adults asks “but why does he keep calling us, what does he actually need?” I know, the story is supposed to play in olden times when people didn’t give a fuck about the needs of children, but it’s told by adults today so I think the criticism is fair.

Instead, the adults decide to no longer pay attention to the kid at all, with the catastrophic result that we all know, and then the blame is put on the kid and not the adults who failed to keep him safe. This thinking has consequences, and it can have catastrophic consequences here and now. Slight CN for predatory behaviour.

Some kids at our school live in group homes. On Friday, those kids came to us and told us that on their way to school, three men in a red car had bothered them and talked to them and that they were afraid, with one of the girls being in tears. I called the group home to inform them about the incident and make sure the kids would be picked up after school so they were safe. The head of the home asked me which kids were affected and I told him the names, randomly starting with L. “Oh, you know”, he said, “we’re having some difficulties with L right now”. Man, do I know? I see L every day, I know she’s got her issues. “She likes to make up stories”. “I know”, I said, “but H, B and A are telling the same story.”

That was enough to convince him and they sent somebody to pick up the kids. Now imagine a world that was the exact same, except that H, B and A were with their families. In which L had been the only child those men in the car bothered. A world in which her story had been treated as “the girl who cried wolf” and they had left her alone without protection. Because she’s a kid who is in a difficult situation, who likes to make herself seem more important by making up stories.

So, dear adults, here’s the real morale of the story: When a child says they’re in danger, you run. If a child has made up stories about danger 99 times, you still run when they cry danger the 100th time. And then you sit the fuck down and think long and hard about why the kid is making up stories and you talk to the kid and try to find a way for them to deal with their issues that does not result in fake alarms. You do NOT handwave away a report about predatory men because of who made the report. If you want to talk to children about why making false alarms is bad, tell them that they’re wasting the time of the rescue services and that this may be dangerous to somebody else who is in real danger. The story about the boy who cried wolf is a story about adults failing their duty to keep children safe, so if you want to keep telling it, tell it to each other.

Remember Montreal

As chigau pointed out, it’s been 29 years since the École polytechnique massacre in Montreal, yet the story is all too common almost 30 years later. A white man who thought the world owed him a certain place went out to kill women, because he thought they were taking what was rightfully his, denying him his due.

While the event shocked not only the Canadian public, the ideology that led to it is far from eradicated. From Elliot Rogers over the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High to Alek Minassian killing women in Toronto, the pattern of entitlement and violence continues. And these are only the cases that make headlines, the cases where the victims were more or less randomly chosen. It doesn#t even get into the thousands of cases where men kill their (ex) partners or just a woman they hardly knew for turning them down.

And whenever these cases happen, the discussion is the same: mental illness is blamed*, women themselves are blamed. It’s a well practised dance around the violent misogynist mass murderer in the room.

This is why on this day of all, I have no moment of silence, but loud anger. For all of our sisters who have died and who will still die at the hands of men who think they are owed the world, and at the words of those who always have more empathy for the murderer than his victim.

 

*Before somebody feels the need to mention that X, Y, and Z had a history of mental illness, spare yourselves the time, I’ve got none for that discussion. While mental illness may make it easier for those men to turn to more extreme actions, it didn’t instil a hateful ideology into them and no mental illness ever forged a gun.

Teacher’s Corner: Burn the whole fucking system to the ground

Some days you just can’t even. You realise that the so called “free world” is so utterly cruel that you want to cry. Instead, you try to mitigate the harm it is causing.

One of the most marginalised groups in Europe are probably the Roma people. Even though they were just as prosecuted by the Nazis as the Jews were, this is apparently no reason to protect them today. The are still prosecuted, suffer pogroms and basically nobody cares. They have no future in their “home countries” and when they migrate, they suffer even more discrimination. For example, they cannot seek asylum in Germany, because, well, reasons I guess, and since they are often from non European Union countries, they cannot simply settle either, or get any welfare payments, except for the basic child subsidy.

We have a couple of Roma kids, and many of them live in absolute poverty. They live in homeless shelters, they live in run down houses. It is often difficult to talk to the parents, because we need an interpreter (thankfully there is a charity that works with us). therefore we often don’t even know what the problem is. One kid only came to school sporadically. She’s 11 years old, has lived in at least three different countries, can hardly read or write and is often sick.

Well, it’s not that the family didn’t want to send her to school, they send her whenever they have money for the bus. Oh, and they don’t have health insurance, so they cannot send her to the doctor, but if she feels ill it’s probably, because they have no food left. But if she fails in school, leaves without any qualification, marries young and has many children, it will of course be blamed on their culture. You know, because “those people” are like that.

Now that we know we can try to mitigate the effects. Get her a bus ticket, ask her if she’s had breakfast. The bus ticket is paid by a charity, the breakfast is something we just do among us teachers. Even if we can help her, what a poverty of humanism does this reveal in one of the richest countries on earth?

Teacher’s Corner: Come for the stress, stay for the misogyny!

It’s an open secret that female teachers often have a harder time than male teachers*. Not because we’re worse teachers, but because society tells kids, especially those assigned male that men have to be respected and women not so much. This is especially obvious when there are serious clashes, like it happened today.

As usually, the matter at hand was pretty unimportant. During class one boy put a handkerchief in front of his mouth, like the bad guy in  western. I told him to put that thing away and that if I saw it again that day I’d confiscate it. As the bell rang for recess, he had that thing in front of his mouth again and I told him to hand it over, which he did. But the hanky wasn’t his, but a classmate’s, who now protested loudly. Now, since he knew what would happen if I saw that thing again and still lent it to his classmate, I saw no reason to hand it back there and then. I told him he could pick it up after the 6th lesson, as it is usual in our school when we confiscate things. I had momentarily forgotten that they only had 5 lessons that day, but before I could correct myself, he yelled “are you fucking kidding me?”

I told him that I had just been about to correct myself, but for that disrespectful yelling, I would stand by lesson 6. Now, many of our students have problems with the difference between owning something and possessing something and the right to use something. They keep thinking that us taking stuff away from them for a defined period of time is theft (sadly many parents think the same). So the kid tried to threaten me with calling his mum who would pick it up for him! I called his bluff and invited him to do so. After lesson 6, because then I would have time to talk to his mum.

At that point he yelled the German equivalent of “go fuck yourself, bitch!” Well, he got part of what he asked for, I called his mum and told her to pick him up because he could no longer participate in school that day. I still have the handkerchief.

What was kind of surprising was my internal reaction. I’m used to a lot. Again, I work with kids with many issues in a neighbourhood with many social problems and I don’t take their shit personal. If they yell at me I usually shrug my shoulders, wait until they calm down, tell them about the consequences and move on. And I’m also not angry with that boy. He actually apologised and I accepted it, but for 5 minutes, I was completely shaken. Not because a kid had yelled at me. Or insulted me. But because for those words that cause a gut reaction in me and many other women, because we know that they are so often accompanied with violence. Because they are meant to put us into our place, to make us afraid. Just for a moment he succeeded. And there are no equivalent words that would do that to a man.

 

*Exceptions apply. I once had a male colleague who had serious problems with a class with whom I went along fine. One of the boys in his late adolescence chose that particular colleague to have his dominance fights with.