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.

The gendered nature of public space: this is all shit and I’m pissed.

Public toilets have long been a battle ground of women’s fight for the public sphere: from the fact that back in the 19th century there simply weren’t many public toilets for women, making them dependent on how well they could hold their pee to leave the house, to today’s fight to make sure trans women can safely use the right loo. The very private act of relieving oneself was always very public and very political. Another dimension (no pun intended) is space, and I rarely found a better example of how space is allocated to cis men than today.

I went to a meeting in a public building today, and when it was over I went to the visitor bathroom because I learned that if I don’t go the Autobahn will be closed and I’ll piss myself before I get home. So everybody who drove the same direction should thank me.

The sign at the door said “men, women and disabled”, making me wonder whether disabled people are suddenly no longer men and women, but then I went inside and came upon this:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Snug, isn’t it? With the bin being so close to the loo and not much space on the other side I had some difficulties to move my butt far enough to the back of the toilet to actually hit the bowl. How this should be managed with a disability is a mystery to me, but if you think “maybe they only had so much space available”, let me tell you, they didn’t. To the right of the toilet is another compartment, about 50% larger than this one, holding two urinals. Hey, at least it had a door so you don’t need to see somebody waving their dick around, I go to Twitter for that kind of thing. Yes, that’s correct: 100% of the facility meet the needs of able bodied cis men, with 60% being reserved exclusively for them, while women, disabled people of all genders and probably most trans men all need to share 40% of the space, which is actually not enough space and which is also available to cis men.

And you want to hear the joke? The public building was a youth office, where the overwhelming majority of visitors is female…

Slavic Saturday

Lets talk about easter and easter eggs and associated traditions.

Most readers of this blog grew up with germanic traditions regarding this holiday. Which are completely different from what I grew up with, so when I first heard about easter bunny, I had to look up what it is. Not that easter bunnies from chocolate were unknown to us, but they did not have any special meaning and for long I assumed that they are bunny-shaped just for the cutesies. About the only thing that is common between germanic and slavic easter traditions are the painted eggs, but they are used differently.

The symbols of easter here are willow twigs, coloured eggs and a lamb. Willow twigs decorated with ribbons and painted eggshells are used for decorations and lamb is usually baked from dough, or recetnly made from chocolate etc. The willow twigs and coloured eggs are carryover from pagan times, symbolizing rebirth of the year, although christians staunchly deny this and insist on easter being purely christian holiday etc. etc. It is not. It was appropriated by christians by blending christian and pagan traditions together, just as Christmas, as a way to make converting pagans easier. There is nothing in the bible about coloured eggs and willow twigs.

The lamb however is probably later addition and it does symbolize christ and other stupidities from the bible in all their goryness. Only the cutting of its throat and smearing of the blood over door hinges or tresholds before baking it was replaced by making it from dough. Much less gory and cheaper to do, especially in big populations that diverged from raising sheep to cattle centuries ago.

So far, so good. Nothing particularly egregious about these traditions. But there is more to it, and as much as I loathe christian superstitions and traditions for their immense stupidity, one of the carry-overs from pagan times I hate even more.

Those willow twigs and coloured eggs do not serve only as a decoration. On Monday, hardboiled eggs are given by women and girls as gifts to men and boys who are supposed to go from house to house  (so-called koleda) and sing traditional songs and recite poems in exchange for the eggs. And they beat the women.

Yup. You read that correctly. In CZ and SL the men go from house to house with clubs (called pomlázka) woven from usually 8 to 9 long slender and supple willow twigs, decorated with ribbons, and they are supposed to beat the women with them, depending on region either shoulders, legs, ankles or simply their derrière. Some take it symbolically only, some take it literally and bruises can be raised, although it is expected to stop short of actually causing an injury. The beating of women with young willow twigs should magically transfer the youthfulness and freshness from the twigs to the women, or some such incredibly stupid shit. Thus the name of the club – po (prefix that can mean “to make”) mlázka (derived from “mladý” = young). Today nobody believes the magic, it is just “fun” and “tradition”. In this case, “tradition” really just means “an incredibly stupid thing that has been done for a very long time”.

In some regions today women are not completely defenseless – they can douse the men with cold water in return. But this is later appropriation in these regions, because originally it is the men who douse the women, in some regions instead of, in some regions in addition to, the beating, and there are regions where it is practiced as such still.

As a child I loved easter for the painted eggs. I loved the creative work involved with it and it was something to look forward to. But I loathed pomlázka from early on, de facto from as far back as I can remember. I did not like going about begging and beating people. I did not see how it is supposed to be good to spend a few joyful days with my sister and my mother painting eggs, and on monday beat them with a club whilst reciting some verses that have lost their meaning. Well, strictly speaking as a boy I was supposed to skip the painting and do only the begging and beating. Fuck that. Beating anyone with anything is just wrong, even symbolically, and creativity does not have gender.

I see no reason in preserving the tradition, it has no cultural value anymore and it produces nothing of value. Well, the women produce the beautifuly painted eggs, but the men are not expected to do anything worthwhile whatsoever. And in some regions even the eggs are already being skipped and exchanged for shots of booze, so the men instead of coming home with a basket of painted eggs come home drunk as a skunk. I would love for this tradition to die already. I will miss the eggs, but I think they are not worth preserving if the ritual beating is to remain too.

It won’t happen any time soon. What I find the saddest thing about this is that in loathing this despicable tradition I am the exception, not the rule. In fact, AFAIK I do not know a single other person sharing my view.


Edit: Due to my illness I have slightly lost track of time and I thougth it is saturday already. I have decided to leave it as it is.

Happy International Women’s Day. No chocolates, though

Because I hat the comodification and commercialisation of a day that reminds us of the struggles past and those of the future.

Instead you get Angela Davis at the Women’s March:

No human being is illegal.

“The struggle to save the planet, to stop climate change, to guarantee the accessibility of water from the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, to Flint, Michigan, to the West Bank and Gaza. The struggle to save our flora and fauna, to save the air—this is ground zero of the struggle for social justice.

“This is a women’s march and this women’s march represents the promise of feminism as against the pernicious powers of state violence. And inclusive and intersectional feminism that calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to anti-Semitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation.

“…We dedicate ourselves to collective resistance. Resistance to the billionaire mortgage profiteers and gentrifiers. Resistance to the health care privateers. Resistance to the attacks on Muslims and on immigrants. Resistance to attacks on disabled people. Resistance to state violence perpetrated by the police and through the prison industrial complex. Resistance to institutional and intimate gender violence, especially against trans women of color.

“Women’s rights are human rights all over the planet and that is why we say freedom and justice for Palestine. We celebrate the impending release of Chelsea Manning. And Oscar López Rivera. But we also say free Leonard Peltier. Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. Free Assata Shakur.

“Over the next months and years we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice to become more militant in our defense of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out.

International Women’s Day

March 8 is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter.

A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world?
Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

There are events worldwide to celebrate the day and I encourage you to check the site International Women’s Day to see what’s happening in your area. They have a search feature by country and city so plug-in and see what’s up. The site also has a wealth of resources and they’re hosting an international photo competition.

The world is still a dangerous place for women and there is much work to be done before that will change. International Women’s Day is a chance for us all to stand up and say we want a better world; a world where women are paid on parity with men, where access to birth control and abortion services are freely available, where rape is regarded as violent assault and no woman ever is accused of “asking for it.” Every woman I know has a story of inequality or harassment or worse. Let’s change that so that the stories of the next generation reflect a world where people are judged by the content of their character, not the content of their underpants.

Teacher’s Corner: Introverts, extroverts, shmextroverts

This Teacher’s Corner is going to be a bit different from the usual ones as it will breach out to a broader topic, but it all starts with teaching.

Actually it starts with Twitter and an annoyed paediatrician  tweeting that since it was half term he would get lots of primary school kids’ parents who’d been told to get their kid tested for ADHD and such*. I replied something along the lines that if teachers could diagnose ADHD they’d be psychiatrists and not teachers, which is why we’d like parents to get a professional opinion on the matter. After all, the only thing we see is that a child has obvious problems paying attention and following the classroom rules.

While this is an interesting topic in and on itself, it was only the starter for a conversation with another user about introverted kids. Her complaint was that the German school system punishes introverted kids via the “participation” grade. In Germany almost all term reports have two separate grades that are “participation” and “behaviour”. All teachers teaching in a class submit their grade, the mean gets calculated and then there may be adjustments. To be honest, till the end of the conversation I couldn’t quite get what she actually wanted, because she kept contradicting herself, but I got that she was fundamentally unhappy, either from her own experiences or because of somebody else, and wanted CHANGE, even though she was not quite clear as to what should actually change. I’ll try to talk about why “just leave the quiet kids alone” isn’t a good idea from a teaching point of view and then move to what bugged me about the whole discussion. [Read more…]

#WomenInScience Day

Yesterday was Women and Girls in Science Day, which I only found out when it was almost over.

In the spirit of my work, here’s an article via The Atlantic, The History of Women in Science is Hidden in Plain Sight.

Over the last few years, a team of students led by Emilia Huerta-Sánchez from Brown University and Rori Rohlfs from San Francisco State University have been searching through two decades’ worth of acknowledgments in genetics papers and discovering women who were never given the credit that would be expected for today’s researchers. They identified dozens of female programmers who made important but unrecognized contributions. Some were repeatedly thanked in the acknowledgments of several papers, but were never recognized as authors. They became literal footnotes in scientific history, despite helping to make that history.

“When Emilia and I look at our elders in population genetics, there are very, very few women,” says Rohlfs. “But there were women and they were doing this work. To even know that they existed is a big deal to me.”

That seems to be the key – to even know that they existed. I know every time I find out about a woman in a field of science previously understood to be all male, I have Feelings, and it always feels like a big deal.

And I wish it wouldn’t.

Better Examples

That poor Gillette ad got a lot of comments of all kinds. This morning I read another commentary, mostly due to the title – Why The Gillette Ad Isn’t Just About Boys and Men – It’s About My Three Daughters, Too:

When it comes to female characters, our daughters (three of them: ages 7, 5 and 2) have much more choice than when I was growing up in the ’80s. They are fans of Merida from Brave and Moana from, well, Moana, both girls who push back on what their societies expect of them. They just discovered the newly re-launched Carmen Sandiego with its kick-ass female lead, and Doc McStuffins is always a solid choice.

But when it comes to male characters, most of them consist of lightly camouflaged stereotypes of the “strong man” trope. Both Moana and Merida’s fathers are large, physically strong and are chiefs of their tribe. They only reluctantly give up their conservative views about their daughters by the end of the movies. Merida’s brothers (triplets) are always portrayed as fighting or eating, a classic example of the “boys will be boys” trope called out in the Gillette spot.

And good luck with anything from the past. Our daughters recently watched the Christmas classic Home Alone, where Kevin McCallister takes his queues from the male characters he sees on TV in gangster and western movies. “It’s my house and I have to defend it,” he concludes, setting the stage for the violence to come.

I know this is something that our very own Giliell has been saying from time to time, and I can only agree, so it was nice to see it in writing: choices for girls have broadened into the traditionally ‘masculine’, but boys have not seen that same expansion into the traditionally ‘feminine’ space.

But that article pointed me towards another mencare (I did, I really did!) product company out there, with a much better ad: Harry’s.

Harry’s, another razor company, has an ad I really like but hasn’t seen nearly as much fanfare as the Gillette ad. In fact, I believe it works better in actually changing our views of men.

… Says Joseph Wilson at the CBC.

Is he right? Well, the ad features Ludacris (of Fast and Furious fame, there he is in the back!):

A very masculine set of movies, I’ll tell you, and I’ve seen them all. But Ludacris, one among the manly men, does things a little differently in the short video. I think I like it:

Whether you prefer Harry’s method or Gillette’s, both are much-needed in the dialogue about masculinity. One for calling out the bad behaviour, the other for just plain showing the better example. More, please.

(No song today. I had some ideas, but I think this time I will leave it at that.)

 

And the prize for a complete lack of self-awareness goes to…

…this TERF. It was a usual argument about how horrible it is for trans activists and allies to be fed up with Graham Linehan because of frozen peaches, when the following exchange occurred:

Terf: Grand, so, but sure we’ll be pushing them into the sea this year so we won’t have to worry about them much longer but read a load of liberalism because that’s what’s coming next hopefully… (emphasis mine)

Other person in the conversation: i have literally no idea what you’re talking about.

Me: I’m not sure, but it sounds like a threat to me.

I mean, how could I take somebody talking about pushing trans people into the sea so they don’t have to worry about them as a threat, given the rampant violence, be it structural, administrative and literal, against trans people?
Apparently this upset her a lot.
Terf: Always with the drama. Into the sea, it’s a metaphor.

Me: Get lost, it’s an imperative.

Apparently, the fact that “get lost” is an imperative was, no pun intended, lost on her. Anyway, I was done, but she obviously wasn’t.

Terf: No, that would be we MUST push them into the sea.
Terf: ps and anyone who would take a statement like ‘we are going to push them into the sea’ literally must have a very flat sense of language or need their head examined imho. Unless they were German and in the vicinity of Dunkirk in the early 1940s…
Note the not so subtle ableism… She tweeted this at me a full day after I told her to get lost, which shows that apparently she really couldn’t let go. To be honest, I had already forgotte who exactly she was when she tweeted this.
Me: You seem upset.
Terf: What an odd thing to say…

Lady, you keep tweeting at me after a full day…
Me: You come back a day later after I told you to get lost. Maybe upset is the wrong word, obsessed fits better. I repeat, get lost.

Terf: That seems a little extreme – obsessed by what?

One thing, it’s “obsessed with”. Second thing, look at this. Somebody has told you twice to leave them alone and you keep replying, but think that “obsessed” is extreme.
Me: You’re still talking to me after I told you to get lost, twice. Go learn to respect some boundaries.
Yes, I was getting annoyed. Why is she still in my mentions? What is so difficult about leaving somebody alone? We’re strangers on the internet, we do not have to come to any kind of solution, so why not just respect the other person’s boundaries, no matter what you think about their position?
Terf: I’ve been pursuing a fairly common line of reasoning about a form of leftist smear-journalism, providing examples when requested and other reading material – that’s all fairly normal, isn’t it?
No, lady. In the offline world you’re the dude who keeps following me down the street, nagging and nattering and insisting that they’re totally rational while I’m trying to walk away.
Terf: But you accused me of making a threat, I explained that it wasn’t a threat but a metaphor – I’m allowed to defend myself, and obliged to reassure you that it wasn’t a threat, aren’t I? And then you say I’m upset and obsessed – I assure you I am not.
This is my favourite one as it is so fucking entitled that the whiniest white dude could learn something. Note the words. A stranger has told her repeatedly to stop bothering her, but she thinks she’s allowed to keep talking to me, even obliged by I don’t know what to keep talking to me regardless of whether I want to hear her. My wishes, my personal space, my agency to decide to whom I talk and to whom I listen has just been completely negated.m Because she thinks she’s got the right to talk to me. Terfs love to accuse trans women to be “entitled men” who “disregard women’s spaces and boundaries”, but look at this textbook example of not taking no for an answer. I have a feeling that this has something to do with the fact that many Terfs (especially on Twitter) believe that no cis woman could ever agree with trans women and that they speak for all cis women, so therefore I must be trans. I mean, after all I put my pronouns in my bio and I have a tortoise as a picture. This one is an annoying case, but one of the more harmless ones. Anyway:
Me: Get. Lost.
Terf: You accused me of making a threat, which is untrue and unfair and not supported by any evidence. I’d like to give you a chance to apologise…
This is getting rich. Now she’s the wronged party (perpetual victimmobile).
Me: Get lost, this is the textbook definition of harassment.
 
By now I was getting into teacher/mum “I told you no five times already and I’m getting angry” mood.

Terf: Accusing someone of making a threat for no reason could be said to be harassment, and then not allowing them to defend themselves but adding further charges. But lets leave it at that, I think the point about smear tactics is well made and I wish all you all the very best.

Terf: (ps just for completeness – accusing someone of harassment who is trying to defend themselves from a false accusation you yourself have made is itself harassment) atb.
Well, a girl can dream, right? But we leave on the note that I am the real harasser here. In conclusion, there is absolutely no difference between Terfs and their new best friends, the christian right. They will both whine about free speech, by what they mean “being owed a platform and nobody is allowed to talk back”. They will both bother and annoy and harass you. they will not take a no for an answer. They will ignore women’s boundaries and wishes. And then they’ll complain about how they’re the real victims here.
TLDR, Terfs are right wing bigots and assholes, don’t be one.

 

Not a Solution

To be honest, it’s a serious medical condition, but I can’t help but feel a smidgeon of envy:

A woman in China is making headlines for a rare type of temporary hearing condition that makes her unable to hear men. According to the Daily Mail, the patient, only identified as Ms. Chen, woke up one morning and couldn’t hear her boyfriend speak.

Unfortunately, the condition seems to be brought on by a lot of stress and fatigue:

The night before, Chen felt nausea and suffered from a ringing in her ears. She was also under a lot of stress, working late and not getting enough sleep. Chen thought little of it and went to sleep as usual before waking up with the condition.

Doctors were initially puzzled by her symptoms, but she was eventually diagnosed with “reverse-slope hearing loss, in which she could only hear high frequencies.”

[…]

Dr. Xiaoqing believes fatigue and too much stress may have contributed to Chen’s hearing loss and expects her to make a full recovery.

I’m glad to hear, but perhaps in the meantime, someone can invent a certain type of earphones that produces the same effect? I’d buy a pair and wear them at work. It won’t stop the mansplaining, but it might buffer enough sound to reduce my annoyance.

Crimes against mankind: fat women existing

Let’s get it out of the way, right at the start: I’m fat. That is a simple statement of fact. I’m not a bit “on the chubby side” or have “womanly curves”. Actually, I find such statements pretty offensive because they imply that being fat would be a horrible thing (it isn’t), but I’m not (I am). Listen, everybody with eyes to see knows I’m fat. this is not a moral statement. This does not tell you much about who I am or what I do. It has absolutely no relationship to my character.

Yet, when you’re fat, especially when you’re a fat woman, your weight is everybody’s business, usually under the guise of being “concerned” about our health.

So, Nike creating a range of sportswear for fat women should be universally lauded because it will encourage us to finally take up that exercise you’ve been bothering us with for the last few decades, right? Right?

Comments on the picture:

You don’t have to be so PC, Nike, this is trying too hard, fat isn’t pretty nor healthy.

Another guy, Aaron,  feels obliged to explain this to us in detail:

Nike have officially just lost my respect and cracked other the PC brigade of having to keep people happy (sic), next you all will be supporting severe obesity where people can’t walk or get out of bed lol health and facts have literally gone for all you snowflakes. So we want people to be happy with their weight, even if it causes cloths (sic) higher blood pressure, diabetes, sever (sic) difficulty in breathing and lazyness (sic), is this what you loneys (sic) all support because if so then you’re supporting a person’s insecurity to try feel proud of themselves but really hate every inch of there (sic) body and emotionally eat themselves fat, and you still support it, anyone who supports this is the reason, and proof that this world is losing touch with keeping healthy.

I don’t know, but it seems like Aaron is a bit, uhm, emotional about a clothing line for women. Especially given that this is sportswear, so it’s actually designed for people who want to, you know, exercise. But Aaron’s (and other guys’ anger is well justified, because if we make clothing that fits fat women (somehow fat men are of little concern even though statistically, there’s more of them), they may actually feel good about themselves (because nothing can cause grumpiness like an ill-fitting bra) and that cannot be permitted. Because as Aaron and every other dude like him knows, we’re categorically miserable. Really. We may seem to live happy and productive lives, have friends, lovers, lots of fun, but as Aaron knows, we’re actually just faking it (you cannot be productive anyway because fat people are lazy, don’t you know?).  The obvious solution for this is that we just stop being fat. Somehow. While please not existing in public, because that really offends dudes like Aaron. No exercise and sports either, because somehow that supports us in being fat. Sorry if that logic escapes you. It’s because you’re a woman, or fat, or both, or neither. Don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules.

Or maybe we just see Aaron for the sad entitled prick that he his, feigning concern for our health while being very upset about a company selling clothing that makes it easier for fat people to actually exercise and do something for their health*.

And  I’m sorry I have to say it, but Aaron, you should have sat still and paid attention in your English class.

*And no, exercise is not about losing weight. Exercise is good for you. Go find something that you enjoy and that makes you feel alive. Forget about your weight.

When you don’t have enough hands or faces to palm.

American politics have a serious side effect of headaches from shaking them or facepalming constantly over here in continental Europe (made worse by the weeping over the Brits), but sometimes it’s just bizarre.

Have you heard about that big scandal involving Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Well, hold on fast, because these revelations will break your heart. When she was a teenager, she danced and had friends.

Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is…
…High School video of “Sandy” Ocasio-Cortez @AoDespair

And then there’s Elizabeth Warren. Did you know what she did? She drank beer on Instagram!

I hope I have now thoroughly ruined your new year with these groundbreaking revelations of human women doing normal human things.