Well, technically not a scientist, but a science communicator. But that would be too wordy for a title.
Of course, you can all see what I did there. Instead of using the meaning “collection of properties of the body usually labelled “male” or “female” ” I used the meaning “having sexual intercourse” and made a bad joke about it, swapping one flawed and socially constructed meaning for another, and everybody got the joke, even if you don’t find it funny. Yet many transphobes suddenly act like language works in a completely different way once we’re talking about sex and gender, insisting that while gender may be socially constructed, sex isn’t, and that people who are saying that sex is socially constructed as well are claiming that sex isn’t “real”.
Now, I could forgive that confusion in somebody who has never thought about how language works. For somebody with little or no background in the relevant fields it’s kind of intuitive: we can easily see how “femininity” and “masculinity” change through place and time and therefore accept that gender is socially constructed, but dicks and pussies are basically the same and babies are made the same way across the globe (except, of course, when they aren’t but bioethics in repro medicine is a topic for another day) and conclude that sex is biologically constructed. But it’s also intuitive that the sun moves around the earth because that’s what i see every day.
It’s of course much less forgivable when the people spouting such nonsense are college professors, journalists and authors, i.e. people whose jobs are words. Words do have meanings, precisely the ones we agree upon as a society. 19th century British people had a different agreement on what “gay” means than we have today, which confused the hell out of your resident non native speaker when reading Frankenstein in college. At one point I had to admit that I was mistaken about at least one thing: either early 19th century Brits were really cool with homosexuality and the history books had lied to me, or that the word didn’t mean what I thought it means (inconceivable!).
You won’t get a biologist and a farmer to agree upon what a berry is, but transphobes want us to believe that “male” and “female” sex are two immutable definitions set in stone at the dawn of time (by whom exactly?) with no input from pesky humans with their flawed reasoning and changing horizon. Now, I won’t go into the historical construction of sex (just as a spoiler: the Christian worldview used to be very occupied with souls, regarding the body as a mere temporary vessel), but usually when pressed on the point, transphobes will say something about “chromosomes”, which most of us don’t know anyway, or organs like penises and vaginas and uteri, which most of us do know, but if that was all there was to the construct “sex”, then we wouldn’t need it (spoiler, we actually don’t need it) because then saying “this person has x genital” would be enough, though usually seen as a tad impolite. But then there’s this bazillion of other things that get typically lumped in the category of sex, like the shape and the size of tits, beard or no beard (my gran’s care timetable had a timeslot for “shaving”…), to such inconsequential things like “jaw shape”. And from what I know, trans people are very acutely aware of all those physical properties of their bodies. None of them denies having a certain physiology (though it’s really, really creepy how obsessed and intrusive transphobes are when it comes to the genitals part). But that physiology can be more accurately described with the more precise words. Because the word “sex” is not. It often includes things that are inconsequential (jaws, shoulders), or vary greatly within the population (tits, beards, height), have many variations (intersex folks) or are simply not observed (chromosomes). Sure, it serves as a handy shorthand, and in colloquial talk it will often be enough, but as soon as we are having deeper conversations, the terms need to be defined more precisely. So no, sex isn’t real, just like unicorns, but bodies are, while magical white horses with horns are not.
As you have all heard by now, beloved children’s book author who wrote a whole series without any gay characters but a whole industry of rape drugs has firmly put her foot into her mouth over the weekend by throwing a hissy fit over the term “people who menstruate”:
‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?
Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate https://t.co/cVpZxG7gaA
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?
Now, there’s two immediate and obvious points: First of all, the article does actually use the word “women”, as one sort of people who are affected by menstruation and need access to hygiene. Second, there’s a pandemic going on, her own government failing its people so badly that now the number of daily deaths in the UK are greater than in all 27 EU countries combined and a world on its feet to protest racism and police brutality but you have to scroll a long way down on her Twitter feed to find one single Tweet about Breonna Taylor. If the phrase “people who menstruate” gets more outrage from you than the killing of black people and your whole population being failed by the government we see you in your socially distant and probably well protected mansion. That’s not even the dog that didn’t bark but a whole pack of wolves that has suddenly gone silent.
I’ll explore the misogyny of this argument from a cis perspective. Others have written more and better from the perspective of trans men and non binary folks and I’ll leave some links below. Check out their words, they know better.
But now for the larger point: Transphobes like Rowling insist that people who menstruate are to be classified as women. While most of them will gracefully allow that not all women menstruate (though I have seen the occasional transphobe insist that post-menopausal women are no longer women), they insist that all people who menstruate are women, adult human females (long ee as in bee), to use their favourite “definition”.
If you know me you will probably guess already where I’m going. The crowd who insists that their definition of “woman” is pure science and absolutely rooted in nature starts out with the word “adult”. Can they please define what adult means? Here’s a little story: my mum got married at 18, only back then you became an adult at 21 and therefore my grandparents basically signed over their guardianship to my dad, which is creepy as fuck if you think about it. But in the year my mother turned 21, the age was lowered to 18, which poses a few interesting questions:
Was my mother a child bride between the ages of 18 and 21, but then became retroactively not a child bride when the age of adulthood was lowered? If we change the legal definition of “adult”, does that change the biological reality? Obviously not, so what unchangeable definition of adult do transphobes use? Given that they insist that all who menstruate are women, and declare that’s “basic biology”, the only other option is the onset of menarche. We have that creepy notion in a lot of popular culture. We call it “becoming a woman” when a girl has her first period. And for ages that has been and often still is the point at which a girl is considered old enough to get married and have children. I was never a big fan of Game of Thrones and got bored somewhere in the second or third season, but I remember that one scene where Sansa Stark wakes up in some bloody sheets and now everybody is excited because that means she can now marry the king and have his babies. Except for the poor girl, of course, who is terrified at the prospect of being raped by a psychopath.
Insisting that people who menstruate are all “women” means to include literal children as young as nine or ten into that category, declaring them adults. Again transphobes take the worst and oldest definition of “woman” as “baby making machines” and run with it, declaring their nonsense to be “rooted in science and biology”, just as men have always done. They reinforce the notion that girls become “mature” at an early age and that fertility is some defining element of womanhood. In short, they reinforce ideas that leave girls vulnerable to sexual predators and without protection from a society that declares them responsible for their own rapes. Of course, Cis Feminist transphobes will be abhorred by those ideas. They will be genuinely upset when a judge says a thirteen years old girl looked very mature, what should that poor adult man have done? Or declare that a teacher didn’t abuse his position of power because that girl dressed very sexy, but in fact they are sharing the same cis sexist and heteronormative mindset that dictates that cruel realty of cis girls’ lives and bodies. Yet they are too invested in hurting the small percentage of people who menstruate who are not cis for them to actually and adequately support the huge percentage of cis girls who menstruate and whom they claim to protect from the evil trans cabal.
Article about an initiative in Australia that provides period products for homeless people and that had to cope with backlash for being inclusive. Yes, those people prefer to actually attack a young cis woman who started her own fucking charity in her teens, jeopardizing said charity and thereby access to period products for poor cis girls and women just to hurt trans folks.
The state of British mainstream feminism has long been abysmal. All the major players seem to be massive transphobes, there’s court cases about people’s desire to abuse trans people and overall it has the feeling that they’re actually just in favour of them not being bothered by anything than a movement for women from all backgrounds and histories. And never was that White Feminist Approach demonstrated better than this week, when Owen Jones gently suggested that if you have a cleaner, you should pay them to stay at home, because the UK is only second to the US when it comes to Covid 19, with packed public transport posing a major risk for commuters. In case you don’t know who he is, Owen Jones is a British labour activist, a gay dude (this will be important later), a journalist, an antifascist and if that wasn’t bad enough, his major crime is being an ally to trans people. This turned into a furious row on Twitter with the who is who of White British Feminism* descending on him like it was judgement day with at least two published articles to follow.
Owen Jones: Declaring something simple doesn’t make it so: if someone can afford a cleaner, they should be paying them to stay at home and doing their own cleaning – they ‘ve certainly got the time to do it, otherwise they are a shockingly selfish human being.
Sarah Ditum: I don’t have more time in lockdown, I have less because I’m sharing my workspace with two teens and and another adult. There’s more dirt, because of the more people [sic]. the cleaning is killing me and this is a bad take.
Now, if Ditum had stopped after the first sentence she might have had a point: Corona parents are terribly stressed out because suddenly you’re a teacher for different age groups, have to cook all the meals the family would usually have at school/work and all of that while doing your job in home office. And there are good and valuable conversations about care work and the roll back on gender roles right now. Sarah isn’t part of them. Presumably exhaustion from cleaning. I don’t want to sound like supermummy, but I have two kids and a job as well and my husband is away during the week and so far cleaning hasn’t killed me. Mostly because I ignore it. It’s ok, I chose the flooring with having “how well does it hide dirt” in mind (very well).
Owen suggests that she might actually do something about the division of care work in her home:
Owen Jones: Get your teenagers to clean – we operated a rota system growing up to distribute daily household chores – and don’t force mostly low paid women to risk their health or even lives because that’s extremely selfish behaviour?
Sarah Ditum: Get my teenagers to clean? Declaring something simple doesn’t make it so
Remember, this is somebody who regularly claims that parents are making their children trans because, well, who knows. And hey, I kind of agree, making my teen do her chores certainly doesn’t have a fun tax added, but I’m in the business of raising competent adults who can look after themselves so yes, she still has to empty the dishwasher. We have a sort of clock with their pics on it. Occasionally my husband threatens to take the laundry that hasn’t been put away back to his place and he only washes whatever is in the hamper. But not Sarah Ditum’s poor children (what happened to the husband?)! I think I met a couple of Sarahs in parent teacher talks.
Me: Your son doesn’t do his tasks, only does what he wants and gets very angry when he’s reprimanded.
Mother: He’s never like this at home!
Me: What chores does he have to do at home?
Mother: Chores? My son doesn’t have to do any chores!
If that wasn’t bad enough, her pal Janice Turner chimes in:
Owen Jones: I have a twin sister and two elder brothers: we were all expected to do housework from the age of 11, using a daily rota system dividing up chores. I don’t understand why teenagers cannot be expected to do this?
Sounds sensible, doesn’t it? It’s not like those “we used to hop 15 miles through the snow on one foot” pieces of commentary, just a simple memory from a not too long ago childhood. You’re a family, you stick together, you live together, you take responsibility. Apparently for Janice Turner, mother to two teenage sons and supposedly married to a full grown ass man suggesting that your teens do chores is misogyny:
Janice Turner: Free online parenting and household management classes from a childless mansplainer. Mothers thank you for your service, Owen.
Now, apart from the homophobic dog whistle about a “childless man”, mothers are invoked. Welcome to the cult of true motherhood, as evidenced in the next tweet.
Janice Turner: Be great if Owen addressed the reason most families have cleaners. Not lazy bitches “with time on their hands” or crap mothers who won’t draw up rotas for teenage kids. But men. Men don’t do their share. Instead of hating on women tell the dude to pick up a fucking mop.
You mean like Mr. Ditum and Mr. Turner? Because both women are married to afaict able bodied men who are perfectly capable of picking up a fucking mop, as are their teenagers, three of them being of the male persuasion. When are they supposed to learn how to pick up a mop? But as I said, that’s work. Getting a teenager to do something is no task for the lilly-livered, I can tell you, nor is it to have those complicated conversations about the division of housework with your male partner. Turner’s solution: Make another woman come in and do it. That’s how your teenage sons learn responsibility and equality. Because according to her, most families have cleaners. Probably even her cleaner. While she is cleaning other people’s houses, somebody else is cleaning hers. Actually it’s just a big fucking pyramid scheme where we pass around the same 100 bucks to pay each other to clean our houses. This goes well past “middle class privilege” and takes it well into “colonial times erasure of all women who are not part of the ruling class” territory. It reminds me of the heroines of Jane Austen novels (I love Jane Austen novels): they struggle with financial hardship and consider themselves poor because they can only employ two or three servants.
Caroline Criado Perez, another UK feminist (her dad was the CEO of Safeway, if you need to guess her economic background), teetering on the brink of an epiphany:
Right, where’s the Mr Ditum, Mr Ditum junior, Mr Turner, Mr Turner junior and Mr Turner junior shaped gap in the analysis?
You’d think it couldn’t get any worse, would you? I’m sorry…
Again, Owen Jones agrees: men should pick up the tab instead of making other women risk their lives. Reasonable, or????
Owen Jones: Men should be shamed into doing their fair share of housework: couldn’t agree more.
But forcing largely low paid women, who also have to juggle their low paid work with unpaid household labour – to risk the health and lives of themselves and their families is disgraceful.
Janice Turner: No one is “forcing” them. People are making arrangementsso their cleaners are safe, providing gloves, anti-bac and staying out of the house whilst they are there. Believe it or not[,] many people, even cleaners, actually want to return to work. It makes them feel useful and normal.
I’m sorry if your jaw is hurting from the impact with the floor, but I did kinda warn you. Remember these people are also huge SWERFS (Sex Work Excluding (Radical) Feminists) who claim that all sex workers are forced into sex work and in need of rescue. When it’s their carpets, suddenly economic force is no longer a thing. Also, Janice, antibacterial shit isn’t any good when talking about a virus. But that’s just the running up to the “Arbeit macht frei” finale at the end of the tweet. Didn’t you know, people who employ cleaners aren’t exploiting usually racialised labour. No, they’re actually doing those women a favour because what sense of worth would they have without the approval of a white woman who keeps mispronouncing their name?
Also, you’re not staying out of the house for the benefit of the cleaner, you’re doing it because that person just had to commute to your place which potentially exposed them to Covid 19.
But we’re still missing some players. Here I present Julie Bindel with an especially interesting take:
Julie Bindel: I can only assume that abny male socialist giving instructions to women about the ethics of having a cleaner chooses not to consume pornography. After all, the women abused in the porn trade have their exploited ‘labour’ to the most extreme degree. [sic]
Julie Bindel is a political lesbian, aka somebody who is not actually that much into women but just not into men, who claims that bisexuality is a fake hobby for straight women, and who is here accusing a gay man of exploiting women in the production of porn he may or may not watch. It can’t get any more bizarre than this. Maybe it’s her own apparently confused ideas about sexual orientation that are showing. Does she think that gay men are actually political homosexuals because while they actually fancy women they just don’t want to have any kind of relationship with them because they’re secretly all MGTOW misogynists?
I’ve taken you on quite ride, and it should have a worthy finale, so here it is:
Sarah Ditum: Yep that would be a good way to deal with this, if I had a cleaner. But I don’t, I’m just knackered and deeply irritated by Owen’s presumption that everyone has a bunch of free time at the moment
Plot twist: Sarah Ditum doesn’t have a cleaner, but she is willing to lay down the lives of other people’s cleaners for your right to a clean kitchen. But she has since gone on (presumably well paid) record stating that she will get one as soon as she can, because she really doesn’t want to negotiate housework with her household, who are simultaneously grown ass adults and teenagers and who still leave peanutbutter smudges on door handles like toddlers. But instead of calling that piggy back, she’d rather yell at some other woman to clean up that mess.
*There are decent British feminists worth that name, somehow they don’t seem to get that many columns and newspaper slots…
** The author of this text has written it while repeatedly helping her kid with her homework, doing a WhatsApp English class and making the kid empty the dishwasher. Don’t you fucking dare to accuse me of not knowing how busy these times are.
Last time we saw the garden we had a new terrace and stairs, but were still far away from it being finished, which it still is. Since then I gave the old bench a new coat of paint and we got new garden furniture and somebody competent is working on a handrail. What we still need is a lamp. The easiest thing would be to screw one to the side of the house, but when has easy ever been an option? the plan is to put a lamp post in the upper corner of the slope, at the end of the terrace.
In this pic that’s the upper right hand corner, basically where the wooden fence starts. This way it should give light to the small terrace, but also to the stairs. Also I want a small fountain there so we need electricity anyway. Therefore we spent most of Saturday doing what we’re good at: me telling Mr what he should do and him doing what I told him. Sounds pretty much like some sexist trope about the domineering wife and the poor hapless husband, but it links to the concept of the mental load: The fact that in heterosexual relationships the women are usually the ones who have to do the planning and coordination and sadly, our family is a poster child for this in most parts. Mr has gotten better over the years (often because I simply refused to to do it. If we agreed that it was his task then I would simply unburden myself. No more checking in, no more doing the thinking), but on the whole the mental load is still mine. It doesn’t help that he’s really not good at planning in several steps. He’s more of a Scrabble guy than a chess player and his plan was to start pouring a concrete base at the top where the lamp should go and worry about the slope later. Supposedly after the first heavy rain washed down the earth including the concrete base.
At my suggestion (haha) we started securing the upper part of the slope:
What looks like just a couple of stones was the backbreaking work of several hours. The slope goes in two directions: into our garden and towards the neighbour’s garden. And we had to start somewhere in the middle, because that stone that looks like I had drunk the gin tonic before and not afterwards is turned over on purpose: It covers the drainage pipe from the terrace, making sure the water can exit freely. To prevent animals from getting in there we put in a tin with holes in the bottom. I’m curious at how this will work out, but it’s raining today so I’ll take a look later. This means that we had to start right there, that was our fixed point, and work our way up and to the sides and down as well. Every other stone has a steel bolt at least 30cm into the ground and a layer of concrete to secure it. And some drainage because I do want to plant something in those stones. The first row is always the hardest because it needs to be very level. Sure, the stones will always have their irregularities, they won’t all be the exact same height, but if you’re off there, you’ll be in a lot of trouble later. That means putting the stone (15kg) into position, checking, lifting it off, altering the ground, putting it back, checking… Yes, my arms are hurting, why do you ask? Especially since our ground is full of stones and pebbles that will just not give a millimetre, no matter how hard you push down. And the worst part: because the whole terrain is helter skelter it looks like they’re all askew because all the other supposedly “straight lines” you’re looking at are, in fact, not straight, which is probably a metaphor or something for my life but that’s off topic.
In the background you can see some boulders to further stabilize the slope. We still had these lying around, but we’ll need to get more of them to create a girdle on the lower edge to prevent the ground from being washed out. It will also create a nice habitat for lizards and insects, because with all the work we’re doing and all the alterations we’re making to suit our desires, that is always an important aspect. That’s the allotted “wildflowers” side of the slope anyway. I hope to get enough of the stones set in time to plant the pumpkins and courgettes. We’re not lazy, we’re environmentally friendly! We’ll spend a lot of time in the garden this year (I seriously cannot understand people who are planning their holidays this year. No, not even within Germany), so we better make it look inhabitable.
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.
Thanks to the wisdom of YouTube algorithm, I found out about the show Brooklyn 99 recently, and I have been watching it a lot. As far as LGBTQ representation in media goes, this is the best I have ever seen and I highly recommend it as the ultimate “woke” show. It shows that it is possble to make humor involving LGBTQ people without them being the butt of the jokes.
Open thread, talk whatever you want, just don’t be an a-hole.
Every once in a while the following conversation happens in my Twitter feed:
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.
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:
“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.
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:
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…
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.
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.