Children, Accessibility, and being an entitled ass

This post was brought to you by my brother in law, so it might get ranty.

Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely support people being child free. Honestly, I don’t know anybody working in education and with families who isn’t a strong supporter of contraception, family planning and thinking long and hard about whether being a parent is something that you should do.

I’m also the first to admit that children are not smallish adults, but have certain characteristics beyond age and height that make them different from adults. It’s something that makes people who like working with children enjoy their company, it is something that makes parenting an amazing journey, and it’s something that makes others not enjoy either of these things.

Nevertheless, children are people, they are part of society, they should have their needs met and accommodated. There are very few spaces where children don’t belong, and those are for their own protection, say a Shisha bar. For the rest of spaces: think about how this space can be made child friendly. Many restaurants already do this: they have a children’s menu, they have play corners (one of our favourite Asian buffet places has a whole room), and if you think about it, it’s a smart move, because children will only grow up to value a sit down meal in a nice restaurant if they learn how to behave there while young.

But there’s another level of accessibility and that is for parents. We’ve talked about this before: If you organise something, say a sceptics’ conference or something like that, think about how you can provide childcare. Because if not, overwhelmingly women will be unable to attend your event. I mean, you can go full Sam Harris and blame your sciency manly vibes that scare off fragile little damsels, or you can ask yourselves: what can we do to make sure parents can attend?

Which gets me to a different level, which is private life. And of course you get to set all sorts of boundaries  here, but you also have to live with the consequences. There’s a plethora of “Am I The Asshole” posts on Reddit where somebody decides to have a child free wedding and is then super offended when the parents in their lives decline, especially when it’s their siblings. Sorry, but weddings are expensive, and getting childcare on top of it costs a lot of money, the people who are usually watching your children are probably at the wedding as well (Hey mum, could you watch our kids while we go to your daughter’s wedding?), not to mention trusting some babysitter enough to leave them for several days. And, yes, let’s face it, parents do take this shit personal. Their children are pretty important people in their lives and if you frame their existence as a complete nuisance and burden to everyone who is even just in the same room, they might decide that your friendship isn’t worth it.

Which gets me to my brother in law. He is and has always been super entitled. He’s 11 years younger than my husband and didn’t grow up so much with a sibling than with a third overindulgent parent and he’s used to the whole family catering to him. The last two times he moved, my husband of course helped him, which meant driving a few hundred kilometres each time. I can’t remember even being reimbursed for the fuel, and I especially can’t remember him lifting a single finger when we moved. Because those are services he thinks his family has to provide.

Now he has invited us to his birthday. Come on, Giliell, you say. You said he was super entitled, but now he’s inviting you, that’s nice! Only… Well, remember the couple of hundred kilometres? Going there means spending the night. Spending the night means getting hotel rooms. For the great honour of being invited to his birthday he already expects us to spend a few hundred €. He lives in the Black Forest. Hotels ain’t cheap there. And well, we would have coughed that up, if not for the original subject of this post. We’re still in a raging global pandemic, the little one isn’t vaccinated yet, and sleeping in a hotel with her is totally out of the question for us. So we asked him, could the children stay with him for the night? I mean, his flat is bigger than our house, he has a guest room where his parents are staying, and a living room, and a studio, and a fucking library, but he doesn’t have space for his nieces. He really doesn’t want them to be in his space, because you never know. It’s not like we asked them to watch two toddlers who would paint the walls with his acrylics, or tear the pages from his books. They’re two well behaved teens who basically just want the Wifi password and food. Also his parents, who are watching the kids regularly, are also there. But nooooo, he’s afraid for his precious belongings. Which is totally reasonable in his eyes. Yet our fear for our kid is totally irrational, you know? Guess who’s currently being made out to be unreasonable…

“The silent majority agrees with me”, gender critical edition

Open letters are a time honoured form of activism. They allow individuals to connect over a single and very specific issue and raise awareness for that cause. They are, of course, also problematic in a way, since they usually are initiated by people who already have some influence and publicity, because nobody publishes an open letter signed by 40 noobs with a blog and a 50 people Twitter account, so they’re usually a tool of academia, authors, or various kinds of celebrities. At least you need a couple of celebrities to boost your idea.

The latest round of “gender critical”, aka transphobic open letter seems to have suffered from a certain lack of celebrity endorsement, which is why they decided to simply sign the names of dead women to their cause. “Come on, Giliell”, I hear you say, “nobody would be that dishonest”. But go, look for yourselves: Here it is.

The letter itself is the usual transphobic whining about trans women taking things from cis women, like all those shiny Olympic medals trans women have so far failed to win. The novel “Detransition, Baby”, by Torres Peters, has been listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The usual suspects are all up in arms because a literary prize that was founded to celebrate women’s often  undervalued contributions to fiction has dared to list a novel by a trans woman, and this is of course another instance of a “trans identified male” taking things from “biological women”, just like in sports. Only that of course they always try to base their bigotry on biology, claiming that anybody amab has intrinsic and immutable advantages over anybody afab. Does this mean they’re indirectly claiming that women cannot write and therefore need some protected prizes where they don’t have to compete with men?*

But let’s not get sidetracked from the incredible dishonesty of “the dead agree with me via ouija board”. Among the “supporters” of the letter you’ll find Emily Dickinson, Daphne du Maurier and Mary Anne Evans, aka George Elliot. Why they couldn’t get the Transphobe in Chief, the woman writer who publishes under her initials, a male pseudonym of a guy who tortured gay people, and who singlehandedly invented women back in the 1990s to sign their letter, I don’t know. Now, we all like to claim great woman of the past as our forbearers, brand ourselves as their heirs, but a simple fact is that we have no idea what their opinion on many things was or would have been. Who knows what Rosa Luxemburg would have thought about gay marriage? For a couple of other issues we do know their positions and they are horrible, especially with regards to race. Is it possible that these people would have agreed with them? Sure. Does that mean anything? Not unless you declare them infallible. Now, given that many transphobes are also terribly racist and homophobe, they probably consider that a feature, not a bug, since they happily outsource critical thinking.

It is, of course, also possible that those women would have told them to stuff it. It happens time again with modern authors who they suppose agree with their bigotry, like Margret Atwood. And after all, it is pretty unimportant. Those women are long dead, and while celebrities sure can help or hinder a cause, their opinion does not magically make a position right or wrong. Human rights are not determined by Grammy nominations or book prizes. There’s a hell lot of horrible people with book prizes or Nobel prizes. In the end that’s just an argument from second hand authority and you learn back in grade 10 that those are not actually arguments at all. By the end of the day it’s just another episode of transphobes (if you read the list you will indeed find familiar names) being terrible, and none of them sees any issue with this.

*Just to make this clear: I’m very fond of things like Women’s Prize for Fiction. We don’t have a level playing field and authors don’t get published by sole merit of their writing. Until we have a level playing field we do need Women’s Prizes, Black Literature Prizes, Queer Literature Prizes etc.

The Art of …

… ageing body positivity in portraiture, by Joan Semmel

The pictures are below the fold because they are nudes and are NSFW. They are unusual because they portray the ageing female body in a positive light. The story is from HuffPost, and the artist describes her work thusly,

“I painted in layers so that the evidence of age would not be erased by virtuoso paint handling. The sensuality of the flesh permeates these paintings, a sensuality that is not confined to youth. I had entered into a relationship with artist John Hardy, with whom I lived for 21 years before he passed away in 2014. These late years were empowering and rewarding in every sense, something I hoped to communicate through my work.

“The issues of the body from desire to aging, as well as those of identity and cultural imprinting, have been at the core of my concerns. The carnal nature of paint has seemed to me a perfect metaphor, the specifics of image, a necessary elaboration. The last 45 years of work, I think, reveal my ongoing interest in both process and relevance.”

[Read more…]

In which Biden disappears 157 million women (give or take)

With great mourning I must inform all of you that president Biden has disappeared about 157 million women. I am very sorry. This has come as a surprise to many, probably especially my formerly female cis American friends who woke up this morning to a terrible wasteland in which ALL their rights have been destroyed and they themselves ceased to exist, going on a a loosely connected set of uterus and ovaries.

What has happened?

Evil trans cabal cultist Joe Biden has issued an Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. The horrors! Protecting queer people, no matter them being gay or bi or trans or any combination from discrimination must be the end of all civilisation. The religious extremists are very shocked and upset, and by “religious extremists” I mean our dear “gender critical” friends, especially over on Terven Island.

Here’s the LGB alliance who tells you that an executive order forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation is actually bad for gays and lesbians:

We are appalled by @potus’s executive order erasing the sex-based rights of women and girls. It deals a severe blow to women and girls in sport, prisons, rape shelters, hospitals etc and bans lesbians and gays from having our own spaces. We will help our US friends to oppose it.

 

Because we all know that’s exactly what happened in all those countries with similar regulations. The Irish Camogie teams are now just all the cis boys who didn’t make it in the Hurling team and are now allowed to beat all the cis girls up with the hurley. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s just because the international all powerful trans cabal suppresses the truth.

 

BTW, this is from an actual US right wing religious extremist. Do you spot the difference? Me neither.

..Normalizing transgenderism and pursuing public health policy of gender reassignment surgery in minors under 18 must not be allowed. Hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery’s are extremely dangerous to long term physical and mental health of children…

.As a former competitive athlete and a mother to a daughter who is a D1 collegiate athlete, I staunchly oppose biological males in girls/women’s sports, locker rooms, and bathrooms. This completely violates women’s rights in every way…

…I by no means judge others for their sexual choices and dearly love my friends who are gay. I love people but stand firmly in God’s truth, which is this. Whether you believe in Him or not, God loves ALL of us and created us in His image, male and female…

…This is why the left’s pursuit to cancel gender and erase who’s image they were created in, is completely evil.

 

Not to mention that by her own tweet god’s image is female AND male, but there’s hardly any difference now between the religious right and “gender critical” people. Oh, sure, many of them condemmed the worst of Trumps actions, but they also think that Biden doing the least thing to protect trans people from discrimination is kind of worse than  Trump raping women and having women thrown into concentration camps where non necessary hysterectomies were done to immigrant women. “Gender critical” people seem to think that the religious extremists are wrong on every single issue except trans people, yet they are also willing to sacrifice every single right if only they can hurt trans people.

It’s time they owned that shit, packed their bags and went to Mar a Lago.

 

P.S.

Please, if there are any women left in the USA, give us a sign. We’ll send cookies.

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.

Woman Artists on Youtube – Movie Reviewer – Jill Bearup

I am not shure whether movie reviewer is the correct title – she is specializing in talking about stage combat, but not only that. I found her because I have recently caught up with my MCU deficit (last movie I saw before this year was Guardians of the Galaxy 2) and YouTube algorithm caught up pretty quickly on that.

Permission to Grieve: Miscarriages and Stillbirths

Very obvious content note for death, loss, stillbirth and miscarriages.

Last week, celebrity couple Chrissy Teigen and John Legend lost their third child to a pregnancy complication, because all the fame and money in the world can sometimes not make a pregnancy safe. Teigen, who is a very outgoing person who shares lots of her personal and family life on Twitter also shared about her loss.

Accompanied by a black and white picture of herself in hospital she talks about her pain, her loss and her love for her child who couldn’t be saved. The world and the internet being what it is, she was both accused of being a hypocrite for being a staunch pro choice woman, but still mourning the loss of her child, and of milking the death of her child for cheap publicity by posting about it.

Of course you’ve got to have some deep seated hatred of women if you believe that the lady who kept tweeting about being pregnant for months, happy and proud, would just use a life threatening pregnancy complication that resulted in the loss of her child for publicity, because obviously women are heartless shallow creatures devoid of real feelings or something.

But however you would personally feel about making your loss public on social media, by doing so herself, Teigen gave others a great gift: The permission to mourn. Because miscarriages and stillbirths are still hushed in our societies. If you tell people you’re expecting, they’ll tell you you shouldn’t say anything before those critical first three months are over, because…

Well, because what exactly? It’s not like the words leaving your mouth will retroactively curse the embryo with a genetic condition incompatible with life, or suddenly make your thyroid stop working so your body won’t carry the healthiest of embryos to term. Biology doesn’t work like that. The reason you’re not supposed to talk about it is because people would like to pretend it doesn’t happen. This, ironically but not unexpectedly, rather logically, includes the very same people accusing Teigen to be a hypocrite for being pro choice. If you pretend that a fertilised egg is the same, no more important than a six years old, then you mustn’t face the reality that most fertilised eggs never even implant, and that of those that implant a large number will still not make it past the three months mark, and that of those who make it past that mark some will still not result in a living baby.

The result of this is that women and others who lose wanted pregnancies are shushed up, their feelings are denied and their need to mourn is ignored. While Germany still has some very restrictive anti abortion laws, it’s only been a couple of years since people were allowed to bury their stillborn if it weighed less than a kilogram, which included fetuses up to the eighth month of pregnancy. While the day before you were forced to carry “your unborn baby” to term whether you wanted or not, suddenly there was no baby, just clinical waste.

Emotions around pregnancies are complicated, because they are tied to so many concepts in our societies. From the idea that this is the ultimate test of femaleness (even for people who are not, you know, women), over the idea that this is your duty, to the fact that it can also be your greatest desire. For everybody who can get pregnant and who has sex that could get them pregnant, the idea of a pregnancy hangs over our heads. Depending on how you’re personally feeling, it can be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or the albatross around your neck. Being able to talk freely about all those emotions is important. This must include the ability to say “I am devastated for losing a pregnancy/not becoming pregnant” and also using terms like “baby” which denotes an emotional attachment, but also the ability to say “I will never ever again consent to being pregnant”. Because yours truly has done both, and I’ve been hurt both times by people who tried to deny the validity of my feelings and position. Occasionally by the same people. Because apparently at ten weeks it’s both a baby if you don’t want to be pregnant, and just an error of nature if you want to be pregnant but lose the pregnancy. Fuck that shit.

 

If Sex is Real, How Come I Haven’t Had Any in Ages?

Wordcloud with keywords from the text like "words, how do they work"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.

People who Menstruate: Or why the transphobic insistence on “women” is both creepy and wrong

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?

 

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.

 

Links:

Twitter thread from Jay Hulme about transphobic assault for being a trans man on his period

Article by a non-binary activist on their first period and that fucked up notion as a gate to “womanhood” I mentioned above 

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.

 

 

British Feminism: I Want ma Nanny and ma Cleaner!!!!

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.

Twitter screenshot

 

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:

 

Twitter screenshot

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:

Twitter screenshot

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…

Twitter screenshot

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:

Twitter screenshot

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:

Twitter screenshot

 

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.

Gardenscaping: Where the Solution of one Problem Creates Three Equally Interesting Ones

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.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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:

 

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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.