Creeped Out: the Price of Being a Woman in Public

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

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

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

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

“Excuse me?”

He continued:

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

At this point I gasp interrupted him:

“Could you please leave me alone?”

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

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

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

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

Recovery: The Condition(ing) of Being a Woman

I’m making slow but real progress, but everybody and their dog keeps telling me to take it slow and I’m really trying to. But I also know that I’m far from “functioning normally”, not to mention that my current level of mobility is also due to generous amounts of anti-inflammatory drugs and painkiller. Anyway, one good aspect of German health insurance is that I’m entitled to a household aid  for as long as I’m recovering. And my most wonderful sister organised everything with her care service and this morning the wonderful S. showed up.

Everything about my working class woman upbringing was uncomfortable. First of all letting a stranger in when my house is a complete mess. I know, I know, the woman came because there’s a mess and I can’t clean, but try to tell that to your subconscious. The other one is to have somebody clean your shit while you’re mostly watching. (I did help as much as I could). I know that many working class men have absolutely no problem with watching women clean while they’re lying on the couch, but for a woman? I’ve been both raised with some traditional crap about cleaning and quite some deep seated hatred against people who watch women clean, since I’m just two generations removed from women who had to go out and work as maids, being abused by master and mistress alike.

Still, I’ll need a household help after recovery as well because I think my body just told me that it is done with playing nice and putting up with my psychological issues of having to do all my cleaning myself.

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

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

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

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

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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

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

Happy International Women’s Day. No chocolates, though

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

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

No human being is illegal.

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

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

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

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

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

International Women’s Day

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

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

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

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

Teacher’s Corner: Introverts, extroverts, shmextroverts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Get lost, it’s an imperative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Crimes against mankind: fat women existing

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

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

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

Comments on the picture:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Remember Montreal

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

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

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

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

 

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

Maybe he should have grabbed her by the pussy instead?

By now you have probably heard of The Incident. Depending on whether you’re a decent human being or a Republican, the actual incident is that the White House tried to forcefully remove the mic of a journalist because they didn’t like what he said and then banned him from the White House, or the real incident is Jim Acosta “laying his hands” on a young intern (who is, by pure coincidence female, white, young and pretty).

Sarah Sanders has tweeted about it several times, stressing the “disrespect” towards the “young woman” and “young women” working in the administration, mimicking feminist language and concerns for the treatment of (young) (professional) women at the hands of older men.

She also shared a clip showing him making a “chopping motion” towards her arm. Only that the video came straight from Infowars (and we all know how much those people care about women) and has a few curious differences to the original:

The intern’s reach for the mic is slowed down, and the “chop” motion is accelerated. Here’s an annotated side by side comparison:

Further analysis: video is absolutely doctored. You can see the edit when the clips are side by side and slowed down to quarter speed. See for yourself:

 The dishonesty of the Trump Administration knows no limits, as shown again, but let me make one thing clear: Even if Acosta had made a “chopping motion” he wouldn’t be the one who’s wrong here. He was talking, she tried to physically remove the mic, very eager to please her betters. She was the one making aggressive moves towards him. And also: fuck you, white women who sell out on basically everybody to lick spittle and get the rewards of being the chill girls of the Trump Administration. You work hard to remove women’s* right to their own bodies. You work double time to disenfranchise black women. You work extra time to rip babies out of their mothers’ arms and lock them in cages. And you all work for a man who is proud of sexually assaulting women. You don’t get to talk about respectful treatment of women.
*and others capable of gestation.

Teacher’s Corner: Toxic Masculinity

Well, this Wednesday there was a particularly rough fight at my school, and while this one escalated rather a lot, fights between the boys are in no way rare at my school. Quite often, I’m puzzled about what they actually want from me when they come complaining, and you never actually get to the bottom of the matter. You get different versions, depending on whom you ask, and usually they cannot even agree what started that particular fight. You get stories that sound like the clans in Asterix in Corsica going back weeks and months (with different versions for each chapter in the saga!), but the patterns of the fights are usually pretty much the same.

They start with some trivial matter like brushing past each other, somebody calling somebody else’s friend fat, or somebody looking at a girl that somebody else is interested in. This will often already start on the bus to school. Insults are traded, challenges are made. People push each other. Friends get involved. Until, at some point, one of them utters some magical words like “son of a whore” or “I fuck your mother”. Then the one insulted feels justified in starting a real fight, seeing himself as the victim*, and the other one feels like the victim because he’s the one being attacked.

Being the innocent victim who only reacted is very important because then you cannot get into trouble. Or at least in their mind you should not get into trouble. Because it’s not their fault, right? The fact that they all regularly get into trouble is totally unfair. Because in their mind, they did not have another choice. Because in their world, a world of adolescent boys trying hard to be a particular kind of man, losing your face or being seen as weak is the worst. Much worse than fucking up your education.

When trying to get to the bottom of the fight on Wednesday I asked the kid what the fight was actually about. He didn’t really have an answer. Many stories from last year and some minor stuff and somebody insulting his friend. I asked the kid why he didn’t just ignore that shit and either walk away or call a teacher. His answer was true and the actual problem: “If I do that they will say I’m a pussy!”

Our problem is not the two kids who had a fight on Wednesday. Or the ones from Monday. Nor the ones who’ll get into a fight next week. Our problem is a micro cosmos steaming in toxic masculinity. And so far i don’t have a solution because sadly, my solutions are worthless. Most of my colleagues are female, we cannot solve the boy problem, because we cannot enter their world. We’ll need to find some men, men of a similar social background, who can teach them how to be cool, and that being a man doesn’t mean getting into fights every day. I worry about our boys. They’re still kids, and so far the consequences are small, but if they keep growing up like this they’ll get into trouble. They’ll hurt their own chances, and they’ll hurt others. they’ll hurt the women and girls in their lives, directly and indirectly. they aren’s Donald Trumps or Kavanaughs, with enough money and connections to get them out of trouble and up the social ladder. They are already on the bottom rung, fighting many social disadvantages.

As a feminist I’m often accused of “hating men and boys”, but I swear that nobody hurts them as much as the people who go “boys will be boys”.

*This is regardless of whether the boys are native Germans, kids of immigrants or recent arrivals from the Arab world. I once had a boy trying to beat up another kid for “insulting his mother and his family”. When I asked that second boy what he had said, it turned out that the first kid had hurled those insults hoping to provoke the second kid to start a fight. That second boy was rather cool and just said “same”.