Archive | April, 2013

Am I being left alone in Pervertville?

25 Apr

First of all don’t get me wrong: I am very happy that some countries are legalizing gay marriage and that it is happening in my lifetime. I feel kind of weirdly blessed, not like a slave who was set free, but maybe like a woman who has just been allowed to vote.

But the thing is: I am not that fond of marriage in the first place. I mean, I love wedding parties, but then there is alcohol and a perfect excuse for my friends to get together, and there is music, and dance, and more alcohol. The institution of marriage, however, is not something I give much value to. Still, here I am fighting (well, not exactly fighting, but I do write on a blog, don’t I?) for this right. And I wonder sometimes, in all my honesty, why do I care?

When I ask this question, a big word comes to mind: EQUALITY. Yeah, right, but then, equality reminds me of uniform, which is not as lovely a word when you point it to lifestyles. After the “why me (being gay)?” phase in adolescence, I stopped dreaming about being the equal. And I actually take great pride of that.

Being gay is a part of this pride of being different. Undeniably, there is this sense of David against Goliath (oh, the bible, such a lovely book.) in the act of being a fag. Edmund White (http://www.edmundwhite.com/) puts it very well in some of his books, but maybe especially at “City Boy”, an autobiography of his New York years in the seventies and eighties. I don’t have the book with me right now to point out the specific section which comes to my mind, but more or less in the middle of the book he talks about a guy he used to see on regular basis. This being pre-Stonewall and they’re being not much older than twenty, they did not see their “thing” as a relationship and fidelity was never an issue. These concepts were entirely foreign for them and, I believe, for many gay “things” in general at the time. This fact shocked me when I read it.

Stonewall changed everything, for sure. And there is no denying that it was for the best. But still, I get myself wondering: “wow, how would it feel to have a “thing” for which there is no common term?” “How free must it have felt?” “If Stonewall hadn’t happened, how would the gay “things” have evolved?”

But now, in a few countries, gays “things” are proper relationships, which can even be sanctioned as proper marriages. And I am happy for the gays who always dreamed of being married and just couldn’t. Hell, I might be one of those guys someday (and I never wore a tuxedo and that could be the perfect excuse for it. Or maybe I would wear a kilt again. Oh, I love kilts).

The yellow light, however, keeps blinking in my conscience. If I had lived in the sixties or in the seventies, I probably would have defended free love. But we are fifty years ahead of that and what I see is marriage conquering us all (with me helping, sort of).

Sometimes I even forget about the fact that marriage is not really my problem as a gay person. But ultimately, I cannot relate to that. So, every time a country accepts same sex marriage I feel very happy for the gay movement and for myself, but it is not a victory I can surely call my own.

Masculinity and its Baggage: Patriarchy’s Perks for All

9 Apr

While I read our previous posts about sexism as manifested in different areas of life: the rape culture, the denial to abortion, internalized sexism and the battle against the devaluation of feminine characteristics, I find myself going back to the role of men in patriarchy and masculinity.

It’s not new to say that men in machismo always have the upper hand, in the sense that they are considered the powerful, rational, wise beings who shall dictate and protect, honour and lead. As with any group with power, there is abuse of it. This is not a matter of opinion but a fact: let’s look at the statistics of gender based violence, political participation, equal pay, etc.

However, as a feminist, I am a bit tired of the discourse of fellow feminists who continue to identify the battle against inequality as exclusively a female struggle; to see men as the enemy. They are not only wrong but stealing our real possibilities of success. It is only by seeing sexism as a social construct that affect both women and men –and I’m not trying to diminish the oppression of women in patriarchal societies-  that we will ever get there.

In his blog, Inequality by (Interior) Design, Tristan Bridges explains sexual and gender inequality in a great and simple way: as any inequality, gender inequality is reproduced in ways that feel natural, but are actually designed. Sexism, according to Bridges, is naturalized (men don’t cry and a woman reaches her purpose when she becomes a mother), minimized as tradition (from FGM and child marriage to men always having to pick up the bill), structured by relationships (husband and wife, brother and sister) and part of the social spaces in which we live in.

Although I always understood this, I learned it even better when I taught young adults about women’s rights. I started the class with the obvious concepts: sex vs. gender. Once these concepts and others (sexism, androcentrism and patriarchy) were clear, in an interactive conversation, I went one by one asking my students to share one aspect in which they felt personally affected by patriarchy or by living in a patriarchal society.

Everyone had more than one thing to say, men and women. A lot of my male students had a huge list, not because they suffered more than girls in general, but because they had never been asked to think about it that way, even less to talk about it. Patriarchy and sexism obviously oppress women, but this doesn’t mean that the roles that men play in it are all positive for them. Let’s think of some examples:

With all the rape culture news we’ve been seeing lately, I was sad when reading this Observer article about what a particular group of men in the western region of Goa (India) had to say about rape: “When the girls look sexy and the boys can’t control themselves, they are going to rape. It happens” was one answer. Another was “girls are not allowed outside after six [pm] because anything can happen – rape, robbery, kidnaps. It is the mentality of some people. They are putting on short and sexy dresses, that’s why. Then men cannot control themselves.” I cannot help to feel insulted as a woman by these comments, but also as a woman who knows so many men that would never think of using darkness and short skirts as a reason to hurt another person.

With these arguments being repeated over and over again, I wonder why psychiatry has focused its research on female hysteria, but never thought such irrational behaviour by men was worth any attention. It might be, of course, because of our long tradition of viewing these situations as innocent and helpless Adam tempted by the -oh yes- original sinner, Eve. Never gets old, does it?

As a woman I am offended by this and by our constant portrayal of women as dramatic, hysterical beings incapable of rational thought. Why do we have to be compared to ridiculously emotional beings incapable of reasoning? But again, I also hate that this suppositions, as they compare all the great guys I know and their rational self-control to that of crepuscular converted beasts. I mean, do we see the common trait here, people?

mascu

And this is just one of many examples. Men in patriarchal societies also experience other stigmas which build up pressure and stress and have a (not excusable) contributing factor to violent behaviour: men don’t feel, they don’t bend; they never cry or express emotions. Men should be strong and provide, as the survival of a family depends on them. In all situations, their manhood is at stake if the expected standards are not met.  Men should always be ready for action, for a man with a normal or lower libido is not a man, really. Isn’t this pressure also overwhelming?

For it is true, women in patriarchy live under the constant pressure of proving they are “good women”. But men in patriarchy live under an enormous pressure as well, that of always having to prove themselves as men. Manhood is questioned by parents while boys are being formed, by friends at school since they learn how to talk: Be a man! Don’t be a sissy! Boys don’t cry! Be the man of the house, daddy says when he’s leaving. Be strong. Men pay the bills. Men always take the hardest choice to protect women. And don’t complain about any of it, after all, you’re a man, you’ll survive. (This last line I actually got from a mini book I bought my husband in one of those brainless airport shopping sprees, entitled “Stuff Every Husband Should Know”. I know. I’m embarrassed).

Add to that millennial pressure of proving yourself a little bit of change, a change in the roles without a proper understanding of what those roles meant and how they affected men as well, and you have a recipe for disaster: like a pressure cooker it could explode leaving bad consequences.

Do we need more examples? Men during exile (refugee families) have a harder time finding jobs than women, which creates a reversed bread winner situation, making unemployed frustrated men more prone to domestic violence. There are also articles relating this lack of understanding of social gendered roles and their changes they have been experimenting with the success of the women’s rights movement, in very egalitarian societies such as the Swedish one: they have one of the better rates in the world related to various aspects of gender equality, but have not been able to tackle sexual and gender based violence successfully.

This should not surprise us, though. If we, men and women, continue to think and act as if gender equality and feminism are a female thing, if we continue to fail to involve men in this fight (and not only for women’s benefit, but for men’s benefit as well) we’ll never achieve equality in all areas of life, public and private.

We cannot continue to think sex and gender inequality is different from any other form of discrimination. Do we see racial minorities excluding non-members from their struggles? Do we heterosexual believers in equality not join our fellow LGBTI friends in their struggle for their rights being recognized as human rights? Why should this be different?

It’s very simple to me: people, if you believe and want to attain gender equality, you are a feminist, whether you are a boy or a girl. Learn about the concept, deal with the stigmas the word has and help to correct them in the general collective mind rather than hide from them. But don’t stop there; get involved in this struggle. If you are a girl, involve the men in your lives; help them understand this is important for everyone. If they love you they will fight for you too, in their own individual ways. If you are a boy, consider your role in perpetuating and ending sexual and gender discrimination. After all, we’re all in this together; this is in everyone’s benefit. It’s not easy, of course it isn’t! Social change is hard and as it’s seen as natural and traditional, you’ll have to battle against a lot of unconvinced persons (the hardest one will be yourself).

So it won’t be easy for anyone. Girls: you will have to open that space of shared ideas and comfort you already have formed with your girlfriends and other women. Opening means opening for debate, understanding where other positions come from and finding a way of selling yours. Boys: it will be especially hard for you, as this is relatively new and in my experience, it’s hard not to take things personally and not to feel always as the attacked party. But you’ll survive, after all, you are men.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Thank you, Natural Charms!

5 Apr

picture blog

We are thrilled to have been nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by the author of Natural Charms, who is also a friend with earrings. Thank you so much for being a great supporter of our rants during the 3 weeks we’ve been public. (We have been writing since last year, as you can see on the dates in our blog, but it was a trial version before we decided to leave the closet).

So, here we go. The rules of this award are:

Thank and link back to the blogger who has nominated you, then post the award logo to your blog, write a post on the nomination and nominate and link to 15 other very inspiring bloggers. Notify them (with  link to the post); and tell 7 things about yourself.

It took a while for us to come up with the seven things about ourselves, you’ll see why below. But we managed to do it, so there it is:

1.  We are all lawyers, but we’re nice people, promise.

2.   We won’t give too much away, as we’re writing anonymously, but we’ll give you this much: in our group there’s three people from various parts of Europe – from the cold north to the wet and foggy west to the grey and rainy centre – and three from the Americas (the whole continent), two of those Latinos. As we like equality, we’re a mixed bunch of all sorts, boys and girls.

3.    We met each other while studying together and we changed each others’ lives for good and for the (much) better. Now that we have to live apart again, we are eternally grateful to this amazing thing called the Internet.

4.    We like okapis and sloths (who wouldn’t), amazing horses  and sometimes, we swim with manatees. Pugs are still up for discussion, as some of us love them and some (well one really…) has struggles with the concept.

5.  It took us a mere six months and several multi-stage polls (including vetos) to come up with a mutually acceptable name for our blog (see point 1.)

6.   We spend most of our days ranting about the inequalities and human rights violations of the world and stuff that pisses us off (see our blog) but we also enjoy the good things (additionally to all enlisted in point 4): friendship, cheese, music and dancing… all of the above usually with a little bit (or a bit more) of wine.

7.   We have many amazing friends who will contribute to our blog in the future so keep tuned. You might find something that interests you, something that we can whine about in shared frustration or love passionately together.

Most of the blogs we follow are big blogs (which only demonstrates how important initiatives like this one are and how new we are to the blogosphere).  However, these blogs are close to our hearts:

1. For sharing our love on earrings and amazing women, Latin American Women Wear Earrings.

2. For showing Brazil Without Makeup, which every country should wipe off.

3. For sharing our feminist fantasies and making us laugh, Matriarchal Utopia.

4. For inspiring us in the kitchen, Come con ella.

5. For sharing the great and scary things of one of life’s important steps, Becoming one of Those.

6. For reminding us of the possibility of living in a dream (at least sometimes), Fabiana Obando Melendez.

‘Hell no, I’m Not One of THOSE Girls!’ or: The Battle with Internalized Sexism

3 Apr

In high school, and as long as I can remember, I have been labeled a feminist. Probably not in those words , but capturing the essence of the term or what other people thought this term describes. Which, in high school, was being someone pretty high-strung and slightly annoying, always ready to call others out on sexist stuff (wasn’t too aware of the more subtle forms yet and, I admit, the time I wanted to force the teacher to use the female form instead of the German generic masculinum for the sake of fairness, that might have been a wee bit over the top [Side note: I could never be a teacher. Oh, I would hate these little smartasses]).

In high school, and as long  as I can remember, I have been the good girl. Good student, well-mannered, nice middle-class family, that sort of thing. Being the good girl entailed to absolutely not, under no circumstances, being caught doing “girly” things. Because those were shallow. Brain-dead. Hysteric. Beneath me. For my teenage self, those two categories were not mutually exclusive. For my teenage self, talking down on specific types of women for their sheer “femaleness” went perfectly well together with championing women’s rights. You know, I was entertaining grand thoughts about IMPORTANT stuff. Equal wages, equal political representation, that sort of things. They: come on, they were just so ridiculous, so…girly. Ohhh, well.

When I grew up, there was a very clear divide between two groups and you had to decide which group you wanted to belong to: the girly girls (lots of makeup, lots of boy talk, lots of boy action (or at least, lots of talking about the hypothetical action), dislike for all things to do with school to be exhibited as in a shop window at all times) and the brainy girls (active in school, good grades, dislike for all things related to “shallow” stuff such as fashion, boys, physical appearance to be exhibited as in a shop window at all times). This was a decision to be taken, in my head, not only by myself, but one that by association also stretched to other members of my family. Hell, I remember one evening, I must have been around 12/13, when I asked my mum whether she could, in the future, stop wearing lipstick because the other mothers (read: the other mothers of the right sort of people) also didn’t do that. I can’t remember her reaction, but I’m happy to report, the lipstick stayed on.

For a long time, I thought that this divide was mostly in my head. That I could have been both the flamboyant party girl AND the opinion leader, if I wanted. But I don’t think it’s true. I wouldn’t have been taken serious, being one of “them” in addition to being interested in school stuff. I suppose that this is also a cultural issue of my small town German upbringing. I see less such divide in my friends from other countries or even in my friends who grew up in other, bigger places within the same country. However, the issue underlying the choice my teenage self was unknowingly faced with is a universal one: the issue is internalized sexism, the rejection and the devaluation of stuff considered “girly” by societal consensus. A bit as if it were a contagious illness that one could catch and which’s transmission upon oneself one had to dismiss in the strongest possible terms, as to dispel all suspicious that one is infected: ‘Me??? I’m not one of THOSE girls! See, I’m almost one of you! You can take me and my opinions seriously! They are not clouded by my femaleness, they are not diluted by layers of makeup, I don’t have time for all these superficial things, I promise!

One had to, at all times, uphold the good girl appearance, or else one ran uns the risk of becoming vulnerable, a target for the assumption that one cannot actually be taken seriously, being so colorful in the face, being in such a short skirt, being so emotional, being so girly.

I thought about this recently when I read a quote attributed to Ariel Levy:

“Attacking femaleness, deriding ‘girly’ stuff, rolling your eyes at ‘women’s issues’, declaring yourself a ‘tomboy’ who gets along better with men because women are silly or pretty or whatever – these are expressions of internalized sexism. If that’s the way you feel about your own sex, you’ll be doomed to feel inferior no matter what you achieve in life.”

This is scarily true. It doesn’t mean you should not be a tomboy, if that’s who you are. It doesn’t mean you need to start watching “Love, Actually” when Christmas time comes around and subscribe to People magazine if you are not interested. It doesn’t mean that, as a woman, you mustn’t do “manly” stuff or that “real” women have to do x, y, and z, but not a, b and c. There is no such thing as a “real” woman in the first place. Everyone, do whatever the hell you want! But, if you do or don’t do a certain thing just because being “girly” is associated with being shallow, unprofessional, profane, weak, unimportant, then you’re doing it wrong. Then you are being disloyal not only to other women, but first and foremost to yourself.

Yes, as a woman, you have been born into a world that is made for men. They set the standards, they define what is “normal”, you will always the “other”. But it doesn’t, in any way or form, get better for you or for anyone else with a vagina, if you think you can enhance your position by talking down on things traditionally, narrow-mindedly, wrongly associated with being female.

Not less serious (just mean)

Not less serious (just mean) [Copyright: TM&Copyright 2003 by Paramount Pictures ]

And not only is it disloyal: it’s dangerous also. It creates a divide between the “good” and the “bad” girls. Between those who are to be taken seriously and those whose opinions can be easily dismissed. Between the “rational” and the “hysteric”. And, between those who behaved prim and proper and those who “had it coming”. In times, in which the whole world discusses whether binge drinking at a party actually equals consent, in times in which it is actually necessary to stage Slut Walks and hammer it into peoples’ heads that the person responsible for a rape is….(drum roll) the rapist and not (surprise!) the victim, for wearing a short dress, for exercising her right to walk public spaces, for previously having fun, this is hazardous.

We want men to care for women’s rights. Because they are not a sideline issue, they are human rights. We want them to see us as equals, we want them to stop being scared of being associated with femaleness because being associated with femaleness is inherently being associated with weakness. Fair enough. Then maybe we should stop showing that we are so afraid of being associated with this femaleness ourselves, that we have to deliberately distance ourselves from it by means of words or actions. And maybe, just maybe, we should stop being afraid of it altogether. Just a suggestion.

A Tale of Parliamentary Burlesque Act.III– What does the President have to say about it?

1 Apr

We are waiting for any word from president Dilma Rousseff about the subject. I promise to post ANY word about it.

Meanwhile, Marcos Feliciano is still the presidente of the Federal Parliament Human Rights Commission. This weekend, at one of his churches, he stated that all this fuss about his election is because for the first time the CDH is not presided over by Satan.

No, it is not a joke.

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